Ramadan

Iftar

Spare a thought today for Muslims living in Ireland.  Ramadan begins today at the height of the Irish Summer.

There are 50,000 muslims in Ireland.  They are not supposed to eat in the hours of daylight.

Daylight is defined as when you can tell a black thread from a white one.  That means they can’t eat or drink from 3am until 11pm.  So they go 20 hours of the day with nothing to eat or drink.  They need to wait until 11pm at night before they can sit down for the iftar meal and then, they have to rise only a couple of hours later at 2am if they want a bite of breakfast at suhoor.

The only way to cope with this situation is to sleep in the early evening when you come home from work.  Then dine through the late hours of the night and then go back to bed just as the sun begins to rise again.

Honestly, I don’t know how you are supposed to get through a working day like this.

Ramadan; by Kazim Ali

You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—

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The Temple Mount

Tiling

I have always been interested in the history of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Why is there a mosque sitting on the site most sacred to the Jewish religion?

The Al Aqsa mosque sits upon a rocky outcropping at the centre of the temple mount.  This is alleged to be the rock where Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son by Jehovah.  When he demonstrated his obedience God stayed his hand, so the dogma goes.

I have my own ideas on this.  I believe that Abraham was an intelligent Rabbi and spiritual leader of his people.  He figured out that you did not have to kill people to worship God.  For me the lesson here is “Don’t kill children, you can substitute them with a Goat or a Lamb, or a Dove, or a Fatted Calf.”

Abraham is important because he is a father to three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  All three lay claim to his legacy.

The rock on the temple mount became the central focus of the Jewish religion.  At some time around 832 BCE Solomon is held to have constructed the First Temple.  However there is no archaeological record for this construction.  This temple was allegedly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar after the siege of Jerusalem in 589-587 BCE.  The Jews were clearly a problem for the Babylonians who felt it necessary to exile the leadership to their capital where they could monitor them.

In 538 BCE Cyrus the Great allowed the Jewish leaders to return to the city of Jerusalem.  They immediately set about re-establishing the temple, but not without opposition from others in the area.  Some form of Jewish Temple existed on Mount Zion until the Hellenistic Period.

Following the conquest of the east by Alexander the Great, and the division of his empire, Judea became a pressure point between the Ptolemaic Egyptian lands and the Seleucid lands.  In 167 BCE Antiochus III drove out the Egyptians under Ptolemy V.  The Seleucids clearly saw the Jews as loyal to the Ptolemies and set about reducing their power base.  The temple was looted, services were stopped and the buildings were dedicated to Zeus.  Judaism was effectively outlawed.

In 160 BCE following the revolt of the Maccabees the Temple site was again back in Jewish hands and was cleansed and re-dedicated.

Between 20 and 18 BCE the temple was totally rebuilt by Herod the Great, a client king of the Roman Empire.  This is the Temple where the Christian Jesus is alleged to have overturned the tables of the moneychangers.

The temple was the centre of Sadducee control of Judaism.  Jesus was from a Pharisee sect and did not hold that worship needed to be tied to a particular pile of stones.  The money changing incident was a demonstration of belief by Jesus.  Abraham said “don’t kill children – kill animals instead” and Jesus said “don’t kill animals – the simple act of breaking your daily bread can be worship of God”.

This is not a message designed to sit well with the Sadducees, who made a profit on every sacrificial animal sold on the temple mount, and who also made a fortune on the Currency Exchange market when the rural hicks found that their silver was no good in the temple.  They had to buy “Temple Silver” to purchase their sacrifice.  No wonder the Sadducees had a problem with Jesus!  He was threatening their entire economic foundation.

Ignoring the economics and religious dogma, the Jews were not comfortable citizens of the Roman Empire, and rose up in rebellion (notice a pattern here?).  The “Great Revolt” lasted from 66-70 CE.

The Roman Emperor Vespasian sent in his son Titus, who besieged Rome in 70 CE, punished the population and burned the temple to the ground.  The destruction of the temple removed the power base from the sects that were centralised there.  In this power vacuum the new “Christian“  religion was able to prosper.

The subsequent Bar-Kokhba revolt in 132-136 CE sealed the fate of the Temple Jews, who were massacred by Hadrian’s troops in large numbers.   It also firmly established the distance between Judaism and Christianity.  Following the revolt both Sects were barred from Jerusalem.

