La santé :service public ?

L’ article de M. Ezra Klein « Why an MRI costs $1,080 in America and $280 in France ? » ( Washington Post 3 mars 2012 cliquez ici pour le lire) soulève des questions aussi fondamentales qu’intéressantes. Notant qu’en 2009, les dépenses de santé aux Etats-Unis se montaient à $ 7,960 par personne alors qu’en France elles n’étaient que de $ 3,978 par personne, au  Canada $4,808 et en Allemagne $4,218, il observe que si les dépense de santé américaines étaient au niveau des trois pays cités le déficit américain serait résorbé. Il attribue la différence aux prix pratiqués par les fournisseurs des services de santé qui cherchent à maximiser leur bénéfices.

Si l’analyse de M. Klein-et celles des économistes qu’il cite- est bonne, alors pourquoi ne devrait-on pas considérer que  la fourniture de services de santé est un service public qui devrait  rémunéré sur la base des coûts plu un profit garanti ? Vos commentaires seront les bienvenus.


Where else but in New York?

Wednesday,walking through Central Park with my friend Nicholas D. chatting merrily,if somewhat loudly,in French about the role of France in the concert of Nations  a lady ,looking remakably like the New York Public Library librarian in Ghostbusters, and,like her ,a librarian ,stops us ,apologizing profusely for the interruption ,to ask us in very good French,if in current usage a word such as « église » when capitalized should be written »Eglise » or « Église »!

Only in New York!

Valentine’s Day and the takeover of pagan festivals by the Church

The celebration of Valentine’s Day on February 14 provides us with an opportunity to think about the symbolism of the pagan festivals that were taken over by the Church.

Today, Valentine’s Day is the symbol of lovers, thus, indirectly, the symbol of fertility. According to tradition, Roman Emperor Claudius the Cruel had banned marriages amongst young people on the grounds that married young men were reluctant to enlist in the Roman army. Valentine, a Catholic priest, disobeyed the ban and continued to perform marriages amongst young people. Caught, and condemned by the prefect, he was sentenced to be beaten and beheaded. According to tradition, the sentence was carried out on February 14 of either year 270 or 278. In fact, the very serious Catholic Encyclopedia tells us that there were at least three St. Valentines all martyred on February 14 but in three different places!


In ancient Rome February 14 was right in the middle of the festival of the Lupercalia (February 13 – 15). This festival, marking the end of the Roman year, was a celebration of purification, health and fertility. It was celebrated in a cave, most likely situated at the foot of Palatine Hill, called the Lupercal in honor of Lupercus, god of shepherds. The ritual involved the sacrifice of a he-goat by priests clad in goatskins who then anointed two young men, of patrician families, by daubing them with the blood of the sacrificed goat whose skin was then cut up in strips. Upon washing away the sacrificial blood, the youths were to burst out laughing, dress in goatskins and then run, more or less naked, through the streets of Rome using the strips of goatskin to flagellate any woman desiring to bear child within the year!


The festival harked back to an even older ritual, one of spring cleaning called Februa, hence the name of the month of February. Thus, beyond purification, the ritual is also a rite of passage: the sacrifice in the cave is of course a symbol of death (remember the initiation rites in the Magic Flute) and the laughter outburst a symbol of resurrection while the he-goat symbolizes fertility.


In spite of the ban on pagan festivals in a Rome that had become largely Christian, the festival of Lupercalia continued to coexist with Christianity during several centuries. However, in the fifth century, Pope Gelasius the first (494 – 496) thought that, since the Lupercalia was at that time only observed by the rabble, the original purpose no longer warranted its continued existence. So, he decided to ban the Lupercalia, ordering its replacement by the feast of St. Valentine.


The setting of Christmas on December 25th is another example of appropriation of a pagan festival by the Church. The date was chosen to supplant the most important feast of the mithraic cult, that of sol invictus or Natalis invicti. The mithraic cult, widespread in Rome and in Asia Minor in the third and fourth centuries, celebrated by that festival the return of the sun triumphing over the winter night. In the Christian world, the setting of Christmas on December 25 occurred sometime during the fourth century. Pope Benedict XVI considers that it was natural to set Christmas on December 25 since it occurs nine months after the Annunciation! Given the number of Church Fathers who have thought that the relation between sol invictus and Christmas is established, we may wonder whether the date of March 25 for the Annunciation is itself either an arbitrary date or an exercise in bootstrapping: after having set Christmas at December 25 why not set the date of the Annunciation at March 25, nine months before!


Valentine’s Day and Christmas on not the only two Christian feasts that have supplanted pagan festivals. While there are numerous other examples, let us examine only two additional ones: Rogation Days and the feast of San John the Baptist.

The Rogation Days where instituted by the Church to appease God’s anger at man’s transgressions and to obtain bountiful harvests. In England, these days where known as “Gang Days » and “Cross Week », and in Germany as it Bittage, Bittwoche, Kreuzwoche. There were two Rogation Days: the Major Rogation Day on April 25 and the Minor Rogation Days which occurred during the three days preceding the feast of the Ascension. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Rogation Days « have been introduced to counteract the ancient Robigalia, on which the heathens held processions and supplications to their gods » for bountiful harvests and, in the case of Minor Rogation Days, for the avoidance of late frosts. In Rome, the Robigalia were held on the same days as the Major and Minor Rogations and the Major Rogation Day procession used the same itinerary in the city of Rome as did the supplanted pagan festival!


As a last example of appropriation, let us examine the one pagan festival that resisted for a very long time its supplantation by a Christian feast: the Scandinavian feast of the summer solstice on June 21. Today, the feast of St. John the Baptist on the same day has replaced it.


It is interesting, as well as enriching, to think back on the symbolism of the pagan festivals that have been supplanted by Christian feasts.


L’élection qui gêne l’UMP

Tel est le titre d’un récent article paru dans L’Express sur lequel une aimable lectrice a bien voulu attirer notre attention.

Au moment où les Français de l’Est des Etats-Unis s’apprêtent à voter, la lecture de cet article –cliquez ici pour le lire—incite à la réflexion.

Bilingualism: boon or bane?

In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Guy Deutscher, author of « Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages », reviewed the current state of research to answer the question: » Does your Language Shape How You Think? » Mr.Deutscher gives interesting examples showing that language does indeed compel the speakers to express thoughts in a particular way or to provide the listener with certain information, whether about the gender as in French or German as opposed to English or about how the speaker came to know the facts they are reporting as for the Matses in Peru. Click here to read the article.

As the first bilingual French-English charter school in New York City, the New York French American Charter School, will open in September ,2010 we may well ask, following Mr. Deutscher’s inquiries, whether bilingualism shapes how the speakers think, whether there are any benefits, aside from the obvious cultural ones, to learning another language from the earliest age? Wouldn’t such bilingualism overtax the abilities of some children and render them less proficient in both languages? To answer some of the questions one may have about bilingualism, I did a cursory ,and wholly unscientific, survey of the literature in the last 3 years and share here what caught my attention.

What are the benefits of an early bilingual education?

According to studies of kindergartners done at Harvard by Prof.Silverman[1] pupils who speak another language at home and who learn English as a second language acquire a general vocabulary in English at a faster rate than English-only pupils of the same age.

Early bilinguals are able to learn another language faster than monolinguals and are better able to learn new words in their own language as shown by Viorica Marian and Margarita Kaushanskaya, professors of communication science at Northwestern University[2].

Professors Marian and Kaushanskaya’s research also answers a question many parents have when deciding whether to educate their children bilingually: will bilingual education confuse or slow down my child’s learning? In their article « Bilingualism reduces native-language interference during novel-word learning »[3], they show that bilinguals are better able than monolinguals to filter out « noise »-irrelevant information- when learning a new language.Accordingly, bilingual education from an early age helps rather than hinders a child’s development.

Parents may be wondering if it is worth going to the trouble of providing an early bilingual education to their offsprings if the child then loses the second language through lack of use. Recent research by Bristol University researchers[4] suggests that people who were exposed to another language when young not only relearn the forgotten language more rapidly but retain the ability to pronounce difficult sounds of the second language. They used Hindi and Zulu as second languages because these languages have phonemes –sound units- that are very difficult for native English speakers to recognize and reproduce. They found that the subject quickly relearnt to recognize and pronounce those foreign phonemes. We have all observed cases of people who lost a language learnt as a child who, when relearning it as adults, are able to pronounce it like native speakers.

Monolingual education of children from homes where another language is spoken has another very real negative impact on the construction of the child’s identity, language learning and critical thinking development as Elena Constantinou, doctoral student at the University of Leicester showed in her June 24,2010 presentation « Exclusion of mother tongue problematises identity construction » at the Festival of Postgraduate Research of the University[5].

