Showing posts with label fundamentalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fundamentalism. Show all posts

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Turkish Religious Minorities Protest Alongside Atheists. Attempt to Save Their Secular Democracy

Thousands demand access to secular education in Turkey after hundreds of secular schools have been converted to Islamic schools. (source)
There's been some pretty serious shit going down for awhile in Turkey and our media seems to be ignoring it.
On Feb. 13, secularists and religious minorities called a one-day school boycott to protest the introduction of compulsory religion classes in primary schools.

Police responded by cracking down on demonstrations in cities across the country, using pepper spray and water cannons. They detained activists and filed charges against protest leaders for insulting the Turkish president.
This is not the first time the police have pepper sprayed and water bombed secular protesters -- just do a search on Youtube and you'll find this going back at least a year. Here's a short video of the February 13th protest which appears to show a country desperately trying to keep a hold on secularism.

I've written a bit before about emperor president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- a humble soul who now lives in a 1,150 room palace guarded by 1,150 police officers he had built for himself with public funds. Here's a post about a few choice words he had about feminists along with his program to systematically replace all secular education with İmam-Hatip religious schools in order to raise a more pious generation. Over the past couple of years, I've been watching Turkey go down the same path as Egypt -- towards increased Islamisation and theocracy.

Well religious minorities along with secularists and atheists have joined forces and are risking life and limb because things have gotten really bad in Turkey.
The one-day boycott was also in response to the state’s expansion of religious secondary schools, or “Imam Hatip” institutions. Traditionally designed to train state-employed imams, the schools have expanded rapidly since the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party came to power.

Enrollment in Imam Hatip schools has skyrocketed from 65,000 students to nearly 1 million, Erdogan said in a speech at the opening of an Imam Hatip in Ankara.

The Education Ministry’s program of converting secular high schools into Imam Hatip institutions has left many students with little option but to enroll in religious education.
Karaca said the government is opening more than twice as many Imam Hatip religious schools as traditional secular schools. “This is a political project for creating a religious generation,” he said. “They are forcing students to learn Arabic, the Quran and its interpretation in Sunni Islam.”
This is state-enforced religion in a country that is ostensibly secular. It seems to me like that ship has sailed. In several parts of the country, there isn't a secular school to be found for hundreds of miles, in a country where this was the norm.
“We don’t consider ourselves religious — we come from an Alevi family background but we identify ourselves as atheists,” said Selami Sarikaya. “We don’t like this situation at all. We want these classes to be optional — the ones who want to take it can take it, but nobody should be forced.”
It is now a very real battle against a clearly oppressive regime to get back what's so quickly being taken away.

I sure hope Canada never comes to this.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Radical Imams & Rabbis Coming to a Community Centre Near You!

Pierre-Olivier Zappa over at TVA Nouvelles wrote up an informative column about some of the more compelling (read: radical) religious leaders who will be either visiting or setting up shop here in Montreal in the upcoming month.

There are quite a few on the page. Why not take a look at a radical Muslim event and then a radical Jewish event? For radical Christians, I'll refer to to the Westboro folks and their ilk.

This past Saturday, Salah Assawy was to drop by the Outremont Community Centre with another imam for a crowd of 300. Assawy is the Secretary General of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) which is an organization that issues fatwas to help Muslims live properly here in the West. He's also founder and president of the Mishkah Islamic University of North America which was founded as the Sharia Academy of America. Can you figure out why they might have felt compelled to change the name?

Indeed, Assawy is really into Sharia Law for everyone. Hardcore.
Al-Sawy explicitly preaches “Shari’a rule” as a form of governance. He said, “Not ruling by “Shari’ah is the reason for all that the Ummah [Muslim world] is afflicted with … misfortune, neediness, adversity and disaster.” He said that the Devil has “deceived them into believing that the Shari’ah is not appropriate for every time and place” and that Sharia’s hudud, or penal code, is “harsh and barbarous.”
Oh, and he also seems to believe that folks like me probably would best dead. It's so gratifying to me that the Montreal branch of his Mishkah university is in my very own borough.
A 2009 fatwa by Al-Sawy rules that critics of Islam’s founder deserve the death penalty, stating, “repentance does not lift up the set punishment for cursing and insulting the Prophet, i.e., execution.” A 2006 fatwa issued by al-Haj explicitly states that the punishment for leaving Islam is death, but it can only be carried out by an Islamic judiciary system and not individuals.
It can only be carried out by an Islamic judiciary system and not individuals? What a relief!

It's not just him though. The AMJA issues several fatwas from various scholars. One such scholar is Hatem al-Haj who has a few interesting things to say about marital rape.
A 2009 AMJA fatwa endorses marital rape: “As for the issue of forcing a wife to have sex, if she refuses, this would not be called rape, even though it goes against natural instincts and destroys love and mercy, and there is a great sin upon the wife who refuses.” A 2006 ruling by al-Haj states that the punishment for a married man guilty of adultery is stoning.
Yes, this is someone living in 21st century North America. This organization is also apparently totally down with female genital mutilation circumcision too:
In 2010, al-Haj approved of female circumcision, stating that the AMJA version of it is different than what is practiced in some African communities. He claimed, “Some extremists from the West and their devout followers in the Muslim world would like to brand all circumcision as female genital mutilation.” He said that because the West has not objectively studied the issue, “all of their propaganda about female circumcision is nothing more than bigotry.
It's a shame I missed this event because I would have loved to see exactly why our information about FGM is nothing more than bigotry.

Well, it turns out the city canceled the event, presumably when news in this TVA story broke in the Quebec media.

As I wrote previously about radical anti-democratic imam Hamza Chaoui, I have no problem with these men sharing their retrograde ideas. Those who have issues with them can have non-violent, non-harassing protests and information distribution outside. It's my opinion these ideas should not be silenced or they will be driven underground to fester. They must be confronted head on. It would be especially great to see the more liberal elements of these religions speaking out against speakers like this.

Now then. Why not mark February 27th on your calendar for an evening with Israeli rabbi Yosef Mizrachi? He's really big on reincarnation and believes that autistic kids and down kids are just reincarnated souls who need minor correction before they go up to heaven -- basically bad karma from previous lives.

