Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Put My Son’s Name on a Bomb

Where is the Truth?

[I am taking a break from my usual ravings about politics and religion and terror to relate some sequence that involves people who are directly affected by personal losses that came as a result of the present bloody conflict. It is these losses that are felt by people on both sides that so many politicians, war mongers, terrorists and bloody minded fools pay so little attention to. The post is unusually long put I make no apologies for that this time.]

Regular readers may recall that some time ago, I was deeply disturbed by poll statistics depicting how many Americans believed Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

Less than a fortnight ago, a friend forwarded to me an ugly story about a retired policeman who wanted to put the name of his son who was killed in 9/11 on a bomb going to Iraq.

I did a Google search of the term “put my son’s name on a bomb” and found several links. I followed a few of them to confirm the transaction which troubled me deeply. Please do your own search and follow the links for full details of the exchange of e-mail messages. Here is a summary:


A NY retired police officer started the “Simple Request”:
From: ***@aol.com [mailto:***@aol.com] Sent: Friday, March 14, 2003 5:32 PM To: pao@centcom.mil Subject: Simple Request

Dear Public Affairs Officer:

If possible can this be relayed to a Navy, Air Force or Army or Marine unit in the Gulf Region. A simple request from a Vietnam Veteran and Retired New York City Police Department Sergeant who lost his son on 911 at the WTC. Simply to have his son's name put on one of the munitions (bomb, missile, artillery shell) that will be used on the war on terrorism including Iraq. His son's name was Jason Sekzer, the father is Wilton A. Sekzer and can be reached at ***@aol.com.

Thank you.

Gary Gorman Retired Police Officer NYPD ESS#1 Brooklyn, NY 11214

A long series of emails between various officers follows which ended with a short
“Can do” message from a Major Boehm on March 19 – only 5 days after the original request. Quite efficient I must say. The war hadn’t started yet.

And finally, 10 days into the war, “Mission Accomplished” message from Major Boehm:
From: Boehm Maj Joseph R [mailto:BoehmJR@taoc.3mawdm.usmc.mil] Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2003 4:50 AM To: DiDomenico SSgt John C; Johnson Maj Thomas V Cc: ProudPD@aol.com; NYPD24423@aol.com Subject: RE: Simple Request

Attached from yesterday. Hope this is satisfactory. Sorry for the delay but business is booming. The weapons don't stay still long enough to write on them. For the record: The weapon this tribute was written on is a 2000 pound, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS guided bomb. It's big, it's ugly and it's always lethal, just like we love them. It was dropped on the night of 1 April 03 against targets located east of Baghdad. The targets were associated with the Al Nida division of the Republican Guard. A United States Marine Corps F/A-18D based in Kuwait flew the mission. The mission and the weapon were 100% successful. Let me know if there is any more I can do. It's my honor and pleasure. Regards.

Semper Fi Major Joe Boehm

Attached to the message were three photographs of the bomb with the dedication “In Loving Memory of Justin Sekzer” being loaded on the plane.


I felt so angry!

Almost immediately I wrote an (extremely) angry message on April 12th to Mr. Sekzer and to Mr. Garman who had initiated the original request.


I am writing this message from Baghdad (the receiving end) to late Jason’s father to let him know what he has done.

Mr. Wilton A. Sekzer,

Over the past two years I have had to suffer many losses. I am writing this letter to you “in loving memory of my life-long friend Ghassan” who never hurt anybody in his life and who was killed for no reason other than that there are many people like you in this world.

All that blood shed in Afghanistan in 2001 was not enough to avenge your son. You had to put his name on a bomb going to Iraq in 2003 to kill more innocent people… in his name!

I hope you that your revenge was sweet. That bomb did not bring your son back. It turned you into a murderer yourself. You put your son’s name on a 2000 lb. weapon that must have killed quite a number of innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with your son’s death.

