ISSN 1440-9828
                                                                                  No 334



The Explanation We Never Heard

Six months after attending a controversial Tehran conference, a Canadian professor charges the media and his own university with ignorance and intolerance.

Literary Review of Canada, Volume 15, Number 5, June 2007, Pages 3-4

AN ESSAY - By Shiraz Dossa

It would be a shocking event in any university. It was doubly so in a university that takes pride in its “Catholic character.” Last December, St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, authorized a small Spanish Inquisition of its own to denounce a St. FX Muslim professor. It was launched by two Jewish professors and the Christian chair of the political science department (Michael Steinitz, Samuel Kalman and Yvon Grenier). My sin: I attended a conference in a Muslim nation on the Holocaust entitled The Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision. It took place in Tehran, Iran, in December 2006, and it was widely—and erroneously—described in the western media as a “Holocaust-denial conference.”

I have never denied the Holocaust, only noted its propaganda power. Yet my university tolerated this assault on me. I was stunned by the university’s illiteracy and bias. I was appalled by President Sean Riley’s attack on my reputation and his spurious comments on the conference. In his December 13, 2006, statement he insinuated that the “conference” was bogus and that it revealed a “deplorable anti-Semitism” that the “St. FX community” found “deeply abhorrent” and contrary to its “traditions.” Riley left little doubt that I was guilty of sullying my school’s reputation. St. FX in effect sanctioned a crusade against a Muslim Holocaust scholar, who also happens to be an outspoken critic of Israel’s brutality in occupied Palestine. What follows is my view of the events of last December, and my interpretation of the responses to them in the media and at my university.

Two Fallacies

The anti-intellectual storm at St. FX was driven by two fallacies pushed by the media and the literati. The first is that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has dismissed the Holocaust as a “myth” and threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” In fact, Ahmadinejad has not denied the Holocaust or proposed Israel’s liquidation; he has never done so in any of his speeches on the subject (all delivered in Farsi/Persian). As an Iran specialist, I can attest that both accusations are false. U.S. Iran experts such as Juan Cole and UK journalists such as Jonathan Steele have come to the same conclusion.1

As Cole correctly notes, Ahmadinejad was quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini in the specific speech under discussion: what he said was that “the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.”2 No state action is envisaged in this lament; it denotes a spiritual wish, whereas the erroneous translation—“wipe Israel off the map”—suggests a military threat. There is a huge chasm between the correct and the incorrect translations. The notion that Iran can “wipe out” U.S.-backed, nuclear-armed Israel is ludicrous.

What Ahmadinejad has questioned is the mythologizing, the sacralization, of the Holocaust and the “Zionist regime’s” continued killing of Palestinians and Muslims. He has even raised doubts about the scale of the Holocaust. His rhetoric has been excessive and provocative. And he does not really care what we in the West think about Iran or Muslims; he does not kowtow to western or Israeli diktat. Such questioning and criticism are not new: Jewish scholars such as Adi Ophir, Ilan Pappe, Boas Evron, Tom Segev and Uri Davis have been doing it for two decades. None of this is Holocaust denial.

The second western fallacy is that the event was a Holocaust-denial conference because of the presence of a few notorious western Christian deniers/skeptics, a couple of a neo-Nazi stripe. It was nothing of the sort. It was a Global South conference convened to devise an intellectual/political response to western-Israeli intervention in Muslim affairs. Holocaust deniers/skeptics were a fringe, a marginal few at the conference. The majority of the papers focused on the use and abuse of the Holocaust in Arab, Muslim, Israeli and western politics, a serious and worthy subject for international academic discussion.

Out of the 33 conference paper givers, 27 were not Holocaust deniers, but were university professors and social science researchers from Iran, Jordan, Algeria, India, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Syria. In attendance were five rabbis (anti-Zionist rabbis, to be sure) who agreed with Rabbi Dovid Weiss of New York that Israel’s occupation policy was “evil” and un-Jewish, and the Holocaust could never justify it—but who insisted, like me, that the Holocaust was a reality. None of us knew that a few deniers/skeptics would be in attendance. This is not at all unusual in the Islamic world. In southern conferences, one rarely knows who will be appearing until one gets there. The Iranian Institute of Political and International Studies (IPIS), an elite school of advanced politics and policy studies that offers MA and PhD programs, sponsored the Iran conference. It was not sponsored by the Iranian president Dr. Ahmadinejad; he did not attend or participate in the conference. It was not a Holocaust-denial conference by any stretch. That’s all false.

President Riley and his supporters at St. FX bought the denial fallacy that had been concocted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Jewish Defense League, and peddled by media outlets such as The Globe and Mail. On December 11, 2006, the Simon Wiesenthal Center sent out a condemning press release about “Iran’s Holocaust Denial Conference” to news media in the U.S. and Canada.3 It was the Zionists and the neo-Nazis who, for very different, self-serving reasons, depicted it as a Holocaust-denial conference and sold it to willing, anti-Iranian Islamophobes.

Comparative Appearances

Coincidentally, on December 11, 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice officially welcomed Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to Washington on behalf of the U.S. government. Lieberman also met Senator Hillary Clinton and ex-President Bill Clinton. The Americans were not at all troubled by their guest’s stance on the Palestinians. Avigdor Lieberman is committed to ridding Israel of its Arabs—in effect, to ethnic cleansing. In the Israeli media (Ha’aretz), he has openly been labelled a racist and a fascist. U.S. critics have called him the Israeli David Duke.

Canada silently acquiesced in Lieberman’s inclusion in the Israeli cabinet. And in January 2007 Peter MacKay addressed the Herzliya Conference in Israel affirming Canada’s attachment to “freedom and democracy,” “values” that “make Canada and Israel so close.” He was there in his official capacity as Canada’s foreign minister. MacKay refused to meet with the leaders of the new elected Palestinian government (Hamas). The government of Canada is not concerned that an anti-Arab ethnic cleanser is Israel’s deputy prime minister. Canadians do hypocrisy rather well.

Consider also, in this connection, an event held at St. FX in September 2006, just three months before the Tehran conference. St. FX and the Religious Studies Department hosted a conference on Catholic-Jewish dialogue. One of the invited speakers was Rabbi Richard Rubenstein, a “distinguished” academic, according to his hosts. He did little to advance the Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Instead, he launched a vicious attack on Islam, its Prophet and Muslims in the West as a fifth column corroding Christian civilization from within. The good rabbi declared that “genocide” and the “murder” of non-Muslims lay at the heart of Islam. Rubenstein seemed to believe his views would be well received. And apparently they were—by the largely Catholic-Christian audience.

