Christianity’s coats of many colours

06 Jun

That of course is an allusion to the common mistranslation of the coat young Joseph had in Genesis.

Jacob loved Joseph more than he did any of his other sons, because Joseph was born after Jacob was very old. Jacob had given Joseph a fancy coat to show that he was his favorite son, and so Joseph’s brothers hated him and would not be friendly to him. — Genesis 37: Contemporary English Version. [Or “a coat of many colors” or “a coat with long sleeves.”]

My current reading following the US Episcopalian Daily Office — an eccentricity of mine — has been taking me through Deuteronomy. Aside from being a cat in T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, Deuteronomy is the fifth of the so-called five books of Moses. It was written much later than the other four, and contains quite obvious evidence of its late date. For example:

Chapter 17: The King
Moses said:

People of Israel, after you capture the land the LORD your God is giving you, and after you settle on it, you will say, ” We want a king, just like the nations around us.”

Go ahead and appoint a king, but make sure that he is an Israelite and that he is the one the LORD has chosen.

The king should not have many horses, especially those from Egypt. The LORD has said never to go back there again. And the king must not have a lot of wives–they might tempt him to be unfaithful to the LORD.  Finally, the king must not try to get huge amounts of silver and gold. The official copy of God’s laws will be kept by the priests of the Levi tribe. So, as soon as anyone becomes king, he must go to the priests and write out a copy of these laws while they watch. Each day the king must read and obey these laws, so that he will learn to worship the LORD with fear and trembling and not think that he’s better than everyone else. If the king completely obeys the LORD’s commands, he and his descendants will rule Israel for many years.

Rather than being amazing foresight on the part of Moses, this is post-Solomon politics on the part of the Jewish priesthood.

Now there is much that is to be treasured in Deuteronomy. For example:

Those of you that become judges must be completely fair when you make legal decisions, even if someone important is involved. Don’t take bribes to give unfair decisions. Bribes keep people who are wise from seeing the truth and turn honest people into liars. People of Israel, if you want to enjoy a long and successful life, make sure that everyone is treated with justice in the land the LORD is giving you. [Chapter 16]

But you don’t have to go far to find the origins of Talibanism and similar phenomena:

Someone else may say to you, ” Let’s worship other gods.” That person may be your best friend, your brother or sister, your son or daughter, or your own dear wife or husband. But you must not listen to people who say such things. Instead, you must stone them to death. You must be the first to throw the stones, then others from the community will finish the job. Don’t show any pity.

The gods worshiped by other nations have never done anything for you or your ancestors. People who ask you to worship other gods are trying to get you to stop worshiping the LORD, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. So put to death anyone who asks you to worship another god. And when the rest of Israel hears about it, they will be afraid, and no one else will ever do such an evil thing again.

After the LORD your God gives you towns to live in, you may hear a rumor about one of the towns. You may hear that some worthless people have talked everyone there into worshiping other gods, even though these gods had never done anything for them. You must carefully find out if the rumor is true. Then if the people of that town have actually done such a disgusting thing in your own country, you must take your swords and kill every one of them, and their livestock too.  [Chapter 13]

The Episcopalian Prayer Book leaps over such passages with embarrassment and alacrity. Muhammad of course took such teaching on board with considerable enthusiasm, the Quran being from my reading of it as clear an example of intertextuality as one could hope to find; he also took on board its positive teachings on justice and equity, to be fair.

Of course Christians will point out that stoning to death went out of fashion quite some time ago, so far as they are concerned; but putting witches to death persisted well into the eighteenth century and is well attested in the Pentateuch.

The Episcopalian Prayer Book has also been taking me through 2 Corinthians. That is one interesting letter, among the most personal of Paul’s letters. But even there, in a passage in Chapter 6 many scholars believe to be a later interpolation, there are intimations of a Talibanesque view of the world.

Stay away from people who are not followers of the Lord! Can someone who is good get along with someone who is evil? Are light and darkness the same? Is Christ a friend of Satan?  Can people who follow the Lord have anything in common with those who don’t? Do idols belong in the temple of God? We are the temple of the living God, as God himself says, “I will live with these people and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”  The Lord also says, “Leave them and stay away! Don’t touch anything that isn’t clean. Then I will welcome you and be your Father. You will be my sons and my daughters, as surely as I am God, the All-Powerful.”

I am utterly agnostic when it comes to a hard doctrine of inspiration such as fundamentalists profess; in fact I am rather more than agnostic about it, being quite certain the doctrine is dubious and its “proof” notoriously circular. So while he is no ignoramus or redneck, Sydney’s Archbishop Jensen is really on shaky ground, even as he seeks to plant himself and the church on a firm foundation. See the ongoing Anglican saga as reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Gay death knell for the Anglican communion. (It should be noted that David Marr, as a gay ex-fundamentalist, is not the most objective of reporters on such matters, but his account of the Archbishop’s position is fair enough.)

