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Video of Me Playing the ‘Rights of Man’ Hornpipe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 16/12/2020 - 10:26pm in

Here’s a bit of British folk music from the radical tradition. I’ve just put up on my YouTube channel a short, six minute video of myself playing, or trying to play, an 18th century hornpipe celebrating The Rights of Man, one of the books of the great 18th century English radical democrat, Tom Paine. He was born the son of a Thetford staymaker, and a supporter of the American Revolution. His pamphlet, Common Sense, was written to defend it, and attacks the institutions of the British monarchy and aristocracy. He was initially a supporter of the French Revolution, but turned against that as a perversion of his principles. The Rights of Man was written as a defence of republicanism. Although it was massively popular with a print run of 200,000 copies, it was denounced by the upper classes up and down Britain and burned on village greens before being finally banned by royal decree. Not surprisingly it still had a huge underground circulation in Scotland and Ireland. Paine eventually emigrated to America where he died. I think he was too radical for the Americans, although The Rights of Man was praised and regarded as highly influential by several American presidents. Unfortunately, his remains weren’t allowed to rest quietly. A fan, John Cobbett, dug them up and brought them back to Blighty. Unfortunately, he went bankrupt and the skeleton was seized as an asset, before it was ruled that it wasn’t. The skeleton disappeared and no-one knows what has happened to it.

I found the sheet music to this, as well as a brief description of Paine’s life and career, which I read out in the video, in Robin Williamson’s English, Welsh, Scottish & Irish Fiddle Tunes (New York: Oak Publications 1976). I play it on a keyboard, but with the setting on violin so that it sounds as it was originally intended to be played. Or as close I can manage it. The arrangement printed in the book is Scots.

Rights of Man Hornpipe – YouTube

The 2020 Besterman Lecture: Who were the French Revolutionaries?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 6:32pm in

Tags 

history, france

TORCH Goes Digital! presents a series of weekly live events Big Tent - Live Events! Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. In collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, TORCH is delighted to support the Annual Besterman Lecture, 2020
Lecture by Professor William Doyle. Introduced by Karen O'Brien (Head of Humanities Division, Oxford University) and Gregory S. Brown (General Editor of Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment and Senior Research Fellow, Voltaire Foundation). Moderated by Professor Lauren Clay, Vanderbilt University.

When Napoleon in 1799 declared that the French Revolution was over, he said that was because it was now established on the principles with which it began. The implication was that much of what had happened over the preceding decade of upheaval had not been in accordance with those principles. Napoleon took care, of course, not to state what they were: his constitution was the first since 1789 not to contain a declaration of basic rights. Yet everyone during the Revolution claimed to be acting on revolutionary principles, or denounced their opponents for betraying them. Can we distinguish between those who held to and those who ignored or compromised revolutionary aspirations? This lecture will make the attempt, challenging some of the most enduring assumptions in revolutionary historiography.

Professor William Doyle

Professor William Doyle is Professor Emeritus of History and Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol. Professor Doyle is a British historian, specialising in 18th-century France, and is most notable for his one-volume Oxford History of the French Revolution (1st edition, 1989; 2nd edition, 2002; 3rd edition, 2018). Professor Doyle one of the leading revisionist historians of the French Revolution, obtaining his doctorate from the University of Oxford with a thesis entitled The parlementaires of Bordeaux at the end of the eighteenth century, 1775-1790 - he is also the author of sixteen books on French and European history, five of which have been translated into Chinese. Professor Doyle is also a fellow of the British Academy and a co founder of the The Society for the Study of French History.

Introduced by:

Karen O'Brien, Head of Humanities Division, Oxford University. Before taking on this role in 2018, Professor O’Brien was Vice Principal (Education) and Professor of English Literature at King’s College, London. At King’s she oversaw institutional strategy for all undergraduate and postgraduate students, the university Maths school, admissions and widening access, and the financing and implementation of student-facing capital projects. She implemented major changes in the areas of online degrees and digital learning, new classroom and clinical teaching spaces, careers and co-curricular learning. Prior to this, she was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Birmingham University and held academic posts at Warwick, Cardiff and Southampton Universities. Originally educated at Oxford, she held a Harkness fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and a research fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge where she is now an Honorary Fellow. She is a trustee of the Rhodes Trust, a trustee of Chawton House, a member of Princeton University Press’s European advisory board and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In addition to being Head of the Humanities Division, she is a professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century literature, particularly the historical writing and fiction of the period.

