Archive for May, 2009

Resisting Aggression with Daud Abdullah

26/05/2009

Mohammed N Asif is the President of the Scottish Afghan Society, whose recently resurrected blog can be found here. On Monday 1 June, he will be addressing the AGM of the Tyneside Stop the War Coalition Monthly Meeting in a speech entitled a “public meeting about war, occupation and resistance”.

The wars in question, in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been formally over for anywhere between four and seven years. Combat operations and urban conflict have, indeed, continued, but primarily against supporters of the Taleban or Al Qaeda in Iraq or unreconstructed Ba’athists. The question of occupation is a strange one, considering that both countries have held democratic elections and the subsequent United Nations recognized Governments have continued to grant Western military forces access to the countries in question.

Asif describes himself as a journalist in exile. Yet, he also states that he left Afghanistan “because of the oppressive regieme” in 2000. That is, when the Talibs were in control and long before B52s came a hunting. I do not seek to minimize the trials and tribulations the Afghan population has experienced over the past seven years, but Asif’s implied continued exile 2001-9 and explicitly stated position that the current situation is a retrograde step is somewhat contradicted by the views of Afghans still living there.

Another question could be Asif’s concept of resistance and non-violence. He is reported to be seen on right of this photograph taken from the SAS’ Flickr photostream.

Theology from Muslim Perspective and Resistance to Aggression

No to War? Are Jews or Royal Navy personnel exempt from this appeal to the protect all the Children of the Covenant of Frith? You see, centre, with finger held aloft, is the Deputy Chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain, Daud Abdullad: any time soon he is going to make real his threat to sue the Secretary of State for Communities, Hazel Blears, after she drew attention to his signing of endorsing the Istanbul Declaration which many have interpreted as a call to attack both Israeli and Jewish civilians worldwide, not to mention British service personnel. And heads of states which are deemed supportive of Israel. That would include the Queen! Where are the Beefeaters?

Next to them is Mick Napier, Chairman of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign whom, as I discussed in an earlier missive, seeks to excuse the murder of eight unarmed teenage seminary students because, amongst other reasons, they are religious Jews being taught “a hatred of Gentiles”. Until pointed out, he also cited Islam Online, a website which hosts Holocaust Denial material.

The above photograph appears to have been date-stamped 10 May 2009, when Abdullah’s spat with Blears had been in the public domain for some weeks. See also the banner “criminalizing solidarity with Palestine”? Given that, when Abdullah addressed the AGM of the national StWC a fortnight earlier, he had been billed as having “currently under attack from the government for his statements in support of the Palestinians”, I think that may be a monstrously delusional reference to him. And grossly offensive slight to those of us who think Palestinian Arabs are human beings as well, and that support for them is not synomous with backing for violent jihad and targeted violence against Jews-as-Jews.

I have my doubts about Asif’s appropriateness at any pro-peace event, but I am even more concerned that Abdullah may be present at this latest AGM also. That would be really embarassing for their hosts.

Advertisements

Beard of the Year

25/05/2009

I have just seen this from last December, when John Thurso was awarded the Parliamentarian Beard of the Year by the Beard Liberation Front. It is not difficult to see why.

As Atticus in the Times noted that Thurso maintains he grew the beard during a family holiday three years ago, and simply could not be bothered to shave afterwards. There may have been a less slovenly reason for it, however, as Atticus points the reader to Thurso’s previous fissog (which is still displayed on notices to advertize surgeries in the constituency, and on the Parliament website).

11280

Lord Lucan!

The Disruption of 2009

25/05/2009

With there not having been a split in one or more of the many Presbyterian churches in Scotland for almost ten years, it was looking as if we were long overdue for a major barny. This may just happen after the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland voted 3:2 to affirm the appointment of the Reverend Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeenshire. Rennie had been a minister at Brechin Cathedral for ten years and, previously married to a woman with whom he has one child, now openly co-habits with his boyfriend.

None of this had been concealed whilst he was at Brechin Cathedral, and the parishioners at Queen’s Cross were all aware and supportive of him when he was initially offered the ministership. In the BBC soap opera, Eastenders, the heterosexual character of Mark Fowler was dianosed with HIV at a time when it was still thought a disease of homosexual men or drug addicts. He was married briefly to a Scottish character whose father was a minister in the Church of Scotland, and I recall a mini-controversy when the father was shown reacting with disgust to Fowler’s illness. The reason being that the Church of Scotland had, apparently, been one of the first denominations to attempt a formal non-judgemental position on HIV in the mid-1980s, when it was *definitely* still thought of as a disease of homosexual men (although I cannot recall the name of the document).