Well, that's just kooky. According to the TVA story, he also claims that Jews get cancer when women dress inappropriately and couples flirt too much. It's all those erotic conversations, Facebook, drugs, alcohol... Apparently the Jews also deserved the Holocaust.
Chaque minute, un Juif est frappé par le cancer. C'est en raison de l'habillement des femmes, des relations entre filles et garçons. C'est en raison des conversations érotiques, de Facebook, de la drogue et de l'alcool. Toutes ces tragédies s'expliquent ainsi», enseigne-t-il. Le prédicateur ajoute que l'Holocauste est une punition méritée par certaines communautés juives.
Frimet Goldberger over at the blog The Sisterhood at The Jewish Daily Forward wrote about Mizrachi (and others) in her post Rabbis Gone Wild -- About Modesty and (Gasp!) Zumba:
... There is another, particularly intriguing, rabbi — let’s call him the Ladies Rabbi — Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi. This popular Sephardi rabbi travels from town to town, lecturing about anything that strikes his fancy (mostly women) and debating Christian ministers. His website is called Divine Information, clearly a sign that his is the word of God, and he purports to merge and make sense of the Torah and science and many other things besides.

In one of his most popular and fascinating speeches, Rabbi Mizrachi — in one fell swoop — manages to spew anti-Muslim invective while praising devout Muslim men who “don’t let” their wives dress as provocatively as Jewish men let their wives.

“Even the Muslim murderers,” he cries (around 27 minutes in), “who blow themselves up with suicide vests and kill babies don’t allow their women to go out dressed the way our women do. If she shows one inch of her body (pointing at his wrists) they’ll kill her in the village. We should cry from embarrassment, cry from embarrassment! If Muhammad and Mustafa the murderers from Hezbollah don’t let their wives dress like this — what they’re better than us?”

Much like the Satmar rabbi who studied Causative Holistic Medicine at the Institute of Blame Women the Ladies Rabbi, Yosef Mizrachi, believes that tumors and cancerous cells are direct results of sin.

“Today, the number one cancer by women is breast cancer,” he explains (at around 49). “Second cancer for women, womb cancer. Third, brain cancer. The three parts that women make sins with men — the breast, the womb and the head — cancer goes over there.”
Well said.

The TVA video report associated with the story ended off with Zappa asking just how far freedom of speech can go. I believe these men should be allowed to spew their nonsense because silencing them compromises the very value we wish to protect.

On the flipside, these men should be ready to receive healthy doses of criticism and ridicule.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

ISIS: The Tell-Tale Signs of a Religious Death Cult

Isis militants featured in VICE News documentary The Spread of the Caliphate: The Islamic State. (source)
There's an interesting opinion piece over at CNN by Peter Bergen asking just what the primary motive is for ISIS seemingly making enemies of absolutely everyone but themselves. Jordan and Egypt are the latest countries to strike back at the group militarily in retaliation for barbaric murder.

The answer is something which is stunningly obvious to many people, yet certain groups, including some in the progressive left (of which I am one) seem utterly unable or unwilling to see: serious serious religious belief.
We live in an increasingly secularized world, so it's sometimes difficult to take seriously the deeply held religious beliefs of others. For many of us the idea that the end of times will come with a battle between "Rome" and Islam at the obscure Syrian town of Dabiq is as absurd as the belief that the Mayans had that their human sacrifices could influence future events.

But for ISIS, the Dabiq prophecy is deadly serious. Members of ISIS believe that they are the vanguard fighting a religious war, which Allah has determined will be won by the forces of true Islam.
It seems like in the west, my fellow left-wingers do tend to be very secular -- many seem to have grown up in environments of progressive religion or no religion at all. Coming from a very conservative Catholic family, I have noticed a sort of strange denial in my progressive brothers and sisters. They simply cannot conceive of anyone taking any religious belief seriously enough to murder others. It must be widespread poverty... economic woes... politics... cannot possibly be religion!
This is the conclusion of an important forthcoming new book about ISIS by terrorism experts J.M. Berger and Jessica Stern who write that ISIS, like many other "violent apocalyptic groups, tend to see themselves as participating in a cosmic war between good and evil, in which moral rules do not apply."
ISIS members devoutly believe that they are fighting in a cosmic war in which they are on the side of good, which allows them to kill anyone they perceive to be standing in their way with no compunction. This is, of course, a serious delusion, but serious it is.
Although more violent, this puts ISIS in the same theological category as extreme US Christian groups who are trying to fulfill Biblical prophecy of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem to hearken on the End of the World.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Freedom of Speech Belongs to Everyone: Even Anti-Democracy, Anti-LGBT Imams

Hamza Chaoui (source)
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about ultra-conservative anti-democratic imam Hamza Chaoui, who was blocked by the city of Montreal from opening a Muslim community centre.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion, said Mr. Chaoui’s views are “dangerous” and “unacceptable” in a democratic society like Quebec, where the rule of law applies and men and women are treated as equals.

“The city of Montreal, I am sure, shares our values, which are Quebec values,” Ms. Weil said. “They [his remarks] are dangerous.
Now, I find Chaoui's views repugnant as a pro-LGBT, feminist, liberal, secularist atheist. Here's a sample.
In postings on his Facebook page, Mr. Chaoui argues that Islam and democracy are “parallel lines that never intersect” because democracy allows for the election of “an infidel or a homosexual or an atheist who denies the existence of Allah.”
That said, it seems like the imam hasn't broken any laws. It's just that his views are (correctly) seen as in opposition and perhaps even threatening to the shared secular values of mainstream Quebec.

When I wrote that last piece, I was conflicted. If we are to be an open and democratic society where everyone has freedom of speech, can we really forbid and attempt to censor ideas which go against our own values? Is it then acceptable for the government to shut down unpopular anarchist groups? What about communist groups? So long as no actual crimes are committed, how can we justify doing this without being hypocritical ourselves? How can we be defenders of freedom of speech when we gladly silence ideas we find revolting or threatening? What would Voltaire think?

