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Christian cannibal: first the horror, then the meditation

Friday, January 17th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — you may not want to watch the video – read the text first, okay? ]
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Here’s what the BBC-wallah said:

The Christians were victims; now they’re on top. It’s a dangerous time to be Muslim. A charred and dismembered body is dragged through the streets. Christians have just killed a Muslim passerby. Ouandja “Mad Dog” Magloire was at the head of the mob. He was in a blind fury that day. Muslims killed his pregnant wife, his sister in law, her baby, he tells me. They broke down the door and cut the baby in half. I promised I’d get my revenge. Revenge was an act of cannibalism. First, he stabbed j\his victim. You are Muslim, Muslim, Muslim, he said. I poured petrol over him, I burned him, I ate his leg, right down to the white bone. The victim was just passing through on a bus. Most Christians are horrified, but resigned. No-one tried to help him, say these eyewitnesses. Everyone is so angry with these Muslims. No way anyone was going to intervene.

This happened at two o’clock in the afternoon, when the streets were crowded with people, just like you see today. Everyone we’ve spoken to is still at a loss to know what to make of it. Was it the act of a madman, was it somebody who’d been pushed by sectarian hatred, was it explained perhaps, by traditional beliefs in magic and sorcery. These fighters are Christians but they also believe in magic. their amulets contain soil from their ancestors’ graves. Some carry the flesh of enemies they’ve killed. These charms are a delicate subject, not often discussed with outsiders. We are bullet-proof, says the commander. Mad Dog Magloire went further. perhaps his crime resulted from his own demons, but to some Christians he’s a hero. That doesn’t bode well for this country’s future.

If you want to watch him say it, it’s powerful. Here you go:

Okay, now for the meditation: I want to rescue something out of all this horror.

**

The very first thing I want to note is this:

We are bullet-proof, says the commander.

I’ve run across this before, it’s a common motif. Remember the Lakota Ghost Dance shirts? Johnny and Luther Htoo, the cigar-smoking twins who led God’s Army in Myanmar…? Televangelist Wilde Almeda of the Jesus Miracle Crusade in the Philippines?

This is just to say that in my view, religion with spiritual bullet-proofing is different from religion without it, no matter what name you tag the religion with.

**

Next up:

Most Christians are horrified, but resigned. … perhaps his crime resulted from his own demons, but to some Christians he’s a hero.

It could be tribal. It could be magical, maybe. It could be religious, specifically Christian. It could be Mad Dog Magloire‘s “own demons”. It could be, and surely was, that he saw his pregnant wife slaughtered before his own eyes.

But he projected his thirst for vengeance not on the man — a Muslim — who had butchered them, but on a guy in a passing bus who looked like he was Muslim.

**

Some weeks back, Commander Abu Sakkar of the Farouq Brigades in Syria ate what he took to be the heart of one of his enemies. It turned out to be his enemy’s lung.

  • If you think Mad Dog Magloire doesn’t represent Christianity, maybe Abu Sakkar doesn’t represent Islam.

  • If you think Abu Sakkar is representative of Islam, maybe Magloire is representative of Christianity.
  • I think it is fair to say that any religions with in excess of a billion adherents will find the odd cannibal among them in time of war.

    **

    But then consider this, in peacetime:

    In Ireland this week, a man confessed he’d murdered his landlord over a chess game, and eaten his heart. Forensics showed it was a lung that was missing

    **

    We are, after all, human.

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    Mandela – countless silken ties of love and thought

    Friday, December 6th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — mostly written as news came from the hospital that his condition had turned critical, updated and posted now that his death has been announced ]
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    Already I am feeling the presentiment of grief, and so much of what I feel stems from this picture:

    **

    Nelson Mandela is dear to me not so much as the great first President of the new South Africa, nor as the statesman he doubtless was, but the man who loved my own mentor, Trevor Huddleston, so much.

    So it is not global with me, it is personal, and as news of his health reaches the critical mark and his family gathers in deep concern, I sense my own potential for grief rolling in over the near hills.

    Robert Frost, in his great poem A Silken Tent, speaks of “silken ties of love and thought” that bind us one to another, indeed to “every thing on earth the compass round” — in my case it is his love of Trevor that binds me to the man — and the little detail in Mandela’s autobiography where he recalls Trevor addressing a group of South African police who were approaching to arrest him, saying:

    No, you must arrest me instead, my dears.

    It’s that “my dears” that I can hear so easily in Trevor’s voice, and that Mandela was so brilliant to catch, recall and tell…

    Less personally it is the Isitwalandwe, the signal honor these two men shared, for each was “one who wears the plumes of the rare bird”.

