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Religion meets the coronavirus #13

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

[ by Charles Cameron — this last weekend was Eid al-Fitr for Muslims, Memorial Day Weekend for those of us in the USA, we have CDC’s suggestions for places of worship, an Indian Muslim reading of the Gazwa e-Hind, and much more — enjoy! ]
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The other day, I overheard a Joel Osteen sermon, which included the following:

Have you ever tried something and got the results you wanted and then tried the same thing again and got different results? This happened to Moses in the Bible. They needed water and God told Moses to strike the rock. He struck the rock and water flowed out freely. Another time they needed water again, and God told Moses, “Speak to the rock.” Do you know what Moses did? He went over and struck the rock. He thought, “Hey, it worked last time. It’ll work this time.” But it didn’t. God had a different plan.

The point is that we have to stay open and make adjustments to stay in tune with God’s plan. You can do the same thing the same way you did last time and get different results. It may not be something major, but like Moses, maybe it’s just something small. Sometimes a small tweak, a small adjustment can make a major difference in the outcome.

Joel was suggesting the coronavirus may be a “downtime” while God is installing new software in us, requiring a reboot — and Moses trying the old, successful way when God had installed new software in him was the reason why he failed on the second occasion. Osteen again:

Today, make sure you aren’t doing things just because it’s the way you always did it before. Instead, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit of God inside. Follow His leading and stay in sync with the wonderful plan He has for you!

**

Still on Christianity, here’s a fascinating excerpt from a longer piece:

  • Ng Zhi-wen, Novel Coronavirus: Lessons on radical charity from the early Church
  • The Antonine Plague (c 165 – 180)

    In the Ancient History Encyclopaedia, John Horgan, an assistant professor of History at Concordia University-Wisconsin, noted: “The effect of the illness was not confined to the military and economy. Marcus Aurelius launched persecutions against Christians who refused to pay homage to the gods which, the emperor believed, in turn angered the gods whose wrath made itself known in the form of a devastating epidemic.

    “Ironically the anti-Christian attacks produced the opposite effect amongst the general population.

    “Unlike adherents to the Roman polytheistic system, Christians believed in an obligation to assist others in a time of need, including illness. Christians were willing to provide the most basic needs, food and water, for those too ill to fend for themselves.

    “This simple level of nursing care produced good feelings between Christians and their pagan neighbours. Christians often stayed to provide assistance while pagans fled. Furthermore, Christianity provided meaning to life and death in times of crisis.”

    Self-sacrificing love isn’t limited to Christians — but today as in the time of Marcus Aurelius, we should stand in awe of its heroic beauty. – I’d say the whole of this essay is very well worth your attention.

    **

    Turning to Islam:

    I posted this in Coronavirus meets extremism, but it belongs here as well.. the clear Islamic rhetoric..

  • Brad Hunter, ISIS, al-Qaida commandeer COVID-19 as a ‘soldier of Allah’
  • ISIS and al-Qaida claim that the virus and ensuing global pandemic are retribution on the wicked West, courtesy of God.

    In typical, flowery al-Qaida style, the death cult released a statement.

    “Allah, the Creator, has revealed the brittleness and vulnerability of your material strength,” reads the maniacal missive. “It is now clear for all to see that it was but a deception that could not stand the test of the smallest soldier of God on the face of the Earth.”

    **

    On a hopefully positive note: Taliban & Kashmir: The taliban reaffirm their interests extending only to the boundaries of the present state of Afghanistan, and their acceptance of India’s claim to Kashmir:

  • WION, Taliban acknowledges Kashmir internal matter of India after fake tweets

    After fake tweets emerged attributing to the Taliban, the group has clarified that it Kashmir is India’s internal matter and they don’t support any Pakistani style “Ghazwa-E-Hind” or Holy war against India.

  • **

    Ghazwa-e-Hind??

