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Rowland Nelken (Nottingham, England, UK)

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Mohammed's Koran: Why Muslims Kill For Islam
Mohammed's Koran: Why Muslims Kill For Islam
Price: £9.99

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a great source for quotes by politicians and other apologists, 5 Aug. 2017
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I had already read an English translation of the Koran before reading this version and commentary. The Koran itself, as the intro. to this book shows, is dreary and muddled; a hodge podge of recycled bible stories interspersed with threats of eternal hellfire come Judgement Day for all who do not believe and act on this strange collection of unevidenced and outrageous assertions.

What is particularly interesting about this edition are the introductory chapters. They explain how, where there is a contradictory message, and the Koran is stuffed full of them, the later verses abrogate, that is, render irrelevant, the previous ones. The ordering of suras (chapters) in this edition makes the chronological sequence abundantly clear. What is also explicit is the contrast between the earlier suras, which Mahomet, and indeed all Muslims, claim was dictated word for word by Allah via the Angel Gabriel, and the later ones.

There are thus, as explained also by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, two Korans. There is the earlier Meccan Koran, 'received' before Mahomet established his polity in Medina. This is relatively conciliatory, as you would expect from a guy hoping to recruit followers to a new minority sect. It is a great source for quotes by politicians and other apologists, desperate, in face of all the evidence, to present Islam as a religion of Peace. The later, Medinan Koran is that of a man who was in charge, had established his own polity and was determined that his new religion should dominate the world, by force if necessary, whereby to purify humanity in time for Judgement Day.

The beauty of this edition lies not only in the clarity of the chronological ordering of the Suras, which highlights the Medina and Mecca contrast. The introductory chapters are most illuminating. Only since the late 20th century have there been so many attempts by those in the non Muslim world to paint Islam as a religion of peace. As with all works, written and spoken, that genuinely seek to enlighten the public who may be deceived by the glib nonsense of politicians, this book also makes clear that the majority of Muslims, who are indeed peaceful, are only that way inclined on account of their sketchy knowledge of the text that underpins their faith.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2017 8:54 AM BST


Islamic Exceptionalism
Islamic Exceptionalism
by Shadi Hamid
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.75

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like the idea that certain races are fundamentally inferior and ..., 20 Dec. 2016
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This review is from: Islamic Exceptionalism (Hardcover)
If an idea is exceptionally ridiculous, then there is no reason for those who do not hold such ideas to give it any space.

This author acknowledges the longing in much of the Umma, and divinely dictated prophecy in the Koran and Hadiths, for a global submission to Islamic rule whereby to purify humanity in time for the Day of Judgement.

Like the idea that certain races are fundamentally inferior and thus should expect to remain in slavery in perpetuity, the idea of a global caliphate is as abhorrent as it is crazy.

The Southern States of the US had to be forcibly wrenched from their destructive racist delusions. Shadi Hamid, however, sees Islamic things differently in this book, and advises that the rest of the world get to understand this deranged mindset and accommodate to it.

In the 1930s many influential people, who at heart detested everything that Hitler stood for, imagined that peaceful co existence with a regime harbouring a world domination fantasy was possible.

Sure this book is informative about the growth and development of a dangerous crackpot notion, but his proposed solution leaves everything to be desired.


Twerking to Turking: Everyday Analysis - Volume 2
Twerking to Turking: Everyday Analysis - Volume 2
by EDA Collective
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Comments on quintessence of very recent history., 3 Jan. 2016
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This collection of short essays on a range of aspects of life in c. 2014 reminds me of listening to 'Thought for the Day' on Radio 4. Whereas on the radio programme a current event is described as bearing out the eternal truth of something to be found in the Bible, Koran or other 'Holy' book, most of the events and aspects of life here described manifest for the writers, the transcendental wisdom of Lacan, Zizek or even Karl Marx.

I was particularly bemused by article No. 10 ' A Note on Feeling an Affinity with what You're Reading'. The writer castigates those who assume their readers feel the same as they do. This certainly struck home when I read the piece about online dating. Whoever wrote that assumed that the readers also dismissed as weird a liking for Lindy Hopping. I prefer tango myself, but I can understand anyone who is enthralled by that lovely lively form of jive.

Definitely worth reading. A look (or rather lots of looks) at recent life from a very different perspective from my own. Sure, UKIP, which the writers detest, like all political parties, has some silly sods within, but in the ranks of 'good old days' fantasists its presence is a minor threat to civilisation by the side of those who long to establish a global caliphate.


The Least of God's Priorities
The Least of God's Priorities
Price: £6.50

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the dock (again!) The Jehovah's Witnesses -A leading title in a genre that we hope will vanish along with its inspiration., 27 Oct. 2015
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It is only foul organisations that generate a plethora of autobiographies detailing their awfulness and the difficulties of escape. The obscene cult of Jehovah's Witnesses, under whose shadow I spent my childhood, is one of those. Bo Juel's life has been particularly difficult as his entire family had been ensnared by the clever marketing and mind controlling methods of the Watchtower. Bo engages the reader with both his honesty and his mastery of the English language. A great communicator to us, his readers, he conveys just how difficult it is to engage with those whose minds have been infested with a theology that is as cruel as it is ridiculous.

