Culture and Religion

Reflections from Tashkent circa 2003

When the West was forced to drop its Cold War (CW) campaign (during WWII, and to some extent during the early 60s and mid-70s, due to the invigorated peace struggles of the time) there was a slight breathing space which gave hope to the possibility of detente, i.e., respect of each system for the other's right to exist. More precisely: respect by capitalism of the right to exist of a social system diametrically opposed to capitalism. As opposed to Thatcher's TINA (There Is No Alternative) -- There Was An Alternative (TWAA)! Fear of this ‘enemy’ quickly evaporated among intelligent mainstream people in the West. These brief respites were tactical retreats in the long-term fight by imperialism, biding its time. Imperialism was always ready to provoke a new CW crisis, and did so on many occasions. I was able to slip through the ideological door during the flowering of detente in the mid-70s.

Winds of cultural change are clearing away cobwebs. Eric Walberg reviews a Czech film and observes how Czechs are re-evaluating the 1940-50s
6/11/8 -- History just won't leave the poor Czechs alone. As the Czechs celebrated their National Day on 28 October, knives were drawn in Prague where accusations that the dean of Czech belles lettres, Milan Kundera, had collaborated with the Communist authorities to capture a Czech deserter and US spy, Miroslav Dvoracek, in 1950. Dvoracek is now feted as a hero

The Bible tells me so. Lurking behind the Middle East's problems -- and not only -- these days is the misuse of the Bible to further unscrupulous political ends, argues Eric Walberg
29/11/7 -- "There is a cry of anguish from the depth of my heart, to my spiritual relatives. Please, please hear the call, the noble call of our scripture," Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize beseeched Israelis at "The Apartheid Paradigm in Palestine-Israel" conference sponsored by Friends of Sabeel North America, a Christian Palestinian group in Boston recently. "Don't be found fighting against this god, your god, our god, who hears the cry of the oppressed," Tutu said.

For more than a century, archaeologists and historians have attempted to confirm beliefs of both Christians and Jews about their common past using the Old Testament (OT) and New Testaments (NT) as starting points. Christians, while embracing the OT as a harmless precursor of the NT, insist that the combined texts prove the truth of Judaic monotheism, with its covenant with God, a covenant that was renewed with the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ. Jews, of course, stick with the basic OT texts, insisting they alone prove their role as God's Chosen People and their right to create a Jewish state, Israel, in the Holy Land.

In the third of his Ramadan articles, Eric Walberg looks at the increasing attraction to Islam on the part of Westerners
27/9/7 -- In part I we saw how the Crusades and their modern equivalents -- imperialism and neo- imperialism -- brought the West's agenda forcibly to the Muslim world, first via missionaries and armies, then businessmen and armies. In the past two centuries the West did much to undermine the raison d'être of the Muslim world, but the increased contacts also opened the doors for Western intellectuals to study its rich cultural heritage and, with the help of sincere translations of the Quran and other religious books, to discover Islam from the inside, not only with an attitude of superiority and hostility.

In the second of his Ramadan series of articles, Eric Walberg looks at the Quran in English

20/9/7 -- The great conundrum of Islam for the non- Arabic speaker is: Can the sacred text be translated without losing its sacredness? Is the true meaning "lost in the translation"?

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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