Monthly Archives: October 2012

Coptic nationalism

Posted by dianamuir on October 15, 2012
minority nationalism / Comments Off on Coptic nationalism

I ran into this interesting blog:




من يجرؤ يغلب

THE COPTIC NATIONALISTS WORK for a civilian, secular democratic Egypt for all Egyptians regardless of religion, sex, colour or nationality.  But this is only about individual rights. We believe that Egypt is formed of three nations, Arabs, Copts and Nubians. We work also for the collective rights of the Copts within a multinational Egypt.

Within that context, the demands of the Coptic nationalists are:

  1. Establishment of a secular, civilian, democratic Egypt that is just for all. This means Egypt with no Islamists or military in power. It also means getting Islam out of politics in Egypt. Let that be clear.
  2. Guaranteeing of the individual (civil and political) rights of the Copts within Egypt.
  3. Guaranteeing of the collective rights of the Copts. This means a large degree of a non-territorial autonomy with a separately elected Coptic cultural council that possesses exclusive legislative power over religion,[i] education[ii] and cultural[iii] matters, and the right to represent the interests of the Copts to the state.

If the demands of the Coptic nationalists are not met, we shall fight for secession and the establishment of an independent Coptic State. When and how the second option becomes first option is frankly in the hands of our compatriots, the Muslims of Egypt. A special burden falls on the shoulders of the moderate Muslims – they must discard their lethargy, apathy and join us in an anti-Islamist front. There can be no more dangerous enemy to Egypt’s democracy and progress other than the Islamists – their harm touches moderate Muslims and Copts alike. The Islamists are not anti-Copts only but, in addition, anti-women, anti-liberties, anti-human rights. Let us be honest and frank about this: not only Egypt’s democracy and progress are being endangered by the advent of the Islamists, but also its national and territorial unity. Let Egyptians learn the lesson of Sudan!


For more on our demands, read: THE THREE DEMANDS OF COPTIC NATIONALISTS مطالب القوميين الأقباط

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Paul Knitter on Supersessionism in Islam and Christianity

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
Islamic supercessionism, Supersession / Comments Off on Paul Knitter on Supersessionism in Islam and Christianity

Paul F. Knitter, the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in  New York explains Islamic supersessionism:

“Now I am not a Muslim theologian or expert, so I stand ready to be corrected, but I believe that a case can be made that Islam has made the very same supersessionist move as has Christianity.

“Certainly, Islam recognizes and lifts high the value of the prophets of Israel and of the prophet Jesus. Islam also asserts that the truths that God has revealed through these prophets were either incomplete or have been corrupted or lost in the history of Judaism and Christianity—and that the revelation give to Muhammad and contained in the holy Qur’an is meant to be the fulfillment of what went before…

“The ideal, which Muslims believe is God’s ideal, is that Christians and Jews would find the fullness and the finality of God’s revelation by embracing, and so being fulfilled by, Islam.

“And so we have the essence of what I am calling sibling rivalry contained in claims to supersede, to replace: first Christians claiming to supersede Israel, then Muslims claiming to supersede both Christians and Jews…

“Theological supersessionism + political-economic rivalry = conflict…

“If we believe that it is God’s preferred religion whose existence is being jeopardized, then we must use every means possible to defend it. Everything and anything can be deployed to defend God’s truth. And in the case of both of our religions, which both have theories of just war or just jihad, religious fervor has become military fervor. When military armies or liberation fighters believe they are fighting in God’s name and defending God’s truth and God’s religion, they will be not only braver; they can also be more brutal. Supersessionist beliefs do not necessarily lead to violence. But they can so easily be used to justify and to intensify violence.

“I sincerely believe that today, for any religion to make such supersessionist claims—to believe that it is meant to be the final religion intended by God to replace all other religions—this is to expose religion to the danger of being used as an instrument of tension and conflict rather than of peace and cooperation. President Obama seemed to agree when in his Cairo address he stated: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it.”

Knitter, P. F. (2009), Islam and Christianity Sibling Rivalries and Sibling Possibilities. CrossCurrents, 59: 554–570. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3881.2009.00099.x


The Eurocentrism of Post-Colonial Studies

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
Imperialism, Medieval nationhood, Ottoman Footprint / Comments Off on The Eurocentrism of Post-Colonial Studies

Happened on this very interesting article  seeking  “to connect with the broader postcolonial project of decolonizing the mind by exposing and deconstructing its Eurocentric frames of reference”   on the grounds that the phenomena of conquest and colonization can be more usefully studied as a group that includes earlier empires.

