Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Birthday of Bahá'u'lláh


Baha'i Star
November 12 is the Baha’i holiday celebrating the Birthday of Bahá'u'lláh. Baha’is do not work on this day.  They should be excused from any school function.


Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, Akko, Israel
Bahá'u'lláh is the founder of the Baha’i faith.  He was born on November 12, 1817 in Tehran, Persia (now Iran).  His given name was Mírzá Husayn-`Alí, and he was the son of a very wealthy and powerful Persian nobleman.

When Mírzá Husayn-`Alí was 25, he rejected the wealth and power of his father’s vast estate and began to follow the teachings of the Bab, who announced the coming of the Promised One. As the Bab and his followers – the Babis -- were suppressed, Mírzá Husayn-`Alí too – despite the influence and power of his father -- was arrested and tortured.

Mírzá Husayn-`Alí was banished from Tehran and went to Baghdad. There in 1863 it became known that Mírzá Husayn-`Alí was in fact the Promised One, the Bahá'u'lláh. As Baghdad became a center of Babi pilgrims, internal divisions erupted among the followers as pilgrims increasingly recognized  Bahá'u'lláh as the Promised One instead of other leaders of the Babis.


 Kitáb-i-Íqán or Book of Certitude
Bahá'u'lláh, seeking to avoid divisions among the Babis, left Baghdad for Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan. Later, as more and more followers – although he tried to keep it secret --recognized him as the Promised One, Bahá'u'lláh returned to Baghdad. Once back in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh had the revelations which were the source of his two great works: Kitáb-i-Íqán (Book of Certitude) and  Kalimát-i-Maknúnih (Hidden Words). Baha’i’s consider both books to be sacred.
After seven years in Baghdad, the growth of the Babis under Bahá'u'lláh was perceived by the Baghdad clergy as a threat to Islam. In response, the Ottomon Empire which controlled Baghdad at the time, exiled Bahá'u'lláh to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), which was the capital of the Ottomon Empire.


Garden of Ridvan, Baghdad
Before leaving Baghdad, on April 22, 1863, Bahá'u'lláh went to the Garden of Ridvan where he made his official proclamation that he was in fact the Promised One and the Messenger of the One True God.  As a result, April 22 is another Baha’i holiday and the Garden of Ridvan is a Baha’i pilgrimage site.  Bahá'u'lláh spent 12 days in the Garden of Ridvan where he wrote down the Book of Certitude.

Exiled to Constantinople, the Sultan and the Ottomon Court openly persecuted Bahá'u'lláh’s followers.  In response, Bahá'u'lláh wrote the Tablet to the Sultan.  No one knows exactly what the tablet said, but Baha’i's teach that when the Sultan’s Vizier read it, he turned deathly pale and made comments acknowledging Bahá'u'lláh as a holy man.  Regardless, the result of the Tablet to the Sultan was the exile of Bahá'u'lláh to Adrianople (in modern Edirne province in Turkey).  Bahá'u'lláh taught there for over four years.  It was during this time that his followers officially took the name Baha’i's. From Adrianople, Bahá'u'lláh wrote of his teachings, the beginning of the New Age and his position as the Promised One to the leaders of the world, including England’s Queen Victoria, Germany’s Kaiser Wilhelm I, Austria-Hungary’s Emperor Franz Josef, Russia’s Czar Alexander II and Pope Pius IX.  In these letters he famously proclaimed:

"Regard the world as the human body which, though at its creation whole and perfect, hath been afflicted, through various causes, with grave disorders and maladies... its sickness waxed more severe, as it fell under the treatment of ignorant physicians, who gave full rein to their own desires..."

To read more on the Bahá'u'lláh's letters to the world's leaders, see http://www.bci.org/prophecy-fulfilled/pk14.htm

These letters were not well received by the Ottomon Empire, and again the Baha’is were persecuted.   Bahá'u'lláh survived an attempt to poison him, but this left him with a palsy for the rest of his life.
Finally, on August 31, 1868, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled to Acre in Ottomon-ruled Palestine (now Akko, Israel) where he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in the Fortress of Joan of Arc.  While upset with his
isolation, Bahá'u'lláh believed that, as with Judaism and Christianity, Palestine was the Holy Land, as do all Baha’i's today.  In Acre, Bahá'u'lláh wrote the primary sacred text of the faith: the

 Kitab-i-Aqdas
Kitab-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book).  In this Baha’i sacred work are laid out the principles of faith and organization of the religion.  An English translation is available online at
http://www.ishwar.com/bahai/holy_kitab_i_aqdas/


Shrine of the Bab, Haifa, Israel
By 1873, Bahá'u'lláh was given more freedom of travel and released from the prison – though technically still an Ottomon prisoner. Bahá'u'lláh was allowed to visit the grave of the Bab at Mt. Carmel in Haifa (a site he visited four time. Today the Shrine of the Bab is a central Baha'i pilgrimage site.  

