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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 3, 2013.
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Baby burkas: Fatwa Sheikh tells Saudi tots to cover up

From Albawaba

A Saudi cleric has called for all female babies to be fully covered by wearing the face veil, commonly known as the burka, citing reports of little girls being sexually molested.

In a TV interview on the Islamic Al-Majd TV, which seems to date back to mid-last year, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, stressed that wearing the veil will protect baby girls. The Sheikh tried to back his assertion with claims of sexual molestation against babies in the kingdom, quoting unnamed medical and security sources.

Sheikh Mohammad Al-Jzlana, former judge at the Saudi Board of Grievances, told Al Arabiya that Dauod’s ruling was denigrating to Islam and Shariah and made Islam look bad.
He said that he feels sad whenever he sees a family walking around with a veiled baby, describing that as injustice to children.

Posted on 02/03/2013 6:17 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 February 2013

"The editors of The New York Times opined..."

"He opined." "She opined." "They opined."

No. Not tolerable. Don't use it.

Posted on 02/03/2013 8:34 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Apparently, The Bright Side Was Her Movie Career
Reuters On-Line Headline:

Dark side of porn star's life revealed in indie film "Lovelace"

Posted on 02/03/2013 8:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
A Musical Interlude: I'll Get By As Long As I Have You (Ruth Etting)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/03/2013 8:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Muslim patrol in ‘bomb UK’ outrage

MUSLIM extremists investigated over attacks on gays and women once called on followers to “bomb the UK”.

One vigilante patrolling the streets led a rally where crowds were also ordered: “Annihilate those who insult Islam.”

Abdul Muhid, 30, was jailed in 2007 for encouraging murder and terrorism outside the Danish Embassy in London.

He is now a member of Muslim Patrol, cracking down on non-Islamic behaviour in East London. Muhid, who claims to be part of a larger “Sharia Patrol”, said: “It’s not going to stop. There are many teams out there. God almighty said the best Muslim is one that goes out and commands what is good and forbids what is evil.”

Posted on 02/03/2013 4:01 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Daryl Jones, Who Was Prevented -- Just -- From Becoming Secretary Of The Air Force

Two Articles On Daryl Jones, Whom Bill Clinton Nominated In 1998 To Be Secretary Of The Air Force, But Who Was Rejected By The Republicans


Air Force Nominee Defends Self Critics Say Clinton's Pick For The Secretary's Job Lied. Backers Praised Him.


WASHINGTON — Florida State Sen. Daryl Jones, President Clinton's nominee for secretary of the Air Force, fought to defend his reputation yesterday as former aviator colleagues testified that he had repeatedly lied to Congress during his first confirmation hearing.

Jones' former superior at Homestead Air Force Base told senators he had ordered Jones to stop flying; Jones said he stopped voluntarily. Another airman asserted that Jones had improperly used his rank to peddle Amway products, and a third contended that he so distrusted Jones, he retired from the Air Force once he learned of the nomination.

Jones, 43, remained calm, sitting erect and impassive during the hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as one panel of Air Force colleagues branded him a liar and a second group praised him as uniquely qualified to become the first African American to lead the Air Force.

He denied that he had sought to mislead senators or had broken Air Force rules.

``It takes years and years to build a reputation, and just a moment to tear it apart,'' said Jones, nominated in October to succeed Sheila Widnall, who resigned. ``If a reputation is something one can possess, then my most prized possession is my reputation.''

Sen. John W. Warner (R., Va.) a leading voice on defense issues, countered that the hearing was not a trial. But Warner confessed he was so troubled by discrepancies in Jones' accounts that he had ``taken this case to heart as seriously as anything I have ever done in the Senate.''

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R., Okla.) was more blunt. ``Mr. Jones has an insatiable appetite to say things that are not true,'' he said.

Despite the acrimony, the odds appeared slightly in Jones' favor as the committee chairman, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.), reiterated his support for the nominee, apparently creating a 10-8 majority if all Democrats back Jones. No confirmation vote has been scheduled.

Moreover, a number of prominent Air Force leaders spoke enthusiastically of Jones. His onetime superior in the Air Force Reserve, retired Brig. Gen. James Turner, praised Jones' efforts in the state Senate to keep the Homestead base open after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Another colleague at the base, Lt. Col. Thomas Sawner, said Jones so consistently won the award as best instructor from recruits that officers considered retiring the prize.

Both friends and critics portrayed Jones as an ambitious man who had been overextended with as many as four jobs at once: Air Force Reserve pilot, private attorney, investment banker and state senator. But while his backers said Jones managed the load brilliantly in the name of public service, his critics questioned whether he had taken shortcuts and been careless with the truth.

Critics homed in on several points:

* Did Jones lie when he told the committee in June that he had decided to stop flying fighter jets in 1991 voluntarily?

Jones' immediate superior at the time, Col. Thomas Dyches, said that he stripped Jones of his flying status on Aug. 6, 1991, and that Jones had vowed to fight the decision. Dyches said he made the call after Jones failed to train sufficiently and had been involved in two ``tail-scrapings'' the same day, poor landings that caused thousands of dollars in damage to an F-16.

``Sadly, I must tell you he misrepresented the facts to you and to the American people,'' Dyches testified.

Maj. Allan Estis, who flew with Jones on many sorties, said Jones was an erratic flier. Estis said he retired from the Reserve when he learned of Jones' nomination.

Jones countered that Dyches had given him time to make the decision for himself. Three days later, Jones announced to the squadron that he would no longer be a pilot.

* Jones overstated the number of hours he had flown, telling the Senate he had logged at least 2,000 hours. The actual number was either 1,184, as Inhofe asserted, or 1,399, as Jones contended yesterday.

* Jones denied again yesterday that he had ever tried to sell Amway products to subordinates in the Air Force, a breach of regulations. Maj. Thomas Massey, a fellow reservist, said that he witnessed Jones doing just that, and that an enlisted man ``asked if we could `get Captain Jones off our backs.' ''



Panel Rejects Clinton's Pick For Air Force A 9-9 Vote Sank The Nomination. Republicans Said Daryl Jones Failed To Answer Concerns On His Record.

July 23, 1998|By Carol Rosenberg, INQUIRER WASHINGTON BUREAU 

WASHINGTON — In an embarrassing defeat for President Clinton, the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday rejected the nomination of Daryl Jones as Air Force secretary amid accusations that Jones had lied about his flight record and pressured subordinates into buying household products.

Clinton made eleventh-hour calls to try to save his candidate, but the nomination died on a 9-9 vote.

Clinton said he was ``deeply disappointed'' by the Senate committee's action and defended Jones as ``a good, decent, able man.''

``He was an outstanding candidate for this position, and he deserved the opportunity to be considered by the full Senate,'' Clinton said. ``I thank Mr. Jones for his willingness to serve his country. I am confident that he will continue to make vital contributions to Florida and to our nation.''

Jones, who would have become the first black Air Force secretary, had denied the allegations. After the meeting, he said: ``I hope what I've gone through doesn't keep high-quality people from wanting to hold appointive office. . . . It's an honor to serve.''

Chairman Strom Thurmond (R., S.C.) was the only one of the Armed Services Committee's 10 Republicans to support Jones. ``I do not believe that anyone has been able to prove that Mr. Jones knowingly sought to misrepresent his credentials, to defraud the government, or to mislead this committee,'' Thurmond said.

All eight Democrats and Thurmond voted for the motion; the remaining nine Republicans opposed it.

It was a motion by Robert C. Byrd (D., W.Va.) to send the nomination to the Senate floor without a recommendation - and to let the full Senate thrash it out - that produced the 9-9 vote. A majority was needed for passage of the motion.

Controversy surrounded Jones almost from the moment Clinton chose him in October, hailing the lawyer-politician as a former F-16 pilot with intimate knowledge of the Air Force.

On paper, Jones, 43, had impressive credentials: an Air Force Academy graduate, a fighter pilot, a successful lawyer and businessman, and a state lawmaker.

But former pilots complained about Jones' service record. They said he did not take criticism well and misrepresented his career.

At a nine-hour hearing last week, airmen testified that as an Air Force Reserve pilot, Jones flew the wrong way while coming in for a landing and damaged his aircraft by scraping the plane's tail on four occasions.

Posted on 02/03/2013 9:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
The Hagel Fiasco, Or What Must Michele Flournoy And Ashton Carter Now Be Thinking?

Finally John Warner let Chuck Hagel speak. Warner, having declared that he was discarding his prepared remarks in the interest of sincerity and brevity and then spoken for 15 minutes, turned to Hagel with a friendly warning: “You’re on your own.”

Truer words, as they say.

Hagel would testify for nearly eight hours in the service of his confirmation to be the country’s next secretary of defense. And what started as an unsteady, unimpressive performance soon turned disastrous. Republicans were tough and aggressive, pushing Hagel to elucidate his past positions and to explain his sometimes odd statements. Democrats were accommodating and generous, repeatedly rephrasing Hagel’s jumbled syntax and reframing his confusing claims.

Despite their efforts, Hagel was indeed on his own. And any senator who takes the advise-and-consent role seriously had to have real concerns about the nominee’s basic competence.

By the end of the day, Hagel had declared the Iranian regime the “legitimate, elected” government of the Iranian people (it’s not); he’d refused to acknowledge that the Iraq surge was a success (it was)[Note: "success" in the sense that it achieved its goal, but the goal was the wrong one]; he’d declined several opportunities to declare the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist entity (it is); and he seemed not to understand the relationship between the Budget Control Act and the coming sequester (the first created the second).

Even for senators who came into the hearing expecting to support Hagel—out of respect and admiration for his military service or deference to presidential prerogative—any one of these bizarre misstatements might be enough on its own to generate doubts about Hagel’s understanding of his prospective job and the world. Taken together, they might be disqualifying.

But there was much more. Hagel made several basic errors of fact. For instance, Hagel justified his much-discussed comment about the “bloated” Pentagon budget by claiming that he made it “before the Budget Control Act.” In fact, it came as a response to a question about sequester cuts. Hagel was clearly confused about the BCA and the sequester throughout the day, so perhaps this mistake was innocent. 

