Beyond the Cusp

July 31, 2017

Our Worlds Are in a Mess and Clashing

 

Part I

 

Link to Part II

 

The Western World is seemingly in a death spiral while the Eastern Worlds are struggling with ideas the West cast off at the end of colonialism and Israel is caught in the middle. The Eastern World and Developing World are easily assessed as they are at the beginning point the West has already progressed past. Africa, central and much of southern, are still living largely off resources and selling such on the world market and subsistence farming with small amounts of true agricultural farming. The greatest of harms has been done to Africa as they have received massive shipments of food in the forms of wheat and other crops which would have been more productive had they grown the crops themselves. As their economy was basically agrarian, shipping them food was starving their economy thus making investments impossible as there was no venture capital with which to develop further. Basically, the Western World, whether through neglect, ignorance or an actual attempt to impede development, took away the one industry which Africa was suited to utilize for their own development. This left them with their farmers starving having to farm for their own families’ existence instead of farming to feed their own cities and thus form a solid backbone from which their economies could base growth. This has left Africa as a vastly underdeveloped continent surviving by selling off their natural resources instead of developing their own infrastructure to ready themselves to introduce industrial economic development. So while they sell their ore, their gems, their precious metals and every other item they can mine or find, they are actually stealing their own future to pay for the society today and that is a recipe for ruin.

 

The area known as MENA (Middle East and North Africa) is not in much better shape economically. Their economies are based on oil and drugs depending on the country. The few which are not able or willing to rely on either of those resources are living off base level industry, tourism, the good graces of an oil rich sponsor or some combination thereof. Egypt is such an example, as are many of the North African nations, has meager industrial base, a natural tourist industry with the Pyramids of Giza and other ancient wonders and a small oil market which also provides sufficient energy for the country to operate. Egypt could develop an industrial fishing economy and does receive funds from passage of commerce through the Suez Canal but still relies largely on the United States and Saudi Arabia to keep her solvent. The rest of the North African nations are at some level of poverty or worse, in complete melt-down as is Libya where tribal forces compete for the right to claim they rule the country when in reality it is nothing more than tribal influences vying for land and terrorist training areas taking advantage of the lack of governmental military force to prevent such. Along the entirety of the border with Central Africa there is a low level warfare going on with the most notable area being split between the war by proxy the Sudan is waging against the separative South Sudan and the regions being torn apart by terrorist violence by Boko Haram centered upon Nigeria where a little over a week ago at least twelve people were killed following two suicide blasts in the Maiduguri area of northeastern Nigeria and at the start of this month Boko Haram militants killed nine and abducted dozens more in southern Niger where attackers rode camels into the village of Ngalewa, about fifty kilometers north of the border with Nigeria. Such violence goes all but unreported in Western news as if this area of extreme and brutal violence is not important when the nations fighting these struggles cannot develop properly in such an atmosphere. This zone is known euphemistically as the African Transition Zone (pictured below). This zone also is the demarcation line between the Islamic World and that of Christian and African Traditional Religion. This is a war which deserves recognition beyond that of the Coptic Christians though they are an important segment of this struggle of non-Islamic faiths which are bordering the Islamic World.

 

African Transition Zone

African Transition Zone

 

The Middle East has its share of difficulties starting with the focal point of Syria. Syria, along with Yemen, defines the main struggle in the area, Sunni Islam against Shiite Islam. This battle has raged off and on since the death of Muhammad and is once again coming to the foreground. The main impetus behind Shiite Islam is Iran which currently includes much of southern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This area can be referred to as the Shiite Crescent (pictured below) and connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea granting an overland route which circumvents the Suez Canal. Such is important as should Iran take full control of Yemen they will control both choke points, the Straights of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the main oil route from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the Bab el Mandeb which controls the exit from the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden into the Indian Ocean which also cuts off the Suez Canal and the Israeli southern port of Eilat. Blocking these two choke points is what makes a land route to the Mediterranean Sea so important. Saudi Arabia could benefit from an oil pipeline across her width to the Red Sea but they would need to build a port capable of handling tankers or they could use the Israeli ports which have such capabilities if only they recognized that such an entity existed. The Saudi Port of Jeddah would also suffice but such would be susceptible to Egyptian control of the Suez Canal where using Israel would likely cost recognition and Saudi pressure to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and end the Arab Palestinian war to eliminate Israel through all means usable. For the meantime, Saudi Arabia is more than happy to keep the pressures on Israel preventing her from developing even faster. All the while, we have the heart of the Islamic World across MENA which saw itself go from the leaders in the world to the losers in the world with the Industrial Revolution in the Western World. What is most interesting is the Islamic World refuses to believe that they fell behind and hold the West as responsible for their lost primacy and have sworn to bring the Western World down, and are making great headway as the West does little or actually aid the Islamic World in this endeavor.

