….it would be very useful if our political leaders felt able to speak the name of the actual cause for which all those murderous guns and knives and cars are being deployed. Perhaps that is too much to hope.
Category : Tunisia
The Fifth Anglican South to South Conference scheduled to begin today in Tunisia has been cancelled. On 10 Oct 2015 organizers of the meeting called by the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, stated the meeting organized round the theme of “How Africa shaped our Christian mind” that was set to begin on 12 Oct would not take place. A statement explaining the reasons for the cancellation and the date and place of the next gathering would be released shortly, organizers said.
The Area Bishop of North Africa, and Rector of St George’s, in the capital Tunis, the Rt Revd Bill Musk, visited survivors of the attack in intensive care at hospital. He said that they were still deeply in shock.
“It’s very humbling – you just go to listen,” he said. “Everyone wants us to pray with them. When you have come very close to dying, or someone you love has, we are all vulnerable.”
The overwhelming response from Tunisians has been one of shame, Bishop Musk said. One of the nurses at the bedside of a British victim of the shooting was continually apologising and explaining how Mr Rezgui did not represent true Islam, he said.
The attack was also a disaster for Tunisia, as it would lose billions of pounds if tourists decided to stay away.
Britain and America may now be post-Christian societies but they don’t need to become anti-Christian societies. Sadly, I see signs that we might be drifting in that direction. There is the mounting campaign to close all faith schools; the questioning of Tim Farron MP’s legitimacy to lead the Liberal Democrats because of his evangelical background; and the fear of the chief justice of the US Supreme Court that opponents of Christian morality “are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent”; no charitable status for faith-based groups and no room for believers in the public square.
Half of me can identify with the anti-religious instinct because, while I’m a Christian seeking space within a secular society, I am also a sceptic about Islam. I’m fearful that, without Christianity’s clear narrative ”” ending as the New Testament does with the example of Jesus ”” Islam is a religion that’s too easy for the likes of Seifeddine Rezgui to misinterpret. Most Muslims, of course, hate the heinous crime he committed in their name ”” but, regardless of what we might think about Islam, thinking the worst is not really a practical option. Nearly three million Britons are Muslims; 1.6 billion of our global neighbours see Allah as the one true God. The challenge must be to understand them and help them to reform their religion ”” not to drive them and it underground.
I want less vacuous talk of fairness, tolerance and generosity from our politicians. Let’s start getting specific about what we mean by “British values”. Freedom of religion should be a cornerstone of western belief and it must stand as a contrast to the many Islamic states where apostasy is punishable by death.
Read it all from the London Times (subscription required) [emphasis mine].
There is nothing moderate or democratic about the Islamists. They played the moderate and democratic game to gain power. Now, in office, they keep postponing elections to entrench themselves in the fabric of government and judiciary by brute force.
The year voters granted them is up. The time for manipulative political Islam is over. It has lost legitimacy. It has failed to improve lives, preserve the few rights we had, or uphold the rule of law.
We must say “no” again ”” until we get it right. Democracy is a process, an evolution.
Let us therefore, brethren beloved, pray as God our Teacher has taught us. It is a loving and friendly prayer to beseech God with His own word, to come up to His ears in the prayer of Christ. Let the Father acknowledge the words of His Son when we make our prayer, and let Him also who dwells within in our breast Himself dwell in our voice. And since we have Him as an Advocate with the Father for our sins, let us, when as sinners we petition on behalf of our sins, put forward the words of our Advocate. For since He says, that “whatsoever we shall ask of the Father in His name, He will give us,”how much more effectually do we obtain what we ask in Christ’s name, if we ask for it in His own prayer!
But let our speech and petition when we pray be under discipline, observing quietness and modesty. Let us consider that we are standing in God’s sight. We must please the divine eyes both with the habit of body and with the measure of voice. For as it is characteristic of a shameless man to be noisy with his cries, so, on the other hand, it is fitting to the modest man to pray with moderated petitions. Moreover, in His teaching the Lord has bidden us to pray in secret””in hidden and remote places, in our very bed-chambers””which is best suited to faith, that we may know that God is everywhere present, and hears and sees all, and in the plenitude of His majesty penetrates even into hidden and secret places, as it is written, “I am a God at hand, and not a God afar off. If a man shall hide himself in secret places, shall I not then see him? Do not I fill heaven and earth?”And again: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”And when we meet together with the brethren in one place, and celebrate divine sacrifices with God’s priest, we ought to be mindful of modesty and discipline””not to throw abroad our prayers indiscriminately, with unsubdued voices, nor to cast to God with tumultuous wordiness a petition that ought to be commended to God by modesty; for God is the hearer, not of the voice, but of the heart. Nor need He be clamorously reminded, since He sees men’s thoughts, as the Lord proves to us when He says, “Why think ye evil in your hearts?” And in another place: “And all the churches shall know that I am He that searcheth the hearts and reins.”
