Monday, 6 July 2015

Wot I'm watching: God of Love, God of Hate?

Emily Watson as Julie Nicholson in BBCtv's A SONG FOR JENNY


Television doesn't get much more harrowing than this. Life doesn't get more harrowing than this. A mother grieving for a daughter killed by terrorists in the name of their vile, vengeful faith. In the story of Jenny Nicholson, one of the 52 victims of the London bombers on July 7, 2005, irony is added to the maelstrom of emotions: her mum Julie was a Church of England vicar. Her inability to absorb the Christian virtues of forgiveness and reconciliation (is it possible they are also Muslim virtues?) eventually caused Julie to leave the priesthood.

Emily Watson gave an almost unbearably visceral performance as Julie Nicholson, fearful that her daughter might be caught up in the bombings on her way to work, then having to wait days for dental and DNA analysis to identify the bodies of those closest to the bomber. We were spared a reconstruction of the explosion although there was a flashback to Jenny on the rush-hour train leaving Edgware Road Tube station, standing close to a seated man with a backpack on his lap. That man was Mohammed Sidique Khan, a British Asian from Leeds, at 30 the oldest of the four 7/7 bombers who between them destroyed the lives and families of 52 travellers that day.

The film chose not to investigate the motives for Khan and his fellow jihadists, whose horrific acts they - and we - are told came with the promise of a prime spot in the Muslim version of Heaven, which sounds like some ludicrous version of a Playboy Club, with 72 virgins dancing attendance on each of the holy suicide bombers.

Nicola Wren as Jenny, killed in the rush hour on 7/7/2005
There was a terrible scene in which Julie Nicholson anointed her daughter's shattered body with holy oil: holiness comes with different definitions in the world of faith and fanaticism. Did the white supremacist Dylann Roof imagine that he was somehow carrying out God's work last month when he shot nine black people during a church service in Charleston? There can be no doubting that Seifeddene Rezgui on the beach in Sousse believed, like Mohammed Sidique Khan, that he was serving the Will of Allah.

We are repeatedly told in the media - including by so-called 'moderate' mullahs - that the jihadi 'martyrs' do not reflect the true message of Islam, although those who brainwash them quote many verses from the Koran to justify acts that seem obscene and Satanic to outsiders. Medieval Christians found verses in the Bible that validated the savagery of the Inquisition, and popes promised pride of place in Heaven to those 'martyred' whilst slaughtering Jews and Muslims during the Crusades. In recent decades Christian militias have committed atrocities in Yugoslavia, in Lebanon, in Africa (to this very day in the Central African Republic).

Mohammed Sidique Khan (not an actor)
The notion, not difficult to take on board, that the God of Jesus is a God of Love whereas the God of Islam is a God of Hate, is both the truth and not the truth. Since the beginning of time evil people have used their gods to justify acts of terror and of horror. Nothing changes. Muslim fanatics bomb and murder in the name of Allah. In Asia there are Buddhist and Hindu fanatics who burn temples and kill 'unbelievers'. In the US Bible Belt bigotry and racism and homophobia are rampant. Not only in America.

It's also easy to take the view of those who call down a Curse on all Religions. And then you remember the millions eliminated in the name of godless Communism by Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot.

The third century Persian mystic Mani gave the world Manichaeism - later adopted by the Chinese, some of the Romans and medieval Christians in France - a philosophy which has the physical, material world ruled by a God of Darkness, with the God of Light only prevailing in the spiritual world. It almost makes sense.

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