Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

Putin up yours


According to the BBC, so it must be true, a Moscow Court has ordered that videos of Pussy Riot doing their ‘Punk Prayer’ in Moscow’s main cathedral should be removed from the internet or blocked. So, Mr Judge here’s what I think of your ruling:

Stop it, you’re being nasty, go away


The Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society at University College London has put the image below from the cartoon, Jesus and Mo, on their facebook page to advertise a weekly pub social. The students union at the University has asked them to remove it as it is offensive. Thankfully the Society has refused and started a campaign against this censorship including a petition here. The petition states:

“In response to complaints from a number of students, the University College London Union has insisted that the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society remove the following image from a Facebook event advertising a pub social. It has done so on the grounds that it may cause offence to Muslim students.

This is a gross infringement on its representatives’ right to freedom of expression taken by members of the first secular university in England. All people are free to be offended by any image they view. This does not give them the right to impose their beliefs on others by censoring such images.

We the undersigned urge the University College London Union to immediately halt their attempts to censor the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society and uphold its members’ right to freedom of expression.”

I have already signed the petition and would urge anyone reading this to do the same. The Rationalist Association cover the matter here.

I have followed the Jesus and Mo cartoon for a number of years and have enjoyed the witty way it raises issues relating to belief systems and religions whilst suggesting the world would be better if we just got on more with each other and not looking at what divides us. Having the main prophets of the two main religions concerned disputing with a barmaid whilst drinking down a pub is, I think  part of the charm and wit of the comic strips. Like this blogger I am surprised they have not drawn the ire of those who would ban and censor before.

One of the Islamic societies at the university has issued a statement:

Once a particular act is deemed to be offensive to another, it is only good manners to refrain from, at the very least, repeating that act. In this particular case, when at first the cartoon was uploaded, it could have been mistaken as unintentional offense. When certain Muslims voiced their offense over the issue, for any civil, well-mannered individual or group of individuals, it should then be a question as to the feelings of others and the cartoons should then have been removed.

I could like other bloggers list a number of things I find offensive about Islamic practice, like the treatment of women, gay men etc and undoubtedly once I have asked the perpetrators of those practices to stop they will. Hmmm, didn’t think so. Shows what a weak argument they have. Alternatively I could just follow the response of the fantastic Butterflies and Wheels blog, “Bollocks.”

Showing the power of Jesus and Mo here is an another response to the Islamic association:

On a different note, another artist I discovered by seeing her live at my local music venue (5 minutes walk from my door.)  was Anna Calvi. I had avoided looking into her music as it had been the subject of so much hype but I am glad that last Autumn I went to see her. The show was spectacular and I didn’t think three largely static people could give such a powerful show. If she is playing near you go and see her. I’ve also bought the album and play it frequently. She was responsible for dragging me into the 21st century as I bought it as a download; I had bought individual tracks during the last couple of years but it was the first full album I bought that way. I don’t know what it was about last year but most of the things I liked were by women, often very percussion focused. Anyway, enjoy:


Christopher Hitchens RIP


I came late to Christopher Hitchens and have not read greatly of his writings but I have come to appreciate greatly his clarity of thought, his wit and his willingness to debate his view with others. I share with him a hostility to religion and totalitarianism. It is often said and not very often true but the World is a worse place for his passing. A light that pierced the darkness has gone out and we are all the worse that there will not be another article, book or public appearance from the Hitch. RIP.

Here is, typically a much more eloquent remembrance from Norm. Read it. Here’s is the tribute from his brother.

New mosque completed


Eighteen months ago I posted about the Grand Mosquée de Heyritz had remained unbuilt from the time I arrived in Strasbourg in September 2007 and looked like work had not taken place there for some time. Then in May 2009 work started again. During a bike ride I posted a photo showing progress with the building here.

Last week was the end of Ramadan and on Friday cycling back from work I again passed the mosque and noticed that it looked completed. The car park was starting to fill up and the there were one or two stalls. I remembered the celebrations at the Friday at the end of Ramadan 2011 had been the target date for the celebrations for the opening of the mosque. I was a bit early for Friday prayers and unfortunately was not able to hang around for the opening. But on Sunday there is an interfaith walk I am planning to take part in starting at the synagogue (pictured here) and finishing at the mosque so I may have pictures of it then.

A nice day for a bike ride


A beautiful sunny day for  the Toussaint public holiday – I’ve never understood why there is a public holiday in a nominally secular country for such an important Catholic day as All Saints, but hey who’s complaining we’ve got a day off work.

