Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Costa Salafists

November 12, 2012
Salafyo Costa

Salafyo Costa

People didn’t accept the idea that Salafi guys could sit and drink in Costa Coffee. Everybody was unfriendly. It’s because they have a perception that Salafis don’t go for coffee in such places. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

Through our Facebook page and our videos we are trying to tell them: Hear from us rather not about us. — Ahmed Samir, co-founder of the Facebook group

Do you guys sit in Costa? People would look at us in bafflement because they had a perception that Salafis don’t drink coffee in such places. It’s what I call visual abuse. It’s sad but funny. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

Costa Salafists are quite literally, Salafists who meet in Costa coffee shops.

The Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt.

If you watched closely, as I did, you would have seen people on the streets, in Tahrir Square, many ages, but many young people, many young females, young females who were treated as equals, small groups forming, engaging in articulate, animated, but above all informed discussion and debate.

Move forward, the toppling of dictators, then elections.

All then seemed to have been lost, in Tunisia what could be called a soft Muslim party took power, in Egypt a harder Muslim Party the Muslim Brotherhood took power and behind them the hard line Salafists.

It seemed as though all had been lost, lives sacrificed for nothing. But all may not be as it seems from a superficial glance.

To topple a dictator is to question power. Power is usually toppled at the top, to be replaced by the same for example as we see in Animal Farm.

Tahrir Square was grass roots, question from the bottom. Once that genie is out of the bottle it is impossible to squeeze back in. Something Putin need to understand with his imprisonment of Pussy Riot and clampdown on opposition.

Girls who were not allowed out of the house, took to the streets. They now question. They are no longer prisoners in their own house.

Students question their teachers. Bribes are no longer paid to policemen.

We take reading for granted. If you cannot tread, how can you travel around, how do you know which street to find, how can you catch a bus if you cannot read the number?

The Taliban tried to silence Malawa, they failed.

The first word of the Koran is read.

Costa Salafists are so named because they quite literally meet in Costa coffee shops. A pity they cannot find local indie coffee shops in which to meet.

Costa Salafists would appear to be an oxymoron. Are Salafists not hard line intolerant bigots and Islamic fundamentalists, is not Costa a Western imposed coffee chain, the last place Salafists would meet? It is exactly because of that perception why they meet in Costa coffee shops. They even count Coptic Christians among their core supporters.

Nada Zohdy:

When I met Mohammed Tolba, the founder of this initiative, many of my own assumptions of Salafis were fundamentally challenged; to be frank, I didn’t realize Salafis could be so light-hearted and tolerant. Mohammed emphasised some basic struggles that the group faces: reminding themselves and other Salafis that they do not have an absolute monopoly on religious truth, and encouraging Salafis to have regular and meaningful interactions with other Egyptians rather than isolating themselves as they have for many years (which in part was a result of the discrimination they faced under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak).

They believe in the authority of the Koran, but in a living interpretation of the Koran, an interpretation that your heart tells you is correct.

The Prophet warned, only heed a fatwa if your heart tells you it is correct.

The Old Testament was never meant to be written down as to do so would be to set it in stone. It was a living document that was interpreted to suit the present day. Later prophets constantly reinterpreted that which went before.

During Occupy St Paul’s, there often seemed as many clergy as there were occupiers at St Paul’s in-the-Camp. They were going back to original teachings of Jesus.

A cultural shift is taking part. At Occupy it was to question what was happening, the way our economy and financial systems function. In Greece and Spain that shift is of necessity as there are no jobs or at least no jobs in the formal economy.

When Super Storm Sandy struck New York, Mitt Romney saw it as a photo opportunity. Occupy New York got their hands dirty, Occupy Sandy was born, they were out helping people, feeding people.

People who were in Tahrir Square took their inspiration from Occupy, Occupy took their inspiration from Tahrir Square. Cross fertilisation.

The cultural shift that is taking place is being networked.

The Arab Spring was organised through social media. The Costa Salafists are no exception, making extensive use of Facebook.

Give us this day our daily miracle

October 21, 2012

Give us this day, Lord, our daily miracle even if we are incapable of noticing it because our mind is focussed on great deeds and conquests.

And when we open our mouth, may we speak not just the language of men, but the language of angels too and say:

Miracles do not go against the laws of nature; we only think that because we do not know nature’s laws.

— Paulo Coelho

Manuscript found in Accra (Manuscrito encontrado em Accra) by Paulo Coelho, published in UK Spring 2013

A strange church

September 9, 2012
Ebenezer Tabernacle New Testament Church of God

Ebenezer Tabernacle New Testament Church of God

In the summer I would often go past a small church on a summer’s evening and hear singing from the open door.

