Religion


British politics&Europe&Middle East&Religion06 Feb 2006 09:00 pm

Muslim protest against Prophet cartoons Some Muslims have been protesting violently about the publication of some cartoons depicting the Prophet negatively. Embassies have been torched. Property has been destroyed. Threats have been made. Our newspapers are full of words and pictures about it. Our society is outraged.

Belief

Several Muslims have died as a result of the protests. (Not the hundreds that were killed during this year’s Hajj, admittedly, but then some Muslim deaths are more interesting than others.)

Muslim protesters rage not merely against this single act of blasphemy, but against what this act symbolises. They rage against European arrogance, Western governments’ mafia-style looting of Arab lands, media campaigns demonising anyone in a beard or hijab.

Great anger does not necessarily need great provocation. Anger is cumulative. Ills are totted up until their number is too great to bear. Like breakage of the proverbial camel’s back, after a while, a single straw will be enough.

The media is so saturated with this story, it whips the storm to ever greater intensity. More violence, better story. More coverage, more mileage for incensed non-Muslim columnists. More debate. More invented “Sensible Freedom-loving West vs. Archaic Tyrannical East” binary oppositions. More hate bred on each side.

The more the story is prodded, the angrier it gets.

Politics

In Westminster, an unpopular prime minster consults expensive public relations advisers as to how best to break the news of military action in Iran to a jaded public. The scene is replicated in European and American ministerial chambers.

The problem is that the general public do not see Muslims as “other”. The public are unable to perform the emotional detachment necessary to sanction another aggressive campaign. The ‘C2/D/E’ demographic are still open to manipulation without too much trouble, but the broadsheet readers are currently off-message. Their feeble ethical rebellion cannot stop progress, but it makes the job of presenting a benevolent veneer slightly more demanding.

If only a way could be found that would stop the leftists and pacifists from obstructing the path of Western corporate power. If only we could damage the reputation of Islam and those who follow it. If only something could be done to back Muslims into a corner and create the illusion that the wildest extremists speak for all. If only Islam could be portrayed as unreasonable, backward, dangerous, subversive, unpleasant, stupid.

If only followers of Islam could be hanged by the zeal of its most extreme adherents, in a way that would carve a deep chasm between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We know their weakness. We know which buttons to press. If only we could find a way to use that knowledge to our advantage.

If the flames of such a campaign could be fanned, it would give us the moral high ground. It would hush the whine of middle class pinko indignation and deflect pundits’ attention to such laughably naive concepts as “free speech” and “science versus religion”. While the dinner party set’s attention and sympathies are diverted elsewhere, we’d have just enough leeway to start our Iran campaign and tidy up the dregs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a bonus, we’d probably win the “Are Hamas terrorists or freedom fighters?” argument too.

Of course, expensive public relations firms and governments do not need to ask “if only”. They just need to orchestrate an appropriate story and appropriate coverage. It is easy to guide public thought, and these men and women are experts.

Muslim woman praying Communication

For their part, the media will run any story released to them at any angle required, provided it does not conflict with the needs of their advertisers or shareholders.

Fait accompli

… Well, whaddya know. Pure luck and good timing, of course. Perhaps God is an Englishman after all.

Religion&South Asia&Writing03 Nov 2005 09:41 pm

Open the Kashmir border please, Indian government, for crying out loud. 73,000 dead is quite enough for one disaster zone. Let’s not wait until the harsh mountain winter arrives.

In honour of Eid, may I recommend this delicious Pakistani recipe to Lord Bargain, in which he might use his mercy chick peas.

Hope your novels are going well. I’m keeping up with the word count, just about, but am slightly alarmed by the direction in which my story is going. If all first novels can be read for deep autobiographical truths, I am in big trouble.

Religion&South Asia&Writing01 Nov 2005 09:22 pm

I have managed 1,956 words of my brand new novel so far. I might try and do a bit more tonight, or I might not.

Don’t forget to update your word count on your NaNoWriMo profile. How else am I to spy on you all? Er, I mean how else are we to foster community spirit?

