Posted by: Scribe G | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Congregating to Talk of Conflict

Religious studies professor Norman Cornett has done what none of the leaders involved in the Iraq war had been able to accomplish. He invited seven religious clerics and scholars of different faiths to talk in an open dialogue for his April 10 seminar class on Religion and War.

The participants were Thupten Jinpa, a Geshe (highest rank of monk in Tibetan Buddhism) and principal translator for the Dalai Lama; Dr. Yasser Ad-Dab’bagh, psychiatrist and neuroscientist whose work on Islam and psychology had been read in Cornett’s class; Archbishop Hounan Derderian, Primate of the Armenian Church in Canada; Anglican Archbishop Andrew Hutchinson, also Bishop Ordinate in the Canadian Forces; Rabbi Howard Joseph, of the oldest synagogue in Canada; Reverend Thomas H. Paul, Vietnam vet and retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army’s 141st Airborne and army reserve chaplain; and Imam Salam El-Menyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

Cornett called it a “close fellowship” as the seven leaders huddled on chairs in front of the classroom. Cornett started the discussion by reading the class’s anonymous student journals of the Iraq War.

Students expressed dismay over the war, astonishment at its scale, disgust at double standards for a life’s worth, and imagined what it would be like to lose home and family. They also expressed a fear of terrorism, admiration for Donald Rumsfeld, and a secret wish to believe in something enough to be willing to die for it, as do suicide bombers.

One wrote it’ll take more than prayer to end the fighting. Cornett read, “Bush and his cronies can’t hear prayers, only God can, and it isn’t clear that God is listening.”

Cornett then opened the floor to those assembled to discuss the war and religion’s views. One student asked how is it possible to respond to the horrors of a war that’s so far away?

Rev. Paul said that war is distanced when viewed via television, nonetheless an appropriate response is a deep grieving: for the loss of innocence, for the people and children. He added that although Christianity is not militant, Christian theologian Saint Augustine talked of “just war” and the Bible allows for war under certain conditions.

Archbishop Hutchinson, however, believes that for the Iraq war, “most of the principles of the Augustinian just war were not met.” For instance, there was no evidence of imminent threat for the U.S. to respond to.

Ad-Dab’bagh raised that a central moral value in Islam is that no matter what the objective is, the means and the end have to undergo separate evaluations and separate judgements. “Regardless of how this present war ends, even if it does end in a noble gesture, it will never retrospectively justify the action. Ad-Dab’bagh then reflected on personal responses to the war, saying that there are “distances that are unique for each one of us. One is geographic distance. Far more importantly is an ideological distance, the less well-understood is the psychological distance.” This depends on the strength of one’s identification with what’s going on, if there are personal memories that resonate with the war, or one’s own personal tragedy and development.

Another student wondered how we can help?

Although we may not be able to do anything for this war, Rabbi Joseph said, the question remains for the next. Theological humility recognizes that since God is infinite, there’s not possibly room for the total truth within one community or within finite individuals. Today, members of different faiths meet and confront each other as never before, and religion’s biggest challenge is “having to learn how to deal with others who are from a different faith tradition.”

Yet increased exposure to others has a positive side. Jinpa pointed out that compared to a century earlier there is a greater sense of global community, resulting in a greater humanitarian concern. “The phenomenon of large-scale protest is a common sight,” he said, adding that the U.S. is an anomaly in terms of people’s religiosity and their support for war.

“As a Buddhist, it’s very difficult to accept the concept of a morally justified war.” By bringing religion into war, he added, “you are invoking concepts of infinite, but it’s really brought down to the human level of interpretation. Whose interpretation of a justified war?”

Another student queried about the concept of jihad and suicide bombing. Was it a perversion of Islam or acceptable? El-Menyawi said that committing suicide is unacceptable in Islam, as is killing civilians. There is a common misunderstanding that jihad means a war of religion. Yes, jihad can include fighting, but only in defense of family, honour and wealth; or for freedom of expression. “Jihad means a struggle, exerting effort. The highest level of jihad is the word of truth in front of a tyrant.”

Ad-Dab’bagh responded to a student’s journal entry — “every act of war or terror I have seen in my life involves Muslims” — by saying the 20th century has seen the dissolution of the Muslim empire, which has been colonized by invaders who have often abused the rights of Muslims. He reminded the class that the 20th century is but one-twentieth of AD history.

Despite the prohibitions, some Islamic clerics have explained a suicide bomber’s intentions as pure because the bombers believed they were preserving their five essential rights (faith, life, property, private honour, wealth) and that they were attacking combatants. However, the definition of a combatant is strict — if the combatant lowers his gun, he’s no longer seen as such.

The archbishop Hutchinson entreated the class to not be victims of our leaders’ decisions. He’s said it’s unprecedented for religious leaders of all stripes to be so opposed to the war, and sees a glimmer of hope in the number of protests. “When you talk to your children, and they say ‘in 2003 when all hell broke loose in Iraq, where were you and what did you do?’ [You] must be able to say to your own conscience and own progeny, I did something.”

Rabbi Joseph observed that part of the students’ frustration stems from being in university, where dialogue and discussion are encouraged and seen as a way to solve problems and resolve differences. Not everyone’s like that, he cautioned. Some people only understand power.

Derderian grew up in Lebanon during the civil war. “After 27 years, I am reliving the nightmare.” Above all else, he believes in dialogue. “If we are silent, we are responsible.”

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Posted by: Scribe G | Friday, April 6, 2007

A Christian/Moslem Debate Of The 12th Century

INTRODUCTION

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen. With the help of God, we begin writing a debate that happened between the monk Georgi and three Moslem theologians, in the presence of the prince Al-Khana, Al-Mushar Abul-Mulk, Gazi Al-Zaher Usef Ibn Ayub Al-Salah, the Moslem King of Aleppo and Syria, and during the reign of Leo the Armenian, son of Etienne, King of the Armenian tribe, in October 6615 from our Father Adam and 1165 A.D. God help us! The story says that the Abbot of the convent of “St. Simon the Fisherman” paid a visit to the King of Aleppo and its dependencies. The Abbot was accompanied by some of his monks. The King welcomed them, gave orders to secure all their demands, and allowed them to stay at his father’s tent. Among the followers of the Abbot was an old monk who was very versed in knowledge. He spoke very well, too. Everybody liked to listen to him. he entered the convent in his childhood and profited of the books there; he acquired the virtues and the good manners of the monks. He was Abbot for many years until he became old. he was called “the monk Georgi” (George). When he met the Prince, he invoked God for him.

The Prince was pleased and asked him to have a seat. When the Abbot had been convocated by the King to fulfill all his requirements, the prince asked the monk (Georgi) to stay and continued talking to him and inquired about the convent and the mode of living of the monks. Let us relate (now) the questions of the Prince:

DEBATE ON NATURE OF MONASTIC LIFE

The Prince— O monk, don’t you eat any meat?

The Monk— No! We don’t eat any at all.

The Prince— Don’t you get married?

The Monk— No, Prince; on the contrary, we avoid women.

The Prince— Why? Is this from God? But he created humankind as a man and a woman. He said also: “…have meat for eating.” (You may eat the meat).

The Monk— We do not forbid (eating) the meat. But we intend to have a light life, not material, in order to be nearer to God by lightening our body. The iron is purified from its impurities the closer it is to the fire. And as water becomes clearer, the water allows the sunlight to penetrate (it)–Don’t you see that the rays let the light pierce through as far as they’re thin and transparent? Don’t you know that steam rising from the ground outshines the sunlight? The reason, O Prince, that is inside of us from God, becomes dark with luxurious life, and it keeps us away from God at the range of its darkness. And with our distance from God we attach ourselves to the corporal matters and to the love of the actual life. We avoid not only meat and women, but all corporal delights and everything that charms the five faculties. We expect, by using these privations, to obtain the graces of God in His eternal kingdom. He said,”you will not get the joy in the eternal world, if you don’t endure the sorrows and difficulties in the perishable world.”

The Prince— O monk, you are just right. But, God granted us these and those.

The Monk— Our God permitted to you to do as you like and gave you the liberty to enjoy the corporal felicities when He says: “I’ll give you in the heaven a river of milk, a river of honey and beautiful women.”

The Prince and the Monk were talking so, when three theologians came to the Prince and saluted him. He ordered them to sit down. And when they saw the monk, they spoke with the Prince in Turkish, saying,”where is this monk from? for what purpose is he in your presence?”

The Prince: This monk is from Simon’s convent; he came to us with other monks to resolve some problems with the Sultan (King). How do you like his appearance? One of them called Abu-Zaher, from Baghdad said, “may I be made your ransom, O Prince, he has a smiling mouth and a handsome face. How regretful that he is Christian.”

The Prince: Would you like to have a debate with him in the matter of religion? They answered yes.

DEBATE ON THE SALVIFIC NATURE OF GOD

Then, they looked at each other. Thus, one of them, called Abu-Salamah Ibn Saad, from Mossul said,

Abu-Salamah (The Moslem) –“O monk, we revere and honor your Christ and make his rank over all prophets, except Mohammad, Prophet and Apostle of God. But you, Christians, decreased his esteem and you do not honor him, while God honored him and inspired him the Koran, as a light and mercy. You do not agree that he is the Prophet of God; so he shall confute you on the Resurrection.

