Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Wednesday, 2 March, 2011, 08:11 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

"Should I stay or should I go?" asks Colonel Gaddafi. Based on his talk of blood of martyrs and fighting to the bitter end, it sounds like he intends to stay. Some say he is mad, delusional, but then he's always been mad and delusional, it never stopped us doing business with him before.

The current talk of military intervention is probably unhelpful and likely to alienate the very people it is intended to help. For once, we have to put aside our vested interest in oil and let the people of the region find their own answers.

The people of Libya are not uniting under an Islamic flag, they are not shouting anti-western slogans. This is not a religious revolution. Instead they are fighting for the biggest idea that the West has sold them: freedom.

11 comments ( 1168 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 462 )

Soberingly Reverend Tom Butler, ex-Lord Bishop of Southwark  
Tuesday, 22 February, 2011, 08:48 AM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Butler
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

They all want freedom in the Middle Easht (hic!). They've toppled Moo-baa-rack. Gadflyfi's shtill hanging on in there. But what is (hic!) freedom?

Is it a shymbol, a great dream that they lay down their (hic!) lives for? What will they get inshtead of the autocrats? Theocrats? Military autocrats? Democrats? Aristocats? We've already sheen one revolving-cushion go horribly wrong, where an oppressive regime wash (hic!) removed, only to be replace (hic!) replaced by a bunsh of religish nuttersh.

Thish putsh me in mind of the Parable of the Grand Inquisitor from Dosh-toy-(hic!)-inshki's novel, The Brothers Kalashnikov. Jeshus comes to Sheville during the inqui-(hic!) inqui-shishon, where he is promptly arreshted (hic!) by a bunch of religish nuttersh.

"I didn't expect that," said Jesus.
"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition," replied the Grand Inquisitor.

The moral is clear (hic!).

8 comments ( 1261 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 552 )

Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Public Understanding and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam, University of Glasgow  
Wednesday, 16 February, 2011, 08:18 AM - Democracy, Siddiqui
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

The people of Egypt are having a revolution. I've been to Egypt you know. I spent ten weeks there as an undergraduate. It was very nice. I liked the people and the warmth and the coffee shops and all the old buildings and the sense of history and the civilisation and the culture and those lovely little sweet pastries drenched in honey or syrup that's a bit like a baklava but you don't seem to be able to get anywhere else. I came home from Egypt and I thought, that was very nice that was.

So what happens to Egypt now? Well it would be a terrible shame if they got another tyrant in Mubarak's place. What we really hope for is that a nice, liberal democracy will emerge in Egypt, but that's not guaranteed. I mean anything could happen, couldn't it? Some revolutions go horribly wrong, like in... oh well, I don't want to mention any names.

What does Islam have to say? Well Islam is very keen on social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing. So as long as Egypt gets social order, justice, punishment, that sort of thing, Islam will be quite happy but it could still go horribly wrong.

The Prophet is said to have said that it's a very good thing to tell the truth to a tyrant. Now I know there are a few people who keep coming on here telling you that the truth will set you free, but that's from the wrong holy book and the truth will not set you free. It is not true that the truth will set you free. Truth and being set free are not at all the same thing.

So in conclusion, let's hope that it all works out well for all the people Egypt: men, women, children, infants, the elderly, Muslim, Christian, pastry makers - that they come to enjoy peace, prosperity, freedom, justice, good health, the occasional break to get away from it all and many, many other good things.

4 comments ( 1160 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 486 )

Rev Dr. (hon. Kingston) Dr. (hon. St. Andrews) Joel Edwards, International Director of Micah Challenge, Human Rights Commissioner, Council Member of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation  
Saturday, 12 February, 2011, 08:24 AM - Democracy, Edwards
Rating 4 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

The people of Egypt have spoken. A dictator who ruled for life and would probably have passed power to his son, is now gone. At last, the people of Egypt might taste the fruits of democracy.

This is exactly what the people of Israel did when they got rid of the Judges. Fed up with generations of having the best person for the job run the country, they demanded a proper hereditary dictatorship like every other country had.

But the events in Egypt aren't just of religious significance, they're terribly spiritual events too. You have no idea how very spiritual it all is. The Egyptian people are a very spiritual people. I know, I've spoken to all of them and they all said how very spiritual they were [Ed - they have no choice]. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it wasn't their very spiritualness that caused them to get rid of Mubarak. That's how very useful being spiritual is.

Like you, I am praying for the people of Egypt. Let's pray that they go on being so very spiritual.

