Two Books

History is best when briefest, so forgive me for omission of a multitude of finer points in pursuit of essence?   Yes, I know the Devil is in the detail, and the Devil has a fairly prominent role in what follows.  Nonetheless….

A Book:Old Bible

The Bible is the result of a collection of manuscripts, Hebrew and Greek, which became an entity about a thousand years after the life of Christ.  It has since evolved and suffered the rigours of translation a few times.   It is the book that props up the table leg of Christian belief, but very few of its followers, even the most devout, could quote it word for word.

Another Book:

imagesThe Quran tabulates the teachings of the prophet Mohammed (and forgive my failure to bless his name when I mention him) as they were handed down to him by the angel Gabrielle – a bit like Moses and the Commandments, if you like.  The work was begun around 610 AD and formalised around 644 AD, twelve years after the prophet’s death.  It has altered remarkably little since – if at all – and good Moslem children learn it by rote, word for word.

Two books.  The one an archive of documents which, although by no means exclusively, forms the basis of Western morality; the other the masterwork of a single author who, if we are to believe his own account, acted as ghost writer for an angel.

Nothing wrong there.  Two ancient tomes, both alike in dignity, but with very different impact upon their readers.  The ‘Christian’ world of the West has diversified, experimented and generally subsumed the original pearls of Biblical faith as parts of a recognised standard of behaviour we might once have classified as ‘God-fearing’.  The faith is old; the code remains.

The Islamic world, by contrast, is as youthful and fresh as ever, and has moved not one inch.   In western terms, because they determine political thinking, the teachings of the Quran are corrosive and dangerous, and the inescapable fact that Muslims should have imbibed the book in its totality by the time they reach their grown-up years makes compromise with Western society extremely difficult.

It seems well-nigh impossible to find a neutral translation from the Arabic where the Quran is concerned, but certain quotations are undeniable.   These concern Moslem treatment of women:

“Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please.” Quran 2:223

“Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other……. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.”   Quran 4:34

“Call in two male witnesses from among you, but if two men cannot be found, then one man and two women whom you judge fit to act as witnesses…” Quran 2:282

“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, their brothers’ sons, their sisters’ sons, their women, that which their right hands possess, or those male attendants having no physical desire, or children who are not yet aware of the private aspects of women. And let them not stamp their feet to make known what they conceal of their adornment…” Q 24:31.

It requires only a very brief adventure into these texts to gain an understanding of the separation from our society that immigrants from the Moslem world must feel.  It makes the assaults upon German and Swiss women by drunken North African Moslem immigrants no more forgivable but somewhat more understandable if they have been raised to believe women are their ‘fields’: ‘go, then, into your fields whence you please’ can, after all, almost be read as an incitement to rape.  Q.24:31 might have been the text that led an Imam to blame the assaulted women for the crimes on the grounds that they were ‘dressed provocatively’.

My point is this; and I make it without shame.  Population drift has been a fact of history – it nearly always follows wealth from East to West, and it invariably re-shapes whatever it touches to some subtle degree.  But the touch of Islam, at least where it concerns the rights of women, will be anything but subtle.  Devout Islamic migrants cannot conform to our moral code without deliberately flouting religious laws they have learnt to obey to the letter since childhood.   The best they can hope to achieve is a necessary cohabitation with ‘the infidel’.  Whether we are prepared to accept such a dilemma, or whether we are ready to do what must ultimately be essential to prevent it, are vital matters for debate.  It is an issue that affects the USA as much as Europe because in these small-world days migration no longer takes more than the briefest tea break upon the shores of Galway.

In 2015 the borders of Europe were crossed by more than a million migrants from south and east of the Mediterranean, a figure likely to redouble next year.  As climate change bites, this trend is likely to continue.  It threatens the European Union and has already called the Schengen open border agreement into question.

I will inevitably be branded, by those who must have labels, ‘racist’ for this.  I am not.  Nor am I ‘religionist’.  These terms are tools obdurate and unyielding proponents of Islam use to stifle argument.  I have had many Moslem acquaintances who are kind, gentle, and very clever people.  Our greedy little empires need them.  But almost all have made ‘the jump’ and become ‘Friday Moslems’, very, very few manage to balance their participation in our society with devout adherence to their faith.  The sheer numbers, I fear, must overwhelm them as well as us.

burqa

This is a call, I think, to women everywhere to protect and assert those rights they have fought so hard and so long to achieve.   In similar measure the Quran’s position on homosexuality should be challenged.   We are tolerant, but there must be limits.   Do we really want the burqa to ‘veil’ women from public view?  Do we accept a controlling male society that keeps its women indoors and out of sight, or do we insist these attitudes must be changed?