    I wrote several posts about the Ghazwa a while back, noting that the relevant hadith explicitly proposed an army with black banners sweeping victoriously from Khorasan {roughly, Afghanistan] down to Jerusalem, accompanied by a second thrust, the Ghazwa, sweeping from Khorasan again, down into India. Some examples::

  • One hadith, one plan, one video, and two warnings
  • So many browser tabs, so little time
  • Pakistan’s Strategic Mummery
  • Khorasan to al-Quds and the Ghazwa-e-Hind
  • Current discussions elsewhere, including that of the Jamiat {see below], seem to take the term more literally as meaning “raid” and thus more general in application than the Khorasan hadith.

    **

    Islamic Theology, the Jamiat version thereof:

  • The Print, Everyone misinterprets Ghazwa-e-Hind, but a Jamiat scholar explains what it really means
  • From Pakistan’s JeM to Veena Malik, from Times Now to Tarek Fateh, everyone has been invoking Ghazwa-e-Hind recently.

    There’s a phrase that Pakistani militant leaders have used against India for decades – Ghazwa-e-Hind or a holy raid of India. Ghazwa in Arabic implies a war that is guided by faith rather than materialistic or territorial gains and is widely attributed to an Islamic concept derived from the hadiths — a set of sayings by Prophet Mohammad. The phrase is used refer to Muslim warriors conquering the Indian subcontinent. [ .. ]
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    Now, ‘Ghazwa-e-Hind’ has made a noisy return among scholars, security analysts and rabble-rousers, especially after the Narendra Modi government’s action on Article 370 and Pakistan’s isolation in the international theatre. [ .. ]
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    But what has gone largely unnoticed is that the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a leading body of Muslims in India, has already called out the error in this popular interpretation. The group has supported the government’s decision on Kashmir.
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    Maulana Mufti Salman Mansoorpuri, a Jamiat scholar, insisted late last year that Pakistan has been erroneously and mischievously linking the term to their rift with India.

    The Maulana, remember, is speaking from within an Indian context: this no doubt influences his interpretation of the situation.

    **

    China vs India:

    When I say I study religions, I mean I study the intersection of cultural anthropology, comparative religion, & depth psychology — areas where depth drivers for surface events are visible — hence my interest in Michael Vlahos‘ work in general and today:

    M Vlahos, How China Can Beat The U.S. Without Firing A Shot

    **

    Islam in India, it was Eid al-Fitr over the weekend, and that means feeding the poor:

  • New Indian Exporess, World’s largest Eid feast: Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna to feed 1.75 lakh people in Mumbai
  • That’s 175,000 people fed, a lakh being a hundred thousand. And it’s to be done ” while adhering to all guidelines of social distancing”.

    **

    There’s the cleaning of the Ganges that’s resulting from a drop in the number of cremations In Varanasi:

  • Deccan Chronicle, Coronavirus caused lockdown is healing the holy Ganga
  • **

    And finally, dated Saturday 23rd, this from the Centers for Disease Control:

  • CDC< Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith
  • Enough: I’m exhausted.

    The one great pressing Question

    Sunday, May 17th, 2020

    [ by Charles Cameron — I wish to acknowledge the impact Prem Rawat has had on my thinking during the course of this lockdown ]
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    A sequence of headlines says it all:

    The Question:

    **

    Ouch:

    **

    To be Specific:

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    The Opportunity:

    **

    The Answer:

    Science gives a patina of the factual, the tested, the proven, the real, and fiction allows both the extrapolation of strict science to future possibilities (Larry Niven, Ringworld, if I remember correctly), but also the intrusion of the magical (RA Lafferty, Narrow Valley).

    The question is both obvious and pressing, but of all those writing about it, and the essays above are a decent sample, Kim Stanley Robinson is the one with heart and mind most attuned to possible futures — so of all the above essays, hers is the one I’d trust, and would offer you for your consideration. Her thesis, in the small italic print above:

    What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.

    Chew on that for a while.