4 comments ( 1179 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 454 )

Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron Reverend Lord Richard Harries, Baron Pentregarth, Gresham Professor of Divinity, Baron, Bishop, Professor, Lord... 
Friday, 11 February, 2011, 09:05 AM - Democracy, Harries
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

The rule of law is a Good Thing. It promotes a stable society where trade can flourish to the general well being of all.

Of course, some think the law is oppressive: Marxists, trade unionists, poor people and other such trouble makers, but the law can generally be used to keep them in their place.

In the good old days, when bishops were not mocked but were properly regarded in high esteem by common people, laws were derived from the law of the Invisible Magic Friend. This is regarded as a rather old fashioned idea nowadays. We like to think that laws are created through the "will of the people" and other such fashionable nonsense. As an Illustriously Reverend Lord Professor Bishop Baron, let me just assure you that such dangerous novelties are deranged, delusional and just plain wrong. You can be certain of this because I am telling you it. On this occasion, there is not even a need to quote from the Big Book of Magic Stuff, save for a trivial poetic reference to the psalms.

The laws of the Invisible Magic Friend are as constant and undeniable as the laws of nature, which were also created by the Invisible Magic Friend. So let's get rid of all this wasteful democracy, with it's parliaments and debates and attempts to find consensus. All the laws we need, good laws, right laws, divine laws, can be given to you by people like me.

10 comments ( 1227 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3.1 / 450 )

Rev Angela Tilby, Vicar of St Bene't's Church, Cambridge 
Thursday, 3 February, 2011, 08:16 AM - Democracy, Freedom of speech, Materialism, Morality, Tilby
Rating 5 out of 5 (Extraordinarily platitudinous)

Has anyone mentioned Egypt yet? Vast crowds of people are meeting in the streets, calling with one voice for jobs, fuel, hope, fairness, free speech.

Something similar happened to me recently. There was a power cut when I was shopping in Waitrose and everyone left the shop to meet in the streets. We met people who had left Marks & Spencer's for the same reason. We were all anxious and afraid, confronted by uncertainty. What was the meaning of this sudden break in the electricity supply? Fortunately the lights came back on an hour later. The crowds dispersed and I was able to finish my shopping list in Waitrose. This frightening, potentially life changing event, was over.

Not so for the demonstrators in Egypt. Their protests continue. As we see Egyptians demand democracy like we have, an impartial justice system like we have, freedom of speech like we have, healthcare for all like we have, we are reminded that there is more to life than the western obsession with comfort, safety and security. We, and by we I mean you, sleepwalk through life, with no ambition other than to enjoy yourselves. You have no conception of anything beyond your own selfish, pointless little lives, thinking about nothing other than your own material satisfaction.

The only thing you can aspire to, beyond the purely material, is to have an Invisible Magic Friend. Having an Invisible Magic Friend who is infinitely everything, allows you to put the finiteness of your own life into perspective. The Invisible Magic Friend lays down absolute rules about what is good, like stoning to death someone who collects firewood on the day reserved for worshipping him.

Without the Invisible Magic Friend you can't have any standards of goodness and you think about nothing other than your own appetites and egos. If you have any morals at all they're very loose morals.

That's why the demonstrators in Egypt are so inspirational. They're thinking beyond the mundane and fighting for spiritual abstractions like food, justice and democracy.

Would you get out onto the streets to demand all the things that you already have?

14 comments ( 1343 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 598 )

Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James Piccadilly, just down from Fortnum and Mason  
Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 09:02 AM - Democracy, Winkett
Rating 0 out of 5 (Not platitudinous)

That naughty Telegraph has been getting more Liberal Democrat ministers to say bad things about the Tories. They tried to get the Tories to say bad things about Liberals, but they all remained perfectly discrete and polite and think the Liberals are just wonderful.

Disagreements among politicians, even those in the same government, are inevitable. Collective cabinet responsibility says that ministers argue for their point of view but back whichever view emerges as the government consensus. If they cannot back it, then they resign.

Politicians are not alone in this. Others sometimes have to support decisions that they may disagree with. Parents and teachers will often support one another even though they may have private qualms about things. They do this for the sake of consistency. But we are not children or pupils and we should expect both disagreement among cabinet members and a willingness to support one another once a decision has been made.

Disagreement, in a mature way, is a healthy sign of democracy. Sadly, it is a lesson that many religious people have yet to learn. For many, devotion means intolerance, and tolerance means lack of commitment. The opposite should be true. We should be able to argue our case without condemnation of opposing points of view.

Let us hope that collective responsibility has not been damaged by the recent revelations. Learning to disagree well is a value worth learning, practising and defending.


