Frank Gelli

Frank Gelli
I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.

The mainstream media at times likes to spin tales on the threat of 'Overtaking Islam', providing speculative statistics on how Europe will become overrun by the Muslims in a few decades' time. What will be will be, but somehow, a 'fear' of being overtaken by the other prevails in many modern societies. Historical figures such as Malcolm X reminded us that no one is inferior or superior in Islam, based on anything other than their deeds, but even amon Muslims, we see fear of the 'Other'. This article reminds us that this should not be the case. We are all equal in God's eyes and prejudice is something to leave behind, particularly if we consider ourselves religious; and the expectation of remaining separate from those that are different from ourselves is increasingly absurd in our modern, globalised nation -  Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views


 

If you don’t stop, I will turn Europe black!’ So did the late Muammar Qaddafi threaten while NATO was raining bombs on Libya. Same menace the Colonel had intimated in 2010 before the war. Five billion euros a year from the EU to stop African immigrants, he had demanded: ‘Else, Europe will be become black…it will change’.

Qaddafi was wrong, as well as implicitly racist. Because Europe is already black. (Well, in part.) Look at the population of European big cities, even the provinces, and this truth will jump out at you. The question is: if Europe gradually turns even more African-looking, should it matter? And to whom?

Qaddafi obviously thought it did - to Europeans. White skins and black skins do not go together, the defunct dictator assumed. Do I dare suggest he was displaying his own dark side? Because anti-black colour prejudice exists amongst Arabs, too. Consider a large Middle-East nation, Egypt. A minority of its people are Nubians. Remnants of an ancient, proud civilisation which graced ancient Egypt with quite a few Pharaohs. Today Nubians are a marginalised and discriminated minority, easily picked out by their ebony-black skin. In Cairo they often do the lowlier jobs. In my days there I knew a Nubian caretaker called Uthman. ‘No light-skinned Egyptian girl will marry me, I am too black’ he bemoaned. Maybe it was all in his mind, maybe not.

It is tricky: Anwar Sadat’s marked African features, denoting a Nubian origin, did not prevent him from becoming President of Egypt - with a wife of English extraction. Yet it is well-known how Sadat was embarrassed by his looks and tried to pretend he had no Nubian blood. Inferiority complex again – or maybe more?

(Come to think of it, most Saudi princes also display a distressingly light skin… A streak of racism?)

True, some Europeans dislike their continent being Africanised – although hardly anyone likes to admit it. But God’s Church cannot agree. At the end of St Matthew’s Gospel Christ commands his disciple: ‘Go and baptise all nations!’ (He did not say ‘white nations’, did he?) Indeed, just after the Resurrection among the first to be baptised was a black man, an Ethiopian eunuch, the Acts of the Apostles relate. Therefore skin-colour is theologically irrelevant.

Christian art bears witness to the inclusivity of the Church. Representations of the Magi coming to worship the child Jesus often show one of three Kings as black, as each stands for mankind’s major races. Rubens’ splendid ‘Adoration of the Magi’ is a case in point: one of the Kings looks unmistakeably like a Moor.

Apologists for slavery have sometimes cited Genesis 9:22-25. It spells a curse on one of Noah’s sons, Ham, the father of Canaan. Sometimes interpreted as the forefather of the black race: ‘A slave of slaves shall he be unto his brothers’. Naïve literalism apart, no single biblical verse could justify the inferiority of a large part of the human family. Biblical exegesis requires that difficult, troubling passages should be harmonised with clearer and more spiritual ones. Further, the Old Covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant established by Jesus Christ, whose will is manifested in the universal command quoted above. No branch of humanity can therefore be subordinated to any other.

Warning about ‘millions of Africans…ignorant and starving’ clamouring at the gates of Europe, Colonel Qaddafi gloated that ‘it will be like the old barbarian invasions…Europe will no longer be Europe’. (More racism, groan…) He also mentioned ‘new religions’ overwhelming Europe via the black immigrants. Don’t figure he meant Buddhism – no, it was Islam. Let us not pretend: many Westerners are scared stiff by the growing influence of Islam but the old tyrant mixed up race and religion. Not all Muslims are black. Bosnians, Albanians and Turks, for instance, are not. And they, like it or not, are in Europe already, no?

Ironically, it was a Tripoli-Rome accord between Qaddafi and Berlusconi that radically reduced the numbers of illegal immigrants reaching Italy from North Africa. The Italian Navy turned away boatloads of immigrants at sea. Forced back to to Libya, the smug Colonel was happy to push them back where they came from. Berlusconi however was later overthrown by an EU-sponsored coup d’etat while Qaddafi…you know his undignified end. From where he is now, I imagine the bad Ra’is watching with glee the immigrant flotillas heading once again for Europe. He is grinning away: ‘My posthumous revenge on accursed Europe!’ Guess he has a point.

