A delightfully rib-tickling true story this, a farce in which half a dozen religions are involved.
The setting is a grand place sacred to Christians – a cathedral in Scotland.
The date of the farce is January 6, the twelfth night of the Christmas season. It is traditionally a night for joking, at least in the Anglophone world. Shakespeare has a bunch of naughty characters playing practical jokes in his play Twelfth Night. (Forbidden reading though – “boko haram” – in the English departments of American universities, because Shakespeare is dead, white, and male, and could you think of any better reasons than those?)
Christians call January 6 “Epiphany”. The Roman church decided sometime in the 4th century that “Jesus” was baptized by John the Baptist on that date.
It was also, Christians say, the date on which Three Magi (Zoroastrian priests) came to pay homage to the newly born “Baby Jesus”. (Which just goes to show Zoroastrians that Christianity wins – so there!)
Now the cathedral wasn’t just any old cathedral. It was St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, and (says the Washington Times) “on its website the cathedral touts that it adheres to ‘liberal theology’ and engages in ‘ministry which is affirming, inclusive, open and non-judgemental’.”
So already we have four religions in play: Protestant Christianity of the British kind, the reigning sovereign being its head; Zoroastrianism, long since capitulated; and Marxism as coupled to Catholic Christianity in Latin America, under the name “liberation theology”.
Enter religion number five:
On that day holy to Christians, right there in the cathedral, a Muslim woman – on the invitation of the clergy – “read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ“.
It might be expected that the head of the faith in the United Kingdom of England and Scotland would and should raise an objection, call it an outrage, summon those responsible to explain why they did it and stand reproved if not condemned.
And, indeed, one of the Queen’s chaplains did object, in strong terms.
The Scottish cathedral that allowed a girl to read a passage from the Quran denying the divinity of Christ should apologise to Christians “suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims”, the Queen’s chaplain has said. …
A [Muslim] girl sang Surah 19, which specifically denies that Jesus was the Son of God and says He should not be worshipped, during a service to St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow.
Now the Rev Gavin Ashenden, one of the chaplains to Queen Elizabeth II, has said the reading could be described as “blasphemy”. …
In a letter to The Times, Rev Ashenden says:
Quite apart from the wide distress (some would say blasphemy) caused by denigrating Jesus in Christian worship, apologies may be due to the Christians suffering dreadful persecution at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere. To have the core of a faith for which they have suffered deeply treated so casually by senior Western clergy such as the Provost of Glasgow is unlikely to have a positive outcome. There are other and considerably better ways to build “bridges of understanding”.
He also wrote in a post for the Archbishop Cranmer blog that it was highly unlikely a Christian would be invited to proclaim the divinity of Christ at Friday prayers in a mosque.
There was no dialogue in the Epiphany Eucharist; only a refutation of what Christians hold most dear and upon which salvation depends. In over 30 years of interfaith conversations, I have never yet come across a Muslim community which allowed those passages in the Gospels acclaiming the divinity of Christ to be read in Friday prayers.
As outrage grew over the reading, the head of the Scottish Episcopal Church [David Chillingworth] said he was “deeply distressed at the widespread offence”, saying Christians cannot offend their own religion in the name of inter-faith dialogue.
We approach others with open hearts but we stand in the truth of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
However, the cathedral’s provost, Kelvin Holdsworth, was unrepentant and even suggested that those who were offended were actually attacking him because he is gay.
So here now is the sixth religion: Political Correctness, affirming its doctrine of “anti-sexism”.
Kelvin Holdsworth wrote:
Having a recitation from the Qur’an in a Christian cathedral in worship is not a new thing. So it has indeed come as something of a surprise to find accounts of last week’s service appearing online and stirring up the most incredible pot of hatred I’ve ever encountered. This same Qur’anic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a young woman? Clearly those things are factors as they feature in some of the abuse.”
Oh yes, “clearly” that’s what this was all about! Not about Christianity, and not about the everlasting jihad of Islam against all who do not submit to its god. It was about being inclusive, open, and non-judgemental. Kelvin Holdsworth is not judging those who see a clash of doctrine in the event – which in any case should not be condemned for the decisive reason that it has happened before – merely reproaching them for blasphemy against his religion.
So did the Established Church judge, or reproach, or reprove, or even just gently correct Mr. Holdsworth?
Not on your nelly, as the British used to say.
The Established Church of the United Kingdom fired the Queen’s chaplain.
Though they didn’t put it quite like that. They put it like this:
A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: “Dr. Gavin Ashenden has tendered his resignation from the honorary position of Chaplain to The Queen. The Royal Household has accepted the resignation with immediate effect.”
You couldn’t make this stuff up. And you gotta laugh.
A poor, illiterate woman named Aasiya Noreen* worked in the fields to help support her family of five children, two of them her own and three of them her husband’s from a former marriage.
Aasiya was a Christian. A Catholic. Her family were the only Christians in the small village where she lived some thirty miles outside Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in the Islamic state of Pakistan. The Christians of the region were an underclass, traditionally assigned to menial jobs.
One hot summer’s day in June, 2009, Aasiya was harvesting berries along with some Muslim women. They all became thirsty. The Muslim women sent Aasiya to fetch water from a well. Aasiya found a battered tin cup abandoned near the well, and had a drink from it before refilling it and carrying it to her fellow workers. One of them accused her of drinking from the cup and so making it unclean. Christian lips should not contaminate a cup that Muslims drink from. All the Muslim women agreed on that.
A dispute arose. Which was the one true religion? The Muslim women knew that Islam was the truth. Aasiya knew that Christianity was the truth. She dared to say (according to her own account), “Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammed ever do to save mankind?”
