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Monday, 8 September 2014

A step too far ...

The German people are, I find, generally pretty tolerant. Politically, they tend to bend over backwards to try not to be 'oppressive' and to tolerate the little foibles and quirks many immigrant communities bring with them. But there are some things they will not give ground on, and one of these is the law of the land.

Like many other European nations, Germany finds itself host to a growing Muslim population, and is quite comfortable with their presence. However, in recent years, a group known as 'Salafisten' have come to prominence, actively driving people to 'convert' to Islam, and agitating for a very strict and conservative form of Islam to be practiced. Where, a few years ago, Muslim women living here hardly ever wore the Hijab or the Burkha, these are now becoming more visible, as are the little 'gazebo' tents at weekends in public squares and shopping centres manned by obviously European young men in Arab dress, sporting the de rigeur Mujaheddin beard, and enthusiastically handing out 'free' copies of the Qu'ran.

However, they haven't confined their activities simply to that. The 'Salafists' are the chief recruiters for the ISIL it appears, with over 400 known 'jihadis' having 'gone East' to fight in Syria, most converts or with strong ties to the 'Salafisten'. Finally, however, according to the Interior Minister of the Bundes government, action is to be taken. The trigger was the appearance on the streets of Wupperthal of orange tabard wearing 'Sharia Police' organised by the Salafists. There declared aim is to enforce Sharia Law on all Muslims in the city - or at least their version of it. This includes women being fully covered, a ban on touching, handling or consuming alcohol or any 'non-Halaal' product, and on 'music'.

Now the Germans are pretty touchy about 'Polizei'. Only someone carrying the authority of the Landestag Ministerium, or a part of the Bundespolizei may use that title, or 'enforce' the law, and, as the Minister made very clear over the weekend, Sharia is NOT the law of Germany, and any attempt to impose or enforce it will meet the full force of German Law head on.

As I said at the beginning, the Germans are generally pretty tolerant, and they pride themselves now on the fact they have developed a system that embraces many different ideas, cultures (to an extent) and religions - but they will not tolerate someone bringing a foreign and alien legal system to their country and imposing it on anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. Perhaps that is something the UK government and all the various local authority dictators of matters 'tolerant' would do well to emulate.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Recognition of the problem?

It is encouraging to read in recent days that the Grand Mufti of Mecca, the British Council of Muslims, the Saudi King, and now the UAE's government have all come out against the Islamic State terrorists. The Muslim Council and the Grand Mufti have both issued 'Fatwas' (Opinions) condemning the terrorists as engaging in 'Un-Islamic' activities, but, as is always the problem, a 'fatwa' is essential 'advice' and not something 'enforcable'.

It is, however, encouraging, precisely because they set out in detail the fact that the Qu'ran actually forbids many of the things they are doing, including forcing people to convert, murdering them for refusing and desecrating churches, synagogues and shrines. Murder, rape and pillage is forbidden in the Qu'ran, but therein lays a bit of a problem. The two other sources which are often used to 'clarify' the Qu'ranic injunctions, the Hadith and the 'commentaries' however contain passages, and ideas which are frequently used to justify some of the more unacceptable issues in the west, such as the 'Islamic Dress' and forced marriage, etc.

The British fatwa itself is interesting. In setting out their 'opinion' the Scholars review several passages from the Qu'ran, then state inter alia 
5. Based on all of the above: IS is a heretical, extremist organisation and it is religiously prohibited (haram) to support or join it; furthermore, it is an obligation on British Muslims to actively oppose its poisonous ideology, especially when this is promoted within Britain.
The opinion expressed by the Grand Mufti of Mecca has a similar clause, and I note that this theme has been continued by others. Will it stop the IS? There I must express doubts. As other Islamic scholars have stated recently, the Muslim mythology of the 'Caliphate' is a rather idyllic and alluring one, but hardly factual. The original Caliphate was riven with intrigue, several Caliphs were assassinated and internal corruption and abuses were rampant. Nor is there much comfort to be drawn by looking at places like the Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several other 'Islamic States' in our world today. Part of the problem is that 'interpretation' is highly individual, as there is no hierarchy with authority over all preachers and teachers.

Nor is it helped by the fact that for the last century at least, many of today's Muslim countries have supported, promoted and encouraged 'insurrection' in one form or another to achieve political, territorial or religious aims. Saudi Arabia would look very different had the political power gone, as the British hoped, to the coastal city and agricultural dwellers, and not to the Berber tribesmen of the interior. The first were progressive, and their religious views more liberal than the Berbers who belonged to one of the more fundamentalist wings of the Sunni strand. In the end, the Berber Sauds  got the kingship and the result is the country we see today.