Last summer, at a flower festival in another church, I met three women from the little church, and they invited me along Sunday evening

Sunday arrived. It was a very hot day. The last thing I felt like doing was moving from my garden and walking to a church. But I had been invited and I felt it would be discourteous not to go, so along I went, only to find the church was closed, a note pinned to the door saying that Sunday they were meeting in a church in a nearby town.

To say I was not pleased, would have been an understatement. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, try again the following week, and let them know what I thought of being sent on a wild goose chase.

Exactly the same thing happened. The church was closed, only this time not even a note was pinned to the door.

I tried three times, each time to no avail. I may have even called the listed number.

I found a group of Blacks in the street outside. Aha, maybe they will know.

They did not know, did not even know there was a church, even though they had come from the church across the road, a local Baptist Church, though they were not Baptists, they merely used the Baptist Church.

Curious why they were all dressed in white, the women wore white turbans, I asked.

I was told it was the dress code laid down by the Bible. News to me. I asked for the relevant Biblical passage which they were unable to provided.

This afternoon, I found two Black women outside the strange little church. One was about to drive off, I said it was ok, the other one could answer my questions.

I asked why it was never open. She told me they met later, the sign was wrong, they met at 11am, not 10am. And that the name of the church was wrong, it now had a different name.

I said I had been invited to the evening service. We do not meet in the afternoon, you can come to our 11am service.

Why then do you have a misleading sign outside, that has been wrong for at least a year?

We are aware, and we are dealing with it.

Does that then mean I can come back next week and see the correct times?

No, we are dealing with it, but it will not be next week, nor next month, nor next year, we work in God’s time not man’s time. She then told me I was being impatient and snapped her fingers in my face, which I thought was extremely rude, saying that is man’s time, not God’s time.

I pointed out that far from being man’s time, God’s time was far faster than her snapping her fingers and that far from being impatient, I had taken the trouble to stop and make inquiries from her.

She saw no requirement to change the sign as I now knew and the whole community knew.

Not true, I said, as the people I had spoken to last year from the church opposite knew nothing of her church, they were not even aware of its existence.

How therefore was anyone passing by to know when the church was open if the sign was wrong, or were they a church that held secret sessions?

She turned her back on me, walked into the church, shutting the door on me.

Later, as if on cue, I met the people dressed in white who used the Baptist church. I again asked who they were, why in white?

I was told that was how the apostles dressed.

How do you know?

We do not know, but it how we imagine they dressed. The white dress was also a uniform, everyone the same. The men had white lab coats, but I noticed the women had varying degrees of finery.

They explained theirs was only one church and that they travelled all the way from Essex and Hertfordshire. The service lasted four hours or longer.

Pollution, global warming, and environmental damage was not something that figured high on their agenda.

What’s the point of ordained ministry anyway?

July 24, 2012
Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas

Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas

What do we need Bishops for? Do we need them?

No one seemed to know, least of all the panel.

One panel member said people she knew who were friends, had changed when they became Bishops.

Another said they become spineless.

The United Reform Church has an entirely different system. No Bishops. A church calls its minister. He or she, applies for the job, if the church like he or she, they are called to take up the post. Moderators act to resolve any problems that may arise between church and clergy. They are not in charge of the church, nor senior to the minister.

At the time of the Reformation, there were no Bishops, the Bible was seen to be the authority. Under James I, Bishops were brought back in.

Even within churches there is a hierarchy.

Church of England, did, maybe still does, use psychometric tests to determine suitability of clergy.

Do we need clergy? What is their role? Can we do without them?

Clergy claim their job is a calling. Clergy claim there’s is a stressful job.

40% of clergy in the Church of England are due to retire in the next ten years. This will cause a crisis in the church.

Following the discussion I asked the Minister of Guildford URC why the Worship of Mammon? He denied the large banner poster on entry to the church. He was adamant not true, he would not permit. I showed him a photo.

I then gave him two books for his church:

Discussion held at St Nicolas Church in Guildford: Father Andrew (St Nicolas), Rev Philip Jones (Guildford United Reformed Church), Canon Barbara Messham (All Saints Church).

Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas during July.

Once again failure to post information on the main noticeboard (the only one most people see) facing the High Street and the bridge over the River Wey. No mention on website either!


June 22, 2012

Men came from the sea
with their unusual catch –
one hundred and fifty three.
A fire burned on the beach.

They had expected nothing,
now there was a glut,
and also this man waiting.
The charcoal was white hot.

But was the man there?
One moment it seemed so,
the next he was not.
Master, they said, don’t go.

Like thin air shimmering
when powerful heat bakes it,
he continued his waiting.
Indefinite. Definite.

