It is interesting the psychology of islamophobia and other phobias. I should commence by stating that I’m not a follower of any man created terrestrial religion not even an atheist as that is also an absolute stating that followers know. I’m probably closer to an agnostic but these are only man created words for I have my own thoughts.
As a species our ability to misinterpret misquote is endless quite often out of personal convenience. The written word opens the door to misinterpretation.
Diversity frightens us it states that we could be wrong therefore we suppress it. If we believe something that is logically incorrect then it becomes the truth and is the truth, therefore clever people can programme us. Even to such people their truth can be the truth to them even the truth of personal promotion and gain can be justified.
Throughout history man has tried to impress upon others his truth mostly from fear of the unknown, the Inquisition from the 12th century, holy wars in Palestine, Spain, Protestant Lutherans and Reformed wars with Catholicism the Massacre at Ayyadieh on the fall of Acre by Richard Coeur de Lion, 2700 prisoners massacred an act not repeated by Saladin all out fear and the hunt for power. A statement that I am right you are wrong or a recognition that you may be right and if I take what you have I will be stronger. Some cannibalistic tribes consumed their enemies as they believed that a strong enemy would enhance their spirit. There are many passages in the Quran that relate to violence against what can be misinterpreted to include all non-believers most are in response to specific wars within periods of antiquity. There is also verse within the Quran threatening retribution against his captors for the seizing of Jesus an important prophet in Islam this verse can easily be misinterpreted. It should be remembered that the Quran is an extension of the Old Testament as is the Torah and to a substantial extent the New Testament, all derived from a very violent book originally written to address issues of a specific and bloody period in historical time. The original texts rewritten over time to address changing issues of social structure. So, plenty of material that can be taken out of context by the uneducated on both sides and dangerous if believed to be uncontested fact. Much in the texts was also intended as parable. Even within Islam as within most churches of the Catholic(Universal) world scholars debate the meaning of the word.parable can add to confusion. I have worked with many Sharia committees made up of highly intelligent scholars and few have a universal agreement on meaning. As a species, we are insecure and frightened of the dark. This fear breeds inhumanity in all sectors of society and suppresses the quest for truth and reality. Working in the past with Islamic groups including being an advisor to one of the largest on the development of Islamic financial products that are created from Western concepts all had to be endorsed by a Sharia committee. I have many good Islamic friends who have little interest in any other issues other than supporting their families and having a comfortable, prosperous and violence free life. The quest for truth and understanding has had a difficult path and will have a difficult path in the future, as we are all hardwired into protectionism and tribalism, however we should all try to move along the path of understanding. Much has come from the great religions of the world Islam has given us much of our science, astronomy, language(words such as Alchemy, Alcohol, Algorithm, Alkaline,Average, Admiral, Arsenal,Candy, Check, Coffee, Cotton, Guitar, Hazard, Mattress, Racquet, Sofa, Elixir, Soda, Zero, Chemistry, to name only a few) numbering and some of the greatest art and buildings in the world, much has also come from other great Catholic(Universal) religions, my favourite painting the ‘Beheading of John the Baptist’ by Caravaggio a violent painting from the world of Catholicism but stunning and dramatic light. It also depicts the violent thread that runs through most religion. Also as a very intellectual and respected uncle of mine once said to quote ‘variety is the spice of life’ Marcel Aurousseau. Absolute is not always truth.
Shane Aurousseau ShaneA
I’m not a religious man in the context of following a Church doctrine or deity, the interpretation of this does not mean that I don’t have religious thoughts. The concept of atheism is a difficult one for me to comprehend as this is a statement of absolute and is a bedfellow of fundamentalism. The following of an agnostic path is to me a much more logical direction, ‘the only thing I know is I know nothing’ Socrates. Man’s interpretation of the teachings of some of the towering figures of religious history. Mohammed, Christ, Abraham, the Hindu teacher Shankara and even the Buddhas I believe would horrify the creators of those great religions. Much criminality and suffering has been perpetuated in the name of religion. The quest for some form of understanding is far more important than some vague and misguided belief that one has omnipotent knowledge, however sometimes from man’s muddled and myopic thinking comes something beautiful, the music of a Latin Mass,
The Sacred Geometry of Islam, The great paintings of the world, The Last Supper – Leonardo da Vinci, The creation of Adam – Michelangelo, Madonna del Prato or Madonna of the Meadow – Raphael, The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist – Caravaggio not to mention the great temple sculptures of the East, the great fiestas of the Catholic world Semana Santa Spain. I have to admit these creations give a fabric and synergy to society that today much of the world lacks with out these creations the world would be a boring and barren place indeed. The disillusionment especially in the ranks of the youth of the world is giving rise to a self driven and violent society with an inability to see any beauty we are building the blind society.