The Monk— Abu-Salamah, each question has an answer, But we did not come to your place to have a religious debate with you; But as petitioners. We do not need to talk to you, but with what it pleases you; because we know that the fury is yours and that you are boasting about that. A wise man said,” Be cautious with them as long as you live in their house.”

The Moslem— Fear God, O Monk, because of what you mentioned. We are a people of law and justice; and nobody here is willing to discuss with you in a bad way.

Then, the Prince glanced at the Monk and said,– “O Monk, I had been born from a Greek (Christian) woman. So, you can answer as you like, without fear. “Then he pulled out his own seal from his finger and put it on the finger of the monk.

The Monk— Abu-Salamah, we do not want to give lies instead of truth. But we fear that you bring lies following the roughness of your nature. Don’t you say that we do not revere Mohammed, nor confess that he is Apostle of God? Well, we will give you a clear proof from God (to ascertain our sayings).

The Moslem— You could not succeed, at all, even if you try to do the impossible efforts.

The Monk— The truth will appear. Abu-Salamah, don’t you confess that God created all creatures?

The Moslem— Yes, all which are in the heaven and in the earth; everything visible and invisible have been created by God, by His will.

The Monk— Are there any people created by God and some people created by another God?

The Moslem— No! The Creator created them and He is the One God I worship, and there is not another God.

The Monk— Do you think that God willed the salvation of the whole world or He wants to save only a specified people among His creatures and destroy the rest? Don’t you confess that God is rich, generous, and magnanimous? If you don’t, then you attribute avarice to God; like a man who prepared food for a hundred persons, but when they came, he drove them out and said,” Go away, I have no food for you!” By this way, he showed his avarice.

The Moslem— I confess that God is rich, generous, magnanimous and the Creator of all creatures, and that He desires their salvation.

The Monk— If God wants the salvation of the whole world, His messengers should be sent to the whole world, too. And anyone who pretends to be a Messenger of God needs a sign to corroborate his assertions; he needs also a power from God to confirm his message.

The Moslem— What is the power and the sign?

The Monk— Those that were with the Apostles of Christ.

The Moslem— What is the power?

The Monk— They are three: to make miracles, to speak various languages and avoid worldly things. While you have three opposite traits.

The Moslem— Like what?

The Monk— the menace with sword, tribute, and conviction. Those traits have been found in Mohammed. Evidence of God’s Authority in the Apostles

Then, the Monk turned out to the Prince and said, ” by God, O Prince if someone comes now to you and pretends to be a messenger of the King to you for so and so purposes, and you did not find in his possession a letter or a seal from the King , will you believe that he is the messenger of the King ?

The Prince— By God, no! On the contrary, I’ll consider him like a liar and traitor.

The Moslem— What are the signs and the proof of the Apostles of Christ attesting their acquisition of the power to make miracles, to speak various languages and to preach in the whole world?

The Monk— The sign is in your presence and the proof is evident: at any direction you look, east, west, south or north, you find the devotion to Christ at the farthest regions of the world. No one region is empty of it (this devotion). This is an evident proof that the Apostles of Christ traveled through the whole earth and spoke all languages. You cannot find a people, a language or a tongue without knowledge of Christ. The prophet David predicted that when he said,” They went to whole earth and their speeches have grown in the regions of the world.” This is also an evident proof that the Apostles spoke all languages. Do you have, Abu-Salamah, any doubt on those two things?

Abu-Salamah— This is evident, without any doubt. Sermon on the Power and the Sign

The Monk— I’ll prove, now, that they made miracles, not by the force of their words, but by the power of their Sender, from the submission of the barbarian peoples to them. Their preachings were not dependent on their tolerance, neither menace, nor by the sword. They didn’t take money. They were, in majority, illiterate fishermen and tent tailors. But the power received from Christ helped them to govern this world. When the Christ had sent them to preach in the world, He entered the room where they were gathered after His resurrection, while the doors were closed. He gave them peace, first because they were fearing the Jews. Then He blew on them and said,” receive the Holy Spirit. This Spirit will be your voice. By this voice, you will raise the dead, heal the sick, and vanquish the Kings. If you remit the sins of people they will be pardoned; but if you retain them, they will be so. Give free of charge, as you received so.” He told them also,” Don’t bear a staff, neither haversack not food; don’t have two clothes, nor two shoes. Don’t bear copper in your girdle.” Now tell me, what’s stronger of that sign? If you tell me that their orders were too soft, I’ll answer you that those were not theirs, but of the Christ, their Master. Here they are, “To whom who slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the left one”; and, “if someone wants your cloth, give him your coat also”; and, “if someone uses you for one mile, go two miles with him. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Do good to those who afflict you.” Tell me, who could listen to these ordinances and accept them, if the miracles did not astonish the whole world? Then, they believed them (the Apostles) and trusted their preaching. Look, O Moslem, at the preachings of the Apostles, as they preached to the speakers, scientists and the Kings, saying, “believe in God. He has been born from a woman; he ate food and drank water; has been beaten and whipped; people mocked him and spit on His face; they slapped him and put on his head a crown of thorns; he has been crucified and buried; (but) he rose from the dead.” No one believed them. But people mocked them; denied their sayings, beat and chased them away. The Apostles said, ” People, if you deny our preachings, we shall prove the truth. In fact: bring to us the crippled, blind and leper people, along with crazy, dislocated and dead people.” They said, ” In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up, you dead person.” That person rose from the dead. As well as from other sicknesses, which were healed also. Then, people believed them and worshipped their God; for their acts testified for them. Some people closed their eyes and their ears, like the snake that closed her ears to avoid hearing the magician’s voice. But those who worshipped Satan, through adultery, voluptuousnesses, viciousness, and avidity and the target of which was to satisfy the desires of their bodies: all of those became as a flume (of smoke) and their idolatric adoration is over. The heavens, the earth, God and his angels testify that the Apostles are the messengers of the Christ and that their religion is the right one. And your prophet, Mohammed also testified for them, saying in the Koran, ” We inspired the Koran as a light and guidance and confirming what is in their hands (Christian) from the Bible and the Gospels.” So, if your prophet and your Book confirmed the Gospel, you have to do so, otherwise you treat your prophet and your books as liars. Debate on the Integrity of the Gospels

The Moslem— I trust the Gospel and all its contents. But you altered it to be as you wanted.

The Monk–Do not say something you can’t prove, because, in the end, you will be ashamed, like that one who prefers to cover the sunlight. Tell me, Abu-Salamah, how many years had passed from the Christ until Mohammed?

The Moslem— I don’t know.

The Monk— I give the answer: from the Christ to Mohammed, six hundred and some more years passed.

The Prince–You’re right, Monk. That is what we found in the history.

The Monk— Were the Christians, then, in the whole world?

The Moslem— Yes, they were.

The Monk— Like in the present time?

The Moslem–Yes and more (then they are now).

The Monk— Could you count (the number of ) the Gospels which existed (in that time) on the earth (in the world) in various languages?

The Moslem— We couldn’t.

The Monk— Let us suppose that some people in the West had altered their Gospels. So, how did they reach those who are at the end of the earth in the East? Same thing for those who are in the North towards the South. It’s impossible. If that was possible you were, then, founding the apocryphal Gospels with a part of Christians. While if you pay for a trip over the whole world, you will find the Gospels in various languages analogous to those received from the Apostles of our Lord the Christ. No difference between any of them, even in one letter, except the particular traits of each language. I, hereby, give you an example which lets you believe me: If someone comes and shows a Koran different from that known to you now, and says, ” this is the Koran inspired by the Prophet,” while it is not, will you accept it?

The Prince— No, on the contrary we shall kill him and burn his book.

The Monk— How could you equalize the Master and the servant, the Creator and the created or God and the man? Debate on the Integrity of Mohammed

The Moslem— Don’t you know, Monk, that Mohammed governed the Arabs, and that he is God’s Prophet and Messenger, because he guided Ishmail’s descendants and passed them from the idolatry to the worship of the Living God, like what did Christ and his Apostles?

The Monk— I know that Mohammed ruled the Arabs and passed them from the idolatry to the acquaintance of God, but not to the true acquaintance, because he intended to rule them in order to have them under his jurisdiction, much more than to give them information about the Creator. If you can be patient a little and calm yourself, I’ll give you a testimony on behalf of me and all Christians concerning your prophet Mohammed, to let you know why we do not honor him, neither call him Prophet or Messenger.

The Moslem— As the Prince allowed you to speak as you like and gave you security, and the permission to speak about Islam, you can say anything you want.

The Prince— Abu-Salamah, the Monk spoke as it is suitable to the truth and as accepted by reason.

Abu-Salamah— Give us what you gave about Mohammed.