It’s hard to be quite as forgiving about another erroneous claim. Hagel was questioned several times about a report that he coauthored for Global Zero, an organization opposed to nuclear weapons. The report—not surprisingly, given the group’s raison d’être—called for significant cuts to U.S. nuclear arms stockpiles. Hagel claimed the paper wasn’t meant to be prescriptive, but its plain language—it called the cuts “desirable” and argued that they “should happen”—belied his argument.

It wasn’t the only past position Hagel tried to recast. Among the most problematic: his refusal to vote for an amendment that would have classified Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. At the time of the vote, late September 2007, the facts about the IRGC’s terrorist activities had been well known for years. The IRGC and its Quds Force had actively engaged in funding, training, and equipping jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan responsible for killing hundreds of American troops. The IRGC played a crucial role in enabling insurgents, particularly in Iraq, to shift from attacks using basic improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which the U.S. military had learned to counter, to the far more lethal explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) during the war’s deadliest years. This information was widely reported, and Hagel, whose biography boasts that he was a “senior member” of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, had access to reams of additional, classified intelligence documenting the relentless efforts of the Iranians to kill Americans.

At the hearing, when Hagel was asked about his opposition to the amendment, he pointed to former Virginia senator Jim Webb. Webb had opposed the amendment, too, arguing rather hysterically that a vote for the amendment would provide the Bush administration with the opening it allegedly sought to go to war with Iran. The amendment passed 76-22; the Bush administration continued its futile attempts to engage the Iranian regime, and there was, of course, no war. 

Later in the confirmation hearing, Hagel was asked why he was to the left of many Democrats on the vote, including Hillary Clinton (who voted for it) and Barack Obama (who cosponsored a similar measure). Hagel suddenly dropped his claim that he was simply following the lead of Jim Webb and struck the pose of a maverick, arguing that he’s an independent thinker and not the least bit influenced by what other senators do. And yet not long after that, Hagel was once again citing Webb as the reason he voted against labeling the IRGC a terrorist group.

On this issue and so many others, it was as if Hagel didn’t understand why he’d held the views he had or was reluctant to discuss them. That’s not necessarily novel. Confirmation hearings often involve nominees revising their long-held views with the hope of making themselves more acceptable to those voting on their nomination. Hagel’s problem—or one of them, anyway—is that he often seemed to mean what he said originally and not to buy his own (alleged) change of heart.

Hagel, to his credit, apparently understood just how poorly he was doing. If senators voted only on the basis of his performance before the committee, it’s hard to imagine anyone supporting him. As his testimony drew to a close, Hagel anticipated and tried to answer two of the main objections senators surely have to his confirmation, first acknowledging his own ignorance and then touting as an asset his own powerlessness. 

“There are a lot of things I don’t know about,” he said. “If confirmed, I intend to know a lot more than I do. I will have to.” Moments later, Hagel adopted the minimalist argument his advocates have lately advanced as part of their case on his behalf. “I won’t be in a policymaking position.”

If the best you can say on your own behalf is that you’re aware of your limitations and you won’t be very consequential, it’s not a great case.

Posted on 02/03/2013 9:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Senator Cruz On Hagel's Confirmation-Day Conversion

From Politico:

Chuck Hagel’s confirmation-day conversion

February 1, 2013

Chuck Hagel is a decorated Vietnam veteran with an honorable history fighting for his country, and I commend his personal valor and sacrifice.

But the man who testified before Congress Thursday to become our nation’s next secretary of Defense sounded very different from the one who, for the past two decades, has advocated that the U.S. adopt a weakened posture on the world stage.

As a two-term senator and active participant in foreign policy discussions, Hagel repeatedly declined to support measures to crack down on state sponsors of terrorism, belittled the notion of using any means to prevent a nuclear Iran, advised U.S. leaders to engage in direct negotiations with rogue nations and hostile terrorist groups, and expressed remarkable antagonism towards the longstanding U.S. alliance with Israel. Since Hagel has been nominated to become Defense secretary, however, he’s disavowed each one of these positions.

It all amounts to quite the confirmation day conversion.

Some of my Senate colleagues may be satisfied that the pledges he has made in recent days are more meaningful than his policy record compiled over the past fifteen years. I am not.

Of course, anyone can change their mind on one particular issue; reasonable people do so all the time. However, when a nominee tries to disavow his past positions on virtually every foreign policy issue, all at the same time, it raises serious questions.

There is a reason the Washington Post described Hagel’s views as placing him “near the fringe of the Senate.”

On Iran, Hagel voted against economic sanctions in 2001, 2007, and 2008. Today, he says he supports sanctions.

In 2007, Hagel voted against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — which was then actively providing explosively formed projectiles to kill U.S. servicemen in Iraq — as a terrorist group. Today, he agrees that they are terrorists.

In 2006, he said, “a military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.” Likewise, in 2010, Hagel told the Atlantic Council that he was “not so sure it is necessary to continue to say all options are on the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Today, he says all options (including military force) should be on the table.

On Hamas, in 2005, he declined to join a bi-partisan group of 70 senators (including Senators Clinton and Kerry) who signed a letter to President Bush urging that the Palestinians demand that Hamas reject terrorism before participating in the democratic process. Today, he says Hamas must renounce terrorism.

On Hezbollah, in 2006, he declined to join a bi-partisan group of 88 senators (including Senators Biden, Clinton, Kerry, and Obama) urging the European Union to designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Today, he says Hezbollah is, in fact, a terrorist organization.

And on Israel, no senator in recent times has demonstrated as much consistent antagonism as has Hagel. In 1998, he said that the U.S. had “tilted too far towards Israel in the Middle East peace process.”

In 2000, he declined to join a bi-partisan group of 96 senators (including Senators Biden and Kerry) urging President Clinton to express “American solidarity with Israel at this crucial moment, to condemn the Palestinian campaign of violence.”

In 2006, on the floor of the Senate, he accused Israel of carrying out a “sickening slaughter” in Lebanon (and charged Lebanon with doing the same).

Also in 2006 he said “the Jewish Lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” and he boasted about his ability to resist their views.

Today, he says he will strongly support Israel.

And on America’s role in the world, in 2009 he explicitly agreed with a questioner on Al Jazeera that the “reality” is that the U.S. is “the world’s bully”—a remarkable statement for a prospective Defense secretary to make on a foreign network broadcasting propaganda to nations that have deep hostility to the United States.

Today, he says America is not a “bully.”

It all begs the question, how could someone who has been so engaged in major foreign policy debates so radically reverse his views on so many important matters?

Or, today, is he just telling senators what they want to hear?

In my view, peace through strength has always been the wisest course for our nation. And the principal job of the Defense secretary is to help provide a credible threat to deter those who would seek to harm U.S. national security.

Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government — surely an occurrence without precedent for a nominee for secretary of Defense. And Iran’s belief that Hagel will not stand against their acquiring nuclear weapons capacity makes it more likely they will charge ahead, which makes it more likely the United States will be drawn into military combat.

I hope that senators in both parties will examine his record closely; as for me, this is a nomination I cannot support.

Posted on 02/03/2013 10:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
The Enlightened Elite Of France And The People They Ignore
La rupture est consommée entre les "élites" et la société civile récalcitrante. Les coups, qui pleuvent dru sur le peuple indocile, empêchent une réconciliation. En 2005, ceux qui refusaient de ratifier le traité européen avaient été ainsi injuriés par les esprits éclairés, qui allaient perdre le référendum. Cette fois, la haine et le mépris se bousculent chez ceux qui réclament le respect pour eux-mêmes.Parce que les citoyens n’adhèrent pas à la propa­gande sur les bienfaits de l’immigration et de l’islam en France (dans une enquête Ipsos-Cevipof, ils sont 70 % à dire qu’il y a trop d’étrangers, et 74 % à juger cette religion intolérante et incompatible avec la société), voilà les sermonneurs qui les traitent de ploucs racistes et xénophobes. De salauds, en somme. Les anti-mariage gay sont pareillement injuriés. Mais où sont les "débats dignes" réclamés par ­Harlem Désir au nom du PS ?

La civilité des manifestants du 13 janvier est à comparer à l’agressivité, la vulgarité, l’intolérance observées parmi ceux qui, beaucoup moins nombreux, ont défilé dimanche pour le "mariage pour tous", à l’appel des partis et des syndicats de gauche (voir mon blog). Quand ­Bernard-Henri Lévy délégitime les opposants en parlant d’une "marée noire de l’homophobie ancestrale", il recourt au même procédé de la diabolisation qu’utilisent les exaltés d’Allah quand ils invoquent l’" islamophobie" pour rendre les critiques irrecevables. Ainsi procèdent, par la victimisation des uns et la culpabilisation des autres, les communautaristes en quête de visibilité et de droits spéci­fiques. La salissure de l’autre est leur ­règle.

Cette violence intellectuelle, héri­tière de la pensée totalitaire, est celle d’un petit nombre qui se protège par l’intimidation et le dénigrement.(La suite ici)
Posted on 02/03/2013 11:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
How Can Turkey Work With Israel Or The United States?

From an article about Leon Panetta:

"He reiterated the US has been working closely with Jordan, Turkey and Israel on contingency plans to ensure the security of chemical or biological weapons in Syria, particularly if the regime of President Bashar al-Assad collapses."

The best way to "ensure the security of chemiical or biological weapons in Syria" is to make sure they do not leave the control -- voluntarily or involuntarily -- of the current Syrian regime. That means no seizing of weapons by Jabhat Al-Nusra and other rebel groups, against the Syrian regime's wishes, and no transfer of weapons to Hezbollah because of the Syrian regime's wishes.

In the end, the best way to deal with the situation is to destroy as many such weapons, and the systems -- such as SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles --  that make it harder to destroy them should they be moved to such groups as Hezbollah.

