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

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Telegraph Mistakenly(?) Republishes Story About 'Boobquake' Cleric's 2010 Remarks

Woman in northern Iran, 1971. (source)
It probably doesn't bode well for Iran that I keep writing about them day after day, it seems. Just yesterday, we learned about the government's crackdown on Satanic haircuts and bikini waxing. Well, now we hear from our old friend Kazem Seddiqi who inspired Boobquake back in 2010.

A story appeared on the Telegraph new site -- and only this site -- yesterday about the good cleric apparently once again having problems with women over exposing themselves.
In about the most extreme example of slut shaming yet, a prayer leader in Tehran has blamed earthquakes on women who dress provocatively and tempt people into promiscuity.

"When promiscuity spreads, earthquakes increase," Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi said during prayers on Friday, a video of which was later posted on YouTube.

"There is no way other than taking refuge in religion and adapting ourselves to Islamic behavior," he added.
Except, wait! This story seems to be just a reprint (freezepage) of the precise same quote from 2010, just before Jennifer McCreight invented the protest. The date on the page is yesterday though, so I saw it pop up on my Facebook feed yesterday.

Oh well! I guess this is a nice reminder to us all of a golden classic from five years ago. I wonder if someone at the Telegraph mistakenly chose the wrong year with scheduling the story all those five years ago? Wouldn't that be an interesting sort of time capsule into past ridiculousness? The caption on the story's picture is 'Okay guy.' which also seems a little... wrong.

The picture above this post is fairly typical beach attire for Iranian women in pre-Revolution Iran. In fact, regular bikinis were en mode. Off the beach, many people dressed much like they would these days:

Students at Tehran University, 1971 (source)
Given the post-Revolution dress code, which has been in effect for the past 36 years, it seems they're still getting rather a lot of quakes. I wonder what else women should be covering up?

(source)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Iran Cracks Down On Satan-Worshipper & Gay Haircuts and Much More!


Finally! Someone is doing something about the Satan-worshipping and homosexual haircut problem in Iran!
Mostafa Govahi, the head of Iran’s barbers’ union, told the semi-official Isna news agency on Monday that fancifully spiked hairstyles were banned and those who styled them risked having their shops closed.

He said: “Devil-worshipping hairstyles are forbidden. Any shop that cuts hair in the devil worshipping style will be harshly dealt with and their licence revoked. Tattoos, solarium treatments and plucking eyebrows [for men] are also forbidden.”
Well, thank goodness for that, right? That should stop the youths from engaging in all that Satan worship and gay sex.
“Haircuts that show symbols or signs of devil worshippers or those adopted by homosexuals are banned,” he said. “I won’t allow such wrongful western styles as long as I’m in this position.” He said the policy was in line with the cultural norms outlined by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Thankfully, plucked eyebrows for men is also completely forbidden now! Long live the holy Islamic unibrow!

As for lady-parts in Iran. Absolutely no Western pornostyle waxing of your crotch area, women! It's distinctly unholy and whether you sport a landing strip or a full Brazilian, the state has declared that all females should be going au naturel! Doesn't sound crazy totalitarian theo-fascist to me at all.
Recently, a group of hardliners in the city of Qazvin wrote to the authorities asking them to ban full-body waxing for women in beauty salons. Women receiving hair removal treatments to their private parts was of particular concern.
In case some of you were thinking the authorities have missed it, mannequins are also not exempt from this. Presumably female mannequins will either have to have their crotch regions covered or else fake muff muff will need to be affixed to said mannequins.

I kid, there was no specification of this. However, you are now required to measure the hips and breasts of your female mannequins to ensure they're not too sexy.
Shop mannequins have not been immune from such measures either, with those displaying sizeable breasts or hips not tolerated.
Happy to see they're taking care of important matters in Iran!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Feedback From a Reader Who Watched Toronto Screening of 'A Sinner in Mecca'

Parvez Sharma. (source)
Yesterday I posted about gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma's screening of A Sinner in Mecca at the HotDocs film festival in Toronto. Predictably, he got a whole lot of vicious hate mail for it.

Interestingly, one of my readers, Brian Green Adams, attended the screening and left some interesting words in a comment. I thought I would republish them here in a new post.
I was at the premiere and Sharma was clearly shaken by the threats. There were a number of other gay Muslims in the audience who were very appreciative of the film.

