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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

So, your neighbour is a Muslim?

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Ever thought of getting to know them a little better?

Regular readers here will know that for some time I have been very concerned at how “The War Against Terror”, and the attendant changes in anti terror legislation introduced during the Blair/Brown era, affected the way we viewed ourselves, our civil liberties, and the way in which we approached others within our communities. I have to report that in South Shields, at least, the more general fears and stereotypical views about the followers of Islam have not been realised, although there have been a very few isolated incidents reported in the local press.

I have often criticised in this blog, the apparent failure of government to adhere to its own principles that terrorism would not alter the way of British life, government itself has managed to achieve that by regulating, legislating, monitoring, spying, and gradually eroding many of our centuries old civil liberties that we often take for granted. Following on from the major outrages of 9/11 and 7/7 government has managed to introduce an illogical sense of fear about Muslims in our communities and allowed sections of the press and media to highlight the most extreme extreme examples of expression from teachings and preachings to public demonstrations, yet in the majority of British communities, and most certainly here in South Shields, there is very little evidence at all to support these fears.

We have lived side by side with Muslims in our locality for over two hundred years here, with descendants of Yemenis and more recently Bangladeshis, educated in our schools, working in our community, and generally being normal “Geordies” enriching our lives with an infusion of diversity and culture. I stated in a previous post that I will be writing a little more about our Muslim neighbours during June and July to try and bridge that gap of understanding which still exists, and I am meeting some people who are keen on reaching out into the wider community to help us gain that understanding about their cultural and religious beliefs.

We all need to appreciate, accept and respect each other’s beliefs and be able to come together in those areas where we all share a common path, it strengthens us as human beings, engages us, and challenges us to move forward with greater social integration. We have been blessed in South Tyneside with many years of social, cultural, and religious harmony, but the history of recent more international events risks alienating a section of our community which has done little to deserve suspicion on any level.

The video above is taken from an American website which has broadly the same aims, My Fellow American is also reaching out to bridge that divide, caused by ignorance, and build stronger local communities with greater social cohesion. Just because your neighbour may have a different coloured skin, or may occasionally dress differently, or wear a beard, or eat different meals to you is no reason to view him with a wary eye. We didn’t necessarily do this with those speaking in an Irish brogue in the 1970s did we?

As we approach Ramadam I will be introducing some members of the Muslim community here in South Shields who will talk about their experiences and share them with us, I hope you will find their stories fascinating, interesting, entertaining, and engaging.

I hope that it may encourage you to reach out and get to know your neighbour a little better.

It’s part of what being a Sanddancer is all about.

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Written by curly

June 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

Electoral spin offs

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Non political benefits

One of the huge benefits of getting involved in a local election campaign in South Shields is the opportunity to meet new people, the chance to savour some new cultures, or to reacquaint with areas that you have perhaps pushed to the back of your mind a little. Having spent a few weeks in the Beacon and Bents ward helping the Conservative candidate Mr. Ali Hayder, I was struck, once again, by the warmth and hospitality of our Bangladeshi community, I was struck too by the amount of Scottish people who have made the move down South to live and work here on the banks of the Tyne.

A few of those Scottish folks were brought down to Tyneside during the traditional “Glasgow fortnight” each summer in the 1960s and 70s, enjoyed holiday romances which blossomed and they have enjoyed lifelong love and happiness with a wife from South Shields or Whitley Bay! I also met a couple of ladies who married our menfolk down here and never gave it a thought to return north of the border, needless to say they are as much part of our tight knit community as anyone else. I recalled the days when I worked in a five storey department store in Newcastle with Eddy Russell in the 1970s when our half price shoe sale seemed to be more famous in Glasgow than it was on Tyneside! To prove a point about how good it was I showed one gentleman the antelope skin shoes that I was wearing, I bought them in 1976 for around £30 (which was almost two weeks wages to me back then), they have been resoled twice but are still lasting the course after 35 years, that is one of the reasons why Glasgow men in particular loved visiting Newcastle during their holiday fortnight!