I don’t know what they put in the water chez Alecya G, but at the time of writing this, she’d already swept past the 5,000 word mark. At this rate, she’ll have it done in less than a fortnight! Crivens.

Hope all Hindus (and Sikhs and Jains) are having a happy and peaceful Diwali, even if those of you in Delhi aren’t really up to celebrating much. May Lakshmi visit you first.

Religion04 Oct 2005 10:44 pm

It’s Rosh Hashanah today (well, since sunset last night). And today is the first day of Ramadan.

So: L’shanah tovah!

and Ramadan Mubarak!

and a plague of locusts on anyone who objects to the two greetings sitting side by side on here.

Soundtrack to this post: The sound of the shofar, shortly followed by the call of the muezzin announcing Iftar. Then the harmonious chime of peace in the Middle East.*

(*a fox can dream)

Europe&Gender&Religion20 Apr 2005 02:13 am

We are now officially With Pope, and he:

  • is 78 years old;
  • wants to “stamp out” anti-liberation theology (which mixes Catholicism with the not unreasonable belief that capitalism may have a few negative points);
  • wants to bring about the “re-Christianisation” of Europe and argues against Turkey joining the EU because it is a Muslim country;
  • insists that women are not fit to be choristers or altar servers, let alone priests; and

Are the cardinals following the teachings of some other Jesus? I can’t help wondering if there’s been a mix-up somewhere along the line.

“Excuse me, Father. Have I got the right edition of this book? I can’t find the part where Jesus says I should hate pretty much everyone.”

“On your knees for 200 Hail Marys, you wicked heathen. You dare to question The Word Of God?”

[etc]

American politics&Human rights&Middle East&Religion16 Nov 2004 01:04 am

American Marines have been filmed shooting injured Iraqis at point blank range.

The picture below was taken of one such incident. It took place in a Fallujan mosque.


click photo to read ITN news story

That’s right. In a mosque. If there could possibly be a more inappropriate place to showcase wanton disregard for Muslim life, I can’t think of it. If there’s any image more likely to launch hitherto moderate Muslims into fanatical vengeance fantasies, I can’t imagine it.

(Christians might like to imagine how they’d react to footage of a wounded, dying Western man being shot at point blank range by a group of Arab soldiers on the altar of a church. This doesn’t even take into account the separate horror Muslims will feel at soldiers trampling over prayer rugs with their dirty boots, or the thoughtless, careless way in which such sacred buildings are summarily destroyed.)

One incident was shown on ITN news this evening, with just the soundtrack of the killing heard clearly, but with the picture paused as it was “too distressing to be broadcast”.

In another incident, also shown on British TV tonight, soldiers are seen discussing how a shot Iraqi has fallen between two buildings and cannot escape. One soldier walks up to the gap, aims at the injured man, shoots, and walks away saying “He’s done”. This footage was broadcast in Australia and other countries days ago and has whipped up a storm of outrage trailing right across the planet.

Fallujah is broken, smashed, smelling of “broken corpses and decaying flesh” , with no water or electricity or food. We hear that 50 doctors and nurses have tried to enter but that 17 of these were shot dead by US troops while crossing the River Euphrates. We hear today that the journalist who made that report has been shot by US soldiers.

We hear stray dogs and cats are eating corpses in Fallujah because the bodies aren’t being cleared away. That Iraqi blogger also makes the following claims:

“They report today that Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who witnessed the US and Iraqi National Guard raid the general hospital said, “We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments.”

She said the hospital was targeted by bombs and rockets during the initial siege of Fallujah, and troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall.

Al-Muhannadi went on to say that all of them were put under intense inspection and, “Two female doctors were forced to totally undress.”

She continued on, “I was with a woman in labor,” she said, “The umbilical cord had not yet been cut. At that time, a US soldier shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver. I will never forget this incident in my life.””

