Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk

I put Robert Fisk's book on my reading list because I was intrigued by his thesis that the dynamics in the Middle East are still very much driven by the legacy of WW1 even though to us in the West that war has become such a remote memory.

To be honest the book is just too long a read for me. I did, however, dip into his chapter on the genocide of the Armenians and so, if such a thing is possible and not too incoherent to be saying, it has been a time of mourning in my Turkish soul.

As a Turk, in reading it, I did not find Fisk intending or wanting to be personally offensive to Turks. I did not detect any attempt in the chapter at moralising, or demonising or seeking to feel superior at the expense of Turks.

It was a moving historical essay is all I can say.

And the chapter ended with the following story of a blind Armenian in a nursing home clutching his Braille Bible:

"Down the corridor, a very old man is lying on his bed.He is Haroutioun Kebedjian. He is holding in his left hand a bible in braille and his right hand is fingering embossed paper letters. He greets me with a smile, sightlessly. It is now the year 2000 and he is ninety-three years old, so he was eight when he survived the Armenian Holocaust. His memory is as clear as his emotions :

"We lived in Dortyol.My father was called Sarkis and my mother was Mariam. There were ten children including me and my brothers and sisters. The Turks collected all the peoples with their donkeys and horses. We were to go to Aleppo and Ras el-Ain. But they started killing us on the way. The Turks forced us to the Habur river and by the time we got there, there was only my mother and my sister and me left. They told all the women and the men to take off all their clothes. My sister was eighteen and a man on a horse came and grabbed her and put her on his horse. He did this in front of us. It happened in front of my eyes. I was not blind then. And they started to beat my mother. As she begged them not to take my sister, the Turks beat her to death. I have always remembered that as she died, she screamed my name :'Haroutioun! Haroutioun!' Later an Arab Bedouin took to me his house and I stayed there for three years. The war was over and then people came saying they were looking for Armenian orphans. I said I was Armenian, so they took me to Aleppo. There I caught a virus that affected my eyes. I was suddenly blind and I was only eleven years old. Until I was twenty-three I was filled with rage because the Turks took my sister and beat my mother in front of my eyes until she died. But when I was twenty-three, I felt this was not the right way to be a man, so I began to pray to God so he would see me. I was making peace with myself. Now I am ready to meet my God. I am at peace. Last year when the big earthquake happened in Turkey, it killed so many Turks. And I prayed to God for those Turks - I prayed for those poor Turkish people. "(Fisk, p.435-436)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poem - "Stillness & Trusting"

You've called on me to trust you
and lean on your strength.

You've told me to listen
and quiet my heart.

To still this mad tumult
and detach my worries.

But stillness is hard
in a world that screams.

And trusting is hard
when I see the world's pain.

Where is the stillness
when the bomb rocks the earth?

Where is the trust
when the child is crying?

Oh God, they are crying,
Don't you hear all their fears?

Rescue these crying,
these dying, these hurt.

Save all the people
Who've called on your name.

Redeem a tired earth,
Pocked with shots and shots.

Open the eyes shut tight on this pain.

You've called me.
You've called us.
Please show us how
To give out your peace.
To hear in the violence
Your shalom -- your peace.

by Kirbee @ Memento Vivere

Wednesday, May 24, 2006



Corporate Responsibility

Here is my amended, slightly truncated and re-ordered version of Michael Novak's list as reported by Cantillon's Paradise:

1. To satisfy customers with goods and services of real value.

2. Make a reasonable return on the funds entrusted to the business corporation by its investors.

3. To create new jobs (where this does not conflict with responsibility number 1).

4. To promote invention, ingenuity, and in general, "progress in the arts and useful sciences".

5. To defeat envy through generating upward mobility and putting empirical ground under the conviction that hard work and talent are fairly rewarded.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More on Da Vinci

Steve Bishop over at "Accidental Blog" quotes Scott McKnight (Jesus Creed Blog) in saying that "the Da Vinci Code's central factor is that Jesus was married".

Exactly. The rest is fluff.

He also has a link to an article written by Nancy Calvert-Koyzis on this so-called 're-sexualising' of "the Magdalene" to help us, along with Dr.Garry Williams (Lecturer of Church History at Oak Hill Theological College), make the journey from Dan Brown's Fiction to Mary Magdalene's Faith .

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Dictionary of Christian Terms

The Pope
The Pope is the President of Christianity. He is elected every four years by the Congress of Cardinals, which is divided into the Senate and the Holy House of Representatives. As president, the pope can veto important pieces of legislation, which he tends to do. The pope is also magical, and cannot be seen with the naked eye except for one hour on Christmas Eve every year.