In a mostly ignored recent opinion piece over at La Presse, André Pratte echoed my concerns and came to the conclusion that it's actually in everyone's best interest -- even us secularists -- to let this imam have his centre and speak, even if he would gladly deny us atheists any say in our political system.

Pratte starts out, by quoting Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, who ruled during La Grande Noirceur -- the low point before La Revolution Tranquille:
«Le gouvernement prendra des mesures pour se débarrasser de ceux qui distribuent ces circulaires. Celles-ci ne sont pas seulement blessantes pour le Québec et sa population, mais sont diffamatoires et séditieuses. Cette propagande ne peut être tolérée.» 
The government will take measures to rid itself of those who distribute these tracts. These are not only harmful for Quebec and its population, but they are defamatory and seditious. This propaganda can not be tolerated.
He was speaking in 1946 about Jehovah Witness proselytizing literature. Although I will concede that, to my knowledge, Witnesses were never prone to physical violence in the name of their religion, there are similarities to be found here.

After acknowledging that Duplessis' decision is all about protecting Quebec values, Pratte eloquently explains why attempting to silence this imam will be counter productive. It will ultimately drive the message underground where it cannot be properly monitored, countered, ridiculed -- and it is ultimately against our values of free speech for all, no matter how odious we find it.
Il s'agit donc de faire taire ceux qui s'opposent à nos «valeurs». Ce faisant, nos gouvernants adoptent le même raisonnement que Maurice Duplessis contre les Témoins de Jéhovah. Les valeurs ont changé, la méthode diffère, mais l'objectif est identique et tout aussi déplorable.

Cette politique est vouée à l'échec. À la suite de la décision de la Ville, Hamza Chaoui est devenu persona non grata. Régis Labaume a déjà annoncé qu'en son royaume, «on va s'organiser pour qu'il ne puisse pas s'installer.»

Par conséquent, Chaoui devra prêcher dans la clandestinité. Les risques de radicalisation n'en seront pas diminués, au contraire. Et il sera beaucoup plus compliqué d'avoir à l'oeil l'homme et ses fidèles.

Si la chasse aux terroristes est essentielle, celle aux imams est inutile et néfaste. Nos valeurs sont bien plus solides que ne semblent le croire les Québécois. Elles résisteront sans mal aux chiquenaudes de quelques religieux conservateurs, qu'ils soient musulmans, juifs, témoins ou... catholiques.
So, it comes down to silencing those who are in opposition to our values. In doing so, our politicians are adopting the same rationale of Maurice Duplessis against the Jehovah Witnesses. Values have changed, the method differs, but the objective is the same and it is just as deplorable.

This policy is destined to fail. Following the city's decision, Hamza Chaoui has become persona non grata. Regis Lebaum has already announced that within his power, "we will organize such that he will not be able to establish himself."

As a result, Chaoui will be forced to preach under the radar. Risks of radicalization will not be reduced; the opposite. So it will be much more complicated to keep an eye on this man and his faithful.

If it is essential to hunt terrorists, the hunt against imams is useless and harmful. Our values are much more solid than Quebecers seem to believe. These will endure unharmed the the slights of a few religious conservatives, whether they be Muslims, Jews, Witnesses or... Catholics.
I don't agree with what this imam has to say, but as a believer in the concept of free speech, I must protect his right to express his backward ideas. Our secular free-speech loving society is strong enough -- if not, then one wonders how worthy it is of saving.

Besides, how are retrograde beliefs to be properly challenged, ridiculed or protested if they are not out in the open -- on the free marketplace of opinion? Like those Westboro Baptist folks, who actively condemn American society and values, is it not best to shine a light on groups which preach repressive ideas against our values? I think so.

So, as much as it pains me to say so: let this imam have his centre and then scrutinize the hell out of it.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Holy Crap! Brampton Does The Right Thing Again!

In my last post about the Lord's Prayer situation in Brampton, I noted that because a few upset citizens got 5,000 people to sign a petition, the city would inevitably cave to public opinion rather than follow the law.
Anyway, the city has voted to send this question back to committee for discussion. This almost certainly means they'll cave if people don't start come out in favour of secularism or else threaten legal action somehow.
Refreshingly, it seems like I underestimated Mayor Linda Jeffrey's intestinal fortitude! The committee discussed and voted to not put back the Lord's Prayer!
At a committee meeting Wednesday delegates called for the reinstatement after council chambers were packed last week with angry residents demanding the prayer be brought back. They were told it would be dealt with and a 9-2 vote closed the door on the issue, for now. A vote was taken and passed to hold a public meeting on the issue in April. It will now take a two-thirds majority vote of council to re-open the issue after the public meeting is held.
The Mayor had this utterly kickass statement as well:
“This term of council cannot be occupied dealing with issues that the province has already dealt with. We have incredible challenges ahead of us: jobs, how we’re going to keep taxes in line, transit and gridlock, how to pay for badly needed infrastructure, new funding models, and instilling a culture of transparency and accountability. We cannot afford to get distracted the way we unfortunately have in the past. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but religious issues should not be our focus.

Freaking exactly!

Here's hoping the Supreme Court doesn't bungle up the case against our favourite mayor in Saguenay now.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Saudi Cleric Just Wants Grooms to be Able to Properly Inspect the Merchandise Beforehand

Le Marché d'esclaves. Jean-Léon Gérôme [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Another week, another Saudi cleric.

You might have heard about Saudi scholar and cleric Abdul Rahman Al Barrak. Just google him and you'll see he's no stranger to extreme fatwas and demanding people get stoned to death for saying the wrong things. He's the gentle soul who declared that Raif Badawi was an unbeliever and apostate in 2012, a charge that can easily end with a beheading.

