Archive for the ‘the places I would like to go’ Category

Marshall Adame takes his campaign to voters in 3rd District effort   no comments

Posted at 5:15 am in the places I would like to go


Tideland News Writer

It has been a long time – if ever – since an Onslow County resident has been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. But if Marshall Adame has his way, that drought will end in the November election.

Adame, a Jacksonville resident and Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Walter Jones Jr. for the 3rd District U.S. House seat Jones has held since 1995. And he is doing it face-to-face.

“I am working very hard to win this office,” he said.

In an age when $100 million will be spent to elect a U.S. Senator from North Carolina, Adame is running a House campaign in which he relies on spreading his message and listening to his constituents on a one-to-one basis. It’s not unusual for him to spend quality time in an apartment complex, discussing with the residents the issues about which he feels passionate.

And he feels his message is getting across.

“I don’t have a lot of money, but I have an army of volunteers,” he said. “I go to places and people know who I am. They believe that change can come in North Carolina. People are waking up and realizing their own interests are at stake.

“It’s very humbling.”

Adame accepts every invitation for an interview or a forum.

“When you look at my schedule, you see me every day all over the district,” he noted. “I don’t have an open date.”

Twice so far in this campaign he has arrived at a League of Women Voters forum and was not permitted to speak because Jones failed to show. And yet Adame continues to say “yes” when invited.

His openness, not unusual for a challenger, lands him in friendly and not-so-friendly interviews. But it allows Adame to get his message out. And that can help him develop support. He said that Phil Knight, a New Bern radio talk show host with a conservative bent, came to be a supporter following an interview with Adame.

He claims this, his second run for the office, will be his last if he is unsuccessful. Adame lost to Craig Weber – who has since switched to the Republican Party – in the 2008 Democratic Primary. He has had to give up a “lucrative” government job to campaign. He and his wife, Becky, have been fully focused on the effort.

“I don’t think it’s likely I will do this again,” he said. “I have a family. I have 14 grandchildren that depend on me … we have paid a price.”

Adame said the decision to seek office came while he was working in Saudi Arabia, serving as senior program investigator for a U.S. government aviation program.

“I had been in Saudi Arabia for 17 months,” he explained. Reading the news from home “troubled” him. “I had been very concerned.” It convinced Adame to give up the job and toss his hat in the ring, again. “Service to this country … trumps everything else. It is the most honorable thing a man can do.”

If elected, there are issues – dear to Adame – on which he will focus.

At the top of the list is the environment and how important it is to the economy of the 3rd District that hugs the North Carolina coast. Adame makes no secret that the GOP-led state legislature has drawn his ire.

“We are standing by while (the state lawmakers) denigrate the levels of environmental protection,” he said. The price the state will pay will come out of the $3 billion generated annually by tourism. “They are willing to risk that for what they say is ‘smaller government.’”

Of particular concern is the potential for offshore drilling. North Carolina, he reasons, has nothing to gain and everything to lose. Why? Locating the wells 20 miles offshore means they are out of state jurisdiction or control. Because the Tar Heel state is unprepared to package and ship the product, the oil will go to ports in South Carolina and Virginia.

What North Carolina will get, is potential devastation.

“North Carolina will get the first oil spill,” Adame said. “Nowhere in the world has there been an oil operation that has not had an oil spill.

“We get to witness the destruction of our Outer Banks.” Along with devastating a $3 billion industry, a spill will result in “the death of a culture that has lasted 200 years.

“How do you clean that up? You don’t. It’s gone.”

During the interview, Adame pointed out that when he decided to run for the 3rd District seat, he made it a point to become familiar with the state’s coastal heritage. To do that, he spent hours talking with Dr. Louis N. Daniel III, director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

Daniel told him he was the first politician that ever met with him in that fashion.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is a method of extracting natural gas by pumping large volumes of chemically treated water into the earth, is another high-risk, low-return proposition for the state, according to Adame.

He said he has learned that there are “at least 15 carcinogens in the water” that is used in fracking. Furthermore, huge amounts of water – 14 to 20 million gallons – are needed to drill a single well. And that is water that could eventually find its way into an aquifer.

Of particular concern to Adame is where the fracking waste will be dumped. There have been suggestions that the coastal plain would be the ideal site.

Beneficiaries, other than the oil and gas companies, would be the property owners, according to Adame. The hires, expected to be in the hundreds – at best – would likely come from outside the state, since that’s largely where the experienced workers live.

