The unfolding events of the Boston Marathon Massacre have produced evident abuses of the Refugee Resettlement programs of the US State Department and Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement. The Tsarneav brothers and family were generously granted asylum, family reunification . They were generously supported with state welfare and Medicaid benefits and educated at an elite public high school , community colleges and state universities. Then there was evidence of abuses in the Student Visas by Kazakh accomplices after the fact that may have purposefully destroyed evidence in the dorm room of Dzhorkar Tsarneav. He is the surviving Boston bombing suspect now incarcerated at an infirmary at Fort Devens in central Massachusetts.
Perhaps the most flagrant recent example of abuses of the asylum system was the fraud committed by a Tunisian jihadi, Ahmed Abassi. Abassi was implicated in the alleged radicalization of a fellow Tunisian apprehended by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Canadian railway bombing plot. Abbasi has been arrested and was allegedly planning to release a bacterial agent in a major municipal water system hoping to kill upwards of 100,000 Americans. US Attorney for the Southern District of Manhattan Preet Bahara said at the arraignment of Abassi, "had an evil purpose for seeking to remain in the United States – to commit acts of terror and develop a network of terrorists here, and to use this country as a base to support the efforts of terrorists internationally."
We have written extensively about one groups of refugees, the Somalis. There has been documented evidence of fraud in the family reunification program committed by Somalis in African refugee camps. These resulted in shutdown of the Department of State family re-unification program for three years.
Then there was the recruitment of Somali youths from the US to fight for the establishment of an Islamist Caliphate in war-torn Somalia with the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab. (See our NER Article, Foot Soldiers of Islam”).
This week, the Federal District Court in Minneapolis will hold a sentencing hearing on the conviction of 9 Somali refugees engaged in recruitment of refugee Jihadis and funding of al Qaeda affiliate, al Shabaab. Our colleague Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch noted in a post on this event, studiously avoided by the mainstream media. Note this excerpt from the La Crosse Tribune, newspaper:
Nine people convicted in a government investigation of terror recruitment and financing for an al-Qaida-linked group in Somalia are to be sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Authorities say more than 20 young men have left Minnesota to join al-Shabaab since 2007. Some have died, several remain at large, and others have been prosecuted in what the FBI has said is one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters for a foreign terrorist organization.
In 2007, small groups of young Somali men began holding secret meetings at a Minneapolis mosque, in cars, and at restaurants to talk about returning to their homeland to wage jihad against Ethiopians. The Ethiopians had been brought into Somalia in 2006 by its weak U.N.-backed government, but were viewed by many Somalis as invaders.
Al-Shabaab recruiters in Minneapolis appealed to patriotic ideals and told young men _ some in their teens _ that it was their “duty” to return to Somalia and fight. Recruiters also quoted from the Quran, appealing to religious beliefs to deepen the fighters’ resolve.
The men began leaving Minnesota in small groups to avoid detection, with the first departing Minneapolis on Oct. 30, 2007. Additional groups left in waves over the next months and years, with some raising money for their trips under false pretenses.
The FBI began investigating in 2008. The U.S. declared al-Shabaab a terrorist organization in early 2008.
On May 15th, the Department of State, Bureau of Population, Migration and Refugees will hold its annual hearing on the Refugee Resettlement Program.
Corcoran drew our attention to a letter written by a former member of the International Refugee Committee (IRC), Boston office sent to the Ann Richard. She is Assistant Secretary at the US State Department responsible for management of the refugee resettlement program. The IRC is one of a number of Voluntary Agencies or “Volags” working as contractors in the refugee resettlement program. The author, Michael Sirois, presents ample justification for a moratorium. Here are some excerpts:
I worked for the IRC in several capacities from 1980 until 2004 (caseworker, deputy director of the Boston office). In 2004, amid increasing budget constraints, I volunteered for a lay off. At the time, my heart was still into the work I loved and I continued to volunteer for two additional years, spending 3 days a week working on the family reunification program, in which I was considered an “expert.”
Early on, I grew familiar with the fraud that was rampant throughout the program, from the refugees themselves (sometimes forgivable), the overseas OPE’s (not forgivable) and on up to the UN (most unforgivable). Most of my colleagues were also aware of it, and while they often joked about it, almost no one did anything to change or challenge it.
In our work, it was all about “getting the numbers,” often at the expense of legitimate screening for “real“refugees.
[. . .]
My major concern was helping people re-unite with close and legitimate family members whose relationship I believed to exist in fact. I can’t tell you how many times, after resettlement that those relationships were revealed to be fraudulent. Sometimes the reasons were understandable from a human kindness point of view (claiming an orphaned niece as a sister), but often those “relationships” were simple financial transactions.
In my long years at the IRC, I assisted many ethnic groups. I can say without reservation that the Somalis were among the most duplicitous.
[. . .]
All of us in the field know just how weak the “security screening” was. It’s mostly a very poor and ineffective system of simple name checks from countries that for the most part keep no records.
[. . .]
It is time for a moratorium on refugee resettlement until ORR and the volags get their act together.
[. . .]
The present program is really a “resettle and dump on the community” thing. This is not fair to the communities, the refugees or the volags.
Refugees are not assimilating for the most part. (some argue that refugees should not “assimilate” but “integrate” but, to me, it‘s all the same, since the majority do neither.)
[. . .]
After 9/11, I was, as always, very vocal in defense of refugees and the US refugee program , convinced that no one admitted under the program could possibly be or become a terrorist. Regrettably, my mind has changed.
I do think the US should continue to receive some refugees, but it needs to be a much smaller and very carefully monitored program. The current one is a huge mess and a danger to our security and a detriment to our economy and society.
If you believe that the US Senate in its rush to produce an omnibus Immigration Reform bill have taken the time to examine these patent and dangerous abuses of our US Refugee Resettlement program guess again. Corcoran noted that S. 744, “provides more funding for resettlement contractors and makes it easier for a greater number and variety of refugees/asylum seekers to gain admission to the US.”
In the light of a long trail of abuses, citizens should request that the Senate Judiciary Committee and the “gang of eight” Senators conduct hearings on the Refugee Resettlement program before continuing this threat to our national security.
One place to start is sending a letter expressing your concerns about the Refugee Resettlement program to Ms. Richard at the State Department, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration to be included in its hearing record.
Eamon Gilmore, Ireland’s Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs, is pushing through an attempt to label goods in the EU produced by Jewish Settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). This relates to an aspect of a threat he made to last year to isolate Israel further.
Tánaiste has said Ireland will push for an EU-wide move to label products produced in illegal Israeli settlements, and will introduce labelling unilaterally if agreement is not reached.
Mr Gilmore was speaking after a meeting with a group of retired international leaders, The Elders.
Former US President Jimmy Carter said he was encouraged by a meeting this morning.
Mr Carter was at a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs with representatives of 20 EU states, who unanimously supported the labelling move.
The extremism of Gilmore’s stance is illustrated by the fact that he doesn’t so much desire to assist customers in making choices but rather labelling is driven by an intent to produce a de facto boycott:
The Foreign Affairs Minister said Ireland would strongly support a European initiative to label exports from Israeli producers in the Palestinian state to give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy them.
He said this was “in effect” like boycotting the goods. […]
“The High Representative Catherine Ashton has circulated a proposal for the labelling of those goods, for in effect boycotting those goods, from settlement areas and we support that.” […]
Meanwhile, the Tanaiste confirmed a process was in place to introduce a labelling regime of Israeli settlement goods in Ireland.
But he said a European-wide initiative would be much more effective.
The labelling effort is behind a broader intention to have all goods from Jewish settlements declared illegal. Thus Gilmore’s desire to push ahead with this process is with a view to initiating a full boycott:
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has deemed goods from Israeli settlements in the West Bank should be treated as illegal. […]
“Settlements on the West Bank are illegal and therefore the produce of those settlements should be treated as illegal throughout the European Union,” Mr Gilmore said. […]
Last year, Mr Gilmore warned Ireland may push for the EU to ban goods from Israeli settlements if Israel does not quickly change its settlements policy in Palestinian territories.
A response was issued by the Irish4Israel Facebook page, which is the main pro-Israel resource in Ireland:
No other produce from disputed territories will be labeled, goods from Tibet, West Papua New Guinea, Western Sahara or Northern Cyprus will be Chinese, Moroccan, Indonesian and Turkish. […]
Hebron is considered a settlement by the EU, Jews have lived in Hebron for 3,000 years.
Palestinians are employed in Israeli settlements. If there is a boycott of settlement produce, they will loose their jobs.
Irish4Israel noted that Gilmore’s Foreign Office department failed to acknowledge their petition, one yielding a relatively significant number of signatures for what was a fairly peripheral issue in Ireland:
Last summer 3000 signatures were collected on a petition opposing boycotts of Israeli settlement produce. This petition was sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs who REFUSED to acknowledge our voice. […]
A call to action was issued by Irish4Israel because Ireland is likely to act within weeks at an EU level since the country’s revolving six month presidency is due to come to an end in June:
Time is running out and MAXIMUM pressure must be put on the Irish government. Please email Foreign Minister Gilmore and your local TD's…
Minister Gilmore's email address is HQ-TANAISTE@dfa.ie and email@example.com
If you live abroad please contact the Irish Embassy and send Eamon Gilmore a copy of your email. […]
This step to label all settlement produce throughout the EU would greatly assist Israel’s ever-increasing delegitimisation by an international community that is deaf to any modicum of reason. As an old apparatchik of the hard-left Irish Republican Worker’s Party, Gilmore’s views are unlikely to ever change on this issue. However, the Irish government and its fellow European Union member states may still be influenced by some measure of counter-pressure.
Retirement comes to us all, even to Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps the most successful football manager of all time. It was not always so by any means: when the state old-age pension was introduced, it was in the rather mean-spirited expectation that few people would reach the age to enjoy it.
Nowadays the future belongs not to youth but to age, both numerically and economically. Old people have complained about the behaviour of the young since the dawn of time, of course, but for the first time they will have the consolation of knowing that it is the young who will have to labour to keep them in the comfort they have saved for. In no age have the elderly been so numerous or well-off as they are today.
There is no doubt, though, that people dread retirement if their work has been not merely important to them, but all-important. They wonder with trepidation what they are going to do with all that time that stretches out before them like a featureless landscape.
Such people have no interests outside work, not even anything that could be called a hobby. They hang on to their employment as long as possible and then they die, or at any rate die several years sooner than those retirees who look forward to their retirement. There is undoubtedly a psychosomatic contribution to the precise timing of death, if not actually to death itself.
Retirement for those with something they still want to do, with ambitions still to fulfil, is a happy period. It is simply not true that the prolongation of life expectancy has resulted in lengthened periods of invalidity and chronic ill-health: people are living not only longer but healthier than ever before. The epidemic of obesity might one day change all that, but so far it hasn’t.
You have only to look at photos of people of my age 50 years ago to see the change for the better in the way people grow old. The people look more decrepit and worn-out, if also more characterful, than I.
Like many people of 63 these days, I am neither going gentle into that good night (not even with the assistance of golf), nor raging against the dying of the light. I am enjoying my life more than ever.
There are few sensations more delightful than waking up in the morning in the knowledge that one does not have to get up if one doesn’t want to. No doubt it is a sign of mankind’s bad character that the sensation is all the more delicious because one knows that not everyone can share it. And one comes to realise that the old maiden aunt who took an entire morning to post a letter, whom Northcote Parkinson described to illustrate his famous law that work expands to meet the time available for its completion, was not so much a figure of fun or even obloquy as a wise old bird. The fact is that pottering is fun and soothes the soul.
It is important for retirees to realise and accept in their hearts that they were never quite as important as they thought they were. For a very short time after my retirement I hoped that the institutions for which I worked would collapse, and that, like General de Gaulle, I would be recalled. That call never came, the institutions are still there (though of course they are not what they were) and I am not needed after all.
To be not needed any more: what a liberation! No more anxious phone calls in the middle of the night, no more letters of complaint to answer, no more idiotic forms to fill in and return by next Wednesday, no more rotas, meetings, managers, trainees, selection committees, VIP visits, reforms, reorganisations, changes in policy, guidelines, office reconfigurations, budgetary cuts, savings to be made, efficiency gains, new strategies, annual appraisals, circulars from directors of diversity. Retirement is the golden age.
Rebel commander: Israel, Hezbollah, Iran working with Assad
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Opposition: IAF strikes were to stop rebels, not Hezbollah.
MEMBERS OF A Syrian opposition group are seen on the front lines in Aleppo Photo: REUTERS
A Syrian opposition commander has accused Israel of working with Iran and Hezbollah to support Syrian President Bashar Assad in his two year effort to topple opposing forces, Turkish news network Today's Zaman reported on Sunday.
Abdulkader Saleh, a commander in the al-Tawhid Brigade of the Free Syrian Army told Today's Zaman that "Assad has protected Israel's border for 40 years,” and that is why "Iran and Hezbollah are cooperating with Israel to be able to support Assad" in Syria's raging civil war.
Despite previous media reports that last week's airstrikes in Syria were an Israeli initiative to aid rebel forces and stop Hezbollah from helping Assad attain destructive weapons, Saleh apparently told Zaman that these reports were false.
“The opposition was going to take over arms, so Israel attacked. There is evidence pointing to this," he reportedly said.
Saleh told Zaman that opposition forces had come in contact with several high ranking Syrian officials, who were persuaded to aid them in transfering weapons to the rebel fighters, and Israel acted accordingly in order to stop this transaction from occurring.
"This assault, of course, was intended to support the Assad administration,” Saleh allegedly said. "It is obvious that Iran and Hezbollah are also included in the Syrian war," Zaman reported him as saying while hinting at Israel's cooperation.
Polarized political leaders openly discuss the threat of more bloodshed between Sunnis and Shiites and the eventual breakup of the country.
May 10, 2013|By Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times
BAGHDAD — Less than a year and a half after the last U.S. troops left, Iraq's political leaders are openly debating the prospect of two dangerous paths for their country: de facto division or civil war. Perhaps both.
Tension between the Shiite majority, now in control of the levers of power, and the Sunni Arab minority, which dominated under Saddam Hussein, has been building for months. But politicians on all sides agree that the country has entered a perilous new phase, highlighted in late April by an attack on a Sunni protest camp by security forces that killed at least 45 people.
As word of the shootings spread, fighting erupted around the country, leaving more than 200 people dead. Overall, the United Nations said, more than 700 people were killed in Iraq in April, the highest monthly toll in five years.
Polarized political leaders openly discuss the threat of more bloodshed and the gradual breakup of the country, either through an informal declaration of an independent Sunni Arab region, modeled on the Kurds' region in northern Iraq, or outright war.
The problems are compounded by the increasingly sectarian war in neighboring Syria, where the Sunni majority forms the backbone of the insurgency against the government of President Bashar Assad.
In Iraq, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, who has been ostracized by fellow Sunnis for continuing to participate in the Shiite-led government, said he feared that one more deadly incident could push Sunni protesters to "return to violence, and once the violence starts, it will not end for 20 or 30 years."
A package of reforms meant to address protesters' demands has been left to a silent death in the parliament. The demands include an end date for punitive measures against former members of Hussein's Baath Party, an amnesty act and legal reforms prohibiting the use of secret informants to convict people.
