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Old 06-20-2006, 07:00 PM   #16
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I once happened to be in Lucknow during Muharram and saw some of what you describe, which shocked me profoundly, as I had never heard about such practices.

Interesting that you remember both Sunnis and Shias using the mosques you attended. How could you tell which were which? And where, if I may ask, in Pakistan did you live? I'm asking partly because when I asked about the division having the "force of an ethnic boundary," I had in mind that ethnic boundaries matter a lot in some regions of Pakistan, and I wondered to what extent the Sunni-Shia divide might "feel" analogous to something like that...I guess, kind of like the way Jews, at least if wearing obvious religious garb or walking to a synagogue, might be viewed here--i.e., it's not quite the same perception as if we were just another bunch of folks strolling into whatever church we happen to attend; suddenly you become "one of those people." Does that make sense? Of course, if you lived in a big city, ethnicity probably mattered a lot less.
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political parties and groups that want to exert their influence in every facet of Pakistan's cultural and political lives and will use the Shiites (or Hindus, or Christians, or Americans, or feminists, or Pakistan's liberal political parties, or ISRAEL...everything's about ISRAEL) as scapegoats and targets to recruit more uneducated, disenfranchised Pakistani youth as cannon fodder for their political aims.
Yup, and isn't that always how extremists of whatever type go about it--politicizing and fortifying boundaries which have always existed, but were never categorically seen as denoting a "threat" before. That "everything's about Israel" bit is why, unfortunately, I probably won't be able to go back to Pakistan anytime soon--I've been to Rawalpindi once, and would absolutely love to see more...Lahore, Islamabad, some of the Indus sites...but, my last name's a dead giveaway, and there's an Israel stamp on my passport, so...Honestly, in so many ways it felt like I could've been in any number of places in India when I was there. I really hate being afraid to go places.
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Old 06-20-2006, 07:25 PM   #17
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Originally posted by yolland
I once happened to be in Lucknow during Muharram and saw some of what you describe, which shocked me profoundly, as I had never heard about such practices.

Interesting that you remember both Sunnis and Shias using the mosques you attended. How could you tell which were which? And where, if I may ask, in Pakistan did you live? I'm asking partly because when I asked about the division having the "force of an ethnic boundary," I had in mind that ethnic boundaries matter a lot in some regions of Pakistan, and I wondered to what extent the Sunni-Shia divide might "feel" analogous to something like that...I guess, kind of like the way Jews, at least if wearing obvious religious garb or walking to a synagogue, might be viewed here--i.e., it's not quite the same perception as if we were just another bunch of folks strolling into whatever church we happen to attend; suddenly you become "one of those people." Does that make sense? Of course, if you lived in a big city, ethnicity probably mattered a lot less.

Yup, and isn't that always how extremists of whatever type go about it--politicizing and fortifying boundaries which have always existed, but were never categorically seen as denoting a "threat" before. That "everything's about Israel" bit is why, unfortunately, I probably won't be able to go back to Pakistan anytime soon--I've been to Rawalpindi once, and would absolutely love to see more...Lahore, Islamabad, some of the Indus sites...but, my last name's a dead giveaway, and there's an Israel stamp on my passport, so...Honestly, in so many ways it felt like I could've been in any number of places in India when I was there. I really hate being afraid to go places.
I was born in Rawalpindi (ironically, in a Catholic hospital), and lived mostly there or Karachi (my father worked in the Atomic Energy Commission...moved around to wherever there was a new nuclear reactor being built). How could i tell between Sunnis and Shiites at mosques? The Shiite had slightly (very very slightly) different ways of praying...(also, they didn't cover their heads like we Sunnis did...we always wore prayer caps)...we would pray together, but whereas, for example, we Sunnis at the start of the prayer would say one "Allahu Akber" ("God is great"), Shiites would say three...little things like that. (I know...too much detail here for you.)

Living in those big cities, i couldn't identify a social Sunni-Shia "boundary" as you've defined it. But i'm sure they're there to the people who are looking for them. There are so many such boundaries, it's hard to keep track. For instance, there was this boundary between the native regional people of the lands of Pakistan (i.e. Sindhis, Punjabis, Balochis, Pathans, etc.) and the people who migrated from India because of the 1947 partition. My mom and dad (and their family) had come over from India at that time, but, i realized, we were all looked upon as outsiders or refugees ("Urdu-speaking" outsiders, specifically). Karachi, especially, has a high concentration of us, and, in the '80s and '90s, Karachi experienced a lot of voilence because of a couple political parties who wanted Karachi to be a separate city state because of this uniqueness.