AS THE Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Peter Jensen, prepares to leave for the conference that will decide the fate of the worldwide Anglican church, fresh trouble in North America suggests the 450-year old communion has little hope of holding together.

Archbishop Jensen is one of the leaders of 1000 conservative churchmen from 17 Anglican provinces who will gather at the Jerusalem Global Anglican Futures Conference this month. Mainly from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, they are united on one principal issue: hostility to homosexuality.

But Archbishop Jensen argues: “This dispute is not really about homosexuality. It’s really about authority and who runs the church. And fairly clearly, to most of the rest of us, God runs the church through the Bible.”…

The Catholic Church would disagree with the last proposition there, but I won’t pursue that theological hare at this point.

I find reading the Bible, and indeed many other texts from many religious traditions, is a great source of inspiration nonetheless, a confirmation of the quest, an echo of what the conservative (but not ignorant) Christian writer Philip Yancey has called Rumors of Another World. My own position is more akin to what I find on the site Radical Faith, among others you can see on my links page. Anything there I feel is worth considering, but that is not to say I endorse them all, or all that they say.

More evangelical than I am but still well worth attending to is another site I regularly visit: Sojourners — especially the blog. Consider the latest entry: A Transformational Moment (by Jim Wallis):

When the historic legislative milestone of the Voting Rights Act finally passed in 1965, I was still a young teenager. Until then, black people in America didn’t have the right to vote. And until the Civil Rights Act passed the previous year in 1964, black Americans had to drink from separate drinking fountains, eat at separate lunch counters, ride at the back of buses, and watch movies only from the balconies of theaters. Then there was all the violence. I remember a civil rights worker from my hometown of Detroit, named Viola Liuzzo, who traveled to the South in order to help black people win the right to vote for the first time. She was murdered for doing so.

I was still in the U.K. on a book tour Tuesday night, just having finished speaking to a forum at the British Parliament with ministers from all three parties about the relationship between faith and politics. Then I stayed up until 4 a.m. to watch Barack Obama claim the nomination of the Democratic Party for president of the United States. It was my birthday the next day, and I recalled those days when the relationship between faith and politics for many black and a few white Christians was that if you stood up for civil rights — especially the right to vote for black Americans — it could get you killed. So I was not only blurry-eyed but also more than a little teary-eyed as I watched a young black man announce that he was ready to run for president of the United States, and for most of America to assume that he had a chance to win.

Race was the issue that led to my own confrontation with the church that raised me. It was my “converting issue,” though the conversion led me out of the white church of my childhood, not into the church. A church elder bluntly told me one night that “Christianity has nothing to do with racism. That’s political and our faith is personal.” I was only about 15, but it was the night I think I left, in my head and my heart. And a couple years later, I was gone all together…

Meanwhile it is that time of the month again and South Sydney Uniting Church has just published the June South Sydney Herald. As Andrew Collis notes, “You’ll see that (on p. 12) our SSH volunteers recently received an award from Housing NSW, the Factory Community Centre and Volunteering Australia ‘in recognition of outstanding volunteers and contribution to our community life’. So, congratulations, and thanks again!” The front page makes interesting reading as a foil to Archbishop Jensen. There is also towards the back a profile of the lovely Dorothy McRae-McMahon. Have a look: June South Sydney Herald (PDF).


There have been developments, speaking of Talibanesque tendencies, in the Bill Henson naked teens case. The Federal Police have decided not to proceed.

IT’S official. The picture of the naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not pornography.

The sight of her on an invitation to the photographer’s Sydney exhibition two weeks ago provoked shock and outrage, but the Classifications Board has now declared the picture “mild” and safe for many children.

Yesterday the Herald also learned that the Director of Public Prosecutions was on the verge of advising NSW police that any prosecution of Henson was unlikely to succeed. In Canberra, Federal Police also announced that no charges would be laid over photographs in the Australian National Gallery.

The Henson affair appears close to collapse…

Kevin Rudd is sticking to his guns, even if it is now manifest that Henson’s work is not considered in the same league at all as this vile activity. See however the range of comments — some of them may lead to baldness when you tear your hair out — on the ABC report.


Given the nature of the post and the comments appearing thus far, let me draw your attention to a note in the side bar: The writings and opinions written on this weblog do not necessarily represent any organisation(s) the writer may be affiliated with. I can report quite happily though that I just received an email from my church’s minister congratulating me on this post! 🙂

UPDATE Saturday

What a crop of comments this has attracted! Some are good-natured, some have dark undertones. I should mention up front that however much Kevin and I disagree I have good reason, going back a year, to respect him as a person. You may wonder from the comment thread, but I still do respect him.

However, I am gobsmacked that someone could get so worried about the sight of “deviant” clothing on Salam Cafe!  Such a worry.