Well now he's doing prospective grooms a favour by calling for an end to brides being able to dress nicely and wear cosmetics when appearing for the first time to the men.
A Saudi religious scholar said that a would-be fiancee should appear the first time to her prospective groom without make-up or ornate clothes in order to allow him to see her in her natural looks.
I suppose this might take some of the stress of preparation off for the brides, but it really does leave the whole arrangement looking like no more than some sort of meat market or slave trade. Oh wait, even Al Barrak sees it this way.
“The would-be fiance needs to see her the way she is and the way she looks,” Abdul Rahman Al Barrak said. “Make-up usually adds extra or artificial beauty that is some kind of a deception because it is not natural. It is similar to the deception used in the past to embellish slaves and sell them,” he said on his Twitter account.
Well, I guess the similarity just isn't too far below the surface in Saudi Arabia, right?

The cleric mentioned that such an arrangement would save the woman embarrassment and humiliation later on -- should the man see her true form for the first time and spontaneously divorce her in front of the wedding guests.
It was only on the wedding night, and as the female guests from the two families were celebrating the wedding, that the groom saw the bride’s face for the first time.

“You are not the girl I want to marry. You are not the one I had imagined. I am sorry, but I divorce you,” the groom told the bride.
Naturally, nobody seems to care whether or not the bride is attracted to the groom. I guess Saudi women do not feel physical attraction? Yes, that must be it.

Of course, a more reasonable approach would be to allow both people to try before you buy. Look at each other naked, even have sex. It could be fun -- like dating!

We all know that will never happen though.

2012 Saudi 'Women in Society' was largest Women's conference held in Saudi Arabia. Except nobody invited any women.

Hindu National Party Plans to Force Unwed Couples to Marry This Valentines Day

By Michelle Tribe (originally posted to Flickr as candy hearts) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I really dislike everything about Valentines Day, except for those little cinnamon heart candies. I can eat those little bombs of hot sweetness all day long. I'm seriously addicted to those things. Anyway, luckily for me, my wife feels the same. No pressure.

You know who else dislikes Valentines Day -- but do not share my respect for human rights? The Saudi religious police! It also turns out that fundamentalist Hindu groups, like the right-wing-fascisty Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha party, are also totally against Valentines Day. This Valentines Day they plan on forming little volunteer brigades to run around forcing unmarried couples to marry like incensed passive-aggressive rabid Cupids.
The prime targets will be couples holding roses, sitting together in corners or hugging each other in public areas.
Because this is a group of pathetic puritanical busybodies who feel the need to police everyone else's love lives, they will also be running about attempting to report anyone spotted with their unmarried partner to their parents like the freaking hall monitor.
This year, the couples who claim to be in love will have to pass our marriage test, Kaushik warned. "We are not against love, but if a couple is in love then they must get married. In case if the couples claim that they need time to think about marriage, we will tell them that if they are not certain, they should belittle love by openly going around together. We will also inform their parents," added Kaushik.


Oh, and if one of the couple happens not to be Hindu, then this brigade of annoying shit disturbers will attempt to convert them to Hinduism. If they fail to do this, they will again attempt to report the incident to the parents. 

What a bunch of killjoys.

I guess that's what fundamentalist religion and right wing politics gets you. I don't like Valentines Day, but for goodness sake, let people fall in love and have their relationships in peace.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Montreal Blocks Anti-Democratic Imam From Opening Community Centre

Hamza Chaoui (source)
Morrocan-born imam Hamza Chaoui believes democracy is incompatible with Islam because voters might elect gay atheists:
In postings on his Facebook page, Mr. Chaoui argues that Islam and democracy are “parallel lines that never intersect” because democracy allows for the election of “an infidel or a homosexual or an atheist who denies the existence of Allah.”
“The Imam Hamza Chaoui has made radical statements in the past, including stating the democracy and Islam are not compatible and that the vote is a sin,” Ms. Maltais said. “We strongly denounce these medieval statements.” 
It turns out that the City of Montreal agrees -- at least when it comes to his version of Islam -- and has denied Chaoui's application for a permit to open an Islamic Centre in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve region.
Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Kathleen Weil, Quebec’s minister of immigration, diversity and inclusion, said Mr. Chaoui’s views are “dangerous” and “unacceptable” in a democratic society like Quebec, where the rule of law applies and men and women are treated as equals.

“The city of Montreal, I am sure, shares our values, which are Quebec values,” Ms. Weil said. “They [his remarks] are dangerous.
Later, Agnès Maltais, the Parti Québécois point person on secularism, and the PQ’s Carole Poirier denounced the imam’s statements and called on authorities to do everything in their power to impede him.
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has a reputation in Montreal for having a large and poor new immigrant population.
Despite being one of the poorest areas of the city, the district of 25.2 square kilometers is considered an up-and-coming one, with immigrants creating new businesses. It is a densely populated residential neighbourhood, with some industry. The Marché Maisonneuve and Promenade Ontario are affordable shopping areas for locals.

Edit 2015-02-01: Added 'at least it when it comes to his version of Islam.'

Thursday, 29 January 2015

First Iran, Now Indonesia: Rocked by 'SelfieGate'!

SINFUL selfie taken with a message to the cleric reading something like (Google Translate):  'So I take another selfie on a matorcyle. I go to Hell now?(source)
In an apparent attempt at one-upmanship with Iranian authorities being ticked off with their football team appearing in selfies with pretty young Australian Iranian expat fans, Indonesian author and cleric Felix Siauw went and called selfies a sin.
A young Indonesian young cleric is taking a stand against selfies. In a 17- point manifesto posted on Twitter last week, popular Indonesian author and speaker Felix Siauw argued that taking a selfie often means succumbing to pride, arrogance, and ostentation—all of which make them a sin under Islam, according to Siauw.
Although utterly absurd, this is insightful on some level. I mean, my selfies are brilliant yet other people's selfies are always lame and over indulgent. Isn't it odd how that works?

Felix, who has over 2.7 million followers on his Twitter page, his own webpage, his own Youtube channel and several books published to his name, must -- sadly -- live in the limelight. However, women don't have this problem and he's taking a stand to preserve their purity from nasty bad bad bad pride in themselves. Pride IN THEMSELVES! What is this world coming to?

