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Frank Gelli

Frank Gelli
I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.

The mainstream media at times likes to spin tales on the threat of 'Overtaking Islam', providing speculative statistics on how Europe will become overrun by the Muslims in a few decades' time. What will be will be, but somehow, a 'fear' of being overtaken by the other prevails in many modern societies. Historical figures such as Malcolm X reminded us that no one is inferior or superior in Islam, based on anything other than their deeds, but even amon Muslims, we see fear of the 'Other'. This article reminds us that this should not be the case. We are all equal in God's eyes and prejudice is something to leave behind, particularly if we consider ourselves religious; and the expectation of remaining separate from those that are different from ourselves is increasingly absurd in our modern, globalised nation -  Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views


 

If you don’t stop, I will turn Europe black!’ So did the late Muammar Qaddafi threaten while NATO was raining bombs on Libya. Same menace the Colonel had intimated in 2010 before the war. Five billion euros a year from the EU to stop African immigrants, he had demanded: ‘Else, Europe will be become black…it will change’.

Qaddafi was wrong, as well as implicitly racist. Because Europe is already black. (Well, in part.) Look at the population of European big cities, even the provinces, and this truth will jump out at you. The question is: if Europe gradually turns even more African-looking, should it matter? And to whom?

Qaddafi obviously thought it did - to Europeans. White skins and black skins do not go together, the defunct dictator assumed. Do I dare suggest he was displaying his own dark side? Because anti-black colour prejudice exists amongst Arabs, too. Consider a large Middle-East nation, Egypt. A minority of its people are Nubians. Remnants of an ancient, proud civilisation which graced ancient Egypt with quite a few Pharaohs. Today Nubians are a marginalised and discriminated minority, easily picked out by their ebony-black skin. In Cairo they often do the lowlier jobs. In my days there I knew a Nubian caretaker called Uthman. ‘No light-skinned Egyptian girl will marry me, I am too black’ he bemoaned. Maybe it was all in his mind, maybe not.

It is tricky: Anwar Sadat’s marked African features, denoting a Nubian origin, did not prevent him from becoming President of Egypt - with a wife of English extraction. Yet it is well-known how Sadat was embarrassed by his looks and tried to pretend he had no Nubian blood. Inferiority complex again – or maybe more?

(Come to think of it, most Saudi princes also display a distressingly light skin… A streak of racism?)

True, some Europeans dislike their continent being Africanised – although hardly anyone likes to admit it. But God’s Church cannot agree. At the end of St Matthew’s Gospel Christ commands his disciple: ‘Go and baptise all nations!’ (He did not say ‘white nations’, did he?) Indeed, just after the Resurrection among the first to be baptised was a black man, an Ethiopian eunuch, the Acts of the Apostles relate. Therefore skin-colour is theologically irrelevant.

Christian art bears witness to the inclusivity of the Church. Representations of the Magi coming to worship the child Jesus often show one of three Kings as black, as each stands for mankind’s major races. Rubens’ splendid ‘Adoration of the Magi’ is a case in point: one of the Kings looks unmistakeably like a Moor.

Apologists for slavery have sometimes cited Genesis 9:22-25. It spells a curse on one of Noah’s sons, Ham, the father of Canaan. Sometimes interpreted as the forefather of the black race: ‘A slave of slaves shall he be unto his brothers’. Naïve literalism apart, no single biblical verse could justify the inferiority of a large part of the human family. Biblical exegesis requires that difficult, troubling passages should be harmonised with clearer and more spiritual ones. Further, the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ, whose will is manifested in the universal command quoted above. No branch of humanity can therefore be subordinated to any other.

Warning about ‘millions of Africans…ignorant and starving’ clamouring at the gates of Europe, Colonel Qaddafi gloated that ‘it will be like the old barbarian invasions…Europe will no longer be Europe’. (More racism, groan…) He also mentioned ‘new religions’ overwhelming Europe via the black immigrants. Don’t figure he meant Buddhism – no, it was Islam. Let us not pretend: many Westerners are scared stiff by the growing influence of Islam but the old tyrant mixed up race and religion. Not all Muslims are black. Bosnians, Albanians and Turks, for instance, are not. And they, like it or not, are in Europe already, no?