Pakistan, to my mind, is very close (if not there) to being a failed state. Such a huuuuge mistake to partition India into East and West Pakistan in 1947. More Colonial mistakes.

And as for the Moslem world's hatred of Jews and Israel? Well, everyone knows so much of it is self-loathing being outwardly projected. The Palestinian issue is a godsend for them to use perpetually to keep their countries' populations from not turning on their own governments...we can all just keep blaming the Americans and Israel for the world's ills (i'm not saying that Israel here can't do more for the Palestinian question; of course they can; but the Arab/Moslem world, i get the feeling, is not in any hurry for a resolution).

(Uh, oh, i think i'm rambling, Yolland.) I remember being six in Pakistan (this is 1970), and the Imam coming to our house and teaching me to read the Koran in Arabic. That was all fine. But then the Imam would also teach me to hate the Jews. Even at the young age, i could tell something was not right. He would not teach me that the Koran says hate the Jews. It was his own opinions. That attitude, I am ashamed to say, is too prevalent in that country.

It's the reason i named my first son Judah (whose name i've adopted for Interference). A big fuck-you to my Islamo-centric relatives and family. Or, at least, a signal that, hey, Hebrew names can be cool, too.

[Geez, this could morph into an "Ask the ex-Moslem" thread. But, no, i won't put you through that.]
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Old 06-20-2006, 07:33 PM   #18
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Fascinating thread, I'm enjoying it very much, thanks.
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Old 06-20-2006, 08:33 PM   #19
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Originally posted by Judah


during those holy days where they would parade in the streets self-flaggelating (it was ugly, because they would do it till they bled profusely).

There are actually some Catholics who do this as well, in the Philippines during Easter week. Some reeeeeally penitent folks will even have themselves crucified. I've never seen it in person though some of my Filipino friends have but I saw articles and pictures in the paper last year when I was in Manila during Holy Week.

Fascinating thread. I've appreciated hearing your perspective, Judah.
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Old 06-20-2006, 08:46 PM   #20
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^ Yeah - fascinating to read.
I looked up "Flagellant" on Wikipedia, and found the following stub in the entry:

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Modern processions of hooded flagellants are still a feature of various mediterranean Catholic countries, mainly in Spain, Portugal and Italy and some former colonies, usually every year during Lent. For example in the comune of Guardia Sanframondi in Campania, Italy, such parades are organized once every seven years.

In modern times, it has been speculated that the more extreme practices of mortification of the flesh may have been used to obtain altered states of consciousness for the goal of experiencing religious experiences or visions; medical research has shown that great pain releases endorphines which can have such effect, and even get some fetishists addicted to pain.

Some Christians in Philippines practice flagellation as a form of devout worship, sometimes in addition to self-crucifixion (during the end of Lent season).
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Old 06-20-2006, 10:16 PM   #21
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And Shia Muslims flaggelate on the 10th Day of Muharram because of this:

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/141/story_14109_1.html

"Ashura is also important because of an event 61 years after the Prophet's migration. On the day of Ashura in the Iraqi city of Karbala, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Husayn, was murdered along with 72 of his kinsmen by the army of the Muslim Caliph Yazid. This day is probably the most important day in all of Shia Islam, and Shia Muslims have been known to self-flagellate in mourning of the Imam's murder."

--------

My mom tells me we (our family) are direct descendents of the above-named "Husayn" (my last name is Hussain, and we have an actual family tree that goes all the way back to this person...though, for some reason, we're not Shia).

At the website above, i also like the part where Muslims are supposed to remember (through fasting) Moses' leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Wish Muslims would rely upon a bit more of these commonalities with Judaism to bridge some of the major political chasms between the two religions.

