Friday 11 March 2011

Holier Than Thou (Part 1)

John Donne  (1571-1631),  English  Poet
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod is washed away by the sea, Europe is the less , .........................................any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;  and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

About a week ago the print and  electronic media in England were full of the news of the atrocity committed against  the Christian Minister for Minorities in Pakistan, assassinated by gunmen in Islamabad.  The killing  was mourned as the death of a brave man - a martyr who was prepared to die for his beliefs, for his vocal and strong stand against Pakistan's Blasphemy Law, a martyr who had anticipated his end at the hands of extremist Muslims.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams displayed his indignation at the martyrdom of a co-believer.

Read. "A truly Islamic state would protect Christians" - Times Article Monday 7 March 2011.  Archbishop of Canterbury

Sometimes, or most of the times - depending on the agenda - well-intentioned and good people, in their desire to right a wrong, get carried away by the heat of the moment and end up forsaking the context of events, of failing to see the forest for the trees.

Pakistan is a huge, tangled, and bloodstained forest.  Much blood, innocent or otherwise had been shed in that blighted country way before the assassination of the Christian Minister for Minorities.  With the collaboration of shady politicians Pakistan had been used as a Trojan Horse as well as a launching pad for the West's, especially America's war with Communist Russia in the 1980s and later in their "War on Terror'. 

Hundreds or even thousands of innocent civilians have been murdered  by different agencies and by an assortment of methods from suicide bombs to American drones.  There are many dead and dying trees in this forest - and the late Christian Minister is not the first or the last.

When the Archbishop , in the second paragraph, agonises about the supporters of such atrocities, that  "they inhabit a world of fantasy, shot through with paranoid anxiety"  and that they  undermine  "Koranic ethics" (?) he should be reminded of Tony Blair  - a "statesman" who is both a paranoid and an opportunist, and who also had the privilege of straddling both Anglican and Catholic "biblical ethics".

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, declared:

"This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today.  It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life and we, the democracies of this world, are going to have to come together and fight it together and eradicate this evil completely from our world."

What is the difference between this chilling battle-cry and that of the extremists in Pakistan?  This  "War Against Evil"  is but an excuse for another Crusade.  (Wasn't that the word used - a slip of the tongue, no? - by George Bush?)  It's a revival of the old hostility against Islam.  Christianity good, Islam bad!  Christ is a Saviour, Muhammad is a Blasphemer!

To widen the picture of that forest : is the good Archbishop aware of another war, the Christian Holy War based on 'Biblical ethics' to convert Muslims, in the Middle East especially and in almost every corner of the Muslim world?   The video below explains:
 "Conflict" we hear, "' is a natural part of the Christian life (minutes 8.36) Our activities can lead to people dying.  But to spend the eternity in heaven and not in hell - seems like a good deal.  Even if it results in a physical punishment here on earth"  (minutes 2.42).


In paragraph 6 of his article, the Archbishop took it upon himself to tell the Muslims how to mend their ways.  He called upon an "international Islamic intelligentsia" to do something about the "level of abuse that characterises the practice of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan".

The practice of blasphemy laws is not a monopoly of the Muslims.  Even 'secular' Western states lay down strict laws  against treason and betrayal of the state and its ethos.

Private Bradley  Manning, accused of  passing on secret documents to WikiLeaks faces another 'serious new charge' (3 March 2011) .... for 'aiding the enemy', a capital offense (i.e. the death penalty) in USA under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. 

During the First World War, British soldiers, mainly very young men who ran away because they could not bear the trauma of  a horrific war were subjected to capital punishment.  The official figures recorded 3,000 were sentenced to death.  306 were executed by firing squad.  But that does not include the unofficial figures of those executed in the field by their Officers without recourse to the law.   Of course they are classified as 'deserters',  of committing treason, a secular version of being an apostate. But the West will claim the dispensation that this is War.  What on earth is going on then, in the Middle East and Pakistan?

Back to the Archbishop's backyard :  the Blasphemy Law in England was not abolished until 8 May 2008. It started as a canon (like Sharia) law in the 16th century, and became common law during the 17th century whereby blasphemy against Christianity became an offence .  It was a tool mainly for persecuting atheists and Unitarians.

 In 1656, a Quaker, James Naylor was  'flogged, branded and had his tongue pierced by a red-hot poker.'  The last person to fall foul of the Blasphemy Law was William Gott who in 1921 was punished with 9 months hard labour when he described Jesus as a clown.   However, in  1977 Mary Whitehouse brought a charge of blasphemy against the publication of  James Kirkup's poem  'The love that dares to speak its name" by the periodical  Gay News.  This revival of blasphemous libel was supported by Lord Scarman when he stated that "I do not subscribe to the view that the common-law offence of blasphemous libel serves no useful purpose in modern law ....... to safeguard the tranquillity of the kingdom" during the House of Lords Appeal.

There were other cases: for example, when Mary Whitehouse and The Nationwide Festival of Light (an evangelical organization) attempted to censor Monty Python's Life of Brian .  In  1988 a petition for Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses)  to be prosecuted was rejected because the law only protects Christian beliefs.

Despite the abolition of the Blasphemy Law, the 1989 18 minute film Visions of Ecstasy which "includes a sexualised representation of Saint Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the Cross"  remained banned under the blasphemy law.

But to cut a long story short and to dispel claims that 'we're not like that anymore" - do remember that it took the Archbishop's motherland over 400 years to "form a coherent judgement on the level of abuse that characterises the practice of the blasphemy laws" - and I'm only quoting his injunction to the "international Islamic intelligentsia".
More in Part 2


Wan Sharif said...

Oh my.. You sure put up facts that are difficult for those "holier than thou" to dispel, brushed off or swept them under the carpet..
Waiting for your second part...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing with us this video and your well written posting. An eye opener. I knew all along Bush is in this holy war with Muslims despite his denials. And the sad part is, there are many so called Muslim nations are helping Bush with this war by being silent and allowing USA and her allies destroying Iraq.
I shall wait for your Part 2...
Thanks so much Kak.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Wan Sharif,

I'm happy you agree.

The second part will have to wait because my 'silly' story just had to be told.

anak si-hamid said...


Thank you very much for your comment. It's very much appreciated.

I'm always pleased to meet another thinking spirit.