The Holy Qur’an, A Birthday Gift

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For my 90th birthday, my wish was to acquire an English, large print edition of the Qur’an. I wanted to finally read it in its entirety as I felt this would enable me to make a more educated contribution to the necessary and imminent reformation of Islam, a reformation that will eliminate the hostile interpretation of this holy book that has resulted in sanctions of barbaric behaviours and discrimination against women.

I have only just read the introductory chapters, “How to Approach the Qur’an”, followed by “A Brief Look at the Life of Muhammad”, an historical account of the prophet’s activities. The latter chapter ends with the story of Barakah, Muhammad’s nursemaid who, by then over seventy years old, visited his grave every day to cry softly. Once asked why, she replied, “By God, I knew that the Messenger of God would die, but I cry now because the revelation from on high has come to an end for us.”

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Painting of Mohammad

And how right she was. What a mess the Muslims have made of the “revelation”, twisting it into various misrepresentations of radicalism and hatred. These days, the two primary Muslim sects are on a constant war path. The Saudi Arabian Sunnis have enraged the Iranians with their execution of the Shiite cleric, Sheik Nimr al-Nimr, precipitating the burning of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and in turn, the order for all Iranian diplomats to evacuate Saudi territory within 48 hours. This stunning state of affairs has left the United Nations and Western powers at a loss. How might it be possible to prevent an armed conflict between the two largest Islamic religious communities in the world?

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Fighting in Mosul

Hostilities have escalated frighteningly in both countries, further distressing the majority population of restless young adults who have been enlightened by the exposure to different cultural choices thanks to the Internet. Young Arabians are bombarded with everyday barbaric news from the Islamic State, but are also attuned to the liberal views of the democratic West, leaving them in a position to question, to choose, as they become more and more disenchanted with the status quo of their lives and mistrustful of the men who have not learned a single lesson from history, that absolute power cannot survive for thousands of years, such as Hitler had assumed. The princely rulers of Saudi Arabia have not learned that the “divine rights of kings” came to an end with the French Revolution in 1799 which overthrew their monarchy, established a republic, experienced violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in Napoleon’s reign of dictatorship until he, too, was deposed as all dictators have been or will be.

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French Revolution

Only reasonable, kind minds may prevent the disintegration of humanity in Islam. The new reformation can only become a bloody massacre, nothing more, in the absence of a new Enlightenment which would elevate women to an equal status of power, which would cultivate a peaceful coexistence between nations, and which would eradicate the perpetual uprising of brotherhoods spurred on by corrupt and hungry demagogues.

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Muslim Women Give the Voting Finger

Let the United Nations intervene to stop the escalation of violence, to invite all factions of Muslim sects, as well as observers of other religions, to listen to women, to theologians, those who have the heart and the sanity to enlighten mankind. Let those who sit on high come to the realization that bloodshed will not serve in the defense of their beliefs, but rather, they might alter their stance to achieve universal peace through a tolerance of diversity.

The Ordination of Women

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Celine aux roses 1912

When I immigrated to this country from Austria in 1953 with my wife and baby boy, we first settled in Montreal, a pleasant city with a predominantly Roman Catholic population. I was very busy working my way from the bottom up, but I had time to observe the medieval powers of the Catholic Church, the sway it had over its people, with each parish’s priest dictating the lives of his citizens as a shepherd over his flock of sheep.

Decades later, the Quiet Revolution ushered in a gradual secularization of the people of Quebec. The separatist movement ushered in a Francisation program, resulting in an exodus of Anglophones. The Anglican Church was not immune to the effects of these movements, and to this day constantly faces the threat of closures, finding it difficult to entice Francophones to join what has traditionally been considered an all-Anglo church. But now, perhaps, the latest event in that church’s history will provide the attraction that has been lacking in Montreal, as it has demonstrated yet further support for gender equality, another milestone in Canadian history.

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Mary Irwin-Gibson

Mary Irwin-Gibson was elected the first female bishop of the Anglican diocese of Montreal on June 6th. Irwin-Gibson was ordained as a deacon in 1981, then as a priest in 1982. She served in Montreal between 1981 and 2009 before moving to Kingston, Ontario to serve as Dean and Rector of St. George’s Cathedral. She joins several women who have been selected to lead the Anglican Church of Canada in recent years. The ordination of women into the Anglican priesthood began in 1976, and since that time, the appearance of women in top positions in that church has become increasingly common. The Anglicans elected their first woman bishop in the U.S. in 1989, and the first woman bishop in Africa in 2012.

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But, are women clergy making a difference? I believe so. And, I believe their time of relevance in human affairs is yet to come in a new Reformation! Even Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, who for now opposes the ordination of women into the priesthood, has succumbed to the strengthening role of women by encouraging their participation in “important decisions … where the authority of the church is exercised”. There is hope for gender equality even in that male bastion.

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The Vatican

Womankind, Would You Mind Stepping In?

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Will the city of Mosul be the site of the beginning of another Doomsday?  Or will it be remembered as the place that brought people to their senses, to break through old animosities, to prevent the worst carnage since World War II?