Ironically, it was a Tripoli-Rome accord between Qaddafi and Berlusconi that radically reduced the numbers of illegal immigrants reaching Italy from North Africa. The Italian Navy turned away boatloads of immigrants at sea. Forced back to to Libya, the smug Colonel was happy to push them back where they came from. Berlusconi however was later overthrown by an EU-sponsored coup d’etat while Qaddafi…you know his undignified end. From where he is now, I imagine the bad Ra’is watching with glee the immigrant flotillas heading once again for Europe. He is grinning away: ‘My posthumous revenge on accursed Europe!’ Guess he has a point.

What is to be done? I recall a Dominican preacher wishing Europeans should become a big, happy, ‘miscegenated’ melange of races, like Brazil. Then all would be kosher, or halal. Unfortunately skin colour amongst Brazilians gets paler and paler as you go up the social scale. Real blacks are at the bottom. Not quite a racial paradise.

Is this an intractable problem? The US has a black President but race riots are happening right now in Baltimore. 150 years after the Civil War the black-white racial divide still persists. Writer Gore Vidal observed that the proportion of whites in the American population gets inexorably lower and lower: ‘When I point that out in a speech’, he said, ‘I see white faces in the audience getting paler, while black faces start glowing.’

Ya Allah!

Here at Radical Views, Easter mainly means extra long weekends and and an excuse to load up on the chocolate, but we certainly appreciate that for many people, it has a strong religious significance. Who better than Reverand Frank Gelli, then, for authoring our Easter Sunday post with a twist. Frank appreciates the celebration that many people are participating in at this time of year while keeping an eagle eye on the electioneering that has been a precursor to this bank holiday and we share with you today his words of wisdom. As always remember to Like, Tweet and share this article  - Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views


JESUS OR JUDAS?

Cameron or Milliband? Clegg or Farage? Bennett or Sturgeon? In the comedy of the British elections these are much trumpeted, bogus alternatives. But the underlying eschatological, life-or-death contest that really matters the media won’t mention: Jesus or Judas?

Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, is the infamous one among the Twelve Apostles. He betrayed Jesus Christ to the Jewish leaders with a kiss, for thirty pieces of silver. Dante throws him into the nethermost circle of Hell, where a huge, bat-like Satan sunk in ice gnaws eternally at the miscreant's body. Still, the traitor’s deep motives are not easy to discern…

First, lucre. St John says Judas was the treasurer for the Twelve and that it was love of money which caused him to sell his Master. Implausible? 30 silver shekels was a tidy sum, equivalent to 120 days' wages for a skilled labourer but…would you betray the Messiah, the Deliverer, for that? Answer: probably, yes. People have murdered their parents for less. Nonetheless…Greed really is the basest of motives. Would Judas renounce untold bliss in the Kingdom of Heaven for that?

Second, the Evil One. ‘Satan entered into Judas, called Iscariot’, relates St Luke. The devil was behind the betrayal. But diabolical action is not all-powerful, like God’s. Satan can only lead astray those already so predisposed. Had Judas been a good and faithful servant, the devil would have been powerless. Besides, Satan should not be a pretext to evade human responsibility.

Third, the Gethsemane scenario. Some have wondered about the coherence of Judas’ act. Christ had preached daily in synagogues and performed miracles before masses of thousands of people. His identity can hardly have been unknown. What need was there for Judas to identify him with the kiss?

Fourth, the most banal item of all, revolution. Judas’ name – Iscariot - is taken to mean the village of Kerioth, in Judaea. But others connect it with a sect of Jewish fanatics, sicarii in Latin, or assassins. So Judas would have been a Jewish nationalist or zealot. He believed Jesus to be the Messiah all right but, like many of his fellow Jews, he understood that as a political agitator. A sort of Che Guevara. A radical rebel intent on leading a bloody revolt against the alien rule of pagan Rome. Jesus, however, had other ideas as to what sort of Messiah he was. Hence Judas tried to force his hand. To get the Messiah, willy-nilly, to set off the great rebellion. Problem is, history is awash with religious fanatics. Indeed, Judaism’s subsequent history boasts of many Messiahs. Well, where are they now?

A faint echo of Judas’ socialist inclinations surface in St John’s Gospel. When Mary used costly nard ointment to anoint the Lord’s feet, the traitor sanctimoniously complained: ‘Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ Not an unreasonable point to make for someone who regarded political and social action the summit and essence of religion. Of course, St John glosses it: ‘This he said not because he cared for the poor but because he was a thief’. It figures. Judas was a hypocrite. Invoking the poor was a trick to cover up his low motives.