Equally interesting is the fact that most of the Gulf States, have Sunni rulers, but largely Shia populations. Should the IS prevail, there could be some interesting problems arising from that as well. It is therefore very encouraging to have the UAE's rulers calling for an 'International Anti-Terrorist Force' to deal with ISIL and, presumably, one or two of their close relatives. I think it will be even more interesting to know who they would put on the list of 'terror' organisations. I rather think there might be a small clash of ideas on that one.

In my view ALL 'terror' organisations are a threat to everyone. I'm sorry to say that however 'justified' the cause may be, those who join them inevitably include the sort of psychopaths we've seen beheading people in Iraq and Syria, and, if they actually succeed, seldom usher in a free and fair society. What is worse, their activities invariably impact on their neighbours, and destabilise those countries. Possibly worse, since terrorists have, to an extent been 'glamorised' in certain societies, they tend to incite others to try an emulate them, so starting a vicious cycle such as the one we currently see.

I am convinced that all 'terrorists' must be suppressed, but, as Mr Hammond has said, it is not just a matter of military action. We have to address and counter the ideology as well - and that will take decades. Still, we have to take one step at a time, and an 'international' anti-terror effort may be a very good start. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Day To Remember.

Seventy-five years ago today, Neville Chamberlain finally admitted that apeasement had failed, and failed miserably. Britain joined France in declaring war on Hitler's Nazi dominated Germany over the invasion of Poland. Historians will always be sharply dividied over whether or not it could have been avoided had Britain and her allies shown more determination in 1938 over the Südetenland question. The fact is that from 1920 up to 1936 we'd built almost no new warships, cut our armed forces to the bone and even scrapped our tanks. To crown it we'd not invested a great deal in developing what we had - so in 1938 we weren't in a position to make a stand.

Not that we were in much better case in 1939, but at least we'd made a start at re-arming.

War makes very strange bedfellows. Hitler's invasion of Poland was facilitated by the now infamous 'Non-aggression Pact' he'd made with Stalin, a feat that caught western negotiators completely by surprise. But it didn't last and barely a year later, he invaded his 'ally' and thrust the Communists into an alliance with Britain, a perhaps even less likely 'friendship'. I suspect that few realised, on this day as they listened to Chamberlain announcing the failure of diplomacy, that it would engulf the whole world, or that it would take five long years to destroy the evil cancer of Nazism.

Ironic that we now face an ideology as evil, as destructive and as vicious - and are just as unprepared.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Repeating History?

I wonder sometimes at the irony of history. Yesterday marked the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland. It began with the bombardment of key installations in Gdansk (Danzig as it was then known) by the pre-dreadnought battleship KS Schleswig-Holstein, actually berthed in Gdansk on the grounds of 'protecting' the German 'minority' living there. Her 12 inch main armament did enormous damage, and her secondary 5.9 inch guns did even more, while in a co-ordinated thrust the army overran border posts and stormed into Pomerania and Poland's western provinces.

My local newspaper yesterday published photographic representations of the front page headlines of several newspapers published that day, and ran editorials pointing out how the propaganda of the period had mislead everyone. Thus, the irony. Reading some of the opening statements beneath those headlines (my abilities with the Sütterlin-style script make it a challenge!), one could be reading the pronouncements currently being made by Mr Putin concerning the 'obligation and need to protect Russian minorities' in former vassal states of the USSR. One could be excused for thinking they were written by the same speech writer.

History has a nasty habit of repeating itself, though not necessarily in the same places, or with the same outcomes. There is almost a feeling of 'here we go again' as western governments desperately try to ignore the rearmament that has been going on in Russia since Putin first came to power, and the naked aggression he has shown in 'reclaiming' parts of the so recently freed countries. Georgia was a trial run, the Crimea showed him just how toothless we have become. Now he's after the eastern half of Ukraine - with almost all the industrial development and the oil, gas and minerals. His air force makes an almost daily habit of entering Finnish airspace, and there are indications he's got his eyes on 're-absorbing' the Baltic States.

All of it using the same excuse used by Hitler in 1939 - to 'protect' the interests of his 'people' living as a minority in a 'hostile' country. The fact that his 'people' are being stirred up by his own agents to provoke a response, and that many of the 'leaders' of their 'popular resistance' movements are officers from the Russian Army is, of course, never mentioned.