Family breakup, indeed disownment by his own family, and his childhood abuser remaining unpunished, are just two of the horrors directly attributable to this vile sect, that are most vivdly described. This book deserves to be read by anyone who is still trapped in the JW cult, who has seen the light and left it behind, or indeed anyone curious about the awful effects of cult mind control.


The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible
The Book of the People: How to Read the Bible
by A. N. Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars are pretty foul. I take the point that much of ..., 2 Sept. 2015
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I feel an accord with A N Wilson in that I am very fond of the rituals and welcoming open minded and open hearted style of the Church of England, while realising at the same time that there is no truth, literal, allegorical or what you will in the words of the Bible. Indeed, there are far more awful teachings in the Bible than decent ones. Sure, most of the Sermon on the Mount is a recipe for human harmony, but Jesus' threats of eternal hellfire (literal or no) for those of us who do not accept his wacky and unevidenced claims, are pretty foul.

I take the point that much of the Bible's value has been its inspiration to worthy human endeavour, whether that of builders, sculptors, painters and musicians or, as featured in this book, Martin Luther King and his campaign for Civil Rights. Even here, however, the liberation of the Israelites story which fired the imagination of Dr. King, had its obscene and disgusting side; namely the slaughter of the innocent Egyptian firstborn.

Certainly, to understand European and its diaspora civilisation, a knowledge of the Bible is fundamental. It features, visibly and audibly in a way that other foundation texts, good or bad, like The Wealth of Nations, Das Kapital and Mein Kampf do not. This book rather belies its title, It tells us how A N Wilson currently reads the Bible, but will be but a curio for those who continue to believe that there is some sort of concrete reality in the Bible God.


Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence
by Jonathan Sacks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.29

12 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An insight into the mind of a religious apologist., 28 Jun. 2015
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My principal reaction to this book is pity for the author. His whole identity and career as a rabbi has had, as one of its central features, veneration of the Torah. It is clear that Sacks is a humane sort of guy and regards himself as but one member of the whole human family, as opposed to a retired local leader of the world's one true religion. Indeed, a central theme of this work is an examination of the tragedies that ensue when the dominant philosophy of a community is dualist, i.e. divided into us and them. Proletarian and Capitalist, True believer and heretic, Master Race and Parasite, Muslim and Infidel are the ugly features of just some systems which, over human history, have led to monstrous cruelty.

Sacks tries, and fails, in this book, to demonstrate how the Hebrew scriptures embody an acknowlegement that we are all equal as God's creatures and that mutual respect, and an acknowledgement of our idiosyncrasies and weaknesses, the principal lessons of those writings, are the key to human harmony, happiness and fulfilment. Of course, there are a few scattered Bible quotes that can support this claim, but there are also some stories and commands which, to most readers, scream the opposite. The way Sacks deals with them is utterly lamentable. He either ignores them, or engages in semantic contortions to try and convince himself, if nobody else, that, say, the glorification of genocide in the Book of Joshua, Noah's Flood and the genocide of the Amalekites are all features of a universally loving God.

The funny little primitive stories of women being granted as wives by their dads, of divine promises to become founders of a great nation, Sacks desperately tries to make seem relevant and inspiring with with a liberal use of hyperbole. Every Biblical folk tale is presented as 'profound', 'remarkable', 'significant', 'stunning' or 'genius'. It does not work. Adjectives do not turn base metal into gold.

And when the commands and stories are truly barbaric or horrific Sacks goes the way of peace loving, Jihad hating Islamic scholars and Christian theologians who shrink from the Biblical notion of eternal hellfire. He takes shelter in exegesis and hermeneutics. These are often nothing more than elaborate helpings of dense verbiage whereby a commentator can try and convince themselves that a piece of text means, not what it transparently does mean, but what they would like it to mean. He actually uses the phrase 'elaborate hermeneutic and jurisprudential systems'. He writes quite openly that ' Hard texts need interpreting - without it they lead to violence'. Presumably Sacks has spent so much of his adult life playing these 'elaborate hermeneutical and jurisprudential' games with fellow exegesists, that he has no idea how transparently ridiculous this reads to the outsider.

A further running theme in the book is the lament of a 'good old days' merchant. He imagines that the decline of religious observance in Europe, and to a lesser extent in America, is a sign of societal breakdown and individualistic self indulgence. He is wrong. Our identities are no longer constrained so much by our places of birth and dominant culture. Communities of those with like interests can span the globe. The internet is many things, but it is great for breaking down so many barriers and a tool for making new bonds. Despite Sacks' assertion, dualism has been a dominant feature of the Abrahamic religions. It is there in the foundational 'holy' books, however much the author and others try to 'interpret' it away.

There are other and better ways of building human harmony, than gathering with others who share a particular set of unevidenced beliefs about a god, or in the case of Sacks' Orthodox Jewry, matrilineal Hebrew ancestry.