“It would have been beyond the scope of this article to more fully illustrate the economic continuities be- tween premodern and modern colonialism in this article, but we defer to others who have argued and shown that most economic activities that are commonly associated with modern, capitalist colonialism-profitable mercantile activity (Wheatley 1966; Duncan-Jones 1974; Mann 1986); the extraction and import of raw materials from colonies and export of manufactured goods in profitable return (Polanyi 1977); the control and exploitation of colonized land (Mayer 1988) and labor (Hawkes 1973); the taxation of colonized peoples (Given 1989); the appropriation of land and direct resettlement-predate the modern, capitalist period.”

The subtext for many post-colonial authors “is that the modern period witnessed a fundamental shift in the ways in which society was organized. Furthermore, the ideological and organizational forms of the premodern and modern periods are characterized by significant qualitative differences. In effect, the group senses of identity, the polities, the economic forms, and the ways of thinking of the modern period are fundamentally different from those that existed in the premodern period. In its most extreme form, it can lead social scientists to argue that the new social and spatial formations of the modern period could not conceivably have existed during premodern times (with regard to nationalism, see Gellner 1983; in the context of rational bureaucracy and the state, see Giddens 1985; Dandekar 1990, 1-2).

“We vigorously contest such views. As Latour (1993) has shown, there has been much continuity between the premodern and modern periods (on another broad note, see Dodgshon 1999). More specifically, Tilly (1990) has demonstrated that the state was “consolidated” from its earlier inchoate form in Europe during the modern pe- riod. It was not formed anew and, therefore, did not represent the first territorialization of power within Eu- ropean society. Similarly A. D. Smith (1986) has ex- plored the way in which modern nations were based on earlier ethnic communities or ethnie. Nations are there- fore not wholly fabricated modern social phenomena. Indeed, A. D. Smith’s (1996, 386) assertion that nihil ex nihilio, or “nothing comes from nothing,” is a clarion call for more sustained analysis of group senses of identity, but also state forms, rationalities, modes of production and, we argue, colonial practices over the long term. Students of nationalism and the state have learned much from expanding their temporal horizons, and we suggest that the same may well be true for those who wish to examine imperialism in all its forms. The challenge must be to engage with the premodern and the non-European and to explore what lies beyond: to unsettle geographical horizons.”

Unsettling Geographical Horizons: Exploring Premodern and Non-European Imperialism
Author(s): Rhys Jones and Richard Phillips,  Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 95, No. 1 (Mar., 2005), pp.141-161Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American GeographersStable URL: .Accessed: 12/10/2012



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The Quranic Accusation that Jews and Christians Falsified Scripture

Posted by dianamuir on October 12, 2012
Islamic supercessionism, Uncategorized / Comments Off on The Quranic Accusation that Jews and Christians Falsified Scripture

In his 2010 article, On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds explains the Quranic accusation of Falsification (tahrîf).

Reynolds sees ” four different layers of meaning”   associated with the Arabic
word tahrlf.

First,  “scriptural falsification” to encompass all implications of tahrîf

Second,  “textual alteration” to “describe the common accusation of medieval (and modern)
Islamic literature that the Jews and Christians really erased (or destroyed) some or all of the
true scripture and rewrote it (tahrlf al-nass).”

Third,  “misinterpretation”, the “accusation that the Jews and Christians do not properly understand their own scripture (tahrlf al-ma^ânl).”

Fourth,  “they shift words out of their contexts” to “translate as literally as possible the Qur’anic phrase (related to tahrlf) yuharrifuna l-kalima ‘an mawädi’ihi ”

If you are new to this topic, take a moment to consider the serious nature of this indictment.    The charge is that God had to give his truth to humans three times, first to the Jews who deliberately falsified it, then to the Christians who falsified it, then to Muhammad who preserved it faithfully.    Jews and Christians are accused of having deliberately erased, destroyed and replaced scripture with falsehood.

That’s quite an accusation.    Christians and Jews falsified the world of God.   Deliberately.

And they continue to deny it.  Even when the Quran, the accurate word of God is set before them.

