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Jerusalem: The Basic Facts

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The intrepid Pepe Escobar took to Facebook to explain the background concerning the city of Jerusalem in the wake of the Drumpf’s announcement regarding the city and its status in U.S. foreign policy: “JERUSALEM – THE BASIC FACTS: According to international law Jerusalem is NOT the capital of Israel. Few may be aware that Sykes-Picot, a century ago, awarded Jerusalem to . . . RUSSIA. But then Lenin rejected the deal. So the Brits ended up getting Jerusalem under the Class A Mandate of Palestine. We all know what happened afterwards. In 1947, the UN General Assembly came up with an absurd division of Palestine; Jews owned only 6% of Palestinian land at the time, but they were granted enormous tracts of territory. The UN plan was only a PROPOSAL. It was NEVER endorsed by the UN Security Council – which holds executive authority. Palestinians and the whole Arab world vehemently rejected the proposed terms of the partition. The point is already in 1947, and even in terms of the proposal, Jerusalem was NOT recognized as Israel’s capital. In 1967 Israel conquered virtually the whole of Jerusalem and the hinterland. Then almost everything was annexed – which is totally ILLEGAL. The UN Charter, the Geneva conventions, and the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court expressly forbid annexations by military conquest and/or occupation. Israeli leadership would be in serious trouble if they were ever brought to the International Criminal Court. The status of Jerusalem can only be decided in final negotiations – if they ever happen – between Israel and Palestine”.1

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1 Pepe Escobar. “JERUSALEM – THE BASIC FACTS” Facebook (06 Dec 2017). https://www.facebook.com/pepe.escobar.77377.

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The Judeo-Christian Tradition and the Drumpf: Merry Christmas, ISIS

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In 2014 Adam Zagoria-Moffet, currently Rabbi at the St Albans Masorti Synagogue, suggested that the concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition was actually coined in the course of the 1940s by none other than General Eisenhower (189-1969). And in 1952, Eisenhower set out to connect his coinage with the historical figures of the U.S. Founding Fathers, Zagoria-Moffet continues reproducing part of a speech then delivered by Eisenhower: ‘“all men are endowed by their Creator.” In other words, our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is. With us of course it is the Judeo-Christian concept, but it must be a religion with all men created equal’.(1) In the same year, the German American Christian existentialist philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich penned a piece carrying the meaningful title “IS THERE A JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION?” . . . and he the goes on to pose the following query “[i]s it meaningful to say that Christianity is a Jewish or that Judaism is a Christian heresy?” only to then retort: “I answer in the affirmative”.(2) Tillich’s answer betrays the inherent problems of the coinage of a Judeo-Christian unity, given that anti-Semitism has been one of the important building blocks of Christianity, with the trope that Jesus was killed by the Jews functioning as the main justification for the many persection and progroms inflicted upon Jewish communities in Christian lands. Zagoria-Moffet, for his part, adds insightfully that the “Judeo-Christian value system that American political commentators love to reference has no precedent in history (in fact, quite the opposite), but it also has no basis in the theological and ethical systems of the two faiths. Advocates of the use of ‘Judeo-Christian’ as an acceptable adjective fail to acknowledge that the very core of their argument – that Judaism and Christianity share essential values – is simply untrue. It’s impossible to adequately compare two extremely developed theological systems – not even in a multi-volume work, much less in a blog post. For the sake of brevity, simply consider some basic principles of each faith. Law, salvation, afterlife, sin, hierarchy, ritual, monotheism – even belief, faith, and practice – nearly every component of an authentic Christian practice and an authentic Jewish one differ in an elementary way. If we wish to be precise (which we should), it simply doesn’t make sense to consider Judaism and Christianity as sharing the same outlook on God or the world”.(3)