I would say that what comes clear is that Sharma feels his religious tradition has been hijacked by an extremist variety, Wahabism, and the Saudis.

The film was a great window into the reality of the Hajj more than anything else, but we also get some indication of the varieties of Islam, Sunni, Shia and Sharma's own Sufi tradition.

It is also a moving personal story, though like you, I cannot understand what keeps him Muslim. He is openly cherry picking, saying that he accepts Islam on his own terms, which is pretty common in a any religion I guess.

The problem I had with it was that he is obviously being disrespectful of the prohibition on filming in a number of places in Mecca. He justifies this by rationalizing that since he is a filmmaker, how could he not film his Hajj? I guess, but this did not dispel the feeling that he was that jerk with his phone out that the museum guard had to keep admonishing.

On the whole worth seeing, but his first picture likely gets more into why gay Muslims don't always leave the faith. 
This first film is A Jihad for Love. Here's the trailer for that one.


Thanks to Brian for this excellent insight into a film I'll have to catch.

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.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Rafe Mair's Defence of James Lunney's Creationism Misses the Mark


Rafe Mair has come out in defence of MP James Lunney's creationism and what a defence it is.

Namely, he's defending Lunney against Richard Littlemore's amusing piece, Social media smites creationist James Lunney, ex-Tory MP where Littlemore points out that the public has every right to point out politicians' silly beliefs when they see them -- for the sake of the common good!
When we lived in villages, everyone knew the fool. And when he said something silly, the people either pointed and laughed and or they turned away in embarrassed sympathy. In either case, they didn’t elect him chief.
By all accounts I've read, Mair is a brilliant lawyer with a great list of achievements. This defence is not one of them. Let's take a look at it.

After explaining that he is a lukewarm Christian (read: Anglican) and singing the praises of chiropractors as 'bona fide healers who the public vote for consistently with their wallets because they bring relief the medical profession cannot' -- something sort of like homeopaths and those scam artists in Florida, the Hippocrates Institute -- Mair got to the meat of his argument.
Dr. Lunney's main sin, evidently, is that he is a creationist and denies the theory of evolution as propounded by Charles Darwin. Evidently creationism is so way out a view as to be unacceptably unorthodox, not to mention embarrassing to the Prime Minister.
I shall have to send my time machine for Mair, as he's obviously stuck alongside Lunney and countless other creationists in the nineteenth century. It's possible, I supposed, he's missed the memorandum that Charles Darwin died in 1882. It may seem astounding to someone whose religion stands by the words of a man who died 2,000 years ago, but the science around evolution has changed since Darwin laid it out!

This betrays a gross misunderstanding of the science that only gets worse as the defence goes on. Scientists have not been sitting on their laurels since 1882. They've been testing, correcting and expanding the theory of evolution all along. Lunney is challenging the findings of multiple fields of biological science for over a century.

Mair redeems himself by getting the following right, though:
My religion believes in a man who could walk on water, who fed thousands with food sufficient only for scores and turned water into wine. He also raised the dead and ascended bodily into heaven upon his own death.

The senior Christian religion believes all that plus that when one takes communion, the bread and wine turn into the actual flesh and blood of Christ.

Mormons believe that the true beliefs were found by a guy named Joseph Smith, inscribed on golden tablets which he transcribed into a new "Bible", after which he somehow lost the gold tablets.

I could go on but only wish to make the point that there's not a religion in the world that I know of that doesn't strain normal credulity in its teachings.
Indeed. It's all completely ridiculous. So why on earth would you get your ideas about reality from it? Why in heavens name would you challenge the scientific method by substituting your favourite myth or fairy story?
Dealing with evolution I can't quarrel with what Darwin had to say. I'm no scientist and certainly it would appear from the physical evidence that he's right. However he doesn't go all the way and this is where I personally argue with evolution. 
Darn tootin! You're not a scientist and neither is Lunney and so why are we having this argument?

In fact, what is even meant by the above paragraph? If Mair admits he's not a scientist and that the physical evidence he sees confirms evolution, then why proceed?

It's because Mair takes issue with the completely unrelated problem of how life first began on our planet. He then has a problem with the very very completely unrelated problem of how the universe began!
The question I have is, where did the water and the amoebae come from? I go further than that. Science tells us that it all started with some matter the size of a golf ball exploding into the universe as we know it. Without dealing with just how remarkable that is, the question arises, where the hell did the golf ball and the necessary oxygen come from? 
Indeed. Where did the golf ball and the oxygen come from? If only the cosmologists had any sort of idea whatsoever, right? Then the biologists would know how the different species of animal came to be.

