Tag Archives: Islam

The People’s Flag – – –

It’s Thursday so it must be time for Jack’s Wednesday guest post!

Since there wasn’t a Monday book review he gets to do that too – –

World Politics 1918-1936 – R. Palme Dutt (1936)

We get some pretty weird and wonderful books here in the bookstore and I often find myself drawn to them. This one caught my eye as it’s about a period of history that fascinates me and was actually published just as things were getting out of hand.

When I read the book I had no idea who Dutt was and had never heard of him, so I read with an open mind. I was fairly astonished by much of his commentary on the first half of the period covered and how ambivalent the UK, France and the USA were towards the German and Italian Fascists as well as the Japanese Imperialists. There was a common fear of the rise of Soviet power and until late in the period various attempts to form an alliance to counter Communism. Even after Mussolini was established in power and Hitler was cementing his foundations there were powerful figures in favor of forming a common front against the USSR that would include the USA, the UK, France,Germany, Italy, Japan and Poland.

However the tone of the book becomes different as it reaches the latter part of the period. Dutt clearly believes that war is inevitable and argues that the best thing is to delay it for as long as possible through diplomatic means. This would allow the Soviets to build enough strength to defeat this unholy alliance!

What’s ironic, of course, is that the UK and the US ended up in concert with the USSR against Germany, Italy and Japan, with the Soviets playing an enormous part in the victory.

Being a pretty cynical kind of person, I believe that WW2, just like WW1 was fought between Imperial powers with ambitions to divide up the world and very little to do with any democratic principles. Afterwards the anti-Soviet line came back and the justifications for the war emerged with much banner waving. There was just as much anti-Jew pressure in the US, the UK and the USSR prior to hostilities although without someone quite as effective as Hitler to run with it.

If I was the late Mr Dutt I might be looking at the current political situation and thinking things are beginning to line up for another Imperial confrontation with the same shadowy figures pulling the strings and another religious group being demonized as a diversion – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

After finishing the book which was published in the US, I wanted to know more about who’d written it –

Rajani Palme Dutt (19 June 1896 – 20 December 1974), generally known as R. Palme Dutt, was a leading journalist and theoretician in the Communist Party of Great Britain. (From Wikipedia)

I don’t hold that against him, though – –

 

 

 

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PAUL GARRETT’S MONDAY BOOK

Paul Garrett is a retired guy and writer who enjoys offering interesting points of view for consideration. Have fun!

fatwa (2)Your Fatwa does not Apply Here

by Karima Bennoune

Viewing frequent headlines fraught with images of Islamic terrorism, it may be easy to assume that it all started on 9-11, or to paint all Muslims as murderers. After all, where is the anti-Islamist backlash among the Muslims?  In this masterfully written book, Karima Bennoune, an Algerian-American Muslim, human rights lawyer and  frequent Ted talker, attempts to set the record straight:  Peaceful and steadfast Muslims have been resisting the onslaught of Fundamentalism for decades, mostly unnoticed by the larger world.

The book opens in Algeria’s “Dark Decade” of the 90’s when over 200,000 Algerians fell victim to Islamist violence. Even her father, a college professor, was attacked for the “sin” of teaching Darwinism.

She points out that as many as 85% of the victims of Islamist violence are themselves Muslims. Nor is Islamism monolithic. It includes a wide spectrum of disparate groups. She dislikes the approach of the American Right, which often opines that violence is endemic in Islam, but also that of the Left, which makes excuses for Muslim violence or blames the West.

Through over 30 visits to countries around the world, and interviews with over 300 Muslims, she chronicles the activities of defenders of the faith, who, despite threats, torture and even the death of family members, remain resolute in their opposition to Fundamentalism in a world wherein simple persistence is often a heroic act.

Perhaps the most poignant image in the book is that of a watch. It is stopped at three seconds before 5:18 on January 26th, 1997, the moment its wearer, Amal Zaawani was dragged from a bus and killed for the “crime” of attending the university.  Later, Amal’s younger sister Lamia defiantly attended the same university and received the law degree that was so brutally denied her sister.

These are two heroes of the resistance, along with others like Aziza Yousef, who led the successful attempt to earn women the right to drive cars in Saudi Arabia, and, Malala Yousafsai, who survived being shot by the Taliban and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for women’s rights.

As we fret over images of Islamist violence, we may question who will win this war for the hearts and minds of Muslims. So long as there are people like Lamia, Aziza, Malala, and writers like Bennoune to chronicle their efforts, there is at least a fighting chance.

 

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Calm Amid the Craziness

Jack’s guest blog from Istanbul –

Istanbul is a city of 22 million people, and most of them seemed to be in the Spice Market and Topkapi Palace the same days we were. On day  three amid jostling crowds, avoiding shopkeepers accosting in six languages, dodging buses and taxis as they honked insults while dueling for supremacy on the narrow Old City streets, we booked tickets to see the Whirling Dervishes.

Not knowing quite what to expect, we arrived at what appeared to be a sophisticated ‘theater in the round,’ complete with colored lights and set in an old mosque. My heart sank as I got the feeling that we were in for a typical ‘folklorique’ experience. When the four musicians appeared, dressed in identical costumes and playing tambur, whistle, psaltery and various drums, my first impression seemed correct, but as the music started I realized that this sounded like the real thing–a strange alternating major and minor key piece based on an oddly exotic scale.

Gradually the music set a mood. Then the dervishes appeared and the audience—until then restless and clearly waiting for something to happen—settled in as, without leaving our seats, we were moved to another place. A feeling not unlike the gathered silence of a Quaker Meeting enveloped the space as these five men in high hats and white garments inclined their heads, raised their hands (left palm down, right palm up) and took turns to lead the others in their ancient stately whirling dance of Sufi worship.

Seemingly oblivious to the 200 or so observers in the circle of tiered seats around them, they whirled, white coats billowing, with eyes half closed, whispering the words of prayer. It was elegant, dignified, reverent.

When it was all over we wandered back to our hotel through jostling crowds, city traffic and accosting stall keepers. But we couldn’t get the image of the dervishes out of our thoughts. A sense of calm suffused the night.

Cynically, Wendy and I joked that these men got up this morning and went to their jobs as taxi drivers, stall keepers, and tourist boat operators–but so what if they did? Calm is calm, worship is worship, and moments of honesty about loving God in a busy life are worth clinging to.

dervishes

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