Saturday, 15 September 2007

More ICC madness

After the debacles of the World Cup, the ICC seem to be doing it again. Whatever the merit (or lack thereof) the idea of a Twenty20 World Championship may have, it seems bizarre that the form of the game that exists purely to finish quickly, without time for all the twists and turns of even what used to be the shorter form of the game, should be played in a competition involving full round robins in four groups of three, and then two groups of four, before the semi-finals. But that's not the worst of it.

When they lost to Zimbabwe, it looked like Australia might flop and rake something out of the Super Eights stage, just like India and Pakistan did at the World Cup. However, the Aussie's shock loss actually reduced some of the silliness by bringing some meaning into a game that would otherwise have had no meaning at all. That's right, if Australia and England had both beaten Zimbabwe, today's clash would have had absolutely no impact on the tournament.

As it is, Australia needed to win to have a chance of making it through to the next stage, and managed to win by enough to finish ahead of England on top of the group table based on net run rate. In the expected scenario, and in the match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand tomorrow, the only thing resting on the match is the top of the group position. But finishing top of the group affects nothing! As long as Australian and England finished as the top two, the groups that they move on to were already determined, for the sake of things like ticket sales.

Games without impact on the tournament can be great when they involve two teams that are both being knocked out, but when thinking about the final standings of Sri Lanka and New Zealand in this tournament, I doubt anyone will remember who finished top in their group. Surely it should actually affect their future in the tournament, giving them something to play for.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

"True" Islam?

Last week, the planned "mega-mosque" in West Ham was again in the news. Complaints about the plans for the Abbey Mills site have not just mentioned the usual issues of traffic and noise, but Christian People's Alliance councillor Alan Craig implied that opposition was not based on racism or anti-Muslim feeling. He didn't object to mosques, just to Tablighi Jamaat, the particular group that is planning to build the mosque, which he says encourages Muslims to separate themselves, causing harm to the community, as well as being a potential breeding ground for terrorists.

Around the same time, Gerard Henderson was on the radio giving his views on how Australia has confronted militant Islam. (He wrote on the topic for The Times earlier in the year.) He highlighted the bipartisan nature of much of the reaction to the events of the last six years, and the government's deliberate attempts to interact with "moderate" Muslim groups and exclude extremists.

Community cohesion is probably a good thing, and in my experience Australia has more of this than Britain, although this is older than any recent government action.1 Governments choosing to work with religious groups to achieve this aim may also be a good thing,2 but suggesting that approval for the building of a mosque should be hindered by the religious or even political beliefs of the owners seems to me to be another matter entirely. Imagine this sort of reasoning being used to deny permission to a church of a particular denomination, because it's teaching is less inline with the public ideals.

This seems vaguely related to a bugbear of mine - non-Muslims who tell people what real Islam is. It doesn't matter whether they are trying to persuade us that Islam is wrong because the real version follows the violent commands in the Qur'an, or trying to achieve cohesion by saying Islam is really about peace, I don't think it is honest. If a Muslim tells me the Islam teaches something, they are telling me what they believe to be a message from God. If a Christian tells me Christianity teaches something, I can respect them as honestly conveying something they believe to be from God, even if I disagree. If a non-Christian tells me what I should believe as a Christian, they're not taking Christianity seroiusly.3 There is only a "true Christianity" if the Christian message is true.

So I conclude that the only "true Islam4" I can speak of is that modelled by Jesus. I can say that Muslims should believe something only if, and only because, I, too, believe it. With love and respect, I can agree or disagree with different Muslims on different issues, because their beliefs are or aren't in line with what I believe God teaches, without attempting to judge whether they are valid interpretations of the Islamic tradition.

1 Why is this so? Is it a matter of government policies in the past, or are there other factors?
2 I'm not so sure about the effectiveness of excluding a group on the grounds that they are separatist!
3 I'm not saying I don't listen to non-Christians talking about Christianity. Anyone can quite honestly point out that they think certain beliefs/actions are inconsistent with the Bible or other beliefs, without making statements about "true Christianity".
4 Submission, or surrender to God.
The site is just to the left of the photo. 8 points for the name of the tallest building in the background.

I've succumbed

Despite holding out for over a month, and hearing it dismissed as a a fad of the chattering classes on the radio this morning, I have finally succumbed.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Walking to work

I appreciate the fact that I don't catch the tube to the office each day. Catching the incredibly crowded trains during peak hour is not a tempting proposition, even before considering the narrowness of the central portion of trains on lines like the Central line where there actually head room for people my height. Today, with most lines closed due to a strike, it is even more convenient that I not only don't need to catch the tube or use the now unusually crowded buses or roads, but can walk from home and back.

In general, the less than 20 minute walk is a nice way to relax, especially as I pass through the park and by the canal. Sometimes I can be lost in my thoughts, serious or otherwise, but it also seems to provide more opportunities to run into people. It can even be productive for my work, as the insights I've used have often come on the way home!

How do you spend your time travelling to work?

Saturday, 1 September 2007


Tomorrow will be the first Saturday in four weeks on which I am not planning to attend a wedding. So today, there is no packing, no travelling, no helping to put up decorations. It actually seems a bit strange!

It has been great to attend the weddings of these three lovely couples. It has also been interesting to see the three different weddings. The only one that was in England was also the only one where both bride and groom were not English. The one that was most in one language (English) was in Wales and included a blessing in Welsh. At the receptions, we had life-story videos made by Dutch friends, songs and sermons in Russian, and Irish partying into the small hours.

So, after some beautiful times under shooting stars in the Netherlands, in the park in London and in a Welsh field, it's congratulations to the Ferrabys, the Zhangs and the Slatters!