A public announcement has been made of the intent to crush the ISIS occupation of the city of Mosul which holds within its population of close to two million citizens an Islamic state force of approximately 8,000 soldiers. It is to be encircled and attacked by Iraq and allied forces, ten times stronger than those of ISIS, in a month or two.

The city Mosul

The city Mosul

The timetable for the attack has a multi-purpose. It takes a period of time to train forces, acquire new equipment, build an arsenal of drones, of night vision devices, and to perfect the paraphernalia required for the disarmament of booby traps. It takes time to amass a force which, if deployed, will not fail.

The timetable also allows for a conference between the two major Arab tribes, the Sunni and the Shia Muslims, to consider an end to their differences, and perhaps to invite Sufis to add some spiritual motivation to end the carnage of jihadism.

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And finally, the timetable provides an opportunity to align the effort with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015, a symbolic joining with the fight of womanhood against male dominance.

The first observance of Women’s Day was held in New York in 1909. It was organized in remembrance of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike in 1908.

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However, the most impressive demonstration of a cry for women’s equal rights was enacted on March 8, 1917 when female workers went on strike at the Putilov Steel Works in the Russian Capital, then called Petrograd, for ‘Bread and Peace’. They marched to nearby factories, gathering over 50,000 workers to join the strike. Within days, they were joined by soldiers and virtually every industrial enterprise in Petrograd was forced to shut down. It ultimately instigated the abdication of the then ruling Tsar, allowing the start of the October Revolution which brought about the second October Revolution which then brought the Bolshevik party into power under Vladimir Lenin, who became sole leader of the Soviet Union in 1922.

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Today, such women are needed again to stop the carnage in the Ukraine against the Russian invasion. And they are needed to mobilize Arab women to stop the persistent barbaric killings in the name of Allah.

And let us not forget that we in the West have not fulfilled our democratic duties; we allow the barbaric rape of women in our institutions of learning and have yet to live up to the promise of equal rights without gender discrimination.

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We cannot fail to prevent ISIS from gaining the power to start a third World War. But, we must also pay the price for rebuilding the homes and feeding the millions of refugees left homeless and hungry due to the wars in the Middle East and Africa.

Islam has to have its Reformation as we Christians had to have ours. We pray differently in different congregations, but we have the same God. We pray to Him for guidance because we are all his children and we still have to learn to get along with each other.

I have no answers. I do not know if God will take a hand in our fate. I just pray that the collective hope of people will shift destiny with its spiritual energy.

Let women become the leaders in our struggle for peace! They are our last chance!

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Annual Marathon Hollywood Show

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The Oscar Awards, February 22, 2015

 

The Oscar Awards – it is the movie industry’s annual spectacle which drags on until past midnight, and for the attending artists and officials, with post-ceremony parties, into the wee hours of the morning.

It is impossible for me to give an objective account of the entire gala; I can only offer my impressions and observations of those moments that held special meaning for me. As of now, I have not even seen any of the movies nominated or honoured with an Oscar for the year 2014. I have not been to a movie theater since my wife’s death in 2013, but I will start to look for some of the nominated films.

Last night, I was deeply moved by the acceptance speech of the award winner for best supporting actress, Patricia Arquette, and her compassioned appeal for gender equality and equal pay for equal work in the motion picture industry, as well as in any labour and management jobs. For me, this was the most important message, for I have a calling to dedicate the rest of my life to work for the advancement of womanhood in all cultures that still treat women as second-class citizens. I fully reject a particular female journalist’s criticism of Patricia’s acceptance speech as nit-picking, except for her admission that “the gender wage gap certainly exists, with working women making, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man makes“.

Did you notice the elegant display of classical ball-gowns worn by the women at this year’s awards ceremony? It is a significant change in attitude towards women, to be admired and honoured in contrast to the sexist display of revealing attires in previous Oscar shows. The most significant appearance in this regard was Lady Gaga’s, who delivered a delightful rendition of a song from The Sound of Music which, 50 years ago was a hit, sung by Julie Andrews portraying Maria von Trapp in the hills of Salzburg. This was another high point of last night’s telecast for me for Salzburg is where I grew up as a youngster, living in the same suburb at the von Trapp family, and later, after the war, when I moved to Canada and visited the Trapp family in Stowe, Vermont, Maria Augusta Baroness von Trapp agreed to be the godmother of my son Thomas, born in 1959.

One final event that impressed me was the acceptance speech of the director, Iñárritu. With a bunch of coworkers behind him, he rattled off the names of all the people he had to thank for their collaboration and participation, then suddenly, one man came from behind him and whispered into his ear. The man must have reminded Iñárritu of somebody he’d forgotten. “Oh, yeah!” The director then added how thankful he had to be for the essential support of his wife. Which he did with a truly loving smile.

In my mind, the 87th Academy Awards ceremony brought humanity a vital step forward towards the elevation of womanhood, subtly, hardly noticeably, but significantly!