JTO went to the centre of Strasbourg to see the laying of wreaths at the memorial to the liberation of Strasbourg in 1944.  After which we got on our bikes and rode along the canal du Rhône au Rhin (wiki) which heads South out of Strasbourg.  The name is actually incorrect as the canal joins the River Ill in Strasbourg just around the corner from where we live but Canal du Rhône au Ill doesn’t sound as impressive.

As you can see from the first picture the trees looked wonderfully Autumnal in their golds and reds and with the leaves that had fallen into the water and the reflection it really was a bright canal.  We passed the Strasbourg hotel pictured, known locally as the Maison D’Arrèt, separated from the canal by Autoroute A35.  On the opposite side leaving Strasbourg is the Zone Artisanale De La Plaine des Bouchers.  It got the name Plaine Des Bouchers as it was where the cattle, destined for slaughter at the butchery in Strasbourg, were left before their final fatal journey.

Roads cross the canal in a number of places and on this bridge there was some graffiti, ‘Elsass forever’.  Elsass is the name of the region, Alsace, in the Alsatian dialect of German and means ‘seated on the Ill‘(wiki) the river that runs through the Alsatian plain before joining the Rhine North of Strasbourg.  So I can understand an Alsatian nationalist writing Elsass toujours, or if an anti-French point was being made Elsass fur immer or dauernd but forever?

Our destination was Fort Uhrich at the Souhtern end of the Strasbourg connurbation.  It was built by the Germans after they took Alsace from the French in 1870 and named by them after the General who captured Strasbourg, Generalleutnant von Werder.(wiki)  When it failed to keep Strasbourg from the hands of the French they renamed it Fort Uhrich after général Uhrich, the person who organised the defence of Strasbourg in 1870.  It was one of fourteen forts built around Strasbourg to add to the defences of the city.(Plan)

On the way back home we passed one of the city’s rowing clubs.  In the Summer there are often classes of young people in the water but, despite being a warm sunny day, there were not any people around to be seen.  There was also no-one using the new climbing wall which was intalled only this Summer.

Seperated from the rowing and climing club by the railway to Germany is the new Mosque pictured here, or to give it its full title, Mosquée du Heyritz.  When I first moved to Strasbourg construction on the site had stopped at the concrete shell of the building until May 2009 when construction started again as I wrote here.  In the last year there has been considerable work to the site.  I am still no further forward in learning what will happen to the existing Mosque on the industrial estate in the Plaine des Bouchers as I wrote almost a year ago here.

The last photo is of the former rowing club.  When I moved to Strasbourg this site was then a rowing club and I regularly saw people taking boats out onto the river from here.  Mind you it is on one of the main routes into Strasbourg and you had to cross the road to get to the river so I was not surprised when I stopped seeing people carrying boats, then saw it demolished and these flats built in its place.  With a view onto River Ill some o the higher up flats would be a great place to live – ah if only my lottery ticket had won on Saturday.

Who remembers the Armenians?


On last Friday in the middle of the day at Place Homme De Fer, the main tram interchange, in the centre of Strasbourg two men stabbed a Jewish man twice.  The stabbed man was taken to hospital where he later died.  The Police said that one of the assailants was the main aggressor and that he  had psychological problems and that he claimed that everything that had gone wrong with his life was “the fault of the Jews”.

The picture (courtesy of Direct Strasbourg) shows around 300 people who gathered at the new Synagogue in solidarity against anti-Semitic aggression.  As well as the ‘Grand Rabbin de Strasbourg’, there was the Mayor of Strasbourg and a representative of the Prefect of the region and the President of the organisation representing Jewish institutions in France.  I was sorry I did not know about the gathering as I would have liked to be there to show my solidarity.

The ‘Peace Synagogue’ was built in 1958 to replace the previous one which was razed to the ground in 1940s by the Nazis.  A monument in front of the shopping centre ‘Place des Halles’ indicates the site of the previous Synagogue and the tram stop for the centre is also called Ancienne Synagogue.  There are details of the Jewish history of Strasbourg here.

The title for this piece comes from a quote attributed to Hitler when he was planning the final solution against the Jewish people.  His argument was that if no-one remembered what happened to the Armenians, who would remember the Jews?

I do.  April 25 is the memorial day for the genocide that was committed by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenian people in 1915 when up to 2 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks.  I was present at the Strasbourg memorial this year.  The event coincided with the start of one of the four sessions a year of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe so the leader of the Armenian delegation was able to be present with us.  The Armenian representative in Strasbourg spoke and said that he hoped he would be joined by the Turkish representative at the celebration next year – I’m not holding my breath.

