Tag Archives: Hinduism

“As an Orthodox Christian…” & us and the West and Romans and Otto, the Habsburgs and a Balkan Afghanistan

19 Jan

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This is kind of a silly question, but if I think about it, parts of me belong to all of these, and part of Orthodoxy’s beauty comes from being able to be all of these at once.  “Roman/Byzantine” takes precedence by far; it’s pretty much one of the most important theses of this blog, and if people understood what I meant if I said “Roman” or didn’t just think I was crazy, I would call myself a Roman for sure, just as my ancestors did down to my grandparents, or the tiny remnant Greek minority of Istanbul still does.

“National Church?”  Clearly I’m more attached to the rites, imagery and music of the Greek Church through the sheer fact of being brought up in that space, even though Russians are far more professional in their production values than we are and that does affect my mood.  Otherwise, though I may feel some honorary precedence for the Patriarch of Constantinople — and yes, even the Pope — no one Church takes priority over another for me.  And I think it’s of utmost, urgent importance that the national Churches stay out of political life everywhere.  The first cool thing Tsipras did when he was sworn in as Prime Minister (when I was still super-hopeful about him and Syriza) was to have no clergy present at the ceremony.  The Church needs to know its place: in church.

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At one with the “Eschaton” (ἔσχατον) bre koumbare?! the Infinite, the Ultimate, that Beyond beyond which there is no Beyond?!  Aren’t you asking a bit much of us with that one?  :)  To keep things short and in keeping with Orthodoxy’s traditional apophatic theology, I have to say that I wouldn’t know if I were at one with the Eschaton, even if I were.

I may have written this before — can’t remember — but if I could have somehow been a conscient embryo who could choose what religious tradition to be born into, it would be Hinduism, because it functions on the most sophisticated dialectic spectrum between unity and plurality than any other religious tradition, though we can see these days in Modi’s India how questionable it is to romanticize polytheism — as I have in the past — as inherently tolerant and open-ended. You can have one God that’s an insufferable prick like that of the Abrahamic trio and a thousand gods that are just as much insufferable pricks, though there’s a tiny more wiggle-room with the latter.

So, if you ask me about my religious affiliation, I guess I’ll tell you I’m Greek Orthodox — which I guess I am.  If you ask me what I really “believe” — though I’m not sure what that word means precisely — I’ll have to tell you I’m a Jungian (I know, it’s the cop out of every Jungian: I don’t know what ‘believe’ means really).  And that’s as close to a religious identity and the Eschaton I think I’ll ever consciously get to.

Finally, “anti-Hellene.”  If I’m 99% Roman, I’m 150% anti-Hellene.  The term “Hellene” is…essentially…a lie, a resuscitated neologism, an oxymoron that gives away its own falseness, and the impulse behind its creation since the Greek Enlightenment is childish and embarrassing.  I understand: if you’re an impoverished Albanian statelet and you’re told you’re the heirs to Pericles and Alexander, with a 17-year-old scion of the looney Wittelsbach royal family of Bavaria as king, you’ll dress up as Alexander the Great at Apokries (Carnival) and take that myth as better than nothing.*  With “Hellene” today more than unquestionably established as an endonym — though all Greeks still know what they’re talking about when they say Roman or “Romioi” or “Ρωμιοί” — themselves — there’s not much one can do.  It’s the campaign now to abolish “Greek”, which has served the West as an exonym for us for more than two millenia, and make foreigners say “Hellas” and “Hellene” that makes me start to grind my teeth whenever I see it.  Like, starting at the airport…

Answer your questions Byz?

I’ve promised a “Why I’m a Roman” post for years now but haven’t gotten around to it because the issue is so convoluted, but I promise soon.

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* I never knew that Otto was so handsome.  Look up the Wittelsbach; they’re a fascinating cast of characters that would make Netflix’ The Crown or any other historical film or tv a total bore; the family that produced Elizabeth of Wittelesbach, consort to Kaiser-und-König Franz Josef, their son Crown Prince Rudolph Habsburg, who committed suicide with his lover at Mayerling, Ludwig II of Bavaria, the nephew of our Otto and the great patron of Wagner throughout his career, who were cousins through the Wittlesbach line with Elizabeth and most intimate best friends till his assassination; they adored each other. He probably gay; she on planet Wittelsbach, but with an intense fascination for Hungarians, who she romanticized as wild and sexy (chuckle to myself because that kinda sounds like me and Serbs), and as a foil against the stuffy court at Vienna.  The only Habsburg who ever bothered to learn Magyar, she made herself queen of Hungary and even the most anti-Habsburg Hungarians loved her back and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that she was a major factor in keeping German-Hungarian animosity from tearing the empire apart for as long as it did.

Sorry for the mangled and probably confusing historic summary there.

Plus, they gave us an Athens that’s still beautiful despite all the destruction inflicted on it.