Here's are some highlights from his tweetise as per Coconuts Jakarta.
If we take a selfie, sift through and choose our best pose, and then we’re awed and impressed by our selves – worryingly, that’s called PRIDE

If we take a selfie and upload it on social media, desperately hoping for view, likes, comments or whatever – we’ve fallen into the OSTENTATIOUS trap

If we take a selfie and we feel cooler and better than others – we’ve fallen into the worst sin of all, ARROGANCE

These days many Muslim women take selfies without shame. There are usually nine frames in one photo with facial poses that are just – My Goodness – where’s the purity in women?
What's with all these shameful women feeling good about themselves and posting pictures online without shame?

Well, his comments have sparked a huge backlash within Indonesia, land of the selfies, and people are breaking out their selfie sticks and sending him glorious selfies in retaliation.
Go check these out here, here and here.

Look, these people are having FUN and they're HAPPY! What's the deal with these clerics always trying to outlaw happy, anyway? It's like they want a monopoly on it for their imaginary god.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Excellent Quebec Discussion Show Explores Questions of Secularism, Feminism & Freedom of Expression

« ...that the wounds caused by the lashes were too serious and that my husband couldn't withstand other lashes. » Raif Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar (center), explains. Bernard Drainville, author of Quebec's Secular Charters is seated left.
I really wish English television had something even remotely equivalent to the Radio Canada discussion programme Tout Le Monde En Parle. I'm pretty sure something like this might have existed in the past, but everything seems so dumbed down these days. This is a show with intelligent well informed adults having grown up conversations about important topics, not a bunch of talking heads blabbing on about stuff (let them get off television and start blogs!).

The latest episode of the programmed is phenomenal. Take a look at this line up:

Hugo Joncas:
L'intégrisme, même au Québec?
Faut-il s'inquiéter d'une montée de l'intégrisme au Québec? Dans une enquête publiée dans les pages du Journal de Montréal, Hugo Joncas soulève la question en s'intéressant aux registres fonciers de la province.
Fundamentalism, Even in Quebec?
Need we be concerned about an increase of fundamentalism in Quebec? In a study published in the pages of the Journal de Montreal, Hugo Joncas raises the question by consulting the province's land registry.
Okay, it's a little more than just consulting a land registry! Perhaps my translation is off. Hugo's piece, De la propagande intégriste à Montréal, reveals fundamentalist propaganda across some Muslim schools within Quebec -- anti-Semitic, anti-feminist, good terrorism, polygamy, etc. More on that later.

Elizabeth Plank:
Le féminisme, à la mode de chez nous
Même s'il reste beaucoup de chemin à faire pour l'égalité des sexes, on se réjouit de constater que le féminisme occupe une place grandissante dans les débats de société.
Feminism, In Our Own Fashion
Even though much remains of the road to equality between the sexes, we're happy to announce that feminism occupies an ever growing place in social debates.
Yes, they included à la mode, which is stereotypical. However, they didn't even put 'happy' in sarcastic air quotes or italics as I've heard it on other media outlets. Yes, it's that good.

Bernard Drainville:
Le grand retour de la charte
Bernard Drainville présente le deuxième volet d'une longue saga : la charte 2.0!
The Great Return of the Charter
Bernard Drainville presents the second installment of a long saga: the Charter 2.0!
This is a relaxed, not being attacked, discussion about the new charter where people ask Bernard questions and actually listen to his answers.

Sophie Deraspe and Sandra Bagaria (The Amina Profile):
Amour impossible
En 2011, alors que la Syrie est au bord du soulèvement, Amina, une blogueuse militante s'exprime en anglais sur les problèmes qui touchent son pays.
Impossible Love
In 2011, with Syria on the bring of upheaval, Amina, a militant blogger who writes in English about the problems facing her country.
There's more below the cut about this one. It turns out that this is a love story where both women start a relationship online.

Ensaf Haidar:
Je suis Raif
Raïf Badawi purge une peine de 10 ans de prison et a été condamné à 1000 coups de fouet en Arabie saoudite.
I Am Raif
Raif Badawi is serving a sentence of 10 years in prison and has been condemned to 1000 lashes in Saudi Arabia.
This is the first interview I plan to cover separately on this blog. It contains a fair bit of background information about Raif's situation that I don't believe I've read yet elsewhere.

Each one of the above are only the short descriptions of the segments. If you go to the show's page, you can click on any of them for a full description containing much much more information.

Right, I dare you to find a talk program anywhere else as compelling.

Unlike English Canadian media, Quebec media is really not afraid to attack these questions openly. For all its flaws -- which English media seems to enjoy pouncing upon -- Quebec is a very open society.

Again, I intend to cover each one of these, starting with the Ensaf Haidar piece, which is fantastic! If any Francophone readers would like to transcribe it, I would be very grateful! Otherwise, you'll all be stuck with my translation, land registries and all.

This episode's webpage can be found here.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

We Must All Be Charlie

It's so very difficult to write about what happened today at Charlie Hebdo Paris office. It's tragic and I cannot help but feel angry, sad and intensely confused at how people could be possessed to sink to such levels because of hurt feelings. Two masked gunmen executed 12 defenseless people in cold blood because they're feelings were hurt by some cartoons.

These brutes apparently believed their imaginary god was unable to take care of himself, so they took offense on his impotent behalf attacked cartoonists armed with nothing but pens and any bystanders who would get in the way.
Cartoonist Corinne Rey reported that two armed and hooded men, speaking perfect French, threatened the life of her toddler daughter whom she had picked up from daycare, and forced her to type in the code to open the door to the building. The men then moved up to an office on the second floor, where the staff were in an editorial meeting, with approximately 15 members in attendance. The entire shooting lasted between five and ten minutes. Witnesses reported that the gunmen sought out members of the staff by name before executing them with single shots to the head.
They yelled out "Allahu Akbar" and "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!" You see, they had nothing intelligent to respond with -- no rational counter arguments -- so like trapped animals or thugs, they turned into violent thugs.

People around the world are now rallying behind the hashtag #jesuischarlie. So far, they are not sinking to the terrorists' level. Cartoonists are releasing images of support. There were enormous vigils across the world (some 35,000 in Paris).

