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Mecca, the 1979 Grand Mosque Siege

Sunday, December 29th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — watch out for movements — of any belief — that arm themselves in preparation for an end times battle ]
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This is simply to alert you to a fine BBC recounting of the events at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on the first day of the current Islamic century — when two or three hundred heavily armed militants following a Mahdist claimant and his proclaimer —

BBC pull quote

really, think the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His John the Baptist, and you have some sense of the seriousness of the affair — took over the central mosque in all of Islam — think the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, or St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican perhaps — and held the place under siege, with considerable bloodshed, until finally four French commandos were allowed in to use gas and flush out the remaining followers of the Mahdi, himself now dead.

**

End times arousals of this sort are far from over: ISIS espoused an explicitly eschatological ideology, while AL Qaida used an end times hadith to rally to their black banners in Afghanistan, and a 2007 Shi’ite insurgency near Najaf around a Mahdist claim, Shi’i-style, was serious enough for the government of Iraq to call in American air strikes.

Important stuff, therefore.

**

Recommended Readings:

  • BBC, Mecca 1979: The mosque siege that changed the course of Saudi history
  • Hegghammer & Lacroix, The Meccan Rebellion: The Story of Juhayman al-‘Utaybi Revisited
  • Hegghammer & Lacrois:

    Secular and Saecula

    Sunday, December 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — avoiding a tough piece of necessary writing by dealing with something simpler that conveniently fell into my hand ]
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    Why do I bother?

    Well, you know Nassim Nicholas Taleb, he gave us the concept of black swans, very bright guy because he questions, questions, and the answers he gets from reality don’t always match with the expectations routinely offered in answer to the same questions.

    **

    Well, Taleb‘s tweet cropped up in my feed within about a minute of Greg McMurry quoting the Oratorian priest Fr David Abernathy‘s tweeting a quotation from St Charbel, which seemed to convey a very similar notion, only expressed in terms of spiritual rather than secular ratios between loss and gain:

    **

    I bother because seeing parallelisms and oppositions and taking note of them is one of the prime “moves” in creativity, and I want to be as primed to recognize such parallelisms, particularly when they cross disciplinary boundaries, as readily as possible.

    Bonus point because both St Charbel and Nassim Nicholas Taleb are of Lebanese origin.

    Celebrations of joy as a cover for grievous harm

    Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — the holidays are rough on those who are depressed, psychologically, and physically on women abused by men ]
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    It’s striking how the great celebrations of joy — here, and in India — are accompanied by some of the most heinous and grievous acts of violence against women, and depression accentuated by rejoicing:

    Christmas is the celebration of the birth of innocence, in the form of the Christ child, into a corrupt world, and contains within it the seed of his crucifixion; Holi celebrates the young prince Prahlad, who worshiped God while his father, thinking himself Lord of the Universe, could not stand his son’s unwillingness to worship him and put him to the fire..

    Two martyrs, therefore — and we rejoice in their faithfulness even unto death.

    **

    Sources:

  • Guardian, Christmas offers no respite from domestic abuse
  • Paper, How Holi Became the Festival of Assault in India</li>
  • **

    Consider this story of Claire, a pseudonym, a real person, a woman:

    Claire and her eight-year-old daughter are two of the more than 6,000 women and children being supported by domestic violence charity Refuge this Christmas. It will be the second Christmas they spend in a refuge while they wait for permanent accommodation.

    When they fled to a women’s refuge 18 months ago, Claire left a note for the husband who’d abused her for 23 years: “I’m really, really sorry, please don’t be angry with me. I just can’t take any more of the control and abuse. We will be ok, we’re in a safe place – please don’t try and find me.”

    Or this, from India, describing Holi festival, which is celebrated with the throwing of colored powders — and as we shall see, drinking %i(bhang), a cannabis drink properly associated with the %i(sadhus) or ascetics who worship Shiva:

    A popular way of perpetuating assault is through drugging victims, often with %i(bhang), a milky cannabis infused concoction that’s widely circulated during the festival as a ‘party drink.’ The taste of the drink is so similar to other softer beverages — like %i(thandai) (a spicy milk-based cold drink) — that they’re often interchangeable. Victims unaware of this are often offered %i(bhang) and told it’s something else, or their drinks are laced with cannabis or other substances to make them more vulnerable to assault.