Also, with regard to the reference to Karbala, I believe it was Husayn's shrine/mosque that was blown up by the Sunnis earlier this year (late last year?) that, understandably, really pissed off the Shiites.
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Old 06-21-2006, 01:02 AM   #22
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Originally posted by Judah
My mom tells me we (our family) are direct descendents of the above-named "Husayn" (my last name is Hussain, and we have an actual family tree that goes all the way back to this person...though, for some reason, we're not Shia).
Heh. That's rather ironic.
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There are so many such boundaries, it's hard to keep track. For instance, there was this boundary between the native regional people of the lands of Pakistan (i.e. Sindhis, Punjabis, Balochis, Pathans, etc.) and the people who migrated from India because of the 1947 partition. My mom and dad (and their family) had come over from India at that time, but, i realized, we were all looked upon as outsiders or refugees ("Urdu-speaking" outsiders, specifically). Karachi, especially, has a high concentration of us, and, in the '80s and '90s, Karachi experienced a lot of voilence because of a couple political parties who wanted Karachi to be a separate city state because of this uniqueness.
Where was your family from? I am very sorry to hear they were directly affected by that calamity--even if they emigrated fully willingly and without loss of life or possessions, what an episode that must've been to pass through...definitely one of the blackest moments in modern history.

I know a little bit about the Karachi situation, not much though. That must have been pretty disillusioning. Minority language politics in India was my main research area a few years back, and I remember being surprised to see in one book's footnote how small (well, relatively anyway!) the number of *native* Urdu speakers in Pakistan, compared to the number who learnt it only in school, was.

It's amazing the number of prominent politicians in both countries who were also directly affected by Partition...Musharraf, (PM) Singh, Lal Advani...one would like to think perhaps the next generation will be able to forget a little, but then again, perhaps what's of recent memory won't prove to be much better.
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Pakistan, to my mind, is very close (if not there) to being a failed state. Such a huuuuge mistake to partition India into East and West Pakistan in 1947. More Colonial mistakes.
Wow. I have to imagine that this is a point of view you can't freely express in front of just anybody from your community? Because I must say you are the first Pakistani/Pakistani- (+ appropriate diaspora suffix) I've ever heard say that. Anger about what happened during Partition itself, yes; ambivalence about the nature of the state Jinnah et al created, even. But I had the impression that to question the ultimate good of having created a separate state is quite taboo--am I wrong about that?
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I remember being six in Pakistan (this is 1970), and the Imam coming to our house and teaching me to read the Koran in Arabic. That was all fine. But then the Imam would also teach me to hate the Jews. Even at the young age, i could tell something was not right. He would not teach me that the Koran says hate the Jews. It was his own opinions. That attitude, I am ashamed to say, is too prevalent in that country.

It's the reason i named my first son Judah (whose name i've adopted for Interference). A big fuck-you to my Islamo-centric relatives and family. Or, at least, a signal that, hey, Hebrew names can be cool, too.


Well, I hope your moral clarity hasn't cost you too much, and it's wonderful that you've retained your affection for the community despite the disagreements. And that's a beautiful name to give your son (and I'm not saying that because I'm Jewish). Always wondered if that could possibly really be your name, lol. Did you know about this:
Quote:
(from Wikipedia)
Since the 1970's the custom has arisen [among some Jews in Israel] of giving the name "Hagar" to newborn female babies. The giving of this name is often taken as a controversial political act, marking the parents as being left-leaning and supporters of reconciliation with the Palestinians and Arab World, and is frowned upon by nationalists and the religious.
1970...ah, so you emigrated pretty young, then. I remember you naming '75 as the year in another thread.

I shouldn't say too much about what that imam taught you...'cause my sense is you'd already understand anything I could say, plus these kinds of emotions get twisted to feed the politics of dread and fear far, far too often...but...the idea that this goes on every day, in millions of homes around the world, triggers what has got to be the most disturbing sort of collective self-reckoning most Jews can imagine. No matter what anyone might defensively say, running beneath the initial rush of fear and the whole litany of other bad memories it conjures up, there is always this wrenching whisper of doubt:...my God, could we possibly--in some small measure, some sick Faustian way--bear some real responsibility for all this? Could we, should we have foreseen that this bargain we entered into half a century ago--we want these lands you conquered; you want us out of your own lands--was just going to make millions of new enemies, and vicariously spread feelings of collective humiliation and injustice among people we never dreamed could harbor serious threats? (And even if we had, what else might we have done?) Were we really that afraid--that we forgot that disabling emotion warps other nations too? (I think maybe yes.) Pretty thin stuff to ground a national identity on, fear. --Which is right about the point where I, at least, usually shut down and just think, "Fuck it. What an awful, miserable, wretched bloody century."
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Old 06-21-2006, 02:06 AM   #23
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Originally posted by yolland

Heh. That's rather ironic.

