Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Outrage: Saudi Cleric Lets His Wife Show Her Face On TV!


I never thought I would be writing this, but a Saudi cleric has apparently expressed an interest in women's equality. Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamedi, who is apparently a former president of the brutal Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Mecca, appeared on Saudi television with his wife... she spoke... with her entire face showing (video)... laughing and smiling(!) The Sheikh also issued a fatwa that women need not wear any face covering at all.
“The Prophet did not order women to cover their faces. Wearing make up is allowed,” he told Badria al-Bishr, female host of the television programme.
It turns out he issued the freedom fatwa last February. It also turns out that he's also come out for mixed gender prayer and sees nothing wrong with listening to music.
Saudi cleric and former president of the commission for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice branch in Makkah, Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamdi, has challenged those who oppose his opinions on permitting the mixing of genders, listening to music and for saying that Islam doesn’t restrict Muslims to pray in group. 
This may seem trivial, but in the context of what I've seen so far with Saudi Arabia, they are downright revolutionary. In Saudi Arabia, women's faces are almost never seen in public.

Could this be a sign that things may be getting better in Saudi society?
“Happy now? Every mobile phone now has a picture of your wife, you cuckold,” said one outraged post on Twitter.
And...
On Twitter, some called Ghamidi a “filthy p*mp” for allowing his wife to appear on television without a face cover, while others slammed these views by saying they are disrespectful to the majority of Muslims, of all sects, that don’t see the veil as a religious requirement.
Right, so perhaps not everyone is ready for this. It is a small step towards normalization though.

Irrational Beliefs Have Real World Consequences

By Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There has been another case of parents attempting to faith heal their child. Calgary fundamentalist Seventh Day Adventist couple Jennifer Clark and Jeromie Clark withheld proper medical treatment to their infant son after malnourishing it. The baby died in the hospital from a condition which could have been easily treated if caught sooner.
An autopsy found the child was suffering from a staph infection that was complicated by malnutrition and as a result, the infection was untreatable.
This tragedy keeps repeating itself. At the risk of coming off as an insensitive I-told-you-so, I'll repeat a little of my reaction to another case of a religious family letting a member of their own die due to misguided and delusional blind religious faith.
Again, I wonder how this would have gone down if it were a child instead of the father -- and if the family were of a minority religion or no religion at all (kooky alien cult, etc.). I think this could have turned out quite differently.
My above comment was about Kaling Wald, who believed that prayer would heal her husband's seriously infected foot and then believed that prayer would resurrect him from the dead. Neither worked.

Well, it turns out that this was a repetition of history. Last week, the Clarks were arrested after their infant child wasn't strong enough to be treated for a staph infection. An over the top religiously-motivated diet left him extremely malnourished. They even hid their son's declining health until someone ultimately forced them to bring him to a hospital. No doubt, the child suffered horribly.
“We have no indication that he (the infant) had seen a doctor since his birth and the child was not born in hospital,”  said S/Sgt. Andrus. “And the family took steps to conceal his condition from family members. And it was only after the realization by a family member that the infant was sick [that] they were advised to take him to hospital.”
It apparently took a long time in this case for the authorities to bring about charges against the couple.
Police say the investigation was a long and complicated process, which is why it took time to get the results.
No exact indication about why it was so long and complicated, but the other case seemed to be difficult as well, perhaps due to the religious angle.
“It’s an extremely sad case . . . she truly believed her husband was going to be resurrected from the dead, even after six months,” said assistant Crown attorney Janet Booy.
In the case of the adult victim, the children were left with the mother, even after she admitted that she still believed wholeheartedly in the power of prayer and in resurrection. Thankfully, in this case of the infant, the surviving children were removed at the onset of the investigation and are being cared for elsewhere. I fail to see how one is any less potentially dangerous than the other.

Conservative Government 'Cherry-Picking' Syrian Refugees Based on Religion

A cloudy day at the Canadian Parliament. By Monocletophat123 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
There's a controversy that's been brewing in Ottawa about the Conservative government's response to the Syrian humanitarian crisis, and it's not just their incredibly delayed response.