How early should bilingual education start?

The short answer is as early as possible, even during pregnancy! As shown by psychologists Krista Byers-Heinlein, and Janet Werker (University of British Columbia) and Tracey Burns of the OECD who studied mothers speaking both English and Tagalog during pregnancy[6] and mothers who spoke only English, monolingual babies were only interested in English whereas bilingual babies showed no preference for one language or the other suggesting that those infants have a predisposition for bilingual learning.

Their research showed also that infants are able to discriminate between the two languages and to keep them apart. This research extends the earliest age at which infants can tell apart two languages. A previous study showed that 4- and 6-month-old infants can discriminate languages (English from French) just from viewing silently presented articulations. By the age of 8 months, only bilingual (French-English) infants succeed at this task.[7]

Bilingualism’s impact on brain structure and use of brain resources

« Can early language exposure modify neural tissue? Does extensive and maintained exposure to two languages from early life leave a « bilingual signature » on the human brain? How do bilinguals avoid confusing their two languages as they rapidly process their languages and /or move from one language context to another? Do early proficient bilinguals process language differently from monolinguals and recruit different neural tissue across all contexts, including one language at a time and two languages in rapid alternation?[8] Or do such bilinguals process language similarly to monolinguals and recruit similar neural tissue but not across all contexts?[9] » These are the questions that Professor Ioulia Kovelman and her co-workers set out to answer using novel neuro-imaging techniques[10].Her conclusions are well worth quoting in full:

« Early and extensive dual language exposure appears to have an impact on how the bilingual brain processes language within classical language areas (IFC, BA) as well as brain areas that support language processing (DLPFC, BA46/9 and IFC BA 47/11).The overall implication is that this neural change is entirely positive-bilinguals can read and listen to semantic information in each of their languages with the same effectiveness as monolinguals. The bilingual brain also develops mechanisms that allow for successful processing of two languages concurrently in a bilingual mode. We therefore hope that scientists, educators and bilingual policymakers, alike, will take notice of the present findings-especially those who decide on educational settings for the nation’s young bilinguals and whether early bilingual language learning as a child harms one’s dual language, reading, and cognitive processing as an adult. To be sure, we found no evidence of harm and instead found evidence that the bilingual brain processes each of the two languages with the aplomb of a monolingual brain processing one. »[11]

These results were confirmed in a study carried out by Professor Ibrahim of the Department of Learning Disabilities of Haifa University[12] who investigated whether one or both languages of an Arabic-Hebrew bilingual individual are disrupted following brain damage. In this case, his investigation led to the conclusion that the Arabic and Hebrew language capabilities of the patient resided in two different areas of the brain even though the two languages are semantically very close.[13]

Are there any benefits of bilingualism in adulthood?

Indubitably yes. Indeed, Alzheimer’s has been shown by Prof. Bialystok to be delayed by an average of four years in bilinguals versus monolinguals[14].Similarly, Dr.Gilit Kavé and her co-workers at the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University have shown that senior citizens who speak several languages show less mental aging than monolinguals: the more languages you speak the better your cognitive states are when you get older. The study was conducted on people between the ages of 75 and 95.[15]

Last, but not least, according to a 2009 report by research team appointed by the European Commission entitled « The Contribution of Multilingualism to Creativity »[16], click here to read the Report, multilinguals show superior performance in handling complex and demanding problem-solving tasks, higher creativity and mental flexibility compared to monolinguals.

©2010 Pierre F. de Ravel d’Esclapon

[1]Elementary School Journal, 107(4), 365-383 (2007): Rebecca Deffes Silverman: »Vocabulary Development of English-Language and English-Only Learners in Kindergarten ».

[2] « The Bilingual Advantage in Novel Word Learning » (2009) Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,   16, 705-710.

[3] J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2009 May; 35(3):829-35.

[4] J.Bowers,S.Mattys and S.Gage « Preserved Implicit Knowledge of a Forgotten Childhood Language » Psychological Science 2009;20(9):1064

[5] While her research focused on children whose home language is the Cypriot dialect, her findings should apply to other communities as well.

[6] Byers-Heinlein, K., Burns, T.F., & Werker, J.F. ( 2010). « The roots of bilingualism in newborns ». Psychological Science, 21(3), 343-348,(2010) doi: 10.1177/0956797609360758

[7]« Visual Language Discrimination in Infancy » Whitney M. Weikum, Athena Vouloumanos, Jordi Navarra, Salvador Soto-Faraco, Núria Sebastián-Gallés, and Janet F. Werker Science 25 May 2007:Vol. 316. no. 5828, p. 1159 DOI: 10.1126/science.1137686.

[8] The neuroscientists refer to this as the Neural Signature Hypothesis

[9] This is the so-called Functional Switching Hypothesis.

[10] « Shining New Light on the Brain’s « Bilingual Signature »: a Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy Investigation of Semantic Processing » I. Kovelman, M.H. Shalinsky, M.S.Berens and L.Petitto  Neuroimage 39(2008) 1457-1471.To read the article click here.Interested readers may also enjoy her other papers:« Age of first bilingual language exposure as a new window into bilingual reading development« Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 11 (2), 2008, 203–223 ; »Dual language use in sign-speech bimodal bilinguals: fNIRS brain-imaging evidence« Brain & Language 109 (2009) 112–123;L.Petitto « New Discoveries From the Bilingual Brain and Mind Across the Life Span: Implications for Education »MIND, BRAIN, AND EDUCATION vol.4

[11] Id.p.1468.

[12] « Selective deficit of second language: a case study of a brain-damaged Arabic-Hebrew bilingual patient » Behavioral and Brain Functions 2009, 5:17doi:10.1186/1744-9081-5-17

[13] Interested readers will benefit from studying the literature quoted in Professor Ibrahim’s footnotes.

[14] « Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia » Bialystok E., Craik F.I. & Freedman M. Neuropsychologia 45(7),2007 ,459-464

[15] Kavé, G., Eyal, N., Shorek, A., & Cohen-Mansfield, J. (2008). Multilingualism and cognitive state in the oldest old. Psychology and Aging, 23(1), 70-78.

[16] EC Public Service Contract No EACEA/2007/3995/2 16 July 2009

Temps des crises de Michel Serres

L’académicien Michel Serres, professeur à Stanford, vient de publier un nouveau livre,Temps des Crises, dont le sous-titre est : « Mais que révèle le séisme financier et boursier qui nous secoue aujourd’hui ? »

Canal Académie  nous propose d’écouter l’entretien de Michel Serres avec Jacques Paugam.

Dans celui-ci, le philosophe note que la proportion maintenant très réduite du nombre d’agriculteurs et des professions associées  (1,7% contre plus de 60% en 1900) à la fin du XXe siècle  marque la « la fin du néolithique ».

Il analyse ensuite les conséquences de la mobilité des personnes et des choses ainsi  que des progrès de la santé et de la révolution des pratiques médicales. Pour Michel Serres, les nouvelles technologies constituent sont aussi révolutionnaires que l’invention de l’écriture ou de l’imprimerie.

Pour lui, la crise financière doit être analysée comme la crise dans l’évolution d’une maladie, soit le point d’inflexion de la maladie où le malade meurt ou guérit. Pour lui, l’important n’est pas de revenir à l’état antérieur mais d’intégrer le nouvel état du malade dont l’organisme a lutté avec succès contre la maladie. Cette capacité d’adaptation est la définition même de la vie, « invention permanente de la nouveauté ».C’est ainsi nous suggère-t-il qu’il faut aborder la recherche de solutions aux crises économiques.

Cliquez ici pour l’écouter.

Le plan de relance américain:bilan après un an

Mercredi 17 fevrier 2010, l’émission quotidienne ,L’heure des comptes,de Radio Canada m’a interrogé sur le bilan du plan de relance américain après une année. Pour écouter cette entrevue cliquez ici.

Did Alan Greenspan err?

Many, especially on Capitol Hill, find it convenient to blame Greenspan for the financial crisis from which we are barely emerging. The argument runs thusly: the combination of very cheap money policies and of deregulation so fervently adopted by Geenspan brought about the housing bubble, the subprime mess and assorted financial debacles. Is this line of thinking correct? Mr. Taylor, a friend of Mr.Greenspan thinks so, others, including, not surprisingly, Mr. Greenspan remain unconvinced by Mr. Taylor’s criticism of Mr. Greenspan’s policies. CNNMoney’s Geoff Colvin penned an interesting article (click here to read it) that summarizes the arguments on both sides of the debate in a cogent and articulate manner

La fête Roch Hachana:la tête de l’année

Si vous voulez comprendre les aspects à la fois festifs et rigoureux de cette grande fête juive , écoutez l’explication qu’en fait le grand Rabbin Haïm Korsia, aumônier général israélite de l’armée française , sur Canal Académie.Comme lui,souhaitons Shana Tovah à tous nos amis juifs.