Fifth, St John again indicates that Jesus knew from the beginning of Judas’ betrayal. ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ (6:71-2). The traitor’s infamy was not accidental, therefore. It was foreordained, a necessary link in the chain of events leading to the Cross and to the Resurrection. Could not Judas boast of his ‘providential’ role and claim that in exculpation?

The creep was not totally bereft of conscience. No sooner did Judas realise the enormity of his crime, remorse made him try to give the money back. Two accounts exist in the New Testament on how he died. One affirms that he hanged himself, the other that he threw himself off a chasm and ‘he burst open in the middle and his bowels gushed out’. Either way, Judas took his own life. An ancient theologian speculated how Judas wanted to meet his Master in the next world, so to ask his forgiveness there. I don’t buy it.

We have now come to the end of Passion Week, leading up to Easter. The sinister figure of the Traitor appears in the Scripture readings for the first three days of Passion Week. However embarrassing, challenging and mysterious Judas may be, he can’t be doctored out of the Gospel narrative. Jesus and Judas are like light and darkness. Forever tantalisingly, if unequally, linked.


Back to the charade of British elections. The priest fears all the mainline parties are Judas parties. Is that too strong? It seems incontrovertible that they stand not with Jesus but with his betrayer.

Conscious of it or not, politicians are renegades. Traitors to the past Christian heritage of England. Enemies to the values, the principles, the true dictates of revelation. Can you name a single, genuine Christian policy the ruling partitocracy upholds? The poor? But you know how much socialist Judas really cared for them! Women? But look at the countless way women and men are sexualised and objectified. The NHS? It will gradually be privatised and dismantled, whichever party wins. All Judas stuff.

Yet don’t despair. Not Judas but Jesus triumphs at Easter. Because after the shame of the Cross comes the glory of the Resurrection!

As the date of the UK General Election closes in on us the Conservative Party, fearful of losing out to Labour due to the harsh cuts they have made to public spending, are desperately proclaiming that they will "save" Britain from a suddenly hightened "threat" of non-violent extremism that has somehow cropped up at this convenient moment within the Muslim population. But does this campaign have any greater meaning than William Hague's embarrassing proposal (leading up to the unfortunate election of Tony Blair) to "save" the pound? Certainly, there are cowardly, Islamophobic individuals who attack Muslims, especially the more vulnerable women who dress in a specific manner.

However, since 9/11, curious and open-minded people from different religions and of no religion have come together to engage in public interfaith dialogue with the intention of doing their bit to foster peace, acceptance and understanding. Of course there are those who criticise interfaith dialogue too, but contrary to what the mainstream media and politicians like to tell us, religion, it seems, is no enemy.  Reverend Frank Gelli proposes that in reality, this is a clear-cut battle between good and evil, and here, he provides a sharp reminder of where that evil really is coming from. Enjoy Frank's article and remember to Like, Tweet and share. -Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views 


 

THE DEVIL & INTERFAITH

‘Nice people talking to nice people about being nice’. In a rare outburst of veracity Archbishop Welby has damned feeble interfaith chat like that. A stronger brew is needed, he implied. I have a proposal. The Devil. Definitely not a nice guy. But a key interfaith figure OK. The Prince of Darkness would rescue religious dialogue from cosy, bland and boring banalities. The Devil is real, dangerous and real nasty.

The obligatory formula before any recitation of the Qur’an is: ‘I take refuge with God from the accursed Satan.’ A ritual stoning of the Devil also is an important part of the Haj, the Mecca pilgrimage. The Qur’an designates the Devil under two names, Iblis and Shaytan and his first, mega-evil deed is to provoke Adam and his wife to disobey God’s will and taste the forbidden fruit: ‘By deceit he brought about their fall’ says Surah 7. Although Muslim and Christian interpretations of that fatal event differ, Satan’s role is clear: he is God’s opponent and man’s eternal enemy.