The Monk— You should know, Abu-Salamah, that Mohammed was from the tribe of Koreish, and descendant of Ishmail, son of Hagar the Egyptian, slave of Sarah, spouse of Abraham. He was an Arab nomad and camel driver. In his trips, he came to Jerusalem where he had been welcomed by a Christian Nestorian, called Buheira. When he asked Mohammed about his religion, he found him to be one of the pagans. Those were the sons of Ishmail. They worshipped an idol called AL-AKBAR (the greatest). They used to put around him poems containing desire and love written on tablets which they suspended over that idol. They served for prayers and had been called the seven “usudallakat” (suspended). When he (Buheira) knew that he (Mohammed) was from that tribe, he got sympathy for him, due to the similarity of languages, the friendship, and the desire of knowledge. Then he read to him some chapters from the Gospels, the Bible and the Psalms. When he returned home, he said to his friends, ” Woe unto you! You are in flagrant error and your worship is null and unprofitable”. They told him, ” What is your problem, Mohammed?” He answered, ” I found the true God.” They asked, ” What is his name?” He replied, ” His name is ALLAH. He created the heaven and the earth and all creatures in it. He sent me to you as a light and a sign of his compassion.” They said, ” Could you show him to us to know where he is?” He said, ” He resides in the heaven and sees all, but he is invisible.” They told him, ” We have a deity which we worship and honor. We inherited this worship from our ancestors who gave us the liberty to satisfy our desires with everything we own.” Then Mohammed told them, ” That one who sent me to you told me that he grants you what is better and greater than what you say.” They asked, ” What is it?” He said, ” It is a paradise where he transfers you after your death. It contains food, drinks, and women.” They asked, ” What is the form of the food, drink, and women” He replied, ” Rivers of honey, milk and wine, with beautiful women; there you will be not thirsty nor full of tears.” they said, ” Are you the Messenger of God?” He replied, ” Yes.” They said, ” We fear our god AL-AKBAR.” He said, ” worship God and honor AL-AKBAR.” Some of them said, ” We believe in God, you said the truth,” Then he passed through another group from koreish, Muhammed’s tribe. He, later met another group. Those people allowed their members to marry their daughters and sisters. Those were their customs, before they knew God. Mohammed wrote to Buheira all what happened to him. Buheira prohibited those customs and with big efforts, he succeeded to draw them to the first cousins. When he got enough adherents from Arabs and their aristocracy, some remained reticent. Then he desired the monarchy (sovereignty) for himself and formed an armed detachment to fight his contradictors and said, ” Those who enter the Islam, will be safe;” and said, ” The inhabitants of the heaven and the earth entered the Islam by their will and (some) by force.” Then, he attacked a group convinced another group with adorned words and arguments. His target was to rule them and rush them in order to reach the rest of women, because he was very avid of them. He desired them at a high degree. In confirmation of that, he was not satisfied with his numerous women, but desired Zeid’s wife when he saw her and took her from him by force, pretending that God gave her to him as a wife, instead of Zeid. He spoke to his followers in this concern saying, ” After Zeid had accomplished his desires from her, We (God) gave her to you as a wife, Mohammed.” He pretended that God inspired him to do so. But his followers said, ” Messenger of God, what God granted you is not permitted to anyone else.”

The Moslem— Woe unto you, uncircumcised! Zeid had asked him to take her and sworn that she will be unlawful for him.

The Monk— He had to, otherwise he would have the same destiny as others.

The Moslem— What happened to them?

The Monk— Didn’t you hear about the bedouin killed by your prophet, on his bed, while God forbids killing even the birds in their beds. When asked by his followers, ” Who killed the slave?” “My sword,” replied Mohammed.

The Moslem— If you find some faults in the life of Mohammed to blame him for, you must confess that he had the biggest and most important honor and the greatest credit with God for what he did to Ishmail’s descendants.

The Monk— He guided you following his will, not as would like God. And Mohammed did not ignore that he and you are far from the truth and the right way, saying, ” I don’t know what happens to me and to you. Are we in the clarity or in the dark?” He said also, ” Fear God as hard as you could, maybe you will succeed.” And he assigned that in each prayer you request to be guided to the right way by saying, ” Guide us (O God) to the right way.” So, if you are right, then you don’t need to ask for the righteousness. Bur he asks God for help. But let us forget what we said. Have an example about this. Suppose, O Prince, that I left your presence in search of without leaving the way guiding to the Fatherland . I’ll not need guidance but the help to reach the Fatherland. .

The Prince— Quite right,

The Monk— If Mohammed knew that you were on the right way, he would not order you to request from God the guidance and the maturity. Besides, knowing that his prayer is not accepted by God, he ordered you to pray for him, and told you, ” You, believers, pray for him and grant him salvation.”

The Moslem— Don’t you know God and his angels pray for Mohammed? Don’t we have to pray for him, too?

The Monk— You should, preferably, pray for yourself and ask the pardon for yourself; not to be like that one who is hungry and asks food for others; or like that one who suffers from an injury and asks medicine for somebody else, So, if you, with God and his angels pray for Mohammed, who will accept your prayers? If this is your opinion, you equalize God and angels with the mankind.

The Moslem— The prayer of God is a grace accorded to his worshippers.

The Monk— Who has benefited from the grace of God and his angels doesn’t need your prayers. You should better pray for yourself.

The Moslem— Don’t you pray, you Christians, on your Christ?

The Monk— Absolutely not! On the contrary we pray to him, because he is our God and Creator and he accepts the prayer of his servants if they do, and forgives their faults.

The Moslem— What an evident blasphemy and bad idea! You worship a created man, born from a woman, who suffered ignominy. That is what you confess, and you, Monk, do not deny that. You mock with insolence our Prophet Mohammed, the Chosen.

The Monk— Upon my life, we do not bring anything from ourselves but from your Book and your Koran. Don’t you confess that Mohammed was Bedouin and from Koreish?

The Moslem— Yes.

The Monk— Don’t you know that he had many women, some against and some concubines. Don’t you agree that he was so passionate towards women that he used the sword to kill those who did not obey him, and that he took Zeid’s wife?

The Moslem— Yes, that was God’s order, for God inspired him to do so.

The Monk— Don’t you confess that he died and had been buried with thirty members with him under the soil? We mentioned only a few of the attributes of your Prophet, those which you admitted. So why do you contest it?

The Moslem— Woe unto you! We contest what you make God a child, and that the Christ is God’s son, and that he is Eternal God and Creator of the creatures while he is human and was born from a woman and God considers him like Adam to whom he said, ” Be!” and he has been (created).

The Monk— So, Abu-Salamah, you believe in all what your Prophet mentioned in your Book and that (this book) was inspired by God?

The Moslem— Yes, everything mentioned in the Koran was inspired to Mohammed.

The Monk— The Koran doesn’t mention that the Christ is the Spirit of God and his Word given by God to Mary?

The Moslem— Not eternal (word) but created.

The Monk— Was God, at any time, dumb, deaf, or empty from any word or spirit?

The Moslem–God forbid! God, his Word and Spirit are always (present).

The Monk— Is God’s Word Creator or created?

The Moslem— Creator.

The Monk— You worship God along with his Spirit and Word, isn’t it?

The Moslem— I adore God, His Word and His Spirit.

The Monk— Say now, then, ” I believe in God, in His Spirit and in His Word.”

The Moslem— I believe in God and in His Spirit and in His Word. But I do not make them three, but one God.

The Monk— This is my opinion, too; and my beliefs and those of all Christians of Orthodox faith. I like now to explain the meanings of the Holy Eternity: the Father is God; the Son is His Word; and the third (person is) the Holy Spirit.

The Prince was laying down. He then stood up, glanced to the Moslem, laughed and told him,– ” Abu-Salamah, the Monk Christianized you and introduced you to the Christian’s religion; you are then Christian.”

Abu-Salamah was furious. Then, a jurisprudent called Abul-Fadl Al-Halabi, told his friends: If you had permitted me from the beginning, I had a dialogue with the Monk and I showed you his defeat. Afterwards, he looked at the Prince and said, — “Be informed, O Prince, that the non-believers are in the fire (in the hell) and whoever approaches them burns himself, and Satan who is the spirit of the tyranny speaks through their mouths.”

The Monk— Why do you insult us? Why do you attribute to us what is related to you and to your prophet? Didn’t we talk and prove that the Christ is the Spirit of God and His Word from your Koran and your Prophet? If you are sure that what we cited is satanic, it should be from your Prophet and your Book.

The Prince— Shame of you, Abul-Fadl! Your silence was better and more fruitful than your speech. I wish God had furnished you with silence and dumbness; then we would have been quite at ease.

Then Abdul-Fadl, ashamed, went away.

Posted by: Scribe B | Monday, January 9, 2006

Richard Dawkins Interview With Yusuf Al Khattab

An excerpt from the television documentary, The Root of All Evil?, where evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins presents religion as a detriment to society and the world as a whole.