James Madison and Hall’s $ 100M bonus

On July 27,2009,I posted a note  ( below: Rémunération des cadres bancaires : les $100 millions d’Andrew Hall ) on the  debate raging around Andrew Hall’s right to a $ 100 million bonus,the  topic now of David Segal’s  front page article in Sunday’s New York Times ( August 2,2009) .In my note I  stated that while there were sound reasons to reform the remuneration of traders to avoid excessive risk-taking and to adjust it to account for risks spread over a long period ( the classic problem of long tailed distributions such as Pareto or Lévy ones) there are even sounder reasons for the provision in the U.S. Constitution  prohibiting the  passing laws that affect contract rights retroactively. These reasons were best articulated by James Madison, writing as Publius, in 1788 ,No44 The Federalist Papers:

“Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us, nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less informed part of the community. They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding. “

President Madison’s wise observations deserve to be heeded by those who now seek to retroactively modify contract rights.

Rémunération des cadres bancaires : les $100 millions d’Andrew Hall

Le débat continue de faire rage.Cette fois, il s’agit de la rémunération d’Andrew Hall, patron de la division Phibro de Citigroup.Celui-ci, contractuellement devrait toucher $100 millions au titre de l’exercice 2009.Cette perspective n’est pas au goût de Ken Feinberg, le tsar des traitements de cadres de sociétés aidées par le gouvernement. D’ou la relance du débat sur le droit à la modification ex post facto unilatérale d’un contrat. Comme l’explique Stephen Grocer dans le Wall Street Journal, la division Phibro a gagné beaucoup d’argent pour Citigroup et continue d’engranger des bénéfices plus que coquets et sera un facteur primordial du remboursement des aides gouvernementales par Citigroup.S’il est nécessaire de réformer le mode de rémunération  des opérateurs sur les marchés ( les fameux « traders ») pour prendre en compte l’étalement dans le temps des risques découlant des opérations (le problème de la longue traine des distributions de type Pareto ou de Lévy par exemple),il convient de le faire sans pour autant battre en brèche la disposition de la constitution américaine interdisant la modification unilatérale rétroactive des contrats. James Madison, commentant  cette disposition en 1788 dans le No 44 des Federalist Papers  en démontre la nécessité:

“Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. The two former are expressly prohibited by the declarations prefixed to some of the State constitutions, and all of them are prohibited by the spirit and scope of these fundamental charters. Our own experience has taught us, nevertheless, that additional fences against these dangers ought not to be omitted. Very properly, therefore, have the convention added this constitutional bulwark in favor of personal security and private rights; and I am much deceived if they have not, in so doing, as faithfully consulted the genuine sentiments as the undoubted interests of their constituents. The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils. They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less informed part of the community. They have seen, too, that one legislative interference is but the first link of a long chain of repetitions, every subsequent interference being naturally produced by the effects of the preceding. “

Ces observations du père de la constitution méritent toutes l’attention de ceux qui aujourd’hui veulent remettre en cause les droits contractuels.

Health Care Reform

As Congress starts debating the Obama health care plan, an incursion into history may be in order. Years ago, in 1961,the Democrats proposed a form of socialized medicine. Concerned citizens mounted  Operation Coffee Cup Campaign against Socialized Medicine and then private citizen Ronald Reagan spoke out ( here) against socialized medicine in terms that all intellectually honest persons should ponder .Some years later,in 1978,in a speech at the Mayo Clinic, Milton Friedman provided a lucid,and still valid ,analysis of the consequences of socialized medicine on patients and the care to which one might think they are entitled but for socialized medicine see video here.

Clearly,those who do no study history are condemned to repeating history’s mistakes.

Islam et tolérance:Discours du Pape Benoît XVI aux Chefs religieux musulmans à la mosquée Al-Hussein bin Talal

Dans l’essai « Tolérance, révérence et dhimmitude »,que vous trouverez dans la section Op Ed de ce journal, j’ai tenté´de répondre à la question : le monde musulman est-il capable de traiter le monde non-musulman avec un respect mutuel. Le discours prononcé à la mosquée Al-Hussein bin Talal d’Amman le 9mai par Sa Sainteté le Pape Benoît XVI  brille par sa construction et  par la profondeur des questions abordées par le Souverain Pontife dont  le regard acéré et pénétrant impressionne. Espérons, comme Sa Sainteté, que le monde musulman pourra  abandonner le recours à la violence, éviter la « manipulation idéologique de la religion « ,reconnaître que la raison humaine doit être utilisée pour élargir nos horizons ,admettre que les droits humains universels signifient égalité entre les hommes et les femmes, que « le droit à la liberté religieuse dépasse la seule question du culte et inclut le droit – spécialement pour les minorités – d’avoir accès au marché de l’emploi et aux autres sphères de la vie publique »? Le Pape a fort bien posé le problème et clairement tracé la voie mettant en exergue  la coopération et le respect des droits humains universels. La balle est dans le camp musulman.

Discours du Pape Benoît XVI aux Chefs religieux musulmans, au Corps diplomatique et aux Recteurs d’Université.

Altesse Royale,


Mesdames et Messieurs,

C’est une source de grande joie pour moi de vous rencontrer ce matin dans ce lieu magnifique. Je souhaite remercier le Prince Ghazi Ben Mohammed Ben Talal pour ses aimables paroles de bienvenue. Les nombreuses initiatives de Votre Altesse Royale en vue de promouvoir le dialogue interreligieux et interculturel sont appréciées par le peuple du Royaume hachémite et sont très largement reconnues par la communauté internationale. Je sais que ces efforts reçoivent le soutien actif des autres membres de la famille royale comme du Gouvernement de la Nation, et qu’elles trouvent un large écho à travers de nombreuses initiatives de collaboration parmi les Jordaniens. Pour tout cela, je désire exprimer ma sincère admiration.

Des lieux de culte, comme cette splendide Mosquée Al-Hussein Ben Talal du nom du révéré Roi défunt, se dressent comme des joyaux sur la surface de la terre. Les anciens comme les modernes, les plus splendides comme les plus humbles, tous ces édifices nous orientent vers le Divin, l’Unique transcendant, le Tout-Puissant. A travers les siècles, ces sanctuaires ont attiré des hommes et des femmes dans leur espace sacré pour qu’ils s’arrêtent, qu’ils prient, pour qu’ils reconnaissent la présence du Tout-Puissant et pour qu’ils confessent que nous sommes tous ses créatures.

Pour cette raison, nous ne pouvons pas manquer d’être interpelés par le fait qu’aujourd’hui, avec une insistance croissante, certains affirment que la religion faillit dans son ambition à être, par nature, constructrice d’unité et d’harmonie, à être une expression de la communion entre les personnes et avec Dieu. Certains soutiennent même que la religion est nécessairement une cause de division dans notre monde ; et ils prétendent que moins d’attention est prêtée à la religion dans la sphère publique, mieux cela est. Certainement et malheureusement, l’existence de tensions et de divisions entre les membres des différentes traditions religieuses, ne peut être niée. Cependant, ne convient-il pas de reconnaître aussi que c’est souvent la manipulation idéologique de la religion, parfois à des fins politiques, qui est le véritable catalyseur des tensions et des divisions et, parfois même, des violences dans la société ? Face à cette situation, où les opposants à la religion cherchent non seulement à réduire sa voix au silence, mais à la remplacer par la leur, la nécessité pour les croyants d’être cohérents avec leurs principes et leurs croyances est ressentie toujours plus vivement. Musulmans et chrétiens, précisément à cause du poids de leur histoire commune si souvent marquée par les incompréhensions, doivent aujourd’hui s’efforcer d’être connus et reconnus comme des adorateurs de Dieu fidèles à la prière, fermement décidés à observer et à vivre les commandements du Très Haut, miséricordieux et compatissant, cohérents dans le témoignage qu’ils rendent à tout ce qui est vrai et bon, et toujours conscients de l’origine commune et de la dignité de toute personne humaine, qui se trouve au sommet du dessein créateur de Dieu à l’égard du monde et de l’histoire.