By this time the Christians had already established Golgotha as their primary site of worship.  There is no doubt that the Jews would have had issues with Christian worship on the Temple Mount, despite their common link to Abraham.

The Christians therefore opted to venerate the site of Christ’s death and the associated tomb.  When Hadrian expelled the Jews and Christians from the city he had a temple dedicated to Venus constructed on the Christian site, presumably to remove their power base.

From here we roll forward to the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Golgotha.  In 325/326 CE Constantine the Great began construction of two interlinked churches over the tomb and the peak the hill of Calvary.  This firmly established the Christian centre of Jerusalem as separate to the Jewish site.

Under Byzantine rule the Jews and Samaritans faced increasing persecution which led to a number of Jewish and Samaritan revolts.  The final revolt occurred when the Jews sided with the invading Sassanid Empire against the Byzantines.  In 602 CE under Sassanid occupation the Jews re-established control over Jerusalem for a short time, but the Sassanids ended up siding with the majority Christian population by 617.

The Jews then played the other side of the coin and supported the reconquest of Jerusalem by the Byzantines under Heraclius in 630 CE.  There were attempts by the Jews to re-establish a temple on Mount Zion during the Sassanid occupation and during the subsequent Byzantine re-occupation, but they were torn down and the site was left as a ruin.  It seems no ruler wanted to see the rise of a new Jewish power base.

So it was when Umar led the victorious Islamic armies into Jerusalem in 638 CE.  By agreement with the Christian Bishop his entry was a peaceful one.  Umar was invited to pray at the Holy Sepulchre.  He declined on the basis that Muslims might subsequently claim it as a Mosque, and invalidate his promise to protect Christian interests.  Instead he had the Temple mount cleared, and constructed a wooden mosque on the site.

Umar found a prime piece of real estate in Jerusalem, at the heart of the city, good location, nice views and absent of a formal place of worship.  So he took it over.

Subsequently the Ummah defined the site as “The Furthest Mosque” (al-Masjid al Aqsa), revealed to Muhammed on his mystical night journey undertaken in 621 CE.  This cemented the al-Aqsa Mosque  as the third holiest site in the Islamic world.

Over the years Caliphs improved the mosque.  It was destroyed by an earthquake in 746 and rebuilt.  It was destroyed by another earthquake in 1033 (a religious Jew might take this as a sign).  The current mosque largely dates from the 1035 reconstruction.

Under Crusader rule of Jerusalem from 1099 to 1187 the Al Aqsa was used as a palace.  It was restored as a mosque by Saladin and has remained as such to the present day.

During the six day war in 1967 when the Israeli forces gained control of the old city of Jerusalem they secured Jewish access to the Western Wall.  There were suggestions from some hawks that only a few sticks of dynamite stood between the Jews and their ancient site of worship.  But cooler heads prevailed on that day.

Radhanites

Fun fact:  20 years ago on this day the US state of Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment and abolished slavery.  That Southern Anti-Slavery impetus is fast like molasses in winter.

This got me thinking about slavery and the slave trade through history.  Along the way I came across the history of the Radhanites, a group I never heard about before.  It seems Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta found their way to China by tramping a well worn path created by a group of enterprising Jews.

Radhanites were a bridge in time, space and culture.  Masters of language, they could trade from France to China.  As Jews they could move between the Christian and Muslim worlds in “relative” safety (they were equally hated in both spheres).  They were a bridge from China to Europe and the Middle East.

This is not to say that they were true blue nice guys.  They were canny businessmen.  Muslims were forbidden from enslaving other muslims.  The Radhanites made good money supplying Christian slaves to Muslim markets.  Mostly they dealt in high value goods that were easy to transport.  Spices, silks, gems and intellectual property.  They may have been instrumental in the introduction of paper and Arabic number systems to Europe.

They were pioneers of long range funds transfer through letters of credit.  It is almost certain that the Italians learned the fundamentals of banking from the Radhanites.  The enclosed and tribal nature of Jewish society, and the community focus on morality engendered the level of trust required to underpin the establishment of letters of credit.  The Italian finance families achieved the same end by a Mafiosi style culture of “loyalty to the death” and by administration of poisons, to which they controlled the antidote, to be taken on a regular basis.