Israel has just performed a great service, for itself and for the entire West, by apparently destroying both a convoy carrying SA-17 missiles, and a Syrian facility devoted to chemical and biological warfare.

But Turkey -- one of the countries that Leon Panetta claims the American government is working with, has a foregin minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who has denounced the very Israeli attack he should, if he is on the side of the West, be praising, and not only has denounced it, but announces that Turkey will take the side of any Muslim state that Israel attacks in the future.

This can't go on. Turkey, the current regime in Turkey, has to be slapped down. It should not have been supplied with the protection that Patriot Missiles afford. It should not be part of the effort to secure or destroy the WMD in Syria -- only Israel, and the United States, are able and willing to deal with that. Its government ought to be given to understand that patience is at an end, and that NATO will begin to discuss a future mission (that of halting the spread of Islam) and, therefore, a future without Turkey.

Posted on 02/03/2013 11:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Kashmir's first all-girl rock group forced to cancel their show after extremists posted rape and death threats

From Outlook India, the Times of India and the Daily Mail

SRINAGAR: Having defied convention, Kashmir's first all-girls rock band is facing a challenge of online threats and abuses from conservative sections of the society.

The teenaged girls who came to limelight in late December last year after their scintillating performance at the annual 'Battle of the Bands' competition

Though there are dozens of bands currently playing popular music of different genres in the Valley, the girls - vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and Guitarist Aneeka Khalid (all students of tenth standard) - formed their rock band named " Pragaash" (light) and won the best performance award in their first public appearance.

"There has been a wicked campaign against the girls ever since they made their maiden appearance in public on December 26," owner of Band Inn, a musical academy where the girls are undergoing training,

He said the band is presently working on an album. Criticism is nothing new to Kashmiri women singers who defied strong opposition in the past as well and made a name in the music field. Raj Begum, renowned Kashmiri singer, even won the national award. He was quoted in the Times of India as saying: 'They are just 15 and too young to face such abuse.

Following the concert, comments appeared on Facebook from extremists who said the teenage girls should be raped and then drowned.

A Facebook page KashmirNews posted a photograph of the band with a caption stating: 'Personally, I consider them as shameless and spoiled brats...

'A lot of people criticised the girls. Some even went on to say, "Post this status in advance. The three band girls raped in Jammu and thrown in river."'

The band members, Farah Deeba, guitarist Aneeka Khalid and vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, refused to talk on the issue but were reportedly shaken by the threats.

 Coming out in support . . . Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, today, promised a police probe and hoped that the talented teenagers would not let themselves be silenced by a "handful of morons".

Amid support pouring in from all sections of the society, Grandmufti of Jammu and Kashmir Bashiruddin Ahmad today termed singing as "un-Islamic" and asked them to abandon it.

"I have said that singing is not in accordance with Islamic teachings," Ahmad told PTI.

The cleric said he has advised the members of the rock band to "abandon" singing as it is against Islamic teachings and will not help them in playing any constructive role in the society.

"Society cannot be built or developed by doing un-Islamic acts like singing. I have advised these girls, and other Muslims as well, to stay within the limits of modesty as prescribed for them,"

Their parents are said to have advised the band to stay out of the limelight for a while and the girls are now believed to be in New Delhi.

Posted on 02/03/2013 1:32 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 3 February 2013
That Out-Patient Surgery In Syria

From The New York Times:

February 3, 2013

Israeli Strike Into Syria Said to Damage Research Site

WASHINGTON — The Israeli attack last week on a Syrian convoy of antiaircraft weapons appears to have also hit the country’s main research center for work on biological and chemical weapons, according to American officials who are sorting through intelligence reports.

While the main target of the attack on Wednesday appears to have been SA-17 missiles and their launchers — which the Israelis feared were about to be moved to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon — video shown on Syrian television appears to back up assertions that the research center north of Damascus was also damaged.

That complex, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, has been the target of American and Western sanctions for more than a decade because of intelligence suggesting that it was the training site for engineers who worked on chemical and biological weaponry.

A senior United States military official, asked about reports that the research center had been damaged, said, “My sense is that the buildings were destroyed due to the bombs which targeted the vehicles” carrying the antiaircraft weapons, and from “the secondary explosions from the missiles.”

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence reports, said that “the Israelis had a small strike package,” meaning that a relatively few fighter aircraft slipped past Syria’s air defenses and that targeting both the missiles and the research center “would risk doing just a little damage to either.”

“They clearly went after the air defense weapons on the transport trucks,” the official said.

There is still much that is not known about the attack, and there have been contradictory descriptions of it since it was carried out. Initial reports suggested that the antiaircraft missiles were hit near the Lebanese border. Subsequent reports, both in Time magazine and the Israeli press, suggest there were multiple attacks conducted at roughly the same time.

The Israelis had been silent on the issue until Sunday, when Ehud Barak, the departing Israeli defense minister, gave the first indirect confirmation of the attack at a security conference in Munich. While Mr. Barak said he could not “add anything to what you have read in the newspapers about what happened in Syria,” a moment later he referred to the events as “another proof that when we say something we mean it.”

“We say that we don’t think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapon systems into Lebanon, to Hezbollah, from Syria when Assad falls,” Mr. Barak told fellow defense ministers and other officials, referring to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

The ease with which Israeli planes reached the Syrian capital appeared to send a message — both to Mr. Assad and, indirectly, to Iran.

Israel has said that if it saw chemical weapons on the move, it would act to stop them. By hitting the research center, part of a military complex that is supposed to be protected by Russian-made antiaircraft defenses, Israel made it clear it was willing to risk direct intervention to keep weapons and missiles out of Hezbollah’s hands.

Israel has done so before, in September 2007, when it destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor that was under construction with North Korean help. The facility hit last week was also believed to be a center for study on nuclear issues, officials say.

The strike also appeared to be a signal to the Iranians that Israel would be willing to conduct a similar attack on aboveground nuclear facilities if it seemed that Iran was near achieving nuclear weapons capability. But Iran would be a far harder target — much farther away from Israel, much better defended, and with facilities much more difficult to damage. The nuclear enrichment center that worries Israel and Western governments the most is nearly 300 feet under a mountain outside Qum, largely invulnerable to the weapons that Israel is seemed to have used in last week’s raid.

Mr. Netanyahu himself spoke about Iran rather than Syria on Sunday as he reiterated his call for a broad “national unity government” to “unite the public at a decisive time in our history.”

“The supreme mission that a national unity government will face is stopping Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting, according to a release from his office. “This is all the more complicated because Iran has equipped itself with new centrifuges that shorten the enrichment time. We cannot countenance this process.” He was referring to an Iranian announcement last week that it was about to install a new generation of uranium enrichment equipment.

But if Mr. Netanyahu’s long-term objective is Iran, his immediate problem is Syria. And the research center thought to have been damaged has been on the radar of the United States and Israel for decades.

According to information compiled by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which analyzes the facilities of countries seeking unconventional weapons, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is portrayed by Syria as an independent study organization, has operated closely with the Syrian military for 40 years. It has also been reported to work with Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission.

In 2005, the center was placed on a Treasury Department list that prohibited Americans from doing business with the organization; two years later, the Treasury froze any assets of the organization and its subsidiaries. In announcing that order, Stuart Levey, the Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the time, said that the research organization and its subsidiaries “develop nonconventional weapons and the missiles to deliver them.”

Intelligence officials also believe that the center has links to North Korea, a source of much of Syria’s missile technology.

Assessing the damage to the facility is difficult. Cellphone videos shot by Syrian rebels show burning buildings at what is described at the research center, but the damage seen on those videos is somewhat light.

Dany Shoham, a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies who is an expert on unconventional weapons, said the Syrian center’s “efforts concentrated first of all in upgrading chemical and biological war agents and, second, upgrading dispersal and delivery systems for those agents.”

“It’s a very large compound,” Dr. Shoham said. “You can imagine that it’s the principal facility of the whole Syrian Army that is responsible for developing, testing, upgrading, pilot production of a vast variety of weapons, both conventional and unconventional.”

Amir Rapaport, editor and publisher of the magazine Israel Defense, said that the video broadcast Saturday on Syrian television showed an armored vehicle that seemed to belong to the SA-8 antiaircraft missile system. He suggested that the Syrians may have put the SA-8s at the scene after the fact because they had promised the Russians not to transfer newer SA-17s to Lebanon. “Maybe it’s sort of a trick of the Syrians,” he said.
Posted on 02/03/2013 3:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Burak Bekdil: "Muslim" Turkey Defended By "Christian" Missiles


January 23, 2013

The neo-Ottoman Military Band

By Burak Bekdil

In a speech at the weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan justified his Syria campaign with these words: “If they [Western coalition forces] can come from thousands of kilometers away and enter [occupy] Iraq... we just cannot sit tied and watch Syria, with which we have a 910-kilometer border.”

Will he send the mighty Turkish army all the way to Damascus? Does he think NATO’s second biggest army can fight and defeat the Syrian, Iranian and Russian armies at the same time? World War III? Or is this another example indicating that “Turkey’s bark is worse than its bite?” I would bet on the latter.

I am not going to list here a rich menu of snags most of Turkey’s military modernization programs face, for I have no intention to once again anger the powerful Turkish weapons-makers lobby. But suffice it to say that: 1- A conflict with Syria will naturally require modern battle tanks, 2- Turkey’s prideful national tank prototype, the Altay, is still several years away from production/delivery and 3- Turkey’s present tank inventory is certainly superior to Syria’s but could fall short of operational requirements in a larger-than-expected-scale proxy war. As for Syrian air defenses vs. Turkish stealth and fire power, just recall what happened in June.

The Turkish command structure is probably equally fragile. Last year, the government set out to hire 50,000 professional soldiers to support the army’s asymmetrical war with the PKK. Special combat units would be formed, generous salaries would be granted and, this time, the PKK would be finished off.

Eventually, less than 1,500 applicants have turned up and Ankara is now negotiating with the terrorist entity which only half a year ago it thought it would fight and finish off.