Kindle E-reader, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi (Black) (Previous generation - 7th)
Kindle E-reader, 6" Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi (Black) (Previous generation - 7th)

4.0 out of 5 stars Some Kindle Questions., 8 Feb. 2015
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It's largely great. I have two small reservations. It is wonderful having an inbuilt Russian dictionary. Too often, though, I get the message that there is no internet connection. I do not understand this. Is there an, as yet, incomplete inbuilt dictionary, but other words require a wider internet search? Also, I have yet to learn how to distinguish between the screen tap to summon the dictionary and the tap that elicits a phrase and invitation to make a note. Is there an explanation anywhere?
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2015 5:36 PM GMT


Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery: Leader, Followers, and Mind Manipulation
Destructive and Terrorist Cults: A New Kind of Slavery: Leader, Followers, and Mind Manipulation
by Masoud Banisadr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.33

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars like Mao's China or Hitler's Europe, 27 Oct. 2014
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I have long been aware of the parallels between the apocalyptic fantasies espoused by some of the People of the Book and the pseudo scientific notions of Marxism and Nazism. This book enlightened me as to how both seemingly secular and religious creeds can, under certain conditions, be as ghastly as slavery in its traditional sense.

Masoud BaniSadr is well placed to describe this phenomenon. He explains how sane, well adjusted and educated people, from supportive families, with seemingly 'good prospects' in the accepted sense, can surrender their lives to the perverse whims of a vain and capricious dictator. For many years the author was himself ensnared in, and all but extinguished by, MEK, an Iranian group which espoused an ever changing mishmash of notions which derived, if only nominally, from Islam, Marx and Iranian nationalism.

As well as his personal experience, this book also explains, in terms accessible to this 'general reader', the neural mechanisms which enable a leader of a patently corrupt and self serving organisation, to convince its followers that they are contributing to a noble cause by sacrificing everything to it; i.e.being enslaved to and humiliated by it. There are global and historical parallels drawn throughout the book. The methods of cult bosses, whether in charge of a minor fringe sect of a few hunded, or of a vast terrestrial empire, like Mao's China or Hitler's Europe, are shown to be eerily similar.


Blond around the world or I did it my way
Blond around the world or I did it my way
Price: £4.13

5.0 out of 5 stars So we get not only excellent descriptions of the scenery, 12 Aug. 2014
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This is a singularly moving traveller’s tale. The world grows ever smaller and more and more of us have the opportunity to explore it. For most of us, however, our journeys are a break from life’s routines. We may be tourists, travel writers, young people enjoying a gap year, retireds spending our savings on that dreamed of world tour, or indeed have a job which demands that we are ever encountering new people and places.
Anna Lazarus is none of these. For her, travel is her life, her raison d’être, at least for the period recounted in this book. So we get not only excellent descriptions of the scenery, the history, the people, resident and transient, the food, the music, dance and climate of India, South East Asia, England and the USA as well as South and Central America; there is also regular, intriguing, and sometimes agonised reflection on her compulsion to keep on the move.
The title itself tells us a lot. It tells us first that Anna has that ‘giftie’ dreamed of by Robert Burns in his poem ‘To a Louse’. ‘Oh wad some pow’r the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us…’ Anna is not a blonde; her hair is mousey. In India, however, her first port of call, because her hair is not of the all but universal Indian black, she is referred to as a blonde. ‘Blondie’, however, is not her only identity in India. She is employed as a singer in restaurants. And music making, with voice, and later guitar, is a recurring theme in her journey. But travel is the thing, and singing is but one of many means of earning herself both food, shelter and the next air fare or bus ticket.
The ending is quite cathartic. The search for the greener grass over the hill, or, in Anna’s words, the Promised Land, ends, inevitably, in frustration. Likewise her dream man, her American ‘White Knight’, who falls so desperately in love with her, proves a disappointment. He is possessed by his family, and wants, in turn, to possess Anna.
Anna will be nobody’s property. Her conclusion, on return to her native Russia, is one of satisfaction. Whatever the trials; the poverty and physical discomfort of her odyssey, she has lived a life, indeed several lives, of which most others merely dream. And if freedom means being solitary, so be it.


Terrorist
Terrorist
by John Updike
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Curse of the Koran clearly illustrated, 9 April 2012
This review is from: Terrorist (Paperback)
The sheer awfulness of the Koran, and its paradoxically beguiling nature, are well expressed in this story. Sure, the plot, especially the denouement, is a little too neat; but this is a story, not a piece of journalism. The Koran, alas, and thus the essence of Islam, proclaims violent Jihad as an essential duty, a divine command. Thus, Ahmad, the central character, once converted to Islam, feels that being a suicide bomber is a perfectly natural, indeed glorious, and divinely approved development. This is the best piece of writing I have come across that illustrates the utter incompatibility of democracy, where the people's will should be paramount, and Islam, by definition, the mindless submission to God's will as expressed in the Koran.


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