Jesus Christ calls the Devil a liar and the father of lies. He is ‘a murderer from the beginning’, who also tries to divert the Messiah from his divine mission. The reason why the Son of God came to earth was ‘to destroy the works of the Devil’, declares the First Letter of St John. And the most lethal of those works was to pervert humanity into disobeying God. Huh! Look about you, about the state of Britain, Europe, the West. Disobedience to the Creator has spread like a plague. How right is Scripture in branding Satan as ‘the ruler of this world’.

Still, the power of the Devil is finite. He is no anti-God but only a creature. Divine providence permits diabolical activity only in conformity to God’s benevolent plan. In that sense, the Devil is a sad being, doomed to never-ending frustration. Goethe’s Faust puts it well with the Devil’s servant, Mephistopheles: ‘That Power I serve that wills forever evil and does for ever good.’ Similarly, consider the daring bronze statue to Satan opened recently in the Vatican Gardens. It shows a handsome, athletic, almost nude Archangel Michael pinning Satan to the ground with his spear. Satan is portrayed as a fallen angel, his wings folded under him, a look of horror and defeat on his twisted face. Allusion to Revelation 19, where Satan is soundly thrashed by Michael and thrown down to earth, along with his evil minions. A bizarre monument to the Devil, yes, but one that depicts him as a tragic loser!

Herein is perhaps useful interfaith material. The idea is that there is a battle going on, a cosmic, universal jihad between good and evil. In this battle devout, sincere monotheists should be not enemies but allies…

Naturally, the Devil’s crafty schemes include sowing discord and dissension among the good. Thus the Qur’an warns how Satan causes dissension and strife (fitna in Arabic) amongst believers (22:53). The perverse deeds of some Wahhabi and Salafi sectarians in the Middle East might well be an example. Extremists do the Devil’s work when they target innocent people and so besmirch their own professed faith. Note how atheists like the notorious Professor Dawkins and his garrulous brigade espy every opportunity to portray religion as intolerant, fanatical and violent. That surely is Satan’s intention.

The interfaith jihad against Evil is varied and multifaceted, as mirrored by certain satanic symbolism. Some esoterists claim that the fifteen mystery of the Tarot, the Devil as Baphomet, a weird idol with four main aspects, shows that. The idol has a red, goat-like head, meaning fire and animality; black legs, i.e. the lower, inferior world; green scales, i.e. water or dissolution, and blue, bat-like wings, again the fallen angelic nature. Maybe all that is mystical gobbledygook but the meaningful point is that the Devil seeks to lure humanity, God’s creation, into practices of destruction, regression, inversion, disintegration and perversity. Again, if you have eyes to see you will discern the fruits of such deplorable realities all around you.

Rescuing the Devil from the limbo into which rationalists, progressives and liberal theologians have relegated him may not be Archbishop Welby’s favourite interfaith idea (doed he fear the foul Beast would take too much interest in him, I wonder?) but the priest feels it is spiritually imperative. Especially during the holy season of Lent. Leading up to the passion, death and resurrection of Christ at Easter. Lent begins with Satan’s temptation in the wilderness. It may look on Good Friday that it would all end in tears with the horror of the Cross. But St Augustine compares the Cross to a mousetrap. The Devil came, like a mouse, to get his prize, Christ as the bait. Instead, Satan found himself caught! And Christ rose triumphantly from the grave.

One thing I admire about Muslims is how they dare openly to tackle subjects now taboo in the decadent West. The Devil is one of them. Yet he is a thoroughly counter-cultural and topical figure. I look forward to a big interfaith conference on the Devil and his works. And who knows whether his satanic majesty may not deign to appear himself? (There is a story about a play in which a character played the Devil until…one day the real McCoy turned up to play on stage himself.) That would be a bit of a PR scoop, no?

‘Femicide’ – from Foemina, Latin for woman - concerns the direct, deliberate killing of women or girls. Here it means the illegal abortion of unborn females. Barbarous and wrong, surely? So a ban on sex-selective terminations is proposed. Chilling how other foeminae, the feminists, oppose it. Alice in Wonderland, topsy-turvy kind of world?

Aristotle speaks somewhere of barbarous cultures. His nasty example is that of folks who kill, roast and eat their own children. Liberal, ‘civilised’ democracies are not as bad as that. They do kill their unborn babies virtually on demand, however. Femicide is a new, sinister development. The British media tend to pin the guilt on immigrant parents, either on grounds of boy preference or lucre. They blab about daughters needing ‘more expensive dowries’. Actually for Muslims the dowry (Mahr in Arabic) is paid not by the woman to the man but by the man to the woman. So, there.