"They are legitimate demands, but are politically impossible," said lawmaker Sami Askari, a close advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who had lobbied for the package. Shiite parties signed off on the reforms when they were debated in Maliki's Cabinet, but then reversed themselves in the parliament, he said.
Askari helped engineer Maliki's unsuccessful effort in 2010 to form a government that would have crossed Iraq's sectarian divide. The country has now entered a period of acrimony between Shiites and Sunnis, he said.
"The Sunnis want better conditions, better participation, and the Shiites are scared and fearful the past might come back again," Askari said. "All of the region now is talking of a clash between Shia and Sunnis. You cannot ignore this now.... Even those Sunnis who are ready to strike a deal are under attack."
Two investigations were launched after security forces attacked the Sunni protesters in Hawija on April 23. Senior government officials say the findings indicate that security personnel used disproportionate force, including shooting unarmed civilians. Video apparently recorded by security forces showed what appeared to be slain civilians gripping sticks, and a body that had fallen out of a wheelchair.
Maliki initially expressed regret over the assault but has since taken a harder line. He has vowed to fight what he calls terrorists among the protesters, and has massed troops outside Ramadi, a Sunni-majority city in Anbar province.
Protesters there have formed a tribal force to defend against a military attack, and Maliki has warned them that he could crush them easily if he wasn't concerned about shedding Iraqi blood. His acting defense minister, Saadoun Dulaimi, called the protest camps incubators for terrorism.
The government assault in Hawija has further radicalized the Sunni protest movement. At a rally last week in Fallouja, a cleric told Sunnis that they had to choose their next step. The options included "the resignation of Maliki; civil war and sectarian conflict, which we don't want ... or to divide the country in order to protect ourselves, and rule ourselves by ourselves."
Some in the crowd, angry over the idea of federalism, threw water bottles at the stage; others shouted in praise of holy war.
Usama Nujaifi, a Sunni who is speaker of the parliament, said the government was pushing Sunnis to the brink. "The conditions for a civil war are present now," Nujaifi said. "The first person responsible is the prime minister."
A former Sunni fighter who goes by the name Abu Selim said Hawija and subsequent violence had given new life to armed groups that had been less active in recent years, including the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda, the Baathist-inspired Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist-led Islamic Army.
"The Islamic insurgent groups had lost their mission … they were just waiting for an instance to take over again under an attractive banner," he said. "Hawija was the zero hour they were waiting for."
Sheik Ali Hatem Suleiman, one of the protest leaders in Anbar, is openly planning defenses in case of a military attack on Ramadi. The government has issued an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges.
"The people are betting that if it starts, it will be a long war," Suleiman said.
Askari said he doubted there would be a new civil war because Sunnis know how much they lost in the sectarian conflict during the U.S. occupation.
"Without the American Army, no single Sunni could have stayed in Baghdad. They would have been cleansed," he said. "Now there are no Americans. If sectarian war ignited, for sure they would lose Baghdad and most of the other provinces."
All that would be left is their stronghold, Anbar province, Askari said, where Al Qaeda would gain strength and terrorize the Sunni population.
Baghdad is gripped by fear and resignation. In western neighborhoods, slayings occur every week, thought to be the work of Shiite or Sunni gunmen staking out territory for the conflict to come.
On Monday, outside the high concrete walls meant to guard the neighborhood of Amariya, black banners announced the deaths of five men. Inside, most shopkeepers close up at 1 p.m., when the killers often come out.
"This is the bad time," said Raad Hussein Abbas, who was rushing to shutter his women's clothing store.
At Baghdad's yellow stone Abu Hanifa mosque, a jewel of a building in Baghdad's oldest Sunni neighborhood, Adhamiya, a gray metal stage stands ready in the front courtyard. The crowd on Fridays ranges in size from 2,000 to 5,000, depending on how many people are allowed into the neighborhood. Sheik Abdul Wahab Samarrai, the son of the senior cleric, said he feared a violent division of the country could be approaching.
Samarrai said he hoped that leaders could find wisdom and a sense of compromise. But he isn't sure such people exist anymore.
He fell silent when he thought about what the country's division into Sunni and Shiite sectors would mean for him. Already Sunnis are leaving his neighborhood under the pressure of checkpoints and nightly raids.
"I don't want to make my choice at this time," he said, glancing upward. "I hope it doesn't happen."
These atrocities may remind some of how Mustafa Tlas, the former Syrian Defense Minister, exulted over the Syrian soldier who had, he said, decapitated more than two dozen Israeli prisoners. Or we may be reminded of the long history of the mutilation of Jewish corpses by Muslim Arabs, that took place during every war (and, in 1948-49, the victims were Jewish women as well as men) and, in peacetime, such as the case of the two Israeli reservists who took a wrong turn in the "West Bank," were seized and killed by the Arabs in a building, and from an upper floor, Arabs held up the bloody entrails of those Jews who had been murdered with such collective ferocity for the gruesome delight of an Arab crowd in Ramallah.
The story, about Syria, is here:
Savage Online Videos Fuel Syria’s Descent Into Madness
The video starts out like so many of the dozens coming out of the war in Syria every day, with the camera hovering over the body of a dead Syrian soldier. But the next frame makes it clear why this video, smuggled out of the city of Homs and into Lebanon with a rebel fighter, and obtained by TIME in April, is particularly shocking. In the video a man who is believed to be a rebel commander named Khalid al-Hamad, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, bends over the government soldier, knife in hand. He has sliced through the soldier’s fatigues and is working the knife though the pale skin of the soldier’s torso. He has already cut out the man’s heart. The man then cuts another organ free and stands to face the camera, holding an organ in each hand. “I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers, you dogs of Bashar,” he says, referring to supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Off camera, a small crowd can be heard calling out “Allahu Akbar” — God is great. Then the man raises one of the bloodied organs to his lips and starts to tear off a chunk with his teeth.
Two TIME reporters first saw the video in April in the presence of several of Abu Sakkar’s fighters and supporters, including his brother. They all said the video was authentic. We later obtained a copy. Since then TIME has been trying to ensure that the footage is not digitally manipulated in any way — a faked film like this would be powerful propaganda for the regime, which portrays the rebels as terrorists — and, as yet, TIME has not been able to confirm its integrity. Abu Sakkar has not commented on whether the man in the video is indeed him because he is currently fighting on the front lines in Syria, according to fighters under his command. The video became public on May 12 when it was posted online by a proregime group and is indeed now being used as propaganda by regime supporters (and has already been shared 1,115 times on Facebook and has over 46,000 views on YouTube). These 27 seconds of footage provide a glimpse at how brutal the Syrian war has become — and a startling example of how technology appears to be fueling that brutality.
War is rarely anything but violent, but in Syria, where more than 70,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict since it started as a peaceful uprising inspired by the Arab Spring more than two years ago, the savagery has reached ghoulish proportions. And it seems that soldiers on both sides of the war are committing what appear to be crimes of war at least in part so that those acts can be viewed on the Internet. The ubiquity of camera phones and social media are enabling a mixture of propaganda, intimidation and boastful exhibitionism. In this, the first YouTube war, videos have driven the conflict even as they document its horrors.
Many videos from the Syrian battlefield, including the one that shows the man slicing out the dead soldier’s organs, also show the sectarian hatred that many fear is driving the war in Syria, especially the tension between the majority Sunni population and the minority Alawites. Assad is an Alawite; most rebels are Sunni. “Look at the lions of Baba Amr,” shouts the man believed to be a rebel commander in the video, referring to a ferocious battle fought in 2012 between the rebels and regime forces near Homs, “slaughtering the Alawites and eating their hearts.” The anonymous blogger who posted the video on YouTube, attributing the video to al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebel states: “These are the freedoms they want to import to our country.” The man in the video has been identified by another proregime group as Abu Sakkar, who commands the Al Farooq al-Mustakilla Brigade, a 60-man fighting force that is active in and around Homs, about 97 km north of Damascus and near the Lebanese border.
Videos like this prompt a troubling question: How do countries who want to support Syria’s rebels make sure they’re not unintentionally aiding rebels who might commit war crimes? Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already providing the rebel forces with military aid, and the U.S. is helping with nonmilitary aid. There is an ongoing debate in Washington about whether the U.S. government should provide further aid to the rebels, possibly including weapons. Eating an enemy’s liver may be an extreme example of what appears to be a rebel atrocity, but there is enough documented evidence of extrajudicial killings, torture and desecration on the part of the rebels that it would be near impossible to know for certain who, exactly, are the “good” guys, says Peter Bouckaert, director of emergencies for the New York–based group Human Rights Watch. “In this context, where different rebel groups are fighting alongside each other, and sharing weapons, it’s difficult to control where the weapons end up. It is very likely that some of the weapons will end up in the hands of the likes of Abu Sakkar.”
Brigadier General Salim Idris, head of the Syrian Military Council (SMC), which oversees — according to its leadership — about 90% of the rebel forces, says such violence is unacceptable, and that no soldier under the council’s command would be allowed to get away with such actions. “Look, it is very clear that these kinds of behaviors, this cutting of bodies, is not allowed. If there is evidence that fighters from the FSA are doing something against human rights or international law, they will be brought before the court,” says Idris, referring to the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella name for the anarchic consortium of defected government soldiers, volunteers, jihadists and opportunists that make up most of the opposition fighting force, and nominally pledge allegiance to the SMC. Idris, who has not seen the video, but was told of its existence, questions the value of videos as proof, pointing out that they can be digitally manipulated. Furthermore, he maintains that the SMC has a watertight command-and-control structure in place that prevents these kinds of atrocities. He suggests that if they are happening, they are being perpetrated by the fighting groups not under his jurisdiction. Then he lashed out against Western journalists who focused on the human-rights abuses of the rebels, when “the regime is massacring women and children with knives. Where is international law when it comes to 200,000 martyrs and millions of refugees?”
The video featuring the man believed to be Abu Sakkar is symptomatic of the blend of brutality and technology on the Syrian battlefield. According to several rebels interviewed by TIME, fighters from both sides no longer simply brag about their exploits on the battlefield; they film them and share them, competing in gruesome games of one-upmanship. This trading in trophy atrocities, played up for the camera and passed from phone to phone, has a desensitizing effect, says Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition U.K.-based organization that tracks fatalities and human-rights abuses in Syria. When a 13-year-old boy is filmed beheading a man and when footage of rape, torture and amputations are passed like trading cards, it escalates the cycle of honor-driven revenge, as each atrocity, so publicly shared, demands a response from the opposing side, according to Nadim Houry of Human Rights Watch. “When people see these acts of brutality and mutilation, it leaves deep scars, and there will be a temptation to replicate it in revenge,” says Bouckaert. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Quite a few fighters in Syria interpret that literally.”
Rahman says violent videos are showing up with increasing frequency. “I’ve seen hundreds of videos like that from both sides,” he says. “They cut off limbs and heads. They cut out hearts and livers, ears and tongues. They cut off private parts and put them places. It’s abnormal. It’s inhuman what is happening.”
The apparent rise of such incidents — or at least their documentation — is an indication that the Syrian conflict is going in a very dark direction. And it could get worse. Many Syria scholars say the regime — and the war — could last for years.
There are no good options for the international community. Western intervention on behalf of the rebels could exacerbate sectarian tensions. Foreign boots on the ground could incite an Iranian response in support of the regime, which it backs, sparking a wider regional proxy war. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has encouraged all jihadists to join in the fight against the Syrian regime; further instability, with its rich recruitment pool and increased lawlessness, is the terrorist group’s ideal incubator. And as more horrific videos emerge, the rebels may find it harder and harder to persuade the international community that they represent the best bet for a country descending ever further into chaos.
This week my selected saints are mostly drawn from the ranks of those who fought against paganism – including against the pagan Mohammedans. Modern paganism, which is also represented here (see my saint for the seventeenth of this month – below), is a pernicious evil that has reared its ugly head in recent times. It’s born out of a need for people to believe in something, anything, and the feeling amongst such people that Christianity is somehow not the answer or just plain wrong.
It would be easy to say that the devil is in those modern pagan people but it’s not as simple as that. When one talks to them one finds, almost invariably, either a profound ignorance about the tenets of Christianity, or deep distrust of what they perceive to be an establishment belief, or a large number of completely false beliefs and assumptions about the Faith. One also encounters a huge unwillingness to accept the facts about Christian belief and worship, and an even greater resistance to any attempt to counter the false beliefs and assumptions that they have made, or been told, about Christianity.
This is so because, at least in the U.K., children go to schools that don’t teach anything about Christianity, but wherein teachers are known to regularly and systematically deride the Faith. In the society outside schools the Faith is scorned and reviled and this is actively encouraged by the left-wing, so-called intellectual, elite that dominate so much of the U.K.’s media outlets. History is twisted and perverted to suit the agenda of the left, and the part that Christianity played in the making of my country is downplayed to the point of invisibility.
The end result is that enormous numbers of people believe in the most ridiculous superstitious claptrap that you could possibly imagine. Modern paganism is a completely invented set of beliefs that pretends, with some effect, that it is a survival of the paganism that existed here before Christianity arrived almost two thousand years ago – and that pretence in itself is an huge load of codswallop for there is nothing that can be accurately known about the ancient pagan beliefs for no records exist, and, anyway, demonstrably it didn’t survive the spread of Christianity. Modern paganism has, despite that, become the belief system of choice for these hard-of-thinking folk.
That would not be quite so galling if it were simply a rejection of Christianity, but it isn’t simply that. Along with embracing a farrago of superstitious rubbish the dominant political correctness also seems to be embraced, and modern paganism and its adherents are noted for their anti-Israel stance and for the free pass that they give to Mohammedanism – though, to be accurate, they tend to give a free pass to any belief system just so long as it isn’t a Christian one. Modern pagans have swallowed, hook, line and sinker, the ‘religion of peace’ lie, and they lap up any media reporting that represents Christianity in a bad way, which, in the U.K., is just about every report on Christianity. The BBC is, as you would expect, in vanguard of the anti-Christian, down with Britain, movement. Its own report as recently as AD2011 admitted as much:
According to viewers, Christians are badly treated with ‘derogatory stereotypes’ which portray them as ‘weak’ or ‘bigoted’.
It was suggested that there was a bias against Christianity and that other religions were better represented.
The consultation concluded: ‘In terms of religion, there were many who perceived the BBC to be anti-Christian and as such misrepresenting Christianity.’
It added: ‘Christians are specifically mentioned as being badly treated, with a suggestion that more minority religions are better represented despite Christianity being the most widely observed religion within Britain.’
One respondent said: ‘As a Christian I find that the BBC’s representation of Christianity is mainly inaccurate, portraying incorrect, often derogatory stereotypes.’
Although I loathe the The Christian Institute and much of what it stands for the following report is from their website and is truthful and accurate as far as I can determine:
Christians are “fair game” for insults at the BBC whilst Muslims must not be offended, one of the broadcaster’s former news anchors has warned.
Peter Sissons, whose memoirs are being serialised in the Daily Mail, slammed the BBC for its bias.
Mr Sissons said: “Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.”
His comments are unlikely to surprise many Christians who have become increasingly concerned about a perceived anti-Christian bias at the public broadcaster.
The veteran presenter, who fronted news and current affairs programmes at the BBC, also said that staff damage their careers if they don’t follow the BBC’s mindset.
He said: “In my view, ‘bias’ is too blunt a word to describe the subtleties of the pervading culture. The better word is a ‘mindset’.”