I am glad to see that the Church of Scotland General Assembly has now endorsed a minister in a stable monogamous relationship, and faced down predictable appeals to Leviticus (but not the bits about what fabric to wear or not to eat certain foods). I do not consider 1 Corinthians 6:9/11 and Romans 1:18 to be a clear reference to consentual homosexual activity within a monogamous relationship, but always note how infrequently they are mentioned: instead, Leviticus is preferred. This always makes me think the speaker is simply projecting their inate feelings towards homosexuality onto what they call the authority of the Bible (just as with the implied acceptance of a divorced heterosexual minister suggests). The Bible may be correct, but the readers are so often wrong.

One point to note, the reference to “effeminate abusers of men” in 1 Corinthians 6:9/11 comes from the original Greek ‘oute pornoi oute malakoi, oute arsenoikoitai’. Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of modern Greek cursing will recognize “malakoi”!

I admit that I cannot shake a feeling of the pointlessness of gay marriage, such as when two Anglican clergy played husband and wife at St Bartholomew the Great in London last July (and I recall coming to just such a conclusion with a co-habiting priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church). We live, however, in a society which endorses extra marital heterosexual relationships – and a good thing too – and, regardless of my preference for women, cannot appreciate the objection to Rennie’s appointment. Good luck to him.

Fuck Off Ken Loach

25/05/2009

Just thought I would get that off my chest. Mira Vogel at Engage Online has gratifying news that Israeli film director, Tali Shalom-Ezer will not self-boycott the Edinburgh International Film Festival which allowed some film director to speak for the film making ‘community’ and returned the filthy lucre of £300 in sponsorship from the Cultural Affairs Department of the Israeli Embassy in the Great Wen; presumably to pay for Shalom-Ezer’s flight. I had initially been highly impressed by the response from the Managing Director of the EIFF, Ginnie Atkinson, in facing down an almost certainly aggressive and intimidating campaign from the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, led by individuals such as the antisemitic John Wight.

With Loach’s vow not to grace the Festival with his presence, however, the EIFF folded quicker that John Wight does when asked about linking to CODOH (or, presumably, Jenna Delich on David Duke’s website). Realizing they had fluffed it, though, the EIFF has since dug into its own pockets to fly Shalom-Ezer over and she, to her immense credit, has accepted. This is the only point in my mind which redeems the EIFF from being deserving of a similar fate to that which befell the Writing on the Wall Festival in Liverpool which has had future sponsorship from Liverpool City Council pulled because it was staging the modern mystery play, Seven Jewish Children, unchallenged.

Vogel cited an earlier missive of mine which discussed Loach’s willingness to link antisemitism to feelings towards Israeli actions (i.e. to blame the persecution of Jews individually for the actions of individual Jews). In the Scotsman – a rarity in the Scottish print media, which covers the growing jacobite jihadism and sectarianism in this soft-underbelly of the Yu-Kay – Shalom-Ezer posits that Loach’s previous call for his brethren and sistren in the film making ‘community’ to boycott the EIFF because of his engrained animus towards Israel has a similar effect. Shalom-Ezer, Vogel and I could have better understood – but not found understandable – Loach’s position if Ron Prosser, the Israeli Ambassador to the Yu-Kay were a guest: however neither he nor the Israeli state were invited. Shalom-Ezer was. Thus, Shalom-Ezer and Vogel suggest – and I agree – that what Loach was attempting to do was to associate all members of one national group individually with their state’s policy and, accordingly, place them outside the tent.

I call this bigotry.

Of course, with anti-racism fast becoming the Communism of the 21st Century, Loach insists that “we all know” that Shalom-Ezer would be welcome. And I am the Queen of Sheba, Ken. You had previously called for a boycott of the entire Festival because Tali’s country was supporting her. You declared that Tali and other Israelis should only be welcome if they are well-behaved, and that it was for you to contempuously decide what this good behaviour entails. The criticisms of Israeli policy can also be directed against the actions of USA and your country in Iraq or Afghanistan, but I did not see you calling for boycotts due to the sponsorship of the US Consulate or British bodies. (Note also the extremist mentality in which Loach projects his own opinions onto others – “we all know” just as all film makers were “be as appalled as I am” if the Israeli Embassy sponsored the Festival. Disagreeing with Loach ain’t just wrong, it is *inconceivable*.)