Susan Carland, with her husband Waleed Aly, and children Zayd and Aisha. [Photo: Craig Abraham]

They look so scary, don’t they? The picture is linked to its source on Rickshaw Diaries.

Perhaps the “coat of many colours” I began with has taken on a whole new set of references now about what is so good, at its best, about life here in Australia.

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27 responses to “Christianity’s coats of many colours

  1. Kevin

    June 6, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Very impressive! You have blamed the taliban on the jooooooos! Kudos to you for that impressive slight of hand. Weird that Jews don’t kill people for their God, and muslims do (most people think the taliban is a muslim group)… often, but still, what does that matter? It’s the fault of the jooos! They’re so pesky, huh?

    Good Lord. I’m kind of embarrassed for you.

  2. Kevin

    June 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Also, you can’t make something ‘officially not porn’. Pornography is subjective. That said, I find photos of nude female children to be pornographic, disgusting and offensive, but if you think it’s fine in some instances, well, we both live in free nations. But if she sued and I was on the jury, she’d be a very rich woman by now.

    “IT’S official. The picture of the naked girl that sparked the Bill Henson fuss is not pornography.”

  3. ninglun

    June 6, 2008 at 11:45 am

    You have blamed the taliban on the jooooooos! No. I have simply written factually about the shared history of the three religions that derive from the Abraham myth. I am sure I have offended very many Muslims (and others) in so doing, but I’m afraid I can’t alter history.

    It is true that not all followers of the Abrahamic religions are into the bloodier and more bigoted parts of their traditions, and that applies to very many Muslims too. Islam is a close relative of Judaism and Christianity though, and that is a matter of fact, not of opinion. It is simply true, whichever way you spin it. Judaism and Christianity have grown used to ignoring (or sifting and winnowing) a great deal about their own pasts, probably a healthy development, and there are many Muslims who are quite prepared to do the same. See for example people in Indonesia recently who have been prepared to do so at considerable personal risk: here is one in the Jakarta Post.

    It is we, the tolerant and peaceful Muslims, who comprise the bigger number compared to those small numbers of paramilitary members. And what is astonishing is that the government prefers listening to them than taking into consideration the bigger number of tolerant Muslims in Indonesia.

    Neither the government nor the MUI is interested in taking into account the voices marching on the street demanding a peaceful Indonesian Islam.

    Other “Islamic” paramilitary groups claim constantly that they are the true defenders of Islam, saying Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) while at the same time lashing women with bamboo. I murmur Allahu Akbar in prayers as well, but in a different way, expressing love for universal humanity, filling and recharging the soul with positive energy. It is certainly the same Allahu Akbar articulated by Indonesian Muslims during their five daily prayers. But it is not the FPI’s hijacked Allahu Akbar and their brutal fascism.

    Is this Islamic? Definitely not. It is a hijacked Islam. It is a politicized Islam. It is indeed an androcentric and misogynist “Islam”.

    I suspect though that there would be quite a few very dead Palestinian children who would doubt the innocence of the Judaism being practised by the Israeli government today, and before you jump down my throat, yes I am well aware it has taken two to tango and all that, and I am also well aware that there are Israelis and Jews here and in your country who would find that the morality of the Palestine problem has been very troubling, and say so quite often. I have had discussions along these lines over many years, with Orthodox Jewish friends, and especially when teaching for two years in an Orthodox Jewish school — so I am not totally naive about the issue.

    Do not ever imply that I am anti-semitic, but I do try to be honest about these things. That includes recognising that Moses did not write — could not have written in the form we have them — the five “books of Moses”, while recognising they are very ancient texts with a long oral tradition behind them. While this has been generally recognised since the nineteenth century it still has not penetrated the world of fundamentalism. It follows from that that the Quran can’t possibly be exactly what it says it is, but that is a position very many Muslims struggle against. It also follows from this that the New Testament is not exactly what tradition has said it is. In my own church that is pretty much recognised, though there are shades of viewpoint on that. It is the spirit of the thing that lives on.

  4. Kevin

    June 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    So weird. I’m fairly certain that your writings have never ever offended a muslim. They seem designed only to offend Jews and Christians. And Americans, of course. Eh, maybe it’s just me though.

    “No. I have simply written factually about the shared history of the three religions that derive from the Abraham myth.”

    If we are going to factual, then that’s not at all what you did. You have used a passage from the Torah (which I call the ‘Jewish Bible’ – I’m American – we can do that without repercussion) to explain why muslims kill people! If that’s not audacious, I don’t know what is. Perhaps you could blame the Nazis killing Jews on the first five chapters of the Bible as well?

    Sheesh. You’re a VERY intelligent man, Neil. But think before your write! I get that you don’t believe in God or gods. That’s fine. It’s your prerogative. I pretty much don’t either (although I do still hope). But you can’t go blaming one religion for another religion’s scumbaggery! islam is the one killing people. Judaism is not. Christianity is not. It’s just islam.