Our Bangladeshi community in South Shields is a sizeable minority and many of them are third or fourth generation inhabitants here, those younger than myself speak better “Geordie” than I do and like all youngsters have a wonderful grasp of new technologies. I met quite a few from all sections of their community and found their warmth  and hospitality to be second to none, and why should it not be? Despite having been here for around 60 years some feel they still need to integrate more and they are looking for ways to extend their links with other groups, associations, faiths, clubs, and communities throughout the borough. The want to play a greater part and want to feel more easily accepted, there are barriers of course, but over the years these are breaking down and allowing a greater two way conversation to take place.

I had a long such discussion with Rana Rahman, chairman of the Bangladeshi Welfare Association, who has very modern realistic aspirations about taking the next generation of Bangladeshis further into the wider community and inviting others to come and savour the flavours and delights of the cultures which they bring to us and add to our diversity. We touched upon faith and some of the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, we also ranged over community projects, education,  use of community facilities, and the general lack of knowledge amongst the indigenous population about the cultures and lifestyles of some of the most hard working and charitable members of our community here in South Shields.

I hope to meeting with him and others again soon, and hope through this blog, to extend a little more knowledge and interest about their cultures, history, and faith. I am hoping to pen an article shortly that explains the role of the Islamic faith and the abstinence of Ramadan and how it affects the lifestyle of a large part of our community, the thirty days of Ramadan will begin at sunset on 31st. July this year. I am looking forward to increasing my own understanding as well as helping others to accept more readily this important part of the life of many of our citizens.

I have always thought that differences ought to be understood, encouraged, and celebrated, they make South Tyneside what it is, a hospitable place where friendships flourish and even cross the political divide. Islam has been with us in South Shields since the late 1700s when the first Yemeni sailors arrived here and began to settle in larger numbers in the mid 1800s, and because we have two distinct groups settled in South Shields I will also be meeting with leading members of the Yemeni community to learn more about their roots and the strong tie in to the region.

My greatest desire is that we can encourage more and more people to take part in a wider and more diverse selection of community activities and to partake in the political process and representation of our people. This theme applies equally to all of us who want to continue to see change and evolution in South Tyneside, I believe that our political parties (all of them) are under represented by members of minority groups and that efforts need to be increased to encourage membership generally across the demographic spectrum and to assimilate more cultures into our community politics.

In this respect, volunteering to help out in an election was worthwhile, fruitful, and educational as a result I found a spin off which left me feeling richer than I was before it started.

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Good foggy Friday

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South Shields loses out on sunshine

Well we could have done without the fog today which hung around the coastal areas of the north east and sunk into depressions and low lying areas. Everything was set for a bumper Good Friday for sea front and town centre traders as weathermen forecast temperatures in the 20s. Oh well, if you lived in Simonside or Jarrow you probably enjoyed your barbecue in the sun!

There are certain things that we do by tradition in South Shields and there are certain ways of doing them which cannot be thrown away, Good Friday is one of those “events” in the calendar when tradition must be upheld. Preparations begin weeks earlier when parents and grandparents start buying new clothes for children, and some are even taken to Sunday School for the first time, parks and gardens are attended to, cleaned up and pruned, the fairground attractions are repainted, repaired, and spruced up, new rides installed, and all the boats on the South Marine Park lake are given an overhaul.

So we were ready as usual for crowds to flock to the Market Place, the West Park, and East Harton School following the marching bands in The Procession of Witness organised by the Sunday Schools Union, civic leaders attended to add an air of community spirit which we all approve of, and the Mayor gets to be driven around at breakneck speed to be at two events within fifteen minutes of each other. In years gone by, after the public service for Good Friday in the Market Place the bands would march down King Street and Ocean Road before peeling away towards their respective churches, the huge crowds following behind would then carry on down towards the beaches, parks, and the funfair. I don’t know if this still happens because I leave the Market in a hurry to get to the West Park!