St. FX chancellor Bishop Raymond Lahey and I were on the response panel; I condemned Rubenstein’s anti-Muslim tirade and his labelling of Islam as “Islamo-Fascism,” which in my view is as offensive, racist and false as denying the Holocaust. Bishop Lahey, in his comment, said nothing about Rubenstein’s anti-Islamism. This was a St. Francis Xavier University conference that occurred with the blessing of university president Riley and university chancellor Bishop Lahey, and St. FX provided a public platform to an anti-Muslim, anti-Iranian racist rabbi. My point in making the comparison is that this was still a scholarly, enlightening conference although tainted by Rubenstein’s hate-speech. So was the Iran conference on the Holocaust, although tainted by the presence of a few western, Christian Holocaust deniers.


So how and why did this attack on my reputation occur?

The Globe and Mail fired the initial shot in its editorial on December 13, 2006. It was followed by a declaration of war on me by its “pundits” John Ibbitson and Rex Murphy, dilettantes extraordinaire on the Holocaust and the Middle East. Neither of these journalists has credibility in either field. Ibbitson hectored me in his usual CNN mode, got most things wrong and casually libelled me in the process.4 Since 9/11, he hasn’t let up on Islam or Muslims. Murphy, in his column “Eichmann in Tehran,” displayed his cerebral deficits and his ignorance of Islam, Iran and Hannah Arendt with enviable facility.5 Like Ibbitson, Murphy impresses those intellectually just a cut above the Trailer Park Boys. It is worth noting that these Christian boys have unlimited latitude in The Globe and Mail to trash Muslims even as they defend “civilization,” Israel and Jews.

My university joined the assault on me forthwith. Chancellor Lahey assured The Globe and Mail’s readers, in his letter to the editor on December 14, 2006, that the conference and my attendance were “contrary” to the “[promotion of] truth” and indeed “worthy of contempt.” It is significant that Riley and Lahey have no scholarly expertise on Islam, Iran or the Holocaust either. I believe they wanted to assure the white, mainstream Canadian community, including Canadian Jews, that “Catholic” St. FX was on their side, and this desire far outweighed their obligation to defend academic freedom. Since I was in Iran as a Holocaust expert, and not representing St. FX or Catholics, I found this a bizarre response. Are Riley and Lahey at the helm of a university committed to the academic freedom of its entire faculty, which includes Muslims? Or is St. FX’s hyped “inclusiveness” only for Christians and Jews? I have been a St. FX professor for 18 years, a full professor since 1996.

Was it an accident that I was swarmed—by petition—by Jewish and Christian professors, with the blessing of St. FX’s Catholic leaders? The petition oddly defended my “academic freedom … to espouse any views that he pleases,” but then negated my right to do so by being “profoundly embarrassed by his participation in the Holocaust-denial conference held in Tehran.” It garnered a fair number of signatures from current and retired professors—about 24 percent of the total faculty at St. FX. But surely these righteous folks are not racist? Surely this could not happen at St. FX, a Catholic institution with its Coady International Institute tradition of decency? It is crucial to stress that many townspeople were incensed by St. FX’s behaviour, among them Miles Tompkins, a direct descendant of Coady’s founder, J.J. Tompkins, and of Moses Coady. In a letter to the local paper, The Casket, on March 21, he chastised St. FX’s conduct and also noted that my “political science department’s response was an embarrassment to the University.”

Was this then an un-Christian lapse, an un-Catholic aberration? It would seem not. We tend to forget that Catholic anti-Semitism has always had two strands, anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish. The anti-Jewish strand has been dominant in western culture for several centuries. In the post-Holocaust period, however, the anti-Muslim strand, which survived the Crusades, got a new lease on life and quickly superseded anti-Jewish anti-Semitism for obvious reasons. As a result, Muslims now bear the brunt of western anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is de rigueur in the liberal Christian West, in support of our war on the “Axis of Evil,” including Iran. The anti-Iranian, anti-Muslim current at St. FX is not accidental; it is the distilled voice of Canadian Islamophobia in these times.

Final Thoughts

Universities are places of discontent; they provoke disputes, they offer critiques of conventional and, often, false views. A university that tailors its teaching and research to the prejudices of its alumni or corporate backers is a travesty. Academic freedom is not conditional on the approval of the university or of university colleagues. Nor is the reputation of the university as an institution tied to the scholarly focus of its faculty or to the controversial subjects that faculty may pursue in their field of expertise.

Iran’s elites have protected Jews since Cyrus ruled West Asia. Anti-Semitism is a Euro-American problem, not an Islamic one. Iranian opposition to Israel and its wars on Muslims/Palestinians is ethical and political; it has absolutely nothing to do with hating Jews qua Jews. It is a great pity that Sean Riley and Bishop Lahey ignored St. FX’s motto, an injunction to first ascertain Quaecumque Sunt Vera, Whatsoever Things Are True, and instead tolerated the assault by St. FX’s ignorant crusaders on the reputation of their Muslim colleague.

I would be remiss if I failed to note that two St. FX officials behaved honourably, with the kind of Catholic decency that befits our university, throughout the course of this episode of academic McCarthyism. Academic Vice-President Dr. Mary McGillivray and the Dean of Arts, Dr. Steven Baldner, tackled the controversy with integrity and respect for the liberal values that St. FX symbolizes. As well, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) strongly supported my academic freedom. In his letter to The Globe and Mail on December 14, 2006 (which the paper did not print), Executive Director Jim Turk stated that “academic freedom is to protect the right of academic staff to speak the truth as they see it without repression from their institution, the state, religious authorities, special interest groups or anyone else.”6


1. Jonathan Steele, “If Iran Is Ready to Talk, The US Must Do So Unconditionally,” The Guardian, June 2, 2006, and “Lost in Translation,” The Guardian, June 14, 2006.

2. Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist; And, ‘We Don’t Want Your Stinking War!’,” “Informed Consent,” May 3, 2006

3. Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Holocaust Survivors in Three Cities Across North America Join Together to Confront Iran’s Conference of Holocaust Deniers and Revisionists,” News Release, December 11, 2006.

4. John Ibbitson, “Even a Scholar’s Academic Freedom Has Its Limits in Canada,” Globe and Mail, December 14, 2006, page A7.