 

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait

 

The Far East has one eight-ton gorilla and some interesting, in a warped way, other actors. The main force emerging from the Far East is China. What is mostly ignored is right behind China we have India. India is simply working quietly in harmony with all around her with the exception of Pakistan (border with Islam) and a conflict over border claims around the region of Doklam, where Chinese and Indian forces remain locked in a stand-off sparked by a road construction project in a disputed border area shared with Bhutan. This is an old rivalry going back long before modern history with these two being the central powers in this region for much of human history. What will make this more interesting is that India is expected to surpass China as the most populous nation sometime this century. Also in this area is our favorite nut-job, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un who, as we have reported over the past two weeks, is developing missiles and well on his way to ICBM’s capable of striking anywhere on the planet and the nuclear warheads to place atop these missiles. North Korea is a menace which China appears unwilling or unable of reining in which could lead to open warfare if one side blinks at the wrong time or is caught winking when they should have been eyes front. Any misreading by either side, and especially the mentally less than stable Kim Jong-un, could result in a nuclear war whose expanse will be determined by that which the North Korean dictator can reach with his missiles. North Korea is suspected of working with Iran which means that Kim Jong-un could have a fleet of ballistic missile carrying freighters ready to launch at coastal cities leaving them mere minutes if not seconds to react before being struck by a nuclear warhead. And, of course, both South Korea and Japan, two of North Korea’s main enemies after the United States, are both within striking distance already and are obviously nervous.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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June 8, 2017

The Christian Situation

 

There are a number of different peoples who have problems in the Islamic Middle East and North Africa (MENA). One of the most covered is Israel where over half the world’s Jews reside and are in mortal danger in one way or another every single day, especially with the missiles and weapons of mass destruction held by Iran. Another group which has gotten its fair share is the Kurds who despite being largely Muslim are not accepted well by their Arab coreligionists. But there is one group that unless there has been some heinous act of barbarity or one particular group is facing a special situation, they are mostly ignored. These groups are the many different types of Christians. We spend much of our time here at BTC on Israel and the United States as that is where much of the news coverage emanates from and where we do or have lived. Today we will go a little afield of this and try to give this particular message about the Christians some attention. The first thing people need to realize are who these disparate groups of Christians are. We will list those we know of and where they predominantly reside. There are the Coptic Christians who largely reside in Egypt, the Maronite Christians living mostly in Lebanon, the Chaldeans (also known as Kaldaye and Kaldanaye) who are a form of Catholics and reside largely in Iraq, the Assyrian Christians who obviously reside mostly in Syria but also into Iraq, the Yazidis Christians who are a derivative of the Kurdish peoples and like them reside mostly in Syria and Iraq, and then there are other smaller groups of Christians throughout the MENA area and also those Christians throughout the world who reside on the borders of Islam where there is often frictions and even terrorism and outright warfare placing all civilians in danger in the area. The sad news is that almost all Christian communities in the MENA regions in every nation are facing falling populations as they are facing the contempt and violence which before them was inflicted on the Jews. The Jews have all but left the MENA nations, which is why the Christians are now facing these harassments, as these nations purge their populations of the non-believers, those not following Islam. As this purge continues, these populations will reach a critical point where the Muslims will feel it easiest to force their conversions or simply murder them, the choice between Islam and death. When this point is reached, any remaining Jews will be grouped right along with the Christians and executed if they refuse to convert. Even conversion will not end the strife as once converted they will be scrutinized by their fellow Muslims for any breach in their observance or appearance of still keeping to their former religion. All of these supposed transgressions will be met with death as notice to the remainder to remain pure and diligent in their newly adopted faith of Islam.

