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.

Trente œuvres « disparues ou volées » saisies à l’Institut Wildenstein

Pour en savoir plus sur la saga des tableaux disparus, lisez l’article du journal Le Monde en cliquant ici , l’article dans The Telegraph, »Affaire Wildenstein:une nouvelle veuve porte plainte » dans le Paris-Match du 16 .02.2011, « Affaire Widenstein:scandale en toile de fond » par Daniele Georget ,13.02.2011, et l’article de David Le Bailly – Paris Match « L’étau judiciaire se resserre autour de Guy Wildenstein ».

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!

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.

Max Raabe and Dieter Fischer-Dieskau

Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester‘s recent performance at Carnegie Hall prompted the following question: why such a fine rendition of the German cabaret songs and a not quite convincing rendition of songs in English of the same era? Listen first to his signature song “Heute Nacht or nie” ( click here) then to the way he interprets the great 1931 classic “Dream a little dream of me”( click here ).Now compare Raabe’s interpretation to that of the Dorsey Brothers (click here ).Which do you prefer? Don’t you agree that Raabe does not quite pull it off?

The answer to the why lies; I suspect and look forward to your comments, in the influence of the Schubert Lieder vocal style on German songs in general and, likely, on the vocal training of Max Raabe. Listening again to “Heute Nacht or nie” I cannot help but be reminded of Dieter Fischer-Dieskau’s interpretation of Schubert’s Winterreisen Op. D 911 (click here).The vocal style used to sing Lieder is well suited, and expected, for many German cabaret songs but is not suited to the American songs of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin  and many others of that era. This may explain why Raabe’s interpretation of American songs did not sound quite as convincing as his interpretation of German cabaret songs.

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.



Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol arrived last night and turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. What the book gained in thickness it lost in tautness .Much of the plot’s main « surprise » can be guessed after the first few chapters. Set in a Washington DC awash with Masonic symbolism one cannot help but be reminded of the movie National Treasure. Readers interested in finding more about the Masonic symbols used by Brown should consult the website, http://www.freemasonlostsymbol.com which is a collaboration of the Masonic Society, the Masonic Service Association and the George Washington Masonic Memorial to address the book’s Masonic references.

As in his Da Vinci Code, Brown’s villain here is a thoroughly repulsive psychopath, Mal’akh, reminding one of Silence of the Lambs. I wonder why such psychopaths exert such a fascination on Dan Brown. The rest of his characters lack in depth:Inoue Sato director of a mythical Office of Security within the CIA ,improbably investigating in Washington D.C. seems to step out of a cartoon.

While the book is principally a pean to people’s potential, sadly, it is spoiled by suffused sloppiness. Here are 3 glaring examples:

1-at p.421 and 424,Professor Langdon is struggling to decipher a series of pictograms when he exclaims « The first letter is Η » and then « Suddenly he realized what the word might be :Ηερεδομ » the word « Heredom » which he proceeds to define, correctly, giving a correct  etymology completely misspelled: « From the Greek Ηερεδομ originating from Hieros-domos « .In Greek, as Mr. Brown should have easily ascertained, the letter H is the capital « η »=eta not the English « H ». In Greek there is no letter for the aspirated « h », the effect is achieved through the use of a diacritic, the spiritus asper, or rough breathing represented by an inverted comma placed above and before the vowel to be aspirated. Thus the word should have been written   Ἑρεδομ or – Ἡρεδομ.

2-at p.437-8, he writes « all spiritual rituals included aspects that would seem frightening if taken out of context-crucifixion reenactments, Jewish circumcision rites….Islamic niqab… ».Sorry Mr.Brown, the niqab is not a spiritual ritual; it is merely an article of clothing that covers the entire body of certain Moslem women leaving only the eyes. Islamic scholars are divided on the question of whether the niqab is mandated or simply permitted by the Koran but none regards the niqab as a spiritual ritual.

3-at p.497, chapter 133 ( yes!) after the protagonists have been chased around ,taken prisoners liberated,escaped from improbable situations all starting with a speech that Prof.Langdon was to give at 7 p.m., Brown writes that Langdon was « still unable to believe that it had been less than ten hours since [about 7 p.m.] ».We too are unable to believe that he could have done it in ten hours, however skilled or superhuman Langdon may be!

All in all ,to borrow the phrase :a good yarn ruined.

Par contre ou en revanche?

Hier soir nous dînions avec des amis en Périgord. L’une des convives commence une phrase en disant « Par contre » et se fait reprendre par notre ami belge Yves au motif qu’il s’agit d’une expression provenant du français belge  et non pas du bon français. Interloqué ,je lui demande de préciser et il nous dit que lui-même s’était fait gourmander par Maurice Druon, académicien, qui lui avait soutenu que « par contre  » était une expression belge et qu’il fallait, en bon français dire « en revanche ».

Qu’en est-il?

Selon le Trésor de la langue française (Tlf), « par contre » est une locution adverbiale marquant l’opposition à un énoncé antérieur citant ,entre autres, Guy de Maupassant : »Si le jardin se trouvait à l’ombre ,la maison, par contre, était en plein soleil » (Contes et Nouvelles t.1Dimanches bourgeois, Paris 1880,p.297).Selon Grévisse ,les expressions « en revanche » ou « en compensation » « ajoutent à l’idée d’opposition une idée particulière d’équilibre heureusement rétablie » alors que ‘par contre » exprime « d’une façon toute générale l’idée d’opposition et a le sens nu de mais d’autre part, mais d’un autre côté ».

