Secular Turkey under Threat Azam Gill

The stench of regression can be detected in present-day Turkey where Sufi Jalaludin Rumi, the14th century’s doyen of Taṣawwuf, or Sufism, composed his magnum opus, advising: “Listen with ears of tolerance! See through the eyes of compassion! Speak with the language of love.”

Turkey’s ambitious revivalists have dragged Istanbul’s 1483-year-old Hagia Sophia World Heritage Site into their own identity crisis. To their satisfaction, Turkey’s Council of State ruled that the Hagia Sophia should revert to its last status as a mosque, based on the defunct Right of Conquest, while ignoring its origin as a world-class cathedral.


By confirming the definition of aggression codified in the Nuremberg Principles, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 played the funeral march over any residual Right of Conquest delusion among former empires. Yet, appallingly for this day and age, Mr. Numan Kurtulmus, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) unhesitatingly declared: “Hagia Sophia is our geographical property… conquered …by the sword …”

After winning Istanbul “by the sword” in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II appropriated the entire city as his personal possession and then carved it up between endowment property as ‘vaqf,’ public land called ‘miri,’ and eventually some private ownership as mülk. He made the 900-year old Hagia Sophia Cathedral his prized personal possession which he flaunted to the rest of the world by converting it into a mosque.

Five hundred years later, modern Turkey’s sagacious founding-father, Kemal Pasha Ataturk, instituted secularism and sought reconciliation by converting the Hagia Sophia Church-Mosque into a museum for all.

The divisive issue was laid to rest for decades, during which the world applauded Turkey’s social and political development put into motion by Ataturk.

Yet, Mr. Erdogan and his revivalists are hell-bent on upsetting the apple-cart to realize their delusions of grandeur by actually resurrecting their medieval past, which threatens Turkey’s hard-won soft power.

The judicial validation of the Right of Conquest over six thousand square meters of the Hagia Sophia will only whet their appetite to reclaim more. They are trapped in their self-cast spell of nostalgic reactionary expansionism.

Now, precedent in hand, they will keep chipping at Turkey’s secularism until it is laid bare to the bone and meekly relapses into the gloom of a self-righteous theocracy.

Turkey’s empire encompassed over twenty countries, stretching from Eastern Europe to the sands of Arabia.

Perhaps the revivalists are now going to start claiming them all, starting with Saudi Arabia, which they ignominiously lost to a Bedouin chief called Ibn Saud, assisted by one T. E. Lawrence.

Referring to the four hundred and thirty-five churches and synagogues in Turkey, which he believes exonerates the current decision, it slipped the Turkish president’s mind that the equation of Hagia Sophia does not include the Jewish faith! This Freudian slip, exposes him as one of those people who really believe in a vast Judo-Christian conspiracy to subvert the destiny of Muslims, confirmed by his forced comparisons between Hagia Sophia and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Borrowing the elegance of the ‘churches and synagogues’ argument, Turkey’s 82,693 mosques should be enough for Muslims to worship in without re-appropriating a church.

Istanbul’s Camlica mosque rivals, if not surpasses, any religious edifice of Byzantine or Turkish splendor. The 150-million-Turkish Lira, women-friendly Calica Mosque in Istanbul is the brainchild of two female architects, and a synthesis of Turkey’s fine arts and technical mastery that upholds the legacy of Koca Mimar Sinan Agha, one of history’s greatest architects.

The 4.5-ton finial capping the main dome is unique. Its worshipper-capacity exceeds 60,000, complemented by a 3,500-capacity car park, a 1,000-capacity conference hall, an 11,000 square meter museum, an Islamic art gallery, a library and, a tunnel connecting it to the residential area.

And Turkey’s revivalists still obsess over Hagia Sophia for a mosque.

Mr. Erdogan’s government has apparently encouraged this divisive issue for a premium seat on the medieval revivalist bandwagon by overturning Kemal Pasha Ataturk’s secular legacy, hoping, thereby, to wrest the leadership of the Muslim world from its former Saudi Arabian subjects and checkmate Shia Iran’s ambitions.

It would be good to remember that there is no consensus in Turkey on returning Hagia Sophia to its last, though not original status. To determine that would require a referendum.

After all, Orhan Pamuk, reportedly told the BBC: “There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard.”

Evoking the obsolete Right of Conquest, only draws attention to Turkey’s aggressive past for which it has never apologized or expressed a sign of regret, unlike many of its counterparts.

To free Hagia Sophia from the identity crisis it has been ensnared in, it should remain a museum except for Fridays, for a Muslim service and, Sundays for a Christian service, with joint bring and share meals once a month.

If not, then it should be granted its past status of a church, for which Turkey’s far-sighted magnanimity will receive the world’s deafening applause for true greatness.

Jalaludin Rumi’s wisdom transcends time: “yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world; today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” 

Ed Ruggero’s Blame The Dead

by Azam Gill, Contributing Editor of the monthly publication of the International Association of Thriller Writers, “The Big Thrill”.

Blame the Dead by [Ruggero, Ed]

Novelist, war historian and leadership guru Ed Ruggero has launched a new historical fiction series—Victory in Europe.

BLAME THE DEAD is the first in the series, written with an insider’s feel for the US army and its history. It follows the detective work of a military policeman after the murder of a doctor at the 11th Field Hospital in the summer of 1943, in Sicily.

Two days after FDR’s “Day of Infamy” speech, Philadelphia police patrolman Eddie Harkins enlists in the US Army, which assigns him to the military police. In the bloody summer of 1943, behind allied lines in Sicily, a US Army surgeon is gunned down in the middle of a busy field hospital. Harkins is assigned the case, his first ever homicide.

Cooperation is hard to come by, in part because the universally despised victim bullied and tormented nurses. A key witness is shot to death just when Harkins is starting to retrieve some facts from the confusion. Meanwhile, the flood of broken bodies and spirits never slows in the hospital just behind the battlefront. Then an exhausted and demoralized Harkins discovers his old neighborhood friend, Nurse Kathleen Donnelly.