Higher ranks in the military and among the top brass do not look in better shape and morale. According to Defense Minister Ä°smet Yılmaz, a total of 5,067 officers and 12,274 non-commissioned officers quit service between 2008 and 2012. In the same period, 7,766 special combat units (known as “specialist sergeants”) did not extend their job contracts.

At the top end of the spectrum, the profession of soldiery is no less dangerous than the anti-terror fight. There are more than 250 officers in jail for various coup charges, and there is no guarantee that this number will not increase. For the insiders who quietly talk of command weaknesses and low morale, it was not surprising that a Turkish reconnaissance jet was shot down by Syria, a matter of national pride half a year ago that today seems to have been left to simmer; or that poor intelligence assessment caused the deaths of 33 Kurdish smugglers who, more than a year ago, were mistakenly identified as terrorists.

Facts in this part of the world, sadly, do not always take the most pleasant shapes and revive anyone’s longing for the glory days of the Ottoman Military Band. It is ironic that the anti-missile systems built by “Christian” nations will soon become operational in Turkish territory, along with units of soldiers from “Christian” countries – the United States, Germany, Holland, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. And all that equipment and troop mobility is to protect “Muslim” Turkey from possible aggression by “Muslim” Syria.

But never mind, the Ottoman military history, too, was full of ironies. Take, for instance, the Ottoman Military Band, the Mehteran, considered by many Turks even today as a stirring example of military heroism and a reminder of a glorious past. Oddly, its “Turkish” name was Persian (“mahtar”). But at least there is consistency here: A Persian name for the Turkish military centuries ago, and American weapon systems in Turkey against Muslim neighbors today.

Posted on 02/03/2013 6:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Christians Fleeing Syria

From The Christian Post:

Christians in Syria Fleeing Country as Crisis Reaches 'Unprecedented Levels of Horror'

  • (Photo: REUTERS/Momahed Dimashkia)
    Children carry the body of a friend that was killed by shelling during heavy fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Jobar district of Damascus January 25, 2013.
January 30, 2013

As the civil war in Syria has reached "unprecedented levels of horror," according to the U.N., Christians are being forced to flee their homes as avoiding the violent conflict has become less of an option.

"It's a fight to the death which by definition involves killing. No one will win but those who fought from the start will create a desert and then call it victory," Sky News said of the war raging between army forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and rebels bent on taking down what they say is a tyrannical regime.

The war has swept the entire nation, closing down infrastructure and businesses, and forcing many to choose a side or risk being caught in the crossfire. One of the worst attacks in the country occurred less than two weeks ago, when over 100 people were found slaughtered near the Christian-populated city of Homs. Witnesses blamed forces loyal to President Assad, who allegedly killed civilians they believed were harboring or aiding rebel soldiers.

Christians make up around 10 percent of the country's predominantly Muslim population, and although they have tried to stay out of the conflict, they are being forced out of their homes by rebels and loyalists; they are facing starvation and lack of medical care, and fleeing to neighboring countries like Lebanon.

Those who stay, meanwhile, see churches burnt down and priests murdered, and they have little means of protecting themselves. While many other sectarian groups have formed militias and physically fought back against the violence, Sky noted that followers of Christ in Syria are predominantly from the merchant class and do not have strongholds where they can hide out.

"The Kurds, Alawites, Druze, Christian, and Shia minorities are all now contemplating and planning for a post-Assad scenario. Of them all, the Christians are the most exposed," the report notes. "No one will win. The people have already lost."

Peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi told a 15-member UN Security Council on Tuesday: "Unprecedented levels of horror have been reached. The tragedy does not have an end.

"The country is breaking up before everyone's eyes. Only the international community can help, and first and foremost the Security Council.".

The international community has pleaded with President Bashir and rebels to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but by all accounts things seem to be getting worse for the people in Syria. The civil war has cost over 60,000 lives so far, a U.N. report noted, and there seems to be no clear indication when the bloody stalemate will end. Civilian casualties keep mounting, and both sides are eager to blame each other for attacks in public places. Restricted access to Syria is also making it hard to establish the legitimacy of claims made by the rebels or the army forces.

"That is why I believe the Security Council simply cannot continue to say: 'We are in disagreement, therefore let's wait for better times.' I think they have to grapple with this problem now," the peace envoy told reporters after the council meeting.

Posted on 02/03/2013 7:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
A Musical Interlude: The Very Thought Of You (Ray Noble Orch., voc. Al Bowlly)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/03/2013 9:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 3 February 2013
'Dies Gloriae'*, VI: From The Blessed Odoric Of Pordenone To The Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerick

I have been criticised for referring to the age old Christian belief in this series of posts1 that the Mohammedan belief system comes from satan and is perpetuated by demons from the pit of hell. I am neither going to retract that nor am I going to apologise for it. It is my belief, and it has been the mainstream belief of almost all Christians since Mohammedanism first thrust itself into peaceful Christian lives at the point of a very bloody sword and spread its messages of hatred into our world.

We Christians know for a certainty that Mohammedanism is the work of the devil because the messages it preaches cannot possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, have come from the one loving creator of all G-d whom we worship. Just examine some of the core tenets of Mohammedanism and you will see what we mean. Start by looking at the foul teachings that females are worth less than men and on them being merely chattels (see Esme's post at this link where she reports the statement of a Mohammedan who said that he had been taught at his madrassa that "women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground"). Move on to the vile law that a father has the right to murder his offspring2 and then consider the insane justification for slavery that, even today, is present in the most theoretically modern of Mohammedan states. Think deeply about the crazy claim that G-d's will cannot be made manifest through the ballot box, if He so wishes (this is tantamount to denying that G-d is omnipotent and is, therefore, blasphemy, so those many Mohammedans who reject the ideas and practices of democracy are, in fact, blasphemers).

If that's not enough, then consider the nauseating and barbarous punishments inflicted upon those deemed to be criminals (there is no forgiveness in Mohammedanism neither is there compassion nor any belief that a man can be reformed and taught to be good and virtuous as there is in Christianity that, naturally, follows the example of Christ in this matter -- The Holy Bible at John 8:113. Contemplate, also, the insane, violent and death-dealing persecution of other faiths -- there can be no civilised debate with a Mohammedan, no agreement just to differ in belief and live and let live for that is forbidden to all Mohammedans -- coupled with forced conversions to Mohammedanism (few people have ever converted willingly, almost all conversions are done at the point of the sword).

Then there is the barking lunacy of believing that G-d's message was given to their demon prophet completely and finally, which denies to G-d the right to talk through His prophets, or to anyone else, ever again -- that truly is blasphemy as well as being hubris of no mean order -- and demonstrates just how small Mohammedans think that G-d is. In fact, they have made Him just as small as they are, for their god is just the image of themselves in all their putrid glory; it is just, as Christians have always believed, an idol not the vast and magnificent G-d who is unknowable to us except in the tiniest of ways and for Whom we do not dare to speak -- unlike the Mohammedans who routinely speak for their idol.

Just those few messages alone are enough to convince any Christian, and many others of any, or no, faith, of the inherent evil of Mohammedanism -- that it must be the work of the devil, for it is certainly not the work of G-d. Further and deeper examination of the Mohammedan belief system and the everyday practices that that system engenders amongst its believers only serves to confirm and strengthen the Christian belief in the hellish origins of of the squalid and obscene Mohammedan cult that is, in itself, an offence against G-d and against nature, and that the followers of this pernicious and evil cult blaspheme and traduce the will and the love of G-d in almost everything that they believe in, in almost everything that they do and in almost everything that they say. Robert Spencer, the well known and respected scholar and author, at Jihad Watch has a succinct resumé of a number of the weird and wonderful teachings of Mohammedanism in the article behind this link.

All this was undisputed amongst Christians of all hues until the coming of the clueless people of the modern political amd chattering classes who didn't bother to examine Mohammedanism closely. Such people didn't examine Mohammedanism because they didn't examine any religion. Religion, for those people, is something personal that an individual practices in the privacy of their own home, so to speak, and it has no relevancy to, and no effect upon, according to them, the public life of an individual. Relativists to the core, they failed to comprehend just what the wellsprings of morality actually are and how Mohammedanism cannot possibly be counted as one, or as 'just another religion like any other'. They have promulgated a vast number of enormous lies, ('the religion of peace' lie being one of them, Mohammedanism being monotheistic being another, and the 'three Abrahamic faiths' lie -- there are only two, Judaism and Christianity for Mohammedanism's claim to be Abrahamic is a weird distortion of fact -- being yet another) in order to get the peace-loving peoples of the civilised world to quietly accept Mohammedanism as 'just another religion like any other', and they have done that without even examining just what Mohammedans actually believe in.

Further, they extrapolate their enlightenment derived, but half-baked, ideas to the point where they can insist that believing in evil as a force in this world is just superstition, whilst believing that there is force for good in all men is fact! They leave us free to believe in G-d, privately, but tell us that we must not believe in satan, even in private, when we can see with our own two eyes, and hear with our own two ears, that evil is the very nature of the Mohammedan beast. The clueless, politically correct people want us to commit cultural suicide, also. Their reasoning is that we have to deny everything we are so that the Mohammedans can be happy and only then will they leave us alone -- let's just feed the crocodile so that it eats us last -- and that view is driven be an enormous amount of self-hatred, which I have called, in a previous article in this series, 'oikophobia'4.

It is against that oikophobia that many of us at NER inveigh. We attempt to remind you of the glories of our civilisation and our societies5.  As I said at the beginning of this article, I make no apologies for holding the traditional Christian belief that Mohammedanism is the work of the devil, nor will I go back on that. For almost one and a half millennia Christian belief, and the teaching of the Church, was precisely that. It is only within the last fifty or so years that the baleful influence of oikophobic political correctness has been able to penetrate Christianity and the Church and has attempted to wreak, with some success, its peculiar form of destruction upon the sound and valid beliefs about Mohammedanism which Christians have always known to be true6.