La détermination des éducateurs et des responsables civils et religieux jordaniens à s’assurer que le versant public de la religion reflète sa véritable nature, est digne d’éloge. Par l’exemple donné par des individus et des communautés, et par la prévision des cours et des programmes de formation, se met en évidence la contribution positive de la religion dans les secteurs éducatif, culturel, social et charitable de votre société civile. J’ai eu un exemple de première main de cet espoir. Hier, j’ai été le témoin du travail renommé en matière d’éducation et de réhabilitation du Centre Notre Dame de la Paix, où chrétiens et musulmans transforment la vie de familles entières, en les assistant pour que leurs enfants handicapés puissent prendre leur juste place dans la société. Plus tôt ce matin, j’ai béni la première pierre de l’Université de Madaba où de jeunes adultes chrétiens et musulmans bénéficieront côte à côte d’un enseignement universitaire, les rendant aptes à contribuer de façon appropriée au développement économique et social de leur nation. Les nombreuses initiatives de dialogue interreligieux soutenues par la famille royale, par la communauté diplomatique, et parfois entrepris en coordination avec le Conseil Pontifical pour le Dialogue Interreligieux sont aussi dignes d’éloge. Cela inclut le travail actuel accompli par l’Institut Royal pour les Etudes Interreligieuses et pour la Croyance Islamique, le Message d’Amman de 2004, le Message interreligieux d’Amman de 2005 et, plus récemment, la lettre Common Word (Parole commune) qui faisait écho à un thème consonnant à celui de ma première Encyclique : le lien indissoluble entre l’amour de Dieu et l’amour du prochain, et la nature fondamentalement contradictoire de l’usage de la violence et de l’exclusion au nom de Dieu (cf. Deus caritas est, n.16).

De telles initiatives conduisent clairement à une meilleure connaissance réciproque, et elles favorisent un respect grandissant à la fois pour ce que nous avons en commun et pour ce que nous comprenons différemment. Ainsi, devraient-elles pousser les Chrétiens et les Musulmans à explorer toujours plus profondément la relation essentielle entre Dieu et ce monde de telle façon que nous puissions nous efforcer d’assurer que la société s’établisse en harmonie avec l’ordre divin. A cet égard, la coopération développée ici en Jordanie est une illustration exemplaire et encourageante pour la région, et même pour le monde, de la contribution positive et créatrice que la religion peut et doit apporter à la société civile.

Chers amis, je désire aujourd’hui mentionner une tâche dont j’ai parlé à de nombreuses reprises et dont je crois fermement que Chrétiens et Musulmans peuvent la prendre en charge, particulièrement à travers leurs contributions respectives à l’enseignement et à l’éducation ainsi qu’au service public. Il s’agit du défi de développer en vue du bien, en référence à la foi et à la vérité, le vaste potentiel de la raison humaine. Les Chrétiens parlent en effet de Dieu, parmi d’autres façons, en tant que Raison créatrice, qui ordonnes et gouverne le monde. Et Dieu nous rend capables de participer à sa raison et donc d’accomplir, en accord avec elle, ce qui est bon. Les Musulmans rendent un culte à Dieu, le Créateur du ciel et de la terre, qui a parlé à l’humanité. En tant que croyants au Dieu unique, nous savons que la raison humaine est elle-même un don de Dieu et qu’elle s’élève sur les cimes les plus hautes quand elle est éclairée par la lumière de la vérité divine. En fait, quand la raison humaine accepte humblement d’être purifiée par la foi, elle est loin d’en être affaiblie ; mais elle en est plutôt renforcée pour résister à la présomption et pour dépasser ses propres limitations. De cette façon, la raison humaine est stimulée à poursuivre le noble but de servir le genre humain, en traduisant nos aspirations communes les plus profondes et en élargissant le débat public, plutôt qu’en le manipulant ou en le confinant. Ainsi, l’adhésion authentique à la religion – loin de rendre étroits nos esprits – élargit-elle l’horizon de la compréhension humaine. Elle protège la société civile des excès de l’égo débridé qui tend à absolutiser le fini et à éclipser l’infini, elle assure que la liberté s’exerce « main dans la main » avec la vérité, et elle enrichit la culture avec des vues relatives à tout ce qui est vrai, bon et beau.

Cette manière de concevoir la raison, qui pousse continuellement l’esprit humain au-delà de lui-même dans la quête de l’Absolu, constitue un défi ; elle oblige à la fois à l’espérance et à la prudence. Chrétiens et Musulmans sont poussés, ensemble, à rechercher tout ce qui est juste et vrai. Nous sommes liés pour dépasser nos propres intérêts et pour encourager les autres, les fonctionnaires et les responsables en particulier, à agir de même pour faire leur la profonde satisfaction de servir le bien commun, même s’il doit en coûter personnellement. N’oublions pas que parce que c’est notre commune dignité humaine qui donne naissance aux droits humains universels, ceux-ci valent également pour tout homme et toute femme, quelque soit sa religion et quelque soit le groupe ethnique ou social auquel il appartienne. À cet égard, nous devons noter que le droit à la liberté religieuse dépasse la seule question du culte et inclut le droit – spécialement pour les minorités – d’avoir accès au marché de l’emploi et aux autres sphères de la vie publique.

Avant de vous quitter, je voudrais ce matin mentionner de manière spéciale la présence parmi nous de Sa Béatitude Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarche de Bagdad, que je salue chaleureusement. Sa présence me conduit à faire mémoire du peuple voisin, celui d’Iraq, dont de nombreux membres ont trouvé refuge ici en Jordanie. Les efforts de la communauté internationale pour promouvoir la paix et la réconciliation, conjugués à ceux des responsables locaux, doivent continuer afin de porter des fruits dans la vie des Iraquiens. Je souhaite exprimer ma reconnaissance à tous ceux qui sont engagés dans les efforts pour renouer la confiance et pour rebâtir les institutions et les infrastructures nécessaires au bien-être de ce pays. Et, une fois encore, j’invite avec insistance les diplomates et la communauté internationale qu’ils représentent, ainsi que les responsables politiques et religieux locaux, à faire tout ce qui est possible pour assurer à l’antique communauté chrétienne de cette noble terre ses droits fondamentaux à une coexistence pacifique avec l’ensemble des autres citoyens.

Chers amis, je crois que les sentiments que j’ai exprimés aujourd’hui nous donnent une espérance renouvelée face à l’avenir. Notre amour et notre service devant le Tout Puissant s’expriment non seulement dans notre culte mais aussi dans notre amour et notre préoccupation pour les enfants et les jeunes – vos familles – et tous les Jordaniens. C’est pour eux que vous travaillez et ce sont eux qui motivent votre exigence de placer le bien de toute personne humaine au cœur des institutions, des lois et des travaux de la société. Puisse la raison, humble et ennoblie par la grandeur de la vérité de Dieu, continuer à modeler la vie et les institutions de ce pays, de telle sorte que les familles puissent prospérer et que tous puissent vivre en paix, en contribuant à la culture qui donne son unité à ce grand royaume et en la faisant grandir !

Tolerance and Islam:The Pope’s speech at the Al-Hussein bin Talal mosque in Amman

In my essay « Tolerance, reverence and dhimmitude » ,see below,I examined whether the Muslim world is capable of dealing with non-Muslims with « mutual respect ». The Pope’s speech today at the Al Hussein bin Talal mosque in Amman, Jordan, reproduced below, is brilliant and deeply perceptive in the points he makes. The ball is now squarely in the Muslim world’s camp.As  his Holiness, and we all, hope ,can the Muslim world abandon the idea that violence is an answer, that the manipulation of religion for political aims is wrong, that the reason with which we are endowed should allow us to widen horizons, that universal human rights dictate equality between men and women and freedom to practice one’s religion as well as equal employment opportunities irrespective of religion. Here is the Pope’s speech:

Your Royal Highness,

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a source of great joy for me to meet with you this morning in this magnificent setting. I wish to thank Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammed Bin Talal for his kind words of welcome. Your Royal Highness’s numerous initiatives to promote inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and exchanges are appreciated by the people of the Hashemite Kingdom and they are widely respected by the international community. I know that these efforts receive the active support of other members of the Royal Family as well as the nation’s government, and find ample resonance in the many initiatives of collaboration among Jordanians. For all this, I wish to express my own heartfelt admiration.

Places of worship, like this splendid Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque named after the revered late King, stand out like jewels across the earth’s surface. From the ancient to the modern, the magnificent to the humble, they all point to the divine, to the Transcendent One, to the Almighty. And through the centuries these sanctuaries have drawn men and women into their sacred space to pause, to pray, to acknowledge the presence of the Almighty, and to recognize that we are all his creatures.