That forces me to wonder; if the Ukraine/Crimea is to be Putins 'Südetenland', what will be our 'Poland' trigger to respond? What will be the likely outcome? Mr Putin has already openly warned that he will not back down, and that he will use his nuclear arsenal. Have we the guts to call his bluff? Or will the 'better Red than Dead' mindset hold sway and lead us into a spineless surrender?

Not a pleasant thought at this time of tension ...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Never Ending Conflict ...

The good news is that we have a new ceasefire in the war between Hamas and Israel at the moment. It is an incredibly fragile one, and it isn't clear why Hamas have suddenly accepted the terms they rejected less than a month ago. One does wonder just who they think they're fooling celebrating 'victory' on what remains of the streets of Gaza. Their campaign has seen the destruction of their tunnels, the demolition of hundreds of homes, the waste of lives and the misery visited on their people. In return they have killed a few Israeli soldiers, a tourist to Israel, a baby and a small number of civilians. Gaza lies in ruins. If this is 'victory' in Arab eyes, it is a travesty of it. It isn't even a 'Pyrrihic Victory'.

I have some very strong views on the debate over the Israeli action against Hamas, which does not mean an automatic endorsement of Israel's actions, nor of those on the Hamas side. In part this is because I have friends in both camps, and I know that my support for Israel has alienated some in the UK. I am a firm believer in the fact that Israel has the right to exist, and to defend itself against those that wish to deny her that right. There have been a lot of 'wrongs' on both sides, but there is something far more sinister at work here as well. The main stream media seldom mentioned, until forced to (and then usually qualified by words such as 'alleged' and, 'unverified sources'), the daily bombardment of Israeli towns and cities from Gaza. They make even less mention of the humanitarian efforts the Israelis are making 24/7 in Gaza and in the 'occupied' West Bank, such as food supplies, medical supplies or the supply of fresh water and electricity to 80% of Gaza. Yes, the Israelis are blockading Gaza, and they have good reason to do so. Why should Hamas and the other terror groups be given carte blanch to import missiles, munitions and other war materials unrestricted? How is that likely to produce peace?

Listening to the likes of Jon Snow and others calling the Israelis war criminals, murderers and 'apartheid' promoters simply makes me angry, since it also betrays the fact that these people find they can excuse anything and everything Hamas, Fatah and all the other Jihadist groups do against Israel, but the dirty, nasty, land stealing, baby killing Jews deserve no sympathy, no justice and definitely no homeland. The insistence on a 'return to the 1967 boundaries' is a recipe for yet another conflict, yet another attempt to annihilate Israel. East Jerusalem is the very heart of ancient Judea. It has no direct connection with either the Prophet or the Quran (it is mentioned only once in the entire Quran), and though under the terms of the 1949 UN Agreement, Jews were assured access - that was very quickly denied.

Jewish visitors to the Wailing Wall were subjected to abuse, harrassment and stone throwing. The Jordanian Army turned the Old City and the Temple Mount into an armed camp. Their 'engineering' works destroyed huge amounts of archaeologiocal evidence of the old Judean city, Christian remains and, in particular, surviving parts of the Temple itself. All of this is a matter of record, as is the use, prior to 1967, of the Golan Heights to fire random artillery, rockets and missiles into Israel by state supported terror groups. Gaza is the site of the ancient Philistine cities and settlements, and it is also the site of the tombs of several of the Old Testament prophets. Once again, devout Jews wishing to visit those sites - again a 'right' enshrined in the 1949 Agreement - found themselves harrassed, excluded on flimsy grounds and eventually denied access completely.

There are two ironies here. First that had the Arabs accepted the proposal by the 1947 UN Commission, they would today have the West Bank, a larger 'Gaza' and all of the Negev. The Jews accepted the proposal, the Arabs did not, and prepared to 'throw the Jews into the sea'. Despite all the odds, and even the fact the British had armed the Arabs, and blockaded the Jews - the Jews won, the Arabs lost. And the second irony is that they are unable to recognise that their own unwillingness to find a solution is what continues the conflict.

Suporters of 'Palestine' (a fiction dreamed up in Whitehall and now perpetuated for ideological purposes) like Mr Snow et al refuse to actually read Hamas and Fatah literature. If they did they would have to confront the fact that it clearly states these organisations have only one goal - the total annihilation of Israel. So, in the meantime, they continue to play the propaganda game, promoting the 'genocide of Palestinians' at the hands of those evil Jews. In their minds Israel has no right to exist except as a 'province' of greater Palestine under the total control of Hamas or Fatah.

Were I Jewish, I know what my response would be.