The Bible
The Bible was written by God as a merchandising tie-in to His blockbuster film "The Ten Commandments." Each book of the Bible is named after a person who features prominently in it, for example, the Book of Numbers, which is named after Herschel Numbers, who invented numerals. The Bible was so successful that God wrote a sequel, "Bible II: On to Rome," now generally called "The New Testament." Protestants believe the Bible is literal and exactly true in every detail except the description of the Eucharist, while Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible.

Catholics are the New York Yankees of Christianity. They are the biggest and wealthiest team, and their owner is intensely controversial (this makes St. Francis of Assisi the Derek Jeter of Catholicism: discuss). Catholics all wear matching uniforms, and are divided into "parishes," or "squadrons," to make choosing softball teams easier. Catholics are rigidly controlled by a hidebound hierarchy that starts with priests and ends with priests' housekeepers. Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible, eat meat, or refrain from worshipping statues.

click HERE if you want to read more.

Advice to the Oversensitive

click HERE .

Suicide of the West - The Saga Continues

This morning on BBC Radio 4, as I was driving into work, I was hearing the unmistakable accent of Tariq Ramadan speaking English.

Not before too long it became clear they were discussing with one of the authors (Chris Smith) his recently published book entitled
"Suicide of the West".

I had already blogged about "the suicide of the west" and T.Ramadan is my favourite Islamic thinker to put under the microscope .

Monday, May 15, 2006

DaVinci Code Link


H/T Thinking Christian .

The Most Effective Argument Against Roman Catholicism

click HERE .

Not conclusive, of course, otherwise the Vatican would have to close shop.

But, there are some interesting points in the comments section where the argument swings to the classic visible/invisible church distinction based on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

The problem with that proof-text is that the field is "the world" not "the church" .

Big difference.

Nobody made any points on the opposite end of the spectrum which is that of 'sacerdotalism' (except perhaps tangentially with a comment about the Sacraments) ;but, there were epistemic points on the need for having , or otherwise, a supreme interpreting authority telling us what the Scripture means.

Yet, the church is not merely about epistemology. It is historical. It is relational. It is organic. It is both natural and supernatural. It is also, last but not least, to use a dirty word, hierarchical !

But, most of all it's continued existence and the manner of it is simply a mystery.

I didn't say it. The Bible does HERE immediately following the section about the church being "the pillar and foundation of the truth" which you can read for your self HERE .

Saturday, May 13, 2006

'Writing Turkey' : Middlesex U. Conference

Why is this conference called 'Writing Turkey' ?

It is meant to echo, we were told, the expression "talking turkey" .

After a late 10:10 a.m. start, the Conference quickly got going with a historical bang under the sub-head 'Writing Then' with Professor Gabriel Piterberg's (pictured above) paper on Ottoman succession involving the political machinations leading up to the assassination of Genc Osman during the 1617-23 period.

Things apparently hit the fan when Genc Osman wanted to transfer the imperial capital from Istanbul to Damascus or Bursa or some other point East. This attempt was seen and feared as being an attempt to transfer power from the imperial centre to the provinces. If I understood him correctly, Professor Piterberg saw this as a paradigm for a recurring phenomenon in Ottoman history which has been coined by Cemal Kafadar as "schizoid mental topography". All that he said suggested to me that this concept may shed some light on the Kemalist elitism of modern Turkey.

Continuing the 'Writing Then' theme, David Barchard (pictured left) a historian currently living and working in Ankara presented a paper on what was being written by British politicians and pundits about the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century. His starting point was 1821 marking the Greek War of Independence and the setting up of a "mono-ethnic state", as he put it. He quoted Richard Madden's (1830) statement on the situation concerning Greeks and Turks in Crete.

He also focused on the massacre of Bulgarians by re-settled Circassians (makes you wonder why Circassians were re-settled in Bulgaria) in 1876 at which point he dates the complete collapse of the turcophile lobby in Britain. He mentioned a quote by E.G. Bennett (1913) illustrating how Turkey had been the victim of it inability to counter the p.r. power of the press.

The next speaker spoke on Ottoman women writers of the 19th century. Mentioned were Zeynep Hanim, Melek Hanim and Halide Edip Adivar. That brought us to the end of the historical portion and to our first coffee break.

Following the break, Professor Tunc Aybak (pictured right) kicked off the decidedly political 'Writing Turkey into Europe' portion of the proceedings with a talk on so-called 'Eurasianism'.

"What's this ?" you may well ask.

