Friday, 10 September 2010

Koran versus Qur’ân

I see that some Muslims think there is something insulting about writing Koran instead of Qur’ân. That just shows that they are so traumatized by Islamophobia that they will see insults anywhere. Actually the only correct spelling is qaf, ra, alif with madda, nun, but my computer can't do that.

Koran has been the English spelling for hundreds of years, just as Moscow is our spelling of Moskva and Algeria is our spelling of al-Jazair. Then along came the Arabists and invented a system of transliterstion using lots of consonants with dots under them or vowels with accents over them. Unless you know Arabic this does not get you any closer to the correct pronunciation.

Qur’ân is actually misleading for English speakers, who do not know the difference between qaf and kaf, and who will not understand why there is an apostrophe in the middle. In English qu is pronounced kw, so people are likely to say quoran, as if it had something to do with quorum. Koran will actually take them closer to the Arabic pronunciation. No insult there!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Koran Burning

With a Koran Burning Day announced for Saturday, America is looking more and more like Germany in the 1930s. Two differences: Muslim-hatred is not government policy, and there were not a billion Jews outside Germany eager to come to the rescue. However, the President is believed by a fifth of Americans to be a closet Muslim (and by more than half to be a 'socialist' - read 'communist'), and there is not much that Islamic countries can do to help, apart from restrain violent reaction.

The roots of this go very deep - to the hatred of Muslims and Jews in medieval Europe. In fact historic Christianity had an in-built intolerance of other religions, especially Judaism, because the Jews were held collectively guilty of the death of Christ (though that was supposed to be part of 'God's Plan'), and Islam, because it was a powerful rival with a plausible account of Prophet Jesus. The problem is that America, though in principle a secular republic, is under the influence of an increasingly medieval Christian Right, blaring its message in mega-churches, TV and radio stations and a host of anti-Muslim websites and blogs.

We in Europe must keep cool and hold fast to our secular culture. If we could remove Bishop Blair from public life it would help; he preaches a slightly watered-down creed, claiming that radical Islam is the greatest threat to the world. Bishop Dawkins and his atheist disciples are almost as bad, because they demonize Islam as much as - or more than - Christianity. We need to remind the world that we are all individuals, with the same right to respect and freedom of opinion, and that a person's religious beliefs are a private matter.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Lose lose

Poor Palestinians! It's heads you lose, tails you lose. If they refused talks with Israel they'd be accused of not wanting peace, but they cannot agree to talks without being asked to accept all the 'facts on the ground' that Israel has created since 1948. The 'two-state solution', which effectively existed until Israel destroyed it in 1967, has long since been made impossible, with much of the West Bank illegally occupied by settlers and their exclusive roads.

The Israeli tactic is still what it has always been, to play for time, hoping that the Palestinians will finally give up and either submit or emigrate. The astonishing thing is that these people still will not go away. And meanwhile, increasing numbers of Jews inside and outside Israel are refusing to support this inhuman policy, which degrades its enforcers as much as its victims. Stolen land and water, bulldozed homes and olive trees, imprisoned men and terrified women and children - these things are not what Judaism is about.

There does seem to be a gleam of hope for a one-state solution. Rubi Rivlin, Speaker of the Knesset is the latest and most senior Israeli to go on record as saying it is unacceptable to go on offering the Palestinians nothing but permanent inferiority: 'Barak, Livni, Peres and recently Netanyahu are not even talking about a real state for the Palestinians. They’re talking about an autonomy with no army, borders, control over airspace or telecommunications... {but] you have the basic fact that contrary to Barak’s slogan — "We’re here and they’re there" — Jews and Arabs today live both here and there, on both sides of the Green line, especially in Jerusalem. Partitioning Jerusalem would lead to continuous bloodshed between segregated enclaves, like in Belfast some years ago. If there’s a threat to Jewish statehood, its less in a bi-national solution than in partitioning the land.'

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Just watched Blair defending his record on TV. What a ghastly man. He still justifies his invasion of Iraq with the same old lies and evasions. On his domestic record his main regret is the Freedom of Information Act - one of the best thing his government did!He even claims 'credit' for the boom that led to the bust of 2008.

And now he is ready to support a military attack on Iran. Not a word of criticism of Israel's occupation and building of settlements, still less of Israel's nukes. He thinks it is the job of Britain and America to reform Muslim societies. He seems totally unaware of the history of British colonialism in the Middle East.

I hope nobody will buy his book, apart from political analysts and commentators who need to. Read a library copy if you must. He earns hundreds of thousands a year for jobs he shouldn't have - most notably 'Peace Envoy to the Middle East'. He doesn't deserve another penny.