I mean, how are we supposed to know how golf balls even work until we know how they were made, who invented them, the inventor's birth place, parents, grandparents...

He then points out that if we all don't know for sure, then why is postulating an infinite being outside of time and space that knows everything and can do everything and is utterly beyond our comprehension or ability to explain any more silly? Why is a completely incomprehensible thing for which no one has any proof of more silly... than, say... trying to come up with actual plausible, testable solutions to the problem?

He goes on to point out that many religions -- which he's pointed out above make completely irrational claims -- reject evolution. I'll help him out with this graphic from Wikipedia.


This is completely predictable for belief systems based on dogma lifted from non-evidence based... well... fairy tales.  I'll then invite him to take a look at Project Steve on the same Wikipedia article:
The Discovery Institute announced that over 700 scientists had expressed support for intelligent design as of February 8, 2007. This prompted the National Center for Science Education to produce a "light-hearted" petition called "Project Steve" in support of evolution. Only scientists named "Steve" or some variation (such as Stephen, Stephanie, and Stefan) are eligible to sign the petition. It is intended to be a "tongue-in-cheek parody" of the lists of alleged "scientists" supposedly supporting creationist principles that creationist organizations produce. The petition demonstrates that there are more scientists who accept evolution with a name like "Steve" alone (over 1200) than there are in total who support intelligent design. This is, again, why the percentage of scientists who support evolution has been estimated by Brian Alters to be about 99.9 percent.
And:
There are many scientific and scholarly organizations from around the world that have issued statements in support of the theory of evolution. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society with more than 130,000 members and over 262 affiliated societies and academies of science including over 10 million individuals, has made several statements and issued several press releases in support of evolution. The prestigious United States National Academy of Sciences, which provides science advice to the nation, has published several books supporting evolution and criticising creationism and intelligent design.
Oh, but it's still totally open for debate amongst believers of religions which assert the existence of flying chariots, arks containing every animal in the world, talking donkeys and snakes, etc. Science be damned, we still don't have buy in from those groups.
Since by any objective standards all religions are goofy, why is Dr. Lunney any goofier than the rest of us Christians, Muslims, Jews and so on?
Not at all. I would say his beliefs are right on par with the official doctrines of these religions. If he believes these things then he is just as deserving of the same sort of ridicule ardent believers of other silly things are.

Don't get me wrong though. I believe the vast majority of religious people in the 21st century, possess more sense than what their religion itself states. How could anyone function in the modern world if this weren't the case?
No, Dr. Lunney is right – this is a matter of freedom of belief and freedom of speech. That this embarrasses the Prime Minister and his resident toadies, or indeed Richard Littlemore, scarcely alters the basic right in a free society to hold one's own beliefs and express them without incivility and ostracism however unorthodox they are or how goofy they may seem to others, even to the vast majority. 
I'm not certain what Mair is asking for. Does this blog post cross the line? Are we permitted to point out the error and then required to apologize for our insensitivity or any sort of emotional harm it may cause? Are we allowed to satirize Lunney, or is that forbidden? Will we hurt all important religious sensitivities and risk jail time like in Russia, Iran or Egypt? Can we poke fun at the ridiculousness of his ideas and question other assumptions he may have which might affect his policy as a politician or would this be too offensive for him... for the law?

Where's the line, precisely, Mair? Who gets to decide when it's been crossed?

Because people demanding respect for their deeply held religious beliefs in our society and crying foul and screaming slander when they do not get it -- that does slide into the territory of blasphemy and blasphemy laws.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Nun Stabs Student to Demonstrate the Suffering of Jesus

Still from the movie The Devils
There's this story that's been going around the Internets for the past day or so. The most reputable source I've been able to find to back it up so far is the Irish Mirror, which still sort of seems dubious to me. I've also found it on Croatian language news site and over at a Nigerian one.

You can tell by these outlets' willingness to publish a story with no visible credible source -- which I've found at least -- that it must be a pretty good story. Well, yes. Yes it is. And it just might be true as well -- sounds insane, but plausible.