This  Muslim accusation obviously echoes the Christian accusation that Jews misinterpret the Bible.   Paul writes (Corinthians II  3:14) , “But their minds were closed. Until this very day, the same veil remains over the reading of the Old Testament: it is not lifted,for only in Christ is it done away with.”    Jews failed to discover the references to Jesus that Christians perceived in the text of the Hebrew Bible.  The Quran is harshly critical of Jews, accusing them of everything from slandering Mary to boasting that they killed Jesus.

“The Qur’an insists that God has cursed the Israelites (Q 5:13), a people who have not only falsified scripture
but who have also broken their covenant (Q 4:155) and killed the prophets (Q 3:181; 4:155); they are a people whose hearts are uncircumcised (Q 2:88; 4:155), who have slandered Mary (Q 4:156), and who boast of having killed Jesus (Q 4:157). God has made their hearts hard (Q 5:13) and sealed their hearts with their unbelief (Q 4:155), and the unbelievers among them were cursed by the tongue of David and Jesus (Q 5:78).”

Reynolds argues that the Quran’s attack on the Jews is a result of Islam’s roots in Syriac Christianity, a Church with a particularly strong devotion to reading the Old Testament as a Christological document, and therefore, with a particular animus against Jewish failure to understand the Hebrew Bible as an intricately coded reflection of the life of Jesus.


On the Qur’anic Accusation of Scriptural Falsification (tahrîf) and Christian Anti-Jewish Polemic, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 130 (2010)



EU States Most Likely to Secede

Posted by dianamuir on October 11, 2012
Confederation, European Union / Comments Off on EU States Most Likely to Secede

Baden-Württemberg, Catalonia, Scotland, Flanders. Lombardy, Rhône-Alpes

“When it comes to the crunch, it’s not about money but national myths — what kind of people we are, meta-narratives and emotions: ‘Do we feel oppressed? Do we feel safe enough to leave?’ Ghosts of history return, and while economics plays a role, in the end people vote with their hearts.”



New York Times, Oct. 6, 2012

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Thoughtful Ross Douthat Post on Supersessionism

Posted by dianamuir on October 10, 2012
Bible, Supersession / Comments Off on Thoughtful Ross Douthat Post on Supersessionism

In part,

“I suspect that the Christian decision to swallow the Hebrew Bible whole into its scripture – and to preserve, rather than elide, Jesus’ own obvious self-understanding as a Jew – ultimately creates deeper grounds for dialogue than does Islam’s insistence that the narrative of the Hebrew scriptures was deliberately corrupted and required correction from Muhammed.

“Put another way, Christian tradition seems to have more respect for the essential integrity and God-givenness of pre-Christian Judaism than does Islamic tradition. This makes it difficult to imagine a Muslim version of the sort of rethinking of what, precisely, supersessionism means than we’ve seen from Evangelicals and Catholics in this century – a rethinking that’s been crucial for the development of Judeo-Christian dialogue. And by the same token, there’s no equivalent in the foundational narrative of Islam to the striking Jewishness of Jesus, a quality which would seem to make Jewish engagement with the Gospel narratives – and Christian engagement with that engagement – more plausible and intellectually fruitful in the long run than Jewish engagement with the figure of Muhammed.”

What is it with North-African Jews and Nobel Prizes?

Posted by dianamuir on October 10, 2012
Uncategorized / 3 Comments

The North African Jewish community was never very large, maybe 600,000 people if you add the Jews of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and Libya together at the early twentieth century peak. 

That’s a pretty small community to have produced 3 Nobel Prize winners.  All emigres, or the children of emigres.

Baruj Benacerraf

Baruj Benacerraf, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1980, has a complicated biography, he was born in Venezuela to a Moroccan Jewish father and an Algerian Jewish mother, the family lived in France from the time he was 5 through his high school years, before fleeing the Nazis by returning to Venezuela.  He was sent to Columbia University in New York for medical school and became an American citizen.  I suppose that Sephardi Jews, Algeria, Morocco, Venezuela, France and the United States can all claim him.  And the whole world should be proud.

French physicist Serge Haroche in Paris. Haroche and American David Wineland share the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics. (photo credit: AP/CNRS/Christophe Lebedinsky)

Serge Haroche, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, 2012, born in Casablanca, Morocco to a Moroccan Jewish father and a Russian Jewish mother in but moved to France as a child.

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1997, was born to a Sephardi Jewish family  in Constantine, Algeria in 1933 and went to France to complete his education and still lives and works in France.