For this reason we cannot fail to be concerned that today, with increasing insistency, some maintain that religion fails in its claim to be, by nature, a builder of unity and harmony, an expression of communion between persons and with God. Indeed some assert that religion is necessarily a cause of division in our world; and so they argue that the less attention given to religion in the public sphere the better. Certainly, the contradiction of tensions and divisions between the followers of different religious traditions, sadly, cannot be denied. However, is it not also the case that often it is the ideological manipulation of religion, sometimes for political ends, that is the real catalyst for tension and division, and at times even violence in society? In the face of this situation, where the opponents of religion seek not simply to silence its voice but to replace it with their own, the need for believers to be true to their principles and beliefs is felt all the more keenly. Muslims and Christians, precisely because of the burden of our common history so often marked by misunderstanding, must today strive to be known and recognized as worshippers of God faithful to prayer, eager to uphold and live by the Almighty’s decrees, merciful and compassionate, consistent in bearing witness to all that is true and good, and ever mindful of the common origin and dignity of all human persons, who remain at the apex of God’s creative design for the world and for history.

The resolve of Jordanian educators and religious and civic leaders to ensure that the public face of religion reflects its true nature is praiseworthy. The example of individuals and communities, together with the provision of courses and programs, manifest the constructive contribution of religion to the educational, cultural, social and other charitable sectors of your civic society. Some of this spirit I have been able to sample at first hand. Yesterday, I experienced the renowned educational and rehabilitation work of the Our Lady of Peace Centre where Christians and Muslims are transforming the lives of entire families, by assisting them to ensure that their disabled children take up their rightful place in society. Earlier this morning, I blessed the foundation stone of Madaba University where young Muslim and Christian adults will side by side receive the benefits of a tertiary education, enabling them to contribute justly to the social and economic development of their nation. Of great merit too are the numerous initiatives of inter-religious dialogue supported by the Royal Family and the diplomatic community and sometimes undertaken in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. These include the ongoing work of the Royal Institutes for Inter-faith studies and for Islamic Thought, the Amman Message of 2004, the Amman Interfaith Message of 2005, and the more recent Common Word letter which echoed a theme consonant with my first encyclical: the unbreakable bond between love of God and love of neighbor, and the fundamental contradiction of resorting to violence or exclusion in the name of God (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 16).

Such initiatives clearly lead to greater reciprocal knowledge, and they foster a growing respect both for what we hold in common and for what we understand differently. Thus, they should prompt Christians and Muslims to probe even more deeply the essential relationship between God and his world so that together we may strive to ensure that society resonates in harmony with the divine order. In this regard, the co-operation found here in Jordan sets an encouraging and persuasive example for the region, and indeed the world, of the positive, creative contribution which religion can and must make to civic society.

Distinguished friends, today I wish to refer to a task which I have addressed on a number of occasions and which I firmly believe Christians and Muslims can embrace, particularly through our respective contributions to learning and scholarship, and public service. That task is the challenge to cultivate for the good, in the context of faith and truth, the vast potential of human reason. Christians in fact describe God, among other ways, as creative Reason, which orders and guides the world. And God endows us with the capacity to participate in his reason and thus to act in accordance with what is good. Muslims worship God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has spoken to humanity. And as believers in the one God we know that human reason is itself God’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God’s truth. In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is far from weakened; rather, it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reach beyond its own limitations. In this way, human reason is emboldened to pursue its noble purpose of serving mankind, giving expression to our deepest common aspirations and extending, rather than manipulating or confining, public debate. Thus, genuine adherence to religion – far from narrowing our minds – widens the horizon of human understanding. It protects civil society from the excesses of the unbridled ego which tend to absolutize the finite and eclipse the infinite; it ensures that freedom is exercised hand in hand with truth, and it adorns culture with insights concerning all that is true, good and beautiful.

This understanding of reason, which continually draws the human mind beyond itself in the quest for the Absolute, poses a challenge; it contains a sense of both hope and caution. Together, Christians and Muslims are impelled to seek all that is just and right. We are bound to step beyond our particular interests and to encourage others, civil servants and leaders in particular, to do likewise in order to embrace the profound satisfaction of serving the common good, even at personal cost. And we are reminded that because it is our common human dignity which gives rise to universal human rights, they hold equally for every man and woman, irrespective of his or her religious, social or ethnic group. In this regard, we must note that the right of religious freedom extends beyond the question of worship and includes the right – especially of minorities – to fair access to the employment market and other spheres of civic life.

Before I leave you this morning I would like to acknowledge in a special way the presence among us of His Beatitude Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Baghdad, whom I greet most warmly. His presence brings to mind the people of neighboring Iraq many of whom have found welcome refuge here in Jordan. The international community’s efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, together with those of the local leaders, must continue in order to bear fruit in the lives of Iraqis. I wish to express my appreciation for all those who are assisting in the endeavors to deepen trust and to rebuild the institutions and infrastructure essential to the well-being of that society. And once again, I urge diplomats and the international community they represent together with local political and religious leaders to do everything possible to ensure the ancient Christian community of that noble land its fundamental right to peaceful coexistence with their fellow citizens.

Distinguished friends, I trust that the sentiments I have expressed today will leave us with renewed hope for the future. Our love and duty before the Almighty is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for children and young people – your families – and for all Jordanians. It is for them that you labor and it is they who motivate you to place the good of every human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workings of society. May reason, ennobled and humbled by the grandeur of God’s truth, continue to shape the life and institutions of this nation, in order that families may flourish and that all may live in peace, contributing to and drawing upon the culture that unifies this great Kingdom! Thank you very much!

BBC Forum: Chaos theory, money and patients

On Sunday May 9, 2009 the BBC Forum (listen here) convened Lord Robert May, former scientific adviser to the British government, Gillian Tett, financial analyst and social anthropologist, and Abraham Verghese, doctor and author. Lord May showed how a very simple equation can be used to create a situation of chaos. His analysis, applicable to ecological changes as well as to epidemics, showed very clearly how a small change in initial conditions can create vastly different results. Gillian Tett, using her dual background presented a fascinating view of the lure of money and Dr.Verghese showed how the ritual of personal examination of a patient by the doctor fulfills an important therapeutic role-an observation worth pondering in this age of medicine by machines and of doctors who, pressured by costs and by greed, hardly spend any time with their patients preferring to rely on test results in lieu of personal observation.

Of Loos and Language

Interested in the differences between American and British usage? If yes ,then do read Roger Cohen‘s delightful piece « Of Loos and Language ».Several years ago, Lynn Truss, the former host of the BBC Radio 4’s Cutting a Dash programme published an equally delightful book:Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation whose title derives from a well known amphibology :

 » A panda walks into a café. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and proceeds to fire it at the other patrons.

‘Why?’ asks the confused, surviving waiter amidst the carnage, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.

‘Well, I’m a panda’, he says, at the door. ‘Look it up.’

The waiter turns to the relevant entry in the manual and, sure enough, finds an explanation. ‘Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. »

Surely,Mrs Truss and Mr. Cohen are as aghast as I am at the American propensity to use « that » to refer to persons and to render obsolete the difference between « that » and « which » .As language is a symbolic way to express oneself, how can one express oneself correctly without correct use of the symbols? A mathematician misusing symbols is hardly likely to come to the right result.

Tolerance,reverence and dhimmitude

During his trip to Europe,President Obama stated on several occasions [1]that his policy towards the Muslim world was going to be based on « mutual respect » going so far as to state in his speech to the European Parliament that he was going to show respect by « changing our language and our tone  » in our relations to the Muslim world.

At the G-20 meeting in London,Mr Obama put his money where his mouth is:he bowed deeply the  King of Saudi Arabia (see video )  while he only slightly inclined his head towards the Queen of England ( see video ) whom he met on the same occasion.

Is the Muslim world capable of treating with « mutual respect  » the non-Muslim world?

Daniel Henninger,the Wall Street Journal Assistant Editor-in-chief of the Editorial page raises the question underscoring the persecutions suffered by the Christian populations living in the Muslim world,arguing in conclusion that Mr. Obama should make tolerance vis-à-vis religious minorities the basis for « mutual respect ».

However laudable that goal may be,is it attainable from the Muslim side? An examination of Koranic doctrine and jurisprudence impels one to doubt it.