He added that “the one thing guaranteed to damage your career prospects at the BBC is letting it be known that you are at odds with the prevailing and deep-rooted BBC attitude towards Life, the Universe and Everything.”
In 2010 Radio 2 host Simon Mayo warned that religion was “increasingly driven to the margin” on the BBC.
And in 2009 Jeremy Vine, another of the Corporation’s radio presenters, said he believed it had become “almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God.”
Also in 2009, the Bishop of Manchester accused the Corporation of treating people of faith like an “increasingly rare species”.
And former Radio 2 presenter Don Maclean claimed that the BBC is keen on programmes which attack churches, and that there was a wider secularist campaign “to get rid of Christianity”.
In 2008 Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, said that Islam should be treated more sensitively than Christianity because Muslims are less integrated and more of a minority group.
The BBC reflects the opinions of the anti-Christian, and anti-freedom, entrenched left-wing elite that has gradually taken over this country. The recent coverage in the newspapers and on the broadcast media of Baroness Thatcher’s sad demise is a case in point. The way that she was talked and written about meant that you could be excused for thinking that she had come to power in some sort of military coup and then ruled by diktat and decree until she was forcibly ousted in a revolution instead of being elected, and re-elected, in a series of free, fair and honest democratic elections. It was disgraceful; it was sneaky and underhand; and it was a deliberate attempt by the left-wing mass media to rewrite history in a way that accorded with some leftist fantasy.
Whilst we are on the subject of paganism, let us never forget that the biggest threat that the free societies of the west face today comes from the old paganism of Mohammedanism. Oh yes, they are pagans. They don’t believe in the one true loving creator G-d, but in two gods, one of which is an ancient pagan idol called allah and the other is a mythical creature, probably not human but a demon from hell, called Mohammed. They believe in violence to spread their beliefs. They sacrifice human beings to their gods and call them, blasphemously, martyrs, and they sacrifice humans not of their belief system by ritually beheading them in the hope that their gods will be pleased with them and make life better for them. They are tribal and they believe that their demon god called Mohammed was perfect and that he told them that they must be violent, dishonest and abusive – especially to women and strangers. He also told them that they could rape children and keep slaves and that they need not keep their word if they think that, for any reason, they shouldn’t. That is the very definition of paganism.
Anyway, all that said and done, let’s have a look at the good Christian saints that I want to bring to your attention this week.
On the twelfth of May I recommend that we memorialise Saint Ethelhard of Canterbury, who is also referred to as Æthelheard of Canterbury, or Æthilheard of Canterbury, or Aethelheard of Canterbury, or Aethilheard of Canterbury, or Ethelreard of Canterbury. We don’t know when he was born, and we know hardly anything about his early life. We certainly know nothing at all about his childhood and teenage years but we can guess that as a young man he became a monk because Symeon of Durham describes him as "Abbas Hludensis Monasterii", but it is uncertain what monastery is thus designated that he might have been Abbot of. It has been variously located at Louth in Lincolnshire (the most probable identification), Lydd, and Luddersdown in Kent, and at Malmesbury. However, William of Malmesbury, in his Gesta Pontificum Anglorum (Deeds of the English Bishops), is certainly mistaken in identifying him with Ethelhard, ninth Bishop of Winchester for whom we have a separate history.
Whatever else we may, or may not, know about Saint Ethelhard we do know that he was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on the twenty-first of July in AD793. This was a difficult time for Christianity in England for paganism was still rife and its evils still had a pernicious hold on the minds of many. His reign was marked by determined attempts by King Offa of Mercia to weaken the See of Canterbury’s influence in England and to establish Lichfield as the seat of another Metropolitan Archbishopric (the See that was to be followed and obeyed by other bishops), thereby splitting the English Church in two. Offa had a certain success in his scheme, which would have made it so much easier for the Crown to control the Church, when, on the occasion of the Legatine visit of George and Theophylact, sent by Pope Hadrian I (reigned: AD772 – AD795) in AD786 – AD788, one Higbert received the pallium as Archbishop of Lichfield, and Canterbury was left with only London, Winchester, Sherborne, Rochester, and Selsey as suffragan sees.
Ethelhard was Offa’s preferred candidate for Canterbury and although the clergy there initially objected to his election they had to give in and, strangely, Ethelhard was consecrated by Higbert, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Lichfield. However, Ethelhard demonstrated an independence of mind and spirit once he was consecrated to the See of Canterbury and immediately began to assert his See’s primacy in England. That, obviously, was not to Offa’s taste and Ethelhard had to flee from Canterbury for a while.
However, King Offa died and was succeeded by Cenwulf, who had more of an eye to retaining the dominance of his kingdom over the other kingdoms in England, and who was more than sympathetic to the claims of Canterbury because one primal See situated within his realm would help him to keep that dominant position. Unseating another Archbishop, Higbert at Lichfield, however, needed more than just a king’s support, so Archbishop Saint Ethelhard undertook a journey to Rome and persuaded Pope Leo III (reigned: AD795 – AD816) in AD802 to restore Canterbury to its position as the only Metropolitan Archbishopric in England and to thereby deprive Higbert of the pallium (a vestment worn by the pope and conferred by him on archbishops and sometimes on bishops to signify their rank).
Incidentally, in all this there is no suggestion that Bishop Higbert was anything other than a good and holy man. Indeed, Alcuin of York clearly says as much and he argued, based on Higbert’s goodness and suitability, that Higbert should be allowed to retain his pallium for his lifetime. That didn’t happen and the Pope's decision was officially acknowledged by the Synod of Clovesho on twelfth of October in AD803, in the presence of Cenwulf and his Witan (roughly: parliament), and Higbert was deprived of his pallium.
It is during Ethelhard's occupancy of the See of Canterbury after that we first meet with official records of the profession of faith and obedience made by the English bishops-elect to their Metropolitan, which practice was authorised at the Synod of Clovesho, also. The first document of that type is the profession of obedience to the See of Canterbury made in AD796 by Bishop Eadulf of Linsey.
Now, you may wonder why I’ve gone into such detail about Archbishop Saint Ethelhard. Simply put, it’s because without his insistence on the primacy of the See of Canterbury over the Church in England the cause of English unification would probably have been set back by many decades, more probably by centuries. Each individual little kingdom in England would have demanded, and probably would have got, its own Metropolitan. Given the power of the Faith and the Church and their close relationship in the minds of most people to the concept of their identity and their nationality, such a fragmentation of the Church would have vastly complicated the task of unifying the English into one nation.
Thanks to Ethelhard and his insistence on the dominant position of the See of Canterbury, England became a nation much more quickly than one might otherwise have expected. Of such small things is history made. Archbishop Saint Ethelhard died on this day in AD805 at Canterbury and was buried in the great abbey church of Saints Peter and Paul at Canterbury, usually known as Saint Augustine’s. When that church was demolished to build the new one (in the eleventh Christian century) that we are familiar with today, the monk Goscelin compiled a list, with positions of the tombs, of the burials of the early Archbishops who are buried there, and it was possible to identify them with the graves that were uncovered when the early church was excavated just before the first world war and in all the archaeological excavations that have taken place in and around the Cathedral in the last forty years.
Another thing that we don’t know about Ethelhard is just why he was regarded as a saint. We do know that when Lanfranc became Archbishop of Canterbury he suppressed the veneration of various Anglo-Saxon saints arguing that there was insufficient documentation and Ethelhard’s cultus, was amongst those he did away with. However, some of Lanfranc’s decisions were made on political grounds rather than spiritual ones and therefore we should not be deterred from trusting the judgements of the faithful who knew Ethelhard – they probably had good grounds for viewing him as a saint so, today, we can safely do the same thing.
The other saint that we should venerate on this day is Saint Pancras of Rome who goes by various names including Pancritas, Pancratius, Pancrazio, Pancracio. He was born circa AD290 in the Roman province of Phrygia near the town of Synnada (Suhut in today’s Mohammedan illegaly occupied western Turkey) and as a fourteen year old orphan he was taken to Rome by his uncle, Saint Dionysius, who is also remembered on this day. Both he and his uncle converted to Christianity from paganism and they were martyred for the Faith by being beheaded at Rome circaAD304.
Pope Saint Vitalian sent his relics from the catacomb cemetery of Calepodius in Rome to England as part of the evangelisation of my country, so that the missionaries would have relics of the Church at large that they could install in altars in new churches. It is said that Saint Augustine of Canterbury dedicated the first church that he built in England to Saint Pancras, and many churches throughout England are similarly dedicated to him. The oldest site of Christian worship in London is usually claimed to be Saint Pancras Old Church, but that is just a delightful fabrication for no one can know for certain when and where the first Christians in London gathered.
Saint Pancras Old Church at London as reconstructed in the Victorian era.
Originally, his relics were installed in the Saint Pancras church at Rome and it is reputed that some of them are still there in the reliquary beneath the high altar. The reliquary that contains, or contained, his head is still there, also, but some authorities maintain that the head itself is actually at Saint John Lateran. That seems unlikely and I think that the confusion arises because Saint John Lateran houses the heads of Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles.
Church of San Pancrazio at Rome which stands just through the Porta San Pancrazio
in the Aurelian Wall on the Janiculum Hill. Photo by Croberto68.
Reliquary of Saint Pancras beneath the high altar in the church.
The high altar and reliquary.
The reliquary that contains, or contained, Saint Pancras’ head.
Anyway, Saint Pancras was, and is, a very important saint to us English, and of course his name is famous today for it graces the name of London’s international railway station that has direct links to the world’s rail networks through the Channel Tunnel, which makes it possible to travel by train from London to the Pacific Ocean, or, as I have done, to China and back, and it graces the district of London in which both the church and the railway station stand.
Pancras is also one of the Ice Saints1 and although we don’t know of any particular reason that he should be venerated as a saint apart from his martyrdom his cultus is probably also because he died as a child and probably an innocent one, too. I have discussed child saints earlier in this series (see Dies Gloriae, XVI) and I have doubted their saintliness, but at least we can agree with our Christian forebears that Pancras exhibited courage at a tender age and stood up and died for the Faith. For that reason, if for no other, he is, in my opinion, rightly remembered as a saint.
On the thirteenth of May I must memorialise the Blessed Julian of Norwich, who is sometimes called Juliana of Norwich. We know next to nothing about her early life excepting that she was probably born sometime around AD1342. We don’t even know her real name, or even if she was actually from Norwich or just moved to that city, which was a large and important place at that time in England. All that we know of her personal life comes from her own writings.
When she was thirty and living at home, Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed she had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which had ended by the time that she recovered from her illness on the thirteenth of May in AD1373. Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened and these writings are known as 'The Short Text'. Twenty to thirty years later, she wrote a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions that she had had and this is known as 'The Long Text'. Her visions were the source of her major work, 'Revelations of Divine Love (PDF)', which she wrote in around AD1393. It is believed to be the earliest surviving book written in the English language by a woman.
She attached herself to Saint Julian’s Church (Saint Julian was a Bishop of Le Mans in France) at Conisford close by Norwich, which, being by the river crossing, was dedicated to Saint Julian as the Patron Saint of ferrymen, and from that church she took the name we all know her by today. She became what is known as an anchoress and lived in a little cell attached (anchored) to the church that had a window through which she could see the altar and receive communion. In her early sixties she shut herself in complete seclusion at Conisford and never left again. She died, of natural causes, circa AD1423 and although she was never formally beatified she is considered Blessed due to the popular devotion that she inspired, and continues to inspire. That she truly was a blessed person I have no doubt, and her accessible Christian mysticism is much loved today.
The little church of Saint Julian has got to be Norwich’s smallest medieval church
with probably the lowest round tower in England. The church suffered a direct hit
during an air raid in AD1942 in World War Two and was completely rebuilt
using the original material in AD1953.
It's the only one of five that were destroyed in Norwich that was rebuilt.
The rebuilt church of Saint Julian.
The Blessed Julian is venerated and loved by many English Christians of all denominations. Her theology was unique in three respects for the time that she lived in. Firstly, for her view of sin as the product of ignorance. Secondly, for her belief that God is all-loving and without wrath. Thirdly, for her view of G-d as mother and father. This latter idea was also developed by Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century. Although the feminist view of theology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has developed along similar lines the Blessed Julian stresses the harmony between the motherly and the fatherly in Christ in a way that most modern feminists find hard to understand, especially if they are not Christians.
On this day, also, I am going to remember the Blessed Gerard Mecatti of Villamagna, sometimes known as Gerard of Monza. Once again, this is a person whom we don’t know very much about. We know that he was born in AD1174 in Villamagna, near Pisa, in the province of Tuscany in Italy to simple farming folk. We know that Gerard lost both his parents early in life, and that the owners of the land that his parents had worked took the boy into their own home and taught him to live a pious and Christian life.
Gerard had just about reached the age of young manhood, when a son of the family, who belonged to the Knights of Jerusalem, chose him as his companion for his journey to the Holy Land. In an encounter with the pagan Mohammedan unbelievers, both were taken captive, and they were not ransomed before they endured much torture and abuse.
When his master died soon after, Gerard visited the holy places in Palestine and then returned to Italy. There he lived in his parents' small cottage near Villamagna where he led a humble and retired life. Not long afterwards Gerard heeded the request of another Knight of Jerusalem, and joined him on a voyage to Syria. The ship on which they sailed with some twenty other knights, was pursued by pirates with far superior power, but, it is said, through Gerard’s earnest prayer, it and its passengers were saved by a miracle.
When Gerard had been in Jerusalem for some time, the superiors of the knight offered him, because of his virtue and piety, the privilege of joining the order as a brother servant, which he gladly did. In his new vocation he rendered the sick and the pilgrims so much charity and was so devout at prayer, that he was quite generally called the holy brother by everyone. That wounded the humility of the unassuming Gerard, with the result that he obtained the consent of his superiors to return to his native town in Italy.
There the Blessed Gerard became a Franciscan tertiary (see Dies Gloriae, XIX for an explanation of ‘tertiary’) – it is said that Saint Francis himself gave the habit of the Order to him. Then Gerard withdrew to a place where he could be a hermit at the tiny hamlet of Bagno a Ripoli hard by Villamagna. Here he led an austere and reclusive life. However, his natural charity urged him to devote himself also to the sick and to the poor, so he, himself, went from door to door and begged for them and then distributed the alms amongst the needy.
In his hermitage Gerard applied himself so continually to prayer upon his knees, that the latter were covered with thick calluses, as, incidentally, is recorded also of Saint James the Apostle.
Oratorio del Beato Gherardo – the Oratory of the Blessed Gerard
that was built over his hermitage and that now houses his tomb.
Regarded by all as a saint, Gerard died in AD1242. He always wore the crusader cross and multitudes came to see his body for the last time. The crowds swarmed the small village of Villamagna and the authorities had to set up special guards to control the unexpected flood of people. Many miracles occurred at his grave, for which reason his hermitage was converted into a church. Today, this wonderful and loyal crusader is rightly remembered as Blessed.
When one reaches the fourteenth of May one really has to remember Saint Matthias the Apostle. The Biblical book called the Acts of the Apostles states that he was the Apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas' betrayal of Jesus and subsequent suicide. His calling as an Apostle is actually quite singular since his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended to heaven, and it was made before the Holy Ghost came down on the early Church. However, and importantly, he could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus even though he seems to us to have been relatively obscure.
