15 November 2009

The Goldstone Report and the Bible

Going through the Bible the other day, I came across a passage that reminded me of the unbridled attacks launched by the Israeli government and its supporters against the Goldstone Report. The report, authored by a commission headed by the eminent South African Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone, accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the Gaza War of 2008-2009.

President Shimon Peres has stooped to calling Goldstone a "small man". I would counter that such language makes my countryman Peres (we were both born in modern-day Belarus) sound like a small man.

The Bible passage I was referring to is Amos 5: 7-15. In citing it here, I am trying to remind the political leadership of Israel of the Biblical values of justice and truth which they have, in this instance, allowed to fall by the wayside. My favourite part of this passage is "Hate what is evil. Love what is good. Do what is fair in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God who rules over all will show you his favour." These are values that all of us should seek to live by.

As Nicholas Kristof points out, there are "two Israels", or even "many Israels". Let us hope that the one that triumphs in the long run is not Netanyahu's Israel or Lieberman's Israel, but rather the Israel that wants to live side by side with its neighbours in a just peace.


Now playing: "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens

Visitor profiles, 15 October to 14 November 2009

Welcome to the twenty-first installment of Notes on Religion visitor profiles!

The most recent month (15 October to 14 November 2009):

This month, Notes on Religion received 759 visits.

Visitors came to Notes on Religion from every inhabited continent, alhamdu lillah. The largest number of visitors (24%) came from Italy (grazie!). The United States was next with almost 24%, while Canada came third with 16%. In sha' Allah, I'll quote all monetary amounts (if any are discussed) in euros along with Canadian dollars over the coming month.

Within Italy, the largest number of visitors (15%) came from Rome.

A plurality of visitors this past month (34%) were referred to Notes on Religion by Google. The most common Google search term that brought visitors to the blog was 'russian neo nazi beheading'.

The most popular browser this month was Internet Explorer (47%). 91% of the visitors were Windows users.

Since the founding of the blog (15 March 2007 to 14 November 2009):

The total number of visitors during these two years and eight months was 11,791. The average number of visitors was 12 per day.

The largest number of visitors (43%) came from the United States. The second-highest number (15%) came from Canada. The United Kingdom came third with 7%.

Within the US, the state with the largest number of visitors (14%) was California, while the city with the largest number (5%) was New York.

The majority of visitors (53%) was referred to the blog by Google. The most common search term entered by visitors who were referred to Notes on Religion by Google was 'russian neo nazi beheading'.

The most popular browser was Internet Explorer (47%). 90% of the visitors were Windows users.

Now playing: Kathy's Song by Simon & Garfunkel

14 November 2009

Two trials, same disease

So it turns out that Alexander Wiens, the Islamophobe who has recently been found guilty of the murder of Marwa al-Sherbini, is appealing his life sentence at the Federal Court of Justice. Let's hope this court has enough strength of character to reaffirm the sentence.

Meanwhile, the trial of Radovan Karadžić has been postponed until 1 March. Karadžić, of course, has been charged with the murder of 7,000 Muslims in Srebrenica and 10,000 people, most of them Muslims, in Sarajevo, among other crimes. So far, he has been able to obstruct his trial by boycotting it and continually asking for more time to study the charges against him. It seems, though, that, once the trial is well and truly under way, Karadžić should receive a life sentence if even one of the more serious charges against him is proven. Anything less would be a travesty of justice.

The difference between Karadžić and Wiens is simply one of degree. Unquestionably, there is a significant minority of Europeans that believes that there is no place for Muslims in Europe. While most such right-wing extremists spread their views non-violently (see picture), there are those, like Karadžić and Wiens, who evidently believe that European Muslims should be physically exterminated. It is thus reassuring that Wiens received his life sentence, and also reassuring that Karadžić is behind bars, despite the lack of progress in his trial.

The European and international justice system have so far been able to demonstrate that the brazen murder of innocents in Europe will not be tolerated. Thank God for that. However, an almost equally serious problem, in my view, is the seemingly growing political clout of openly Islamophobic movements that, while stopping short of calling for violence against Muslims, do their best to depict European Muslims as enemy aliens.

Among such groups I would count the British National Party (BNP). Last May, on a visit to England, I saw a BNP flyer which said, which no apparent shame, that Turkey should be prevented from entering the EU so that "70 million Muslim Turks" would not be able to flock to British shores. I would have thought that such open attacks on a particular group based solely on their religion would be illegal. But apparently not. Take a look at this poster, which makes it clear that opposition to Muslims (not Muslim extremists or whatever, mind, but all Muslims) is a central plank of the BNP's platform. Or look at this poster. Or this one.

Then, of course, there's the Swiss People's Party and its anti-minaret referendum, or Geert Wilders and his call for the Qur'an to be banned in the Netherlands, and for new Muslim immigrants to be kept out of the country. Lighter shades of Islamophobia are evident in Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign to legislate the clothing of Muslim women in France.

While anti-Semitism is, thankfully, on the decline in Europe, it seems that Islamophobia has very quickly taken its place. As Nick Griffin has admitted, this replacement of anti-Semitism with Islamophobia is, often, intentional. It's simply what sells these days.


09 November 2009

Fachrizal Halim on Communism and Islam

My friend Fachrizal had an article published in the Jakarta Post in October challenging the notion that the Indonesian Communist movement was hostile to Islam from its inception.

Fachrizal cites Lenin's appeal to "all labouring Muslims of Russia and the East", and the subsequent support for the Bolsheviks on the part of some Russian Muslims. In Fachrizal's view, this "strategic alliance" was a result of the shared opposition of the Muslims and the Bolsheviks to Western imperialism.

Fachrizal argues that a similar alliance existed in Indonesia between the Communists and the Muslims masses. He concludes that it is time for the Communists' contribution to the formation of modern-day Indonesia to be fully acknowledged.

This is certainly a very interesting take on the issue. The history of cooperation between the Communists and Islamists in the days of Indonesia's struggle for independence is new to me. I do feel, though, that Fachrizal might be somewhat idealistic when he talks about Lenin's attitude towards Russian Muslims. On the other hand, he does acknowledge the fact that Stalin saw no grounds for the compatibility of Islam and Communism. This had a devastating outcome not just for the freedom of conscience of Soviet Muslims, but also in Indonesia, where the pro-Soviet Communists were forced to take an increasingly anti-Islamic stance.

02 November 2009

Comedy night at the synagogue

To those of you who're in Montreal or nearby: I hope to see many (or some) of you at the synagogue tomorrow for a stand-up comedy show featuring Mo Amer and Rabbi Bob Alper. See the poster above for details.

Something Even More Magical

In other news...