When it’s all done, “They will leave North Carolina holding the bag,” he said. “I hope the people of North Carolina are willing to rise up (against those who say), ‘We value money more than we value your culture, your environment.’”

As a retired U.S. Marine with 23 years of active duty, a Vietnam veteran, Adame has a special passion for issues relating to the military.

It galls him to hear the nation’s lawmakers say, “‘it costs too much to take care of our veterans.’ We didn’t talk about that when we sent them to war.”

Adame said that Jones has done little to support the military and their families. “He voted against allowing young military families being able to receive food stamps,” Adame said.

The alternative to food stamps for some families dealing with deployment is bankruptcy, according to Adame.

Again, he refers to the situation about which he is most familiar, North Carolina’s.

“Two years ago, North Carolina ranked 22nd in the nation in education,” Adame said, referring to a recent report by “Today, we are 51st. People should be outraged.”

North Carolina’s excellence in education took decades to build, according to Adame. “It took two years to destroy.”

He wants to stop the push to privatize public education through vouchers and other means. The result of that effort is that schools in poor districts will be poorer and affluent schools and students will benefit.

“It’s an effort to return us to segregated schools,” Adame believes. He called it a “race to the bottom,” a plan to create “a large, cheap labor pool” in the state.

Adame finds Republican efforts to make government smaller disingenuous.

“What we need to talk about is good government, whatever size it takes.”

For example, he asks, “Who is trying to stop Ebola? Government.”

He referred to President George W. Bush and the fact that he funded efforts to rein in AIDS. “That’s government,” Adame said. It worked, he added. And it will probably stand as Bush’s most lasting positive legacy.

On the other hand, he said that efforts to “shrink government” by privatizing Social Security could have disastrous results.

“If that had been done in 2007, we would have lost the entire Social Security Trust Fund in the 2008 crash,” Adame said.

He would like to see the U.S. Postal Service fully restored. “The U.S. Postal Service is being unfairly targeted by the Republican Congress,” Adame said.

“Government does some things well.”

Adame said there seems to be a conscious effort to instill fear in Americans.

“We’ve been gripped by fear in America,” he said.

It is a phenomenon that took hold following 9/11 and has been fomented by the media. When faced with fear, Americans are more likely to give up their rights or condone torture.

Adame has particular disdain for the Patriot Act, which has allowed government to gather information on private citizens through eavesdropping on emails and phone calls.

“I will work to dismantle the Patriot Act,” he said.

As for our country employing tactics such as water boarding, Adame said that disgusts him. It flies in the face of the Constitution.

“‘Unalienable’ rights are the rights of all men, not just Americans,” he said.

One does not need to leave the 3rd District to see the GOP’s restrictive voter laws, according to Adame.

“I am outraged at the Republican effort to decide who gets to elect them,” he said of the state’s new laws. “What we’ve done, in essence, is create a new poll tax.

“This clearly targets certain groups – the elderly, minorities, students.”

Having spent 14 years living in the Middle East, Adame brings a unique perspective to recurring conflicts, most recently ISIS, which has beheaded captives and wants to establish a Muslim caliphate.

“We need to help … advise, provide expertise,” he said. But he stopped short of committing troops. “If American blood and American treasure were going to solve the problem, it would have already been solved.

“We need Saudi boots … Turkish boots … Jordanian boots on the ground. But if the neighbors are not willing to pony up, why are they asking the U.S. to do it? They are used to us fighting for them.”

Adame has an opinion on those who support sending Americans into battle against ISIS: In many cases, they are not invested.

“When you have an all-volunteer fighting force, you have the poorest among us fighting our wars,” he explained.

A solution is possible, according to Adame.

“There is always hope,” he said. The solution will require “all the neighboring countries to drop their differences” and join the fight against ISIS. But that will be difficult, he said, as “they hate each other more than they love their own countries.”

The Middle East countries must come to the understanding that they can work together and that the United States can’t be expected to fight in their place.

“They’ve got to come to that belief,” Adame said. “Then, when they cross the border … we support them … we give them all the help they need, but only when they put their boots on the ground.”

Much of this, he said, is the result of President Bush “opening Pandora’s Box” with the Iraq War.

Although Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator and often mistreated his own people if they voiced opposition to his rule, Adame said, he was a secular leader and many people in Iraq today actually long for those pre-invasion days. Before the invasion, a large Christian population in the country was not persecuted, and many Shiite and Sunni Muslims lived and worked together.

