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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas to all!

What a delight it was to wake up this morning next to my beloved and realise that today, and in fact for the next two days, I do not have to go to work. I honestly do not know how I have found the energy to keep going these past few weeks. By the time I finished work yesterday around 4.45 pm I had worked for seven days in a row and was just about fit to drop. Normally I would have gone to the Christmas Eve service at our local church, and part of me wanted to, as both of us have been pulling away from the church in recent months, but somehow sleep just seemed so much more appealing. My body was crying out for it, and it got it in abundance, because I woke up refreshed and relaxed and ready to cook a scrumptious feast.

We did not exchange gifts this year, as to be honest there is not much that either of us really wanted. In my case as well I have been busy serving everyone else so that they can buy their own Christmas gifts and my partner just needed a good long rest. I suspect that is the reason actually why I have been working so hard, so that he could have the house to himself and the time off that he needs. My time will come when I visit Lundy in February no doubt.

I had been hoping that I may be able to extend the trip from 7 to 11 nights, but that is not to be. Prior commitments prevent me from extending the trip after 15th February when I am scheduled to return, and other bookings prevent me from going earlier.
I have 2 weeks to look forward to in the summer anyway - I have booked to go back to the island I love on my birthday, June 21st, which also happens of course to be the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. Now that we have passed the shortest day of the year and the days are slowly beginning to lengthen, I do feel a lot better. That to me is what this time of year is really much more about than celebrating the birth of Christ - welcoming back the light from the long, dark days of winter and that is what the Bible in all probability means when it says that he was born during one of the darkest times in the land, or words to that effect. It is talking much more in a spiritual sense.

The oven then shall be lit shortly to start preparing our Christmas lunch. Being both vegetarian and wheat free does present a unique set of challenges at this time of year, but I managed to find something suitable. We have a butternut squash and leek roast from Tesco with salsa sauce, which I shall cook with roast potatoes, carrots, roasted red onion, cauliflower cheese and wheat free sage and onion stuffing mix with lashings of roast onion gravy. We will save the Christmas pudding (wheat free as well of course) with custard for later on this afternoon with a glass of Baileys while we sit down to watch Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Happy Christmas then to all who read this and make sure it's a good one for you too!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

I have been on local radio!

Later on today, in about an hour in fact, I am going out to lunch with the rest of the team from the newsletter that I edit. The Chairman and his wife are keen gardeners, and so I bought them a gardeners radio set for Christmas. This morning I was wrapping it up when I realised it did not have batteries, so I grabbed some from somewhere in the house and switched the radio on to see if they worked. BBC Southern Counties came on the air, and it reminded me to listen to it in the car on my way to the gym.

As I left the house and drove past the National Trust centre, they said that they would like people who had done the Alpha course to ring in with their experiences, so my ears immediately pricked up, since I have written a whole chapter on my less than happy experiences of it in my book. There is also an article entitled Alpha and Probably Omega (the same as the chapter heading) on my website. Anyway, when I got to the Sports Centre car park and rang them up they put me on the air.

It was obviously divine providence since the batteries on my mobile phone gave out as soon as I put the phone down. I didn't have time to say much, as I was only live for about 2 minutes, but I did the important bit - mentioning the book, and so that is what matters!

Saturday, 1 December 2007

God Delusion to be banned in Turkey?

I see from the Independent that Richard Dawkins' Turkish publisher Kuzey Publications is being hauled over the coals by religious fundamentalists. It seems that they are being threatened with legal action by prosecutors who claim that their publication of Dawkins' best selling work The God Delusion insults believers. I don't know they are so upset about myself, as the Turkish translation has apparently only sold 6000 copies since publication.

Erol Karaaslan, the founder Kuzey Publications could though face between six months and twelve months in jail if found guilty. Prosecutors are still debating over to press charges.

It is not the first time that Dawkins' has come against such problems in Turkey, since it seems that Islamic fundamentalists also tried to ban his earlier work The Selfish Gene.