What is to be done? I recall a Dominican preacher wishing Europeans should become a big, happy, ‘miscegenated’ melange of races, like Brazil. Then all would be kosher, or halal. Unfortunately skin colour amongst Brazilians gets paler and paler as you go up the social scale. Real blacks are at the bottom. Not quite a racial paradise.

Is this an intractable problem? The US has a black President but race riots are happening right now in Baltimore. 150 years after the Civil War the black-white racial divide still persists. Writer Gore Vidal observed that the proportion of whites in the American population gets inexorably lower and lower: ‘When I point that out in a speech’, he said, ‘I see white faces in the audience getting paler, while black faces start glowing.’

Ya Allah!

Here at Radical Views, Easter mainly means extra long weekends and and an excuse to load up on the chocolate, but we certainly appreciate that for many people, it has a strong religious significance. Who better than Reverand Frank Gelli, then, for authoring our Easter Sunday post with a twist. Frank appreciates the celebration that many people are participating in at this time of year while keeping an eagle eye on the electioneering that has been a precursor to this bank holiday and we share with you today his words of wisdom. As always remember to Like, Tweet and share this article  - Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views


JESUS OR JUDAS?

Cameron or Milliband? Clegg or Farage? Bennett or Sturgeon? In the comedy of the British elections these are much trumpeted, bogus alternatives. But the underlying eschatological, life-or-death contest that really matters the media won’t mention: Jesus or Judas?

Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, is the infamous one among the Twelve Apostles. He betrayed Jesus Christ to the Jewish leaders with a kiss, for thirty pieces of silver. Dante throws him into the nethermost circle of Hell, where a huge, bat-like Satan sunk in ice gnaws eternally at the miscreant's body. Still, the traitor’s deep motives are not easy to discern…

As the date of the UK General Election closes in on us the Conservative Party, fearful of losing out to Labour due to the harsh cuts they have made to public spending, are desperately proclaiming that they will "save" Britain from a suddenly hightened "threat" of non-violent extremism that has somehow cropped up at this convenient moment within the Muslim population. But does this campaign have any greater meaning than William Hague's embarrassing proposal (leading up to the unfortunate election of Tony Blair) to "save" the pound? Certainly, there are cowardly, Islamophobic individuals who attack Muslims, especially the more vulnerable women who dress in a specific manner.

However, since 9/11, curious and open-minded people from different religions and of no religion have come together to engage in public interfaith dialogue with the intention of doing their bit to foster peace, acceptance and understanding. Of course there are those who criticise interfaith dialogue too, but contrary to what the mainstream media and politicians like to tell us, religion, it seems, is no enemy.  Reverend Frank Gelli proposes that in reality, this is a clear-cut battle between good and evil, and here, he provides a sharp reminder of where that evil really is coming from. Enjoy Frank's article and remember to Like, Tweet and share. -Yamin Zakaria and the Team @ Radical Views 


‘Nice people talking to nice people about being nice’. In a rare outburst of veracity Archbishop Welby has damned feeble interfaith chat like that. A stronger brew is needed, he implied. I have a proposal. The Devil. Definitely not a nice guy. But a key interfaith figure OK. The Prince of Darkness would rescue religious dialogue from cosy, bland and boring banalities. The Devil is real, dangerous and real nasty.

The obligatory formula before any recitation of the Qur’an is: ‘I take refuge with God from the accursed Satan.’ A ritual stoning of the Devil also is an important part of the Haj, the Mecca pilgrimage. The Qur’an designates the Devil under two names, Iblis and Shaytan and his first, mega-evil deed is to provoke Adam and his wife to disobey God’s will and taste the forbidden fruit: ‘By deceit he brought about their fall’ says Surah 7. Although Muslim and Christian interpretations of that fatal event differ, Satan’s role is clear: he is God’s opponent and man’s eternal enemy.

‘Femicide’ – from Foemina, Latin for woman - concerns the direct, deliberate killing of women or girls. Here it means the illegal abortion of unborn females. Barbarous and wrong, surely? So a ban on sex-selective terminations is proposed. Chilling how other foeminae, the feminists, oppose it. Alice in Wonderland, topsy-turvy kind of world?

Aristotle speaks somewhere of barbarous cultures. His nasty example is that of folks who kill, roast and eat their own children. Liberal, ‘civilised’ democracies are not as bad as that. They do kill their unborn babies virtually on demand, however. Femicide is a new, sinister development. The British media tend to pin the guilt on immigrant parents, either on grounds of boy preference or lucre. They blab about daughters needing ‘more expensive dowries’. Actually for Muslims the dowry (Mahr in Arabic) is paid not by the woman to the man but by the man to the woman. So, there.

