News for Religion --Sun May 4 05:02:02 EST 1997

    ANKARA, Turkey—When the revered Turkish maestro Hikmet Simsek lifted his baton to conduct Ahmed Adnan Saygun's oratorio ``Yunus Emre'' at the Turkish State Opera House here recently, he was (New York Times)

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    MANAMA, Bahrain—As a liberty port, Manama cannot compete with the raunchiness of Manila or Bangkok, but the men and women of the U.S. Navy still regard it as an oasis in the heart of the Persian (New York Times)

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    c. 1997 N.Y. Times News Service=

    ANKARA, Turkey—When the revered Turkish maestro Hikmet Simsek lifted his baton to conduct Ahmed Adnan Saygun's oratorio ``Yunus Emre'' at the Turkish State Opera House here recently, he was making a political as well as a musical statement.

    Light, liquid violin passages swelled in symphonic crescendos; the chorus sang at times softly and then with vigorous passion, and delicate, complex flute solos introduced the various movements. But when the spectators applauded, many were cheering more than a fine performance.

    ``Yunus Emre'' is often considered the finest piece of music composed in Turkey since the founding of the Turkish Republic 74 years ago. Although it is more than half a century old, it has suddenly become timely, because its message is one of religious tolerance and nonsectarianism.

    Classical music, often thought of as quintessentially apolitical, has taken on an unusual role here. As this performance showed, it has become a symbol for those who want Turkey to maintain its identification with the West rather than reorient itself toward a less pluralistic and more religiously based way of life.

    Turkey is immersed in a profound social and political conflict between secularists, who have been in power since the republic was founded, and an insurgent Islamic-based movement that seeks to increase the role of religion in public life.

    The country's leading Islamist politician, Necmettin Erbakan, has been the prime minister since last June, and secularists fear that he is leading the country toward a form of fundamentalism.

    The Ankara opera had not planned to perform ``Yunus Emre'' this year, but as threats to secularism seemed to grow, it hastily added the work to the repertory. It will be performed again on Tuesday, for an audience that is to include President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and possibly several times next season.

    ``The artists wanted to do it,'' said one member of the orchestra. ``It has a great message for this time. That's why we always have a smile on our face when we perform it.''

    The oratorio is based on the writings of Yunus Emre, one of the greatest mystic poets of all time, who lived in Anatolia from about 1238 to about 1320. He was a member of the Sufi order of Muslims, which scorns religious hierarchy and stresses direct human contact with the infinite.

    Emre's poems assert that divinity is to be found within each individual's soul rather than in temples. Written in a simple style, they became popular with ordinary people, and they are still recited in some Anatolian villages.

    ``We see all of mankind as one,'' Emre wrote, warning that ``whoever does not look with the same eye upon all nations is a rebel against truth.'' In what could be taken as a rebuke to modern fundamentalism, he maintained that ``God's truth is lost on men of orthodoxy.'' One of his famous couplets asserts:< <

    (italics)God's truth is an ocean, and dogma is a ship.

    Most people don't leave the ship to plunge into that sea.(end italics)< <



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    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    MANAMA, Bahrain—As a liberty port, Manama cannot compete with the raunchiness of Manila or Bangkok, but the men and women of the U.S. Navy still regard it as an oasis in the heart of the Persian Gulf.

    Filipino barmaids, to the blare of heavy-metal music, serve up Coors in cans—nectar in a sheikdom sandwiched by Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    ``It would take a brave man to open a girlie bar,'' as one foreigner hastened to point out, but Bahrain has managed to carve out a spirit so cosmopolitan that a framed commendation in one nightspot begins ``Thanks for the nights we can't remember.''

    So some dismay and apprehension have settled in here in the weeks since the United States abruptly ordered sailors on its vessels docking here to be denied the liberty that had become a custom. At the same time, a 7 p.m. curfew was imposed for all of the 1,000 land-based Navy personnel at the headquarters here of its 5th Fleet, and the U.S. Embassy has recommended that even U.S. civilians steer clear of bars and restaurants, saying it has received information that a terrorist attack might be planned against U.S. military forces in Bahrain.

    Now the bar stools and dance floors that offered an antidote for thousands of sailors every month are almost empty. Bahrain, a safe and welcoming harbor to the Navy for nearly 50 years, is no longer seen as immune from the kind of anti-American militancy that has preoccupied U.S. military planners since it exploded back onto the scene in the Persian Gulf region with a bomb attack on a U.S. target in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, some 18 months ago. That attack was followed by another last June that killed 19 Americans.

    The latest warning issued by the embassy here, dated April 23, reported that the embassy ``continues to receive information about possible terrorist threats to the U.S. military in the region, including Bahrain.'' It urged all Americans to ``exercise the strongest possible caution.''

    Other foreigners, including more than 5,000 Britons, have shrugged off the expressions of alarm, and many U.S. civilians say they have seen little reason to be concerned. The island also remains a haven for Saudis, Kuwaitis and others who are by far the largest share of tourists, flocking here in droves every weekend to seek out the turquoise waters and relaxed atmosphere that makes Bahrain something akin to a Virginia Beach, even if the standard dress is white robes and black chadors.