Mansion of Bahji, Akko, Israel
In 1879,  Bahá'u'lláh was allowed to take up residence at the Mansion of Bahjí in Acre (now Akko, Israel).  It was at the Mansion of Bahjí where Bahá'u'lláh lived out his final days. He died of a fever on May 29, 1892

As always, I welcome your thoughts and corrections.  

Happy Bahá'u'lláh’s Birthday!


Want to know more? For more information,  please look at the following websites:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Musings on Palestine, Israel, Northern Cyprus and More

A Case Where Reader Comments Are More Interesting Than The Article

I read an article in the Economist's November 5, 2011 issue called  "One side gets even lonelier." http://www.economist.com/node/21536644 The article itself was not all that illuminating, focusing in pretty standard fashion on the opposition to Israeli PM Netanyahu's actions in the West Bank.  What I found fascinating was the high volume of comments (170 as I write this) posted by readers on the Economist's comment site for the article. Many of these were as I would expect, ranging from ranting diatribes against Israel to fervent defenses of Israel and much of the range in between.  

One of these comments, though, made it worth scanning the other 169. This was an analysis posted by a reader named "equilibrium."  I know nothing about him or her, but "equilibrium"'s comment really made me stop and reassess my position on the Israeli-Palestinean situation.

The main point of the comment is not the legitimacy of Israel's position in the West Bank or Palestine's legitimacy in calls for statehood. It is not about Palestine's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist or Israel's refusal to recognize Palestine until such a right to exist is provided. It says nothing about Jerusalem, about UNESCO's recognition of Palestine, about the illegality of new settlements and so forth.  It never addresses the Hamas and Fatah factions within Palestine or the divisions within Israel regarding Israeli PM Netanyahu's policies. In short, it says little of substance about the main issues.

North Cypriot flag
 
Palestinean flag
What the comment from "equilibrium" DOES provide, though, is a well-thought-out, neutrally-written comparison between the situation in Northern Cyprus and in Palestine. The comparison is apt in my opinion (though no two situations are the same by any means). What "equilibrium" then asks is why so little focus settles on the Northern Cyprus situation and why so much focus settles on Palestine.

"Equilibrium's Comment"

I would like to hear your comments on what "equilibrium" wrote, which is as follows:

"The reason why I like to analyze the the Cyprus issue is because I think it is a valid litmus test in order to determine whether those who condemn Israel are impartial or anti-Semitic.

Both cases are very similar. A war involving Greece, Cyprus and Turkey breaks out in 1974 resulting in Turkey illegally occupying part of Cyprus resulting in large numbers of Greek-Cypriots fleeing the north. Over the next 35-40 years tens of thousands of Turks settle occupied northern Cyprus illegally with many Greek Cypriots claiming that their land is being confiscated. In addition, Turkey built a wall separating the island in two.

In my opinion, it makes no sense why there is an intense worldwide focus on the Israeli occupation of the West Bank while there is much less intensity on the Turkish occupation of Cyprus even though both cases are similar. One way to explain it is that in today's world it is no longer acceptable for countries to make anti-Semitic laws so the only way for certain individuals to vent their anti-Semitism is to find reasons to condemn Israel. While I don't consider objective criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, it is peculiar that those who condemn Israel for the settlements, the West bank wall etc, don't even care about the Turkish settlements and the separation wall in Cyprus.


One possible answer is an anti-Semitic excuse to bash Jews."

http://www.economist.com/comment/1115885#comment-1115885

My Thoughts

Playing the X Card  

I am often hesitant when anyone plays the "X" card, whether that be the "racism card" or the "sexism" or -- as in this case -- the "anti-Semitism" card. It tends usually to shift the focus of the conversation from the point at hand to one of defensiveness. Instead of hearing what is or is not valid in a position, playing the "X" card ends up having the response devolve into cries of "I'm not a racist!"or  "I support women's rights!" or "Lots of my friends are Jews!" This is the "How dare you!" response.
The Comparison of Northern Cyprus to Palestine: How Valid Is It? 