Where was your family from? I am very sorry to hear they were directly affected by that calamity--even if they emigrated fully willingly and without loss of life or possessions, what an episode that must've been to pass through...definitely one of the blackest moments in modern history.

I know a little bit about the Karachi situation, not much though. That must have been pretty disillusioning. Minority language politics in India was my main research area a few years back, and I remember being surprised to see in one book's footnote how small (well, relatively anyway!) the number of *native* Urdu speakers in Pakistan, compared to the number who learnt it only in school, was.

It's amazing the number of prominent politicians in both countries who were also directly affected by Partition...Musharraf, (PM) Singh, Lal Advani...one would like to think perhaps the next generation will be able to forget a little, but then again, perhaps what's of recent memory won't prove to be much better.

Wow. I have to imagine that this is a point of view you can't freely express in front of just anybody from your community? Because I must say you are the first Pakistani/Pakistani- (+ appropriate diaspora suffix) I've ever heard say that. Anger about what happened during Partition itself, yes; ambivalence about the nature of the state Jinnah et al created, even. But I had the impression that to question the ultimate good of having created a separate state is quite taboo--am I wrong about that?



Well, I hope your moral clarity hasn't cost you too much, and it's wonderful that you've retained your affection for the community despite the disagreements. And that's a beautiful name to give your son (and I'm not saying that because I'm Jewish). Always wondered if that could possibly really be your name, lol. Did you know about this:

1970...ah, so you emigrated pretty young, then. I remember you naming '75 as the year in another thread.

I shouldn't say too much about what that imam taught you...'cause my sense is you'd already understand anything I could say, plus these kinds of emotions get twisted to feed the politics of dread and fear far, far too often...but...the idea that this goes on every day, in millions of homes around the world, triggers what has got to be the most disturbing sort of collective self-reckoning most Jews can imagine. No matter what anyone might defensively say, running beneath the initial rush of fear and the whole litany of other bad memories it conjures up, there is always this wrenching whisper of doubt:...my God, could we possibly--in some small measure, some sick Faustian way--bear some real responsibility for all this? Could we, should we have foreseen that this bargain we entered into half a century ago--we want these lands you conquered; you want us out of your own lands--was just going to make millions of new enemies, and vicariously spread feelings of collective humiliation and injustice among people we never dreamed could harbor serious threats? (And even if we had, what else might we have done?) Were we really that afraid--that we forgot that disabling emotion warps other nations too? (I think maybe yes.) Pretty thin stuff to ground a national identity on, fear. --Which is right about the point where I, at least, usually shut down and just think, "Fuck it. What an awful, miserable, wretched bloody century."
Yolland, what a fascinating life you've led/are-leading...getting to travel to India. I'd love to go there someday (on my Canadian passport!).

Both my mom and dad were from Jodhpur...in Rajastan. Their families left behind huuuuge estates and land. They were promised equal compensation in land if they went to Pakistan, but, no, it didn't really materialize. It was all too chaotic.

Partition was screwed from the start (not to mention the fear-mongering politics that Jinnah's Muslim League used in order to extort a country out of the Brits)...some junior British cartographer (if he was that) was tasked to draw the boundaries, and he basically drew it using some main geographical markers to draw the borders, often times cutting towns and villages in half (i.e. half on Pakistan's side, half on India). My mom is now 68...she was a kid of 9 or so, when she boarded the train to move to Pakistan. She still gets up in the middle of the night screaming...memories of seeing trains coming in from Pakistan to India, full of massacred Hindus and Sikhs. The same story played out on the other side of the border, with trains pulling in with massacred Muslims.

No, it's not a big deal for me to say to my relatives, even when i visit Pakistan, that Pakistan should never have been. It's a valid point of debate in Pakistan (though, obviously, not a view held by the majority)...especially given India's growing status as a world economic power and the relative success of secular democracy. More Muslims live in India right now than in Pakistan, and they're generally doing fine (not counting the religious and ethnic strife that erupts every now and then...but that's also the case in Pakistan; and India has it not just between Hindus and Muslims, but also from Sikhs or Biharis or what not). And, yes, i moved from Pakistan to Canada in 1975.