Abortion used to be a criminal offence or felony in Britain but in 1927 the law was watered down. Later David Steel, a Liberal MP, introduced the Abortion Act that in 1967 ‘liberalised’ the whole thing. Significantly, 40 years later the same fellow urged a ‘rethink’. Pity that in the interim more than 6.7 million unborn children have been ‘terminated’. I would not wish to be in Steel’s shoes on the dreadful Day of Judgment…

Does Clint Eastwood’s movie glorify war? Is it an ode to militarism? A repellent, barbarous message that shedding blood is good? Is the hero actually a villain?

American Sniper tells the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the lethal sharpshooter who, during his four tours of Iraq, notched up 160 kills. A record? Worry not. An anonymous Royal Marine sniper boasts 173 hits, mostly Taliban fighters, according to The Sun newspaper. Huh! These bloodthirsty Brits! You can always count on them to come up on top.

Actually, Kyle is not a particularly violent man. In an early scene, finding his girl in bed with another guy, he simply throws the culprit out - I can imagine more sanguine reactions. However, after watching on TV massive attacks on American marines in Beirut and the slaughter of 9/11, he volunteers into the SEALS and is sent to US-occupied Iraq. A country which had absolutely nothing to do with the abovementioned crimes. Some irony, eh?

Can you enlist evil to fight evil? Could Mafia gangsters assist in fighting terrorism? ‘Let me out and I will crush Islamic State’, Sicilian boss Toto ‘Shorty’ Riina has sworn from his cell. Makes your flesh creep. Preposterous and unacceptable. Still, for the hell of it, let me consider it.

The objections. First, the Mafia is not a unified organisation. Octopus-like, it has many far-reaching tentacles, but no single head. Rather, it has several. Shorty cannot command all the power he boasts. It is just a stratagem to get out of prison.

Forget fabled Caliph Harun al-Rashid of Baghdad. He of Thousand and One Nights fame. A real Khalifa is back – under the name of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a.k.a. Caliph Ibrahim. But is this resurrected Caliphate in the Arab heartland only a ‘desert mirage’, as The Times claimed? Or the harbinger of awesome things to come? Time will tell. Three critical concepts interest the priest: violence, heresy and utopia. Do they cast a shadow over the nascent Caliphate?

First, heresy. Tricky to determine, as Islam has no Pope-like figure or an ecumenical council to judge. Yet, words like bida’, unwarranted innovation; ghuluvv, exaggeration or excess; zandaqa, dualist or Manichean; ilhad, atheism, materialism; and finally kufr, unbelief – all historically denote forms of Islamic heresy, in some cases with dire penal outcomes.

Is the Caliphate bida’, wrong innovation? No way, as it goes back the four men who successively ruled the Islamic state directly after the Prophet’s death. There was an Ottoman Khalifa indeed right up to 1924.

Why do I hate the World Cup? For the same reasons Lenin did. The brain of the Bolshevik revolution liked listening to classical music like Beethoven’s but he gave it up. It interfered with his work. His mind had to focus on one single pursuit – the revolution. Everything was sacrificed to that. Hence music had to go.

The priest too, as radical Christian, is a revolutionary. He is and cannot not to be. For the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. A Kingdom which ‘suffers violence’ so that ‘men of violence take it by force’ (St Matthew, 11: 12). Heaven demands that Earth should submit and conform to its dictates. Admittedly it costs me nothing to forsake watching the Cup because I loathe football. It bores me to death. Why should I avidly gaze on morons in shorts kicking around a pig’s bladder? But this is not about taste – it is about the revolution.

Who is afraid of a rising Middle East Khilafa, the Arabic word for Caliphate? Lots. Muslims like Shia, Kurds, most Sufis, Alawis, sundry Arab secularists. And Arab Christians of course. All fearing their lives, women, sacred buildings and properties being treated as war loot. Western leaders too are shaking in their boots: good!

A nemesis is unfolding. A sort of retributive justice, maybe of divine origins. A paying back for the 2003 illegal, unjustified aggression on Iraq. Engineered by the two scoundrels, Bush and Blair. But the roots of evil reach far back. To WWI, the catastrophic, suicidal, mad all-European conflict so many fools are enthusiastically celebrating in Britain.

ISIS is the murderous Jihadist organisation that fights for a Caliphate in ‘the Levant’ – actually Sham, a term covering Iraq, Syria and other swathes of Arab land. The last Caliph, the Ottoman Sultan, ruled over them till 1917. The victorious Allies artificially invented the current Middle East borders – Iraq being at the time three different Ottoman provinces or vilayet. France and Britain arbitrarily created the countries they carved out from their conquests. (The Kurds later were ferociously bombed into submission by the British – chief artificer Bomber Harries, eventually of Dresden reputation.) Britain especially responsible for Israel, the ‘Jewish home’ in Palestine of Balfour Declaration infamy. The Allies shared the booty. Now ISIS and other Islamists are hitting back – a resurgent Khilafa in the making. Do you dig the nemesis?