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Still, it seems safe to say that the idea of a Judeo-Christian value-system has by now become nearly universally accepted in the West, meaning Europe and America, with such added components like Australia and New Zealand as well as Israel. In the 21st century, particularly following the tragic events cursorily known today only as “9/11”, the idea of a Judeo-Christian unity seems to have been superseded by the even more outlandish yet academically quite commonsense notion of Abrahamic religions sharing the same god, namely the God of Abraham. Thereby suggesting the existence of a kind of social corollary in the form a united fold of believers or the happy coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslims – a coexistence that is supposed to act as a moral and social counterweight against sectarian violence, Islamist terrorism and Islamophobic outrages. The renowned religious scholar Aaron W. Hughes, however, suggests that “Abraham” as a “symbol of ecumicism” could “just as easily [also] function . . . as one of division and exclusivity. [A veritable] dialectic of history and myth, inclusivity and exclusivity, is the true progeny of Abraham as the three monotheistic religions have sought to define themselves and their relationsip to one another”.(4) Nowadays, the idea of an Abrahamic God is commonly used as a gateway to interfaith dialogue to counter a possible “Clash of Civilizations”, the proverbial Huntingtonian sword now threatening global peace, security and stabiltiy.

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In contrast, particularly now that the current US. President, Donald J. Trump aka the Drumpf, is regularly in the habit of invoking the notion of “Judeo-Christian values” ,(6) I would say that the trope of a “Clash of Civilizations” rather than interfaith dialogue has moved to the centre of attention again. He was recently speaking at the ”, an annual socially conservative conference, and he did his best to dispell any notion that Christians are safe and sound today. The event took place on 13-15 October 2017 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.(7) The dedicated website explains as follows: “Values Voter Summit was created in 2006 to provide a forum to help inform and mobilize citizens across America to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong. It has drawn over 3,000 plus attendees from around the nation and foreign countries. Garnering national and international media attention, CNN has called it ‘one of the top 10 political events of the year’ and ‘one of the conservative movement’s marquee annual events’. Sean Hannity called it ‘the premier conservative event now in the country’. VVS showcases the nation’s leading conservative voices including Republican presidential hopefuls. Previous speakers have included then-candidates Donald Trump and Mike Pence; Governor Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry; Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott and former Senator Rick Santorum; Representatives Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Paul Ryan, Steve Scalise and former Representative Allen West; media personalities Glenn Beck, Dr. Bill Bennett, Erick Erickson, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Lt. Col. Oliver North, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson; and Bill O’Reilly; Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Kirk Cameron, Star Parker, the Benham Brothers, national pro-life advocates including Lila Rose and David Daleiden, whose investigative work exposed the truth about Planned Parenthood; nationally recognized terrorism expert Brigitte Gabriel; and national best-selling authors Joel Rosenberg and Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. Mariam Ibraheem, the Sudanese Christian sentenced to death for her faith, was honored with the inaugural Cost of Discipleship Award in 2014, and in 2015, Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk, who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, was awarded the second inaugural Cost of Discipleship Award”.(8)

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The Drumpf addressed the gathered Christians, off-handedly remarking, “[a]nd we stand united behind the customs, beliefs and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people”, arguably keeping his six bankrupcies and two divorces in mind. Unperturbed by his own apparent moral failings, going on to say that “George Washington said that ‘religion and morality are indispensable’ to America’s happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success. It is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right. The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence — four times. [Applause] How times have changed. But you know what, now they’re changing back again. Just remember that. [Applause] Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer”.(9) In the next instance, the Drumpf states that “[r]eligious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights. And we all pledge allegiance to — very, very beautifully — ‘one nation under God’. [Applause] This is America’s heritage, a country that never forgets that we are all — all, every one of us — made by the same God in Heaven. [Applause] . . . To protect the unborn, I have reinstated a policy first put in place by President Ronald Reagan, the Mexico City Policy. [Applause] To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer — [applause] — which day we made official. [Applause] Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights. [Applause] Thank you. We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis. These are the people we want to hear from, and they’re not going to be silenced any longer. [Applause]”.(10)

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Leaving the provision of abortion in foreign lands, the Drumpf turned homeward at a later point, exclaiming that “[w]e are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values. [Applause] Thank you. Thank you very much. And something I’ve said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again as we approach the end of the year. You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. [Laughter] They don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ because it’s not politically correct. You go to department stores, and they’ll say, ‘Happy New Year’ and they’ll say other things. And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it. Well, guess what? We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. [Applause] and in another instance, turning his gaze outwards again: “In protecting America’s interests abroad, we will always support our cherished friend and partner, the State of Israel. [Applause] We will confront the dangers that imperil our nation, our allies, and the world, including the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. [Applause]”.(11)

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(1) Adam Zagoria-Moffet, “The Myth of a Judeo-Christian Tradition” State of Formation (07 April 2014). http://www.stateofformation.org/2014/04/the-myth-of-a-judeo-christian-tradition/.

