all american : leave the negative baggage at home

Its a trifling matter, yet it also a profound issue.  Part is a deeper antagonism towards religious differences, which to a writer like Harold Bloom are essentially so far removed from its origins as to be meaningless. Much is in the spirit of Veblen’s assertion of invidious comparison that is endemic to consumer culture and a society with leisure time. A psychological necessity to maintain a pecking order.  Bloom has written about American Religion as a variant of faith that is kind of like an imitation of what they feel it should be. There is also a conflict here between what Bloom asserts, though debatable, about a concept of religion in America that is essentially gnostic yet runs on patterns that are distinctively normative. In any event, we are in the midst of a religious war of sorts, the George Bush faith based doctrine, like an ecclesiastical “new born” Monroe doctrine. There is also the issue of bourgeois values with all their inherent contradictions in opposition to an ethos of supplanted feudalism in many cases which not surprisingly exposes Western hypocrisy at the nexus between reason, common sense and emotional anxiety.

Simon Houpt: Executives of Lowe’s hardware stores in the U.S. certainly heard more than their fair share of gutter talk this week after they pulled their ads from All-American Muslim, a reality show on TLC about five families in the Dearborn, Mich., area and their struggles with mainstream society. After Lowe’s said it would drop its sponsorship in response to a letter-writing campaign by the Florida Family Association, the retailer was both pilloried and hailed. Then, its problems magnified as xenophobic comments piled up on its Facebook page and it didn’t delete them. Meanwhile, other advertisers stepped forward and offered to buy whatever inventory Lowe’s dropped. Last we checked, that made the score: Capitalism, 1; Censorship, 0….

Read More: ---I’m referring to the lighting-fast organizing that took place once word got out that Lowe’s had pulled its ads from All-American Muslim, pressured by the Florida Family Association who were disappointed that the show didn’t offer enough airtime to Muslim extremists (That’s true by the way. You can’t make this stuff up). The hashtag #loweshatesmuslims lit up the Twitter-sphere, thousands of people threatened to boycott, mainstream television channels started reporting on the story, star power in the form of Perez Hilton and Russell Simmons jumped on board. Lots of other people have weighed in on the bigotry at play here. I’d like to comment on a somewhat different dynamic: the Americanization of the Muslim community, especially the immigrant segment. A community that not long ago wanted only the comfort and confinement of its own bubble is learning the great American art of building bridges.---

…We know one organization that might like to buy ads if they become available: al-Qaeda. Now, it’s true, we’re not exactly the, um, target market (heathen rimshot!), but it seems pretty clear to us that when Osama bin Laden was killed last May, all hopes for his terrorist organization undergoing a brand refresh were also shot through the heart. Or so we thought! Now comes word that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is asking followers to use the name Ansar al-Sharia because it doesn’t have the “negative baggage” of the original. We’d love to know which cautionary case studies they’re using as guides. New Coke? They probably heard it sparked a bloodbath in the C-suite and got all excited. Read More:

Read More: what do you attribute the fact that you've just spoken of, Harold, that there are a billion and a half Moslems in the world and a billion and a half Christians and only fourteen million Jews, how do you explain the enormous appeal of these religions? I said: Well on the one hand, in both Islam and Christianity, you're getting a great deal in exchange for very little. All you have to do in Christianity is say, "I accept that Jesus of Nazareth was also Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the anointed one or Messiah," and as a result you have life eternal. And all you have to do in Islam, as they say, which is what it means, is submit just to the statement that Mohammed, who is certainly not divine and doesn't pretend to be divine is nevertheless the seal of the prophets, the final kind of a prophet and all you have to do is submit to the will of Allah, and in return you get Paradise. And of course there's also the fact, as I said on Charlie Rose, that Christianity triumphed not just because of that but because Constantine the Great looked over what was available to him, including Mithraism and so on, and said, "The right way to hold the Empire together, the right state religion is Christianity." So he swung the sword of Constantine, and out went all the heretical versions of Christianity also, including the Gnostics and we got the Church, the Roman Catholic Church indeed. And then Mohammed, as the Koran makes clear, and all the texts after it—Mohammed is definitely a man of war and kept defeating the Arabian Jews and he defeated the various Arabian pagans, and after his death his Califs went on and on and on magnificently (ah yes, beautiful wife) magnificently went on conquering. So both Islam and Christianity triumphed by the sword, and of course then started engaging with one another—in the Crusades, in Spain, in North Africa, and at the moment, whether we like it or not, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and God knows where next.---


The Florida Family Association, which called the show “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values,” has been encouraging supporters to email retailers whose commercials have aired during the show. The group claimed it has not seen this strong a response to any other issue in its 23 years of existence….Read More:

…HB: Yahweh?

LQ: . . . God?

