Monday, February 27, 2006


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I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ."... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

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"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," he said in a boisterous, rhyming oration. "But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here -- millions without health insurance, poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."lowery

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As former President Jimmy Carter Speaking at Coretta Scott King's funeral said about the fight for Civil Rights:

"This commerative cermony this morning, this afternoon, is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi," Carter said, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause. "Those who were most devastated by [Hurricane] Katrina know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans. It is our responsibility to continue their crusade."

What was really surprising about the funeral for Coretta Scott King was the response of the Conservative or Neo-conservative & the Religious Right of America to the Eulogies & speeches made by various participants. What did they expect Coretta Scott King & her husband were two of the most influential political activists on American society in the twentieth century.

Part of their outrage I guess was because George Bush came down from his exhalted mountain -top to attend Coretta's funeral. Though he only decided to attend at the last minute as it seems his ratings have gone down among African Americans. His presence at the funeral seemed as contrived as many of his televised " THANK-YOU TOURS" but in this case were able to speak freely & not according to some " Pre-approved Script " like his bogus town meetings & highly controlled Press Conferences where the Washington Press Core & CNN etc. treat him as if he were a KING & GOD's chosen one.
By criticizing the Bush administration for its wrong-doing & its ineptitude & its mean spiritedness in regards to minorities , the poor , the elderly & veterans & the families of veterans : they were merely carrying on in the spirit of Coretta Scott King & this was seen as the most important way to honor such a valiant & courageous woman of great personal integrity .

See for a commentary defending why the funeral became poitical:

FEB. 11, 2006


Daily Kos: Republicans desecrate Coretta Scott King's funeral

AND for a more negative view see:

Anyway & so it goes -
Here are some verses of mine which are part of a longer work of poetry entitled " Dreaming Love ".

Dreaming love
We dream of glittering palaces & cities of shimmering golden towers
the hanging gardens of Babylon dreaming
sailing the sweet Nile
dreaming of Xanadu
dreaming a fairy-tale world
seeking rest still dreaming love
as we dream love -

Dreaming love
as the still-life of 3 pears & an apple is ripe forever
feast your eyes
finding the worm burrowing into flesh
as we dream love -

Dreaming love
while the good perish are left behind
as tyrants flourish
death squads roam the streets
as we dream love-

Dreaming love
as the planes crash into the towers of steel & glass
smoke & flames burst across a perfect blue sky
shattering our dreams of love -

Dreaming love
our dreams of love turned inside out
dreaming vengeance
everyone is vigilant
keeping their eyes open
spying on strangers neighbours & friends
their children turned into good little soldiers
in matching uniforms
dreaming of being warriors
to please God & Man
burying their dreams of love -

Dreaming love
as mushroom clouds rise here & there
to protect their wealth
to spread the word of Jesus
as Jesus blesses the rich & powerful
as Jesus curses the poor & the weak
Jesus has no time for the weak
so the Twice-Born tell us
as they wage endless war
preparing for the Second-Coming of their Lord
wiping out all those heretics
who follow false prophets
for only the Twice-Born will prosper
as they dream love -

Dreaming love
as billions of unbelievers despair
cry out onto the Lord
as they dream love
only to be cut in two
slain by the army of the righteous
who dream dark visions of Armageddon
as they dream of God’s Love -

While dreaming love
they show no mercy
turning cities into rubble
torture & kill in the name of Jesus
in the name of the Twice-Born King
believing he has the wisdom of Solomon
his pen & sword directed by God
dreams God loves him - still -

Dreaming love
as they await the Messiah
to be taken up into the Middle of the air
in the twinkling of an eye
those left-behind mere fodder
in the Holy struggle of a wrathful God
as they too dream love -