We hear that Amnesty expresses concerns about violation of international laws in Fallujah, that the Red Cross and Red Crescent have been denied access because the US says it is capable of treating any remaining civilians, despite the vast numbers of innocent people who have bled to death or died as a result of lack of access to basic medical care.

We learn that typhoid is spreading in “ghost town” Fallujah and that puppet president (unrecognised by Iraqis) Allawi laughably insists there has been not a single civilian loss in Fallujah. No wonder he’s so unpopular with his people. Not even Rumsfeld or Hoon are brazen enough to make that bold a claim. Conservative estimates are currently around 2,000 Iraqi dead. The distinction between “insurgent” and “civilian” is impossible to make.

Military families, traditionally pro-war and pro-government, have made unprecedented breaks with convention by protesting about the Iraq campaign vociferously. A few days ago, families of dead Black Watch soldiers forced their way to Downing Street’s steps to hand in a wreath of protest. Soldiers and their families have spoken out so strongly against this war that the Ministry of Defence scarcely knows how to handle the sudden abandonment of protocol.

And meanwhile, Iraqi sources say the Fallujah massacre has only inspired the able-bodied men of Iraq to fight all the more against their unwanted occupiers. They intend to fight to the death.

This is a war waged without reason, without humanity and without a hope of succeeding in its professed aims. A few years ago, a lot of Muslims disliked the West’s foreign policy, but only a handful of crazed extremists ever took violent revenge. Today, watching thousands upon thousands of people being killed, their homes destroyed and an entire city reduced to rubble, how many more will be preparing to fight back? With pride, life and hope obliterated so publicly and so humiliatingly, what do these nations have to lose by fighting us back? Aren’t these ideal conditions for destructive hate and suicidal vengeance to flourish?

As a global population, we have never been more at risk. Let’s not kid ourselves: we are all pawns in our governments’ callous, acquisitive war games and we will be the ones who have to pay for their greed.

This senseless killing must stop now and those responsible must be brought to justice. If you oppose this war, please make sure your voice is heard.

American politics&Audience participation&British politics&Europe&Global politics&Human rights&Middle East&Race&Religion&Self07 Nov 2004 02:00 pm

Those of you who have trawled through the comments on this blog may be familiar with Katy, the Texan Republican who disagrees with me on every conceivable point. Well, Katy’s written an extensive refutation of my Goodnight America post in her own blog here.

Being up for a squabble, and clinically unable to leave her opinions on Jesus, racism and Bush unchallenged, I confess I responded in similar detail. That response is below.

I warn you: they’re quite long posts. And I still can’t work out how to modify my template for the cutaway technique, even by following the idiot-proof instructions. (I’m blaming the template itself for having tricksy style sheets, naturellement.) So it’s just a big slab of text. Whole paragraphs of the stuff.

But if you enjoy watching war-loving Christian Republicans and bleeding heart British socialists crossing swords, maybe you’ll think reading it is time well spent. It’s your call.

In an earlier post, Jon kindly remarked on my “patience” in responding to another commenter’s dissent. Ha. Jon, I wonder if it’s not so much patience as a natural extension of my British politeness. We apologise when other people push us in the street. (Seriously. We do!)

Besides, while it might be tempting for all sides to take the “Is your head full of marshmallows, dipshit?” angle, that would just shut closed minds even tighter. In all honesty, I’m often shocked at views like Katy’s, but it’s best to hear them. We each surround ourselves with like-minded people, so it’s easy to float along in an ideological bubble. At least this way nobody fools themselves that the world is anything other than a big argumentative soup. Er, so to speak.

American politics&Audience participation&British politics&Europe&Global politics&Human rights&Middle East&Pop culture&Race&Religion&Self&The art of blog07 Nov 2004 01:16 pm

My original post: Goodnight America
Katy’s detailed rebuttal: The Reckoning
This post is my response.

Hello Katy,

You’ve clearly spent time on this and I’m honoured you felt the opinions of an “ill-tempered brat” warrant such detailed attention. I’ll do my best to reply in similar depth.