The Muslim women were deeply offended. They went to their imam and told him that the Christian woman Aasiya Noreen had insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
The imam took action. He gathered together a number of good Muslims willing to defend the Prophet and the true faith of Islam, and led them to the house where Aasiya and her family lived. They set upon her and her husband and her children with righteous blows. The police arrived in time to save the Christian family from being beaten to death. The avenging mob agreed to spare them on condition that the police laid a charge of blasphemy against the woman. The police duly arrested her and put her in jail, where she languished for more than a year before she was brought to trial in November, 2012.
Aasiya told the court that the woman who accused her of blasphemy had a grudge against her, resulting from an old quarrel, and the accusation was made out of a desire for revenge. The judge did not accept her story as a defense. He also chose to overlook inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses against her. He decided that she was guilty of blasphemy and sentenced her to death. She was to be hanged for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad whose name is never mentioned by a Muslim without having peace wished upon him.
She was the first woman ever to be condemned to death in Pakistan for blasphemy – her crime being considered so heinous that even death was not sufficient punishment. She was also to pay a fine equivalent to $1,100. She and her family had never in all their lives possessed a sum approaching $1,100. Nor did they know of any way they could raise it.
When the verdict was pronounced, the crowd in the court rose to its feet, applauding and shouting “Yes, kill her! Kill her! Allahu Akbar!”. And yet more enthusiasts for justice, more celebrants of the glory of God, broke down the doors to swarm into the court, their furious, triumphant shouts swelling the chorus of “Allahu Akbar!” The greatness of their merciful God could hardly have been more passionately attested.
Assiya’s husband, Ashiq Masih, appealed the verdict. He and Aasiya hoped that the High Court would at least suspend the sentence.
There was a man in a high position who was deeply moved by the fate of Aasiya and determined to do all he could for her. He was Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab. He persuaded the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, to come to her rescue. In December 2012, Taseer publicly announced that if the High Court did not suspend her sentence, the president would pardon her. And Zardari would have done so, but the Lahore High Court hastened to issue a stay order against a presidential pardon.
So Aasiya remained in prison in Lahore, in solitary confinement in an 8 by 10 foot windowless cell.
At first the governor would visit her, with his wife and daughter. But then the court ruled that only her husband and lawyer could see her.
On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one Mumtaz Qadri who resented the governor’s concern for the blasphemer. (He was hanged for the crime in February 2016.)
The Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti – himself a Christian, and the only Christian member of the cabinet – was so disturbed by the case that he set about doing all he could to get the laws of blasphemy changed. He announced that he was prepared to die fighting for Aasiya Noreen’s release. He received many death threats, and on March 2, 2011, he was shot dead in his car near his home.
Many times Aasiya’s appeal was postponed. In October 2014, the High Court finally heard her case – and upheld her death sentence. Her husband then appealed to the President. But he was restrained from issuing a pardon, so her lawyers appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In July, 2015, the Supreme Court suspended her death sentence “for the duration of the appeals process”.
Hundreds of Pakistanis have publicly protested against her being still alive. An imam offered $10,000 reward to anyone who would kill her, and apparently some 10 million citizens declared themselves ready and willing to do the noble deed. Assiya’s family have gone into hiding, and they fear for her safety and survival if she were to be released.
That is how the matter stands at present.
Aasiya Noreen is under sentence of death for taking a drink of water from an old cup on a hot day, and saying something she had been taught to believe, to some other women who had been taught that it was something that should not be believed and should not be said.
For a drink of water, for fantastic rumors about “Jesus” and “Muhammad”, lives ruined and lost.
*Aasiya Noreen is usually called “Asia Bibi” in press reports. “Bibi” simply means “woman”.
I have sworn to Allah, that any dog who mocks the Sharia, or mocks Islam, or blames it, we will cut out his tongue. I say this without hesitation: We will cut out his tongue! That’s it. The time of transgressing against Islam, and speaking insolence, has passed — it is over. Today, the People of Lies defend their falsehoods with great zeal; so shall we defend Islam with all our might — no matter what it costs, no matter what it costs! Let the whole world burn, but Islam not be mocked.
So proclaimed Dr. Abdullah Badr, a professor of Islamic exegesis at Cairo’s pre-eminent Islamic university Al Azhar, on Egyptian television in October, 2012.
In November 2012, Raymond Ibrahim wrote about it at Gatestone:
None of this is figurative. Days after Dr. Badr made these pronouncements, on October 30, a roaming band of Salafis in Suez attacked, severely beat and tried to cut the hand off a young Egyptian grocery store worker because he prevented one of their gang from using the store bathroom without permission. The bearded Salafi had said: “I do not ask for permission.”
The assaulted youth’s brother, angered at what had happened, then “insulted the men”. Accordingly, Suez’s new roaming band of Sharia enforcers, who call themselves the “Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” after Saudi Arabia’s “morality police”, claimed that he had insulted Islam and ordered that the man’s tongue be cut out. …
The father of the two boys … [said that] one of the Salafis … “kept screaming at the top of his voice that his son has ‘insulted the religion! His tongue must be severed as soon as possible!'” With help from others, the youth managed to escape Sharia justice. …
On May 3, 2011, a poet in Yemen had his tongue cut out by “unknown assailants”, supposedly for writing a poem in praise of the Yemeni dictator Ali Abdallah Saleh, who opposes the Islamist uprising there. …
Also, in April 2011, in “moderate” Bahrain, a muezzin was attacked, beaten, tortured — including with boiling oil — and had his tongue cut, reportedly to Islam’s war cry, “Allahu Akbar!” in a wave of violence by Bahrain’s opposition forces.
