islam


Rag and Bone
~ A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead
by Peter Manseau

This book is one of my top 2009 reads; moreover before I sent it away I had to reread it 🙂

It is also probably most surprising reading experience I’ve had for a very long time. It’s a great travelog, it’s incredibly funny, equally educational, shocking (how surprising!), ticklingly blasphemous, and absolutely bizarre!

You really would not even imagine (if you’re unfamiliar with the world of relics like myself) what people are able to do with something (human origin) that consider sacred but even worse is to see what Church (!!!) is doing. I was really shocked so many times while reading this book.

First paragraph (I love it!):
”This is a book about dismembered toes, splinters of shinbone, stolen bits of hair, burned remnants of an anonymous rib cage, and other odds and ends of human remains, but it is not book about death. Around every one of the macabre artifacts that, for a variety of reasons, have come to be venerated as religious relics, circles an endless orbit of believers and skeptics, bureaucrats and clergy, con artists, and just plain curious souls. This is a book about life.”

Manseau has done fantastic research about the issue covering all major religions. There are very informative story about each relic while being part of precise human being and that’s very interesting. But the story of the body after soul continued its journey, is stunning! I found that my own religion as the most bizarre (probably because it’s mine). I was more than once reacted like “Oh gosh no! They didn’t! How could they?” and even “Oh hurry up and lets move to Buddhism!” (I‘m joking!) And then the most pathetic: “OK I’m Christian but at least I’m not Catholic”. There are many (I guess ) blasphemous moments; but then how not be blasphemous when you’re reading about Holy Prepuce (Jesus foreskin)!?!? I didn’t even know such thing even exists and is worshiped (by the way do you know the origin of the Saturn’s rings? Go figure! You wouldn’t believe; there is no way you would even guess!)! Or few churches that each enshrines a head of John the Baptist in the same time?!? I’ve seen in Spain part of The Cross (later I’ve found out there are so many pieces of that same cross that Romans must have deforest entire Middle East to made it) also I’ve seen the hand of some saint and then I thought it’s quite morbid (now I see that was actually light image).

What I liked is that Manseau is never offensive; I don’t think he’s hurting religious being in his readers. At least he didn’t hurt mine. He’s looking from a rational point of view on something which is in enormously large scale not rational whatsoever.
As I said he’s very witty and don’t expect from this book to be profoundly serious. Quite opposite; it looks like a coffee chat … OK I admit, the topic would be quite insane but still a coffee chat. And what I liked the most in this book is how people are 100% ready to believe in something so unlikely accurate and even to actually feel the sacred power of it; whether that is a shinbone or a pebble founded in the ash after cremation. It’s really amazing.

From the blurb:
”Manseau’s “Rag and Bone” reads like a novel, entertains like a TV docudrama, and educates like the best college professor you ever had. It is at once informative, quirky, and funny. Do people really think that the leathery tongue of 12th century saint can bless them with good fortune? They do. Why do people believe in such weird things as the holy relics of religion? Read this book to find out. WARNING: you may well discover that you also hold beliefs in holy relics and not even know it!”

Here I’d like to mention one vignette I found very interesting. It’s part of the relics in Buddhism, religion I know little about. The only Buddhist I know personally is my dear friend Shanna (whose BLOG is one of  virtual places I regularly visit; check why) who told me while visiting me in Belgrade something very interesting: That Buddhism is actually not religion but philosophy.  Reading this book helped me to fully realize her words.

There is a story in the book about the Temple of the Tooth in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Of course it’s worshiped and moreover in Myanmar they made a replica equally worshiped as “the original”. As I said I knew little about Buddhism but I knew that much to see a mountain-sized contradiction. And here is an explanation:

There are two branches in Buddhism: one that is following Siddhartha’s words how we should disconnect ourselves from impermanent things in our life (which is basically everything) and the one that is doing completely opposite thing: that is worshiping something so undoubtedly impermanent such is human body (i.e. Siddhartha’s tooth) and even ready to die for. But what was incredibly surprising is that Siddhartha was fully aware that people would hear his sermons and understand what he had meant or they would hear them and understand the exact opposite. He never denied that he told people what they needed to hear to affect necessary change in their lives. He knew that his followers would take from his message parts they needed the most. For some that meant philosophy, for others that meant teeth.