Before we start, I cant help noticing you refer to me as ‘him’, ‘he’, ‘lad’, ‘fellow’ etc. Mine’s an anonymous blog and my profile contains no reference to my gender. It’s interesting that you made an assumption without checking either way. Then again, this scant regard for research sets the tone for the rest of your post. (It’s a serious comment as well as a cheap shot.) Let’s move onto the main business.

Christianity
Firstly, I agree with your assertion that evangelical Christians are not guaranteed to vote Republican. Obviously not. But most strict evangelical Christians do, and this is the platform the Republican party uses in its election campaigns. Please bear in mind I was differentiating evangelicals from all other branches of Christianity. That’s an important point, and you’d be misinterpreting my words if you assumed I was referring to every type of Christian. Indeed, plenty of Christian Americans (and other nationalities) have no problem with homosexuality, gay marriage and so on. Evangelicals don’t normally approve, but that is only one branch of Christianity. And my point was specific to this branch.

Naturally, every Christian believes they have the ‘right’ interpretation of the Bible. I was educated at Christian schools and am consequently very familiar with the Bible. We could debate Biblical ‘meaning’ for ever and still never agree, as the book contains innumerable contradictions and allegories. Don’t forget it was written in ancient Greek and Hebrew, so unless we speak either of these languages fluently, we can’t ever be 100% sure that the translations we use encapsulate all the subtleties of the original text. I’m well aware of that particular Leviticus quote but, as I say, you can ‘prove’ anything you like with the Bible. If you’d really like to get into a detailed scriptural debate then I’d oblige, but we aren’t likely to change each other’s minds even if we try. Besides, I’ll happily respect your interpretation if you respect other people’s. I’m sure we fundamentally disagree on more or less everything, but I wouldn’t call an alternative view “stupid” the way you do.

Back to Jesus. I wouldn’t call Jesus a ‘liberal’ in the modern American sense, no. I did, however, say he was one of the most tolerant left wing (in the British sense) figures in history. And I stick by this. This theory stands even if someone is not personally a Christian. History describes Jesus as a pacifist socialist (as we define that), regardless of whether you believe he’s the son of God or not. According to the New Testament, Jesus openly consorted with people whom his society despised as immoral. Isn’t that a pretty strong message to Christian bigots? How can any Christians condemn others for doing things they consider sinful when Jesus is quoted saying “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”? How can they defend rabid warmongering if Jesus said “Turn the other cheek” and “Love thy enemy”? I could go on indefinitely but, like I said, we’d probably still never reach an agreement. Perhaps you could check non-Evangelical sources like this Christian pacifist site for an alternative viewpoint to your own.

You rightly point out that not all evangelicals are Republicans, but then fall into the same trap of generalising about liberals. Not all liberals believe in abortion. Not all liberals believe in same sex marriage. Like all other belief systems, there’s an element of disagreement among the people you call ‘liberal’, just as the Christian churches are forever arguing amongst themselves about points of doctrine. That’s human nature. I’d love governments to “leave God and politics apart”, as you say. That would fix the problem I wrote about in the first place.

Hip hop and racism
I’m a big fan of hip hop, so I’m glad you brought that up. Although I’m not sure why you did, as it doesn’t seem to relate to anything I said. Are you citing rappers as the opposite of evangelical Christians? Why? Where’s the link? I note you’ve already posted an opinion on what you consider black racism in an earlier post on your blog, so perhaps it’s an obsession of yours. OK, let’s discuss it with reference to rap.

We’ll disregard for a moment any rap lyrics written by white, Hispanic, Asian and European artists, even if they are equally violent. You’re talking about African American rappers, so I’ll refer to this area alone.

You’ve conveniently managed to ignore the 98% of lyrics which are not in the ‘gangsta’ genre and which don’t advocate violence against anyone. You’ve ignored all examples of poetry, incisive social commentary, lyrics which speak of peace, against violence and in support of racial harmony. You’ve ignored the party anthems and the love songs. You’ve ignored joyful pop grooves and mournful emotional explorations. You’ve even misinterpreted some of the lyrics you actually quote which, when read or heard carefully and in context, you’d realise are spoken in character or as a narrative commentary on social events. But I guess that’s because hip hop is nothing to do with your world, and ignorance breeds fear and mistrust.

