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The key to the Bastille, Peter’s keys of binding and loosing..

Friday, July 14th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — and the two Muslim families who guard the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christianity ]
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As President Trump visits France for Bastille Day, a Foreign Policy headline reads Bastille Day Is a Military Holiday Out of Donald Trump’s Fantasies — and the sub-head “France and America are seeking rapprochement at an annual pageant that’s always been less about liberty, equality, and solidarity than tanks, drones, and guns.”

The key to an earthly hell:

A fitting symbol of Franco-American amity on Bastille Day, July 14 (Quatorze Juillet) then, would be the key to the Bastille (upper panel above), presented by the Marquis de Lafayette to George Washington in 1790, and now at Mount Vernon.

Think on it:

The so-called civilized world today is horrified by scenes of heads lopped off by angry Muslims, forgetting the savagery of its own blood-soaked forbears. France’s messy and incomplete march toward Liberty, Equality and Fraternity also needed heads — that of King Louis XVI to start, and then of anonymous thousands collected in baskets like so many fallen apples, the fruit of modern, mechanized decapitation. The picture of France desecrating churches, massacring priests and monarchist sympathizers, producing civil war, terror, chaos and confusion were indelible events stamped for decades into Europe’s collective memory, incubated in a devil’s broth of war, fear, hunger, hatred, sabotage, fantastic hopes and wild idealism.

John Kiser, Commander of the Faithful

The Keys to the Kingdom:

By way of contrast with the physical keys of the Bastille, I have set the spiritual “Keys of the Kingdom” (lower panel, above), which Christ passed to Peter and the Church:

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 16.19

These keys, commanding heaven — unlike the key to the Bastille — are nowadays being turned to peaceable ends. This is from Pope Francis‘ message for the 50th World Day of Peace, December 2016, titled Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace:

At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, and make active nonviolence our way of life.

This is the fiftieth Message for the World Day of Peace. In the first, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed all peoples, not simply Catholics, with utter clarity. “Peace is the only true direction of human progress – and not the tensions caused by ambitious nationalisms, nor conquests by violence, nor repressions which serve as mainstay for a false civil order”. He warned of “the danger of believing that international controversies cannot be resolved by the ways of reason, that is, by negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity, but only by means of deterrent and murderous forces.” Instead, citing the encyclical Pacem in Terris of his predecessor Saint John XXIII, he extolled “the sense and love of peace founded upon truth, justice, freedom and love”. In the intervening fifty years, these words have lost none of their significance or urgency.

On this occasion, I would like to reflect on nonviolence as a style of politics for peace. I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promotors of nonviolent peacemaking. In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order, may nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.

I note here that the eminently public figure of Francis, successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome focuses first on the most private and intimate form of peace — the peace-making mind of the human individual:

I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values.

**

The key to the Holy Sepulchre:

In the spirit of peace, it is notable that two Muslim families have for centuries been the custodians of the keys to Christianity’s greatest shrine, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

Two Muslim families entrusted with care of holy Christian site for centuries

Adeeb Joudeh holds the keys to Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This task fell to Joudeh’s ancestors as a way of maintaining a neutral guardian of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, since the church is split between multiple Christian denominations, including Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Franciscans, and more. He learned the obligations and responsibilities of guarding the key from his father, just as he will pass it on to his son.

“What we pass to the next generations is not only the key, but also the way you respect other religions.”

This agreement between Joudeh’s Muslim ancestors and the Christians has helped build cooperation between the religions, Joudeh says.

“For me, the source of coexistence for Islamic and Christian religions is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and that was when Umar ibn Khattab took the keys of Jerusalem from Patriarch Sophronius and gave security and safety to Christians in the region. We coexist and pass peace and love, which is the real Islamic religion.” He references history from 1,400 years ago, when Umar ibn Khattab, a Muslim, made an agreement with Sophronius, a Christian, to grant the Christians right of free worship in Jerusalem. To Joudeh, this history is still alive today, and it is his obligation to carry it on.Joudeh does not carry this obligation alone. Although he is in charge of protecting and holding the key, another Muslim family is in charge of opening the door and allowing the faithful to enter the church. That responsibility now falls to Wajeeh Nuseibeh.