You have taken part in killing innocent people who had nothing to do with your son’s death or with 9/11. Many happened to be Arabs. Many happened to be Muslim. That’s it! It may help you sleep better at night to know that some of those people were not Muslim and some were not Arab.

Blind Revenge! No wonder the US army was so fond of repeating that on the second day of the war more than 3000 bombs were dropped on Baghdad.

There were many other bombs like that during that war and many more during the two years that followed which killed many more innocent people. There were other atrocities during those two years. Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, Najaf, Tel Afar, Ramadi, Mosul…thousands of innocent bystanders gunned down for no reason.

Your people haven’t even yet bothered to count how many. All we have are “estimates” ranging from 20,000 (estimated through media reports in a country where reporters cannot venture outside protected fortresses!!) to 100,000 (estimated by Lancet, a professional medical body which many people in the States would like to see discredited – I don’t know why!) That is not to mention the countless others killed or kidnapped by terrorists and criminals let loose by the other administrative revenge implemented by your administration.

Wouldn’t you like to know how many of those terrorists were killed to avenge your son? Your rationale may be to kill as many people as you can so that perhaps you will kill enough terrorists. You have also devastated a country and made many millions of people suffer for two years.

Well, like all mad murderers you failed. You killed many, many innocent people and managed to create many terrorists bent on blind revenge.

Those innocent people have fathers too.
They have sons and daughters and mothers.
They have brothers and sisters and cousins.
They have friends and townsmen and tribes.

People down here are much more closely connected.
You try and visualize the numbers.
Some of them will have dreams of revenge too.
Some of them will be blinded by that revenge too.
Some will do anything they can to send death to NY city to avenge their loved ones too.

These feelings of anger and injustice have rippled to 300 million people who see themselves as Arabs. They are felt by a further 1000 million people who see themselves as Muslims who now believe that they are targeted simply for being what they are… because of people like you!

Do you have any idea how many vindictive fanatics there are in 1300 million people?

No War on Terror, no technology, no puppet regimes, no freedom and democracy pretences and no claims of being decent will convince them or protect you from them. And you don’t know where they will hit or when… in a year, in 10 years’ time… or a 100 years’ time. But I sadly assure you that they will. People like that unfortunately do exist… just like you.

The problem is that those people in seeking revenge will not kill you but will kill other innocent people.

And people like you will start wailing: “Why do these people hate us?…. What have we done to them?… they are not human!...”.

Please remember that in this in this new series of terrorism you are the original terrorist and “Original Sinner”.

Sir, you have disgraced the memory of your own son and have assisted in the future murder of other innocent people like him.

I feel sorrow that innocent Jason lost his life. But I also feel sorry for him that he had such a primitive, vindictive father who, as a retired police officer, is supposed to represent the law of civilization… not the law of the jungle.

Abu Khaleel


Several days later I received a reply from Mr. Garman who had initiated the original request. Following a request, he kindly gave me his permission to publish it.

Dear Mr. Khaleel,
I believe you were misinformed regarding this request. I was the original person requesting Jason's name be pout on munitions that were to be dropped in Afghanistan on terrorists operating in that country. The request was made in early 2002. No mention was ever made of Iraq.

I am only a retired NYPD Police Officer but I think I speak for most Americas in that we do not hold the Iraq people rerp[somsibe for Sept 11th. We hope that American forces will be able to soon come home and a free Iraq will florish in the reagion.


Gary Gorman


By any standard, and whatever a person’s position regarding this war is, this is a sad story of sorrow and anger between people who lost loved ones in this violent episode.

The transaction is all there. I seek the help of those who took part in the sequence of events to shed some light on the truth.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Houses of Glass

"If your house is made of glass, do not throw stones at people."

This old Iraqi saying is so apt in this discussion: So many of our ‘belief houses’ are made of glass!

All of our value structures are imperfect and incomplete. All, of our ideals leave a lot to be desired when it comes to application to reality and to complex human nature or social development: Religions, Communism, Liberalism, Atheism… you name it! We all (without exception) hold contradictory beliefs.