Horse Meat

Posted by dianamuir on October 05, 2012
Cultural values / Comments Off on Horse Meat

“The contrasts between French and U.S. culture are endless but I can’t think of an instance quite as stark as attitudes toward horse meat.”  American journalist Michael Johnson writing in the New York Times in 2008, after being served horse meat for the first time in his life in Bordeaux.

The French eat horses.  Lots of peoples do.  As do lots of people.  Americans don’t.   And it is not entirely an individual choice, this food taboo is is enforced by loud social opprobrium of public violations.  In 2012 public horror scuttled a plan to put horse meat on the menu of a trendy New York city  restaurant.

Trivial, compared with many cultural differences, but n interesting example of the way in which national cultures differ even in a globalizing world.




Saroyan’s Lament for a Dying People

Posted by dianamuir on October 04, 2012
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“We were a great people once,” he went on. “But that was yesterday, the day before yesterday. Now we are a topic in ancient history. We had a great civilization. They’re still admiring it. Now I am in America learning how to cut hair. We’re washed up as a race, we’re through, it’s all over, why should I learn to read the language? We have no writers, we have no news- well, there is a little news: once in a while the English encourage the Arabs to massacre us, that is all.”

The character who gives this speech is an Assyrian Christian barber in William Sayoyan’s  story, Seventy Thousand Assyrians.

Assyrians in Mosul a century ago.

“I am thinking of Theodore Badal, himself seventy thousand Assyrians and seventy million Assyrians, himself Assyria, and man, standing in a barber shop, in San Francisco, in 1933, and being, still, himself, the whole race.”

Saroyan was  born to Armenian immigrant parents in California in 1908.

I remember the Near East Relief drives in my home town. My uncle used to be our orator and he used to make a whole auditorium full of Armenians weep. He was an attorney and he was a great orator. Well, at first the trouble was war. Our people were being destroyed by the enemy. Those who hadn’t been killed were homeless and they were starving, our own flesh and blood, my uncle said, and we all wept. And we gathered money and sent it to our people in the old country.”

Coptic, Assyrian, Jewish…

“There is no Armenian living who does not still dream of an independent Armenia.”

Saroyan wrote in 1934, there was no Armenia, no Israel, no Korea, no Assyria.

“Well, that is something. Assyrians cannot even dream any more. Why, do you know how many of us are left on earth?”

“Two or three million,” I suggested.

“Seventy thousand,” said Badal. “That is all. Seventy thousand Assyrians in the world, and the Arabs are still killing us. They killed seventy of us in a little uprising last month. There was a small paragraph in the paper. Seventy more of us destroyed. We’ll be wiped out before long. My brother is married to an American girl and he has a son. There is no more hope. We are trying to forget Assyria. My father still reads a paper that comes from New York, but he is an old man. He will be dead soon.”

How did it happen, this loss…?

“We went in for the wrong things. We went in for the simple things, peace and quiet and families. We didn’t go in for machinery and conquest and militarism. We didn’t go in for diplomacy and deceit and the invention of machine-guns and poison gases. Well, there is no use in being disappointed. We had our day, I suppose.”


Arguing for Catalan Independence

Posted by dianamuir on October 04, 2012
Calalonia / Comments Off on Arguing for Catalan Independence

The independence movement is not driven by hatred of Spain. Catalan nationalism is civic and cultural, unlike the ethnic nationalism that has so often plagued Europe. Indeed, most of the two million Spaniards who migrated to Catalonia in the 1960s and ’70s are today fully integrated and many of them have embraced secessionist ideals…

The growth of the secessionist movement is also a reaction to a renewed wave of Spanish nationalism. When Catalonia passed a more far-reaching autonomy law in 2006, some political parties and media outlets unleashed a fierce anti-Catalan campaign that included a boycott of Catalan products. This campaign caused an emotional rift, and many Catalans concluded that only independence would protect them. Once mutual trust was lost, other possible solutions, like a federal state, lost their appeal…

Spain’s Constitution may not permit regions to secede, but the principles of democracy and justice necessitate finding a political solution to Catalonia’s demands. In a world where deep-seated national grievances often lead to violence, Catalans offer the example that peaceful change is possible. Denying Catalans the right to self-determination would be an affront to the democratic ideals that Spain, and Europe, claim to embrace.

Excerpted form New York Times, Oct. 2, 2012

Ricard González is the former Washington correspondent for El Mundo and the Catalan magazine El Temps. Jaume Clotet is a novelist and former political editor of the Catalan newspaper Avui.