(2) Paul Tillich, “IS THERE A JUDEO-CHRISTIAN TRADITION?” Judaism, 1.2 (01 April 1952), p. 106. http://search.proquest.com/openview/96dcfb348d31a59c7d2b7817a57a2582/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1817128

(3) Adam Zagoria-Moffet, “The Myth of a Judeo-Christian Tradition”.

(6)  Dan Merica, “Trump: ‘We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values’” CNN (13 Oct 2017). http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/13/politics/trump-values-voters-summit/index.html.

(7) 2017 Values Voter Summit. http://www.valuesvotersummit.org//.

(8) “VVS17 ★ ABOUT VVS” 2017 Values Voter Summit. http://www.valuesvotersummit.org/about.

(9) “Remarks by President Trump at the 2017 Values Voter Summit” The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/10/13/remarks-president-trump-2017-values-voter-summit.

(10) “Remarks by President Trump at the 2017 Values Voter Summit”.

(11) “Remarks by President Trump at the 2017 Values Voter Summit”.

The Mandalay Bay Massacre: Multiple Shooters and Mandatory Metal Detectors

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The sociology instructor Ed Curtin (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts or MCLA)* says that “[t]he he mainstream media’s (MSM) ongoing narrative of the massacre in Las Vegas is clearly deceptive . . . [w]hat the media do not say is that there is video and witness evidence that there were at least two more shooters, maybe more, one from a lower floor and another at the Bellagio Hotel that was locked down. This means that there was a conspiracy involved. They don’t mention this so that someone like me can do so and be branded a “conspiracy theorist,” the term created by the CIA to besmirch anyone questioning the official narrative of the JFK assassination . . . Why would the MSM push this narrative of the lonely crazed gunman? . . . People need to realize that they must be immediately skeptical of such official narratives and do their own research, and they will learn that there are excellent alternative websites that are doing real journalism and are seeking truth for truth’s sake”.1

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And, as it is, Collective Evolution‘s Joe Martino “came across a post on Facebook from a girl named Rikki Raulerson who was in Las Vegas the night of the shooting”. . . and Miss Raulerson subsequently seems to have told Martino that ‘[t]he security guard at the Cosmopolitan exact words were “I know about as much as you do. I have heard 7 confirmed shooters at multiple hotels including the Bellagio.” I do not have any idea how he knew this info, but this is the time they were locking down the hotel. There were a few metro police officers alongside security guards outside our hotel Vdara, and as they were checking our credentials we asked are there really multiple shooters, what’s going on? And the police officer confirmed yes multiple shooters at multiple hotels including Aria next door. He did not say 7 however he just said multiple. I assume he heard this over the radio, bc he was a metro officer . . . We did not hear any shots from our hotel room. However while running from Cosmo we did hear shots, but they weren’t loud enough for me to think they were right next to us. The Bellagio is quite far from the Vdara on one side, and the Mandalay is about 1.7 miles on the other side. I don’t believe the shots we heard were coming from Mandalay however, because quickly after we got to the room they had released that he was dead. I could be wrong however. It was all happening so fast.”.2 On Facebook, California native and resident Rachel Monroy posted that she “KNOW[s] for sure that the first reports stated MULTIPLE shooters, including a shooter at Bellagio. People listening to police scanners heard ‘multiple shooters’. The people who were THERE have said there were multiple shooters. But yeah, just ignore the witnesses, if media says ‘lone shooter’ it must be true. MSM never lies. 🙄Nothing to see here. I read a lengthy, detailed account of one guy’s experience. He said people were being shot as they tried to escape. They were running from one shooter, towards another shooter. This guy and his girlfriend escaped and ended up hiding in a dumpster for HOURS because they didn’t know how many shooters were out there”.3

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As a result, it really seems that eyewitnesses on the ground ‘heard’ multiple shooters, which does not necessarily denote the actual presence of multiple shooters . . . but, as they say, there it is. And the below screen shot, provided by my Facebook friend Paula Densnow, might give an insight into a possible additional reasoning behind the occurrence of the Mandalay Bay Massacre.4

