We look back – perhaps forward – to the counterculture of the 1960s to try to understand optimism, or possibility, or hope. The abolition of the future over the course of the decades between then and now creates a clean, blank break, an insurmountable barrier in the collective (un)consciousness, that renders many of the ideas for radically new, collective styles of living, doing and being incomprehensible to us, the generations born after the ‘end of history’. The impossibility, to our 21st century minds, of alternative modes of social reproduction, for example, is the result, and process, of what cultural theorist Mark Fisher (1968-2017) called capitalist realism – the doctrine we are all subjected to which claims that the way things are is the only way that they can be, and that any attempt to do anything else is doomed to failure. There Is No Alternative.
By Rabbi Binyamin Sheldrake, of the Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue, Norwich
In many ways we could be forgiven for feeling that the world is in a constant state of flux right now — not just with the pandemic and how that has deeply affected us all, but also in terms of our economy, politics and, in a lesser-known arena possibly, the religious world too. While Messianic Judaism is not a direct by-product of the recent turbulence in the world today, the interest shown in it most certainly is. During the lockdown, the huge numbers of texts, calls and emails we received bore testimony to the exponential growth in interest in this modern (and not so modern) form of Judaism. Some fourteen years ago now, Time Magazine ran an article about an emerging idea that they suggested would go on to fundamentally change the world: that Yeshua was a Jew and nothing else.
The longest period I spent completely alone during this pandemic was one week. I spent the week reading the increasingly distressing news on my phone, desperately wanting to do something, to be a small part of some collective action against the tightening authoritarian grip of the Tory government. Instead, I sat alone in my rented room, waiting, worrying and reading.
A few years ago, a friend bought me The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. When I picked up the book, I drew no connecting line between these 4th Century monks sitting in their cells in the Egyptian desert, waiting for the world to end, and myself, sitting, in the 21st Century, in my room in South East London. Perhaps with good reason; these monks spent decades in near or complete isolation, barely eating, sleeping or drinking – I spent a week scrolling on my phone and eating takeaway pizzas. But eventually I did begin to ask a question that connected my experience with theirs: What am I doing in here by myself, when terrible things are happening to us out there?
Mosques across Norwich have been working hard in recent years to develop understanding of the Islamic faith and culture, and to improve community relations. Starting with the establishment of the Ihsan Mosque near Chapelfield Gardens in 1977, there are also mosques in Dereham Road, Rose Lane and Aylsham Road, and a community centre in Sandy Lane. Not only is the local Muslim community small but it is geographically isolated from larger communities in Birmingham, London and Yorkshire.
by Ella Wade-Jones
On 12th December India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) into law. The series of protests that have erupted and brutal crackdown that has ensued has thrown the country into a state of flux. The highly controversial Citizen (Amendent) Act seeks to fundamentally amend the definition of illegal immigrants in India. Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Buddhist immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. Muslims are not included on the list.
Part 2 of 2 – Part 1: Fertility as a Feminist Issue at WOW Festival
In the second part of my WOW Festival 2018 coverage, I’m focussing on the panel, ‘We Stand Together: Muslim and Jewish Women Speak Out’. During this event, the women speaking came from the organisation Nisa-Nashim (‘women’ in Hebrew and Arabic). Joining co-chairs Julie Siddiqi and Laura Marks, were Judith and Aqueela. Although I’m not religious, I was interested in the discussion because I think it’s important for people from different backgrounds to come together, and because I am concerned about the reports of rising hate crimes against both groups.
by Jonathan Lee
Last week President Trump, with a push of his tiny thumb, attacked Palestinian leadership via Twitter and threatened to cut all US funding to Palestinian recipients. His angry tweets were in response to unrest across the occupied territories following his December recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, “that the Jewish people established in ancient times”. Despite the fact this came from Donald Trump, he does pose an interesting point. How accurate is this claim? How far back do the State of Israel’s ties to the land really go?
by Josephine Moysey
From November 27th to 30th, 2017, Pope Francis visited Myanmar, the country I’ve called home for the last three years. There was much speculation before he arrived: would he say the word “Rohingya” or not? It’s not as simple decision as it might initially seem. Within Myanmar, the term “Rohingya” is perceived as somewhat inflammatory; the Rohingya themselves are seen as being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many refer to them as “Bengali”. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refers to them as “the Muslim community in Rakhine State”. A common opinion heard and shared among people within the Burmese Buddhist community is one of condemnation of the Pontiff, though this is not the official line. They have accused him of only supporting Muslims and not understanding or respecting the Buddhist community here. They say that even his very presence at this time shows that he is a Muslim sympathiser.
On the other hand, human rights groups urged the Pope to use the term “Rohingya”. They claimed the Pope needed to validate this identity and use the term as a show of support. Ultimately, Pope Francis did not use the term “Rohingya” whilst he was here. What was his reasoning for this?
Content warning: genocide, ethnic cleansing, sexual assault.
Buddhism is often perceived as a religion and philosophy of peace, its proponents kind and gentle souls, epitomised by the charismatic and jovial Dalai Lama. Yet in recent years, stories have broken out regarding the behaviour of Buddhists. A minority within tarnishing the majority it might remain, but the actions of the Myanmar military and the feelings of the population against the Rohingya have cast a shadow across Buddhism.
by Zoe Harding
Content warning: article mentions terrorism, (anti) abortion, homophobia, racism
So, the election was fun, right? Even if you didn’t vote Labour (and fair enough if you didn’t), watching Theresa May fall from an unassailable lead in the polls all the way to a humiliatingly hung Parliament, in a blizzard of vague soundbites, invasive and inadequate policies and flailing attempts to smear the opposition, was still rather viscerally satisfying in its own way. Early Friday morning saw a weird sense of relief from many who expected a Tory landslide.
Unfortunately, early Friday morning turned to mid-Friday morning, and then suddenly dove back into the bad old days, with the announcement that a desperate May government had decided to form a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to form a government.