Matthias isn't listed amongst the disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels. According to Acts 1, in the days following the Ascension of Jesus the assembled disciples, who numbered about one hundred and twenty, nominated two men to replace Judas:
“(Verse 23) And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. (24) And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, (25) That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. (26) And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” KJV – Acts 1, 23 – 26.
No matter what his history may have been Matthias was an excellent and hardworking choice. He preached the Gospel in Cappadocia and in Egypt, and, according to Nicephorus Calixtus in his Historia ecclesiastica, at 2–40, Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judaea, then in Aethiopia (meaning the region of Colchis, now in modern-day Georgia) and was stoned to death in Colchis. (Colchis is one of the two ancient Georgian kingdoms and regions, the other one is called, confusingly enough, Iberia. Colchis is the westernmost one of the two.) A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in the modern Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at that site. The The Synopsis of the Lives of the Prophets, Apostles, and Disciples compiled by Saint Dortheus of Tyre2 also mentions this tradition, although one has to be careful for this Synopsis is not always accurate:
"Matthias in interiore Æthiopia, ubi Hyssus maris portus et Phasis fluvius est, hominibus barbaris et carnivoris praedicavit Evangelium. Mortuus est autem in Sebastopoli, ibique prope templum Solis sepultus." ("Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.)
There is also a Coptic 'Acts of Andrew and Matthias' still in existence today that has Matthias' preaching in "the city of the cannibals" in Aethiopia, and it's cited in Hyde Clarke's 'Egyptian Colony and Language in the Caucasus and its Anthropological Relations', (AD1874).
There is very little doubt that he did indeed meet his end in AD80 at Colchis by being stoned to death even though there is a tradition that he was stoned to death and beheaded at Jerusalem, and there is a separate account by Hippolytus of Rome that has him dying of old age at that same city. There is also some dispute as to where his remains actually are. Apart from the claim that they are buried in Georgia, which I mentioned two paragraphs back (above) that seems sensible, there is also a claim that his remains are interred in the abbey of Saint Matthias at Treves (Trier in modern Germany), and that they were brought there through the offices of the Empress Helena of Constantinople, who was the mother of Emperor Constantine I (known as Constantine the Great). However, there is some evidence that there may only be a few bones at Treves for the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore at Rome claims to have the bulk of his remains.
Gonio-Apsaros Roman Fort at Adjara, in Colchis, on the Black sea,
11 miles south of Batumi, at the mouth of the Chorokhi river.
The site of the Apostle Saint Matthias’ grave in the Fort.
The Abbey Church of Saint Matthias at Treves.
Apostle Saint Matthias’ grave in The Abbey Church at Treves. Photograph by Berthold Werner.
Fourth Christian Century Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary the Great)
at Rome, often called the Basilica of Our Lady of the Snow.
High altar of Saint Mary the Great (Santa Maria Maggiore) at Rome
beneath which lies the remains of the Apostle Saint Matthias.
Matthias’ help is invoked against alcoholism and against smallpox. He is also the Patron Saint of carpenters, of the diocese of Gary in Indiana, of the diocese of Great Falls–Billings in Montana, of reformed alcoholics and of tailors. I think that we can safely say that today he is rightly remembered as a saint.
On this day I also want to mention, briefly, Saint Pachomius of Tabenna, also known as Pachomius the Elder. He was born circa AD290 in the province of Upper Thebaid in Egypt (today, Mohammedan illegally occupied Egypt). He was a soldier in the Imperial Roman army who converted to Christianity in AD313. He left the army in AD314 and became a spiritual student of Saint Palaemon. He lived as a hermit from AD316. During a retreat into the deep desert he received a vision telling him to build a monastery on the spot and leave the life of a hermit for that of a monk in community. He did precisely that in AD320 and founded his monastery at Tabenna on an island in Upper Egypt. He devised a Rule that let fellow hermits ease from solitary to communal living. He became the Abbot of his first monastery that expanded to eleven monasteries and convents with over 7,000 monks and nuns in religous life by the time of his death. He was the spiritual teacher of Saint Abraham the Poor. He is also considered to be the founder of Christian cenobitic (communal) monasticism, and his rule for monks is the earliest extant. He died, of natural causes, circa AD346.
He is remembered, rightly, as a saint for his Rule and for his kindness.
On the fifteenth of May we should remember the first missionaries to Spain. They were Saints Hesychius of Gibralter, Euphrasius of Andujar, Ctesiphon of Verga, Caecilius of Granada, Secundus of Avila, Indaletius of Urci and Torquatus of Guadix. They were all first Christian century students of the Apostles. In Spain they laid the groundwork for the Faith that proved itself to be capable of withstanding even the devil’s works that the vile Mohammedans introduced into that country. For their sterling work and faithfulness they are all, today, rightly venerated as saints.
On this day we must also remember Saint Isidore the Farmer, called variously Isadore the Farmer, Isidore Bonden, Isidore of Madrid, Isidore the Labourer, Isidro Labrador and Isidore the Worker. He was a pious farmer who was born in AD1070 at Madrid in Castille in what is today modern Spain and he was married to Saint Mary de la Cabeza. He died of natural causes on this day in AD1130 and ever since miracles and cures have been reported at his grave, in which his body remains incorrupt.
Saint Isidore’s Hermitage at Paúles de Sarsa.
Pilgrimage to Saint Isidore’s Hermitage painted by Goya.
The miracle in which I am interested, however, occurred long after his death in AD1212. He appeared to King Alfonso VIII of Castile, and showed him the hidden path by which he surprised the pagan Mohammedans and gained the victory of Las Navas de Tolosa, in the same year. It is wonderful to think that saintly intercession might have led to a resounding defeat for the evil Mohammedan pagan occupiers.
Victory Monument at Las Navas de Tolosa built to
commemorate the Christian dead.
Isidore’s patronage is often invoked against the death of children and for rain, and he is the Patron Saint of agricultural workers, of Angono in the Philippines, pf Asturias, of Cebu in the Philippines, of Bukidnon, on Mindanao in the Philippines, of Carampa in Peru, of Castalla in Spain, of Cuz Cuz in Chile, of day laborers, of the diocese of Digos in the Philippines, of Estepona in Spain, of farm workers, of farmers, of field hands, of husbandmen, of La Ceiba in Honduras, of labourers, of Leon in Spain, of Lima in Peru, of livestock, of Lucban in the Philippines, of Madrid in Spain, of the diocese of Malaybalay in the Philippines, of Morong in the Philippines, of Nabas in the Philippines, of Orotava in Spain, of Pulilan in the Philippines, of Pulupandan in the Philippines, of ranchers, of rural communities, of Sabana Grand on Puerto Rico, of San Isidro in the Argentine, of Saragossa in Spain, of Sariaya in the Philippines, of Seville in Spain, of Tavalera in the Philippines, of Tayabas in the Philippines, of the United States National Rural Life Conference and of the World Youth Day in AD2011.
Today he is rightly remembered as a saint.
That brings us to the sixteenth of May and it’s the feast day of Saint Brendan the Navigator, oftimes known as Borodon the Navigator, Brandan the Navigator, Brendain McFinlugh, or Brendan the Voyager. He was born in AD460 at what is now Tralee in County Kerry in Ireland. he was the son of Findloga and the brother of Saint Briga. He became a monk. He had been educated by Saint Ita of Killeedy and by Saint Erc of Kerry who ordained him priest in AD512. He was a friend of Saint Columba and of Saint Brendan of Birr, Saint Brigid and Saint Enda of Arran. He built monastic cells at Ardfert, Shankeel, Aleth, Plouaret, Inchquin Island and Annaghdown, and he founded Clonfert monastery and monastic school circa AD559. There is a lovely legend that says that this community had at least three thousand monks and that their Rule was dictated to Brendan by an Angel.
However, Saint Brendan is chiefly famous for his legendary journey to the Isle of the Blessed as described in the 'Voyage of St Brendan the Navigator'. Many versions exist (the earliest extant one dates to circa AD900) that tell of how he set out onto the Atlantic Ocean with sixty pilgrims (other versions have fourteen, plus three unbelievers who join at the last minute) searching for the Garden of Eden. One of these companions is said to have been Saint Malo who has given his name to the eponymous French Channel port.
If such a voyage had actually happened, then it would have occurred sometime between AD512 and AD530, before his journey to the mainland of Great Britain. On his trip, Brendan is supposed to have seen Saint Brendan's Island, a blessed island covered with vegetation. He also encountered a sea monster, an adventure similar to that of his contemporary Saint Columba. The most commonly illustrated adventure is his landing on an island which turns out to be a giant sea monster, or whale, called Jasconius, or Jascon. Apparently they lit a fire and celebrated the Easter Mass before realising where they were!
In this series I have often said that we have forgotten how to read these allegorical stories that have come down to us, and this is another example of just such a story - this time originating in Ireland. 'The Voyage of Saint Brendan' is an overtly Christian text, but it also contains stories about natural phenomena and about fantastical events and places, which were designed to make the book appeal to as wide a readership as possible. Most of the people who read it during the middle ages and medieval times would have had no trouble understanding its references to various aspects of the Faith and explaining those references to any who didn't quite get them. Today, we have to think quite deeply about the text and even doing that much of its meaning may pass us by.
The following is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the tale – see if you can match the relevant Christian lessons or texts to each précis:
1. Saint Barrid tells of his visit to the Island of Paradise, which prompts Brendan to go in search of the isle.
2. Brendan assembles 14 monks to accompany him.
3. They fast at three-day intervals for 40 days, and visit Saint Enda for three days and three nights.
4. Three latecomers join the group. They interfere with Brendan's sacred numbers.
5. They find an island with a dog, mysterious hospitality (no people, but food left out), and an Ethiopian devil.
6. One latecomer admits to having stolen from the mysterious island, Brendan exorcises the Ethiopian devil from the latecomer, latecomer dies and is buried.
7. They find an island with a boy who brings them bread and water.
8. They find an island of sheep, eat some, and stay for Holy Week (before Easter).
9. They find the island of Jasconius, have Easter Mass, and hunt whales and fish.
10. They find an island that is the Paradise of Birds, and the birds sing psalms and praise the Lord.
11. They find the island of the monks of Ailbe, with magic loaves, no ageing, and complete silence. They celebrate Christmas.
12. A long voyage after Lent. They find an island with a well, and drinking the water puts them to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 days based on the number of cups each man drank.
13. They find a "coagulated" sea.
14. They return to the islands of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds. A bird prophesies that the men must continue this year-long cycle for seven years before they will be holy enough to reach the Island of Paradise.
15. A sea creature approaches the boat, but God shifts the sea to protect the men. Another sea creature comes, chops the first into three pieces, and leaves. The men eat the dead sea creature.
16. They find an island of 3 choirs of anchorites (monks), who give them fruit, and the second latecomer stays behind when the others leave.
17. They find an island of grapes, and stayed for 40 days.
18. They find a gryphon and a bird battle. The gryphon dies.
19. To the monastery at Ailbe again for Christmas.
20. The sea is clear, and many threatening fish circle their boat, but God protects them.
21. They find an island, but when they light a fire, the island sinks; it is actually a whale.
22. They pass a "silver pillar wrapped in a net" in the sea.
23. They pass an island of blacksmiths, who throw slag at them.
24. They find a volcano, and the third latecomer is taken by demons down to Hell.
25. They find Judas sitting unhappily on a cold, wet rock in the middle of the sea, and discover that this is his respite from Hell for Sundays and feast days. Brendan protects Judas from the demons of Hell for one night.
26. They find an island where Paul the Hermit has lived a perfect monastic life for 60 years. He wears nothing but hair and is fed by an otter.
27. They return to the island of Sheep, Jasconius, and the Paradise of Birds.
28. They find the Promised Land of the Saints.
29. They return home, and Brendan dies.
‘The Voyage’ borrows heavily from the ‘Voyage of Mael Duin’ as well as from the ‘Voyage of Bran’, or vice versa – it’s difficult to be sure. These are both strong Christian tales that contain fair dollops of allegory and fanciful settings of Christian Lessons – just like Brendan’s ‘Voyage’. All are great stories and they also all borrow from early Irish mythology.
Brendan died circa AD577 at Annaghdown (Enach Duin in Erse) and he is buried at Clonfert in Ireland in the monastery church (now a stand alone Cathedral of the Anglican Church of Ireland) that he established.
The Cathedral Church of Saint Brendan at Clonfert, the burial place of Saint Brendan
the Navigator, clearly showing the amazing Hiberno-Romanesque doorway.
Brendan is the Patron Saint of the diocese of Ardfert in Ireland, of the diocese of Clonfert in Ireland, of the diocese of Kerry in Ireland, of boatmen, mariners, sailors, travellers, watermen and, obviously, whales. Today, he is rightly remembered as a saint, but not for his voyages but for his commitment to the Faith and his encouragement of other Christians.
Today is also the feast day of Saint John Nepomucene. I wont go into his life excepting to say that he was born circaAD1340 at Nepomuk in Bohemia, which is in the modern Czech Republic. He was murdered in AD1393 by King Wenceslaus IV for refusing to tell the King what the Queen had said in the confessional, although that was just one of the things about Saint John that enraged the King. He was tied to a wheel and set alight and then rolled into the River Vltava where he drowned.
Statue of Saint John Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge in Prague.
There is also a marker on the bridge showing the exact spot where
the saint was pushed into the water. The stars on the halo ring
represent the stars that are said to have hovered that night over
the spot where he drowned. Photograph by Kussum.
On the left is the tower built by Pope Pius VII at the northern end of the ancient Ponte Milvio
(the Milvian Bridge) at Rome (built in 109BC). In the centre is the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk
by Agostino Cornacchini. On the right is the statue of the Virgin Mary by Domenico Piggiani added in AD1840.
As a consequence of this mode of murder he became the Patron Saint of, amongst other things, bridge builders and bridges and many bridges throughout Europe bear a cartouche with a likeness purporting to be him or, like the Ponte Milvio at Rome, a small statue of him as an invocation for his intercession to ensure that the safety of the structure is aided by G-d.
He died in the Faith and as a Priest upholding the sanctity and secrecy of the confessional. He is, today, rightly remembered as a saint.
On the seventeenth of May I want to commemorate Saint Madron of Cornwall, who is sometimes referred to as Maden of Cornwall, or Madern of Cornwall, or Maderne of Cornwall, or Madon of Cornwall, or Medron of Cornwall, or Medran of Cornwall. He was either born in the county of Cornwall in England, or in Ireland (probably at Muskerry), sometime around the turn of the fifth into the sixth Christian century. It’s unclear if he was a pagan convert to Christianity or if he was born into the Faith, but he was persuaded to leave Ireland, or Cornwall, by Saint Tudwald of Brittany for his education – a common practice in that day and age – and there he became a monk and studied under Saint Keiran. He became a hermit for a time and he is still revered in Brittany – two parish churches in Saint-Malo were dedicated to him before the French revolution and he was represented as an abbot holding a lit lamp (the lamp that sheds the light of the Faith). He is still remembered in those Breton parishes today, apparently, and his Life (his Vita) was amongst those retrieved from Landévennec Abbey.
The ruins of Landévennec Abbey in Brittany in France.
He felt called to go to, or return to, Cornwall and to evangelise for the Faith amongst the many wild pagans of that County. He centred his mission on a small village that today bears his name – Madron – as does the parish centred on the village. The parish, and village, commemorates Saint Madron on the first Sunday in Advent and during the following week, which is known locally as ‘Feast Week’, whereas the Church at large celebrates him on this day.