The fire burned on the beach
with their unusual catch.
They had expected nothing.
Now there was too much.

— Andrew Motion

I heard this read a few moments ago by Andrew Motion.

Very moving. It was like hearing something from Khalil Gibran.

Andrew Motion was on the last in the series of Honest Doubt, a series by Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, talking about religion.

Also featured was Tears in the Rain from the film Blade Runner.

Shame on the BBC that they are not holding this excellent series on-line.

The omnibus edition on BBC Radio 4, 2100 BST tonight.

Andrew Motion explained how he came to write the poem, sitting in church listening to the service.

The relevant text is St John Chapter 21.

Turkish pianist Fazil Say accused of insulting Islam (via twitter)

June 2, 2012

Turkish composer and international classical and jazz pianist Fazil Say has been charged by a court in Istanbul in Turkey of insulting Islam via a series of messages on twitter.

He is one of several artists facing similar charges. Meanwhile the West is turning a blind eye to a hard-line Islamic government and the creeping Islamisation of what has been a secular society in Turkey.

Fazil Say faces 18 months in prison for ‘publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation’. It is unusual for twitter posts to be the subject of an indictment in Turkey. Some were original messages, others re-tweets.

One re-tweet poked fun at an Islamic vision of the afterlife, likening heaven’s promise of rivers of wine to a tavern and of virgins to a brothel. It referred to a poem by the 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

Another tweet joked about a muezzin’s rapid delivery of the call to prayer, asking if he wanted to get away quickly for a drink.

Many intellectuals and writers have faced similar charges in recent years, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who last year was fined $3,700 for saying in a Swiss newspaper that Turks ‘have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians’, a simple statement of fact which successive Turkish regimes have refused to acknowledge.

Orhan Pamuk was forced to flee Turkey. Attacks on him led to an international outcry.

Turkey is to be commended for sheltering refugees from the brutal Assad regime in Syria, but we should not let this hide human rights abuses within Turkey itself.

The strength of mountains and the wisdom of water

March 27, 2012
Ponte Vecchio - Bassano del Grappa

Ponte Vecchio - Bassano del Grappa

Lord, bless our week. May we have the strength of the mountain and the wisdom of the water.

— Paulo Coelho

We do not receive wisdom, we discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us.

— Marcel Proust

Erasing Hell

March 1, 2012

God has the right to do whatever He pleases. — Psalms 115:3

If we dig deep and find the caring, loving part God has placed within us, the angels cannot be restrained from actively being our associates. — Elaine Street

Anyone who knows God cannot describe him. Anyone who can describe God does not know him. — Paulo Coelho

Erasing Hell may not be brimming with hatred but is certainly lacking in grace.

Francis Chan plays the proof text game.

One can prove almost anything playing the proof text game.

Fancy engaging in a little genocide? There are Biblical texts you can quote. Slaughter all men, women and children. Spare not even the women and children.

The Lord´s Army in Uganda use biblical texts to justify their atrocities. As do suicide bombers, Islamist fundamentalists use The Koran.

Yes, God is all powerful. He could destroy the earth tomorrow in the blink of an eye, but could is not the same as would.

We have a loving God, a God who cares. Why would such a God condemn to an eternity in Hell for sins committed in a finite lifetime?

But Francis Chan commits to Hell, not for sins committed, but for not believing what he says we must believe.

We have not free will if we must believe what we are told to believe, and will be punished if we do not comply

Desmond Tutu addresses this very well in Tutu: A Portrait.

Does God say to the Dalia Lama, yes I recognise you are a Holy Man, but because you chose a different path, I will condemn you to an eternity in Hell?

At a St Joseph’s Day party at a medieval Venetian castle, Paulo Coelho told of dying at birth, of being strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother prayed. She promised she would mark St Joseph’s Day as thanks. She never kept her promise. God did not punish her. He recognised the frailties of human beings. Paulo Coelho now keeps his mother’s failed promise. He celebrates St Joseph’s Day with his friends, and has done so for the last 25 years.

In, I think, The Valkyries, an encounter with angels, Paulo Coelho speaks of the angel with a flaming sword guarding the entrance to heaven. The angel no longer guards the gate. The way is open to all. There are many paths. No one person has the right to say theirs is the right path. There are those bigots who have the arrogance to claim theirs is the one and only, the true path.

As Ron Bell says in Love Wins, not all would wish to enter heaven as they would have to change. Would the racist wish to sit with peopple of all races and colours? Would the bigot wish to sit with those of other faiths?

When asked, Master how do we enter heaven? Jesus gave as many different answers as those who asked.

