Sunday, 26 April 2015

Saudi Black Metal Band Risk Their Lives to Express Their Dislike of Religion

Cover of Al-Namrood's LP Ana Al Tughian (source)
Okay, so I'm not a big metal fan and I have no idea what the difference is between black metal and death metal, but I still think this is pretty freaking cool. There's a rather successful black metal band called Al-Namrood (means "non-believer") in Saudi Arabia of all places!

The band's bassist, Mephisto, did an excellent interview with VICE:
We're fed up with religion. The fact is that everything that is connected to it makes us nauseous. I personally spoke to a shrink. He advised me that whenever I get inflamed I have to express [what I'm feeling]. So here we are, expressing. What can be more motivating than living in a place where everything is controlled by religion? Basically, individuals here have no rights to do anything. We're owned by the Islamic sharia. Everything we do must be justified by Islam and acknowledged by society. There are two outrageous powers: religion and our society. They both interact and fulfil each other.
It really goes to show that inside this essentially religio-fascist country there is a vibrant underground of atheists and agnostics. Mephisto brings up the hypocrisy, predestination and the bone crushing lack of basic human rights in this uber religious, uber conservative, uber theocratic country.
While there's a lot of hypocrisy, it has been demonstrated that the local people are very much in agreement with the Islamic system. For example, in Islam, music is generally forbidden, but Muslim people listen to it on the basis that "God forgives." But when it comes to freedom of choice, "God never forgives." Everything is chosen for an individual from birth until death. A child is born and raised to become Muslim and never given a choice to look at other religions. Education is highly biased and focused upon the Islamic world. There is no chance of considering multiple points of views. The only view that can be adopted is the view of the acknowledged tradition and approved religious practice. Freedom of expression is a crime, justified by the fact that "it can disturb the peace." Even in marriage you cannot choose your partner. Rather, the elders choose for you. This social approach mixed with religious control is normally practiced in our country with no objection.
He also brought up that this sort of repression was a hallmark of Christianity some 400 years ago -- say, before the Enlightenment. This is what's playing out in much of the Muslim world right now.

Inevitably, the risk to their personal safety was brought up. I mean, with fruitcakes like the Haia (religious police) running about busting women for driving and men for dancing at birthday parties -- to say nothing of them bursting into florist shops confiscating everything red during Valentines Day! -- this metal band is obviously living on the edge.
... We've been doing this from childhood. I mean, we've had a different perspective than the rest of our society from an early age, and we've learned that sharing these views is not feasible for us. Some of us tried hard to fit in and share our thoughts, but ended up serving time in jail, so the lifestyle of being mentally isolated from the surrounding environment started from an early age. When it came to our musical approach, we just applied the same methodology of coping.
Here's a sampling of their music. They play hard. You know what, I've had days where this might actually be quite therapeutic. I'm going to give it a go and report back on this later.

Interestingly, their production company Shaytan Productions (Shayton = Satan) is apparently based right here in Canada, in Toronto. There's always a Canadian connection! Go buy stuff at their site right now!

Read more over at VICE.

How You Can Help People In Nepal

By now I'm sure you've read about the devastating earthquake which hit Nepal  -- magnitude 7.8. The death toll is already over 2,000 and at least one major aftershock has already struck the already smashed city of Kathmandu.

Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Disaster Recovery Drive has begun accepting donations which will be directed to relief efforts in Nepal (donation page).

Hemant Mehta, who is on the FBB board of directors,  gives us some background information about the effort, which ought to determine at least one eligible recipient organization by today.
We are still in the process of vetting a beneficiary that is secular in nature, efficient, and local. We should have that figured out by tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’d like to make a donation now, you can do so here so we can get that money out as soon as possible. 100% of your donations will go to that recipient — Foundation Beyond Belief doesn’t take any overhead for this. If you’d like to wait until we announce the charity we’ll be working with, I completely understand. You can see recaps of our previous disaster efforts here.
Hemant rightly reminds us that prayers aren't going to cut it. Real funds are required to help this city in the hard days to come.

Parliament Under Scrutiny to Drop Christian Prayer Before Sessions

Architecture inside House of Parliament. (source)
Not long ago, Independant MP James Lunney was attempting to address Parliament with a long discourse about cyber trolls who were making fun of him and other evangelical creationist Christians in Canada. The speaker of the house essentially shut his long rambling down and no doubt there were some with extreme victim complexes who may have taken the Speaker's action as yet another proof of the persecution of the religious in our country.

Well, Lunney and his ilk need not concern themselves there. The Speaker of the House is trying to keep prayer in Parliament after the Supreme Court ruled that it could not stay in city councils -- well, in Saguenay at least. It seems like the NPD would like to see the Parliament follow suit and remove the prayer. The Speaker wants the prayer to stay. It's all about the Parliamentary Privilege.
Opposition House leader Peter Julian is looking into whether the decision applies in the House of Commons, which is protected by parliamentary privilege, said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

"If there a place where we need to show we fully respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it's here in Parliament," he said.
Speaker Andrew Scheer "has no intention of changing this," but standing orders can be amended by the House, Bradley said.
Here's the prayer said before every Parliamentary session:
Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which have been bestowed on Canada and its citizens, including the gifts of freedom, opportunity and peace that we enjoy. We pray for our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth, and the Governor General. Guide us in our deliberations as members of Parliament, and strengthen us in our awareness of our duties and responsibilities as members. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.
Everyone must stand for this prayer: Speaker, MPs, table officers. How does this even remotely reflect a secular country? Well, it doesn't. It seems that things are worse here than I imagined.
The prayer is read by the Speaker of the House ahead of each sitting before the doors are opened to the public. Parliament's website says that the Speaker, MPs and table officers must stand during the prayer, which is followed by a moment of silence.
Peter McKay actually believes the prayer recognizes all faiths! The following moment of silence is supposed to make the agnostics happy. Meanwhile NPD leader, Tom Mulclair pointed out that just having a moment of silence with no prayer -- like they do in Quebec -- really could be the best way to go.
"It's a solemn moment at the beginning of each session. Those who want to pray are free to pray, but it's not imposed," he said
Before people start telling me it's just tradition and that it's mere formality, why not read this extract from a terrible piece about prayer in city council by Terry Burns, pastor of Pembroke Pentecostal Tabernacle, in the Pembroke Daily Observer:
It's funny. The preamble of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms begins with an acknowledgment of the supremacy of God, so there is some recognition by the document's architects that the Fathers of Confederation, and maybe even a few of the Charter's signatories, recognize the deep ties that our nation has to the Judeo-Christian God. Embedded in the wall of our Parliament Buildings is the inscription, "And He shall have dominion from sea to sea," quoting the Psalms. The God referred to, the "He," is God, Yahweh or Jehovah, not some new-age notion!
This is why we need these prayers out of the ritual of city, provincial and federal government!

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