After the invasion and the subsequent election of a Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, sectarian divisions heightened and eventually helped create the conditions that have allowed ISIS to grow and flourish.

And, he said, although Jones, his opponent, eventually came to oppose the Iraq War, at the time he “mocked” and “denigrated the French, “who were the only ones who tried to tell us” that intelligence about the Iraqis preparing weapons of mass destruction to use against the U.S. and others was wrong.

Jones’ change of heart led Adame to note that conscience is not just about regret, “We have a conscience to warn us,” he said.

Editor’s Note: For more on this story, log into the Tideland News e-Edition today or pick up your copy of Tideland News on newsstands.

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Written by enfoquec on October 23rd, 2014

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Lebanon’s bartenders aim for Bacardi Prize   no comments

Posted at 5:15 am in the places I would like to go

BEIRUT: Four of Lebanon’s top bartenders made it to the country final of the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition, beating eight other opponents with their own specialty cocktails. “I feel great. I’m looking forward to the final!” Jad Ballout, one of the four finalists, said while celebrating his victory.

The Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition gives bartenders the chance to showcase a cocktail of their own creation around the world.

The top 12 bartenders from Lebanon competed against each other in Ashrafieh Monday night. Each bartender created a cocktail using Bacardi rum as the main ingredient. Each cocktail has its own backstory, which the bartender had to present.

The three judges graded the bartenders on their skill and on the presentation and taste of their cocktails.

At the end of the night, four were selected: Ayman Zayour, Elie Germanos, Issam Jebrayel and Ballout. These four will now be given a budget by Bacardi to promote their creations however they choose over four months, and one will go on to represent Lebanon in the global final in Sydney, Australia, in 2015.

“The competition is about creating a legacy,” said Richard Neil Irwin, the Middle East and Africa brand ambassador for the Bacardi Martini Group, explaining that drinks like the martini and daiquiri became popular by word of mouth.

Zayour, a bartender at Xio Ciao bar on Uruguay Street, was ecstatic that his cocktail, Smooth Criminal, had been selected. While he looked calm on stage, he said that his nerves had almost gotten the better of him.

“You have no idea how tense I was,” Zayour recalled. “One thing messes up and you’re done.”

Smooth Criminal was inspired by the Pina Colada, and contains Bacardi Superior with butter and egg white to give a “creamy texture,” and Cherry Herring and Becherovka to give a fruity and “earthy tingling taste.”

Each bartender had their own style, and the way they chose to shake was a pivotal part of the performance. Each shake was met with raucous applause.

Michel Khairallah, owner of the Happening bar in Mar Mikhael, chose an unconventional performance style in which he took shots throughout his performance and tried his best to engage the judges. He’d actually been drinking all day in order to stay relaxed.

“I heard the universe smells like rum and raspberries,” he joked with the judges, but they were not moved.

His cocktail named the Hotspot was inspired by the Falafel sandwich, which, in his opinion, people only eat for the chili.

He tried to end his performance by taking a shot with Irwin, who oversaw all the proceedings, but Irwin declined.

According to Irwin, Lebanon is a rapidly growing market and bartenders here are in touch with the trends that are happening in Europe and the U.S.

“This is the first semifinal in Beirut,” Irwin said. “There’s been a really big interest. Beirut has sped up a lot.”

Tom Walker, last year’s global champion, was one of the judges at the event. Having Moroccan heritage, Walker had always wanted to come to the Middle East.

“I’d heard amazing things about Beirut and some friends came out here and said they couldn’t get enough of the city,” he said. “To actually come out here has been a great privilege.”

Walker insinuated that the bartending talent in Lebanon may still be in its infancy, but was confident for the future.

“Some of the contestants really brought it,” he said. “It’s the first time for this competition in this market. First time that some people have competed full stop, and that showed but that’s good because it shows that people aren’t afraid. People are fearless. The country’s got a lot of potential and I’m excited to see what happens.”

