Post: A Muddled Agenda

On Friday 26th September the British Government voted to join the United States, France and other allied countries in the war against the so-called Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State of Syria and the Levant). Up until this point British action was confined to ‘reconnaissance’ activities. We are told that the aim of the allied action is to ‘hold back’ further ISIL advances as a first step towards the complete eradication of this terror group.

But there are major problems.


Post: An Impossible Resolution?

On the 24th September 2014 President Barack Obama chaired a high-level summit meeting of the United Nations Security Council. The 15-member body gathered to discuss the growing number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), ANF (Al-Nusrah Front) and other groups associated with Al Qaeda.


Post: Justification for ‘Holy War’

Those who advocate killing others in the context of a ‘Holy War’ often seek justification for their acts in religious texts.

 In the light of the recent rise of extreme groups such as IS (Islamic State), I have looked into some of these texts myself.   The following forms Chapter Three of  Abraham’s Children: Jew Christian Muslim, Commonality and Conflict.

Throughout the history of humankind there have been wars, despite all the horrors that follow in their wake. As a consequence of these horrors, whether individual death and suffering, destruction of wholesale communities, or widespread ecological damage, war has never been embarked upon lightly. Apart from being assured of reasonable success, rulers needed to have good reason or a just cause, for taking their people into battle. In other words, when is it justifiable to take up arms against an enemy? Furthermore, once engaged in battle, what are the ethics of war? What weapons should be used and how? How should property, prisoners, non-combatants and particularly women and children be treated?

In response to these questions there has developed in all traditions a ‘Just War Theory’.


New Publication:

ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN: Jew Christian Muslim Commonality and Conflict cover 11.7

This book attempts to show how close Judaism, Christianity and Islam are in terms of their history and beliefs.


It has been written mainly for those who are less familiar with Islam and so there is an emphasis on the early Islamic history. However, it is hoped that readers of all Faiths or none, may find the content of interest, particularly in the present climate where an understanding of the history of Islam is important.


Post: The Crime Against Women

On the 14th April 250 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their school in North Eastern Nigeria by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram. They are still held in captivity. In the past week a further three cases of atrocities against women have been reported by the world media.


Post: Saints and Relics: Past and Present

It seems that the power of sainthood and relics still has a hold over billions of people today, despite the Reformation of the 16th Century. The veneration of, and trade in relics was one of the main criticisms that Martin Luther and his followers made of the Catholic Church.


Lecture: The Legacy of Martin Luther

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When Martin Luther, a German monk, priest and theologian pinned his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Wittenberg Church in 1517, he little knew what he was unleashing.

The act eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, which would split the Western Church in two, lead to widespread social upheaval and eventually war. It also changed the face of central Europe forever.


Lecture: The Copts of Egypt

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According to tradition, St Mark the Evangelist travelled to Egypt where he founded the Coptic Church in the First Century.

At this time the Church came under severe persecution from the Roman Empire and it is in this context that the first monasteries were founded in the deserts of Egypt.

This talk traces the history of the Coptic Church, monasticism and the life of the desert fathers, all brought to life with the aid of paintings, icons and frescoes.

 


History Repeats Itself

In recent years we have seen history repeating itself at a rapid rate. Today we are witnessing perhaps the fourth attempt at regime change in as many years, all backed by the ‘West’. After Iraq, Libya and Syria we now have Ukraine. And we could add Egypt. In the process we are seeing a legitimate, though admittedly corrupt, Government replaced by instability and violence.


Latest book reviews

The books are now selling quite well and seem to be especially popular with people who attend the corresponding lecture. Here is a sample of some of the reviews received on Amazon.


The Battle of the Camel continues

As the opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War face each other across a table in Geneva I am reminded of a similar event over thirteen hundred years ago in a desert near Basra in Iraq.

On the 7th November 656 AD the Islamic community faced the prospect of Muslim fighting Muslim for the first time in its history. The forces of Ali, the fourth Caliph, faced a rebel army led by the Prophet’s wife Aisha. The issue that brought them into conflict involved the assassination of the third Caliph, Uthman.


Holy Roman Empire: power politics papacy

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Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire, famously said that ‘the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman nor an Empire’. Taken at face value this is probably right. If we dig a little deeper, however, we may discover how and why, this entity came to be so named.

The foundation of the Holy Roman Empire is traditionally dated from the coronation of Otto the Great in AD 962. However, the reign of Charles I, otherwise known as ‘the Great’ or Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day AD 800, is usually considered to be the first Emperor of the Empire.


New publication

cropped shield copy 2A third publication entitled The Holy Roman Empire: power politics papacy has just been published in ebook format on Amazon.

This book covers the history of the Empire from the coronation of Charlemagne in AD800 through to its dissolution in AD1806 following the invasion of Napoleon. It was an Empire that had no fixed boundaries and yet at certain periods its territories stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans and under Charles V also included parts of South America.

The book covers the complex relationship between Emperor and Pope, reference to the European Reformation and two chapters on the Habsburg dynasty.  The book includes some useful maps and family trees and being part of the In Brief Series: Books for Busy People, it should appeal to the general reader who is seeking a accessible introduction to a complex yet fascinating European power.

Available at Amazon UK as an ebook Browse


Latest News: Iran’s Nuclear Weapons

The following text formed the Epilogue of my book From the Medes to the Mullahs: a History of Iran.

‘On the 15th June 2013 Hassan Rouhani was democratically elected President of Iran, so replacing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who is considered to be a ‘moderate’ compared to his predecessor, is a cleric who studied at the famous Qom seminary and later at Glasgow Caledonian University. He was previously Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament and also led the Iranian team in negotiations with the UK, France and Germany on Iran’s nuclear programme.


Lecture News

Speaking on cruise ships has given me an opportunity to visit many parts of the world. The ships that I travelled on were relatively small, with a maximum about of 500 passengers. It was ‘destination cruising’ where passengers were interested in the cruise itinerary and the places to be visited. The point of having a lecturer on board was to enhance the passengers’ experience by offering information on the history and culture of the area. This ‘cruise lecturing’ role is reflected in the lecture titles that you will see here, for example, the Ottoman or the Mughal Empires.

I’m now moving away from cruise lecturing in order to do more in the UK. I think that many of these titles will still be of interest to UK audiences but I expect, in time, that other titles will be added that reflect a more European, or local theme.