 

Levels of Christian Persecution Within MENA

 

It should be noted that there is one nation where the Christian population is healthy and growing and that is Israel as there is true freedom of religion in Israel and all religions are recognized and accommodated including Islam (both Sunni and Shiite), Christianity (all the above mentioned and almost every other form of Christianity found on Earth), Baha’I, Hindu, Buddhist, Animist, Druze, Atheist and other less well known religions. Outside of Israel, the story is mostly not as kind. In Syria and the areas ruled by Islamic State, it is unsafe for people in general, and for non-Muslims, it gets even more treacherous, with the danger becoming critical in a moment, and with little warning. In Iraq, there is sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Islam yet they still find time to make being a Christian a dangerous religious choice. Some groups of Christians have made themselves useful to the ruling form of Islam in their area and are thus treated as protected, but this protection will only last for as long as these Christians are filling that niche needed by the Islamic believers. Often this takes the position of being able to cross certain otherwise uncrossable areas to take messages to those Muslims who are kin to the ones protecting these Christians, as they are able to cross the frontier between two warring sects of Muslims delivering their messages or other packages. This also permits getting messages into the prisons as Christians often have relatives imprisoned giving them reason to visit and then the system in place within the prison takes over and the message will get to the intended. Being a Christian in an Islamic world, specially now with Islam becoming resurgent and thus more aware of their Islamists becoming more brutal in their means of rulership with Sunnis warring with Shiites and vice-versa, their lives are more fragile than the finest china. The one item they both do agree upon is that non-Muslims, those not following their version of Islam, must be converted or eradicated. This has placed some of the smaller sects of Islam, such as the Kurds, the Kharijites or the Sufri and any other small Islamic sects in mortal danger. Eventually, if permitted to take its course, Islam would face a final battle for the good of Islam where either Sunni or Shiite will prevail proving them the beloved of Allah as Allah rewards strength and abhors weakness.

 

MENA Refugees Admitted United States by Year and Religious Breakdown

 

The recent strikes against Coptic Christians in Egypt being responded to by the Egyptian military air strikes on the training facilities for those terror groups identified who struck these Coptic Christian communities is a new and welcome face for Islam and is a good indicator that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has at least his nation heading in a proper direction. And there are other signs that a new era may be emerging in the world of Islam. This will be due in no small part to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as well as the recent visit by United States President Trump who read fifty national leaders about their responsibilities and taking a lead in transforming Islam for the modern era. One cannot know exactly what President Trump said to these fifty leaders behind closed doors, but if their actions against Qatar, which forced them to expel certain Hamas individuals who had been hiding in a safe house within their borders, are any indicator, that message was received and they are intending initially to comply. The pressure was placed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This was an immediate response to President Trump’s strong message that there was a role which the Arab and Muslim world must take if they are hoping to distance themselves from radical Islamic terrorism and be a part of the solution, not the problem. This should also, with time, force them to be more accepting of others starting with other varieties of Islam and finally other religions and recognizing their right to exist.

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi could be a chapter if this were a book. His actions place him as the leader of these changes which the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia will need to set their sites on meeting if not exceeding his actions and examples, which will be a test for them. Egyptian President el-Sisi has addressed Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the leading Sunni institution of higher education in the world, and both times demanded that they bring their curriculum into the modern age and teach tolerance and stay away from the imperative for Islam to rule the world but instead teach that Islam should become a major contributor to improving the world and gaining adherents through their good and beneficial actions rather than the old message of conquest and conversion by the sword. It appears that his pressures are paying dividends, as we mentioned yesterday, in that Al-Azhar University has hired their first non-Muslim professor who is going to teach in their medical school. Where this is but a small step, every journey into change and reaching into the future, or even the present as in this case, starts with that first step no matter how small or how timid, that first step is always the most difficult. We can feel certain that President el-Sisi will keep the pressure on for change and modernization. He has stated that modernization of Egypt is his eventual aim and towards that end he will be instituting a basic education package which all schools must teach which will include literacy in that all students can read and write with a degree of proficiency and that they also be taught basic math and sciences and that these prerogatives be accepted in the Madrasa and move from simply teaching the memorization of the Quran and enter into teaching a modern set of assignments such that the Egyptian people will be capable of working within an advanced society and perform factory work and higher level work and that Egypt transcend from their current 73% reaching 100% as their immediate goal.

 

Here is a list of illiteracy rates for the population over fifteen years of age in the MENA nations; Afghanistan 72%, Pakistan 50%, Mauritania 49%, Morocco 48%, Yemen 46%, Sudan 39%, Djibouti 32%, Algeria 30%, Iraq 26%, Tunisia 25.7%, Egypt 28%, Comoros 25%, Syria 19%, Oman 18%, Iran 17.6%, Saudi Arabia 17.1%, Libya 16%, Bahrain 13%, Turkey 12.6%, Lebanon 12%, U.A.E. 11.3%, Qatar 11%, Jordan 9%, Kuwait 7%, Israel 3%, Azerbaijan 1.2%, and Armenia 1%. As is noticeable, some of the nations have abhorrent and rampant illiteracy while more than one might initially expect have high literacy rates but overall they could all use improvement. These numbers show the results of efforts as over the past twenty-seven years the trend has been noted and significant with literacy rising from 59% in 1990 to 78% in 2010 on average across the MENA nations. Below is a graph depicting results in basic math skills in some Arab nations where testing has been conducted.

