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Category: Religious

We should not define and divide ..

We should not define and divide ourselves by where we live, by race, religion, gender or sexual preference. No book is ‘holy’ or ‘infallible’, no people are ‘chosen’, no nation is ‘indispensable’.

C’est le Souffle des Ancêtres

Ecoute plus souvent
Les Choses que les Etres
La Voix du Feu s’entend,
Entends la Voix de l’Eau.
Ecoute dans le Vent
Le Buisson en sanglots :
C’est le Souffle des ancêtres.
Ceux qui sont morts ne sont jamais partis :
Ils sont dans l’Ombre qui s’éclaire
Et dans l’ombre qui s’épaissit.
Les Morts ne sont pas sous la Terre :
Ils sont dans l’Arbre qui frémit,
Ils sont dans le Bois qui gémit,
Ils sont dans l’Eau qui coule,
Ils sont dans l’Eau qui dort,
Ils sont dans la Case, ils sont dans la Foule :
Les Morts ne sont pas morts.
Ecoute plus souvent
Les Choses que les Etres
La Voix du Feu s’entend,
Entends la Voix de l’Eau.
Ecoute dans le Vent
Le Buisson en sanglots :
C’est le Souffle des Ancêtres morts,
Qui ne sont pas partis
Qui ne sont pas sous la Terre
Qui ne sont pas morts.
Ceux qui sont morts ne sont jamais partis :
Ils sont dans le Sein de la Femme,
Ils sont dans l’Enfant qui vagit
Et dans le Tison qui s’enflamme.
Les Morts ne sont pas sous la Terre :
Ils sont dans le Feu qui s’éteint,
Ils sont dans les Herbes qui pleurent,
Ils sont dans le Rocher qui geint,
Ils sont dans la Forêt, ils sont dans la Demeure,
Les Morts ne sont pas morts.
Ecoute plus souvent
Les Choses que les Etres
La Voix du Feu s’entend,
Entends la Voix de l’Eau.
Ecoute dans le Vent
Le Buisson en sanglots,
C’est le Souffle des Ancêtres.
Il redit chaque jour le Pacte,
Le grand Pacte qui lie,
Qui lie à la Loi notre Sort,
Aux Actes des Souffles plus forts
Le Sort de nos Morts qui ne sont pas morts,
Le lourd Pacte qui nous lie à la Vie.
La lourde Loi qui nous lie aux Actes
Des Souffles qui se meurent
Dans le lit et sur les rives du Fleuve,
Des Souffles qui se meuvent
Dans le Rocher qui geint et dans l’Herbe qui pleure.
Des Souffles qui demeurent
Dans l’Ombre qui s’éclaire et s’épaissit,
Dans l’Arbre qui frémit, dans le Bois qui gémit
Et dans l’Eau qui coule et dans l’Eau qui dort,
Des Souffles plus forts qui ont pris
Le Souffle des Morts qui ne sont pas morts,
Des Morts qui ne sont pas partis,
Des Morts qui ne sont plus sous la Terre.
Ecoute plus souvent
Les Choses que les Etres
La Voix du Feu s’entend,
Entends la Voix de l’Eau.
Ecoute dans le Vent
Le Buisson en sanglots,
C’est le Souffle des Ancêtres

“Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the sighs of the bush;
This is the ancestors breathing.
Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in the darkness that grows lighter
And in the darkness that grows darker.
The dead are not down in the earth;
They are in the trembling of the trees
In the groaning of the woods,
In the water that runs,
In the water that sleeps,
They are in the hut, they are in the crowd:
The dead are not dead.
Listen to things
More often than beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the bush that is sighing:
This is the breathing of ancestors,
Who have not gone away
Who are not under earth
Who are not really dead.
Those who are dead are not ever gone;
They are in a woman’s breast,
In the wailing of a child,
And the burning of a log,
In the moaning rock,
In the weeping grasses,
In the forest and the home.
The dead are not dead.
Listen more often
To Things than to Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind to
The bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors breathing.
Each day they renew ancient bonds,
Ancient bonds that hold fast
Binding our lot to their law,
To the will of the spirits stronger than we
To the spell of our dead who are not really dead,
Whose covenant binds us to life,
Whose authority binds to their will,
The will of the spirits that stir
In the bed of the river, on the banks of the river,
The breathing of spirits
Who moan in the rocks and weep in the grasses.
Spirits inhabit
The darkness that lightens, the darkness that darkens,
The quivering tree, the murmuring wood,
The water that runs and the water that sleeps:
Spirits much stronger than we,
The breathing of the dead who are not really dead,
Of the dead who are not really gone,
Of the dead now no more in the earth.
Listen to Things
More often than Beings,
Hear the voice of fire,
Hear the voice of water.
Listen in the wind,
To the bush that is sobbing:
This is the ancestors, breathing.”
–Birago Diop

Islam and Christianity

This video started me thinking and although sharing challenging thoughts about religion is not the safest thing to do and risks offending others. I think it is right to open our values and perceptions to dialogue.

First I would agree with Cenk Iygur that people from Christian cultures have probably perpetrated as much violence or even more violence than people from Muslim cultures. There is however a difference in the teachings of the two traditions in that Jesus never used or taught violence as a means to any end, not even for self defence while Muhammed both used and approved of violence where he considered it necessary.

Christianity could be said to have originated from Judeo-Roman culture whereas Islam originated from Judeo-Arab culture. Both cultures or cultural amalgams legitimised violence and were explicitly punitive. The Jesus of the Gospels sought to break away from the the dominant cultures of violence. When tested he rejected Satan’s offer of dominion over the world. Muhammed, it seems, made a different choice. And this is the choice that we all have to make, continuously, whether we are Muslim or Christian or followers of any other religion or philosophy. It is a choice not just between obvious violence and non violence but a choice about whether or not to use all the angers and subtle violences available to us to assert our dominance over others. It is a choice between love and anger and Jesus addresses this explicitly when he says:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and ‘Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, ‘Thou fool,’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

I am not condemning Islam in any way or saying that it is worse or better than Christianity, however, just as in Christianity there is the opportunity to return to radical non-violence through the teaching of Jesus, in Islam there is the fundamental concept of submission to the will of God and the dictum that in religion there is no compulsion. It is up to each individual to determine what is for them intrinsic to their faith.

Sam Harris and Cenk Uyger on Islam

This video is really long, at 3 hours it challenged my attention even though I’m someone who’s happy to think and talk about politics and religion independently or at the same time. TYT host Cenk Ugyer is questioning Harris on his assertions that Islam is doctrinally violent and is a motivational factor in terrorism and the attraction of young Muslims to Jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS. Cenk argues that all religions are irrational and can lead to violent behaviour. Harris returns that that there is a continuum of irrationality along the lines that while the proposition 2+2 = 5 is as absolutely wrong as the proposition 2+2 = 6, in the real world the degree to which you are wrong is consequential. Harris is not necessarily saying that Islam is doctrinally the most violent religion and Harris and Cenk note, however briefly, that there are very good aspects notably Islam’s explicit support for racial equality. Harris argues that although he is an atheist he is not advocating that Muslims abandon Islam but that they have a dialogue about reforming the religion. He refers to a collaboration he is having with Muslim ‘reformer’ Maajid Nawaz (of the Quilliam Foundation). Many in the Muslim world, notably Hasan Nasrallah, would agree that there is a need to challenge the Wahabbi/Saudi interpretation of Islam that has been accepted as Muslim orthodoxy. Nasrallah calls Islam a ‘religion of dialogue’. In my view the enemy of reason is not religion in general or any particular religion but the tendency in religion to be doctrinaire and to hold any proposition as beyond question.