The longer this conflict continues, the worse it gets. Hamas and Fatah are funded by the same shadowy figures who funded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and who are funding the ISIS thugs in Iraq and Syria. Mr Snow obviously doesn't read either the Hamas or the IS website either. Hamas is committed, in its charter, and in every publication, to the destruction of Israel, and the 'eradication of Jewish settlement' in ALL of Israel. The IS website declares categorically that the new Caliphate is to be 'cleansed' of Jews, Christians and Apostates. Perhaps Mr Snow, and his fellow supporters of 'anti-Zionism' (which seems to mean anything to do with Israel), would care to live in this Islamic 'paradise' when it is created. He may get the chance, since their long term objective is the reconquest of all the lands held by the Ottoman Turks at the height of their power - and that included most of Eastern Europe, the Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, what is now Slovakia and a lot of what is now the southern parts of the Russian Federation, all of North Africa - and lately they have added Spain, Portugal and Sicily to their list.

The level of destruction the Israelis have gone to in Gaza does concern me, but I am equally concerned by the fact that UNWRA premises are being used to store rockets by Hamas and by the very biased presentation of anything supporting the Israeli case. Worse, each time the UNWRA people find munitions, instead of having them impounded or destroyed, they pass them back to the Hamas leaders. Reports from Asian news agencies (now excluded and barred by Hamas) reported that Hamas had its military command posts set up inside hospitals, and beneath schools - all carefully NOT reported by the sycophantic western 'anti-Zionist' media and the UN's 'people on the ground'.

This is not the behaviour of 'neutrals' which the UN claims it is. I am also deeply concerned by the fact that Hamas fires its rockets from children's playgrounds, from schools and from hospitals. We have recently seen footage on TV taken from a helicopter of armed terrorists commandeering an ambulance and using it to reach their target. There are other reports, of captured and killed terrorists caught in or emerging from their tunnels on the Istraeli side of the border, armed with suicide vests, and with tranquiliser darts and drugs. The plan, apparently, being to get behind Israeli lines and kidnap civilians - no doubt to be beheaded on YouTube as ISIS do.

When will the likes of Mr Snow admit the truth of the fact that Hamas is using women and children as human shields, knowing full well that as soon as their 'shields' are killed by a counter strike, Mr Snow and his media pals will be on TV wringing their hands and crying that Israel makes war on women and children? Why do they not report that the last ceasefire was broken by Hamas continually while the Israelis held theirs? Israel offered an extension - Hamas replied with rockets, and then cried foul when their own missiles fall short and hit a hospital and two other targets on their own side. Why do the Western 'Liberal' media insist on holding Israel to a higher standard of conduct than the terrorists they are fighting? No matter what Israel does to try and ease the situation, or to provide humanitarian aid, the western media either ignore it, or downplay it. The Israelis are always reported as 'alleging' something (if not actually being accused of lying), and anything and everything the Hamas or Fatah spokesmen say, is absolute 'truth' - even when it can be shown to be manifestly false.

If talks break down, it is always Israel's fault, never the 'Palestinians'. It is always reported that 'Israel refused to negotiate' when, in fact, there were never any 'negotiable' points on the table from the other side either. If Israel does concede anything it is reported that 'it wasn't sufficient' or it 'doesn't measure up to expectations'. One could be excused for thinking that nothing other than the total surrender of the Israeli government, and the handing over of everything to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas will ever satisfy sections of the UK Media in particular. Their reasoning is that Israel has no right to exist at all, and this stems from the often quoted statistic that in 1920 'only' 6% of the land was owned by Jews. What that statistic does not show is that under the Ottomans, Jews were severely restricted in buying or owning land, and it got worse under the British Mandate. It also does not cover the fact that  many Jews 'rented' land from Arab neighbours, nor is there any mention of the fact that from 1919 onwards there was a massive migration of Arabs to 'Palestine' as the British had named it.

Much is made of the claim that Jerusalem is the third holiest site in Islam. Yet it is mentioned ONCE in the entire Quran, and the supposed visit of the Prophet - on a winged horse, on the night of his death so he could 'ascend' to heaven from the Temple mount is a later 'tradition'. By contrast, it is the site of the Jewish capital until 77AD, and despite the best efforts of the Romans, the Arabs, Byzantines, Crusaders, Abbasids, Ottomans and just about everyone else, there has always been a Jewish presence here. This is verifiable by tax records (Dhimmi taxes), by orders from various governors and sultans and a long archaeological record (where it hasn't been deliberately destroyed by 'Palestinains' desperate to conceal it). An interesting comment from the Peel Commission, appointed to look into creating a 'Jewish Homeland' under the Hashemite Kingdom then being created to have control over the whole of what is today Israel and Jordan. The report states that the Arabs objected to the fact the 'Jews occupied all the best farmland' and wanted it confiscated and reallocated to them. The Commission felt obliged to point out that, until the Jews bought the land, it had been desert and sand dunes, and that the Jews had built irrigation systems, improved the soil and turned it into viable land for agriculture.