That's all for now,
see you around,

Thursday, February 09, 2006


These are both Persian images of the "night journey" of Muhammad (the mir'aj); Muhammad (center) is seated on the miraculous horse (often pictured, as here, with a human head) named Buraq. In both scenes, Muhammad is surrounded by angels. AND MUHAMMAD'S FACE IS LEFT BLANK.
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FROM Life of Muhammad, shows the angel Jibril (Gabriel, center) delivering revelations of the Qur'an to Muhammad (veiled, right)
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From an illustrated version of the Life of Muhammad; the Life itself was written in fourteenth-century Egypt, but illustrated 200 years later in Ottoman Turkey. This panel shows the Battle of Badr, one of the early influential battles of the prophet's life.
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The above images are considered by many Muslims as appropriate renditions of the Prophet Muhammad with his face left blank.

Mea Culpa- Have I offended some people by the images I have used in my post. Let me say this about that as it were-

On some of my blogs I have included some gruesome pictures of dead civilians in Iraq or of Lynchings in the United States or the Massacre at My Lai in Vietnam or at Wounded Knee etc. I published these to show that arguments over the war in Iraq or over the injustices done to African Americans or Aboriginal peoples are not merely academic but rather about the suffering of Human Beings. If one favours the war in Iraq than one should be able to face the gruesome facts about that war or any other war one believes is justified.

For instance it is by showing images of the Holocaust that people get a fuller understanding of the scope & scale of the Holocaust in which some six-million Jews were butchered. What helped to raise the consciousness of white middle-class America in regards to the plight of Black Americans was by watching African-Americans on television being mistreated , being beaten & being chased by vicious snarling police dogs & having fire-hoses turned on them while they were were protesting peacefully against segregation in the Southern Unites . These scenes outrage & shocked people around the world that such actions were taking place in America the home of the free & the brave.
So I have used actual photos to show the real suffering which is taking place for example in Iraq.
It is also because these are not images to be found on the American TV Networks . As there is a ban on showing dead American soldiers & especially Iraqi civilians caught in the conflict & killed “ Merely Collateral Damage” a nice euphemism for blown to bits or murdered or targeted by accident who cares they are only Iraqis the NEO-CONS Argue-meanwhile news agencies take few or no pictures of American soldiers arriving home in flag-draped coffins or some by cardboard box - no one seems to film the two thousand or so funerals that have taken place nor do they show pictures of American soldiers in VA hospitals whose bodies have been mutilated while fighting in Iraq- & people get exited because Muslims are offended by a bigoted racist cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)- so where’s the disconnect ???

When I speak about American policies I am speaking about the present administration or past administrations but this does not mean that I believe all Americans should be tarred with the same brush. I believe most Americans are outraged when they hear that the US military or CIA or others representing the US are involved in torturing suspected terrorist- & this bring us back to why Muslims have reacted so strongly to these cartoons which they see as an attack on the Prophet Muhammad & as an attack on Islam & all Muslims.
The Us & British administration & Europeans have not made a clear enough distinction between Islam & Muslims & the minority involved in terrorist activities. Again I can refer the reader back to Tony Blankley’s articles in which he calls for sending all Muslims in America to Concentration camps or the more neutral term “ Detention Centres”.

Anyway there are these cartoons which are supposedly comical & light-hearted satirical digs at Islam. Or at least some think so but are they really harmless ; lets see what we can unearth.
They were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Denmark. The newspaper some contend is a right-wing paper which is anti-immigrant & anti-Muslim. The editor claimed he wanted people to send in cartoons as some sort of object lesson on how Westerners are involved in self-censorship.
Maybe there are though good reasons for some self-censorship & some censorship of the press . The most offensive cartoon is one of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban which is actually a bomb.
What the cartoon suggest is that the Prophet Muhammad would condone terrorist acts such as that on 9/11- & that therefore Islam is at it’s core a religion of violence but is this the case . Is Islam a more inherently violent religion than Christianity or other religions.