Harris is better than Cenk for most of the dialogue but in the last part Harris loses it and he defends arguments he has made that torture and nuclear first strike can in certain circumstances be rational responses to an enemy that he perceives as a ‘death cult’. The argument is along the lines of when ‘we’ were facing the Soviets we knew that however different they were they wanted to live as much as we did but with a theoretical fanatical Islamic regime dying would be okay because they were focused on the next world so they would be more dangerous and it would bet preferable to get them before they get us. Harris justifies this kind of thought by referring to game play theory but Cenk rightly points out that American neo-cons could use this to justify their threatening postures.

What becomes clear in the video is that Harris and Cenk are both supporting a world view that justifies American intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere on the grounds that oppressive regimes, religious and secular, are oppressing their people. Both opposed the 2003 Iraq War which supporting the assault on Afghanistan because it was based on a lie but would have supported it if it were based on a rationale to free the people of Iraq. Cenk supported the Libya intervention on that supposedly humanitarian ground. By most utilitarian measures the Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya interventions can be judged to have been disasters and it cannot plausibly be argued that the intent in those interventions was benign. In the end it has to be asked whether Cenk and Harris are less vulnerable to the ‘mood music’ of their shared American culture that the generality of Muslims are to theirs.

Hasan Nasrallah on ISIS

We have heard that Sayed Hasan Nasrallah the Secretary General of Hezbollah is a terrorist and his organisation is terrorist. I do not know enough to comment on that but I must say that this speech made in October 2014 is an important and entirely noble one that was a pleasure to read. Hasan Nasrallah makes the point that the most important dimension of the battle against ISIS is the ideological one and that it is a battle for the soul of Islam. I have no hesitation in recommending this to all my friends and associates, Muslim and non-Muslim. Here is an extensive quote from the transcript on the Saker blog:

“O people, O Muslims and non-Muslims, O all people of the world! What you see here, this is not Islam! This has absolutely no connection, no links at all with Islam! This is not what the Quran teaches, it is not what it calls for. This is not the religion (of Prophet) Muhammad b. Abdullah, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family.”
This voice should be raised. [Audience: Salutations on the Prophet and his family.]
Firstly for the principle, but then we must also clarify, explain. It is not enough to hold a general discourse. We must show that these Quranic verses which they cite to justify their acts are falsely used, that it is not their true meaning. But of course, they have a method of interpretation and inference of their own. I do not have time to develop this point now, maybe I’ll do so on another occasion. These prophetic traditions they cite and attribute to the Messenger of Allah are fabricated and falsified traditions. Muslims do not accept them, the scholars of Islam do not recognize them (as authentic). One can easily demonstrate these things.
Our first duty is therefore to defend Islam.
Our second duty is to explain the reality of Islam in the world. This is not an issue of school against school. By God, this is not due to the fact that there is a Shiite Islam side, a Sunni Islam side or whatever other school, no! This Islam on which we unanimously agree, we who are all members of various Islamic schools, we the overwhelming majority of Muslims, we must present it to the world.