There is much in Islam that is good.  Mohammed’s achievement in unifying religious belief among the pagan Arabs was heroic, but rigid adherence to rules he laid down almost 1400 years ago has the potential to set civilisation back several centuries.  We should all be aware of the direction in which we are being led.

 

 

Into the Sunset

As months go, September went.  And October came – momentously.  Two things, two life-altering things, have happened in October.

Firstly, and quite devastatingly, I finally lost sight of my feet.  Aged BloggerLet me explain this.  When you become older in a comfortably furnished sort of way as have I, you can no longer actually reach your feet, so observing their presence becomes important.  You need to know they are still there, for a start, and knowing, be able to place them accurately.  You don’t want to be forced into reactive mode, as for example, in falling down stairs, reflecting whilst flying towards an inevitably bumpy landing that you must have missed the tread.

The bathroom scales surrendered long since: instead of recording my weight they offer a short letter of resignation, yet I still use them as a matter of ceremony, and after many reassuring years throughout which, by perching on them and leaning my head forward, I could always see my toes peeking cheekily out at me from beyond the hill, last week they (my toes) finally vanished.  The tip of my big toe has set behind the mountain.  And now darkness comes.

It is not weight gain that is the problem, my kind friend tells me, but rather an absence of weight loss.  With the burden of advancing years the foothills have become one with the central massif and the whole range has moved south.  It is the same principle as that by which Mount Everest gains in height by as much as a meter a year – though on a reduced, more personal scale, of course.

In practical terms there are advantages:  after a quarter of a century of constant trouser-hoisting my pants now stay up.  My waistline is moving north, to a point where it will eventually meet my neck.  This, my friend says, is nature’s way of helping by putting things in easier reach.  In future years I may look forward to using my trouser pockets as panniers for my daily batch of pills, for example; or to disguise a necessary search for an irritating bit of navel fluff.  Not that I need attach any importance to my mode of dress these days.

Not now that I have retired.

Oh yes, that was the second thing, wasn’t it?  I forgot to mention it.  I’ve retired.  No more teaching sessions, no recalcitrant teenagers or over-anxious parents cluttering the horizon.  The horizon, in fact, is conspicuously bare.

That’s it!   I have finally, definitively, given up the day job.  I am a full-time pensioner with nothing to do but write.  When I look in my diary I see acres of white space, when I look at my doctor’s expression I see acres of quiet resignation:  nothing can surprise him now.  There is no symptom I can offer which does not attract the one diagnosis.

“I’ve got this ache in my back.”zimmer

“How old are you?”

“My elbow hurts.”

“Tennis elbow.  It’s very common among men your age.”

“My finger’s falling off.”

“You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

I am getting wishes, I am even getting cards!  Happy retirement!  What does that mean?

My well-wishers deliver their sentiment with sad eyes and a sort of fond, distant expression reminiscent of mothers and friends on the quayside, waving wistful goodbyes to their nearest and dearest as they sail off towards a distant, final destination; calm seas lapping at the bow, a golden sunset, a skyline littered with icebergs.

Overnight I have transformed brutally from a sentient, perhaps, dare I say, sagacious elder counselor to an obstinate, obviously incapacitated old fart.  My default setting is now officially ‘incapable’.  I have to be ‘cared for’.   I find myself referred to in the third person:

“Is he alright?”

“Does he need a chair?”

What?!!

I am also inescapably ‘there’.   My wife is being extremely democratic.  Every time she trips over me she accepts the blame:

“I’m so sorry!”  (Look of intense concern)  “Did I hurt your foot?”

“My foot?  Oh, so that’s where I left it…”

Her eyes are filled with sympathy as she recalls the years when I bought shoes with laces and climbed hills without assistance, when she still bought underwear for me without the word ‘surgical’ on the packet.  Those two years of advantage she has over me in terms of age have become vital in her calculations to the first wheelchair and the last box.

I’m going to be buried under a tree, by the way; I am quite decided upon that, and I have told my wife exactly what I want done.  She asked if she has to wait until I am dead.