Jun 302016
 

With thanks to Paul Smith, Citrus:Mix.
Alhikmah2

Plans for the next stage in an ambitious Aberdeen community project have taken another major step forward after a fundraiser in the city added £75,000 to the running total. The Alhikmah Foundation is the driving force behind the creation of the Masjid Alhikmah, which will feature community and youth facilities as well as prayer halls for north-east Muslims.

Made possible entirely through donations and the fundraising activities of supporters, already £1.2million has been donated and an Iftar dinner at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen on Friday, June 17, brought in £75,000 during an evening attended by more than 500 people.

The generous backing to date has enabled the Nelson Street project to make significant progress, with the main part of the construction programme concluded in January (2016).

The first phase incorporated all structural and external aspects and the foundation is pushing forward for plans for the second stage, which will involve the internal fit and finish of the three-storey building.

A spokesman for the Alhikmah Foundation said:

“The completion of the external elements of the  building was a significant milestone and a very proud moment for all who have been involved in the project. To see the site transformed and regenerated is very rewarding, with the feedback we have had from local residents extremely positive.

“None of this would have been possible without the support the foundation has received from donors and from fundraisers who have taken on an incredible array of challenges. To reach £1.2m is a wonderful achievement and we cannot thank those who have contributed enough.

“Without them the vision for Masjid Alhikmah could not have become a reality and the latest event is another demonstration of the strength of support there is – the £75,000 total from the Iftar dinner exceeded our expectations and we thank all who attended and made the evening such a success.”

Iftar is part of the month of Ramadan and marks the breaking of the daily fast between dawn and sunset. The foundation dinner was an opportunity for the north-east Muslim community to join together for Iftar whilst supporting a fundraising cause close to their heart.

The campaign will continue as the project progresses, with the target of raising an additional £425,000 to pay for the internal aspects of the new facility. The full annual report for 2015 has been published and is available to download online, outlining the financial performance of the foundation for the year and also detailing key aspects of the project.

The spokesman added:

“The annual report is an opportunity to look back over a very productive year but also look forward to what is ahead. We know there are a number of community fundraising events in the pipeline and it is very important that the momentum that we have built is carried forward.

“It has been a wonderful effort to get to this stage, particularly given the challenging economic climate facing the north-east at present, and we are grateful to everyone who has contributed so far or who plans to in the weeks and months ahead. Every penny spent on the project will continue to come from fundraising by our supporters.”

Masjid Alhikmah will feature space for worship, funeral preparations, dedicated women’s facilities and a family community centre. There is an active Muslim community living in and around the city of Aberdeen and the facility is designed to help create unity and foster a sense of harmony between Muslims and fellow north-east residents.

The name chosen for the new centre stems from Arabic. Masjid translates as “a place of congregational worship” and Alhikmah as “wisdom”.

 

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Apr 292016
 

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Travels:
Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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Dec 032015
 

trump106featWith thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Donald Trump’s latest attacks on religious groups, nationalities, and people with physical challenges spurred Aberdeen-based campaigner Suzanne Kelly to take action.

Kelly has launched petitions asking Home Secretary Teresa May to block Trump from
the UK for his hate speech, and asking Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University to strip Trump of the honorary doctorate it bestowed on him.

Text of Kelly’s draft petition to the UK Government is waiting approval; it reads:

“The signatories believe Donald J Trump should be banned from UK entry for his continued, unrepentant hate speech and unacceptable behaviour. His unacceptable behaviour is well documented, and we feel it foments racial, religious and nationalistic intolerance which should not be welcome in the UK.

“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. This same principle should apply to Donald J Trump. We cannot see how the United Kingdom can condone his entry to the country when many people have been barred for less.

“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”

A link to the pending UK Government petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114003/sponsors/nGGS2xREOf7xenNcRh

Campaigner Suzanne Kelly contributes to online newspaper Aberdeen Voice (www.aberdeenvoice.com), and has written a report analyzing Trump’s presence at the Menie Estate and has followed his career.

She said:

“The government is to be congratulated for keeping people who preach hatred and intolerance out of the UK. If Trump doesn’t fit the criteria of ‘unacceptable behaviour’ that has kept so many others out, I’d very much like to know why. It’s getting to the point that I can’t think of any group he hasn’t made negative remarks about, but some of his recent comments seem to me to hit out at religious freedom, people with physical disabilities and whole nations.

“I don’t know where this man belongs, but for me, it’s definitely not in the White House, and it’s definitely not as a welcome guest in the UK. I hope he’ll lose his ‘Global Scot’ status and his honorary degree from Robert Gordon University, too.

“I’m not alone in feeling that any group that would willingly endorse him at this point is on shaky moral ground. Any UK groups that receive taxpayer funding should not align with this person, and should re-think their positions.