Retribution, yes. It may well take the form of martyred Iraq breaking up into three parts, as my friend Dr Tim Furnish suggests. A Kurdish, US-friendly North, a Sunni Caliphate in the middle and a Shia state in the South. Well, they were originally three vilayet, weren’t they?

‘The Caliphate is a valid Islamic concept’, a Mufti of Bosnia once declared. Historically, he was right. Politically too, perhaps. Nonetheless there were at times two or three khalifa reigning in different areas of the Muslim world. True, many Caliphs were incompetent or worse but that cannot invalidate the idea, any more than Caligula or Nero could negate the Roman Empire. And if it is OK for former, pseudo-Christian nations to unite in something like the EU, why should be wrong for Muslim nations to combine in a Caliphate? What is sauce for the goose…

‘The EU was established consensually, while ISIS wants to force the Caliphate violently on unwilling folks’. Alas, Europe too after WWII was violently taken over by the apostles of democracy and human rights. Call it ‘liberation’ but it was by force of arms and national borders were adjusted accordingly. No one ever took a poll in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia and other countries asking the people whether they wanted to be ‘liberated’. The Axis had plenty of supporters. So the Jihadi guys, I suppose, could claim that they represent the true will, the soul of the Arab Umma, the community of believers. If only they weren’t so fond of slaughtering their prisoners…groan.

Yet, those most truly terrified of ISIS are the poor West and its degenerate representatives. Wholly natural. Their a priori dogmas demand a strict or effective emasculation of religion. Its real exclusion from public life, the economy, the market, the law & all the things that matter. With the Christian churches they have succeeded pretty well. Sunday morning religion or ‘thought for the day’ threaten no one. Islam is the harder nut to crack. That religion also has its happy, well-remunerated quislings, eager to pick up the crumbs of parliamentary power and ministerial posts, jobs in the media and the like. It is crusty chaps like the Jihadis who refuse to play the democratic, establishment game. They frighten to death Cameron, Hollande, Merkel, Obumble, all that depressing gang. Indeed, they should.

An extraordinary, anonymous piece posted on Facebook illustrates the gap between Zeitgeist thinking and at least some Islamists. The writer lists a number of putative Sharia legal notions, like jihad, polygamy, child marriages, hudud punishments and so on. He then points out how a Muslim who was to engage in such practices is ipso facto made a criminal in the West. And he is right. Jihad, often considered like the fifth pillar of Islam, is a duty for a pious believer. But now PM Cameron is prepared to pursue the British Jihadis who are heading back home from the Levant. Hhmmm… Pity they did not fight for a US approved and dollar-powered jihad. Bin Laden and his ilk were kosher, sorry, halal heroes when they combated the evil Soviets in Afghanistan. Hypocrisy? Yes, as well as old, cynical realpolitik.

Polygamy and child marriages are definitely Western untouchables. To many, as inconceivable and as loathsome as slavery. To be fair, there are Muslim jurists who hold diverse opinions on them. The anonymous fellow claims that amongst the Prophet’s companions polygamy was the rule, rather than the exception. True or not, the Qur’an has only one or at most two verses in which plural marriage is mentioned and it is more by way of permission than anything else. But Sharia law is more than the Qur’an and Salafis prioritise various Sunna hadiths and customs as normative. Still, important not to tar all Muslims over with the same brush. There is a range of scholarly opinions amongst the ulama. The Caliphate boys are only one strand.

Horror of the rising Khilafa engenders odd bedfellows. Iran, formerly part of an ‘axis of evil’, appears now, wonder of all wonders, as a potential ally in stopping ISIS & Co. Of course, that will only embitter and inflame the sectarian strife running through the Middle East and the vast world of Islam: part of a plan? Will the Caliphate be reborn from its ashes, like the phoenix?

‘The West wants to be at war with Islam’, the chief Haj preacher told the faithful at Mecca years ago. A bit overegged but, true or false, the East has joined the West. China’s President Xi Jinping has proclaimed his own war on terror, i.e. Muslims. Meaning the Uighur people of East Turkestan. The struggle will be ‘long, arduous and painful’, he warned.

The battle seems unequal. Perhaps 15 million Uighurs versus 1.300 million, overwhelmingly Han Chinese. David confronts Goliath. But violent resistance by Uighurs against Chinese targets have made the Beijing rulers jittery about security. They perceive that obscure race could be the spanner in the works of their mighty Communist party. Like insignificant specks of grit that can jam up a mechanism, the Uighurs might bring the regime crashing down. Hence Comrade Xi Jinping has vowed to ruthlessly repress the ‘rampant terrorists’.

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