The Radhanites were at their most influential from 500 AD to 1,000 AD.  They spanned the period between the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the establishment of the Crusader Kingdoms.  The Radhanite control of the Silk road was undermined by the collapse of the Tang Dynasty in China and the Khazar Khaganate  in the 10th Century.  Central Asia became highly unstable until the rise of the Mongols.  In Europe and the near East their trade was wrested from them by Italian City States.

The Radhanite sea route to China, via the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, India, Indonesia, Malaysia etc is the basis for the stories of the Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.

Radhanites

The Slave’s Dream : Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.
Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain-road.
He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand!–
A tear burst from the sleeper’s lids
And fell into the sand.
And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Niger’s bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion’s flank.
Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O’er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view.
At night he heard the lion roar,
And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
Through the triumph of his dream.
The forests, with their myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.
He did not feel the driver’s whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay

Mindless racism

In the current emotional climate following the assassinations of French journalists in Charlie Hebdo it is worth pausing to examine the immediate response.  There is a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment washing over Europe and it is a good idea to separate the wheat from the chaff.  If nation states respond by targeting Muslim populations it would not be the first time in history that we aimed a sledgehammer at the wrong walnut.

Step back to the mid 14th century, when the black death was scourging Europe.  Christians noticed that the Jewish population had a lower infection rate and a higher survival rate.  Back in those days there was no appreciation of the importance of hygiene and quarantine amongst the Christians.  The fact that Jews lived apart in Ghettos and that they practiced better hygiene was lost on a population in panic.  Someone decided that it was a Jewish conspiracy and they were poisoning the wells.  On Jan 9th 2015 we can remember the Basel massacre, when the city fathers shackled 600 innocents in a barn and set it alight.  To add insult to injury any surviving children were forcibly converted to Christianity.  Basel was only one of many such massacres, which happened from Barcelona to Brussels.

In more recent times we Irish well remember what it was like to be an Irish person living in Britain in the 1970’s.  On the one hand you were bound to be a terrorist, a member of the IRA and a supporter of bank robberies, murders and bombings.  On the other hand you were an ignoramus from a sub-human culture who could not aspire to the intellectual heights attainable by solid English stock.  No wonder so many Irish people hid in plain sight by adopting English accents and avoiding “Irishness”.

Spare a thought for all the hard working, decent, innocent Muslims in Europe who are now looking over their backs in fear because yet another lunatic Islamist cell has done something atrocious. Just as the Provisional IRA never represented me or my interests, the Islamic State does not represent these people.

Decisions made in times of fear and panic can seem logical at the time, but in retrospect they frequently turn out to be really bad actions.  Spare a thought for the 600 Jews who died in Basel on this day in 1349 simply because they survived the Black Death.  Spare a thought for innocent Muslims, who are the greatest victims of Islamist terrorists.  Instead of discussing reactionary policy we should be discussing the roots of the problem and the potential for long term sustainable solutions.

Granada

Granada

Say 1066 and everyone thinks of Normans, William the Conqueror, Harold Godwinson with an arrow in his eye, Harald Hardrada, the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the Battle of Hastings. Then there was the Granada Massacre, and only the Jews bother to remember.

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In 1066 Al Andalus was a muslim kingdom ruled by Berber Kings in a period of flux between the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate and the rise of the Almoravids. In this power vacuum numerous Berber warlords seized power of fractured city states.

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The culture of tolerance and pluralism that marked the Caliphate was replaced by the motivations of a dog-eat-dog world. The enlightened Jews who had risen to high administrative positions under the Caliphate suddenly found that the sin of not being Muslim was punishable by death. A mob descended on the Royal Palace of Granada on 30th Dec 1066 and massacred the Jews.

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The famous Alhambra was originally a simple fort constructed in the 9th century. In the 11th century the Moorish rulers converted it into a fortified palace and laid the foundations for the current complex. The final royal ornamentation was completed much later, in the 14th century, just before it was lost to the Christian forces of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

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I visited Granada in 1978 as a teenager. I remember the heat of the night, the smell of jasmine, and hair oil, the bustle of all the people out strolling after dark.  I remember the Latin quarter on the hill with small artisan workshops making beautiful Moorish geometric marquetry plates.  I also remember the dark gypsy-like Andalusian boys chasing us down the street, trying to lure us into a “Flamenco Show” with the promise of “free champagne”.