So what about relics? And should they necessary be connected with religion? Are they mandatory sacred? What one relic could be?

“Relics seem to me to admit that, yes, while we do have spiritual dimension to our lives, we are also flesh under the looking glass of all those around us. Our lives and or deaths are witnessed by others, and what our lives might mean to them is mostly beyond our control. We are simultaneously people who need symbols to survive, and we are symbols ourselves. Our bodies – our toes and shins, our foreskins and ribs, our hands and whiskers, our teeth and hair – have the capacity to tell stories we can not imagine. And the facts of our lives can be as mysterious and in need of explanation as anything that lies beyond.”

This is without doubt one of the best nonfiction book I’ve read in years. I so didn’t expect this. I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was attracted with the bizarre topic it deals with and was hooked from the page 1.

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The Islamist – Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left
Ed Husain

I’ve recently read this book and I really liked it.
It is sort of protest against politic Islam, based on personal experience. This is for the first time that we have opportunity to read about Islamic fundamentalism and life within radical Islamic organizations from an ex-member.

Namely Mr. Husain, British Muslim has become Muslim fundamentalist in sixteen an then years after he saw how wrong is that path. What has awaken his criticism (and opened his eyes) was personal experience with devastating Islamic ideas planted in the minds of Muslim teenagers in Britain that encourage them to be confronted with others in the name of religion.

Time Mr. Husain has spent in Saudi Arabia firmed his beliefs that rigid, old form of Islam: wahhabism joined with political Islam: islamism is causing only suffering all around the globe: Baghdad, Tel Aviv, Madrid, London, New York, Istanbul, etc he realized how that ideology is filled with anger, ideology that he once belonged to is not only a threat to primeval Islam and Muslims but to entire civilized world.
After he finished this road Mr. Husain thought it is his humane duty to speak against something that is presented in Britain as a “true Islam”, because the Koran orders to all Muslims to speak the truth, even if the truth is against them.

First part of the book is little slow I must admit and that maybe because I wasn’t familiar with things related with British society. Everything was new for me but there are so many information that are more/less familiar to someone who lives in Britain I guess. However, for me it from time to time it was little hard to follow.

What surprised me the most was part about Saudi Arabia. Namely, I didn’t have a clue that to love a Prophet is actually forbidden and is considered as idolatry. I was in shock what treatment believers are receiving on Prophet’s grave.

Mr. Husain has done amazing job in introducing us to creation of Wahhabi stream in Islam and I didn’t know that precisely Wahhabism is official form of Islam in Saudi Arabia! That was really surprising. Thinking about peninsula and how huge amounts of money are coming from there to help all Islamic actions all around the world (including erecting mosques in Bosnia but also financing war and sending mujahideen and Al Qaeda forces in the same Bosnia) I would never thought that Saudi Arabia is such a racist society towards Muslims (!). It’s extremely segregated and indeed the title of the chapter about it Saudi Arabia: Where is Islam?” is perfectly chosen.

I really enjoyed in this book (enjoyed in sense I’ve learned a lot) but the main readers would (and should) be (young) Muslims in the Western world. This book is showing how enormously wrong picture about “true Islam” and the life in the cradle of Islam they have. Almost everything is wrong and artificially created completely ignoring the Holly Book. But the worst thing is that young Muslims in the west are accepting this radicalism thinking it’s how Prophet and the Koran is telling them they should believe, think and act.
And moreover Mr. Hosain has explained entire genesis of radicalism with the names that stands behind it and the books that can be purchased in regular bookshop in London. Now comes the old question (I wrote about this in my post about “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali) Why intolerance should be tolerated? In the name of religious freedom? That’s a nonsense, very expensive one! Not only because of innocent victims of radicalism but also because it produces even bigger segregation between cultures, between religions and we are all victims, on both sides of the gorge while in reality we are in our own cultures and religion much more closer then we know.