Abortion used to be a criminal offence or felony in Britain but in 1927 the law was watered down. Later David Steel, a Liberal MP, introduced the Abortion Act that in 1967 ‘liberalised’ the whole thing. Significantly, 40 years later the same fellow urged a ‘rethink’. Pity that in the interim more than 6.7 million unborn children have been ‘terminated’. I would not wish to be in Steel’s shoes on the dreadful Day of Judgment…

Christianity set its face against the killing of the unborn from the beginning. An early Church writing, the Didache or Teaching, speaks of two paths or Ways. The Way of Life and the Way of Death. The latter includes murder, adultery, fornication, immorality, lusts, abortion and infanticide. This healthy Teaching accuses the pagans of ‘making away with their infants, defacing God’s image and turning away from needy but oppressing the afflicted’. I trust the stern moralist would not approve of contemporary infamies like sex-selective abortion.

The priest is not a moral absolutist here. The Christian Church has not always taught that life begins at conception. It has graded the varying degree of guilt incurred by abortionists depending on the degree of development of the foetus. I accept there may be extreme and limiting cases when termination is necessary, i.e. when it poses a real, direct threat to the physical life of the mother. (The mental criterion has been so abused as to have become meaningless.) But that has no bearing on the ghastly idea of gender-selective killing.

The war on girls is not new. It was widely practiced in pre-Islamic, Bedouin Arabia. Burying baby girls alive was so prevalent that a famous verse of the Qur’an inveighs against it. ‘When the infant female, buried alive, is asked for what crime she was killed’ says Surah al-Takweer, ‘The Darkening’. The idea is that the murdered infant will be questioned about her murder. Something to make the murderer tremble with the enormity of his crime – and punishment. The awesome scenario of this Meccan chapter is indeed apocalyptic. It warns of Hell ‘made to burn fiercely’ and of Paradise ‘being brought near’. Huh!

Note that the Prophet of Islam had several daughters, of whom he was extremely fond. His favourite, Fatima, Ali’s wife’, is revered by all Muslims but especially by the Shia’. They consider her ‘the Mistress of the House’ from whose line sprang their Imams. Anyway, it is unthinkable, I submit, that Muhammad would have approved of any modern, high-tech version of girl-killing. An article in the New Statesman cites an ‘Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation’ opposed to a legal ban on aborting female foetuses. Funny kind of Muslims!

But why should some feminists be against British MP Fiona Bruce’s amendment that would make gender selection, i.e. killing of foeminae in the womb, illegal? Journalist Sarah Ditun manages surreally to blast ‘male violence’. She conjures up a hypothetical, bullying husband who ‘punches and kicks his wife until she submits to a termination.’ Appalling case but odd how other feminists take the opposite line. They object to the law because they fear instead that some caring fathers might object to abortion on grounds of femicide, killing their child because she is female. Can you blame them? It seems that, whatever they do, men are bound to be cast in the role of rapists, wife-beaters and beasts. Some sadly may be like that but…not quite all, insh’allah!

Ms Ditun waxes more and more droll, even absurd. She invokes feminist writer Mary Daly’s onslaught on ‘misogynist logic’. A reasoning that supposedly ‘casts the foetus as something like an astronaut and the pregnant woman as the inanimate craft designed to protect the inhabitant.’ Ya Allah! Flying foetuses? Women’s bodies as soulless crafts? A bit too much.

More soberly, I recall Archbishop Rowan Williams’ common sense pro-life argument. Many women accept that they should not smoke or drink to excess while pregnant. Presumably that implies that sensible mothers recognise that what they carry in the womb has some ethical status and deserve some protection. Rather unlike an alien, menacing astronaut!

Barbarism. Currently a voguish word. Often applied to the horrid customs of the Caliphate or Daiish gentlemen in the Levant. Fair enough. But… are you so sure that another set of barbarians, the girl-killers, have not penetrated the hallowed walls of liberal Europe?

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

Does Clint Eastwood’s movie glorify war? Is it an ode to militarism? A repellent, barbarous message that shedding blood is good? Is the hero actually a villain?