Professor Gregory S. Brown, Professor of History; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Senior Research Fellow; Voltaire Foundation and general editor of OSE.

He is author, with Isser Woloch, of Eighteenth-Century Europe: Tradition and Progress (2nd edition; Norton, 2012), and author of Cultures in Conflict: The French Revolution (Greenwood, 2003); and A Field of Honor: Writers, Court Culture and Public Theater in French Literary Life from Racine to the Revolution (Columbia, 2002). Professor Brown will be delivering the ASECS-BSECS lecture at this winter's virtual BSECS conference, on the intellectual origins of "eighteenth-century studies.

Moderated by:

Professor Lauren Clay, Vanderbilt University. Lauren R. Clay is an historian of Old Regime and revolutionary France and its empire, with particular interests in urban cultural and civic life and the emergence of a commercially oriented society. Her book Stagestruck: The Business of Theater in Eighteenth-Century France and Its Colonies (Cornell University Press, 2013) examines the establishment of professional public theaters in cities throughout France and the French empire during the prerevolutionary era. Stagestruck was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2014 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History by the American Society for Theatre Research and was named a finalist for the 2013 George Freedley Memorial Award, for exceptional scholarship examining live theatre or performance, awarded by the Theatre Library Association. Her article “Provincial Actors, the Comédie-Française, and the Business of Performing in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Eighteenth-Century Studies (2005) was the co-winner of the 2006-2007 James Clifford Prize, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. She has a chapter on Voltaire’s fortunes at the box office forthcoming in Databases, Revenues, & Repertory: The French Stage Online, 1680-1793/Données, recettes et répertoire. La scène en ligne (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles), Eds. Sylvaine Guyot and Jeffrey S. Ravel (MIT Press, 2020).

Lauren's work has also appeared in The Journal of Modern History, Slavery and Abolition, and The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution. Currently, she is writing about the debate over the legality of the slave trade during the early French Revolution. Lauren completed her PhD in history at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, she spent several years teaching at Texas A and M University. Her scholarship has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Fulbright Program. She teaches courses on the history of early modern France, the economic history of the eighteenth century, revolutions in the modern world, European imperialism, and the history of Paris. She is a past Co-President of the Society for French Historical Studies.

The 2020 Besterman Lecture: Who were the French Revolutionaries? (Transcript)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 6:32pm in

Tags 

history, france

TORCH Goes Digital! presents a series of weekly live events Big Tent - Live Events! Part of the Humanities Cultural Programme, one of the founding stones for the future Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities. In collaboration with the Voltaire Foundation, TORCH is delighted to support the Annual Besterman Lecture, 2020
Lecture by Professor William Doyle. Introduced by Karen O'Brien (Head of Humanities Division, Oxford University) and Gregory S. Brown (General Editor of Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment and Senior Research Fellow, Voltaire Foundation). Moderated by Professor Lauren Clay, Vanderbilt University.

When Napoleon in 1799 declared that the French Revolution was over, he said that was because it was now established on the principles with which it began. The implication was that much of what had happened over the preceding decade of upheaval had not been in accordance with those principles. Napoleon took care, of course, not to state what they were: his constitution was the first since 1789 not to contain a declaration of basic rights. Yet everyone during the Revolution claimed to be acting on revolutionary principles, or denounced their opponents for betraying them. Can we distinguish between those who held to and those who ignored or compromised revolutionary aspirations? This lecture will make the attempt, challenging some of the most enduring assumptions in revolutionary historiography.

Professor William Doyle

Professor William Doyle is Professor Emeritus of History and Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol. Professor Doyle is a British historian, specialising in 18th-century France, and is most notable for his one-volume Oxford History of the French Revolution (1st edition, 1989; 2nd edition, 2002; 3rd edition, 2018). Professor Doyle one of the leading revisionist historians of the French Revolution, obtaining his doctorate from the University of Oxford with a thesis entitled The parlementaires of Bordeaux at the end of the eighteenth century, 1775-1790 - he is also the author of sixteen books on French and European history, five of which have been translated into Chinese. Professor Doyle is also a fellow of the British Academy and a co founder of the The Society for the Study of French History.