We know that he built a small church and a cell in Madron, but it is unclear whether they were on the site of the existing parish church or if they were on the site of, or actually were, the now ruined structures next to the well to provide clean water that he excavated in the natural mire about a mile away from the parish church – expert opinion inclines to the latter and dates the foundation of the parish church to some four hundred years after the Saint’s death. Such excavated mire wells are common throughout Europe in places where the peat is thick enough to retain and filter water even in the driest of years and learned clergy had kept such knowledge alive and often used it to impress credulous potential converts. The boggy ground around this well was more than capable of sustaining a supply of clean water in all but a prolonged drought, but in recent times a considerable reduction in the size of the mire has happened due to modern land use practices.
The ruined church probably built by Saint Madron close by the well
that he excavated. Photograph by Jim Champion.
View of the corner of the church to where well water was channeled.
Photograph by Jim Champion.
The well, which is called Saint Madron’s well, is one of Britain’s ‘cloutie’ – pronounced ‘klootee’ – wells. It’s a healing well where it is customary either to bathe in or to drink the water (or to do both), after which one leaves a strip of cloth – a ‘clout’, pronounced ‘kloot’ – from one’s clothing at the well, usually tied to any convenient bush or tree. The idea was, and is, that as the cloth rotted then one’s affliction would get better, although some scholars say that any healing could be instantaneous and that the clout was either a thanksgiving offering, or a permanent reminder to the Patron Saint of the well to do his or her job. Obviously, and as you will appreciate, clothing was expensive in times gone by and therefore the leaving of some cloth from one’s clothing was not just a personal gift, or reminder, but also an expensive one. Some assert that the custom of holy wells, cloutie wells in particular, derives from pagan practices and that may be true, but there is little to no evidence to support such a contention, and certainly no evidence exists that would cause suspicion that Saint Madron’s well is anything other than a clerically excavated mire well. It is notable that until the eighteenth Christian century this well was the only source of water for Madron and the nearby, and growing, town of Penzance.
In recent years the local pagans in Cornwall have asserted that the real derivation of Madron, which is Maddern in the local Cornish dialect, is from the old Cornish name Modron, who, seemingly they not quite accurately claim, was the mother goddess, mother of Mabon, after whom the parish and village of Saint Mabyn is named – although even that attribution is uncertain and not supported by most scholars, and the old Cornish word ‘Modron’ doesn’t mean quite what the pagans think it means, either. However, that idea doesn’t hold water because there is absolutely no record of the saint who is commemorated at the eponymous village of Madron ever being described, in any document or folk-tale, as female and, furthermore, the church itself was once under the control of the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem and was known by the Cornish name of Landithy, a name which is still used in parts of the village today, and Landithy is recorded in the Domesday Book as being either on, or part of, the Manor of Alverton. The Templars placed Saint Madron’s church at the site of the well that he dug.
Madron Parish Church, about a mile from Saint Madron’s Well.
Landithy, incidentally, means the lan - the sacred enclosure - of Dithy. Saint Dithy is believed to have been one of the companions of Saint Ia, who was active in Cornwall in the fifth Century. The domain of Landithy is close to the parish church in today’s Madron and it may be the ground where Saint Dithy built his church and cell. The name ‘Madron’ was originally spelled ‘Maddarne’ or ‘Meddarne’ and is generally accepted by scholars to be a corruption of the Irish name Medran. The village doesn’t appear to have been given the name ‘Madron’ until well into the Christian era in Cornwall at which time records clearly show that the word ‘modron’ simply meant ‘mother’ – definitely female – and was likely pronounced ‘meedran’.
There was a Saint Medarn who was educated under Saint Keiran in Brittany with his brother Saint Odran, and he did indeed originate from Muskerry in Ireland at the correct time. Whether or not Saint Medran, or even Saint Odran, was Saint Madron (or a conflation of the two has become our Saint) we cannot say for certain. However, even though Saint Madron is said to have died circa AD545 at Land’s End in Cornwall there is no record, or tradition, of him having been buried in Cornwall, which is a strong point in support of the theory that he may have been a long-term, but transient, Irish missionary to Cornwall, and there are, indeed, many of those recorded in the history of that county. His death at Land’s End may be a later addition to his story in order to tidy it up because he actually went back to Ireland. Cornwall, incidentally, was usually the first landfall for ships from Ireland bound for mainland Europe and vice versa. Breton, the language of Brittany, Erse, the language of Ireland, Gaelic, the language of western and northern Scotland, and Cornish, a dead language but recently ‘revived’, are all Celtic languages and a speaker of any one of them can usually understand what is being said by speakers of the other three, and that was true even in Saint Madron’s time.
There is a record that before the reformation in England, in the fifteenth Christian century, there was a tomb of Saint Madron of Cornwall known in Salisbury Cathedral, and that his relics were venerated there, and that it was, at the time, generally reckoned to contain the translated remains of Saint Madron of Cornwall (The Saints of Cornwall By Nicholas Orme, OUP, AD2000, ISBN-10: 0198207654 and ISBN-13: 978-0198207658, pp. 169 to 171).
By now you are probably wondering why I have gone into such detail about an obscure Cornish saint. The reason is simple. In recent years the pagans in Britain have begun to attack Christianity in many different ways, some quite virulent and nasty and some crooked and subtle. One of their favourite tricks is to confuse people with assertions about history, and about historical figures and facts, that are not quite true and not quite false, but that sound true to people who don’t know the real story and haven’t got the time to check up. Saint Madron is one of the figures that they have chosen to attack and construct seemingly plausible falsehoods about.
They have taken over the poor Saint’s laboriously excavated well for their rites and they have claimed it as their own. They have invented a spurious history to bolster their claim that cannot, naturally, be substantiated in any scholarly way, and they have traded on the credulity of the local people whose education about their Christian past has been deliberately limited by the secular authorities for many decades, as is the case throughout Britain. All over Britain pagans, often unwittingly in league with the filthy Mohammedan horde that has infiltrated this country, are attempting to undermine Christianity by laying false charges, usually regarding some imagined offence committed against the norms of political correctness, and by twisting history in an attempt to construct a ‘we-was-robbed-of-our-real-history-and-we-are-victims’ scenario around paganism and its beliefs. It’s all a desperate effort to give modern invented paganism, and it is a completely modern invention, a spurious aura of historical respectability, a sheen or gloss of antiquity, by inventing some connection with an imagined and, naturally, unverifiable pagan past.
It is surprising how successful their efforts have been and just how many people believe their completely untrue alternative version of history. Often, when the real facts about history, of Christianity or of anything else, and their proofs are made known to such people they end up not wanting to believe either the real facts or the pagan untruths, but, instead, they desperately search for some middle ground between the two that would allow their desire for reasonableness to be satisfied – they simple find it hard to believe that people who sound as plausible as the pagans do, and as the evil Mohammedans do, could possibly have lied to them about everything – they think that there must be some grain of truth in the fictions that they have been told.
For all those reasons I ask you to join with me today in remembering what little we do know about Saint Madron – in remembering a very few verifiable facts instead of copious pagan fictions that cannot be substantiated from any part of the historical record. I believe that Madron, where ever he may have come from and gone to, is today rightly remembered as a saint.
I just want to say, before leaving the subject of Saint Madorn, that I am indebted to the following authors and their works for what little information can be gleaned about this Saint: Attwater, D. (1958), 'A Dictionary of Saints', New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons; AND – Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine Abbey, Ramsgate (1947), 'The Book of Saints: A Dictionary of Servants of God Canonized by the Catholic Church Extracted from the Roman and Other Martyrologies', NY: Macmillan; AND – Coulson, J. (ed.) (1960), 'The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary', New York: Hawthorn Books; AND – Husenbeth, Rev. F. C., DD, VG (ed.) (1928), 'Butler's Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints', London: Virtue & Co; AND – John, Catherine Rachel (1981), 'The Saints of Cornwall', Lodenek Press Ltd; AND – O'Kelly, J. J. (1952), 'Ireland's Spiritual Empire', Dublin: M. H. Gill.
All that brings us to the eighteenth of May and my final saint for this seninght, Saint Eric of Sweden, who is also known as Eric The Lawgiver, or King Eric IX, or Erik the Saint, or Eric the Holy, or, in Swedish, Sankt Erik meaning Saint Eric. He was a king of Sweden and although we don’t know where and when he was we are fairly certain that he ruled from circa AD1154 to AD1161. The numeral 'IX' appended to his name is a later invention derived by counting backwards from Eric XIV (ruled AD1560–AD1568) who, with his brother Charles IX (ruled AD1604–AD1611) adopted numerals in accord with a fairly inaccurate history of Sweden. The number of Swedish monarchs named Eric before Eric XIV is unknown, although there were probably more than seven and none of them used numerals.
It’s unknown whether Eric converted from the prevailing paganism to Christianity or if he was born a Christian, but whilst he was King he remade and codified the laws of Sweden in accordance with Christian beliefs, and he used his position as King to spread the Gospel and he brought many of his people to the Faith through that. Naturally, his Chistianisation of the country, combined with his the emphasis he placed on the rule of law, upset many of the nobles of whom not a few remained resolutely pagan.
Not only did King Saint Eric defend his country against the warlike peoples that surrounded it – the Finns at that time were ongoing problem for Sweden, as were the Danes and a substantial number of Norsemen from the west of what we now refer to as Scandinavia – but also he supported one Bishop Henry, who had arrived in Sweden in AD1153 as part of Cardinal Nicholas Breakespeare’s entourage, in his efforts to expand Christian civilisation in predominantly pagan Finland. In an effort to finally convert the Finns and secure Sweden’s eastern frontier it is said that he led the
First Swedish Crusade into Finland. However, there is no evidence, not even archaeological, to support the idea that a Crusade was mounted against the pagans of Finland, and one has to remember that the mid-twelfth Christian century was a very violent time in the northern Baltic area, with Finns and Swedes in frequent conflicts with each other and with the Republic of Novgorod. There may have been a Swedish military expedition against Finland that folklore has subsequently exaggerated into a Crusade. However, one thing is for certain – Eric was a staunch defender of the Swedish marches and his country’s independence and that has endeared him to Swedes throughout the ages. Due to his zeal in the defence of his country, and, today, in defence of the Faith, his banner has been carried by Swedes all down the centuries.
A significant number of members of the aristocracy didn’t much care for Eric’s rule, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back (above). On this day in AD1161 one of them murdered the King as he left church after Mass. We don’t know for certain where he was originally buried. One story says that it was in the Cathedral Church that he built amongst the burial mounds of his pagan predecessors at Old Uppsala and that his remains were later translated to Uppsala Cathedral that was built on the spot where he was murdered, whilst another story has it that he was killed after mass in front of the Trinity Church at Uppsala and that he was buried there. Of course, the present day Trinity Church wasn’t founded until a hundred years after Eric was murdered, but fairly recently scholars have found out that there was a church dedicated to the Trinity on the site where the Cathedral now stands, which would explain much of the confusion.
Old Uppsala Cathedral.
The burial mounds at Gamla Uppsala with the Old Cathedral in the background.
Cathedral Church of Saints Lawrence, Eric and Olaf at Uppsala.
The reliquary containg the remains of King Saint Eric of Sweden in the Cathedral
Church of Saints Lawrence, Eric and Olaf at Uppsala.
Photograph by Mark A. Wilson.
The original medieval casket was destroyed in the early years of the Reformation. The present Renaissance style casket that you can see in the photograph (above) was commissioned to contain his relics by Catherine Jagiellon, the Polish Catholic queen consort of King John III of Sweden. Eric is the Patron Saint of Stockholm and his crowned head is depicted in the city's coat of arms and in the device on the city's seal. Today, Eric is remembered as a Saint and as a Martyr for the Faith.
More next week, as long as I don’t weaken!
1) The Ice Saints is a name given to Saints Mamertus, Pancras and Servatius in Flemish, French, Dutch, Hungarian, German, Austrian, Polish, Swiss and Croatian folklore. They are so named because their feast days fall on the days of May the eleventh, May the twelfth and May the thirteenth respectively. In Flanders Saint Boniface of Tarsus is counted amongst the Ice Saints as well; St. Boniface's feast day falling on May the fourteenth. The period from May the eleventh to May fifteenth was noted for bringing a brief spell of colder weather in many years, often including the last nightl frosts of the spring, in the Northern Hemisphere under the Julian Calendar. The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in AD1582 involved skipping ten days in the calendar, so that the equivalent days from the climatic point of view became May the twenty-second to the twenty-fifth.
In Poland and the Czech Republic, the Ice Saints are Saints Pancras, Servatus and Boniface of Tarsus. To the Poles, the trio are known collectively as zimni ogrodnicy (cold gardeners), and are followed by zimna Zośka (cold Sophias) on the feast day of Saint Sophia which falls on May the fifteenth. In Czech, the three saints are collectively referred to as ledoví muži (ice-men or icy men), and Sophia is known as Žofie, ledová žena (Sophia, the ice-woman).
In Sweden, the German legend of the ice saints has resulted in the belief that there are special 'iron nights,' especially in the middle of June, which are susceptible to frost. The term 'iron nights' ('järnnätter') has probably arisen through a mistranslation of German sources, where the term 'Eismänner' (ice men) was read as 'Eisenmänner' (iron men) and their nights then termed 'iron nights,' which then became shifted from May into June.
2) Saint Dorotheus bishop of Tyre (ca. 255 – 362) is traditionally credited with writing the ‘Acts of the Seventy Apostles’ (quite likely the same work as the lost ‘Gospel of the Seventy’), concerning the seventy Apostles who were sent out according to the Gospel of Luke at 10:1.
Dorotheus was a learned priest of Antioch and the teacher of the renowned Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea. Dorotheus is said to have been driven into exile during the persecution of Diocletian, but later he returned. He attended the Council of Nicaea in AD325, but was exiled to Odyssopolis (Varna) on the Black Sea in Thrace by Julian the Apostate. There the reputedly one hundred and seven year old priest was martyred for his faith. His feast day is observed on June the fifth according to the Gregorian calendar which coincides with June the eighteenth on the Julian calendar.
Tea Party groups have rightfully rejected the public apology issued at an American Bar Association meeting on Friday by Ms. Lois Lerner, a senior official of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), for blocking s tax exempt clearances for conservative Tea Party groups. Allegedly it was due their political views during the 2012 Presidential cycle. This weekend the US House Ways and Means Committee weighed in after a yearlong investigation. The Committee released a letter to IRS Commissioner Shulman raising eleven points for clarification. This included IRS targeting of Tea Party groups. Commissioner Shulman’s responses will be closely watched at a hearing this coming week on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) noted in a press release the justification for the hearing: :
After multiple inquiries from the Ways and Means Committee, the IRS repeatedly denied that they were targeting conservative grassroots organizations. Camp stated, “The IRS absolutely must be non-partisan in its enforcement of our tax laws. The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing. The Committee on Ways and Means will thoroughly investigate this matter and will soon hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this situation. We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”
Pro-Israel Zionist groups like Z Street have an abiding interest in the current Tea Party furor raised by the IRS revelations. Z Street’s application for 501 c3 tax exempt status filed with the IRS in January 2010 was subjected to a special unit investigation because of its views on Israel. Discrimination by the IRS of Z Street views became the subject of a legal action filed in August 2010 originally with the Eastern Federation District Court in Philadelphia, against IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. I have more than a passing interest in the House proceedings regarding IRS surveillance of Tea Party as I am a member of the board of Z Street.