“When I first discussed launching petitions on these issues, all the feedback was positive. In fact, there are so many people around the globe who want to stand up and be counted that a second petition open to everyone, not just UK citizens, has been created as well, demanding that Robert Gordon University revoke Trump’s honorary degree.”

The text of this petition reads:

“We respectfully request that Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen) strips Donald Trump of the honorary degree it bestowed on him with immediate effect.”We feel that Donald Trump’s unrepentant, persistent verbal attacks on various groups of people based on nationality, religion, race and physical abilities are a huge detriment to RGU. Hate speech must not have a place in academia, in politics or on the world stage. We are confident RGU will agree with the petitioners, and act swiftly.

“We would also note the brave opposition of Dr David Kennedy to this degree at the time it was bestowed.”

A link to this petition can be found here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/donald-j-trump-revoke-rgu-degree

Kelly also plans to petition her local and national governments to cease all projects which join Trump’s business interests and taxpayer money.

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Aug 172015
 
tashilhunpomonkspic2

Tibetan monks from Tashi Lhunpo return to Aberdeen for the first time since performing at Queen’s Cross Church in November 2011

With thanks to Paul Kohn.

Monday 24th August sees the return after four years of Tibetan Monks to Queen’s Cross Church Sanctuary in Aberdeen.

The dances and music are performed by Tibetan monks from the Gelugpa Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, a sacred world filled with the chanting of Buddhist texts, the recitation of mantras, ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and beating of drums.

Recreating the mysteries of Buddhist monasteries, Tibetan monks from Tashi Lhunpo offer a dramatic presentation of sacred dance, music and prayer with traditional costumes and ceremonial masks.

Founded by the first Dalai Lama in the 15th Century, Tashi Lhunpo is one of the most important monasteries in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Re-established in exile in South India it is becoming one of the major centres of Buddhist learning, best known for its artistic tradition of masked dances and sacred learning.

The show comes straight from the Edinburgh Fringe and is part of a three month tour
of UK and Europe organised by Tashi Lhunpo UK Trust.

The performance will be held at Queen’s Cross Church Sanctuary, at the corner of Albyn and Carden Place, at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 24th August. Tickets on
the door cost £8.00, concessions £5.00. Doors open 7.00pm

Jan 162015
 

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Duncan Harley shares his thoughts.

paris_008It rained in Paris last week. The average temperature was around 7°C with occasional sunshine.

The RER, Batobus and the Paris Metro ran much as usual. Tourists came and tourists went. The city went to work, and at the end of the day the citizens went home to eat, greet and prepare for work the next day.

Then of course the offices of Charlie Hebdo were assaulted, overnight the profession of satirist became dangerous and the citizens of Paris became frontline troops in a war involving terror.

There are those in the Muslim world who maintain that the attacks in France are a justified response to an assault on Islam. Fortunately those folk are in an extreme minority. Most condemn the assault on liberty.

The Paris murders are just that. Murders carried out by a bunch of criminally obsessive killers intent on self-imposed martyrdom.

In the long game they may have hoped to achieve something beyond notoriety, but in the short game all they have done is made a complete fool of Islam.

Unlike Christianity, Islam has no idols to view. The Prophet cannot be seen even in death. In a way of course, that makes complete sense given the sometimes awful images of a blond Christian Christ on the cross and a Caucasian Jesus in pristine cream robes fishing on the Lake of Galilee.

As for the virgin birth, well that is also a joke. Mary might well have been innocent of having sexual relations with God but, in the big scheme of things, someone impregnated her and anyone who says otherwise, to my mind, is simply a dreamer.

We in the West can write about the above without fear of assassination. At least we think we can.

So what happened in Paris?

The French have always taken care to exploit the folk in their colonies. Algeria features high on the list: used as cannon fodder in the 1939–1945 war, France’s colonial troops were used and abused by the colonial powers. The survivors were then deprived of military pension rights in the wake of Algerian independence. Many blame this old colonial attitude for the outrages of this week.

Moslems in France are second-class citizens. Underdogs deprived of respect, they feel marginalized and forgotten. In reality the French, in common with the citizens of many European countries, disrespect Jews, Eastern Europeans and on occasion even the English.

What happened in Paris is three-fold.

  • Firstly, some disenfranchised dreamers looked inward and imagined that mass murder was a way forward.
  • Some satirists died.
  • A million folk met at the Place de la République.

No matter what your beliefs, the killing of the messenger is a poor political idea. If this is the true face of Islam, then God help us all. If this is an isolated incident borne of hate, then we must address the issues. Otherwise, we should respect our neighbours’ needs and beliefs.

The murder of the journalists and cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo has unleashed a black dog throughout Europe.

Let’s hope that the mongrel can be contained.

© Duncan Harley – All rights reserved.

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Jan 162015
 
  • Aberdeen Voice wishes to alert readers that the following article contains strong language. It is the considered opinion of the editorial team that the writer’s experiential account and the style in which his views and thoughts are expressed are best served by presenting his contribution as intact and true to the original text as possible.