Introduced by:

Karen O'Brien, Head of Humanities Division, Oxford University. Before taking on this role in 2018, Professor O’Brien was Vice Principal (Education) and Professor of English Literature at King’s College, London. At King’s she oversaw institutional strategy for all undergraduate and postgraduate students, the university Maths school, admissions and widening access, and the financing and implementation of student-facing capital projects. She implemented major changes in the areas of online degrees and digital learning, new classroom and clinical teaching spaces, careers and co-curricular learning. Prior to this, she was Pro-Vice Chancellor at Birmingham University and held academic posts at Warwick, Cardiff and Southampton Universities. Originally educated at Oxford, she held a Harkness fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and a research fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge where she is now an Honorary Fellow. She is a trustee of the Rhodes Trust, a trustee of Chawton House, a member of Princeton University Press’s European advisory board and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In addition to being Head of the Humanities Division, she is a professor in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the Enlightenment and eighteenth-century literature, particularly the historical writing and fiction of the period.

Professor Gregory S. Brown, Professor of History; University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Senior Research Fellow; Voltaire Foundation and general editor of OSE.

He is author, with Isser Woloch, of Eighteenth-Century Europe: Tradition and Progress (2nd edition; Norton, 2012), and author of Cultures in Conflict: The French Revolution (Greenwood, 2003); and A Field of Honor: Writers, Court Culture and Public Theater in French Literary Life from Racine to the Revolution (Columbia, 2002). Professor Brown will be delivering the ASECS-BSECS lecture at this winter's virtual BSECS conference, on the intellectual origins of "eighteenth-century studies.

Moderated by:

Professor Lauren Clay, Vanderbilt University. Lauren R. Clay is an historian of Old Regime and revolutionary France and its empire, with particular interests in urban cultural and civic life and the emergence of a commercially oriented society. Her book Stagestruck: The Business of Theater in Eighteenth-Century France and Its Colonies (Cornell University Press, 2013) examines the establishment of professional public theaters in cities throughout France and the French empire during the prerevolutionary era. Stagestruck was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2014 Barnard Hewitt Award for Outstanding Research in Theatre History by the American Society for Theatre Research and was named a finalist for the 2013 George Freedley Memorial Award, for exceptional scholarship examining live theatre or performance, awarded by the Theatre Library Association. Her article “Provincial Actors, the Comédie-Française, and the Business of Performing in Eighteenth-Century France,” in Eighteenth-Century Studies (2005) was the co-winner of the 2006-2007 James Clifford Prize, awarded by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. She has a chapter on Voltaire’s fortunes at the box office forthcoming in Databases, Revenues, & Repertory: The French Stage Online, 1680-1793/Données, recettes et répertoire. La scène en ligne (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles), Eds. Sylvaine Guyot and Jeffrey S. Ravel (MIT Press, 2020).

Lauren's work has also appeared in The Journal of Modern History, Slavery and Abolition, and The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution. Currently, she is writing about the debate over the legality of the slave trade during the early French Revolution. Lauren completed her PhD in history at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, she spent several years teaching at Texas A and M University. Her scholarship has been supported by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Fulbright Program. She teaches courses on the history of early modern France, the economic history of the eighteenth century, revolutions in the modern world, European imperialism, and the history of Paris. She is a past Co-President of the Society for French Historical Studies.

France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 5:56am in

Award-winning Syrian photographer Ameer Alhalbi lies dazed on the ground. His head is heavily bruised and bandaged, blood covers his face, arms, and much of his body. Lengths of cotton wool have been stuffed up his broken nose, giving him an almost comical appearance. Alhalbi has been badly beaten by police. But this is not Syria, it is Paris, where he was covering — ironically — huge, nationwide protests against police brutality this weekend.

Perhaps even more concerning is that new laws pushed through by the government of Emmanuel Macron and passed by France’s National Assembly (akin to the U.S. House of Representatives) mean that sharing images of Alhalbi or other victims of police brutality might soon be considered illegal.

Article 24 of the country’s new national security bill, which now only needs to be ratified by the Senate, specifically outlaws the publishing and dissemination of images of police that undermine their physical or psychological “integrity,” and is punishable with a fine of up to €45,000 and up to one year in jail. The bill specifically states that filming police in such a manner would be against the law, but questions have been raised about how liberally authorities would interpret the nebulous language of the new edict. Media unions and human rights groups warn that it could prevent journalists from documenting police abuses.