We noted In an August 2010 Iconoclast post, the Z Street grounds for the legal filing:
The grounds were violations of the organization’ s Free Speech rights by denial of the group’s filing as a 501c3, tax exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Code. We note that the J Street Education Foundation, Inc. is a 501 c3 tax exempt organization. Z STREET had filed its 501c3 application in January, 2010, and heard back from the IRS examiner in mid-July.
In its complaint and request for a declaratory judgment; Z STREET presented its compelling reasons for the Federal court filing:
The case is brought because, through its corporate counsel, Z STREET was informed explicitly by an IRS Agent on July 19, 2010, that approval of Z STREET’s application for tax-exempt status has been at least delayed, and may be denied because of a special IRS policy in place regarding organizations in any way connected with Israel, and further that the applications of many such Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization's activities contradict the Administration's public policies.” These statements by an IRS official that the IRS maintains special policies (hereinafter the “Israel Special Policy”) governing applications for tax-exempt status by organizations which deal with Israel, and which requires particularly intense scrutiny of such applications and an enhanced risk of denial if made by organizations which espouse or support positions inconsistent with the Obama Administration’s Israel policies, constitute an explicit admission of the crudest form of viewpoint discrimination, and one which is both totally un-American and flatly unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
When I spoke with Lori Lowenthal Marcus, President of Z STREET, a Harvard Law School Graduate and former practicing First Amendment Lawyer, she noted, that this case represents clear evidence of “viewpoint discrimination under our First Amendment.” [Lowenthal is now the US correspondent for The Jewish Press].
The implications of the IRS official’s comments are cited in the Z STREET press release:
If Z STREET had tax-exempt status, its donors would be able to deduct contributions from their taxable income. The IRS's refusal to grant tax-exempt status to Z STREET has inhibited the organization‘s fundraising efforts, and therefore impeded its ability to speak and to educate the public regarding the issues that are the focus and purpose of Z STREET.
If J Street is a tax exempt organization, then why shouldn’t Z STREET be one?
While they are at it, the committee might want to ask the IRS whether their list of targets extended beyond political party discrimination. There is evidence the IRS also targeted pro-Israel groups whose positions were potentially inconsistent with the administration’s.
[. . .]
And at least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel. Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”
For years the IRS has denied it took any such inappropriate actions and has done its best to prevent Z STREET from pursuing its claim of viewpoint discrimination. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism. Z STREET is a purely educational organization . . .
Coincidentally, after two and a half years of non-movement, the very first hearing in Z STREET v IRS was recently scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2, in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.
The House Ways and Means investigation of IRS abuses of Tea Party groups’ tax exempt clearances should be enlarged to hear presentations by Z Street and other pro-Israel groups who have been similarly importuned. Perhaps, Chairman Camp might add that to his list of questions to be posed to IRS Commissioner Shulman for his response.
Where have we seen this before? The Nixon Enemies list during the Watergate Investigations is surely a precedent. Now given the Tea Party IRS revelations could we have the Obama Enemies List? Under Nixon it was abuse of IRS tax audits against liberal opponents. Now given the treatment of Tea Party and pro-Israel groups like Z Street it is abuse of tax exempt clearances because of conservative and pro-Israel views, a clear violation of First Amendment Rights.
A man identified as Kabobo Mada, 21, from Ghana, walks holding a pickaxe on his back in this surveillance camera framegrab made available May 11, 2013, by Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police. /AP Photo/Italian Carabinieri police
ROME An immigrant illegally living in Italy went on a rampage with a pickaxe in Milan at dawn Saturday, killing a passer-by and wounding four others in an apparently random attack, police said.
The attack, which police say was carried out by a Ghanaian immigrant with a criminal record, immediately revived a long-raging political debate over whether Italy should crack down harder on immigrants or facilitate their path toward citizenship, as recently lobbied for by Italy's first black Cabinet minister, who had immigrated from Congo.
You can see Abdelraouf Al-Rawabdeh, not a minor or tangential figure, but a former Prime Minister of Jordan, having a good time, and amusing his appreciative audience of fellow Muslim Arabs (in this case, Jordanians),by explaining why they can't possibly tell the credulous Americans what they really think, and say to their own people, here.
The snippet was recorded and MEMRI managed to obtain a copy, and to translate the text. There are so many telling texts similar to this now available at the MEMRI website. If only those who presume to protect and instruct us, in political life, and in the media, all over the Western world, were to visit and learn from these recordings, and then were intelligent and farseeing enough to fashion policies toward Muslims and Muslim countries and Muslims in non-Muslim lands, that were based on reality, and not the pious unrealities that are so costly, and so dangerous, much future anguish for the world's non-Muslims could be avoided.
Imagine if, fifty years ago, those running things in the U.K., in France, in Germany, in the rest of Western Europe, and known about Islam, know the texts, known the history, grasped the atttitudes to which Islam naturally gives rise, understood the atmospherics of societies suffused with Islam. What a difference that might have made to the immigration policies which have created the nightmarish problems that exist today, and that few wish to discuss, almost no one in a position of power dares to discuss, with full-throated ease.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 4, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON A NEW BEGINNING
1:10 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Good afternoon. I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning; and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. And together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I'm grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. And I'm also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu alaykum. (Applause.)
We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.
Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. All this has bred more fear and more mistrust.
So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there's been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today -- to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith
As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam -- at places like Al-Azhar -- that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities -- (applause) -- it was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. (Applause.)
I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."
Now, much has been made of the fact that an African American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. (Applause.) But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores -- and that includes nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today who, by the way, enjoy incomes and educational levels that are higher than the American average. (Applause.)
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That's why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab and to punish those who would deny it. (Applause.)
So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations -- to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.
For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. When innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. (Applause.) That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.
And this is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared. (Applause.)
Now, that does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: We must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.
The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.
In Ankara, I made clear that America is not -- and never will be -- at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security -- because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice; we went because of necessity. I'm aware that there's still some who would question or even justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.
Now, make no mistake: We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We see no military -- we seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.
And that's why we're partnering with a coalition of 46 countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths -- but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as -- it is as if he has killed all mankind. (Applause.) And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. (Applause.) The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace.
Now, we also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who've been displaced. That's why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on. [part of the one trillion dollar wasted in Afghanistan, which is dwarfed by the two trillion dollars wasted in Iraq to win Muslim favor, and despite Islam, try to create semi-decent societies, a dream that ignores the naturee and effect of Islam on the societies suffused with that faith]
Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. (Applause.) Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."
Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future -- and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. And I have made it clear to the Iraqi people -- (applause) -- I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. And that's why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all of our troops from Iraq by 2012. (Applause.) We will help Iraq train its security forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.
And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter or forget our principles. Nine-eleven was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year. [apparently he discovered that would not be so simple -- has he similarly discovered what was naive or wrong about the rest of what he said?] (Applause.)
So America will defend itself, respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people -- Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they've endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations -- large and small -- that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. (Applause.) -- [too much nonsense here to bother to rebut]
For decades then, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It's easy to point fingers -- for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security. (Applause.)
That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. And that is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience and dedication that the task requires. (Applause.) The obligations -- the obligations that the parties have agreed to under the road map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them -- and all of us -- to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements,[the model of Muslim treaty-making with Infidels -- the treaty of Hudaibiyya -- does not admit of any permanent peace between Muslims and non-Muslims. A temporary truce, or hudna, lasting 10 lunar years and, in the right circumstances, renewable, is however possible] recognize Israel's right to exist. [this reflects a misunderstanding of the nature of the war -- a classic Jihad without end, and certainly without any possiblity of a permanent willingness to accept Israel's existence, by Muslims and Arabs]
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)
And Israel must also live up to its obligation to ensure that Palestinians can live and work and develop their society. Just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people [a fiction created, out of felt necessity, after the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War, so that the gangup, the Jihad against Israel, could be presented to the world as merely a case of a tiny people, the "Palestinians," who merely wanted their rights in the same-named "Palestine" -- which must mean, of course, that those just renamed "Palestinians" had a special claim to this "Palestine"] must be a critical part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.
Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths [Israel, Eretz Israel, Terra Promissis, the Holy Land -- whatever you call it, it is not now, and never was, the "Holy Land" of Islam -- so why does Obama lie about this?]is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, [it is as close to that, under Israeli rule, as it ever will be -- and if there is any violence today, it comes from Muslim Arabs who have a long history, apparently overlooked by Obama, of placing bombs in restaurants and busses and massacre schoolchildren] and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)
The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.
This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is in fact a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I've made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.
I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It's about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.
I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. (Applause.) And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I'm hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.
The fourth issue that I will address is democracy. (Applause.)
I know -- I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. (Applause.)
Now, there is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: Governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments -- provided they govern with respect for all their people.
This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they're out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. (Applause.) So no matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power: You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack Obama, we love you!
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.
Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it's being challenged in many different ways.
Among some Muslims, there's a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of somebody else's faith. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld -- whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. [how has that worked out, under the Ikhwan rule of Mohamed Morsi, which American abandonment of the previous regime, and failure to help those opposed to the Ikhwan, made possible.]And if we are being honest, fault lines must be closed among Muslims, as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.[no, those fault lines should be allowed to widen and the abyss to deepen]
Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That's why I'm committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat. [the little difficulty he refers to so obliquely is the problem of Muslims contributing their zakat to terrorist front groups] as
Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit -- for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.
In fact, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That's why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action -- whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.
The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.
Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.
I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. And that is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams. (Applause.)
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.
I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations -- including America -- this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities -- those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.
But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.
And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf states have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century -- (applause) -- and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.
On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.
On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.
On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.
All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.
The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek -- a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.
I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.
All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.
It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.
We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.
Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
The worst presidential speech in American history is the speech that Barack Obama delivered in Cairo five years ago. It was all about how much the American government, and Americans, respected Islam, and how important Islam had been in American history. It was all nonsense, and lies, and if the rationale was that only nonsense and lies would satisfy an audience of Egyptian audience, why was it necessary to win over that audience in the first place? And if that wasn't the reason for the nonsense and lies, if Obama and Benjamin Rhodes believed what they concocted and he delivered, that's much more dangerous, much worse.
Here's the latest on Ben Rhodes, who turns out to be the brother of the President of CBS News. Would that explain his otherwise inexplicable and most resistible rise in the ranks?
Under the black flag of al-Qaeda, the Syrian city ruled by gangs of extremists
The black flag of al-Qaeda flies high over Raqqa’s main square in front of the smart new governor’s palace, its former occupant last seen in their prison. Their fighters, clad also in black, patrol the streets, or set up positions behind sandbags.
Image 1 of 2
Fighters from Jabhat al-Nusrah, the al-Qaeda affiliated group, are said to control Raqqa's streetsPhoto: David Rose
The Islamists smashed up one of the two shops that sold alcohol. That much was pretty inevitable, the locals agreed. The other off-licence had already closed, as had the casino on the outskirts of town.
They brought in a radical cleric from Egypt to preach Friday prayers, and set up a sharia court in the city’s new sports centre with the support of other brigades. They had their fiefdom — an entire city to run only 60 miles from Nato’S border.
Then, one night, 10 men came for Nagham and Nour al-Rifaie, two teenage sisters from a well-known liberal family. They were at home with a family friend, Yusra Omran, 30, and their male cousin, 32.
Nagham, centre, with her father Hassan al-Rifaie and family friend Yusra Omran (David Rose for the Telegraph)
“All these guys came in with guns and wearing masks and with handcuffs,” said Nagham, 19, a civil engineering student. “They started searching everything, and shouting.
“They were saying, 'Put on more clothes than you are wearing, put on a headscarf.’ I just said I’m wearing clothes and I’m not putting on a headscarf’.”
The men took them to the sports centre. There the girls were charged with being alone with a man and interrogated.
“The guy with us was so mean,” Miss Rifaie said. “He was speaking in a horrible way, as if he was disgusted to be with us.”
In Raqqa, a once conservative but by all accounts not religious city, the triumph of al-Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, would seem to be complete.
The town is largely under the control of Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated to al-Qaeda (David Rose for the Telegraph)
Little known a year ago but suspected of having being founded by al-Qaeda in Iraq, they have grown in stature, leading many of the rebels’ most successful recent battles. Last month they publicly declared their loyalty to al-Qaeda’s supreme leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Their new-found power is such that it is changing international calculations over the conflict. After first being discouraged from action by their presence in rebel ranks, Britain now has a revised diplomatic strategy.
David Cameron put it to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on Friday and will discuss it this week with a nervous President Obama in Washington.
Mr Cameron’s officials now feel Jabhat al-Nusra has to be defeated by actively supporting the less militant rebels, including with arms. Many of Jabhat’s rival militias are being marginalised in cities like Raqqa across the north. On Tuesday, Britain will seek to have Jabhat al-Nusra added to an official list of sanctions at the United Nations.
Destroyed buildings near the Ahrar al-Sham Brigade Headquarters in the centre of Al Raqqa. The base was targeted by a regime airstrike last week (David Rose for the Telegraph)
In taking Raqqa two months ago al-Qaeda achieved its greatest coup in the war to date: it was the first provincial capital to fall outright to the rebels, and allowed Jabhat to assume a leadership role over a large swathe of north-eastern Syria, to the Iraqi border.
To many in it is a welcome development. “Jabhat are excellent for us,” said Abdullah Mohammed, a man from the nearby village of Mansoura. “They deal with us according to Islamic rules, so there are no problems. They are honest and they run everything pretty well.”
As a police officer, Mr Mohammed said he was in a position to know the difference between life under al-Qaeda and the Assad regime. He was in prison when the revolution broke out – he had stopped a car for jumping a red light and found to his cost it was being driven by a regime official.
He said he was in a cell with four members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority sect, and when the protests started the guards were taken away to fight and the Alawite prisoners turned into guards.
Other locals too, particularly shopkeepers, say the all-pervasive corruption of the Assad era has vanished with the regime’s men. “I like Jabhat,” said Ahmed al-Hindy, who runs an optician’s shop. “They are better than the regime, at any rate.”
An Islamic militant in the centre of Al Raqqa (David Rose for the Telegraph)
Part of it is money. Jabhat al-Nusra has always been well-funded compared to other militias – most people assume due to wealthy backers in the Gulf, though few have been able to track down the lines of the money supply.
Now they have control of good sources of income and can pay salaries. From the city’s main flour mill, they supply the all-important bakeries, and they have seized some of them too. At night, long queues of women form to buy their daily ration under the watchful eyes of Jabhat guards.
They have also taken the oilfields in neighbouring Deir al-Zour province. Production is hardly booming, but they are able to sell enough on the local market to keep cash rolling in.
It is not all plain sailing, though. Even in Raqqa, no single militia is all-powerful, even Jabhat, and they depend on an alliance with Ahrar al-Sham, another radical Islamist group.
They also have to deal with a slew of other brigades with a variety of ideologies.
The dynamic of Jabhat’s rise is being challenged out of both envy and fear, leading to clashes.
Two senior rival militiamen have been assassinated in the last 10 days: Abu Awad of the Farouq Brigade, and, on Thursday, the head of the Ahfad al-Rasool, Abu al-Zein. In both cases the method was the same – three men in black and masks drove up to the victims’ cars, shot them, then sped off.
