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Showing posts with label Islam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Islam. Show all posts

Friday, 4 February 2011

Question Time, Melanie Phillips and political labels

Question Time last night wasn’t half bad. I did some live tweeting, with the usual results - premature judgements, misspellings, etc.

The right-wing raver slot - which the BBC feels must be part of the panel, in the interests of ‘balance’ - was occupied by Melanie Phillips this week, a regular in this chair. There is no real slot for a left-wing raver because the genuine article is hard to find these days - we have to be satisfied with the likes of George Galloway, who now occupies a political planet entirely of his own creation, a planet - or maybe a rogue asteroid - that now hovers dangerously near to the Scottish Parliament

Bob Crow is sometimes meant to fill the slot, but the format  and  the chairman usually attempt to contain him within the stereotype of trade union militant. Since Crow is anything but a raver, with a much broader political view that just his union, always displaying an icy, objective calmness in all that he says, and refusing to be contained by anyone, this fails, and the programme comes to life, to the discomfiture of the party and media hacks on the panel, the spluttering indignation of the right wing raver, the impotence of David Dimbleby and the delight of the audience -and me. The Question Time panel is not a place for real people. They are supposed to be confined to the audience.

Melanie, however, is entirely predictable, and has been for many years now, so there were no surprises when the question about Egypt’s revolution came up. On any international issue, anything Melanie says has to be decoded in the light of the foreign policy of Israel and its view of Muslims and international terrorism, which to ultra Zionists are one and the same.

There was a certain irony in the fact that the programme was recorded at  the same time - or probably before - the transmission of Louis Theroux’s BBC2 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, at 9.00 p.m. last night.

On other topics, she gives evidence of the penetrating intelligence and incisive comment that once graced the pages of - incredibly - The Guardian. (I remember her from those days, and mourn the loss of the Melanie-that-was.) She is now flits between her two natural journalistic homes, The Spectator and The Daily Mail. Penetrating intelligence and incisiveness are, however, no guarantors of wisdom, clear vision or objectivity, as history - and Melanie - abundantly demonstrate.

My comments on her performance led to a tweeted response from a supporter of Melanie, to the effect that she always spoke the truth, thus enraging ‘the lefties’,  among whose number I am delighted to be included. (Such commentators never think of themselves as righties). Indeed, I count it a badge of honour to be described as a leftist separatist, which appellation happily combines my basic political orientation with my Scottish nationalism. My critic also referred to ‘mad’ lefties, and I had to remind him that in my recollection, this epithet had only been applied before to Mad Mitch of Aden and to a political columnist, panellist and journalist whose name escapes me for the moment.

I was once asked to put my political philosophy in a nutshell, and came up with Left is right and Right is wrong, and that still just about describes my position. Of course, if I wanted to take a more anodyne position, I would describe myself as a social democrat, but many on the right of the political spectrum think of themselves as such, so I am wary of that label.

I visited Melanie's website to update myself on her written views, and found the title of her book The World Turned Upside Down - The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, a suitably apocalpytic title. I reproduce a paragraph from her plug for her book.

The loss of religious belief has meant the West has replaced reason and truth with ideology and prejudice, which it enforces in the manner of a secular inquisition. The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. In medieval-style witch- hunts, scientists who are skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts; Israel is ferociously demonized; and the United States is vilified over the war on terror-all on the basis of falsehoods and propaganda that are believed as truth.

Since I disagree with every line and every word of that, and believe that it is Melanie, fundamentalist religion, Israel and US foreign policy that have turned the world upside down, risking a return to the Dark Ages, I offer as an antidote another book - Allies for Armageddon by Victoria Clark, which explores with chilling forensic skill, the destructive links between right-wing, American Rapture fundamentalist Christians, the ultra zionists and the Bush/Cheney regime that dragged the world, and the UK under Blair into the present lethal instability of global politics and two disastrous wars.

And that’s about all I have to say for today. Have a good weekend …

Friday, 3 December 2010

Another history lesson: the monarchy, organised religion and the military.

Two more extracts from Professors T.C. Smout’s A Century of the Scottish People 1830 – 1950 (first published 1986).