The National Assembly’s decision to approve the law last week sparked large protests in many major cities around France, including Bordeaux, Lille, Montpellier, and Nantes. However, an incident caught on camera on Saturday threw large amounts of fuel on the fire of resentment, drastically increasing the demonstrations’ size and intensity.

Images from mobile phones and closed-circuit television showed an unprovoked police attack on a young black music producer at his place of work. A group of four officers can be seen chasing after Michel Zecler, following him from outside into his studio, where they kick, punch and beat him with truncheons. Zecler also alleges they shouted racial abuse while they assailed him.

Before the videos went viral on social media, the officers testified that Zecler had, in fact, attacked them, and was resisting arrest. The officers have now been charged with “deliberate violence” and with “falsifying statements.” Two of the gang of four, including a 44-year-old senior officer with the rank of brigadier, remain in custody, while two others have been released.

The viral images provoked a storm of condemnation across the country this weekend, and propelled as many as 500,000 people into the streets, with demonstrations in dozens of cities. Protestors marched through the streets, setting light to cars, damaging buildings, and clashing with police, of whom a reported 98 were injured nationwide. Many of Paris’ iconic boulevards resembled a war zone as thousands of demonstrators pitched battle with lines of police in riot gear.

President Macron said he was “very shocked” by the footage of the police attack on Zecler, yet continues to be a driving force behind the new security law, under which many have noted that the images might never have come to light, given as they essentially identify the Parisien officers and clearly undermine their integrity or authority. Without the footage, it is possible that Zecler would have been facing prosecution himself.

Although the bill and the protests against it are dominating French politics, the story has been covered sparsely in the American corporate press, with no coverage whatsoever in MSNBC, CBS News, or CNBC. Fox News, meanwhile, reprinted one Associated Press article, featuring an egregious, uncorrected error in its subheadline, asserting that protestors were shooting tear gas at themselves.

While foreign desks have been seriously cut in recent years, huge demonstrations in central Paris should not have been too difficult to cover. Lebanese political commentator Sarah Abdallah suggested that if the rallies had been happening in countries antagonistic to the United States, they would have been front-page news. Certainly, similar protests in Iran and Hong Kong dominated the news cycles last year, prompting constant reaction from Mike Pompeo. The Secretary of State is yet to comment on the events in France, suggesting that they are not at the front and center of his thoughts.

President Macron came to power in 2017, winning in the final round of the election against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen. A strong believer in neoliberalism and an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, he has insisted that France must not merely be reformed, but transformed, and has attempted to radically alter the shape of French society, away from a social democratic model to one more resembling the United States. Almost immediately after gaining the presidency, however, his average approval rating tumbled and has not risen above 40% since.

Indeed, the 42-year-old former investment banker has faced almost constant resistance to his agenda from the general public. His attempts to increase the cost of fuel in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement across the country. Meanwhile, his plans to raise the age of retirement and reform France’s pension system was met with a months-long general strike that paralyzed the country last winter. Despite losing over 50,000 people to the coronavirus pandemic, he has seen his popularity increase this year due to the government’s financial response to the virus, which included aid to small businesses and paying employees to stay home. Despite this, it appears possible that France might be headed for its own “George Floyd” moment, where its racial injustices are finally reckoned with.

Feature photo | Assa Traore, center, sister of Adama Traore attends a demonstration against a security law that would restrict sharing images of police, Nov. 28, 2020 in Paris. Francois Mori | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post France’s New Security Law May Have Just Sparked a “George Floyd” Moment appeared first on MintPress News.

History Debunked Tears to Shreds the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Simon Webb, the man behind the YouTube channel History Debunked seems to me to be a man of the right. The channel’s devoted to refuting fake history, but much of the myths it debunks are false claims made in the name of anti-racism by Black activists. He also believes that there are racial differences in intelligence, with Blacks on average less intelligent than Whites, and Whites also on average less bright than Asians. In other words, the Bell Curve stuff that has been loudly denounced and refuted over the past decade or so. That said, his videos are always based on solid fact and well argued, and I don’t believe that he is personally racist. Indeed, he has put up a video about home schooling, in which he states very clearly that not only has he done it himself, but he is also helping and giving advice to a group of Black British parents, who wish to do it.