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My mother asked one of them why we should pay to see dancing when we could dance ourselves.  He asked us to prove that we could dance.  So we danced an impromptu “Walls of Limerick” on the street.  He jumped onto his moped and raced off.  Ten minutes later he returned with a crowd of about 20 of his friends and asked us to dance again.  When we obliged we got a great cheer.  The young man then collected his winnings on the bets he had made on his boast.

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I remember at the Alhambra the parking attendants were injured veterans of the Civil War. Back in those days there were fewer tourists and we didn’t have to queue for hours to get in.

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The ornamentation is stunning but what really marks out the palace is the way the Moors integrated water into the design. Everywhere there are pools, fountains, qanats, runnels and cisterns. In the desert water is life. The Moors demonstrated their mastery through their ability to command water.

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This video may give a sense of the serenity of the space they created. Manuel da Falla’s “Night in the Gardens of Spain” is a fantastic and somewhat underplayed set of Nocturnes for Piano and Orchestra. The first movement takes the Gardens of the Generalife of the Alhambra as its inspiration. The linked video uses footage from the gardens to build the atmosphere.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxqzo0fLKKQ

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While we are in Andalusia I attach an exerpt from the Soliloquy of Molly Bloom at the end of Ulysses by James Joyce. Joyce wrote this in unpunctuated prose. I have parsed it out in the way I would read it, with a lot of very gaspy yesses.

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Molly Bloom Soliloquy (Exerpt), from Ulysses; by James Joyce

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and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain
yes
when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used

or shall I wear a red
yes
and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought
well
as well him as another
and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again
yes
and then he asked me would I
yes
to say
yes
my mountain flower
and first I put my arms around him
yes
and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume
yes
and his heart was going like mad and
yes
I said
yes
I will
Yes.

Islamism is not Faith

I love the quote from the film “Kingdom of Heaven” when the Knight Hospitaller says to Bailan:

I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God. I’ve seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves. And goodness – what God desires – is here [points to Balian’s head] and here[points to Balian’s heart] and by what you decide to do every day you will be a good man…or not.

Here is a man who seems to believe in religion:

Gunman

He went into the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney, Australia, but he did not want Chocolate.  He was looking for trouble in the name of extreme Islamism.  You can say what you like about Islam being peaceful, but as long as we have people like this the overwhelming image of Islam from non Muslims will be dictated by people like this.

Ask this lady, a clerk in the Chocolate shop who ran for her life, if she thinks Islam is a religion of love.

Lindt

Ask this guy, who holds the Koran aloft, why he also needs the AK 47

Koran

Now I guess some Muslims will tell me that Christianity has a terrible reputation for violence, and you would be right.  Christians used to behave in the past the way some Muslims are behaving today.   But that was the past.

Some Muslims will point out that these people do not represent “Muslims”.  Sorry, but they do.  And as peaceful Muslims you need to do something about them.  Take responsibility for how Islam is portrayed.

I am sure of one thing; God does not speak from the barrel of a gun.

Flag of the USA

USA flag

We all know the story about how the Flag of the USA has 50 stars which represent 50 states and 13 stripes which represent the original 13 colonies.

All lies.  To begin with, there are not even 50 states in the USA, there are only 45.  The “District of Columbia” is not a State.  Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia are not states, they are “Commonwealths”.  Other commonwealths of the USA are Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.  So the USA has 45 states and if you include districts and commonwealths the number is 52.  So why are there not 52 stars on the flag?

Also, why 13 stripes?  There were 24 British colonies in America when the rebellion began.  For instance, Florida was part of the British colonies, and is now part of the USA.  But it is not counted as one of the “original” colonies.

The truth is shocking.  When you hear the truth all will become clear.  Why are the USA attacking Afghanistan?  Why are they in Iraq?  Why do they bomb Syria?  Why did they support the “Arab Spring” revolts in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain etc?

Here is the truth, and please forgive me as I must bring you back in time all the way to the Crusades.

In the year 1120 the Crusaders found  a great secret, or treasure, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the ruins of the ancient Temple of Solomon.  The order of Knights Templar was founded to guard this terrible secret.  So what secret could be so terrible?