First, it is a recognition by both Turkey and Russia of their common answer, perspective and historical experience to the question :

"What does Asia mean to us?" (as asked by Dostoevsky in "Goktepe" and exemplified by the two protagonists in Orhan Pamuk's novel "White Castle").

I personally would also have added the related question :

"What does Europe mean to us ?"

And in fact Professor Aybak quoted Pushkin as saying, with reference to Russia, that "the state is the only European".

Apparently 'Eurasianism' was raised to the level of official discourse in Turkey by Tuncer Kilinc at a conference in 2002 well attended by Turkish political elites of all stripes and persuasions.

Some leading proponents of Eurasianism are Alexander Dukin ("a leader of the Eurasian movement"), Atilla Ilhan ("the oldest Eurasianist"), Ismail Gaprinski and Sultan Galiyev (two Tatar intellectuals).

Some core values of Eurasianism are an opposition to U.S unilateralism and to Anglo-American liberalism.

The following speaker Professor Mehmet Ugur pointed to the existence of a consistent history of strong Turkish reservations to EU integration chiefly classed in two historical periods :

1) 1959-1974 characterised by ambivalence for economic reasons and
2) 1999 to the present day characterised by ambivalence due to identity/security issues.

Next on after the second chap, Fadi Hakura promised to "prove" to us by appealing to poll after poll and survey after survey that Turkey was not "confused" on the issue of EU accession.

After listening to him I was more not less convinced about the existence of genuine cognitive dissonance issues in Turkish society with regard to EU accession.

Next came our star and celebrity personality of the day : Mr. Mehmet Ali Birand(pictured left). He was the sole speaker in the 'Writing Turkey Today' segment giving us the 'low down', the fresh scoop, the word on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, as it were.

He saw relations with the EU and IMF as the key measures for the success or failure of the AKP ruling party and commented that the AKP must stick with these institutions or secularists (like him?) would "fry them", presumably at the polls.

He was insistent that the European project was "the only" security and guarantee of secularism and democracy in Turkey. (If that is the case, it does make you wonder about the forces arrayed against secularism and democracy).

Birand referred to the existence of a love/hate relationship between the secularists and the AKP yet seemed to think it noteworthy to mention that the ruling party did not provoke the populace during the Cartoon Crisis as nearly all other Islamic countries had done.

He did, however, come back to the point that Erdogan's candidacy for the Presidency in 2007 would create political tensions in the country after that date. He also added not to expect much in the way of substantive progress on EU-TR relations until after the elections

Birand must have felt he had to respond to Aybak's paper on Eurasianism since he addressed it directly by expressing a fear of Turkish assimilation by Russia itself . (Aybak later rebutted this fear by mentioning the serious social dislocations occasioned by the collapse of the Soviet state system which left Russia impotent to 'swallow' up Turkey).

Birand concluded his piece with the conviction that not even a French referendum could prevent TR's accession to the EU (how so ? by force of his own personality, perhaps?).

Fazile Zahir was next up in the presentation on 'Writing for Tomorrow'. She had apparently chosen to live in a village of 250 called Canli somewhere in Mugla. (Whatever for? What is she trying to prove?).

Anyway, all she had to say was a bunch of unflattering anecdotes about the domestic life of her villager neighbours. She also gave us a sociology lesson on the "tanidik" system for getting things done and on the role of family solidarity.

She's in favour of Turkey joining the EU but only because it would serve to elevate it in the realm of human rights etc. I certainly got the feeling she had no real love for the people she had chosen to live among. To her, they seem no more than guinea pigs or lab rats in some social experiment she is running.

Afterwards during the coffee time, one of the earlier lecturers called her an "orientalist" . In these circles, there is no greater insult one can hurl at anyone the to call them an 'orientalist'. Especially to someone who still (for some incomprehensible reason) clings to her Turkish identity : "Am I 'Faz' or 'Fazile' ? I am both", she says. Yeah, sure hon.

Next with Alev Adil, Andrew Finkel and Maureen Freely came what we might call the PEN sessions.

Finkel (right) gave a fascinating inside look at Turkish journalism from about mid-1980 onward. He apparently worked for GUNES. It was founded by Asil Nadir for the purpose of securing for himself political influence and safety. Finkel's feeling is that the media of the time was not a vehicle for public reform. Newspapers were bought by rich industrialists and businessmen almost as fashion accessories. But now, he says, the media have changed and they have to make a living on their own merits by earning the respect of their readership.

I think this presentation was really crying out for more in depth analysis and left unanswered, mainly because of time constraints, questions about the reasons for the problems experienced and why we should be confident that things were now better or on a better footing.