It is also forgotten that the UN Commission drew up plans to create a 'Two State' solution following the Arab uprising of 1936 - 39 against the British, and the conducting of a terror campaign against the Jewish population. This proposed dividing the country to create a long narrow 'Israel' along the coastal strip with a bulge inland toward Jerusalem, with a much larger 'West Bank' and a 'Gaza' double the present size. The 'West Bank' section would have included all of the Negev and Israels Gulf of Eilat port. Jerusalem would have belonged to no one and everyone, and would have been managed by an international council as a 'free city'. The plan was accepted by the Jews, and rejected by the Arabs - resulting in the 1947 - 48 war which saw the Arab side lose almost everything. The Egyptian army barely held onto the present area known as Gaza, and only the British Commanded and led forces of the Jordanian King succeeded in holding what is now the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Disgracefully, they immediately turned East Jerusalem into an armed camp and set about denying access to archaeological sites - many of which they destroyed. Until 1967 Jews had no access at all to their Holy sites in the West Bank, or the holiest of all - the Temple Mount.

It was recently said to me that 'someone has to tell the 'Zionists' to stop teaching their children to hate Palestinians'. Sadly, it isn't the Jews who actually teach this in their schools, that is what goes on in Palestinian schools - even those run by UNWRA.  While I can understand the 'Palestinian' people's frustration and anger, the solution does lay in their own hands. If they genuinely want peace, they have to be prepared to make a few concessions themselves. Only by reining in the hotheads who see killing Jews as a national sport, can they hope to bring an end to retaliation. Only when the PLA and its police actually start treating those who murder Jews as criminals instead of heroes can they expect the Jews to take them seriously. We have to bring down the levels of hatred between to the two groups, and that has to start with dropping the labels. Not every Jew is a 'Zionist'. In fact, I doubt any of them are, but it is a term certain parts of the Western Media, and all of the Arab media, have come to equate to 'Nazi'.

As I see it, we are all the losers, whoever wins this battle. As long as the 'Palestinians' think they can get away with playing the 'victim' card to the sycophantic western media gallery, supporters and politicians, they will continue the struggle, and prolong the agony. Israel will not give up Jerusalem, regardless of whether the British Foreign Office calls it Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The Israelis know that Mr Obama, with his Islamic sympathies, will soon be gone, and they will deal, as they always have done, with the realities and whoever comes next. They know they can depend on no one in the West, least of all the US and UK governments, both of whom have, at various times, tried to sell them down the river. They will not give up the Golan Heights either, since with an enemy occupying those, almost all of Israel is open to shell and rocket fire. Just today, there is new doubt cast on the UN 'Peace Force' stationed there, as the 'border crossing' has been seized by an al Qaeda splinter group affiliated to IS. I suspect the next move will be by IS to attempt to 'seize the Heights' for the Caliphate.

Then there is the question of 'settlements' - always portrayed by Hamas and the Western Media as being built on land 'seized' from Palestinians. In fact the 'settlers' have been buying this land from Palestinians (despite a decree from the PLA declaring this to be 'treason'), many of whom have taken the money and gone elsewhere (sometimes into Israel!) abroad. Many of those who have sold are Christians, desperate to leave because they are being persecuted by their Muslim neighbours and know what awaits them if Hamas or Fatah win. The best analogy with this is to consider a situation in which someone in England buys a house in North Wales and wants to live there. Suddenly his neighbours don't speak English, he can't get served in the local shop, his children are bullied, his pets terrorised, his rubbish bins go unemptied. Now, if he is a determined man, he finds other properties for sale in the area, invites, and assists, his friends to buy them, and soon the locals are complaining their land is being stolen and their country invaded. Who is to blame?

Something else never acknowledged in the western media is that Israel is the ONLY democracy in the Middle East. It is not a 'Theocracy' and everyone, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Arab or whatever, has a vote. There are even 'Palestinians' in the Knesset. Show me another Middle Eastern country where Jew, Christians and members of other faiths, or 'non-native' Muslims, have the same protections and rights. There isn't one. Much is made of the falling numbers of Christians in the 'occupied' territories - but the Israeli census shows that the numbers of Christians and other faiths is growing in Israel. The reason is not that hard to find when one looks at how Christians are treated elsewhere in the Middle East.