These cartoons were republished by a number of other European newspapers on the grounds that they were exercising the freedom of the press. It is these more recent re-publications of these cartoons which has led to world-wide protest & violence. It seems what these newspapers were or are doing is thumbing their noses or giving the finger to Muslims without any regard to how Muslims might react. Their feelings don’t matter according to some of these champions of “ freedom of speech ” since they see all Muslims as the same & that they are a barbaric, uncivilized people who do not value human life in the same way as we supposedly do in the West. This is one view of these cartoons.

These are not pictures of Osama Bin Laden who is the leader of AL-QEDA an avowed terrorist organization or some well known Ayatollah or Imam where such caricaturisations might be justified if they were terrorists or supported terrorists’s activities..

Islam is not a religion which preaches violence but people hear the word Jihad & they think of some horrible bloody war or some misguided ‘suicide bomber’ but in the Quran there is a distinction made between the Greater Jihad & the Lesser Jihad .
The Greater Jihad is the battle within one’s self about following the path of righteousness while the lesser Jihad is the Holy War to protect the faith .
But in considering the notion of the Lesser Jihad when we look to the life of the Prophet Muhammad as an example of righteousness the fact is that he used diplomacy, dialogue & compromise before resorting to war or the sword.
But of course there are some Muslims who interpret the Quran as condoning war & terrorist style actions in many more instances & circumstances than would be accepted by the vast majority of Muslims.

How should one respond to the protests of Muslims both peaceful & violent in reaction to these cartoons.
There are several forms which responses could take;
the knee-jerk reaction is that the issue is one of freedom of speech or freedom of press & criticizing Muslims for not understanding or accepting freedom of speech & of the press.
The other gut reaction is to question whether or not Muslims have a sense of humour about themselves or why do they take it all so seriously -

The problem maybe a lack of understanding & respect of a different religion & culture & fueled by a little touch of racism against Arabs & other Non-white groups & also those who are not Christians.
We must consider the fact that the Religious Right & Neo-Conservitivism along with more extreme groups such as White Supremacist & Neo- Naziism , racists of all sorts & religious bigotry are on the rise in Europe as well as in North America . Neo-Conservativists it should be noted are not above using any group that they can to gain & maintain power & will use all means of Propaganda at their disposal to keep their populace fearful & willing to accept greater & greater restrictions on their personal freedom. AL-QEDA was made to order one might think...
Maybe there are just a lot more people in our society & in the Western World who need to take courses in sensitivity training & realize that Muslims are also Human & like Shylock they feel pain & they too bleed when they are cut & their Pride & Dignity are assaulted when images & words are used to attack them & their religion & their culture And that they can become upset & angry & feel frustrated & powerless & that some Muslims though regrettable will act out.

Though the Religious Right in the West believes that Christianity is the only true Religion & that it is open season on all other belief systems which are false according to them & since they are false are not deserving of any respect & given the Religious Right’s( or other extremist dogmatic belief system) black & white view of the world & of human history they believe that all other religions are heresies or are the invention of the Devil or Satan.
Unfortunately such extremists are also to be found in Islam though they are still a minority though with the help of these cartoons & the actions of the US Administration their numbers are growing- the more injustice the more extremists there are.
& as Ghandi said an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind - There is little chance of peaceful constructive dialogue when all sides have taken such extreme positions that there is no room for compromise-
if you piss people off they will retaliate or at least refuse to speak to you-

First we need to consider that within Islam there is a prohibition on images of the Prophet Muhammad ( PBUH) - given this fact it is necessary for non-Muslims to realize how important the prohibition on representations of the Prophet Muhammad is taken by Muslims.
Secondly given the fact that the West has developed & fostered a negative view of Islam & the Prophet Muhammad over the last fourteen hundred years or so then it is quite understandable that many Muslims would take these cartoons as an attack on Islam & the Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims if they feel offended by these cartoons have a right to peaceably protest in the streets
Though taking to the streets burning foreign embassies & killing is counter-productive. It is enough to peaceably demonstrate & to send foreign ambassadors packing or to cut off trade & oil to foreign countries which have offended Muslims is within their power & is their right.
Muslim have as much of a right to protest & take part in civil disobedience as other groups or individuals who believes they are being treated unfairly & that their religion is being disrespected.