The transcript of the interview is below:

Dawkins: What I noticed coming to this center of world religions, what a lot of hatred religion fosters, I mean I am an antsiest, I have been rather gentle, I don’t hate people, but it seems to me that I am hearing hate on both sides.
Khattab: I hate atheists because atheists don’t care if somebody fornicates in the middle of the street, they don’t care if their women go bouncing around on TV topless, that makes no difference if they don’t believe anything. You don’t believe in a set rule, and you believe that a constitution can change, and you can amend the rules as they go along, and you don’t believe in God’s rule, then what law do you have? You just have manmade laws.
Dawkins (to himself): I realized that I was in the company of someone who has willingly bought into a fundamentalist dogma.
Dawkins: What do you think about the September the eleventh attacks on New York and the July the seventh attacks on London?
Khattab: OK, since you like to speak about evolution I would like to start before, what do you think about the Jews that have destroyed over 417 Arab villages including all Mosques and Masjids which wouldn’t affect you because you are an atheist? So what are you saying that we should sit back and say oh you know what, let’s progress and let’s sit down and drink tea and talk about what to do?, All I can say is if there was no quote unquote state of Israel, there would have been no September the eleventh.
Dawkins: But if we ever got to live together, it is not going to be helped if there are people of very very strong faith, who simply know they are right and are not amenable to arguments because there is somebody out there who is just as faithful as you and has his faith just as strong as yours, which is opposite to yours.
Khattab: You see, the problem is Richard, I think that you have fear. You know that this party of occupying Muslim lands and polluting society with these evil ideas that are around. It is not going to last forever. There will always be the soldiers of Allah there to give the response to this. So, we also want the same thing, all we want is that we want the non-Muslims at this point OFF the land of Muhammad Sala Allahu Alayhi Wa Salam, all the lands of Muhammad, we want the Kuffar out of it.
Dawkins: Do you want Islam to take over the rest of the world?
Khattab: Of course I want it to, and it will. So my advice is to clean up your show at home, take your forces off our lands, correct yourselves, fix your society. All right? Fix your women –
Dawkins: Fix your women? That’s not my business; that’s my women’s business.
Khattab: No, it is your business, it is your business, when you take the women and dress them like whores on the street –
Dawkins: I don’t dress women, they dress themselves.
Khattab: But you allow it as a norm, to let the women to go on the street dressed like this, what is going on with your society?
Dawkins: But I am interested in religion and the effect it has on the people’s minds and I am worried about you.
Khattab: And we are very worried about you. What’s going on with the stealing, with the theft, out of control… [conversation fades]

Posted by: Scribe B | Monday, April 5, 2004

Speech by Urban II at Council of Clermont, 1095

After these and various other matters had been attended to, all who were present, clergy and people, gave thanks to God and agreed to the pope’s proposition. They all faithfully promised to keep the decrees. Then the pope said that in another part of the world Christianity was suffering from a state of affairs that was worse than the one just mentioned. He continued:

“Although, O sons of God, you have promised more firmly than ever to keep the peace among yourselves and to preserve the rights of the church, there remains still an important work for you to do. Freshly quickened by the divine correction, you must apply the strength of your righteousness to another matter which concerns you as well as God. For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of St. George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impurity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it.

“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”

Posted by: Mike | Sunday, May 11, 2003

Hernan Cortés: from Second Letter to Charles V

IN ORDER, most potent Sire, to convey to your Majesty a just conception of the great extent of this noble city of Temixtitlan, and of the many rare and wonderful objects it contains; of the government and dominions of Moctezuma, the sovereign: of the religious rights and customs that prevail, and the order that exists in this as well as the other cities appertaining to his realm: it would require the labor of many accomplished writers, and much time for the completion of the task. I shall not be able to relate an hundredth part of what could be told respecting these matters; but I will endeavor to describe, in the best manner in my power, what I have myself seen; and imperfectly as I may succeed in the attempt, I am fully aware that the account will appear so wonderful as to be deemed scarcely worthy of credit; since even we who have seen these things with our own eyes, are yet so amazed as to be unable to comprehend their reality. But your Majesty may be assured that if there is any fault in my relation, either in regard to the present subject, or to any other matters of which I shall give your Majesty an account, it will arise from too great brevity rather than extravagance or prolixity in the details; and it seems to me but just to my Prince and Sovereign to declare the truth in the clearest manner, without saying anything that would detract from it, or add to it.

***

This great city contains a large number of temples, or houses, for their idols, very handsome edifices, which are situated in the different districts and the suburbs; in the principal ones religious persons of each particular sect are constantly residing, for whose use, besides the houses containing the idols, there are other convenient habitations. All these persons dress in black, and never cut or comb their hair from the time they enter the priesthood until they leave it; and all the sons of the principal inhabitants, both nobles and respectable citizens, are placed in the temples and wear the same dress from the age of seven or eight years until they are taken out to be married; which occurs more frequently with the first-born who inherit estates than with the others. The priests are debarred from female society, nor is any woman permitted to enter the religious houses. They also abstain from eating certain kinds of food, more at some seasons of the year than others.

Among these temples there is one which far surpasses all the rest, whose grandeur of architectural details no human tongue is able to describe; for within its precincts, surrounded by a lofty wall, there is room enough for a town of five hundred families. Around the interior of the enclosure there are handsome edifices, containing large halls and corridors, in which the religious persons attached to the temple reside. There are fully forty towers, which are lofty and well built, the largest of which has fifty steps leading to its main body, and is higher than the tower of the principal tower of the church at Seville. The stone and wood of which they are constructed are so well wrought in every part, that nothing could be better done, for the interior of the chapels containing the idols consists of curious imagery, wrought in stone, with plaster ceilings, and wood-work carved in relief, and painted with figures of monsters and other objects. All these towers are the burial places of the nobles, and every chapel in them is dedicated to a particular idol, to which they pay their devotions.

Three halls are in this grand temple, which contain the principal idols; these are of wonderful extent and height, and admirable workmanship, adorned with figures sculptured in stone and wood; leading from the halls are chapels with very small doors, to which the light is not admitted, nor are any persons except the priests, and not all of them. In these chapels are the images of idols, although, as I have before said, many of them are also found on the outside; the principal ones, in which the people have greatest faith and confidence, I precipitated from their pedestals, and cast them down the steps of the temple, purifying the chapels in which they had stood, as they were all polluted with human blood, shed ill the sacrifices. In the place of these I put images of Our Lady and the Saints, which excited not a little feeling in Moctezuma and the inhabitants, who at first remonstrated, declaring that if my proceedings were known throughout the country, the people would rise against me; for they believed that their idols bestowed on them all temporal good, and if they permitted them to be ill-treated, they would be angry and without their gifts, and by this means the people would be deprived of the fruits of the earth and perish with famine. I answered, through the interpreters, that they were deceived in expecting any favors from idols, the work of their own hands, formed of unclean things; and that they must learn there was but one God, the universal Lord of all, who had created the heavens and earth, and all things else, and had made them and us; that He was without beginning and immortal, and they were bound to adore and believe Him, and no other creature or thing.

I said everything to them I could to divert them from their idolatries, and draw them to a knowledge of God our Lord. Moctezuma replied, the others assenting to what he said, That they had already informed me they were not the aborigines of the country, but that their ancestors had emigrated to it many years ago; and they fully believed that after so long an absence from their native land, they might have fallen into some errors; that I having more recently arrived must know better than themselves what they ought to believe; and that if I would instruct them in these matters, and make them understand the true faith, they would follow my directions, as being for the best. Afterwards, Moctezuma and many of the principal citizens remained with me until I had removed the idols, purified the chapels, and placed the images in them, manifesting apparent pleasure; and I forbade them sacrificing human beings to their idols as they had been accustomed to do; because, besides being abhorrent in the sight of God, your sacred Majesty had prohibited it by law, and commanded to put to death whoever should take the life of another. Thus, from that time, they refrained from the practice, and during the whole period of my abode in that city, they were never seen to kill or sacrifice a human being.

The figures of the idols in which these people believe surpass in stature a person of more than ordinary size; some of them are composed of a mass of seeds and leguminous plants, such as are used for food, ground and mixed together, and kneaded with the blood of human hearts taken from the breasts of living persons, from which a paste is formed in a sufficient quantity to form large statues. When these are completed they make them offerings of the hearts of other victims, which they sacrifice to them, and besmear their faces with the blood. For everything they have an idol, consecrated by the use of the nations that in ancient times honored the same gods. Thus they have an idol that they petition for victory in war; another for success in their labors; and so for everything in which they seek or desire prosperity, they have their idols, which they honor and serve.

***

He was served in the following manner: Every day as soon as it was light, six hundred nobles and men of rank were in attendance at the palace, who either sat, or walked about the halls and galleries, and passed their time in conversation, but without entering the apartment where his person was. The servants and attendants of these nobles remained in the court-yards, of which there were two or three of great extent, and in the adjoining street, which was also very spacious. They all remained in attendance from morning until night; and when his meals were served, the nobles were likewise served with equal profusion, and their servants and secretaries also had their allowance. Daily his larder and wine-cellar were open to all who wished to eat or drink. The meals were served by three or four hundred youths, who brought on an infinite variety of dishes; indeed, whenever he dined or supped, the table was loaded with every kind of flesh, fish, fruits, and vegetables that the country produced. As the climate is cold, they put a chafing-dish with live coals under every plate and dish, to keep them warm. The meals were served in a large hall, in which Moctezuma was accustomed to eat, and the dishes quite filled the room, which was covered with mats and kept very clean. He sat on a small cushion curiously wrought of leather. During the meals there were present, at a little distance from him, five or six elderly caciques, to whom he presented some of the food. And there was constantly in attendance one of the servants, who arranged and handed the dishes, and who received from others whatever was wanted for the supply of the table.