Brand Nubian were a militant Nation of Islam crew who loved the controversy their extreme lyrics generated. So what? You’re overestimating the power of music, and underestimating the intellect of the young people who listen to it. I don’t agree with racial separatism or racial supremacy in any form, but I don’t take personal offence at the views of Louis Farrakhan or those who agree with him either. I don’t take offence at your opinions, extreme though they are. Differences of opinion are healthy, so long as everyone has the right to reply.

At this point, I’m tempted to reel off a whole page of racist or religion-intolerant lyrics by white artists, but then I’d be sinking to the same simplistic, blinkered level. So let’s just concentrate on African American rappers.

Such selective accusations of racism are often made when hip hop is discussed by white people who are terrified of black people. Why are they so threatened and appalled by the artistic products of young black working class men, while ignoring any dumb chat from white artists? Perhaps because of repressed guilt about the fact that America’s fortunes (and, yes, Europe’s empires) were built on the back of slave labour? Perhaps because they don’t actually know any black people? Who knows. Ordinary Britain is more racially integrated than America, though our elite institutions are just as white-dominated, so it’s difficult to judge from this side of the Atlantic. All I’d say is that the time I’ve spent in America has included a whole stack of gasp-out-loud moments when I witnessed the way some black people were treated by some whites, and how black society is all but invisible in the white areas of even the most equally-proportioned states. I can only assume this cultural divide is responsible for the half-truths and misunderstandings shown by part of the nation towards hip hop, arguably America’s dominant and most innovative popular art form.

Anyway, this racism charge is deceptive. There are several issues you are missing here:

A – On average, African Americans are at a greatly disadvantaged social position in America compared with white Americans. Like most of the developed world, America’s institutions are inherently racist. There are more African American kids in poverty even than Native American kids. The average black American earns 61% less than the average white American. You don’t need me to explain all this, you must know that black people get a much worse deal in your country than white people do, no matter how talented they are. I could write a whole book on this subject, but it’s pretty basic and obvious, so I won’t insult your intelligence by spelling it out.

B – This power structure puts an entirely different perspective on it. Racism by someone in a position of power is clearly oppression. On the other hand, if someone who’s at the bottom of the heap expresses prejudice against white people, that’s not going to set the heads of rich white people rolling down Main Street USA. Black prejudice is every bit as stupid as white racism, and each perpetuates the other. Racism on any level is a divisive, unconstructive attitude and will never build any social bridges. But are you really telling me you can’t understand why some poor black people are angry with white society? If white people had been enslaved, forcibly segregated then supposedly ‘liberated’ a few decades ago, then told they are equal and should quit whining, while still hitting their heads on an invisible glass ceiling that stops them ascending to the top of almost any social or business group – apart from sport and music, two officially sanctioned entertainment roles – wouldn’t white artists start writing a whole lot of angry lyrics about black people? My guess is: yes. This doesn’t make prejudice OK. But such lyrics make up a tiny minority of this music, and are frequently spoken in character form, to make a point via hyperbole, to use extreme imagery to highlight the violence of the criminal justice system, to explore the dangerous conditions of poverty, to satirise the contradictions of modern American life, to construct metaphors for the greed of big business, and a million other things.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever studied literature or poetry to any great extent, but you’ll agree that a poem which contains the words “I killed my mother today” (for example) does not immediately provoke the reader to say “My God! This poet is telling people they should kill their mothers! Why isn’t something DONE about this?” Not if it’s a white poet anyway. Does anyone think the author of a crime novel is ‘promoting’ murder? Does anyone accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger of ‘promoting’ violence, given the excessive bodycounts in his films? No. Artistic licence and deeper levels of meaning are expected from artists. Look for them in rap and you may be surprised.