In the non-Muslim world, Muslims are also hacking at tongues. In Australia a Muslim man was recently sentenced to eight-and-a-half years’ jail time “for severing a woman’s tongue“. …
Why so much violence against the tongue? For the same reason that Dr. Badr would rather see the whole world set on fire rather than Islam insulted: the tongue — which utters words and free speech — is fundamental to exposing and combating the things of Islam, whether formal Sharia law or the violent, supremacist culture born of it. As the Sheikh of Islam himself, Ibn Taymiyya, once wrote, “Waging war verbally against Islam may be worse than waging war physically.”
The Islamic powers are ever more angrily and vociferously demanding that all criticism of their appalling religion and its barbarously cruel laws be suppressed under pain of punishment.
And the West is yielding to the demand.
These are among news reports assembled at The Clarion Project under the title What you can (and can’t) say in Europe today:
The editor of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo announced the magazine will no longer publish cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed. Six months earlier, [Muslim] gunmen slaughtered 12 people in the magazine’s offices, including the magazine’s editor, senior staff and cartoonists.
The magazine’s most prominent cartoonist, Rénald “Luz” Luzier, said earlier he would no longer draw the Prophet Mohammed since it “no longer interests me.” He quit the magazine altogether.
Unlike Norway and Iceland, Denmark decided not to cancel old laws against blasphemy, despite the fact the European Union published guidelines protecting freedom of religion and belief. The guidelines state “the right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in relevant international standards, does not include the right to have a religion or a belief that is free from criticism or ridicule.”
A year after the February 14-15, 2015 shooting attacks in Copenhagen by Islamists – one at an event called Art, Blasphemy and Freedom of Expression – the Danish government convicted and fined Danish citizen Flemming Nielsen, for a November 2013 Facebook post critical of Islam.
Dutch politician Geert Wilders is under investigation by Austrian authorities for a speech he made in Vienna recently that compared the Quran with Hitler’s Mein Kampf and suggesting the former be banned as is the later.
Wilders, whose party has been at the top or nearly at the top of the polls in Netherland for many years, made the comments in the context of arguing that members of parliaments of a nation that are accepting immigrants should have a say in the immigration policies.
In 2007, Wilders was acquitted [in the Netherlands] of an accusation of hate speech for remarks he made that were critical of Islam.
In Europe’s greatest extension, America, Robert Spencer wrote at Jihad Watch in December 2015:
December 17, 2015 ought henceforth to be a date which will live in infamy, as that was the day that some of the leading Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in favor of the destruction of the First Amendment. Sponsored by among others, Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, Loretta Sanchez, Charles Rangel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Kennedy, Al Green, Judy Chu, Debbie Dingell, Niki Tsongas, John Conyers, José Serrano, Hank Johnson, and many others, House Resolution 569condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.” The Resolution has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Spencer commented bitterly:
The leaders of free societies are eagerly lining up to relinquish [their] freedoms. The glorious diversity of our multicultural future demands it. And that future will be grand indeed, a gorgeous mosaic, as everyone assures us, once those horrible “Islamophobes” are forcibly silenced. Everyone will applaud that. Most won’t even remember, once the jihad agenda becomes clear and undeniable to everyone in the U.S. on a daily basis and no one is able to say a single thing about it, that there used to be some people around who tried to warn them.
The first cause of the greatness of Europe and the West was Critical Examination.
As we have said before, one way or another, many times:
The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies. Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.”
Totally opposed to this intellectual openness were the churches with their dogma. It was the rediscovery of the Greek legacy in the Renaissance in the teeth of Christian dogmatism, and the new freedom from religious persecution exploited by the philosophers of the Enlightenment that re-launched the West on its intellectual progress, to become the world’s nursery of innovation and its chief factory of ideas.
Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Socialism, Environmentalism, “political correctness” – and above all by Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.
Islam is backward because it does not permit criticism. It does not allow any questioning of its beliefs. It punishes doubt and dissent. If we give up criticism at the behest of our enemy, we will be abandoning the mainstay of our might and poisoning our civilization at its root.
If we silence our objections to Islam, we allow Muslims to claim that it is the Truth. Nothing is more important for our survival than freedom of thought. We cannot accept any restriction on our expression of ideas. None. Ever.
The sacredness in which a belief is held by its devotees cannot preserve it from doubt. Reason knows no blasphemy. If Islam appalls us, we must be free to say so in whatever terms we choose. If Muslims take offense, let them try winning us to their beliefs by arguing with us and not by killing us.
Violence is no argument. Murder persuades nobody. It might compel obedience, but never intellectual conviction.
Let us express our offense at being assailed by blunt ignorance, and at being ordered by foolish politicians to hold our tongues. And our implacable outrage at being threatened by Muslims with having our tongues cut out, both figuratively and literally.
Atheists of the Left – “Humanists” some call themselves – often reveal with unconscious irony how close Leftism is to Christianity: the same moral myopia, hubris, and sentimentality.
In order to enjoy the cheap emotional satisfaction of feeling they are “good people”, they go in for this sort of thing.
We quote from the Friendly Atheist at Patheos:
After the Daily Caller News Foundation posted a map of supposed “radical mosques” in the U.S., it wasn’t long before threats were made against them.