5. Rex Murphy, “Eichmann in Tehran: Horror Revisited,” Globe and Mail, December 16, 2006, page A31.

6. Canadian Association of University Teachers, “Statement on the Controversy over Professor Shiraz Dossa,” News Release, December 14, 2006

Shiraz Dossa teaches political theory and comparative politics (Iran, Lebanon, Israel, India) at St. Francis Xavier University. In his book The Public Realm and the Public Self: The Political Theory of Hannah Arendt (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1989) and in his articles, his focus has been the Holocaust and its legacy, Auschwitz and Christian conscience, Zionism and Palestinians, and Islam and the West.         _______________________


Crazy German >Holocaust-Shoah< Believers accuse Germans – read below, but before that let’s first read a good story about Germans, then remember what happened after the WWII to German soldiers, for example, those  held on the Rheinwiesen where they were deliberately starved to death on General Eisenhower’s orders.

Distance Learning. History Lessons at the people’s university. From German Stalags to Malaysia, the >external programme< has flourished for 150 years.

Tatum Anderson, The Guardian Weekly, 18 May 2007

Douglas Gillam gave up a maths degree to fight the Nazis. So when his plane was shot down over enemy territory in 1943, he might have been surprised had he known how soon he would be back at university.

While he was a prisoner of war in Stalag IVB near Leipzig in eastern Germany, he began to receive textbooks and exam papers sent from England. >>I attempted to sit a three-hour paper in the corner of a room with 350 other men, many of whom were playing games,<< he says. >>My hut commander was given the job of sitting next to me to make sure that nobody gave me assistance.<<

A camp university flourished as prisoners began to teach each other. Gillam became one of the more than 30 lecturers, holding maths lessons twice a week. Other subjects ranged from ecumenical Greek to car repair. Professor Stephen Guest, whose father, Frank, gave lectures to fellow prisoners at Stalag IVB, says: >>Even the Germans used to attend the lectures on economics and psychology.<< Guest followed in his father’s footsteps, teaching distance learning courses.

This curious state of affairs was facilitated by the 1929 Geneva Convention. While Europe was ripped apart by war, the Germans allowed the University of London, the Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem to deliver exam papers to 17,600 PoWs. Almost 11,000 exams were taken at 88 camps between 1940 and 1945. The University of London collected exam papers from institutions across the UK and dispatched them from Oxford University’s New Bodleian Library in Red Cross parcels. They were sent to the camps in Germany and Italy by a circuitous route through Allied Europe. Completed papers returned to oxford along the same route.

This is one remarkable chapter in the history of the University of London’s distance learning department, the external programme, which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.

Barnes Wallis, inventor of the bouncing bomb, learnt engineering in this way. Nelson Mandela (incarcerated on Robben Island) and Robert Mugabe graduated in economics through the programme. Commemorations kick off next month when a group alumni, including PoWs and the daughter of Sir Barnes – meet in London to discuss their experiences.

Anyone who could pay the L5 entrance fee could sit the University of London Exams. Unlike traditional degrees, which required students to attend lectures on campus, external programme students could obtain a degree regardless of whether they were self-taught, corresponded with the tutor by post or attended a college. Before then the only other two English universities, Oxford and Cambridge, restricted entry to rich, Anglican men. Now for the first time Catholics, Jews, women and those too poor to afford Oxbridge’s hefty fees were able to study for a degree.

>>You could have studied anywhere and nowhere,<< says Christine Kenyon Jones, whose book on the history of the programme, The People’s University, will be published next year. >>It opened up the opportunity for people to get a degree while they continued to earn a living. Before, there was a gentlemen’s idea of having three years off to do a degree.<<Charles Dickens predicted that such schemes could make coal miners and shoemakers into scholars. But poorer middle classes rather than working classes started to take University of London degrees. HG Wells, the son of an impoverished shopkeeper, and legions of unqualified teachers were among those to earn degrees by the end of the 19th century. By osmosis, university education permeated the British Empire. However, the postal system was too slow to support courses in the furthest outposts. Philanthropists and businessmen in those countries responded by setting up colleges with tutors that taught University of London courses thousands of kilometres away. Exam papers were sent back to London by colonial mail – a special postal service that prevented tampering.

Uganda’s Makerere and the universities of the West Indies and Sri Lanka began life as local tutorial colleges for the University of London. Many of Britain’s >>red-brick<< universities also started as outposts of the external programme.

With the advent of air mail, the numbers taking correspondence courses rocketed. When Joseph William Knipe founded Wolsey Hall in Oxford in 1894, he enrolled six correspondence students. By the 1960s half of its 40,000 students were from newly independent Commonwealth states studying for University of London degrees by distance learning.

Future leaders of countries once under British rule are among Wolsey Hall’s most illustrious graduates. In addition, half of the solicitors working in Malaysia today are reckoned to be graduates of the external programme, which has brought higher education to students in 180 countries.


Germans love to feel guilty and so they make another film about Erwin Rommel, a German soldier whose reputation remained intact - until now. Here we see the next move by those bent on destroying Germans’ moral and intellectual tradition through peddling the rubbish that has become the >Holocaust-Shoah< dogma. In 1977 I met Erwin Rommel’s son, Manfred, who was at that time Oberbürgermeister of Stuttgart. At no time did Manfred indicate that he ever connected his father with the absurd >gassing story<. In the following review of the latest film out of Germany the 1942 >Holocaust-Shoah< becomes a road-show on its way from Germany to the Middle East. What did Rommel do that is new in his otherwise public life? Besides looting Jewish gold and then throwing it away into the sea, the German army under Rommel had no higher goal than to control the Middle East oil wells and >exterminate Jews<, and adopt >white racists< attitudes. Note how it is phrased: >> … Rommel played a key role in the Nazis' drive to invade Palestine and exterminate the Jews of the Middle East. … The Nazi attempt to capture the oil fields of the Middle East and exterminate the region's Jewish population were brought to an abrupt halt by the British 8th Army's defeat of Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Alamein in October 1942.<< 


'Chivalrous' Rommel wanted to bring Holocaust to Middle East

By Tony Paterson in Berlin

25 May 2007

Erwin Rommel's reputation as one of Nazi Germany's few chivalrous generals has been blackened by a new documentary film which depicts the legendary "Desert Fox" as an unscrupulous commander who spearheaded Hitler's attempts to take the Holocaust to the Middle East.  Rommel, the head of the German Afrika Korps who won fame for his initial successes against the British in North Africa in 1942, was widely respected during and after the Second World War. Churchill once referred to him in parliament as a "great general". Defeated by General Bernard Montgomery's "Desert Rats" at the battle of El Alamein in Egypt the same year, Field Marshal Rommel once claimed that his military campaign against the British was a chivalrous affair and the nearest thing to "war without hate".

However, a new two-part documentary series being broadcast on Germany's ZDF television channel provides evidence that Rommel played a key role in the Nazis' drive to invade Palestine and exterminate the Jews of the Middle East.