Conservatives’ Syria refugee response labelled as ‘discrimination’

It seems like our government declared that they favor refugees certain religious persuasions. I'll give you one guess which religion is not being discriminated against. Did you guess Christian?
Facing questions from the NDP in the House of Commons on Friday, the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration was unapologetic when he confirmed religious minorities, who have fled Syria’s brutal civil war and the spread of the militant group ISIS, will be the first priority when it comes to bringing Syrian refugees to Canada.
Remember, this is the government that brought us a special agency (ORF) just to stick up for the rights of religious people. So far, they've only muttered hollow promises about protecting anyone who is not religious. In fact, the minister of Foreign Affairs has even come out saying atheists do not deserve their human rights to be protected as much as religious people. Well, it appears that the wrong religion also is unworthy.

When it comes to Syria, statements like the above imply that the government will be biased against people of the majority Muslim religion.
Sunni Muslims account for nearly three-quarters of all Syrians, according to the CIA Factbook, while other Muslim groups such as Shias, Alawis and Ismailis represent another 16 per cent of the population. Christians and a small number of Jews represent the remaining 10 per cent.

“Obviously that continues to linger as the concern here,” said Amnesty International Canada secretary-general Alex Neve. “That this in some way, shape or form is about the fact that the majority of refugees fleeing Syria are Muslim.”
This goes to show just how divisive bringing religion into selection criteria for refugees can be! NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar -- to whom I've written about the ORF before -- pointed out the danger of bringing religion into this situation well.
“The barrel bombs that [Syrian President Bashar] Assad has been dropping do not discriminate whether you’re Sunni, Shia, Christian or another ethnic group,” NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said Friday. So the question is, why is this government discriminating when it comes to Syrian refugees?”
The UN has even echoed this sentiment. Religion should not be brought into this at all!
But the United Nations has resisted Canada’s request, as its policy is to help the most vulnerable, no matter their religious background. This includes families led by women, torture victims and those with serious medical conditions.
Truth be said, it's normal procedure for Canada to let the United Nations determine who is most at risk. So who is this government trying to please?
Normally, Canada would defer, broadly, to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to identify those it feels are most vulnerable and in need of protection.
This is disgusting and it's tarnishing our reputation internationally as well. It makes us look like a nation of petty religious bigots. Of course these minorities are at risk, but so are many others. Is one life worth more than another simply because of which metaphysics they believe?
Religious and ethnic minorities aren’t the only groups the UN deems to be at risk. Any Syrian, Sunnis included, can be at risk if he or she opposes the Damascus government, its armed foes or the Islamic State jihadists, depending on where the person lives. Anyone who opposes Sharia law in areas under extremist control is at risk. So are women, children, journalists, human rights activists and many others. It’s a long list.
You can add atheists to that list as well, I'm sure. You can bet your last dollar that this government and their Office of Religious Freedoms will not lift a finger to help.

Can we vote these people out, please?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cairo Police Shut Down 'Atheist Cafe' Due to 'Satanic Rituals'


The Egyptian government has been funny, what with them knowing precisely how many atheists there are in the country or attempting to ban televised belly dancing competitions. It's because recently the rhetoric has been ramping way up against atheists, who have been identified multiple times as the greatest challenge to Egyptian society which must be stamped out.

Well, the saber rattling seems to have given way to action this week. Cairo police raided and shut down an atheist cafe.
Egyptian security forces have stormed what they described as the "atheists' cafe" in downtown Cairo, raising fears of a renewed crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.

The popular cafe, located in the capital's Abdeen neighbourhood, was a nest for "Satan worshippers", according to Gamal Mohie, chief of the local municipality.
None of the authorities responsible were able to explain why people who do not believe in supernatural deities would ever be worshiping the devil -- having rituals and wild dancing apparently!
"There was no sign reading 'atheists' cafe' outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance," Mohie said, adding that the owner was arrested during the raid.
Right. If these pictures are any indication, it looks like there were Nazi swastikas drawn by someone outside of the entrance. These police are either very confused or are just looking for any excuse to either oppress potential political opposition or to cause a diversion from their own performance.