When Nuseibeh arrives at the church early in the morning, he takes the key from Joudeh, and climbs a small wooden ladder to unlock the top lock. Then he steps off the ladder to unlock the lower lock. He swings the church doors ajar, and the church is open to visitors. The entire process is repeated each evening, when the church is locked.

The two Muslim families have shared this responsibility for centuries, protecting the holy site and keeping it open to the Christian faithful. It is a model of coexistence in a city filled with tension, leading the way in interfaith cooperation, as it has been for hundreds of years.

and:

And How Muslims Hold the Key to Christ:

If doors are emblems of ownership, keys are symbols of custodianship. “Since 1187 till today, we hold the keys,” Joudeh says. “My whole family stands with me at this door. This is home, my second home.” [ .. ]

The two Muslim families got to keep the keys and the door because of quarrels within the Church. “Like brothers, we sometimes fight,” confesses the Very Reverend Father Samuel Aghoyan, Armenian Superior of the Holy Sepulchre. “The Churches wouldn’t go along with each other, so the key was taken away from the dominant Church and entrusted to a neutral monotheistic faith that embraces the Christ as a prophet – Islam.”

This is Christianity’s most sacred site, where Jesus was believed to have been resurrected – for many pilgrims, their most important destination. The belief is that the Church was erected on the Golgotha, the place of the crucifixion, and on the grotto where he was interred.

**

Happy Bastille Day!

Peace!

Oh, the Trumpian DoubleQuotes I’ve missed!

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — praise of Bruce Hoffman’s review of The Exile (ie Osama bin Laden) — interrupted by Trumpist verbal pyrotechnics ]
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Saif al-Adel, key AQ operative

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War on the Rocks has a tremendous review by Bruce Hoffman of Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy, The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight, a must-read.

Never mind that, I’ve been missing tremendous DoubleQuote opportunities, as I discover now I’ve seen Kathryn and Ross PetrasTrump’s Elements of Style in McSweeney’s. Consider some of my options:

I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.
— interview, Sean Hannity, 4/13/16

I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.
— interview, AP 5/13/16

I know more about ISIS [the Islamic State militant group] than the generals do. Believe me.
— speech, 11/12/15

There is nobody who understands the horror of nuclear more than me.
— speech, 6/15/16

And then:

I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.
— TALK1300 radio interview, 4/14/11

I have a great relationship the Mexican people. I love them, they love me!
— MSBNC interview, 7/8/15

I have a great relationship with the people of Scotland and an unbelievably good relationship with the people of Aberdeen.
— press conference 6/8/15

And, for good measure, assuming you can stretch this far:

What I like is build a safe zone in Syria. Build a big, beautiful safe zone, and you have whatever it is so people can live…
— campaign rally, 2/13/17

We’re going to have beautiful clean coal.
— CPAC address, 2/24/16

And then again:

I have had tremendous success.
— interview, ABC News, 7/30/16

I am worth a tremendous amount of money
— interview, CNN 6/26/15

I have a tremendous income.
— presidential debate, 9/26/16

I pay tremendous numbers of taxes
— presidential debate, 10/9/16

I have to admit, those last four — besides being a tremendous source of potential DoubleQuotes — is and are beautifully consistent. But do yourself a favor, unless I’ve displeased you, and go read the whole of the McSweeney piece.

**

I believe I mentioned Bruce Hoffman’s review of The Exile for War on the Rocks? One among many items of interest in that book would appear to be the significant role played by Saif al-Adel (see illustration above). Hamid Gul and Qassem Suleimani likewise. A key para:

This tale of Iranian connivance provides additional evidence debunking the popular misconception that extremists do not cooperate across sectarian lines. Rather, it demonstrates how when interests overlap, they have repeatedly shown a remarkable ability to cast aside their otherwise rigid differences to work together. The ancient proverb that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” has long characterized the shifting and sometimes inexplicable alliances formed across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia since the war on terrorism commenced 16 years ago. In this instance, the intensity of the shared enmity between Salafi-Jihadi Sunnis and Shia militants against the United States can never be prudently forgotten.