But in a wonderful gesture on Monday, the Humanists of the Palouse reached out to the Muslims, sending them a letter of concern and offering whatever help they could:
To our Muslim friends in the Moscow/Pullman area,
Recently, we have been made aware of threats to our community, centered on the Pullman Islamic Center and it and many other Mosques being mis-reported as “radical”. In today’s climate, these threats should not be taken lightly, and we certainly do not. We fully support your right to practice religion free from harm and harassment.
We recognize your members as valued residents of the Palouse. The Humanists of the Palouse want you to know that we will always defend religious freedom and cultural diversity, and threats against these are threats against our very way of life. We stand with you, and offer our support.
If you feel threatened, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to accompany anyone who feels that their safety is at risk (e.g. grocery shopping, on a walk around town, or just for someone to talk to). If we can advocate for you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and know that you have friends and allies amongst The Humanists of the Palouse.
The Center’s Board of Trustees soon issued this heartfelt response:
The entire Board of Trustees of the Pullman Islamic Association joins me in thanking you and the Humanists of the Palouse generally for this powerful statement affirming civil rights in this country. We are especially moved that a humanist group so completely supports the local Muslim group, since Islam is the most disrespected group in this country. We have noticed that the correct way to define and appreciate humanist groups in general and yours in particular is as lovers and defenders of civil rights, individual and group democratic dignities and freedom of thought, not as haters of religion. Your group’s neighborly defense of freedom of religion in the Palouse demonstrates your focus on freedom and social justice. We are impressed by and thankful for your firm support and offer of assistance and solidarity.
One of our Board of Trustees members is meeting with an FBI agent today, which demonstrates that the federal police are taking this threat seriously. Given this sobering reality of threatened arson and violence your support will always be appreciated by the leaders and membership of the Pullman Islamic Association. We hope we will not need to ask for your offered assistance, but if we do need or want such support, we will indeed reach out to Humanists of the Palouse.
That’s how you do it, friends.
You can disagree on theological issues, but I’d hope local atheist groups around the country would be willing to reach out to Muslims who are actually being persecuted by overzealous conservatives eager to shut them down.
If they lose their religious freedoms, we all do.
Can they possibly not know that sharia law – inseparable from the ideology of Islam – condemns apostasy, which is what atheism is deemed to be? And prescribes death as the punishment for atheists? (Atheist men; women not always.) In some Islamic lands they are imprisoned rather than executed. But all risk their lives, and such freedom as anyone has in a Muslim majority country.
These are reports of atheists, apostates, free thinkers who have been sentenced to prison, and/or flogging, and/or death in Islamic countries recently – the crime of atheism often being euphemized into something else in court. And some who have been killed by their Muslim compatriots.
1. From the Economist, on Alexander Aan in Indonesia:
A MOB attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”.
His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished. …
Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences. …
Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for inciting hatred. (Atheists born to non-Muslim families are not considered apostates, but they can still be prosecuted for other crimes against religion.) Even in places where laws are lenient, religious authorities and social attitudes can be harsh, with vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings.
Many, like Kacem el-Ghazzali, a Moroccan, reckon the only solution is to escape abroad. The 23-year-old was granted asylum in Switzerland after people found out he was the author of an anonymous blog, Atheistica.com. …
Nahla Mahmoud, a 25-year-old Sudanese atheist … fled to Britain in 2010. …
Ibn Warraq, the pseudonymous Indian-born author of “Leaving Islam”, a collection of essays by ex-believers, … lives in exile and has received death threats for campaigning on the behalf of apostates. … Arguments for the death penalty [he says] are usually based on a Hadith, one of the sayings which, along with the Koran, form the basis of Islamic law: “The Prophet said: whoever discards his religion, kill him.” …
Ibn Warraq says that the nub of the problem is that sharia makes atheism the number one sin, ahead of murder. …
2. From the Guardian, on Ashraf Fayadh in Saudi Arabia:
A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.
A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.
Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried earlier this month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.
3. From Patheos, the Friendly Atheist itself, on Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia:
December 26, 2013 by Paul Fidalgo [who is admirably scathing in his disgust – ed).
Saudi blogger and religious dissident Raif Badawi has been cruelly punished and toyed with by the Saudi legal system for about a year now, and things have taken a darker turn. According to Badawi’s wife, now living in Lebanon, the high court will try Badawi on the charge of apostasy. If convicted, Badawi could be executed.
This comes after a court opted not to charge him with apostasy in January, but did put him up on charges of “insulting Islam and showing disobedience”. How did they come to this decision? Badawi is the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, which is bad enough, but imagine the horror that washed over Saudi society with this kind of action:
The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.
As a result of this heinous behavior, in July, Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison.
Which was horrifying enough. But now it looks like Badawi is being brought up on apostasy charges in earnest. Badawi’s case is one of many being watched by the Office of Public Policy at the Center for Inquiry, where I work, and our Campaign for Free Expression. Browse the cases we have listed there, and you’ll see that, sadly, Badawi’s case is hardly unique.
Cases like this need more international attention, and those who position themselves as “allies” of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States, need to discover their consciences. How can the civilized world refer to itself as such when an ally practices such barbarism, it looks the other way?
The judge in Badawi’s subsequent appeal stiffened the original 2013 sentence – seven years in prison and 600 lashes – to 1000 lashes, ten years in prison and a fine of $266,000. See our post, The punishment of reason, January 12, 2015, where there is an eyewitness description of the first of the series of lashings Badawi is being subjected to.
Badawi had written, “My commitment is… to reject any repression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful, law-abiding way.”
This was interpreted by the judge as “insulting Islam”.
Badawi’s health is now frail. He is unlikely to survive the lashings.
4. From Poetry Foundation, on Hashem Shaabani in Iran:
We were saddened and horrified today to learn of the death of Hashem Shaabani, who was executed on January 27th by the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
From Radio Free Europe:
An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God”.
Press reports said Shaabani was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani.
In a statement on February 5, Freedom House said Shaabani was subjected to severe torture and interrogation during his three years in prison.
Human Rights Voices also reports on the execution, writing:
To those who knew him, was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system … In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says … “I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.”
5. From the Guardian on Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed in Pakistan:
No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. … In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. …
Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas. …
6. From a Reuters report on Ananta Bijoy Das and others in Bangladesh:
Third Atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh.
A blogger was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in Bangladesh on Tuesday (May 12), the third killing of a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation in less than three months.
Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger who advocated secularism, was attacked by four masked assailants in the northeastern district of Sylhet on Tuesday morning, senior police official Mohammad Rahamatullah told Reuters.
Rahamatullah said Das was a 33-year-old banker.
He was also editor of science magazine “Jukti,” which means “logic,” and on the advisory board of “Mukto Mona” (Free Mind), a website propagating rationalism and opposing fundamentalism …
According to the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group, Islamist militant group Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh said al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had claimed responsibility for the attack. …
Imran Sarker, the head of a network of activists and bloggers in Bangladesh, said Das was “a progressive free thinker and a good human being”. …
Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years …
On March 30, Washiqur Rahman, another secular blogger who aired his outrage over [Avijit] Roy’s death on social media, was killed in similar fashion on a busy street in the capital, Dhaka.
Their deaths followed the killing in 2013 of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who backed calls to impose the death penalty on Islamist leaders accused of atrocities in Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.
Why do our fellow atheists – of the leftist “Humanist” persuasion – not burn with anger against the ideology that persecutes atheism, secularism, rationalism, and shun the company of its devotees?
If they think they are earning the goodwill and tolerance of the Muslims towards whom they’re making this gesture, they’re pathetically deluded. Their nice little letter is not going to change sharia law, or the minds of those who want to impose it on us all.
They seem simply not to believe that the Muslims they contacted might be members of “radicalizing” mosques – which is to say, mosques with imams who urge them to support terrorist groups or join ISIS. There’s no hint that they explored the possibility. In their minds, the accusation must be wholly unjustified.
And one more thing. When those poor persecuted Muslims “in the Moscow/Pullman area” whimpered that “Islam is the most disrespected group in this country”, they are lying. The president of the United States is the son of a Muslim and an Islam lover who has brought Muslim Brotherhood advisers into his administration – and has clearly formed policies on their advice..
At the time of this writing there have been 27,322 deadly attacks carried out by Muslims since 9/11. (See the tally in our margin, taken from The Religion of Peace.) Muslim terrorists do all they can to terrify non-Muslims, and then cynically accuse them of an irrational fear of Islam, calling it “Islamophobia”.
Muslims are the target of few “hate crimes” in the US. But they perpetrate more than any others do.
We quote from an article by David J. Rusin at Islamist Watch. His staistics come from a December 2014 report of 2013 figures. (We await the 2014 report this coming December):
New FBI Hate Crime Stats: Another Blow to Islamist Fictions
There were 1,031 incidents inspired by religion last year, 625 (60.6 percent) of which were anti-Jewish. Anti-Islamic ones constituted just 13.1 percent.
On April 15, 2013, Muslim terrorists murdered three and injured hundreds at the Boston Marathon, prompting familiar warnings about an imminent anti-Muslim backlash. The FBI’s findings are proof that such collective punishment did not materialize — as it almost never does.
How have Islamist groups greeted the FBI data? With silence. It is the sound of disappointment on the part of radicals who need Muslim victims, preferably real ones, to serve as human shields for the Islamist agenda. Bad news for Islamists is once again good news for the rest of us.
Poetry is taken very seriously in Iran.
It is taken very seriously by the rulers of Iran, who stand high among the rulers of the darkness of this world.
And have been further elevated by the president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, who has bowed deeply to them, and crawled at their feet, and grovelling there has begged them to use him as their footstool.
The highest of them all, the Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, writes poems.
They know what a poem is. What it should be. What it must be: a hymn to Allah. If it is not that, it is not a poem.
And if anyone writes something about anything else and dares to call it a “poem”, he or she deserves at the very least to be flogged and flogged and flogged again, and shut away for many years, and have their writings banned. Some deserve nothing less than to be shot or bled to death.
Amir Taheri writes at Gatestone:
Does a seminar on reforming the meter and rhyme schemes of Persian poetry violate “Islamic values” and threaten the foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran?
That is the view of the Islamic Court in Tehran, which last month sentenced two poets, Fateme Ekhtesari and Mehdi Mussavi, to nine and 11.5 years in prison respectively, plus 99 lashes of the cane for each in public.
One of the two, Mrs. Fateme Ekhtesari, was sentenced to 11.5 years for “undermining the security of the Islamic state” by composing and reciting in public a number of “poems full of ambiguity and capable of being read in deviant and dangerous ways”.
So if any of her images turns the devout reader’s imagination to blasphemy, flog her, imprison her, and ban the evil poem.
Ekhtesari is a surrealist poet whose verse could, and indeed is intended to, be read in many different ways. One of her diwans (collections of verse), for example, is called Crying on the Shoulder of An Egg. Another comes under the title A Feminist Discourse Before Baking Potatoes.
In the case of Iranian women – of all women under the yoke of Islam – we understand the need for a “feminist” movement; a movement to set them free, whatever it may be called.
And we do not argue with any poet’s subject matter, even if it is religious.