What they found was an ancient prophesy from 1,000 BCE.  This prophesy spoke of a prophet who would arise in Mecca, that his name would be “Worthy of Praise” and that he would sweep the Jews from the face of the earth.  King Solomon was so worried by this prophesy that he had a great shaft dug on the Temple Mount.  He buried the prophesy in this shaft and covered it over.  He built a great temple on top of the shaft, in the hope that the God of the Jews would be praised, and would prevent the prophesy from coming true.

Two thousand years later when the Crusaders dug up this prophesy they saw that it had come true.  The prophet was Mohammed and his name means “praiseworthy”.  The armies of Islam were sweeping the world.  When this prophesy came to light there was a secret meeting between the Pope in Rome, the Patriarch in Constantinople and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.  They agreed to a plan to set up an organisation to combat Islam.  This organisation was the Knights Templar.

From the very beginning the Knights Templar was set up with great wealth and great secrecy.  To cover their real purpose they were given a role to “protect pilgrims on the roads to the holy land”.  But this was only ever a cover.

At this stage I want you to remember two images.  One is the image of the Templar Banner, red crosses on a field of white.

Flag Templar

The other is the banner of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, gold crosses on a field of blue.

Flag Jerusalem

To cut a long story very short, the Knights Templar amassed a huge treasure.  They then used this treasure to establish a country, the USA, which has the purpose of fighting Islam  They pretended to disappear, and had a sham trial of the order by the French King in 1307.  In truth they went into hiding.  They searched for a home where they could establish their new kingdom.

Look at any image of the Ships used by Columbus and what is the first thing you will notice?  The Templar cross!  Yes, Columbus was a member of the Templar order, on a mission to find a country in the New World where the war against Islam could grow.  Columbus was not the only Templar sent to establish the new world.  Look at the “San Antiago”, the ship of Amerigo Vespucci, look at the “Mathew” the ship of John Cabot, or “The Golden Hind” the ship of Francis Drake and even the Mayflower.  What they all have in common is that they carry a white flag with a red cross.  They were all Templar ships.

When the founding fathers of the USA designed their flag they did not want to be obvious.  So the flag of the USA has a hidden set of meanings.  We can begin with the Templar Cross.  They took a simple white flag and on it they wrote the Islamic Creed, the Shahada.  It reads

Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh Muḥammadur rasūlu l-Lāh

which means There is no god but God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God

Put a number against each word in the creed.

1Lā 2ʾilāha 3ʾillā 4 l-Lāh 5Muḥammadur 6rasūlu 7l-Lāh  

They placed these words in a vertical column on the flag, 7 words, each of which was then covered with a red stripe, a symbol of the triumph of the Templar Cross over Islam.  So the stripes actually say “Death to the Islamic Creed”.  On the original flag, stored in the Smithsonian Museum in a secure vault, the Shahada is actually embroidered beneath the stripes in a green silken thread, as green is a colour sacred to Islam.  This is why there are 7 red stripes on the US flag.  7 stripes for 7 words.

So what do the stars mean?  The Star is a symbol used in Islam to represent the Hope that one day all the world will submit to Allah and his prophet Mohammed.  The religion is based on 5 pillars;  1 Shahada (the creed) 2 Salat (pray 5 times a day) 3 Zakat (give alms to the poor) 4 Sawm (fast during Ramadan) and 5 Hajj (make a pilgrimage to Mecca).  The 5 pointed star is the symbol of the 5 pillars of Islam.

There are 49 countries in the world that have majority Islamic populations.  The blue section of the flag of the USA is based on the blue flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  There are 49 white stars to represent each of the majority Islamic countries, and one more star to represent Muslims who live as a minority in other countries.

If the USA succeed in conquering a Muslim country and converting it back to Christianity they will replace the white star with a gold cross.  The aim of the USA is to have a flag with 50 gold crosses.  If this happens the Prophesy of the Ancient Temple of Solomon will be broken.

Every morning in every school in the USA children make a pledge to the Flag of the USA.  Soldiers in the US Army make the same pledge.  The words of the pledge are:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under Godindivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

So you see, this is a prayer to make the world one nation under a Christian God.

Anyone buying this?  I love a good conspiracy theory!

PS, if you see Muslims burning a US flag, tell them they are burning the words of the Shahada.  That’s blasphemy, punishable by stoning to death!