Here in Montreal, there were two vigils; one at city hall and one at the French consulate. The JE SUIS CHARLIE banner was hung atop the city hall and will remain there for three days along with all flags half mast. A general disdain for religion was voiced by some in the crowd while Montreal mayor Denis Coderre was speaking.
Shouts of “Religion! Finished!” and loud boos were heard in the crowd of about 200 people as Mayor Denis Coderre called for respect and tolerance among Montrealers of every faith.

“Terrorism is the act of individuals,” he said, prompting more boos and shouts of “no!”

At the back of the crowd, someone yelled, “What are you afraid of?”
One might also ask what journalists at the New York Daily News were afraid of. Take a look at this screen capture I took from their coverage. Just read the text above and below the censored image and think about just how much solidarity this news organization has with Stéphane Charbonnier and Charlie Hebdo. It makes my stomach turn.

Twitter user David Burge (@iowahawkblog) sums up well the apparent cowardice of the Telegraph as well today:

We surrender, indeed. I later checked that part of the coverage and the Telegraph had removed the picture altogether.

I'll try to unpack more of how I'm feeling in later posts. As an atheist blogger myself, this hits home. I just hope that this event doesn't scare too many cartoonists and journalists into some kind of silent submission. If we are to guard our most precious freedom of speech, for our children, we all need to be Charlie Hebdo.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Saudi Cleric Who Suggested Women Can Show Their Faces Now In Hot Water

Sheik Ahmed al-Ghamedi (source).
It seems like things are not going well for Saudi cleric Sheik Ahmed al-Gamedi, who allowed his wife to display her face and speak on a television program. In the past, he's suggested that women and men should be allowed to mix socially, that women should be allowed to travel without a male chaperone, wear make-up, and go without covering their faces in public.
On Monday, Ghamedi told the Saudi newspaper al Watan that he had received threats since the show aired. Later, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti criticized him to the press. "My message to Sheik al-Ghamdi is to fear God," Sheik Abdul Aziz Al Sheik told the Saudi news site Sabq, according to a translation from CNN. "You should ask repentance from God, and to back away from this mistake before you meet God with these sins."
Apparently, some are even threatening a lawsuit.
A number of Saudis in Jeddah are planning to file a lawsuit against Ahmed Qassim Al-Ghamdi, a leading scholar, for allegedly encouraging women to show their faces and appear before the public in style.

Al-Ghamdi’s opponents also believe that his statements would encourage the public to violate Shariah teachings and reject religious edicts of the country’s senior scholars.
Some are even posting pictures of the sheik posing next to a blonde woman!! Apparently, this is a sign of impropriety! Inexcusable!
Best of luck to al-Gamedi. Like any ultra-conservative theocratic country -- North Korea included -- the sheer absurdity of this business make me laugh and then makes me feel guilty for having laughed, because people's lives are destroyed over things like this.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

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.

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." 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

"Mommy Let Daddy Die & Rot For Six Months In Our House." -- Anyone Thinking About The Kids?

Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I'm sure you've probably all read about the Hamilton family that left the corpse of dad, Peter Wald, to rot in a sealed off room in the house for six months. If anyone could ever move a mountain with their faith in the Lord, it would be Peter and Kaling Wald.

Peter had diabetes and his foot got infected. Rather than go to a hospital, they prayed for a recovery and he went into a coma and died. Six months later, the police discovered his rotten corpse in a sealed off room of the house. It seems the family got it into their heads that he'd be resurrected, so they stuck a tuque on his head and taped up all the vents. The laws of Nature were not suspended and he didn't come back.

Climate Change Denial Billboard Appears In Downtown Montreal

Remember that insane climate change denial billboard posted in Calgary by the Friends of Science?

Well, take a look at what showed up in my Facebook feed today! The stupid has spread somehow to Montreal!

Climate change denial billboard in Montreal, November 30th. (source)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Increasingly-Scary Turkish President Has Problem With Feminists & Wants 'More Pious Youth'

İmam-Hatip Lisesi in Kırklareli, Turkey. By User:Darwinek (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
So Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is really starting to give Vlad Putin a run for his money with his increasingly bizarre and less funny comments over the past month or so.

In case you're not keeping score, his government censored genitalia and the proper names of genitalia from Biology textbooks; banned his military from watching nudie shows like Game of Thrones; rewritten history to make it more patriotic and took issue with lip-o-suction kissing on daytime television.

It's hard for me to keep up with this leader who's apparently very concerned about morality and Islamic morals and is not ashamed to show the nation's more fundamentalist religious groups he's serious about it. Well, the rhetoric is getting more severe and it looks like he's trying to make a lasting legacy with generations to come and pretty much screw any sort of secular Turkey.

A few days ago, Ergodan started saying things like this:
Our religion [Islam] has defined a position for women: motherhood,” Erdoğan said at a summit in Istanbul on justice for women, speaking to an audience including his own daughter Sumeyye.

“Some people can understand this, while others can’t. You cannot explain this to feminists because they don’t accept the concept of motherhood.”
How quaintly Victorian sounding. It's strange because most of the women I know with children would easily qualify as feminists by his definition. I'm willing to guess that, save some religious quiverfull types... etc., most women in the developed world would take issue with this. But, you know, it's not Ergodan who's saying this, it's just his religion, you know? You gonna argue with that?

I wonder if the Duggars would get along with him on this point? You know, this all sounds startingly familiar!
“Motherhood is something else,” he said, claiming that it should be a woman’s priority because Islam exalts women as mothers.

He went on to say that women and men could not be treated equally “because it goes against the laws of nature”.

“Their characters, habits and physiques are different … You cannot place a mother breastfeeding her baby on an equal footing with men.

“You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regimes. You cannot give them a shovel and tell them to do their work. This is against their delicate nature.”
I know, how about letting the women decide what they wish to do and then hire them on the basis of whether they can do it? Canada is still not a panacea of women's equality in the workplace but come on! The only possible excuse for ideas this retrograde are the doctrines of some ancient religion.

Luckily, some of these evil feminists hit back, although I'm beginning to wonder for how long they will be in a position to do this.