Feminism is a strong theme with Ekhtesari, who insists that, as God created both men and women from the same “red mud” mentioned in the Koran, there is no reason to prevent the latter from enjoying any freedoms available to the former.
In Islam, for a woman to claim equality with men is a sin, a crime, an enormity.
The Tehran Islamic Prosecutor insisted that Ekhtesari’s “ambiguous poems” were meant to pass “dangerous political messages that could encourage people to distance themselves from the True Faith”.
“She writes something but means something else,” the prosecutor claimed. “Her trick is to avoid saying anything in a straightforward way, creating space for all manner of dangerous thinking.”
The prosecutor based part of his case on the claim that what matters in Islam is “zikr,” that is to say, a constant remembrance of God by repeating, if necessary in silence and to oneself, the formula “There is no God but Allah”. Those who abandon “zikr” for its opposite — which is “fikr”, that is to say, thinking — move away from the Path of Faith.
Zikr versus Fikr. Faith versus Reason. The aim of Islam is to smother the world in Zikr. Snuff out Fikr. Put an end to Reason – the most dangerous thing in the universe.
The irony in all this is that Ekhtesari is not a political poet. In fact, she has written that those who try to use poetry to advance political ideals betray both.
As editor of the monthly literary magazine Only One Tomorrow, Ekhtesari offered space to writers and poets across the ideological spectrum, including some Khomeinists. Her magazine was shut down soon after Hassan Rouhani became president.
However, as a poet, Ekhtesari cannot but be affected by the ambient social and political order in her homeland. She cannot turn her face the other way when she sees ugliness, oppression and terror – themes that force their way into some of her poems.
Ekhtesari is also an original theoretician of poetic modes. Her collection of essays entitled Linguistic Tricks in Postmodern Sonnet [Ghazal] is both intriguing and instructive.
Ekhtesari’s fellow convict-cum-poet is Mehdi Mussavi, who received a six-year [or nine-year?] sentence. Mussavi is the founder and principal animator of a poetry workshop in Tehran where Ekhtesari has often spoken and recited her poems. The workshop is supposedly dedicated to developing a new form that Mussavi calls “postmodern ghazal”. The classic form of Persian sonnet, ghazal, has been the subject of numerous attempts at modernization, notably by Simin Behbahani, one of Iran’s greatest contemporary poetesses.
To call the ghazal a sonnet is misleading. It is a traditional form with rules, as is the sonnet, but its form is nothing like that of the sonnet. But we’ll let that pass.
What matters here is Mehdi Mussavi’s moral wickedness as a poet and the danger it poses to the Iranian state.
Like Behbahani, Mussavi argues that, having experimented with modern forms, including European-style prose-poetry, for almost a century, Persian poets need to return to traditional forms, albeit with changes to reflect modern realities.
Mussavi rejects the argument of the older generation poets such as Ahmad Shamlou, who claimed that the traditional ghazal is so beholden to the musicality of its meter and rhyme schemes that it cannot relay any meaning in a powerful way.
According to Mussavi, once the Persian poet has learned to play by the traditional rules, he could invent virtually countless meters and rhymes capable of expressing any sentiment.
Just literary controversy, you might say. Insiders chat. But in Islam, the literary is political, every idea is political, because Islam is a totalitarian religio-political ideology.
Literary opponents of Mussavi’s theories, especially on the left, argue that he, like Behbahani and other reformers of the ghazal before them, suffers from a sense of insecurity in a changing world where the Iran they knew is being remolded into something repulsive in the name of Islam.
The Islamic Court charged Mussavi with propagating “immoral images” in his poetry and thus “insulting sacred values of the Islamic ummah”.
Equally painful is the Islamic Court’s decision to impose a blanket ban on the publication and recital of any poems by Ekhtesari and Mussavi. Under an edict issued by the Islamic Guidance Ministry in 2003, people like Ekhtesari and Mussavi, who are found guilty of “insulting Islam” and thus put on the official index, become “non-persons” – even their names and pictures are banned.
Both Ekhtesari and Mussavi had spent several months in prison two years ago, but were released after the Islamic Prosecutor Ayatollah Ra’isi failed to prove any political crime.
That is why this time, the prosecutor focused on a claim that the poets had attacked “the sacred tenets of the faith”.
The sentencing was made easier thanks to a recent lecture by “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laying down the rules of what he believes “good Islamic poets” should observe when writing poetry. …
Iran is one of the few countries in the world where poetry has always been regarded as the highest form of literary creation. In Iranian cities, streets and parks were more often named after poets than conquerors or empire-builders or, until the mullahs seized power, Islamic saints and/or theologians. If an Iranian home has at least one book, it is likely to be a collection of poems.
And yet, with the seizure of power by mullahs in 1979, Iran has experienced one of the most dangerous phases in its long history, as far as poets – and intellectuals in general – are concerned.
Another irony is that both the founder of the regime, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his successor as “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei, cast themselves as amateur poets. Khomeini banned publication of his own divans while he was alive, believing that appearing as a poet might soften the dour persona he was building as leader of a revolution that could execute 4000 people on a weekend.
Since his death, however, hundreds of his poems, most of them traditional-style sonnets (ghazals) have been published by the foundation bearing his name.
Ali Khamenei does not publish his poems, but organizes private readings with a few dozen “appreciators” once or twice a year and is reportedly “in seventh heaven” when his entourage quote one of his verses.
Ekhtesari and Mussavi have been sent to jail, not killed. Other poets have not been so lucky.