Some say it could be a leftover squad of Assad’s Shabiha, but members of their militias point out both were known for support for a civil state, not an Islamic one.
Another militia leader, Abu Deeb of the Lions of Islam, was arrested after a fight on Tuesday with Jabhat al-Nusra that brought the city to a brief standstill. Different explanations have been given, but Abdullah al-Khalil, the civilian who heads the town’s interim administration, said it was over control of the town’s largest bakery.
“After Assad falls, there will be a second revolution, against Jabhat al-Nusra,” said Amar Abu Yasser, a battalion leader with the Farouq Brigade. The Farouq was once the most famous brigade in the Syrian revolution, spreading its power from its base in Homs across the north of the country, where it still operates several of the border crossings to Turkey, including Tal Abyad, the nearest to Raqqa.
But its power and influence has been severely curbed by Jabhat al-Nusra. Abu Azzam, the Farouq head at Tal Abyad, survived an assassination attempt when a bomb was placed under his car.
The flag of Jabhat al-Nusra flying over the Governer's Palace (David Rose for the Telegraph)
“The problem is due to ideology,” said Mr Abu Yasser, until two years ago a student of Arabic literature, now a tough, bearded warrior in fatigues and a black turban. “There is a conflict between the black flag and the revolutionary flag.” The green, white and black banner with three red stars made famous by the revolution still flies in Raqqa, but in a secondary place.
“It is not wise to try to make an Islamic state here,” he went on. “There are Christians, Alawites, Druze living here. It will just be a big problem.”
He also said Jabhat al-Nusra was not as honest and Muslim as it seemed. He claimed it had stripped the town’s factories and smuggled their goods, including nearly 200 tons of sugar, to Turkey for profit.
Jabhat has withdrawn into itself as tensions rise, and particularly since the declaration of obedience to al-Qaeda was issued, which confirmed its status as an internationally proscribed terrorist group.
It no longer gives interviews or defends itself from such allegations, and has banned its men from talking to foreign journalists.
Those its men stop at checkpoints in the city are accused of being “foreign spies”.
Graffiti is painted on a wall by members of Civic Society, one of the more liberal youth organizations in Al Raqqa (David Rose for the Telegraph)
Some locals regarded as fanciful the idea that Farouq and other group would ever again have the strength to rise up and throw out Jabhat. But most proclaimed defiantly that Syria would not become a radical Islamic state.
“This is all just for the war,” said Mr al-Khalil, the town leader, who is happy to cooperate with Jabhat as he tries to re-establish schools and keep the water running.
A former human rights lawyer once jailed by the regime, he said he could tolerate the black flags for now. “But I think the modern Islamic project will win in the end,” he added, using a phrase commonly used to refer to a civil state with a Muslim ethos, like booming Turkey next door. He added a refrain repeated now across rebel Syria: it will be harder to keep the Islamists out if the West does not come to the aid of this “modern” project.
As a follower of Abu Deeb, the arrested militia leader put it: “This is a pact with the devil. We would rather ally with Obama than Jabhat.”
At first glance, Jabhat have tried to play safe. A small but visible minority of women go without the hijab, or headscarf. The town’s handful of Christian families have stayed put, for now: the churches are closed, but untouched.
But it may have made a major strategic error with its announcement of loyalty to al-Qaeda. It did not cause a big stir in the West, where the link had been assumed, but it shocked many who had begun to tolerate Jabhat’s presence.
Their main Islamist allies, Ahrar al-Sham, immediately denounced it. “It was like a thunderbolt,” said Abu Abdullah, 40, an Ahrar al-Sham fighter outside their main base, largely abandoned after being hit by Assad missiles. “It really surprised me and is unacceptable. Our goal is just to liberate Syria. We don’t care about other countries – we don’t want to go and fight in Iraq or anywhere.”
Then there was the arrest of Nagham al-Rifaie, Nour, 18, and their cousin and friend. That was a “what the hell?” moment, said Mohammed Shuaib, a student who has helped found a human rights discussion group, Haquna. It led a 500-strong protest to the sharia court the morning after the arrest.
But by then the girls were already free. What happened is a glimmer of hope to men like Mr Shuaib.
On arrival at the court, the girls were told they would immediately face two judges, local worthies brought in by the ruling Islamist alliance. It was one o’clock in the morning. Nagham was told to put a headscarf on. Again she refused.
“They said to me, 'It’s a sharia court, you can’t go in without a headscarf’. I said, 'That’s fine by me!’
“So we stood before the court with no headscarves on.”
One of the judges, a teacher called Mohammed al-Omar, referred them to the charge sheet. “He said, 'It says you were alone with a man, what do you say.’ I said, 'It is none of their business.’
“And he said, 'I agree’.”
The girls were freed immediately. They asked who the men who arrested them were, but no one was able to provide an answer. Whether the rest of Raqqa will escape so lightly, the girls could not say. “Things will become difficult, that’s sure,” said Miss Rifaie, sitting in a coffee shop last week with her father, himself a human rights activist, the two girls the only women present. “The problem is with the people. Because of the regime, if someone speaks to them who has power, they just sit there. But my father has taught me to have opinions. So I cannot stop.”
A tragic phenomenon which is taking a terrible toll on everyone involved.
There is a dire phenomenon rising in Europe that is crippling entire societies and yet the continent sleeps, refusing not only to confront the destructive elephant in the room, but also to admit its very existence.
The troubling reality being referred to is the widespread practice of Muslim inbreeding and the birth defects and social ills that it spawns.
The tragic effect of the Left’s control of the boundaries of debate is that any discussion about vital issues such as these marks an individual as an “Islamophobe” and a “racist."
A person who dares to point at the pathology of inbreeding in the Muslim community is accused of whipping up hatred against Muslim people.
But all of this could not be further from the truth. To fight against inbreeding anywhere is to defend humanity and to defend innocent babies from birth defects.
Fighting against this Islamic practice stems from a pro-Muslim calling, since identifying destructive ideologies and practices in Islam enables the protection of the Muslim people from harm.
Massive inbreeding among Muslims has been going on since their prophet allowed first-cousin marriages more than 50 generations (1,400 years) ago. For many Muslims, therefore, intermarriage is regarded as being part of their religion.
In many Muslim communities, it is a source of social status to marry one’s daughter or son to his or her cousin. Intermarriage also ensures that wealth is kept within the family.
Islam’s strict authoritarianism plays a large role as well: keeping daughters and sons close gives families more power to control and decide their choices and lifestyles.
Westerners have a historical tradition of being ready to fight and die for their country.
Muslims, on the other hand, are bound together less by patriotism, but mainly by family relations and religion.
Intermarrying to protect the family and community from outside non-Islamic influence is much more important to Muslims living in a Western nation than integrating into that nation and supporting it.
Today, 70% of all Pakistanis are inbred and in Turkey the amount is between 25-30% (Jyllands-Posten, 27/2 2009 “More stillbirths among immigrants“).
A rough estimate reveals that close to half of everybody living in the Arab world is inbred.
A large percentage of the parents that are blood related come from families where intermarriage has been a tradition for generations.
A BBC investigation in Britain several years ago revealed that at least 55% of the Pakistani community in Britain was married to a first cousin.
The Times of India affirmed that “this is thought to be linked to the probability that a British Pakistani family is at least 13 times more likely than the general population to have children with recessive genetic disorders.”
The BBC’s research also discovered that while British Pakistanis accounted for just 3.4% of all births in Britain, they accounted for 30% of all British children with recessive disorders and a higher rate of infant mortality.
It is not a surprise, therefore, that, in response to this evidence, a Labour Party MP has called for a ban on first-cousin marriage.
Medical evidence shows that one of the negative consequences of inbreeding is a 100% increase in the risk of stillbirths.
One study comparing Norwegians and Pakistanis shows the risk that the child dies during labour increases by 50%. The risk of death due to autosomal recessive disorders — e.g., cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy — is 18 times higher.
Risk of death due to malformations is 10 times higher. Mental health is also at risk: the probability of depression is higher in communities where consanguine marriages are also high.
The closer the blood relative, the higher the risk of mental and physical retardation and schizophrenic illness.
And then there are the findings on intelligence. Research shows that if one’s parents are cousins, intelligence goes down 10-16 IQ points. The risk of having an IQ lower than 70 (criterion for being “retarded”) increases 400% among children from cousin marriages.
An academic paper published in the Indian National Science Academy found that “the onset of various social profiles like visual fixation, social smile, sound seizures, oral expression and hand-grasping are significantly delayed among the new-born inbred babies.”
Another study found that Indian Muslim schoolboys whose parents were first cousins tested significantly lower than boys whose parents were unrelated in a non-verbal test on intelligence.
It is estimated that one third of all handicapped people in Copenhagen have a foreign background and 64% of school children in Denmark with Arabic parents are illiterate after 10 years in the Danish school system.
The same study concludes that in reading ability, mathematics, and science, the pattern is the same: “The bilingual (largely Muslim) immigrants’ skills are exceedingly poor compared to their Danish classmates.”
These problems within Islam bring many detriments to Western countries. Expenses related to mentally and physically handicapped Muslim immigrants, for instance, severely drain the budgets and resources of our societies.
Denmark, for example: One third of the budget for the country’s schools is spent on children with special needs. Muslim children are grossly over-represented among these children.
More than half of all children in schools for children with mental and physical handicaps in Copenhagen are foreigners — of whom Muslims are by far the largest group. One study concludes that “foreigners inbreeding costs our municipalities millions” because of the many handicapped children and adults.
What must our role be as a humanitarian society to this rising crisis?
We know that the greatest concern among pregnant women and their husbands is for their child to be healthy.
It is not difficult to imagine the sorrow and stress among interrelated couples who are forced to marry and pressured to have children.
Is it not our duty to fight for the rights of these human beings subjected to such Barbaric and inhuman predicaments?
What is it we can do?
Denmark is a pioneering example of where to begin: In order to counter forced marriages, the country does not allow Danish citizens to marry foreigners younger than 24 years old.
It also offers non-Western immigrants up to 15,000 Euros or 20,000 Dollars to emigrate back to their countries of origin.
Immigrants who are not Danish citizens are banished from Denmark if they commit violent crimes. The state does not support families economically for having more than the country’s average amount of children.
This prevents foreigners from coming to Denmark who have plans to have a lot of children and live off the State’s child support system.
The country also denies resident permits to foreigners who are marrying their cousin in Denmark.
Right now, the country is working on a complete halt to immigration from countries that are not oriented towards Western values (mainly Muslim countries).
No more intermarriage
We must simply forbid intermarriage among first cousins. Doing so will not only help slow down all the terrible consequences of inbreeding, but also prevent Muslims who insist on practising this damaging practice from moving to our countries.
Let us keep in mind that Muslims are the first — though maybe not the biggest — victims of Islam.
As long as we know that our motivation is to help them, then our conscience is clear in the face of the Left’s accusations that we are somehow “anti-Muslim” when we show our concern about Muslim babies who are born with mental and physical defects — and about their parents who endure endless suffering and worry.
In fact, it is the Left’s callous silence on this issue (and on so many others) that exposes who is truly “anti-Muslim.”
As long as we stick to facts, have a compassionate motivation, and are still able to be brave, we can be certain that not only are we right to reach out to protect Muslim people, but that in doing so we are also protecting ourselves from destroying our own basic humanistic and Western values while struggling against anti-human and aggressive practices and ideologies.
Does practice really make perfect? Does it even lead to improvement? One feels instinctively that it should, that the more experience a physician has, the better for the patient. Much of the skill of diagnosis is pattern-recognition rather than complex intellectual detection, and it follows that the longer a physician has been at it, the quicker he will recognize what is wrong with his patients. He has experience of more cases than younger doctors to guide him.
But the practice of medicine is more than mere diagnosis. It often requires manual dexterity as well, and the ability to assimilate new information as advances are made. These may decline rather than improve with age. Too young a doctor is inexperienced; too old a doctor is past it.
A recent paper, whose first author comes from the Orwellianly named Department of Veterans’ Affairs Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, examined the relationship between the years of an obstetrician’s experience and the rate of complications the women under his care experienced during childbirth. The authors examined the records of 6,705,311 deliveries by 5,175 obstetricians in Florida and New York. No one, I think, would criticize the authors for the smallness of their sample.
They examined the rate of serious complications such as infection, haemorrhage, thrombosis, and tear during or after delivery, divided by obstetrician according to his number of years of post-training experience. Reassuringly, and perhaps not surprisingly, experience reduced the number of such complications decade after decade. The rate of complications was 15 percent in the first ten years after residency; it declined by about 2 percent to 13 percent in the first decade thereafter, by about 1 percent in the subsequent decade to 12 percent, and by half a percent in the next. In other words, improvement continued, but less quickly as the obstetricians became more experienced; the authors appear not to have continued their study to the age at which the rate of complications started to rise again (if indeed there is such an age).
The authors drew attention to some limitations of their study. It might apply only to Florida and New York and not to other states, let alone to other countries. The complications were measured very crudely, with no way of estimating their severity. It is possible that maternal outcomes and neonatal ones were different and indeed opposite: that what was good for the mother was bad for the baby and vice versa. Personally I rather doubt it, but it cannot be excluded by these data.
Again, what might be true of obstetricians might not be true of histopathologists, colorectal surgeons, or all the host of other specialities (an ever-increasing number) that modern medicine has spawned.
There is an important problem that the paper does not mention but which it could give rise to — if similar research is done elsewhere across different fields, and turns up similar results.
Suppose it proved to be a general rule that every doctor is at his peak performance in his sixth decade, Will not every patient then want his or her doctor to be of that decade? It is obvious that such a desire could not possibly be complied with; and even if it could be, how would younger doctors get the experience to reach their peak in their sixth decade?
Of course, difference in age and experience is not the only cause of variation in doctors’ performance. Some are brilliant by natural ability, others less so. But the public does not necessarily react rationally when it learns of a statistical association. If research were published today that suggested that eating cilantro reduced the rate of cancer, it would be cleared out of the supermarkets first thing tomorrow.
A word jumped off the page when I was reading Haroon Siddiqui’s column in the Toronto Star the other day: “rabid.” Describing Qatar’s attempt to steal the International Civil Aviation Organization headquarters from Montreal, Siddiqui wrote: “There’s speculation that the bid is also politically motivated, in retaliation for Stephen Harper’s rabid pro-Israeli stance.”
Siddiqui is an important Star personage, routinely billed as the paper’s “editorial page editor emeritus,” a title claimed by no other Canadian journalist. He ran the editorial page in the 1990s, and the Star apparently wants to recall those glory years every time he appears in print. What in the world makes him call the prime minister rabid?
Oxford defines that word as “Furious, raging; wildly aggressive.” Doesn’t sound like Stephen Harper. He’s cool and careful. He speaks quietly of Israel, noting that Canada doesn’t endorse all of Israel’s policies. He finds it unfair that so much criticism is directed by others against “the one country of the global community whose very existence is threatened.” He also draws a lesson from history: Those who choose the Jewish people “as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all of us.” He believes those who target Israel also threaten “all free and democratic societies.”