By Greg Chaos.

Greg (3)When I first visited Uganda in January 2011 it was to do charity work. I was to be looking after children in an orphanage and teaching English and Mathematics at a primary school.
I’d recently split from a long term partner. My job prospects seemed to be disappearing down the toilet quicker than my latest bowel movement; causing perpetual skintness.

I was constantly inebriated because it was only thing I actually enjoyed doing… I needed an escape and I needed to do something with my life. At the time; this was the answer.

I knew about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill before I left. To me it came across as typical right-wing, nonsense legislation, passed by some idiot in power; which eventually would be quashed. I’d thrown myself into learning everything I could about the country in the 7 weeks between me deciding I was going and getting on the plane.

Despite the Bill, I’d decided to go anyway. Half way through my stay a friend sent me a video which had just aired in the UK, on BBC3. In Uganda my connection was poor and it would have taken me several days to download so I decided against it and watched it when I got home. I was shocked that the nation I’d just been to (and couldn’t wait to go back to) was the source of this homophobic hate. Naturally I thought; “well, they’ve clearly picked the biggest nutters they can find to put into this”.

I’m talking, of course, about BBC3’s ‘World’s Worst Place to be Gay?’ presented by Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills; a gay man himself.

Throughout the next 12 months I would strategically plan to set up my own charity which was to help orphanages and community based projects in Uganda. I had fallen in love with the country. I was going back. I watched ‘The Last King of Scotland’ countless times so I could feel as close as possible to the place again.

But I was going to address the homophobia and I would not be caught dead supporting any cause that was homophobic in any way.

I dedicated all my time to finding out about LGBT in Uganda. All I could find were the troubles. There was nothing online based around meeting anyone and helping any causes. When the penalty is potentially death, it’s understandable that most people don’t have the rainbow flying high.

In January 2012 I returned and immediately noticed a spectacular difference in the place. Perhaps it was because my eyes had been opened and I was seeing past the bullshit, who knows.

One of my first experiences of homophobia was the hostel I was staying at. I had become acquainted with one of the women who worked there. We’d hooked up and I asked her if she fancied going to dinner the next night. Despite her trying to take me to the most expensive restaurant in Kampala, (a fact I found out later on that night), we went to an Irish Bar called Bubbles for some pub grub and a piss up.

GregEquator featIt was my first real chance, so I asked what she thought about the anti-homosexuality bill. She did everything she could not to answer the question. By the sounds of things the staff at the hostel had heard the foreigners complaining enough about the bill to not mention it… or at least to avoid confrontation about it.

She wouldn’t give me an answer. All I got out of her was ‘Jesus this and Jesus that’. The usual sentiments you’d expect from someone who lacks the ability to think for themselves. So I told her straight; “I’m Bisexual, does that bother you?”

After explaining what bisexual meant, she responded with the strangest question I’ve ever been asked about my sexuality.

To this day it still stops me in my tracks when I think about it. She grabbed my hand and said “Well why don’t you change? You can change.”

It took me a few seconds to register. The mixed feelings of outrage, complete shock and then the all-important guilt; which was quickly shaken off and replaced by sheer pride. I asked why I should change and witnessed the bigotry flow like blood from a stab wound. After half an hour of the usual God Nonsense and her ignoring my Atheism, I gave up and told her we should part.

I went to the bar to sink some quick vodkas and smoke a few fags, still trying to shake off the residual shock and rage.

Apparently insulting me wasn’t enough and she came in to find me. Apparently “this date is over, I suggest you go home or do whatever, but leave me alone, I don’t want to see you” wasn’t clear enough. She asked me for money for her taxi home and I’ll let you guess what my final words of the evening were.

After a few days I travelled to the city of Masaka; about 80 miles South West of Kampala.

I had been based here the previous year and was quite familiar with the surroundings. It’s a smaller city with a population of around 75,000, A lot calmer than the some 2 million of Kampala. I met with a friend who had offered me accommodation for a few weeks whilst I set up my charity. His community based projects included libraries and a small local bank for loans to help build local infrastructure. He had even come up with units to harness the natural gases from farmyard dung to be used for cooking stoves.

This man is (and to this today remains), in my mind; a Saint. He rose early every day to teach classes and stayed late every night to run his projects. His pay is meagre and he lives a simple life. The only remaining child of ELEVEN brothers and sisters, his determination is unparalleled. So it greatly pleased me to find out he had absolutely no quarrels with sexual orientation. (In fact he was curious and asked questions on the matter. I actually suspect he may be queer himself). He would come to be the only shoulder close by at one point.

Over the next few weeks my social interactions with the people around me diminished. I would always try and approach the question of the bill and refused to shy away from it as I felt I had done the year previously. Something I felt ashamed about. As the weeks continued I could see I was being taken less seriously because of what I had confessed.

