It’s not really about religion, it’s about the power of nations

So far it has felt like a Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but people are fearful it might soon turn into an open conflict. The Independent reports how the greatest threat to world peace coming from the Middle East is not terrorism but the wider Sunni-Shia religious conflict.

‘This is not really about religion, any more than the wars of religion of the 17th century, or the conflict in Northern Ireland, or the bloodshed in Bosnia. In almost all great so-called religious conflicts, what lies behind the shouting of the clerics is a contest between the power of nations. This one is, in reality, a contest for dominance in the Middle East between Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) and Tehran (Iran).’

Middle-East-Political-Map

The Guardian also reports on the mounting tension in Lebanon, due to the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

‘Now, more than at any point in modern history, Iran and Saudi Arabia are squared off against each other as a race to consolidate influence nears a climax from Sana’a (in the Yemen) to Beirut (in Lebanon).’

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Learn about the Grim Realities of the USSR

Take a trip to London’s Tate Modern before January 28th 2018 and you’ll be able to enjoy the ironic art of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov as well as finding out some history facts about the Russia and the USSR. The Guardian describes the art as tragicomic and for a 9 year old there needed to be a lot of explaining but for a teenager who’s learnt a little about the USSR from history lessons it will all make pretty decent sense.

We really liked the man who flew into space from his apartment with all its propaganda posters on the walls. That feeling of utter desperation and the desire to escape had forced the apartment’s occupant to create a contraption so he’d be able to catapult himself through the ceiling.

Kabakov

Room Ten of the exhibition focuses on the Kabakov’s interest in angels. There was a little wooden model..

wooden model

As well as the written explanation of How to Meet an Angel…

ilya-and-emilia-kabakov-how-to-meet-an-angel

You left knowing that they’ve also tried it on a larger scale…

real angel

People believe in angels as a paranormal possibility, as well as in Christianity and Islam. Looking at the Kabakov’s artwork it just made you realise that people need the idea of angels coming to their aid and assistance in moment’s of individual unique need.

Tate Modern knows how to show installation art, with room and room housing thought provoking art. In a few days the exhibition Red Star Over Russia will also start, making Tate Modern the place to visit for students wanting an insight into Russia and the Soviet Union from 1905.

 

 

 

Moeen Ali: English cricketer

Full name Moeen Munir Ali

Born June 18, 1987, Birmingham

Current age 30 years

Major teams England, Worcestershire

Nickname Moe

Playing role Batting allrounder

Batting style Left-hand bat

Bowling style Right-arm offbreak

Height 6 ft 0 in

Education Moseley School

moeen

Moeen has been making the sports headlines in recent days for his incredible hat-trick for England against South Africa in Test at Lord’s. Moeen is only the fourth man in Test history to seal victory with a hat-trick (see video) and the first for 60 years. It has helped England to now lead the series 2-1 with only the fourth Test at Old Trafford to play, starting on Friday.

In 2014 The Daily Telegraph criticised Moeen for his comment that he was playing for his religion: You’re playing for England, Moeen Ali, not your religion. The article referred to how Moeen who had been born in Birmingham 27 years ago to a Pakistani family, must have been proud walking out to bat for England for the first time on a sunlit day at Lord’s Cricket Ground, London. Yet before his big moment in a Test cricket game Moeen had spoken spoke of “representing the Muslim faith”, and of wearing his beard as “a label” and also as a “uniform” in the way that schoolchildren wore theirs. The article was unhappy about Moeen for bringing religion into it, as the journalist Michael Henderson believed it was just about the nation you represent:

“But there is one thing all players must acknowledge: if you are chosen to represent your country, that is who you represent. You may be a Hindu, a Sikh, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jain or (chance’d be a fine thing) a Christian but that is not why you have been chosen. If Moeen Ali does not understand this matter, then perhaps Peter Moores, the England coach, can have a quiet word in his shell-like.”

Were the Telegraph right to have criticised Moeen Ali?

The Guardian newspaper today, was more interested in how Moeen believed that without cricket he would be on the streets and doing drugs. “If it wasn’t for cricket I don’t know what I’d be doing now,” he says. “I could have easily gone into that whole drugs line. I was pretty open to it because my friends were easily influenced. I get dared pretty easy. If someone dares me to do something I’ll just do it. I used to go: ‘Yeah, why not?’”

Moeen thinks that cricket initiatives in local communities can bring people together. He says. “There is such negativity in the media around Islam but when I play cricket for England I don’t have to say anything. I’m hoping people look at me and other Muslims and think: ‘Actually, it will be all right. They’re not too bad.’”

The Guardian continues their interview with Moeen by referring to an issue three years ago when, in Moeen’s fifth Test, against India at the Rose Bowl, he caused controversy on the second day by wearing wristbands which read “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

“It was humanitarian. I’m actually glad it happened even if I was a bit naive putting them on during the game. But it’s still very close to me. People are quiet but there’s still suffering in Gaza now. There is suffering in many Muslim and non-Muslim countries. We spend billions going into space and we can’t even look after people. I find that hard to accept. We’ve let each other down big time regardless of our colour, faith or community. We should help people without a political agenda. It should be done out of compassion, without hesitation. I find that [lack of compassion] the hardest thing to take these days.”

moeen ali gaza

Was Moeen Ali right three years ago to have worn charity bracelets with a political viewpoint whilst playing for the England cricket team?