Though overworked, and no longer the teenaged beauty Harkins once mooned over, Kathleen’s fierceness and even humor in the face of the daily horror show are just as alluring. Finally, it’s Kathleen Donnelly who helps Harkins discover his most important clues.

Ruggero published five novels with Pocketbooks in the 1990s before turning to non-fiction with HarperCollins. Of the six non-fiction works, two have been co-authored with Dennis Haley. One of his military histories is about the Allied invasion of Sicily. So, in BLAME THE DEAD, he treads familiar ground.

Despite a lifetime of reading military history, Ed Ruggero’s research into the work of combat zone US Army nurses astounded him. He uncovered stories of service and sacrifice by silent young heroes which just had to be told.

Ed Ruggero
Photo credit: Leah Servin Photography

“In an era when women were expected to stick close to home in a safe environment, there were female rule-breakers and trend-setters,” Ruggero says. “Their expertise was sorely needed, and they delivered.”

He acknowledges the influence of stylists and storytellers who produce character and that of non-fiction masters of prose.

Concerning “the biggest influences in this genre,” he recognizes “Michael Connelly and Robert Crais, who create tight stories and interesting characters with minimalist strokes. Robert Crais is also funny, which I enjoy. Ralph Peters is a phenomenal storyteller who resurrects an entire era in prose so good it begs to be read aloud. Among nonfiction authors the greatest influences on my prose style are Rick Atkinson and Susan Orlean.”

Ruggero has revitalized an era while bringing recognition to forgotten, silent World War II heroes whose characters embody humility and humor. Ruggero likes “people with a sense of humor. I try to create characters out of a sense of humor—a little bit of the absurd, humor and humility.”

His writing upholds women’s rights and lauds their transition from stereotyped homemakers to competent professionals. Hardly surprising, considering he graduated from the first co-ed West Point class and has “been surrounded by athletic, bad-ass women my whole adult life, so it seems only natural to make some of those women main characters in this book … these nurses … under terrible conditions … did it admirably.”

Ruggero acknowledges Tom Clancy as a “huge help” for forwarding his manuscript to his own agent after they met during Clancy’s first visit to West Point at the former’s invitation. Answering a question, he was also quick to point out that despite superficial similarities, Clancy’s Jack Ryan, is fictional whereas he is not.

Although Lee Child and Ed Ruggero have both brought the US Army’s Military Police into focus, the comparison ends right there.

“Reacher is a former MP full of superpowers,” Ruggero says.

In BLAME THE DEAD, former Philadelphia beat cop Eddie Harkins, an active-service MP, is “a little unsure of himself… no investigative experience and has to struggle.. to carve a little order out of the chaos.”

There are few books inspired by the US Army’s military police and, Reacher and Harkins allow their work to be appreciated. Ruggero further explains: “There’s a contact point between friction and chaos.” The infantry in the front line “create chaos” and just behind that are people who create order. That’s where the MP and medical personnel fit in.

Once acquired, soldierly qualities such as self-discipline tend to settle down for the long haul, as with Ruggero. A “self-disciplined person,” he isolates himself in the morning to write in his house in a little town near Philadelphia, not far from the ocean. Research and voluntary work take up his afternoons.

His stories “start with … fundamental conflict, … an outline and even use graph paper at the very beginning” before the “detailed outlines … characters are critically important. You have to have a sense of who these people are … The exciting thing is getting to know a character as they develop.”

Dedicated to his craft, Ruggero wields a powerful and versatile pen.


Ed Ruggero is a West Point graduate and former Army officer who has studied, practiced, and taught leadership for more than twenty-five years. His client list includes the FBI, the New York City Police Department, CEO Conference Europe, the CIA, the Young Presidents Organization, and Forbes, among many others. He has appeared on CNNThe History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and CNBC. Ruggero’s previous work includes the nonfiction books Duty First: West Point and the Making of American Leaders and The First Men In: U.S. Paratroopers and the Fight to Save D-Day. He lives in Philadelphia.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.

Azam Gill

Azam GillAzam Gill is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University, France. He has authored eight books, including three thrillers — Blood MoneyFlight to Pakistan and Blasphemy. He also writes for The Express Tribune, a New York Times affiliate and blogs on his website. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment.

Scavenger Hunt by Michaelbrent Collings Feature article by AZAM GILL

MichaelBrent Collings is the internationally bestselling author of didactic horror, western romance, a Bram Stoker finalist and produced screenwriter. SCAVENGER HUNT is his latest thriller in a distinguished pedigree of books under different names.

Collings’ own life challenges fiction in binaries that defy stereotyping—a Sunday School teacher and seasoned practitioner of overlapping martial arts, open in his opinions and relationships, once recruited as a spy, a writer of Western romance as Angelica Hart, a morality guru through the horror sub-genre under his own name, and “madly” in love with

ollings’ own life challenges fiction in binaries that defy stereotyping—a Sunday School teacher and seasoned practitioner of overlapping martial arts, open in his opinions and relationships, once recruited as a spy, a writer of Western romance as Angelica Hart, a morality guru through the horror sub-genre under his own name, and “madly” in love with his wife.

The sumptuous critical response to his last novel, Terminal, in reviews ranged from “outstanding … fast-paced … hard-edged … brutal … captivating and frightening,” to “… suspense will have you on the edge of your seat … a gripping white-knuckler.”

There is every reason to believe that SCAVENGER HUNT, too, will stand as tall as its siblings, if not taller. Just take a look at the plot.

Five strangers have woken up in a white room.

A room with no doors, no windows.

A room with no hope.

Because these strangers have been kidnapped, drugged … and brought here as the newest contestants in the world’s most high-stakes scavenger hunt.

Run by a madman named Mr. Do-Good, the game offers only two options: win or die.

All they have to do to survive is…

… complete every task…

… on time…

… and not break any of Do-Good’s rules.