MP Aylin Nazliaka:
“Erdoğan has publicly committed a hate crime … But I will continue to fight this man who sees no difference between terrorists and feminists,” she said in a written statement.
Television anchorwoman Sule Zeybek is apparently one of those feminist mothers in which Ergodan doesn't believe:
“I am a feminist and thank God I’m a mum. I wouldn’t kiss my mother’s feet but I have great respect for her,” she said.
In fact, it seems like this new highly religious Islamic government has declared its own war on women:
Erdoğan has drawn the ire of feminist groups for declaring that every woman in Turkey should have three children and with proposals to limit abortion rights, the morning-after pill and caesarean sections.

Seen by critics as increasingly authoritarian, he has repeatedly lashed out personally at female journalists who displeased him.

But the government’s attitude towards women came under even greater scrutiny after the deputy prime minister, Bülent Arinç, caused a furore in August by suggesting women should not laugh loudly in public.
I'm sure some progressives and secularists within and without Turkey are simply waiting for this insanity to pass, but it appears that long lasting damage could be done to the wall of state-mosque separation in Turkey. A recent Public Radio International feature on the phasing out of secular schools in favor of Islamic schools in Turkey in order to 'raise a more pious youth' has got those in the know concerned.

Imam hatip schools were created in the early days of the Turkish Republic to train Sunni Muslim scholars. They’re now open to all students who want an education that emphasizes Sunni Islam.

But what angers Fatma — and many others in Turkey — is that more and more secular schools are being converted into imam hatip schools. Just like the one in Fatma’s neighborhood.
Even people within the educational system see the government's promotion and conversion of secular schools into religious schools as a concerted attack on science literacy -- which lines up well with the recent Biology textbook censorship debacle. Reminds me a little of Texas.
A teacher at a secular middle school, Ozden Aras is worried about the shift. “I think science is more important than religion, but in Turkey now religion is more important than science,” she explains. This summer she found herself fighting to keep her school from being converted into an imam hatip school. Like the majority of Turkey, she’s Sunni. But she says the religious curriculum should be an option, not the norm.
And this is not mere persuation, the increasingly conservative Islamic government is now actively attempting to limit and shut down secular education in the government, putting the future of secularism at risk.
Ozden and her school’s community resisted the government’s plans — and won. But that’s rare. More schools are being converted, and the number of imam hatip schools has leapt more than 70 percent in the past four years. At the opening of a new imam hatip school in Ankara last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan boasted that students enrolled in religious education increased 15-fold since he joined Turkey’s leadership in 2002. He has also said he wants Turkey to raise a more “pious youth.”
This started out sort of funny, but now it's getting a bit serious. What's even more curious is how closely a lot of these moves seem to mirror the political activism of the fundamentalist Christian right in the United States. Perhaps different only in degree but the similarities of substance are strikingly similar.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Game of Thrones is Too Much for Turkish Army

A scene from Game of Thrones
I've admitted it before. I just haven't watched any of that naughty Game of Thrones program. In above link, a Christian preacher informs us that every time we watch this program, Jesus gets recrucified, or cherubs cry, or puppies die, or something. I'm not sure how it could possibly be this good, but people assure me it really is. So as soon as I have time, I'll give it a watch.

However, there will be no nudie programs in Turkey. Well, at least in the army!
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) reportedly updated its secondary education regulations and added a new article to the chapter titled “the protection of students.” The new article bans the screening of productions like “Game of Thrones” on the grounds of protecting students from “sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment and all negative behaviors.”
Thanks, mom. Sex and nudity scenes -- I do not believe it is hardcore -- are really too much for soldiers in training, but presumably war will be just fine. I mean, are they not being trained to kill people? These are adults -- over 20 -- we're talking about here.

Apparently, four officers were disqualified from being in the military for watching this television program in 2012. 

Turkey is an ostensibly secular nation. I've seen it often touted as the most successful secular democracy in the region. Well, it turns out that the military will be instituting new courses on Islam. Elective... for now.
The new regulations also lay ground for the introduction of elective classes on Islam in military schools for the first time. The new classes will be based on “basic religious education, the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad,” the report said.
Gabriel Bell over at Vocativ sums up the bigger picture here -- an understandable fear of increased fundamentalism in this so-called secular state.
Though nominally secular, Turkey is trending ever closer to Islamic theocracy—something underlined by the Turkish Armed Forces’ recent banning of HBO’s Game of Thrones series at military schools. Their new policy aims at keeping students away from anything involving, “sexual exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, abuse, harassment and all negative behaviors.” Granted, anyone who’s seen the show knows that Game of Thrones is categorically guilty of all the above—in a fun way. Nonetheless, the extent to which the TAF is adopting a more fundamentalist stance is worrisome.
I wonder how close the violence in this program is to the barbarism of war -- both in modern times and in the days of Muhammad?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Will Canadian Muslims 'Own' The Radicalization of their Youth?

Syed Soharwardy (source)
I never learned how to play a musical instrument with any sort of proficiency -- although I am very good at whistling. So the musical component of my highschool days was choir. I intensely disliked it but it lead to an interesting observation.

Each group had their own leader or leaders. There was always a single soprano, perhaps a few altos, a single tenor and bass who would always be heard. They often had this revoltingly contrived British accent and would over enunciate constantly. Everyone else would sort of follow their lead and quietly mumble as if they were at church.

Last year, I wrote about an enlightening discussion panel over on NPR about taking the slam out of Islam with feminist and author Asra Nomani. This was in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and Asra was bravely declaring that Muslims everywhere needed to own the problem of extremism within their community.
... And I believe that inside of our Muslim community we haven't completely owned up to the real issues of extremism that is laying claim to our young boys.

... To me that means, in fact, acknowledging that we do have ideologues and we have websites and we have awful, awful indoctrination campaigns inside of our communities, well funded, that lay claim to these boys. It's not enough to say they're outside of our community. They are part of us. And we have to take ownership over that. Just as African-American community has had to confront the issue of gangs, we have ideological gangs in our community.