In the final session we had Labour councilor Nilgun Canver chime in and say what politicians normally say at such events.

The 'Open Discussion' time generated much heat and some light. People seemed bewitched by and kept coming back to this Eurasianism concept and kept asking and commenting on it which called forth some more interesting input from Tunc Aybak.

There was also quite a bit of discussion, as a result, of how to define Europe : "What really is Europe?" people kept asking out loud.

The twofold implication of this question (and the ensuing discussion) is that "Europe" surely is a very nebulous concept and that whatever it is, Turkey should not be excluded from it.

Well, nobody said it, but again most surely the elephant in the room must be that Christianity was one of if not the most defining thread of what 'Europe' and European identity has meant throughout most of its recorded history.

I did not have the face to stand up and make a comment to this effect since Europe itself had decided NOT to make any mention or reference to its Christian heritage when drawing up the European Constitution.

What then is the most excellent basis for any overarching identity ?

Perhaps some of us need to recover it afresh, and some of us need to discover it for the first time. If you're wondering what I mean click HERE to find out.

But back to the Conference : If you don't think Europe is about Christianity then it must be about Human Rights , right ?

That's what some people said; most notably Alev Adil. But, just when everybody thought there was agreement in the room Tunc Aybak jumped up from his seat and raised the temperature of the room a few degrees by saying the U.S. (by which I think he really meant "the West" thus including "Europe" in his indictment) had lost the moral high ground in that area since 9/11.

M. Ali Birand made the closing statement by saying, in effect, that Turkish accession was in danger only if the European economy did not ramp up over the next few years as lots and lots of money ($40 BILLION just to upgrade the agricultural infrastructure) would be needed for the integration of Turkey into the EU.

Mehmet Ali Dikerdem who, along with Gerald MacLean, had been the overall organisers and administrators of this day conference then dismissed us.

So in conclusion, all this plus a nice Turkish lunch layed out by Iznik Restaurant: £15

Feeling Turkish again for a day : PRICELESS.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ahmadinejad Letter Deciphered

While it is tempting to dismiss this letter as a loony bit of correspondance , THIS combined with the admission of the Speaker of the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) HERE as highlighted HERE suggests quite strongly that the message Iran is sending the U.S. and the world is that it is ready, willing and even eager to go to war.

Given the theocratic nature of that government, it cannot be assumed they will take decisions in a utilitarian manner.

And so the analysis suggests they might even be willing to start off the proceedings. I'm not sure about that but it cannot be ruled out.

If you are an investor and have not yet taken positions in gold, silver or oil this might be the time to do it.

UPDATE : Bush Letter to Ahmadinejad

Interviews of Donald Rumsfeld

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

Christian Zionism

Prompted by a visiting lecture, I and one of our college lecturers have engaged in a couple of rounds of friendly discussions on this topic.

His contention is that Gentile believers have become ‘Israel’ without the need of converting to Judaism as per Paul’s argument in Romans 4 and that, therefore, the land promises to Jews are OUT and believers inherit “the world” i.e. “cosmos” as we have it in Romans 4:13 .

I’m with him for the first part of his argument (which is supported in Galatians also) but not with him for the second part.

Why not ?

I contend that it is BOTH-AND rather than EITHER-OR which is how Replacement Theology would have it. The Apostle Paul never preached a REPLACEMENT only an INCLUSION of the Gentiles. Us Gentiles have now turned that around into a “cuckoo in the nest syndrome” and pushed the Jewish egg out of nest and are still doing it.He seemed personally uncomfortable with the term “replacement” but essentially this is what he is doing.

But I digress.

More to point, my question is what then do you do with a scripture like Matthew 23: 37-39 ?

Unless this Scripture assumes a) the presence of a Jewish religious leadership b) in Jerusalem c) at the Second Coming (yet future) d) with a national conversion you’re in for a tortuous session of having to explain away Jesus’ own words.

Of course, if you simply take Jesus at His word, what he says dovetails perfectly with Paul’s argument in Romans 11:25-26 where the exegesis is clearly of “all Israel” coming to faith AFTER “the full number of the Gentiles has come in”.

What could be simpler?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Your Cyber Identity

An eye opening case on what a litte cyber sleuthing can uncover about you these days.

"Spirit" versus "Letter" of the Law

Steven Guess over at Digitally Arranged raises the issue.

I do think the confusion arises mostly because there is unfortunately a false opposition created in the use of terms like "spirit of the law" and "letter of the law".

These terms imply that there is something “wrong” or “unspiritual” about the “letter” of the law. There is indeed something wrong but the fault is to be found elsewhere, as we shall see.

