Al-Fateh Mosque, or Grand Mosque, in Manama, Bahrain. One of the largest mosques in the world.
Today, while I was jumping on the rebounder in front of the tv screen, after watching the biography of Lady Diana as told through her jewels (it was not an expose of how some of the jewels of the Royal family are colonial booty), Christmas messages from Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan came on. As one of the soldiers addressed her young children via the tv screen, saying she has sent them their Christmas package, I wondered about what sort of gifts we have been giving the Afghan people? I wondered how much Canada's contemporary military presence in the Middle East is a neo-con version of the Crusades?
Editorial from the Daily Star of Lebanon, Dec. 22, 2009.
Why Minarets Shouldn't Matter
"A key event on the “clash of civilizations” front this year was Switzerland’s referendum on building minarets, which was voted down in November. People here have complained about European discrimination, and in today’s issue, The Daily Star is publishing a Western reply, in the form of a complaint about our behavior, namely our intolerance.
Tolerance and discrimination are important issues, but we shouldn’t focus on the building of a mosque, or the raising of a church steeple. And moving the debate further back in history diverts us from the immediate context, and why mosques and minarets are being built in Switzerland. Over the past 50 years or so (or even longer), Muslim communities have been growing and coalescing in Western countries.
During this period, Western countries exploited the resources of countries in the Middle East and wider Islamic world. The decades-long stranglehold on the oil industry has led to a fairer order, but the massive profits of oil companies haven’t receded. There’s the Western-generated arms trade, which affects countries of the south in general. Presumably, some of the money generated by these practices ended up in countries like Switzerland. In return, what have Switzerland and the West done in return? There’s development assistance, but also massive defects, such as the billions of dollars wasted in Iraq, money that was supposed to help the country rebuild.
For the most part, Western countries have been in cahoots with the regimes of our region, and resentment builds up, compounded by our inefficient states, which end up exporting their people to the West. Getting into controversies such as “minaret versus steeple” is a dangerous course, due to the asymmetric nature of the struggle. It’s not played out with ICBM, tanks and F-15s; all you need are a few angry young men, both at local regimes and the West.
Whether people are complaining about Sykes-Picot, or the IMF, the West has had a spotty record in robustly promoting development in this part of the world, and the more aggressive aspects – like blind support for Israel, the arms trade, and bombing of civilian areas – convince people here that they’re the ones being threatened. When Westerners feel threatened by Islam and its minarets, they should remember two things.
One is the comment a few years ago by the dean of European foreign policy, Javier Solana, who said it was no longer a case of Muslims being in the building, or the stairwell – they were now in the living room [of Europe]. Thus, how we actually interact with each other, in what is becoming our global living room, is of paramount importance, and not who is building a mosque or a church down the street. When the geopolitical relationship is healthy, no one will raise a fuss when such events take place."
a convent I visited in Lebanon, just outside the city of Tripoli, on top of a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean. There are a lot of villages and towns just outside the city of Tripoli and a person would need a lifetime to visit their unique glory.