Ugandans do this thing where they laugh and smile profusely when they’re having a serious conversation with someone and believe themselves to be right, even when they’re not.

Greg (5)Whilst doing this the other person in the conversation is usually visually distressed or down hearted. It is, to say the least, infuriating.

I feel that I was probably seeing the better side of it all. These conversations were with men and women who both worked for this man’s charity, so they have probably heard this all before from the foreigners who’ve come across to work for the charity and spoke against the bill in conversation.

I would later turn out to be correct.

After a few weeks I finally relocated to the programme I had worked with the previous year in a village just outside of Masaka. In a room full of cockroaches and with rats running on the rafters above you while you try to sleep; it’s not the nicest in the world, but it’s a bed for the night or 3 weeks… as it turned out.

The owner of this particular orphanage is (as has now been proven) a money grabbing useless bastard. He is out of the closet in every country around the world it would seem, except Uganda; which is why I haven’t mentioned the dickhead’s name. He arrived a few days after I did, returning from America where he had been touring for almost a year.

This former Pastor had been giving sermons at churches and Universities around the States for literally thousands of dollars per session. Sometimes up to five or six times a week, for 11 months. In case you’re not aware, the exchange rate in Uganda is incredibly low. You could live for a year pretty comfortably on a budget of £3-4,000. Easy. That’s nights out, 3 meals a day and rent if you find the right place and strike up a deal.

The children he ‘looks after’ drink dirty water, wear rags and sometimes don’t go to school because he doesn’t pay the bills (despite owning a fucking school as well). They sleep on piss stained mattresses despite the fact I had replaced these a year before. Turns out they were carted off to his school as he could make more money having a boarding section.

In the end I confronted him about all of this and we parted ways. Before doing so I did get the chance to chat with him about the LGBT Rights in Uganda.

Even after divulging my own orientation he wasn’t keen to let anything go, despite his sexuality and the fact that his sermons condoning same sex relationships are plastered all over the internet. He should be commended slightly for his work within LGBT, although he is not known for it in his home country (and would probably be shunned if he was).

The man commands a lot of respect within the community around him because of his work; the orphanage and the school. However these are a complete joke compared to the luxury houses he owns, the cars he drives and the meals he eats. He’s the classic example of the rich not wanting to sacrifice an inch so that those under him can have a better life.

Greg (2)Whilst in the local bar one evening, drinking away my blues with my pal George (the local raging alcoholic with a gammy arm who delivers dirty water for a living, who just happens to not be a homophobe as well) I was confronted by a local man who I already knew had a distaste for mzungus (white people).

He had overheard me talking to George, I assume on the issue of the bill, and had begun to shout at me. But this time it was different. There was no mention of the bible in this man’s rant.

This time it was pure hatred. We tossed words back and forth before the bar owner threw the man out for being too drunk. Roberta (the lady whose house was actually the bar) spoke little English but recognized that the man was on one of his Anti-Mzungu tirades and chucked him out.

His friends weren’t impressed with me either, however on that particular night the choice between drinking and homophobic hate was in the end determined by their thirst and they sat quietly and glared at me. Having had a few drinks (I wasn’t hammered; just tipsy), I was prescribing to the “fuck ‘em” philosophy. It wasn’t until I sobered up that I realized that the quarter mile long walk home in the pitch black would have made me easy pickings.

You have to remember we were only a year removed from the murder of David Kato (the gay rights campaigner and Uganda’s first openly gay man) who was beaten to death with a hammer in his bed. At the very least I would have got my head kicked in and, to be honest; looking back on the situation, the only thing that probably stopped that from happening was that I wasn’t a local.

Had I been, I think it would have only been a matter of time before I was attacked. This all might sound overly dramatic, but I saw the look in those men’s eyes, I don’t think they even knew I was queer, but they did hear my support against the bill and that was enough to get them angry.

After parting ways with the village I had a week to kill before I returned home. I visited a few different projects and did some good work in the time I had left, but by this point my spirit was well and truly broken. It was becoming clear that throwing money into these causes wasn’t going to be the answer because the same problems would arise and the cycle of poverty would simply continue instead of changing for the better.

I was drinking with a guy I’d met the previous year, he knew and had no issues, however this could be linked to me paying for most of his drinks. At £1 a bottle I didn’t really care.

He was a street worker. Basically he’d wait outside the shopping centres and people would come to him looking for a particular fabric or dress or whatever. Instead of them looking for themselves, he’d go and buy items from several different shops. Sometimes travelling as far as Kampala for them. A strange profession but one that fed him.

Greg (6)I met him on the street with two other lads; his friends/co-workers or whatever; and one had said something along the lines of “here’s your boyfriend” in a sarcastic tone.

These two lads must have been about 19 or 20. I shot them a glare to let them know I’d heard them and that the next words from his mouth would hurt.

They shot a glare right back before my friend took me away and it settled on its own. It seemed that throughout all age groups there was hatred.