    **

    I respect also the insurgent Mandela, who emerged from his long imprisonment with calm and clarity — Mandela the meditator if you will. This passage from a letter he wrote in jail in 1975 moves me, as Merton moves me:

    Incidentally, you may find that the cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself, to search realistically and regularly the process of your own mind and feelings. In judging our progress as individuals we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education. These are, of course, important in measuring one’s success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these. But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundations of one’s spiritual life. Development in matters of this nature is inconceivable without serious introspection, without knowing yourself, your weaknesses and mistakes. At least if for nothing else, the cell gives you the opportunity to look daily into your entire conduct, to overcome the bad and develop whatever is good in you. Regular meditation, say about 15 minutes a day before you turn in, can be very fruitful in this regard. You may find it difficult at first to pinpoint the negative features in your life, but the 10th attempt may yield rich rewards. Never forget that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.

    Here, I believe, is the secret which gave us this man.

    **

    And because it is so very beautiful, I offer you also Frost’s poem:

    The Silken Tent
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    She is as in a field a silken tent
    At midday when the sunny summer breeze
    Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
    So that in guys it gently sways at ease,
    And its supporting central cedar pole,
    That is its pinnacle to heavenward
    And signifies the sureness of the soul,
    Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
    But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
    By countless silken ties of love and thought
    To every thing on earth the compass round,
    And only by one’s going slightly taut
    In the capriciousness of summer air
    Is of the slightlest bondage made aware.

    **

    Update:

    Mandela’s death has been announced, and I feel as though I knew it already, back in those days at the end of June when he was hospitalized, when every day and each breath might have been his last. I feel little grief now, I wish him peace — but more than that, I feel gratitude. Nelson Mandela showed us, through foul weather and fair, what a human with integrity is, and what such a single human, in the companionship of others, can do.

    So many of us must be feeling this gratitude today. Mandela has gone from among the living, to exert his influence now — his person, his strength, his story — in the ever-opening realm of inspiration and human possibility.

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    Spirals, a quick revisit

    Thursday, November 14th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — spiraling costs — same pattern, different mechanism, closer to home ]
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    Back in Serpent logic and related, I featured this spiral from Louisa Lombard:

    Ha, funny.

    How’s this, in today’s opening salvo from Rosa Brooks at POLITICO Magazine?

    “If you believe the mission truly requires 50,000 troops and $50 billion, but you know that the White House is going to automatically cut every number in half, you’ll come in asking for 100,000 troops and $100 billion,” says the aforementioned former White House official. “The military eventually starts playing the very game the White House has always suspected them of playing.”

    Not for nothing does the phrase “spiraling out of control” garner 7,840,000 hits on Google.

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    Gaidi Mtaani, the greater scheme of things, I: the story

    Thursday, November 14th, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — in a story, in a nutshell, the very different world of al-Shabaab ]
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    The third issue of of the pro-Shabaab magazine Gaidi Mtaani, issued a few months back, contained a long piece titled A Greater Scheme of Things, and in it I’d like to zero in on the extraordinary story which is the heart of the piece — and which offers us a fasacinating insight into jihad:

    it was luminously evident, for me personally, in one memorable incident in Mogadishu’s frontline last year. Just after Dhuhur prayer, one particular day in March, the Mujahideen received news that the enemy was preparing to mount a large offensive in the Northern parts of the city – in an area that was then newly captured by the Mujahideen.

    In no time, the news spread across the entire frontline and the Mujahideen geared up for a protracted battle. New defence posts were erected, the old ones were fortified, trenches were dug, reinforcements were called in, snipers were placed on rooftops and small groups of well-equipped fighters were strategically positioned to guard every street and every alley. Garrisoned in the makeshift base, a short distance behind the frontline, were dozens of young martyrdom seekers, each eager to engage the enemy once called. A flurry of activity engulfed the bullet-battered neighbourhood as sporadic gunfire resonated across the empty streets and a countless number of vehicle-mounted weapons, such as ZU-23 and B-10, Dhshk, Shilka, were all streaming in and out of the base to take their positions. Upon seeing the long line of military vehicles and artillery, one of the fighters erroneously remarked in amazement: ‘today we will defeat these African invaders.’ Materialistically, all possible preparations were made to defeat the encroaching enemy, but were they enough to achieve victory?