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Written by enfoquec on October 23rd, 2014

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Belated death of a British illusion   no comments

Posted at 5:15 am in the places I would like to go

The “recognition” of a Palestinian state by the UK Parliament on Oct .13 has been scorned as gesture politics. The criticism is not without substance, but this was a gesture with no small symbolic significance, underlining as it did the moral abhorrence with which Israel’s conduct is now viewed even by its oldest ally.
The recognition was anything but a mere gesture in the eyes of the leading UK Zionist organizations that lobbied MPs furiously to vote it down. British Zionists feel an especial sense of outrage toward the Labour Party, for it was a backbench Labour MP who proposed the vote.
Historically, the British Labour Party vaunted its Zionist credentials. Britain’s Labour prime minister in the 1960s, Harold Wilson, published a large book in praise of Israel. And for the British left in general, Zionism was long a pre-eminent progressive cause, with few even noticing the existence of the Palestinian people, let alone their claims on justice.
Progressive opinion did much to blind the British public to the realities of Palestine, endorsing an image of Israel as the Middle East’s only democracy, a place where egalitarianism was flourishing mightily. In the 60s, idealistic young Britons — by no means all of them Jews — went to work on Israeli kibbutzes, wholly unaware that some of these Zionist co-operatives were built on the ruins of ethnically cleaned Palestinian villages.
For decades, Zionist propaganda successfully promoted Israel as an exceptionally noble enterprise. Now much about the Jewish state is in doubt, including even its very foundational myth. In books such as The Invention of the Jewish People, (2008), the heretical Israeli historian, Shlomo Sand, has called into question the received view of the Jews as a specific religio-ethnic people who were expelled from Palestine by the Romans and who in the 20th Century reclaimed the land that is theirs by divine right. Sand maintains that a spurious racial unity was invoked on behalf of a miscellany of groups in order to justify the appropriation of Palestine.
Much that Sand has written will always be a matter of dispute — such are the gaps in the historical record. However, in his latest book, How I Stopped Being a Jew, published last year in Israel and now published in the UK, he addresses anomalies in the picture Israel has presented to the world that are not open to dispute.
In this polemic, Sand is scathing about the duplicity that attends the issue of Israeli national identity. It is not widely understood that Israeli nationality is an elusive concept. With the palpable purpose of preserving Israel’s exclusively Jewish character, the term “Israeli” does not feature in the country’s population registry. Constituting itself as the state of Jews everywhere, Israel offers formal citizenship to Jewish people throughout the world, while vouchsafing only highly qualified, not to say discriminatory, citizenship to Arabs and others. Israel’s non-Jewish residents cannot be, or become, Israeli citizens in the sense that persons of, say, Pakistani heritage can be British citizens. Sand describes Israel as an ethnocracy. Certainly, it is far from being a democracy in the sense that the definition applies to the UK or France.
Sand also has mordant things to say about the way Israel tendentiously remembers only the suffering of the Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany, indulging in a sort of moral self-aggrandizement. Zionism has effectively erased the memory of the several million non-Jews, Roman Catholics and others, who were likewise exterminated by the Nazis. To respect the larger truth, he suggests, has not suited the Zionist narrative, the claim that Jewish people were unique victims of Nazi barbarity with a justification for establishing a nation state in Palestine beside which the rights of its indigenous Arabs counted for nothing. Writing as much in sorrow as in anger, Shlomo Sand nurses a vision of the inclusive secular democracy that Israel might be. Such was the utopia that many British leftists imagined they were celebrating. Among other things, the UK Parliament’s recognition of a Palestinian state signal the end of the long era during which British progressive opinion was beguiled by a phantom, seeing in Israel only what it wanted to see.

Email: [email protected]

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Written by enfoquec on October 23rd, 2014

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Islamic State is a cult that cannot be bombed out of existence   no comments

Posted at 5:00 am in the places I would like to go

US secretary of state John Kerry denies that the bombing campaign against Islamic State fighters in and around the small, dusty Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani near the Turkish border defines coalition strategy. He argues the primary focus of the US military is on Iraq, but his words are belied by targets currently under attack.

US aircraft have carried out dozens of strikes on Islamic State units at Kobani but no air action has been taken as fighters have skirmished with Iraqi forces around Ramadi, an hour’s drive from Baghdad.

Half held by Islamic State, Ramadi is the capital of strategic Anbar province, bordering on Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Ramadi is a far more important strategic objective than Kobani, but the US fears Kobani’s loss more because the battle is being played out on television screens across the world. Washington cannot suffer a propaganda defeat in Syria even though Islamic State forces advance in Iraq.

In one of his most oft-quoted maxims, Napoleon stated: “In war the spiritual is to the material as three to one.” The loss of Kobani would also be a major “spiritual” or moral defeat the US cannot afford in its faltering and one-dimensional bombing campaign against Islamic State.