American Sniper tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the lethal sharpshooter who, during his four tours of Iraq, notched up 160 kills. A record? Worry not. An anonymous Royal Marine sniper boasts 173 hits, mostly Taliban fighters, according to The Sun newspaper. Huh! These bloodthirsty Brits! You can always count on them to come up on top.

Actually, Kyle is not a particularly violent man. In an early scene, finding his girl in bed with another guy, he simply throws the culprit out - I can imagine more sanguine reactions. However, after watching on TV massive attacks on American marines in Beirut and the slaughter of 9/11, he volunteers into the SEALS and is sent to US-occupied Iraq. A country which had absolutely nothing to do with the abovementioned crimes. Some irony, eh?

Kyle aims at targeting male enemies, not females or children. That is irrational. Females today are integrated into armed forces, bear weapons, fight, all that. Thus they are fair game. Feminists claim that sentimentality about women fighters is a male chauvinist thing - I assure them I am not a sentimentalist. The problem arises with civilians, male as well as female. What do you do when a civilian shoots at you or your comrades? Does he thereby forsake his immunity? Do you take him out? Well, resistance fighters are entitled to resist, no? Isn’t that the lesson, reiterated ad nauseam, of German-occupied Europe in WWII? When a civilian was supposedly justified in shooting at the occupiers. Why not so in Iraq then?

The case of children is harder. No neat solution there. Kyle, to his credit, agonises over that. To quote Albert Camus in a similar context: ‘Even in war and destruction, there are limits’. But…what exactly are they? In a guerrilla war, limits get blurred. Perhaps irreparably so.

‘Make love, not war’, ran a tedious Flower Power slogan of the ‘60s, assuming a dichotomy between them. Kyle however combines both, as he is blessed with gorgeous wife Tanya, played by Sienna Miller, and two children. And he is hooked on his deadly job. When back at home on furlough, he hankers after the killing fields of Iraq. To save his comrades’ lives from black-turbaned Mustafa, a fatal insurgent sniper whom he takes out eventually with a masterly, mile-long hit. My Edgware Road Odeon audience, the heart of Arab Londonistan, did not cheer.

Does Kyle enjoy killing? Well, he is a patriot. He believes he is protecting America, ‘the greatest country in the world’. But equally he is no sadist, as his qualms at having to shoot a woman and a child carrying tube bombs indicate. Though he is not like St Augustine’s ideal Christian soldier either, fighting even a just war sorrowfully, with a heavy heart. Still, Tanya notices that her husband is a bit haunted. Truth is, Kyle as portrayed by Bradley Cooper is an ambiguous warrior. He has depth.

Does American Sniper glorify war? Sure it does. The film is epic stuff, gripping and my son Linus was bowled over but… can you blame this piece of celluloid? An endless stream of war movies, war programmes, war celebrations, war documentaries are descending upon us for the centenary WWI. Brace yourself for another four years of that. They are all glorifications of martial virtues, triumphs and slaughters. Of course, the baddies are Germans or Japs. Beaten and bombed into dust, they can’t complain about it. Unlike Arabs, who stubbornly don’t fancy being called ‘savages’ and resist being ‘liberated’. What goes around, comes around, I think.

‘The Romans have made a desert and called it peace’, historian Tacitus wrote about the repressions carried out by the Roman Army in Britain. Be that as it may, in Britannia the Pax Romana lasted nearly 300 years. The Pax Americana in Iraq hardly ever started. The country has been martyred, it is unpacified, civil war, terrorism and vast number of killings occur daily. A melancholy conclusion to Kyle’s endevours.

Killing seems intrinsic to human nature. Man’s earthly history, the Bible shows, opens with a murder – Cain’s slaying of his brother, the innocent Abel. Things get so bad that God in the Decalogue promulgates a specific commandment against killing. Instructive because, if men had no inclination towards bloodshed, what need would there be to forbid it? But any injunction like ‘Do not’ provokes a ‘What if I do?’ response. That is why the ancient Hebrews and all societies enforced penalties on murder, i.e. unlawful killing. War and self-defence are now the only exceptions.

The Church sought to mitigate the horrors of war with various truces and conditions. Bloodshed imported a grave taint, so that someone who had killed could not become a cleric, for example. As Christ, another Abel, shed his innocent blood on the Cross for the salvation of humanity, it was unfitting that a priest, meant to represent Christ sacramentally at the altar, should shed another person’s blood.