In this video History Debunked takes on the infamous Tsarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Webb states that he’s doing this after some of his previous videos were taken down by YouTube, or he was warned that they may be taken down because of their controversial content. But this video is not only historically right, no-one should be able to accuse him of racism or hate speech because of it. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a notorious anti-Semitic forgery, which is at the heart of the various stupid conspiracy theories about the Jews secretly trying to take over the world through controlling the media, banks, business and so on. It was concocted in the very early 20th century by the Russian monk, Nilus, for the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, in order to make Nicholas II persecute the Jews even more harshly. As Nicholas II believed in the Blood Libel, the myth that Jews murder Christians to use their blood in the matzo bread at Passover, it’s hard to see how Nicholas could be even more anti-Semitic. Especially as his attempts to prosecute one Jewish man, Beilis, for this, was worrying his ministers who viewed it as a serious embarrassment to the autocracy.

In the video, Webb shows how the Protocols was based on an earlier book, a Dialogue between Machiavelli and Montesquieu in Hell. This was an attack on the government of Napoleon III of France, who French liberals feared was trying to take over and control everything, including the press and business. He illustrates this through pointing to some of the metaphors that Nilus took from the earlier book. The Dialogue describes Napoleon as having a hundred arms, like the Hindu god Vishnu, each arm extended into some part of society. And here it appears again in the Protocols, which describes the Jewish conspiracy as like the Hindu deity with hundreds of arms extending through society.

Apart from the Dialogue, Nilus also plagiarised Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland Herzl was the founder of modern Zionism, and the Altneuland was his attempt to depict and popularise a Jewish state. In my view, Zionism has caused immense suffering and conflict in the Middle East, and led to the persecution and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians. I’d say they were entirely justified in despising Herzl’s book. But it isn’t about a global conspiracy or a programme for the mass enslavement of non-Jews, as the Protocols purports to be.

Webb jokes that if there is a Jewish conspiracy as the Protocols claims, then it can’t be much of one if they’ve had to take their ideas from a satire published decades earlier about Napoleon III, and Herzl’s Altneuland. He also states that the other daft conspiracy theories about Jews are ultimately based on the Protocols. One of these is the Kalergi Plan. From what little I know of it, the Kalergi Plan is supposed to be a secret plot by a cabal of European leaders to import non-Whites into the continent and the west in order to destroy the White race. Yep, it’s another permutation of that heap of bilge.

Here’s History Debunked thoroughly refuting the Protocols.

An old French political satire which has, indirectly, had an immense effect upon the world – YouTube

The Protocols are notorious as a forgery, but have been massively influential in spreading real Fascism and Jew-hatred. They inspired many of the Fascist movements that arose after the First World War. At least one of the British papers serialised them, until they saw sense and realized that they were a forgery. Then they published criticisms and refutations. However, even when readers of the wretched book have had it shown to them that they’re a forgery, such is their power that some of them continue to believe that they’re ‘symbolically true’.

The Protocols have been responsible for some of the most horrific anti-Semitic persecution and violence. And unfortunately they’re still being published. Apparently you can’t pick up copies on street corner kiosks in Putin’s Russia, and they were turned into a major television series on Egyptian TV. Way back in the 1990s a branch of Waterstone’s in this country stocked them because they were cited by various UFO conspiracy theorists that Reptoid aliens really were running the world or some such nonsense. One of these books claimed that the ‘Jews’ referred to in the Protocols were really the Illuminati of much contemporary American conspiracy theorising. No, the authors of the Protocols meant to attack the Jews, and whether someone chooses to believe that it’s really about the Illuminati or not, the Protocols are still vile, dangerous, murderous rubbish.

There’s a large body of literature debunking the Protocols. One of the classics is Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide. And this video is also an excellent short but acute refutation of them.

Book for Learning Arabic in Three Months

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 3:09am in

Mohammad Asfour, Arabic in Three Months: Simplified Language Course (Woodbridge: hugo 1990).