Both at the beginning and end of every meal, they furnished water for the hands; and the napkins used on these occasions were never used a second time; this was the case also with the plates and dishes, which were not brought again, but new ones in place of them; it was the same also with the chafing-dishes. He is also dressed every day in four different suits, entirely new, which he never wears a second time. None of the caciques who enter his palace have their feet covered, and when those for whom he sends enters his presence, they incline their heads and look down, bending their bodies; and when they address him, they do not look him in the face; this arises from excessive modesty and reverence. I am satisfied that it proceeds from respect, since certain caciques reproved the Spaniards for their boldness in addressing me, saying that it showed a want of becoming deference. Whenever Moctezuma appeared in public, which is seldom the case, all those who accompanied him, or whom he accidentally met in the streets, turned away without looking towards him, and others prostrated themselves until he had passed. One of the nobles always preceded him on these occasions, carrying three slender rods erect, which I suppose was to give notice of the approach of his person. And when they descended from the litters, he took one of them in his hand, and held it until he reached the place where he was going. So many and various were the ceremonies and customs observed by those in the service of Moctezuma, that more space than I can spare would be required for the details, as well as a better memory than I have to recollect them; since no sultan or other infidel lord, of whom any knowledge now exists; ever had so much ceremonial in his court.

Posted by: Mike | Thursday, January 30, 2003

Arabs, Franks, and the Battle of Tours: Three Accounts, 732

From an Arabian Chronicler

Musa being returned to Damascus, the Caliph Abd-el Melek asked of him about his conquests, saying “Now tell me about these Franks—what is their nature?”

“They,” replied Musa, “are a folk right numerous, and full of might: brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in event of defeat.”

“And how has passed the war betwixt them and thyself? Favorably or the reverse?”

“The reverse? No, by Allah and the prophet!” spoke Musa. “Never has a company from my army been beaten. And never have the Moslems hesitated to follow me when I have led them; though they were twoscore to fourscore.”

Isidore of Beja’s Chronicle

Then Abderrahman, [the Muslim emir] seeing the land filled with the multitude of his army, crossed the Pyrenees, and traversed the defiles [in the mountains] and the plains, so that he penetrated ravaging and slaying clear into the lands of the Franks. He gave battle to Duke Eudes (of Aquitaine) beyond the Garonne and the Dordogne, and put him to flight—so utterly [was he beaten] that God alone knew the number of the slain and wounded. Whereupon Abderrahman set in pursuit of Eudes; he destroyed palaces, burned churches, and imagined he could pillage the basilica of St. Martin of Tours. It is then that he found himself face to face with the lord of Austrasia, Charles, a mighty warrior from his youth, and trained in all the occasions of arms.

For almost seven days the two armies watched one another, waiting anxiously the moment for joining the struggle. Finally they made ready for combat. And in the shock of the battle the men of the North seemed like North a sea that cannot be moved. Firmly they stood, one close to another, forming as it were a bulwark of ice; and with great blows of their swords they hewed down the Arabs. Drawn up in a band around their chief, the people of the Austrasians carried all before them. Their tireless hands drove their swords down to the breasts [of the foe].

At last night sundered the combatants. The Franks with misgivings lowered their blades, and beholding the numberless tents of the Arabs, prepared themselves for another battle the next day. Very early, when they issued from their retreat, the men of Europe saw the Arab tents ranged still in order, in the same place where they had set up their camp. Unaware that they were utterly empty, and fearful lest within the phalanxes of the Saracens were drawn up for combat, they sent out spies to ascertain the facts. These spies discovered that all the squadrons of the “Ishmaelites” had vanished. In fact, during the night they had fled with the greatest silence, seeking with all speed their home land. The Europeans, uncertain and fearful, lest they were merely hidden in order to come back [to fall upon them] by ambushments, sent scouting parties everywhere, but to their great amazement found nothing. Then without troubling to pursue the fugitives, they contented themselves with sharing the spoils and returned right gladly to their own country.

Chronicle of St. Denis

The Muslims planned to go to Tours to destroy the Church of St. Martin, the city, and the whole country. Then came against them the glorious Prince Charles, at the head of his whole force. He drew up his host, and he fought as fiercely as the hungry wolf falls upon the stag. By the grace of Our Lord, he wrought a great slaughter upon the enemies of Christian faith, so that—as history bears witness—he slew in that battle 300,000 men, likewise their king by name Abderrahman. Then was he [Charles] first called “Martel,” for as a hammer of iron, of steel, and of every other metal, even so he dashed: and smote in the battle all his enemies. And what was the greatest marvel of all, he only lost in that battle 1500 men. The tents and harness [of the enemy] were taken; and whatever else they possessed became a prey to him and his followers. Eudes, Duke of Aquitaine, being now reconciled with Prince Charles Martel, later slew as many of the Saracens as he could find who had escaped from the battle.

Posted by: Scribe B | Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Yusuf Al Khattab’s Response to Richard Dawkins

This video is in response to Richard Dawkins’ television documentary, The Root of All Evil?, which aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom in 2006.

The caption to the video reads:

A jew called Joseph Cohen, was living in USA then moved to Gaza in Palestine as a jew settler in the year 1998.. He met an Emarati (from UAE) Muslim Sheikh through the internet and discussed religion with him, which ended in Cohen converting to Islam and changing his name to Yousef Khattab.

A short transcript of the sections of the video relevant to our study is given below:

“My name is Yusuf Al Khattab and I am here today to clear up a few misquotes and misconceptions that people might have about myself and my family. The new world order is busy pushing secularism and doubts [?] in the minds of non-thinking […] both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For this reason you’ll find that rather than focus on the truly amazing fact that indeed a Jewish family converted to Islam in Palestine and lived in perfect peace with the majority Muslim population and the minority Christian indigenous population of Palestine. Rather, the new world order focuses on cutting out my statements and replaying them in an order in which I didn’t say them, and making me and Islam look as though we are barbaric…”

“And the main point ladies and gentlemen is they want to make it seem like they are the civilized and the cultured people and we Muslims are the barbarians. You’ll never see the host talk about how Christians killed more people in one world war alone than Islam could have claimed in over 1400 years. Not even to mention the Crusaders, Hiroshima, Nagazaki, the Bay of Tonkin Vietnam, […] where over 55,000 United States soldiers were killed, and over one million Vietnamese, […] Abu-Ghraib prison torture, Guantamo, …”

[Scribe B: The new world order is most likely in reference to the West, not the conspiracy theory]

Posted by: Mike | Tuesday, September 4, 2001

An Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

Speeches of Motecuhzoma and Cortés

When Motecuhzoma [Montezuma] had given necklaces to each one, Cortés asked him: “Are you Motecuhzoma? Are you the king? Is it true that you are the king Motecuhzoma?”

And the king said: “Yes, I am Motecuhzoma.” Then he stood up to welcome Cortés; he came forward, bowed his head low and addressed him in these words: “Our lord, you are weary. The journey has tired you, but now you have arrived on the earth. You have come to your city, Mexico. You have come here to sit on your throne, to sit under its canopy.

“The kings who have gone before, your representatives, guarded it and preserved it for your coming. The kings Itzcoatl, Motecuhzoma the Elder, Axayacatl, Tizoc and Ahuitzol ruled for you in the City of Mexico. The people were protected by their swords and sheltered by their shields.

“Do the kings know the destiny of those they left behind, their posterity? If only they are watching! If only they can see what I see!

“No, it is not a dream. I am not walking in my sleep. I am not seeing you in my dreams…. I have seen you at last! I have met you face to face! I was in agony for five days, for ten days, with my eyes fixed on the Region of the Mystery. And now you have come out of the clouds and mists to sit on your throne again.

“This was foretold by the kings who governed your city, and now it has taken place. You have come back to us; you have come down from the sky. Rest now, and take possession of your royal houses. Welcome to your land, my lords! ”

When Motecuhzoma had finished, La Malinche translated his address into Spanish so that the Captain could understand it. Cortés replied in his strange and savage tongue, speaking first to La Malinche: “Tell Motecuhzoma that we are his friends. There is nothing to fear. We have wanted to see him for a long time, and now we have seen his face and heard his words. Tell him that we love him well and that our hearts are contented.”

Then he said to Motecuhzoma: “We have come to your house in Mexico as friends. There is nothing to fear.”

La Malinche translated this speech and the Spaniards grasped Motecuhzoma’s hands and patted his back to show their affection for him….

Massacre in the Main Temple

During this time, the people asked Motecuhzoma how they should celebrate their god’s fiesta. He said: “Dress him in all his finery, in all his sacred ornaments.”

During this same time, The Sun commanded that Motecuhzoma and Itzcohuatzin, the military chief of Tlatelolco, be made prisoners. The Spaniards hanged a chief from Acolhuacan named Nezahualquentzin. They also murdered the king of Nauhtla, Cohualpopocatzin, by wounding him with arrows and then burning him alive.

For this reason, our warriors were on guard at the Eagle Gate. The sentries from Tenochtitlan stood at one side of the gate, and the sentries from Tlatelolco at the other. But messengers came to tell them to dress the figure of Huitzilopochtli. They left their posts and went to dress him in his sacred finery: his ornaments and his paper clothing.

