Atheism and religion in the News XXV
And yet more news. Peace in Pakistan?
The rout of the fundies in Pakistan’s recent election seems to have given hope to that violence-torn country.
Sinking back in his armchair, Maulana Shuja ul-Mulk strokes his thick beard with one hand and the fluffy tail of a small toy dalmatian with the other. 'We were surprised by the results,' he admits from a supporter's home in the small rural western Pakistani town of Mardan, 'but we believe in democracy.'
Whether the claim is true or not, the hard political reality is that Mulk and his hardline religious party are now out of power. In the 2002 election, he and scores of other ultra-conservative clerics swept into government in Pakistan's turbulent North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on a tide of anti-Americanism and resurgent religious enthusiasm, vowing to impose Islamic law. But in last week's national and provincial polls, voters backed secular and liberal candidates and evicted the ruling alliance of religious parties.
The landslide triggered what some are now calling the 'Peshawar Spring'. The term may be a little exaggerated, but, for a troubled town pivotal to the 'war on terror', the normally dour and dusty provincial capital of NWFP certainly wears an unusually cheerful face this weekend. 'You can see it in the way people are walking and talking, even smiling,' said Iqbal Khattak, the editor of a local newspaper. Outside his office, unseasonable warm weather has tricked fruit trees into blossoming early. 'We are having two early springs here: one is the climate, the other the politics.'
From the Rituale Romanum, via It's All Straw and Dustbury, we learn that beer is to be blessed:
Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
An author has written a book about one of the bloodiest battles between christianity and islam. Although this is from a religious site, I have included it here to show the depths of violence that a fundamentalist can descend to for their faith.
A hot and fetid June night on the small Mediterranean island of Malta, and a Christian sentry patrolling at the foot of a fort on the Grand Harbour had spotted something drifting in the water.The alarm was raised. More of these strange objects drifted into view, and men waded into the shallows to drag them to the shore. What they found horrified even these battle-weary veterans: wooden crosses pushed out by the enemy to float in the harbour, and crucified on each was the headless body of a Christian knight.
This was psychological warfare at its most brutal, a message sent by the Turkish Muslim commander whose invading army had just vanquished the small outpost of Fort St Elmo - a thousand yards distant across the water.
Now the target was the one remaining fort on the harbour front where the beleaguered, outnumbered and overwhelmed Christians were still holding out: the Fort St Angelo. The Turkish commander wished its defenders to know that they would be next, that a horrible death was the only outcome of continued resistance.
But the commander had not counted on the mettle of his enemy - the Knights of St John. Nor on the determination of their leader Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, who vowed that the fort would not be taken while one last Christian lived in Malta.
On news of the grotesque discovery of the headless knights - many of them his personal friends - Grand Master Valette quickly ordered that captured Turks imprisoned deep in the vaulted dungeons of the fort be taken from their cells, and beheaded one by one.
Then he returned a communiquè of his own: the heads of his Turkish captives were fired from his most powerful cannon direct into the Muslim lines. There would be no negotiation, no compromise, no surrender, no retreat.
We Christians, the Grand Master was saying, will fight to the death and take you with us.
An organisation representing private schools says the new curriculum allows some taxpayer-funded schools to teach a radical and fundamentalist view of the world.
Independent Schools of New Zealand says it is unfair that state integrated schools are being given much more leeway in what they can teach, yet still get more than 90% of their funding from the state.
Iran and gods view of nuclear weapons. I couldn't make this shit up if I tired
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that God would punish Iranians if they do not support the country's disputed nuclear program, state radio reported.
"The Iranian people openly announce that they will defend their rights... God will reprimand them if they do not do so," state radio quoted Khamenei as saying.
The 68-year-old ayatollah, who has final say on all state matters, said Washington's claim that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon is false. The Iranian government has long insisted its nuclear activities are only for peaceful generation of fuel.
"They know that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, and they are just trying to block the Iranian nation from achieving advanced technology," Khamenei was quoted as saying in Tehran.
More than a century after France officially separated religion and state, President Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to close the gap, talking about faith as the missing compass in private and public life.
By North American standards, or even those of other European countries, Mr. Sarkozy's remarks over the past two months, and the resulting French disapproval, may seem overwrought. He doesn't claim a personal relationship with God and is not a regular churchgoer.
But he has called religious faith a defining element of identity. And even more shocking in anticlerical France, he has invited the Roman Catholic Church and other organized religions to provide moral instruction to "enlighten our choices and build our future."
Mr. Sarkozy's repeated references to God in speeches over the past two months have been denounced as attacks on the citadel of French secularism. Some critics accused him of political pandering, particularly to conservative Catholics dismayed by the attention paid to the twice-divorced President's social life.
The problems of the nineteenth century parallel some of our own. Then, as now, America confronted terrorism and religious fanaticism. Then, as now, America conducted a war and engaged in occupation and nation-building. Religious zeal in the nineteenth century strongly influenced events, a fact that deserves underscoring, particularly when we see how the extremes of religion are currently influencing the world (jihadists flying jets into the World Trade Center) and our own U.S. political policy, both foreign and domestic.
The Age of Lincoln explores the Civil War era in its rich complexity. Historians have benefited over the last forty years from an explosion in quantity, quality, and approaches to history. For all the virtues of these vigorous literatures, however, books tend to address rather narrow time periods or one particular topic. I can see why. In writing a synthesis of the Civil War era, I found it difficult to include in a coherent manner all the multiple issues at play and how important themes shifted over time. History is not all about politics, or all about gender, or all about slavery, or a market revolution, or rampart democracy, though it is about all of these and more. In this regard I have benefited from the wonderful richness of local studies and have tried to mine these and place them with the other literature to combine important and intriguing details with larger themes extant in the age.
Muslim and prayer time in Australia’s universities. I get the feeling that muslim universities are nothing like animal house.
MUSLIM university students want lectures to be rescheduled to fit in with prayer timetables and separate male and female eating and recreational areas established on Australian campuses.
International Muslim students, predominantly from Saudi Arabia, have asked universities in Melbourne to change class times so they can attend congregational prayers. They also want a female-only area for Muslim students to eat and relax.
But at least one institution has rejected their demands, arguing that the university is secular and it does not want to set a precedent for requests granted in the name of religious beliefs.
La Trobe University International chief officer John Molony said several students had approached the Bundoora institution about rearranging class times to fit in with daily prayers.
Mr Molony said the university was attempting to "meet the needs" of an increasing number of Muslim international students, including doubling the size of the prayer room on campus.
La Trobe University International College director Martin Van Run said that although it was involved in discussions with the Muslim students who had made the requests, the university was not planning to change any timetables.
"That would seriously inconvenience other people at the college and it is not institutionally viable," he told The Australian. "We are a secular institution ... and we need to have a structured timetable."
Mr Van Run said that Saudi students were fully aware that the university was secular before coming to study there. "They know well in advance the class times," he said.