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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘religion

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes the heavy level of pollution in Toronto Harbour following recent rains, and suggests Toronto is set to get gigabit Internet speeds.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about her recent vacation in Donegal.
  • Centauri Dreams revisits Robert L. Forward’s Starwisp probe.
  • Crooked Timber speculates that there is hope for rapid action on climate change.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on an inflated hot Jupiter orbiting a F-class star.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares a vintage supercomputer pamphlet.
  • Far Outliers looks at the collapse of the Comanche empire in the 1860s.
  • Language Log looks at the controversial English test in France.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reacts to an overly broad pulling of computer games with Confederate flags.
  • Steve Munro reacts to the state of streetcar switches.
  • Torontoist looks at a queer art exhibition at Bay and Wellesley on sex ed.
  • Towleroad shares a straight-married Scottish bishop’s tale of same-sex love.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that remembering the Civil War does not requite keeping the Confederate flag.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how few Crimeans identify with Russia and looks at Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian influence on Russia’s Finno-Ugric minorities.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly wonders who we should trust.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of Kepler-138b, a Mars-sized exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star.
  • Cody Delistraty considers whether language influences morality.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis shares different scenarios for the breakup of Nigeria.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the oppression of women workers.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that there is a skills shortage in the American economy and is in favour of the TPP trade agreement.
  • Steve Munro shares plans for TTC improvement.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes how Russia’s neighbours see it as a greater or lesser threat.
  • Torontoist and Transit Toronto react to the extension of cell service into the subways.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how Ukrainian Baptists in the Donbas resist Russian influence and argues that Russian militarization will ultimately hurt Russians.

[LINK] “Will Israel reach out to Syrian Druze?”

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Writing in Al-Monitor, Ben Caspit speculates that Israel might well intervene in Syria on behalf of the Druze minority in the south of the country, adjoining Israel and with a substantial population of co-religionists inside the Jewish nation-state.

While Israel is gearing up for the “day after Assad,” without knowing what that day without President Bashar al-Assad will bring, Israel’s neutrality with regard to the civil and ethnic war in Syria is being challenged by an interesting turn of events. In the past few weeks, the heads and leaders of the dominant Druze sect in Israel have turned to Israeli authorities with the request to extend help to the hundreds of thousands of Druze in Syria. These Druze are very concerned about the steady advance of the Islamic rebels toward Jabal al-Druze, or Mount Druze, where the majority of Syrian Druze are concentrated.

The contacts were conducted so quietly that were not revealed until June 12 in the Israeli daily Haaretz. The Druze are characterized as being loyal citizens of the central regime of the country in which they live. The Druze, who are dispersed across Syria, Lebanon and Israel, are viewed as an especially close-knit community that maintains tight cultural and familial connections, despite the borders and even wars that play a role in separating their various population centers in the Middle East. They tend to settle and establish their villages on high, mountainous areas, to improve their self-protection and defense capabilities. In Lebanon they are concentrated around Mount Lebanon and in Syria, at Jabal al-Druze, as well. Most of the Druze villages in Israel are located in the mountainous Galilee region.

There are about 136,000 Druze in Israel today; they signed “a covenant of blood” with the Jews even before the establishment of the State of Israel, taking part in Israel’s wars and battles. They have sacrificed their youngsters in Israel’s defense. Thus, they are viewed as patriotic Israelis. Members of the Druze community serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and rise to high-level command positions; the conscription percentages among the Druze minority (those who are Israeli citizens are drafted, unlike Golan Heights Druze, who are not drafted) are even higher than that of Jewish Israelis. On average, 83% of them serve in the IDF, compared with 75% among Jewish Israelis.The military cemeteries are full of graves of Druze soldiers. In short, the vast majority of the Israeli Druze identify themselves with the State of Israel.

When Israel conquered the Golan Heights in 1967, about 20,000 additional Druze, residents of the Heights, found themselves living in Israeli territory. In contrast to their Israeli-Druze brethren, most of the Golan Heights Druze remained loyal to Hafez al-Assad’s regime and refused to accept Israeli citizenship, even though it was offered to them. Nevertheless, and despite their strong affiliation to Syria and their refusal to take Israeli citizenship, good relations and mutual trust prevailed between the Druze in the Golan Heights and the Israeli authorities.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 17, 2015 at 10:31 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Joe. My. God. notes Mike Huckabee’s statement that he would have pretended to be transgendered to see naked teenage girls.
  • Language Hat reports on a Syriac manuscript of Galen.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports that the 35-hour work week in France was not as effective as it could have been.
  • Marginal Revolution opines on ways to deal with mental ilness.
  • Steve Munro reports that two-way streetcar traffic has begun on Queens Quay.
  • Savage Minds has a fascinating interview up with indigenous scholar Jenny Davis.
  • Torontoist checks in on the delayed bike lanes in the Annex.
  • Towleroad reports that, unsurprisingly, a majority of LGBT Americans say mainstrean religions are hostile to them.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the controversial place of the Tuvan language in the republic’s education system and argues that the West is approaching the Ukrainian conflict tactically, not strategically.

[LINK] Al Jazeera on religion among American Druze

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In her article “Keeping the faith?”, Liana Aghajanian takes a look at the strategies used by American Druze to try to keep young people within the faith. Given that constraints of the Druze religion, including opposition to intermarriage and homophobia, are problems for these young people, the religion seems to have plenty of work.

