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Buddhism and Islam: please note disclaimers

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — on monk Wirathu, also the trickiness of images-with-quotes on social media ]
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SPEC Wirathu

The quote from Wirathu (upper panel, above) is a direct quote from a NYT interview with him:

You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog,” Ashin Wirathu said, referring to Muslims.

The image was posted on a FaceBook page which is either his or named for him, but appears to have been taken from a National Geographic contest. The photographer’s note reads:

At the annual Ananda Harvest Festival in Bagan, Myanmar, thousands of monks from all over Myanmar came to receive alms. While walking around the vast temple grounds, I chanced upon this boy monk who was playing with his toy gun. Even though it was only a toy gun, I found this image a disturbing juxtaposition of the peace that Buddhism embodies and the violence that guns symbolise.

So the gun is a toy gun, and the monk a boy monk, not Wirathu.

FWIW, I searched for “wirathu hoax” and didn’t find this image listed, but did find a hoax photo attributed to a Wirathu FB page: Fake image being circulated by monk Wirathu to incite anti-Muslim violence in Burma (Warning: Graphic Content).

Figuring out what’s genuine, what’s propaganda. and what’s fake or a hoax is getting harder and harder these days, and we need more and more skeptical spectacles when taking in both texts and images.

The text from the Parajika (lower panel, above) is genuine.

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Edited to add:

Lion’s Roard, the Buddhist site, had a great piece which intro’d me to the Wirathu quote with image, Facebook using Buddhist tools to fight hate speech in Burma. Extract:

As Burma is emerging from fifty years of military dictatorship, its citizens are thronging to social media, particularly Facebook, and anti-Muslim extremists are too. Facebook is addressing the problem of Buddhist anti-Muslim activists promoting violence on Facebook with a new set of features.

When Facebook users flag content they “don’t like,” a box pops up asking “Why don’t you want to see this?” The user can select options like “it’s annoying” or “it promotes violence.” In Burma, Facebook now also includes the options “it’s a rumor or has false information,” and “it disturbs social harmony.” According to readwrite.com, the second option was chosen specifically for its resonance with Buddhist precepts.

“We wouldn’t normally use this language in the U.S.,” Said Kelly Winters, whose Facebook’s title is “Product Manager for Compassion.” Facebook employs language that resonates with the local market, which, in Burma’s case, is largely Buddhist-influenced.

Mosul Museum: then the good news, perhaps

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — second of three posts, this one more hopeful ]
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Does ISIS really have SEVEN-FOOT tall executioners? Parts of grisly film showing beheading of 21 Christians were faked, claim experts

Veryan Khan, of the Florida-based Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, told Fox News that there are several technical mistakes in the video that show it was manipulated.

She said that in the shot of the terrorists marching their prisoners along the beach, the jihadis appear to be 7ft tall – towering as much as two feet above their victims.

This observation was supported by Hollywood director Mary Lambert who described it as the shot with the ‘really tall Jihadists and the dwarf Christians.’

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Analysis: Mosul Museum video from Islamic State could be a staged drama

Britain’s Channel 4 television gave the Islamic State propaganda video to archaeologists to examine. Mark Altaweel, an American scholar at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, noted the modern iron rebar protruding from inside some of the smashed statues. It disproves their authenticity.

Nonetheless, the vandalism’s cultural insult strikes deep. The Iraqi people, Altaweel said, “are taking the destruction of their cultural heritage – their identity, essentially – just as seriously as the beheadings.”

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The above ties in with the notion expressed in the LA Times article — where else? — Islamic State and its increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror:

The cinematography is as crisp and chilling as a horror movie. Men in orange jumpsuits kneel on a beach beneath a sky of broken clouds. Executioners hover over them, dressed in black, knives aglint. A masked militant reads the death sentence. The camera pans across praying faces. Knives are raised, and 21 men are beheaded, blood spilling into the sand and mixing with the waves.

This and other recent execution videos released by Islamic State are slickly produced narratives of multiple camera angles, eerie tension and polished editing that suggest the filmmakers are versed in Hollywood aesthetics. Brutal and perverse, the clips, some infused with music and subtitles, carry a primeval message stylized for a world wired to social media and hypnotized by an endless pulse of competing images.

The beheadings and other killings, including the burning alive of a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, represent an increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror.

For more on the media side of things, see the third and last post in this series.

Sunday surprise: Penguins, Turkey

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a little quiet, serious fun here ]
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Ken aka @chumulu suggested a DoubleTweet to me, and I’m delighted to post it here, Turkey, penguins and all:

and:

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Plus I’m a big admirer of Zeynep.

David Brooks gets his Islamic eschatology wrong on NewsHour

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — why scholarship should inform punditry ]
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I am a bit surprised, I have to say, that I haven’t seen — and Google doesn’t seem to have found, either — a clear rebuttal to one highly significant detail in David Brooks‘ discussion with Mark Shields and Judy Woodruff on Islamic eschatology.

In the PBS NewsHour segment labeled Shields and Brooks on fighting Islamic extremism (above), Brooks makes the statement:

I do think you have to take the religion seriously, that these people are — it’s not like they can’t get what we want. They want something they think is higher than what we want. Their souls are involved. And I’m saying you have to conceive of them as moving, as acting in a religious way.

And you have to have religious alternatives. And they are driven by an end times ideology. They think there’s going to be some cataclysm battle and Mohammed will come down. And if you ignore that part of it, write it off as sort of marginal, that they are being produced by economic dysfunction, I just think you’re missing the main deal.

I’m largely in agreement with this, but the phrase “and Mohammed will come down” is just plain wrong. In Islamic eschatology, it is claimed that Jesus (‘Isa ibn Maryam) — not Muhammad — will “come down” from heaven at the ‘Umayyad mosque in Damascus:

God will send the Messiah, son of Mary, and he will descend to the white minaret in the east of Damascus, wearing two garments dyed with saffron, placing his hands on the wings of two angels. When he lowers his head, beads of perspiration will fall from it, and when he raises his head, beads like pearls will scatter from it.

The return of Jesus and his “breaking the cross” and preaching the one faith of Submission (Islam) may be what Brooks should have mentioned — or perhaps he meant the arrival and recognition of the Mahdi, who does not “come down” to us but is already among us by the time his end times role begins.

I can see how this may seem a slight slip-of-the-tongue to David Brooks, who is after all not solely preoccupied with IS, Islam, and / or apocalyptic — but it’s not something that should go unchallenged if we are to “take the religion seriously”.

Birmingham, a little light relief in tough times

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — all tweets guaranteed safe for the workplace ]
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Steven Emerson made the mistaken claim on Fox News that Birmingham is an all-Muslim enclave — and has withdrawn his claim and apologized fulsomely in the aftermath. While Emerson is not an “expert” I’d follow or trust, I have to admit I’ve enjoyed some of the humo[u]r his claim brought forth under the #FoxNewsFacts hashtag. Here are my personal favorites:

Qibla:

For the record, that’s the Mecca bingo hall on Kingstanding Circle, Birmingham.

Hijab:

Hudud:

Isn’t that Henry V she’s beheading?

Keffiyeh:


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