More than military prowess, Islamic State relies on “spiritual” clout with adherents, admirers and, even, antagonists, for millions of Muslims living in failing states long for the purity and security of an “Islamic state”, even the version imposed by the brutal and narrow militia.

Islamic State is not just one of the host of insurgent groups fighting the Syrian and Iraqi governments. It is not a network, like al-Qaeda, not a movement, not an organisation. Islamic State is a cult which relies on the “spiritual” dimension to fire its fighters.

It is the world’s most well-organised and heavily armed cult, making it far more formidable than the entire range of militias involved in the struggle for Syria and Iraq.

Core Islamic State fighters are converts to the cause of establishing a utopian Islamic state ruled by Muslim canon law, Sharia. They are imbued with a powerful “purist” ideology based on the teachings of 18th-century ultra-conservative Saudi preacher Mohamed Ibn Abdel Wahhab.

Islamic State seeks to impose its uncompromising vision by force in areas that fall under its control. Its fighters are licensed to commit mass murder, carry out sectarian and ethnic cleansing, stage beheadings, kidnap civilians, use sex slaves, impress child soldiers, rob banks and destroy cultural heritage.

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Written by enfoquec on October 21st, 2014

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Cultural heartland of Al Ain hosts night of Emirati musical heritage   no comments

Posted at 5:00 am in the places I would like to go

ABU DHABI – Leading artists from the United Arab Emirates will perform an evening of traditional Arab music and poetry dedicated to the rich cultural heritage of the country as part of the newly reintroduced Abu Dhabi Classics annual concert season.

Titled The Song of Heritage, the evening will bring eminent Emirati musicians and poets on stage at the Al Qattara Arts Centre in Al Ain, the heritage heartland of the UAE, on 27thOctober for one evening only.

Acclaimed master of the traditional oud stringed instrument Faisal Al Saari will be joined by poet Abdullah Al Heydah and Ali Mohammed Matar Helal AlKeebali, and expert on the rebabah, another stringed instrument, for a night of musical recitals interspersed with Arabic poetry.

Reintroduced by Abu Dhabi Tourism Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) after a three-year break, the Abu Dhabi Classics season, from October until May, sees leading local and international musicians and orchestras perform at numerous venues across Abu Dhabi city, Saadiyat Island and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al Ain, dedicated to the theme of The Traveller.

Al Saari taught himself to play the oud in 1986 and mastered the instrument at the Bait Al Oud musical academy in the oasis city of Al Ain, becoming one of the UAEs leading experts in his field.

I have always loved Abdullah Al Hedyahs poetry and I am really looking forward to see how his words and my music work together. We want to pay tribute to our country and to what makes up its real beauty – its heritage. I am also very proud to be part of this seasons Abu Dhabi Classics and represent Emirati musical accomplishment, Al Saari said.

Western classical music, especially Bach, is one of my most important sources of inspiration and I see it as part of my artistic goal to blend both Western and local musical traditions.

Up to 12 concerts are planned for the Abu Dhabi Classics season featuring some of the worlds leading classical musicians and orchestras from more than 20 countries.

As part of the season we want to show that classical music is a universal phenomenon with no boundaries, stretching from East to West. Thisheritage performance of music and poetry will highlight Emirati culture at its best, said Dr Ronald Perlwitz, Head of Music Programme, Culture Sector, TCA Abu Dhabi.

We hope the success of the evening will lead to the Emirati musical experience being taken abroad and performed to enthrall audiences in other countries. We are also hoping to see collaborations taking place between local artistes and visiting international composers and musicians.

Dr.Perlwitz said that Grammy award winner Spanish composer Jordi Savall, who is due to perform his unique concert Ibn Battuta: Voyager of Islam at the Emirates Palace Auditorium as part of the Classics season on November 20, has already expressed an interest in working with the Emirati ensemble on a pioneering musical project.

The programme will be conducted outdoors and entry is free.

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Written by enfoquec on October 21st, 2014

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Israeli Settlers jeapordise the fate of UNESCO heritage site   no comments

Posted at 5:00 am in the places I would like to go

For three weeks, Palestinian Muslims have been denied access to one of the holiest sites in Islam. Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem has become the site of frequent assaults by occupation forces and efforts to breach the complex by Zionist extremists.

Clashes between unarmed protesters and Israeli forces armed with stun grenades, tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets have left dozens of Palestinians wounded, and has resulted in fires that threaten the stability of the 1300 year-old complex.