I’ll finish with two quotes which are unknown to, I’m sure many Muslims and non Muslims and that are reflects how same we are:

“Beware of extremism in religion, for it was extremism in religion that destroyed those who went before you” – The Prophet Mohammed (570-632)
“Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as though he has killed entire humanity” – The Koran

Yesterday was the opening day of my favourite film festival Free Zone. It is festival of involved film (probably my favourite genre, because it’s (the only one?) without boundaries, because life is its boundary. The industrial production of moving pictures inevitably led to an overabundance of film heroes, to the banality of their missions and to the commercialization of their idealism and to the indifference of the audience. Casual meaningless heroism dominates most of today’s films.

Free Zone offers a different kind of film hero in feature films and documentaries. These heroes are different in their constitution, origin, geography, their burden and, perhaps most importantly, in their existential quality. They are ordinary people who have made, daringly and fearlessly, the hardest choice – to take life in their own hands. Weather by refusing to accept the fate chosen for them by the society, challenging injustice, questioning establishment and traditional relationships and taboos in societies they live in, or truly believing on the possibility of change and the creation of better world, the directors and heroes of these films realize that the belief in choice is what differentiates civilization from barbarism, that civilization means involvement and choice means responsibility.

In next few days you can expect my reviews about movies I’m going to see on the festival.

 

PersepolisFirst film was beautiful Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud; adaptation on the acclaimed graphic novel based on director M. Satrapi’s own life.

This breathtaking animated film is a poignant story of an outspoken young girl coming age in Iran during Islamic Revolution. Hope that revolution has had and disappointing changes it has brought. It is very personal and very emotional story with magnificent portraits of her family members. One might be surprised with modern language and modern look on life. It’s strange to see girl with black headscarf jumping and screaming with “Iron Maiden”. Political struggle, repression of the regime, foreign involvement in producing that misery is so clear and sharp.

This is statement of Marjane Satrapi about her film:

“This isn’t a politically orientated film with the message to sell. It is first and foremost a film about my love for my family. However, if Western audiences end up considering Iranians as human beings just like the rest of us, and not as abstract notions like “Islamic fundamentalists”, “terrorists”, or the “Axis of Evil” then I feel like I’ve done something”

Well, I’m not the one who will change my view about Iranians after this film. After years of learning Farsi and knowing many Iranians I never thought they’re “terrorists” or whatever. On the other hand I’m not sure could I be considered as a member of “Western audience” either.

This is French submission for the next Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and don’t be surprised at all if it wins the Oscar.

Infidel
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

InfidelIf I ever decide to make a list of the most important books I’ve read “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali would surely find its place on it.

First time I’ve heard about Miss Hirsi Ali it was after murder of Theo Van Gogh because of his film “Submission-part one” which he made in collaboration with Hirsi Ali. Theo has been shoot and slaughtered in the middle of the day and the letter for Hirsi Ali (in which assassin is promising the same to her) was staked with knife in Theo’s chest. It was really a huge shock with big impact across the Europe.
Later “Submission-part one” was in the program of the Free Zone Film Festival here in Belgrade and among the guests was Belgrade’s Imam and the conversation after projection was very interesting (I wrote about that evening HERE). Sadly I would have much more and much better question now after reading this book.

Anyhow Infidel was one of the most wanted books on my wish list and you can’t imagine my thrill-ness when I saw in Belgrade’s bookstores that it has been translated in Serbian. I’ve read book in one swallow and then reread it slowly but it raised the same emotional reaction.

It starts with the life of her grandmother and later mother in Somalia with such a vivid description of very strict life in Muslim community. Her grandmother was an incredibly strong woman capable to accept the destiny and justify it as an Allah’s wish. You might think that her actions might be quite brutal with her granddaughters (and also comparing with the treatment with her grandson) but she was following tradition and was believe that she’s doing right.

There in first part we are introduced how important is to know who your ancestors are. It is actually fundamental to be familiar with entire family tree hundreds of years ago because in Somalia first question when you meet someone will be “Who are you?” and then they are starting to recite all ancestors until they find a mutual one. That can save your life (it saved Ayaan’s) because the whole population of Somalia is divided in several clans and everything there is based precisely on that. Any kind of help: health care, shelter, financial helps … etc. It’s horribly tight bond between them (and horribly huge risk if you disgrace your clan).