I don't think the Muslim hate-mongering of Israel/Jews is rooted in 1948 and the founding of Israel. It goes back to Muhammed's time. Muslims say they thought of Jews as their brothers, until the Jews of Medina turned on them and sided with the Quresh (the non-Muslim pagans from Mecca) in Arabia. I think the Muslims initially used those stories in the early years of the religion to set themselves apart from the Jews (and Christians) in order to cement a unique identity for the new religion, and then continue to use the hatreds through the centuries to try to maintain claim over the eventually conquered lands of the middle-east as Islam spread (all the way through Africa, Spain and to the doorsteps of Europe). One could argue that this historical position of the Arabs/Muslims against Jews was one of the biggest reasons the Arab world didn't/couldn't come to an agreement for a dual Israel/Palestinian state in 1948...a truly missed opportunity.
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Old 06-21-2006, 11:23 AM   #24
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Judah, Yolland,

Thank you for the refreshing, insightful, fascinating discussion.
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Old 06-22-2006, 11:33 PM   #25
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btw.. I'm a Sunni and one of my best friends in High School was a Shia... we even prayed together.
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Old 06-22-2006, 11:36 PM   #26
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Originally posted by Judah
I don't think the Muslim hate-mongering of Israel/Jews is rooted in 1948 and the founding of Israel. It goes back to Muhammed's time. Muslims say they thought of Jews as their brothers, until the Jews of Medina turned on them and sided with the Quresh (the non-Muslim pagans from Mecca) in Arabia. I think the Muslims initially used those stories in the early years of the religion to set themselves apart from the Jews (and Christians) in order to cement a unique identity for the new religion, and then continue to use the hatreds through the centuries to try to maintain claim over the eventually conquered lands of the middle-east as Islam spread (all the way through Africa, Spain and to the doorsteps of Europe). One could argue that this historical position of the Arabs/Muslims against Jews was one of the biggest reasons the Arab world didn't/couldn't come to an agreement for a dual Israel/Palestinian state in 1948...a truly missed opportunity.
There was still relative peace between Muslims and Jews for hundreds of years if not a thousand. In the golden age of Islam, the Jews and Muslims lived in peace, and the Muslims protected the Jews from Christian persecution. And even there were times where there was peace with Christianity as well, and all 3 religions lived in harmony and had healthy debates and the like.
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Old 06-23-2006, 03:16 PM   #27
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Judah, yolland, thank you. You have given me food for thought.
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Old 06-23-2006, 06:05 PM   #28
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There was still relative peace between Muslims and Jews for hundreds of years if not a thousand. In the golden age of Islam, the Jews and Muslims lived in peace, and the Muslims protected the Jews from Christian persecution. And even there were times where there was peace with Christianity as well, and all 3 religions lived in harmony and had healthy debates and the like.
I don't think one can characterize Islamic-Jewish-Christian history with a general statement as "relative peace." Because there's such a long history, there were periods of peace, periods of violence and intolerance, etc. (mostly between Christians and Moslems, the "empiring" religions or nations, with Jews and others caught in the middle). Neither the Christian empires/nations nor the Islamic ones can say they were better than the other. Of course it all depended upon the ruler. In short, a "Golden Age of Islam" may have been good for Moslems, not so good for others.

Moslems love to propagate the fact that Islam is the most tolerant religion, allowing other religions freedom of worship, etc., throughout history. (Their favorite example being the true story of Crusaders' first take over of Jerusalem and how all the Moslem inhabitants were massacred by the Christians. When the Moslems retook the city, they spared the Christians.) But history records otherwise on many other occasions.