Intent on destroying the mosque and rebuilding the lost Temple of Solomon, more than a thousand Zionist settlers have entered the area in the past week under the protection of the occupation army, and have been given carte blanche to intimidate and harass Palestinians worshipping at the site.

But concern for this wonder of the ancient world is surprisingly absent. While the threat posed by IS to historical monuments and heritage sites in Iraq and Syria is frequently discussed, few have voiced alarm at the threat extremists pose to one of the Middle East’s most iconic structures, one that the international community is obligated to protect due to its UNESCO world heritage site status.

Also missing is concern regarding freedom of worship for the thousands of Palestinians denied access to one of their most revered houses of worship. No major media outlet has commented on the absurd irony of a Jewish extremist being allowed to worship at a mosque most Muslims are barred from entering. Nor has there been outrage at the violation by settlers of territory considered occupied by international law.

Palestinians have become accustomed to the unsympathetic coverage of most broadcasters and politicians, but it’s the silence of the Muslim world that has hit them hardest. There has been no statement condemning the violations from any of their Arab neighbours, in a region that specialises in statements that never follow through with effective action.

The latest assault on al-Aqsa underscores the lonely position in which the Palestinian people find themselves; left to fend off increasing aggression by themselves with no leadership or ally to call upon. The recent massacre in Gaza was cheered on by Gulf dictatorships and Egypt because it targeted their enemy, Hamas.

Frequent killings of youths in the West Bank barely registers disapproval, with information only getting out because of the efforts of Palestinian activists and their supporters on social media.

With the weight of opposition to the Palestinians and indifference to the fate of al-Aqsa among political leaders and the media is not an option. The last intifada against the occupation started after Israeli leader, Ariel Sharon entered al-Aqsa sanctuary, a deliberate provocation that led to the death of thousands of Palestinians.

The international community is obligated to protect al-Aqsa mosque, not only because of its heritage status, but to prevent the curtailment of religious freedoms for Muslims.

For 1400 years, with the exception of Crusader rule in Palestine, Muslims protected the rights of Christians and Jews in the city to worship freely. Almost five decades of Israeli occupation in the sacred city threatens to end that virtuous tradition.

Using mythical and unfounded claims about the location of the lost Temple of Solomon, successive Israeli governments have risked the integrity of the building by carrying out excavations under its foundations. A policy that would be balked at near other UNESCO sites is tolerated when it is the Israeli government responsible for putting at risk the Islamic world’s heritage.

Palestinians and Muslims across the globe will not tolerate any threat to their sacred sites. Damage to al-Aqsa mosque will further destabilise a region already going through a significant upheaval. If the international community acts now, it can stop another potential deadly act of violence.

Ismail Patel is chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa; his twitter handle is @ismailAdamPatel

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Muslims in Jerusalem perform the Eid al-Adha prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on October 4 (AA)

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Written by enfoquec on October 21st, 2014

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Worship and a way of life   no comments

Posted at 4:47 am in the places I would like to go

The design of a Hindu temple reflects many things, including the dharma, values and the Hindu way of life, writes Aneeta Sundararaj

ON Deepavali last year, when I visited the temple, something didn’t feel right. Yet, I couldn’t put my finger on why I wasn’t feeling at peace.

When I discussed this with J.R. Rajaji, a former member of the committee of the Hindu Endowment Board which oversees the Waterfall Temple (Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple) in Penang, he asked me if I had stepped into the temple the right way.

This puzzled me. Nonetheless, I recalled that, because of the crowd, I had entered via a side entrance.

Rajaji, 78, then mentioned “vashtu shastra” and I asked him to explain why that was important in matters of temple construction and worship.

He explained: “You see, the design of a Hindu temple is like the structure of a cosmic man who, in Hindu mythology, is called Purush.”

According to the story, Lord Brahma created Purush when he was creating the Universe. In the process, things got a little out of hand and Purush became too large to manage. At the behest of the other Gods, Lord Brahma contained Purush by pinning him down with his head towards north-east and legs to the south-west. Unable to bring Himself to destroy Purush, Lord Brahma decided to make him immortal. Henceforth, he was to be known as Vashtu-Purush and all mortals who built a structure on Earth needed to first worship him.


With this in place, ancient architects went on to create the basic metaphysical chart for all Hindu temples, which they still call a Vashtu-Purusha-Mandala.