The historian Jörg Müllner, who made the film Rommel's War with co-author Jean-Christoph Caron, yesterday dismissed as a "myth" the notion that Rommel fought a clean war in the desert. "With his victories, he was simply preparing the way for the Nazi extermination machine," he added.

Müllner and Caron's film relies on the work of recent findings by German historians to explain how in the run up to the Second World War, the Nazis, as part of their long-term aim to export the Holocaust to the Middle East, actively courted Arab nationalists who were determined to drive the Jews from the region.

They reveal how, before embarking on their campaign in the desert, Rommel's Afrika Korps soldiers were schooled with the idea that: "Anyone who fights Jewry can count on the sympathy of the Arab population" and how the greeting "Heil Rommel" became popular in Arab nationalist circles in the Middle East after the general's initial victories.

The documentary shows how, a month after Rommel's defeat of the British at Tobruk in June 1942, the Nazi SS followed Hitler's order to "destroy Jewry in the Arab World" by setting up a special " Sonderkommando" extermination unit to follow in the Afrika Korps' wake.

The unit was headed by Walther Rauff, an SS commander notorious for his role in inventing mobile gas chambers. Rauff and his SS men were empowered to carry out "executive measures on the civilian population" - the Nazi euphemism for mass murder and enslavement.

The Nazi attempt to capture the oil fields of the Middle East and exterminate the region's Jewish population were brought to an abrupt halt by the British 8th Army's defeat of Rommel's Afrika Korps at El Alamein in October 1942.  Rommel was forced to withdraw the remnants of his army to Tunisia, where it sustained a bridgehead until May 1943, enabling Rauff's SS to conduct a well-organised persecution campaign against the country's Jews.

More than 2,500 Tunisian Jews died in a network of SS slave labour camps before the Germans withdrew. Rauff's men also stole silver, jewels and religious artefacts from the Tunisian Jews. Forty-three kilograms of gold were taken from the Jewish community on the island of Djerba alone.

The gold and jewels were taken by the Germans as they withdrew and were later thrown into the sea off Corsica. Divers are still searching for " Rommel's Treasure".

The documentary makers argue that the role Rommel played in supporting the Nazis' plans to export the Holocaust to the Middle East was largely forgotten after the war because of the field marshal's later alleged involvement in the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. The Nazis responded by arresting Rommel and leaving him the choice of facing trial and certain execution or committing suicide. He chose the latter.

Post-war Germany capitalised on the notion of Rommel as a chivalrous Nazi commander. However records show that he ordered his non-white prisoners to be fed less than whites and that he ordered unarmed black prisoners to be needlessly shot during the making of a Nazi propaganda film in 1940. In 1970, the Germany navy named a destroyer after him.

A Nazi career

1891 Born in Heidenheim near Ulm in southern Germany, the son of a headmaster. Trains as a military cadet in Danzig.

1914-1918 Serves as an officer in the First World War and awarded the Iron Cross twice for quick tactical decision-making during fighting in Slovenia.

1940 Heads the German army's 7th Panzer tank division during the Nazi invasion of France. His unit is nicknamed the "Ghost division" because it travels at record speeds.

1941-1943 Commander-in-chief of the Afrika Korps. Defeats the British at Tobruk in June 1942. In October 1942, he is defeated by Montgomery at El Alamein. Churchill describes Rommel as a "a great general".

1944 Commands German forces opposing the Allied invasion of Normandy and is wounded when his staff car is strafed by a Spitfire. Suspected by the Nazis of involvement in plot to assassinate Hitler and given the choice of trial and certain execution or committing suicide. He commits suicide. Because of his popularity, Nazi propaganda claims he died of the wounds he received in Normandy.


More Madness at work against cultural icons – Jews feel victimized, persecuted!

Handel's 'Hallelujah' chorus: A malice toward Judiasm?

By James R. Oestreich

April 24, 2007

PRINCETON, New Jersey: It is a rare musicological debate that quickly rises to broader public attention. Two classic examples in recent decades took place at conventions of the American Musicological Society in Boston, and both involved not only volatile issues but also combative personalities. In 1981 Joshua Rifkin and Robert Marshall locked horns over the size of Bach's choruses, Mr. Rifkin arguing that Bach would typically have used only one singer per part. In 1998 bellicose defenders of the authenticity of the disputed claim that the book "Testimony" represented the actual "memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as related to and edited by Solomon Volkov" met with ferocious opposition from Richard Taruskin and others.

A panel discussion of the American Handel Festival 2007 here on Friday certainly had an explosive issue: Michael Marissen's thesis that "Messiah" and more specifically the "Hallelujah" chorus — perhaps the most sacrosanct and beloved totem in Western music, rivaled only by the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony — conveys malice toward Judaism. A boldly stated article by Mr. Marissen in The New York Times on April 8 drew considerable response from readers, from the saddened to the outraged. But for various reasons the fireworks here were relatively muted.

For one thing each of the two prime antagonists hid what appeared to be a steely resolve behind a soft-spoken, mostly polite manner. Mr. Marissen, a scholar at Swarthmore College who has devoted himself largely to examining what might be seen as anti-Judaic tendencies in works by Bach, argued the case against Handel at length. Ruth Smith, a Handel specialist at Cambridge University in England and the author of the landmark book "Handel's Oratorios and 18th-Century Thought," responded to the theological aspects of Mr. Marissen's thesis, disputing many assumptions and interpretations.

Wendy Heller, an associate professor of music at Princeton University and one of the organizers of the festival, which was held on campus, livened things up a bit with an animated response to the musical aspects of Mr. Marissen's argument. And members of the audience, which was laced with prominent Handel scholars, generated heat in the question-and-answer segment that followed.

But there were other factors that softened the confrontation, making direct hits difficult. The respondents had not seen Mr. Marissen's paper in time to tailor their own comments to it. By and large, they were responding to other versions of it, presented at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society in November; in the article in The Times, "Unsettling History of That Joyous 'Hallelujah' "; and in an extended article for The Journal of Musicology, as yet unpublished but available to the respondents in advance copies.

Mr. Marissen summarizes his argument in an abstract of the Journal article: "Scholars have too little investigated questions of religious meaning in Handel's 'Messiah,' particularly the work's manifest theological anti-Judaism. Previously unknown historical sources for the work's libretto compiled and arranged by Charles Jennens (1700-73) reveal the text's implicit designs against Jewish religion. Handel's musical setting powerfully underscores these tendencies of Jennens's libretto and adds to them, reaching a euphoric climax in the 'Hallelujah' chorus."