So it was today, in order to photograph and document as much of the day as possible, for some reason I want things to go on as they are, and for the rest of the country to know what we do here at this time of year. I want them to know that on the whole they can come to South Shields early in the day and enjoy a great day out, queue with the rest of us for fish and chips, and (if your luck is in) get a sun tan on the beach or in the parks as an added bonus. I took a great many pictures today in addition to the few showing in the slide show below, so if you want to visit us and want to see more of our Easter traditions, keep an eye on South Shields Daily Pictures over the next couple of weeks.

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Written by curly

April 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

What’s bothering me

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Quick news round up

Life seems full of busy right now, I hardly have time to get to this keyboard and jot down my thoughts on matters political, libertarian and annoying, both on a national and on a local level. So here’s a quick round up of the things that have bothered me over the past couple of days:

The historic court case without a jury – There you have it, NuLabour has finally allowed “Diplock Courts” to take place in England, your right to a trial by twelve of your peers can be removed, juries protected and revered since Magna Carta are no longer necessary, Fausty warns that tyranny may follow and Marcel Berlins in the Guardian asserts that economy is being served before justice:

I am a little concerned to see money being a factor in a case in which an accused’s liberty is at stake. But that is the way the government thinks now. Why is it so keen to abolish the right to trial by jury for certain fraud trials? Not because it serves justice but because it saves money. Why is it pleased about the Heathrow Four’s trial by judge alone? Because it many take only two or three months instead of six. Think of the ­lawyers’ fees saved.

Elsewhere, fellow Geordie Jack Pickard has an extraordinarily good post about Yasmin Aibhai-Brown who argued in The Independent that our collapse in moral values is pushing British Muslims to the edge of reason and extremism. Live and let live, and if what we do or think causes no harm or offence to other people then leave well alone!

Oh, and the general election will be on May 6th., as revealed by Tory Politico‘s reporting of Europe Minister Chris Bryant, and finally on matters more local South Shields Conservative candidate Karen Allen sounds a little bemused and taken aback that a Labour controlled South Tyneside council should actively want to transfer staff from the public to the private sector, and South Shields MP David Miliband has been described as immature by a fellow Labour MP. I was tempted to do a Photoshop mock up of the Foreign Minister in short pants and with Harry Potter hair but that would have been quite childish (I’ll leave it for another day).

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Written by curly

January 13, 2010 at 10:23 am

Thoughts before Christmas

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These anti bullying campaigns are getting out of hand.

What sort of warped society are we becoming when a Christian can be sacked for doing what Christians do (i.e. praying for sthe sick) on the ridiculous basis that they have become a bully?

Mrs Jones was then called in by her managers who, she says, told her that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying and informed her that her services were no longer required.

Not withstanding the actions of the education authority, it raises questions about the non believing parents who deemed it necessary to make an official complaint. One has to question whether either would raise any similar objections if Mrs. Jones had been an adherent of any other religion?

Peace and goodwill to all men!

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Written by curly

December 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Single minded atheists

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Shields Gazette swamped by anti religionist atheists

You may have noticed that in recent weeks there has been some heated debate in the letters page of the Shields Gazette between a bunch of single minded atheists, who worship science and little else, and some God fearing religionists who have taken the bait. It’s a very one sided single minded debate and the attacks are launched in a solitary direction, the atheists, it appears, are careful only to pick on the followers of Christianity for their barbed insults about sky fairies and the likes. Perhaps it all started after someone wrote favouring the zealously held “creationist” argument, but that is neither here nor there, if you are concerned about the silliness of worshipping a non earthly deity then surely you ought to see it as your duty to be fair, even handed, and non discriminatory in your approach to the issue.

However, this has not been the case recently as folks like Mr. Brian Paget of South Shields resort solely to attacking Christians.  Perhaps they find some merit in the religions of Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, or Islam, but one would suspect that this is not the case if you do not believe in a God or a deity. So why are the followers of these other religions spared the personal insults and attacks on their integrity from the atheists?

Could it be that they would defend their beliefs with far more robustness?