Mandalay Screen

Moreover, the Drumpf met with Sheldon Adelson on Monday, 2 October 2017: “[t]he [Monday] afternoon meeting had been scheduled before the shooting attack and was aimed at discussing policy, the Las Vegas ReviewJournal reported on Tuesday [, 3 October 2017], citing a representative from the Sheldon’s Las Vegas Sands casino and resort company. Adelson, who owns the Review-Journal, was one of Trump’s biggest financial backers during his successful 2016 presidential election campaign, donating millions to the Republican candidate’s cause. The two men both own casinos in Las Vegas. Adelson is also a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owns the widely circulated Israel Hayom free daily”, as related by Stuart Winer in the Times of Israel.5

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1 Edward Curtin, “A Provocation to Investigate the Las Vegas Massacre” The Greanville Post (05 Oct 2017). http://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/10/05/a-provocation-to-investigate-the-las-vegas-massacre/.

2 Joe Martino, “EYE WITNESS AT LAS VEGAS SHOOTING STATES ‘THERE WERE 7 CONFIRMED SHOOTERS’” Collective Evolution (04 Oct 2017). http://www.collective-evolution.com/2017/10/04/eye-witness-at-las-vegas-shooting-states-there-were-7-confirmed-shooters/.

3 Rachel Monroy on Facebook (Yesterday [05 Oct 2017] at 12:01am ). https://www.facebook.com/rachel.monroy.3/posts/10208117984026899.

5 Stuart Winer, “Casino mogul Adelson met with Trump hours after Las Vegas shooting” The Times of Israel (04 Oct 2017). https://www.timesofisrael.com/casino-mogul-adelson-met-with-trump-hours-after-las-vegas-shooting/.

Heineken’s Europe: The Balkanization of a Continent

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Back in 2009, Joshua Keating shared his musings about an “intriguing theoretical map of Europe designed by Dutch beer tycoon Freddy Heineken. A dedicated Europhile, Heineken believed that smaller nations within a larger European framework would be more manageable in the post-Cold War era. In 1992, he coauthored a pamhplet titled The United States of Europe (a Eurotopia?), which included the above proposal for a new Europe comprised of small territories of roughly equal, ethnically homogernous populations”.1 This 18-page tract was published by De Amsterdamse Stichting voor de Historische Wetenschap, a seemingly reputable publisher which is in fact a vanity project financed by the beer magnate himself: ‘Alfred Henry “Freddy” Heineken (4 November 1923 – 3 January 2002) was a Dutch businessman for Heineken International, the brewing company bought in 1864 by his grandfather Gerard Adriaan Heineken in Amsterdam. He served as Chairman of the Board of directors and CEO from 1971 until 1989. After his retirement as chairman and CEO, Heineken continued to sit on the board of directors until his death and served as chairman of the Supervisory board from 1989 till 1995. At the time of his death, Heineken was one of the richest people in the Netherlands, with a net worth of 9.5 billion guilders’.2 Or, a bored rich Dutchman looking for rhyme and reason, who, in the Nineties fell upon the idea of turning the whole of Europe into a giant continent-wide Balkan peninsula for the benefit of the corporatocracy . . . And now, let’s leave the field to the eminent map specialist Frank Jacobs: “Heineken collaborated with two historians to produce a booklet entitled The United States of Europe1, A Eurotopia? The idea was timely, for two reasons. Eastern Europe was experiencing a period of turmoil, following the collapse of [C]ommunism. The resulting wave of nationalism led to the re-emergence of several nation-states (i.e. the Baltics) and the break-up of several others (Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia). And in 1992, the Maastricht Treaty would transform an initially mainly economic ‘European Community’ into a more political ‘European Union’. Heineken’s proposal would lead to the creation of dozens of new European states, which would have a comparably small population size (mostly between 5 and 10 million), some basis in history, and for the most part would be ethnically homogenous. The theory behind Heineken’s idea is that a larger number of smaller member-states would be easier to govern within a single European framework than a combination of larger states competing for dominance. Heineken might have been inspired by the work of Leopold Kohr”,3 . . . and continuing in another entry, Jacobs explains that Kohr (1909-94) was “an Austrian philosopher influenced by Anarchism and influential on the Green movement”,4 whose most influential work is a book entitled The Breakdown of Nations . . . in which he apparently expanded upon the notion that small is beautiful . . . Jacobs continues that for Kohr the “main question for society, therefore, [was] ‘not to grow, but to stop growing. The answer: not union but division.’ Not something you often hear advocated by politicians. Kohr wrote about half a dozen other books in all, also wrote one titled ‘Is Wales Viable? – a question that has still not been answered satisfactorily . . . As Kohr saw it, the problem with Europe’s geopolitical makeup was the fact that its states were not equal in size, allowing the ‘big ones’ to dominate the rest. Or at least try to, hence the endless series of wars in Europe. One way to solve this, would be to chop up the continent into rectangular chunks of territory, disregarding most existing cultural, religious, linguistic and natural boundaries”.5