    Led by the emir, Sheik Isa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, who has been in power for 38 years, the ruling family of Bahrain has made little secret of its displeasure at the U.S. action. After sparring for more than two years against a campaign of scattered arson and small-scale bombings that has been waged by members of the Shiite Muslim majority, the emir and his family, who like most prominent landowners and businessmen here are Sunni, worry that a further sullying of Bahrain's image could complicate their efforts to attract tourism and foreign businesses as substitutes for a small and declining oil sector.

    Bahrain is not only the smallest country in the Middle East, it is also the smallest oil producer, with production of about 40,000 barrels a day—less than 1 percent of what is produced by Saudi Arabia. But for now, it remains dependent on the petroleum industry, earning additional revenue from an offshore oilfield shared with Saudi Arabia and by refining of Saudi oil.

    Until the beginning of April, as many as three Navy ships tied up in Manama every week, and there were few restrictions on where sailors could head in their off hours.

    But since it made the warning public April 7, the Navy has diverted vessels in need of liberty to the United Arab Emirates, where there are U.S. worries stemming from a fatal accident in which a United States sailor was found at fault. For the last 18 months, liberty beyond the Jebel Ali port there has consisted of organized outings in large escorted groups.

    In the meantime, those aboard the handful of ships already at anchor in Bahrain or those that have visited the port since have mostly had to gaze from the bridge or the deck at Manama, where the raucousness of bars like the Hunter's Lodge and Tabasco Charlie's had become the stuff of Navy lore.

    ``The intent is to avoid large gatherings of Americans that would create an inviting target, given the current environment,'' a U.S. official here said.

    U.S. vessels have been based in Bahrain since 1948, and its designation in 1995 as the permanent headquarters of a re-created 5th Fleet has added to its uniqueness in the Persian Gulf, where conservative sensibilities mean that other countries in which large numbers of U.S. military personnel are stationed, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, prefer to describe the arrangements as temporary.

    Some 19 U.S. vessels are now in the narrow, shallow waters of the Persian Gulf, carrying about 12,000 sailors and airmen. That is slightly lower than the recent average but still reflects the substantial buildup of U.S. forces in the region that has been under way since the Persian Gulf war in 1991.

    While some reports published after the warning was issued drew a link between the U.S. concerns and the domestic unrest here, U.S. officials have gone out of their way to suggest that the assumption was wrong.

    Since it began in December 1994, the campaign of violence has claimed nearly 30 lives in the name of an effort to persuade the emir to restore an elected Parliament, which was disbanded in 1975. Hundreds of people remain in jail, including Shiite clerics who have become heroes to their followers, and the crackdown by the authorities drew criticism in the most recent State Department human rights report.

    But despite the high visibility of Americans here, none of the attacks have been aimed at U.S. or even clearly Western targets, and neither the graffiti emblazoned in Shiite villages nor the statements issued by leaders of the movement have even hinted at anti-American sentiment.

    Among those who have been convicted of plotting against the government, one group of Shiites was accused of taking part in a campaign orchestrated by Iran, and U.S. officials have said they are convinced that those accusations are true. They say that at least some among the group, more than a dozen of whom were sentenced to jail terms after a secret trial in March, were provided with military training by Iran at camps outside Teheran and in the Bekaa region of Lebanon.

    Bahraini and U.S. officials now describe the group as a Bahraini Hezbollah, with ties to its Iran-backed Lebanese namesake, which has a long record of attacks against U.S. targets. But Western diplomats emphasized in interviews here that there was no clear evidence of a link between the Bahraini Shiites and the Saudi Shiite who is now being held in a Canadian court in connection with the June bombing of the U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia.

    U.S. Ambassador David Ransom was said by people who attended a meeting April 6 at the U.S. Embassy to have called the audience's attention to newspaper reports describing threats against United States forces in the Persian Gulf region made by Osama bin Laden, the multimillionaire Saudi dissident whom the State Department has labeled ``one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world today.''

    Bin Laden, who was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 and has now taken refuge in Afghanistan, has in several interviews over the last six months threatened to declare a holy war against the United States and its allies if Washington does not remove its forces from the region.<

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    The Dalai Lama of Tibet was a guest of honor at an Embassy Row Seder in Washington last week, at which the story of the Jews' deliverance from slavery was augmented by mention of the Tibetans' struggle against the Chinese.

    The Dalai Lama, who wore a skull cap for the event, pronounced the matzo very tasty, said the Washington Post, and asked about the sphere in his chicken soup, which was a matzo ball.

    At the end, he thanked the participants - Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer among them - for a very warm feeling and your sense of solidarity.

    P.S.: Michael Sack forwards an invitation from UC Santa Barbara to the June 2 opening lecture of the UCSB Endowment for Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, to be delivered by the Dalai Lama.

    Contributions are sought in steps described in terms of the lotus, symbol of Tibetan Buddhism: The Silver Lotus is $1,000; Gold Lotus is $3,000; Crystal Lotus, $5,000; Diamond Lotus, $10,000. The invitation specifies that Lotus donors get to meet the Dalai Lama and have their names in the program.


