Friday, 17 March 2017

Happy St Patrick's Day


The Winter's nearly over when St Patrick's Day comes around - there's blossom on the trees and the whin bushes are in their full glorious yellow.  Today it's not sure whether it's Winter or Spring, but warmer days are on the way for sure.

I'm only just recovering from the pneumonia that flattened me although I have been getting out a little bit each day for the past week.  Normally I'm a terrible patient and will not stay in bed, but this time I was very willing..  On the bright side, it's been a great way of getting through the winter - it feels like it's flown by!!  Hibernation has a lot going for it lol.

And now something a little different for St Patrick's Day
Meet the Gaelic singing Muslim cleric
I'd like to introduce you to Sheikh Muhammed al Hussaini who is an imam and a singer of traditional Irish songs.
He is a fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute in London, from where he has frequently criticised the actions of Islamic extremists, and at some personal cost.
Muhammad Al-Hussaini fell in love with Irish music a few years ago and has been singing ever since. He is an Irish speaker and sings in the sean nos style and also plays fiddle and whistle.

Here is a clip of him singing on Channel 4 news last St Patrick's Day.  Once upon a long ago when I lived in Dubai, I felt there were a lot of similarities between the Arab and Irish languages - Muhammed's voice is a natural in singing in Gaelic (sean-nos literally means 'old bones' and is a very traditional, highly ornamented style of Irish singing).


Muhammed is part of an international peace think tank based in England and recently he spoke in court in defence of a fundamentalist Christian preacher, Pastor McConnell, from Belfast who preached from the pulpit on the evils of Islam.  In Muhammed's view and that of most other lay and religious people, the man should be allowed to say what he wants, even if we disagree with him and this imam was prepared to speak on behalf of the man who had demonised his own religion.  To him and to other peace activists, freedom of speech is the most important thing.

The Music of Healing - A higher form of disagreement

We're Catholics and we're Protestants
We're Muslims and we're Jews
And we're some who are none of the above.
But we've gathered here together in Rostrevor by the sea
By decree of humanity and love.
- Tommy Sands

In the past week, alongside my good friend Tommy Sands, both Muhammed and Pastor McConnell spoke at a Music of Healing event here in the village and the following day joined with thinkers, victims of the Troubles, and heads of various religious congregations in Ireland - Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, to come up with a declaration for a higher form of disagreement.  Representatives of local monasteries and the integrated school were also present as were members of the non religious section of our community.  I'm so sorry to have missed the public concert, but the village has been  buzzing with discussion about all that was said.

If you are interested in hearing more about the Music of Healing listen here to Tommy being interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster about the event.  This is an annual event - a mixture of debate and music - which Tommy has been hosting since before the Good Friday Agreement 19 years ago, giving a space to (mainly) politicians from opposing sides of our divided community a platform to speak in peace and to have a higher form of disagreement.

By the way, the song "The Music of Healing" (trying to find a recording of it to share with you but my system is not having any of it - but you can check it out on iTunes or Spotify if you have either)it was co-written and co-performed by Pete Seeger and Tommy Sands.
Pete Seeger and Tommy Sands

So Happy St Patrick's Day to you and yours and may peace and tolerance be the main focus of all our lives in the coming months and years.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Fil - what a fantastic post ... I hadn't seen the Channel 4 clip before ... so fascinating ... I'll be emailing shortly .. cheers Hilary

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  2. I agree with you and the Imam, dear Fil, as well as all the thinkers and people from different religions gathering to discuss about peace and tolerance... I am amazed, and yet this should be natural - yes, the priest, pastors, whatever have the right to have an opinion and voice them and the imam is very intelligent to see it, and of course he is also entitle to have an opinion and to voice it. I found that yes, the way he sang in Gaelic had to do with Arab. You know it better, for sure, it is amazing to have lived in Dubai! And I wrote to you,I really hope that you are fully recovered, pneumonia seems to be minor these days, but NO, you did it well being quiet in bed, dear Fil! And now enjoy your weekend with a better weather - next week, it'll be officially spring! Hugs!!!
    DenisesPlanet.com

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  3. That staggers me to see a Muslim singing Irish songs. What an advert for peace between nations and religious beliefs. Hope you enjoyed your St. Patrick's Day.

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  4. I love this! Muhammed al Hussaini sings beautifully- his ornaments are so beautifully and yes, the inflection suits the music so beautifully!
    I am so sorry to hear you were so ill and I do hope you are well again soon.xx

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