A story over at Morocco World News describes the situation further.
Egypti’s Youm7 quoted the head of Hay Al Abidin Jamal Mohi as saying that the café was located on Avenue Al Falaki in downtown Cario, and “it was a resort for atheists and Satanists who were spreading wrong ideas about religion.”

Jamal Mohi went on to add that local authorities decided to destroy the café after they received many requests from residents who live the café.

“Residents said that each midnight, atheists and Satanists in the café would start performing sort of satanic rituals,” he explained.

Mohi also revealed that the local authorities destroyed the café amid local women’s ululations of joy.
Atheist activist Ayman Ramzy sees this all as a political ploy to divert Egyptians from meaningful questions of government policy.
Ramzy went on to add that local authorities should worry about the critical issues that Egypt is facing, such as the growing number of homeless children, rather than violating the individual freedoms of Egyptian citizens.
Just recently a French journalist and friends were detained and interrogated in a Cairo cafe for discussing politics after a woman overheard their conversation and contacted the police.

It seems to me that things are getting progressively worse for freedom of expression in Egypt for atheists and anyone who may have an opinion at odds with the official State sanctioned status quo.

Help Kasese Humanist Primary Students Learn - Without Intestinal Parasites

Around 3.75 IQ points are lost per parasite infection and an MIT study “found that deworming was by far the most cost-effective way to increase primary school participation.” Kasese Humanist Primary School student (source).
I truly believe there is no greater force for positive change in the world than bringing knowledge and critical thinking to young minds through dogma-free evidence-based education. However, no mind can flourish if the body withers. This is why my first fundraising project for the Kasese Humanist Primary School was an egg-providing chicken coop.

Intestinal parasites, which are a common problem in the Kasese region's primary schools, work directly against this goal.
Worm infections interfere with nutrient uptake; can lead to anemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development; and pose a serious threat to children’s health, education, and productivity. Infected children are often too sick or tired to concentrate at school, or to attend at all.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Greek Justice Minister Using 'Religion' & 'Traditions' to Denounce Same-Sex Marriage

Athens Gay Pride 2009. By Grzegorz Wysocki (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou apparently made an unexpectedly forceful pronouncement recently that same-sex marriage in the country will be absolutely impossible. He's so upset with the situation, that he just refuses to talk about it. Perhaps he's locked himself into the bathroom.
“I won’t discuss it, I can’t conceive of it,” the conservative politician told Mega TV. “Besides, the convention of human rights forbids it. When it speaks about marriage it speaks [of marriage] between a man and woman. We are a country that respects traditions, respects human nature, and it’s not possible at least with this government and this ministry, to permit marriage.”

Catholic School Blocks Students' LGBT Rights Research Project, Then Forced to Retract. Now, Students to Form GSA.

Quinn Maloney-Tavares and Polly Hamilton with Jeremy Dias, founder of Jer's Vision restaurant and LGBT rights activist (source).
Methinks that Ottawa's St. George Catholic School principal Ann Beauchamp should have just let students Quinn Maloney-Tavares and Polly Hamilton just do their project about LGBT rights when they first asked, instead of forbidding them. Because, Quinn's mom went to the media and the school board it quickly backed down to try to save face.

I'm not sure if the principal, the Catholic School Board or the writers over at LifeSiteNews -- who seem to be getting hysterical about this -- all quite understand just how educational and instructive all of this really is. The girls got to experience censorship firsthand and now it looks like they'll get to experience what it's like to open a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) in their Catholic school.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Indonesian Islamic Vigilante Group Spray-Painting & Burning Women's Pants

Member of the new extremist Muslim group Tadkiiratul Ummah spray painting a woman's jeans.
There's a new fundamentalist Islamic group, Tadkiiratul Ummah, in Indonesia that doesn't like women wearing too tight pants. 
The group, which calls itself Tadkiiratul Ummah and operates in the Indonesian province of Aceh, has recently began a new "moralization" campaign to make examples of women and men who are wearing what the group deems to be "too tight pants."