    “Do not ever imply that I am anti-semitic”

    I don’t often imply much. I just say it. But in this case, I’m not calling you anti-semitic. I’m not even supporting the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible. I’m just saying that if you really want to understand terrorists, or as you call them, ‘talibanism’, perhaps you should look in the koran and the hadiths. You’ll find plenty of fodder in there. Since those are the books they read, it is somewhat more appropriate.

  5. ninglun

    June 6, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I have read the Quran, several of the hadiths, and many authorities on terrorism. As I’ve told you before, Kevin. And I have posted loud and long on the subject. What I have said about the Quran would deeply offend many Muslims, confirming Hell as my probable future abode…

    But think before your write! I get that you don’t believe in God or gods. That’s fine. 1. I do think before I write. 2. I do believe in God. That ought to be apparent, I would have thought; certainly my atheist blog-mates Bruce and AV seem to have little problem noticing that.

    What those passages from Deuteronomy say is perfectly plain, and yes unfortunately they are, some of them, part of the long tradition of ethnic cleansing and genocide, which is extremely ironic and difficult, but needs to be recognised, as also does the full horror of the Holocaust which I am in no way “blaming” on those texts in Deuteronomy. I understand how and why the current State of Israel came into being and have been very sympathetic to it, and to many of the Israelis I have met and worked with. At the same time there was a built-in time bomb there right from the start: the land was already occupied. Unless on both sides there could be a genuine sharing — and at times this did happen at least in the experience of some who have lived there — there were bound to be problems down the track, and that is what has happened.

    What I am saying about the Torah is 1) it was known to Muhammad — a fact the Quran itself mentions again and again and 2) the Quran did not arise in a vacuum but repeated much of the teaching of the prophets Islam recognises, among them Moses (Musa) and Jesus (Isa). From my point of view much of the best and the worst in the Biblical tradition is amplified in the Quran. As I was reading several chapters in the Quran just a month or so back that was what really struck me about it. There is very little in the Quran that is not paralleled in the earlier religious texts. Believing and literal-minded Muslims would see me as daring to question the special unique nature of the Quran in saying all that, and would react accordingly no doubt. On the other hand many Muslims would recognise that historically what I am saying is simply true.

  6. James Russell

    June 7, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I find photos of nude female children to be pornographic

    Good for you. Personally, I quite often find photos of clothed adult women highly pornographic. It is indeed subjective, as you say.

  7. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 3:58 am

    “Personally, I quite often find photos of clothed adult women highly pornographic.”

    HAH! Too true :).

    Nin, I’m glad you believe in God, and honestly, I am a bit envious of you for your ability to do that. There is great comfort and purpose for living that can be found believing in God, provided he’s not the evil murderous one described in the koran. Being selfish, I want that for me! But so far, I’m not up to the challenge :(. I’m not giving up though.

    But that doesn’t excuse your discussion about how muslim murderosity (that’s not a word, but it should be) is rooted in the Jewish Bible. True enough, mohammed was aware of the Torah (aka the Jewish Bible!) and the Bible (aka the Christian Bible), but he distorts or completely changes the meanings of everything in both, and bends them towards the idea that murdering non-muslims is the job of every muslim. He did the same thing as I’m about to do:

    Ayn Rand proves to us in ‘Atlas Shrugs’ that if someone disagrees with us, we should kill them. Freedom is that important.

    Now, if I said such an obviously untrue statement, would you be ok with blaming Ayn Rand as the root of the problem, since I read her boring book, and came to that conclusion? I certainly hope not. But that’s exactly what you are doing to the Jews.

    You say that while reading the koran, you noticed that it was similar to earlier texts. I’ll ask you again: How then do you explain the fact that only followers of Islam are killing people for their God? I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say ‘let’s kill this guy for Jesus!’ or ‘Yahweh commands that we murder this person.’ On the other hand, I’ve seen too many beheadings saying ‘Islamgod is great!’ But you have the audacity to blame the Torah for this horrid practice. Disgusting.

    Lastly, don’t fall for the British spelling of things. ‘Recognise’ is not a real word. It’s ‘recognize’. Don’t be afraid of the zee! It’s your friend. Break those bonds that have left you in bondage to GB for decades. Embrace the z! Also, don’t call it ‘zed’. That’s just lame.

  8. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 5:44 am

    Jeez, wake up Ninglun, ya sleepyhead! (This is why I hate comment moderation, btw)

  9. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 9:32 am

    You are not being moderated, Kevin. Akismet has decided you are spam, partly because you have made Google your home page instead of your real blog, I suspect.

    As for the rest of your argument, look again at the Indonesian Muslim in Comment 3 and realise she is not alone. Your lumping of all Muslims in with extremists and terrorists is totally unfair and inaccurate.