Playing the Game will bring the players to their breaking point and beyond. But play they will, because Do-Good has plans for these strangers, and their only chance to live through the night is to play his Scavenger Hunt.

Applied morality and its conflictual relationship with intention lie at the heart of SCAVENGER HUNT. Should compassion be exercised at the price of mediocrity? Or should heartlessness be allowed to feed the pursuit of excellence among the elite?

And, of course, the moral complexity of wielding power, as in the hands of Mr. Do-Good in SCAVENGER HUNT.

Even without an attack by another form of Dietz’s alien Hudatha, how political leaders engineer a society will actually affect their own shelf-life.

The theme of SCAVENGER HUNT hangs on the title by inverting the old folk games that evolved into treasure hunts. Although in the scavenger hunt variant nothing material is bought or acquired, the activity in itself feeds the baser human instincts of covetousness and dominance. It is the intention of achieving goodness by morally deplorable acts — the classic means and ends conflict — that SCAVENGER HUNT brings under scrutiny through a spine-chilling read.

“Hell is full of good wishes and desires” is attributed to the 12th century Benedictine abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux, who also provided the framework for the Rule of the Knights Templar in 1128 at the Council of Troyes in France.  And, of course, the well-worn “The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” referenced in Henry G. Bohn’s 1855 Hand-book of Proverbs, was obviously dismissed by SCAVENGER HUNT’s Mr. Do-Good.

This, then, is where SCAVENGER HUNT’s Mr. Do-Good and living, breathing but heartless political leadership cross paths. Seeking to strengthen their societies by natural selection within walled-in spaces will litter the wayside with rejected cyborgs.

This state of affairs is the content of headlines covering unrest from Asia, to Africa, to Latin America and the periphery of the West. Freedom of choice and of expression have been hijacked by the Mr. Do-Goods whose pretty speeches are their bus ticket to hell.

It is thrillers and horror stories that will bring the sordidness of existence to the bedside tables and quicken the disgust required to stand up and be counted to halt the Do-Goods in their tracks or escort them to the International Court of Justice.

As Michaelbrent Collings says, “SCAVENGER HUNT is much less a dystopian than a cautionary tale. The hunt is about a group of seemingly disparate people who come to understand that they are all connected via the common thread of black-market organ trafficking. Most are perpetrators, a few are victims of one stripe or another. As the tale unfolds, readers (hopefully) will realize that this problem is serious and something that has gone under the radar for most of us. And though in this instance there is an “avenging angel” of sorts, in our real world those harmed—largely the impoverished and the desperate of developing nations—are all too often simply overlooked, forgotten, or straight-up ignored. …The black market supplies a stunning percentage of organs for transplants, and those who benefit—desperate themselves—do so at the explicit expense of those who are already in circumstances that range from less-than-optimal to outright horrific. No easy answers to the problems, but problems they are.”

A seasoned craftsperson, Collings creates connectable characters among whom even the villains are unaware of their evil. He then throws them into the story which generates situational heroism. In his moral universe, right and wrong do not blur into gray. They matter. Just like people and his attitude to them, irrespective of any defining parameters. Collings’ characters emerge from and further define his societal ideas and attitudes.

At another level, his writing is also about fear but, since that fear relates to our common moral universe, it signals that something has gone wrong. And when that is the case, the light shines on what is right, and thus needs to be brought into play.

SCAVENGER HUNT and Suzanne Collins’ dystopic Hunger Games in which a lottery selection pits children in a televised death match are cousins—both uphold an allegorical tradition of social didactics started by Yevgeni Zamyatin’s 1924 We, considered to be the first dystopian novel ever written and that, too by the first Soviet dissident.

Yet, irrespective of the form chosen, writers have been warning, pleading and raging against allowing society to degenerate into cold-blooded scavenger hunts.

Collings is one of these writers and at the end of the day can also spin one hell of a spine-chilling yarn under the acknowledged influence of “Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and—most of all—my dad, who is a World Horror Grandmaster and an outstanding author and literary critic specializing in horror and speculative fiction.”


One of the most versatile writers around, Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter, and multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist. While he is best known for horror (and is one of the most successful indie horror authors in the United States), he has also written bestselling thriller, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, humor, young adult, and middle grade works, and Western romance.

As a novelist, Michaelbrent has written dozens of bestsellers that have also received critical acclaim, and he and his work have been featured on everything from mom-and-pop podcasts to Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Book Review, and NPR.

Find more about him at his website.

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

Azam Gill is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University, France. He has authored eight books, including three thrillers — Blood MoneyFlight to Pakistan and Blasphemy. He also writes for The Express Tribune, a New York Times affiliate and blogs on his website. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment.

The EU’s Twenty-Eight Step Tango

The results of the EU elections have started hemming in the twenty-year old flagship center-right and socialist alliance and thrown the domestic status quo of member countries into disarray. The resulting scramble for the European Commission’s presidency, resignations and, the outcome of Greece’s the municipal elections, portend fractiousness.

by Gatis Sluka Cartoon Movement,

Over fifty percent of the five hundred and twelve eligible voters of the twenty-eight European Union countries went to the four-day polls between May 23 and 26 to elect seven hundred and fifty-one Members of European Parliament to bicker in Strasbourg.

Since 1999, the socialist and democrat’s bloc under the aegis of the European People’s Party, led by Messrs. Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker had been calling the shots. Now, even a default alliance with liberals and Greens will not provide sufficient clout, or not for long and at a high price.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National has trimmed the sails of Mr. Macron’s La République en Marche. He is now haggling with Germany’s Angela Merkel over the continuity of Spitzenkandidat, which drops the EU Presidency in the highest scoring party’s lap. That, once again, is Germany’s EPP.

by Peter Schrank in The Economist

The extent of EU integration and the perceived high-handedness of Brussel’s bureaucrats had been stoking Euro-skepticism. Its fierce proponents have no wish to surrender their national histories and independence to a multi-national zone, the end game of which they see as a remake of the Soviet implosion.