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Heineken took Kohr’s ideas and ran with them . . . Jacobs explains what Kohr’s plans were really all about: “Eire, Portugal, all 5 Scandinavian countries, the 3 Baltic countries . . . the Netherlands and Belgium . . . Austria, Hungary, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and Switzerland” are all small enough to pesist, but “[t]he UK is [to be] disestablished in favour of its constituent nations: England, Scotland, Wales, (Northern) Ireland. Spain disintegrates into Asturia, Castillia, Andalusia, Catalonia and Aragón. France falls apart into Aquitaine, Brittany, Normandy, Isle de France, Alsace-Lorraine, Burgundy, Languedoc, the Midi and Corsica. Italy is replaced by successor states Savoy, Lombardy, Tuscany, the Papal States (!), Naples, Sicily and Sardinia. Yugoslavia breaks up into Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia. Romania becomes Transylvania and Wallachia. Czechoslovakia is divided among Bohemia and Slovakia. Germany, the pivotal power in Central Europe . . . disintegrates into Bavaria, Saxony, Hanover, the Rhineland, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Prussia, Silesia and one more state the name of which I can’t quite make out – but which would have to be Mecklenburg” and “Poland becomes Posen, Galicia and Warsaw”.6

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The Irish journalist Gearóid Ó Colmáin explains matter-of-factly that “Kohr’s ideas have become extremely influential in European Union policy circles. Trans-national financial elites want to make the European Union into the political representation of their power.A federal Europe of micro-states whose policies are determined by global elites would make it impossible for Europe’s citizens to unite against the trans-national financial ruling class; it is the reason why Heineken’s map is now becoming a grim reality – all over Europe”.7

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1Joshua Keating, “Tuesday Map: Heineken’s “Eurotopia’” Foreign Policy (2009). http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/05/26/tuesday-map-heinekens-eurotopia/.

2“Freddy Heineken” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Heineken.

3Frank Jacobs, “My Kingdom for a Beer? Heineken’s Eurotopia” Big Think (2016). http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/386-my-kingdom-for-a-beer-heinekens-eurotopia.

4Frank Jacobs, “Want World Peace? Divide the World in Enough Small States” Big Think (2016). http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/18-the-world-a-la-leopold-kohr.

5Frank Jacobs, “Want World Peace? Divide the World in Enough Small States”.

6Frank Jacobs, “Want World Peace? Divide the World in Enough Small States”. .

7Gearóid Ó Colmáin, “Catalan ‘independence’: a tool of capital against labour” (03 Oct 2017). http://www.gearoidocolmain.org/catalan-independence-tool-capital-labour/.

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS (2011-03-09)

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

 

SECULARISM, BEER AND BIKINIS

CAN ERİMTAN

Some time ago, the Turkish government made public that it planned to alter the way in which alcohol is being sold in the country. According to some, the current Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has been waging a war against the consumption of alcohol in the country in a bold-faced attempt to bring Turkey more in line with Islamic rules and regulations.

Two vocal critics of the AKP and its government, Soner Çağaptay and Cansın Ersöz, researchers affiliated with the Turkish Research Program at the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, categorically write that since “the AKP rose to power in Turkey in 2002, special taxes on alcohol have increased dramatically, making a glass of wine or beer one of the most expensive in Europe, and for that purpose anywhere in the world.” In June 2002, the AKP adopted the Special Consumption Tax, or ÖTV, which raised the tax on alcoholic beverages from 18 percent (the standard VAT rate) to 48 percent, and as time went by, the ÖTV rate increased more and more until it reached 63 percent in 2009. Subsequently, the government came under fire for its policy and in 2010, some ÖTV taxes were eliminated.

