Archive for August, 2010

THE WAR

August 27, 2010

Cultural center at Ground Zero.. GZM…Park51…Cordoba House…Imam…Sheikh…Mufti… All these sound like bursts of machine-gun fire from the front-line. The conflict between the West and the Islam predicted by Samuel Huntington in “The Clash of Civilizations” manifests itself inside the U.S.A.

“Don’t fight hate with hate”, “Conquer terrorism with freedom”, “Don’t stereotype Muslims”. Those are the slogans of the liberals. I wonder if such values as the right to life, personal, political and economic freedom, the right to seek happiness in one’s own way, equality, diversity in culture, language, heritage, beliefs, OR such constitutional principles as popular sovereignty, separation of powers, representative government, checks and balances, individual rights – WILL ALL OF THESE be valued and treasured by those for whom the liberals are standing up? A student of Islam remembers his talk with a Muslim. The scholar said: “I would like nothing better than a flowering, a renaissance, in the Muslim world, including full equality of rights for women and non-Muslims in Islamic societies: freedom of conscience, equality in laws regarding legal testimony, equal employment opportunities, etc.” Is all that “anti-Muslim”? His correspondent replied “So, you would like to see us ditch much of our religion and, thereby, become non-Muslims?”

The Westerners are naïve in their hopes to channel Islam along “democratic” lines. They are trying to see that religion with “western eyes.” It reminds me of what I read about the English translation of Qur’an in which a liberty with the original text was taken: the word “lightly” was added to Sura 4:34 after the directive to husbands to beat their disobedient wives. The Arabic doesn’t say to beat them lightly, it just says to beat them.

Is the U.S. government naïve or simply anti-American when it sends Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the chief promoter of the mosque, all over the world as an interfaith communicator at the expense of the American tax-payers? Just one recent example: the Imam mentioned his attending an Islamic conference in Jordan: “I just came from a conference in Jordan, Amman where there were over 170 leading Muslim scholars from almost every part of the Muslim world, including some of the most important names like Sheikh Tantawi of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, who is the Chief Mufti of Egypt, the Chief Mufti of Jordan, the Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, who is a very very well known Islamic jurist, highly regarded all over the Muslim world.” Being referred by the link, I listened to the speech of the Sheikh Al-Qaradawi (the one who is so “highly regarded all over the Muslim world”) on YouTube. It was in Arabic, of course, but there were English subtitles. The speech was venomous, filled with hatred towards Israel and the West. By the end it culminated into the whole audience repeating after the Sheikh his calls to do away with the infidels.

As for the location of GZM, there’s another parallel. In 1993, Pope John Paul II asked 14 Carmelite Nuns to move their convent from just outside the Auschwitz death camp. The establishment of the convent near Auschwitz had stirred dismay among Jewish groups and survivors who felt that the location was an affront and a terrible disservice to the memory of millions of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Isn’t the position of John Paul II an example of real sensitivity, sympathy and commiseration? That raises another question: is the feeling of collective guilt something that can be experienced by the adherents of the Muslim faith? I doubt it when I remember watching the Arab children dancing with joy on the day when the World Trade collapsed burying more than 3,000 people?

I was not sure at first whether I had the right to come up with this blog. I’m not an American and I cannot judge with competence about many fine points of the event. However, I’m a Christian and I have got a granddaughter whom I do not want to be beaten by her future husband. Even “lightly”.

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BUILDING BRIDGES FOR INVASION?

August 25, 2010

Ninety years ago the Red Army undertook a massive march westwards in an attempt to crush Poland and give new life to the communist movements in Germany and Hungary. The attack was nourished by the idea of the “world revolution” formulated by Lenin and Trotsky.  The Russian Buonaparte Tukhachevskyi promised that mankind would get “happiness and peace” by means of the Red Army bayonets. The Red Guards said they would soon wash their feet in the Seine – the major waterway of France. Stalin, who was responsible for the “national policy” in the Russian communist party, came up with some suggestions about integrating Poland, Germany and Germany in the Russian Federation. All that threatened to become another Mongol invasion like it was in the 13th century.

However, the patriotism of the Poles who were defending their country saved Europe and Western civilization. The Russian cavalry was defeated near Warsaw in what was called “the Vistula miracle.” Out of the 150,000 Russian troops 25,000 died in battle, another 25,000 were captured and 40,000 were interned by the Germans. The idea of the “world revolution” went home feet first.