By Gert Wastyn

They perceive Brussels’ regulators as a conspiracy of clerks determined to gradually demolish their nations. Some of these opponents would like to abrogate the EU, others to go back to the eve of the Schengen Accords which, in 1985 started abolishing borders. And there are those who don’t mind Schengen, but would like to revoke the 1992 Maastricht treaty which established the European Union and paved the way for the 2009 Lisbon Accords. They all, though, would like to see the Lisbon Accords neutralized.

No orthodoxy other than this conviction unites them.

By Paresh Nath National Herald India
Cagle Post

Until new groups emerge from the turmoil, a clash of overlapping objectives will keep alliances fluid.

So, issues of foreign and domestic policy will find themselves relegated to the back benches by filibustering, news leaks, fake news and hacking.

A pitiless war of attrition in the European Parliament will smolder across the twenty-eight EU borders.

However, the pre-election scare-narrative of a far-right win has not materialized either. But then neither has the fear-mongering maintained the status quo of the center-right alliance.

By losing their hegemony in the European Parliament, the center-right and center-left blocs have their backs to the wall. Entitlement can no longer be presumed. Taking the electorate for granted, they had been nibbling at member-states’ right to decide about eggs, barns, cheeses and subsidies. The average Joes and Janes felt that they were losing control over their day to day lives.
Once Parliament is in session, right-wing blocs will start paring down Brussels’ authority.

The Eurosceptics will fight a three-pronged war of attrition.
They will seek to install non-partisan commissioners.
They will introduce legislation popular with the EU electorate, making it difficult for the slim majority to reject it.
They will obstruct and they will filibuster.
Already, national interests are inching past the European vision.

By Joep Bertrams Cagle Post

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel will face re-elections in 2022 and 2021 respectively. Each of them is positioning a fellow-citizen for the European Commission’s Presidency. Angela Merkel is blatantly fielding Manfred Weber. President Macron, though, has hedged his bets, juggling two candidates: Danish Margrethe Vestager and Frenchman Michel Barnier. He is hoping that the choice of Michel Barnier will soothe neo-nationalists whereas Margrethe Vestager should soften the hearts of female voters and retain the goodwill of pro-Europeans.

Oliver Schopf

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón of Spain is cautiously backing Dutch and fellow socialist Frans Timmermans, confirming his commitment to a socialist Europe.

Andrea Nahles stepped down from the German Social Democrat Party (SDP) leadership, which is part of the coalition that sustains Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and her chancellorship. If the SPD itself leaves the coalition, it could trigger a snap election. There is also a suspected squabble between Angela Merkel and her successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrrenbauer.

By Marian Kamensky

France’s center-right Les Républicains’ head Laurent Wauquiez has also resigned over his party’s dismal showing, while French socialists are licking their wounds.

In Greece, the municipal elections have swept out the ruling left-wing Syriza and installed the conservative New Democracy in eleven of the thirteen regions, Athens and Thessaloniki. Mr. Tsipiras has consequently announced elections for July 7, three months earlier than scheduled.

Europe’s socialists and centrists are now at a crossroads – if they dilute their Lisbon Accords vision, they risk their ideological base. If they continue, they strengthen euro-skepticism.

At the end of the day, the EU leadership is made up of professional politicians for whom, statesmanship is a means. They are optimistically positioning themselves to eat their cake and have it without missing a tango step.

‘Terminal’ by Michaelbrent Collings feature article by Azam Gill, Contributing Editor, The Big Thrill

‘The Big Thrill’ is the publication of The International Thriller Writers Association

Internationally bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist, and produced screenwriter Michaelbrent Collings’ latest thriller is set to receive the critical acclaim his last novel, Predators, inspired: “Parts of this book will replay in your head over and over again. The scenes will stick in your brain, and reach out to you in the middle of the night when you least expect it…a fantastic exploration of the human condition…”

TERMINAL is structured around an employee, a cop, a prisoner, a stowaway, and a madman waiting at the Lawton bus terminal—mostly late-night travelers and employees lumping the graveyard shift.

But when a strange, otherworldly fog rolls in, the night changes to nightmare. Something hides in the fog. Something powerful. Something strange. Something…inhuman.

Soon, those in the terminal are cut off from the rest of the world. No phones, no computers. Just ten strangers in the terminal…and The Other.

The Other is the force in the mist. The Other is the thing that has captured them. And The Other wants to play a game.

The rules are simple:

1) The people in the terminal must choose a single person from among them. That person will live. The rest will die.
2) Anyone who attempts to leave the terminal before the final vote will die.
3) The final vote must be unanimous.

A living nightmare. And it’s getting worse, because the best way to make a vote unanimous…is to kill the other voters.

Welcome to the end of the line.

Welcome to the Terminal.

Author of more than 25 books under his own name, Collings’ fertile plume offers bestsellers in fantasy, sci-fi, young adult, middle grade, urban fantasy, thrillers, and more. He acknowledges the influence of “craftspeople” like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, whose books “have shifted the genre in which they write…and my father…my first and best writing teacher…”

Collings literally started learning his craft at his father’s knee, who taught creative writing at Pepperdine University. The benefits of an early start show in his handling of narrative, structure, and character, and the ability to choose the right setting for his magic. As usual, at mid-point during the writing of TERMINAL, he looked down from the high point of a roller coaster with bated breath. Then he whooshed down the exhilarating descent to tie up the social and emotion management within the artistic framework.

“…the goal is simple: a dozen strangers in a bus terminal are cut off from the rest of the world and informed that one of them will be allowed to leave—and live—and the rest will die,” he says. “They have to vote on who that one will be, and the vote must be unanimous. Things go from bad to worse when they realize the best way to ensure a unanimous vote is to kill all the other voters.