 

TIMSS 2011

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

In closing we are going to share a video titled “Christians At Risk in Iraq Urgently Need Your Help” from the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council. We will mention ahead of time that this is a request for funding but may still be of interest as information and of course, those wishing to assist in these efforts will find this useful, or at least this is our hope.

 

 

 

 

 

April 15, 2017

Is There Truly a Disparity Between Islamic and Christian Anti-Semitism?

 

If one were to look at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report on anti-Semitism worldwide one would immediately conclude that the crucial area where anti-Semitism is most pronounced is in the MENA* Arab and Muslim nations. There could be a number of reasons behind this seemingly obvious disparity mostly of which the ADL would claim it was due to greater sensitivity, civility and acceptance of other people’s religions, race, nationality and other differences in the developed world. On the other hand, it might also simply be due to education to answer questions as expected rather than giving honest answers. Another reason could be that due to programming through the education and media that people are not aware that they hold prejudicial thoughts and opinions. It might also be that such thoughts have been eradicated in the developed world, though that would be a miracle. Why am I so cynical about this? Well, it could be due to personal experiences I have had which indicate that perhaps the polling is not accurate because people have really been trained to hide socially undesirable thoughts. Perhaps dosing everybody with sodium pentothal before having them take such surveys would produce far different results, but we will never know.

 

Anti-Semitism figure and acts of vandalism

 

What were some of these experiences? Well, first allow me to give some general observations before we get to a few examples. I should first tell you that these are all observations from the United States as I lack any time even visiting Europe never having given travel there much consideration. I have come to surmise that Israel had a better acceptance and respect than Jews in the United States. Many Christians are confused over how and why some, too many by their thoughts, American Jews appear to hate Israel. Being a lifelong Zionist I was unable to assist them in answering this question as I share their disbelief and puzzlement. All I was ever able to say was that they placed their leftist politics ahead of their Torah and religion. That always drew some of the strangest looks, often a cross between complete inability to understand and simple bewilderment as if told two completely contrary things and claiming they were both true. Many had no ability to comprehend politics trumping religion.

 

Levels in Percentages of Anti-Semitism Worldwide by Regions

Levels in Percentages of Anti-Semitism Worldwide by Regions

 

One thing which made my ability to get some insights many never could was due to a select number of unique items. First, as a blonde haired, blue eyed, Nordic appearing person; nobody would ever suspect that I am Jewish without being told. The other main item was that I usually, most of my life, did not reside in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. More often than not there were not likely to be any other Jews living within ten miles of where I usually could afford to live. The combination of these two small items placed me in a unique position to gauge real feelings and listen to people when the subject of Jews or Israel came into the conversations. When I was in a mix of people where a few knew I was Jewish, you could see pained looks on their faces when somebody spouted something hateful about Jews and they would all glance at me to see my reactions. Anybody who knows me well realizes that for the most part I do not have outward emotions very often. This allowed for such people to really hang themselves and allowed me to watch the reactions of others and whether or not they would respond defending Jews from hatreds, more often than not they would not. The most frequent reaction from those harboring no hatred or even love for the Jews was to hang their heads somewhat as if withdrawing protected them from the world and hate being spewed. Seldom did anyone speak up and when I would speak up others would often wince as if I were breaking some code and risking life and limb. On a few and very rare occasions it appeared that my defending Jews was unwelcome by the person who held anti-Semitic feelings as if I were impugning their honesty and becoming a threat to their reputation. Things never escalated to blows but I have lost presumed acquaintances and welcomed being relieved of needing to tolerate such people.

 

There was one particular phrase which I encountered more than I would have preferred when people first found out that I was Jewish. Too many responded to my telling them I was Jewish was initially that I was kidding and I would assure them that I was not joking and really am Jewish. Then sometimes, as stated too often, they would speak that phrase, “You do not act like a Jew.” This would almost universally receive my response, “Really, exactly how does a Jew act so I can work on that?” This would immediately make virtually all of them realize that they had revealed a bias which they had not realized they even suffered from. They would apologize and we would make some uncomfortable exchanges and then work our way past it. Fortunately many of these people would then ask questions about Jews and Judaism as they realized that they were living with suspicions and conceptions which they needed to get beyond. Perhaps these events for some became a good thing as they led to their receiving some education on the subject which they needed and probably would not have ever received such otherwise.