When this had been done, the celebrants began to sing their songs. That is how they celebrated the first day of the fiesta. On the second day they began to sing again, but without warning they were all put to death. The dancers and singers were completely unarmed. They brought only their embroidered cloaks, their turquoises, their lip plugs, their necklaces, their clusters of heron feathers, their trinkets made of deer hooves. Those who played the drums, the old men, had brought their gourds of snuff and their timbrels.

The Spaniards attacked the musicians first, slashing at their hands and faces until they had killed all of them. The singers-and even the spectators- were also killed. This slaughter in the Sacred Patio went on for three hours. Then the Spaniards burst into the rooms of the temple to kill the others: those who were carrying water, or bringing fodder for the horses, or grinding meal, or sweeping, or standing watch over this work.

The king Motecuhzoma, who was accompanied by Itzcohuatzin and by those who had brought food for the Spaniards, protested: “Our lords, that is enough! What are you doing? These people are not carrying shields or macanas. Our lords, they are completely unarmed!”

The Sun had treacherously murdered our people on the twentieth day after the captain left for the coast. We allowed the Captain to return to the city in peace. But on the following day we attacked him with all our might, and that was the beginning of the war

Posted by: Mike | Monday, February 14, 2000

The Cremation of Strasbourg Jewry St. Valentine’s Day

About The Great Plague And The Burning Of The Jews

In the year 1349 there occurred the greatest epidemic that ever happened. Death went from one end of the earth to the other, on that side and this side of the sea, and it was greater among the Saracens than among the Christians. In some lands everyone died so that no one was left. Ships were also found on the sea laden with wares; the crew had all died and no one guided the ship. The Bishop of Marseilles and priests and monks and more than half of all the people there died with them. In other kingdoms and cities so many people perished that it would be horrible to describe. The pope at Avignon stopped all sessions of court, locked himself in a room, allowed no one to approach him and had a fire burning before him all the time. [This last was probably intended as some sort of disinfectant.] And from what this epidemic came, all wise teachers and physicians could only say that it was God’s will. And as the plague was now here, so was it in other places, and lasted more than a whole year. This epidemic also came to Strasbourg in the summer of the above mentioned year, and it is estimated that about sixteen thousand people died.

In the matter of this plague the Jews throughout the world were reviled and accused in all lands of having caused it through the poison which they are said to have put into the water and the wells-that is what they were accused of-and for this reason the Jews were burnt all the way from the Mediterranean into Germany, but not in Avignon, for the pope protected them there.

Nevertheless they tortured a number of Jews in Berne and Zofingen [Switzerland] who then admitted that they had put poison into many wells, and they also found the poison in the wells. Thereupon they burnt the Jews in many towns and wrote of this affair to Strasbourg, Freiburg, and Basel in order that they too should burn their Jews. But the leaders in these three cities in whose hands the government lay did not believe that anything ought to be done to the Jews. However in Basel the citizens marched to the city-hall and compelled the council to take an oath that they would burn the Jews, and that they would allow no Jew to enter the city for the next two hundred years. Thereupon the Jews were arrested in all these places and a conference was arranged to meet at Benfeld rAlsace, February 8, 13491. The Bishop of Strasbourg [Berthold II], all the feudal lords of Alsace, and representatives of the three above mentioned cities came there. The deputies of the city of Strasbourg were asked what they were going to do with their Jews. Thev answered and said that they knew no evil of them. Then they asked the Strasbourgers why they had closed the wells and put away the buckets, and there was a great indignation and clamor against the deputies from Strasbourg. So finally the Bishop and the lords and the Imperial Cities agreed to do away with the Jews. The result was that they were burnt in many cities, and wherever they were expelled they were caught by the peasants and stabbed to death or drowned. . . .

[The town-council of Strasbourg which wanted to save the Jews was deposed on the 9th-10th of February, and the new council gave in to the mob, who then arrested the Jews on Friday, the 13th.]

THE JEWS ARE BURNT

On Saturday – that was St. Valentine’s Day-they burnt the Jews on a wooden platform in their cemetery. There were about two thousand people of them. Those who wanted to baptize themselves were spared. [Some say that about a thousand accepted baptism.] Many small children were taken out of the fire and baptized against the will of their fathers and mothers. And everything that was owed to the Jews was cancelled, and the Jews had to surrender all pledges and notes that they had taken for debts. The council, however, took the cash that the Jews possessed and divided it among the working-men proportionately. The money was indeed the thing that killed the Jews. If they had been poor and if the feudal lords had not been in debt to them, they would not have been burnt. After this wealth was divided among the artisans some gave their share to the Cathedral or to the Church on the advice of their confessors.

Thus were the Jews burnt at Strasbourg, and in the same year in all the cities of the Rhine, whether Free Cities or Imperial Cities or cities belonging to the lords. In some towns they burnt the Jews after a trial, in others, without a trial. In some cities the Jews themselves set fire to their houses and cremated themselves.

THE JEWS RETURN TO STRASBOURG

It was decided in Strasbourg that no Jew should enter the city for a hundred years, but before twenty years had passed, the council and magistrates agreed that they ought to admit the Jews again into the city for twenty years. And so the Jews came back again to Strasbourg in the year 1368 after the birth of our Lord.

Posted by: Scribe G | Tuesday, June 15, 1999

Pakistan and Globalization

From the standpoint of Pakistan, the verdict on globalization is decidedly mixed. As Akbar Ahmed explains in “Journey into Islam,” tribes and urban populations in the country are close in distance, but they are worlds apart in custom, culture and tradition — and in their perceptions of globalization.

Musharraf and almost all of the army’s generals embrace globalization not only because most of them are from big cities like Karachi and Lahore, but also because it has brought the army significant benefits since 9/11 — most notably, new helicopters, tanks and weaponry.They also appreciate the KFC restaurants, the Internet, and the links with the West that have sprung up in the cities of Pakistan over the past few years. However, these leaders are selective in the aspects of globalization they wish to embrace: They are happy to accept certain economic, military and cultural gains but are equally happy to ignore other more important positive aspects that the West wishes to promote, such as democracy and human rights.

Modernity and tradition

To them, globalization presents an opportunity to battle a backward and stagnant form of Islam, represented by the tribesmen, for the future of a prosperous and modern Muslim society. Musharraf himself would at best have a limited understanding of the tribal populations that he was dealing with in the cases of Mukhtaran and Shazia. As someone who grew up in a big city, he would have expected the aggrieved party to contact the local police and let them deal with the problem. This was, after all, the modern way of doing business in a modern state.

Although they are close in terms of distance, the tribes and urban populations in Pakistan are worlds apart in custom, culture and tradition. In Mukhtaran’s case, men of the Mastoi tribe believed that by raping her, they were restoring the honor they had lost when her brother spoke to one of their Mastoi women.

Tribal Vs. urban relationships

In Shazia’s case, the Bugti tribe took up her cause, equating her honor with their own, since she was in their territory and their guest at the time of the incident.

Unlike tribal relationships, those in the city are based primarily on financial interactions. Neighborhoods are mixed, and there is no way of deciding who should live next door. As people migrate from rural and tribal areas, their original ethnicities begin to blur. Every immigrant to the city quickly learns new ways of dealing with life: how to trade, behave and interact with a mixture of people.

Interpretations of honor and justice

In contrast, tribal life continues along traditionally demarcated lines. Important decisions are still made by tribal leaders. Commentaries published in Karachi and Lahore may condemn their customs and traditions as a barrier to the march of progress, but the tribesmen would argue that globalization is the menace. With its intrusiveness and unrelenting momentum, it threatens the very core of their traditional identity and way of life. Although tribal codes throughout the Muslim world are changing as they confront the forces of globalization, they still influence behavior.

In the case of both Mukhtaran and Shazia, their fate depended on the interplay of society’s different interpretations of honor and justice, particularly in relation to women.

Where is Islam?

What is noticeably absent from the discussion of these two cases so far is the presence of Islam. In fact, they demonstrate the collapse of the central features of Islam: justice, compassion, respect for knowledge and the honorable treatment of women.

Both women admirably represent the quest for knowledge: Mukhtaran is a teacher, and Shazia holds a medical degree, though this is still unusual for a woman. Nonetheless, tribal custom prevails in both instances, in spite of Islamic teaching.

The wild Middle East

At the same time, the tribal code breaks down somewhat in Mukhtaran’s case, because the tribes under discussion live in the Punjab, where tribal customs have become less pronounced and their ideals of honor more compromised with the influx of settled communities, greater interference from the outside world and the influence of foreign values.

In other words, such communities are tribes only in an ethnic sense. Unlike the more isolated and “pure” tribes such as the Bugti in Baluchistan or those in Waziristan, these are more tribal in name than in practice.

When I discussed Mukhtaran’s case with Farooq Leghari, a tribal chief living in the area where it took place and a former president of Pakistan, he explained: “What we saw in her case was the equivalent of a lynching mob or a posse from the days of the ‘Wild West.’”

No relation to Islam

He continued, “These men had taken the law in their own hands. What we saw in her case was the breakdown of the tribal system, which would never advocate dishonoring women, and the failed justice system of the police.”