But now the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority, or TAPDK, has issued new regulations restricting advertisements for alcoholic beverages as well as its sale tactics. The decree requires catering companies that organize events that serve alcoholic beverages to get a license before each event. While it also prohibits supermarkets and grocery stores from placing alcoholic products for sale near goods aimed at children and youngsters. In addition, the sale of alcohol will be banned at municipally owned establishments and along roads designated as highways and state routes in the traffic code. However, no such provision in the regulation will apply to the sale of alcoholic beverages at venues in coastal zones. Draconic measures which restrict access to a product which is already restricted as a result of its high price?

Çağaptay and Ersöz opine that in “2003, Turkey’s per capita alcohol consumption rate was 1.4 liters per year. For that same year, this amount was 10.9 liters in Belgium; and 11.5 liters and 9.0 liters in neighboring Cyprus and Greece respectively. Even, Qatar, which implements a rigid version of the Shariah under the Wahhabi school, had higher per capita alcohol consumption rates than Turkey, at 4.4 liras per capita.” In other words, Turkish citizens do not appear to partake of alcoholic beverages all that much to begin with.

Arguments claiming to protect the young are very popular when it comes to restricting access to “forbidden” products such as pornography and/or drugs the world over. Mehmet Küçük, the head of the TAPDK, has publicly said that the aim of the new decree was not to restrict individuals’ freedoms but to lessen alcohol’s incentive. In other words, Küçük merely wants to limit the availability of attractive seducers, arguably in a way somewhat similar to the effect of laws that eventually prohibited the Marlboro Man from riding into the sunset while willingly exposing his body to carcinogenic substances in Europe and elsewhere. Küçük is thus suggesting that Turkish citizens require a nanny-state that knows best what is right or wrong. Turkey, a country that straddles the Balkans and the Middle East with a population that is officially 99.9 percent Muslim, is arguably the only country with an Islamic population and culture that allows its citizens unrestricted access to alcoholic beverages. Are the new regulations regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages in Turkey a somewhat cynical ploy to increase the state’s tax revenues or is there more than meets the eye?

In my opinion, the whole debate surrounding the consumption of alcohol in Turkey is primarily about perception. Opponents of the AKP government accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ministers of secretly planning to introduce Islamic codes and attitudes via the backdoor. They thus regard this new TAPDK decree as a direct attack on the country’s “secular constitution.”

Is this really the case, and if so, why? In my book, “Ottomans looking West?” I posited that the “proclamation of the Republic . . . liberated Turkish citizens from the restrictions of Islam and the Şeriat [Shariah].” As a result, Republican Turks were meant to enjoy this world and its delights to the fullest and the decision to let Turkish citizens “partake of the delights of the mortal world was arguably crystallized in the consumption of alcoholic beverages. A strict interpretation of Islam explicitly prohibits the drinking of intoxicants in this world.” Hence, the issue of unrestricted access to beer and other alcoholic intoxicants has now assumed political, if not ideological, importance.

Turkey’s Muslim citizens have had legal access to alcohol since 1926. Turkey’s Islamic neighbor states do not grant their citizens equally easy access to the forbidden delights of alcohol. As a result, some Turks regard the issue as critical to the definition of secularism in the country. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) also defines secularism as “Concerned with the affairs of this world, wordly; not sacred.”

But nowadays, the term, particularly in its French form of laicité (at the root of Turkey’s laiklik), denotes a strict separation of church (or religion) and state. And, the theory is that Turkey, as a result of the reform movement, known as the İnkılap, is a secular state. In reality, however, ever since the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic has regulated its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister.

Consequently, proponents of secularism in Turkey quite naturally feel the need to attach a lot of importance to certain symbolic issues: the availability of alcoholic beverages springs to mind, as well as the thorny headscarf issue, or rather the notion that women possess the freedom to don more or less revealing outfits (arguably, to please the male gaze). Let us call these charged matters “beer and bikinis” as a shorthand for the contentious topic of Turkish secularism in the 21st century.

