Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #174 (March 4th, 2007)


Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.


Trevor Grace is on his way to Portugal

Even as you're reading this, so we're

Taking a break in the Scripture Readings

But we'll pick up right where we left off:

I Samuel

When he gets back.

Review: Jesus in India: An Account of Jesus' Escape from Death on the Cross and His Journey to India by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad

I have to admit that I thought the book was a joke when it first arrived. You know, Jesus in India, Jesus Goes Hawaiian, Jesus Crosses the Alps. Where might you go if you were spared death on the cross. Jeff apologized on the phone if I took offence at the book or thought that it was blasphemous. As I told him, I thought the Kennedy assassination was intricate until I started finding out exactly how many different interpretations of scripture there are. I have no specific idea of what's blasphemous anymore. Is Sikhism blasphemous? Is Wahabbism? Is the Mormon faith blasphemous? All I can do is read a given text and try to figure out what the author's angle is and how I react to it, so that's what I'm going to do here, starting with the back cover.

Jesus in India is an English version of an Urdu treatise written by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). The main thesis expounded in the treatise is Jesus' escape from an ignominious death on the Cross and his subsequent journey to India in quest of the lost tribes of Israel whom he had to gather into his fold as mentioned in the New Testament.

This is mentioned several times in the book as well and struck an immediate sour note with me because I'm reasonably familiar with the New Testament at this point and, offhand, I can't think of any reference to the "lost tribes of Israel" anywhere in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John's Gospels or any instruction for the Synoptic Jesus or the Johannine Jesus to gather them into his fold. I mean, not even an oblique reference that you could manipulate to suit your own purposes. The closest I could get was John's Apocalypse where 144,000 of each of the tribes is saved in the New Jerusalem but it doesn't anywhere specify that any of those 144,000 of any tribe were "lost". I'm also not familiar with any Judaic tradition of any "lost tribes of Israel" managing to get so lost that they ended up in India (Ethiopia/Cush I can understand because of the King Solomon/Queen of Sheba connection). It wouldn't surprise me that there is such a tradition, but I've never run across it.

Abundant evidence has been furnished from Christian as well as Muslim Scriptures, old medicals books and books of history, including ancient Buddhistic records to illustrate the theme.

The copyright is for "Fredonia Books" in Amsterdam, The Netherlands which had my spider-sense tingling as well. "Fredonia" as in the Marx Brothers Duck Soup "Fredonia"? Someone could be pulling my leg on a very high level here and I don't mean Jeff Tundis.

There are parts of the book that read as if they were written by a Muslim, if you take it as a given that someone who has founded an Islamic movement is going to have more than a passing familiarity with the Koran (which I do), but there are other parts that read as if he hasn't read the Koran and (even worse) is actually making up parts of it. On page 16 there's a really convoluted attempt to address "compulsion in religion" that strikes me as authentically Muslim in the way that it tries to have its cake and eat it too:

When, however, the mischief of the enemy went to extremes and when everybody started exerting himself for wiping out Islam, the Jealous God thought it fit that the people who had wielded the sword should be annihilated by the sword. Except as such the Holy Quran has not approved of compulsion.

I really find it impossible to believe that anyone who can write a paragraph as full of holes as that one could be speaking on behalf of God as the author claims to. There is much talk of a Bloody Messiah and how ridiculous it is to be waiting for a Bloody Mahdi or a Bloody Messiah when everything is at peace. This suggested to me that in some way this is a counter-incarnation of Wahabbism which was emerging on the Arabian Peninsula around the same time and the military leader who would eventually carve out the territory that the House of Saud holds to this day. It seems an attempt to arrest the perception of that military leader (whose name escapes me) and to keep it below the Bloody Mahdi or Bloody Messiah threshold by merging Jesus and his message of peace with a subcontinent context and a lot of Buddhism and making a kind of bastion out of him. But even as a narrative it really doesn't hold together.

Here on page 62 is a good example of what I'm talking about:

Likewise the Holy Quran contains the verse:

i.e. O Jesus! I shall clear thee of these charges; I shall prove thy innocence and shall remove the accusations brought against thee by Jews and Christians.