Before retiring on my last night I spoke just generally about my time in Uganda with the owners of the Hotel I was staying in in Kampala. A German couple, of Indian origins. They’d lived there for a good few years. Every now and again, when you’d walk past their room, the door would be ajar and you’d see their clothes hung up all over the room and one of them lying in bed. They were at that age where they didn’t seem to give a shit anymore.

They’d been together for some 40 years, if I recall. So why they chose to live in Uganda, I will never know. I really should have asked. Every now and again you’d see them in the reception area sitting side by side watching TV; one with a hand on the knee of the other, both with walking sticks. It was a stark contrast to everything I had seen going on around me because after all, these were enemies of the state. They were a Gay Couple.

Footnote:  I have picked out a few of my negative experiences and pieced it together as best as I can. Please understand that every situation I put myself into, excluding the verbal attack in the bar in which I defended myself, I did so as calmly and carefully as possible.

The goal was never to create enemies, it was to create friends and try and show that LGBT is a natural way of life because we are seen as some sort of evil in Uganda. My only aim was to help, not to incite more hatred, and I did it for as long as I could humanly take it.
Please also note that all names and some places have been omitted or changed in order to protect the identities of those in Uganda from their Government.

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Jan 082015
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

DictionaryBefore I weigh in with the usual weekly attempt at satire, I hope you will forgive a few non-satirical comments in light of the slaughter of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, journalists and activists in Paris yesterday.

My paragraph order is shoddy today; my words are not going to be honed (yes, sometimes I do try) – but expediency is key this week I think.

Before the events of 7 January in Paris, I had nearly finished writing a piece on the role of protest and the different forms dissent can take. This was spurred on by several factors.

A USA Today article seemed to suggest that protests didn’t really do much, and that even if it seemed that there were many protests around the world in 2014, there weren’t that many, and they weren’t hugely successful.

That no dictatorships instantly toppled at the first sign of protest last year was taken as a proof that protests don’t amount to much. The Occupy movement was put down as being ‘a spent force’; and lip service was paid to events such as the Arab Spring and recent protests against police shootings in the USA.

Another factor was a local activist had given up on a campaign trying to save a local landmark. They felt that the city was going to do whatever it wanted to do anyway, despite what the people might want. This seems true most of the time – I doubt anyone will forget the Aberdeen budget cut protest march of 2008. Several thousand people marched, and alas there was little immediate good outcome.

It actually took time to get rid of some of the elected authors of the cuts to services – cuts that hurt the most vulnerable in society. At the same time we had been selling the family silver in the form of property for next to nothing; beneficiaries included local luminary Stewart Milne (as per articles past).

Then an artist expressed doubt as to the value of the political commentary some of their work made. Can music and art make any headway or have influence when it comes to the art of protest?

On a personal note, my annual Christmas satire on local events hasn’t been without some backlash. I’m used to that kind of thing now – my columns have seen me threatened with legal action (such threats have all come to nothing), the odd (and I do mean odd) personal attacks on social media, a threat with being reported to the Scottish Football Association (which backfired spectacularly), the odd whispering campaign; I’ve been personally threatened, and I earned the title ‘Odious Susannah’ from the Liberal Dems.

It just makes me more determined. But no one should have to pay for their beliefs, their right to legal expression and their creativity in any manner – least not with their freedom or their lives.

Many people are disgusted with the bias shown by media; our very own little city is a classic example of how the powerful prevail when they can exert control over the news.

When bias editorials commingle with factual articles, and there is no acknowledgement of the blatant bias on the part of those whose self-interest dictates what news is presented, we need more than ever voices from the artists, the songwriters, the disenfranchised for counterbalance.

The evidence supporting the power of protest art, demonstrations and satire is everywhere. To the discouraged and downhearted I’d say look around, take courage and carry on. Even when a petition, protest or campaign fails, you never know who may take inspiration in the future, or what seeds your ground work may sow.

Let’s see. John Lennon’s piano is currently on a peace tour. The Creedence Clearwater Revival Protest Song ‘Fortunate Son’ reignited debate when it was performed by John Fogarty, Bruce Springsteen and (the venerable) David Grohl at a veteran’s concert at the end of 2014.

The song highlights the iniquity in American society at the time of the Vietnam War (or conflict as the propaganda machine preferred to call it) – and it’s clearly still hitting a nerve and creating debate over 40 years later.

Satire is nothing new, and seems part of the modern human condition. From the early Greek satire The Frogs through Gulliver’s Travels, Gargantua to name but a few, writers and poets such as Milton and Dante created enduring literary classics when they embarked on scathing satire.

Magazines such as Charlie Hebdo and Private Eye have brought stories to light which other newspapers either ignored or picked up later (often claiming ‘scoops’ where Private Eye had already laid stories bare).