    Just after Asr that day, the battle began in deadly earnest, with ear-splitting explosions and exchange of gunfire reverberating from all corners from the city. A salvo of mortars ripped through the fragile rooftops, grenades exploded with alarming ferocity, tanks bulldozed buildings and reduced them to rubble and a hail of bullets cracked into the shell-bestrewn streets. In the backdrop of such a frenzied atmosphere, the Mujahideen maintained remarkable inner tranquillity, for the believer’s heart is an island of santy in such a setting. They’ve put up a sturdy defence in all corners, necessary arrangements were made to outflank the enemy and the chants of Takbeer were gradually rising above the cruel cacophony of gunfire. But something strange was also happening: all the artillery brought by the Mujahideen failed to fire a single shot! The guns were cleaned, lubricated, loaded and reloaded, but they still recoiled without firing a round and with the bullet jammed in the barrel. The field commanders hopped from trench to trench, through tunnels, in order to analyse and resolve the situation, but all their efforts were in vain.

    ‘Today we will defeat these African invaders’ chimed in the memory of one of the commanders and that’s when they had realised that what was happening was in fact a punishment for a grave sin they had committed: trusting in the abilities of their weapons. The certitude with which the statement was expressed proved to be destructive and no sooner had the Mujahideen recognised the mistake and repented than the very same artillery, almost instantaneously, began firing again. The Mujahideen managed to repel the enemy, but those who’ve uttered the statements also learnt a great lesson: that fortifying the bastion of Eeman must take precedence over building a substantial military arsenal; for military arsenal can never bring victory without Eeman.

    Such is the clear manifestation of Allah’s absolute control over all affairs that the Kuffar have failed to comprehend.

    I’ll comment on this story in a follow-up post: for now, I’d just like to let this very revealing tale hang in the air for your consideration…

    Your comments are most welcome.

    **

    Source:

  • Gaidi Mtaani #3, safe copy available from Jihadology, pp. 12-15
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    Myanmar between Woolwich and Al-Aqsa 1: interfaith hatred

    Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

    [ by Charles Cameron — in which jihadis take on Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, quite an interfaith haul for hatred ]
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    Aaron Zelin at Jihadology posted an hour-long video entitled Woolwich Attack a week or so ago, and I found it particularly interesting on two accounts: first, that it makes a multi-faith attack that includes Buddhism in its catalogue of enemies of Islam, and second, that it uses an innovative feature of modern digital typography. Here, I’ll concentrate on the first. Here’s the video’s title:

    **

    Christianity as a target is well represented in the form of Dr Justin Welby, the recently-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury:

    Notice also the lower of these two screengrabs, this one showing Ayman al-Zawahiri (left) berating a leading Muslim spokesman in the UK, Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain (right), for speaking at the same event as the Archbishop. The damning subtitle suggests he’s one of those “who issue Fatwas according to the school of thought of the head of the Church of England”.

    **

    It wasn’t the attack on Christians or fellow Muslims that caught my eye, though, but the unexpected presence of the monk Wirathu, the rhetorical leader of Myanmar’s recent Buddhist rioting against Burmese Muslims. I’d seen his face on Time magazine and elsewhere, but it came as a bit of a shock here in a jihadist video — I’d filed him and his 969 movement under “Buddhism” rather than “Islam” in my mental listing of violent movements with religious underpinnings.

    Ugly, ugly.

    **

    Finally, no invitation to jihad these days is complete without its mention of the al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem — and it is here that Judaism comes in for attack. Consider these two screengrabs:

    **

    The video closes, significantly, with a long shot of the Dome of the Rock through a window…

    Yesterday my friend William Benzon made a post titled On Describing a Painting which began:

    Harvard art historian Jennifer Roberts bills her article thus: The Power of Patience: Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention. OK. But I take a different lesson from it, one about one of my current hobby horses: description. Roberts focuses on an 18th Century painting by John Singleton Copley, A Boy with a Flying Squirrel. Her point is that the more you look at the painting, the more you notice and hence the more you can note in a written description. She asks her students to spend a full three hours with a single painting.

    Of her own experience with that painting she observes:

    It took me nine minutes to notice that the shape of the boy’s ear precisely echoes that of the ruff along the squirrel’s belly—and that Copley was making some kind of connection between the animal and the human body and the sensory capacities of each. It was 21 minutes before I registered the fact that the fingers holding the chain exactly span the diameter of the water glass beneath them. It took a good 45 minutes before I realized that the seemingly random folds and wrinkles in the background curtain are actually perfect copies of the shapes of the boy’s ear and eye, as if Copley had imagined those sensory organs distributing or imprinting themselves on the surface behind him. And so on.

    She begins her next paragraph: “What this exercise shows students is that just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it.”

    Looking at that final screengrab with this in mind, I see a close correlation between the golden Dome that focuses our attention on the Noble Sanctuary / Temple Mount, and the round, yellow-gold keffiyeh of the jihadist observing it through his window — “making some kind of connection between” them, to echo the words of Harvard’s Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities…

    It’s a skilled and meaning-filled use of the medium.

    **

    In my second post in this series, I’ll point to a significant development in graphics and technology introduced in this video.

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