The destruction of Mecca

mecca picture

 

Ziauddin Sardar shared his thought about ‘the destruction of Mecca’ – the time when skyscrapers, shopping malls, hotels, and extravagantly built high-rises begin to ‘invade’ the Sacred Mosque’s surroundings, making it look infinitesimally tiny compared to the hawkish, self-serving, and megalomaniac structures around the vicinity, and the pilgrimage itself, or hajj, to gradually lose its authentic, spiritual meaning.

Read his piece in The New York Times, and think deeper.

 

Excerpt:

 

The dominant architectural site in the city is not the Sacred Mosque, where the Kaaba, the symbolic focus of Muslims everywhere, is. It is the obnoxious Makkah Royal Clock Tower hotel, which, at 1,972 feet, is among the world’s tallest buildings. It is part of a mammoth development of skyscrapers that includes luxury shopping malls and hotels catering to the superrich. The skyline is no longer dominated by the rugged outline of encircling peaks. Ancient mountains have been flattened. The city is now surrounded by the brutalism of rectangular steel and concrete structures — an amalgam of Disneyland and Las Vegas.

The Islamic Sex Cult Supporting Turkey’s Prime Minister

harem

 

Inside the country’s bizarre Islamic sect, led by Adnan Oktar, a.k.a. ‘Harun Yahya’, with followers dressed in drag-queen suits, promoting weird messages about consumerism, advocating for creationism, making use of soft-core pornography to spread its messages to a wider scope of audience by its chain of televangelist networks either on cable or on Internet, and most controversially, aggressively supporting Turkey’s incumbent, and scandal-laden, prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Read the in-depth article in Balkanist.

 

Excerpt:

 

The group’s theology has been described as a “sexed-up Disney version of Islam” by anthropologist Daniel Martin Varisco, and the show can even get a little homoerotic. A pair of hunky twins named Onder and Ender make the occasional appearance, usually wearing matching muscle t-shirts and excessive bronzer. The camera ogles the two decorative sphinxes while Oktar praises them for their muscular beauty. The women — referred to as Oktar’s “kittens” or “harem” — pose for promo photos together in overtly sexual positions, often coupled with slogans like “I read the Qu’ran” printed across the pictures like postcards.

It all looks cartoonish, but the show has still managed to draw numerous noteworthy professors, politicians, and other prominent people who should probably know better. Since Oktar embraces his own form of neo-Ottomanism, and sees himself as something of a Sultan, many of his interviewees have been from the Balkan region. Not all of them travelled to the Istanbul studio to witness the weird sex cult atmosphere, but each of the following people will remain on one or more of Harun Yahya’s “hundreds of websites” forever: former Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Serbia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sladjana Prica, and University of Prizren Rector Mazllum Baraliu. Besides the Balkan figures, he’s also met with Madonna, and claims his Atlas of Creation made rapper Busta Rhymes convert to Islam.

One of Adnan Oktar’s plans is to preside over the creation of something he calls the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which preliminary maps indicate would only cover about half of the Eastern hemisphere. Like members of Turkey’s current conservative government (especially Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu) and the international religious community known as the Gulen movement with whom the the Turkish leadership is engaged in a very public power struggle, Oktar believes Turkey should be at the center of a new global Islam, and often indulges expansionist fantasies about the resurrection of the Ottoman Empire. Bulent Aras, Professor of International Relations at Isik University, described their aim to “Islamize Turkish nationalism and to Turkify Islam”. The Armani-clad Adnan Oktar shares other values with the current Turkish leadership: relentless consumerism, evidenced in Prime Minister Erdogan’s obsession with bulldozing parks and public spaces to build shopping malls, coupled with a renewed embrace of religion.

 

the turkish-islamic union

‘The Turkish-Islamic Union’, an absurd, messianic Muslim hegemony Harun Yahya envisions through his army of televangelists.

 

The atheist who hates Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins TI

 

Too bad Big Think, the out-of-the-worldly blog composed of out-of-the-Euclidean-box thinkers, scientists, and experts, has expropriated Satoshi Kanazawa, another eccentric thinker (and he’s a lecturer in London School of Economics), who authored this mind-bending, self-deprecating article. Thanks to the guy behind hardwick.fi, he could still save nearly two dozens of posts he used to write in Big Think.