The issue, Mr. Marissen suggests, is not one of anti-Semitism per se but one of triumphalism, a rejoicing in the misfortune of the Jews, specifically with the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. Mr. Marissen has scoured sources for the libretto, notably a book in Jennens's library by Richard Kidder, an Anglican bishop: "A Demonstration of the MESSIAS. In which the Truth of the Christian Religion is proved, against all the Enemies thereof; but especially against the JEWS."

The biblical texts used in several numbers leading up to the "Hallelujah" chorus, Mr. Marissen suggests, are translated, interpreted or conflated in a tendentious manner in line with those earlier commentaries to portray the Jews as, for example, the "them" in "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." Ms. Smith was having none (or very little) of this. She granted Mr. Marissen the point that "Messiah" was very much a work of its time, and that denigration of Jews was then in the air. Although Jennens believed in one true faith and was ready to repudiate other faiths, there is nothing to suggest that he specifically repudiated Judaism, she added, and he "avoids direct impugning of the Jews by the use of Old Testament texts."

The contention that Jennens chose texts because they were in Kidder is completely unproved, Ms. Smith said, and in any case the use of a specific text, from whatever source, does not imply that the interpretation of that text is necessarily accepted as part of the bargain. "Jennens does not make specific condemnation of any specific belief," she added. Most of all, "he condemns a lack of belief in the Christian faithful."

Ms. Heller was equally assiduous in trying to undercut Mr. Marissen's musical arguments. To refute the notion that Handel's use of regal trumpets and drums in the "Hallelujah" chorus, and only there in "Messiah," represents over-the-top or even unusual triumphalism, she played a brief excerpt from the coronation anthem "Zadok the Priest," no less triumphal.

To combat the notion that Handel uses a particular oscillating melodic figure in Wagnerian leitmotif fashion to represent the Jews, she pointed to other uses of similar figures. And the first questioner from the audience seconded her, noting that oscillating figures are ubiquitous in Handel, used to signify wind, waves, flying.

Most of the other questioners also attacked Mr. Marissen's musical or theological assumptions, interpretations and conclusions. He emerged bloodied but seemingly unbowed. Ms. Heller, for her part, concluded her presentation by pointing out that as a Jew she already felt enough guilt. "Do we have to feel guilty about the 'Hallelujah' chorus too?" she asked. "We don't."


Wendy Heller on Handel's 'Messiah'

April 24, 2007

On April 8, The New York Times published an article by Michael Marissen, a professor of music at Swarthmore College, arguing that Handel's "Messiah," and the "Hallelujah" chorus in particular, rejoices in the misfortune of Judaism with an over-the top triumphalism. On April 20, Mr. Marissen presented a longer version of the argument in a paper at a session of the American Handel Festival 2007 at Princeton University. Dissenting responses to the paper were offered by the Handel specialists Wendy Heller, addressing the musical aspects of the argument, and Ruth Smith, addressing the theological aspects. The Times has invited Ms. Heller and Ms. Smith to respond briefly to the earlier article as well. Ms. Heller's response follows.

Was there anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in 18th-century England? Were there many 18th-century English theologians who rejoiced in the downfall of the Jews? Were biblical commentaries published during Handel's lifetime that understood Psalm 2 (and other Old Testament writings) as referring to the fall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70? Of course. But it is another matter entirely to contend, as Michael Marissen has done in The New York Times and in a recent conference at Princeton University, that Handel's "Messiah" was designed to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and that the music of this iconic masterpiece "makes its own contribution to the troubling theological message."

There is insufficient space here to address all the theological issues Mr. Marissen has raised, or the strategies he claims Handel used to underline an implicit anti-Judaic message in "Messiah." Briefly, these claims run contrary to everything we know about Handel's aesthetic and his very approach to composing music.

Mr. Marissen claims that Handel used an oscillating melodic figure to depict the negative characteristics of Jews in several movements of "Messiah." I know of no instance in which Handel used a specific melodic or rhythmic idea like a Wagnerian leitmotif, to refer to a given person, place or thing. Moreover, this ostensibly menacing oscillating figure is entirely generic, and appears elsewhere in "Messiah" and throughout Handel's output with no hidden meanings, anti-Judaic or otherwise. Like most Baroque composers, he used such gestures to heighten the underlying mood or emotional content of an aria or to depict the imitative properties of specific words, like "shake" (as in the accompanied recitative "All they that see him.").

If we were to accept Mr. Marissen's argument, we could scarcely explain Handel's use of the same motif later in "Messiah," in the chorus "The Lord Gave the Word: Great is the Company of the People." Here, the oscillating motif is used prominently to describe the preachers, who will go out to spread the gospel of peace.

As for the bass aria "Why do the Nations Furiously Rage," to interpret the oscillating figure for the words "imagine a vain thing" as referring specifically to the Jews is entirely arbitrary, and overlooks its actual role in expressing what might be interpreted as the singer's confidence and optimism in the midst of battle.

The same figure in the aria "Thou shalt break them" thus has no cumulative symbolic meaning; rather, it is a generic figure in the orchestral texture, providing appropriate dramatic emphasis to the text. The fact that John Newton, writing several decades after the death of Handel, associated this movement with the unleashing of God's anger at Jews, is hardly evidence. It is unfortunate that Mr. Marissen neglected to mention that Newton had not heard the "Messiah" when he wrote the passage.

Newton was like any number of commentators today who presume to judge films they have never seen in terms their own ideological presuppositions. Surely, we don't mistake such judgments for compositional or authorial intent.

Mr. Marissen then supposes that the addition of trumpets and drums for the words of the "Hallelujah" chorus signifies gloating over the destruction of the temple. The same scoring can be found in numerous Handel compositions representing royalty and kingship, regardless of whether a victory is being celebrated, and is usually is saved for the conclusion of an act or section, as with the "Hallelujah" chorus.

Equally problematic is Mr. Marissen's speculation in other writings that Handel's presumed use of Lutheran chorale melodies in the "Hallelujah" chorus conveys anti-Judaic sentiment. For example, the chorale "Wachet Aauf" ("Sleepers Wake"), associated with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, can by no means be said to refer specifically to Jews as non believers. This usage carries anti-Jewish ideological meaning only if we are willing to accept that a brief passage with some resemblance to a Lutheran chorale invokes non-believing Jews in the guise of foolish virgins as a part of the chorus's "intelligent design," through which we celebrate the destruction of the temple never invoked, and condemn a people never mentioned.