… Yet most of us choose to close our eyes to our own contradictions and imperfections and prefer to attack other beliefs… yelling that our beliefs are undoubtedly superior.

So, if all our houses are made of glass, why are we all throwing stones at other houses and other people?

The simple reason is that most of us believe that our own houses are not made of glass… but all the others are!

Sometimes we think we can throw stones to larger distances than they can. Sometimes we think that making all other houses look like our own is worth the risk. Sometimes we just want to own and dominate the other houses for economic or ego advantage. Sometimes we do it out of fear of the unfamiliar.

And because we usually turn our backs to our own houses in our attempt to defend them, we cannot see the dirty corners or the incomplete constructions in them. Facing those other houses, we can see all their ‘dirty linen’, all their un-swept corners, all their non-fitting joints and, above all, the ugly residents.

I am not talking about rational discourse!

So many of us are “flatlanders” - people who can only see in two dimensions. How can a flatlander see the other side of the coin? Few flatlanders even realize that they live on one side of a coin. And there are so many coins!

Very few people can see the other houses objectively, though many pretend.
Fewer people can see the beautiful things in other glass houses.


A notable exception that we all can learn from is modern 'natural science'. There was a time when 'scientific' laws were sacred. Modern physics has also gone through the pains of transformation but has finally accepted the fallibility of its own laws… that are now seen as only approximations to the truth… and has already begun to crawl carefully and incrementally towards better approximations. Mathematics has already moved even further ahead and has complete sets of ‘alternative axioms’ and whole systems of thought built upon these. Some of these look exceptionally odd… such as systems in which the sum of a triangle’s angles need not be 180 degrees!

Yet nobody is fighting wars or killing other people over these differences!


The above remarks are not meant as attacks on all those beliefs and different value systems. On the contrary! They are all part of the great, stumbling human experiment and mankind’s march towards perfection (or towards knowing God, if you like).

All these systems are towing forces pushing and pulling the wagon of human development in different directions that they think will lead to the right course. The human development is the result of all that pushing and pulling. But within each force, protectiveness and prejudice blind us to the merits of the ‘other side’.

People talk of compromise all the time and how important it is. Yet, how many of us are prepared to have a peek at other value systems and compromise our own beliefs? Yet, how can we be aware of other visions and other means of looking at life without talking to people from other ‘worlds’? It doesn’t help to label them as ‘enemies’ and call it a day.

Would it help to look at all those various ‘alternative systems’ of belief and see that they all had their adherents who believed their systems were better to the extent of going to war and risking their lives to ‘spread the word’? This is true for most of the alternatives now held dearly by large segments of mankind: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Communism, Socialism, the Mighty Dollar… and of course Freedom and Democracy.

Has any one of these systems of thought led to Utopia? Some of them have been trying for thousands of years! The best system will probably be the end result or the resultant sum of all those results? We are not there yet.

To bring the issue closer home, consider Communism for example. It was for half a century the leading global enemy of the USA and many other countries. But how many people are aware of its influence on our present perception and on our view of economic injustices present in most societies? [Neo-Reds, Please don’t jump to that keyboard yet! I am not a communist!]

But this painful and blood-soaked process that has taken thousands of years has created a very large ‘grey’ area of common human heritage which billions of mankind share. It includes the large human bank of knowledge, an almost universal sense of right and wrong, a sense of justice and even some shared sense of beauty manifested most visibly in art and architecture.

It is truly a vast, common area.
Yet, so many cannot see it!
They have to win; their system is the best!

That grey, common area is sufficient to accommodate most of mankind. In fact I believe that’s where most of them want to be. They like their glass houses there. Most think that their glass houses are the best and they like to grumble about the ugliness of the others. What’s wrong with that? (In this last remark I am asking for trouble!)

Let humanity’s scouts, free-spirits and independent thinkers venture out of the grey area into the fascinating world of colors and uncharted territories. But let them not invite everybody there until the color of the new territories becomes grey!