In brief, probably Mr.Satoshi wants to infer that Dawkins has ‘actually been incomprehensible since birth’. But, still, the decision to quell him from this website was so ‘out-of-the-universe’.

 

Read it like you sip a cup of espresso, and think like Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

 

Why I Am Not an Atheist

JANUARY 13, 2013, 8:00 PM

“Atheist” used to mean someone who does not believe in the existence of God.  Unfortunately, it no longer does.

Thanks to Richard Dawkins and his ilk, “atheist” now means someone who is (and acts as if he is) intellectually superior, and who mocks and derides the deeply held and personal religious beliefs of less intelligent others by pointing out how wrongheaded and stupid they are to believe what they believe.

Virtually all of Dawkins’s contemporary examples of how evil, oppressive and destructive religion is come from Islam.  There is no question that Islam is an evil, oppressive and destructive force, but that does not mean all religions are.  In fact, I would contend that, apart from Islam, most contemporary religions throughout the world today are for the most part forces of good most of the time.

Dawkins’s major problem is that he doesn’t know Americans and how religion works in the United States.  Americans are by far the most religious people in all of the western industrial world.  And anyone who has lived in and traveled to as many places as I have will unanimously tell you that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth.  Although it would be difficult to demonstrate it scientifically, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Americans are the kindest and most generous people on earth because they are deeply religious.

It is not just the opinions of those who have lived and traveled everywhere.  There are actual data.  In 2006 the Reader’s Digest conducted a worldwide survey of residents of 35 different countries throughout the world and reached the conclusion that New Yorkers were the most civil and courteous people in the world.  Late-night comedians mercilessly lampooned the finding, because everybody knows how nasty and mean New Yorkers are.  What they didn’t realize, however, is that the Reader’s Digest’s study was an international one, comparing residents of major cities throughout the world, and New York was the only American city chosen.  So their study didn’t show that New Yorkers were more civil and courteous than people in Charleston or Des Moines (they almost certainly aren’t); it showed instead that Americans – even the meanest and nastiest ones in New York – were more civil and courteous than Russians and Kiwis.

Here’s the best way I know of to express how qualitatively different Americans are in their kindness and generosity.  Every Friday, the CBS Evening News features a segment called “On the Road,” originally conceived of and hosted by the late Charles Kuralt for a quarter of a century, and recently revived and now hosted by Steve Hartman.  In the segment, Kuralt and Hartman feature otherwise unknown ordinary Americans who perform extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity.  The segment has consistently featured one or more such Americans every week for nearly half a century now.  And the NBC Nightly News similarly has “Making a Difference” (now occasionally presented by Chelsea Clinton) and the ABC World News has “Person of the Week.”

If BBC or Deutsche Welle were to produce “On the Road,” it would go off the air in less than a year, because there are not that many extraordinary individuals in the UK or Germany (or anywhere else in the world) for them to feature week after week.  Decent people in other countries pay their taxes, obey the posted speed limits, and otherwise stay out of trouble; they don’t go out of their way to perform extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity as many Americans routinely do.  And I personally have no doubt in my mind that it is because Americans are deeply religious and consider all of their neighbors to be God’s great children.

If you want to know how incredibly good and generous deeply religious people are, I’d recommend the 2007 documentary film For the Bible Tells Me So.  I wish I could be as good and kind a human being as many of the people who appear in For the Bible Tells Me So are, and I am deeply ashamed and saddened that I am not.  I am just as much of an asshole as Dawkins is.

Dawkins tells religious people to their faces that their beliefs are delusional because God in fact does not exist.  It is a scientific fact that God does not exist, so it is not rational to believe in God.  I wonder if Dawkins walks up to random people on the streets of Oxford and tells them that he is more intelligent, better looking, and wealthier than they are.  That would also be scientifically true, but I would consider such behavior to be exceedingly gaudy and tasteless, as gaudy and tasteless as telling the same people that they are stupid to believe in God.