In the Koran, we learn that to enter heaven is to recognise the one true God and to do good.

In The Shack we learn God is not a God of wrath.

Francis Chan is not though content to play the proof text game. He performs mental gymastics to claim words mean other than what they mean.

Erasing Hell is an evil book. It is like those odious people who stop you in the street and tell you if you do not believe what we believe you will suffer eternal damnation. They of course are always counted with the chosen few.

Krishna will hear your prayer

January 31, 2012

A widow from a poor village in Bengal did not have enough money to pay for her son’s bus fare, and so when the boy started going to school, he would have to walk through the forest all on his own. In order to reassure him, she said:

‘Don’t be afraid of the forest, my son. Ask your God Krishna to go with you. He will hear your prayer.’

The boy followed his mother’s suggestion, and Krishna duly appeared and from then on accompanied him to school every day.

When it was his teacher’s birthday, the boy asked his mother for some money in order to buy him a present.

‘We haven’t any money, son. Ask your brother Krishna to get you a present.’

The following day, the boy explained his problem to Krishna, who gave him a jug of milk.

The boy proudly handed the milk to the teacher, but the other boys’ presents were far superior and the teacher didn’t even notice his.

‘Where did you get that jug?’

‘Krishna, the God of the forest, gave it to me.’

The teacher, the students and the assistant all burst out laughing.

‘There are no gods in the forest, that’s pure superstition,’ said the teacher. ‘If he exists, let’s all go and see him.’

The whole group set off. The boy started calling for Krishna, but he did not appear.

The boy made one last desperate appeal.

‘Brother Krishna, my teacher wants to see you. Please show yourself!’

At that moment, a voice emerged from the forest and echoed through the city and was heard by everyone.

‘I can’t! He doesn’t even believe I exist!’

Posted by Paulo Coelho on his blog.

Senior Sunni Clerics issue fatwa against sectarian violence

January 30, 2012

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God. — Matthew 5:9

Today I met with some of the most senior clerics in Iraq under the auspices of the Society of Iraqi Islamic Scientists (the senior Sunni Clerics Society). Some of them also came to Najaf with us on Friday. The main issue on the agenda was finding ways to stop the sectarian violence against the Shia. They also delivered a Fatwa (Islamic) injunction against all sectarian violence and publicly declared that most sectarian violence was coming from the Sunni community. Tomorrow the Fatwa will be discussed with the Iraqi Vice President and the British Ambassador.

— Canon Andrew White

The Fatwa


In the name of God the Merciful

Under the conditions experienced by Iraqis and many Middle Eastern people at the present time and in the light of the increase in the level of Iraqi sectarian violence and the volatile situation, we believe that the deteriorating political condition calls upon us as Sunni religious scholars to together as a group to issue a Fatwa.

We wish to declare the sanctity of all Iraqi blood wether Shia, Sunni or Christian. We call for a mechanism to educate the Iraqi Society in order to renounce all sectarian violence and instead create an environment of cooperation with civil society organizations and institutions of civil jurisdiction so not to allow our people in Iraq to divide into sectarian conflicts. We must work towards national unity amongst all Muslims (Sunni and Shia) and Christians; we all have the duty and right to live together in unity in our country Iraq.

Dr Sheikh Khaled Abdul-Wahab Mullah, Leader, Sunni Cleric Baghdad + Basrah
Shekh Saadi Mehdi Qutaiba Alindaoui Sunni Leader Al Anbar
Sheikh Maher Al Jubori Sunni Cleric Fullujah
Dr Sheikh Kubaisi Jalal Sunni Cleric Rammadi
Sheikh Marwan Al Araji Sunni Cleric Baghdad
Sheikh Hasham Al Dulami Sunni Cleric Fullujah

I was talking with my friend Margaret this evening who works in Triangle (Christian tea shop cum bookshop) and we both agreed that if anyone was going to have an impact on the sectarian violence in Iraq it was Canon Andrew White.

Over the last few days he has been talking to Sunni religious leaders, the outcome a fatwa against the sectarian violence.

Now we need a similar fatwa from the Shia clerics.

Canon Andrew White is author of Faith Under Fire, President of FRRME, the Anglican priest of St George’s in Baghdad and a Middle East Peacemaker.

He has recently been awarded the highly prestigious First Freedom Award.

A three-day International Peace Conference on Iraq, Light in Darkness, is to be held in Brighton, Thursday 6 September to Saturday 8 September at the City Coast Church. It is hoped to bring young people from Iraq but this will depend upon how generous are donors. Speaker will include Canon Andrew White. For more information and for donations, please contact FRRME.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

God moves in mysterious ways
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell
Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East

%d bloggers like this: