Culture and Religion

Review: Graciela Mochkofsky, The prophet of the Andes: An unlikely journey to the promised land, 2022.

Inca Jews? Yet another 'lost tribe'? Jewish folklore never fails to surprise. But this is even stranger. This, at least for the Jewish 'colony' (the real Jews) in sleepy Cajamarca, Peru, was more like an outbreak of the plague, which they instinctively shunned, refusing these interlopers even access to their synagogue to pray.

with physicist Josh Mittledorf

Keats famously proclaimed 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye need to know.' A great romantic meme (Keats died of TB, a bachelor, at 26), but honesty, truth are lousy guides to understanding beauty in the world. How many times have you been fooled by a pretty face (or fooled someone with your pretty face)?

In The evolution of beauty: How Darwin's forgotten theory of mate choice shapes the animal world---and us (2017), Richard Prum coins a word for Keats's fatuous meme: flatitude. A faux insight acquiring supposed profundity by flattening the intellectual complexity of the world. Contrast that with Shakespeare's Hamlet telling gorgeous Ophelia to take a hike:

What makes us human? We used to think it was tool making. Then we discovered from the pioneering work of Jane Goodall that chimps use straws to extract tasty ants from holes. A deluge of similar intensive work with animals reveals that crows have even built’ compound tools out of parts. Studies of animals show us they have feelings, innate intelligence, giving rise to a powerful animal rights movement and many people switching off meat altogether. Most experiments involving torturing animals have come to an abrupt halt, much like how slavery was ended (I know, still lots of quasi-slavery). So there is some advance in our morality and ethics.

Mo: Comedy is a protest art form. It's an honest art form. You reveal your inner secrets. It's positive. You get things off your chest, make them hilarious, positive. 

My focus here is on North American Muslims, who have been a major force in challenging the Islamophobia now rampant in the West, using only 'the word'. The comedians I highlight all travel on world tours and have played an important role in breaking down anti-Muslim prejudice in their own unique ways.

For humor to be in accordance with Islam, the joke should not be blasphemous and should be within the limits of adab (manners). The Prophet used to smile, rather than laugh. Aisha, wife of the Prophet Muhammad narrated:

We are exhorted to smile in hadith, to be self-deprecating.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here