Prinz_Otto_von_Bayern_Koenig_von_Griechenland_1833I always had a genuine affection for Otto and his consort Amalia.  They were crazy German Romantic Philhellenes of their time in the purist sense so you can imagine how he felt upon being crowned King of Greece.  They adored their new kingdom and its people and didn’t treat it as their personal çiftlik, expending instead much effort in creating a new Euro-Greek social and political culture that would match their times.  But in what was essentially a Balkan Afghanistan, run by Albanian warlords, that proved too much of an obstruction.  They were ousted and shipped back to Bavaria in 1862.

Isabel_da_Áustria_1867See Elizabeth von Habsburg of Austria née Wittlesbach, for an account of Elizabeth’s tragic life and assassination.

Rudolf_Crown_Prince_of_Austria_LOCRudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. the son of Franz Josef and Elizabeth, who committed suicide with his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera, below:

Mary Vetsera

De_20_jarige_Ludwig_II_in_kroningsmantel_door_Ferdinand_von_Piloty_1865Ludwig II of Bavaria, major patron of Wagner

Glamorous, elegant and crazy as a loon every one of them.  You can see in late 19c. Vienna, the slow growth of the Teutonic dementia that would eventually wreck Europe twice, though a pan-German constitutional monarchy might have kept the forces of fascism at bay.

What’s really curious to me is the intensity of Greek anti-monarchical sentiment towards the Danish Glücksburgs, who were installed as kings by the European powers after the outing of Otto and the WittlesbachsThey seem, from my perspective, at least, like a bunch of innocuous nebeches — certainly without the nutty flair of the Habsburgs — more passive than anything else as kings of Greece, and making everything worse when they did take an active political role — or try to — in things.  I probably don’t know enough.

Elizabeth’s palace at Corfu, the Achilleion

Achilleion_in_KerkyraElizabeth’s Corfu palace, the Achilleion, a getaway from court and her insufferably cruel mother-in-law Sophie

In the intro to the blog, I look back and see that I wrote, in: Jadde — Starting off — the Mission“: 

“What I hope this blog accomplishes, then, is to create even the tiniest amount of common consciousness among readers from the parts of the world in question.  A very tall order, I understand, maybe even grandiose.  Time will tell if it all ends up an unfocussed mess and I end up talking to myself; it’s very likely.”

I’ve gone in this one post from whether I’m Orthodox or not and Orthodox Church rankings to Rudolph II of the Habsburgs and the double suicides at Mayerling.  I hope I’ve succeeded in the kind of tall order I’ve set for myself in making connections for people that they didn’t know existed.  Maybe for others it’s just another weird NikoBako Piscean stream of consciousness türlü.  But maybe even for them there’s an unconscious level on which things hook up with one another.

But I bet you didn’t know that the connection between “Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια” — “In the time of Otto” — by Stavros Xarhakos and Richard Wagner ran through Munich, did you?

An odd poem/document to the struggle to establish order and form a new Greek state.  I don’t know why the English translation given here says “cruel guards” when in Greek it’s “Bavarian guards”.

In the Time of Otto

One afternoon
around the Acropolis,
The heartless thieves
made toy hot rocks
their hangout.
At Monastiraki,
the cruel guards,
In front of the king
are dancing
sirtaki
(REF:)
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
(INTERLUDE)
Down at the port,
The policemen are dancing.
They came but
their hearts are still
in Mani.
On Tuesday the guys
came in from Psiloriti.
They drink tsikoudia,
But their hearts are still
in Crete.
To Crete and Mani,
We will send a decree,
In cities and in villages.
We will send a decree,
For the policemen to come,
To kick out the brutes.
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Στου Όθωνα τα χρόνια

Ένα μεσημέρι
στης Ακρόπολης τα μέρη
άπονοι ληστές
κάναν τις πέτρες τις ζεστές
λημέρι
Στο Μοναστηράκι
Βαυαροί χωροφυλάκοι
μες στην αντηλιά,
χορεύουν μπρος στον βασιλιά
συρτάκι
(REF:)
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
θα στείλουμε φιρμάνι
να `ρθούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
να κυνηγήσουν τα θεριά.
(INTERLUDE)
Κάτω στο λιμάνι
τραγουδούν οι πολιτσμάνοι
ήρθαν τα παιδιά
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Μάνη
Ήρθανε την Τρίτη
τα παιδιά του Ψηλορείτη
πίνουν τσικουδιά,
μα έχουν ακόμα την καρδιά
στην Κρήτη
Στην Κρήτη και στη Μάνη
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
σε πολιτείες και χωριά
εστείλαμε φιρμάνι
κι ήρθαν οι πολιτσμάνοι
και διώξαν όλα τα θεριά.

https://lyricstranslate.com

nikobakos@gmail.com

The “comforting illusion” of India

11 Nov

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I have a serious philosophical issue with all monotheisms; the concept just doesn’t hold water for me and I never understood why in junior high history it was presented as such a leap forward in the development of human consciousness.  Like, what’s so smart about this totally reductive idea?

I’ve always said that if I could be a sentient embryo and choose what religion I would be born into, it would be Hinduism, because it seems to me that it contains the most intelligent and sophisticated dialectic between unity and plurality.  Just the Gita — where a handsome, young, womanizing god is revealed to be the very principle of existence itself — has always been enough to seduce me both intellectually and emotionally — and sexually, frankly.  I think Kanha’s “I am the taste of water”, may be even more powerful than Yahweh’s «Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν» — “I am the Is”.