    **

    I suspect this is likely to become a series: I’ve accordingly labelled it #1. This is just setting the scene.

    **

    A hint from Maa Ganga, the goddess of India’s most sacred river Ganges:

  • Deccan Chronicle, Coronavirus caused lockdown is healing the holy Ganga
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    The ganga, which flows through five states and is most polluted in Varanasi — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency — is now regaining all its lost glory, slowly. Pollution in the sacred river has come down by over 40 per cent and is likely to increase as the lock down continues across the country. Though successive governments including the present Modi government spent thousands of crores in cleaning the ganga and still failed miserably, looks like nature always finds its own way of healing.

    **

    Sources:

    Offered here so you can read in detail according to your interests and time
    availability:

  • Adam Gopnik, Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Really Change the Way We Think?
  • John Cassidy, Will the Coronavirus Create a More Progressive Society or a More Dystopian One?
  • Rama Mohana R. Turaga, Will COVID-19 Lockdowns Generate Public Support for Climate Change Mitigation?
  • Siddharth Goel, Public Awareness of the Pandemic Is Our Chance to Enforce Better Climate Plans
  • Kim Stanley RobinsonThe Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations
  • Religion meets coronavirus #12

    Sunday, May 10th, 2020

    [ by Charles Cameron — two book compilations on the virus — one about Christianity, one about world religions — and a handful of articles, plus one paper on cartel use of coronavirus, non-religious but still of interest ]
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    I was introduced to two books on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on religions via the New Religions Movement mailing list. The more interesting by far, from my own point of view, since it is more diverse and yet precise in pinpointing many of its topics, is:

  • Pierluigi Consorti, Law, Religion and Covid-19 Emergency
  • Freedom of religion is certainly one of the areas in which the coronavirus confronts religion, and in which on occasion religion may confront the coronavirus — as the breadth of papers here clearly illustrates:

    Note in particular, of very specific Christian interests:

  • Enrica Martinelli, Orthodox Easter Covid-19: Israel allows the opening of the Holy Supulcher to receive the “Light of Resurrection
  • Pierluigi Consorti, Coronavirus emergency in the monastic autonomous republic of Mount Athos. Contagion without covid-19
  • Matteo Carni, Vatican City State and Covid-19 emergency
  • And addressing non-Christian religions:

  • Caterina Gagliardi, Saudi Arabia’s caution in times of health emergency
  • Chiara Lapi, The Saffron Wave Against Virus. The Hindu Nationalists and the Covid-19 Emergency
  • Vasco Fronzoni, In Pakistan the mosques will remain open for Ramadhan but with restrictions
  • Enrica Martinelli, The Talmud teaches: “When pestilence is in the city, stay inside”
  • **

    The second, and more restricted offering is:

  • Campbell, Heidi, The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online
  • This, as you might imagine from its title, is exclusively concerned with Christianity, albeit globally and across denominational boundaries:

    Contributors to this eBook come from ten different countries—within North America, Europe, and the Antipodes—and represent 12 different Christian denominations including Mainline, Catholic, and Nondenominational churches.

    **

    It remains only for me to list a few articles from news sources detailing Saudi and Indian responses to COVID-19:

    The Hajj — the major pilgrimage to and circumambulation of the Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, obligatory on all Muslims with the means to support it — has been cancelled this year on account of the coronavirus. The most useful account I have run across is:

  • Ken Chitwood, Hajj cancellation wouldn’t be the first – plague, war and politics disrupted pilgrimages long before coronavirus
  • Perhaps the most significant disruption of the Hajj occurred in

    One of the earliest significant interruptions of the hajj took place in A.D. 930, when a sect of Ismailis, a minority Shiite community, known as the Qarmatians raided Mecca because they believed the hajj to be a pagan ritual.

    The Qarmatians were said to have killed scores of pilgrims and absconded with the black stone of the Kaaba – which Muslims believed was sent down from heaven. They took the stone to their stronghold in modern-day Bahrain.