A poet with the name of Abul Ataheya who lived in Baghdad more than a thousand years ago, said:

As Times polish me, they show me more of my ignorance…
…And the more I know, the more I grasp the defects of my mind.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Christianity and Islam (4)

If it is not religion, what is it?

The Pseudo-Religious

In this essay of the comparison series, I will talk about two real people. I usually have an aversion to generalizing from specific incidents or anecdotes. However, I have chosen to illustrate my point this time by mentioning two cases that I think do reflect truly worrying currents… of increasing significance!

Islam Has Problems: Character A

I have met and discussed some issues with a quite a number of Muslim fundamentalist hardliners but I have not met any one of those (mostly imported) murdering fanatics. A friend of mine has.

He put a hypothetical question to that person and asked him if he came across an American soldier close to five children; would he shoot if there was a danger of killing any of those children? The man replied in the affirmative without much hesitation. His reasoning was that the American soldier, being an invader, would naturally go to hell and the children, being innocent, would go to heaven!

This person claims to believe in a religion that categorically dictates:

"… whosoever killeth a human being for other than man slaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind… “(5: 32).

Ah… manslaughter or corruption in the earth! Excellent excuses for killing those innocent children!

Christianity Has Problems too: Character B

It is only during the past two years that I was aware of the extent of the existence of strong fundamental religious currents in America. Before this awareness, I always made the assumption that the New-American-Century US empire builders were driven by cold calculations of control, global domination, power-mongering and economics; things that generally have little to do with God or religion.

Now, it seems that these people do have a power base of Christian fundamentalism that sounds very much like that of the Dark Ages. Full of dogma and hate and dreams of conquering and 'annihilating' infidel enemies!!! A thing from the past? Here is a quote from a comment that I received from a one time regular contributor on my blog sometime ago. The person who wrote these words does not live in the dark ages. He is a Christian who lives in present day America.

“Is "Christian fundamentalist" bad? The fundamentals of the teachings of Jesus Christ are the most peaceful that anybody has ever tought …

Anybody who thinks that 'taking the enemy on' is a losing cause (because we create more enemies) is sadly mistaken. These people want us dead because we give women rights, watch TV and don't pray to Allah 5 times a day. If we don't fight they'll attack us, therefore we're only left with one choice – anihilate them.

We WILL destroy them, we must - choose your side and fight by it, otherwise get out of our way. This collective pacifism will only get more of US killed. Maybe you don't understand the nature of this war, do you understand just how much MERCY we ARE showing? Would you like us to show NO mercy? Then you'd truly understand what might is - we HAVEN'T used it yet... ”

Those words don't strike me as being compatible with the teachings of the Jesus Christ that I know! I don’t think I need any quotes to prove this point!

Ah…self defense (and later, Freedom and Democracy)! Excellent excuses for killing countless innocent people! And… we are showing magnanimous mercy.

The question that bothers me is: what percentage in present-day America does this view represent? An honest answer can be truly terrifying.

Looking more closely at those two characters

Looking at character A’s stance, several aspects are noteworthy:

• This person sees himself as a Muslim.
• Many others (of various convictions) see him as a Muslim.
• He believes that he is doing something good… religiously.
• His violence is evidently out of anger.
• He believes that he is acting in self-defense.

Looking at character B’s argument, one can draw similar conclusions:

• This person sees himself as a Christian.
• Many others (of various convictions) see him as a Christian.
• He believes that he is doing something good… religiously.
• His violence is evidently out of fear.
• He believes that he is acting in self-defense.

Christianity and Islam of the Pseudo-Religious

Islam is often seen as a more ‘martial’ religion. It certainly requires its followers to fight for their faith. This has given its adversaries a lot of ‘ammunition’ for attack and much material for ‘misinformation’. One needs to examine Islam more closely and away of any propaganda to fully understand its ‘militarism’ aspects. This is not any easy task, and I have no inclination to tackle it here!