Ali Bardakoğlu, the president of the Diyanet until recently, publicly called for the establishment of an independent religious authority in Turkey in an interview he gave to the self-avowed atheist Ahmet İnsel of daily Radikal (Oct. 23-24, 2010). After he made these statements, Bardakoğlu was replaced by Mehmet Görmez as the head of the Diyanet (Nov. 11).

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The Tablet known as Plimpton 322

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Maev Kennedy, a special writer for the Guardian, puts forward that “[m]athematicians have been arguing for most of a century about the interpretation of the tablet known as Plimpton 322, ever since the New York publisher George Plimpton bequeathed it to Columbia University in the 1930s as part of a major collection. He bought it from Edgar Banks, a diplomat, antiquities dealer and flamboyant amateur archaeologist said to have inspired the character of Indiana Jones – his feats included climbing Mount Ararat in an unsuccessful attempt to find Noah’s Ark – who had excavated it in southern Iraq in the early 20th century”.1

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The Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History Eleanor Robson explains that “Plimpton 322 is the modern label given to a cuneiform tablet written in the ancient Iraqi city of Larsa in the mid-18th century BCE. Old Babylonian (OB) mathematics, the oldest known body of ‘pure’ mathematics in the world, derived from two separate traditions in early Mesopotamia: an orally-based ‘surveyors’ algebra’ and a bureaucratic accountancy culture. The ‘surveyors’ algebra’ is heavily based on riddles concerning cut-and-paste geometry and has its origins outside the literate scribal tradition in the late third millennium . . . Scribes, on the other hand, had been directly concerned with the quantitative control of goods, time, and labour since the advent of writing at the end of the fourth millennium . . . Their complex system of metrology,work norms,andother technical constants also reached its apex at the end of the third millennium, under the so-called Third Dynasty of Ur III . . . The two traditions coalesced into the mathematics of the OB humanist scribal schools of the early second millennium, where education appears to have comprised far more than the acquisition of professionally useful skills”.2 Professor Robson goes on to say that “[a]lthough the archaeology of Old Babylonian schools is not clear-cut and the large majority of OB mathematical tablets known are completely unprovenanced, [she is] convinced that virtually all of the OB mathematical corpus as we have it should be interpreted as the products of scribal training, or, at the very least, as the products of a scholastic milieu”.3 And, going down to the nitty-gritty, she postulates that “Plimpton 322 is, physically at least, a typical product of OB mathematical culture . . . It is a clay tablet, measuring some 12.7×8.8 cm as it is preserved, ruled into four columns. It was excavated illegally sometime during the 1920s, along with many thousands of other cuneiform tablets, not from Babylon but from the ancient city of Larsa (modern Tell Senkereh, 31◦140 N, 45◦510 E)”.4

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The mathematician Daniel Mansfield relates that the “huge mystery [of Plimpton 322], until now, was its purpose – why the ancient scribes carried out the complex task of generating and sorting the numbers on the tablet. Our research reveals that Plimpton 322 describes the shapes of right-angle triangles using a novel kind of trigonometry based on ratios, not angles and circles. It is a fascinating mathematical work that demonstrates undoubted genius. The tablet not only contains the world’s oldest trigonometric table; it is also the only completely accurate trigonometric table, because of the very different Babylonian approach to arithmetic and geometry. This means it has great relevance for our modern world. Babylonian mathematics may have been out of fashion for more than 3,000 years, but it has possible practical applications in surveying, computer graphics and education. This is a rare example of the ancient world teaching us something new”.5 The mathemtician Norman Wildberger, for his part, adds that “Plimpton 322 predates [the Greek astronomer] Hipparchus by more than 1,000 years. It opens up new possibilities not just for modern mathematics research, but also for mathematics education. With Plimpton 322 we see a simpler, more accurate trigonometry that has clear advantages over our own”, also explaining that a veritable “treasure trove of Babylonian tablets exists, but only a fraction of them have been studied yet. The mathematical world is only waking up to the fact that this ancient but very sophisticated mathematical culture has much to teach us”.6 Mansfield and Wildberger have published their fiindings on the Babylonian tablet in an article published in the journal Historia Mathematica.

Historia Mathematica

1Maev Kennedy, “Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study” The Guardian (24 August 2017). https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/aug/24/mathematical-secrets-of-ancient-tablet-unlocked-after-nearly-a-century-of-study#img-2.