That said, we Christians should never despise the individual Mohammedan person but should offer them only love and a way out of the evil, fetid horror of Mohammedanism. This, however, does not absolve us from the obligation to tell the truth about Mohammedanism. Our respect for all humans leads us to compare the koran with the New Testament, which for us is the only standard of truth. If one compares the ninety-nine names of their idol 'allah' in Mohammedanism with the names of G-d in the Bible, one must acknowledge that the 'allah' of the Mohammedans is not G-d. If you compare the deeds of Mohammed with the works of Christ then one sees plainly that the inspiration that Mohammed claimed is not from G-d and is obviously of satanic origin, whereas Christ's promulgation of a doctrine of love and forgiveness is straight from the heart of G-d to our hearts. If someone says, “Your G-d and the Mohammedans' god are the same,” then he does not understand what the idol 'allah' actually is and who Christ really is, and it's our duty as Christians to point out the error implicit in that assertion.

Anyway, all that said, let us now look at the saints whom I have chosen for this week.

My first saint (for the third of February) is the Blessed Odoric of Pordenone (Odorico Mattiuzzi), AD1286 to 1331. He was a Franciscan missionary and traveler and was born at Villanova, near Pordenone, in Italy. He entered the Franciscans in 1300 and became a hermit. After several years he took to preaching in the region of Udine, in northern Italy, attracting huge crowds through his eloquence. In 1316 he set out for the Far East, journeying through China and finally reaching the court of the Mongol Great Khan in Peking. From 1322 to 1328 he wandered throughout China and Tibet, finally returning to the West in 1330 where he made a report to the pope at Avignon and dictated an account of his travels. He died before he could find missionaries to return with him to the East.

Odoric's journey is perhaps best seen as a diplomatic mission, in addition to its religious dimensions. Pope Innocent IV organized the first missions to the Great Khan Tartary in 1254, and entrusted them to the Franciscans (as were subsequent Papal missions over the next century). Niccolò, Marfeo, and Marco Polo made two voyages in 1260 and 1271, and in 1294 the missionary John of Monte Corvino made a similar journey for Pope Nicholas IV.

There are a few passages which stamp Odoric as a genuine and original traveller. He is the first European, after Marco Polo, who distinctly mentions the name of Sumatra. The cannibalism and community of wives which he attributes to certain races of that island do certainly belong to it, or to islands closely adjoining. His description of sago in the archipelago is not free from errors, but they are the errors of an eye-witness.

In China his mention of Guangzhou by the name of Censcolam or Censcalam (Chin-Kalan), and his descriptions of the custom of fishing with tame cormorants, of the habit of letting the fingernails grow extravagantly, and of the binding and compression of women's feet, are peculiar to him among the travellers of that age. Marco Polo, for example, omits them all. Many people say that his travels were far more memorable than those of Marco Polo. Odoric was one who not only discovered many countries, but he wrote about them so that he could share his knowledge with others7.

However, Odoric's veracity has not benefited from the liberties which 'Sir John Mandeville' took with Odoric's text. 'Jehan de Mandeville', who was probably a Liege physician called variously 'Jean de Bourgogne' or 'Jehan a la Barbe', but was much more likely to have been Jan de Langhe, a Fleming who wrote in Latin under the name 'Johannes Longus' and in French as 'Jean le Long', and who was Abbot of the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Bertin in Saint-Omer in France where he was known as a prolific writer and an avid collector of travelogues, right up to his death in 1383. The substance of that fictional knight'salleged travels in India and China is stolen from Odoric, though amplified with fables from other sources and from the author's own invention, and garnished with that author's unusually clear astronomical knowledge and beliefs and it was circulated as 'The Travels of Sir John Mandeville'8, and it first appeared in Anglo-Norman French around 1357.

The Blessed Odoric's account of his travels circulated widely throughout Europe and took its place alongside other tales of fantastical adventures such as the forged -- obviously -- 'Letter of Prester John' that seems to have been written around AD1165 and that spread throughout Europe. The Prester John story was a very tall tale indeed with parallels that indicate that its author knew of the Romance of Alexander' and the 'Acts of Thomas' as well.

The 'Letter of Prester John', like all the other travelogues either factual or fantastic, was translated into numerous languages, including Hebrew, and it, itself, circulated in ever more embellished form for centuries in manuscripts, many examples of which still exist. The invention of printing perpetuated the letter's popularity in printed form as it did for all the other popular travel tales such as Odoric's; it was still current in popular culture during the period of European exploration and probably it and other travel writings including the Blessed Odoric's, inspired many of the European explorers. It is certain that such books gave the general public a taste for travel writings that persists to this day.

The Blessed Odoric was a courageous traveler -- in his day and age traveling was fraught with hazards that we more pampered, and technologically more competent, people can only imagine. He put himself in great danger by preaching the Word and celebratring the Eucharist wherever he went. We must never be afraid to travel and to hold fast to our Christianity wherever we go -- we should follow Odorics example in that -- and we should not be afraid, either, to write honestly about what we find on our travels. We must always tell the truth, for example, about the state of the Moammedan parts of the world -- and that's a lesson from the Blessed Odoric that many journalists should take to heart.

For the fourth of February I have selected Theophilus the Penitent who was a sixth century Archdeacon and diocesan administrator in Adana, in Cilicia in what is now Mohammedan occupied Turkey. He was offered the bishopric but declined out of humility. When the appointed bishop unfairly deposed him from his post he grew so angry that he made a pact with the devil. Repenting of his sin he prayed to the Virgin Mary and he awoke the next morning to find the scroll of the devilish pact in the bed beside him. He immediately made a public confession, performed sincere penance, and had the bishop burn the contract before the assembled congregation. Theophilus is a real historical figure who was quite popular during the Middle Ages and his story served as the basis for the later Faust theme so brilliantly developed by Christopher Marlowe, Goethe and others.

Saint Theophilus the Penitent (sometimes called Theophilus of Adana) died somewhen around AD538. His story is also significant as being the oldest story we have of a pact with the Devil. Eutychianus of Adana, who claimed to be an eyewitness of the events, was the first to record Theophilus' story. There is a famous fifteenth century painting by Michael Pacher (the Austrian painter and sculptor) of Theophilus renouncing his deal with the Devil on display at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich in Germany9 that is a panel of Pacher's Kirchenväteraltar ('Fathers of the Church') altarpiece that was painted circa 1483.

Again, a saint has had a large influence on our literature and his story has become part of our cultural background.

My saint for the fifth of February is Saint Avitus of Vienne (AD470 to 519) who was Bishop of Vienne in Gaul (modern day France). Avitus was the son of Bishop Isychius, a former Roman senator, and succeeded him to the see of Vienne in 490. He ransomed captives, became known for his wisdom and charity, and converted members of the Frankish tribes who dominated the region. In September in 517 he presided over the Synod of Epaone (sometimes called Epao, which is near the present day town of Anneyron in Burgundy in France). He was noted for his elegant writings, including an allegory, a poem on chastity (he wrote that poem for his sister Fuscina, a nun, praising her virginity), sermons, and letters, and his literary fame rests on his many surviving letters (ninety-six in all) and on a long poem, 'De spiritualis historiae gestis', in classical hexameters, in five books, dealing with the Biblical themes of Original Sin, Expulsion from Paradise, the Deluge and the Crossing of the Red Sea10.

In the first three books we are told the preliminaries of the great disaster, the catastrophe itself, and the consequences. The fourth and fifth books deal with the Deluge and the Crossing of the Red Sea as symbols of baptism. Avitus deals freely and familiarly with the Scriptural events and he is one of the last masters of the art of rhetoric as taught in the schools of Gaul in the fourth and fifth centuries.

The letters of Avitus are of considerable importance for the ecclesiastical and political history of the years between 499 and 518, as primary sources of early Merovingian political, ecclesiastical, and social history11. Amongst them is a famous letter to Clovis on the occasion of his baptism. There was, also, once a collection of his homilies and sermons, but they have all been lost -- except for two of them and some fragments and excerpts from the others.

However, Saint Avitus' greatest claim to fame in the literary world is that John Milton (1608 to 1674), the great English poet, polemicist and deeply scholarly man of letters, made use of his paraphrase of Scripture in writing the famous epic poem 'Paradise Lost'. That a fifth century, Latin speaking saint should influence one of England's greatest writers a millennium after that saint's death and help him to write what is arguably the finest epic poem written in modern English is proof, if it were needed, of the deep complexities of our culture and a clear demonstration of the depth of its roots in our history and in our Christianity.

It is worth noting here, also, and because of what we at NER stand for, that Milton's celebrated 'Areopagitica' (you can find the text here), is a written condemnation of pre-publication censorship and it stands as one of the most influential and impassioned defenses of free speech and the freedom of the press ever written.

By now, you, the reader of this article, have probably detected that I had a theme in mind as I selected this week's saints. Well, if you thought that then you would be correct in your assumption. I have selected saints for this week who, in my opinion, have had a great influence on our artistic and literary culture. I have done this in order to demonstrate, as forcefully as I know how, how deep the connection of our contemporary culture to our Christian heritage and our Christianity really is. Not all saints were martyred for the faith -- many were simple outstandingly good, charitable and virtuous men and women who laboured amongst human kind with the hope of improving humanity's lot. Many wrote, painted, composed music, studied the heavens, improved our sciences and our mathematics, but they all, by their lives and examples, reminded us, and continue to remind us, of our obligations to others and of just what moral behaviour should be. Sometimes, as with the saints I have chosen this week, their influence on our culture is manifest and wonderful.

So, for the sixth of February I have chosen to memorialise Saint Dorothy, sometimes called Dorothea or Dora (in Italian she is Santa Dorotea, and in Spanish, also, she is called Santa Dorotea) and she mustm't be confused with another fourth century saint called Dorothea of Alexandria. The Saint Dorothy to whom I am referring was executed circa AD311 at Caesarea Mazaca (modern Kayseri in central Anatolia in Mohammedan occupied Turkey) in the Diocletianic Persecution.