Holy Sites in Jerusalem Re-Opened

Last Friday three Arab Israelis opened fire from a sacred site in Jerusalem which is called Noble (Haram Al Sharif) Sanctuary for Muslims and Temple Mount for Jews. Using automatic weapons the three Arab Israelis killed two police officers and were later shot dead inside the compound. The Holy Sites were re-opened today with stricter security checks.

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The Arab-Israeli conflict is only studied a little in British schools as the focus is on modern wars such as World War I and World War II. We take an initial look at the subject in Religious Studies when studying about pilgrimages and how Jerusalem is contested and valued by Muslims, Jews and Christians. A short BBC video explains the importance of Haram Al Sharif and Temple Mount, and there is a BBC Pictures special about the holy sites, explaining how through modern history there has been unrest over who the site belongs to. The history of the sites brings you closer to understanding both faiths, with important stories for Jews such as Abraham almost sacrificing his son Isaac there, and Temple Mount being where people will receive redemption when the Messiah arrives. Compared to Muslim stories of Muhammad PBUH  having his Night Journey from Makkah to Jerusalem to hear in heaven from Allah about prayer (salah, one of the five pillar of Islam).

temple mount

 

Muhammad Ali: watch and learn

In today’s lesson where students had to decide who is the biggest hero, Mother Teresa or Muhammad Ali, the latter was a clear winner. Below are some documentaries and films which will provide you with a heaps of information and inspiration from the great man himself.

  • Muhammad Ali – The Whole Story (1996): This is a six hour series which covers the whole of Muhammad Ali’s life.
  • When We Were Kings (1996): I watched this for the first time at University as part of  a film festival and the documentary transfixes you with the heat and passion of boxing. It covers the infamous 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The focus is, naturally enough, the aging Ali, who was thought at the time to have little chance of beating Foreman yet his ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy –pretending to be in more trouble than you actually are, and cunningly wearing your opponent down in the process – proves devastating.
  • Ali (2001): Will Smith who is most famous for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Men in Black stars in this biopic that chronicles ten years in the life of Cassius Clay, from 1964, when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, to 1974 and the Rumble In The Jungle with George Foreman. In between, there are the wider issues of Ali’s controversial opposition to the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, his conversion to Islam, his banishment from boxing and his initial return against Joe Frazier.
  • The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013): This is an American PBS documentary which focuses on Ali’s life outside the ring. A lot of times is given of course to his refusal of the Vietnam draft and the legal and professional problems it caused him (he faced prison, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence suspended for four years).
  • I am Ali (2013): This documentary is just about Ali as a man. There isn’t the focus on Ali as a boxer like other films or documentaries. It shows him as a warm-hearted family man through lots of  audio recordings Ali himself  in the ‘70s.

muhammad ali

Other short clips about Ali are worth watching to learn more about this hero:

  1. BBC News reporting on his death
  2. Inside Story by Al-Jazeera
  3. Muhammad Ali Obituary by the New York Times
  4. The last US President Obama gives a tribute to Ali 
  5. BBC Sports Personality of the Century

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Why we need to know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims for a GCSE

A few weeks back you heard the President of the USA criticise Iran for supporting terrorism, whilst he was standing in Saudi Arabia.

Then this week after a terrorist attack carried out by Islamic State killed 17 innocent civilians in Iran, President Trump’s sent both his condolences: “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” and these additional comments: “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.” You can imagine how Iran felt about this latter comment.

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted: “Repugnant WH (White House) statement … as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients.”

This is where what we learn in GCSE Religious Studies comes in handy in making sense of all this. It is so important that when you read about world politics you are aware of the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam.  The Sunni jihadis of Isis (Islamic State) consider Shia Iran to be apostates (a defection or revolt against the true Islam), and Iran is deeply involved in fighting the group in both Syria and Iraq. To make things trickier for Iran they have a sizeable Sunni population along their restive borders with Iraq and Pakistan, and it is from here that Isis is hoping to recruit. Understanding the Syrian Civil War also needs you to know about Sunni and Shia Muslims, as Newsround tried to explain.

sunni and shia

Ramadan – a time of fasting as well as devotion through prayer and giving to the needy

The ninth month of the Islamic calendar and one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan, when Muslims over the age of puberty fast during daylight hours, is a time for people of the Islamic faith to show gratitude to Allah, devote time to prayer, ask Allah for forgiveness and read the Qur’an as well as help those people in needy.

If you don’t know much about Ramadan perhaps you should start with the absolute basics on PBS; moving on to the Daily Telegraph’s summary of Ramadan (though strangely they have extra information about the Eid Ul Adha festival which is after Hajj rather than Eid Ul Fitr which is after Ramadan); and then perhaps ending with the iWonder review of Ramadan from 2016 or the BBC schools page.

I really like this highway code from Australia about Ramadan:

Ramadhaan-highway-Code-Dos-And-Donts

Dhikr is saying Allah’s divine names, verses from the Qur’an, or sayings of the Prophet in order to glorify Allah.

Duda is calling out and conversing with God, so in everyday English we might say it is prayer.

Today an Imam from London travelled to London Bridge and Borough Market where the terrorist attack had taken place on Saturday evening to “show solidarity” to Londoners who suffered and lost their lives in the attack. Imam Abdul Arif, 27, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said “I’m a Londoner, I came here because it happened to my home city and it happened in the name of my religion. I came to show solidarity and to show it’s not in my name.” He was breaking fast and finishing his evening prayer as part of Ramadan when he heard the news of the attack.

“Ramadan is a time when you should be worshiping and serving humanity more than ever and these people perpetrated such a crime. My hope is that everybody is united and show the individuals who want to divide us they won’t be successful.”