Nun stabs schoolboy to teach him about the suffering of Jesus

Apparently yearning to emulate the insane and unnecessary masochistic self-torturing going on in the Philippines this past Good Friday, a Catholic nun decided to jab one of her students' arms with a needle just to demonstrate to the class what Jesus -- son of God -- went through. Not her own arm! Oh heaven's no!
Sister Ludovita, 30, had been giving RE classes at a school in the town of Kysucke Nove Mesto in northern Slovakia when she told unsuspecting pupil Adam Celko, 7, to come to the front of the class.

She then took a needle out of her handbag and rammed it into the boy’s hand in front of the horrified class, telling him that this was how Jesus suffered - and he would too if he behaved badly.
The news report has pictures of the bruise on the child's arm. When he got him, his mother, Helena, asked where the bruise came from. When he told her, she got a little upset and didn't want him to return to the Religious Education class -- lest he be hurt again.
"And with Easter coming I began to worry about what she would do next - crucify one of the students or hammer a nail into their hands?"
When Helena spoke to the nun -- and astoundingly didn't completely lose her shit, which is what I would have done -- it was explained to her that the class was learning about Jesus Christ and personal sin, whatever the hell that is.

Apparently, the children were invited to volunteer to experience mild pain so they could feel sorry for Jesus. Then she encouraged the students -- 7 year olds -- to poke themselves with needles and stab themselves!

Sister Ludovita has been fired.

The strange thing is this story seems sort of like a hoax to me, but it wouldn't come as a surprise to me really if it were true. That's the sort of thing we're dealing with when we talk about extreme nuns.

Friday, 3 April 2015

James Lunney Dishes Out Pure Joy


James Lunney made good on his promise to defend his Christian faith much sooner than I had anticipated. To be honest, it took me a little off guard when, the day of my most recent ebullient post about him leaving the Conservatives so he could totally let loose, he totally let loose during session of the Parliament!

On April 1st -- purely coincidental! -- he stood up in Parliament as an Independent and embarked on a long, rambling speech. He seemed to have a beef with cyber bullies who made fun of him when he questioned evolution on Twitter before the Speaker of the House shut him down for, essentially, being totally random.

Here's the video.

Others have reacted to this. You can read about it over at Larry Moran's Sandwalk, Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist, Veronica Abbass at Canadian Atheist, and PZ Myers Pharyngula.

I'd just like to add that Lunney also has a blog which people -- well, the media at least -- do read.  He also has a Twitter account -- with more followers than me. He can appear on television pretty much whenever he wants, publish to national newspapers and even sell a book if he wanted to. So why impose his victim complex all over other members of Parliament -- tying up our country's government? I'm certain every member of the chamber has access to at least one of the above media. If not, then surely a memo could be sent about!

What sort of media stunt is this? Well, the Christian advocacy group My Canada sure are mighty impressed with Lunney's Commons stunt for FREEDOM(tm)! In fact, this group appears to support all the very same things Lunney's been talking about.

Well, let's follow along with some of Lunney's remarks in Parliament.
... I believe there is a growing and malignant trend by what some would call cyber trolls to engage, entrap, belittle, and embarrass politicians of faith over false constructs of the word “evolution”.

In the past month, there were a few words exchanged on social media, apparently inflammatory words: science, managing assumptions, and theory or fact related to macroevolution. ...
Yes, we trolls have been cyber slandering Lunney over evolution, but we've got it all wrong. He isn't questioning evolution, he's questioning macro evolution. This distinction he makes -- a common one amongst creationist apologists -- is hilarious on its own. I won't slander Lunney but I'll happily make fun of him for this too.
After 15 years of serving among members, most of my colleagues would know that I announced more than a year ago that I would not be seeking re-election, so why not just slough it off, shrug it off, let it blow over, and ride off into the next chapter of my life—why, indeed? Maybe it is because I have a background in science. My credentials, modest as they are, are superior on this file to those of many in the chamber and most of my critics. Maybe it is because I have Irish in me and I do not like to be bullied. Maybe it is because, in my time as an MP, I have been sued and exonerated by the courts over the use of the title “doctor”.
Lunney's still mad because someone sued him for using the title Dr.  It's all explained in Wikipedia.
In 2006 Lunney was sued by Robert Pound for the use of the term “Dr” on all campaign signs and promotional materials. Pound stated that “The Chiropractors Act states that chiropractors "may display or make use of the title 'doctor' or the abbreviation 'Dr.', but only as 'Doctor of Chiropractic', 'Dr. of Chiropractic', 'Chiropractic Doctor' or 'Chiropractic Dr.'"Pound had previously filed a grievance with the B.C. Chiropractic College, which quickly dismissed the complaint in January 2007. The case went to the BC Supreme Court where the presiding judge, Justice Douglas Halfyard exonerated Lunney ruling that the use of the title “Dr.” did not “infringe any legal or equitable right” of the petitioner, Robert Pound. The judge also called the timing of Mr. Pound’s complaint “suspicious to say the least” –referring to the timing of the petition close to the federal election. Pound was ordered to pay Lunney’s legal expenses.
I don't have the links handy, but I keep running into stories about theocons and evangelicals in Canada who call themselves doctor but have really dubious credentials. He's got a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor in Chiropractic -- in other words, he's not qualified to speak about biology and evolution in any expert manner.
Many colleagues represent constituents beyond the ones who elected them. I hope that no members of any faith community in Canada are compelled to defend the beliefs of their communities in the future. 
Boo hoo. I hope that people are challenged to examine and defend their beliefs, constantly.