It was attending Holy week or Semana Santa Malaga that confirmed to me the importance of maintaining these great festivals and protecting the great artistic legacy that religious belief of most persuasions has bestowed upon us. The realisation of the contribution that has been bequeathed to us by the great religions of the world is part of growing up and becoming an understanding member of society.
Semana Santa (Easter Week) Spain’s greatest festival and most important week of the year. A celebration of piety expressed almost exclusively in the processions of the brotherhoods or fraternities. Associations that have their origins in the Middle Ages, however a number were created during the Baroque Period, inspired by the Counter-Reformation ( Catholic Revival) commencing from the time of the ‘Council of Trent’ 1545 – 1563 finishing at the end of the ‘Thirty Years War’ 1648 and also during the 20th and 21st centuries. Membership of the brotherhoods is usually open to any Catholic person; family tradition is an important element to becoming a member or “brother” (hermano). The family the importance of being a part of something greater than you. The family can be seen in the important participation of Children and how they are welcomed into the festivities. The family group is an institution that we seem to be losing in most western countries to the detriment of our society.
One of the most striking spectacles of the festival are the hundreds of slow-moving Nazarenos (based on the people of Nazareth) in their tall, pointy hats and matching robes with their faces completely covered, apart from their eyes. Reasons for the use of such costumes have long been lost in antiquity however the purpose is simple , the Nazarenos their faces are covered in mourning and also as a sign of shame for the sins they have committed throughout the year. It is not uncommon for prisoners to participate as pallbearers participating in the carrying of the huge Thrones of the crucified Christ and the mourning Virgin Mary in order to repent of their sins.
There are 168 to 280 men and sometimes women who carry the thrones on their shoulders. Each man must be able to carry 40 Kilos on his shoulders for hours they tend to march for a longer period than women. The processions culminates on Easter Sunday in a long procession from the cathedral or church with the meeting of the effigies of the mourning Virgin and the resurrected Christ. Truly an artistic and spectacular fiesta that gives Spain its character and synergy. .
Images of the great Spanish fiesta Semana Santa
Photographer Shane Aurousseau
Pelicans and Galahs these may seem strange creatures to use in the context that I’m about to write about; however In Aussie speak a pelican or a galah is a synonym for stupidity especially related to an action; ‘you pelican’ or ‘what a bunch of galahs’. Not totally fair on those exquisite creatures but what in this world is fair. Especially when it comes to the myopic views of our leaders who govern by vested interest many of a personal nature. I don’t presume to be a great expert on the Middle East, however I have spent sometime there on business and I would like to share some views.
Although an Australian with a trained photographic and creative background having held positions in major advertising agencies as a creative director including the then largest Young and Rubicam working on accounts such as Time Magazine, Time Life books, Michelin, Yamaha, Camel Cigarettes and later financial accounts such as Fidelity, Midland Bank, Royal Life, Eagle Star Insurance and others; by way of the creative world I drifted for a time into the financial sphere including eventually running and representing hedge funds. Some of the companies that I worked with during my time in the City of London were many of the most successful in the industry including a stint forming SECAVs in Luxembourg for the then second largest UK insurance company Norwich Union, SECAVs were a form of open-ended fund used mainly by the French, SECAFs being closed ended. I was IMRO(Investment Management Regulatory Organization) registered, now defunct a bit like me. The largest unit trust industry is in France but of course Luxembourg was then offshore using French fund structures. The position with Norwich union gave me the status of a General Manager in a mutual insurance company this equated to a director’s position. It was through producing creative work for city institutions that I learnt a great deal about how the financial world works.