West Bank Settlements
In many respects, the comparison of Northern Cyprus to Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine that "equilibrium" suggests is accurate. Both situations are largely viewed as illegal by most of world opinion. Both cases resulted in significant refugee populations.  Both cases involve divisions of culture, language and religion. Both cases remain difficult to settle because of the backing of countries outside of the disputed areas. And both cases have been around for a long time (1988 with the declaration of an independent Palestine by the PLO;  1983 with the claims of an independent Northern Cyprus).
Divided Cyprus
In many respects, the comparison of Northern Cyprus to Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine is, however, not parallel. Aside from Turkey, no nation recognizes Northern Cyprus' right to exist; by contrast, 127 nations already formally recognize Palestine as a state and even Israel itself recognizes the need for recognition of a Palestinean state. Relatedly, Northern Cyprus recognizes Southern Cyprus' right to exist. Indeed, under the Annan Plan referendum of 2004, 64.9% of Turkish Cypriots voted to reunite with Southern Cyprus in a federal state (along the lines of Canada or Belgium) while 75% of Greek Cypriots in the south refused any such compromise. This is quite the opposite of the Israeli-Palestinean situation in which Palestine officially does not recognize Israel's right to exist, constituting a major stumbling block in negotiations. Moreover, while relations between the two Cypruses are far from good, there is little ongoing terrorism from Northern Cyprus against Southern Cyprus, while the acts of terrorism from not only the West Bank but from Gaza against Israeli civilians are very frequent and cause an ongoing (and justifiable) distrust. Finally, whereas the border between Turkish and Greek Cyprus is unfriendly and armed, that border is stable. By contrast, Jewish settlements into Palestine are ongoing and represent a continual force of instability in what a final border might actually be were negotiations ever to succeed.


Why Is There So Much Relative Attention on the Palestine-Israel Conflict?

The issue raised by "equilibrium"'s post, therefore, legitimately does raise the question: why does world opinion focus so intently on the Palestinean situation and so little on the Cypriot situation?  Both are in the same region of the Eastern Mediterranean. Both are intractable. Both have caused considerable hardship for refugees and both have resulted in open conflict.


Disputed Western Sahara
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Flag
The case for "equilibrium"'s claims of something else involved -- perhaps, in truth, anti-Semitism --becomes even more likely when one considers the lack of world response to many other similarly disputed nationality disputes. For example,  the UN sees the occupation of the former Spanish Sahara by Morocco illegal and the UN still officially categorizes the region as a non-self-governing territory of Spain, even though Morocco has occupied it since 1975. Although with nowhere the same level of force as in Palestine or Northern Cyprus, the UN has tried to intervene through negotiated settlements-- as have several European nations and the United States --without success. Morocco has faced an ongoing intifadah from the Polisario Front since then with ongoing bloodshed. The Polisario Front declared independence in 1976, and since then 81 nations (as well as the African Union) recognized the territory as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Yet there is no world attention.  
Taiwan flag

 
Kosovo flag

One can make a similar case for several other disputed countries with varying levels of recognition. These would include the Republic of Kosovo (recognized by 85 countries) and Taiwan (officially recognized by only 23 nations, though many non-recognizing states such as the US are its allies). In both cases, a powerful nation opposes the existence of each country: Kosovo is strongly opposed by Russia and Taiwan is strongly opposed by the People's Republic of China. Yet even with nations as powerful as Russia and China in the mix, neither Kosovo nor Taiwan regularly receives the world's attention in anywhere near that of the Palestine. 
Abkhazia flag

South Ossetia flag
Even when the legitimacy of the countries involved are considerably more disputed, world attention seems oddly absent relative to that of the Israel-Palestine dispute. Here one could point to the statuses Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Transistria and Tibet. Where is the comparable attention to Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Both have considerable levels of violence and both of which are recognized -- and hotly disputed -- by several foreign countries. One could make a case for the lack of world attention regarding Chechnya or Transnistria as well, although these are countries with no external recognition. Indeed, it seems that the only one of the disputed nations just described that has anything close to the attention of Palestine would be Tibet, although the demands are China are minimal compared to the demands on Israel in this situation, so I am not sure that is so accurate a claim.

Is the Focus on Israel a Form of Anti-Semitism? Is "Equilibrium" Right?

I certainly don't believe that all criticism of Israel even remotely constitutes anti-Semitism. The policies of Israel are hotly contested within Israel and it seems unlikely that Israelis themselves would be motivated by anti-Semitism.

That said, personally, I think "equilibrium" is onto something in his "possible answer" of a more acceptable "excuse to bash Jews." I am not positive of that but I willing to give it considerable thought.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours?




Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eid al-Adha 2016

In 2016, on the evening of Monday, September 1concluding on the evening of Tuesday, September 13 at sunset, (depending on the sighting of the moon) marks the beginning of the three days of the Moslem holiday of Eid al-Adha or the Festival of the Sacrifice. Students, staff and faculty should be accommodated for observance of the holiday. Some debate exists as to whether the holiday should be marked by when it occurs over Mecca or when it occurs in the location in question (for instance, North America).   For some, therefore, the holiday may begin on September 13 at sunset. I take no stance on this, and am merely stating that some differences may exist in interpretation.

Dating the Holiday

The holiday actually begins every year on the 10 Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar.  However, since the Gregorian calendar (the one used in the secular United States) is a solar calendar and the Islamic calendar is a lunar one, the date of Eid al-Adha (as with all Moslem holidays) appears to travel within the Gregorian calendar. 

About Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha is Arabic for the Festival of Sacrifice, and is named in remembrance of the readiness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son. In the Koran (37:99–111), the son whom Ibrahim is willing to sacrifice is not named; however, in Islamic tradition, the son is believed to be Ismail (Ishmael), not (Ishaq) Isaac as in the Jewish and Christian versions of the story.  In Islam, both sons are considered prophets. 

Another name for the holiday is Eid al-Kabir or the Greater Eid (in contrast to the earlier Eid al-Fitr, the Lesser Eid that marks the end of Ramadan). Eid al-Kabir is the name more commonly used in North Africa, Yemen and Syria. Because of this, in French, the name of the holiday is Aid el-Kebir. In Turkish, the holiday is called Kurban Bayrami and as a result, the holiday is called by some variant of Kurban in many of the languages of those nations formally under the rule of the Ottoman Empire including Kurdish, Albanian, Serbo-Croatian and Azeri as well as borrowed from the Turkish in many other languages including Russian, Pashto, Sindhi, Kazakh, Farsi, Pashto and Tatar.

Association with the Hajj

Eid al-Adha also marks the end of the Hajj to Mecca (Makkah). The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, required of every Moslem once in his or her lifetime. For this reason, the holiday is sometimes called the Festival of the Hajj (Hari Raya Haji in Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Malaysia). 


Three years ago in 2013, the Saudi government began to set greater restrictions for the number of pilgrims. This resulted in the first substantial decrease in numbers. In 2013 pilgrims stayed away due to worldwide fears of the deadly MERS outbreak on the Arabian Peninsula coupled with Saudi governmental fears regarding the Ebola outbreak (the Saudi government banned pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, effectively preventing 7400 Muslims scheduled to come from those nations). This saw the number of pilgrims fall to just 1.98 million (with 1.38 million from outside Saudi Arabia). Even greater restrictions followed so that 2014 was among the smallest pilgrimages in years: 1.4 million from abroad and 700,000 from within Saudi Arabia.  

This decline was notable since the number of pilgrims had consistently risen before the 2013 concerns. Indeed, the 2012 hajj was the largest in history, according to the official Saudi Ministry of Hajj, with 3.2 million people participated in the pilgrimage. For each year, the number of visitors had marginally though steadily grown (for instance, 2.8 million in 2010; 2.9 million in 2011). 

Last year's hajj in 2015 saw much greater numbers of pilgrims. While there were still fears over MERS, Saudi concerns regarding the Ebola outbreak had lessened notably. As a result, in 2015, the Hajj saw 2 million pilgrims. While this represented an increase of 600,000 visitors, this was still far short of the figures reached before Saudi authorities began placing greater restrictions on the number of visitors. 



Unfortunately, the increased number of pilgrims coupled with inadequate crowd control resulted in two disasters: the Mecca Crane Collapse and the Mina Stampede. First on September 11, 2015 in the days leading up to the hajj, a crane collapsed on a crowd of worshippers, killing 111 and injuring scores of others. The crane, ironically, had been working to improve the safety of Mecca's Grand Mosque. Far worse, though, came during the 2015 hajj itself. At approximately 9:00 AM on September 24, 2015 for reasons still not clear, pilgrims began to stampede. The uncontrolled crowd panicked and when it had subsided, at thousands of pilgrims had died from suffocation or being crushed or trampled to death. The figure provided by the Associated Press and Al-Jazeera was 2177 dead. Iran's government announced that over 4700 people had died (although they provided no evidence for their claim). http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/19/hajj-disaster-death-toll-over-two-thousand.html 