But for the purpose of this argument, let us assume that Islam as a religion gives rise to, or allows, a violent culture such as that of A.

But what about B? Christianity, as almost everybody accepts, is a religion of love (to the point of loving the enemy), forgiveness and turning the other cheek. So how come B is so criminally violent? What excuse does B have? What does it say about people coming from a loving culture who are so violent?

Some people may argue that A is a true Muslim and B is not a true Christian!! Fair enough. But that would require us also to explain (away) all those similarly violent Christians as well as all those others who existed 50, 200, 500, 1000 years ago… doesn’t it? This may prove to be a daunting task.

It is almost amusing that people who charge Islam with breeding violence (as opposed to Christianity) themselves are the loudest advocates of violent solutions. They see nothing wrong with that. They are good. Their violence is also good and is necessary for the noble causes… unlike the other side.

It is a Global Problem

Now these ‘Christian’ fundamentalist fanatics (like B) are even more dangerous than those ‘Moslem’ fundamentalist fanatics (like A). The latter are hunted almost everywhere and have to work clandestinely. The former, on the other hand, aim for, and probably have, the helm of the most powerful nation in the world.

What is worse is that these people can get the support of decent Americans in the name of fighting terrorism, patriotism and defending innocent Americans. Similarly, Al Qaeda is enjoying the sympathy of a large number of people who see it as a force fighting for faith and opposing the onslaught of enemies. For supporters on either side atrocities are almost dismissed as ‘mistakes’ or necessary and justifiable in the greater fight.

People of this kind are having increasingly louder voices in these times… and an increasing number of followers. The question is: do you discard them completely (whether they are Muslim or Christian), look at them as lunatics and fanatics… or try to find out the reasons for their burning fires?

Each type is apparently causing the other type to ‘breed’ more. These people (A and B) are poised to shape the world we are going to live in. I frankly don’t like the prospect.

Both of these types of people are already operating almost freely in my country at the moment. They have both caused more death and suffering than most people can imagine.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


Christianity and Islam (3)

Knowledge, Democracy and Women

Comparisons between Christianity and Islam often overlook important contextual frameworks.

Many people in modern 'Christian' societies look down on Islam and generally associate it with backwardness and ignorance because most 'Muslim' countries and societies that they see around them exhibit these characteristics. Memories of the excesses of the Ottomans in southern Europe are not too distant in the past. Terrorist groups are at present predominantly Muslim.

Many bigotry Muslims on the other hand associate Christianity with what they see as unacceptable promiscuity or lax social standards or weak family ties. They associate Christianity with the times when these two cultures clashed during the crusades or in Andalusia, Spain. Christians are associated with savagery, mistreatment of prisoners of war and even lack of personal hygiene. Mention is frequently made of the savage act of the Spanish Christians in demolishing all those public baths in Cordoba and elsewhere!! 'Terrorist countries' are at present predominantly 'Christian'.

[President Bush, who is not particularly known for choosing his words carefully, caused deep waves of anxiety in the Muslim world by thoughtlessly using the word "crusade" prior to the present war. Images of Christians attacking the Muslim world put Mr. Bush's campaign on the wrong foot before it even started! Much capital was made of it in Arab and Muslim media. To talk about the power of the word!!]

Both sides are largely wrong!

Also, there has been so much “misinformation” regarding all the “us-versus-them” comparisons between Islam and Christianity, one doesn’t know where to begin! I will only address three of the central subjects that have direct bearing on the question of secularism and an immediate effect on daily living. I will put more emphasis on Islam for the simple reason that most readers are less familiar with it.


Before I even begin discussing the topic, I would like to draw the attention of people who cannot accept any compatibility between religious belief and independent thought to the following aspect that I always keep in mind myself: Even in relatively recent history and particularly in the field of natural sciences, it is noteworthy that some of the most outstanding intellectuals and independent thinkers like Pascal, Newton (and Einstein, who was Jewish) were deeply religious. Not only simple minds seek the comfort of religious belief.