But it’s precisely that kind of Western romance with Hinduism and its infinite polymorphousness, to paraphrase Freud*, that has led to the “free pass” we’ve given to a criminal Modi from “Bible-belt” Gujarat and a criminal BJP for way too long.  It’s tempting and comforting to think that Hindu fundamentalism is an oxymoron, but fanaticism and hate can infect any ideology.

Modi is a criminal and the BJP and Shiv Sena — with its increasing stranglehold on one of the world’s great, open, cosmopolitan cities, which is why “Mumbai” infuriates me, though nobody seems to listen to me — are criminal, murderous organizations.

No amount of saffron and marigolds can change that.

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* Anthropologist Clifford Geertz used to tell an anecdote — whether real or not has never been verified — about an Englishman who asked a saddhu he came across one day where the universe was located.  And the holy man replied:

“On the back of an elephant that rests on the back of a turtle.”

“And the turtle?”

“On the back of another turtle.”

“And that turtle?”

“On the back of another turtle.”

“And that turtle?”

“Ah, sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down.”

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

Times: This is heartbreaking and maddening — India and unending Partition

6 Oct

But the nation state, especially when allied with religion, will always make you choose.

“Mr. Bheel is wracked by doubt, the same doubt his grandfather had when he chose to keep the family in Pakistan during partition. Did he make the right choice?”  [My emphasis]

merlin_160701048_e0a56f3b-7bff-41e3-b6fb-2b0314f9da71-superJumboCreditSaumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

The Navratri “diet”

28 Sep

I don’t know who India’s equivalent of Oprah is, but I’m sure this has been featured: the healthful effects of Navratri fasting rules.

Few things are more irritating (“might make you grouchy” my friend E. says) than traditional dietary practices of depth, subtle abstraction, intelligent symbolism and transcendence being given new, healthy, “life-style” meaning.  Being retroactively rationalized, in short, into meaningless utilitarianism.

That Jews and Muslims don’t eat pig meat because “pigs are dirty” is probably the most ancient one.  Because they’re not.  Pigs actually have high self-hygeine practices compared to other domestic mammals and that’s generally attributed to their relatively high intelligence compared to other mammals.  (I’m always tempted to think it’s just that pig meat tastes so good — like shellfish and wine — and banning its voluptuousness was just one of those random rules that monotheism needs to build its puritan edifice and get its rocks off*).  The chicken whose steroid-bloated, skinless, grilled pec you’re eating lives in far filthier conditions and even in free range eats worms and its own feaces.  Then there are the vegans who think that their diet and a Hindu’s vegetarianism come from the same impulse and have the same objective.  If that were the case Indian vegetarian wouldn’t be so wildly delicious and vegan food so unswallowable.  Or the male soy-dieter, wreaking havoc on his endocrinal system and flooding his body with estrogen, because Zen must have something to teach us about health.  It does, just not that.

And then are those occasions when it’s spring and you explain to someone the guidelines for Orthodox, Lenten fasting (Because they’re guidelines, suggestions, not rules like in Catholicism.)  “Oh,” inevitably comes the response, “that must have started as a wise way to cleanse your system for spring — and you must lose so much weight.”  No.  You don’t.  You end up eating a ton of cheap carbs and sugars on the halva and lagana diet and on Easter you’re ten pounds fatter than you were at Carnival when you were gorging on fat and animal protein.

So Jai Ganesh Deva”!  Eat Navratri foods if you want and offer the right prasad.  Pray that Sri Ganesh, in his wisdom, prevents any anti-Muslim violence — something a little more important than your anti-oxidant consumption — and skip the diet part.

Ganesha--e1528735504544.jpg

* Don’t wear wool and cotton blends.  “Thou shalt not round the corners of thy head.”  “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.”

Huh?  Not just the randomness of the injunction, but the obscurity of the language… What are these rules even dictating exactly?  What are the corners of my head?  Last time I looked my head was round already.  Is it just the mother’s milk?  Then why is all milk prohibited?  And on that one weird line we construct a whole dietary culture and an entire constitution of domestic order that must be an insane expense of energy to maintain…

Off topic?  Yeah, well…

comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

Diwali photos from the Guardian

19 Oct

Many are gorgeous; these two were real knockouts though.  See all of them in full size:

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.24.22 PMA woman places earthen lamps, or diyas, on the threshold of her home on the eve of Diwali in Hyderabad, India  Photograph: Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 7.30.13 PMA devotee lights oil lamps at a religious ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Shubh Diwali — photo from Will Dalrymple

19 Oct

@DalrympleWill

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Modi criticism mounts: from the Guardian’s Michael Safi

8 Sep

Narendra Modi criticised over Twitter links to abuse of shot journalist

Indian PM follows accounts that appeared to celebrate Gauri Lankesh’s death, but his party says criticism is ‘mischievous’

A protest in Delhi over the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh
A protest in Delhi over the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

India’s ruling party has defended Narendra Modi’s use of Twitter after a number of users followed by the Indian prime minister appeared to celebrate the fatal shooting of a journalist this week.