La locution adverbiale  « par contre » est une apparition récente dans le Dictionnaire de l’Académie française : elle figure à la  sixième et à la  septièmeédition (1835 et 1878) avec le sens : »Dans le style commercial, Par Contre, en compensation ». Dans la neuvième  édition, en cours de parution, l’Académie fait allusion à la controverse sur « par contre » et tranche ainsi:

 » Par contre, en revanche, d’un autre côté, en contrepartie, en compensation, à l’inverse.  Condamnée par Littré d’après une remarque de Voltaire, la locution adverbiale Par contre a été utilisée par d’excellents auteurs français, de Stendhal à Montherlant, en passant par Anatole France, Henri de Régnier, André Gide, Marcel Proust, Jean Giraudoux, Georges Duhamel, Georges Bernanos, Paul Morand, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, etc. Elle ne peut donc être considérée comme fautive, mais l’usage s’est établi de la déconseiller, chaque fois que l’emploi d’un autre adverbe est possible. »

Laissons la parole à André Gide, cité par le Dictionnaire culturel en langue française (Robert 2005), qui justifie ainsi son emploi de « par contre »:

« Je sais bien que Voltaire et Littré proscrivent cette locution mais « en revanche » et « en compensation », formules de remplacement que Littré propose, ne me paraissent pas toujours convenables […] Trouveriez –vous décent qu’une femme vous dise: » Oui, mon frère et mon mari sont revenus saufs de la guerre; en revanche, jy ai perdu mes deux fils »? ou « la moisson n’a pas été mauvaise, mais « en compensation » toutes les pommes de terre ont pourri »? [….] « Par contre » m’est nécessaire, et, me pardonne Littré, je m’y tiens » Attendu que.. p 89

Notons, que le Larousse tient « par contre  » et « en revanche » pour synonymes et  que le Tlf indique   dans la rubrique « Revanche » que l’expression en revanche » a pour synonyme « par contre”

N’en déplaise à MM Voltaire et Littré ( et à leurs épigones), la langue a évolué !

A table, tous s’accordèrent  à dénoncer les périls auxquels s’exposent ceux qui, ayant acquis la notoriété dans un domaine, utilisent celle-ci pour faire des déclarations, souvent ô combien dogmatiques, sur des sujets ne relevant pas de leur spécialité.

Paul Krugman on Andrew Hall

Paul Krugman,ever the populist,has now jumped into the Hall fray ( read Rewarding Bad Actors NYT Aug.2,2009 ).In his editorial,Professor Krugman fires a broadside against Goldman Sachs’high frequency derived profits and against Mr.Hall.Arguendo,one might  find  high frequency trading to be reprehensible because those with higher speed computers are said to have an unfair advantage over the Lumpenproletariat whose computers dawdle along at much lower speeds.To condemn Mr.Hall,Professor Krugman then argues: »What about Mr. Hall? The Times report suggests that he makes money mainly by outsmarting other investors, rather than by directing resources to where they’re needed. Again, it’s hard to see the social value of what he does. »Does Professor Krugman really think there is something wrong about being smarter than others?Is this an indication of a belief that « equality » really means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator?His linking  outsmarting other investors and not directing ressources where they are needed is not mentionned in the article he cites as a source ( see David Segal ) nor is there a logical link between the proposition that Mr. Hall outsmarts others and the alleged lack of social value in what a Mr. Hall does with his greater smarts unless one were to hold the belief,as Professor Krugman implicitly appears to hold,that being smarter is unfair and has no social value.More’s the pity that such a leading economist should show such a bias.

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.

Où courrent-ils?

Les vacances sont pour nos compatriotes l’occasion de souffler un peu,de décompresser,en un mot de ne plus courrir comme ils se sentent obligés de le faire chaque jour  durant le reste de l’anné.Courrir, comme l’a si bien fait ressortir Raymond Devos avec son humour habituel,suscite des questions dont la moindre n’est pas :où courrent-ils? Délectez vous en attendant cette rentrée qui signale le redémarrage de la course!

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,

Excellences,

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.

[8]

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: http://www.tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=9&tid=20986

[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 http://dhimmitude.org/archive/by_lecture_10oct2002.htm.

[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: http://www.memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Area=sr&ID=SR00398 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.

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!

islamIslam needs to prove it’s a religion of peace

The editorial by Tawfik Hamid in the Wall Street Journal deserves serious consideration for the questions it raises.Like Mr Hamid one cannot help but be disappointed by the British denial of an entry visa to Mr Geert Wilders,the member of the Dutch parliament whose film « Fitna » caused an uproar in circles where criticism of Islam is not regarded as politically correct.This uproar reminds me of that met by Sylvain Gouguenheim ,the highly respected professor of medieval history at Ecole Normale superieure -Lyon,for his book  « Aristote au Mont Saint Michel.Les racines grecques de l’Europe chretienne » a remarkable piece of scholarship .

Interested readers will find much to think about in Christoph Luxenberg’s The Syro-Aramaic Reading Of The Koran: a contribution to the decoding of the language of the Qur’an (2007).Luxenberg,a German philologist specializing in semitic languages took to writing under a pseudonym because he was afraid of suffering from the same fate as Suleiman Bashear a scholar at Al-Nadja University in Nablus who was thrown out of a window by Muslim extremists for professing the same theories as Professor Luxenberg.

Similarly,Hellenism in Byzantium (2008) by Anthony Kaldellis  ,Dimitri Gutas’Greek Wisdom Literature in Arabic Translation (1975 ) and Hellenic Philosophy:Origin and Character (2006) by Christos Evangeliou,are « musts ».

The 2% illusion

The political discourse is tilting towards « taxing the rich » to pay for the electoral promises.Today’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal elegantly demonstrates the fallacy of the « tax the rich » premise by showing that even if the so-called « rich » were taxed at the rate of 100%,effectively leaving them nothing,then the amount raised would still not be enough to pay for all the programs promised see: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123561551065378405.html?mod=rss_opinion_main