Nature of the Hajj

The Qaabah
The Hajj itself runs for five days, starting on the 8th of Dhu al-Hijjah (that is, beginning two days before Eid al-Adha begins) and continues through the end of the Eid on 12 Dhu al-Hijjah. The Hajj involves many rituals and special prayers, and this overview makes no effort to fully describe them.  Among the most notable of these is the Tawaf. The Tawaf is the counterclockwise circling seven times of Islam’s holiest site, the Qaabah (or Kaabah). The Qaabah is a large granite, cube-shaped structure which Moslems believe that Ibraham and Ismail built together after Ismail moved to Mecca. The Qaabah is covered with black silk and gold.  Inside the Qaabah is the Black Stone (al-Hajr al-Aswad) which is the focal point of the Tawaf. Many Moslems believe that the Black Stone was given to Adam and Eve to tell them where to build an altar. The Black Stone was then placed in the Qaabah by Abraham and Ismail. The Black Stone was already an object of worship when the Prophet Mohammed first visited it and kissed it. Following the Prophet’s example, pilgrims traditionally kissed the Black Stone on each of the seven circuits around the Qaabah. As the throngs of pilgrims grew, this has largely become impossible so today the pilgrims point toward the stone with their hand as they near it. The movement of the pilgrims during the Tawaf is felt to symbolize the unity of ummah (the community of all believers) as they worship the unity of Allah. 

Another important ritual is the Ramy al-Jamarat or Stoning of the Devil.  Islam views the sacrifice as a test of Ibrahim and Ismail. During this test, Moslems believe that both Ibrahim and Ismail were tempted by Shaytaan (Satan).  Ibrahim and Ismail threw stones at Shaytaan, and this is re-enacted by pilgrims at the Hajj in the ceremony of the stoning of the jamarat. Pilgrims throw pebbles at three pillars in Mina, each of differing size and symbolically representing Shaytaan’s temptation of  Ibrahim, Hagar (Ismail’s mother) and Ismail to stop the sacrifice.

While the pilgrims on the Hajj are at the center of the most significant observance on the Eid al-Adha, it is by no means limited to them alone. Indeed, Moslems the world over celebrate Eid al-Adha.  On the Eid, Moslems bathe in the morning and then traditionally dress in their best clothing before going to the mosque for special prayers. The services usually conclude with a khutba (or speech) with a spiritual message usually encouraging those listening to give up any grudges or ill will. After this, it is customary for worshippers to hug one another and to wish one another a Happy Eid.

Eid al-Adha Traditions and Food

In most traditions, believers, if (they can afford to do so) sacrifice an animal (usually a goat or sheep, although traditions vary) in commemoration of the animal God provided to Ibrahim for sacrifice in place of his son. Indeed, in West Africa the holiday is called Tabaski after this sacrifice. (For a video of Eid sacrifices on Tabaski, please see http://jangawolof.wordpress.com/2007/12/19/happy-tabaski/ ). Where animals are sacrificed, the meat is shared with others, particularly those who are less fortunate.  Many Moslems also donate food of all sorts – not just the sacrificed animal -- to the poor on the holiday.

Sheer korma

Traditions vary somewhat around the world for Eid al-Adha. In Pakistan and India after special morning Eid prayers, Moslems traditionally eat a dish called sheer korma.
Sheer korma is a mix of sweet milk, dates and vermicelli. Later in the day, South Asian Moslems also often eat dishes made from the sacrificed animal, with mutton biryani (sheep with saffron rice), mutton korma (sheep stew) and kofta (meatballs in special gravy). 

Moroccan boulfaf
In Morocco, the post-prayer breakfast is customarily herbel (wheat porridge with sugar, milk, honey and orange-flower water). The main meal of the day usually includes lamb, especially boulfaf (grilled lamb liver kababs).

Bosnian Lonac
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, people traditionally follow morning services with a large lunch of Bosnian lonac (vegetable and meat stew made in a clay pot), dolmas (stuffed onions with paprika) and sarmas (stuffed cabbage). This is usually followed by sweet desserts such as baklava.

USPS first Eid stamp (2001)
In the United States, traditions greatly vary with people often dressing in clothes and eating foods from their ethnic origin. Eid al-Adha, as with other Islamic holidays, has received greater public attention in recent years. In 2001, the US Postal Service began releasing Eid stamps (covering both Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha).

In 2003, George W. Bush was the first President to publicly wish Happy Eid from the White House. This tradition has continued under President Barack Obama.

For more detail on all aspects of the Hajj, look at the Saudi government website from the Ministry of the Hajj :

http://www.hajinformation.com/main/f.htm

http://www.hajinformation.com/display_news.php?id=2188



As always, I welcome your corrections (or praise) and any other input.  In closing, let me wish you all an Eid Mubarek and a Blessed Eid!




Clipart Sources