France has one of the largest populations of Armenian diaspora as a consequence of the genocide, most famously represented by Charles Aznavor, so there was a good turn out on the day as can be seen from the photo, which also includes many Armenian flags.

The Depute for Strasbourg, Armand Jung, was represented as were many parts of Strasbourg civil society including the different religions.  Poems by Armenian poets were read out in Armenian, French and Alsatian.  Armenian songs were also sung before people headed off to an Armenian Orthodox Church service Armenia being the first Christian state and that being one reason why the Ottomans wanted to see the people wiped out.  Two sets of flowers were laid at the foot of the ‘Monument to the Fallen’ (as seen in the photo), inaugurated  by French President Albert Lebrun symbolising the painful experiences of Alsace with a distraught mother bearing on her knees her two sons, who fought on different sides, and are now on the point of death.  One faces towards France and the other towards Germany and join their hands as ‘an ultimate expression of rediscovered fraternity.’

the Jerusalem of Europe


Was the title of a map of the old town of Sarajevo by the lift in my hotel.  I don’t think it referred to Jerusalem being important to many religions (Slightly off topic but here are photos of many religious sites in Jerusalem.) as I do not believe there was a claim that Sarajevo was religiously significant to any religion.  More I believe the point was being made that the three Abrahamic faiths had played a large part in the history of the city and in shaping it.  The picture above is of my hotel shown sandwiched between two mosques.  It was not just these two which were noticeable for the call to prayer.  The city is largely Muslim with more mosques than you can shake a stick at, as is evidenced above.  The picture above is of the madrassa opposite the Gazi Husrev-Beg mosque in down town Sarajevo.  There was a lot of building on the site and it is clearly expanding.  The map mentioned above talked not only about the religious sites but also their landholdings and the areas held by each religion were greater than just the sites of their places of worship.  In the Ottoman times the Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain were welcomed into Sarajevo and they built a number of synagogues.  The one above on the left was built in 1581 and is now a museum.  The bare stone walls and timber
floors provide an aesthetically pleasing space for a
small but well designed and laid out museum dedicated to
the city’s long Jewish history.  A bit further on in the old town is the Cathedral of Jesus’ Heart, the country’s Catholic Cathedral. Well restored after being heavily damaged in the war, it was built in 1889 by Josip Vancas and outside the steps provide a popular meeting and resting place.  Just across the road is the large Orthodox Cathedral, Church of the Most Holy Mother of God.   B-4, Zelenih Beretki bb. Inside are large iconostases holding icons made in Russia, installed here by Russian masons sent by Tsar Alexander II. As a proof of religious tolerance, Sultan Abdul Aziz, and the Prince of Serbia donated 500 gold ducats towards the construction of the building. Serb forces shot up their own church during the war and the Greek government is now involved in helping restore the damage.

Here’s to you Mrs Robinson


Argent, sexe et politique (Money, sex and politics) as the story about the wife of the First Minister of Northern Ireland is headlined by a newspaper in France.  The headline whilst very easy and, I’m sure not very original, given the similarity with the events and the Dustin Hoffman and the wonderful Anne Bancroft film, The Graduate featuring music by Simon and Garfunkel.

It is interesting that in the film Anne Bancroft, who for people who haven’t seen the film plays the older woman who has a sexual relationship with a recent graduate played by Dustin Hoffman, was 39 at the time the film was made whilst Dustin Hoffman was 30.  A bit different from the current Mrs Robinson’s 59 at the time of their relationship and the young man’s 19.  I’m not going to pontificate about the right and wrongs of what happened I just hope that someone who has previously said:

she told a BBC radio show in 2008 that homosexuality was an “abomination” which made her feel “nauseous”. She was reacting to the news of a homophobic attack on a gay man in Northern Ireland, when she suddenly spilled her private feelings. Despite instant condemnation, she continued to defend her views, adding: “Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ, so can a homosexual…. If anyone takes issue, they’re taking issue with the word of God.”

has learnt to be able to condemn a little less.  The title for this post comes from another song in the film:

Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs Robinson
envoyé par Salut-les-copains. – Clip, interview et concert.



P1000251P1030107Not long after arriving I traveled every day past a building site where building had stopped. According to my map the site was for a new mosque, or mosquee in French. In December I stopped passing the site regularly so did not follow the lack of action closely but every time I went past there was the same lack of action. The picture above is of the site taken in August last year.  I have started passing the site regularly again on my way to work and noticed that nothing had changed.   Until about a week ago when there seemed to be some activity at the site.  Undergrowth was cleared, then the bits for a crane arrived and, as you see from the picture taken yesterday, the crane has been constructed and work is underway on the new mosque for Strasbourg.

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