Anyway, what about the religion of science and the Darwin arguments? Primitive men wrote what they believed to be true at the time of writing, that God created the universe and everything in it in seven days, modern intellectuals and scientists take a more realistic view and urge us to accept the symbolism of the Christian Bible’s words, and even those of us with average intelligence can accept Darwin’s findings on evolution of the species. However, to attack people because they have religious faith and have a pattern or righteous path for their life is not what one might expect from fellow humans who want to forge their own path. A religious belief may inform one’s moral judgements and a scientific fact based way of life may just turn you into a great investigator with little faith in others, but how many of the atheists who only believe in fact based scientific outcomes can remember that some of the world’s greatest scientists were also the followers of religion?

  • Isaac Newton was an Anglican Christian
  • Albert Einstein was a Jew
  • Charles Darwin was a Unitarian Christian
  • Neils Bohr was a Jewish Lutheran
  • Galileo Galilei was a Roman Catholic
  • Johannes Kelper was a Lutheran
  • Nicolaus Copernicus was a Roman Catholic priest
  • Max Planck was a Protestant
  • Rene Descartes was a Roman Catholic
  • Michael Faraday was a Presbyterian Christian
  • Lord Kelvin was a Christian

In fact Kelvin who wrote the first and second laws of thermodynamics about absolute temperature scales and was responsible for the first  trans-Atlantic cable said:

“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.”

Which brings me to the very argument that the two groups of people who write to the Gazette are embroiled in, “Was there a ‘creation’ or not and is there a supernatural entity?”

The scientific community seem to have come to a consensus (probably after peer review Brian) that a “big bang” singularity marked the beginning of space and time some 13.7 billion years ago, before this point the universe, space, and time, they tell us, simply did not exist. The popular theory is that our universe “expanded” from the collision of two atoms, one of hydrogen the other of helium, and that as a result of the expansion, which still continues, other chemical reactions occurred which resulted in the creation of water and at least one planet capable of sustaining life forms. Nobody within the scientific community can as yet explain where these two atoms appeared from, how they came to be in a “black hole” type vacuum, or why they just happened to be of the correct nuclear composition to cause everything that followed.

Any discussion of the Big Bang theory would be incomplete without asking the question, what about God? This is because cosmogony (the study of the origin of the universe) is an area where science and theology meet. Creation was a supernatural event. That is, it took place outside of the natural realm. This fact begs the question: is there anything else which exists outside of the natural realm? Specifically, is there a master Architect out there? We know that this universe had a beginning. Was God the “First Cause”? We won’t attempt to answer that question in this short article. We just ask the question.

That, dear friends, is as far as science can dare to go, any thought beyond the “singularity” is a matter of faith for both the scientist and the religionist, so I find it grossly unfair that one should accuse the other when neither knows for sure the basis of their argument. What I do know is that it is more than grossly unfair to attack the Christian as though he were the only believer in a supernatural deity, if you are going to unfairly attack one religion then you have to unfairly attack them all, and then you must turn around and attack the scientists for failing to provide the answers.

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Written by curly

December 6, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Playing the Nazi card

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The law is fine as it is

Norm is completely correct:

Criminalize certain forms of mere speech, and newly offensive discursive tropes – euphemistic, oblique, metonymic – will find their way into the world as a replacement.

We don’t need laws or regulation to blur the distinctions between offence and harm.

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Written by curly

July 30, 2009 at 10:48 am

Religious differences must be discussed

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Janet Daley is Jewish but I was willing to listen

There is an interesting article in today’s Daily Telegraph from Janet Daley which tells us of her conversation with a Muslim taxi driver and her childhood memories in Boston surrounded by Protestant and Roman Catholic children. The main thrust of her argument, with which I am in total agreement, is that religious and cultural differences are there to be discussed and understood as a way of enriching our humanity and increasing tolerance of each other.