The movie’s fearsome Jihadis of course call the Americans disparagingly ‘crusaders’. They fail to see how the Cross, the perennial symbol of that fateful, cosmic sacrifice, could never be invoked to justify the shedding of blood. And in the Cross and in the Gospel alone is hope for a finally regenerated, transfigured and peaceful world.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli

Can you enlist evil to fight evil? Could Mafia gangsters assist in fighting terrorism? ‘Let me out and I will crush Islamic State’, Sicilian boss Toto ‘Shorty’ Riina has sworn from his cell. Makes your flesh creep. Preposterous and unacceptable. Still, for the hell of it, let me consider it.

The objections. First, the Mafia is not a unified organisation. Octopus-like, it has many far-reaching tentacles, but no single head. Rather, it has several. Shorty cannot command all the power he boasts. It is just a stratagem to get out of prison.

Forget fabled Caliph Harun al-Rashid of Baghdad. He of Thousand and One Nights fame. A real Khalifa is back – under the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim. But is this resurrected Caliphate in the Arab heartland only a ‘desert mirage’, as The Times claimed? Or the harbinger of awesome things to come? Time will tell. Three critical concepts interest the priest: violence, heresy and utopia. Do they cast a shadow over the nascent Caliphate?

First, heresy. Tricky to determine, as Islam has no Pope-like figure or an ecumenical council to judge. Yet, words like bida’, unwarranted innovation; ghuluvv, exaggeration or excess; zandaqa, dualist or Manichean; ilhad, atheism, materialism; and finally kufr, unbelief – all historically denote forms of Islamic heresy, in some cases with dire penal outcomes.

Is the Caliphate bida’, wrong innovation? No way, as it goes back the four men who successively ruled the Islamic state directly after the Prophet’s death. There was an Ottoman Khalifa indeed right up to 1924.

Why do I hate the World Cup? For the same reasons Lenin did. The brain of the Bolshevik revolution liked listening to classical music like Beethoven’s but he gave it up. It interfered with his work. His mind had to focus on one single pursuit – the revolution. Everything was sacrificed to that. Hence music had to go.

The priest too, as radical Christian, is a revolutionary. He is and cannot not to be. For the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. A Kingdom which ‘suffers violence’ so that ‘men of violence take it by force’ (St Matthew, 11: 12). Heaven demands that Earth should submit and conform to its dictates. Admittedly it costs me nothing to forsake watching the Cup because I loathe football. It bores me to death. Why should I avidly gaze on morons in shorts kicking around a pig’s bladder? But this is not about taste – it is about the revolution.

Who is afraid of a rising Middle East Khilafa, the Arabic word for Caliphate? Lots. Muslims like Shia, Kurds, most Sufis, Alawis, sundry Arab secularists. And Arab Christians of course. All fearing their lives, women, sacred buildings and properties being treated as war loot. Western leaders too are shaking in their boots: good!

A nemesis is unfolding. A sort of retributive justice, maybe of divine origins. A paying back for the 2003 illegal, unjustified aggression on Iraq. Engineered by the two scoundrels, Bush and Blair. But the roots of evil reach far back. To WWI, the catastrophic, suicidal, mad all-European conflict so many fools are enthusiastically celebrating in Britain.

ISIS is the murderous Jihadist organisation that fights for a Caliphate in ‘the Levant’ – actually Sham, a term covering Iraq, Syria and other swathes of Arab land. The last Caliph, the Ottoman Sultan, ruled over them till 1917. The victorious Allies artificially invented the current Middle East borders – Iraq being at the time three different Ottoman provinces or vilayet. France and Britain arbitrarily created the countries they carved out from their conquests. (The Kurds later were ferociously bombed into submission by the British – chief artificer Bomber Harries, eventually of Dresden reputation.) Britain especially responsible for Israel, the ‘Jewish home’ in Palestine of Balfour Declaration infamy. The Allies shared the booty. Now ISIS and other Islamists are hitting back – a resurgent Khilafa in the making. Do you dig the nemesis?

Retribution, yes. It may well take the form of martyred Iraq breaking up into three parts, as my friend Dr Tim Furnish suggests. A Kurdish, US-friendly North, a Sunni Caliphate in the middle and a Shia state in the South. Well, they were originally three vilayet, weren’t they?