They chose the square as the fundamental form to symbolise unity, inertia and permanence. From the square, they were able to derive all other shapes such as the triangle, hexagon, octagon and circle.

“You will notice that this chart is divided into 81 parts (9×9),” said Rajaji. “The number 9 is very important and is derived from the human body. We have nine ‘holes’ – two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one mouth, two orifices for waste.”

Like any other art form, there are regional variations in the style and construction of a temple, such as those from Orissa, Gujarat, Kashmir and South India. However, this basic metaphysical chart is still used to create the final form (inclusive of the vertical and horizontal dimensions) of the temple.

Once the plan is drawn up on paper, the next step is to “draw” it at the actual building site.

“There is a sanctification ceremony called the Bhoomiparipalana puja. A priest from India will conduct all the necessary ceremonies before actual work begins,” said Rajaji.

Then, I succeeded in drawing his ire by asking why it was necessary for a priest to come all the way from India to work on a temple plan. Surely, our local architects and engineers are able to create and construct a temple as well.

He paused before replying: “Yes, with modern technology, you can even build a temple in the middle of the ocean. But is it practical? You need a place where God can be powerful enough to bless the world. I mean, if you had a president and gave him a weak chair to sit on, what’s the point? This is something that only those who are well-versed in temple structure, astrology and construction can do.”

Having set the record straight, Rajaji continued: “When you look at a temple, imagine you’re looking at a man who is lying down with his head in the north-east and his legs in the south-west. The entrance to the temple, the gopuram, is the man’s feet.”

This means paying obeisance at the entrance of a temple is the first step of Hindu worship. Once inside the temple grounds, devotees remove their shoes and then rinse their feet, mouth and hands in the place provided.


Why a flagpole? “In olden times,” said Rajaji, “men used to go around town to pass messages. Some messages were good, some were bad. When they saw a flagpole, such as at a wedding, they would avoid coming in to deliver bad news. So, the flagpole tells everyone that this is a good place. From this point on, you must leave all your negative thoughts and keep only pure thoughts in your head.”


It is customary to worship Lord Ganesh before entering the main hall of the temple. By honouring Him first, the dynamic blessings of the temple will be opened to the devotee. The next step is to pay obeisance to the vehicle of the presiding deity of the temple.

Ranjiji said: “In a Shiva temple, there will be a Nandi or sacred bull in front of the temple. For an Amman temple, you’ll see a lion, Simmhavahanam, because that is her vehicle.

“Step inside the mahamandap (main hall) using your right foot. Don’t step on the threshold. Step over it instead.

“Once you’re inside the temple hall, imagine you’re standing on the stomach of Vashtu-Purush.”

It is said that in the middle of the temple floor, you will find a black dot.

“This black dot is symbolic of the umbilicus of Vashtu-Purush,” explained Rajaji. “It is also the exact centre of the Vashtu-Purusha-Mandala and Brahmasthanam (the station of Lord Brahma). Think of it this way: When you make pickles, you put all the good things into the jar and seal it. This black dot is like the 10th hole and seals all the good things in the temple.”

Thereafter, devotees will present their offerings (usually a tray of flowers) to the priest to be placed before the presiding deity of the temple in the place called the karpagraham or moolasthanam. “This is where the head of Vashtu-Purush lies and is always in the north-east. The sun’s rays must reach the presiding deity of the temple in this inner sanctum. This is why, even in your own house, you should never sleep with your head in the south-west,” said Rajaji.


After this, the priest recites the necessary mantras and lights the flame (deepum).

“At the moment when he holds the deepum in front of the deity, that’s the single moment when you are in communion with the deity,” he said.

The priest then brings the deepum in front of you and you are invited to draw the blessings of the presiding deity by passing your hands over the flame and lightly touching your eyes.

Rajaji added: “The vibuthi (ash) given to you after this is to remind you that whatever you do in this lifetime, there will come a time when you will return to dust. The chandana (sandalwood paste) and kumkum you apply to your forehead represents the third eye of the spiritual seeing. The kumkum also symbolises that all humans are equal for all our blood is red.”

Food cooked and blessed may then be distributed to the devotees. It is customary to leave a monetary offering in a donation box. One of the final acts of worship in a Hindu temple is to undertake the pradakshina (walk around the sanctum in clockwise fashion). Having come to the end of his explanations, Rajaji smiled at me and said: “Always leave a temple in peace.”

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Written by enfoquec on October 19th, 2014

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