He went on into a talk about whether or not the prevailing science is always right. Of course the answer is no, the prevailing science is not always right. If it were, we would have no need to continue using the scientific method or to advance it any further -- it would become religion and be dogma.
Scientists are gagged over a false construct related to the theory of evolution, which is bogged down at the cell. It is something I know something about. We are made up of 80 trillion to 100 trillion of them. They cannot explain where the first cell came from. Scientists are gagged and educators who disagree are gagged. Academic freedom is imperiled. In fact, anyone who dares make the slightest remark related to this has an inability to speak. A member of the Alberta provincial legislature, the new education minister, was trapped by this issue.
Uh oh. Someone's been watching Ben Stein's Expelled movie. What's ironic here is that a climate change denying, anti-evolution politician is crying out that scientists are being gagged and he's right! In Canada, it's his own previous party, the Conservatives who are actively gagging scientists like there is no tomorrow. Just look it up on Google! If the scientists were free to share their findings, Lunney would have even more to disagree with and use to feed his personal conspiracy theories.

In my last post I happily challenged Lunney to defend away. Now I'm beginning to wonder if any of us can possibly keep up.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Who Frames the Secular Charter? Why Can't We Work Together?

(source)
So there was a bit of a scuffle here in Montreal on Sunday between people who claimed to be pro Secular Charter vs those who claim to be anti-racist. I grow weary of the sort of framing secularists get in the English media here in Canada -- I don't think it helps anyone, even moderate religious people.
Anti-Muslim radicalization and anti-racism protesters clashed outside of a Montreal post-secondary institution on Sunday afternoon, leading to one arrest.

Duelling demonstrations by a small group of secular charter supporters and a group of anti-racism protesters turned violent after a man was attacked with picket-sign sticks. 
The anti-radicalization marchers were there to protest Collège de Maisonneuve allowing Adil Charkaoui to resume teaching his Arabic and Quran course after two of his students were linked with six youth who ran off to join ISIL in Syria. Four of the six attended the college.

As far as I know, there is insufficient evidence to implicate Charkaoui into any sort of ISIL recruiting or direct radicalization of youth. So I wonder why these secularists and anti-racist protesters cannot work together to find a solution to the broader question of radicalization? Am I naive? Surely both sides do not wish anyone's children to run off to Syria.

I would think that there could be no person more noble than an anti-racist person who is also against Muslim radicalization and is strongly in support of a secular state. So what went wrong here?

I keep asking the questions, then in the same article, perhaps I find a clue.
A couple of dozen people who said they supported Quebec's failed secular charter — a proposed bill that would have imposed rules on head coverings in Quebec — ultimately showed up at the school. About 50 people from the anti-racism camp were there to denounce them. 
This is the tragedy of the charter that keeps disappointing me. A noble idea that everyone should be able to get behind boiled down to the pettiest and most irrational of suggestions possible. Yet this is how I see the original charter framed, time after time -- dumbed down to nothing more than apparently xenophobic wardrobe fascism.

Don't get me wrong, a proper secular charter would include some limitation to religious wardrobe. It would be fine for a woman to take her citizenship oath or appear in court wearing a chador or less -- the same as as a Catholic nun, for example. This is for practical purposes -- for identification. Otherwise, they may wear their niqab wherever they like.