For Muslims,the world is traditionally divided in two: the dar al-Islam[2],the land where the Shari’a is the governing law and the dar al-harb,the land of the infidels ( mushrikun) [3] against whom the Muslims have a duty to wage war ( jihad) [4].As the great Muslim scholar and theologian ,Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) wrote : »For Muslims,the Holy War ( jihad) is a religious duty because of the universality of the mission of the Muslims and of [the obligation ] to convert all non-Muslims to Islam either by persuasion or by force. »[5].The inhabitants of the dar al harb ,the harbis, have neither  legal existence nor  legal rights to anything: they and their possessions may be taken by any Muslim without compensation as the harbis are not « persons » entitled to any legal protections.This doctrine explains why the two Washington Post journalists ,Valerie Strauss and Emily Wax,investigating the teachings in Islamic schools in the greater Washington ,D.C. area,found that in some schools, 7-year olds were taught that stealing from a non-Muslim was not a theft.[6]

Within Muslim lands,the people of the Book -Christians and Jews-have a special status: they are dhimmis.Since they are people of the Book,they are not to be exterminated on sight but may be allowed to live provided ,as dhimmis,they pay an annual poll tax ( jizyia) [7] and ,as stated the the standard commentary on the Koran, the Tafsir Ibn Kathir  ( 701-744) accept to be  inferiors to the Muslims and treated by the Muslims as inferiors and humiliated as such[8].The historian Bat Ye’or has written the authoritative books on the history of the dhimmis from the Muslim conquests of the VIIth century to the XXth century[9].From her research,it is established that dhimmis were barred from building houses that were higher than those of Muslims[10],from wearing green clothing,green being the color of Islam[11],from riding horses or camels with a saddle[12],from bearing arms[13],from ringing church bells[14],from building new churches[15].If the church was located in lands that had capitulated  then it was permitted to repair and maintain the interior of the church but not the exterior.If,however,the church was located in lands that had been subjugated then even the church’s interior could not be maintained.[16]

To live as a dhimmi has given rise to a neologism attibutted to Bat Ye’or, dhimmitude that was used by the then President of Lebanon Bashir Gemayel in a speech on 14 September 1982 at Dayr al Salib.In that speech,President Gemayel refused all attempts by the Muslim majority to subjugate the maronite Christians stating : »We reject any dhimmitude« [17]

Some will argue that the great Muslim theologians who articulated the rules of behavior of the dhimmis towards the Muslims and of the Muslims towards the dhimmis ,such as the Tafsir Ibn Kathir [18] Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi[19] ou Abu Yusuf[20] are no longer representative of Muslim thinking and that in all event the dhimmi status was abrogated in Muslim lands.

On the first point suffice it to observe that the Tafsir Ibn Kathir is still taught today and that the great Islamic theologians ,Mawardi,Abu Yusuf or Ibn Khaldun are still authoritative today[21] as can be seen from the writings of Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi [22]or of Ayatollah Khomeini[23].

On the second point,suffice it to observe ,as Mr Henninger and Professor Bat Ye’or have,the disappearance of the Copts in Egypt,of the Christians in Sudan whose children are forcibly converted[24],of the Syriac-Orthodox church in Turkey,the great peril now facing the Christians in the Swat Valley of Pakistan after the government ceded control of the valley to the Talibans,the prohibition for Christian foreign workers in Saudi Arabia to practice their religion.Those example from among far too many others prove that the traditional teachings of Islam[25] are still followed today.After all,the prohibition against practicing any religion other than Islam in Saudi Arabia or in other countries ruled by the Shari’a is found in the Tafsir Ibn Kathir,in the writings of Ibn Khaldun and of Abd El Wahhab.The fate of the Christians  in Muslim lands is preoccupying in the extreme: even if governments pay lip service to the idea of religious tolerance,the exactions perpetrated by private Muslims against Christians are continuing in the avowed goal of either converting the « infidels  » or driving them away.

Numerous modern day Islamic thinkers  cite the early Muslim thinkers as authorities[26].The 1200-year old Islamic doctrine is clear on the rule governing the behavior of Muslims towards non-Muslims.Accordingly,is it realistic to think that traditional Muslims can truly treat non-Muslims with « mutual respect »?

Considering the age old Islamic doctrine,when the West parades its tolerance,doesn’t the West ignore a fundamental question,i.e.,how should a society espousing tolerance as a cardinal virtue deal with another society whose raison d’ être is to destroy it or to subjugate it[27] because that society- ours- is a society of « infidels »?

That tolerance should be a cardinal virtue cannot be debated by any person of good will but ,then, how can one reconcile the ideal of tolerance with the realization that many, following the teachings of the early Islamic thinkers and theologians discussed above[28],think that « infidels » must be converted by persuasion or by force and that all lands of the dar al-harb must either accept Shari’a or be subjugated?This is the yardstick derived from Islamic jurisprudence that must used to measure tolerance.

Dear readers: do you not think that the first duty of any society founded on principles of tolerance is  to take such steps as may be required -even if those might be viewed as contravening the principles of tolerance- to insure its survival as a tolerant society?If you accept those premises then a tolerant society is justified in adopting measures otherwise viewed as intolerant  because the obligation to insure survival as a tolerant society has a higher priority than the obligation to be tolerant.

Even though the road to hell may be paved with good intentions,let us give Mr Obama the benefit of the doubt in the relations he is trying to forge with the Muslim world and let us hope that he will have the will and desire to encourage it to evolve and be brought into the XXIst century.Let us further hope that Mr Obama,despite the protocol gaffe will not in so doing emulate the far too many Europeans,who ,because of a perceived need to be politically correct,have become dhimmis and refuse to criticize others,especially when the others are Muslims[29].

[1] Speech before the European Parliament in Strasburg on April 3,2009,Speech before the Turkish Parliament April 6,2009.

[2] For the distinctions between Ummah and dar al-Islam cf. Leon Brown Religion and State :the Muslim approach to Politics ( 2000) p.85

[3] For the  nuances between mushrikun ,who committed the sin of shirk and the kuffar(kufr=to conceal) he who denies God is a kafir ( a concealer) for he hides his disbelief  cf.,inter alia, Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude,p.197 and Jacques Waardenberg Muslims and Others (2003) p.192

[4] Peter Mandeville, Transnational Muslim Politics p.13

[5] [5] Ibn Khaldun The Muqudimmah,An introduction to history,transl.F.Rosenthal ( 1958) I,473

[6] Where Two Worlds Collide: Muslim Schools Face Tensions of Islamic, U.S. Views, Washington Post 25 February 2002 p.A01

[7] The source is Sura 9 verse 29 of the Koran which lays out that obligation in return for the permission,not the right,to live.


Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr and Disgrace

Allah said,[حَتَّى يُعْطُواْ الْجِزْيَةَ]

(until they pay the Jizyah), if they do not choose to embrace Islam,[عَن يَدٍ]

(with willing submission), in defeat and subservience,[وَهُمْ صَـغِرُونَ] (and feel themselves subdued.), disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,«لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ، وَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِه»(Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.) This is why the Leader of the faithful ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.Commentary on Sura 9:29 in the Tafsir Ibn Kathir:

[9] The Dhimmi:Jews and Christians Under Islam (2003) Islam and Dhimmitude:Where Civilizations Collide (2001),;Le Dhimmi:profil de l’opprimé en Orient et en Afrique du Nord depuis la conquête arabe ( 1980),Les chrétientés d’Orient entre jihad et dhimmitude,VII-XX siècle(1991) , »Dhimmitude past and present:an invented or real history »Starr Foundation Lecture,Brown University 10 October 2002

[10] The Dhimmi p.62

[11] Id.203,215

[12] Pact of Umar citd by Norman Stillman ,The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book ( 1979) p.157-158

[13] [13] David B.Kopel Dhimmitude and Disarmement 18 George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 2008.This prohibition explains why the Christian and Jewish populations living in Muslim lands were so easily the subject of vexations and worse throughout history,as they were not allowed to defend themselves under pain of being declared blasphemers,an accusation carrying a penalty of death:cf.Majid Khadduri War and Peace in the Law of Islam (2006) p.193-195

[14] Id.59-60,196,341

[15] Id.57-58

[16] Pact of Umar ,Stillman ibd.p.99

[17] Lebanon News 8 No 18 14 Sept 1985 p.1-2

[18] Supra n.8

[19] Al-Ahkam as -Sultaniyyah.The Laws of Islamic Governance trad.Dr.Asadullah Yate (1996)

[20] Livre de l’impôt foncier Kitab el-Kharadj tranl. Fagnan Paris 1921 p.189

[21] Sherko Kirmanj The Relationship Between Traditional and Contemporary Islamist Political Thought ,Middle East Review of International Affairs,vol.12No 1 ( March 2008),p.69 et seq.