I bought this nearly thirty years ago when I was briefly trying to do a postgraduate degree on Islam in Britain. Hugo are a publisher specialising in languages. According to the blurb and the introduction, this book is written for people, who want to speak the language but don’t want to be able to read or write it. There are a number of different dialects spoken in different countries, but the book states that the standard, written language isn’t used in ordinary verbal communication and it’s very unusual for foreigners to use it. The author is a professor at the University of Jordan, and so the form used is the Jordanian dialect, which will allow the student to converse in ‘almost any Arabic speaking country’.

Along with the chapters taking the reader through the language, there’s also sample conversations and an Arabic-English mini-dictionary in the back. Like many other language books, this also includes written exercises, whose answers are also in the back of the book.

I bought it because I wanted to get an idea of what the language was like before learning the script. That’s almost certainly a mistake, if the spoken and written forms of the language are so different. You almost certainly need to learn the standard language if you also wish to be able read and write it. No language is easy, but some are definitely more difficult than others. Arabic is a Semitic language like Hebrew, Syriac and some of the languages spoken in Ethiopia. They’re very different from the Indo-European languages, like French, German, Welsh, Polish and so on spoken in Europe, and so Arabic is particularly difficult. So much so that I eventually gave up.

I think the book was partly written for tourists to the Middle East, as well as possibly people from the English-speaking world working out there, but not in jobs which require the literary language. I remember one of the words in the vocabulary is ‘funduq’, which I think means ‘hotel’. It’s also a sad reflection of the politics of the region that another word that crops up is ‘inqilab’, which means ‘coup’ or ‘uprising’.

Unfortunately since the attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing chaos of the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, the Syrian and Libyan uprisings and the rise of Islamic State, much of the region is in turmoil and far too dangerous for western tourists, quite apart from the international lockdown everywhere due to the Coronavirus. Still, hopefully peace will return to this fascinating, ancient and historic part of the world, and Europeans will once again to be able to visit it and meet its peoples in peace and friendship.

Jama’at-i Islami – The Pakistani Islamic Party Pushing for Theocracy

Pakistan was founded as an explicitly Muslim country. It’s a democracy, but there is a section of its parliament, if I remember correctly, that’s made up of Muslim clergy, who scrutinise legislation passed by the lower house to make sure it accords with Islamic law. Since the 1970s and the regime of the dictator, Zia al-Haqq, Islam has become increasingly powerful in Pakistani politics. I believe the current president, Imran Khan, is the leader of an Islamic party. Pakistan was one of the nations that experienced protests against France over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and there have been official denunciations of the cartoons and President Macron’s attempts to combat Muslim radicalism.

The force behind the growth of political Islam in Pakistan appears to be the Jama’at-i Islami, whose name translates as ‘The Islamic Society.’ The article about them in The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions runs as follows

A highly disciplined and well-organised Muslim political party, founded in 1941 by Abul al-A’la Mawdudi. it aims at establishing an observant Islamic state in Pakistan. The Jam’at’s political platform offers an alternative to teh secularists and modernists, and in this lies its appeal (especially since 1977). The Ja’amat advocates that Pakistan should be a theocratic state, ruled by a single man whose tenure of office and power are limited only by his faithfulness to Islam. The ruler should be assisted by a shura (advisory council), with no political parties and no provision for an opposition. General Zia al-Haqq, the military leader after the overthrow of Z. Bhutto (1977)., used the Jama’at as a political prop for his ‘back to Islam’ campaign. The Jama’at has influence among the military, the middle classes, and the college and university students. It publishes a monthly magazine, Tarjuman al-Quran, in Lahore that has a high circulation. On the international level, the Jama’at was on good terms with Imam Khumayni and the oil rich Arab states; the Saudis have supported the movement since the early 1970s. (p. 489).

This looks like an attempt to create a kind of caliphate, and the Dictionary notes that there is considerable support for its return in Pakistan. I also wonder about the movement’s influence in British Islam, as there has been a problem with fire-breathing radicals immigrating to Britain to supply the shortage of imams for British mosques. Which is why moderate Muslims in this country have demanded government assistance in training Muslim Brits, who have grown up in our ostensibly democratic culture, as imams and community leaders.

I’m not a secularist, and believe that people of faith have a right to have their voices heard in politics and parliament, but this is just a movement for religious tyranny. In Pakistan as it is there’s persecution, including violence and pogroms against religious minorities. We’ve seen Christians murdered and imprisoned following accusations of blasphemy. There have also been riots and murders of the Ahmadiyya. Apparently even pious Muslims have been murdered because of comments they have made, which have been interpreted by others as blasphemous. There are 200 people on Pakistan’s Death Row accused of blasphemy. Many of these accusations are spurious, cynically levelled because of other disputes between the parties concerned. If a theocracy was established in Pakistan, it would only cause more oppression and violence.