    Allah is merely Arabic for Yahweh or God. It is the same one God.

    Killing for Jesus has in fact been commonplace at various times in history, as you would well know. Ask the Incas. Read about the Crusades. See my 2005 post Book Review: The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf. New York: Schocken, 1987. Amin Maalouf is a Christian Palestinian Lebanese with an excellent message for us all, Muslim, Jew, Christian, or Other…

    As for the spelling, I’ll keep following Australian standards thanks. Why should I emphasise our cultural and political bondage to the USA? 😉

  10. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    (aside) Oops! Not sure why I had google there. Fixed. TY for noticing that. I actually had a problem with Askimet labeling me as a spammer just two weeks ago, making it impossible to comment on most blogs. I emailed them and they quickly fixed it… for most blogs, at least. Perhaps changing my website will fix it here as well. They are very friendly people, FWIW.

    I’m truly not lumping muslims into a group. IMO, there are close to a billion muslims who don’t understand what the koran is telling them to do. Having read most of it, and a bit of the hadiths (not nearly all of them, I’m embarrassed to say), I’m very glad they don’t get it. It’s not muslims who are the problem. It’s the suras and hadiths. It’s islam.

    “Allah is merely Arabic for Yahweh or God. It is the same one God.”

    Yes, and I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Just because a being comes to you while you are experiencing an epileptic fit and says he’s God doesn’t MAKE him God, does it? Couldn’t he just as easily be a demon? We’re just people after all, so how would we know the difference? Judging from the deaths that this being caused as Islam was spread across Arabia and Africa, and the murders going on his name presently, I’m suggesting that he is the latter.

    But that’s just an opinion. You are entitled to your own. I’ll probably not change your mind, and you’ll certainly not change mine until the murders for Allah stop. Think that will happen soon? On to the more important topic:

    EMBRACE THE Z!!! You know you want to. Why fight it? When you and your liberal friends get together, you no longer have to refer to it as ‘a meeting’. You can say you ‘organized’! As an added bonus, you’ll never have to use that ‘ae’ letter ever again!

    If we have to say ‘fair dinkum’, call our friends ‘mates’ and call our grilled food ‘fresh off the barby’, the LEAST you could do is spell things with z’s in reciprocation. On second thought, let’s change that word. You should do it in reziprocation. I am boycotting Victoria Bitter until you join the z bandwagon.

    Don’t chuck a spaz 🙂

  11. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Quick response, as I have to go and tutor someone named Hades!

    Glad you despammed yourself. As for the “zed” I am staying Aussie on that, though you may notice I write program not programme.

    I do not accept the Muslim view of the Quran, obviously. Otherwise I would be a Muslim. I do not however go out of my way to insult those who do accept it. Before you respond on my views on the Bible, I should mention they are actually perfectly respectable, except for fundamentalists, being taught pretty much in just about every important theological school in the USA!

  12. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Yet another example of what I’m saying! You would not have to call that old house of English aristocracy ‘tudors’. You could call them tutors in America! It’s that easy. Come over to the dark side, Ninglun. Cheeseburgers for lunch… every day! And if you want to be worldly, you could have French fries! Do I need to sweeten the deal? Ok, I will. In America, you can worship the mass murderer named Che Guevara! Liberals love that. And all it will cost you is replacing 5-10% of your s’es with z’s. Is that too much to ask? C’mon. Pleaze? I’ll pre-approve you for a Visa and a Mastercard…

    I cannot, and barring a bunch of people murdering in the name of Jesus, would not, comment on your views of the Bible. I’m not well versed enough. All I remember is Moses flinging toads at Egyptians, climbing a mountain and bringing down some rules, and Jesus saying that mustard seeds grow better in fertile soil than in rocks. Oh yeah, there was a cow made of gold in there too, if the movies can be trusted. I don’t care a whit about Judaism or Christianity, since neither are causing people to die. Say what you want about them, as long as you don’t suggest that they are the root cause of muslim murderocity.

    Hey, if that hell kid tells you he’s God, it would be wise to doubt him. I’m just sayin… Don’t pull a mohammed on us. We’ve still not rebounded from THAT fiasco.

  13. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Yes, the current crop of terrorism (aside from the Tamil Tigers and a few others) is mostly from extremist Muslim sources. Earlier crops came from Basques and Irish. In Palestine in the late 1940s some of the terrorist atrocities — such as blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem — were Jewish.

    No, this does not mean all Muslims are murderous, nor is the Quran much less murderous as a text than the Tanach (Jewish Bible — Torah is part thereof). There are few bloodthirsty texts out there more bloodthirsty than the Book of Revelation, which only just made it into the Christian canon I should add.

    Hades, by the way, is Chinese and 20 something. I somehow doubt he is into any religion, but his choice of English name is certainly different…

    I am not a fan of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Che Guevara, by the way, no more than I am of that creep in Zimbabwe…

    Go to the VodPod and see at the top at the moment Aussie Muslims having fun on TV. The new series is at 10 on Wednesday nights on SBS. You can watch it right now on your computer!

