Insights Into Shi’ite Islam

I have come across this book by photographer Hans Georg Berger, Einsicht – Drei Reisen in die innerste Welt des schiitischen Islam (Insight – Three Journeys Into the Innermost World of Shi’a Islam, edited by Boris von Brauchitsch and Saeid Edalatnejad, Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg Berlin 2017) when ZEIT online published a brief article about it. Not more than an announcement for an exhibition of respective pictures of the book in Berlin. Unfortunately, with numerous mostly hostile comments condemning the mere fact of displaying pious seminarians and teachers as blunt propaganda for a murderous regime where mollahs are willful oppressors.

Quite a sensation is not that Berger had collected, during his travels in Iran between 2000 and 2005, intimate portraits of young seminarians and their teachers at theological centers in Qom, Isfahan and Mashhad and how they interact in intense discussions. The contrast (or should I say, actually the lack of it) with century old early photos is, in fact stunning. These pictures had been taken by two court photographers of Qajar Shahs, Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1848-1896) and his son Muzaffar al-Din (r. 1896-1907), who accompanied them on visits to the holy shrines of Shi’te Imams in then Ottoman Iraq. In particular, Nasir al-Din got interested in photography very early in his life, as crown prince already, as his father Mohammad Shah Qajar (r. 1834-1848) had received, as gifts from QueenVictoria and Czar Nikolaus I, two daguerrotype cameras.

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Tropical Nights in Tromsø

When temperatures fell to just 21°C in a summer night in 2018 (July 29), it was reported in the news the following day. The first time in recorded history, Tromsø, about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle (69° 40′ 58″ N), had experienced what is called (at temperate latitudes) a tropical night: the temperature would not drop below 20 degrees. (The former Dean at Kuwait University FOD sighed when I told him that we call, in Germany, these nights “tropical”. In Kuwait, during summer months, temperatures usually hover around 33°C.)

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Grace and Humility

I am grateful that the French/German channel ARTE provides footage of the concert of Brian and Roger Eno at the Acropolis in Athens of August 4. The circumstances, in times of Covid, the most terrifying heat wave in Athens since 1987, and even more terrifying bush fires which had reached the outskirts of the Greek capital, must have been extraordinary. Peter Chilvers who was part of the, well, familiy band, wrote the next day, on the Manafonistas blog,

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A Significant Emotional Event

Significant emotional events you won’t forget. Nor where you’ve been and how you felt. I remember as examples 9/11 and Kennedy’s assassination, Princess Diana’s funeral, my father’s passing and maybe a handful further events, the last maybe the disclosure of Abu Ghuraib.

It may be amazing that my very first recollection of a historical event, deeply emotional, was that of August 13, 1961, exactly 60 years ago. I was just five years old. I remember a wonderful afternoon in a nearby park, Essen’s Gruga park, together with my parents, my mother’s sisters and spouses and possibly several of my cousins, all younger than I.

My parents had always an open house. So, the whole party met afterwards at our home, certainly for cake and coffee, smoking cigarettes and having a glass of cognac or beer.

As my parents did not own a TV then the news were received by radio. The Eastern German regime had started building a wall in Berlin, separating Westberlin from Berlin (Ost), later called (by the SED regime) the Antifascist Barrier (“antifaschistischer Schutzwall”).

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Nature vs. God

Michelangelo_-_Creation_of_Adam_(cropped)

When discussing the current Corona virus pandemic with a friend, he mentioned some apocalyptic ideas about God’s wrath. I replied that it is actually Mother Nature who strikes back. Evolution is the concept at work these days.

Homo sapiens (I falter when writing the accepted species name, but am rather tempted to put stupidus instead) has largely excluded themselves from evolution in recent centuries, so a correction was overdue. Just before the planet was destroyed by mass extinction of species, mass pollution with plastic, mass murder with endless wars and, not at least, catastrophic global heating.

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