A tie strong enough to bind Sunni and Shia together — their joint hatred of America? For those of us who take a keen interest in religion and love America, that’s a notion that may take quite some time to digest.

Realpolitik as if angels were real

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — I mean, are they or aren’t they? — really? — what do you believe? ]
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St Michael, of the archangelic rank or choir

**

It’s just a thought I entertain from time to time. Because if they are, if angels are real — as bookloads by the dozens, popularly read, attest — why then they may know something, and they may surely accomplish something.

**

Thomas Aquinas asks and answers the Question, Whether an angel is altogether incorporeal?. Along the way, he quotes St John Damascene:

an angel is an ever movable intellectual substance.

Angels are forms of intelligence — is the Intelligence Community listening?

**

When the boy’s eyes were opened, as per the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 6:17), he saw:

and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha

and the Lord speaking to Muhammad (Qur’an 8:9):

I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.

Angels are perhaps force-multipliers. Is DOD interested?

**

Angels may be beings of music and dance — gandharvas, apsarases — is theirs a language our intelligence recognizes?

**

But I digress. Intelligence has a long history with the invisibles. Abbot Trithemius may be called first among cryptologists. Elizabeth I’s John Dee would have been at home to Bletchley Park (though Walsingham might have tossed out his amanuensis, Edward Kelley). Talmudic scholrs would do well to teach at Quantico, Jesuits at Fort Meade. Their remit, from Ephesians 6.12:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

**

An aside: in his Himalayan attempt to fathom angels, Aquinas makes an instructive statement:

Now the medium compared to one extreme appears to be the other extreme, as what is tepid compared to heat seems to be cold

Left and right, how often do we get caught in that trap in these divisive times?

Devotion, modeled in magnet and iron filings

Friday, June 16th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — science and Islam, but not the creationist, the analogivcal approach — sufism and the nature of pilgrimage ]
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I am apparenrly not alone in finding that iron filing surrounding a magnet resemble pilgrims cirucumambulating the Kaaba:

The upper photograph depicts the work of the artist Ahmed Mater. A note elsewhere on his work notes:

Ahmed Mater is a Saudi artist and qualified GP. Working in photography, calligraphy, painting, installation and video, Mater reflects his experiences as a doctor and the ways this has challenged his traditional background and beliefs, and explores wider issues about Islamic culture in an era of globalisation. In the series Magnetism, what at first appear to be pilgrims circling the Ka’ba, the sacred building at the heart of the sanctuary at Mecca, are in fact iron filings spiralling around a cube-shaped magnet. Mater refers to the spiritual force that Muslim believers feel during Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

**

The lower photograph, portraying actual pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba, is accompanied by the following tale of Junayd:

A man came to visit Junaid Baghdadi, whose life reflected no change, even after having performed Hajj.

Junaid asked him: “Where are you coming from?”

“Sir, I have returned after performing Hajj of the House of Allah”, was the reply.

“So, have you actually performed Hajj?”

“Yes, Sir, I have performed Hajj “, said the man.

“Did you pledge that you would give up sins when you left your home for Hajj?” asked Junaid.

“No, Sir, I never thought of that”, said the man.

“Then, in fact, you did not even step out for Hajj. While you were on the sacred journey and making halts at places during the nights, did you ever think of attaining nearness to Allah?”

“Sir, I had no such idea.”

“Then you did not at all travel to the Ka’bah, nor did ever visit it. When you put on the Ihram garments, and discarded your ordinary dress, did you make up your mind to abandon your evil ways and attitudes in life as well ?”

“No, Sir, I had no idea of that.”

“Then, you did not even don the Ihram garments!” said Junaid ruefully. Then he asked; “When you stood in the Plain of Arafat and were imploring Allah Almighty, did you have the feeling that you were standing in Divine Presence and having a vision of Him?”

“No, Sir, I had no such experience.