 

One thing I learned was that even those who held extremely negative opinions of Jews did not consider themselves to be anti-Semitic. Their feelings were that they were simply being honest and that the problem was with the Jews, not with them. They would tell you it did not bother them if somebody was a Jew and they would not hold their being Jewish against them. They just did not like Jews because Jews were simply not very nice and did not accept others who were not Jews. This revelation often came out claiming that the Jews are very clannish, you know, they stick together and watch out for each other against everybody else. Sometimes, when my mood was less than forgiving or one of these people got under my skin, I would make some comment about the Jewish mother ship hiding on the other side of the Moon and how I was still waiting for my washroom key. That would always get their attention at which point I would inform them they had made their statement in the presence of a Jew, sometimes I might instead say the enemy before informing them I was Jewish. There were those few who when hearing I was Jewish, sometimes one of the other people would break this news to them, they would get in a huff and sometimes even become threatening which never ended well but fortunately never led to actual violence.

 

What I learned in my sixty years of research, well, maybe less as I do not remember the first twenty very well, is that there is some degree of misconceptions as to how Jews act and exactly what a Jew is and what being Jewish means. As a youth I remember being accused more than once with having murdered Jesus. The first time was when I was three by the three year old girl next door who probably heard it in a sermon or from her parents as she was not old enough and proved as she grew not to hate anyone as near as I could tell. I came home crying as it upset me and asked my Mother who was this Jesus person and when did I kill him? I must have really been upset as I do not remember what my Mother told me or how she handled it but I am sure it was sensibly and kindly as that was how she handled everything except punishment for breaking rules, that she was strict and rather harsh which is why I tried not to break her rules. I learned though that there is a level of animus towards Jews, a sort of undercurrent which flows through more of the society than we care to admit. Mostly it is a misunderstanding due largely to the Jews being a complete unknown thus people can only theorize exactly what a Jew must be, what they are like, how they feel about others and other generalities. Much of this is filled in by parents, people around them, their religious teachings and that favorite of all peoples everywhere, suspicions. The one overriding thought is that Jews are simply somehow different from regular people. As a group they are too successful, too wealthy, too much the other and this causes suspicions which lead to distrust. This was mostly what was behind that phrase that I did not act or seem like a Jew to these people as I was not different and shared many of their ideas and principles. My being a Jew troubled them as it shook their entire concept of what a Jew would be.

 

What can we conclude from my experiences? Well, first allow me to point out I lived throughout the United States and moved more times than I care to remember. I worked constructions, retail sales and management, military, airfield crash rescue firefighter, roofing, railroad tie decorative restraining walls (the tallest was over fifty feet), medical electronic repair and calibration, satellite communications electronics, electronic prototyping, shuttle driver and so on. I lived on both coasts, the south, the west, the mid-west, New England, the northwest, Great Lakes and near everywhere inbetween. Basically what I am conveying is my sample size was expansive, diverse and ran the gauntlet of educational backgrounds. What I found was that people are pretty much the same with the more educated simply more practiced at prevarication. The misconceptions about Jews are fairly universal and people who have such misconceptions do not believe they are prejudiced against Jew or suffer even the slightest from anti-Semitism; they believe the way they see Jews is simply normal. What is interesting is that in areas of the world where anti-Semitism is the highest, the people there also believe they are not anti-Semitic, they are simply normal and it is the Jews who are abnormal. The main difference is that in the MENA nations where anti-Semitism is measurably the highest, they realize they hate Jews but simply believe that normally everybody should hate Jews. In the developed world they simply do not believe they hold misconceptions about Jews and are simply shocked when they discover that their beliefs are very probably wrong. Unfortunately, most of the people holding misconceptions about Jews will see these exact traits in any Jew they meet as they seek to believe that they are not hateful because that is undesirable in the society so they must be compassioned. The only way they could ever find out they have a difficulty is to get to know a Jew without knowing the person is Jewish and then have their world shook when they are informed that this otherwise normal person they were friends with is actually one of them, a Jew. Then they can come to grips and possibly change and realize that Jews are actually no different than anyone else. The problem is there simply are not sufficient Jews to go around and allow for everyone to have just such an awareness enhancing experience.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

* MENA are the nations of the Middle East and North Africa

 

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