  14. DavidG.

    June 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    “Weird that Jews don’t kill people for their God, and muslims do,” says our Kevin.

    “I don’t care a whit about Judaism or Christianity, since neither are causing people to die,” says our Kevin.

    I didn’t know fruitcakes could type!

  15. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Kevin is more a provocateur — stirrer, perhaps — than a fruitcake, David; I am kind of used to him.

    And one small point, Kevin, on behalf of any Muslims who may read this. Hey, if that hell kid tells you he’s God, it would be wise to doubt him. I’m just sayin… Don’t pull a mohammed on us. We’ve still not rebounded from THAT fiasco. Muhammad never ever said he was God, nor does any Muslim that I know about. He did of course claim to receive revelations from God. A bit like Joseph Smith really… But I wouldn’t insult all those good folk in Utah by repeating what Mark Twain had to say about that, would I? …

  16. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I’m not saying anything bad about the hades guy. I’m just saying don’t trust him if he tells you he’s God. Again, we as the human race don’t need to get burned like that for a second time. Make him prove it at least. Make him turn the sun off for five minutes. Gods can probably do that. I’m guessing demons can’t. In the end though, who knows?!

    I have to admit that I’m kind of sad that you are not a follower of the murderous Che Guevara. It’s all good for you, and the world of course, but bad for me. I have over a dozen ready made jokes about people who admire that thug. Now I don’t get to use them. Thanks for nothin’ ya jerk! (j/k)

    To add insult to injury, you’re probably not going to put Z’s into words like ‘rationalize’, ‘realize’ (that’s the way I’m hoping people will spell it in the future), ‘authorize’, ‘capsize’, ‘Australiacize’ and ‘supersize’, are you? This whole comment thread has been a huge loss for the letter ‘z’. And America, proud sponsor of the letter z since 1776 when our 4 fathers wrote the Declaration of Independenze.

    At least that’s what I learned in public school.

  17. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    What an interesting way to say nothing at all, David G! You’ve noted that I said that Jews and Christians don’t enjoy killing people for their God, provided no counter-evidence, and called me a goofy name. Judging from your debating skills, I’m guessing you are a progressive. I’m right, aren’t I? 🙂

  18. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I can agree with supersize, if not with the concept, and I have given up — as have all Australian usage guides so far as I can see — the silly gaol for jail

    Hope you watched Salam Cafe…

  19. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Fair enough, Nin. I shall rephraze. If that hell kid tells you he TALKED to God, make him prove it. Because, again, our genus has been burned enough by that load of cr*p.

    I’m not entirely sure why you are hating on Joseph Smith, but I have read the Book of Mormon in it’s entirety, and would be willing to discuss it with you if you want. Short take: I don’t believe in the thing, but I’ve never met a Mormon that I didn’t like. My favorite part about them is that none of them want to kill me or my family. Wish I could say that about followers of Izlam, huh?

    Z. It’s the new s.

  20. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Not hating, even if I think the Book of Mormon is the greatest unacknowledged work of fiction in 19th century American literature. But even Mark Twain said its teaching was generally innocuous, comparatively — except for screwing up people’s heads of course and making nonsense of the history of Native Americans. And then there was the unfortunate episode at Mountain Meadow, but the Mormons also suffered much injustice when for a while they were virtually classed as the terrorists of their day by the US government…

  21. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Sorry for the massive amount of comments. I just wanted to admit that I didn’t watch your movie, but I will do so now. In part because I respect you and truly want to understand where you are coming from, but also in part because you use the word ‘jail’, which is a snub to our British overlords. It’s about time that Australia and Canada break the yoke that binds them. I’m going to buy one of those big Australian beer cans (k2?) tomorrow in solidarity with my Australian friends!

    Well, frenemies, anyway :).

    ps: The letter Z totally pisses British aristocracy off. I’m just throwing that into the mix.

  22. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Bottom line: there are around 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Very few of them want to blow anyone up. Unfortunately too many do have such desires, and just as unfortunately the majority of victims have been fellow Muslims.

    Our attitudes count, if we really want to support a world where we can coexist, as we have done, with 1.2 billion fellow human beings on this small planet.

    Perhaps the attitude you have expressed towards Mormons should be applied to all whose religions you (and I) may think are crazy, for whatever reason.

    Is there any realistic alternative?

  23. Kevin

    June 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Last one. Seriously, I apologize. I won’t post again after this tonight. I only watched a couple of minutes of your video and was extremely offended! It’s not your fault. It’s mine. Seeing those women forced to wear drapes or bedspreads to hide their bodies from muslim men is COMPLETELY unacceptable to me. I know you don’t feel the same way about women as I do, but until you mention otherwise, I’m going to assume that you believe them to be our equals. Well how does covering them with a sheet or layering them in drapes convey equality!?!