Our third duty, which is of paramount importance, is to have exemplary behavior. They exhibit a kind of Islam that is barbaric, macabre, terrifying, inflammatory, and distorted. Well, the rest of Muslims, whether Shiite, Sunni, etc. (have a duty to respond). Today, it is the responsibility of individual Muslims, wherever they are, in Lebanon, in the Arab world, Europe, Africa, North America or Latin America, wherever they are, it is their responsibility as individuals, families, communities, groups, parties or movements, personalities and common people, whoever they are. Yes, right now, the responsibility to present, through behaviour, through (the application of this prophetic tradition) “Call people to Islam with something other than your language.” (= By the example of your actions). Through (the application of tradition) “Be an ornament for your Prophet Muhammad (by your example), and do not be a stain for your Prophet (by your vices)”, may peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family.
Today, it is a major responsibility. So that people can say, “No, Islam is not that (the Islamic State), it is this (everyday Muslims)”. We need the Muslims, the Muslim masses, the Muslim peoples in their countries and with non-Muslims around the world, to embody the normal pattern of the Muslim man who is sincere, who restores the deposits entrusted to him, who considers lying a sin, theft and plunder as a sin, the killing of any human soul, which God has forbidden, to be a sin, one who does not commit crimes, who does not betray, who does not deceive, one who does not attack others, etc., etc., etc. One who opens to others, because our religion is the religion of dialogue, our Prophet is the Prophet of dialogue, our Qur’an is a Book of dialogue, one who has dialogue with the other, who is ready to take from them and give to them, to seek with them the truth and error, etc. Whoever behaves with others with righteousness, justice and goodness, which is also the content of Quranic verses which call us to this.
Today, presenting a different model (to that of the Islamic State) is a major responsibility, and more important now than ever. On any given day, I behave well (quite simply) because it is my responsibility is to behave well. But today, my responsibility is tenfold: I have to behave well and set a good example in terms of religion, the Quran and the Prophet which I hold to because there is a danger of distortion of that religion, of the Quran and the Prophet. Our responsibility is increased tenfold.
Fourth, yes, we must confront this movement, and this requires cooperation from governments, states, scholars, and organizations of all Muslims to prevent against it, to hinder its spread. And again, we must be honest: today, the country that bears the greatest responsibility in the Islamic world, to stop the spread of this thinking is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has already suffered in the distant and recent past, and which still suffers, regardless of any other political characterization. Yes, she also bore responsibility for that.
It is not enough that we – or rather they, because we were not involved and we do not participate – create an international alliance against the armies of the world come to fight ISIS. Above all, stop – and I am here to address everyone –, close the schools that train the followers of this daechiste thought. Stop and close the doors of takfir (apostasy charge) and judgment declaring people to be infidels for the most trivial of reasons. Launch an appeal to the current Wahhabi scholars so that they reconsider their principles and agree to dialogue with the rest of the Muslim scholars, Sunni and Shia, about those beliefs that they are working to promote and disseminate in the world.
And also in the confrontation of those who took up arms in any Arab and/or Muslim country, we call for not rushing to (war) – except when the battle has already started, which is another question – but as long as the confrontation did not start, it takes effort on the level of thought, dialogue, culture, we must try to hold discussions with these people (the Wahhabis) especially scholars, people with knowledge, insight, enlightenment, as many of them (the Wahhabis) have misconceptions. They have a false understanding (of Islam), a false doctrine. The basis of confrontation with the young members of this movement must be to open their eyes, not to close them definitely (eliminate them). Some immediately say that governments, regimes, armies and states must form alliances to eradicate the followers of this movement… No! We must first think to wake these people, to open their eyes and to lend a helping hand. We must talk to them, and some scholars may have an influence on them.
And of course, here, the responsibility of the scholars of our Sunni brothers is much greater than that of Shiite scholars. Because regarding the Shiite scholars, regardless of whoever comes their way, his fate is certain (because they consider him an apostate deserving death). But maybe they will accept to listen to Sunni scholars. A great responsibility rests on the Sunni scholars, that of having dialogue with them.

The rest of this transcript can be found on the Saker blog together with links to transcripts of the earlier parts of the speech. Links to videos of the earlier parts of speech are given in the video’s description but I am including those links here:

Part 1

Part 2

Thoughts About the French Attacks and Beyond


The Attacks

For the mainstream media 2015 started with the attack, in Paris, on satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo‘ on Wednesday 7th January. This video shows two attackers leaving the Charlie Hebdo offices after murdering 12 journalists and being confronted by a police car:

The attackers were revealed to be Said and Cherif Kouachi after Said left his identity card in the getaway vehicle:

On Friday 9th January there was another terrorist attack, this time on a Paris kosher grocery store by a lone gunman identified as Amedy Coulibaly:

A second hostage situation was underway in France on Friday as a gunman linked to the killing of a policewoman a day earlier took five hostages at a grocery in eastern Paris.