‘The Caliphate is a valid Islamic concept’, a Mufti of Bosnia once declared. Historically, he was right. Politically too, perhaps. Nonetheless there were at times two or three khalifa reigning in different areas of the Muslim world. True, many Caliphs were incompetent or worse but that cannot invalidate the idea, any more than Caligula or Nero could negate the Roman Empire. And if it is OK for former, pseudo-Christian nations to unite in something like the EU, why should be wrong for Muslim nations to combine in a Caliphate? What is sauce for the goose…

‘The EU was established consensually, while ISIS wants to force the Caliphate violently on unwilling folks’. Alas, Europe too after WWII was violently taken over by the apostles of democracy and human rights. Call it ‘liberation’ but it was by force of arms and national borders were adjusted accordingly. No one ever took a poll in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and other countries asking the people whether they wanted to be ‘liberated’. The Axis had plenty of supporters. So the Jihadi guys, I suppose, could claim that they represent the true will, the soul of the Arab Umma, the community of believers. If only they weren’t so fond of slaughtering their prisoners…groan.

Yet, those most truly terrified of ISIS are the poor West and its degenerate representatives. Wholly natural. Their a priori dogmas demand a strict or effective emasculation of religion. Its real exclusion from public life, the economy, the market, the law & all the things that matter. With the Christian churches they have succeeded pretty well. Sunday morning religion or ‘thought for the day’ threaten no one. Islam is the harder nut to crack. That religion also has its happy, well-remunerated quislings, eager to pick up the crumbs of parliamentary power and ministerial posts, jobs in the media and the like. It is crusty chaps like the Jihadis who refuse to play the democratic, establishment game. They frighten to death Cameron, Hollande, Merkel, Obumble, all that depressing gang. Indeed, they should.

An extraordinary, anonymous piece posted on Facebook illustrates the gap between Zeitgeist thinking and at least some Islamists. The writer lists a number of putative Sharia legal notions, like jihad, polygamy, child marriages, hudud punishments and so on. He then points out how a Muslim who was to engage in such practices is ipso facto made a criminal in the West. And he is right. Jihad, often considered like the fifth pillar of Islam, is a duty for a pious believer. But now PM Cameron is prepared to pursue the British Jihadis who are heading back home from the Levant. Hhmmm… Pity they did not fight for a US approved and dollar-powered jihad. Bin Laden and his ilk were kosher, sorry, halal heroes when they combated the evil Soviets in Afghanistan. Hypocrisy? Yes, as well as old, cynical realpolitik.

Polygamy and child marriages are definitely Western untouchables. To many, as inconceivable and as loathsome as slavery. To be fair, there are Muslim jurists who hold diverse opinions on them. The anonymous fellow claims that amongst the Prophet’s companions polygamy was the rule, rather than the exception. True or not, the Qur’an has only one or at most two verses in which plural marriage is mentioned and it is more by way of permission than anything else. But Sharia law is more than the Qur’an and Salafis prioritise various Sunna hadiths and customs as normative. Still, important not to tar all Muslims over with the same brush. There is a range of scholarly opinions amongst the ulama. The Caliphate boys are only one strand.

Horror of the rising Khilafa engenders odd bedfellows. Iran, formerly part of an ‘axis of evil’, appears now, wonder of all wonders, as a potential ally in stopping ISIS & Co. Of course, that will only embitter and inflame the sectarian strife running through the Middle East and the vast world of Islam: part of a plan? Will the Caliphate be reborn from its ashes, like the phoenix?

‘The West wants to be at war with Islam’, the chief Haj preacher told the faithful at Mecca years ago. A bit overegged but, true or false, the East has joined the West. China’s President Xi Jinping has proclaimed his own war on terror, i.e. Muslims. Meaning the Uighur people of East Turkestan. The struggle will be ‘long, arduous and painful’, he warned.

The battle seems unequal. Perhaps 15 million Uighurs versus 1.300 million, overwhelmingly Han Chinese. David confronts Goliath. But violent resistance by Uighurs against Chinese targets have made the Beijing rulers jittery about security. They perceive that obscure race could be the spanner in the works of their mighty Communist party. Like insignificant specks of grit that can jam up a mechanism, the Uighurs might bring the regime crashing down. Hence Comrade Xi Jinping has vowed to ruthlessly repress the ‘rampant terrorists’.

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