Sunday, 29 January 2012


With Muslim communities growing in Western countries and with a world-wide Gallup poll telling us that 59% of radical Muslims and 32% of the moderates want Sharia as the only law, how much of a threat is it to us?

Sharia Law was first established to safeguard the populace from the excesses of sultan and caliph rulers. It was God’s law that could not be manipulated to benefit the privileged. Lawyers proliferate because, like every other law, it has different interpretations:
                   Hanbali: the most conservative version,
                   Hanifi: the most liberal and open to modern ideas,
                   Maliki: an extension of the laws in effect during Muhammad’s lifetime, and
                   Hafi’i: the conservative opinions of the companions of Muhammad.
Much of what we cherish today originated in the Islamic Sharia laws. Because of French conquests of Muslim lands and the subsequent 1066 Norman conquest of England, plus revelations brought home by crusaders, much of English Common Law is Sharia and Islamic, having replaced Anglo-Saxon law, and the earlier and harsher Roman law that had supplanted the egalitarian Celtic laws. These new Islamic laws included jury trial, impartial judges, free speech, the rights of the poor to a lawyer, women rights, animal rights, and much more. The vaunted British "fair play" has Sharia roots (but also Persian roots from Cyrus the Great, 559-530 BC, with his human rights edict). Under Islamic (and Persian) laws, warfare was to avoid harm to civilians, their property, and their lands. Captured crusaders were amazed, and grateful, at being treated kindly even though they had previously massacred entire Muslim communities. Slavery was tolerated only in wartime as an alternate to the previous slaughter of a defeated enemy. Multiple wives were permitted only after wars that caused a shortage of men.

All this seems so enlightened, so why do we fear Sharia?
With the Enlightenment, European laws went on to further enhance human rights while Sharia stagnated, still clinging to its old punishment codes. And, there have been many deviations. Those who, by means fair or foul, achieve power are prone to alter laws and practices, and use religion, or secularism, to suit their own ends. The devout may consider such actions as aberrations but their existence stresses the vital need of a law of the land based on human rights and devoid of the controls of priests, shamen, ayatollahs, politicians, or privileged groups.
We can see in those countries where Sharia is entrenched, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and N. Nigeria, not only an eye-for-an-eye mentality but cruel punishments such as lashes for gambling or drinking, beating a wife for being too uppity, stoning to death for adultery or sodomy, cutting off hands for stealing, plus beheadings, crucifixions, and honour killings (only 31% of which are by practicing Muslims). Tolerating Sharia, it is argued, could open the door for Muslim anti-blasphemy laws and their associated violent passions. It took Christians 400 years of bloody struggle to earn the right to criticize Christianity. Muslims have yet to start this struggle. This is our main aversion to Sharia. Yes, Muslims can point to Western faults such as the cruel treatment of POWs by the US, or the chaining in groups of 10, hundreds of illegal Guatemalan and Mexican male and female workers in Iowa. We do have our warts.
Quebec has officially banned Sharia Law. The Archbishop of Canterbury claims it should be acceptable in Muslim communities in the UK minus its penal code. It is creeping into the USA. Somali taxi drivers in Minneapolis, now 80% of drivers, defy US law by refusing to accept passengers carrying the duty-free alcohol they bought at the airport. Since 1991, due to a backlogged court system, Ontario has allowed Catholic and Jewish tribunals to resolve family disputes provided both parties agree. A move to include Sharia Law in this arrangement was vetoed by the premier. We have been prone to permitting ethnic groups taking over sections of our culture. The Jews took banking, the Irish took policing, Pakistanis have monopolized transportation. Much of this has been transient but we do need to pay more attention to integration. We live today in a global community so cannot tolerate any religion, and we can include secularism and atheism as religions, to impose laws at variance with the laws of the land, especially when human rights are at stake.
The current wave of hostility towards Islam causes reactions not conducive to lessening the frictions that have been so common and so ruinous in human history. Muslim beliefs need softening, but Respect is a great catalyst. We opened our doors to entice cheap labour most of which was Muslim and poorly educated.

We created the problem. It is ours to fix.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


I am bewildered, and somewhat frightened, because it is obvious that I have, at 92, entered the senility stage of Life.

Thirty good friends have asked me to join them on Facebook. Some years ago I did establish a Facebook account but, seeing no advantage to it, never used it. Now, when I try to acknowledge these requests, they tell me my Password is invalid and the source they give me to change it contains everything except a means of doing so. I may yet stumble on how to do this, but no promises.

Stability and Life do not relate well. I had a good collection of 33, 45, and 78 rpm records, now gathering dust. I advanced to reel to reel tapes and recorded over 200 of them, also now sharing the dust because I went on to build a library of over 300 eight-hour VHS recordings of documentaries, NOVAs, news, and music (the good old stuff not the current noise that pretends to be music). Then they forced me to go to digital, a step backwards as I have difficulty playing my VHS tapes with the now-required 3 remotes and I find 2-hour DVDs are awkward, slow, and limiting. Then I still have stacks of floppy discs, Zip 100 and 250 mb discs that have given way to multi-gigabyte backup drives. I also have over 30 reels of 8mm movie film. I just had 3 converted to DVD with 6 copies for the family, somewhat shocked at the cost. I worry that soon they will tell me I have to abandon DVDs for some newer, more confusing, medium.