[22] A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam (2002); »Political Theory of Islam »in Mansoor et al. Contemporary Debates in Islam:An Anthology of Modernist and Fundamentalist Thought(2000);

[23] Pour un gouvernement islamique (Paris, 1979), pp. 31ff.

[24] One cannot help but be reminded of the devshirme ,the enslavement practice of Christian children in the Ottoman Empire: Ye’or Islam and Dhimmitude,23,48,204-207

[25] Cf the teachings of the Tasfir Ibn Kathir or the writings of Ibn Khaldun

[26] Cf.inter alia,the reactions of Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on the meeting betweenthe  Grand Rabi of Israel I.Lau and Sheikh Tantawi d’ Al Hazar: et  Sherko Kirmanj The Relationship Between Traditional and Contemporary Islamist Political Thought ,Middle East Review of International Affairs,vol.12No 1 ( March 2008),p.69 et seq.

[27] Cf.Ibn Khuldun supra n.4

[28] Ibn Khaldun ,Tafsir Ibn Kathir  or Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab for par example

[29] Cf.the criticism levelled at Wim Wenders the Dutch parliamentarian for his documentary or at the Danish cartoonist.

Tolérance,Révérence et Dhimmitude

Au cours de son voyage en Europe, le président Obama a déclaré à plusieurs reprises [1] que sa politique vis-à-vis du monde musulman allait dorénavant être fondée sur un « respect mutuel » allant même à Strasbourg jusqu’à dire qu’il fallait pour  montrer ce respect « changer notre langage et notre ton » à l’égard du monde musulman.

M.Obama a joint le geste à la parole lors de la réunion du G-20 à Londres: il fit la révérence au roi d’Arabie saoudite (voyez la vidéo ici )alors qu’il ne fit qu’une petite inclinaison de la tête à la reine d’Angleterre (vidéo).

Le monde musulman peut-il accorder un « respect mutuel » au monde non musulman?

Daniel Henninger,, éditorialiste au Wall Street Journal, examine la question en soulignant que les populations chrétiennes vivant dans le monde musulman sont persécutées et conclut en recommandant à M.Obama de faire de la tolérance envers les minorités religieuses la pierre angulaire du respect mutuel.

Aussi louable que puisse être ce but, est-il possible du côté musulman? Une analyse de la doctrine coranique et de la jurisprudence permet d’en douter.

Pour les musulmans, le monde est divisé en deux: d’un côté il y a le dar al-Islam [2]-les territoires gouvernés par la Shari’a et de l’autre le dar al-harb -pays des non-musulmans ( mushrikun)[3] contre lesquels les musulmans ont l’obligation de faire la guerre [4]Comme l’écrivait le grand penseur Ibn Khaldun : »Pour les musulmans la guerre sainte ( jihad) est un devoir religieux en raison de l’universalité de la mission des musulmans et [ de l’obligation ] de convertir toutes les personnes à l’Islam par la persuasion ou par la force » [5]Les habitants du dar al-harb -les harbis- n’ont aucun droit: leur personnes et leurs biens peuvent être pris par n’importe quel musulman. Cette doctrine explique la découverte par deux journalistes du Washington Post, Valerie Strauss et Emily Wax, que des écoles islamiques de la banlieue de Washington, D.C. enseignent aux enfants de 7 ans que voler à un non-musulman n’est pas un vol![6]

A l’intérieur des territoires musulmans ,les peuples du Livre ( juifs et chrétiens ) ont un statut spécial celui de dhimmis. Les dhimmis doivent payer un tribut annuel ( jizya ) pour avoir la permission de vivre [7]conditionnée par la  reconnaissance de leur infériorité comme dhimmi par rapport aux musulmans et de leur vocation à être humiliés par les musulmans[8].L’historienne Bat Ye’or a consacré plusieurs ouvrages à l’histoire des dhimmis depuis les conquêtes musulmanes du VIIème siècle jusqu’à nos jours [9].De ses analyses historiques ,il ressort que les dhimmis ont interdiction de construire des maisons plus hautes que celles des musulmans[10],interdiction de porter des vêtements de couleur verte ( couleur de l’Islam) [11],interdiction de port d’armes [12],interdiction de monter à cheval ou à chameau avec une selle [13]interdiction de sonner les cloches des églises[14],interdiction de construire de nouvelles églises[15].Si l’église est située dans un pays ayant capitulé devant les conquérants musulmans son intérieur  peut être entretenu mais pas son extérieur!. Par contre si l’église est sise dans un pays conquis par la force des armes alors l’église ne peut pas être entretenue[16].Vivre comme dhimmi a donné lieu à dhimmitude-la condition d’être un dhimmi dans un pays musulman-un néologisme attribué à Mme Bat Ye’or et  utilisé par Bachir Gemayel,alors président du Liban, dans un discours prononcé le 14 septembre 1982 à Dayr-al -Salib dans lequel il refusait toutes les tentatives de la majorité musulmane de subjuguer les chrétiens maronites et  déclarait: « Nous refusons toute dhimmitude« [17]

Certains diront que les grands penseurs islamiques qui ont énoncé les règles de comportement des  dhimmis envers les musulmans et des musulmans envers les dhimmis, comme le Tafsir Ibn Kathir[18] ,Abu’l Hasan al-Mawardi[19] ou Abu Yousouf[20]ne sont plus d’actualité et que, de toute façon, la dhimmitude a été abrogée dans les pays islamiques.

Sur le premier point, observons que le Tafsir Ibn Kathir est toujours enseigné et que les grands penseurs comme  Mawardi, Abou Yousouf ou Ibn Khaldun font autorité encore aujourd’hui[21] comme en témoignent les écrits de Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi [22]ou de l’Ayatollah Khomeini[23].

Sur le second point, bornons nous à observer ,comme M.Henninger  et Mme Bat Ye’or l’ont fait, que  disparaissent  les communauté coptes en Egypte, les chrétiens au Soudan dont  les enfants subissent des conversions forcées, l’église orthodoxe syriaque en Turquie, que le patriarche chaldéo-assyrien de Mossoul est  enlevé et assassiné ,que grand est  le péril auquel sont confrontés les chrétiens de la vallée Swat au Pakistan suite à la trêve conclue entre le gouvernement du Pakistan et les talibans qui contrôlent cette vallée, ou encore qu’interdiction est faite aux travailleurs immigrés chrétiens  en Arabie saoudite  de pratiquer le christianisme .Ces exemples parmi tant d’autres prouvent  que la doctrine traditionnelle [24] est bien suivie aujourd’hui.  L’interdiction de pratiquer toute religion autre que l’Islam en Arabie saoudite ou dans les autres pays qui ont adopté la Shari’a se retrouve  dans les textes comme le Tafsir Ibn Kathir ou les écrits d’Ibn Khaldun ou  d’Abd El Whahab. Manifestement le sort des communautés chrétiennes en territoires islamiques est plus que préoccuppant: même si publiquement les gouvernements prétendent que la tolérance est de mise,les exactions perpétrées par les personnes privées musulmanes contres les populations chrétiennes continuent dans le but avoué de convertir ou de faire partir les « infidèles ».

Un courant non négligeable de pensée islamiste moderne se réclame des penseurs /juristes des premiers siècles de l’Islam [25]La doctrine  islamiste millénaire étant claire sur les rapports que les musulmans peuvent avoir avec les non-musulmans est-il réaliste de penser que les musulmans traditionalistes peuvent réellement accorder un respect mutuel aux chrétiens (et aux juifs)?

Eu égard à la doctrine islamiste , lorsque l’Occident se complait à faire étalage de sa tolérance n’ ignore-t-il pas une question fondamentale: comment une société tolérante doit- elle traiter avec une société dont la raison d’être est de la détruire ou de la subjuguer [26]parce que cette société est une société d’infidèles?

Que la tolérance soit une vertu ne peut être remis en cause par nulle personne de bonne volonté mais alors comment réconcilier l’idéal de tolérance avec la constatation que certains pensent encore ,à l’instar des penseurs musulmans traditionnels mentionnés ci-dessus[27] qu’il faut convertir de gré ou de force les infidèles et que tout pays du dar al-harb doit soit accepter la Shari’a soit être subjugué? Voilà donc dans la jurisprudence islamique l’aune à laquelle nous pouvons mesurer la tolérance.

Lectrices et lecteurs ne pensez vous pas qu’une société fondée sur la tolérance a comme premier devoir d’assurer sa survie ès-qualité de société tolérante? Si ces prémices sont acceptées, il s’en suit alors que ladite société est en droit de prendre des mesures de défense pouvant être autrement taxées d’intolérance parce qu’il faut assurer la pérennité d’une société fondée sur la tolérance.