    I’m not a hippie, or some equal rights activist. I don’t protest in the streets over anything. I’m not crazy like that. But this is NOT cool. How can you be ok with women being treated that way? Are you going to tell me that women WANT to be wearing that crap? If so, you’d best read up on the Stockholm Syndrome. To quote our English overlords, “it’s not bloody likely” (note the lack of z’s in that statement)

    I can’t believe you posted that video as something good about islam. It’s a virtual slap to all of the women of the world, and exactly what I hate about that religion. Well, I also hate all of the massive amounts of murder done in it’s name, but I hate how it debases females almost as much.

    You’ve succeeded in ticking me off. I’m too angry to talk now. Which is good I guess, since I promised not to post anymore tonight. G’night, and I’m sorry we got so far off topic. But you linked the vid, so really it’s your fault. I’m going to go punch something now.

  24. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    Kevin, Kevin! See my earlier posts on Salam Cafe, and the comments there.

    You have allowed your prejudice to affect your interpretation. No one forces those particular women to wear head scarves. They choose to, as an expression of their right to practise their religion in a free country, just as a Catholic might wear a cross, a Sikh a turban, a Hindu a red spot in the middle of the forehead, or an Orthodox Jew a funny hat, hairstyle, and weird undershirt with tassels. I see people with all of the above — not all on the same person of course — here in Sydney just about every day of the week.

    That is the whole point of those women putting themselves on free to air television every Wednesday night. They want us to be less worried when we see them in everyday life.

    Kevin, you have a DEEP case of pure Islamophobia. You are offended because some very articulate and well-educated successful Australian women, good citizens of this country, happen to have a dress code different from what you are used to? How sad. Have you ever actually met, spoken with, or had any exposure to actual Muslims? Now you have. Did those women look, sound or act as if they were at all put down and oppressed?

    This is one of those women:

    Susan Carland is a lecturer at Monash University in the school of Political and Social Inquiry and is currently completing a PhD whilst juggling her two children. Susan has been involved in a variety of community initiatives and has often been called upon to speak on social issues related to youth and women. Susan was also awarded the title of “Muslim of the Year” in 2004.

    To quote two reviews. 1. The Melbourne Age:

    Salam Cafe is a 10-week comedy panel and sketch show aimed at young Australian Muslims. Clearly intended to influence perceptions of young Muslims in the current global climate, this series wants to show that being a Muslim can be as much about going to the footy as to the mosque and that Muslims have no trouble laughing at themselves and the way they are misrepresented.

    There are gags about Muslims flying on one-way tickets, owning mobile phones with extra room on the SIM card and playing footy for the Essendon Bombers. Panel member Susan Carland is introduced by host Ahmed Imam as ‘the Imelda Marcos of hijabs’, there’s a “Where’s Osama” segment, and the Idol rip-off “Australian Imam, the search for Australia’s most controversial Imam”.

    Non-Muslims, of course, could never make these jokes but it’s refreshing to see Muslim comics and community leaders taking ownership of the prejudice they feel to make it funny and entertaining.

    2. The Sydney Morning Herald:

    …”What do you know about Muslims?” one interviewer asks a passer-by. “Not a lot,” the young man says. “But I know their beliefs are pretty dangerous.”

    “What do you think of Muslims?” another man is asked. “I hate ’em.”

    “What’s Ramadan?” the interviewer asks a woman. “Is that like a papadum?” she replies.

    The segment is funny but also poignant, giving an insight into the sort of prejudices and misconceptions faced by Muslim Aussies such as regular panellist Susan Carland.

    “Most of the misconceptions are about Muslim women,” Carland says. “A lot of them are about the headscarf. I’m often asked if I have cancer. And I have a badge that says, ‘No, I don’t wear it in the shower.’ People really think we’re aliens. A friend of mine said, ‘But how did you give birth?’ It’s just a piece of material, like a T-shirt. It doesn’t have magic powers.

    “For me, it’s very important that this show is about Muslims, not about Islam. It’s just showing that Muslims are normal people. We’re not from Planet Islam.

    “It’s showing the human face of the Muslim community, same as Acropolis Now did [for the Greek community] in the ’80s. People will see that we won’t eat their babies.”

    This may come as a shock to some viewers. Since the World Trade Centre was destroyed in 2001, Muslims have had a serious image problem. “Obviously the whole world was turned on its head post-September 11,” says Salam Cafe’s host, Ahmed Imam. “There was a lot of heat in the kitchen.”

    The Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005 didn’t help. Which is ironic, given that Islam – contrary to the rantings of some extremists – is essentially a tolerant religion.

    “Islam says to Christians and Jews, ‘We worship the same God you do,”‘ Carland says. “Islam is a continuation. We feel the prophets all came with the same message.”

