- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2010

Muslim moderates

“I proudly present today’s post from the official blog of the Islamic Forum of Europe, the ‘moderates’ who control the East London Mosque. The mosque has received at least 10 million of public money - some of it under government funds designed to ‘prevent violent extremism.’ This post, on January 1, 2009, is by Abu Umar.

” ‘Let us be clear, like the majority [of] people in Gaza, Hamas=Gaza and Gaza=Hamas … Hamas represents the only remaining resistance. … To simply label Hamas as just “terrorists” is oversimplification. … If the Palestinians had fighter jets, tanks and the latest US missiles do we think there would be “suicide bombings?” Such attacks … are the actions of people who are desperate and have no other means of fighting back.’

“This post appeared on the very same day as the East London Mosque hosted a video talk by Anwar al-Awlaki, the man described by the US government as spiritual leader of the 9/11 hijackers. This talk was advertised with a picture of Manhattan under bombardment.

“Another triumph for preventing violent extremism, then!

- Andrew Gilligan, writing on “Islamist Blogpost of the Day 4: Suicide bombings are not terrorism,” on March 8 at the London Telegraph

Hollywood Christians

“Beneath the superficial glitz of Tinseltown, a lot of 21st-century Hollywoodians are spiritually needy. These days a collective noun to describe a group of the local thespians is a moan of actors. More of them are unemployed than ever before. Even those fortunate enough to be working are mostly on the minimum Screen Actors Guild wage rates. … The mounting uncertainty of such pressures in the world of movies and mammon is one explanation for the quietly growing interest in the values and virtues of religious faith. …

“I was asked to speak for 30 minutes with a theological exegesis of a biblical text, ending in a personal challenge to the congregation. So I focused on Psalm 130, which is all about waiting for God in life’s depths, eventually climbing out of them by prayer, patience, forgiveness, and redemption.

“Like many spiritual subjects, such themes are hard to illustrate visually. But I was rescued from this difficulty by the arrival of the movie world cavalry in the form of Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, and all the other stars and makers of ‘Invictus.’ For its portrayal of Nelson Mandela’s patient incarceration for 27 years on Robben Island, his forgiveness of the apartheid system, and the reconciliation and redemption of his people could not be a better modern on-screen example of the Psalmist’s rescue from the depths from whence he cries out in the opening verse of Psalm 130. Ecclesia got the point. To paraphrase the famous hymn: Hollywood moves in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform.”

- Jonathan Aitken, writing on “Forgiveness in Hollywood,” in the March issue of the American Spectator

Jewish musician

“Almost from the beginning of his career Bob Dylan ne Zimmerman has had an odd, intense, divisive, often mysterious, relationship with Jews and Judaism. For some Jews (and Christians too) he has become a virtually messianic figure. In his new book, ‘Bob Dylan: Prophet, Mystic, Poet,’ Seth Rogovoy portrays him as a kind of biblical prophet on the order of Isaiah or Jeremiah. …

“The flash and filigree of ‘Highway 61 Revisited’; the ‘thin wild mercury’ sound (as Dylan once described it) of ‘Blonde on Blonde.’ I still believe this was his moment of greatest transcendence culminating in the pure masterpiece, ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ In those first two albums, especially, one could place Dylan in a secular Jewish cultural/historical context: the largely Jewish ‘black humor’ movement whose genesis lay in the absurd horror of the Holocaust, from Lenny Bruce to Joseph Heller and Norman Mailer to Philip Roth.”

- Ron Rosenbaum, writing on “Bob Dylan: Messiah or Escape Artist?” in the Spring issue of the Jewish Review of Books

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