Si l’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions, accordons néanmoins le bénéfice du doute à M.Obama dans ses relations avec le monde musulman et espérons que qu’il saura encourager celui-ci à évoluer  et à se mettre au diapason du XXIème siècle sans pour autant, comme l’ont fait trop d’européens, devenir des dhimmis parce qu’il faut être politiquement correct et ne jamais élever la moindre critique contre l’autre[28] surtout s’il est musulman.

[1] Discours devant le Parlement européen à Strasbourg le 3 avril 2009 et devant le parlement turc le 6 avril 2009.

[2] Pour des distinctions entre Oumah et dar al-Islam cf.Leon Brown Religion and State :the Muslim approach to Politics ( 2000) p.85

[3] Pour les nuances entre mushrikun ,coupables du péché de shirk et les kuffar cf.,inter alia,Jacques Waardenberg Muslims and Others (2003) p.192

[4] Peter Mandeville, Transnational Muslim Politics p.13

[5] Ibn Khaldun The Muqudimmah,An introduction to history,trad.F.Rosenthal ( 1958) I,473

[6] Where Two Worlds Collide:Muslim Schools Face Tensions of Islamic,U.S.Views,Washington Post 25 février 2002 p.A01

[7] La source en est la sourate 9 verset 29.

[8] Cf.commentaire de Tafsir Ibn Kathir sur la sourate 9:les dhimmis doivent « être en disgrace,humiliés et rabaissés »: وَهُمْ صَـغِرُونَ.Sur les règles de comportement des musulmans par rapport aux dhimmis cf.: »Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,«لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ، وَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِه»(Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.) This is why the Leader of the faithful ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace. »Commentaire du Tafsir sur la sourate 9:29.

[9] The Dhimmi:Jews and Christians Under Islam (2003) Islam and Dhimmitude:Where Civilizations Collide (2001),;Le Dhimmi:profil de l’opprimé en Orient et en Afrique du Nord depuis la conquête arabe ( 1980),Les chrétientés d’Orient entre jihad et dhimmitude,VII-XX siècle(1991) , »Dhimmitude past and present:an invented or real history »Starr Foundation Lecture,Brown University 10 October 2002

[10] The Dhimmi p.62

[11] Id.203,215

[12] David B.Kopel Dhimmitude and Disarmement 18 George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal 2008.Cette interdiction explique les exactions dont furent victimes au cours des siècles les communautés juives et chrétiennes vivant dans les territoires islamiques:cf.Majid Khadduri War and Peace in the Law of Islam (2006) p.193-195

[13] Pacte d’Umar cité par Norman Stillman ,The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book ( 1979) p.157-158

[14] Id.59-60,196,341

[15] Id.57-58

[16] Pacte d’Ummar Stillman ibd.p.99

[17] Lebanon News 8 No 18 14 Sept 1985 p.1-2

[18] Supra n.8

[19] Al-Ahkam as -Sultaniyyah.The Laws of Islamic Governance trad.Dr.Asadullah Yate (1996)

[20] Livre de l’impôt foncier Kitab el-Kharadj trad.Fagnan Paris 1921 p.189

[21] Sherko Kirmanj The Relationship Between Traditional and Contemporary Islamist Political Thought ,Middle East Review of International Affairs,vol.12No 1 ( March 2008),p.69 et seq.

[22] A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam (2002); »Political Theory of Islam »in Mansoor et al. Contemporary Debates in Islam:An Anthology of Modernist and Fundamentalist Thought(2000);

[23] Pour un gouvernement islamique (Paris, 1979), pp. 31ff.

[24] Doctrine exprimée dans le Tafsir Ibn Kathir ou dans les écrits d’Ibn Khaldun par exemple.

[25] Cf.inter alia,les réactions du Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradawi, chef spirituel des Frères Musulmans en Egypte sur la rencontre entre le Grand Rabin d’Israel I.Lau et le Sheikh Tantawi d’ Al Hazar: et  Sherko Kirmanj The Relationship Between Traditional and Contemporary Islamist Political Thought ,Middle East Review of International Affairs,vol.12No 1 ( March 2008),p.69 et seq.

[26] Cf.Ibn Khuldun supra n.4

[27]Ibn Khaldun ,Tafsir Ibn Kathir  ou Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab par exemple.

[28] Cf.les critiques adressées à Wim Wenders pour son documentaire ou encore les réactions aux dessins danois.

Elections à l’AFE

Les élections à l’Assemblée des Français de l’Etranger (AFE) semblent  susciter des convoitises  bien mises en relief dans le récent  article de French Morning intitulé : «  Embouteillage pour l’Assemblée des Français de l’étranger » qu’un de mes amis banquier a eu la gentilesse de me signaler.A lire, en particulier les commentaires de Mme Nike!

French influence in Korea?

The recent publication of Robert Cohen’s book « Turning Around a Bank in Korea: A Business and Cultural Challenge » got me thinking. Here was a Frenchman, who after a distinguished 25-year career at the old Credit Lyonnais (now Calyon after some Executive Life troubles that got it absorbed by France’s « Green Bank », Caisse Nationale du Crédit Agricole), including 10 years as CEO of Crédit Lyonnais -Americas and a 3-year stint as vice-chairman of Republic National Bank under the late Mr. Safra took on the challenge of becoming the CEO of Korea’s largest bank, Korea First Bank with a mandate to turn it around. His slim volume is interesting on several levels: what  cultural and business challenges did he face, and how did he meet them, running a bank when you do not speak the language, a bank where women with PhD’s in economics are bank tellers ,a society in which seniority and age are possibly even more important than in Japan, a country where unions demonstrate by banging on drums for hours on end in the outer office of the CEO, a culture where his wife was expected to address him in Korean as Your Excellency ( I suspect he did not object too strenuously, when in Seoul…),a country where 15-or 30-year fixed rate mortgages were unknown because people only took out 3-to 5- year floating rate mortgages, where people spend fortunes on credit cards and do not use cheques. Such were his challenges and meet them well and truly he did. Not only was he able to turn around the bank and make a big pile for the private equity fund that had bought the basically bankrupt bank from the Korean Government after the 1997 Asian crisis by reselling the bank to Standard Chartered but he was the first to break the glass ceiling for Korean women when he promoted a woman to the post of senior vice president, something that had never been done before in Korea. Not at all a bad record for 4 years in Korea.

Was Robert Cohen the first Frenchman to exert such an influence in Korea? Important though his accomplishments may be, another Frenchman, General Legendre, blazed the trail 100 years before him. While Mr. Cohen fought with unions, General Legendre fought for the Union. Charles Legendre, born in 1830, was educated at the College Royal at Rheims and graduated from the Sorbonne. He met the daughter of a New York lawyer, Clara Mulock, married her in Brussels, moved to the United States and became a citizen. When the War Between the States started in 1861 he enlisted in the 51st NY Volunteers, Infantry. He served with distinction , was badly wounded at the battle of New Bern, North Carolina on 14 March 1862, « a ball injuring both the corner of the jaw and the spinal process. » Legendre was cited for displaying « most conspicuous courage until he fell wounded. »Later, serving under General Grant at the Second Battle of Wilderness he lost his left eye and the bridge of his nose. That did not prevent him from directing the defense of Annapolis from his hospital bed against Robert E. Lee’s last raid. He was given the title of brevet brigadier-general upon being honorably discharged and was soon appointed US consul to Amoy in China (1866-1872).

After a difference of opinions with the American minister in Beijing, Legendre resigned from the US Foreign Service to enter the Foreign Service of the Emperor of Japan. For his role in averting a war between Japan and China over Formosa, the Emperor made him the first recipient of the newly created Order of the Rising Sun. After spending 18 years in Japan, Legendre was called by the King of Korea in 1890 to become Vice President of the Home Office of Korea and adviser to the Household Department of the King. He died of apoplexy in 1899.It is hard for us today, used as we are to living and working in a global village, what it must have represented for such a man as General Legendre to go to Korea, a country about which not much was known at the time, and become one of the most influential people after the King!

Two very different destinies for two men of French origin who, 100 years apart, by happenstance, found themselves exerting a significant influence over Korean affairs. History: plus ça change plus c’est la même chose.

When Bonus Contracts Can Be Broken

Amid all the otherwise legitimate furor over the A.I.G. bonuses,it is refreshing ,and useful,to see the contract law framework for a good legal analysis set out by well regarded law professors such as Charles Fried of Harvard :see When Bonus Contracts Can Be Broken

Contracts Now Seen as Being Rewritable

For an update on the debate on the ability to rewrite employment contracts after signature see the NYT article by Walsh and Glater