The story goes that on the way to the place of her execution Dorothy met a young lawyer called Theophilus who mockingly asked her to send him fruits from "the garden" that she had joyously announced that she would soon be in. When she knelt for her execution, she prayed, and an angel appeared carrying a basket of three roses and three apples, which she sent to Theophilus, telling him she would meet him in the garden -- Theophilus was converted to Christianity and later he was martyred -- but some particulars of the tale bear a remarkable similarity to 'The Tale of Three Apples' in 'The Book of the One Thousand and One Nights' which was compiled in Arabic in the eighth century from many tales from many different areas of the world. (Mohammedans have stolen even that which they claim as their own culture).

It's a lovely legend but it's more than just a mere story from history. Dorothy of Caesarea's life and martyrdom was the basis of Philip Massinger and Thomas Dekker's 'The Virgin Martyr' (first printed in 1622 -- the text is here, but scroll down a little to get at the hyperlinked section list).

This play -- 'The Virgin Martyr' -- is a Jacobean era stage play. It is a tragedy and it constitutes a rare instance in Massinger's canon in which he collaborated with a member of the previous generation of English Renaissance dramatists -- those who began their careers in the 1590s and were of the generation of Shakespeare and Jonson.

The play's central event, the martyrdom of St. Dorothea of Caesarea, is mentioned by John Foxe in his 'Acts and Monuments, or Book of Martyrs'. Dekker and Massinger based their play on 'Mercia' by Joseph Simon, a tragoedia sacra (commonly called a 'saint's play') based on the life of the seventh century Saint Chad of Mercia. (Chad, who died on the second of March in 672, was a prominent seventh century Anglo-Saxon churchman, who became abbot of several monasteries, Bishop of the Northumbrians and subsequently Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People. He was later canonised as a saint. He was the brother of Cedd, also a saint. He features strongly in the work of the Venerable Bede and is credited, together with Cedd, with introducing Christianity to the Mercian kingdom.)

'The Virgin Martyr' was first performed at the Red Bull Theatre in London on the sixth of October in 1620 and proved to be very popular. It was revived during the Restoration era when it was seen by Samuel Pepys, the great diarist and father of the Royal Navy. The play was also known for being the first play to dramatically and innovatively use music in its productions and its music inspired one of the more memorable entries in Pepys' famous Diary: "but that which did please me beyond any thing in the whole world was the wind-musique when the Angell comes down, which is so sweet that it ravished me; and endeed, in a word, did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife." Pepys would not have been familiar with the sound of the recorder, which was a rare instrument in England in his time.

John Dryden (1631 to 1700), who was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright and who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such an extent that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden, and who was made Poet Laureate in 1668, was heavily influenced by this Dekker and Massinger play in writing his 'Tyrannick Love, or The Royal Martyr' (1669), which is a tragedy in rhymed couplets, published in 1670. It is a retelling of the story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria and her martyrdom by the Roman Emperor Maximinus, the 'tyrant' of the title, who is enraged at Catherine's refusal to submit to his violent sexual passion. Dryden reportedly wrote the play in only seven weeks. Interestingly, Nell Gwyn played the tyrant's daughter Valeria in the first very successful production.

There you have it -- a fourth century saint and martyr was indirectly responsible for the invention of musical theatre by her influence on just two of England's great playrights whose influence on other, later writers has led to the wonderful musicals that we enjoy today and also led to later writers continuing to write sacra tragoediis, which are reckoned to be the precursors of today's 'soap operas'.

For the seventh of February I have chosen to bring to your attention the Blessed Rizzerio, who died in AD1236, and who was an early member of the Franciscans and one of the favourite followers of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 to 1226). He came from a wealthy family and he was born at Muccia, in the Italian Marches. While studying at the university of Bologna, Italy, probably in 1222, he had occasion to hear a sermon delivered by Saint Francis and was so moved that he soon joined the Franciscans. Subsequently ordained, he became a leading advisor to, and close friend of, Saint Francis.

I've included the Blessed Rizzerio for a very personal reason. For many years I wondered just who the character called Rinieri in 'The Little Flowers of Saint Francis' (English text with hyperlinks to each chapter is here) actually was. Eventually I learned that it was the Blessed Rizzerio -- the very man who was such a role model for so many Franciscans and lay people -- and to this day I cannot think of 'The Little Flowers' without thinking of the Blessed Rizzerio, and vice versa.

'The Little Flowers of Saint Francis' is a florilegium (a compilation of bits of a person's oeuvre) that was put together ostensibly from Saint Francis' works in the late fourteenth century (a century and a half after Saint Francis' death) by a Tuscan writer, probably Friar Ugolino da Santa Maria who is mentioned several times in the 'Actus beati Francisci et sociorum eius', on which 'The Little Flowers' is based, and of which the earliest extant manuscript is one dating to 1390. A number of the tales in 'The Little Flowers' can be found in much earlier works about Saint Francis. For example, Saint Francis preaching to the birds was described by Friar Masseo, and occurs, in 1236, in the writings of the Roger of Wendover (Wikipedia entry on him here), the great English chronicler of the thirteenth century.

Anyway, 'The Little Flowers' was the inspiration for Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film 'Francesco, giullare di Dio' ('Francis, God’s Jester') which was co-written by Federico Fellini. It was also used as a considerable source for the libretto of Olivier Messiaen’s (Wikipedia entry on him here) opera 'Saint-François d'Assise'. However, this florilegium is even more than just an inspiration for high culture, it has been, also, an inspiration for countless books and stories aimed at young children and it has preserved in its pages tales and legends from times even earlier than those of Saint Francis -- tales that even today inspire writers. One should remember, as well, that Saint Francis is credited with inventing the carved Nativity scenes, which he used as a teaching aid and that now we all have in our homes each and every Christmas and that the professed of the Franciscan Order, the Blessed Rizzerio amongst them, spread that wonderful invention throughout the world.

So, every time that I think of that good and holy man, the Blessed Rizzerio, who served G-d, his friend and his Order loyally and well, I think of his alter ego, Rinieri, in 'The Little Flowers' and my thoughts become enmeshed in the glorious and huge complexities of our culture and its reliance on our Christian past.

Saint John of Matha is my chosen saint for commemorating on the eighth of February. He was born into the Provencal nobility and educated at Aix in France. He then lived as a hermit at Faucon in France. He earned a doctorate in theology at the University at Paris and he was ordained in AD1197.

With the encouragement of Pope Innocent III, he founded the Hospitaler Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of Captives (Trinitarians or Redemptionists) to ransom Christian prisoners of the Mohammedans. The congregation finally received papal approval in 1209 and the Order was placed under the protection of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Remedy. John was the first superior general. Hundreds, probably thousands, of prisoners, both knights and ordinary soldiers, were ransomed and returned to their homes by the Order.

Christian slaves were first rescued by the Order in 1201. In 1202 and in 1210 John travelled to Tunisia at great personal risk to himself and brought back countless Christian slaves.

It is because John’s life contains such good story elements (visions, prisoners, rescued knights, slaves, travel outremer, etc.) that he became the topic for several biographies in the Middle Ages, and many of these are, basically, and not to put too fine a point on it, fiction. It's that copious early fiction about Saint John, and about the Order that he founded, that has continued down the ages and has led to the modern 'armour-horse-and-maiden' historical fantasies in both print and film (rudely called, in some circles, 'horses-whores-and-metal-jackets' fiction).

However, Saint John de Matha is chiefly famous in our time because of an association with abolitionists that was promulgated by John Greenleaf Whittier (December 17, 1807 to September 7, 1892) who was an influential American Quaker poet and passionate advocate of the abolition of slavery. He is one of the poets known as the Fireside Poets and he is remembered now chiefly for his poem 'Snow-Bound', and the words of the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' (from his poem 'The Brewing of Soma') that is usually sung to music composed by Hubert Parry.

Whittier also wrote a poem about Saint John de Matha, and about that saints work, that swept through the abolitionist camp in 1865 and for some time afterwards and it was arguably highly influential, and you can find the full text of it under footnote twelve to this article12. It brought the Saint and his Order back to public prominence and you can find schools and churches throughout the U.S.A. dedicated to Saint John de Matha's memory right to this day. The Saint and his work should be an inspiration to all of us as we remember that to this day the foul and accursed Mohammedans keep slaves and believe that it is right to do so. Saint John of Matha died in 1213 at Rome, but I'll let the poet have the final word on this Saint:

And lo! the cycle rounds again,
The new is as the old!
With rudder foully broken,
And sails by traitors torn,
Our country on a midnight sea
Is waiting for the morn.
Before her, nameless terror;
Behind, the pirate foe;
The clouds are black above her,
The sea is white below.
The hope of all who suffer,
The dread of all who wrong,
She drifts in darkness and in storm,
How long, O Lord, how long?
Take heart from John de Matha!--
God's errands never fail!
Sweep on through storm and darkness,
The thunder and the hail!
Sail on! The morning cometh,
The port ye yet shall win;
And all the bells of God shall ring
The good ship bravely in!

On this day, the eighth of February, it is appropriate that along with Saint John de Matha we remember Saint Josephine Bakhita (circa 1869 to 8th February, 1947) who was a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Roman Catholic Canossian nun in Italy, living and working there for 45 years. In 2000, she was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. She was born about 1869 in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, in the village of Olgossa, west of Nyala and close to Mount Agilerei. She belonged to the prestigious Daju people and her well respected and reasonably prosperous father was the brother of the village chief. She was surrounded by a loving family of three brothers and three sisters, and as she says in her autobiography: "I lived a very happy and carefree life, without knowing what suffering was". Sometime between the ages of seven to nine, probably in February 1877, she was kidnapped by Mohammedan Arab slave traders, who had already kidnapped her elder sister two years earlier. You can find her life story here at Wikipedia and it's well worth reading.