For instance when the film “ Life of Brian “ was first released some Christians were offended by its satire on religion. Those Christians protested & held demonstrations & got some theatres to refuse to show the film in question & this was their right as citizens in a democratic society. But burning down theatres showing the film would have been crossing the line . Putting out a call to murder the makers of the film would be considered a bit extreme. In the same way that anti-abortionist protest & hold demonstrations & marches & put some pressure on legislators to change the law. But burning down abortion clinics & murdering doctors who perform abortion are not actions which our society can tolerate . Those who advocate such actions whether they are lay persons or Pastors or ministers or priest ; they should be stopped from inciting violence & if necessary tried & imprisoned if they are guilty of such incitement. The same policy should also be applied to Muslims & their leaders if they incite their followers to the willful destruction of property & encouraging the killing of Christians or of journalist who favour freedom of speech & freedom of the press.

Yes we have freedom of speech but there are limits on such speech as in uttering death threats or using a position of authority to incite violence & murder. As has often been remarked , An individual does not have the right to shout “ Fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.
& here in Canada we also have laws on the books concerning “ Hate Crimes ” which were created to protect individuals & groups from such offences but they were originally designed to protect minority groups in particular since they may be powerless in the face of such crimes.
One of the rationales of having governments is to protect the weak & powerless from the potential tyranny of the majority. We should always remember that it was a majority of German voters who put Hitler into power & applauded him & the Nazi Party as they first insulted then degraded Jewish culture & values & created a preposterous mish-mash of a conspiracy theory about the secret & nefarious plans of the Jews. In that case the Nazis were playing on the German people’s ignorance & prejudice in regards to Judaism . At the time the German people were hungry for a scapegoat & for revenge for how Germany was treated after the first world war & how its economy was ruined . They needed to blame someone so they blamed the Jewish people but also the Communist & the liberal forces at work in their society who they believed were out to destroy the German Culture.( In the same way the Religious Right & Neo-Cons see Secular Humanism as the greatest threat to our society replacing Godless Communism which once was the greatest to our society or is Terrorism the greatest threat to our society or is it Bird Flu or Drugs or Paganism or Rock n’Roll or Heavy Metal or whatever it is this week!!!)

One wonders if those who insist that this is a matter of Freedom of Speech how far they wish to push the matter such as for instance negative inflammatory images of African-Americans as lazy shiftless as all being crack heads & thieves or when some white supremacist uses the “ N” WORD. Words & images can & do hurt . Words & images can be used as tools of Propaganda to create a false picture of a religious or racial group as the first stages of dehumanizing or demonizing of such a group or as a way to justify on -going oppression of a group again as in the case of African-Canadians, Aboriginal Peoples , Immigrants & other Minorities are treated in Canada or the United States or Great Britain & in a great many other countries .

Now given the recent events of the invasion of Afghanistan & Iraq & threats of invasion of Iran & other Muslim countries & the negative response to the democratically elected Hamas in Palestine & the riots by Muslims in France just a few months ago.
Add to all this tension the revelations of US authorities allowing or covering up on-going acts of torture of terrorist suspects & snatching people off the streets of foreign countries & denying suspects due process of being held without being charged & not notifying friends & family of their whereabouts & denying them Prisoner of War status & denying detainees their basic human rights as guaranteed by the United Nations & various International agreements which the United States signed & yet the present US administration just makes up the rules as they go along & this somehow or other is supposed to placate Muslim extremists or even the Islamic community in general. Each new revelation just upsets more Muslims around the world .
Many Muslims in Europe believe they are not treated fairly or justly by the various European governments & that they have been marginalised & to a great extent disenfranchised by the European populace & have become second class citizens in those countries.
Or take into account that France banned Muslim women from wearing their traditional head scarves . It seems many Christian Europeans forget that for generations it was the fashion for women to wear head scarves & that Catholic women were required to wear scarves especially when attending Mass.