6 comments ( 816 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 556 )

Clifford Longley, a distinguished Catholic gentleman who talks a lot about religion  
Monday, 6 December, 2010, 08:24 AM - Democracy, War, Longley
Rating 5 out of 5 (Highly platitudinous)

As the 150th anniversary approaches, controversy surrounds the true causes of the American Civil War. Until recently, everyone had forgotten that the American Civil War was all about religion. Then some people discovered that it was in fact a war of religion. Did Jesus want us to cruelly enslave fellow human beings, depriving them of even the most fundamental human rights, or not? Did the the Invisible Magic Friend recognise the right of southern states to secede from the union, or not?

Kevin Philips argues that this is one of three in a series of wars. The American War of Independence was also a religious war. We can see this in the slogan of the original rebels, "No taxation without our particular form of the Invisible Magic Friend."

The first of the three wars was the English Civil War which was also a religious war about the pressing issue of whether the Invisible Magic Friend wants us to wear round heads or nice frilly bits of lace and floppy hats with big feathers in them.

You might think that wanting to claim these as exclusively religious wars, even though there were important constitutional issues at stake, might not be such a bright idea. Not a bit of it. This just goes to show how much better things were when people were religious and believed enough in the Invisible Magic Friend to want to kill each other over it. Something that, sadly, all you secular types just wouldn't understand.

All these key constitutional issues are still with us today, and despite the political and philosophical writings of the enlightenment, the advent of democracy and political accountability, the virtues of separation of state powers, I can see no better guide to resolving constitutional issues than the Big Book of Magic Stuff, written by people who lived under the rule of hereditary monarchs and priests.

23 comments ( 1310 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 264 )

Rev Dr Dr David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College Durham  
Monday, 15 November, 2010, 08:33 AM - Courage, hope, perseverance etc., Democracy, Wilkinson, Burma
Rating 2 out of 5 (A little Platitudinous)

Isn't Aung San Suu Kyi just fantastic? She's stuck to her pacifist Buddhist principles throughout her long campaign for democracy in Burma. Her Buddhist principles are completely different from the Buddhist principles of the Burmese generals, whose Buddhist principles largely seem to consist of brutally holding on to power at all costs.

Her many critics, such as, well... er... ...they're just too numerous to mention by name, say that maybe if she hadn't been so pacifist, things would be better for Burma by now. Perhaps if she'd led an armed insurgency - regularly blowing up government buildings - that kind of thing, the military leaders would have handed over power to an elected civilian government by now.

Aung San Suu Kyi may not have military power, but like Mandela and Rosa Parks before her, she carries tremendous moral authority and this in itself can bring about change.

Sometimes change happens quickly. Sometimes it doesn't. It can happen overnight or it can take decades. It all depends really on the rate at which change is happening. We won't know how fast change is going to happen in Burma until after it has happened. We'll just have to wait and see whether it's going to be fast change or slow change. But we know from her Buddhist philosophy (this is the good Buddhist philosophy and not the bad Buddhist philosophy of the generals, which probably isn't proper Buddhist philosophy at all) that change definitely happens eventually.

Jesus, who was the visible bit of the Invisible Magic Friend and therefore an authority on the subject, thought that peaceful change was a good thing too. This reassures me that peaceful change is a good thing, otherwise I wouldn't be so sure.

Aung San Suu Kyi's way of doing things is as recommended by Jesus and good Buddhist philosophy, and this gives us hope that she will succeed.

This lady is determined to bring about change the right way and for that I am both thankful and inspired.

3 comments ( 615 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 3 / 306 )

Right Awful Anne Atkins - Agonising Aunt and Vicar's Wife 
Tuesday, 9 November, 2010, 08:11 AM - Democracy, Gibberish, Atkins
Rating ? out of 5 (Is she on medication or something?)

What is Freedom?

Whatever it is, Chinese people don't really want it. They like having strong leadership that can build a road or a dam without all those inconvenient local objectors. They hold their political leaders in high regard because there is no corruption and they never do things that benefit themselves, or at the very least, you never get to hear about them. They certainly don't want any of that boring old democracy.

Just think how much better Britain would be if we had an authoritarian dictatorship who clamped down on crime and brought in proper support for "the family".

Did you know Edison Pena ran the New York Marathon? Well he did and that has a lot in common with what I'm talking about.

Jesus said the truth will set you free. Then he came back from the dead and now there's light instead of darkness.

"I just want to live," said Edison Pena.

13 comments ( 1238 views )   |  permalink   |   ( 2.9 / 256 )

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