We were talking in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2006. Aware that the Western media tended to associate precisely such cases with the religion of Islam, he stated emphatically, “The case has nothing to do with Islam.”

U.S. dependence

Musharraf’s other dilemma in facing the tribes involved in these two cases stemmed from his economic and political dependence on the United States. Links with globalization gave Musharraf the appearance of a key figure in “modernizing” Pakistan, whose initial sympathy for Mukhtaran and monetary offer would have been met with universal approval abroad.

But to the tribesmen, Mukhtaran had lost her honor, and no material compensation from the highest levels of state or words of sympathy from journalists could restore it. In Shazia’s case, globalization enabled Musharraf to gain the advantage over the Bugti tribe, which in the post-9/11 environment could easily be depicted as supporters of the ubiquitous al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

With the West’s limited knowledge of how societies differentiate themselves in the Muslim world, the revolt among the Bugti — and in Waziristan — would have seemed to be yet another expression of Taliban resurgence.

Developing Gwadar

However, it was of vital strategic importance to keep the tribes of Baluchistan friendly and politically calm. With the help of China, Musharraf had developed Gwadar, a small fishing town on the coast of the Arabian Sea, as a port in Baluchistan in order to create a new entry point by land to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Gwadar would also be an improved outlet by sea to the Arab world. Trade and imports from all over the world through Gwadar could potentially transform not only the local economy but also impact the national one. With the Bugti revolt spreading and communications being disrupted in Baluchistan, potential investors were growing skeptical about these possibilities.

Iranian allies

At the same time, the United States and its Western allies were finding Musharraf’s support more crucial than ever. The war in Iraq and on the eastern borders of Afghanistan was not going well, and the Taliban had reemerged and regrouped on both sides of the Afghan border.

Further more, tension was building up around Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States was determined to squelch. Hence events in Baluchistan, which shares a long border with Iran, were of strategic concern. Indeed, the Bugti have strong tribal connections with other Baluch tribes straddling the Iranian border.

If the Baluch revolt spreads, troops moving through Baluchistan, either U.S. or Pakistani, will not have easy access to the border, thus making Musharraf an unwitting ally of the Iranians. The fate of the province, the crisis in the Bugti tribe, Shazia’s case and the war on terror are now intertwined. The outcome of each will thus have an impact on the others and be a harbinger of things to come in the region.

Posted by: Mike | Saturday, September 26, 1998

The Blockade of Tariq Ramadan

The case of Professor Tariq Ramadan strains the mind to the point of incredulity. What point is the U.S. trying to make in denying a visa, yet again, to one of Europe’s deepest and most articulate
Muslim thinkers? In 2004, when Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, was offered a professorship in Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, his visa was suddenly and inexplicably revoked by the State
Department on the advice of the Department of Homeland Security. They said he had “endorsed” or “espoused” terrorism. Those of us who knew his work in the American academic community were
astonished. His widely published speeches and writings gave no evidence whatsoever of this charge. Quite the opposite. Ramadan is one of the leading exponents of a serious dialogue between Islam
and the West, encouraging young Muslims not to shun civic life, but to become involved as citizens, to participate in democratic processes, and to engage with Christians, Jews, and secularists to
be a “rich, positive, and participatory presence” in Europe and North America. Ramadan is one of the most powerful exponents of a reformist, moderate, self-critical and dialogical Islam. He is a leader
who speaks to the dilemmas of young Muslims in the West and to those of all faiths who recognize the importance of bridge-building across cultures and the chasms that divide us.

Ramadan’s visa was revoked in August of 2004. After months of inquiry and patient waiting, after months of stony silence on the part of the U.S. government, Ramadan finally had no alternative but to resign his professorship at Notre Dame. His furniture and household belongings were sent back from South Bend to Geneva. Oxford University offered him a professorship in Islamic studies. Ramadan went on to become an adviser to the British government and an invaluable asset in speaking to the concerns of young and sometimes disaffected Muslims in Britain. In September 2005, he applied yet again for a visa to the U.S., hoping to clear his name of baseless accusations. He was told it might take two days or two years.

By January 2006, he had heard nothing. Three American organizations –the American Association of University Professors, the American Academy of Religion, and the writers’ PEN America Center joined an ACLU lawsuit, charging the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security with “ideological exclusion,” barring Tariq Ramadan from the U.S. on the grounds of his beliefs and views and depriving our members of the opportunity to engage directly with him. The U.S. District Court in Southern New York supported the suit and ordered the U.S. Government to
issue Ramadan a visa or to state reasons for denial within ninety days.

Last week on September 21, 2006, ninety days later, the U.S. Government responded. Once again, a visa was denied, but no evidence was presented for espousing terrorism as previously charged. But in this instance, a new tactic was advanced by the government. What was at issue was not his ideas, but his generosity. Ramadan had contributed some $700 to a French charity supporting humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Thus, the government claimed he provided “material aid” to a terrorist organization.

For any thinking person, this seems to be grasping at straws. The charity in question is legitimately recognized by the French government. Ramadan’s stated intention was to provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Moreover, it was he himself who disclosed this donation in an interview with consular officials. Tens of thousands of American citizens have contributed to Palestinian relief, to Palestinian schools and hospitals, and to Palestinian human rights concerns. Is it “material aid” to terrorists? What exactly is the point here?

Recently, the U.S. government’s rhetorical strategy has been to cast the world in which we live as a “global struggle against the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom and crushes all dissent.” (George W. Bush, July 4, 2006). One wonders if the President’s intention to spread “the hope of freedom across the world” is not seriously undermined by the exclusion of thinkers of Ramadan’s caliber, and if the crushing of dissent is not becoming our problem too.

In his recent address at the U.N. President Bush insisted, “Every civilized nation, including those in the Muslim world, must support those in the region who are offering a more hopeful alternative.” Then why exclude the hopeful voice of Ramadan as if he were a threat when he offers the vision articulated in such books as Western Muslims and the Future of Islam and in his many speeches and writings? How ironic and tragic that our government continues to bar from our shores a religious thinker who has earned a professorship at a major university, a man whose work has been read and discussed in English, French, and Arabic, a man who has been invited by the American Academy of Religion to address its annual convention of 10,000 scholars.

This ongoing blockade of a progressive Muslim theologian, a voice so urgently needed in our reach for constructive and informed dialogue, sends shockwaves through the world of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. Far from protecting us from whatever potential threat is imagined in our quest for “homeland security,” this publicly visible injustice does inestimable damage to institutions of higher education in the United States, undermining our very commitment to academic freedom and the civil exchange of ideas.

In closing his address to the UN last week, President Bush spoke of a more “hopeful world” where “extremists are marginalized by the peaceful majority.” Many who are watching will see this case as one in which government exclusion has become truly “extremist” and the “peaceful majority,” Ramadan included, marginalized. This is not the signal of a hopeful world, but a sign of real danger. It imperils the very spirit of academic inquiry in a free society.

Posted by: Mike | Friday, March 15, 1996

Abraham Ibn Daud: On Samuel Ha-Nagid, Vizier of Granada

One of the great disciples of Rabbi Enoch [d. 1014], was Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi, the Prince, the son of Joseph, who was known as Ibn Nagrela, of the community of Cordova. He was an unusually fine Talmudic scholar and was also well versed in Arabic literature and language. He was of the type that could occupy a high position in the royal palace.

Samuel was a merchant, supporting himself with great difficulty until the devastating days in Spain which followed the fall of the Amirid kingdom when the Berbers secured the power. [The civil war, which began in Spain in 1009, reached its climax in 1012 in the sack of Cordova by the Berbers.]

It was then that the land of Cordova began to decline and its inhabitants fled. Some of them ran away to Saragossa, where their descendants are even now; some fled to Toledo and their descendants are known there even to this day.

This Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi fled to Malaga. There he had a shop and was a petty merchant. His shop happened to be near the palace of Ibn al­Arif, the vizier of King Habbus [1019­1038], the son of Maksan, the King of the Berbers, in Granada. At the request of a maid servant of the vizier, Samuel used to write letters for her to her master the vizier, Abu al­Kasim ibn al­Arif. This latter saw his letters and was amazed at his wisdom.

Some time later this vizier, Ibn al­Arif, got permission of his king, Habbus, to return to his home in Malaga. There he asked the people of his house: “Who used to write those letters that came to me from you?” “A certain Jew,” they answered, “who comes from the community of Cordova and lives near your palace-he used to write them for us.” Immediately the secretary issued a command and they rushed Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi to him. “It is unbecoming for you to sit in a shop,” he said to him. “Stay here with me.” He did so and became his secretary and adviser.

The vizier used to advise the King according to the advice given by Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi, of blessed memory. All his advice was as though it came from God, and the King Habbus prospered through it very much. After some time the vizier, Ibn al­Arif, became mortally ill, and King Habbus, who came to visit him, said to him: “What shall I do? Who will advise me in the wars which encompass me?” “I have never advised you,” he answered him, “out of my own mind, but at the suggestion of this Jew, my secretary. Take care of him, and he will be as a father and a minister to you. Do whatever he advises you, and God will help you.” So after the death of the vizier, King Habbus took Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi and brought him to his palace and he became his vizier and councillor.

In the year 4780 [l020] he was in the palace of the King Habbus. [Samuel was already an important official before 1020.] The king had two sons: the name of the elder was Badis, and the younger, Bulukkin. All the Berber princes favored Bulukkin, the younger son, as the successor, but all the rest of the people favored Badis. The Jews, too, and among them Rabbi Joseph ibn Migas, Rabbi Isaac ben Leon, and Rabbi Nehemiah, who was called Escafa, three Granada notables, favored Bulukkin, but Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi favored Badis.

On the day that King Habbus died, the Berber princes and their distinguished men rose in the morning to crown his son Bulukkin. Bulukkin, however, immediately went and kissed the hand of his elder brother Badis. Thus Badis was crowned in the year 4787 [1027] and the face of his enemies turned black like the bottom of a pot; and against their will they had to crown Badis. [Badis was really crowned in 1038 and died in 1073.]

After this Bulukkin regretted that he had made his brother king and kept on getting the upper hand over his brother Badis, with the result that King Badis was unable to do a thing, big or small, without his brother’s interference. But after this his brother Bulukkin became sick, and the King gave orders to the physician not to cure him. The physician obeyed, and Bulukkin died. Thus was the kingdom established in the hands of Badis. These three distinguished Jews of the city, whom we have mentioned, fled to the land of Seville [then hostile to Granada].

Rabbi Samuel Ha­Levi was appointed Prince in the year 4787 [1027], and he conferred great benefits on Israel in Spain, in north-eastern and north­central Africa, in the land of Egypt, in Sicily, well as far as the Babylonian academy, and the Holy City, Jerusalem. All the students who lived in those lands benefited by his generosity, for he bought numerous copies of the Holy Scriptures, the Mishnah, and the Talmud-these, too, being holy writings. [Ibn Daud here refutes the Karaites who denied the authority of the Mishnah and the Talmud.]

To every one-in all the land of Spain and in all the lands that we have mentioned-who wanted to make the study of the Torah his profession, he would give of his money. He had scribes who used to copy Mishnahs and Talmuds, and he would give them as a gift to students, in the academies of Spain or in the lands we have mentioned, who were not able to buy them with their own means. [Printing was not yet invented. Manuscripts were very expensive.] Besides this, he furnished olive oil every year for the lamps of the synagogues in Jerusalem. He spread the knowledge of the Torah [Jewish learning] very widely and died an old man, at a ripe age, after having acquired the four crowns: the crown of the Torah, the crown of high station, the crown of Levitical descent, and what is more than all these, the crown of a good name merited by good deeds. He died in the year 4815 [1055] and his son, Rabbi Joseph Ha­Levi, the Prince, succeeded him. [It is more probable that Samuel died in 1056 or later when Joseph (b. 1035), succeeded him as vizier.]

Of all the good traits of his father, Joseph lacked but one. He was not humble like his father because he grew up in riches, and he never had to bear the yoke [of poverty and discipline] in his youth. He was proud to his own hurt, and the Berber princes were jealous of him, with the result that on the Sabbath, on the 9th of Tebet in the year 4827 [Saturday, December 30, 1066], he and the Community of Granada were murdered. [About 150 families were killed. This is the first known massacre of Jews in Spain by Moslems.]

All those who had come from distant lands to see his learning and his greatness mourned for him, and the lament for him spread to all lands and to all cities. Since the days of the ancient rabbis – of blessed memory-who wrote the Scroll of Fasts and decreed that the 9th of Tebet should be a fast, the reason for the decree was never known. But from this incident we know that they were directed by the Holy Spirit to fix this day. After his death his books and treasures were scattered and dispersed throughout the world So also were the disciples whom he had raised up. After his death they became the rabbis of Spain and the leaders of the generation.

Posted by: Mike | Saturday, April 1, 1995

Awakening the World by Religious Wisdom

Good morning. I am delighted to have this opportunity to join with all of you here in this meaningful conference.

Globalization brings us the beauty of dialogue and interactions between various religions and cultures, but because of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, globalization will also become the source of conflicts, tensions, struggles and polarization. The polarization of these two extremes will become more obvious due to the convenience of transportation and advancement of IT.

I am here to share that, we should have a new common basis of ‘global education’ in order to bring forth a better future. We can discuss the issue above mentioned in three dimensions:-

  • The World of co-existence

I started to connect with this world after I completed my religious training for a few years. I deeply felt that, if there is no mutual respect and kind intention between various different religions, cultures and ethnic groups, and we do not let go our self-interest and egoism, then the future of humankind will be a dark age of wars and conflicts.

The first role of Globalization should be the nurturing of the acceptance of different cultures. By doing this, we realized that there are others other than us, and we really have to co-exist with each other peacefully and harmoniously. The interactions between different cultures, therefore, will definitely bring forth a positive impact and a virtuous vicious circle.

I believe everyone will have their own personal observation or practical experience as a witness. We need a holistic approach to uplift the ‘global consciousness’ to solve the crises of the earth.

In respond to the trend of globalization, we should nurture the paradigm of the continuation and preservation of the mother earth. This paradigm shift towards a ‘common entity’ of life is much more important than any personal spiritual practice, which, if developed, will nurture and embrace every cultures and interactions between cultures, and to bring peach and harmony. This is the consensus that we need to have for our global family.

In 1991, I then started preparations to establish a Museum of World Religions. As a model, we strive to promote the concept of “Respect for all faiths, tolerance for all cultures and love for all live”. I hope that this ideal will then create some great impacts in everyone’s mind. More and more people agreed and supported our concepts and actions. This is a practical religious globalization which replace ‘competition’ and ‘replacement’ with ‘interdependency’ and ‘communion’.

  • To nurture a transcendental Global Consciousness

And then, we hope by doing this, we can therefore generate a kind of new movement of spiritual awakening. We request every community to nurture a transcendental “Global Consciousness” that transcend all self-made boundaries and limitations, we pray that everyone will understand that the mother earth that we share is a place of co-existence for all beings; we should all awaken to the universal law of love, by realizin that: “ hatred can never be appeased by hatred, hatred can only be appeased by love”.

  • This holistic Global Consciousness has to be based on three principles:
  1. Firstly, realizing the “Golden Rule of life” – “do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you” and the virtuous practice of helping the poor and the weak, we should therefore activate a friendly atmosphere of mutual-respect and forgiveness, to promote the concept of co-existential interdependency.
  2. Secondly, spiritual life is simple and natural, and it is an antidote to disasters brought by human greed. We should therefore return to this simple and spiritual way of life, to change our habitual tendencies of indulgence and to transform our materialistic values to spiritual ones – to save the earth from disasters.
  3. Thirdly, we must strive to make everyone realize that there is only one planet earth for all of us. To avoid an inevitable massive destruction and tragic crises, humankind must no longer adopt the posture of a conqueror and carve up the spoils of natural resources, but instead we should treat nature as the mother of all life. Stop all conflicts and wars, since the most important premise is not to harm the shared systems of live, and only then can we continue to co-exist.
  • The establishment of University of World Religion

I hope that through the common goal of spirituality, which is strongly emphasized by all religions, we can co-create a holistic force of unity. The multi-dimensionality that is overemphasized will only bring more confusions and misconducts to the younger minds, as well as the society as a whole.

The uniqueness of multi-culture should be build upon the basis of common entity of mutual respect and an appreciation of the system as a whole. This holistic common entity will not give any obstructions to the expression and development of the diversity and multidimensionality of various cultures. The non-duality and co-existence of the particular and the system as a whole, is therefore, the beacon of hope for the future of humankind. I sincerely hope that we can create a global enthusiasm in building a University of World Religion. Through the pervasive and powerful channel of education, we can bring-forth the momentum of global awakening. The co-existence between the holistic entity and multidimensionality will then be the vision of the world.

My past experience of religious dialogues convince me that, through the power and impact of religions and beliefs, we can all create a positive vicious circle of human’s basic goodness, and the ultimate goal of spirituality attained by all religions will then be the antidote to the downfalls of cultural differences and racial conflicts. This religious university of peace is a holy shrine of peace; it will be an institute of theory as well as practice. This significant institute will combine and integrate the essence of all religions and spiritual traditions, to ride on the wave of modernity and contemporary thoughts, and to create a great force of unity and great perfection. This university will nurture the young seeds of love and peace, and to train them to become the leaders and pioneers of the future global awakening.

As a simple Buddhist monk, I would like to share my Vision of University of World Religion with all of you:

  1. To promote the concept of “peace” and “all in one”, to bring peace and harmony to our mother earth.
  2. To build an educational mechanism which based on the concept of ‘global consciousness’, to promote a world-view of interdependency and to nurture the young seeds of love and peace.
  3. To unify and integrate various traditional wisdom of different religions, to develop and enhance the global education of spirituality. To establish a technical platform to promote religious dialogue and interactions;
  4. To establish an R&D Institution to clarify the roles and responsibility of various religion as a respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

This significant topic is actually the common ground of both religion and academy. I strongly believe that, the values of spirituality as well as its vision of global education will definitely be a crucial beginning for all of us.

Thank you.

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