The Soviet history did not emphasize the defeat. Instead the heroism of the “red horsemen” was praised sky-high. Soviet pupils sang songs where it was stated that “the Polish landlords remember the saber-blades of our cavalry”. I also sang such songs.

This year the Poles celebrated the anniversary of their victory. The Russians decided to join the festivities in their own way: by building a memorial to the Russian troops who had died in August 1920. They motivated it by the necessity of “reconciliation” and “building bridges”. The monument was to be erected on the site of the battle and was promoted by the Polish Committee of Remembrance and Martyrdom. Eventually the monument was put up. It is a cross surrounded by stones in the form of bayonets (those bayonets which were supposed to carry happiness and peace” to the West in 1920). However, it was not opened: the Polish patriotic organizations picketed the place and prevented the Russian governmental delegation from arriving there. At the moment there is much hullabaloo in the Russian media about the Poles not taking the friendly hand extended by the Russians.

Why should the Poles take that hand? Isn’t it a hypocrisy to install the cross for the soldier-atheists whose purpose was also to rid mankind of Christianity? Have the Russians dissociated themselves from the atrocities of the Lenin-Stalin era? Isn’t Stalin now officially pronounced  in Russia “the most skilled manager” of the Soviet state? Doesn’t the Russian foreign policy aim at interfering in the life of other countries – especially on the territory of “historical influence” :  Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic republics, etc? Doesn’t Russia carry out secret service operations in western countries (to say nothing of Eastern Europe)– often accompanied by murders? Didn’t the Russian government obstruct the participation of the Polish side in the investigation of the plane crash over the Russian airport in which 99 per cent of the Polish political elite was killed?

I would call that monument a symbol of social insensitivity, if it had been erected with honest intentions. However, seeing what Russia is doing to Ukraine, I can only state that the monument to the “red cavalrymen” in Poland is Russia’s attempt to be “present”, to overpower, to dominate. And the Poles can only be commended for rebuffing it.

RELIGION AND POLITICS

August 21, 2010

After the Soviet empire collapsed 19 years ago there developed an ideological  vacuum in the theory of the Russian statehood. Actually, that was the reason why  the then-president Yeltsyn called on the Russian political thinkers to start working on the conception of the Russian “national narrative”  (“natsyonal’naya idea”). As it has appeared by now, no new theories were invented but some old ideological patterns have  been modernized.

At first one of the old wineskins for the new wine seemed to be the 19th-century Slavophilism , which meant not only admiration of everything that was Slavic (arts, literature, folklore, history) but also implied that all Slavic nations should – under the leadership of Russia – stand united in opposition to the West.  However, Slavophilism did not materialize: in the 20th century Bulgaria sided twice with enemies of Russia against the Russians, the Serbs conflicted with Bulgaria over Macedonia, while the Macedonians wanted to gain independence. With the bankruptcy of Slavophilism the Russian Orthodox Church decided to take the baton.

The head of the Russian church Patriarch Cyril has made an attempt to formulate the idea of the “Russian World”, the latter being understood as the area where the Russian language is functioning and which is also the “canonical” territory of the Russian Orthodoxy. This religious “umbrella-state” covering this area receives the name the “Holy Rus”.  The matter is that the idea of the Holy Rus existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries too and was being implemented under the slogan “Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality”. Incidentally, this kind of racial division in religion (phyletism) is considered a heresy in the Orthodox Church and was denounced as such at the pan-Orthodox Synod of Constantinople in 1872. However, it agrees very well with the chauvinist ideology of the Kremlin which tries to restore the Russian Empire – at least on the European part of the ex-USSR – and to isolate Ukraine from Europe and the rest of the world. Besides, by using the idea of the Holy Rus, the Russian Church in Moscow hopes to give a fresh start to the religiosity of the Russian people. According to statistics Easter liturgies are attended by 8 per cent of the Russians and by 30 per cent of the Ukrainians. That explains frequent and lengthy visits of Patriarch Cyril to Ukraine. That explains the wide coverage of his visits by the Ukrainian media (which nowadays are 90 per cent pro-Russian) and silencing down any information about the Ukrainian orthodoxy or Protestant churches in Ukraine. Moreover, any opinions or actions of the Ukrainians which in any way could reduce the impact of Cyril’s tour of the country, were resolutely nipped in the bud by the favor-currying Ukrainian government.


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