During Christianity’s years of dominance, in addition to the run-of-the-mill dogmatic, thought stifling clerics, you can find so many scholars who were deeply religious. Many were themselves devoted; some were even monks. The Jesuits are an example of a sect based in a large part on the pursuit of knowledge.

If you examine the history of Islam, you will find many similarities!

The first word conveyed to Mohammed was “read”. Numerous references to knowledge and seeking it are encountered in the Koran. Prophet Mohammed is reported to have said, “Seek knowledge even if it were in China”. China was probably seen as the farthest possible place for it. Prisoners of war were released if they could teach 10 children to read and write. Numerous examples!

Yet, you find people who believe that religion itself yields the ultimate truth and that no further pursuit of knowledge outside the ‘defined’ sphere is necessary or even healthy! A tragic example was the burning of the Library of Alexandria which was a sad loss of unimaginable proportions. [It is truly doubly sad and ironic that that horrendous act was sanctioned by the same man (Omar, the second Caliph) who said, 1400 years ago: "How can you enslave people when they are born free by their mothers" ]

And yet, as soon as Islamic Caliphate was established as a rich and powerful country, the pursuit of knowledge was followed in earnest within less than a century. Many of the Islamic scholars of the 8th- 12th centuries played an important role in world scientific thought and practice ranging from mathematics to medicine, chemistry and philosophy. They played an important part in preserving Greek thought and knowledge and transmitting it to the newly-aware Christian West.

It seems in conclusion that although religious domination may attempt to censor or limit scientific inquiry, the inquisitive nature of mankind ultimately prevails. It had definitely done so under the dominance of both religions.


The Koran states:

“… And those who answer the call of their Lord and establish worship, and whose affairs are a matter of counsel…” (42:38)

The concept is called “Shura”. To me, this spells only one thing: Democracy. But the clergy interpret this that it can only be “consultation between the more knowledgeable of the faithful”.

Very much like the Christian clergy.

The word of God has to be above the will of the majority. It is part of the faith… in both faiths. Naturally, only those who have some in-depth knowledge of the word of God can take part in those consultations.

What I say is: Let the people consult with their clergy if they wish but let the flock of the faithful decide for themselves. If they make a religiously unwise choice, then let the wrath of God fall upon them! Is that fair?

Incidentally, this concept of shura has for so long been repeatedly distorted by power mongers. Even today, most Arab states now have what they call “Shura Councils” of appointed puppet members, which allow rulers to govern as they please while claiming to abide by the words of God!

Women and Equal Rights

A lot has been written on this subject. There is much confusion between culture and religion. I will only refer to the very basics:

Islam: "Men have authority over women...” (Women, 34)

Christianity: "... wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything…” (Ephesians 5:24)

Both guilty as charged!


I honestly cannot see much merit in this “comparison” game. It has been going for more than a thousand years, and can go on for another (and probably will). Faith is something these comparisons cannot address.

If you accept the doctrine of Christianity or Islam as a faith, you have to take it as it is (or as it is interpreted by the various sects) and reconcile yourself to live with that. You can try you best to “spread the word”. I personally can live with that… as long as the arguments do not extend into the realm of swords, bullets, bombs and cruise missiles!

People using swords, bullets, bombs and cruise missiles are the ailment, not the arguments.

When religions are used as tools for injustice and to inflict suffering… that is a worse ailment.

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Christianity and Islam (2)

The Clergy… and the Case for Secularism

This essay is more a defense of secularism than it is an attack on religion or any religion’s clergy. I hope it will be read in this spirit. I have no quarrel with the clergy as long as they don’t force their own interpretation of God’s words (or intentions) on the rest of mankind!

Let them be there to offer spiritual and religious guidance to people. But they should not govern them!