Junaid then became a liltle upset and asked: “Well, when you came to Muzdalifah, did you promise that you would give up vain desires of the flesh?”

“Sir, I paid no heed to this.”

“You did not then come to Muzdalifah at all.” Then he asked: 0?Tell me, did you happen to catch glimpses of Divine Beauty when youmoved round the House of Allah?”

“No, Sir, I caught no such glimpses.”

“Then, you did not move around the Ka’bah at all.” Then he said: “When you made Sa’i (running) between the Safa and the Marwa, did you realize the wisdom, significance and objective of your effort?”

“Sir, I was not at all conscious of this.”

“Then you did not make any Sa’i!” Then he asked: “When you slaughtered an animal at the place of sacrifice, did you sacrifice your selfish desires as well in the way of Allah?”

“Sir, I failed to give any attention to that!”

“Then, in fact you offered no sacrifice whatever.”

“Then when you cast stones at the Jamarahs, did you make a resolve to get rid of your evil companions and friends and desires?”

“No, Sir, I didn’t do that.”

“Then, you did not cast stones at all”, remarked Junaid regretfully, and said:

“Go back and perform Hajj once again, giving due thought and attention to all the requirements, so that your Hajj may bear some resemblance with Prophet Ibrahim’s Hajj, whose faith and sincerity has been confirmed by the Qur’an:

Ibrahim who carried out most faithfully the Commands (of his Lord).” (53:37)

**

A similar point is made by an anonymous Celtic source, who admonished pilgrims in his own time and circumstance:

Coming to Rome, much labor and little profit! The King whom you seek here, unless you bring Him with you will not find Him.

Michael Kenney on al-Muhajiroun

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

{ by Charles Cameron — including the curious case of the Covenant of Security ]
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Michael Kenney, on the recommendation of John Horgan:

Lots of reports in the media about London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt’s “membership” in al-Muhajiroun, but this is not how network activists understand membership in al-Muhajrioun. For them it is about “intellectual affiliation,” gaining the ideological and practical knowledge they need to be competent activists. ALM is full of rotating recruits. These people come in, get exposed to the network’s ideas, radicalize to different degrees, and then often leave after a certain period of involvement, typically lasting months or years. Some leave b/c they don’t accept ALM’s interpretation of the Covenant of Security, which forbids attacks in UK, as long as their lives and livelihoods are protected. Butt may have believed that the Covenant no longer applied to him in the UK, allowing him to engage in violence in his home country. This is not ALM’s position on the Covenant, though activists emphasize this is each individual’s decision.

Here’s a description of the Covenant of Security, from a long-ago Daniel Pipes piece about the Covenant and al-Muhajiroun, titled Does a “Covenant of Security” Protect the United Kingdom?:

According to Sifaoui, it has long been recognised by the British Islamists, by the British government and by UK intelligence agencies, that as long as Britain guarantees a degree of freedom to the likes of Hassan Butt [a loudmouth pro-terrorist Islamist], the terrorist strikes will continue to be planned within the borders of the UK but will not occur here. Ironically, then, the presence of vocal and active Islamist terrorist sympathisers in the UK actually makes British people safer, while the full brunt of British-based terrorist plotting is suffered by people in other countries.

Michael Kenney, more:

To learn more about al-Muhajiroun, please see my JCR article with @steve_coulthart and Dom Wright, Structure and Performance in a Violent Extremist Network:

This study combines network science and ethnography to explore how al-Muhajiroun, a banned Islamist network, continued its high-risk activism despite being targeted for disruption by British authorities. We analyze news reports, interviews, and field notes using social network analysis and qualitative content analysis to test hypotheses pertaining to network structure and performance. Our analysis suggests that the activist network’s structural properties had important implications for its performance during three separate time periods. What began as a centralized, scale-free-like, small-world network centered on a charismatic leader evolved into a more decentralized “small-world-like” network featuring clusters of local activists connected through multiple bridges. This structure allowed the activist network to engage in contentious politics even as its environment became increasingly hostile. We conclude by discussing the implications of al-Muhajiroun’s small-world solution for scholars and policy makers.


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