For instance if one studies the history of Christian & Islam encounters & relations going back at least to the First Crusade 1097 in which Christians en-mass went to the Holy Land to supplant & murder as many Muslims as possible & all in the name of Christ .The Christians in taking Jerusalem & Constantinople made no distinction between combatants & the civilian population so they plundered, raped & murdered the majority of people in these cities.. The Christians also murdered all the Jews in Muslim dominated cities since the Christians’ hatred of Jews was as great as their hatred of Muslims.
The Jews they believed were guilty of Crucifying Jesus & this guilt was passed down through all the later generations of Jews.
Anyway Christians in general viewed Islam as anti-Christian & as having no right to occupy the Holy Land & further that Muhammad was in fact the Anti-Christ & that Muslims were barbaric, immoral & sensuous. The slurs by Christians & their leaders against Muslims continued from that time down to the present . This negative view of Islam by Christians is referred to as Maledicta the creation of a negative stereotype which Andrew Wheatcroft discusses in his informative & thought provoking book “ Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam”(see below)

Because Christianity does not have a prohibition on images of Jesus it may seem odd that a religion would have such a prohibition on images of its founder. Though such a battle within Christendom did occur between those against such images who believed such imagery , whether drawings paintings or statues were a form of idolatry while others believed such representations & images helped the believer to focus on the idea of Jesus & God & therefore was a positive innovation.
Other religions including Buddhism has at various times also been divided over this issue since the Buddha never claimed to be divine but rather a seeker of truth who had a vision of ultimate reality. Muhammad also claimed that he was (just) a prophet who had been visited from time to time by the Archangel Gabriel but that he, himself was not divine. It was the Archangel who told him to “ recite “ & the words he was to recite were those of the divine that is ALLAH.
Though Muslims do differ to some extent on whether or not Muhammad was divine by the fact God spoke to him through the archangel Gabriel & that Muhammad was the last of a long line of Prophets sent by God whose lineage traces back through Jesus of Nazareth to Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah & Noah & the other prophets of the Old Testament which is part of the Christian Bible & the main book of the Israelites including the Talmud & Torah.

In a multi-cultural & pluralistic society it is incumbent on all members & groups to have respect for other members & groups.
This then puts some limits on what can be said or depicted by or about the various cultures, religions , traditions or creeds . This has become more difficult as we live more & more in a Global Society in which we are all united by Satellite Television & the Internet whereby images & opinions can be shared by millions in a matter of minutes or hours. The information is not always trustworthy various individuals or groups have their differing agendas whether openly spoken or hidden. A lie can travel as fast as the truth . Statements & images fly about the globe sometimes without the necessary contextual information.

There are epithets or slurs which are therefore seen as merely gratuitous or at worst attacks on different cultures, creeds religions or race.
We do not tolerate in our country of Canada what we refer to as hate literature.
In Canada a neo-Nazi organization would not permitted to carry flags of swastikas & march through a Jewish community . Such an action we would see as an affront & an insult & an attempt to incite violence against Jews , or as an attempt to get Jews & others to react in violent manner.
In the same way organizations like the Ku Klux Klan are outlawed groups in our country. It seems some Americans believe that even individuals or groups who call for the destruction & Genocide of a particular group should be permitted to organize & give speeches in Public places to deliver their messages of Hate. But against their objections to his credit President G. Bush sr. passed a law in 1992 outlawing Hate Literature & Speeches in America making it a criminal offence .
We have agreed not to allow the use of certain words which are insulting & demeaning of another group and this ban also applies to certain images which are seen as a means to foster hate , prejudice & eventually violence against a particular religious group or race or those who are different because of their beliefs or sexual orientation .