“Given that head-butting scenario, I did my best to create characters who were instantly accessible on some level, and the heroes of their own stories. The book has some villains—and a few that (are) simply vile—but all of them …on some level, think of themselves as ‘the good guy.’ They matter to themselves and, hopefully, that makes them matter to the readers.

“Then I turn them loose and see what happens.”

And about his social management in TERMINAL, Collings says, “Again, it’s a matter of talking about people like they matter. I approach everyone—regardless of race, creed, color, or any other denominating factor—as people. The books I write—especially horror—are all couched in a moral universe, where right and wrong matter. Respect (for the characters) keeps me from … undermining someone for no good reason… but it also demands that I point out problems with the way they’re doing things. I genuinely like people … and that really informs the way I approach social constructs and interactions in my work.”

In TERMINAL, The Other is the malignant force within the mist “that is not understood until the very final pages—and even then, it’s something that (hopefully) repulses any person with a sense of that right and wrong to which I alluded earlier.

“Additionally, the ‘other’ is the archetypical enemy. We rarely war with our own tribes—we fear things we don’t understand, or understand wrongly, or understand primarily only under the rubric of ‘hostile to my way of life.’ So The Other was the easiest way to bring in that fear of others, of outsiders—which is a theme that winds itself throughout the story.”

While the choice of The Other is not a premeditated continuity of Albert Camus’ Otherness or Alterity, Michaelbrent Collings admits to his own allegorical strains.

“I can’t avoid a bit of pedagogy, and horror is particularly well-suited to talking not just about a plot, but about how that plot relates to the moral elements of our world—or, sometimes, the immorality of it. Scares rely on a sense that something has gone radically, dreadfully wrong, which in turn implies that there is a ‘rightness’ to the universe.

“But the mortar that holds it together is a theme that asks a question about our attitudes and viewpoints, and points out whether that attitude is destructive or beneficial.”

Hope running through Collings’ writing is not far off from the hope built in the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe. Collings believes that horror is “the genre of hope … at its best… the most redemptive of all genres…the horror I most love is the horror that tosses its characters (and by extension its readers) into a deep, dark hole. It strips everything away from them but their core selves… then shows that those core selves are powerful enough to rise back to the light. Horror can kick you into the gutter and leave you there. But when it soars—when it’s truly magical—it leaves you in the dark only and exactly long enough for you to find and really appreciate the light.”

Collings’ wizardry flourishes “anywhere with wifi and a refillable Diet Coke policy.”

Undemanding, though original, to say the least—like the rest!

Collings has practiced several martial arts, majoring in hapkido, teaches Sunday School, is “madly” in love with his wife, was once recruited as a spy, and also writes Western Romance under the pen name Angelica Hart.


Doléance au Président de la République

situation discriminatoire à l’égard de la communauté des anciens légionnaires loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972

Monsieur le Président de la République,

Cc : Monsieur le Premier Ministre, Monsieur le Ministre de la Défense, Monsieur le Ministre de l’Education Nationale, Mesdames et Messieurs les Sénateurs, Mesdames et Messieurs les Députés à l’Assemblée Nationale, Les Médias.

En réponse à votre déclaration “Toutes les questions sont ouvertes” je souhaite attirer votre attention sur une situation discriminatoire à l’égard de la communauté des anciens légionnaires.

Les légionnaires sont “un rassemblement hétéroclite d’hommes étrangers venus chercher l’exil pour mille raisons.” Général de brigade Denis MISTRAL, commandant la Légion Etrangère.

dad legion paris 85  dan n books  fio dad chalais 19 10 17 05

Soldats d’élite de l’Armée française, ils constituent une communauté minoritaire, sans être reconnu en tant que tel, avec un parcours de combattant administratif qui dégage un parfum d’exclusion préméditée de l’ascenseur social français. L’image forte de ‘légionnaire’ empêche toute jouissance “d’égalité des chances.”

Si un légionnaire termine son contrat en homme du rang ou petit gradé, il est équivalent de catégorie C dans l’échelle des employés de l’Etat.

Quand un ancien légionnaire de souche étrangère réussit un concours de fonctionnaire de la catégorie B, son ancienneté au sein du ministère de la Défense lui est attribuée dans son salaire.

En revanche, la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 empêche les Catégorie C militaires à récupérer leurs anciennetés s’ils passent en catégorie A.

En revanche, la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 empêche les Catégorie C militaires à récupérer leurs anciennetés s’ils passent en catégorie A. Cela porte des conséquences importantes sur le montant de leurs salaires et, par la suite, sur le montant de leurs retraites.

Durant toute sa carrière, ce légionnaire d’origine étrangère est rémunéré moins que les autres militaires ayant réussi leurs concours.

La cerise sur le gâteau est le calcul de la retraite qui est par pourcentage calculée sur les trois derniers mois de salaire.

Sauf au cas où, dans un délai de deux semaines après le résultat de son concours, il déclenche les démarches administratives.

Aucun légionnaire d’origine étrangère ne connait ce petit détail.

Son insertion à l’intérieur de la loi n° 72-662 du 13 juillet 1972 soulève des questions de bonne foi des législateurs.

Donc, jusqu’à la retraite, ce légionnaire est défavorisé, voir pénalisé, pour avoir osé à accéder au fonctionnariat de Catégorie A.

Pourtant, il est bien déclaré soldat français, mais en interne, traité / géré comme un mercenaire qu’il n’est pas.

Je vous prie de bien vouloir redresser cette situation d’une manière rétroactive.

Veuillez agréer, Monsieur le président de la République, l’expression de ma respectueuse considération.

Azam Gill

Docteur en Etudes Anglophones, Université Stendhal, Titulaire de CAPES, Enseignant Retraité de l’Université de Toulouse, Auteur, Écrivain et Ancien Légionnaire

Padree Béhoshe: the Pastor Fainted.

That historic evening, with the children away at a Christian camp, the house was very quiet.