Non-believers, who include some people whose opinions I respect, tend to dismiss this whole issue because they are not convinced by the original dictum! To them I say, you cannot dismiss things that have had, are having and will continue to have enormous effect on all our lives.


If you examine the histories of Christianity and Islam objectively, you will find that they display some similar characteristics:

• The established religion fought the newer one relentlessly as heresy.
• The newer one initially spread mostly under its own power of appeal and the example of its founders.
• The older (of the three main monotheist religions) denies the more recent.
• The more recent recognizes the older one(s) within the constraints of the newer one.
• Each is seen as the last true word.

Sects and differences within each religion were established by people who tried to “interpret” the religion to make sense of the ‘gaps’, the ‘grey areas’, the unanswered questions and unaddressed details in it… or to make it more compatible with their vision of human life and society.

Both religions, in refraining from defining everything in great detail (Islam to a much lesser extent) and yet attempting to encompass all aspects of life, allow for such interpretation. And who does the “interpretation”? The clergy! It is truly fascinating to consider the wide spread of sects and denominations in both religions and how they started!

Sometimes it seems to me that these religions, in addressing so many issues of human life and attempting to construct a unifying ‘umbrella’ for everything within the philosophy of a single religion, end up, through interpretations, like huge very elastic bands that can envelope a wide variety of ‘shapes and sizes’ of beliefs!

We can probably assume that many of those ‘interpreters’ acted in ‘good faith’ within the framework of their mentality and the prevailing social norms of the time. But also, in both religions, there have been, and still are, people who have distorted the ideals behind these religions… making use of the enormous scope, complexity and contradictory nature of human life. When such people have the upper hand, they can interpret the basic wide-encompassing teachings according to their whim and doctrine and turn them into oppression machines.


When the clergy were established as a “political” power with much sway over the kings and princes of Europe, that love-based religion was not benevolent anymore. It was the clergy who wanted to decide what God said or didn’t say about the position of the earth in the cosmos, or about the shape of the earth, or what constituted scientific method, witchcraft, heresy, and a multitude of other issues.

Looking back at that time in history, would anyone find it reasonable to condemn the other dissenting parties to Hell and to eternal suffering based on the judgment of a simple mortal? Some of those people were violating some of the most fundamental basics of the original doctrine!

Looking at the history of some of those Popes, for a long time the symbols of Christianity, I frankly find it hard to see some of them as Christians (i.e. followers of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.) They were so entangled by ‘palace conspiracies’ and earthly power struggles and even wars. Power, and its corrupting effect, had something to do with it.

Martin Luther’s Protestantism and King Henry VIII’s rebellions are basically “revolutions” against that dominance of a particular doctrine, or a specific official view of Christianity. They were not revolutions against Christianity itself. Another important feature is that in Christianity, under Protestantism the priesthood’s role is reduced compared to Catholicism. The Catholic faith ultimately followed.

Sometimes it may be worthwhile to ask simple questions: In that wide maze of sects, creeds and differences, where do the teachings of Jesus lie? The answer of course would be that no Christian sect can contradict those teachings; they are all Christian. But these sects have so many incompatible differences (both theological and in matters concerning aspects of common life, e.g. birth control, divorce, etc.). Are they all equally holy?


Many Muslim scholars maintain that Islam had abolished the whole concept of priesthood and the clergy… and the very act of life-dedication to worship. There is no role for a priest in birth, wedding or death. Even the act of leading prayers is left to the ‘most knowledgeable’ among those present. The class arose again from society’s need for ‘specialists’.

In any case, a distinguishing feature of Islam perhaps is that the clergy were never given the ‘power’ to judge, absolve or condemn to start with. Yet, we can find that some of them gave themselves these powers later. Furthermore, the ‘specialists’ were reduced in status much sooner after the establishment of the religion as a ‘state’ than was the case with Christianity. It was done by those seeking earthly power and un-heavenly glory! Also in Islam, Shiism, the ‘newer’ sect gives more prominence (and, to some extent, more reverence) to the clergy. This was primarily because that sect was developed in opposition to the prevailing political power and sect!