2Eleanor Robson, “Neither Sherlock Holmes nor Babylon: A Reassessment of Plimpton 322” Historia Mathematica 28 (2001), 167–206.

3Eleanor Robson, “Neither Sherlock Holmes nor Babylon: A Reassessment of Plimpton 322”.

4Eleanor Robson, “Neither Sherlock Holmes nor Babylon: A Reassessment of Plimpton 322”.

5Maev Kennedy, “Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study”.

6Maev Kennedy, “Mathematical secrets of ancient tablet unlocked after nearly a century of study”.

Jihad goes to School in Turkey

Hamdi

AKP member Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı, who used to be a driver of Turkey’s President but at present seems to be a member of the Youth, Sports and Culture Commission of the Ministry for National Education,(1) has now also made the news in Turkey.

MEB-cihad

And this driver-turned-official has namely made a number of remarks relating to the Ministry for National Education’s decision to include the teaching of the concept of Jihad in Turkey’s schools. On Friday, 21 July 2017, Çamlı told the press the following: “[w]hen you look at the Ottoman sultans, almost none of them performed the pilgrimage in order not to take a break from jihad . . . There is no use in teaching math to a kid who does not know the concept of jihad”.(2) While it is true that no Ottoman Sultan has ever undertaken the holy pilgrimage to Meccah, the reasons were more likely practical that concerned with upholding jihad. The Ottomans did not see themselves as mujahids (practitioner of jihad or striving in the way of God), and did not employ the concept of jihad in their war efforts till the late 18th century. Quite some years ago now, I talked about the concept of jihad (Originally published on 18 September 2010): “[n]owadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a ‘mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time’. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards”.(3)

Quran_29_69

Ghaza not Jihad

Back in the 1930s, the Orientalist Paul Wittek ‘proposed his Ghazî thesis to explain the sudden and apparently inexplicable emergence of the Ottoman state at the end of the 13th century. The Austrian historian and Orientalist argued that the Ottomans, [had been] imbued with a Ghazî spirit, meaning a zealous warlike attitude brimming with a glowing fervour for Holy War [or Ghaza, in Wittek’s wording], necessarily carried the day at the time. Wittek thought that Ottoman Ghazîs possessed a clear advantage over their contemporaries as members of a polity that had always been inspired by a fanatic enthusiasm for conquest, booty, and expansion’. Ghaza and not Jihad had been the Ottomans’ raison d’être acccording to this Orientalist. And this opinion was adopted by historians and Ottomanists alike. In due time though, authors like Rudi Lindner and Cemal Kafadar offered a somewhat different perspective, basically debunking the whole Ghazî ethos and spirit, but popular opinion still seems largely beholden to this interpretation. With regards to the application of the concept of jihad in an Ottoman context, we have to wait till the year 1774. At that stage, Sultan Mustafa III (1757-74) was waging war against Catherine the Great (1762-96) and the Ottomans were on the losing side. As a result, Mustafa III had his Sheik-ul-Islam issue a call for jihad to defend the Ottoman Empire against a victorious infidel, the Russian Empire. After all, according to Islamic theory jihad is a defensive mechanism . . . following the Prophet’s death in 632, the first time Muslims declared a jihad was in the year 1099. The Crusaders besieged the city of Jerusalem in the period 7 June – 15 July 1099 before conquering the third holy site in Islam. In response to this calamity, Muslims rulers called for a universal jihad to liberate Muslim lands from the hands of Christian infidels . . . but the reconquest of Jerusalem did not take place until 2 October 1187.(4)

fall-of-jersualem

(1) ‘Mil.Eğit. Genç. Spor ve Kültür Kom. Üyesi’ “Ahmet Hamdi ÇAMLI” Twitter. https://twitter.com/ahmethamdicamli.

(2) “Ruling AKP’s Deputy: Useless To Teach Math To A Kid Who Does Not Know Concept Of Jihad” SCF (22 July 2017). https://stockholmcf.org/ruling-akps-deputy-useless-to-teach-math-to-a-kid-who-does-not-know-concept-of-jihad/

(3) “The War in Afghanistan: Jihad, Foreign Fighters and al Qaeda” The Erimtan Angle (04 Feb 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/the-war-in-afghanistan-jihad-foreign-fighters-and-al-qaeda/.

(4) Cfr. Wikipedia.