It is perhaps unfair to expect works from earlier times to conform to the ideologies of the current moment. History requires us to confront notions that we find unpleasant; but this should not encourage us to distort evidence, fuel outrage, or analyze Handel's music in ways that contradict everything we know about him as a composer. One would hope that New York Times readers need not feel guilt or shame when hearing or singing "Messiah."

Wendy Heller, Associate Professor of Music, Princeton University


Unsettling History of That Joyous 'Hallelujah'

By Michael Marissen

April 24, 2007

In New York and elsewhere a "Messiah Sing-In" — a performance of Handel's oratorio "Messiah" with the audience joining in the choruses — is a musical highlight of the Christmas season. Christians, Jews and others come together to delight in one of the consummate masterpieces of Western music.

The high point, inevitably, is the "Hallelujah" chorus, all too familiar from its use in strange surroundings, from Mel Brooks's "History of the World, Part 1," where it signified the origins of music among cavemen, to television advertising for behemoth all-terrain vehicles.

So "Messiah" lovers may be surprised to learn that the work was meant not for Christmas but for Lent, and that the "Hallelujah" chorus was designed not to honor the birth or resurrection of Jesus but to celebrate the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in A.D. 70. For most Christians in Handel's day, this horrible event was construed as divine retribution on Judaism for its failure to accept Jesus as God's promised Messiah.

While Handel scholars and enthusiasts say repeatedly that significant numbers of Jews attended the original performances of Handel's oratorios, they offer no compelling evidence. Most Jews in 18th-century London were too poor to attend such concerts, and observant Jews would in any event have balked at the public use of the sacred, unutterable name of God in the oratorios, even though "Jehovah" was a Christian misunderstanding of the prohibited name.

Handelians often assert too that the composer's practice of writing oratorios on ancient Israelite subjects (like "Israel in Egypt" and "Judas Maccabaeus") is pro-Jewish. Handel and his contemporaries did have a high opinion of the characters populating the Hebrew Bible, not as "Jews" but as proto-Christian believers in God's expected Messiah, Jesus.

But what about their stance toward living Jews and toward Judaism after the advent of Jesus? Relevant contemporary British sources have virtually nothing positive to say on that subject and very little that is even neutral. To create the "Messiah" libretto Charles Jennens, a formidable scholar and a friend of Handel's, compiled a series of scriptural passages adapted from the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Version of the Bible. As a traditionalist Christian, Jennens was deeply troubled by the spread of deism, the notion that God had simply created the cosmos and let it run its course without divine intervention. Christianity then as now rested on the belief that God broke into history by taking human form in Jesus. For Jennens and others, deism represented a serious menace.

Deists argued that Jesus was neither the son of God nor the Messiah. Since Christian writers had habitually considered Jews the most grievous enemies of their religion, they came to suppose that deists obtained anti-Christian ammunition from rabbinical scholars. The Anglican bishop Richard Kidder, for example, claimed in his huge 1690s treatise on Jesus as the Messiah that "the deists among us, who would run down our revealed religion, are but underworkmen to the Jews."

Kidder's title says it all: "A Demonstration of the Messias, In Which the Truth of the Christian Religion Is Proved, Against All the Enemies Thereof; but Especially Against the Jews." Jennens owned an edition from 1726, and he appears to have studied it carefully. Kidder's work reads like a blueprint for "Messiah."

Central to Kidder and his like-minded readers is a mode of interpretation called "typology," which means that events in the Old Testament point to events in Christian history not only through explicit prophecy and fulfillment but also through the more mysterious implied spiritual anticipation of Christian "antitypes" in Old Testament "types." At Romans 5:14, for example, the Apostle Paul describes Adam as a "type" of "the one to come" (Jesus, the antitype).

Such thinking was the driving force behind Kidder's book and Jennens's choice and juxtaposition of texts in his libretto. In "Messiah" Old and New Testament selections stand fundamentally in a typological alignment. Jennens had the discernment to see that he couldn't thwart his adversaries simply by producing reading matter insisting that biblical texts be understood both typologically and as Jesus-centered. Like Arius, who won popular opinion for his views with catchy anti-orthodox jingles in the fourth century, Jennens resorted to music, approaching Handel with his libretto.

What better means to comfort disquieted Christians against the faith-busting wiles of deists and Jews than to draw on the feelings and emotions of art over and above the reasons and revelations of argument? "Messiah" does exactly this, culminating in the "Hallelujah" chorus. At Scene 6 in Part 2 the oratorio features passages from Psalm 2 of the Old Testament set as a series of antagonistic movements that precede excerpts from the New Testament's Book of Revelation set as the triumphant "Hallelujah" chorus: type and antitype, prophecy and fulfillment.

The bass aria that opens Scene 6 asks, "Why do the nations so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing?" But in the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, the passage, Psalm 2:1, reads not "nations" but "heathen." Why the difference, and where does it come from?

Jennens took his reading from Henry Hammond, the great 17th-century Anglican biblical scholar, whose extended and fiercely erudite commentary on Psalm 2 suggests the advantage of "nations" over "heathen": "Nations" can readily include the Jews. In the 18th century no one would have uncritically used the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer's word "heathen" for Jews or Judaism. Even children would have known this, from the famous hymn writer Isaac Watts's wildly popular "Divine Songs for the Use of Children," which includes the verse "Lord, I ascribe it to thy Grace, /And not to Chance, as others do, /That I was born of Christian race, /And not a Heathen or a Jew."

Handel sets Psalm 2:1 as an aria drawing on the stile concitato (agitated style), with repeated 16th notes as a convention for violent affects to underline the raging of the nations, pointedly including the Jews. "The people," when they "imagine a vain thing," are further associated with a conspicuous violin line of oscillating pitches.

A similar melodic idea depicts the Jews in the earlier recitative "All they that see him laugh him to scorn; they shoot out their lips, and shake their heads." The recitative sets Psalm 22:7, a text that can be understood (typologically) to foreshadow a New Testament passage, Matthew 27:39-40, which refers to Jewish pilgrims attending Passover and Jesus on the cross: "They that passed by, reviled him, wagging their heads." The oscillating pattern and its scornful tone capture the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Messiah.

Later in Scene 6, at the tenor aria, Jennens skips to Psalm 2:9, "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron." His excision of verses 5 through 8 makes the violent language in "Thou shalt break them" refer to the Jesus-rejecting Jews, because without the intervening verses, "them" refers to "the nations" (including the Jews) and "the people" (the Jews) of the bass aria, rather than the gentiles referred to in the missing Verse 8.