C – A lot of rappers are young men. A lot of young male African American rappers start life poor, fiercely intelligent and livid at a society which treats them as second best and fights against them attaining power at every turn. A lot of them respond angrily in words. The bottom line is that a lot of kids of all colours and creeds shoot their mouths off, before they grow up and take a more measured approach. That’s youthful passion for you. Yes, some successful rap artists are violent in real life. Most are not – though they or their security team may carry guns because they feel vulnerable, but that’s probably true of most rich celebrities in your country. Unless they actually take a gun and enact those violent lyrics, I’d suggest they’re protected by your comprehensive freedom of speech legislation and their songs should be taken as fiction and a damning indictment of racial tensions in modern America. Which is what they are.

Needless to say, you also miss the point that some black people are also Christians. Sometimes they’re evangelical Christians. So some could theoretically be bloodthirsty neocon bigots too, just like some white people are. Isn’t it a small world?

America and society
I didn’t state that Christians are more interested in money than non-Christians. If anything, I’d say a truly devout Christian should be less interested in material wealth and more in spiritual wealth than the non-religious. My point referred to the hypocritical corporate-biased Christians who are running the country.

As for my two fake commandments, I suggest you read them again. I was pointing out that these DID NOT appear in the Bible, contrary to the behaviour of some of those same professed Christians. It was a wry joke. Never mind.

The ever-escalating American national debt has less to do with foreign aid than pouring endless money into defence spending and tax cuts for the rich. And the main reason so many Africans are starving is because rich countries like ours screw them over via organisations like the WTO and the IMF, and their own corrupt governments collude with ours. If you’d like to research this point further, I can recommend plenty of comprehensive sources. Try George Monbiot’s The Age of Consent, Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival or former World Bank Vice President Joseph Stiglitz’s Globalisation and its Discontents for some initial background on these structures.

And for the last time: the war in Iraq is nothing to do with terrorism. Iraq had no involvement with acts of terrorism against our countries. 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Arabian, as is boogeyman-in-chief Osama bin Laden. Not Iraqi. Why didn’t America attack Saudi Arabia instead? Because Saudi Arabia provides 25% of your gasoline supply and the Saudi royal family have business and personal connections with Bush’s family and friends, amongst other reasons. Again, I could refer you to any number of authoritative sources on the real state of post-invasion Iraq but perhaps these are two of the most eloquent and touching:
http://www.back-to-iraq.com/
http://www.livejournal.com/users/_vert1go_/

Home stretch
Finally, your numbered points:

1 – Unilateral in the sense that the UN, an organisation to which America belongs, did not permit military action in this case. America decided to do it anyway, followed by lapdog Britain. Kerry isn’t the point here. I am referring to international politics, not local.

2 – 100,000 civilian Iraqis and at least 1,000 soldiers have died violently since 2003. The main cause of death in Iraq is now violence, and plenty of Iraqis are blowing themselves up in a deranged attempt to rid the country of what they see as an illegal occupation. Need I say more?

3 – Yes, I’m aware of Britain’s shameful imperial past. If you’re not aware of America’s current imperial ambitions, you should make it your business to find out.

4 – What happened to conscientious objection and standing up against the school bully?

5 – I find it staggering that you’re clearly so unaware of America’s foreign policy, but this may be down to the education system which you referred to in a previous post.

6 – Yes, I call a place deliberately outside US borders where foreigners are detained in violation of international law without trial or charges, due to their Arab ethnicity, a concentration camp. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a direct label. Amnesty International is equally appalled (“cruel, inhuman [and] degrading treatment in violation of international law”, as they put it), and so is the International Red Cross. The treatment of these prisoners should be a stain on America’s conscience. Again, if you’d care to research it properly – i.e. through a balanced variety of independent sources, not just the White House homepage – you’ll learn that a huge number of Arab prisoners in Guantanamo were captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance with a price on each head. These prisoners are not guilty of any act of terrorism. In fact, many of them are men who had been forcibly conscripted to the Afghan army by force and who were captured during US violence in Afghanistan. How’s that for irony?