Hashem Shaabani was hanged on the eve of President Rouhani’s visit to Ahvaz in 2014. Shaabani was not the first Iranian poet to be murdered by the mullahs. The left-wing poet Sa’id Sultanpour was abducted on the day of his wedding on Khomeini’s orders, and shot dead in a Tehran prison. Rahman Hatefi-Monfared, writing under the pen-name of Heydar Mehregan, had his veins cut and was left to bleed to death in the notorious Evin Prison. Under President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a plan to kill a busload of Iranian poets on their way to a festival in Armenia failed at the last minute. Nevertheless, Rafsanjani succeeded in eliminating more than a dozen writers and poets. The worst spate of killings happened under President Khatami, when more than 80 intellectuals, including the poets Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad-Ja’far Pouyandeh, were murdered by the Islamic regime’s security agents.
This post, first published on September 3, 2011, needs to be repeated from time to time, and this is one of those times.
It could be retitled The need to knock religion:
The greatness of the West began with doubting. The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies.
Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” He was not, however, the first to use doubt for discovery. Thales of Miletos, who was born 155 years before Socrates, dared to doubt that religion’s explanatory tales about how the world came to be as it is were to be trusted, and he began exploring natural phenomena in a way that we recognize as scientific. He is often called the Father of Science. With him and his contemporary, Anaximander, who argued with him by advancing alternative ideas, came the notion – for the first time as far as we know – that reason could fathom and describe how the universe worked.
Science is one of the main achievements of the West, but it is not the only product of constructive doubt that made for its greatness. Doubt as a habit of mind or tradition of thinking meant that new, foreign, even counter-intuitive ideas were not dismissed. Europe, before and after it stagnated in the doldrums of the long Catholic Christian night (and even to some extent during those dark centuries), was hospitable to ideas wherever they came from.
Totally opposed to this intellectual openness were the churches with their dogma. Those who claim that the achievements of our civilization are to be credited to Christianity (or in the currently fashionable phrase to “the Judeo-Christian tradition”) have a hard case to make. It was the rediscovery of the Greek legacy in the Renaissance in the teeth of Christian dogmatism, and the new freedom from religious persecution exploited by the philosophers of the Enlightenment that re-launched the West on its intellectual progress, to become the world’s nursery of innovation and its chief factory of ideas.
Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Marxism, environmentalism, religion – above all Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.
The Founding Fathers of the United States perfectly understood the necessity for an open market of ideas. Every citizen of the republic, they laid down, must be free to declare his beliefs, to argue his case, to speak his mind, to examine ideas as publicly as he chose without fear of being silenced.
This warning comes from Nina Shea, writing in the National Review:
An unprecedented collaboration between the Obama administration and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, formerly called the Organization of the Islamic Conference) to combat “Islamophobia” may soon result in the delegitimization of freedom of expression as a human right.
The administration is taking the lead in an international effort to “implement” a U.N. resolution against religious “stereotyping,” specifically as applied to Islam. To be sure, it argues that the effort should not result in free-speech curbs. However, its partners in the collaboration, the 56 member states of the OIC, have no such qualms. Many of them police private speech through Islamic blasphemy laws and the OIC has long worked to see such codes applied universally. Under Muslim pressure, Western Europe now has laws against religious hate speech that serve as proxies for Islamic blasphemy codes.
Last March, U.S. diplomats maneuvered the adoption of Resolution 16/18 within the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). Non-binding, this resolution, inter alia, expresses concern about religious “stereotyping” and “negative profiling” but does not limit free speech. It was intended to — and did — replace the OIC’s decidedly dangerous resolution against “defamation of religions,” which protected religious institutions instead of individual freedoms.
But thanks to a puzzling U.S. diplomatic initiative that was unveiled in July, Resolution 16/18 is poised to become a springboard for a greatly reinvigorated international effort to criminalize speech against Islam, the very thing it was designed to quash.
Citing a need to “move to implementation” of Resolution 16/18, the Obama administration has inexplicably [not if Obama’s Islamophilia is remembered – ed] decided to launch a major international effort against Islamophobia in partnership with the Saudi-based OIC. This is being voluntarily assumed at American expense, outside the U.N. framework, and is not required by the resolution itself.
On July 15, a few days after the Norway massacre, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-chaired an OIC session in Istanbul on religious intolerance. It was there that she announced the initiative, inviting the OIC member-states’ foreign ministers and representatives to the inaugural meeting of the effort that the U.S. government would host this fall in Washington. She envisions it as the first in a series of meetings to decide how best to implement Resolution 16/18.
In making the announcement, Clinton was firm in asserting that the U.S. does not want to see speech restrictions: “The resolution calls upon states to ‘counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate . . . but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence.’” (This is the First Amendment standard set forth in the 1969 Supreme Court case of Brandenburg v. Ohio.)
With the United States providing this new world stage for presenting grievances of “Islamophobia” against the West, the OIC rallied around the initiative as the propaganda windfall that it is. It promptly reasserted its demands for global blasphemy laws, once again sounding the call of its failed U.N. campaign for international laws against the so-called defamation of Islam. It has made plain its aim to use the upcoming conference to further pressure Western governments to regulate speech on behalf of Islam.
The aim of the OIC is to criminalize criticism of Islam, though it might go along with banning the criticism of religion in general as an interim step. It will reserve to itself the right to condemn all other religions and beliefs, but allege that any criticism of Islam is incitement to violence – and call angry crowds on to the streets to prove it.
Islam is now the major threat to the West. Its ideas are the very opposite of those on which the USA was founded. It is an ideology of intolerance and cruelty. It forbids the free expression of thought. By its very nature, even if it were not now on a mission of world conquest (which it is), it is the enemy of the West.
