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Cologne and Thiruvananthapuram, no contest

Friday, February 20th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — more from my endless fascination with the varieties of religious behavior ]
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SPEC DQ billions no contest

Take the news of the diocese of Cologne‘s $3.8bn fortune by itself, and it’s a shock. Compare it with Sri Padmanabha temple in Thiruvananthapuram’s estimated $22bn trove, and it suddenly seems a much less staggering amount.

**

A couple of interesting points from the two articles in question. In Cologne:

Some 2.4 billion euros were invested in stocks, funds and company holdings. A further 646 million euros were held in tangible assets, mostly property. Cash reserves and outstanding loans amounted to about 287 million euros. [ .. ]

Pope Francis has stressed the need for the church to show humility and emphasize its work for the poor.

The Cologne archdiocese published its accounts on Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of Lent, the period of reflection and repentance leading up to Easter week.

and in Thiruvananthapuram:

The loot includes about 1,000 kilograms (2,205 pounds) of gold coins – some dating back 400 years – ropes of gold, sacks of diamonds, and a gold statue of the Hindu god Vishnu studded with precious gems, as well as an 18-foot solid gold ornament weighing 35 kilograms (77 pounds) and rare silver and brass platters.

So far the find is worth nearly double India’s 2011-2012 education budget ($11.61 billion) – and there’s still another vault to be unlocked. The 16th century Sri Padmanabha temple, in the capital of the southern coastal state of Kerala, is now considered to be the richest of India’s temples.

**

Sources:

  • US News, Cologne
  • Christian Science Monitor, Thiruvananthapuram
  • Contextualizing the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya

    Monday, February 16th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — in real estate it’s location, location, location — in thought space it’s context, context, context ]
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    Timothy Furnish offers us context for the newly released video of Islamic State beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians (screencap in upper panel, below) with two striking images of precedents, one of which I have reproduced in part (lower panel), illustrating how the Ottomans beheaded tens of thousands of Georgian Christians:

    SPEC DQ christians beheaded

    Furnish’s post is titled ISIS Beheadings: Hotwiring the Apocalypse One Christian Martyr At A Time.

    **

    I am saddened to say that this is indeed part of the history of Islamic relations with Christianity.

    I am happy to add, however, that it is not the whole story. In the upper panel, below, you see Muslim and Christian at a very different form of battle, as found in the Book of Games, Chess, dice and boards, 1282, in the library of the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial:

    SPEC DQ chess and krishna

    Religious tolerance in Islam is illustrated as found today in India, in this picture of a Muslim mother in full niqab taking her son, dressed as the Hindu deity Krishna, to a festival — very probably the Janmashtami or birthday celebration of the child-god (lower panel, above).

    **

    It will be interesting to see how President Sisi repsonds to this murderous IS attack on Egyptian citizens.

    Of morale, angels and Spartans

    Saturday, January 17th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — how sky differs from heaven, and what that means for morale and jihad ]
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    SPEC Badr & Spartans

    **

    Okay, that Spartans / Battle of Badr DoubleQuote above is just a teaser, locating us in the general zone of morale..

    What I’d really like to offer you here is another Badr-related DoubleQuote, of which the first part comes from Shadi Hamid, speaking about half way through the Charlie Rose show, A conversation about Islam and politics with Reza Aslan, Will McCants, Michael Hanna and Shadi Hamid, which aired on the 14th of this month (full video at the bottom of this post). He said:

    We have to take religion seriously, but I worry sometimes, if we focus too much on religion we forget that there’s a political context. That if we want to understand the rise of Isis we can’t understand that without looking at the political vacuum that emerged in Syria. That didn’t happen by itself; there’s a series of policy decisions from the international community that helped contribute to the rise of ISIS.

    So I guess the interesting question then is, How does religion interact with these political factors. So we have to bring those different variables into focus and I think we lose some of that, we lose that complexity if we’re just saying Islam is the problem. On the other hand, though .. these terrorists and extremists, they believe that what they’re doing, they’re going to be granted direct entry into Paradise, and that inspiration, motivation, is a very powerful thing that we shouldn’t underestimate. And ideology in this sense is a sort of force multiplier on the battlefield.

    All of that seems relevant to me, but it’s his next few phrases I want to DoubleQuote (upper panel, below):

    SPEC DQ Shadi Hamid & Quran

    And whereas Hamid’s explanation, as befits a Brookings Fellow refers to a belief about Paradise, the Qur’an, as befits sacred scripture, treats the world as though it is thronged not with beliefs but with angels..

    **

    The comparison and contrast between our conntemporary, post-Enlightenment view of “the sky” (in which birds, planes, helicopters, missiles and drones may be found, but no angels, jinn, apsarases or faeries) and that of the world’s various scriptural and mythological “heavens” (in which helicopters and parachutes are generally absent, though angels, demons, gandharvas, apsarases and the rest abound) is one that has long fascinated me — but the two are usually kept distinct. Albrecht Durer will show you angels and demons just above the rural countryside in “heaven” — but you won’t find them in military aviations journals..

    It is against that background that I find this piece of artwork about the Ghazwa e-Hind so interesting — it appears to envision both “sky” with its various planes and parachutist (most of the planes a little dated, alas), and “heaven” with its celestial cavalry, occupying the same visual space:

    Great Ghazwa Sky meets Heaven

    **

    All this leads me to the question — which would seem to become ever more urgent as we move from textual to visually enhanced modes of communication —

    How does one graphically depict morale or esprit de corps?

    That’s my question for the day.

    ** ** **

    Here, for those who would like to view it in its entirety, is the Charlie Rose show from which Shadi Hamid’s quote above was taken:

    The Art of Future War?

    Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — coloring outside the lines of the challenge ]
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    http://www.desura.com/mods/dune-wars/images/new-soldier-and-infantry-units
    Civ4 Dune mod, “Worm attack”, from Desura

    **

    I’m all in favor of the Atlantic Council‘s Art of Future War Project:

    It is a moment to seek out new voices and ideas from artists who can range much farther out into the future. Artists are adept at making sense of disorder while also having the ability to introduce a compelling chaos into the status quo. In other words, they are ideally suited to exploring the future of warfare. Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world. They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and conventional ways of tackling some of today’s toughest national security problems. Importantly, they can also help forge connections with some of most creative people in the public and private sectors who otherwise struggle to find avenues for their best ideas.

    That’s excellent, and as a poet and game designer with a keen interest in war and peace, I hope to contribute.

    **

    Funny, though, their first challenge looks, to my eyes, just a little bit back to the future:

    The Art of Future Warfare project’s first challenge seeks journalistic written accounts akin to a front-page news story describing the outbreak of a future great-power conflict.

    Why would we want to produce something “akin to a front-page news story” at a time when news stories are already more web-page than front-page, and perhaps even tweet before they’re breaking news?

    In any case, the good people at Art of Future War offered some clues to those who might want to take up their challenge, and I took their encouragement seriously —

    The historical creative cues included below are intended to inspire, not bound, creativity.

    **

    Their first clue did indeed inspire me, though not to write anything akin to a front-page news story, “between 1,500 and 2,500 words long”. The clue they gave was the Washington Times lede I’ve reproduced in the upper panel below —

    SPEC DQ slomo death

    while the lower panel contains the quote their clue led me to, by an associative leap of the kind artists are prone to — drawing on the vivid imagery of Peter Brook‘s play, The Mahabharata, which I had the good fortune to see in Los Angeles, a decade or three ago.

    **

    My own leap backwards — to an ancient and indeed originally oral epic, the Mahabharata, rather than to century-old newsprint — won’t win me the challenge, since it doesn’t answer to the rules, nor will it provide useful hints as to what war will look like a decade from now.

    The sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata at the dictation of the god Ganesh, might have been able to predict the future of war — I certainly cannot.

    What I can do, and hope to have done, is to suggest that the whole of human culture has a bearing on war and how we understand it.

    James Aho‘s Religious Mythology and the Art of War should be on every strategist’s reading list, as should Frank Herbert‘s Dune (see gamer’s mod image at the top of this page), JAB van Buitenen‘s Bhagavadigita in the Mahabharata and Brigadier SK Malik‘s The Qur’anic Concept of War — and Akira Kurasawa‘s Kagemusha on the DVD shelf, too:

    There, I have managed to contribute something useful after all.

    Jottings 13: on matters of porcine theology

    Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — with a sidelong glance at anti-Imperialist cows ]
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    The pig: both trayf and halal

    **

    The news was in an AP post headed Pig heads in boxes sent to Jewish targets in Rome:

    Italian police say they are searching for the sender of pig heads to Rome’s main synagogue, the Israeli Embassy and a city museum hosting an exhibit on the Holocaust. Police headquarters said Saturday the anti-terrorism squad was handling the case. The pig heads arrived in three separate boxes, all sent by a delivery service unaware of the contents. The deliveries were made Friday, three days before an international memorial day for Holocaust victims.

    Joel Richardson at Joel’s Trumpet draws our attention to a significant parallel:

    One might see echoes here of the acts of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek monarch, who in the second century B.C., sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Jewish Temple, criminalizing the very practice of Judaism.

    What troubles me here is the powerful, implicitly apocalyptic emotion such a parallel draws on.

    **

    But if Jews can be targeted with pork, so can Muslims — and I also think it is worth pondering the practice of greasing bullets with pork fat, in the hope that this will consign any Muslims killed with such bullets to hell, pork being a haram or forbidden food in Muslim theology.

    Jihawg Ammo makes a sales point of this idea. As WND put it a few months back in New Ammo cancels free ticket to Paradise:

    A company in northern Idaho has come up with a culturally sensitive approach. Jihawg Ammo has developed a proprietary system for infusing ballistic paint with pork. The special pork-infused paint is then applied to the bullets of loaded ammunition. The inclusion of pork in the paint makes the bullets haraam, or unclean. Under the strictest interpretations of Islamic law, anyone who comes in contact with any haraam item is then unclean and must engage in a cleansing ritual.

    The objective of Jihawg Ammo is not to insult Muslims, nor even to send a terrorist to Hell. The objective is to serve as a deterrent – to place the promise of instant passage to Paradise into doubt. Without the promise of Paradise, how many Muslim literalists would be willing to lay their lives – and eternal souls – on the line to engage in acts of terrorism?

    Likewise, a gun oil whose manufacturer claims his product was on the bullets used to kill bin Laden is advertised as demoralizing terrorists:

    SILVER BULLET GUN OIL, is a HIGHLY EFFECTIVE Counter-Islamic terrorist force multiplier. SILVER BULLET GUN OIL was designed specifically to put Demoralizing FEAR and TERROR into SUPPOSEDLY “Fearless” Islamo-Fascist terrorists. It was created with the “TRUE BELIEVER” in mind. According to the Koran, Allah states, “Any of my followers contaminated by swine at the time of his death will be denied entry to my paradise forever, I HATE THE STENCH OF SWINE.”

    **

    The Islamic theology is bad, however, and the pork coating ineffective…

    I’ve used the USC database and searched the Quran for such a sentence without success. There are by my count six references to swine in the Quran, at 2.173, 5.3, 5.60, 6.145 and 16.115, all of them refer to the eating of swine flesh, none of them talk about death, and in each case the point is made that Allah is merciful and forgiving to those who consume pork flesh “without wilful disobedience”. It thus seems unlikely that any “TRUE BELIEVER” would be terrified of dying from a contaminated bullet, especially since the jihadist martyr is forgiven all sins and feels no pain beyond a pinprick at the moment of death…

    As I posted elsewhere recently:

    Gen. Pershing, as I recall, is said to have shot Muslims with pork-fat-coated bullets and / or buried them and poured pig’s entrails on their bodies in the belief that these actions would somehow make them unfit for heaven. Snopes, the usual place I turn to fact check dubious stories, has a page on this idea called Pershing the Thought, and calls the story “undetermined”.

    I’d like to add that the idea itself, which has also been used recently to market fancy pork-coated bullets to US troops, has no basis in Islamic theology. You simply cannot get more authoritative theological guidance on things Muslim than the Qur’an itself, in which we find (Qur’an 2. 173):

    These things only has He forbidden you: carrion, blood, the flesh of swine, what has been hallowed to other than God. Yet who so is constrained, not desiring nor transgressing, no sin shall be on him; God is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.

    The whole story looks to be a rumor attached to a falsehood… It wouldn’t even work!

    **

    What cannot be doubted, however, is that evidence suggesting the US military might be coating bullets with pig-fat so as to deny paradise to mujahideen can be used, and is in fact used, as evidence for the notion that the Unites States is at war with Islam – an idea that is a powerful aid to jihadist recruitment.

    It is a claim that both Presidents Bush and Obama have explicitly denied — and that bin Laden himself made in his 1998 declaration:

    All these crimes and sins committed by the Americans are a clear declaration of war on Allah, his messenger, and Muslims.

    It’s the basic AQ argument: show that Islam itself is under attack by the United States, and it follows that every able-bodied Muslim has an obligation to defend it.

    And that’s not just an obligation on some Muslims — it’s an kndividual obligation, fard ayn.

    Here’s Abdullah Azzam on the subject, in his Defence of the Muslim Lands: the First Obligation after Iman, Chapter 3, “Fard Ayn and Fard Kifaya:

    Jihad by your person is Fard Ayn upon every Muslim in the earth. …
    .
    Neglecting the jihad is like abandoning fasting and praying, more than that, neglecting the jihad is worse in these days. We quote from Ibn Rushd: “It is agreed that when jihad becomes Fard Ayn it takes precedence over the Fard of Hajj.”

    **

    And beef?

    Allegedly the British bullets that sparked the Sepoy Rebellion / First War of Indian Independence were coated with both pig and cow fat — in hope of offending Muslim and Hindu alike.

    Me? I’m mostly vegetarian…


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