But this would be a minor aspect of a proper charter. Bigger fish to fry would be the eradication of tax breaks for the clergy, churches and religious institutions. Private religious schools would no longer receive a per head government subsidy either. Religious symbols -- mostly Catholic -- would be removed from city halls and other government buildings, including the National Assembly. Prayer before government meetings would be eradicated completely.

I personally do not have a problem with government workers wearing religious symbols or hijabs, so long as the do their duties and do not discriminate. Although I tend to flip-flop on this one from time to time -- I still see this as being their own personal expression and do not assume that it is an expression of the government itself just the same as I do not consider the hue of lipstick they are wearing to be an expression of government endorsed cosmetic.

Even that last point -- being the most contentious and probably best left out of any Charter if we want to have any charter at all -- need not stand in the way of reasonable people -- religious or not -- working together to fight radicalization and promote a democratic secular state that allows us all freedom to exist and express ourselves.

Why can't we work together?

Really, this debate is much more nuanced than this -- and I think we all would actually agree on a lot more if we stopped and listened to each other.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Brave Atheists Dare to Exist in a Hostile 'Secular' Turkey

In less than one year of existence, the Atheist Association of Turkey has gotten hundreds of death threats -- some gruesome ones from Islamist groups. Just take a look at these 'dangerous' people! Many would like to see them dead simply for not believing in God.
Here's one for Andrew Bennett and his Office of Religious Freedom to say something about. In secular Turkey, less than a year ago, atheists got together and formed the Atheist Association.

Since then they've gotten so many death threats -- hundreds -- that they've had to install three panic buttons wired directly to the police (who one hopes will be helpful) and three video cameras. They've got Islamist groups calling to have their president's hands cut off! Even their own president, emperor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has managed to get their site blocked and has accused them of trying to take down his government and identified them as a terrorist threat.

It's a rough time to be atheist in Turkey -- it's really bad.

They plan to march in the streets of Istanbul on their first year anniversary. That's pretty freaking brave!

Listen to this short and depressing report (audio only) about the situation of atheists in Turkey and then why not tweet to Mr. Bennett (@freedomreligion) and ask him to express a little concern on their behalf.


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Winnipeg Public School Board Refuses Evangelical Group Access to Lunchtime Bible Program

(source)
The Winnipeg School Board just rejected the Child Evangelism Fellowship of Manitoba's petition to offer lunchtime Bible study and preschool prayer sessions in their public schools. Trustee Mike Babinsky is not happy about this one bit.
Trustee Mike Babinsky was outraged Monday night. He accused trustees of setting up every roadblock possible to thwart religion in division schools. The board has always stretched out the approval process for months, he said, allowing only one of three readings of the necessary bylaw to be heard each month.

And now it won't take the petition at all, he said.

"Over the years, we have made it very difficult for these people in our community to believe in God. They have the right to do this," he said, accusing fellow trustees of finding ways "to oust these kind of people from our schools."
Do people really need their kids to have evangelicals come in and preach at them on their public schools for them to believe in God? Isn't church and at home enough? This religious group offers ministries such as the notorious Good News Club.
Child Evangelism Fellowship is a Bible-centered organization composed of born-again believers whose purpose is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ, disciple them in the Word of God and establish them in the local church for Christian living.

The primary ministries of CEF Manitoba are Good News Club, Discovery Time in schools, Mailbox Club and 5-Day Club. Through these programs staff and volunteers, who are fully trained and screened, teach the children and help to shape their character.
The board, which Babinsky accused of constantly delaying review of the petition every year, says that it was malformed and so they could not accept it. However, one trustee also expressed understandable disgust with the group's evangelical anti-LGBT views.
Trustee Lisa Naylor was ready to take on Babinsky about religion. She said the group -- the only one that uses the Public Schools Act to conduct religious instruction in division schools -- holds beliefs "that do not support gay and lesbian families, transgender people."

"How do we allow discussion to go on in our schools that goes against our own values?" Naylor said.
I'm not up on these politics, but my understanding is this petition was a way for parents to give consent to the group to evangelize to their kids on school property. Board gets petitioned and then it must approve.

Apparently, the Winnipeg board has also kicked the Gideons and other groups out of their public schools for their views about sexual orientation. Furthermore, this year marks the lowest school acceptance rate of the Child Evangelism Fellowship in years. I guess I'm good with the end-effect of this, but you know what would be more effective?