Music is memorable, is influential, and a great song will keep a story alive longer than a newspaper article or online story. We remember heroes and villains of the past and distant past precisely because of art and music.

Some may argue that protest and satire are pointless and ‘offensive’ respectively; I would respectfully argue in today’s high-surveillance, unequal, unfair, violent, corrupt climate that it is essential to get as many songs of protest and politics written as we can for the benefit of educating people today and for helping to record events and feelings for the benefit of generations to come.

JK Rowling may be best remembered for writing books for children about magic. What I got out of reading her works (besides some good old fashioned fun and adventure) is that people need to question authority and stand up to corrupt bureaucracy wherever they find it, and how badly wrong things can go when people are complacent or deliberately hide their heads in the sand.

“Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!” – J K  Rowling

The USA today piece’s author seems to feel that unless a protest, movement or act of defiance has some immediate, measurable outcome, it is an inconsequential failure. It’s just as well that the Suffragettes didn’t share that view. If we were to take this article as guidance and not bother to speak out, protest and act out, we would soon have the homogenous, repressed world order that many in power would like us to have.

Perhaps An Sang Su Ki should have backed down after the first year or two of her arrest?

As with any other endeavour, the only way failure is assured is to either allow complacency and inertia to end it, or for the prospect of failure to stop a movement starting in the first place.

Perhaps the State, the extremists and private interests would like people to believe that protests, protest music and art and political satire are worthless. But if protest is the privilege of people in a democracy, then surely propaganda is the tool of the powers that be against the people.

On a local level an anecdote comes to mind.

Several artists who were turned down for an arts grant from Aberdeen City Council contacted me with concerns about one of the grant recipients. This particular recipient was someone who worked for the council… giving out arts grants.

And the proposal they had which won funding over other artists? They created a short film showing all the positives of Aberdeen City which is veritably an advert for this city, warts removed.

As an artistic endeavour the film is not without merit. However, when you consider the job of an artist is in part to select and comment on the world around them, it is very handy indeed that the city and the artist could find no wrong in Aberdeen, and the resulting grant-winning project doubles nicely as a promotional piece for the city.

If you were to contrast this film with the gritty, excellent documentary ‘Run Down Aberdeen’ created by Fraser Denholm, it becomes apparent which is the more honest, holistic – and artistic piece of work.

Can a song have influence? Mark Edwards took Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’, and used it as the unifying theme and inspiration for his Hard Rain project. This is a globally-touring photo essay on the state of the world, the good, the bad and the ugly; it makes the viewer question where we are, where we are headed, and what could and should be done to improve the lot of humanity and the state of our environment.

All this from a 3 minute song. If songs were without power, do we believe the major political parties would spend so much time worrying about what song to pick for their conventions?

Around the world journalists, activists, writers, musicians and artists languish in prisons because they have dared to stand up to dictators. In the West, we have a tradition of political satire which is to be preserved at all costs – as sadly some people have paid highly for this freedom.

The courtiers of Versailles were satirised in the extreme; the simple cartoons summed up succinctly the excesses and cruelties of the day for all to see. Did they contribute to the Revolution? Absolutely.

If art had no power, Picasso’s epic Guernica would not have been created in response to Spanish Civil War atrocities and would not have been hung in the United Nations building (where are the UN and what are they doing to protect the individual’s rights seems a fair question) – but that’s not the end of the story.

When the US decided to ‘help out’ Iraq in 2003, it despatched Colin Powell to the UN to break the news. The only problem was that painting. It commemorates the bombing by Germany of the Spanish town for no other reason than to test its new military air prowess. The painting was removed lest it stir up any anti-war sentiment.

The powerful don’t want you and me to take to the streets, to write letters or write songs, to pen cartoons or poems and will denigrate such acts. But make no mistake, the powerful understand the value of propaganda and the power of protest music and art.

I’m sure the USA Today writer has more experience, credentials and skill than I do (who doesn’t?). If his position that protests don’t matter is ever proven, let’s keep it our little secret. Please don’t tell Banksy, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson, Ian Hislop, Jello Biafra, Peter Gabriel, Doonesbury’s creator Gary Trudeau, Rage Against The Machine, Steve Bell, http://www.original-political-cartoon.com/, TV Smith, The Sex Pistols, etc. etc.

Definitely don’t tell Spitting Image’s creators Peter Fluck, Roger Law and Martin Lambie-Nairn – for rumour has it they might bring the show back (and do we ever need it). And please don’t tell Charlie Hebdo. Do think for a moment what a drabber world it would be without these voices.

Someone sent me this lyric the other day; perhaps it sums things up rather nicely when it comes to why we need protest music, protest art, cartoons and satire:

“We’ll fight, not out of spite For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing”
– Jewel (Thanks Nicky Cairney)

But I think the fallen of Charlie Hebdo might have preferred it if I just carried on with a bit of satire this week as usual, so here goes. Thank you for bearing with me, and now it’s time for one quick definition.