My final saint of the week -- for the ninth of February -- is the Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerick (8th September, 1774 to 9th February, 1824), who was a young woman of Coesfeld in Westphalia in Germany. She was employed as a seamstress and attended Mass daily. In her interior spiritual life she drew much inspiration from the liturgical ceremonies of the Church, especially those of Holy Week. At the age of twenty-eight, Anne Catherine entered an Augustinian convent. However, in 1811, after nine years of religious life, she was forced to leave when her convent was suppressed by Napoleon, who controlled the region. Soon afterwards she fell ill, and spent her remaining years bedridden. In this state of suffering, she received numerous visions, private revelations and the mystical gift of the stigmata.

During her bedridden years, a number of well known figures were inspired to visit her. The famous German poet Clemens Brentano13 interviewed her at length and wrote two books based on his notes of her visions. The authenticity of Brentano's writings has been questioned and critics have characterised the books as "conscious elaborations by a poet" and a "well-intentioned fraud". She was visited by the authors Luise Hensel and Friedrich Stolberg, as well, but they wrote only sparse diary notes about their visits.

In 2003 the actor Mel Gibson, a traditionalist Catholic, brought Saint Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions to prominence as he used her journal 'The Dolorous Passion', which was published posthumously in 1833, as a key source for his film 'The Passion of the Christ'. Although Gibson stated that Scripture and "accepted visions" were the only sources he drew on, a careful reading of the Saint's diary clearly demonstrates to many critics the film's high level of dependency on it.

In 2007 the German director Dominik Graf made the film 'Das Gelübde' ('The Vow') as a dramatisation of the encounters between Saint Anne Catherine (portrayed by actress Tanja Schleiff) and Clemens Brentano, and it was based on a novel of the same name by the famous German author, Kai Meyer, born on the twenty-third of July in 1969, who is also very popular in the English speaking world due to some excellent translations of his works.

So, an early nineteenth century saint is having an effect on the literature and the films of our age; she, porting some of our Christian heritage and spirituality, is influencing our culture just as the saints have always done. As long as there are good men and women who seek to know the will of G-d and to put it into practice in their lives, then there will always be stories to be told, images to be painted and people and institutions to be inspired.

The saints aren't just good and holy men and women; they are also an integral and formative part of our cultures and our societies and they can, by their examples and by what they have inspired in others and in us, help us to fight for those things that we hold dear -- our free way of life and our beliefs -- as we defend them against the vile, ravening Mohammedan hordes.



* The Latin words, Dies Gloriae, in this title mean 'Days of Glory' and come from Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae: Volume 30, The Gospel of Grace: q. 114 a. 8 co. 109-114: "[...] Prov. IV[:VIII], ["]iustorum semita quasi lux splendens procedit, et crescit usque ad perfectum diem["], [St. Jerome's Vulgate Latin Bible] qui est dies gloriae." ("...Proverbs 4:18: "But the path of the just, as a shining light, goeth forwards, and increaseth even to perfect day.," [Douay-Rheims Bible] which is the days of glory.")

1) For the other posts in this series click on the following links: (i) 'Dies Gloriae'*: From The Feast Of The Circumcision To The Epiphany (Dies Gloriae I), (ii) 'Dies Gloriae'* II: From Saint Raymond To Saint Benedict Biscop, (iii) 'Dies Gloriae'* III: From Saint Gumesindus To Saint Macarius The Great, (iv) 'Dies Gloriae'* IV: From Saint Euthymius The Great To The Blessed Michaël Kozal, (v) 'Dies Gloriae'*, V: From Saint Angela Merici To Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac -- And Candlemas,

2) This following quote is from Robert Spencer, the distinguished author on Mohammedanism, and can be found at his Jihad Watch website:

"A manual of Islamic law certified as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, says that "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right." However, "not subject to retaliation" is "a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring." ('Umdat al-Salik 01.1-2). In other words, someone who kills his child incurs no legal penalty under Islamic law."

3) KJV, John Chapter 8: Verses 1 to 12 (inc.):

Verse 1) Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2) And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3) And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4) They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5) Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6) This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7) So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8) And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9) And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10) When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11) She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
12) Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

4) Roger Scruton, the British philosopher, uses the word 'oikophobia' as the antithesis of xenophobia. In his book, 'Roger Scruton: Philosopher on Dover Beach', Mark Dooley describes oikophobia as centered within the Western academic establishment and making attacks on "both the common culture of the West, and the old educational curriculum that sought to transmit its humane values." This disposition has grown out of, for example, the writings of Jacques Derrida and of Michel Foucault's "assault on 'bourgeois' society result[ing] in an 'anti-culture' that took direct aim at holy and sacred things, condemning and repudiating them as oppressive and power-ridden."

"Derrida is a classic oikophobe in so far as he repudiates the longing for home that the Western theological, legal, and literary traditions satisfy. . . . Derrida's deconstruction seeks to block the path to this 'core experience' of membership, preferring instead a rootless existence founded 'upon nothing.' "

An extreme aversion to the sacred and the thwarting of the connection of the sacred to the culture of the West is described as the underlying motif of oikophobia; and not the substitution of Judeo-Christianity by another coherent system of belief. The paradox of the oikophobe seems to be that any opposition directed at the theological and cultural tradition of the West is to be encouraged even if it is "significantly more parochial, exclusivist, patriarchal, and ethnocentric." Scruton described "a chronic form of oikophobia [which] has spread through the American universities, in the guise of political correctness."

Scruton's usage has been taken up by some American political commentators to refer to the rejection of traditional American culture by the so-called 'liberal elite'. In August 2010 James Taranto wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal entitled 'Oikophobia, Why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting' in which he criticised supporters of the proposed Islamic centre in New York as oikophobes who were defending Muslims who aimed to "exploit the 9/11 atrocity". (From Wikipedia and quoting 'Roger Scruton: Philosopher on Dover Beach' by Mark Dooley; Continuum, 2009; p. 78 and also 'The Need for Nations' by Roger Scruton; Civitas, February 2004; p.37.)

Also note that Roger Scruton in his 2004 book argued that oikophobia is "a stage through which the adolescent mind normally passes", but that it is a feature of some, typically leftist, political impulses and ideologies which espouse xenophilia (preference for alien cultures).

Further, you can find Civitas (the publisher of the work by Roger Scruton that I cited and a useful source of material about the UK) behind this link. Civitas has many interesting free PDFs available for download - see this one in particular.

5) All my posts, for example, at NER are behind this link. Also, you can find my posts at NER about some of the various other ways in which we use the splendour of the days at: (i) On the Hours and the fightback against Mohammedan incursions in the workplace , (ii) on Advent , (iii) on Ash Wednesday , (iv) on Shrovetide , (v) on St. Valentine and his day , (vi) on the Golden Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary , (vii) on Candlemas , (viii) on one aspect of the Epiphany , (ix) on St. Priscilla - 16th. January , (x) on Twefth Night and the Epiphany , (xi) on St. Thomas Beckett and the Sts. Trophimus - 29th. December , (xii) on St. Gelasius - 21st. November , (xiii) on St. Gregory of Palamas and hesychasm (meditation) 14th. November , (xiv) on the Venerable Bede and music (especially Christmas Carols) , (xv) on St. Justus - 10th. November , (xvi) on St. Efflam - 7th. November , (xvi) on St.Leonard of Noblac - 6th. November , (xvii) on bonfires and saints , (xviii) here on Christmas Carols , (xix) and here , (xx) and here , (xxi) and here , (xxii) and here , (xxiii) and here , (xxiv) and here , (xxv) and here , (xxvi) and here , (xxvii) and here , (xxviii) and here , (xxix) on Bright Week (Holy Week) , (xxx) on St. Nicholas Owen - 22nd. March , (xxxi) on resolutions and Twelfth Night , (xxxii) on the Archbishop of Glasgow's Great Curse , (xxxiii) on Martinmas (Martlemas) , (xxxiv) on lighting the Guy Fawkes bonfire from the Sanctuary flame , (xxxv) on a Bonfire Night and a Martlemas scurrilous rhyme , (xxxvi) here on windows in churches and letting the light of God out , (xxxvii) and here , (xxxviii) on God being an Englishman , (xxxix) on Christianophobia; and added to those posts are those of my short stories at NER that indirectly address the same thing and they can be found at: (a) An Advent Tale, Or, Christmas Miracles Do Happen , (b) Holy Water, Or, There Is An Eastertide In The Affairs Of Men , (c) If Quires Of Angels Did Rejoice , (d) I Call The Living - I Mourn The Dead - I Break The Lightning .

6) The Church has always taught that Mohammedanism is evil. From Christianity's first encounter with that demonic creed that came out of Araby many have written about it and its damnable and rancid teachings. In AD746 St. John of Damascus wrote 'The Fount of Knowledge' the second part of which is called 'Heresies in Epitome: How They Began and Whence They Drew Their Origin'. In this book St. John refers often to the koran and, in St. John's opinion, its failure to stand up to even the most basic of scrutiny. 'The Fount of Knowledge' makes reference to many verses of the koran often with absolute disbelief that anyone could believe such crapulent outpourings.

Further, George Syncellus (we only know that he died sometime after AD810), who was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic and who retired to a monastery to write a chronicle of world history called Ekloge chronographias, or 'Extract of Chronography', was also of the opinion that Mohammedanism was perniciously evil. After Georges death his work was continued by his great friend Theophanes the Confessor (so successfully that the work is often referred to as 'Theophanes' Chronicle'). Theophanes the Confessor, who died somewhen around 822, writes about Mohammed thusly:

"At the beginning of his advent some misguided Jews thought he was the Messiah. ... But when they saw him eating camel meat, they realized that he was not the one they thought him to be, ... those wretched men taught him illicit things directed against us, Christians, and remained with him.

Whenever he came to Palestine he consorted with Jews and Christians and sought from them certain scriptural matters. He was also afflicted with epilepsy. When his wife became aware of this, she was greatly distressed, inasmuch as she, a noblewoman, had married a man such as he, who was not only poor, but also an epileptic. He tried deceitfully to placate her by saying, ‘I keep seeing a vision of a certain angel called Gabriel, and being unable to bear his sight, I faint and fall down.’"