For one thing, it's the nature of the beast that all "laws" or "instructions" must be applied within a hierarchy of good ends. It has to be so. Otherwise, we would need to have a written law to address every single eventuality in which case there just would not be enough books in the world to contain such a law.

There is, therefore, a natural need for discernment and prayer for guidance and for wisdom for true compliance to “law”, more especially to “God’s law” which is what is in view in Steven’s post.

Of course, there is also the related question, which is hardly ever raised, of whether people have the innate moral ability to keep the “law” or “letter of the law”, if you will.

It is usually just assumed or ignored and hardly ever questioned. Perhaps this is where the difficulty lies. Perhaps the (false) dichotomy created between the so-called “spirit” and “letter” of the law merely masks own moral imperfection.

And, this is exactly the teaching of Christianity and the Bible and the reason why Jesus Christ died for us on the cross.

BBC sees Blogs as a Threat

Excellent and penetrating analysis of the phenomenon over at USS Neverdock

BNP tries to butter up Evangelicals

HERE for the full story at "Indigo Jo Blogs".
Also of interest is the PDF document mentioned in the comments section.
BTW, I had already blogged about the slimy BNP's attempt to co-opt Christianity HERE .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Great Commission

My notes on the message preached at the
Bethel Evangelical Church in Otley
on Sunday morning the 30th of April :

On Making Disciples :

1) we need to spend a lot of time with the LORD ...
2) ... becoming like the LORD
3) resources are important BUT it's disciples that make disciples - it's a relationship.
4) "baptising" 1st then "the Lord's Supper"
5) "teaching" : is about putting off the 'old man' and putting on the 'new man' ( Romans 6:8-14 )
6) it is mandated by Jesus who has "all authority" to command and arrange resources.
7) "I am with you always" : "all forsook me but the LORD stood by me" ( 2 Timothy 4:16-17 )

May the LORD bless his Word to us.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tariq Ramadan 'Muslim Reformation' 'Dispatches' Channel 4

In this programme, Tariq Ramadan takes us on a tour of various Islamic centres in various countries ranging from the UK, France, Germany, Denmark and Pakistan.

Ajmal Masroor an imam in the UK speaks up in favour of Ramadan’s agenda of reviving Ijtihad to search for answers for an Islam in Europe. Abdul Wahid of the Hizb ut Tahrir organisation is not convinced or impressed accusing Ramadan of having a “colonised mind” .

Ramadan is not deterred insisting on “a necessity to look for new answers” by re-examining passages of the Koran in their textual context with a view to extracting an interpretation or application for the Muslim in Europe.

Ramadan then, with the help of some Islamic scholars or imams, takes a look at two issues (there was a third; but, he went through it so quickly that I missed it): that of cutting the hand of the thief and the permission in the Koran for men to beat their wives (Koran 4:34)

With regard to the cutting off of the hand Ramadan spoke with Musharraf Hussain of the Kadimia Institute who also happens to be the principal of the “Islamia School” in Nottingham. Hussain claimed the injunction (about cutting the hand of the thief) came “in the context of a high level of social justice” so the implication is that the injunction is merely a warning which would rarely be implemented, if at all. I don’t think any serious person could find this utopic explanation either supported by history or practice. So it was not at all convincing.

Secondly, he visited Sabiha El Zayat who leads a Koranic school for women in Berlin. They were obviously disturbed by Koran 4:34 where the husband is allowed to beat or hit (as most translations have it) his wife, El Zayat was arguing that this verse needs to be interpreted in the context of what else the Koran says about marriage. (OK, what does it say elsewhere in the Koran about marriage? And can it have anywhere a high view of marriage as Ephesians 5:25-33 ?) Probably not.

However, El Zayat focused on the original Arabic word used [“darba”] which made her argument even less convincing. This word has come from Arabic into Turkish and always means only one thing : “a blow” as in striking a blow . Well, if Muslims can convince themselves “mutawaffeeka ” does NOT mean “dying” and can say as a result (against all first hand eye witness reports) that Jesus did not die on the cross then they can easily convince themselves that “darba” does not mean “a blow” .

Integration is necessary and is also largely an individual manner. Each person must integrate in his own way. However, there is integration and there is integration with nobility. That can mean different things but surely it must also mean the ability to discard Mohamed as a false prophet or Islam as a false religion also.

Ramadan is coming close to this point without actually going all the way. “Is Islam really reformable ?” is the question left open and unanswered but credibility and honesty lies with Ramadan’s critics and based on what they have said during this programme their conclusion is a resounding “No” .