It is ironic because, according to Dawkins himself, I am actually more atheist than he is in the original meaning of the word.  Fellow Big Think blogger Mark Cheney quotes Dawkins as saying “On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six.  That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.”  It’s funny, because, unlike Dawkins, I absolutely know for sure that God doesn’t exist, as any scientist would.  For scientists, it’s very simple; absolutely nothing exists in the universe, except for those entities for which there is credible scientific evidence for their existence.  So I know for sure that God doesn’t exist for the same reason that I know Santa Claus or Superman doesn’t exist

But I am not an atheist.

A blogger’s hope for religious tolerance in Myanmar

myanmar

 

 

A Burmese blogger spins the yarn about her utter disappointment – and her personal aspiration – in the religious crisis penetrating bulk of Myanmar’s territories, particularly Buddhist-Muslim conflicts which have seen lives taken off throughout months.

 

I’m a Buddhist. I’m a Burmese living in Myanmar. But I just don’t have anything against the Muslims living in Myanmar. They have been living in Myanmar for so many years, just like the Chinese Myanmars. They are our neighbours, they are our co-workers, they are our classmates, they are our friends. What’s wrong with that? They worship their religion. We worship our religion. What’s wrong with that? The fundamental of all religions is based on peace. There are good people in Buddhists. There are bad people in Buddhists. Likewise, there will be good people and bad people in Christians, Muslims, or Hindus, or any other religions. There are only two kinds of people for me: good people and bad people. Why can’t people get the simplicity of that logic?

You don’t have to prosecute another religion just so that your own religion will grow. What kind of religion would it be if you had to use violence and bloodshed just to uphold it? Nobody can destroy the God that you have kept in your heart. You just have to follow what your religion has teach and try to be a good person, who doesn’t have to survive at the sake of others. That’s what I firmly believe, as a Buddhist. I am not praying 24 hours a day, but I try my best to have a good heart, and try my best to follow Buddha’s teachings. Lord Buddha has never said that we would have to make people suffer for the propagation of Buddhism.

 

Read the full article here.

 

Don’t be afraid of the masses

 

Recently, within two weeks, and on the same Friday afternoon, two massive demonstrations had been eructating in front of a 4-star hotel named Emerald Garden. More than one hundred civilians, all of whom are members of hard-line Islamic groups, protested what they alleged of the hotel’s management having toppled down a mosque. I did not check out further whether the hotel had really compensated it with building other ones or not (some remarked that the management had done so, and I hope so), but the main thing that I detested from these protests were of the racist remarks they put on certain ethnicity, particularly those of Chinese descendants. Personally, I myself felt uncomfortable with their words.

One of my friends changed her display picture in Blackberry Messenger with the one showing how the protestors carried out anti-Chinese posters, menacing that ‘one more mosque down, a thousand Chinese homes singed’. Another poster impended the Chinese, what majority of the hard-line Muslims here acknowledge as neo-liberal capitalists, to get out of this country. She told me that she stayed home all the afternoon, while anticipating any unfortunate spate that might any time happen. Meanwhile, another one of my friends, who is used to having English tuition in a house belonging to a Korean-American woman in close proximity to the hotel, was told by the woman not to come across the location.

To admit it honestly, no matter how unnice it is that everytime we hear any racist epithets pronounced by many of the denizens, there seems to be no other way but to accept them, no matter how these words might hurt, assume you were the one who’s in the minority. I myself personally confess that in general the ethnic Chinese are capitalists, but we must realize that it has been long taught in all the economic textbooks, that not all economic systems are entirely of evil concepts, and neither of them is considerable as being ‘the ultimate, the most sacrosanct’ ones. Every economic system, even capitalism itself, does contain itself its own advantages and disadvantages. In addition, I can’t comprehend what on earth is actually underlying their subconscious minds; they have ultimate belief that all Chinese people are demons. I certainly give a credence that all religions or forms of faith in this planet, including Islam, never teaches anyone to put excessive hatred in someone only because of their racial backgrounds, or only because they are not Muslims. They never promulgate messages of waging wars against those they consider opposed to what they take into their heads in, but it is usually the men themselves who have misused all the essential values of their religions to merely garner benefits for their own sake. And that’s what I always have been convinced with.