I also believe that it wouldn’t be good for Islam either. Atheist sites on the web have reported that there has been a massive increase in atheism in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Six years or so ago Saudi news reported that a large number of Qurans had been found thrown into a sewer. A few days ago Iranian media reported that this had also happened in their country. A poll conducted of 50,000 Iranians found that 38 per cent of the population is either atheist or has no religion. If this is true, then it’s probably the result of people becoming fed up of the repression they are experiencing from their theocratic governments. The religious violence of the Islamist extremists, al-Qaeda and Daesh, are undoubtedly another factor. A few years ago I read a book by a French anthropologist, who came to the conclusion that the Islamist movements were the response of Muslim societies as the experienced the transition to modernity. This was comparable to the way radical, militant Christian movements had appeared in Europe in the 17th century, such as those in the British Civil War. Now Islam was experiencing the same.

My guess is that if the Jama’at ever succeeded in creating a theocracy in Pakistan, it would be massively unstable as the various sects excluded from the regime’s view of what was properly Islamic were oppressed and rebelled. I don’t believe that the Jama’at and other extreme, theocratic movements have anything to offer Muslims or anyone else anything except more oppression and violence.

A 17th Century Anglican Plea for Religious Toleration

Jeremy Taylor was the chaplain of King Charles I and the rector of Uppingham. After the royalists were defeated in the British Civil War, he fled to Carmarthenshire in Wales, where he wrote his book arguing for religious freedom, The Liberty of Prophesying. After the Restoration he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor. He was also the author of a number of devotional works and sermons, but it’s his defence of religious freedom that I find particularly interesting. He said ‘they were excellent words which St. Ambrose said in attestation of this great truth, that the civil authority has no right to interdict the liberty of speaking, nor the sacerdotal to prevent speaking what you think.’

See the article on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) 958.

I’m very much aware that throughout Christian history there has been very little freedom of religion and conscience, and that the Anglican church’s toleration of Dissenters was very limited until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in the 19th century. Until then Protestant nonconformists were excluded from the grammar schools, universities and government, and could only hold their services five miles away from towns. Atheism and Roman Catholicism were illegal again until the 19th century. But it was clergymen like Taylor and his fellows in the Nonconformist churches, like the Quaker William Penn and a number of Presbyterian ministers, who laid the foundations for the British and American tradition of religious tolerance. The most famous of the works calling for religious freedom from this period is Milton’s Areopagitica.

Despite the passage of the centuries, their message is still acutely relevant. Many countries still don’t have freedom of conscious or religious liberty in the 20th century. The Communists attempted to destroy religious and viciously persecuted people of faith, while the Nazis, apart from trying to exterminate the Jews, also sent their other religious opponents, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the concentration camps.

We have recently seen a French teacher murdered for showing schoolchildren the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in a class about free speech, and mass demonstrations against France for permitting the cartoons in Muslim countries. To many people, their calls for legislation against such disrespect seem like demands for Muslim blasphemy laws. Christians and members of other religious minorities, such as Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan as well as orthodox Sunni Muslims because of supposed blasphemy. This is banned in Pakistan and punishable with the death penalty. The only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam, and a few years ago the Saudis declared that atheism was terrorism. This was just atheist unbelief itself, regardless of any act of genuine terror, such as killing people or destroying property.

I’m sympathetic to Muslims regarding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I don’t like the way Christianity and Christ are mocked by certain sections of the media and the entertainment business either. I’ve also heard the argument that Charlie Hebdo is a nasty rag. It’s not left-wing, but right, apparently, and its targets also include Roman Catholicism and immigrants.

But there’s a greater principle of free speech and the sanctity of human life here. All religions and ideologies, including atheism, should be up for debate, with people free to choose as they will. They’re fundamental human rights, the violation of which either leads or is part of tyranny.

France’s Tale of Two Secularisms

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 3:00am in

 S. Pech / Shutterstock.com In October, France experienced another spate of terrorist attacks over a span of two weeks. First...