Later we see first “rebellion” in the actions of Ayaan’s mother but still she was women who followed the rule and also was able to accept her destiny because that was Allah’s will. Ayaan’s family was a kind of nomadic ones because due to her father’s political activism they had to hide and run away from one place to another. Therefore she lived during her childhood in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

While reading those pages it was as if I’m reading some fictional story from another dimension. Of course accent was on the women in Islam. Obligation to be covered, obligation to not leave the house without a man, obligation to accept (everything), obligation to not argue, obligation to bear, obligation to be sexually available to her husband whenever he wants to “plough his field”, obligation to be obedient, obligation to submit. Because word “Islam” means “submission”. Moreover she was unfortunate enough to belong to the Muslim community where girls must be circumcised (I wrote about Female Genital Mutilation HERE). So indeed that part was like something from another world.

We can see how she was growing up physically and religiously. How she wanted so badly to be a good Muslim woman who follows all the rules but in the same time she has had many questions in spite the fact that questions are forbidden. It is one breathtaking image of immense mental struggle between her believes, what she has been taught it’s the only truth and the life facts which were quite opposite. It was literally painful to read, emotion was quite similar to claustrophobia.

Eventually she started to talk with criticism about her own religion, she was loud in her statement against position of women (that especially refers in Muslim communities in European countries i.e. Holland) and naturally pile up the anger of Muslim world on herself.
It is a breathtaking story of a woman who (in her own words) was lucky. Once she was a child from the desert with extremely limited possibilities but who became elected member of a Dutch Parliament.

But what has the biggest impact on me is that I “found” myself in the book. Namely I realized that I belong to the huge majority of European (say) Christians (I guess) who are trying to avoid speaking with criticism about other religions because that might be connected very easily with racism (nationalism, fascism, etc). Since I lived in the country that has fallen apart in undoubtedly religious war (it was civilian war of course but in first place it was religious one) I’m trying to be very tolerant and to understand the point of views of the “opposite” side.
I realized that I do have very (say again) “Christian” look on Islam and religions in general. I honestly believed that all religions (therefore Islam as well) are good, are love, peace, tolerance etc. Right? Wrong!

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in this book is telling us that Islam is love and tolerance (in very limited sense) but ONLY inside the Muslim world. For all others who aren’t belonging to that world it is a threat because it gives a strict order to all believers to convert or kill the rest of us who are considered as nonbelievers. Another amazing thing is that many inside the Muslim population are not aware of that because the Holly Koran is written in Arabic, language they don’t understand. What a paradox!

What is written in Koran is not only religious message but an absolute constant that is defying every singe aspect in believer’s life. It is quite unbelievable that it is expected from nowadays believers to strictly follow the rule (and apply sanctions) of desert tribes of Saudi Arabia in the 7th century! But still if they’re not following those rules (or even if they think of theirs reasons) they’re not good believers and deserve to be punished. And those things about unbelievers are written in Koran.

Now I really don’t know what to think? That’s why I’d love if I could have another opportunity to speak again with Belgrade’s Imam who is a very dear man, but I’m wondering if he’s not aggressive toward Christians and doesn’t call his believers to be aggressive; if he doesn’t think that he lives in the country of nonbelievers; if he preaches love, peace and tolerance he must be considered as a bad Muslim from the point of view of the followers of traditional Islam about whom Hirsi Ali is writing because that is not what Koran demands.

This book, her entire life is a monument of freedom of speech. Her criticism has arguments. Europe is also criticized with every right. Remember Danish cartoon scandal? A cancellation of theater plays which has the theme Prophet or even include Prophet together with representatives from other religions etc? That culture of self-censorship will completely ruin European values. That is not our heritage; that is not heritage of modern world! Allowing speech of hatred which is targeting people who are not Muslims (that can be heard in the mosques across the Europe) we here are accepting and justifying it with freedom of speech; When Muslim communities in the Europe are practicing traditional Islam that violates numerous human rights, we here are justifying that with religious freedom! Is female genital mutilation performed on young girls on the kitchen table in the middle of Europe religious freedom?

As I said I’m quite confused (this book is so enormously thought provoking); I’m not paranoid person, on the contrary. Moreover my contact with Islam is not nearly like this. I studied Farsi for several years and have many Iranian friends and I adore their cultural heritage; I know members of Muslim communities here and they aren’t nearly fanatics, they are my friends and I can unquestionably rely on them. I guess we [Serbia] are not rich enough to be interesting for refugees from much more rigid and traditional environments.