 

 

Here is my main concern: will this spark another worse-than-1998 riot? The improbability itself is neither too low nor too high, but that does not indicate it is entirely impossible at all. Even after the tumultuous period in 1998 had slipped by more than a decade, relationship between the bulk of ethnic Chinese with so-called pribumi, or indigenous Indonesians, remains largely brittle. Social gap remains indisputably large, though not as high as that triggered during Soeharto’s rule. Even if it is cognizant that approximately 100 million Indonesians have themselves elevated into the middle-class status, it hasn’t exhibited a considerable improvement of inter-ethnic relationship in Indonesia. But the probability itself is majoringly diminished by the en masse democracy majority of us relish. Besides, unlike in the past, when most of the time people were not granted rights to monitor their own surroundings, now they grab the bigger chances to observe the societies, largely thanks to the fluorishing appearance of mass media industry, enabling more people to speak out and assess the current events taking place in societies, even though oftentimes, what they speak out is not necessarily linked to the topic discussed. Lastly, the economic situation in 1998, compared to that in 2012, is a matter of 180-degree reverse. 1998 was a catchphrase for economic malaise most of the Asian countries, when tens of millions of people were out of job, but on the contrary, 2012 refers to the momentum for Asian emerging markets. In general, most of the emerging markets do face the similar situation: unconducive environment as a consequence of high insecurity and uneasy legal protection. But, the miraculous axiom is their over-the-acme economic revival.  Leastwise, the good news is that majority of Muslim Indonesians, after further survey conducted by multitudinous television stations and social institutes, oppose the existence of such hard-line organizations, albeit not all of them do have positive attitude towards ethnic Chinese.

It never takes a day to heal all the wounds imprinted for many decades. At times, the conjunction between the two communities are often at unease. I myself realize that such stigma would prevail for a long time, and flipping over it is like building a castle in the air. The hard-liners are planning to turn back, preparing what they claim ‘a larger demonstration than ever’. What will happen after, I ain’t a prophet at all.

But I know they may (probably) have to think twice, in minimum, before they really wish to scorch all the thousand Chinese houses. I envisage the ones who will fight back would be the servants and the drivers.

Why not everyone is gonna watch Persepolis.

Marjane Satrapi is a living talent. In my lifetime, there has never been an animated film – and never a motion picture itself – as satirically biting as her beloved ‘Persepolis’. What makes it exceptional lies on her ungodly experiences she herself had tasted through the tumultuous periods of life. She is not only doing her own tale-telling; things go deeper in the entirety of the 95 minutes Persepolis offers you. Deeper in her soul, she tells a fairytale about a polity imprisoned by its own isolationist regimes.

The story began with a young woman, that is Satrapi herself, undergoing a watertight immigration check-up upon her arrival in Charles de Gaulle International Airport, Paris, 1994. She later went into a toilet, and saw one French woman viewing her – and her headscarf, a must-have item for women in today’s Iran – with full suspicion. In no time, the scene moved into Satrapi sitting in a cafe, while a cloudburst was taking place outside the airport, at the same time contemplating about her gruesome past. There, we began to see a 9-year-old Satrapi, bigotric of Bruce Lee, Che Guevara, and revolution. A 9-year-old who was full of beans on revolutionary hopes instigated by the 1979 revolt which ousted the dictatorial, heavily anti-Communist Reza Shah Pahlevi. Life became more exuberant after her uncle, Anoush, was released from the prison after having been behind bars for 9 years, due to his Communist-inspired rebellion against the regime. Little Marji was overwhelmed by hopes, dreams, and ambitions (one of which was to become a prophet) by the outcome of the revolution; societies cherished the collapse of the regime of terror, which Satrapi indirectly implied as ‘teddy-bear of the West’.

However, it took not much time to grab every smiling face from virtually every citizen of the country. As soon as the Islamic Fundamentalists, those led by similarly brutal, sadistic, and savage Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, led a victory landslide with an overwhelming 99.9%, Iran was back into another regime of terror, but this time, on the behalf of ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’. Women are no longer allowed to adopt Western styles of fashion outside their homes; every woman was required to wear hijab, otherwise they might be alienated by surrounding societies.