I do not like Loach’s films for stylistic reasons, and do not take my political cues from ‘artists’ or celebrities. I never have warmed to Wagner, but think Orff and Liszt are fantastic. In light of Loach’s latest brain-fart, I am wondering if his oeurve can be separated from his wretched politics. He may have won the Palm D’or, but against what competition? Fritz Lang and Otto Preminger produced some sublime films, but were reputably absolute female pudenae (just as Ed Wood was a beautiful soul, but shite director). Klaus Kinksi’s intense on-screen persona was accompanied by violent rages (undoubtly connected to undiagnosed schizophrenia) which, like a horse-whisperer, Werner Herzog was one of the few able to control.

Just how good is Loach’s work?

Taj Mahal Re-Opens

23/05/2009

In one of my first missives, I reported the destruction in an explosion/fire of the most popular curry-house in Caithness, the Taj Mahal in Castletown. The Bengali owners were in the process of opening a new restaurant at the old chippie in Halkirk, and I see that this has now taken place.

tajhalkirk

In dark skulduggerous deeds, it appears that the original fire may have been a 21st Century version of the ice-cream wars in 1980s Glasgow. License-owner of another take-away in Caithness, Gulzar Miah, is reported to have been arrested in connexion with the fire. In the comments boxes, Ali – who appears to be a former employee of this second business – has made specific allegations against the owners. On reflection, I have removed the most incendiary remarks but am willing to link to any confirmed information which is in the public domain.

Royal Mail Asks for 200% Increase on Rural Postbuses

23/05/2009

In one of those moments when one realizes one’s lost something without even knowing it was there, I see on Jamie Buchanan’s blog reports that five rural postbus routes in the Hyperborean North have been axed, including from Thurso to Tongue and Bettyhill.

Buchanan’s more generous to the Royal Mail’s reasoning than I would have been. As well as the loss of a handy way for tourists of those of us who do not drive to visit these remote areas, the Postbuses were like something out of Postman Pat or Hamish McBeath connecting remote villages and hamlets, such as Applecross. From reports, a requested subsidy from Highlands and Islands Council of just under £13,000 for 2008/9 suddenly jumped to some £36,000. Current stop-gap measures, such as taxis and public buses, are reported to be costing almost £90,000.

I have difficulties enough seeing the justification for this from a company which is *not* a private company, but which should provide a public service. One source of consternation just now is the sorting of all local post in the main Inverness depot, regardless of its travelling between, say, Thurso and Scrabster. I wonder how much this costs.

Orla Guerin is Hebrew for Foreskin

23/05/2009

I have just realized I have been promulgating an Internet myth: that BBC Africa correspondent, Orla Guerin admitted to crying as Yasser Arafat was airlifted out of Ramallah in 2004. That was Barbara Plett.

Guerin reporting on the halting of Hussam Abdu, a 16 year old ESM Palestinian Arab boy who had been tricked into carrying explosives. She described the IDF’s treatment of him as “cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes”. But, enough of that, this missive is simply to say how little I know about the ceremony of upsherin/chalake (חלקה/אפש​ערן).

Upsherin230x150

(Taken from Aish.com.)

This represents the first hair-cut of boys in certain Orthodox Jewish families, where it will place either on the child’s third birthday or on the festival of Lag Baomer; the festival of bonfires marked as the 33rd day after the second day of Passover, when an ‘omer’ (a measure) of barley was presented to the Temple in Jerusalem, and counted up until Shauvot (cf. Pentecost). During the Bar Kokba Revolt, the mass death of 24,000 students of the Rabbi Akiva is held to have ended on Lag Baomer. In the Hebrew calendar, it corresponds to the 18 Iyar; or at some point in mid-May according to the Gregorian calendar, and I would not be surprised if similar to Beltane).

The Talmudic justification comes from Leviticus 19:23 which proscribes against picking fruits from a tree until it is three years old in order to promote future strong growth, using the classical Hebrew word orla/ערלה translating as the “blockage of the trees” and representing the tenth tractate of Order of Seeds of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Allusions of the human body to trees abound in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud, with the latter, for instance, stating that an individual should have numerous roots: “Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place” (Avot 3:22).