The best way to defeat it is by criticizing it, constantly and persistently, in speech and writing, on the big screen and the small screen, in the schools and academies, in all the media of information and comment, in national and international assemblies.
If the weapon of words is forbidden, the only alternative will be guns.
This article by Nick Cohen appeared in the leftist, anti-Semitic, Islam-loving Guardian. And yet – except where we have raised a few objections – it is an opinion we find we can welcome.
No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. That she is alive at all is a miracle – to use a word of which she would thoroughly disapprove. As I watched her deliver the British Humanist Association’s annual Voltaire lecture , I saw a dignified and principled intellectual it was our duty to emulate and defend. I could not understand why anyone would want to harm, let alone kill, her.
But many do. In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. To hear her talk about her murdered husband made me long to have met him. He was a typical intellectual – hopeless with anything practical but in love with literature, science and free debate.
Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas.
Ahmed talked about how compromised the Bangladeshi state had become, and you could easily make the mistake of thinking her story had nothing to do with us. Yet there were guards at the doors of her lecture room, searching bags for bombs and guns. A widow, still recovering from the slash of meat cleavers, with no weapon to threaten anyone beyond the power of her thought, is as much a target in London as Dhaka.
The comparisons don’t stop there. Immigration has meant that Bangladeshi politics are British politics too. You will never understand why London’s East End returns politicians as grotesque as George Galloway or mayors as bent as Lutfur Rahman unless you know that Tower Hamlets is Jamaat-e-Islami’s British stronghold. Grasp that the party of Bangladesh’s religious right is always willing to lend its vote bank to politicians who bow before its prejudices and you will gaze on the East End’s fetid politics with less bewilderment.
A bit of an annoyance there: “Bangladesh’s religious right”.
Religious Muslims are intolerant. Islam is intolerant. It is not surely a matter of “right” or “left” in an Islamic country, but of religious or not religious, and so intolerant or tolerant.
Above all else, the fear that religious terror brings, the lies it makes people tell and concessions it forces them to make are as familiar here as on the subcontinent.
Ahmed was in despair about Bangladesh. Islamists had not only murdered her beloved husband, but two other atheist bloggers. As Bangladesh’s ruling party is officially secular, and as Islamists have opposed the state ever since Jamaat-e-Islami death squads collaborated with the Pakistani army in committing crimes that came close to genocide during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, the naive might assume that the government would be keen to fight her husband’s enemies.
Not so. After one prominent Jamaat activist was sentenced to death for his part in the 1971 war, Islamists responded by demanding that dozens of secularists who had allegedly “insulted” their famously thin-skinned religion be tried for blasphemy and condemned to death. The state did not reply that Bangladeshis had the freedom to believe what they wanted. It said the authorities would prosecute blasphemers under repressive laws that date from the British empire.
But were not made by the British!
Liberals in Bangladesh are therefore on both Islamist death lists and police arrest lists. If killers with meat cleavers don’t get them, cops with warrants will. To Bangladesh’s shame, the state has threatened friends and allies of Ahmed and Roy with prison for the crime of “hurting religious sentiments” and jeopardising “communal harmony”.
Lenin said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Islamists must feel the same about the “moderate” governments they want to destroy. Instead of taking extremists on and upholding human rights, Bangladesh justifies extremism by turning on the liberal critics of religion and treating them as criminals. In one of the most pathetic interviews you’ll ever read, Sajeeb Wazed, the son of Sheikh Hasina told Reuters that his mother had found it prudent to offer only private condolences to Roy’s family after his assassination. Although “we believe in secularism”, the wretched man explained, the prime minister could not make a public stand “because our opposition party plays that religion card against us relentlessly, we cannot come out strongly. It’s about perception, not about reality”. …
Avijit Roy lost his life because he wanted to change reality, not perception. He knew the dangers, but knew too that there are fights that cannot be ducked. “Those who think victory will be realised without any bloodshed are living in a fool’s paradise,” he wrote before his death. “We risk our lives the moment we started wielding our pens against religious bigotry and fundamentalism.”
Compare the bravery of Bangladeshi intellectuals with the attitude of the bulk of the western intelligentsia. Whole books could be written on why it failed to argue against the fascism of our age – indeed I’ve written a couple myself – but the decisive reason is a fear that dare not speak its name. They are frightened of accusations of racism, frightened of breaking with the consensus, frightened most of all of violence. They dare not admit they are afraid. So they struggle to produce justifications to excuse their dereliction of duty. They turn militant religion into a rational reaction to poverty or western foreign policy. They maintain there is a moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism.
We agree. There is no moral equivalence between militant religion and militant atheism. There is no moral equivalence between religion, which is the propagation of lies, and atheism which condemns the lies.
On occasion, they drop even that spurious attempt at evenhandedness and seem to suggest, as Professor Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics, did recently, that the real menace facing universities is not students heading to Syria to rape and behead but secularists whose calls for free speech “challenge the faith and beliefs of religious students” and disrupt “campus harmony”. David Cameron will clearly have trouble taking his mission to “root out” extremism to the LSE.
For all the similarities, there is no moral equivalence between Britain and Bangladesh. They have thinkers of the calibre of Rafida Bonya Ahmed and Avijit Roy, while we have liberals whom Karl Marx might have looked at and said: “Religion is the opium of the intellectuals.”
But Marxism is another religion.
On Remembrance Day in Kensington, London, Muslims burn poppies, the symbols of heroic sacrifice worn by Britons in honor of their fathers and brothers who fell in two world wars.