Religion: (ancient archaic noun) Belief systems shared by individuals.

Many religious movements started with simple, peaceful intentions – ‘love one another’, ‘do no harm’ etc. etc. But sometimes a little violence, torture, war and guerrilla warfare is needed to spread the love.

All religions are valid. Confucianism and its passion for logic is just as valid as believing in an American who thinks some of us came from the Planet Zog and are really giant lobsters – who for a small fee can get higher up the cosmic pecking order. The use of any intellectual prowess to consider whether or not a religion has any redeeming features is offensive.

Criticising, doubting, questioning any religious group – be they Branch Davidians who believed in guns and child molestation, or extremists who want to save us by killing anyone who disagrees with them – is bang out of order.

Wanting to subjugate women, stone homosexuals and bisexuals and control freedom are all valid religious values and as such are not to be criticised. It is important to never question your own belief system, anyone else’s belief system, and to keep quiet. Occasionally it seems religion is being used as an excuse for violence, but that’s only if you’re a non-believer.

So if anyone’s looking for me after my eventual demise, look no further than the Lake of Fire in Hades. And please bring marshmallows, BrewDog and Jack D.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Mar 202014
 

The death of Tony Benn at age 88 has led to comments as diverse as “Maximum respect going out to my main man” – Ali G, and “that twinkling old poisonous irrelevance” – Adam Boulton. By Duncan Harley.

traffic cones

It’s a funny old world really. Just last week I attended the funeral service of Raymond Christie late resident of Newton Of Balquhain, Inverurie. Only a very few of us Scots will have heard of him.

Within the shire he was well known and well liked. As a farmer, publican and churchman he sparkled.

As a man he did what he considered supportive to family, friends and above all his community.

A good service, a good burial and although I did not go, a good few drinks in the Strathburn to celebrate a life well lived and well appreciated.

Ronnie Rocket was there as was George Skinner plus the new owners of the Black Bull. It was a poignant ceremony and worthy of the man.

Raymond’s sons and his daughter were on hand on the way in to welcome all to the service. My friend Joe was too frail to attend but sent his wishes via his wife Anne. All in all it was a good Doric send off.

Tony Benn also died last week. Another life well worth celebrating,  a life truthfully spent in doing whatever mattered to the man. A life spent walking the walk and speaking the talk.

A man of principle who took politics out of the constricted corridors of power. A man who became an iconic figure of our age.
A man who perversely gave up politics in the belief that he could devote more time to politics.

The ever present voice of the right in the form of Adam Boulton had this to say in connection with Tony:

“Oh really, and who elected you? Tony Benn rounded on my colleague John Stapleton as he put a polite but pointed question to the tribune of the left at a Labour conference in the early 1980s. Labour conferences back then were a contact sport. I’d already been spat at, grabbed by the lapels and — this was a surprise — barged out of the way by the party leader and book-lover Michael Foot. Mid-period Benn was a man of that mood. Ready to champion any radical group that wanted to impose its will by protest and threat, from Arthur Scargill’s National Union of Mineworkers to the Militant Tendency.

I interviewed Tony Benn many times in many moods — pithy, long-winded, charming, vicious and always entertaining and informative. But I don’t think anything he said to me ever mattered. The truth is that by 1983 Tony Benn’s work was done. The twinkling old gent mourned this week is an irrelevance except to the family he loved and those who loved him. Benn’s legacy to the nation should be judged from when he was a frontline politician in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties.”

The Boulton piece was published in the Sunday Times under the title “that twinkling old poisonous irrelevance.” http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/comment/columns/adamboulton/article1387581.ece

Many folk of course wonder why Adam Boulton has written about Tony Benn with such great gusto. ‘Where is the respect nowadays?‘ say some and others point to Benn’s interview with Ali G where he came out of an interview with Ali G looking slightly shocked but victorious.

The sanctification of death often brings out the best rhetoric from those who are left. Often it comes from the standpoint of a relief that it was not them who died. After all, who wants to see death from the standpoint of one within.

Described as a “political nutter” by Andrew Marr, Mr Boulton was recently reported recently to have described Channel 4 news presenters as ‘Muppets’ who were ‘fighting over the autocue’

He may have a point or two about unprovoked rudeness.

As Tony Benn once said:

“If one meets a powerful person ask them five questions: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”

Tony, bless his soul, tried hard to rid us of such foolishness as Trident and that Thatcher of whom we dare not speak.

I miss both Benn and Raymond Christie for what they stood for and of course for their honesty. Many wonder if we will miss Adam Boulton in quite the same way.

RIP Tony Benn, 3/4/1925 – 14/3/2014. A man of principle.

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Dec 192013
 

Roger Waters2 by Duncan HarleyIs Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters an open hater of Jews or simply an opponent of injustice? – writes Duncan Harley

As a past defender of the Jewish cause, I have to wonder if there is a way forward for the lost tribe of Israel. My old pal Norman was indeed of that persuasion.
With a gentile wife, the occasional pothead, father of two and caravan owner exemplified the genre.