As with so  much else in today's world, the whole conflict in Israel/Gaza has become completely polarised.  Everyone is playing a game of all or nothing, and everyone - except, remarkably, the Israelis - is demanding that Israel must surrender security, land, peace to satisfy the 'Palestinians'. No one seems to be saying that peace negotiations are a two way affair, and that said 'Palestinians' must come to the table prepared to put aside their rhetoric and their weapons. Until they do accept that, I cannot see anyone achieving anything better than a stand-off.

As long as the supporters of 'Palestine' (which never existed between the Roman Empire's demise and the British occupation and Mandate) continue to foster the "Israel must surrender" rhetoric, there can never be a peaceful solution or settlement. As long as it continues on this path, we will continue to see these horrendous scenes, and as long as Hamas et al receive the acclamation and support of the Western Media and its 'Liberal' supporters, we will never see a willingness to negotiate. As long as that situation continues, we will all lose.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Big Bang ...

Yesterday a stretch of the A3 (Autobahn A3, not the UK one), was closed to traffic in both directions near Frankfurt-am-Main. The reason was the six metre (18 feet) wide and four metre (12 feet) deep hole in the southbound carriageway, the result of the detonation of a WW2 500kg (1,100 lb) bomb that was exposed during routine repairs.

Attempts to defuse it were stopped when it was discovered that the chemical fuse was so badly corroded it could not be done with any hope of safety. So the decision was taken to detonate the bomb and hope for the best. Traffic on the A3 was stopped overnight, the bomb prepared by the Bundeswehr Bomb disposal team and the area evacuated for a considerable distance. Then the thing was triggered. Reports say the nearby town of Offenbach felt the blast, flights had to be stopped at Frankfurt Airport as it was on the approach path and there has generally been a bit of a stir.

Now the dust has settled, from the blast, not the ramifications, the Autobahn is being repaired. The northbound carriageway has reopened, but the southbound one will not open until the repairs are completed. That is expected to be at the weekend. But now it begs a major question. THis is just one of the bombs found this week. Another, in Marburg, also had to be destroyed by detonating it, and it is well known there are hundreds more of these unexploded weapons buried, some of them in densely populated areas, in Germany.

The stretch of the Autobahn beneath which this particular bomb has lain since around 1944, is one the Monk has travelled more than once. So have millions of motorists over the years, and repairs to the carriageways regularly uncover these things. Recently, a widening of the A3 autobahn saw several workers killed and injured when a mechanical digger hit a similar bomb and it detonated. The Head of Bomb Disposal admitted on television and radio that a large part of the problem is the chemical detonators, used by the British in the 1,000lb bombs, frequently failed, is difficult to remove even when it is undamaged, but impossible when they are corroded. And that is what is now happening. The damned things are corroding quietly and can trigger a detonation without warning. He states that he knows of 40 'spontaneous detonations' occuring since he took office.

A part of the problem is that in the post war clear-up, a lot of these bombs were simply buried, some of them under concrete, many lie under roads, railways and car parks. More are under buildings and even new housing estates built since the 1970s on 'greenfield' sites are turning up unexploded bombs that missed targets by a wide margin. Scarcely a week goes by without someone digging one up, and though they are sometimes lucky, and the bomb can be defused and removed, often, as in Marburg and on the A3 at Offenbach, they can't be.

The reactions of people here to them 'turning up' is interesting. There is a sort of collective shrug, and well oiled preparations go into play in preparation for yet another big bang. I expect it is a result of knowing the danger and dealing with it. Many of my elderly neighbours actually lived through the events that made Germany the most heavily bombed country in history, and they are quite relaxed about it. The general feeling is 'Thank God it was found before ...'

It does make one grateful for the fact that, living well outside any of the target zones, we have no known ordnance beneath our feet!  

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Dealing With A Cult Of Death.

Recently I have read an article by a Jewish Rabbi who makes a very good point on the subject of religious fundamentalism. In essence, once a person becomes so fixated on attaining ‘heaven’ they lose contact with reality, and with the essence of almost every religious teaching  - which is to live THIS life to the fullest possible extent, no matter how impoverished or hard it may be. The problem is that if we focus to intently on our vision of ‘heaven’ we very quickly find that it is a justification for every kind of evil act - in pursuit of the ‘greater good’.

