Beliefnet
City of Brass

The Belief-o-Matic quiz here at Beliefnet is a really interesting resource that I think deserves some attention. I took the quiz, as did several others at Talk Islam (muslims and non-muslims alike), and we are discussing the results from the perspective of comparative religion. I think that the evidence supports the Abrahamic contention that Islam and Judaism are much closer, especially in terms of belief about the nature of God. This ties into the earlier discussion about the term Judeo-Christian, which in my opinion tends only to be used by Christians anyway, usually when trying to co-opt Judaism’s heritage for some transient polemical aim.

Here are my results:

1. Sikhism (100%)
2. Reform Judaism (96%)
3. Islam (96%)
4. Orthodox Judaism (96%)
5. Baha’i Faith (88%)
6. Jainism (66%)
7. Liberal Quakers (62%)
8. Unitarian Universalism (57%)
9. Hinduism (50%)
10. Liberal Christian Protestants (48%)
11. Mormons (45%)
13. Eastern Orthodox (37%)
14. Roman Catholic (37%)
15. Mahayana Buddhism (36%)
16. Jehovah’s Witness (35%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (34%)
19. Conservative Christian/Protestant (31%)
20. Secular Humanism (28%)
21. Scientology (28%)
23. Nontheist (21%)
26. Taoism (11%)

I find my 100% score for SIkhism fascinating. I tried to avoid marking the social issues (homosexuality, pacifism, etc) as important, in general, because I felt those were personal interpretation and not doctrinal. That may patrially explain it, but I don’t know enough about Sikhism to be sure. Still, the tight grouping of Islam and Judaism is readily apparent, with the various Christian faiths ranking much lower (and those, interestingly, with Buddhisim mixed in).

Incendiary Dutch politician Geert Wilders will be brought to trial for comparing Islam to Nazism:

Geert Wilders made headlines in March 2008 for his short-film Fitna, which juxtaposed shots of the 9/11 attacks on the US with quotations from the Quran, the text Muslims believe to be divinely revealed.

In 2007 he had called for a ban on the Quran and compared Islam to Nazism.

On Wednesday, Amsterdam’s appeals court ordered his prosecution,
overruling the public prosecutor who had previously decided against a
criminal trial.

A
summary of the court’s decision read: “The court considers this so
insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute
Wilders.

“The court also considers appropriate criminal prosecution for
insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and
Nazism made by Wilders.”

I’m no fan of Wilders but this is indeed an affront against free speech. It should be noted though that the West’s own tradition of free speech is a recent invention, and almost entirely an American one. Europe has never been a bastion of free speech, with Holocaust denial laws (see the case of David Irving), bans on hijab, and opposition to mosque construction are just a few prominent examples of the double standard when it comes to “protected” speech for Jews and Christians, but not for muslims. 

Personally, I would prefer to see all restrictions speech dropped – the best answer to bad speech is more speech, not less. As an American, we can criticize by comparison, but there is nothing profoundly or inherently anti-Western about silencing Wilders. Calling it dhimmitude is an excercise in denial; when the same self-styled defenders of Western ideals call for abolition of all speech laws in Europe, then we can take them seriously.

I am a huge fan of the China Rises blog written by Tim Johnson, Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Johnson has a great catch about how Chinese censors reacted to the following paragraph in Obama’s speech:

“Recall that earlier generations faced down communism and fascism not
just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring
convictions. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit
and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of
history but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench
your fist.”

There’s a YouTube clip of Chinese coverage that shows the censors in action. Reuters also has a report on the censorship.

trpar2368102.jpgHaving just returned from my trip to Kenya, I saw firsthand how Obama’s Kenyan roots are a matter of national pride there. Obama’s face graced the papers almost every other day, and our taxi driver proudly told us he was of the Luo tribe and came from the village adjacent to Obama’s ancestral hamlet. Hearing him talk about how Obama inspired him was a moment of genuine patriotic pride for me – people worldwide are looking at America and saying, truly, it is the land of opportunity – and they are inspired, not to go there, but to bring America home and change their own nations by our example. Consider the opinion of students in Nairobi:

Like many young Kenyans, they said they identify more with Obama
than with their own political elders, whom they hoped Obama would shake
up by example.

“His election has already offered a great challenge to leaders here, through his values,” said Maranga, 27.

In particular, students said they hoped Obama would shame politicians into rising above tribalism.

“When people speak of Obama, we don’t say he’s Luo Obama,” said Ogega,
27, referring to Obama’s Kenyan ethnic group. “We say he’s Kenyan. We
hope he will help us see each other as Kenyans instead of certain
tribes.”

The “Obama fever” isn’t limited to Nairobi, either:

In the lakeside town of Kisumu in western
Kenya, the birthplace of President Obama’s father Barack Hussein Obama
Senior, a three-day “Obama Speaking” competition reached a climax with
youth who took part in the competition declaring the incoming US
president “Obama Tosha” – Kiswahili for “Obama Only.”

Never
before has the US presidential election been the subject of intense
interest in the East Africa nation, which Obama regularly visited
before he became an Illinois senator in 2004.

Kenyan
television stations interrupted normal programming to focus on history
in the making, as the man billed by Kenyans as one of their own reached
the climax of long and tortuous journey to the most coveted perch in
global politics.

Traders in Nairobi lined up Obama
memorabilia, while entertainment spots have lined up events to
celebrate the elevation of the first black man to the highest office in
the US.

Here’s another report in the Kenya Standard:

In Kogelo, villagers and visitors from all walks of life thronged the Kogelo Primary School grounds and danced the night away.

Others had their eyes glued to a giant TV screen mounted by Kenya’s premier television station, KTN.

The screen brought home images of ‘their son’s’ big day, thousands of miles away at Washington DC.

The compound bustled with activity all day, but suddenly went quiet as images of Obama being sworn-in as President rolled on the screen at dusk.

“Ling’uru Obama osechako wuoyo” (Be quiet, Obama is already talking), a male voice boomed from a loud speaker.

Photo caption: Kenyans gather to celebrate the inauguration of US president Barack
Obama on January 20, 2009 in Kisumu. Excitement continues to mount in
Kisumu the headquarter of Kenya’s Western province as the “Son of
Kenya,” a term increasingly used to refer to Obama due to his Kenyan
father, as Obama is about to be sworn in 44th US president and the
first black one. In his inaugural address, Obama said : “we have chosen
hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,”. AFP
PHOTO/ SIMON MAINA

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