Poetry of the Week: When Religion is Politics

When religion is reduced to politics then it is the logic of politics, hence power and coercion, that takes precedence. In Albert Camus’s striking formulation, “Politics is not religion, or if it is, then it is nothing but the Inquisition.”

***

When a helmet becomes God in heaven
and can do what it wishes
with a citizen – crush, mash
kill and resurrect
whatever it wills,
then the state is a whorehouse,
history is a rag,
and thought is lower than boots.

When a breath of air
comes by decree
of the sultan,
when every grain of wheat we eat,
every drop of water we drink
comes only by decree
of the sultan,
when an entire nation turns into
a herd of cattle fed in the sultan’s
shed, embryos will suffocate
in the womb, women will miscarry
and the sun will drop
a black noose over our square.

— Nizar Qobbani

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