IMG_0726Elizabeth Lal Din, the pastor’s wife and Libbo to her friends, reached out for the aubergines. The eggs were on the boil and the broiler glowing. The open kitchen drawer rammed into her side and she swore in Punjabi.

Ammi-jee was such a loving mother. Her visit had lasted longer than the butcher’s opening hours. It wasn’t just the samosas and tea, but their delicious gossip of two impending marriages, a divorce and a funeral. Besides which, she wouldn’t dare cut her mum’s visit short.

Determined to give Charles, a confirmed carnivore, the best default vegetarian meal of his life, she was not to know that it would exceed her hopes.

Elizabeth switched on the radio and the sound of zalmaan coca cola piya dé — “O’ cruel one, give me a drink of coca cola” — filled the kitchen —

Discreetly undulating her hips to the kehrwa beat, she sliced a couple of aubergines length-wise, zebra-striped them, sprinkled salt on the inside and put them next to the bowl of finely chopped tomatoes.

She turned the radio off and slipped a disc of Punjabi hymns into the CD player. To the sound of  khushi khushi manao — she rinsed the aubergines and then scooped out the soft part over the chopped tomatoes, adding half a grated onion, a garlic clove and two inches of grated ginger. And of course, green chilies, coriander and mint.

 Image result for green chillies mint & coriander

She brushed the aubergines with her home-made organic ghee and put them under the broiler. To the sound of yesu ke naam mein hum fatah patay hain — — she put ghee in a thick bottomed frying pan, sprinkled salt, added a few cumin and mustard seeds, let them sizzle, then with her wooden spatula, slid in the mixture of the scooped out aubergine, tomatoes, onion and garlic. She stirred it, added her home-made garam masala spice mixture, put a lid on the frying pan and lowered the heat to a simmer.

She peeled and chopped four tomatoes, crushed them with a potato masher, added salt, pepper, red chillies, sliced ginger, crushed garlic and white and black cumin, chucked it into hot ghee in a pan and then reduced the heat to very low.

The inside of the aubergines under the broiler was golden brown. She got them out, sprinkled salt and pepper on the inside, took the frying pan off the gas flame and filled the aubergines with the mixture. Some of it was surplus, which she diluted with water, added fenugreek powder, and added to the simmering sauce.

The eggs were hard-boiled to perfection. Mum’s Christmas egg-slicer gave her perfect cuts. She pressed a slice of egg into the middle of each aubergine half.

Taking her frying pan off the flame, she gently put the aubergines into the sauce, covered the frying pan and put it back on the flame.

The phone rang.

“Oh yes, yes mum. I do remember your starch-free basmati rice recipe … pardon?

“Ok – wash a cup of rice five times or until the water in which it’s soaked is clear.

“After thirty minutes, chuck it in boiling water and wait for a rolling boil.

“Drain and rinse

“Put the rice in my thick-bottomed pan — yes, the one you gave Charles for his  birthday — and add a cup of water — yes mum, not two cups, one — let it come to the boil with the lid on, then turn the gas off and it’s done in twenty minutes of steaming.

“thanks mum …. yes, bet it’s so delicious, he faints!

“Bye mum!”


And actually, as history records, when Pastor Charles Lal Din finished his dinner after a prayer meeting, marriage counselling and the church accounts, his eyes suddenly started glazing, his fleshy lips parted, Libbo appeared to be undulating, breathing hard and the floor rose to meet the ceiling.

Padree Béhoshe.

Will rebranding Christians make their lives any easier in Pakistan?

By Azam Gill

Published in the Express Tribune, a New York Times affiliate


Pakistan’s Christians will now be respectably called ‘Masihi.’ Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has issued orders regarding use of Masihi for Christians instead of Esaayi, in the column for Religion.”

Pakistani Christians had been seeking rebranding for quite some time.

“The Urdu ‘Isai’ (derived from ‘Esa’, the Arabic word for ‘Jesus’ used in the Qur’an) now carries strong overtones (of) ‘unclean’ demeaning occupations. This use of language feeds the narrative which makes Christians feel like second-class citizens in today’s society.  On October 8, 2015 in Lahore, more than 500 Muslim students took an oath that they would not call Christians ‘Esaayi,’ but would use the word ‘Masihi’ themselves.”

These noble gestural efforts from all concerned are commendable in their own right. But just treating symptoms allows the disease to thrive.

And the disease here is the association of Christians with scavenging sanitary work which gained them the insulting designation of chuhras (C-word).

The real objection of Pakistani Christians to being called Isai is that the word has, over time, become synonymous with the degrading C-word. After all, Isai, referring to Hazrat Isa/Al-Masih, constantly evokes Muslim-Christian commonality which, in these troubled times, should help shield Christians against violence. At the end of the day, when Pakistani Christians are bombed, their Muslim neighbours’ goodwill is of inestimable value.

Yet, even though Pakistani Christians are well aware that Isai puts them in an advantageous position within communal hostility, they are strongly focused on burying the word (insultingly pronounced Ssa’ai in the Punjab), for having become a de facto replacement for the pejorative C-word. So, while the brand name is a variable, the content it projects is invariable and until that content changes, it will vitiate each new brand name.

When the number of Christians, fuelled by circumstances and blatant discriminatory practices, into employment as sanitary workers decreases the word Isai will become as respectable as Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Jew or Parsee. Dedicated educational, vocational and affirmative action programs, spearheaded by Christians but patronised by powerful, wealthy and enlightened Muslims will go a long way in achieving the goal of decreasing the number of Christians employed as scavengers and sanitary workers.

Very few Muslims realise that Christian hymns and hymn singing to musical orchestras in churches and prayer meetings have resulted in generations of musicians and lyricists invisible to their Muslim neighbours, their talent drowned in the open drains outside the hovels of their bastis.

This is a gold mine hidden in plain sight for talent scouts of the entertainment industry under the aegis of Pakistan’s business-savvy Muslim elite.