Her final passage has great validity and shines like a beacon after events of the last week:

The lesson is almost lost: the more we see of each other’s beliefs and customs, the less we can imbue them with the demonic qualities which suit the demagogues and bigots on all sides. Geert Wilders made a rather ugly film about Islam which should have been the subject of a proper debate about the Koran, but throwing him out of the country served to reinforce the idea that arguing about the meaning of religion is too dangerous for a liberal society to permit. Evangelical Christians are now treated like pariahs in a society which is still officially Christian. What is being lost in all this cowardice and turmoil is the sense of common humanity that might have seen us through.

You can read her full article here

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Written by curly

February 16, 2009 at 11:09 am

Posted in Journalism, Religion

Tagged with

Geert Wilders not allowed into UK

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“Community harmony and public security” threatened.

Just who are the winners here then?

Freedom and liberty are not amongst them, neither are EU laws allowing free movement of it’s citizens across it’s borders. Wilders has committed no crime at all in this country nor has he been found guilty of any crime in the Netherlands. Some may consider him guilty of producing a very controversial film which exposes some of the more extreme elements of radical Islam, and this, it seems, is the reason why our government is moved to such lengths to prevent him coming here.

Yet they grant free access to the likes of radical Islamic cleric Sheikh Al Yusuf Qaradawi, who appears to advocate the murder of homosexuals and Israeli civilians and the beating-up of women?

Tolerance of other’s views and values? Respect for diversity. Freedom of speech and expression?

They all seem to fall by the wayside.

Cranmer is convinced that the Islamic Jihadists have won the day. The government appears to have buckled under the threats from Lord Ahmed.

Update

Very pertinent and sensible comment from Peter Hoskin at Coffee House suggesting that the banning order is actually damaging community cohesion:

To be honest, I feel uneasy about Wilders, his film and his views.  That’s just me.  But, like Johnston, I think that the crude suppression of them is counterproductive on numerous levels.  As Ed Husain argues in today’s Indy, this could have been an occasion for tolerant Muslims to have their voices heard and their attitudes revealed.  Instead, the government chose to appease the intolerant few; stifle a wider debate; and, in all likelihood, only inflame people’s worries and stereotypes.  That may mean an easier ride in the short term.  But it will hardly forge a cohesive society in the long.

The best article or post that I have read on this controversy is at Heresy Corner and puts the case far more eloquently than I ever could, do read the full article.
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Written by curly

February 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Freedom, liberty, News, politics, Religion

Tagged with

The freedom to be foolish

with one comment

C of E bans clergy from BNP membership

There is little at all that I like about the BNP’s manifesto, there is little I like about some of the knuckle dragging thugs who turn up to their marches, there is little I like about their holocaust denying party leader, there is little I like about their extremely socialist and protectionist economic views, and in short I can find little to recommend about membership of their party. However, I recognise that it is a legally constituted political party, albeit full of deluded fools who think that one day they may become a party of mass popularity, we may have to wait until we see the next female pope before that happens, but so be it.

They can best be defeated by reasoned argument and not by trying to demonise them and push them further into the darker corners and fringes, the decision by the Church of England’s General Synod to ban clergy from membership of the BNP is unlikely to affect many at all within the church but it’s affect outside is more profound. The BNP will probably be rubbing their hands with glee right now, rather like some terrorists organisations of the past they thrive on the oxygen of publicity (this post will be lost within the avalanche of news stories this morning) and will be thankful of the opprtunity it gives them to shout and scream “discrimination”.

At the end of the day it is perfectly legal to join their party, it is perfectly legal to hold views that are objectionable, probably offensive to many, eccentric, off course, plain whacky or intolerable. We still have the right to be an idiot if we choose so long as our idiotic actions do not impinge upon the rights of others. So to start proscribing and banning in the name of “tolerance” is an intolerable thing in itself and chips away further at the freedoms and individual rights that UK citizens are gullibly giving up day by day.

So we end up with one group of idiots banning other idiots from joining in, I guess the church is exercising it’s right to be foolish.

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Written by curly

February 11, 2009 at 9:38 am

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