And this Hannah in the first book of Kings, who was a type of the Church, maintains and observes, in that she prayed to God not with clamorous petition, but silently and modestly, within the very recesses of her heart. She spoke with hidden prayer, but with manifest faith. She spoke not with her voice, but with her heart, because she knew that thus God hears; and she effectually obtained what she sought, because she asked it with belief. Divine Scripture asserts this, when it says, “She spake in her heart, and her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; and God did hear her.”We read also in the Psalms, “Speak in your hearts, and in your beds, and be ye pierced.”The Holy Spirit, moreover, suggests these same things by Jeremiah, and teaches, saying, “But in the heart ought God to be adored by thee.”
–From his Treatise On the Lord’s Prayer
Almighty God, who didst give to thy servant Cyprian boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of the same our Lord Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The Jewish celebration in Djerba went ahead without a hitch on May 9. Several hundred worshipers danced with Torah scrolls in a small procession outside El Ghriba synagogue. Men played the darbuka, sang songs, and prayed inside the ancient house of worship. The gathering was surrounded at all times by a small army of policemen to ensure nothing went wrong.
“To me, there is something magical about Jews and Arabs living together like they do here,” said Guy Tzinmann, a French Jew who came from Paris to take part in the event. “If you don’t come with an Israeli passport, they don’t give you any trouble. And unlike Algeria, where my mother is from, I can come here to visit.”
To be sure, turnout could have been stronger; only a few dozen people came from overseas, a far cry from the thousands who attended over the past decade. But it’s hard to see the event as anything other than a success.
It has become common in the West to express remorse or pessimism about the course of events in the Arab world since the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions a year ago. Tunisia, in fact, does not present a cause for general pessimism. Egypt’s xenophobic Islamism is alarming, but it is too early to judge that revolution’s outcome. In any event, the Arab revolutions never were conceived to conform to the West’s expectations, goals, or principles. In settings long influenced by nationalism and political Islam, the Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian revolutions seek justice, the dispatch of autocrats, a reduction of corruption, the restoration of dignity and equality to ordinary citizens, and the development of new constitutional experiments involving rights and accountability.
These experiments must unfold in divided societies with weak economies and unresolved””perhaps never to be resolved””tensions between mosque and state. Arab democrats who struggle in these settings are not seeking to imitate Western liberalism; they are reinterpreting it, as Turkey has done successfully, and as India’s British-educated independence leaders once did. In sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, democratic change in low and middle-income countries has evolved as a synthesis of local and global ideas, lurching through disruptions, failures, and recoveries. The Arab awakening is no longer an adventure park for bored emirs or a televised spectacle that inspires Western viewers. But its transformational power has not yet ebbed, and the liberalism within it is far from expired.
For five years, I became a fervent Islamist, moving up the ladder of increasingly radical organizations. All strands of this movement descend from the teachings of Banna. He fought against the British in Palestine, trained a paramilitary organization, and members of the movement killed Egypt’s prime minister in 1948. In response, the Egyptian state had Banna assassinated a few months later.
Yet I learned, through bitter experience, that Islamism is far from unitary or coherent. In the end, I quit what’s called “the Islamic movement” because I found it too controlling of my life ”” but also because I no longer wanted to be in a perpetual state of confrontation with the West. It took me several years of travel and study in the Middle East before my mind was free of Islamist influences. I remain a follower of Islam, the religion, but not of Islamism, the political ideology.
Because I was once a part of this movement ”” whose primary goal has been the creation of Islamic governments ”” and then established the world’s first counter-radical think tank, Quilliam, in London to oppose their ideology, I have been following the Arab uprisings with more than a passing interest.
Nearly a year after Tunisia set off the Arab Spring of popular revolt, the face of political Islam in this fledgling Muslim democracy is a 47-year-old mother of two who favors tailored suits and stiletto heels.
Souad Abderrahim’s main political experience was as a student union leader more than two decades ago, but the political neophyte is now cheered at rallies and trailed by the media as a leader of Ennahda, the Islamist party that is now the main political force in this North African country.
