Thursday, September 21, 2006

UK Muslims demand death of Pope

The day after Pope Benedict XVI apologised for the consequences of his remarks against Islam, a British Muslim leader stated that the Pope should 'face execution' for his comments. Outside Westminster Cathedral, Anjem Choudary of Al-Ghurabaa told demonstrators: ‘Those who insulted Islam should be subject to capital punishment.’ He added: ‘Muslims take their religion very seriously, and non-Muslims must appreciate their religious sentiments, and must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the Prophet.’

The demonstrators held placards saying: 'Pope, Go to Hell’, ‘Trinity of Evil’, ‘Western Crusade against Islam’. Choudary insisted, however, that while he would support the death penalty for the Pope, his intent was for a ‘peaceful demonstration’. He qualified this with: ‘But there may be people in Italy or other parts of the world who will carry that out. I think that warning needs to be understood by all people who want to insult Islam and the Prophet.’

In addition, in Iraq, the Mujahideen's Army has threatened to ‘smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome’. In Kuwait, an important website called for violent retribution against Catholics. In Somalia, the religious leader Abubukar Hassan Malin urged Muslims to ‘hunt down’ the pope and kill him ‘on the spot’. In India, a leading imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, called on Muslims to ‘respond in a manner which forces the pope to apologise’. A top Al-Qaeda figure announced that ‘the infidelity and tyranny of the pope will only be stopped by a major attack’. In Gaza, the ‘RedState’ blog carried the ironic heading: ‘Pope implies Islam a violent religion… Muslims bomb churches’.

This round of Muslim outrage, violence, and murder has a routine element to it. There were similar reactions in 1989 to Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses; in 1997, when the US Supreme Court did not take down a representation of Muhammad; in 2002 when Jerry Falwell called Muhammed a terrorist); in 2005, over the alleged ill treatment by the US military of the Qur’an; and in February 2006 over the Danish cartoons.

Yet the Vatican insists that the Pope did not intend to give ‘an interpretation of Islam as violent’. Cranmer doubts that His Holiness ever intended to cause offence on a scale that might cause a nun to get shot, but he was certainly issuing a pointed (if coded) message, to those who have ears, about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and indirectly reiterated his desire to keep Turkey out of the EU. The latter, of course, puts him at loggerheads with the official UK policy of both the Labour and Conservative parties. Cranmer awaits a Government minister (or member of the Shadow Cabinet) who will challenge Papal policy on this.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Roman Catholic values to dominate the EU

As the Pope tries to work out how to reason with the unreasonable, it is worth reflecting on the Vatican’s assertion that all religions are not equal. Allusions to secret gatherings of high-powered Roman Catholics are usually dismissed as the pastime of obsessive conspiracy theorists, but the admission is so barefaced it can scarcely be a plot in any covert sense at all. As the Vatican and Germany (along with Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ireland) continue to agitate for God and/or Christianity to feature in the Constitution for Europe, the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has appointed a high-profile group to define the EU's ‘common values’, and to raise awareness of such values throughout the Union.

The interesting thing is that this expert group consists only of Roman Catholics. There are no Protestants, no Orthodox, and no representatives of Enlightenment secularism. There is no acknowledgement that these movements contributed anything to European values at all. The implication is that such values may be identified within and articulated through Catholicism exclusively. One member, a former Belgian ambassador to the EU, said: ‘The aim of the project is to raise awareness of European values among the public at a time when most people are totally ignorant or unaware that there is “something more” to the EU than the single market or agricultural policy… The EU process has clearly been based on a certain number of values, but in the course of the process they have been largely forgotten.’

This ‘something more’ is, of course, the Catholic faith. It has been a leitmotif in the EU for decades, and the case was made most eloquently by the almost-pope Cardinal Maria Martini of Milan, who was invited in 1997 to address the European Parliament in a symposium on ‘Remembering the Origins of the Process of European Integration’. He outlined the importance of a single faith (Catholicism), declaring: ‘The Europe we must build is a Europe of the spirit,’ and he reminded the Parliament: ‘If the process of European integration is not anchored in truly religious foundations… it will seriously compromise the future of all Europeans.’