Hirsi Ali speaks with arguments and with statistic data of (mainly) women victims of Islamic fanatics inside their own families here in Europe. Many are victims of self combustion with gasoline (because they had sex before marriage) in a front of their fathers and brothers. If she refuse to kill herself they [father or brother] would kill her. That’s not, that can’t be religious freedom!

It’s high time for us to realize that tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
Laila Lalami

Hope and other dangerous puruitsI’ve just finished this lovely, poetic novel, debut by Laila Lalami about how hope is making us in move and about how much we are willing to sacrifice to make it happened.

First I’m very pleasantly surprised with the structure of the novel (“novel” in some lovely weird way). Namely it starts from the middle of the story, somewhere in the middle of the road between survival and life (or should I say ‘hope’?), in the middle of the night, between two continents: Africa and Europe; in the middle of the path which separates “not just two countries but two universes.”; in the boat made for eight people but which bears thirty passengers right now.
All those passengers have in common hope, their dream about life they couldn’t have in their motherland – Morocco.

They are approaching Spanish coast with fear in their stomach and hope in their eyes and … (I’ll avoid spoilers)… after page or two we are reaching the spot where story starts to branch (it’s like a reverse delta). Or maybe it’s even better to say that we are reaching narrowest spot on the sandglass.

Sandglass is turned over and now we are following lives of the main characters prior their journey and here the novel becomes sort of collection of short stories. And these stories are very detailed and very personal portraits of persons with different characters, professions, education, etc. which are living in the same (mainly) political/economical pot which will transform them in immigrants.

It is a very colorful picture of nowadays Morocco and clash of its traditional and modern faces. Land filled with tourists seeking for roots of Paul Bowles’s inspiration, or hashish, or some other sort of exotic adventure while muezzins are calling for prayer from minarets, with streets with girls covered with scarves and gay couples fearless sitting in the bars. We are introduced with some Islamic customs, especially in the marriage; with two completely different ways of interpretation of Qur’an: traditional as if there are no changes from the time of the Prophet and the modern one which is adapted with the current civilization level. And of course cuisine: you could feel the smell while passing through the pages mouth-watering.

However accent is on the horrifying economic situation with huge unemployment population (sometime regardless their education), extremely (and quite openly) corrupted system, from university via any sort of bureaucracy ‘till the judicial system. Indeed you have a sensation of hermetic-incurable-never-ending-no-way-out, sensation so strong that you can feel it in your throat. Sensation that is boosted with descriptions of their homes, streets, furniture, etc so that you are wondering “How on Earth they’re surviving at all?” and naturally when you’re looking with their eyes immigrate in Spain is best (if not only) solution.

Then again sandglass is turned over and now we can see how immigrants live in their new country. Of course those kinds of dreams are often nightmares but it is incredible how people can find consolation and be satisfied. I guess when you manage to leave enormous misery behind, new misery doesn’t look so unbearable. You just have to remember the ones who weren’t that lucky and who would instantly exchange their place with yours.
Naturally new life will change them but while some changes are expectable (no one would gladly accept to leave horse and ride donkey again) some changes are so drastic that I had to double check if that is the same person.

I should say that “sandglass” will be turned over more than once: to let us know why would anyone leave its own people, family, friends, customs and go in unknown land among strangers, become stranger himself (even among compatriots); to let us know how the ones who survived the trip but have not succeed in their intention are reestablish their lives in the country they wanted to leave; and to let us know about the ones whose lives have torn from the roots and are thrown on the other soil.
This is a story about their hope which helps them to stay alive.

Now as a student of the Institute Cervantes I was always wondering why Morocco is the country with the largest number of Cervantes Institutes. Well it was logical that countries like France or UK or Germany or some other ‘rich’ country will have many Institutes but Morocco is a priority. Now when I think about that it IS logical. Namely illegal immigration is huge problem for Spain and so they decided at least to give those potential immigrants opportunity to learn Spanish, educate themselves about customs and culture etc.