Here's a website that discusses some specific historical events (about halfway down the page). Yes, sounds like a fairly biased-against-Islam website, so, obviously, you gotta look at various other sources regarding the true facts. I've read up on some of this stuff, but not in any grave detail, so i'll be looking for more evidence. I've read a few sources about the Moslem rulers of India, and they (the sources) have all reported how on countless occasions throughout their hundreds of years of rule, Moslems destroyed Hindu temples and majorly oppressed Hindus.

http://www.islamreview.com/articles/...olerance.shtml

"Christians, for at least three hundred years, suffered one other humiliation not often discussed: a process known as devshirme.(11) It was introduced by the Ottoman Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359) and consisted of periodically taking a fifth of all Christian children in the conquered territories. Converted to Islam, these children aged between fourteen and twenty were trained to be janissaries or infantry men. These periodic abductions eventually became annual. Children were taken from among the Greek aristocracy, Serbs, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Albanians, and often included children of priests. At a fixed date, all the fathers were ordered to appear with their children in the public square. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy and handsome children in the presence of a Muslim judge. Any father who shirked his duty to provide children was severely punished. The recruiting agents often took more than the prescribed number of children and sold the "surplus" back to their parents. Those unable to buy back their children had to accept their being sold into slavery. This institution was abolished in 1656, though a parallel system where young children between six and ten were taken to be trained in the seraglio of the sultan continued until the eighteenth century.

...

"Each century has its own, full account of the horrors of Muslim intolerance.

"In the ninth, there were the massacres of Spanish Christians in and around Seville; in the tenth, the persecutions of non-Muslims under the Caliph al-Hakim are well known; in the eleventh, the entire community of Jews (about three thousand people) in Grenada was exterminated and a further five thousand were killed in Fez in 1033; in the twelfth, the Almohads of North Africa spread terror everywhere they went.

"In the thirteenth century, the Christians of Damascus were killed or sold into slavery; their churches burnt to the ground. In the fourteenth, we have the terror spread by the infamous Timur the Lame, otherwise known as Tamerlane or the "Bloody and insatiate Tamburlaine" of Marlowe's play. As Rene Grousset put it in his Empire des Steppes, in Timur we had a symbiosis of Mongolian barbarism and Muslim fanaticism; Timur killed out of "Koranic piety." Timur systematically destroyed the Christians, and as a result the Nestorians and Jacobites of Mesopotamia have never recovered. At Sivas, 4,000 Christians were buried alive; at Tus there were 10,000 victims. Historians estimate the number of dead at Saray to be 100,000; at Baghdad 90,000; at Isfahan 70,000; at Delhi under the pretext that the 50,000 Indian prisoners presented a grave risk to his army, Timur ordered their execution in cold blood. He killed thousands and had victory pillars or towers of their heads and skulls built.

"So far we have been concentrating on the fate of the People of the Book, that is to say, on the Jews and Christians. In their encounter with "heathens and idolators," the Muslims were merciless, with their implacable moral certainty, arrogance, encouraged by the ferocious words of God Himself, as given in the Koran, to kill unbelievers. In the ninth century, the persecutions of the Zoroastrians of Persia pushed them to migrate to the more tolerant lands of Hindu India, where to this day they form a respected minority known as Parsis.

"We shall now turn to the spread of Islam beyond Persia, and its arrival in the land of "idolators," India."

-----------

Hanging around with Moslems all my life, what i can say is that we spend a lot of time and energy NOT looking at our history...or, rather, being very choosy with our history. There's a sense that "overall" Moslem rulers were better than Christian ones and, would, of course have to be because ours is a superior religion...one of tolerance. This blinkered approach can't be good. How are we to improve if we don't learn from the past? Yes, you may have a case if you say "on paper, our religion is more tolerant than others" (though that is also thoroughly debatable) but that means nothing when throughout history that tenet hasn't been followed particularly consistently.
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Old 06-23-2006, 08:51 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally posted by bcrt2000


There was still relative peace between Muslims and Jews for hundreds of years if not a thousand. In the golden age of Islam, the Jews and Muslims lived in peace, and the Muslims protected the Jews from Christian persecution. And even there were times where there was peace with Christianity as well, and all 3 religions lived in harmony and had healthy debates and the like.
And where do the Polytheists, Atheists and Animists sit on that? They have been persecuted by both Christian and Muslim states through history. If freedom of thought (not just flavours of the same fantasy in one invisible friend) is denied and punished then these examples illustrate whats wrong with these religions and the world that they are striving for.

Incidently a recent study found that atheists are the most distrustrusted minority in America, tollerence of faith from the faithful rarely extends to the unbelievers - so I guess that the average American would be more at ease with their daughters marrying a gay man than an atheist.
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