Significantly, a COMECE spokesman has admitted an agenda, albeit ‘indirect’, ‘aimed at influencing a political declaration on the EU's values and ambitions’. The resulting document is planned for adoption on 25th March 2007 - the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. The Pope has already agreed to be present to bestow his blessings on the project.

Protestants/Orthodox/Atheists not invited.

Pax Romana pax Europeana est.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Muslims accuse Pope of ‘bigotry’

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Not the words of the Pope, but his quotation of a relatively obscure 14th-century Byzantine Christian emperor, in a speech given in Freising Cathedral. Pope Benedict twice said ‘I quote’, emphasising that the words were not his own, and added that violence was ‘incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul’. He also admitted that the words were ‘brusque’.

But none of this has placated the wrath of Muslims all over the world. The problem is that if one is quoting someone else’s words to make one’s point, the inference is that they accord with one’s belief, and the Pope neither affirmed nor repudiated the words. Anger is particularly acute in Turkey, where the Pope is due to make a visit next year. It was a Turk who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II (or was it a Soviet plot?). Will history repeat itself?

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood thinks it may. He has asked how the Pope ‘the highest authority in the West’ – could issue statements which could ‘trigger wars among the followers of religions and threaten international peace’. The Pope's remarks ‘have aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world’ because they are, apparently, a ‘distortion’, and reflect his ‘ignorance’. Certainly, surah 2:256 says: ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. But it is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was powerless and under threat. Later, as he gained political power and military strength, it is written in Islam’s most sacred writings that he advocated spreading Islam by the sword.

Instead of hurling insults, therefore, it would be more illuminating if Muslim leaders could enlighten the kafir of the justifiable reasons for Mohammed’s murderous and violent actions, or tell us why the Pope has misunderstood the Islamic concept of ‘holy war’. They might even consider a little restraint, since their own words are now edging towards justification of violence against ‘the West’, on whose behalf they seem to think the Pope speaks. They might even consider reading the entire speech.

Given the histrionics, hyperbole, partial quotation, wilful misinterpretation, threats of violence, and allusions to more ‘holy war’, it may be that the ‘religion of peace’ is not so tolerant of other faiths or contrary theologies at all. This being the case, the Emperor’s 14th-century assessment of Islam may just have been spot on.

Friday, September 08, 2006

German Reich the model for Europe, says German Minister

In 962, Otto the Great revived Charlemagne’s empire as the first German Reich and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John XII. This Reich became known as the Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicae (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) and Otto’s octagonal crown became the symbol of the concept of European unity. Now Germany’s Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann, has voiced what some have suspected for decades: that Germany is creating the European Union in her image. He said the German Reich ‘from today's viewpoint (serves) as a valid model of the functioning order of a superstate.’ The context of his statement is highly significant, being the opening of an exhibition which is dedicated to ‘The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, 962 – 1806’. He said that this touches on ‘every great trend...which makes very clear to us the inner historical legitimacy and consistency of European unification’. It is therefore the Reich that laid the foundation for the ‘structures and developmental processes (which are) of great significance for the federal construction of Europe.’

Such statements have been in circulation for decades, most notably articulated by the CSU (Christian Social Union) politician and grandson of the Austrian Kaiser Otto von Habsburg, who said: ‘the European integration of our times...follows the grand outline and principles of the Reich, which survived 1806, because they are of lasting validity.’ Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, echoed this very theme when he insisted that the origins of today's EU should acknowledge ‘a common imperial ideal (Reichsidee).’ He will attend celebrations in Berlin next year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. The German press already reports that the religious consecration will validate the EU, and will highlight ‘the spiritual foundations of Europe's political unification’ (Lammert lädt Papst in den Bundestag ein; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 28.08.2006).