Part of the issue here is that Muslims of whatever sect they are if they expect non-Muslims to respect their religion & take their views into account then they will have to accept certain beliefs which we in a free democratic society have through consensus & dialogue & sometimes by trial & error & thereby trying to be as inclusive as possible have come to accept. And this is an on-going process as we are faced with new challenges. The same holds true for the Religious Right & Neo-Cons & Protestant Fundamentalist, Evangelicals & Re-constructionist that tolerance, respect, diversity & multi-culturalism & pluralism are the foundation of Western society which has been evolving over the last couple of hundred years.

But we all have to agree on certain basic norms , & values which reflect a basic morality which allows us to live in a civilized pluralistic society. A balance must be struck between the good of society & the beliefs & traditions of individuals & minority groups .This is not always an easy & straightforward task .

as Gwynne Dyer comments in an article entitled VERY RUDE VERY STUPID February 7, 2006

“ There is no contradiction, however, between asserting the right of free speech and condemning those who use it to inflict gratuitous pain on others.

Particularly when it is the powerful abusing the vulnerable.

Jyllands-Posten, which originally published the series of 12 cartoons about Muhammad over four months ago, has the largest circulation of any Danish newspaper. Denmark's Muslim community, only 170,000 strong, is one of the most marginalised and beleaguered in Europe, and the governing coalition includes a large party that is explicitly anti-immigrant and implicitly anti-Muslim. The paper's culture editor, Flemming Rose, claims that the decision to commission 12 cartoonists to lampoon Muhammad was just an attempt to start a debate in Denmark on self-censorship in the media, but he got a lot more than that for his money.

The cartoons were neither clever nor funny, and two of them were blatantly offensive. One depicted Muhammad himself as a terrorist, his turban transformed into a fizzing bomb; the other showed him speaking to a ragged queue of suicide bombers at heaven's gate saying "Stop, stop, we've run out of virgins.'' They deliberately implied that Islam is a terrorist religion, and Denmark's Muslims quite reasonably demanded an apology. It was still a storm in a very small teacup-but then the usual suspects got to work. ”

And further he adds:

Various right-wing newspapers in Europe including Die Welt and France-Soir saw the Danish apologies as a failure to defend free speech, and republished the offending cartoons on their front pages. This gave radical Islamist fringe groups in European countries a pretext to stage angry demonstrations-the slogans at the London demo called for more terrorist bombs like those of last July and urged the faithful to "Butcher those who mock Islam'' - and the confrontation finally achieved lift-off.

The ban on images of Muhammad is a Muslim tradition, not a Western one. But we live in a joined-up world where everybody can see everybody else all the time, and being polite to the neighbours is a social obligation. Jyllands-Posten and its emulators were very stupid and very rude.

-Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

And here is an excerpt from a review in Washington Monthly ( July - August, 2004 ) by Grenville Byford of Andrew Wheatcrofts’ book INFIDELS

Clamor of civilizations: in the battle between the West and Islam, words may be more dangerous than bombs

“ Christians and Muslims have been butting heads for 1,400 years, violence alternating with uneasy coexistence. Swords and spears have morphed into hijacked aircraft and laser-guided bombs, but one weapon has remained the same: Maledicta, words of evil intent, are still hurled back and forth. Their objective is not to communicate with the enemy but to bind "Us" together in self-righteousness by demeaning "Them." Historian Andrew Wheatcroft sees Osama bin Laden and President Bush's paired epithets, "crusader" and "evildoer" for example, as merely the newest generation of an ancient rhetorical family.”

But maledicta also can involve images which stereotype the other who are seen as the Enemy.

Here are some books which I have read in the last two months which are pertinent to the topics discussed:



Martin William With God On OUR SIDE : THE RISE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT IN AMERICA, Companion book to the PBS SERIES , pub. 1996
( This is a great book for an introduction to the subject )

Wheatcroft, Andrew. INFIDELS: THE CONFLICT BETWEEN CHRISTENDOM AND ISLAM Islam, 638-2002, Pub. 2003.

Woodward, Bob : BUSH AT WAR , Pub. 2002