The United States Civil Rights movement could never have succeeded without the support and participation of enlightened Whites. Christian community leaders should concentrate on lobbying the Muslim leadership to refine and ensure the implementation of educational, vocational and affirmative action.

History might be replete with examples of communal rebranding, but in recent times, renaming of communities resulted in the United States’ exportable semantic cesspit. As Red Indians evolved into American Indians, Original Americans and finally Native Americans, Blacks finally became African-Americans while the Jews stayed Jews and Indian Americans are quite pleased with themselves.

The rebranding succeeded since it offered a cop-out – white America and the successful middle class of the community concerned could mitigate their commitment to changing the situation and toss a crumb as a substitute for positive action.


The Jews never bothered to reinvent themselves, realising that the cause of persecution is not the name but the situational components. The unchanged word Jew has come a long way from the Shakespearean Shylock to a signifier of wealth, power, status, culture and reliability.

Despite their complaints of Islamophobia, no Muslim has asked to be called anything other than a Muslim and would never be fooled by a semantic hand-out!

With minorities suffering direct persecution, it is irresponsible to let the majority community off the hook by asking for superficial concessions. The focus should be on fundamental changes.

Minority leaders should maintain moral pressure to change the situation and constantly remind the majority of how well they are treated when they find themselves in a minority in more enlightened spaces.

Rebranding a deteriorating product offers middle-class Christians and their supporters a cosy cop-out and good short-term press for the politicians involved in this undersized game.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose – By any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2).

“And that which we call a cesspool – By any other name would stink as much – As did the state of Denmark – When foul play spiked its rightful king.”


If oil rich Arab countries can support the Palestinians, why not the Rohingya refugees?

Published in the Express Tribune

by Azam Gill December 10, 2016

The Rohingya only have their gratitude, dark skins, rickety bodies and battered souls to offer. PHOTO: AFP

A 2015 Amnesty report declared the stateless Rohingya of Burma to be the most persecuted refugees in the world. Their Burmese majority tormenters are trapped between a forgiveness shortfall and a surfeit of rancour at the abortive Rohingya attempt to be annexed by East Pakistan in 1948 followed by an armed insurgency seeking autonomy or independence. 

Reprisals have devastated the civilian population. There are currently 140,000 Rohingya refugees mired in squalor in Bangladesh, India and Thailand in the latest phase of their on-going exodus. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the violence against the Rohingya a “slow genocide”.

On November 30thFrance 24 broadcasted that a concerted crackdown from the Burmese army reportedly involved,

 “Murder, rape and torture … razed entire villages, abused human rights and caused a massive outflow of refugees.”

The non-profit group, Physicians for Human Rights, wrote in a 2013 report carried by Reuters on June 17, 2015:

“Between May 1991 and March 1992, more than 260,000 Rohingyas fled the country over ‘human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military, including the confiscation of land, forced labour, rape, torture, and summary executions’.”

Nearly a million and a half and Muslim by faith, they are mainly concentrated on Burma’s western coastal state of Arakan/Rakhine where they make up around 90% of the population. They are generally considered to have migrated from present-day Bangladesh during the British Raj, although an indigenous origin has not been ruled out.

In the Second World War, they were armed and supported by the British to fight against the Japanese, co-religionists of the Burmese majority who consider that alliance mortally sinful. Mostly illiterate and almost totally isolated, in 1948, they were unaware that they could have acquired Burma’s ‘Associate Citizenship’. As such, in 1982, under General Ne Win’s dictatorship, they ended up being definitively excluded from citizenship rights. These two procedures blissfully ignored the 1872 report on the census of British Burma which observed that,

“There is more than one race which has been so long in the country that it may be called indigenous, and that is the Arakanese Mussulman.”

The book Human Rights and Statelessness: The case study of the Rohingya in Myanmar, by Fiona Gill, concludes that,

“The first and undeniable change needed … is the amendment of the 1982 Citizenship Act …(Burma’s) regional neighbours have a legal and humanitarian obligation to address the consequences of statelessness and displacement.”

On June 17, 2015, Reuter’s questioned:

“Why is no one helping Myanmar’s Rohingya?”

One year later, Saudi Arabia announced the grant of permanent resident status to four million Burmese workers, presumably Rohingya. This laudable example of affirmative action still leaves the current crisis intact.

To benefit from Saudi Arabia’s largesse, a Rohingya has to enter Saudi Arabia legally. Even if the Saudis were to follow Angela Merkel’s example, the Rohingya victims can’t afford the passage. So the next logical step is for Saudi ships to anchor off on Burma’s territorial waters and take Rohingya boatloads on board. Financially, they can afford it. The political risk is negligible, since Burmese muscle only flexes within its borders.

Last year, Qatar also pledged $50 million to Indonesia to host Rohingya refugees, generously stretching its arm to keep them at bay. Indeed, because these refugees are jobless, poor, unskilled, carry diseases and, actually smell. No one would want to have them in the neighbourhood. Qatar should take its inspiration from Germany and Italy — maybe hire a slick refugee consultant with blow-dried hair and a killer smile?

Oil rich Arab countries wholeheartedly support Palestinians who, of course, also provide a ready means of restoring Muslim sovereignty over the Holy Land. Alas, the Rohingya only have their gratitude, dark skins, rickety bodies and battered souls to offer.

But Saudi Arabia and Qatar can only be reproached for failing to meet high expectations. The persecution itself calls out the Burmese Buddhist majority led by a Nobel Peace Laureate who, as the state counsellor of Myanmar, is the de facto head of state.  On the subject of Rohingya persecution, the Oxford-educated Aung San Suu Kyi thrives as the serenely mute counsellor. And the world lies back and lets its intelligence receive these resounding insults without reminding her that her own most outstanding qualification is being a victim of persecution. She has a dozen international awards ranging from the United States’ Presidential Medal of Freedom to The Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding and the Sakharov Prize. Did I hear you applause, Rohingya?