This is what drives groups like Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and, I suspect, some elements of groups like Hamas, the Taliban (an ironic title if ever there was - it is said to mean ‘scholars’), Al Qaeda and others. It certainly motivates some Christian groups as well, fortunately, at this time, not to physical violence. The ISIS group, at present, provides us with the most visible evidence of what a group motivated by such a self-righteous ‘vision’ can produce. They justify their actions by arguing that the ‘final days’ and the return of ‘heavenly peace’ promised in the Quran can only be achieved by the recreation of the Caliphate. They further argue that the original Caliphate ‘failed’ because it allowed ‘kufars’ to continue practicing their ‘false’ faiths and live among the faithful.

Their solution is simple - forcibly convert the ‘kufars’ or kill them. Each death in the name of this programme is presumed to earn them brownie points in the heaven to come. Plus, of course, since it is a ‘holy’ war, if you die fighting for this cause you are a ‘holy’ martyr and assured of a place in ‘paradise’.

Interestingly, both Judaism and Christianity (mainstream, not the sectarian versions) have a very ‘physical’ view of the life hereafter and that is shared by Islam. Mainstream Christian teaching since early times has suggested that the ‘second coming’ and the ‘resurrection of the dead’ will be a physical event - with everyone restored to their physical bodies at the age that Jesus was when he died. The Jewish view is similar, and in Islam this is the leading concept as well. The Bible probably has the least to say on exactly what form the ‘life to come’ will take. While it contains many defences to a life after death, it uses a lot of allegorical descriptions to illustrate to the point. The problem comes down to trying to describe something outside of human understanding or experience, in human terms and within parameters the human mind can grasp. It is my understanding that the Quran follows a similar route - many references to ‘paradise’ or a ‘new Eden’ and to ‘the faithful’ populating it - but not a great deal on the details. Most of the teaching followed by extremists in that faith comes from something called the Hadith - a collection of ‘sayings’ attributed to the Prophet. It’s provenance is somewhat open to challenge since it was first written down a long time after the Prophet’s death.

The problem with obsessing about attaining the ‘life hereafter’ is that you stand a good chance of becoming insufferably ‘religious’ and ignoring the real tenets of the faith you supposedly follow. This was Christ’s problem with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, both groups obsessing about ‘The Law’ or ‘The Ritual’ (the Sadducees were the Temple priests) to the point they forgot, or perhaps ignored, the real teachings of their faith, which is, as Augustine of Hippo put it, to ‘Love God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your being - and then do as you please.’ The truth is that if you really do the first, it is impossible to do anything ‘evil’ in the second part. In essence, this is what Jesus meant when he gave us the ‘Great Commandment’ (which Augustine paraphrased) and the second to love everyone else as we love ourselves. Follow those two commandments - which actually sum up the Ten Commandments very succinctly - and you cannot do what ISIS, Hamas or any other terror group are doing.

So where has it all gone wrong? Why are we seeing these black clad jihadis shooting, bombing and beheading their way across the Middle East? 

In part we have to acknowledge that Islam has historically a pretty dire record of conquest and forced conversion. Many today do not know that North Africa, the Middle East, most of modern Pakistan and the southern areas of what are now independent states of the former Soviet Union and Russian Empire, were Christian. They were converted to Islam by force or coercion after being overrun by Arab, and later Seljuk, Ottoman and other Islamic conquerors. The Caliphate was centred on Baghdad and flourished - ostensibly liberally - until it was sacked by the Mongols in 1326 AD. While it is often described as ‘tolerant’ it depends on your viewpoint. Certainly it allowed alcohol and was fairly relaxed about the practice of other faiths - Jewish or Christian. But, what is less well known, is that Jews and Christians were banned from holding government office unless they converted, and that they paid a punitive ‘tax’ to retain their faith. Later this was extended to a requirement to provide the first born son to the Caliph as a ‘servant’. These boys were forced to convert, and in some cases were castrated as well. The Ottoman Empire was still practicing this in the late 19th Century in Bulgaria and the other Balkan states under their control. 

The Mongol invasion shattered the Caliphate, but the new rulers didn’t bring a new religion with them, and were themselves gradually converted to Islam. It is an unacknowledged fact that Islam has been the reason underlying more invasions and conquests than any other religion, and while Christianity has certainly had its moments - especially during the Reformation - it hardly holds a candle to Islam in this regard.

Why the difference? 