During this period of my life I became an advisor on product development to the largest of the islamic banking groups Dallah Al-Baraka of Saudi Arabia. I was involved in the creation of a joint venture company between Dallah Al-Baraka and the Johor Bahru corporation of Malaysia locating the joint venture in Bahrain. I was included in their strategy in order to marry western fund ideas into the Islamic system.
My work in the Middle East brought me in contact with such institutions as ADIA(Abu Dhabi Investment Authority) and its associate ADIC plus many of the private departments of the Shaikhs including the private department of the then Life President of the Emirates Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan. I spent a considerable time working throughout the middle East including in Kuwait with the massive fund run by the Kuwait government under the KIO(Kuwait Investment Office). I made many Arab friends and found them to be one of the most hospitable of people.
However as a westerner having worked with Sharia committees made up of scholars who were not banking or financial people but religious academics and judges, I found that there are enormous differences in interpretation and implementation, it is these anomalies that have caused much misunderstanding between people. Couple this misunderstanding in the Islamic world with the total lack of understanding in the western world and the vested oil interests of the West and you have a formula for disaster. The history of the west in the Middle East has been one of planning only for the financial gains driven by oil. Not only has there been no respect for the differences of interpretation in the Islamic world but there was also no respect for tribal borders. Many borders were created on a divide and rule basis or on the premise of who was the strongest and who could be purchased the easiest and give added control to oil rich regions. Although not really an oil issue both Palestine and Israel have been caught up in this border or land manipulation. I believe strongly that both these groups should exist in their own states within their own borders. There is no doubt that the Palestinians have had a raw deal all people should have the right to exist. There is also not doubt that the Arab world could have assisted in the correction of this issue.
For centuries Arabs and Jews lived in harmony. During the medieval periods of the crusades the secular thinkers where in educated Islam. When the West was living in mud and cold castles cities such as Constantinople and Cordoba Spain(the two largest of Islamic cities) had street lighting – Islam was the educated world. Saladin rebuilt the Christian churches and synagogues and protected them following the fall of Jerusalem around 1187. At sometime a halt must be called to revenge, revenge creates more revenge and then the story is never ending destroying the future for subsequent generations.
The US is becoming more and more oil self sufficient and of course the large deposits of shale now being discovered in North America are adding to this independence. As the US pulls away from the Middle East the violence may intensify. Much of this violence will be about the realigning of borders back to their more legitimate pre-western involvement days, real tribal boundaries. The issues in the Middle East are much more than Sunni and Shia an easy Western simplification. The realigning of boarders is not a bad thing as smaller autonomous actor states are much more manageable than large continental groups. In most major countries there is considerable autonomy given to cities and individual states. The real problem is how do they live together with understanding and acceptance of differing ideas and opinions. To quote one of my uncles a successful academic who said ‘ variety is the spice of life’. It is difference that creates progress. Religion and lateral thinking should not be used as an excuse for hate and gain. The great prophets and thinkers would be horrified by much of our interpretation.
We can’t keep looking back and blaming the crusades, holocaust and remember the Russians lost 20 million people during WWII and the same again under Stalin. These debacles must be guides to help us construct a better future not a route to hatred. The next issue will be relating any relative DNA extension of Alexander the Great to some form of criminal activity that took place in 340 BC. Mind you I should not have mentioned this as once the legal fraternity gets hold of it dollar signs will appear and blame could be apportioned. Somewhere without the necessity to apologise we need to say enough is enough.
Because I believe in everything and nothing some have called me an atheist but how can you follow that doctrine atheism is an absolute and a close relative of fundamentalism, it means you know, agnostic is a much calmer interpretation. In the greater galactic scheme of things we are all small fry and much of our nonsense is irrelevant and damaging to our development as a successful species. Unfortunately many of our leaders are intellectual minnows, Pelicans and Galahs stuck in the muddy banks of dogma.