Their repression seriously tarnishes the renowned Buddhist lustre. In 2013, his holiness, the Dalai Lama, pleaded with Burmese Buddhists to end the violence against the Rohingya. Last year, he urged Aung Sang Suu Kyi to speak out on their behalf. Six months ago, he repeated the demand, answered by her deafening silence. Burma’s moral wasteland is overcast with “shades of mediocrity, like emptiness in harmony”.

Three forces can converge to inject solvency into Burma’s moral bankruptcy.

The Dalai Lama, the Pope and the Mufti of Al Azhar University need to announce a joint visit to Burma, to exert pressure on its Buddhists, get the world’s attention and reassure the Rohingya, respectively. Burma would be hard put to refuse such a visit. Were the three religious leaders to publicly demand an end to the violent reprisals and the placing of United Nations observers protected by a UN contingent, it should be enough to move the problem from the paddy fields and narrow alleys to a well-appointed conference room.

Will America be able to bounce back from such a venomous presidential campaign?

by Azam Gill,  The Express Tribune, November 10, 2016: with permission.

Mr Trump’s successes have raised alarms among international observers. PHOTO: REUTERS

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, now has to make ‘America Great Again’. The ‘what’ is clear, the ‘how’ has yet to come and much hinges on his ability to “bind the wounds” as he said in his victory speech.

Speaking in Manchester, New Hampshire on November 6th, Hillary Clinton had already said that Americans must choose between “division and unity”. On November 8th, The Daily Telegraph called it the “…most divisive election in history” and The Guardian the “… most divisive campaign in memory.”

So now the winner has just over two months to ensure that he does not preside over a nation polarised by the hard-fought electoral campaign that has left the world agape at its virulence. He should also be able to find out ‘what the hell is going on’ before Inauguration Day. The period is too short to expect a quick fix, yet adequate to dull sharp edges for manageability. Competent politicians always embed an escape hatch in their campaign declarations and promises.

George H W Bush’s ‘read my lips’ at the Republican National Convention in 1988, and Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to close down the Guantanamo Detention Centre slid out through the trapdoor. Mr Trump has precedents to follow.

Accordingly, pork barrel politics should now realign the alienated opposition and shed the excess baggage of supporters extraneous to the post-election period to lessen the cynical campaign hostility.

Pessimists would assert that only a saint could reconcile the bitterness of such a venomous campaign. Optimists would retort that this year’s campaign fits the framework of several precedents, and they’d be right. US Presidential campaign history is replete with no-holds-barred nastiness.

Thomas Jefferson made it to Mount Rushmore, his granite face carved amid illustrious company. But not his campaign etiquette.

During American democracy’s infancy in 1800, the Jefferson camp called John Adams:

“A hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Adams retaliated by asking voters:

“Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames… female chastity violated… children writhing on the pike? Great God of compassion and justice, shield my country from destruction.”

1828 saw the nastiness of the Andrew Jackson versus John Quincy Adams campaign. Adams’ team said Jackson, of working class origins, was unable to spell Europe and his wife, Rachel was a bigamist and a “dirty black wench… convicted adulteress…open and notorious lewdness.” Jackson’s supporters claimed that Adams had sold his wife’s maid to the czar of Russia to become another one of his concubines!

Negative campaigning embroiled even Abraham Lincoln in his 1860 campaign against Stephen Douglas. The Douglas team described Lincoln as:

“A horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman… the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame.”

The Lincoln team’s Lost Child flyers proclaimed that five feet four inch Douglas “answers to the name Little Giant… talks a great deal, very loud, always about himself – about five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way.”

Lincoln, too, is a Mount Rushmore inhabitant.

In the 1884 Cleveland-Blaine contest, Stephen Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate child was an issue and the chant, “Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa?” reverberated against accusations of corrupt dealings with the railroad. Nevertheless, Cleveland won the election and became the first Democratic president.

In 1928, Herbert Hoover uninhibitedly exploited Al Smith’s Catholicism, accusing him of being a Papal figurehead and planning to extend the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River between Manhattan and Jersey City by 3,500 miles to reach the Vatican.

Once in office, though, they lost their vitriol and got down to the business of leading America as best as they could. And therein lies the political space between the cup and lip which may accommodate a slip — or an upturn all the way to Mount Rushmore.

Accommodating divisions without being divided against itself is fundamental to a democracy. The time when the dust settles between the election results and the inauguration is crucial to the future of the presidency. Residual bitterness has the potential to inspire obstruction for the sake of it rather than the positives of different analyses.

Domestically cornered leaders seek to address their insufficiencies by holding up short-term, international foreign policy scoops. Republicans and Democrats become unhesitatingly interventionist in their search for bones to throw to backyard wolves. Thus, the US regularly faces blow-back with which it smears its overseas partners.

Washington lobbyists work overtime at each presidential change, tripping over themselves to prophecy the incumbent’s foreign policy, its effect on their foreign clients and how they can tweak it to their advantage. By exclusively focusing on American foreign policy during this critical period, the foreign offices of America’s allies will engender their share of miscalculations. The roots of the US’s foreign policy lie in its domestic governance, good or bad, strong or weak. Pundits, lobbyists and foreign office staffers would be well advised to keep their ears to the home ground and listen to the ticking of the American heartland. Hillary’s lads and lassies didn’t, and look what happened.

While Trump’s challenge is to convert disunion to a workable consensus, Clinton can still build “bridges instead of walls” as her campaign posters promised and put her considerable talent at the disposal of the nation she so obviously loves. That is achievable by forswearing obstructionism and turning herself into a national watchdog to ensure against Trump’s isolationist tendencies.

Trump’s spin doctors will be kept busy by their boss striving to deliver on most of his strategic promise of making America great again. That said, just by letting go of ‘again’ and setting himself up as an example of integrity would be greatness enough.

Both candidates battered their country’s dignity into the ground.

If they so wish, both have the opportunity to make it right.

It is said that there are vacant spots on Mount Rushmore

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

The author is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment. He has authored nine books.