Judaism grew up in a world dominated by religions that glorified death. Some practiced human sacrifice, most practiced animal sacrifice, and some had some rather strange combinations of both. Perhaps the most shocking of all was the sacrifice of male infants by the Phoenicians (and some reports say the Philistines) by tossing the living child into the stylised maw of a furnace, still, according to the Roman histories, practiced in Carthage at the time of the Punic Wars. Many had fertility rites that today would shock even the most open minded ‘liberal’. This is where some of the Levitical strictures against certain practices and activities arise and though these are carried over into the Quran (which draws heavily on the Old Testament, parts of the New and on a huge amount of Gnostic literature now known as the Pseudepigraphica (False Books) - so called because they are not written by the claimed ‘authors’ and are even verifiably not from the period they are supposed to have been written in), their origin is not acknowledged by the adherents of the extremist groups - and sadly, by some of the ‘scholars’ who support them.

Christianity, for the first hundred or so years, remained closely linked to the Synagogue and the Jewish worship and even teaching. It did suffer, to an extent, from a ‘martyr complex’ in some areas, where, if one reads the history of some of the early martyrs, they deliberately sought martyrdom in the belief that Christ would return within their (curtailed) lifetimes. While this re-emerged during the Reformation, and is still marginally visible among the more fundamentalist branches of the Christian family who fixate on the prophecies they read into the Book of Revelations. Once again, the problem is the fixation on gaining ‘the next life’ and frequently a loss of the need to live the present one to the fullest extent.

One possible explanation for Islam’s more entrenched ‘martyr complex’ is that it has no ‘centralising authority’ structures like the ‘church’ hierarchies of Christianity. Thus everyone is able to place their own interpretation on the teachings they have inherited, and many are drawn to the question of bringing about the arrival of the promised ‘paradise’. It is this focus that gives rise to the unhealthy mindset that says no amount of suffering, no limit to the number of casualties, is too high to achieve the desired end. Thus Hamas can have no shortage of volunteers willing to sacrifice their lives in this world, to destroy the ‘enemy’ and attain ‘paradise’ where they can live in a state of bliss while awaiting the final call to rise with the faithful and take over the earth.

In focusing their thoughts on a ‘martyr’s death’ they lose the true message of faith which is, simply, to live, and to live well. Once again, turning to the teaching of Jesus and the Old Testament Prophets, the essence of the faiths they taught, is to live life to its fullest. Their teaching is simple, by following the simple instruction to love God, and to treat everyone you encounter with respect and kindness, you will reap the same treatment from them. Everything in the Bible - both Old and New Testaments is about living, not about dying, and, as I understand it, the same applies to the Quran. By turning that on its head, and focusing on death, those who do, create a ‘death cult’ whose purpose is no longer about love and life, but about power, murder and enslavement.

I would venture to suggest that this is one major reason we cannot hope to see peace in Gaza or the West Bank at any time in the near future. The Jewish state is founded on the ideals of Judaic teaching about ‘life’, while their opponents seek to destroy them, their faith and their state - and are prepared to die themselves to achieve it. Hamas, Fatah and the other factions are all members of what has become a Cult of Death. In their mindset death in achieving their aim will guarantee a place in Paradise. Their ‘holy’ struggle justifies anything and everything, even bringing death and destruction to those they love.

Islam has descended into being a ‘cult of death’ and, as such, sows the seeds of its own ultimate failure. The Huffington Post columnist, Mehdi Hassan, himself a follower of Islam, points out in a recent article (The Hand Choppers Of ISIS Are Deluded), that Islam as a ‘political’ movement has failed at every attempt to create an ‘Islamic State’. Look about you - all the ‘failed states’ causing problems in the world today are ‘Islamic’, and all of them try to impose the Sharia and the thinking of the 7th Century to government - with predictably disastrous results. In every attempt to create such a Utopia, all too rapidly power becomes entrenched in the hands a small and usually corrupt clique. Law and order break down as people find themselves compelled evade certain strictures and corruption spreads as policy is increasingly left in the hands of those who blind themselves to suffering or see only their own very narrow vision of 'heaven'. It is in this cesspit that the radical preachers, the haters and the violent find a ready field to develop and expand their perverted theology. 

It is the failure, among western ‘thinkers’, politicians and campaigners for ‘secularisation’, and their fellow travellers of humanism and atheism, to understand this difference between Judaism, Christianity and Islam that will bring hardship and disaster to us all. Their constant assault on Christianity, and their open bias against Judaism, has created a vacuum, the perfect breeding ground for this radicalised and twisted version of Islam. The demonstrations over the last weekend in the UK, with hate filled slogans being chanted, and placards waved that should, frankly, have resulted in arrests, are a warning. We are not dealing with a movement that promises hope, peace or love - we are dealing with a cult that sees death and destruction as desirable ways to achieve their aims. Peace doesn’t stand a chance against that mindset.