Is it really of no importance that a German Minister is now stating that Germany and the Eastern European countries ‘belong together’? Is it really of no relevance that he observes that the German Reich is the model for European Union? And is it really of no significance whatsoever that the first German Pope for a millennium intends to bestow his blessing on the whole Empire? Cranmer wonders who will ultimately wear the Reich’s-crown…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Kelly condemns religious isolationism

As Scotland Yard raids the Jameah Islameah School near Crowborough in East Sussex, the Secretary of State for Communities, Ruth Kelly, has threatened to close down Muslim schools that promote ‘isolationism’ or ‘extremism’. Apparently she wants to ‘stamp out’ Muslim schools which try to change British society to fit Islamic values. She says: ‘Different institutions are open to abuse and where we find abuse we have got to stamp it out and prevent that happening.’ But Ofsted had previously found this school wanting: 'Jameah Islamiyah School does not provide a satisfactory education for its pupils… It has not made sufficient progress towards fulfilling its aims since it was established… The curriculum is not broad and balanced.'

But under EU anti-discrimination laws, Muslim schools are entitled to the same state funding as Anglicans, Catholics, and Jewish groups, which all have well-established faith schools in the UK. Essentially, the British Government is constrained to fund all faith-based education equally, or to cease funding them altogether. The dilemma for any political party is that the Church-based schools have traditionally yielded among the best exam results, and they are very popular with parents. The withdrawal of state funding from these would be politically unacceptable.

But to insist that all faith schools are somehow ‘equal’ is to ignore history. Most of the state-funded Church of England schools are not ‘religious’ in the sense of proselytising. For many years, these were the only means by which poorer children could obtain any education at all, and the ‘religious’ dimension is little more than nominal. It is important to distinguish between schools with historical religious affiliation, and those that actively seek state funding to promote a particular religious worldview.

But isn’t this agenda a little hypocritical coming from the Opus Dei representative to HM Government? One Scottish bishop has stated that Catholic education is ‘divisive’ and contributes to the problem of sectarianism. There has been evidence of abuse (many kinds) in Roman Catholic schools for decades, yet they have not been threatened with closure. Apart from the Church itself, the Catholic school system represents the only significant social institution of civil society over which the Catholic community, through the Church, exercises a degree of control. Some of them might even be deemed guilty of ‘glorifying terrorism’ through their tacit support of the IRA or projects on the ‘Bloody Sunday massacre’. Is not Catholic education ‘isolationist’? What about ‘stamping out’ Catholic schools that are trying to change British society to fit Catholic values?

While Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus all now benefit from state funding, what would happen if the Church of Scientology or the Unification Church (’Moonies’) wanted to open a school? Would these be deemed a respectable religion or a sinister cult? And if the latter, why should Dan Brown be dismissed when he talks of the sinister indoctrination of the Opus Dei cult? The creed of Roman Catholicism may be as distasteful to some as that of Islam, and it also has a quest for power and influence, even placing ’sleepers’ in positions of influence. These deadly agents pretend to be loyal to Her Majesty and to representative democracy, but are really accountable to a foreign puppet-master known as ’The Pope’, or ‘King of the Vatican’, whom some contend to be a former disciple of Adolf Hitler. Should schools with such a leader, pursuing such an agenda, be ‘stamped out’?

Friday, September 01, 2006

‘Damn’ ‘bloody’ bishop banned

When David Jenkins was Bishop of Durham, he argued passionately against the physical resurrection of Jesus (dismissed as ‘a conjuring trick with bones’), rubbished the virgin birth, the literal truth of the Bible, and even the continuing existence of the Church of England. He kept his job throughout the furore his sermons caused.

But after using the words 'bloody' and 'damn' in a sermon, he finds himself banned from a number of pulpits.

Cranmer just loves it when the Church of England knows its priorities.
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