But why did I say foreskin? Well, a second meaning of orla is in Genesis 17:11 which refers to the bris milah, or circumcision ceremony (there is a third meaning in Deuteronomy 10:16 which instructs the reader to cast out the ‘orla’ in their hearts, and as I write this, a new meaning of 1 Corinthians 13:11 is coming to me). Note, this is not the anatomical term, but that ain’t going to stop me calling Orla Guerin “Foreskin Guerin” from now on.

The ceremony appears to have been introduced to Europe in the 17th Century by the Kabbalist and proto-Zionist Rabbi Chaim Vital, from Calabria. He had observed it amongst Yishuv Jews in what is now Israel. My thought is, did Jesus have his hair cut? Mary Magdalene is certainly the patron saint of hairdressers. During the medieval period, there were multiple cults of the Holy Prepuce; often at the same time (like those multiple artefacts claiming to be Napoleon’s penis, where did the other foreskins/willies come from?). But I have never heard of a cult of Jesus’ other orla.

Anyone?

It Could Have Been Worse

23/05/2009

For the 1992 General Election, Robert Heany, the Tory PPC for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles) constituency decided to run on a ticket of “saving Britain from the Papist intrigues of Europe”, and promptly alienated the southern half of the constituency. As I discussed in this missive, John Mackay, Labour PPC for Caithness and Sutherland and Easter Ross may have made his own boo-boo.

This week’s John o’Groat Journal reports Efrafa Warren’s preferred candidate, John Thurso, as scotching the central inference which Mackay sought to place in minds; that he uses his position as MP to obtain well-paid directorships. Several are not even remunerated. Thurso also describes one of the most fancy pieces of furniture he purchased for his second home in the Great Wen: a £30 clothes rail. I can confirm that any islands for ducks in [the town of] Thurso are not on his private grounds.

Loosing prospective voters quicker than Heany did on Benbecula, several letters in the print edition chimed in support of Thurso after the article in Wednesday’s Caithness Courier, despite the normal closing time for letters in the Groat being Tuesday. One contrary letter did attempt to direct suspicions that Thurso had deliberately sought to avoid votes in the matter but, as I have said before, appearing at 65% of sessions whilst also acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform means a man cannot be everywhere at once.

MPs are on a very steep learning curve as what was previously thought a minor issue has turned in something monstrous – as St Michael of the Gorbals realized before he opted for apotheosis – and they do collectively share the responsibility for creating through inattention something which allowed privately wealthy individuals to claim £30,000 in gardening expenses or shriek about the lower-class oiks being jealous. I have no doubt Mackay would do his utmost at whatever task he was given, and this should shine through after a few more years of life-experience.

It is still Vote John Thurso! from here.

In other news, Nadine Dorries – not only is she suspected of swinging the lead, she is also pro-homoeopathy – fears MPs may be becoming suicidal. Well, Ann Widdecombe is a former Samaritan. She will be there for anyone in distress.

Eating Testicles

22/05/2009

I had wondered why there was a delicacy in the American and Canadian prairies called Rocky Mountain or Prairie Oysters. Now I know. They are deep-fried bull or bison testicles, and last night I ate my first balls (albeit lamb).

In our price conscious times, they are not just cheap, they were free-of-charge for me (same for pig trotters, which few people in Caithness appear to seek out). A local butcher with easy access to nearby slaughter houses or farms is probably essential. Tesco willnot stock these!

After much shrieking from my mother, I peeled off the outer muscular layer with its venous supply and cut the sperm ducts on four lamb testicles (feeling no involuntary contractions in my own), and sliced them as below. (I have since found out that partially freezing them makes peeling easier.)

965006-Preparing-Sheep-Testicles-0

They have similar structure to other sweetbreads, notably the pancreas, so can be prepared similarly. Remember, this is offal, so should not be cooked as strongly as butchers’ meat. I fried them gently with some leeks and herbs. Lovely! I will definitely do this again, probably with carrots and creme fraiche. I may even buy this book.

Ben White and Patrick Sookdeo

22/05/2009

Ben White is an excellent person to have after a disaster. As he realizes that being thought to lambast the controlling and halting plots of Jew-murder may not be a popular argument, let us take a moment to recall an earlier incident.