Perhaps Siddiqui, in using that strange word, “rabid,” unconsciously projects his own feelings of rage and frustration onto his subject. For the left and the leftish, such as Siddiqui, a furious opposition to Israel has become a sacred duty. When the anti-Israel forces assemble, usually in a university, they have wonderfully peaceful meetings. Everyone agrees on all major points. Everything said against Israel is greeted with cheers. (One meeting I recently attended as a journalist was close to a pep rally.) Opposing Israel has become the favourite struggle of the left. Nothing else in world affairs is considered so important. In Canada, it’s the left’s only foreign policy (well, name another one). It is also a major source of their intellectual comfort and self-satisfaction.
Leftists are natural conformists who like to travel in packs and love political abstractions. In the UN, the most persistent gang is the anti-Israel cabal, which pours out millions of words about Israeli imperialists oppressing the Palestinians. Students, listening to Arab politicians tossing around terms such as colonialism and racism, feel a warm sense of recognition: Why, that’s just what our professor is always talking about.
In North America or Europe, holding this position demonstrates an absurd thoughtlessness. It implies that we should punish Israel, the only real democracy in the Middle East, while ignoring Syria, Iran, North Korea, China, and many other despotic states. This a remarkable but widespread form of blindness. I have acquaintances, including feminists, who never utter a word against Saudi Arabia or Pakistan but nevertheless wish everyone to know that they disagree strongly with Israel’s policies.
CJPME urges the public to stay away from Indigo stores because the principal owners started a foundation that offers scholarships for veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces
The boycott movement, a favourite technique of the anti-Israel movement, can create a sensation when Stephen Hawking decides he won’t attend a conference in Israel, out of sympathy for the Palestinians. On the other hand, consistency is not among his qualities: He’s visited Iran and China. It is an ominously meaningful fact that no other country, whatever its sins, is given this pariah treatment. Do the celebrity boycotters understand the company they keep? William Jacobson, a Cornell law professor who blogs on this subject, remarked this week that “The boycott, which singles out only Israel, attracts open and de facto anti-Semites and those in the leftist-Islamist coalition who seek Israel’s destruction.”
But the larger and more ambitious boycott, of Israeli products and services, has struggled along for years, and accomplished approximately nothing. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) urges its followers to boycott Sears, Home Depot, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Pizza Hut and several other companies; they all sell goods from Israel or have interests in Israel. The CJPME urges the public to stay away from Indigo stores because the principal owners, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, started a foundation that offers scholarships for veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces.
CJPME can provide many details about the source of the products it wants to boycott, like Dead Sea beauty products. But their publicity says nothing about the futile effect of their campaign, apparently because the truth would be too painful.
Think how hard this must be for Siddiqui and people like him. Not only do the masses ignore their duty to boycott Israel, but their own country defends the state they want to see defeated and isolated. It would make anybody rabid.
"Abuse of Science"
Hawking’s boycott of Israel is intellectually and morally disreputable
London Times, May 10, 2013
Stephen Hawking ranks among the most famous scientists of the past century for his personal as well as intellectual achievements. A mind that has expanded knowledge of the origins of the Universe has also imbued its possessor with a mental resilience capable of surviving a debilitating disease. But brilliance in one sphere does not guarantee sense in another.
So it is with Professor Hawking, who revealed this week that he had withdrawn from a conference in Israel after being lobbied by Palestinian groups. His conduct is obtuse, mean-spirited and ungracious. Above all, it is alien to the spirit of critical thinking on which science and academic inquiry depend.
It is notable that Professor Hawking’s computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. Whereas Israeli technology literally provides him with a voice, Professor Hawking supports a boycott campaign that seeks to penalise and isolate Israeli academics. But that modest irony should not be maligned as hypocrisy: Professor Hawking is entitled to express political views. Unfortunately his views on this subject are drearily simplistic and the inferences he draws from them are pernicious.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict understandably provokes strong passions. The Times is a longstanding supporter of Israel but this has never stopped us from criticising successive Israeli governments’ policies on settlements or dimmed our belief in a two-state solution with a sovereign Palestine. The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel is not only about the condition of Palestinians in the West Bank or Israel’s security policies in Gaza. The boycotters are hostile to the Jewish State, which they compare to the system of institutionalised racial discrimination practised in apartheid South Africa.
Israel has many flaws but a central and vital characteristic. It is a democracy in a part of the world where liberal political rights and free inquiry are scarce. An academic boycott is itself made possible by the critical ethos of Israeli culture. A closed society such as Iran, whose President denies the Holocaust, is hardly likely to be an international centre for scholarship in modern European history.
But even if Israel were a society as deformed as its opponents claim, an academic boycott would still be iniquitous. Conor Cruise O’Brien, the historian and polymath, criticised the academic boycott even of South Africa in the era of apartheid, as “an intellectually disreputable attempt to isolate what I know to be an honest, open and creative intellectual community”. He was right on this. Economic sanctions against a racist regime were right; penalising scholars for the deplorable policies of their government, over which they had no control, was not.
Though there is no serious analogy between Israel and apartheid, the scholars and venues whom the anti-Israel campaigners target are in a similar position to their South African counterparts a generation ago. Israeli academics may disagree strongly with the policies of their own Government, yet are being maligned and slandered on extraneous political grounds.
Professor Hawking should never have put his name to this campaign. It is an example of intellectual obscurantism masquerading as humanitarian concern. And that is stupid.
Integration of foreigners is more important than their religious beliefs, Switzerland’s highest court ruled on Friday. The court denied a 14-year-old girl from a strict Muslim family in Aargau the right to dispensation from school swim class.
The family argued that their strict religion prevented the girl from taking part in swimming lessons, where she would be seen by her male teacher and possibly other men. The girl already knew how to swim, having attended a private class strictly for Muslim girls, they added.
However, the court ruled that the girl must attend the swimming lessons offered at the high school: lessons were offered separately for girls and boys; wearing of a burkini – a full-body swmisuit – was allowed; and the girl would not have bodily contact with her male swimming teacher, since she already knew how to swim.
The court also stated that attendance at a Muslim-only swim course did not further integration, one of the goals of school swimming.
Allowing the dispensation would have contributed to “parallel societies”, the court found. Instead, the girl and her parents could reasonably be expected to take steps toward acceptance of local social and societal norms.
Early this afternoon, I placed a call to the press office of the Middlesex County Massachusetts District Attorney. I inquired about whether they had made a match between the forensic DNA samples found at the murder of three Jewish men that occurred on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and the Tsarnaev brothers. I was told that the matter under a yet to be concluded investigation. Then later this afternoon, an intrepid ABC free lancer, Michele McPhee, posted the stunning news that indeed possible matches of DNA samples had been indicated between the forensic evidence from the crime scenes and those of both Boston Jihadi Bombers. The deceased older brother Tamerlan was interred in a Virginia Muslim cemetery today. His younger brother Dzhokhar is incarcerated in a federal prison infirmary located at Fort Devens in Central Massachusetts.
Massachusetts investigators have developed what they call "mounting evidence," bolstered by "forensic hits," that point to the possible involvement of both Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar in a gruesome, unsolved triple homicide in 2011, law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The officials cautioned that until more definitive DNA testing is complete, it is still too early to consider bringing an indictment against the younger of the two brothers, who officials said has admitted his role in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 260 more on April 15. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the Marathon bombing attack, but Dzhokhar survived and was captured.
In the wake of the Marathon bombings, Middlesex County began to probe a link between the elder Tsarnaev and Brendan Mess, one of the three men killed in the gruesome slaying on Sept. 11, 2011. Officials said Mess and two men were found in a Waltham residence with their throats slit and their bodies covered with marijuana. Tamerlan and Mess were once roommates and did boxing and martial arts training together.
Now law enforcement officials tell ABC News that some crime scene forensic evidence provided a match to the two Tsarnaev brothers. The officials also said records of cell phones used by the Tsarnaevs appear to put them in the area of the murders on that date. Several officials confirmed the new findings but declined to be identified because they are not authorized to comment on the ongoing investigation.
Prior to this late breaking news I had exchanged emails with Kyle Schideler of the Endowment for Middle East Truth in Washington, who had authored a Front Page Magazine article in late April, Did Tamerlan Tsarnaev Murder Jews on 10th Anniversary of 9/11? Earlier reports appeared in BuzzFeed Politics within days of the shootout death of Tamerlan and capture of Dzhokhar over the weekend of April 19th. Schideler had written:
The three young men, Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken, were found murdered in an apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts on September 12, 2011. They had been killed the night before. All three victims had their throats slashed, and their bodies were covered in marijuana. The crime scene was described as particularly brutal, with an investigator saying, “their throats were slashed right out of an al Qaeda training video." But Weissman had been arrested previously on charges of possession with intent to distribute, and neighbors also suspected Teken of being involved in the drug trade. For these reasons, police initially suspected a drug connection. At the time of the killing, investigators were looking for two suspects, who were believed to be known to the victims.
I asked Schideler who might have assisted Tamerlan in this ritualistic Islamic slaughter reminiscent of the fate of Wall Street Journal investigative journalist Danny Pearl. That was allegedly perpetrated by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. But this was Waltham, home of Brandeis University, attended by one of the three murdered Jews.
They spoke with a friend of both Tamerlan and one of the victims, Brendan Mees who said:
“At the time none of us would have thought it was Tam. It was just so emotional, and we thought we had someone else who had done it. Tam’s name wasn’t coming up at all,” said one of their mutual friends, who asked to be identified by his first name, Ray.
Now “a few of my friends, without even speaking about it beforehand, have all been thinking” that Tsarnaev could have been connected to the 2011 murder of Mess and two others at Mess’ apartment, he said. Ray and Tsarnaev were both part of a social circle centered on the gym at which Tsarnaev trained and on a Boston hip-hop group called FlyRidaz, whose members this week expressed shock at having known the suspected killer.
[. . .]
The owner of the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts in Allston, John Allan, told reporters that Tsarnaev described Mess to him as his “best friend.”
So the Cambridge crew was surprised in the fall of 2011 that Tsarnaev didn’t show up at his best friend’s funeral. Now they see it as a clue.
“Tam wasn’t there at the memorial service, he wasn’t at the funeral, he wasn’t around at all,” Ray said. “And he was really close with Brendan. That’s why it’s so weird when he said, ‘I don’t have any American friends.’”
“He was somebody who was in contact with Brendan on a daily basis. Anybody like that, you would think they would have been around,” Ray said.
BuzzFeed noted early Waltham police suspicions that two suspects who were known to the three murdered Jews might have known the perpetrators including Tamerlan:
Police have said they believe there were two other men in Mess’ apartment — the scene of the crime — sometime before the murder, but those two men have never been identified. Ray said following the murder, he was questioned by detectives who told him Tsarnaev may have been with Mess either the day of or the night before; although the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office said they could not confirm any relationship between Mess and Tsarnaev. The Waltham police department declined to comment on the murder or on the alleged relationship between Tsarnaev and Mess.
Then there is curious observation about Tamerlan after his return from Dagestan in July 2012:
When Tsarnaev returned to the United States, Ray said a friend saw him out in public once and described him as “hollow.” But Mess’ younger brother continued to see Tsarnaev at the gym where they both trained. “Tam was with Brendan’s little brother a month ago,” he said.
Ray said none of his friends saw any “red flags” while they were friends with Tsarnaev, although he said some of them remember Tsarnaev making comments about the afterlife being glorified and disparaging remarks about Americans once or twice.
The ABC Investigative Unit Blotter report builds on the mounting forensic evidence that the victims in the grisly Waltham murders knew the perpetrators. The marijuana connections abound given evidence that the younger Tsarneav brother was perhaps involved in dealing marijuana at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth campus. Further, there were indications that older brother Tamerlan was a heavy user until he allegedly quit in 2008 and became increasingly religious and began attending the Cambridge Mosque of the Islamic Society of Boston.
This ABC news report also raises questions about the lack of follow up by Waltham Police, the FBI and Middlesex D.A. investigators about this case that had lain dormant until it synched up with the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon Massacre, the Tsarnaev brothers. Clearly they had been radicalized well before the alleged murder of their Jews friends on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Did their radicalization occur, at the Cambridge Mosque notorious for being led by a Salafist Imam? Further members of the Cambridge Mosque had been convicted of being al Qaida terrorists and supporters. Or was it something that lay dormant in the Tsarnaev brothers' Chechen Islamic upbringing that festered while they were generously granted political asylum in the US and given welfare, medical support, education at an elite high school and at both a community college and state university?
Tamerlan was quoted as saying he had no American friends. Perhaps we are seeing the emerging truth. He killed them because they were Jews vilified in the Qur’an and he was simply following the way of Allah, Jihad. It also raises a question of why the Boston Jewish community and defense groups didn’t demand a thoroughgoing investigation of this unsolved hideous crime perpetrated against their coreligionists. In retrospect, perhaps they didn’t want to become involved in a messy affair. The local Jewish community, Boston Mayor Menino, and Governor Patrick lavished praise for the Muslim Brotherhood led Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) at its opening in June 200. See our NER article, “Chelm on the Charles River”. A mosque that engaged in lawfare against Dr. Charles Jacobs, of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project, Fox News Channel WFXT and the Boston Herald American because they had unearthed terrorist financiers and virulent anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood preachers as ISBCC trustees. One local Boston Jewish communal leader said at the time of that intense litigation brought by the ISBCC, “we don’t wish to take sides”.
The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.
Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said a continuing rise could be catastrophic. “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds,” he said.
The new measurement came from analyzers high atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide carbon dioxide trend.
Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.
Carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million was first seen in the Arctic last year, and had also spiked above that level in hourly readings at Mauna Loa. But the average reading for an entire day surpassed that level at Mauna Loa for the first time in the 24 hours that ended at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Thursday, according to data from both NOAA and Scripps.
Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle and the level will dip below 400 this summer, as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.
“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a Columbia University earth scientist.
From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages, to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.
For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.
Governments have been trying since 1992 to rein in emissions, but far from slowing, emissions are rising at an accelerating pace, thanks partly to rapid economic growth in developing countries. Scientists fear the level of the gas could triple or even quadruple before being brought under control.
Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.
Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.
“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”
Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa and at other locations in the late 1950s. The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.
His analysis revealed a relentless, long-term increase superimposed on the seasonal cycle, a trend that was dubbed the Keeling Curve. Subsequent research proved it was coming from the combustion of fossil fuels. Charles David Keeling died in 2005.
Countries have adopted an official target to limit the damage from global warming, which by most estimates requires that emissions stop by the time the level reaches about 450. “Unless things slow down, we’ll probably get there in well under 25 years,” Ralph Keeling said.
Yet many countries, including China and the United States, have refused to adopt binding national targets. Scientists say that unless far greater efforts are made soon, the goal of limiting the warming will become impossible without severe economic disruption.
“If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at the Pennsylvania State University. “If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”
Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of the air — as of Thursday’s reading, exactly .04 percent. “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic,” a Republican congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher, said in a Congressional hearing several years ago.
But climate scientists reject that argument, saying it is like claiming that a tiny bit of arsenic or cobra venom cannot have much effect. Research shows that even at such low levels, carbon dioxide is potent at trapping heat near the surface of the earth.
“If you’re looking to stave off climate perturbations that I don’t believe our culture is ready to adapt to, then significant reductions in CO2 emissions have to occur right away,” said Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist who studies climates of the past. “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 10, 2013
An earlier version of this article misstated the amount of carbon dioxide in the air as of Thursday’s reading from monitors. It is .04 percent, not .0004 percent.