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Gotz von Berlichingen’s Account of How He Got His Iron Hand

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/11/2020 - 9:37pm in

One of the landmarks in the history of artificial limbs was the iron hand specially made for the German knight, Gotz von Berlichingen after his own was shot off by the Nuremberg forces at a battle at Landshut in Germany. Berlichingen was in born in 1480 in Wurttemberg, where his family were knights. G.G. Coulton includes his description of how got had his real hand shot off and an iron one made so that he could continue his military career, in his collection of medieval texts, Life in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1967), vol. 2: 135-7 along with a number of other stories from the old soldier’s memoirs. Coulton states that Berlingen has been described as the last of the robber barons. From 1541 onwards he fought for the German emperor Charles V in a series of wars, first against the invading Turks, and then against the French. The great German poet and playwright Goethe wrote a play based on his life, and Coulton claim that the romanticism of his memoirs influenced Sir Walter Scott. Von Berlichingen’s account of the loss of his hand is as follows:

I will now tell how I came by my wound. You must know that on Sunday, as I have related above, while we were skirmishing again under the walls of Landshut, the Nurnbergers turned their cannon upon friend and foe alike. The enemy had taken up a strong position on a dyke, and I would fain have broken a spear with one of them. But as I held myself still and watched for an occasion, suddenly the Nurnbergers turned their cannon upon us; and one of them, with a field-culverin, shot in two my sword-hilt, so that the one half entered right into my arm, and three armplates therewithall; the sword-hilt lay so deep in the armplates that it could not be seen. I marvel even now that I was not thrown from my horse; the armplates were still whole; only the corners, which had been bent by the blow, stood forth a little. The other half of the sword-hilt and the blade were bent, but not severed; and these, I believe, tore off my hand betwixt the gauntlet and the arm-piece: my arm was shattered behind and before. When I marked now that my hand hung loose by the skin, and that my spear lay under my horse’s feet, I made as though nothing had befallen me, turned my horse softly round, and, in spite of all, came back to my own folk without let or hindrance from the enemy. Just then there came up an old spearman, who would have ridden into the thick of the fray: him I called to me, and besought that he would stay at my side, since he must see how matters stood with me. So he tarried with me at my prayer, and then he must needs fetch me the leech. When I came to Landshut, my old comrades told me who had fought in the battle against me, and in what wise I had been shot, and that a nobleman, Fabian von Wallsdorf, a Voiglander, and been struck and slain by the same shot, not withstanding that it had struck me first; so that in this wise both friend and foe took harm alike. This nobleman was a fair and goodly gentleman, such that among many thousands you would scarce find any goodlier to behold…

From that time forth, from the Sunday after St. Vitus’ day until Ash Wednesday, I lay in Landshut; and what pain at that time I suffered, each may well imagine for himself. It was my prayer to God that, if I stood indeed in His divine grace, then in His own name He might bear me away to Himself, since I was spoiled now for a fighting man. Yet then I bethought me of a man at arms of whom I had heard my father and old old troopers tell, whose name was Kochli, and who also had but one hand, notwithstanding which he could do his devoir against his foe in the field as well as any other man. Then I prayed to God, and considered within myself that, had I even twelve hands, and His grace and help stood not by me, then were all in vain. Therefore, thought I, might I but get me some little help by means of an iron hand, then I would prove myself as doughty in the field, in spite of all, as any other maimed man. I have ridden since then with Kochli’s sons, who were trusty horsemen and well renowned. And in all truth I can think and say nought else, – now that for wellnigh sixty years I have waged wars, feuds and quarrels with but one fist,-but that God Almighty, Everlasting and Merciful, hath stood wondrously and most graciously by me and at my side in all my wars, feuds, perils

Coulton’s book also has an illustration of the iron hand, based on a engraving preserved by the family.

As you can see, it seems to be an adaptation of the gauntlet and armour for the arm. I think the great 16th century French doctor and surgeon, Pare, created similar artificial limbs, and it shows that medieval science and medicine were rather more advanced than the usual received view of superstitious ignorance. Berlichingen and his hand seem to me to be a great model for a Fantasy or SF character, and I do wonder if Michael Moorcock used him as the basis for the artificial hand wielded by his hero, Corum, who is, like far more famous Elric of Melnibone, another incarnation of his Eternal Champion.

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