This novel is Hidden Treasure! (check the link)

Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade is festival of “involved movie” often quite controversial. This time was not exception. Yesterday there were two Dutch movies with the theme “Women and Islam”. And the guests on the debate after projections were director of the second movie Ms Merel Beernink and Belgrade’s Imam Mr. Mohamed Jusufspahic.

First movie was worldwide known Submission by Theo Van Gogh

The movie deals with the topic of violence against women in Islamic societies; telling the stories of four abused Muslim women. The title itself, “Submission”, is the translation of the word “Islam” in English.
The film is controversial. It was perceived as insulting by many Muslims, and several people loyal to Hirsi Ali’s (scrip writer) cause against abuse and oppression of women expressed doubts about the effectiveness of this film, fearing that it would only polarize positions.

After the movie was released in 2004, both van Gogh and Hirsi Ali received death threats. On November 2, 2004, Theo van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri. A letter pinned to the body with a dagger linked the murder to Van Gogh’s film and his views regarding Islam. It called for jihad against kafir (kafir is an Arabic word for someone who does not believe in God), America, Europe, the Netherlands and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

After the murder of Theo van Gogh, Submission gained international fame. It was withdrawn from a film festival in Rotterdam, but was shown on television in a number of European countries.

The movie was no doubt quite shocking but for different reasons for Muslims and those who aren’t Muslims. Namely it’s story about abused women, promised to their husbands at the age of 16 and their hell-marriage. Their faces were covered but not the rest of the bodies which are covered with bruises and livid marks but also covered with tattoos with verses from The Holly Koran. Their acceptance of that kind of life in His name and obeying His word about marriage, their complete submission was terrifying.

On the other hand what was terrifying (and insulting) for Muslims was the fact that she has her body covered with verses from the Holly Book. And debate was in that directions. As a Christian I cannot comment feeling of Muslims but if someone would tattooed Our Lord on the body I would accepted that dumb rather than insulting.
What was strange that the accent on that discussion was precisely on verses on the body while bruises were completely ignored.

So the question is Is religion (fate) for maltreated women in traditional Muslim communities in the same time their consolation but also their cage?

Second movie was That Paradise Will Be Mine by Merel Beernink

that paradise will be mine

A frank portrayal of what it means to be a Dutch Muslim, this eye-opening film follows the lives of three women dealing with the consequences of their choice to convert to Islam. Rather than pressing the women for the reasons behind their choice, director Merel Beernink takes a close look at their day-to-day lives, letting them speak candidly about how they feel in their new cultural and religious context.
Issues of marriage and relationship loom large for all three women. Astrid, who had a brief but unhappy arranged marriage, is now living with her parents and looking for a husband. Inge is considering a move to Cairo to marry her Egyptian fiancé. Rabia is married to a Muslim man and struggling with matters such as polygamy and homosexuality. Their perspectives are complemented by revealing and often touching interviews with their parents. Capturing these women’s struggle to reconcile the expectations of their families and friends with the demands of their new conviction, Beernink’s intimate portraits offer fascinating insight into to why it is so difficult for those brought up in Western culture to choose a different kind of life.

On the debate director, Ms Beernink said that she wanted to explore why these young women have decide to “give up her freedom” and with that she expressed her view on their decision. The Netherlands is country probably with the highest level of social freedom and it was interesting to see reaction of the family members of these young women but also their adaptation on the new (restricted) liberties. One of the theory is that tendency is a result precisely of that unlimited freedom; that they were seeking one frame of social behavior in which they will feel secure. And they have found it in Islam.

Director said that in the process of making this film she followed 200 women but decided to make movie about only these who decided that because their sincere beliefs and fate. (many of them have converted themselves because of Muslim boyfriend etc)
What was quite interesting is that one of them who has Muslim boyfriend (but after she took Islam) was “better” Muslim that he who is Moroccan and Muslim by his birth. And as director said, that is very often the case with all converted Muslims.
On the other hand we could see that total acceptance is still might be a problem, they are putting make up (which is forbidden in Islam) or watching TV (also forbidden) etc.

Interesting this is what the one of the girls said “If I found a husband I’ll tell him I am a Muslim but my family is Dutch and not Muslim and that HAS TO BE RESPECTED!” so I wondering if the need for that ultimatum are showing intolerance justified by religion?