If Jews make up "them," who is the "thou"? Jesus, as John Newton explains in his 1786 book "Messiah: Fifty Sermons on the Celebrated Oratorio of Handel": The resurrected Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God, unleashed his anger on the Jews by having the Roman armies lay waste to Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70.

Newton is best known today as the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," and he is a central figure in the film of that name now in theaters, in which he is portrayed as repenting his devotion to the slave trade in the 1780s. But his grace apparently wasn't amazing enough to curb the constant affirmation of anti-Jewish sentiment in his "Messiah" sermons.

Here he comments, "The music to which Psalm 2:9 is set is so well adapted to the idea that it expresses, as, in a manner, to startle those who hear it." In Jennens and Handel's time, Christians were all but unanimous in believing that the violence depicted in Psalm 2:9 represented the prophesying type for a later event: the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, the fulfilling antitype. So when Jennens has brought in Psalm 2 and its understood prophecy of the destruction of the temple, widely understood as signaling God's rejection of Judaism, what is the response? "Hallelujah! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth; the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 19:6, 19:16 and 11:5).

Jennens undoubtedly got the idea of juxtaposing these passages directly from Hammond, who wrote: "Now at Revelation 11 is fulfilled that prophecy of Psalm 2. The Jewish nation have behaved themselves most stubbornly against Christ, and cruelly against Christians, and God's judgments are come upon them." This is surely how listeners would have understood the combination of these texts in 18th-century Britain.

Handel's music makes its own contribution to the troubling theological message here. The mood of the "Hallelujah" chorus is over-the-top triumph. For the first time in "Messiah" trumpets and drums are used together, although they would have been appropriate or welcome at several earlier places. In Baroque music trumpets with drums were emblems of great power and of victory. In "Messiah" the combination is saved for celebrating the destruction of Jesus' crucifixion-provoking "enemies" prefigured in Psalm 2.

With Old Israel supposedly rejected by God and its obsolescence long before ensured, why did 18th-century writers and composers rejoice against Judaism at all, whether explicitly or, as here, implicitly? There must have been some festering Christian anxiety about the prolonged survival of Judaism: How could a "false" religion last so long? Might Judaism somehow actually be "true"?

These issues were a matter of life and death, says Jennens's key guide, Kidder's tome: "If we be wrong in dispute with the Jews, we err fundamentally, and must never hope for salvation. So that either we or the Jews must be in a state of damnation. Of such great importance are those matters in dispute between us and them." This would represent ample motivation for the text and musical setting of "Messiah" to engage these issues and would perhaps help explain any lapse from decent Christian gratitude into unseemly rejoicing in the "Hallelujah" chorus.

While still a timely, living masterpiece that may continue to bring spiritual and aesthetic sustenance to many music lovers, Christian or otherwise, "Messiah" also appears to be very much a work of its own era. Listeners might do well to ponder exactly what it means when, in keeping with tradition, they stand during the "Hallelujah" chorus.


George, You Are No Maverick , You Are Just One Of Them

By Hesham Tillawi, PhD, April 2007

"The American people know about your honesty and integrity. Of your commitment to truth-to accountability and responsibility-that is the very core of intelligence in a democratic society." George Tenet in his farewell remarks made at CIA Headquarters in Washington DC on July 8, 2004

Yes George, and you have shown no honesty and no integrity when, on December 14, 2004, just few days after you made that remark, you accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom  presented to you in the East Room of the White House by George W Bush. Yes George, you have shown neither honesty nor integrity when you sat behind Colin Powell, Feb 5,2003  while he delivered his infamous lies about the Iraqi WMD's at the UN Security Council  where he said:  "  What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."  Yes George, you were there to give credibility to what Powell was delivering.

On April 30, 2007, your book At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA is coming out.  Your main point is that you want to clarify the "slam dunk" comment that Vice-president Cheney and others cited as the main reason why George Bush decided to go and invade Afghanistan and Iraq. You say that this was taken out of context and that the comment was in response to Bush's wondering if he can sell the war on Iraq to the American people based on Iraq's WMDs.  You said, "Yes, it's a slam dunk".

George, your clarification is even worse than the way Cheney and others used the phrase. You knew the whole thing was a lie, yet you said that it was a "slam dunk".  You were willing to deceive the American people into this war by thinking it was a "slam dunk."  You convinced them with garbage that you knew beforehand stunk.

George, about a million Iraqis died if not more. Millions have been maimed for life.  Two million have been forced to leave Iraq and live as refugees; some in the desert with no roof over their heads.  Thousands of Americans are dead; tens of thousands are wounded and maimed for life. Do I need to say more? You know the rest of the story.

Your opinion does not matter now, George, it's too late, and it will not make much difference. I wanted you to take a stand, George, when you were sitting behind Colin Powell,   while he showed the fake pictures to convince the World with Iraq's WMDs.  You should have asked Mr. Powell to have a moment at the microphone while the world was watching.  You should have told the world that Powell was presenting lies.  You could have saved lots of lives, George. Just imagine, if after George Bush placed the Medal of Freedom around your neck and you would have taken that medal off and "slam dunked" it in GWB's hand and said: " I am sorry, I don't deserve it, take this medal and shove it " and walked out while the cameras were rolling. Just imagine the lives you would have saved by doing so.

You are no maverick, George.  You are just a coward like the many cowards who have caused so much pain and misery in America and the World. You are going down in infamy and should be prosecuted with the rest of the "JINSA" crowd. The least you can do is give ALL proceeds from the book to the Iraqi people. You said that the only thing you regret in life is the fact that your father was not living to see you in the position of the Director of the CIA. You are lucky, George, that your father was not living to see that you had a chance to stop a war based on lies and fabrications by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and especially Douglas Feith, who was over the Office of the Special Plans at the pentagon where the fake documents Powell used were concocted and given credibility by your presence at the UN with Powell. Your father would be very disappointed in you.

George, your 'kiss and tell' book is an insult to our nation.  You are just one of them. You should be tried for war crimes just like the rest of them. 


Iran, US to hold first talks in 27 years

From correspondents in Washington, May 28, 2007 06:38am, Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON and Tehran open their first substantial talks in 27 years in Baghdad today, with both countries setting modest goals and limiting discussions to ways to quell the chaos in Iraq. US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is set to meet Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi in the highest-level official bilateral talks between the two sides since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The US and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the talks would be held "in Baghdad, at an Iraqi government facility," giving no further details for security reasons. An Iraqi representative will join them at the start of the talks, which will then continue behind closed doors. There will be no official statement, but Mr Crocker said there could be a press conference at the US embassy after the event.