    The New York Observer outs the father of Kathryn Harrison, whose memoir, The Kiss, describes a love affair between him and her as a young woman.

    Harrison's father, a Protestant minister who goes unnamed in the book and remains so in the Observer story, insists to reporter Warren St. John in a telephone interview that he's never heard of his daughter's best-selling book. You say that Kathryn has said that she had an affair with me? I guess if people want to believe that, golly.

    He said he hadn't seen his daughter on Dateline or the Today show. This is not New York, this is a little town, and I'm certainly glad it's not on the best-seller list (here). He said that while he thinks his daughter is an intelligent writer .... I don't really like Kathy's writing.

    Harrison thinks his daughter has chosen to gain success in a way that hurts me, but he is proud of her, and I wish her well. I hope she's a millionaire.


    - A poll reported in the focus-on-Europe edition of the New Yorker found that 71 percent of Frenchmen named the banal steak-frites (steak and French fries) as their favorite dish.

    - Chris English believes he heard a CNN announcer last week saying that Ethiopian runner Fatuma Roba was the first African American winner of the Boston Marathon.

    - In 1996, a Tupperware demonstration started about every two seconds somewhere in the world.


    - The British sign-making firm Bribex has proposed that street signs bear the names of commercial sponsors, reports the Earth Island Journal. We are not going to brewers or tobacco companies, a Bribex spokesman said. We are going for companies that will not cause offense.

    Among the proposed sponsors are Cadbury, Heinz, Lego, British Airways and McDonald's.

    - The latest House Beautiful pictures the library of an 1820 landmark townhouse in New York, in which half the shelves contain real books sealed solid with resin and painted a uniform white. The names of the books don't show, but that's all right, since they can't be opened away. DesignerAlison Sky calls them memories of the past.

    - The newsletter of the Pebble Beach Resorts advertises The Wedding of a Lifetime, but aren't they all supposed to be?

    And while we're over the top, David Prowler thinks that school-principal-for-a-Day Donald Trump needs grammar lessons. Ads for his latest apartments specify, Never before, and never again, have residences been available so high above Central Park West.

    - Mark Woodworth noticed that the latest issue of Via, magazine of the California State Auto Association, suggests that a certain place pictured in Bear Valley is just one of many places to drink in the wilderness.

    Sounds like we need a new law banning HUI (hiking under the influence), writes Woodworth.

    - New Scientist tells us that Mike Bugara, a conservationist and artist from Kenya, who has discovered a method for making paper from elephant dung.

    - Tuff Scent-ence is nail polish that matches the charm of grunge colors (Gangreen, cq Slime, Addiction, Wish) with appropriate scent. Wish smells like peppermint; Addiction smells like chocolate. No word on Slime or Gangreen. The smell lasts for 72 hours, says Vogue.

    (For use by clients of the New York Times News Service)

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    By Roula Khalaf in London

    An ally of Algerian President Liamine Zeroual yesterday announced the formation of a political party ahead of legislative elections in May or June.

    Mr Abdelkader Bensalah, who heads the government-appointed National Transitional Council (CNT), said his new party, the National Democratic Rally, would draw support from union, veteran, peasant and women's associations. These organisations supported Mr Zeroual in 1995 presidential elections.

    Mr Bensalah stepped in to head the party after the murder last month of Mr Abdelhak Benhamouda, leader of Algeria's main union. Mr Benhamouda, also a Zeroual ally, had made public his plans to start a new party.

    The emergence of a ``presidential'' party is a clear sign of the disintegration of the National Liberation Front (FLN), the former ruling party which went into opposition in 1992, when elections the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) were about to win were cancelled by the army.

    The National Democratic Rally, by drawing on pro-Zeroual associations, aims to strip the FLN of much of its support.

    The FLN is already split between the pro-government leadership and the more respected anti-government reformist wing.

    The new party is also designed as a counter-weight to Hamas, the legal Islamist party which the government assumes will attract many former FIS supporters. The FIS, banned since 1992, is excluded from the upcoming elections.

    Hamas, considered a moderate Islamist party, has maintained an often cozy relationship with the army-backed government and is expected to emerge as a leading contender in the elections. Hamas' candidate won 25 per cent of the vote in the 1995 presidential elections, on the strength of FIS support.

    Hamas and Nahda, the other legal Islamist party, have been given two months to conform to Algeria's new laws, which aim to ban the use of religion in politics. The parties will have to strip any mention of religion from their titles and political programmes.

    After November's constitutional amendments diluted the powers of the next parliament, the CNT last week adopted a more restrictive law governing political parties and backed a voting system based on proportional representation.

    The measures are aimed at preventing a repeat of the first round of legislative elections in 1991 which saw the FIS poised to control the national assembly under the majority voting system. The army's cancellation of the second round of polling plunged the country into a cycle of violence which has claimed more than 50,000 lives.

    As the elections approach, the government has stepped up its campaign to root out Islamic militants. Criticised by Algerians for failing to prevent the recent wave of massacres and blasts blamed on FIS splinter groups, the army offensive has already led to 200 militants being killed this month, according to press reports.



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