Now, I have kept quite busy churning out bimonthly 8-page newsletters since 1986 with many on the internet. (   I also established this blog site.  
My senile mind thinks that this is enough for my declining energy. Joan endorses this view arguing I neglect the numerous chores required by this big house and yard which was just right when our five girls were all home.

I remain delighted to get e-mails from any or all of you ( I was once proficient communicating with semaphore and morse flag codes which did not confuse me as much as the computer world. Admittedly, I did need binoculars to read the signaller on the distant hill. You are welcome to educate me on the advantages of Facebook, Linked-In, and similar means of modern communicating - but remember that I still accept Snail Mail as my stamp collection is hurting because countries issue scads of commemoratives that no one uses these days.

My only old reliable source of knowledge remains books that I started out with in Grade 1.  That book was known as "The Four-Cent Reader". I have been collecting books ever since and now have 2,300. I ran out of shelf space some years ago, but have yet to find, and understand, an e-reader as good and as easy to use.

When I take my discards to the recycling centre I cannot find a bin where I can recycle myself.   Pity.

Ye Olde, past-his-prime, Scribe

Wednesday, 11 January 2012


The 75,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms that comprise each of us have yet to explain how or why we embarked on this ship, or why we had to start as an amoeba to end up as a human. And every one of our billions of ancestors had to survive long enough to reproduce in order for us to be us. As the odds against this are so astronomical, are we not saddled with sobering responsibility?

We know this trip can, and does, provide pleasure and excitement, but it includes no end of certain and fatal risks. Much of this is our own fault. We have not been the best of passengers, but the ship also has flaws of its own and the territory it traverses leaves much to be desired. Millions of missiles have been fired at us, not only the hard, rocky, and icy stuff, but also continuous streams of invisible particles that challenge our defending cells and limit individual life spans. We and our ship are far from perfect.

The specifications for this ship are weird, haphazard, and lack consistent reliability. It is locked into a long but repetitive route by the source of its energy, a nuclear furnace that burns 3 million tons of hydrogen per second and has an 11-year cycle in the nature of its output that can be damaging to us and to our devices. We must circle or ellipse this fiery ball, going from one extreme to the other every 105,000 years. We travel at a tilt that varies from 22 to 25 degrees every 41,000 years. And we wobble in a 26,000 year cycle with Polaris now our north star while brighter Vega was 12000 BC and will be again in 14000AD.

This ship also has internal problems with a magnetic core that flip flops every 500,000 years and is now overdue for a flip. The last 3 flips coincided with extreme cold. Then there is continental drift and techtonic plates that generate earthquakes and that change climate as they change land-sea configurations. All of this, along with human complacency not to disturb valued life styles, is quite sufficient to convince the Deniers that Humans are so puny they cannot compete with Mother Nature in climatic upheavals, so continue to enjoy the status quo, oblivious to the future and the restraints they must accept if continuance is a goal.

Deniers need to ponder lowly Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that thrived in an oxygen-free atmosphere some 3.5 billion years ago (bya) that produced the methane that warmed the planet when the sun was weaker. They also freed oxygen and hydrogen. It took a while but the build up of oxygen some 540 mya (million years ago) permitted the explosion of new, more advanced, life forms as exhibited in the Burgess Shales of Alberta, and that led to us. Life forms much smaller than Humans did all this.

Species extinction is a regular event averaging 3 per day, and sudden mass extinctions of over 50% of species, while rare, did occur 445, 365, 250, 205, and 65 mya. In fact only 1% of the species that evolved are alive today. That should tell us that we all evolve to fill delicately-balanced niches that we tamper with at our peril. Biologists warn that 50% of current species will go extinct within 100 years due to activities of Humans who, at 7 billion strong, while not yet as numerous as bacteria, are ever so much more prolific at destroying ecosystems and pumping harmful gases into an atmosphere that barely tolerates us.

Many of us are smart enough to know what we are doing and what we must do, so we conduct periodic conferences around the world at which our representatives do a lot of talking but reflect our reluctance to make the sacrifices our survival demands, so now it is too late to appoint a new pilot for Spaceship Earth. It is also too late for a navigator or engineer. There just might be one last option - all human passengers on this ship would have to decide that they want a world fit for a few more generations of grandchildren and agree that something closer to an European life style with its population restraints will have to be quite sufficient for their highest aspirations. Perhaps our Earth Spirit, Gaia, determined to save itself, is injecting a dimly-understood will into all our Occupiers and the rebels in places like Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Syria. With the guidance of those who have toiled to understand the nature, and limits of, this ship and its life forms we might prolong and better our voyage. Happiness does not require an excess of material goods.

In the past we have had mass conversions to religious beliefs. Now we need mass conversions to a Warren Buffet modest life style - a big step up for most of humanity but a reluctant downgrade for the entrenched greedy. This scribe sees no alternative and Time, whatever that is, is running out.