Shooting was heard and one person reported wounded at the kosher grocery in the eastern suburb of Porte de Vincennes early on Friday afternoon.

As armed police rushed to the scene, a separate hostage situation involving the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi was still ongoing near to Charles de Gaulle airport, around 30 miles northeast of Paris.

The Vincennes hostage taker, reported to be Amedy Coulibaly, was carrying two Kalashnikovs. Women and children were reportedly among the hostages.

Le Monde newspaper reported that the shooter was thought to be the same man who killed policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe in the Montrouge area of southern Paris on Thursday morning.

Source: The Telegraph.

Coulibaly held several people hostage in the grocery surrounded by police while at the same time in an industrial estate outside Paris the Kouachi brothers were reported to be holding a worker hostage at a print supplies firm. Both sieges came to an end with police storming the locations and killing the three gunmen:

The police are currently looking for Coulibaly’s partner, a young woman called Hayat Boumeddiene, who may be implicated in the killing of the policewoman on Thursday. She is reported to have fled to Syria.

And Beyond

Beyond the facts about what happened the attack on Charlie Hebdo has been seen as an attack by Islamic fundamentalism against the principle of free speech with many across the world asserting ‘Je suis Charlie’. Some however have urged caution against seeing this as evidence a ‘clash of civilisations’ There is no ‘clash of civilisations’, rather, as this cartoon suggests, civilisation is endangered by the kind of clash that some politicians (Netanyahu most obviously) seem to want:


There are six million Muslims in France; this outrage was committed by a handful of terrorists. Also there exists no absolute right to free speech in France or elsewhere as this 2006 article about a rap artist prosecuted for lyrics ‘offending public decency’ proves:

Monsieur R is facing three years in prison or a €75,000 (£51,000) fine after an MP from the ruling UMP party launched legal action against him over his current album ‘Politikment Incorrekt’, reports The Guardian.

In the video for the song ‘FranSSe’, Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, appears dressed as a gendarme with two naked women rubbing against the French flag as he rapped: “France is a bitch, don’t forget to fuck her till she’s exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man.” At another point in the song, he sang: “I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle.”

MP Daniel Mach proposed a law making it a criminal offence to insult the dignity of France and the French state upon hearing the album. He has since taken action against Makela, 30, for making and disseminating “violent and pornographic messages” to which minors could get access.

Source: NME

Over the past few days I have made a number of comments on Facebook about the incidents and the response to them. The embed feature allows me to reproduce those posts here.

I commented on the question of freedom of speech in a Facebook post on Saturday:


I also responded to Cynthia McKinney’s ‘Je suis Donbass’ post saying: “Donbass is on the front line resisting the Nazis, the Syrian people are resisting the Takfiris, aware Americans are resisting corporatism and the police state, news trickles out about the massacre of thousands of Nigerians by Boko Haram, their local Takfiris, the Palestinians face repeated genocidal campaigns perpetrated by their Israeli oppressors and Netanyahu joins the leaders of Europe in subverting the people’s will to Unity to justify their goals of increasing control. Excuse my French (really) but … je ne suis pas Charlie, je suis Donbass, je suis Syria, je suis Ferguson, je suis Nigeria, je suis Palestine, nous sommes les misérables du monde.”:


I was pleased that got a response from Cynthia, whose work I greatly admire. I was pleased too that Cynthia recognised the importance of Donbass and also likes the Saker blog which has some very pertinent comments on the French situation:


Maybe there are now enough people across the world who are ceasing to be brainwashed by the spectacle, and are unplugging from the Matrix (which some see as its metaphorical representation).

Room in the Inn


Jesus can share the first floor suite with Buddha and Lao Tzu. Mohammed will be in the basement with Abraham and Moses. That leaves a few rooms on the ground floor for a party of philosophers.

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