Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

A plea for indifference

March 13, 2018 1 comment

We live in changed times, in a blurred-out world, one without a well-defined framework. The uncertainty generates a hardening and rigidity. We cling to what we believe we know to give our opinion on things that we don’t know at all. We camouflage our anxieties, our repulsion and our matter-of-factly limited judgment by claiming that we reject all dogmatism.

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Whatever our individual personal background, cultural and tribal ties or education, we’re each left to face our truths which can only clash with the truths of others. Our opinions reduce everything and its opposite to the simplest and most definitive cliches (though we do look over our shoulder to make sure we’re not offending anyone.) The pathetic talk shows where guests cover each other’s voices should by now have demonstrated that if we don’t listen, we cannot be heard, nor, therefore, be understood.  Read more…

Categories: our world, Politics, Religion

Merry Christmas

December 23, 2017 1 comment

So, every year, as December rolls around, the parade of gift-giving, decorating, buying, good cheer and good wishes starts, in holidays that beside Christmas are for the most part retrieved from half-forgotten lore, refurbished and pushed forward, in a burst of “metooism” which the now ubiquitous hashtag has brought into the mainstream. So Jews celebrate Hanukah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanza, Iranians celebrate Yalda, etc.  In the society at large, respect of diversity wreaks havoc and noble intentions get out of hand.

It says a lot about the limited ways our minds work if, as soon as a tribe has a holy, sacred, or cultural milestone, every other tribe considers it its right to come up with one of its own. fra-angelico-nativityThings are even more difficult when, disciplined as we have become and aware of the possible messages underlying our use of language or expressions that used to go without saying, we become wary of using anything that would smack of sectarianism or not include everyone, and that is everyone, lest we insult, offend, or leave out a meritorious member of the human race. Thus, we will bite our tongue before saying “Merry Christmas,” having repeatedly been hit on the head with the concept that Christmas is a white-only, descendent of slave holders only, knights of the crusades or oppressive colonialists only.

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Categories: Religion, Society Tags: ,

When Writers Muzzle Free Speech

The discussion continues over PEN members* signing their names to a shameful refusal to award the PEN American Center’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. As a reminder to those of you who have since been washed over by successive waves of news, twelve Charlie Hebdo staff members were slain in Paris last January 7th over the publication’s cartoons deemed offensive by irate Islamists. These, Kalashnikov in hand, showed their displeasure in the swift and bloody Islamist manner we are learning to expect and recognize.Charlie image
The controversy has raged on: What latitude does free expression give us? Can any faith claim infallibility and demand total respect not only from its followers but from everyone regarding its tenets, its holy book, its founder? Honestly, Read more…

Sure, I’m indignant

Despite the complicated and not always happy world we live in, I most often manage to avoid being driven by contempt or hatred. For moral reasons—surely, despising and hating must be harmful to the soul–for trite aesthetic ones (to avoid those vertical lines a lifetime of disapproval etches round the mouths of older people and to prevent those between my eyebrows from deepening), for health reasons (to keep my blood pressure normal, my heart rate slow, my hands warm). Also, my mental setup is such that I believe in silver linings more than in clouds, I deliberately take things at face value, I don’t believe that a new conspiracy is being spun every minute, and I see the line running from A to Z as always straight. In sum, I refuse to be goaded into suspicion, anger or indignation.

Not an easy resolve, as this past week demonstrates.


First, the appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, of hordes of m-f-ing murderous flesh-eating Islamists, the ISIS. And how do these names, acronyms, abbreviations, become legitimate so quickly, how do we go in a few hours from “the IS what?” to “yes, of course, the ISIS,” and start bandying the letters as though these people form a bona fide political group with which, sure, we can talk once we bring them to the table, and indeed, the Sunnis have been ill-treated by Maliki so naturally enough they eat the heart of their enemies or post videos  of themselves smoking, relaxed, beside the heads of decapitated soldiers, occasionally pausing in their banter to insult one of the cut heads. What? Several thousand dead already? Well, this is war, it’s not supposed to be pretty. Read more…

Radical Islamism falling apart? Inshallah!

September 24, 2012 2 comments

The stirring we are beginning to witness in the Muslim world (Muslim as opposed to Islamic or Islamist) may not yet be a harbinger of better tomorrows but still promising. It’s the stirring of normal Muslims (a term I prefer to “moderate” Muslims) the vast majority, waking up, sick of being hostage to fanaticism.
A number of signs point to the long-awaited backlash against the most extreme forms of what used to be just another faith, practiced by hundreds of millions without causing particular problems, until, starting with the 1979 revolution in Iran, it morphed into an ugly ideology. The rest of the world watched, aghast, as this sick form of Islam grew more rigid by the day, a plague spreading from country to country, insisting on a respect it no longer deserved while pursuing violence, inventing “traditions” such as the demeaning headscarf for women in countries where it wasn’t the norm, in certain cases intimidating governments into applying sharia law, recognizing polygamy, and declaring blasphemy punishable by death. Adding to the already unpleasant context was and is the strident in-your-face attitude of communities of Muslim immigrants in Western countries where rampant political correctness or simple fear of retaliation makes it a rule to accept inconsiderate demands and entitlements. Read more…

The anger of imbeciles

September 15, 2012 9 comments

In his 1938 memoir, A Diary of My Times, French writer Georges Bernanos has this sentence that applies to so many situations in our present era of extremism: “The anger of imbeciles fills the world,”* Thus again with the terrible events in Benghazi and the riots now raging through Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, Tunisia, and other countries.

“I’m always angry. See this row of buttons on my forehead? Push one and I’ll explode into irrationality.” This is what we hear, over and over, from various countries, mostly Islamic, mostly in the Middle East. Political correctness makes us keep saying that it isn’t so. Sorry, but it is.

I consider myself civilized. If I don’t like you, if I find you offensive or unpleasant, if you insult me or a principle I hold important, I’ll walk away—and I’ll never break bread with you. This civilized response will not be that of Tea Partiers or extremists of any sort, of anyone blinded by ideology or rigid religiosity or conservative agendas, even in our countries. Even less so if I live in Pakistan or Libya or Afghanistan or Yemen or Iran. If you insult my faith—Islam—or my Prophet—Mohammad—I’ll set fire to your house, kill you and your family, cut off your head, and feed your remains to the dogs. I will not listen to men and women of the same faith who preach moderation and compromise, who tell me that an insult or perceived insult by a cretin does not deserve a response. Read more…

Enough with Islamic extremism, enough!

March 21, 2012 7 comments

For the last two days, ever since a helmet-wearing motorcyclist parked his scooter in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse in the south of France and methodically shot, point-blank, three small kids and a Hebrew teacher, I’ve put myself in the place of that young woman who had breakfast with her husband and two small sons and sent them off, only to hear an hour later that she’d lost them all. The killer actually grabbed the third child –the school director’s little girl–by the hair, to steady her head while he shot her. Over the previous week, three soldiers had been killed by the same guy in two separate attacks.
The sweeping manhunt that followed soon gave results. As I write, the assassin is hunkering down with a large arsenal in an apartment building and negotiations are under way for his surrender. By the time you read this, he will probably have been arrested. Read more…

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