... I think that means identifying and clearly stating that we have ideologies that are called Wahhabism, Salafism and Deobandism that are indoctrinating our kids and our communities, that we have Uncle Mishas inside of our communities, and we all know who they are and we need to point at them - and they are just like the gang leaders in neighborhoods who take the hearts of young boys - and we need to isolate them. And that is how then the entire Muslim community will not be judged, because they will see that we are cleaning up our own community, and that is our responsibility, I believe, as citizens of this country and this world.

... there are wounds in every community and every society, and I think that the idea is that terrorists are wound collectors and we in our societies and our families and our communities have to make it so that folks can have legitimate nonviolent solutions to their grievances and their wounds and not turn to these violent means, and religion should not be used as a means of sanctioning that kind of violence. And we have to take the slam out of Islam. That's very bottom line for me.
I believe we need more brave people like her. In this day of ISIS the situation of youth radicalization in places like the United States, the UK and Canada demands that everyone on the side of a free and democratic secular society -- where all religions and no religion may flourish -- work together. 

One of the most prominent imams in Canada is Syed Soharwardy who is head of the Canadian Supreme Muslim Council and Muslims Against Terrorism. Back in August, he began speaking out against the alarming uptick in Muslim youth radicalization - in particular, the serious number of young recruits to ISIS from Canada, mainly Calgary, his own backyard.

Back then, I noticed a conspicuous lack of this owning that Asra Nomani demonstrated so clearly in the NPR piece. It seemed like he was asking the Federal government to work harder to clean up this problem but I just didn't see anything he or other imams were doing within their communities. It was a shame because Soharwardy seemed to be in the perfect position to make calls to action and bring Muslims together for this cause.

Randy Tyson and I discussed this over the mysterious backchannel that is Facebook. He shared a Facebook exchange he had with Soharwardy on his podcast The Legion of Reason where he asked this very question -- why not own the problem and tell us what the Muslim community is doing to fight radicalization?
Hi Randy, No doubt the Muslim community and leaders work with the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies to help in making Canada secure and safe. If I know any terrorist or a potential terrorist I will report. However, the people who are violent and creating terrorism do not attend my congregation. We follow SUFI tradition and the violent people follow the WAHABI / SALAFI sect.

Goverment has to go after them. I can just educate Canadian and the Canadian govt. about the root cause of terrorism which is a Wahabi ideology. It has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. Thanks
I can recognize that lumping all Muslims together into a single group is simplistic and counterproductive and his response does point out the very same groups Asra Nomani identifies. However, if you are going to go by the label Muslim then I think it's wise to own the problem of fundamentalist Islamist ideologies translating to violence. I mean, isn't that the right thing to do? This is what Nomani is calling for.

These people are terrorising and dying in the name of -- what they at least call -- Islam. Listen, this atheist isn't terribly interested in which sects are responsible -- this mess is inside the Muslim community, from this vantage point. To this atheist, who's read the Quran at least once, violence does seem to follow rather well from a very literalist, fundamentalist interpretation of the book.

However, whatever your opinions about this, surely those in the best position to combat this sort of violence are those within the broader Muslim community! We're talking about people's children running away to join ISIS here. Surely, this is the most serious thing.

To Soharwardy's credit, he does seem to be the only imam we ever hear about who is at least speaking out strongly against this religiously-motivated insanity.  In the past, he's even reached out to other religious (and non-religious) communities as well. So even though he's wrong about the whole God and religion thing, he appears to be an otherwise reasonable guy. It was rather disappointing though to see him not quite go all the way, to own it.

Then I see this recent update on his Facebook page. Emphasis is my own.
The two faces of “so called” Muslim leaders make me very angry and frustrated. There are Muslims leaders when they speak privately they recognize/identify the sources of radicalization of Muslim youth but when they appear in the media or speak in public they become diplomatic and do not tell the whole truth. Only condemning radicalization and not identifying the source of radicalization is hypocrisy in my opinion.

There are other Muslim leaders who condemn radicalization publicly but privately they are the one who preach the ideology of radicalization. 

Unfortunately, majority of Muslim leaders are like this. So, keep on harvesting what are we sowing. May Allah save Islam from Muslim hypocrites. Ameen.
Now that's better! I mean, it's a start, right?

If only he could rouse some of the other members of the choir to sing a song of truth and shine some real light on this problem. If only I could hear anyone else singing at all!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Jordan Cancels Halloween

Just a few days ago, the holy holiday of Halloween was under dire threat from Muslim clerics and government officials in Malaysia. Now it makes me sad to report that our atheist plot to make all theists in Jordan godless has apparently been thwarted.

Additionally, the Government of Jordan recently announced that public celebrations of Halloween and public appearances in Halloween costume are prohibited.  U.S. citizens should expect police reaction, including arrests, at any public Halloween-themed event.  The U.S. Embassy advises that U.S. citizens traveling from their home to a Halloween party, or vice versa, cover up their costumes while in public or in a car.
The theory is that Islamic government are trying to appease local fundamentalist conservative religionists by taking a tough stand on people dressing up for Halloween.
“This seems like a convenient easy concession, like a bone to throw the Islamists, when the government is struggling a little with its Islamic credentials,” said my friend Alex Simon, a Jordan-based Fulbright scholar who studies the regional impact of Syria’s civil war. “It falls within a broader process of Jordan trying to maintain a tricky balance between in theory being a moderate Islamic country, but still with a relatively conservative population.”
It let's the government appear to be defending their values against Western influences while being allies with the West.

Meanwhile, it's party goers who have to suffer. Oh, I mean Satanist party goers.
This isn’t the first time Halloween has been contentious in Jordan. In 2012, arsonists set fire to the entrance of a West Amman cafe that had hosted a Halloween party the night before; the local Muslim Brotherhood chapter subsequently issued a statement calling the Halloween event a gathering of “Satan worshippers.” This year, the government itself started condemning Halloween celebrations before they began. A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Ziad Zou’bi, said such parties were not in keeping with traditional Jordanian values.
So I guess us atheists are running the show in Malaysia while the Satanists are taking care of things in Jordan. Who knew?