White has been a sought after contributor to Christian online publications such as the Anglican Fulcrum, and was recently commissioned to review Global Jihad, by the Director of the Barnabas Fund, Patrick Sookdeo. In this missive, I suggest that whilst, by his own admission, White understands why some individuals are antisemites, he appears to have difficulty in understanding or recognizing Jihadism and associated religio-political ethoses; denying that Hezbollah is such – the clue is in its name, Ben.

Yet, Fulcrum did think him suitable for reviewing Sookdeo’s book. Alas, a good few of their readers did not think so, as revealed in the somewhat lively discussion attached to the above missive. Fulcrum then a statement of clarification, as did White himself.

I have not read Global Jihad, so it will be wrong of me to comment on the accuracy or otherwise of it. I will add, also, that as Sookdeo is, undoubtedly, a social and religious conservative he and I will, on many points, would disagree on many points (not least his discussion of the taqiyya concept, which always sets alarm bells off in my head). It should be possible, though, to examine White’s original review (albeit briefly).

One flaw in Sookdeo’s thesis, the reader was told, was that he “ends up distorting or simplifying Islamic theology”. Remember, White is an English literature graduate: Sookdeo, at least, has a grounding in the theology of his professed faith. Furthermore, in response to Sookdeo’s attributing jihadism in general, and the subversion of the 1979 Iranian Revolution specifically, to a perceived interference from America, White states:

At this point it would have been appropriate to make at least a brief reference to the fact that the US, along with Britain, did indeed engineer a coup against the Iranian government in 1953 in order to protect their economic interests, but there is no mention of this formative event in Iranian-US relations. These are well known facts, and crucial for understanding the nature of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

I am left with the impression of the Iranian population not being ascribed full moral capabilities, but instead seen as dull automata buffeted by the winds of history whilst greater minds (eg upper-middle class English literature university graduates) are able to see that bigger picture. The Western-led subversion of the 1953 Iranian Government was shameful, and one I do not seek to excuse, but at this point it would have been appropriate to make at least a brief reference to the fact that, in 1979, Left-wing activists and pro-democracy Iranians quickly find themselves crushed by the Khomenists which White seeks to portray as a national liberation movement.

Sookhdeo’s sources for his treatment of ‘Palestinian jihad’ are also of questionable reliability, including the fiercely pro-Israeli group ‘Palestinian Media Watch’ and the notorious MEMRI.

No they are not questionable. The frequent tu quoque criticism of MEMRI, in particular, is that it is Israeli-run. So what? At no point have I seen evidence that it mis-represents its Arabic and Faarsi language translations of what Islamists say when they think no-one is listening. As the British media is beginning to suspect, they tend to be highly accurate.

The fact that the US, with the help of Saudi and Pakistan intelligence elements, funded and trained jihadists from around the world receives only the briefest of mentions in a book of almost 700 pages.

Again, the role of Western intelligence agencies in Operation Chaos which took place in Afghanistan during the 1980s is not one which I seek to excuse; and I believe the best way to reform the Saudi and Pakistani intelligence agencies would be to shoot everyone above the rank of Major. But at this point it would have been appropriate to make at least a brief reference to the fact that Islamism and modern jihadism rose out of the bastardization of pan Arab nationalism by the likes of Sayd Qutb (cf. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright) and loss of ‘pride’ over the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century (for which the Armenians and Assyrians, amongst others, paid the ultimate price).

Yet, once more, moral agency is removed potentially even from the venal Saudi and Pakistani intelligence agencies, and all becoming contingent on Western involvement. Recommended reading also includes Ahmed Rashid’s Taleban and Jason Burke’s Al-Qaeda which, hardly admiring of Western intelligence agencies, term their involvement with the rise of Al-Qaeda and the Taleban as one of inattention and irresponsibility; whilst their Pakistani and Saudi counterparts were fully cognizant.

I would agree with White when he objects to lumping all the Muslims on Earth as one poorly defined homogeneous mass, and not a multiplicity of ethnic groups and religious confessionals and political allegiances (and, who, overwhelmingly are the principle victims of violent jihad). For similar reasons I do not spend all my working moments looking for ways to denigrate one country smaller than Scotland, or offering understanding of racial hatred.