Bad relations don't serve Iraq

The meeting follows a brief encounter between US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on May 4 at a conference on Iraq held at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. "Bad relations between the two countries does not serve Iraq, and Iraq has paid the price for the tension between the two countries," said Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. "We don't want Iraq to be an arena for fighting between the two sides," Mr Dabbagh said on Wednesday. Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting violence by arming and training radical Shiite militias. Tehran in turn says peace will not be restored in Iraq until US forces leave.

Nuclear program off limits

Washington also accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, demands Tehran freeze its uranium enrichment operations, and has not ruled out military strikes to thwart Iran's nuclear drive. Iran says its atomic drive is peaceful and that it has every right to the full fuel cycle.

Iran's nuclear program however is not on the agenda for today's talks. "These talks will not affect our nuclear issue, because we are not interested," Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, deputy head of the Iran's National Security Council, told ISNA news agency today. "The talks will solely focus on the stability and security of Iraq as it has been requested by Iraqi people and government."

Mr Casey confirmed only Iraq would be on the agenda. "It's not a forum for discussion about other events."

Spy networks accusation

Iran today accused Washington of running spy networks aimed at carrying out "sabotage" operations in its sensitive border provinces in western, south-western and central Iran, according to Iran's state media, possibly darkening the atmosphere in the talks. Iran's intelligence ministry said yesterday it had broken up spy networks led by coalition forces in Iraq, but the comments were the first time the US has been directly accused.

The new allegations come at a time when Iran is also charging the US of seeking to carry out a "Velvet Revolution" by peacefully toppling the Islamic authorities through various initiatives.

Limited results expected

Despite the strong symbolism, the Baghdad meeting will likely yield limited results, said Anthony Cordesman, with the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank.  "Iran's position on meeting with the US to talk about Iraq has been hostile beyond the usual standards of pre-conference posturing and leverage," said Mr Cordesman. Mr Cordesman said the recent arrest in Iran of at least three Iranian-American researchers accused of working to undermine the Islamic regime were "a grim warning that dialogue with this Iranian government may have very little near-term benefits".

US forces are also holding five Iranians arrested on January 11 in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil. Iran says the men are diplomats, but US officials suspect they are involved in supplying advanced roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents to use against US forces. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said last week Tehran would merely use the Baghdad talks to remind Washington of its "occupiers' duty" in Iraq.,23599,21805271-401,00.html


Islamic scholar promotes adult breastfeeding

By Abraham Rabinovich in Jerusalem, May 28, 2007 07:51amThe Australian

A RELIGIOUS ruling by an Islamic scholar permitting women to breastfeed adults with whom they work has led to his suspension this month from al-Azhar University in Cairo, the world's leading Sunni university.

Izzat Atiyaa had issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, offering his bold suggestion as a way around the prohibition in Islamic religious law against a woman working in private premises with a man who was not her close relative. Breastfeeding, he argued, would create a familial relationship under Islamic law.

Dr Atiyaa explained to the Egyptian newspaper al-Watani al-Yawm that: "A man and a woman who are alone together are not (necessarily) having sex but this possibility exists and breastfeeding provides a solution to this problem (by) transforming the bestial relationship between two people into a religious relationship based on (religious) duties."

In Islamic tradition, breastfeeding at infancy establishes a degree of familial relationship between nurse and child even if there is no biological relationship. Dr Atiyaa argued in his fatwa that if an adult male was nursed by a female co-worker it would likewise establish a familial bond that would permit them to work side by side without raising suspicion of illicit sex.

Teachings attributed to prophet

Dr Atiyaa headed al-Azhar University's department dealing with hadith - oral tradition, outside the Koran, attributed to the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. He said he had based his ruling on one such tradition according to which, at the Prophet's order, a man named Salem was breastfed by the wife of another disciple.

"The fact that the hadith regarding the breastfeeding of an adult is inconceivable to the mind does not make it invalid," Dr Atiyaa said, in defending his ruling. "Rejecting it is tantamount to questioning the Prophet's tradition."

Universal rejection

Nevertheless, his ruling evoked almost universal rejection among Muslim scholars and in the popular Egyptian press. Al-Azhar University formed a committee of hadith experts, who dismissed his ruling, and the university administration ordered him to publish a retraction. He complied.

However, his apology was deemed insufficient by the head of the al-Azhar Supreme Council, Sheik Muhammed Sayyid Tantawi, a widely respected figure who is the highest spiritual authority in Sunni Islam. "There is enough chaos with all the unsupervised fatwas (published) on satellite channels," the sheik said. "We will never permit this chaos to spread to the religious establishment and to al-Azhar." Following his remarks, the university decided to suspend Dr Atiyaa, pending further investigation.

The breastfeeding fatwa moved even some conservative Muslims to attempt to draw a line between ancient tradition and modern life. Sayyid Askar, an Egyptian politician belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and a former member of the Academy of Islamic Studies, said the hadith regarding Salem was authentic but irrelevant.,23599,21805283-401,00.html



'Sovereigns' told to stop making money

By Jessica Marszalek , April 26, 2007, The Australian


TWO men who set up their own sovereign state in a Queensland suburb and made up their own currency to pay bills have been ordered by a court to stop operating as a bank. In the Federal Court in Brisbane, Donald James Cameron and Darryl John Wheeley, who operate from the southside suburb of Moorooka, were ordered to stop operating their unauthorised financial business - the Federal State Bank of Australia - as a bank after an application made by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).

Evidence to the court said the men made fake currency and cheques valued at more than $500,000 and used it to pay bills including rent, mortgage repayments, phone bills and legal fees. The currency was created under the authority of their own so-called Independent Sovereign State of Australia, of which Mr Cameron is the self-styled attorney-general and chief justice. He also calls himself the archbishop of the Church of Love and Peace.

The pair also set up their own parliament at Kalbar, west of Ipswich. Presented to court were affidavits from small business owners who had received the fake currency and cheques and had been turned away from banks in Queensland, Perth and Sydney when trying to cash them.

Their debts remain unpaid. Justice Susan Keifel ordered Mr Cameron and Mr Wheeley to desist from printing the money, conducting banking business from their "sovereign state", or using the word "bank" in advertising any services they could provide the public. Mr Cameron said he would appeal the decision.

He said the organisation was a religious state coexisting with the other governments of the Commonwealth of Australia. "I am very confident that the full court will in fact set aside the order made," Mr Cameron said. He said the payments were legal because they were made under contract law. "Once they accept the currency, which they did, and it was deposited in the bank account ... that is a binding contract under contract law," he said. Mr Wheeley was an independent candidate in the 2001 Queensland state election for the seat of Yeerongpilly, scoring just over 700 votes.




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