Calling themselves Al-Muwahhidun (believers in the oneness of God), the Druze stress a strict monotheism that incorporates Greek philosophy and Vedic elements such as reincarnation. The religion is sometimes regarded as secretive because of its distance from outsiders and because of its strict adherence to endogamy, or marriage within the community.

The roots of these beliefs can be traced back to the 11th century, when Egyptian ruler Al-Hakim, a central figure in Druze cosmology, disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was succeeded by his son Ali az-Zahir, who sought to wipe out the religion. In an act of self-preservation, the Druze went underground in 1043 and haven’t accepted converts since. There are now roughly 1 million Druze around the world, the majority of whom live in Lebanon, Syria and Israel; 30,000 to 40,000 members are in the United States, with the largest American group in California.

The Druze have persisted for over a thousand years, but for American Druze, ensuring that their community will survive past the 21st century has meant facing difficult questions about striking a balance between religion and secular culture.

There are a number of challenges. For many Druze growing up in the U.S., religion isn’t part of daily life. Second- and third-generation Druze Americans are often assimilated into American youth culture, and many move further from the faith when they enter high school and college. Alcohol is forbidden in the religion — which can present a challenge — and only very few young Druze choose to become members of the uqqal, a group of spiritual leaders knowledgeable in Druze doctrine. As a result, the majority of Druze Americans are relatively uninformed about their faith, and many don’t even have Arabic language skills.

The religion has also struggled with restrictions that some consider out of step with contemporary life in the U.S. According to Michael Malek Najjar, a professor of theater arts at the University of Oregon and a second-generation Druze American, prohibitions on intermarriage and being openly gay are “driving a lot of Druze away.” He added that these issues “are frankly causing a major schism in the American Druze and Western Druze societies that are going to lead to a gradual diminishment of the faith.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 1, 2015 at 10:10 pm

[BLOG] Some pop culture links

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  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talked about her social networks, and about the need to have faith in one’s abilities and to be strong.
  • C.J. Cherryh describes her visit to Grand Coulee Dam.
  • Crooked Timber notes the ways in which Ian Macleod is actually a romantic writer.
  • The Crux looks at the controversy over the siting of a new telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.
  • Cody Delistraty wonders if social rejection is needed for creative people.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at how difficult it is for Americans with criminal records to get jobs.
  • Mathew Ingram notes how young Saudis can find freedom on their phones for apps.
  • Language Hat suggests that a computer’s word analysis has identified a lost Shakespeare play.
  • Personal Reflection’s Jim Belshaw linked to his local history columns.
  • Otto Pohl notes the culinary links between Ghana and Brazil.
  • Peter Rukavina remembers the fallen elms of Charlottetown and reports on innovative uses of Raspberry Pi computers.
  • The Search reports on format migration at Harvard’s libraries.
  • Mark Simpson notes homoeroticism on British television.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle describes his discovery of wild leeks.
  • Towleroad notes an Austrian magazine’s printing of a limited edition with ink including HIV-infected blood, notes a gay Mormon’s defense of his life to his church, and observes an Argentine judge who thought it acceptable to give a man who raped a possibly gay child a lighter sentence because of the child’s presumed orientation.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the repeal of blasphemy laws in Norway and examines the questionable concept of Straight Pride.

[LINK] “Adil Charkaoui: The angriest man in Montreal”

Of all the potential spokespeople for Muslims in Canada and Québec, Adil Charkaoui is among the worst. Martin Patriquin of MacLean’s writes about how a man once suspected of terrorist connections has become a prominent figure.

Hints of [Adil Charkaoui]’s alleged former life as a terrorist have crept into Charkaoui’s present-day narrative. Two of Charkaoui’s former students, who attended his Muslim community centre in east-end Montreal, were found to have made a trip overseas to join jihadi groups in their fight against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. More recently, two of 10 individuals arrested before they could leave on a similar mission had frequented Charkaoui’s classes.

Charkaoui, who didn’t respond to interview requests, has vehemently denied that he coaxed his former students into jihad­—and none of those students has spoken about Charkaoui at all. He has further denied that he planned a “biochemical attack in [Montreal’s] Metro” in 2002, or that he ever talked of “taking control of an airplane for aggressive purposes,” as the federal government alleged in court filings from 2013.

He has since become a Canadian citizen—proof positive, Charkaoui has said, that the government’s own allegations of terrorism were far-fetched. On the day of his citizenship ceremony, Charkaoui happily quoted from the letter sent to him from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “welcoming him to the Canadian family.”

While he continues to draw the ire of old foes—the PQ’s Agnès Maltais, now in opposition, recently labelled him “a merchant of hate”—he is also facing criticism from an unlikely source: Muslims themselves. In March, the tabloid Journal de Montréal published an open letter to Charkaoui by Omar Kesraoui, an Algerian-born Montrealer. “In Algeria, I didn’t have a childhood or an adolescence because of Islamists like you . . . The community needs real leaders to speak in the public sphere, not charlatans like you,” reads the letter, in part. Kesraoui goes on to call Charkaoui a “self-proclaimed sheik.”

Kesraoui didn’t respond to requests for further comment, and many others from the community seem to be wary of criticizing Charkaoui in public, for fear of adding to the perceived anti-Muslim bias in Quebec society. “By coming out and saying that Adil Charkaoui is a bad person, you end up joining the ranks of those who criticize Muslims in the public sphere, and perpetuate the idea that there’s something wrong with Islam,” says Stephen Brown, a Muslim activist in Montreal and a Charkaoui critic. “So, guys who proclaim themselves to be spokespeople can say anything and nothing is going to happen to them.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 29, 2015 at 10:37 pm


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