Most damningly of all, however, Hugh Goddard in his book 'A History of Christian-Muslim Relations' mentions both John of Damascus and Theophanes the Confessor and goes on to examine Nicetas of Byzantium who drafted replies to letters on behalf of Emperor Michael III (842-867). Goddard sums up Nicetas' opinions like this:

"In short, Muhammad was an ignorant charlatan who succeeded by imposture in seducing the ignorant barbarian Arabs into accepting a gross, blaspheming, idolatrous, demoniac religion, which is full of futile errors, intellectual enormities, doctrinal errors and moral aberrations."

Goddard points out that we can see in Nicetas' writings a knowledge of the whole of the koran, including an extensive knowledge of suras two to eighteen. Nicetas' writings expressed the standard Christian viewpoint about Mohammedanism that was endorsed by all the Patriarchs -- that it was a demonic belief system. That standard Christian teaching lasted in the West right up to the infamous Second Vatican Council.

Much that is highly suspect was promulgated at that strange Council. The problem with that Council was that in the period between the first and second sessions there was a change of pontiff from Pope John XXIII (doctrinally sound and spiritually impeccable) to Pope Paul VI (wooly and heavily influenced by the weird and completely false idea that in many cases socialism was merely secularised Christianity) who had been a member of the circle (the 'Badaliya' as it is strangely called) of the kindly and well-meaning but misguided and incompetent scholar of Mohammedanism, Louis Massignon, who, frankly, was more than tinged with oikophobia and was probably a little crazy (strangely, in quite a lovable way) as well.

Massignon was basically the sort of intellectual who when confronted by any belief really couldn't help himself but try to justify it or find something, anything, good about it. He, himself, was of such a good disposition that he was constitutionally incapable of seeing evil and his influence over the spiritually inclined, and in many ways innocent, Pope Paul VI in the matter of Mohammedanism and how it was addressed at the Second Vatican Council was nothing short of disastrous. In fact, that Pope's well meant meddling with Church teaching on this and other subjects, and the silly pronouncements of the intellectually challenged Bishops at the Council who agreed with him, have made Vatican Two a byword amongst all Christians for untrustworthy rulings and very strange, to say the least, decisions.

The weirdest of those decisions, as far as we are concerned here, must be the promulgation of two documents -- 'Nostra Aetate' (see Note (i) below), specifically paragraph three, and 'Lumen Gentium' (see Note (ii) below), specifically paragraph sixteen. Together, they effectively undid the Western Church's fifteen hundred year old teachings about the evil nature of Mohammedanism without even examining the evidence (the Orthodox Churches have not, so far, followed that course). Of course, those self-same documents, and others, also introduced other basic errors into Christian teaching -- some of them even more serious than the roll-back on Mohammedanism -- that we have had to fight against for almost the last fifty years.

Basically, what Vatican Two actually did was it let the twin, and related, evils of socialism and relativism into the Church, and every branch and every denomination of the Church has had to fight ever since to put those crazed genies back in their bottles. Regrettably, the Melchite Catholic Patriarch at the time, Maximos IV, was pressing Pope Paul very hard to come to some accomodation that Mohammedans could feel good about so that Christians in the Arab and Mohammedan occupied lands could feel a little safer -- once again throw food to the crocodile in the vain hope that it will eat you last.

Note, (i): 'Nostra Aetate' ('In our Age') is the 'Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions' It was promulgated on October 28, 1965, by Pope Paul VI, following approval by the assembled bishops. English translation here.

Note, (ii): 'Lumen Gentium' ('Light of the Nations'), is the 'Dogmatic Constitution on the Church' and is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council. It was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964, following approval by the assembled bishops. English translation here.

7) 'The Travels of Friar Odoric: 14th Century Journal of the Blessed Odoric of Pordenone', translated by Sir Henry Yule with an introduction by Paolo Chiesa, William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001, hardcover, pp.174, ISBN 0802849636, ISBN 978-0802849632.

It also worth reading Dr. Dianne Tillotson's short paper on medieval travelogues that you can find here at her site.

8) 'The Travels of Sir John Mandeville', translated by C. W. R. D. Moseley, Penguin Classics (UK), 2005, softcover, pp224, ISBN 9780141441436.

9) The Alte Pinakothek art museum is situated in the Kunstareal in Munich in the province of Bavaria in Germany. It is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses one of the most famous collections of Old Master paintings. Its English language website is here.

10) The full text of 'De spiritualis historiae gestis' can be found here, albeit in a very pedestrian translation into English that has a good, though long, introduction and very informative notes.

11) Avitus was one of four (fifth into the sixth-century) Gallo-Roman aristocrats whose letters survive in quantity. The others are Sidonius Apollinaris, prefect of Rome in AD468 and bishop of Clermont (died in 485), Ruricius, bishop of Limoges, (died in 507) and Magnus Felix Ennodius of Arles, bishop of Ticinum (died in 534). All of them were linked in a tightly-bound aristocratic Gallo-Roman network that provided the bishops of Catholic Gaul (modern France). See Ralph W. Mathisen, 'Epistolography, Literary Circles and Family Ties in Late Roman Gaul', Transactions of the American Philological Association 111, 1981, pp. 95-109.

12) 'The Mantle Of St. John De Matha' by John Greenleaf Whittier (1865):

A STRONG and mighty Angel,
Calm, terrible, and bright,
The cross in blended red and blue
Upon his mantle white.
Two captives by him kneeling,
Each on his broken chain,
Sang praise to God who raiseth
The dead to life again!
Dropping his cross-wrought mantle,
"Wear this," the Angel said;
"Take thou, O Freedom's priest, its sign,
The white, the blue, and red."
Then rose up John de Matha
In the strength the Lord Christ gave,
And begged through all the land of France
The ransom of the slave.
The gates of tower and castle
Before him open flew,
The drawbridge at his coming fell,
The door-bolt backward drew.
For all men owned his errand,
And paid his righteous tax;
And the hearts of lord and peasant
Were in his hands as wax.
At last, outbound from Tunis,
His bark her anchor weighed,
Freighted with seven-score Christian souls
Whose ransom he had paid.
But, torn by Paynim hatred,
Her sails in tatters hung;
And on the wild waves, rudderless,
A shattered hulk she swung.
"God save us!" cried the captain,
"For naught can man avail;
Oh, woe betide the ship that lacks
Her rudder and her sail!
"Behind us are the Moormen;
At sea we sink or strand
There's death upon the water,
There's death upon the land!"
Then up spake John de Matha
"God's errands never fail!
Take thou the mantle which I wear,
And make of it a sail."
They raised the cross-wrought mantle,
The blue, the white, the red;
And straight before the wind off-shore
The ship of Freedom sped.
"God help us!" cried the seamen,
"For vain is mortal skill
The good ship on a stormy sea
Is drifting at its will."
Then up spake John de Matha
"My mariners, never fear
The Lord whose breath has filled her sail
May well our vessel steer!"
So on through storm and darkness
They drove for weary hours;
And lo! the third gray morning shone
On Ostia's friendly towers.
And on the walls the watchers
The ship of mercy knew,
They knew far off its holy cross,
The red, the white, and blue.
And the bells in all the steeples
Rang out in glad accord,
To welcome home to Christian soil
The ransomed of the Lord.
So runs the ancient legend
By bard and painter told;
And lo! the cycle rounds again,
The new is as the old!
With rudder foully broken,
And sails by traitors torn,
Our country on a midnight sea
Is waiting for the morn.
Before her, nameless terror;
Behind, the pirate foe;
The clouds are black above her,
The sea is white below.
The hope of all who suffer,
The dread of all who wrong,
She drifts in darkness and in storm,
How long, O Lord, how long?
But courage, O my mariners
Ye shall not suffer wreck,
While up to God the freedman's prayers
Are rising from your deck.
Is not your sail the banner
Which God hath blest anew,
The mantle that De Matha wore,
The red, the white, the blue?
Its hues are all of heaven,
The red of sunset's dye,
The whiteness of the moon-lit cloud,
The blue of morning's sky.
Wait cheerily, then, O mariners,
For daylight and for land;
The breath of God is in your sail,
Your rudder is His hand.
Sail on, sail on, deep-freighted
With blessings and with hopes;
The saints of old with shadowy hands
Are pulling at your ropes.
Behind ye holy martyrs
Uplift the palm and crown;
Before ye unborn ages send
Their benedictions down.
Take heart from John de Matha!--
God's errands never fail!
Sweep on through storm and darkness,
The thunder and the hail!
Sail on! The morning cometh,
The port ye yet shall win;
And all the bells of God shall ring
The good ship bravely in!

13) Clemens Brentano, or Klemens Brentano, (September 9, 1778 to July 28, 1842) was a prolific and famous German poet and novelist who was born at Ehrenbreitstein near Koblenz in Germany. His sister was Bettina von Arnim, Goethe's correspondent. He studied in Halle and Jena, and after that he lived at Heidelberg, Vienna and Berlin. He was close to the literary figures Wieland, Herder, Goethe, Friedrich Schlegel, Fichte and Tieck.

Brentano, whose early writings were published under the pseudonym Maria, belonged to the Heidelberg group of German romantic writers, and his works are marked by abundant use of fantastic imagery and by abrupt seeming modes of expression. His work is referenced in Thomas Mann's novel 'Doctor Faustus' -- a cycle of thirteen songs, based on Brentano's poems, is noted in Chapter XXI as one of the composer protagonist's most significant early works.

On the whole Brentano's finest works are usually held to be the collection of 'Romanzen vom Rosenkranz' (published posthumously in 1852), his short stories, and most especially the charming 'Geschichte vom braven Kasperl und dem schönen Annerl' (1817) -- 'The Story of Casper the Just and Fair Annie', which has been translated into English and is still in print.


Posted on 02/03/2013 8:23 PM by John M. Joyce
Sunday, 3 February 2013
Tunisia: Rachid Ghannouchi's Son-In-Law Checks Into The Sheraton
Read all about it, and the political significance, here.
Posted on 02/03/2013 10:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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