One great change in the second half of the century (the 19th century) was the erosion of ancient certainties regarding heaven and hell. Chapter VII, page 192

The destruction of the literal interpretation of the Bible was accompanied by twin European intellectual movements, in science and history. Chapter VIII, page 193

The European enlightenment had at its heart the Scottish Enlightenment, as medieval superstitions began to lose their iron grip on the peoples of the world. But in 2010, we have a world where secularism is in retreat, the separation of church and State is crumbling, (contrary to the cries of outrage from the churches that ‘militant atheism’ is rampant) and the main political fault lines that divide our planet have their roots in fundamentalist religious beliefs, specifically the three religions that have common Abrahamic roots – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The obsession of all three with the land of Israel (The Balfour Declaration) lies at the heart of this, and in most recent times we have had the elevation of religious differences to the centre of international conflicts by George W. Bush and Tony Blair, both of them Christian fundamentalists, by the fundamentalist leaders of the nation of Israel, and the  fundamentalists leaders of the Muslim nations, not to mention the even more extreme fundamentalist sects within all of these three major religions, from the Rapture Christians of the United States, through militant fundamentalism Zionism to Al Quaeda.

Politicians with secular instincts have little choice but to be part of this if they hope to be elected and occupy significant positions within their party and government.

In America, it is still political suicide for any ambitious politician to profess atheism or even agnosticism, and in the UK, although politicians may acknowledge such beliefs, they are well advised to keep them muted, and they are obliged to listen to, and take account of the often forceful views of unelected religious leaders.

Here in Scotland, the Scottish National Party has the unenviable task of coping with the historical religious divisions that exist in our nation between Catholic and Protestant, divisions that underlie the entire history of the British monarchy, divisions that are exploited by the unscrupulous, and this divide is now compounded by  a third, new dimension  - the number of Scottish citizens, many of them born and bred in Scotland, who adhere to the Islamic religion.


There is an absolute link between the monarchy, organised religion and the military in Britain that politicians ignore at their peril, with religious,  monarchical and military elements in all national ceremonies that relating to the blood sacrifice - past and present - of our young people in foreign lands: the people are enlisted into this blood myth through the jingoistic popular press and media coverage.

We will only achieve maturity as a nation when we can envisaged a great state ceremony of celebration of a momentous event, or the mourning and remembrance of the dead that does not include monarchical,  military or religious aspects.

I can conceive of a ceremony of remembrance that involves all religions and those of no faith, because death knows no boundaries of nation or faith. Believers from all faiths - and those of no faith - have died side by side across the globe in the ultimate bond of blood, death and sacrifice.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Does UK behaviour contribute to terrorism?

(Iman and Imam – a slight variation in spelling but a vital distinction in meaning.  Iman means faith, Imam means leader, something not always recognised by Western journalists and commentators. Panellist Ajmal Masroor is an Imam and a politician.)

Does UK behaviour contribute to terrorism – are we partially responsible for home-grown terrorists?

My reflex response is Yes, with the rider that UK behaviour is one of the principle causes of home-grown terrorism, but since that is begging the question, let’s listen to some of the arguments.

The forum is Sunday Morning, the replacement for The Big Debate, which I criticised in its initial format and structuring, but which has since improved significantly.

The other significant contributor to home-grown terrorism and to conflict all over the globe, is of course, religion, a fact which is usually glossed over, even on a programme like Sunday Morning, which has a religious basis. What the major world religions have demonstrated, over the millennia, is an undoubted propensity for attacking and killing each other.

The main players in this endless blood feud are the Christians, the Muslims and the Jews, all three of which are derived from the same root traditions.

A departure from this unholy trinity was of course the conflict following the partition of the India into India and Pakistan in 1948. Buddhists, while regularly persecuted by others, rarely, if ever, have been the aggressors. We might of course add the behaviour of Japan under Hirohito and the Shinto religion, but this owes more to the militaristic, nationalistic, quasi-religious cult of the Bushido (dreamt up by a converted Japanese Quaker with an American wife and living in Philadephia) that exploited Shinto and Buddhist religions, and the emperor.

But let the participants in this little aspect of the great debate speak for themselves -