Trust me, there is no verse remotely like that anywhere in the Koran. So that raises obvious questions about who this book was intended for. It couldn't have been Muslims because they'd know right away that he was making up verses from the Koran. Likewise he is most emphatic in insisting that "Muslims, moreover, do not believe that Jesus was put on the cross at all or that he received any injuries as a result of crucifixion." Which is true. I'm paraphrasing the verse, but what it basically says is that Jesus wasn't crucified "they had only his likeness." And yet this guy who is pretending to be a Muslim messiah has, as his central message, that Jesus was crucified but that he was taken from the cross "in a swoon" and then revived. He does have an interesting theory that this is why the crucifixion was left for late in the day, the day before the Sabbath so that Jesus couldn't have been left on the cross long enough to die and that the reason that the darkness covered the earth was, with God's assistance, to further compress the time frame. But that's all, really, Christian theorizing based on a very close reading the Synoptic Gospels. At no point does he address the meaning of "they had only his likeness". And it's hard for me to picture any Muslim audience not bringing it up to him if he was really the founder of a Muslim movement. I mean, it's an explicit scriptural reference. On page 79 he has a fully developed travel itinerary for Jesus. He knows exactly where he went and how long he stayed and where he specifically ended up and chose to live. Then he suddenly interrupts himself to assert:

There is no doubt, however, that the Afghans are Israelites, like the Kashmiris. Those who have taken a contrary view in their books have been misled in the extreme; they have not made a minute study of the matter. The Afghans admit that they are the descendants of Qais; and Qais belong to Israel. It is, however, not necessary to prolong this discussion here. I have already dealt with this question thoroughly in one of my books; here, I am giving an account of the journey of Jesus through Nasibain, Afghanistan, the Punjab and on to Kashmir and Tibet.

There is a lot of this brand of "any fool can plainly see" scholarship. Things are stated as being definitively true but there's no proof offered to shore up what has been stated just "I have already dealt with this question thoroughly in one of my books" and comparable evasions. On page 94, he's addressing a rumoured link between Jesus and the Buddha:

It must be noted that Professor Max Muller in The Nineteenth Century, on page 517 of the issue of October 1894, supports the aforesaid statement by saying that popular writers have pointed out many a time, that Jesus was influenced by the principles of Buddhism and that attempts are being made even today to discover some historical basis by which the principles of the Buddha's faith should be proved to have reached Palestine in the days of Jesus. This supports the books of the Buddhist faith in which written that Yasa was the disciple of the Buddha, for, when Christians of such high standing as Professor Max Muller have admitted that the principles of Buddhism had had an influence over Jesus it would not be far wrong to say that this amounted to being a disciple of the Buddha.

You see what I mean? The scaffold of his argument is built on what this person asserted or that person wrote which consequently supports that view that this thing must be irrefutably true. A lot of opinions and theories are written by a lot of people but opinions and theories aren't proofs: they can't support each other in establishing the nature of reality. The only thing I can see here is that whoever the author was he had a vested interest in trying to merge Christianity and Buddhism with Buddhism in the superior position. As if he catches himself in what would certainly be a glaring inconsistency for a Muslim, he continues:

Nevertheless, I consider the use of such words in respect of Jesus (on whom be peace) disrespectful and impertinent.

Well, which is it? If you've established to your own satisfaction that there is a factual link between Christianity and Buddhism and that "it would not be far wrong to say that this amounted to being a disciple of the Buddha" then how can the assertion of that fact be disrespectful and impertinent? I mean, it's either factual or not factual, true or untrue, real or not real.

And the statement which is to be found in books of the Buddhist faith that "Yasu" was the disciple of the Buddha, is only an example of the confirmed habit of the priests of these people to mention a great personage appearing at a later time as if he were the disciple of one appearing earlier. Apart from this, there being as has been stated a great resemblance between the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha it would not be far wrong to speak of the relation of master and disciple between the Buddha and Jesus, although it might not be consistent with feelings of respect.

So, I don't think the book is the joke that I thought it was when it first came in, I sincerely doubt that it was written by a Muslim scholar for a Muslim audience. I suspect it was a Buddhist or a Christian or someone attempting to meld Buddhism and Christianity who thought the best route towards doing so was to use the Jesus of the Koran – which would be less familiar to a Christian audience -- and an assumed Muslim identity to forge a link between Buddhism and Christianity that just isn't there, at least not on the basis of the snake-eating-its-tail form of circuitous and self-referential "scholarship" illustrated by the examples above.

In conclusion, Jeff, I'd have to say that the fatal shots could not have been fired from this particular grassy knoll.

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