[ by Charles Cameron — for those wishing for discourse above the political fray ]
Yesterday, Sunday, I was going to post a “Sunday surprise” about a voice that transcends that of Donald Trump — the voice of Alison Balsom, trumpeter extraordinaire. But my thread linking Balsom and Trump was a slender one — Trump and trumpet — and I thought better of it, and deleted my reliminary notes for that post.
Amjad Sabri, an eminent Pakistani qawwal -— a Sufi devotional musician in the tradition of world-renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and son of the famous singer Ghulam Fareed Sabri of the Sabri Brothers — had been shot dead in his car in Karachi ten days earlier by the Pakistani Taliban. He’d been praising the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his noble family a little too much for the Taliban’s liking. And so they had their way with him. In a nation inured to violence, Sabri’s death, nevertheless, struck at the communal soul of Pakistan. ..
Thousands of Pakistanis came out on the streets, united in grief, to protest Sabri’s death. Sabri was a child of Pakistan’s own soil. He belonged to a venerable, centuries-old musical dynasty. His spiritual attunement and the muscular faculty of his voice transported people to ecstasy, raising mere mortals above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine. Sabri’s music was a glorification. And it belonged to a distinct tradition of South Asian music, a legacy irrefutably inherent in the DNA of Pakistan, twinned to the devotional practice of Islam and its syncretic cultural roots in the region. Invoking a transcendent joy, Sabri’s qawwali created a milieu of harmony—completely antithetical to the Taliban’s backward, beclouded ideology of hate which thrives on sowing seeds of discord.
It’s that second paragraph I’m interested in, because it says so exactly what I was trying to get at in my deleted post about Alison Balsom: that “mere mortals” can be lifted, lofted “above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine”.
Here’s a taste of Amjad Sabri, for those who appreciate the Sufi tradition and the haunting ecstasies of the Qawwals:
And here’s Balsom, whose trumpet voice likewise lifts us, for those with ears more attuned to the western classical tradition:
— and best of all, though I’ve posted it here before:
A sovereign citizen is someone who mixes fabricated history, out of context laws, and miscellaneous quotes to prove he’s above all laws. Those who have been watching the #BundyRanch standoff and the #oregonstandoff have seen this “magical thinking” in action.
25+ years ago, this movement fell into the white supremacist / right-wing extremist categories. 20 years ago, the white supremacist side of the movement splintered off, leaving behind a right-wing extremist group. 15 years ago, a handful of left-wing extremist / black supremacist groups adopted many of the legal theories as their own.
Today, the sovereign movement falls into 3 general categories: the right wing patriots, the left wing Moors, and the left wing anarchists. Since the left-wing anarchist sovereigns aren’t a significant threat at this point, I’ll leave them out of the rest of this thread.
In 2015 Gavin Eugene Long aka Cosmo Setepenra filed a curious document with the Jackson County, Missouri recorder.
In this document, he corrected his “common law name” from Long to Setepenra.
Note that his given name GAVIN EUGENE LONG is in all capital letters while his “corrected” name Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, is mixed case. In sovereign-speak, he is attempting to separate his flesh-and-blood self (Cosmo) from his corporate fiction self (GAVIN.) In the document, Long claims to be a member of a fictional Native American tribe: the Washitaw Nation.
This group has a theory that, when the North American continent separated from the African Continent, humans were split between them. They consider the slave ship stories of the early colonies to be a myth. Therefore, he is descended from an indigenous people who were in the U.S. before it became a country and is not subject to any our laws.
When gov agencies (police, IRS, courts) fail to recognize their faux indigenous status, they believe their inherent rights are violated. They simply lifted legal theories from the right-wing sovereigns – UCC codes, “reclamation,” admiralty law theories, “truth language.” The personalized those theories w/ a complex layer: Egyptian mythology and symbols, numerology, new age imagery, holistic healing, etc.
Long left clues beyond filing his sovereign “reclamation” legal document and carrying a Washitaw Nation card (probably his ID card.) The number 7, for example, is sacred.
Gavin Long’s email address was TheCosmoWay7@gmail.com. The family name he chose for himself was Setepenra or Setep-en-ra (Chosen by Ra.) The shooter said that he used to be part of Nation of Islam. That is not inconsistent as there is some overlapping between movements.
When you start looking into this movement, you will find hundreds of website, hundreds of Youtube videos, and thousands of online comments. It’s a complex sub-culture so no tidy category boxes. Moorish sovereign beliefs can be found in everything fr popular music 2 self-help vids. As w/ their “patriot” sover’n cousins, there’s a lot of grifting, property theft & domestic violence (females relatives & kids are property) And like the “patriots,” they resent authority figs who don’t respect their belief that they are above the law. This can be deadly to cops.
I like this question because it shows that DoubleQuoting — and indeed it’s subset, DoubleTweeting — is not some lonely idea of mine, but a more general form of inquiry that I’m aiming to fashion into a specigic and teachable tool for thinking.
As it happens, one Chris Taylor responded to Martyn’s question the next day, putting the two tweets in question together. Sadly for my purposes, he did this by screengrabbing the pair of them, thus making it impossible to click through to Trump’s two originals. I’ve therefore gone to Trump’s timeline, and present them here as they originally appeared there:
Obama said in his speech that Muslims are our sports heroes. What sport is he talking about, and who? Is Obama profiling?
In the DoubleQuote below, I have posted excerpts from two documents — in the upper panel, Donald Trump’s news release on the prevention of Muslim immigration, and in the lower panel, a couple of paragraphs from the Tablet magazine review of the late Shahab Ahmad‘s extraordinary book, What is Islam, published this year by Princeton UP, and described in a blurb by Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman as “Not merely field changing, but the boldest and best thing I have read in any field in years.”
Boiled down to it’s haiku-like essence, this twofer goes like this:
Trump: single page, single strand statement about banning Muslims
Ahmad: 550 page, multiple strand question as to how to define Muslims
It’s inevitable that much of our popular — meaning “of the people, by the people, for the people” — discussion of Islam, brought on principally by the as yet but poorly understood connection between Al-Qaida and Islam, and exacerbated more recently by the equivalent link with the (so-called) Islamic (so-called) State — is framed in headlines and soundbites.
Such single-stranded short-form messaging cannot hope to convey much at all of reality, and to get a deeper dive into what the words Islam and Muslim point to, one could hardly do better than The Study Quran for Islam’s central scripture, Jonathan Brown‘s Misquoting Muhammad for the history and interpretation of the corpus of hadith — and Ahmad’s What is Islam for the amazing richness of the Islamic traditions across continents and centuries.
Somewhere between the single words Muslim and Islam on the one hand, and the 550 pages of Ahmed’s erudition, aided and abetted by 44 pages of notes in small type and a substantial index on the other, there’s an awareness of rich complexity, perhaps sufficient for a 25-page essay or 125-page Oxford Very Short Introduction, that we could all benefit from applying to our political considerations of Islam in these fraught times.
For the first twenty days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, an unusual calm prevailed on Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade – known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary or the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This was largely a result of Israel and Jordan implementing four commitments agreed eighteen months ago to keep the peace through mutual limits on access.
Yet on 26 June, the beginning of the most sacred and sensitive part of Ramadan, Israel changed an informal, recent additional restriction on access to the site. Violence broke out. It exposed once again the root of the controversy: diverging perceptions between Israelis, Jordanians (whose Waqf charitable foundation administers the Esplanade) and Palestinians over who should be able to visit the site and when.
In the last five years Israel had prevented the entry of Jews and other non-Muslims during precisely the last ten days of Ramadan. This was in order to reduce the risk of escalation when Muslims worshippers often number many tens of thousands. This year, however, Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan allowed non-Muslim entry on the 10th day before the end of Ramadan.
Erdan was not just facing pressures to reverse the ban on access after a quiet start to the month. Israeli decision-makers also saw it as correcting of a temporary and self-imposed constraint. They feared that the de facto ban would become part of the informal status quo. Jordanians and Palestinians, for their part, saw it as a violation of what had become an established norm.
Stuart Levy, a nurse at a Jerusalem hospital, updates his ward’s work schedule several times a week, with staffers’ vacations, birthdays and more religious holidays than many people know exist.
“We have 18 hospital beds, and on any given day we may have an Orthodox Jew next to a devout Muslim next to a Catholic next to a Druze next to a Russian Orthodox patient,” said Levy, head nurse of the oncology/hematology ward at Hadassah Medical Center-Ein Kerem. “And many of our staff are religiously observant.”
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that began on June 7, Levy asks Jewish nurses to work evening shifts whenever possible to allow Muslim nurses to break their fasts at home. Non-Jewish nurses reciprocate by working on Jewish holidays.
While many may think Israel is a land of conflict, the hospital is but one example of inter-religious harmony, a pocket of peaceful co-existence.
Echoing Exodus 3:5, in which Moses is about to move towards the burning bush, Acts 7:33 reads:
Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.
What makes ground holy? And specifically, which of these two sites in Jerusalem is hallowed, and how?
Doctrinally, the Esplanade is Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and Islam’s third holiest, the Noble Sanctuary.
But what if sanctity is a movable feast, invoked by the deeds of those who are present at a certain place and time?
At times it seems as though surgery heals what prayer tears apart…
[ by Charles Cameron — religions taking other religions apart, stone by stone, image by image, song by song ]
Some recently converted Jehovah’s Witnesses appear to have destroyed the altars of indigenous Otomi people in Mexico, an anthopologist has stated:
Assailants have damaged an ancient Otomi Indian religious site in Mexico, toppling stone structures used as altars, breaking carved stones and scattering offerings of flowers, fruit and paintings at the remote mountain shrine known as Mayonihka or Mexico Chiquito. [ .. ]
“I don’t know what religion they belong to, but they destroyed several images that were there,” said Daniel Garcia, the municipal secretary of the nearby township of San Bartolo Tutotepec. “The thing is, there are some religions that don’t believe in using idols.”
Luis Perez Lugo, a professor at the University of Chapingo, visited the site in May and talked to residents of a nearby hamlet, El Pinal, whose residents said they had carried out the attack.
“I was there, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses said they had done it,” Perez Lugo said, noting some were recent converts to the religion who used to go to the site for Otomi ceremonies.
See upper panel, below:
In the lower panel, above, we see a detail from a National Geographic listing of sites attacked by the Islamic State. Three quick notes:
the JWs, if they were JWs, were recent converts; converts often have a zeal all their own
the IS, like the Taliban at Bamiyan, destroys ancient religious sites even if no longer in use
You already know this, but for the record — because Scripture:
In the upper panel, Jewish and Christian scriptures — from the Jewish Ten Commandments in Exodus, and St Paul‘s address to the Athenians, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the lower panel — a hard-line contemporary Islamic commentary, citing two ahadith.
So it’s Jehovah’s Witnesses and hard-line Muslim literalists who approve of the destruction of monuments to false gods, is that what this means?
They are not alone. In the upper panel, below, recent news of the Chinese — avowed atheists — continuing their attacks on Tibetan Buddhism, this time by mandating the dismantling of Buddhism’s largest monastic university at Larung Gar:
In the lower panel, above, we see some of what remains of the great Abbey of Glastonbury, torn down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII.
Glastonbury has strong associations with Arthurian and Christian traditions:
William Blake’s dramatic poem ‘Jerusalem’ familiar nowadays as an inspirational hymn, draws on the myth that Christ himself may have visited Glastonbury with Joseph of Arimathea and ‘walked on England’s mountains green’.
The Gospels record that Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy follower of Christ who buried Christ’s body in his own tomb after the Crucifixion.
In the Middle Ages Joseph became connected with the Arthurian romances of Britain. He first features in Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie, written in the twelfth century, as the Keeper of the Holy Grail. He receives the Grail (the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper) from an apparition of Jesus and sends it with his followers to Britain.
Later Arthurian legends elaborated this story and introduced the idea that Joseph himself travelled to Britain, bringing the Holy Grail with him and then burying it in a secret place, said to have been just below the Tor at the entrance to the underworld. The spring at what is known as Chalice Well is believed to flow from there. In their quests King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table searched for the Grail.
Glastonbury retains its place in English hearts to this day, albeit in contemporary guise — it is the Yasgur’s Farm of England’s ongoing Woodstock — mud, sex, drugs, rock and all — the yearly Glastonbury Festival —
It is also — in the form of Blake‘s hymn “And did those feet in ancient time” — a part of such ceremonial events as the Last Night of the Proms — and Royal Weddings:
But more on Blake’s poem — known as Jerusalem, and taken from his preface to Milton a Poem — in an upcoming post, Creek willing.
Finally, what an exceptionally lovely early DoubleQUote is this, returning us to the topic of sacred places and images and their destruction:
What we have here is a page from the Chludov Psalter — ask Wikipedia for that what means, I only just ran across it in the course of writing this piece — but it’s a 9th century Byzantine prayer book, illuminated with illustrations attacking the iconoclasts — those Christians who wanted to destroy icons and other Christian images for reasons not dissimilar ton those of the Taliban.
In the illustration to the right, the miniaturist illustrated the line “They gave me gall to eat; and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink” with a picture of a soldier offering Christ vinegar on a sponge attached to a pole. Below is a picture of the last Iconoclast Patriarch of Constantinople, John the Grammarian rubbing out a painting of Christ with a similar sponge attached to a pole.
Let’s take a closer look:
Both verbally and visually, then, we have a direct comparison of the Roman soldier mocking the dying Christ, and the icon-hating Patriarch erasing Christ’s image from a wall.. And they call him the Grammarian!
But let’s proceed:
John is caricatured, here as on other pages, with untidy straight hair sticking out in all directions, which was considered ridiculous by the elegant Byzantines.
No punks, apparently, these Byzantines!
And the coup de grâce? House the sacred book in a state museum..
Nikodim Kondakov hypothesized that the psalter was created in the famous monastery of St John the Studite in Constantinople. Other scholars believe that the liturgical responses it contains were only used in Hagia Sophia, and that it was therefore a product of the Imperial workshops in Constantinople, soon after the return of the Iconophiles to power in 843.
It was kept at Mount Athos until 1847, when a Russian scholar brought it to Moscow. The psalter was then acquired by Aleksey Khludov, whose name it bears today. It passed as part of the Khludov bequest to the Nikolsky Old Believer Monastery and then to the State Historical Museum.
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