    Hajj was suspended until the Abbasids, a dynasty that ruled over a vast empire stretching across North Africa, the Middle East to modern-day India from A.D. 750-1258, paid a ransom for its return over 20 years later.

    Also of note is the hadith quoted:

    If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.

    Compare the title of Enrica Martinelli‘s piece above: The Talmud teaches: “When pestilence is in the city, stay inside” — DoubleQuote !! The hadith is “agreed as authentic” and found in two of the central collections of ahadith, S?ah?i?h? al-Bukha?ri? 5396, and S?ah?i?h? Muslim 2218.

    **

    Varanasi:

    I have sung aarti myself in Haridwar, one of the sacred cities beside the Ganges: “Twameva Mata” — “You are my Mother” — appropriate for Mother’s Day. Ah Well, Aarti in Varanasi, the ceremonial depicted above, has been shut down by reason of the coronavirus.

    Also largely stopped in Varanasi is cremation at the burning ghats — taken to be a sure route to paradise, with bodies brought in from around India. The Ganges, which carried away

  • Deccan Herald, Eerie silence looms over Varanasi cremation ghats amid coronavirus pandemic
  • Hindustan Times, Corona times keep the dead away from Kashi’s holy cremation ghats
  • Deccan Chronicle, Coronavirus caused lockdown is healing the holy Ganga
  • **

    Not to do with religion, but still of interest, is blog-friend Doc Bunker‘s lasted piece:

  • Robert J. Bunker and John P. Sullivan, Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 29: An Overview of Cartel Activities Related to COVID-19 Humanitarian Response
  • See also this video:

    Coronavirus meets religion #11 — India versions

    Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

    [ by Charles Cameron — the plague as precursor to COVID-19 and other intersections in art and devotion ]
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    The Plague Mariyamman temple, see below

    **

    It’s quite a strong double-barreled question: Will Religion Deliver Us From or Doom Us to the Pandemic? We don’t think of such questions too much in the secular west, so I’m encouraged to keep on looking at examples of the intersections of coronavirus with religion, in this “episode #11” of my series — this one based on reports from the Indian news and opinion website The Wire.

    **

    Okay:

    Will Religion Deliver Us From or Doom Us to the Pandemic?

    The article focuses first on “the gathering of the Islamic sect Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi at Markaz, Nizamuddin” in early March this year, which the Washington Post termed India’s first “super-spreader event” — but goes on from there to make analogies:

    As the pandemic continues, people practicing their faith have become unwitting but powerful vectors in the spread of the virus. A cultlike church helped fuel the pandemic in South Korea. A synagogue north of New York City was at the center of an early outbreak. An evangelical congregation in France was the source of hundreds of infections.

    You can dismiss this — hey, religion is one of the drivers that brings folk together in numbers — or you can note that is has extremely deep roots, calling on a spectrum of “calls” from the primordial to the contemporary. Epidemiology, medicine, sociology, political science may be the obvious disciplines of the moment, but cultural anthropology, depth psychology and comparative religion are the disciplines intent on the roots..

    **

    Let’s zoom in on the analogy from the Indian perspective:

    During these times, it is perhaps easy to forget that just over a month ago another country was similarly captivated by its own religious hotbed of contagion. South Korea, on February 17, appeared to have its number of coronavirus infections under control at 30. But the very next day, in came Patient Number 31, a 61-year-old woman who was a member of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which mainstream churches considered a cult.

    Within days the number of infections soared into the hundreds at both the church and neighbouring areas of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million. It is believed Patient 31 was able to transmit her infection so efficiently thanks to some of the church’s practices which included praying in close proximity in an enclosed space and prohibiting the wearing of glasses and face masks. As per the Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, as of March 7, 63.5% of all confirmed cases in the country were ‘related to Shincheonji.’