Not necessarily in that order of course. Mainly he was just a normal, well-adjusted resident of that mean city which we Scots call Glasgow.

Nice guy really, but after a wee drink or two, things often became intellectually rough.

I wished him well of course, but being Jewish by birth and with a “you would never even know” kind of persona, he was fated to be one of those guys you loved, but also loved to hate.

He and I got on really well until that fateful day in the August of 1992 when the question of the Holocaust arose during a so far, pleasant joint family trip to Findhorn.

There had been previous family holidays, trips down the Clyde on the SS Waverley and some very memorable picnics in those Campsie Glens. However, over a Guinness or two we fell out over that old question. Over a Guinness or two we failed to agree about that old question. Over a Guinness or two it all went bottom side up.

The problem was of course that Jewish colonisation of the Holy Land following  the Turkish domination of the Middle East, in the 300 years before 1914 and T.E. Lawrence’s attempts to unite the Arab Nations; plus, of course, the often vindictive treatment of the indigenous people of the area which is now occupied by the State of Israel. A heady mix indeed.

–          If Hitler had got his way, I wouldn’t be here.

–          What can you mean?

–          How dare you even ask.

–          Erm, not sure really. Hitler died before I was even born. My dad nearly died fighting against his airmen.

–          If Hitler had got his way, I wouldn’t be here.

–          So, if Hitler had invaded Scotland …

–          If Hitler had got his way, I wouldn’t be here.

–          Yes, I got that. But what about moving forward. I mean, the past is important and all that of course. The future might well be even more important perhaps.

–          Fuck you, you are a Jew hater.

–          Pardon me?

–          Fuck you, you have never seen your family humiliated.

–          Erm. Another pint good sir?

–          Fuck you, you have never had to suffer.

–          OK. That would be a no then …

–          Fuck you, you hate us.

–          Well I don’t hate you but I will certainly try if that will make you satisfied Norman.

In a refreshing interview this week, former Pink Floyd front man, Roger Waters, has spoken out loudly about the Palestinian cause.

Sparking fury from The Jewish Chronicle, he is reported as saying

“The Holocaust was brutal and disgusting beyond our imagination. We must never forget it. We must always remain vigilant. We must never stand by silent and indifferent to the sufferings of others, whatever their race, colour, ethnic background or religion. All human beings deserve the right to live equally under the law.”

He then proceeded to walk the talk down that thorny path of comparing the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians to that of the Third Reich’s crusade against the non-Aryan races of the world.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of New York has seemingly said of Mr Waters,

“the Nazis were a genocidal regime that murdered six million Jews. That you would have the audacity to compare Jews to monsters who murdered them shows you have no decency, you have no heart, you have no soul.”

“If Rabbi Boteach can make a case for the Israel government’s policies, I look forward to hearing it. It is difficult to make arguments to defend the Israeli government’s policies, so would-be defenders often use a diversionary tactic, they routinely drag the critic into a public arena and accuse them of being an anti-Semite” replied Waters.

The debate, if that is indeed what it is, will no doubt continue.

Barack Obama has recently said

“I will continue to believe that Israel’s security is paramount.”

Many will wonder, however, if the US President is genuinely prepared to further escalate the turmoil in which the Middle East currently finds itself involved.

Many others continue to cling to the hope that the Israeli state will somehow be persuaded to substantially revise its expansionist policies and its habit of mistreating the Palestinian people, despite its seemingly deeply entrenched position.

The world is holding its breath in anticipation of a solution to the Israeli problem.

More Info:

The full “Former Pink Floyd” Guardian article
The Jewish Chronicle
An Avaaz petition to “Lift the siege of Gaza” 

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Oct 212013
 

Two city youth councillors, Barry Black and Kenneth Watt, have backed a Scottish Parliament motion calling for the legislation making three religious figures on local authorities’ education committees necessary to be banned.

acyc-youth-council-logo1

Instead of the religious committee members, Barry and Kenneth
believe that the positions should be filled by young people, who can be taken from democratically elected bodies such as the Scottish Youth Parliament or the Aberdeen City Youth Council.

Kenneth said:

“It is not correct in 2013 to have religious figureheads – who nobody elected and many disagree with – to be making decisions about school children.

“I firmly believe that multiculturalism should be a key part of religion in faith in school, however, this in no way makes it appropriate to have unelected people deciding the budget and crucial decisions for schools.

“The majority of young people have no affiliation to religion and by only selecting religious representatives from a faith with a ‘place of worship,’ minority faith groups and those who do not follow religion are not represented.”

Barry said:

“We have officially recognised youth groups at both national and local level – it would be a much better idea to utilise an elected young person to give input in to their education.

“Young people should be empowered to make decisions about what matters to them.”

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