Her uncle – also her very own source of inspiration for her exuberant life, Anoush, was all in a sudden captured by the regime due to his ideology, and was subsequently executed by a firing squad. Iran was preparing for a war with Iraq, a war in which would later claim more than 1 million lives, and lasted for 8 years. Almost every single day was spent with overwhelming fear, due to the high possibility that Iraqi forces would fire missiles into their apartments, and blow their bodies apart. Millions of men and women were recruited in self-defense jihad units, in which they sacrificed their lives by crossing through the heavily landmine-infested Iran-Iraq borderline. To make things more miserable, Satrapi put a scene in which her mother was involved in a conversation with their neighbor, who had lost all her 5 sons in the war, and instead having them ‘rewarded’ with a government-made plastic key, which symbolizes ‘path to heaven for courageously expelling the kafirs’.

All the situation had its own immediate effect on Satrapi. There was much personal tumult she had to struggle. All sorts of Western art were prohibited – and are still in effect until this day. That means obtaining them would be a grueling process; even vendors of pirated DVDs on American movies would have to put their eyes all the time on to anticipate any unexpected raids that may be conducted by some kind of local sharia patrolmen. She expressed all her concerns on the loud, banging, explosive sounds of heavy metal bands, notably Iron Maiden (her lifetime idol), listened vividly to Michael Jackson’s songs (often mis-spelt in Iran as Jichael Mackson), and wore a denim jacket with signs written out ‘punk is not ded’.

Her personal struggle escalated after she was moved to Vienna, Austria, in 1983. She lived in a rented house under the strict supervision of Catholic nuns, but in her schooling life, she befriended a group of punk, anarchy-minded Bohemians, and frequently attended underground, death-metal concerts. She fell in love with one of them, but the relationship ended off in no time after the man declared openly he ‘is a gay, and is proud of it’. Having fallen headfirst into desperation, her relationship with the Catholic nuns deteriorated, and she was expelled after a rabble-rousery fracas, which ended up by snapping at the nuns as ‘prostitutes’. Most of her time in Vienna was spent bohemianly, where she had to move from her friend’s house to her friend’s house, again into her friend’s friend’s house, again into her friend’s friend’s house, and even had to stay 4 all-gay couples for some time, before she found a brief period of tranquility staying in a philosopher’s house. She fell in love with a freelance playwright, but she even fell headlong, deeper into the valley of stygian desperation, after finding out her lover was having sex with another woman.

Her life became unstable since then; she often had falling-outs with the philosopher, and ended up expelled. For months, she had to wander around the streets of Vienna as a beggar, having survived day to day from the food remainings she found in landfills. In a deep night, she fell into comatose. Someone out there had taken her to hospital. Unable to cope with the emotional pressure she had been facing for months, she decided to return back to her homeland.

Back in Iran, Satrapi again regained her gusto after she dreamt she met God – and Karl Marx, her longtime idol. She enrolled back into academic life, amidst increasing fear about more possible repressions coming up in the future, since the death of Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini. She openly spoke up about the hypocrisies and all the religious absurdities in symposiums, fell in love with a local man, married her afterwards, and divorced him 4 years later, before she moved to Paris, and lives there until now.

—–

To be honest, Persepolis is many times ‘crunchier’ than any animated films I have ever seen. If there were a measurement unit to calculate how deep these films are from 0 to 10, I would rate most of Dreamworks-produced films on average 5, most of Pixar-produced films on average 7.5, and Persepolis on 10. I don’t say that all Dreamworks- and Pixar-made films are bad, but Persepolis has its own path to interpret about the absurdities of the world in a simplified manner that, if you listen deeply on their dialogues, you will slowly feel it. But not everyone will do it. Only those who are already well-prepared to witness the personal tumults of Satrapi as a woman, and as part of Iranian nation, are permitted to watch Persepolis.

But perhaps the most important theme it wants to emphasize is about the essence of human freedom. Satrapi was once born in a country ruled by dictatorial regime, and once had to overcome all the challenges imposed by another, religion-based regime who continues to rule Iran iron-handedly until this second. Once she was set free, she had made one mistake, and had learnt it: the metaphorical wired fences of harsh rules had ‘forced’ her to dream and seek her very own utopia, a realm of absolute freedom. But the world out there never permits, and is always absurd. Only the resilience and fortitude of hearts of man in seeking human freedom itself that will set themselves free, not the elusive, imaginary pledges of utopia. That had ruined her life once. And she realized she must not make another mistake like that anymore.

This is a film to commemmorate everyone who dreams of being ‘set free’.