    And then, zooming in further on how the religious aspect plays out — in bigotry and conflict:

    The Shincheonji case, it’s worth noting, is analogous to the Nizamuddin one in another respect too. Given that they were religious minorities, both groups bore the brunt of majoritarian prejudices. Just as the Presbyterian Church of Korea claimed that the founder of the Shincheonji church held “heretical” and “anti-Christian” views, WhatsApp forwards in India accused the Tablighi Jamaat – the orthodox Muslim group who organised the ‘super-spreading’ meeting at Nizamuddin – of waging a “Corona Jihad”.

    **

    Another perspective on the coronavirus comes from Tamil culture in the south of India:

    Memories of Another Epidemic Occupy Tamil Culture Even as Coronavirus Fears Rage

    It seems there’s a temple — or perhaps I should say,a a group of temples — going by the name the Plague Mariyamman temples:

    “There are at least two more Plague Mariyamman temples in Coimbatore, besides this one,” says 62-year-old G. Rajasekaran, an administrative committee member of Plague Mariyamman Temple at Venkatapuram in Coimbatore.

    The story has survived. “My grandmother used to say how she had left home with five kids and spent three months in the wild, to escape the plague. People would leave their houses if they saw a dead rat. It was the sign that the plague was coming for them.”

    The family decided that they would worship at the already existing Mariyamman temple – maintained by them – by rebranding it the Plague Mariyamman temple, if they survived the plague. The temple [ image above ] continues to be busy though the disease itself no longer threatens.

    **

    Finally, let me return to the theme of pilgrimage, and its minor subset, procession, which has long interested me.

    Karnataka: Chariot Pulling Ritual Held in Violation of Lockdown, Police Register Case:

    A chariot pulling ritual in the Kalaburagi district of Karnataka on Thursday saw the participation of many devotees who violating the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Kalaburagi has been deemed a COVID-19 hotspot and reported the first death in the country.

    There were apparently thousands in the crowd accompanying the procession: coronavirus meets religion.

    **

    The Indian singing legend S.P.Balasubrahmanyam sings devotional Songs On Siddalingeshwara:

    Words are Deeds, Coronavirus instance

    Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

    [ by Charles Cameron — establishing the proper connections between words and realities — things, places, persons, emotions, actions — has long been a preoccupation for poets, philosophers and the curious more generally ]
    .

    From a New Yorker piece, titled Seattle’s Leaders Let Scientists Take the Lead. New York’s Did Not
    By Charles Duhigg
    The initial coronavirus outbreaks on the East and West Coasts emerged at roughly the same time. But the danger was communicated very differently.

    — here’s the relevant context:

    The first diagnosis of the coronavirus in the United States occurred in mid-January, in a Seattle suburb not far from the hospital where Dr. Francis Riedo, an infectious-disease specialist, works. When he heard the patient’s details—a thirty-five-year-old man had walked into an urgent-care clinic with a cough and a slight fever, and told doctors that he’d just returned from Wuhan, China—Riedo said to himself, “It’s begun.”

    For more than a week, Riedo had been e-mailing with a group of colleagues who included Seattle’s top doctor for public health and Washington State’s senior health officer, as well as hundreds of epidemiologists from around the country; many of them, like Riedo, had trained at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in Atlanta, in a program known as the Epidemic Intelligence Service. Alumni of the E.I.S. are considered America’s shock troops in combatting disease outbreaks. The program has more than three thousand graduates, and many now work in state and local governments across the country. “It’s kind of like a secret society, but for saving people,” Riedo told me.

    And here’s the key —

    Upon learning of the first domestic diagnosis, he told his staff—from emergency-room nurses to receptionists—that, from then on, everything they said was just as important as what they did. One of the E.I.S.’s core principles is that a pandemic is a communications emergency as much as a medical crisis.

    **

    D’oh — coronavirus is a communicable disease..

    On second thoughts.. that’s the point, isn’t it? We call diseases “communicable” because they spread in a manner that’s analogous with the spread of ideas — or fears, for that matter — through human communications networks.


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