Leaders from across Indian politics have condemned the murder of Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead outside her home in Bengaluru on Tuesday, but a number of Modi supporters appeared to attempt to justify the killing.

One commented: “You reap what you sow.” Another wrote in Hindi: “A bitch died a dog’s death and all of her litter is crying in the same voice.”

Modi, who operates his own Twitter account and follows 1,779 others, has been criticised for continuing to follow accounts that have levelled abuse at Lankesh. He has yet to comment on the killing.

The head of his BJP party’s information unit, Amit Malviya, said the prime minister followed “normal people” and described the controversy as “mischievous and contorted”.

“PM following someone is not a character certificate of a person and is not in any way a guarantee of how a person would conduct himself,” he said in a statement. “[Modi] follows normal people and frequently interacts with them on various issues. He is a rare leader who truly believes in freedom of speech and has never blocked or unfollowed anyone on Twitter.”

Modi is regularly criticised for following users who post offensive content. In July 2015 he invited 150 social media users to his residence for a meet-and-greet, among them Twitter users who had used sexual slurs and levelled other abuse against women.

Malviya said Modi was frequently attacked for the actions of his supporters while abuse by backers of opposition political leaders was ignored. “This debate is not only farcical and fake, but also an exhibit of selective right to freedom of expression,” he said.

India’s information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, condemned the online abuse of Lankesh, tweeting that he “deplore[d] the messages on social media expressing happiness on the dastardly murder”.

Separately, Delhi police have filed a case against a Facebook user who published a “hit list” of journalists, activists and authors including the Man Booker prize-winner Arundhati Roy.

Police have sought the IP details of the user, who identified himself as Vikramaditya Rana, after he made a series of posts including one saying Lankesh’s killing “serves her and her kind right for the damages these so-called journos have caused our nation”.

Lankesh, whose murder is being examined by a specially appointed investigative team, had previously voiced concern about the “rabid hate” that she was subjected to online.

In her speeches and writing, Lankesh, 55, frequently criticised the Hindu nationalist ideology associated with the BJP and worked to rehabilitate guerrillas involved in the country’s five-decade-long Maoist insurgency.

Though police have not commented on the motive for her killing, friends, lawyers and colleagues of the journalist as well as some members of the BJP have speculated that it was in retribution for her work.

On Thursday the hashtag #BlockNarendraModi was used as part of a campaign to block the leader’s account and highlight the abuse that many prominent Indians, particularly women, say has become endemic online.

One prominent journalist, Barkha Dutt, wrote in the Hindustan Times this year that trolling “has become part of my daily life”. “I don’t even notice it any more; that’s how dangerously inured I have become to the gross innuendo and violent and sexually explicit abuse that is heaped on so many women,” she said.

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“The Myth of the Andalusian paradise…” — “…just modifying the history in a declared desire to extract a pre-established moral.”

7 Sep

71YwotMWVL

One reader’s comment that delves deeper into the book’s subject matter, repeats some of my thoughts and questions, especially that Spanish Christianity developed its militance and triumphalism in almost a millenium of constant warfare “in a society organized for war” against what for me is arguably a militant and triumphalist religion primarily organized for war, etc.; emphases are mine:

on April 16, 2016
Format: Hardcover
In ‘Al-Andalus au Miroir du Multiculturalisme; Le Mythe de la Convivencia dans quelques Essais Nord-Américains Récents’, the Arabist Bruna Soravia has reflected about the total absence of references to recent studies in books and articles published in the USA about Muslim Spain, including the important advances in essential fields such as archaeology, numismatic or epigraphy, as well as the lack of any work published in Spanish, French or Portuguese in the bibliographies of these American authors. Outside the United States, nobody doubts that the essential investigations in this subject are published in those languages, but the multiculturalism apologists obviously scorn any advance that proceed from their Spanish or French colleagues; they have paradoxically converted in a epitome and paradigm of intellectual endogamy.

The myth of that paradise of peaceful coexistence and cultural enlightenment had its origin in the long shadow that Américo Castro left in the United States (always copied, rarely cited), something obvious due the repetitive use of the Spanish word ‘convivencia’. A term created by Castro that gives the false impression that it was actually used in Spain during the Middle Ages. Today, there is no specialist who takes seriously the ideas of Castro, a Spanish scholar specialized in medieval literature that wasn’t actually a historian and openly admitted his lack of interest in the scientific methodology.

Darío Fernández-Morena not only demonstrates a remarkable knowledge about the modern European investigations in this subject but also a great knowledge of the primary sources. This is a well-written book that destroys, one by one, almost all the myths about al-Andalus repeated by those who pretend to refute the ideas of Samuel Huntington and his followers just modifying the history in a declared desire to extract a pre-established moral.

‘The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise’ follows the path of Serafín Fanjul’s works and present some similarities with ‘Al-Andalus y la Cruz’ by Rafael Sánchez Saus, also published this year, although independently. Both books reach the same conclusions, something that is not strange as both have the virtue of proving something that any Spanish historian has learnt in the first year at the university. I would say Fernández-Morera has done a better work, and his book has a great importance because it is an opportunity for the English readers to get the historical information that use to be conveniently omitted by the mainstream publications.

Fernández-Morena wrote a courageous introduction citing ‘political incorrect’ but true facts, as the financial dependence of many Western historians to foundations controlled by the governments of some Arab countries, the millionaire donations to American and British universities from Saudi and Muslim sources, the censorship that exists in the Muslim academic world and the risk that any investigator has to be labeled as ‘islamophobic’ if his publications refute the idyllic narrative about the medieval Islamic world. As happened with the academic lynching of Sylvain Gouguenheim, after the publication of his excellent ‘Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel’ in 2008.

Just to summarize, during the High Middle Ages the Iberian Peninsula was the most militarized territory of all Europe and the Islamic world, where it was actually known as Dar Djihad, ‘the house (land) of the jihad’. The Christian kingdoms were involved in an almost constant war with the emirs and caliphs of Córdoba, that organized annual military expeditions to the north to get prisoners and looting; something that Roger Collins has defined as ‘an economy based in institutionalized banditry’ (‘Caliphs and Kings: Spain, 796-1031’). Just during the government of Al-Mansur (977-1002), the hajib of the caliph Hisham II (controlled by him as a puppet ruler), were organized 56 military raids, and only in the campaign towards Barcelona of 985, according to the Arab sources, 75,000 prisoners were made, mainly women sold in Córdoba as sexual slaves.

Maybe Fernánez-Morera should focus this chapter in the socio-economical and institutional implications of this state of constant war that created, using the words of James F. Powers and Elena Laurie, ‘a society organized for war’. The records in the Muslim and Christian textual sources about the great amount of severed heads are true anyway. The first thing any traveler saw when he visited Córdoba crossing the Roman bridge was hundreds of severed heads decorating the Azuda gates of the alcázar, the fortress of the caliph situated 100 meters from the great mosque. The textual sources even describe muezzins calling to oration over a mound of severed heads after the raid of Ubayd Allah to Bacelona in 811, or after the Battle of Uclés (1108).

Regarding the domestic policy, Christians and Jews of Al-Andalus lived into an authentic apartheid. The Dhimma implied the legal interiority of the ‘protected peoples’, their judicial defenseless against any Muslim, their fiscal exploitation and their constant humiliation; something that forced the conversions and the mass emigration of the Mozarabic population to the Northern Christian kingdoms. The Muslims become majority during the Umayyad caliphate (929-1031) and soon the mass killings began, as the slaughter of 4,000 Jews in Granada in 1066. During the period of North African domination, the conditions for the ‘peoples of the book’ were even worse and ended with the mass deportation of the Christians to the Magreb in 1126. Since the middle of the 12th century, there are no Christians or Jews in al-Andalus.

As Fernández-Morena pointed out, Andalusian society was a theocratic state (or ‘states’, during the Taifa period) dominated by the ulema of the Maliki school of jurisprudence, the most strict of all after the Hanbali (now used in Saudi Arabia), that controlled every aspect of the daily life. It’s really hard to understand why any historian with a basic knowledge of the primary sources can ignore these facts that have so many implications in all the aspects of the Andalusian society, politics, economy and culture, and instead prefers to focus his research in the ‘spirit’ of the poetry and literature created in (and for) a courtesan context.

Finally, another important myth that maybe Fernández-Morena should consider deeper is the transmission of the ancient knowledge through the Arabic translations, that supposedly were the foundations of the European Renaissance. Anyway, as I have said, this book is essential for any English reader who wants to know the reality of the Medieval Islamic Spain.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

“The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain” by Dario Fernandez-Morera

7 Sep

Just saw it on Amazon.  Is it serious or “yellow” history?  Obviously haven’t read it.  If anyone has please share.

mythandalusianparadise_frontcover_final

The comments/review quotes seem to be from fairly “serious” sources:

“Shows in meticulous detail . . . that intolerance, segregation, formal inequality, and brutality were the order of the day [in Islamic Spain].”
The New Criterion

“[Fernández-Morera] must be commended for daring to wade into this hazardous arena. He has come well-armed: his The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise has 95 pages of notes, and the lionisers of political correctness will not find it easy to penetrate chinks in his bibliographical armour of primary and secondary sources, many not published in English. In an exhilarating and unput-downable read, Fernández-Morera debunks the fashionable myth that Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together (convivencia) under ‘tolerant’ Muslim rule. . . . World-class academics—hailing from Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Princeton, London, Oxford—look like fools in their apologetics for jihad.”
—Standpoint

“Numerous books propagandize for Islam by calling Muslim rule in Spain during the Middle Ages a golden age of tolerance. Darío Fernández-Morera’s The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain (ISI Books) cuts against PR for Islam by giving specific examples of rulers cutting off heads or applying burning candles to the faces of sexual slaves.” —World magazine, naming The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise a finalist for Book of the Year

“Often a work of historical revisionism is a dubious exercise in discovering trendy, hidden agendas with little bearing on the actual record of the past. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is decidedly not such a study and is instead a bracing remedy to a good deal of the academic pabulum that passes for scholarship on Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations.”
Middle East Quarterly

“A first-rate work of scholarship that demolishes the fabrication of the multiethnic, multiconfessional convivencia in Spain under Muslim rule. The book is also an exposé of the endemic problems of contemporary Western academe. . . . Space does not allow us to list all of the fables—some bizarre, others laughable, most of them infuriating—that Fernández-Morera dispatches with unassailable logic and ruthless efficiency.”
Chronicles

“I am in awe of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise. . . . This book is an intellectual boxing match. The author shreds not just one opponent, but a series of intellectual bigots, prostitutes, and manipulators of the common man. . . . He uses research and objective facts to make his case. Nothing could be more transgressive in academia today.”
FrontPage Magazine

“The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise prompts readers to rethink their traditional notion of Islamic Spain. Fernández-Morera shows that it was not a harmonious locus of tolerance. Paying special attention to primary sources, he documents how Islamic Spain was in fact dominated by cultural repression and marginalization. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is essential reading. It will soon find its place on the shelves of premier academic institutions and in the syllabi of pioneering scholars.”
Antonio Carreño, W. Duncan McMillan Family Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, Brown University 

“I could not put this book down. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise constitutes a watershed in scholarship. Throughan unbiased and open-minded reading of the primary sources, Fernández-Morera brilliantly debunks the myths that for so long have dominated Islamic historiography and conventional wisdom. We were waiting for this great breakthrough to come to light, and Fernández-Morera has done it. Bravo!”
Raphael Israeli, Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Chinese History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“Fernández-Morera examines the underside of Islamic Spain, a civilization usually considered a model of dynamism and vigor. Through the study of primary sources, he questions the historiographic and intellectual view of the superiority of that civilization. This is an intelligent reinterpretation of a supposed paradise of convivencia.”
Julia Pavón Benito, Professor of Medieval Spanish History, University of Navarra

“Desperately, desperately needed as a counter to the mythology that pervades academia on this subject. This book sheds much-needed light on current debates about the relationship between the West and Islam. It displays rare good sense and a willingness to face truth that is all too often absent in discussions of this era.”
Paul F. Crawford, Professor of Ancient and Medieval History, California University of Pennsylvania

“A splendid book. This sober and hard-hitting reassessment demolishes the myths of religious tolerance and multiculturalism that have hopelessly romanticized the precarious coexistence and harsh realities of medieval Spain under Muslim rule. Well documented and persuasively argued, this book is must-reading as a window into the lessons of the past.”
Noël Valis, Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Yale University

“Fernández-Morera takes on the long-overdue topic of assessing medieval Muslim Spain’s reputation for ethnic pluralism, religious tolerance, and cultural secularism. Finding this view based on a ‘culture of forgetting,’ he documents the reign of strict sharia in Andalusia, with its attendant discrimination against non-Muslims and subjugation of women. So much for the charming fantasy of open-mindedness and mutual respect.”
Daniel Pipes, historian of Islam and publisher of the Middle East Quarterly

“Brilliant . . . A thorough and entertaining study, as masterful as it is pointed.”
Catholic Culture

“Reveals the awesome and awful truth camouflaged by many in the West who have written apologies for Muslim-ruled Andalusia . . . More than 90 pages of footnotes to contemporary sources in their original languages make his thesis unassailable.”
New English Review

About the Author:

Darío Fernández-Morera is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University. A former member of the National Council on the Humanities, he holds a BA from Stanford University, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD from Harvard University. He has published several books and many articles on cultural, literary, historical, and methodological issues in Spain, Latin America, and the United States.

But before I publish this I’ll commend myself for “daring to wade into this hazardous arena”, just about two weeks ago in: Barcelona addendum: why the Western, “leftist” intelligentsia bears a nasty share of the guilt, part I(part II should be coming soon):

OK…I’ve bitten off more than I can chew I think, so let me resort to bullet points.  Some Al-Andalus and Crusades fun bubbles I’d like to pop:

* The happy Muslim Iberia of convivencia — co-existence — only lasted for at most two centuries, as long as the Umayyad Caliphate with its capital at Córdoba lasted.  That caliphate was replaced by new and much more religiously orthodox and intolerant Berber kingdoms from North Africa under which Spain devolved into small Muslim emirates — the taifain which conditions for Spanish non-Muslims came to resemble those of dhimmi elsewhere in the Muslim world.  (See also rayah: “…both in contemporaneous and in modern usage, it refers to non-Muslim subjects in particular, also called zimmi.”  The “dh” sound of Arabic is usually replaced by a “z” sound in Irano-Turkic usage, as in Ramadhan and Ramazan.)

Taifas2 1031 after fall of CórdobaThe taifa of the Iberian peninsula in 1031. (By 1248, when Seville fell to Christian siege, the only other major city left in Muslim hands was Granada.


*
Check out this book about the Crusades: God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.36.28 AM

It’s a cruddy, badly written and amateurish book (but, you know…”Out of the mouths of babes…” Psalms 8:2 and Matthew 21:16; you can’t expect an academically serious historian to write something like this, as he’d lose all funding and probably his job), but it asks a serious question: why have we in the modern West come to consider the Crusades the beginning of aggressive Western imperialism, a kind of proto-colonialism, and not, as Stark asks, a perfectly predictable response to the aggression of Islam/Arabs?  I mean, sorry, it’s a question I’ve always been afraid to articulate: but who conquered two thirds of the Roman Christian world and the whole of the Sassanian world in less than a century to being with?

Next:

* That the Crusades have remained a traumatic memory seared in the collective consciousness of Arabs everywhere, that Syrian mothers still scare their children into obedience by telling them that Richard the Lionheart is coming to kidnap them, is an urban myth.  Arabs didn’t remember the Crusades any more than we (Greeks) collectively remembered the Fourth Crusade that dealt the fatal blow to the Eastern Roman Empire (the Ottomans really just mopped up what was left).  Arabs only “remembered” the “trauma” of the Crusades when the West and the above mentioned guilty Western intelligentsia “reminded” them

* On to another inconvenient truth that follows on the above: the Byzantines recovered fairly quickly from the loss of the Levant and Egypt to the Arabs in the 7th century, and in fact, may have emerged stronger as a more compact, ethnically and linguistically Greek polity.  Then, under the early Comnenoi in the 12th century (Alexios, Ioannes and Manuel), they showed their resilience again as they reconsolidated their rule over the Balkans and, taking advantage of the crumbling of the Seljuks caused by the appearance of new Turks in Asia Minor, reconquered a large part of western Anatolia, despite facing renewed aggression from the Italian/Sicilian Normans to the West and from these newer Turkic states on the East; with the First Crusade’s help, they even recaptured Antioch and the surrounding region for a brief period.  The Fourth Crusade’s conquest and sack of Constantinople in 1204, though, was an event it was impossible to recover from.  Several Greek successor states that emerged then reunited into an empire under the leadership of the Palaeologoi out of Nicaea and retook Constantinople in 1261, but from then on this remnant Roman Empire was, despite a new cultural and artistic flourishing, a political and military sitting duck.  Add to these facts that Levantine Christians and Armenians who ended up in the reconquered Crusader states — at the time of the Crusades the regions we’re talking about were, by some estimates, still almost 50% Christian — were subjected to violent reprisals by their newly returned Muslim overlords that diminished their numbers through flight and conversion and we come to the inevitable conclusion: in the long run, the greatest victims of the Crusades were eastern Christians.

* For Jews, whose horrific experiences with the Christian Westjust went from bad to worse over two millenia, culminating in the Holocaust, and for whom it seems to have been particularly tempting to see the historical lands of Islam as the “Goldene Medina” where Jews lived in peace and acceptance, it wouldn’t hurt to keep in mind that the biggest pogrom in mediaeval Europe in terms of numbers slain occurred in 1066 in Muslim Granada.  This was when a Jew-cum-uppity-nigger, Joseph ha-Nagid, became too powerful as the vizier at the emir’s court in Granada — that city whose languid beauty and graciousness is the Fetish-in-the-Crown of pro-Moorish apologists.  He was crucified and, by some estimates (many consider them discredited, but you have to ask why), 4,000 Jews were killed.  I don’t know if crucifixion was supposed to have some kind of retaliatory significance given he was Jewish.  But, according to Bernard Lewis, the Berber Muslim mob that carried out this pogrom were egged on by a poem of a certain Muslim, Abu Ishaq:

Bernard Lewis writes:

“Particularly instructive in this respect is an ancient anti-Semitic poem of Abu Ishaq, written in Granada in 1066. This poem, which is said to be instrumental in provoking the anti-Jewish outbreak of that year, contains these specific lines:

Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them, the breach of faith would be to let them carry on.
They have violated our covenant with them, so how can you be held guilty against the violators?
How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent?
Now we are humble, beside them, as if we were wrong and they were right!
[my emphases]”

“My emphases” are obviously meant to highlight the zero-sum game that is monotheism and particularly Islam: “obscure/prominent” and “wrong/right”.  No sense that there’s room for both or many as in polytheism or Hinduism (let’s not get into whether Hinduism is really polytheism right now).  Just “right” and “wrong”.  If you’re wrong you’ll be tolerated as long as you don’t get too big for your britches.  And: “why am I obscure when they’re prominent?” sounds like the battle cry of curdled ressentiment we’ve heard from Sayyid Qutb to Mohammed Atta and his buddies and back to Abu Ishaq if not to the very beginnings and to Ishmael himself, the rejected illegitimate son of Abraham and of the slave Hagar

Lewis adds though: “Diatribes such as Abu Ishaq’s and massacres such as that in Granada in 1066 are of rare occurrence in Islamic history.”

Well, ok then…

* Spanish Catholicism has been (Yes – “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition…”) for great periods of our common history, terrifying, especially for the Jews and Muslims the Arabs left behind in Spain and for the subjected-to-close-to-genocide inhabitants of the New World.  I admit to having played around with Santiago imagery in the past, but the connotations became too hard to stomach (see this interesting article: “The Transference of ‘Reconquista’ Iconography to the New World: From Santiago Matamoros to Santiago Mataindios“).  The Spanish Catholicism of the Reconquista and the Counter-Reformation is easily the most abominable form Christianity has ever taken — along with the Puritans, of course, and Luther and his Taliban, of course, and American Evangelists, of course, etc. etc.  But, still, you have to ask: the legitimacy of force and conquest in the spreading of the faith; massacre or forced conversion as legitimate proselytizing methods, enslavement of the defeated enemy — where did Spanish Catholicism get those ideas from?  They’re not in the Gospels.  And forced conversion is not present in Judaism either, which — remember — is not interested in converting you, my little goy.  Maybe — just maybe — after 800 years you start to resemble your enemy.  Even the Spanish concept of limpieza de sangreblood purity — that you have no Muslim or Jewish ancestors, probably unfeasible to impossible in Iberia — seems to mirror the chauvinism of early peninsular Arabs, and the apart-ness status they lived under in early Islam.  Any ideas?

Santiago statue

Santiago Matamoros

I’ve had quite some fun with the response to this; like I said, I should get Part II posted in a couple of days or so.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

 

The West’s Neoliberal South Asian darling (and for me a personified insult to Hinduism)…

7 Sep

…finally gets something of the riot act read to him by the Times:

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has let a climate of mob rule flourish in India, with his right-wing Hindu supporters vilifying “secularists.” The venom that reactionary social media trolls direct at journalists, or “presstitutes” as they call them, is especially vicious, but not entirely new. At least 27 Indian journalists have been killed since 1992 “in direct retaliation for their work,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Only one of the killers has been convicted.”

Gauri protest 07thu2web-superJumboPeople protesting and mourning the killing of the Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh in New Delhi, on Wednesday. Credit Tsering Topgyal/Associated Press

And yet even the Times, even in an editorial against the increasing violence of Hindutva nationalism, kowtows and calls it Bengaluru instead of Bangalore.  I think this is the first time I’ve seen that in print.

See my: Names: “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”…and Bombay!“:

“The most unfortunate and vulgar change of all is “Mumbai,” but almost no one knows or cares about how that change happened.  It was once generally accepted that Bombay comes from the Portuguese “bom bahim,” or good little harbour, just north as it is from Portugal’s long-time colony of Goa.  But even if that etymology is bogus, it was under the name Bombay that it flourished and grew under the British into the most important and cosmopolitan city in South Asia.

Bombay

“But in 1995, the Shiv Sena party (the Army of Shiva…) won control of the state government of Maharashtra, of which Bombay is a part, though it’s so different in social and ethnic make-up from the rest of that state that it deserves a separate federal district type status like Delhi has, or Mexico City, or D.C.  Shiv Sena, being a party whose power base is rural Maharashtra and poor migrant Marathis who feel they deserve more power in the city, is actively hostile to Bombay’s dizzying diversity and especially its large Muslim population.  It’s essentially a Marathi branch of the BJP, only worse (and they haven’t been getting along lately): a virulently Hindutva bunch that have not only been found to be involved in Bombay’s drug, prostitution and extortion circles, but ordered and even carried out much of the more vicious anti-Muslim attacks during the Bombay riots of 1992-93: the kerosene-dousing and burning of individuals and the burning tire around the victims’s neck were a couple of their trademarks.

mumbai_riots_slider1

“When, despite all that, Shiv Sena were voted into state office in Maharashtra, their response to the poverty, massive infrastructural challenges, crime and destitution of this barely manageable city of more than twenty million was to change its name to Mumbai.  This was based on the supposed fact that there was (or is, or if there hadn’t been, I’m sure there now is) a temple of a Marathi goddess of that name on the site before the colonial city rose up, which may or may not be true, but, given the fact that every square yard of India contains at least one shrine or temple to someone or something, doesn’t mean very much.

“And yet the whole world fell in line.  Thinking that, like Myanmar, if it’s coming from there it must have some sort of indigenous, authentic root, filled with post-colonial guilt and worried about offending what we thought were Indian sensibilities, we all dutifully started calling it Mumbai.  Fearing that using the old name would immediately make others imagine us to be jodhpur-clad gin-swillers, we let a bunch of criminal thugs and violent nationalists change the name Bombay — the name by which this great, open-to-the-sea-and-the-world, mercantile, diverse, cosmopolitan, sexy metropolis, a microcosm of India itself and its modern face to the world, was known for almost three centuries – and nobody asked why or breathed a word of resistance.

Bombay — Marine Drive — Queen’s Necklace

“So as for C-town, you choose which is more “nationalist.”  Calling the city the name by which it was known to most of humanity for more than sixteen centuries?  Calling it an also venerable name that the nationalist, anti-cosmopolitan, Turkification project of a military dictatorship whose attitude to the City, its legacy, history and population was actually hostile for much of the time decided the world should call it?  Or just calling it both?

Or how ‘bout who cares?  As long as we know which city we’re talking about.

Comment: nikobakos@gmail.com

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