Abderrahim holds a seat in the country’s new Constituent Assembly, charged with creating a democratic political structure following the downfall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for nearly a quarter century.
Minority Jews and Christians are putting their faith in Tunisia’s nascent democracy to ensure its new Islamist-led leadership respects their rights in this traditionally secular state.
Religious minorities in the Arab world have mostly lost out when dictators are toppled and radical Islamists exploit the power vacuum to attack non-Muslims. The targeting of Christians in Iraq and Egypt constitutes a frightening example.
Partial official results from Tunisia suggest victory for the moderate Islamist party Ennahda, in the first democratic elections prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings.
The electoral commission said Ennahda was well ahead in the vote for a new assembly that will write a constitution and appoint a caretaker government.
Islam is bound to play a larger role in government in the Arab world than elsewhere. Most Muslims do not believe in the separation of religion and state, as America and France do, and have not lost their enthusiasm for religion, as many “Christian Democrats” in Europe have. Muslim democracies such as Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia all have big Islamic parties.
But Islamic does not mean Islamist. Al-Qaeda in the past few years has lost ground in Arab hearts and minds. The jihadists are a small minority, widely hated by their milder co-religionists, not least for giving Islam a bad name across the world. Ideological battles between moderates and extremists within Islam are just as fierce as the animosity pitting Muslim, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists against each other. Younger Arabs, largely responsible for the upheavals, are better connected and attuned to the rest of the modern world than their conservative predecessors were.
Moreover, some Muslim countries are on the road to democracy, or already there.
The turmoil in Libya and elsewhere in the region has toppled or undermined North African dictators who negotiated a web of benefits from Europe, including aid and diplomatic standing, in return for stopping immigrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean.
Without the assistance of those leaders, many in Europe worry that they will face new waves of illegal immigration not only from the liberated areas in the north, but from much of sub-Saharan Africa as well.
The immigrants would arrive at a time when much of Europe ”” struggling with high unemployment and lethargic economies ”” is already awash with anti-immigrant sentiment, and many countries say they are simply incapable of absorbing poor migrants.
Future historians will long puzzle over how the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, in protest over the confiscation of his fruit stand, managed to trigger popular uprisings across the Arab/Muslim world. We know the big causes ”” tyranny, rising food prices, youth unemployment and social media. But since being in Egypt, I’ve been putting together my own back-of-the-envelope guess list of what I’d call the “not-so-obvious forces” that fed this mass revolt. Here it is….
THE BEIJING OLYMPICS China and Egypt were both great civilizations subjected to imperialism and were both dirt poor back in the 1950s, with China even poorer than Egypt, Edward Goldberg, who teaches business strategy, wrote in The Globalist. But, today, China has built the world’s second-largest economy, and Egypt is still living on foreign aid. What do you think young Egyptians thought when they watched the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics? China’s Olympics were another wake-up call ”” “in a way that America or the West could never be” ”” telling young Egyptians that something was very wrong with their country, argued Goldberg….
Mohamed Bouazizi spent his whole life on a dusty, narrow street here, in a tiny, three-room house with a concrete patio where his mother hung the laundry and the red chilis to dry. By the time Mr. Bouazizi was 26, his work as a fruit vendor had earned him just enough money to feed his mother, uncle and five brothers and sisters at home. He dreamed about owning a van.
Faida Hamdy, a 45-year-old municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid, a police officer’s daughter, was single, had a “strong personality” and an unblemished record, her supervisor said. She inspected buildings, investigated noise complaints and fined vendors like Mr. Bouazizi, whose itinerant trade may or may not have been legal; no one seems to know.
On the morning of Dec. 17, when other vendors say Ms. Hamdy tried to confiscate Mr. Bouazizi’s fruit, and then slapped him in the face for trying to yank back his apples, he became the hero ”” now the martyred hero ”” and she became the villain in a remarkable swirl of events in which Tunisians have risen up to topple a 23-year dictatorship and march on, demanding radical change in their government.
The US and the EU seem to have abandoned their goal of bringing democracy to the Arab world – which was once promoted fervently as a core issue in their Middle East policy – in favour of what is called security and development. Yet this is unlikely to halt people’s quest for democratic reforms.
The Tunisian uprising may fail to achieve its goals but the struggle between the forces of authoritarianism and democracy will be a dominant factor in the Muslim Middle East in the years to come.