HB: I don’t like him. I repeat I wish he would go away. But somehow he doesn’t. I don’t think I have any nostalgia for him. I wouldn’t dream of praying to him, but then I’m an Emersonian, and Emerson in “Self-Reliance” says quite wonderfully, “As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect.” Now Christianity has creeds; Judaism doesn’t. Islam has creeds; Judaism doesn’t. There are now one and a half billion so-called Christians in the world and one and a half billion so-called Moslems in the world—those who have submitted: which is what it means, Islam means “submission.” There are perhaps fourteen million Jews still left, so obviously it’s a thousand to one. The fight got settled a long time ago, but on the other hand there are even more Hindus. Nobody knows how many people there are in India—they don’t practice birth control there, unlike the Chinese who so rigorously try to keep their population from getting completely out of hand; there may well be more Indians now than there are Chinese—in any case, if you add up all the Indians, excluding the Pakistanis or the Moslem Kashmiris, if you add up all the Hindus and other modes of religion in India which are not Moslem or Christian, and you add in all the Taoists, Buddhists, and Confuciusts, not only of China but of the rest of Asia, and the Buddhists and Shintoists of Japan, there are more non . . . what are we to call them? Ultimately at the moment it seems to me that with great crusader Bush leading us there is a k

of religious war being fought between the Moslem world and the Christian world, just as there is obviously a religious war being fought between the state of Israel and the Moslem world, which is why Israel is sitting on top of that vast mound of atomic and hydrogen bombs in Dimona, but in the long run I suppose the religious future may well lie with the East.

LQ: Um hm. Would you think the word “disappointed” would be a fair characterization? Would you say that you are disappointed . . .

HB: . . .with Yahweh?

LQ: Yes.

HB: No. I wouldn’t have dreamed of trusting him in the first place. So what is there to be disappointed with? He is, he’s bad news, he has always been bad news. No, I’m not disappointed; I find him very fascinating, very interesting. As I say, he’s even more interesting than King Lear, and to some extent at least—well, Mark’s Jesus and Hamlet run almost neck and neck in interest. Each of them has incredible mood swings, as Sir Frank points out, following me in that part of his review. No I’m… [Pause.] Look, I’ve been teaching how to read for 51 years now. I’ve been writing and publishing criticism for 51 years. It seems to me that what I’ve written in this book is really just an extension of the book The Anxiety of Influence, which in its first form was written back in the summer of 1967 when I was 37, and actually contained a rather savage chapter on the Gospel of John, which I detached and later published separately, and now in revised form have put it into this book, so it’s a pretty direct line from one to the other. I was rather amused, though, to see my old student Jonathan Rosen, in the review that appeared in today’s Sunday Times Book Review, saying that: Well after all what difference does it make that Wallace Stevens strongly misread Shelley in order to produce characteristic Stevens, what matters is religious truth, and, you know, it is the truth or falsehood in regard to one another of, say, Christianity and Judaism or of Islam that matters. That may be Jonathan Rosen, but that isn’t me, and that isn’t in the book that he’s reviewing. Not that I’m ungrateful for his review, which you know certainly shows a warm heart, and reminds me of a wonderful pun I once—quoting from the Hebrew—of an almost Lewis Carrollian or Joyceyan dimension, that I threw into an outrageous public lecture here on the relation between the so-called two covenants or two testaments. I also liked the joke, which I’d seen before but hadn’t seen for a long time. It’s an old Yiddish remark, that the Christians stole our watch 2,000 years ago, and are still telling us what time it is. I like that. It’s almost as good as my favorite Yiddish proverb, as I translate it: “Sleep faster, we need the pillows.” Read More:

Tabath Southey: The common argument is that wearing these clothes isn’t a choice: Rather, women are socialized to dress a certain way. Some even risk their parents’ disapproval if they don’t: Brush your hair out of your eyes. Why don’t you put some lipstick on? Why don’t you stand up straight and put a belt on that?

For many girls, those phrases are the chorus of their youth. But I think most Canadians would resent the government imposing rules designed to counteract this socialization.

Rather, I believe most of us want everyone to take advantage of the incredible levels of freedom and opportunity Canadians have, in order that we might be in a position to make decisions about what we wear, choices based on that impossible-to-unravel accumulation of early cues and influences and, yes, religious beliefs that form our aesthetic choices and our identities. This seems preferable to a dress code. This week, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that women won’t be allowed to wear the niqab when taking their oath of Canadian citizenship. He made no pretense that it was an issue of establishing their identity….


Mr. Kenney feels that veils are fundamentally at odds with “Canada’s commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion.” Many Muslim women have told him so, he claimed. But surely neither Mr. Kenney nor an unidentified lobby of concerned Muslim women should be making wardrobe choices for adult women, for any occasion – because that is at odds with Canadian values. He’s the Minister of Immigration, not Anna Wintour. Veils are spooky and challenging to many people. You might feel cut off from a woman if you can’t see her face, and thus disadvantaged. I’m not sure why people feel they have a right to see a woman’s face any more than another part of her body. When my eyes meet the eyes of a veiled woman at my No Frills when her child is yelling about breakfast cereal, they speak volumes, as does her body posture, as quite often does she.

If there’s a barrier between a veiled woman and me, it’s on my side. It’s made of any preconceived notions I might have about why she’s wearing what she’s wearing, and what it says about her ambitions, education, self-esteem and status in her own household. Read More:

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