    Even so, Muslims are frequently depicted as violent and aggressive. So Salam Cafe hopes to give Aussie Muslims an image makeover via humour, which in Australia is usually the best way to make a serious point – particularly when that humour is irreverent, iconoclastic and sharp.

    “People are probably not expecting the kinds of stuff that comes out of our mouths,” Imam says. “Even [producer] Ted Robinson said, ‘When I saw the show the first time, I was laughing at what you were laughing at. I couldn’t feel any distance.’ Humour is a particularly Australian characteristic. We all originate from different places but we’re all Australian. And the humour is probably a reflection of the new kinds of Muslim in Australia, who are comfortable living and practising their faith and joking.”

    Humour also allows Salam Cafe to broach sensitive topics. “We won’t do anything we’re uncomfortable with,” Carland says. “But then we do address some uncomfortable issues, because I think to ignore those issues is even more offensive to people.”

    The regulars chosen for the 10 initial episodes – to be filmed with live audiences in Sydney and Melbourne – are an impressive bunch. There’s Waleed Aly, the young lawyer who stole the show at last month’s inaugural Intelligence Squared debate in Sydney. As the closing speaker for the negative, Aly argued against the proposition that “Islam is incompatible with democracy”. It was his entertaining, eloquent argument that won his team the debate.

    There’s the show’s host, Imam, a journalist, counter-terrorism expert and father of four who sees Salam Cafe as a tool to bring Islam into the consciousness of mainstream Australia. Then there’s Carland, who is sharp, opinionated and has a stud in her tongue. “She has a touch of the punk about her,” says co-producer Pamela Swain. “She’s like a punk mum. She’s got a bit of the rebel about her and is also a feminist. But she’s amazingly down to earth and so Aussie.

    “I can’t speak highly enough of them. The thing that makes me really excited is they’re really young. These are mostly twentysomethings and that’s a generation we don’t often see on television. This show is a big ask of them but I think it’s got great potential.”

    Also on the team are comedians Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman, whose show Fear Of A Brown Planet won the best newcomer award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and was described by The Age as “beautifully distilled fury”. Appearing beside them are Ahmed Hassan, Dakhylina Madkhul and Toltu Tufa.

    With the help of Robinson and Swain, whose credits include Good News Week, The Glass House and The Sideshow (the show uses the old Glass House desk), SBS’s Salam Cafe will be much more polished than the version that premiered on Channel 31 in April 2005.

    Ahmed came up with the idea for the show over a game of Pictionary (“When you don’t drink it’s just party around the clock,” Carland jokes) and they filmed four episodes in a local primary school. “It was all very Wayne’s World,” Carland says, “but the Muslim community seemed to like it. Originally it was just a panel show, but then we brought in sketches.”

    The show’s title was originally Ramadan TV. “We deliberated for weeks over what the name should be,” Imam says. “And just like the word ‘Islam’ and the word ‘Muslim’, ‘Salam’ comes from the word for peace. And then we decided we wanted to create the atmosphere of a coffee shop. Because everybody loves a coffee shop, especially in Melbourne. So this is the Peace Cafe. We didn’t want something overly Islamic or Arabic, but something where a Muslim sees the name, they know, and when a non-Muslim sees it, they might just think, ‘That’s an interesting name.”‘

    As far as Imam is concerned, the image problem faced by Muslims in Australia will soon pass.

    “Everybody has their time,” he says. “The Italians, the Greeks, the Asians, they all had their time. Now it’s the Muslims and probably even more so at the moment it’s the African community. It could be someone else next. The Italians, Greeks and Asians have all come through that and it’s going to happen with Muslims, too, and hopefully this show will assist with that process. Not that we’re sponsored by the Department of Immigration.”

    That last review, I am happy to say, was written by someone I once taught English to.

    All you saw on that television show were some very smart young Australians who are not extremists, not terrorists, but happen to believe differently from us in some respects. What you saw was the best hope we have for finding a way out of this madness: mutual respect, laughter, and acceptance of difference. Notice too on that show that it works both ways… There is some very sharp mockery of extremism coming through there too.

    Have to go now; off to collect this month’s garage rent from my Indonesian Muslim neighbour Suhendra… He and his wife have, so far as I can see, no desire at all to blow me up…

    NOTE: Go to the Salam Cafe blog by Waleed Ali.

  25. DavidG.

    June 7, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    It’s interesting to see the deceitful, clumsy way our Kevin completely changed the meaning of his original quotes by suggesting he’d said that: “Jews and Christians don’t enjoy killing people for their God.”

    I’ll leave you to him, Ninglun.

  26. ninglun

    June 7, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I think I’ll just let that go through to the keeper, David. I think Kevin has had a bit of an experience here tonight…

    Oh yes, I did get back safely from Suhendra’s place; slightly richer for the experience in fact…

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