    It’s a well-known problem that’s been discussed over the years, with local advertisements, publications and YouTube channels addressing its causes and effects with PSAs and think pieces. In many cases, stories of harassment have also sparked wide outrage on social media and led to protests. But who’s listening? The outcries are hardly taken seriously because in the end, it’ll ruin the ‘spirit of the holiday.’ The pain and violent assault of women is diminished and disguised in the spirit of the season and a range of bright colors.

    **

    As, in personal psychology, many people will cover depression with a facade of cheerfulness, so it appears that in social psychology, group celebrations may be used as covers for acts of frustrated or rage-filled violence, notably by men and against women.

    Funniest DoubleQuote in a while

    Saturday, December 21st, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — simple fun, with a more serious footnote ]
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    I just very much enjoy my friend Aaron Zelin‘s response [lower frame, below] to President Trump’s tweet [upper frame]:

    To be honest, I think Aaron has a mildly warped sense of humor — a warp which I certainly share.

    **

    Here’s the Christianity Today editorial to which Trump obliquely refers:

  • Mark Galli, Trump Should Be Removed from Office
  • A Dream of Two Headlines

    Friday, December 13th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — a meeting of the opposites in the Lutheran and Catholic martyrologies ]
    .

    I dreamed of two headlines, one occupying most of the page with its sub-head, author’s name, and first few paragraphs, enough to tell the tale — “Naval Academy Midshipman Charged With Setting Fire to Historic Documents” — and in the margin, that other — “Scottish church suspects some lillibethians among its martyrs.”

    I’m not interested, today, in the Naval Academy outrage, though maybe on another day.. What interests me today is the possibility that some saints, martyrs indeed, venerated by the Catholic church in Scotland, home of my male forebears across the centuries, may turn out to be found to be “lillibethians” — a word I believe I coined, meaning “followers of Elizabeth” in the Catholic times of Queen Mary.: martyrs indeed, but for the wrong, Protestant faith.

    Now the thing is, it might be difficult for the current church to admit that some of its venerated saints who, remember, were killed by the hated, heretical Protestants for their fortitude in holding the true Catholic faith even unto death were, in historical fact, martyred one might say, by right-minded, rigorous, righteous Catholics, for their fortitude in holding the true Protestant faith even unto death..

    So.

    My dream has me wondering, can one switch religions, from Catholic martyr to Protestant martyr, while still retaining the same respect, veneration indeed, for fortitude in holding the true faith even unto death? Can a venerated Protestant martyr become a venerated Catholic martyr (other team), or vice versa?

    **

    Could a Catholic pope canonize, as one novelist has suggested, a Protestant Johann Sebastian Bach?

    Astonishing, the fertility and freshness of his mind, and as the centuries roll on, the fresh brilliance of this virtuoso performance..

    **

    Recognizing that the same tale was told from India along the trade routes to Europe, with Bodhisattva becoming Iodasaph, then Ioasaph, then Josaphat, how can we avoid acknowledging that the saints Catholics have venerated for centuries as Barlaam and Josaphat were originally and thus are in fact, Bodhisattva (the apprentice Buddha) and his teacher?

    Thus a priest might call the 27th of November, the Feast of St Buddha… Fr Thomas Merton OCSO would very likely have approved.

    **

    Oh, and the Scottish martyrs. I recall Jorge Luis Borges‘ story, The Theologians, in which the heresiarch and the arch-orthodox duke it out, the definitions of heresy (a death penalty offense) and orthodoxy even shifting at one point — it’s final paragraph is the killer:

    It is more correct to record that in Paradise Aurelian knew this: in the unfathomable divinity of God he and John, the heretic and the rector of the Faith, the abhorring and the abhorred, the victim and his accuser, in God these two had ever been one person only.

    So may it be with the damned Lutherans and the blessed Catholics — and their respective martyrs!


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