8 April, 2021

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Religions

We had a curious discussion about religions in our weekly staff meeting. S. said she would be taking a week off during Ramadan, which is coming up soon. I said that I thought it starts around the 21st. R. said maybe I was getting it mixed up with Easter - she would be going up north then for a couple of days for a family event. Someone said, "ah - Orthodox Easter". She said, yes, that although she is protestant, her husband's family are Orthodox. I protested that she isn't protestant, but Anglican*. R. gave a half nod and said that that with Palestinians, the denomination always depends on the various colonial powers that have passed through - Greek, European, British... I said, "but Jesus was Jewish". S. joked that she is a "protestant Muslim".

The staff asked what I am. I said that "I'm nothing, although I do have a baptismal certificate". They said, "well there you are..." I said, "No, though my parents always told me to say that I'm Anglican, we never went to church, and anyway I was never confirmed." R. said, "Yes that's true - it's like a Bar Mitzvah, and at the same age." S. said, anyway Ramadan begins around the 13th, and that's the same all over the world. I said, "no, that depends on the moon**." She said, anyway with Muslims, the festivals are simple - just twice a year. I said "Yes, that's very economical." R. said "No, it isn't economical at all! - it's even worse than the other religions - Ramadan upsets everything for a whole month!"

S. said she also wants to invite us all over for an Iftar meal one evening during Ramadan, which according to the prayer times, should be at 19:00. She recently separated from her husband, but lives in another house in the village. She wants to keep up the family Ramadan traditions, together with her son, so she will be fasting. For Muslims, as for Christians and Jews in our area, observance of religious festivals has little to do with actual belief, and everything to do with family traditions - even fasting all day for a month.

*On whether Anglicans are protestants, that's a whole discussion.
**Islam's festivals go according to a lunar calendar, and therefore move around the year (backwards by 10 days each year). The timings for the beginning and end of the festival depends on when the crescent moon is first sighted in a given area. Here, the date depends on when the moon is sighted over Mecca.

Links

England cricketers stand up for Moeen Ali after ISIS comment by Taslima Nasrin
"The Bangladesh-born author said: “If Moeen Ali were not stuck with cricket, he would have gone to Syria to join ISIS.” Nasreen initially defended her stand and said her tweet was sarcastic. But after severe backlash, she deleted the tweet."

When I was on Twitter, I used to follow her tweets. She has suffered greatly on account of her atheism (and feminism). She had to leave Bangladesh to India, for her safety - but hasn't had such an easy time there either (to say the least). I remember that many of her tweets were full of self-pity; while others, like the one mentioned above, are brazen and defiant. I have her book, "Lajjah" or Shame, though it's one of those books I have never managed to read.

Nasrin is not to be confused with another Bangledeshi woman writer, Tahmima Anam, who also lives abroad (in London). I read and liked her "A Golden Age", about the independence struggle in Bangladesh, and have "The Good Muslim" on my shelves, to read one day.

The Mithraism of Ancient Rome

In Rome’s museums I was fascinated by the way in which Romans incorporated into their culture beliefs from Egypt, the Middle East and Persia. Christianity was the one we think of today, but another important one was the cult of Mithras. Wikipedia has a very long article about him. He was originally a Persian or Indian god, associated with Zarathustra and probably with the Mitra of the Rig Veda. He was believed to have sprung from a rock and was usually worshiped in underground temples. The content of their rituals or beliefs is not very well known. However, during the fourth century the cult of Mithraism became prominent and spread across the Roman empire and signs of the cult have been found everywhere from North Africa to Northern Europe. Perhaps, if the adherents of Mithra had not been so cruelly persecuted by the Christians, we would still be under the sway of Mithraism today.

The mosques are the biggest noise makers, in this particular place ( sometimes it's the temples), blasting out their call to prayer, in a language no one here understands, now at 4:45 a.m. But sometimes I already sleep through it. So many centuries of reminding people, at all hours of the day and night, of their duties and responsibilities, and still there are beggars in the streets, corrupt governments, filth, either visible or unseen, wars, the destruction of the earth. Bas, bikafi, I'll go back to sleep.

The Mithraism of Ancient Rome

In Rome's museums I was fascinated by the way in which Romans incorporated into their culture beliefs from Egypt, the Middle East and Persia. Christianity was the one we think of today, but another important one was the cult of Mithras. Wikipedia has a very long article about him. He was originally a Persian or Indian god, associated with Zarathustra and probably with the Mitra of the Rig Veda. He was believed to have sprung from a rock and was usually worshiped in underground temples. The content of their rituals or beliefs is not very well known. However, during the fourth century the cult of Mithraism became prominent and spread across the Roman empire and signs of the cult have been found everywhere from North Africa to Northern Europe. Perhaps, if the adherents of Mithra had not been so cruelly persecuted by the Christians, we would still be under the sway of Mithraism today.