7 – I do indeed blame the lazy, biased media. But those who do not scratch the surface to find the truth beneath are equally culpable.

Britain never had free gun ownership, so I’m not sure where your odd crime statistic point comes from. Handguns were banned entirely a while ago, but the general ownership of guns has never existed here. In the words of the late Bill Hicks: “In the USA, where guns are not just legal, they’re a way of life, there were 23,000 deaths from handguns. In England, where guns are illegal, there were 14 deaths from handguns. Now let’s go through those numbers again because they’re a little baffling at first glance. England, where no one has guns: 14 deaths. United States… 23,000 deaths from handguns. But there’s no connection… And you’d be a fool and a communist to make one. There’s no connection to having a gun and shooting someone with it and not having a gun and not shooting someone.”

Lastly, I reiterate that Osama’s not worried. Bush isn’t even looking for him. He admitted that a couple of weeks ago.

Thanks for reading and enjoy a peaceful Sabbath.

American politics&Middle East&Religion03 Nov 2004 01:04 pm

At the time of writing this, which is midday in Britain and 7am in Washington, the US election result hinges on Ohio and Florida. And it looks like Bush has probably won.

The gay marriage vote, which coincided with the presidential election, would certainly have galvanised more evangelical Christians to vote than usual. This section of society always shows support for a Republican leader.

It has never ceased to amaze me how these professed followers of Jesus – probably the most tolerant, left wing figure in history – are the most bigoted, bloodthirsty and money-obsessed of all. They manage to find Biblical ‘proof’ that homosexuality or female priests, say, are prohibited by God, yet conveniently ignore any other interpretations. They even ignore the most basic tenets of the Christian religion. It’s obvious to everyone but them that the Bible can be made to ‘prove’ anything you want it to. If any right wing Christians could show me the commandments where God states “Thou shalt despise anyone who isn’t white, male, affluent and heterosexual” and “Thou shalt not kill Americans but life anywhere outside that country is cheap and disposable”, I’d be delighted to be set straight.

So the world faces another four years of Bush’s bullying. And the world is getting angry.

The world’s people are tired of Bush’s unilateral decision making, his arrogance, his blatant misleading of the American people about what is really happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. They are tired of the killing, the empire-building, oil-crazed machismo. They are tired of Bush’s contempt for the world outside American borders, his threatening aggression towards other nations, his simplistic good/evil “you’re either with us or against us” polarity. They are tired of the disproportionate pollution caused by American over-consumption and the carefree withdrawal from international treaties on carbon emissions, because Americans’ “rights” to devour the planet are more important than saving our home from devastation. They are tired of the unfair trade laws, the way America blackmails smaller countries, gobbles up their trade, strips their resources and spits them out. They are tired of the flouting of international law, the concentration camps in Guantanamo Bay, the torture and illegal imprisonment of Muslims against whom there is no evidence at all, who may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and have fallen victim to the pre-emptive arrest mania. They are tired of Bush’s ignorance, his abject failure to comprehend any political concept more complex than “We good. They bad.” They are tired of the fictions fed to them, tired of the laughable pretence that there even exists an organised Muslim fundamentalist terrorist network. They are tired of the way America’s leaders claim victim status, when America is the richest, most powerful nation on earth. They are tired of the lies, tired of being trampled by a war machine which thinks 100,000 human lives are a reasonable price if it means a cheaper gasoline supply.

And what of the people who voted? The world has always stayed loyal to American citizens, feeling that they have been duped by their leaders. But Bush winning a majority of the popular vote? That will reduce the sense of international fraternity and reduce international sympathy. It’s incredible to Europeans or Asians, but 93% of Americans don’t hold a passport. They feel no need to leave their own national borders and inevitably aren’t too bothered what the rest of the world thinks. The Americans who do travel internationally are in greater personal danger than ever before, but the vast majority won’t even notice.

And meanwhile, in a mountain cave somewhere in Pakistan, Osama is lounging in front of a TV screen laughing his head off.


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