In the present revival of both religions, the clergy, particularly the militant clergy and the ‘populists’, are having more influence. I see beliefs and convictions that to my mind are not true to the spirit of the original doctrines.

In Islam, this trend is particularly alarming, as many of these clergy are gaining earthly powers over the ‘flock of the faithful’ that they never had. It was always said jocularly in Iraq (when in doubt about the proper thing to do, religiously speaking) something that roughly means: “Take it from a scholar; he will bear its responsibility and you will be safe”! This attitude seems to dominate now. People are increasingly turning to religious scholars of all creeds for guidance on a great variety of things. Knowledge is power! Some horrible crimes are justified because some scholar or someone seen as a religious authority had sanctioned them! In one instance, someone with basic education up to 6th grade followed by rudimentary religious training was followed and obeyed by a violent religious group. The examples are numerous. Theocracy cannot be far behind such trends.

Again I ask: in that wide maze of sects, where do the teachings of the Koran and Prophet Mohammed lie? Muslims are asked to follow the precedence of Prophet Mohammed. But he is not portrayed as infallible; the Koran says that “Mohammed is only a Messenger”. There are several instances in the Koran where he is scolded for not doing the right thing. Yet, some of those Muslim ‘sect leaders’ have acquired holiness that seems to me to be greater than that of Prophet Mohamed himself.


My own personal conviction is that those ‘interpreters’ of both religions assume that the rules they set are what God, Jesus or Mohammed intended. Isn’t that rather presumptuous? Aren’t they giving themselves more authority than they should? How can they, no matter how ‘theologically’ versed they are, ascribe intentions to Jesus, Mohammed… or even God? And if they are so absolutely correct, why do other versed theologians contradict them?

Why can’t they leave ‘the flock of the faithful’ live in those ‘grey’, undefined areas as they please? How do they know that that’s not what God intended? Sadly, it seems that most of the time ‘the flock of the faithful’ themselves seek such guidance. Given mankind’s need for prejudice and us-versus-them attitude, the rest (of mankind’s bloody religious conflicts) naturally follow.


This is to my mind what constitutes the case for secularism in as far as it means the separation between religion as a faith satisfying people’s “spiritual” needs and the state which regulates their living. This naturally leaves the question of whether that state is compatible with this religion or that and to what extent… conveniently open. This is why I believe that secularism need not be anti-religion. So many people in Iraq and elsewhere today seem to think that it is! I am told that in Australia, secularism has the opposite meaning!

Secularism need not be anti-religion!

One problem is that people holding one of the two faiths in question feel that they have a duty not only to defend the faith but also to ‘spread the word’ to others, to guide them to the correct path in life for healthy material and spiritual living. They are basically “missionary” in nature. This is why they spread so widely. This is not a problem in itself. The problem is that when these people have the upper hand in any society, they tend to be tyrannical. Not only that, but society has to accept the interpretation of the particular clergy (and sometimes the interpretation of a small group or even a single person) holding the reigns of that particular religion.

If the clergy want to govern our daily lives, my proposal is this: let the clergy of the various sects of any religion agree to the common ground between them first! As to the differences between the clergy of the different religions, I do not think there is much hope of reconciliation in the foreseeable future. A true Christian cannot accept the whole of Islam and cannot agree that the Koran is the word of God. On the other hand, although a Muslim recognizes Christianity as a true religion, he believes he has the latest word from God. Yet, there are a large number of well-intentioned people from all religions attempting that formidable task.

For Islam, I feel that the solution is already there. No matter how sects may differ in their interpretation of the ‘grey’ areas in religion, none can contradict the constitution of the religion, namely the Koran. In this respect, the Koran unequivocally states: “There is no compulsion in religion”. Yet, this clear, explicit code was broken more times than I care to list.

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