I don't understand the furore personally or even why it was deemed necessary to publish in this territory in the first place - the book discusses Christianity more than other religions, and Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country. It also then puzzles me as to exactly who has been offended. Having read the book myself, I don't recall it even mentioning Islam.

Neither is Dawkins the first author to face controversy. The article states that Nobel prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk and Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink were just two several dozens writers to be charged last year under a controversial law that makes it a crime to insult Turkishness, whatever that means. Pamuk was acquitted, but Dink – who was murdered earlier this year by a teenage ultra-nationalist - was found guilty.

What though does it mean to be Turkish, or for that matter, any other nationality? Does one have to be born in that country or have parents who were, or is it sufficient to have lived there for a certain number of years. If so, then how many? Is a child of Jamaican parents who emigrated to Britain in the 1950's any less British that I am - of course not, for in their hearts they still think of themselves as British, and that is what counts.

This also brings to mind an episode from my favourite science fiction series Babylon Five entitled Infection. It is I believe an episode from series two. It basically revolves around a machine on an uninhabited planet that seems hell bent on destroying everything in its path. When they ask what the machine actually wants it transpires that it was put in place to protect its former inhabitants, the Icarans from raiders by destroying anything that was not pure Icaran. The predictable result was of course the destruction of the entire race. Muslims and for that matter any other fundamentalist regime, should take note for if they do not pull up their own socks and start to behave in a more sensible manner by not being threatened by anything that does not agree with their own faith, they will ultimately share the same fate.

The word atheist is generally recognised in most societies as meaning one who does not believe in God. There is nothing wrong in this, as it is like anything else just one of many widely held beliefs. Being an atheist does not make one less moral or less of anything in fact, in fact when you look at the statistics the opposite is true. The more secular societies are nine times out of ten more tolerant and understanding of each other.

The word atheist has it seems only recently crept into the Turkish language, where it is regarded as a kind of insult. The Independent cites a survey of religious attitudes conducted in Turkey in 2006, which found that less than 2 percent of corespondents claimed not to believe in God. More recently polls showed that just 25 percent of Turks accept evolutionary theory.

On the one hand, while I am the first to espouse religious freedom, and in no way agree with the ridiculousness of this case, one has to ask why the book was published in this territory in the first place, when there seems to be such limited demand. Surely they must have known the controversy it would cause. The cynic or perhaps spiritual aspect of myself, wonders if this was the whole idea, since the only way to really shed light on these situations for them to be open to the light of public scrutiny so that they can be discussed by the world media and these regimes will realise and understand that their views are simply not those of a civilised society.

The treatment of women in Islamic countries has also been in the news in recent days. Firstly of course the ridiculous case in Sudan where a female teacher has been jailed for allowing the children in her case to name an innocent teddy bear as Mohamed. The British Government are I understand intervening to get her released, but in the meantime, some have called for a suspension of aid to that country. They are cutting off their noses then to spite their face.

The other case is that of a young recently married woman in Saudi Arabia, whose husband thankfully is standing by her. It seems that in Saudi Arabia with its extreme laws of sexual segregation, the only way that men and women can form any kind of relationship is for men to stand in the streets with their mobile phone numbers either on display as women walk past with their male chaperone's, or to literally throw them car windows. Somehow then prior to her marriage, this woman then formed a phone relationship with such a man.

After she was married he threatened to tell her husband unless she agreed to meet him, and so foolishly it seems she did. They were driving together when another car swung in front of them, hijacked their own car and drove them to an isolated place, where both her and her male companion were gang raped repeatedly by up to seven attackers. She tried to keep it from her husband and family, but the rapists (who had filmed the attack on their mobile phones) started to boast about what had happened and so the truth came out. Astonishingly the woman was sentenced to 90 lashes and then when she and fer family complained this was increased to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. The rapists in the meantime were sentenced to between 2 and 11 years apiece.

The world can no longer sit back and allow this kind of thing to happen, we have to send a strong signal to these countries that this behaviour is not acceptable.