Why not just forbid outside evangelical groups from coming into public schools and offering this service? Make this a blanket rule. Problem solved. Keep religious groups like the Good News Club and the Gideons out of public schools.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Alberta Education Minister is an "Old Earth Guy"

Child riding on a dinosaur at the Creation Museum. (source)
Remember Gordon Dirks? He's the new Conservative (duh!) Minister of Education for Alberta who just so happened to be a pastor at a rather fundamentalist Christian church with the typically retrograde views about LGBT people.
“Listen up, he said, I take sexual immorality seriously,” Dirks paraphrases Jesus in a Nov. 2012 sermon on the book of Revelation.
At the time, I was willing to give Dirks a chance:
I'm highly suspicious but until he does something sucky, I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

So, Gordon Dirks, don't let what your church tells influence your politics. We'll be watching you.
So, he's started to demonstrate himself! First, he's been really dragging his feet about forcing religious schools in the province -- public -- to accept Gay Straight Alliances. This is predictable given his LGBT-fearing churchy background.
Mr. Dirks is a former Saskatchewan MLA with a long history as educator, trustee, and an evangelical Christian who has served in leadership positions in religious schools that espouse traditional values. Mr. Dirks’ appointment was one of Mr. Prentice’s most overt attempts to win over Alberta’s social conservative base shortly after he took office last year.

Mr. Dirks said at the time that he would “work to balance the rights of all children and parents and teachers,” but progressive critics have grown increasingly wary of the pastor, particularly after he was slow to express his support for Gay Straight Alliances in schools, (Mr. Dirks opened the spring sitting with an amendment in favour of the clubs on Tuesday, months after the issue blew up in the Alberta legislature.)
The good news is that Dirks actually ended up supporting a bill that makes it mandatory for faith-based schools in the province to accept GSAs, much to our friends' at LifesiteNews dismay.

That's not all, though. Oh no! The Education Minister is also a creationist!
Alberta premier Jim Prentice’s hand-picked education minister Gordon Dirks told forum attendees last weekend that he was an “Old Earth guy” — a reference to a doctrine of Creationism that generally rejects biological evolution.

Mr. Dirks has declined to clarify his views. He’s also declined to comment on whether or not he accepts the scientifically accepted understanding of evolution when asked directly by the Post.
That's right, he doesn't want to talk about it because he needs to appease the social conservative (read: fundamentalist Christian) voter base while not making himself the laughing stock of Alberta -- oh, Alberta! -- and potentially Canada.
Irving Hexham, a religion and politics professor at the University of Calgary, said evolution — like abortion — is a divisive issue among evangelical Christians. If politicians from this background come out in favour of the mainstream view of evolution, they risks alienating themselves from their own religious community.
Dirks' Old Earth comment popped out just as another politician was querying him about his socially conservative (read: fundamentalist Christian) views and how they must spill over into his policy concerning Gay Straight Alliances.
Natalie Odd, an Alberta Party member and mother of two, attended an open house held by Mr. Dirks over the weekend, hoping to confront the minister about spending cuts.

“The Gay Straight Alliance is, to me, an issue where if somebody’s beliefs are very socially conservative, if they are in the position of education minister, I believe that is relevant,” Ms. Odd said. After the open house, Ms. Odd said she took Mr. Dirks aside and began to question him about another evolution.

“He said, it’s possible to believe in creation and evolution. I wasn’t getting an answer out of him,” she said. “As we were walking away, he threw up his hands and said: ‘I’m an Old Earth Guy.'”
Totally predictable. I saw the train coming down the tracks.

Look, I'm all for kooky people believing whatever sorts of conspiracy theories they want about the formation of the planet and how life evolved. People are welcome to believe the world is flat and and the moon is made of green cheese. It's just that, I don't think it's wise as a society to have these people in charge of our childrens' education, you know? It seems like a really dumb idea to me.

Brian Alters, a US-based professor summed up the very problem I was dreading in my previous post:
“With the education minister, if this is something that he practices in his place of worship with colleagues of similar faith, I think most scientists wouldn’t have the slightest problem,” Mr. Alters said. “The problem is if the education minister says ‘I’m an Old Earth creationist because I think there’s credible evidence against evolution. I find evolution to not be credible.’ Then we have big problems, Houston.”
Meanwhile, evolution-denying MPP Rick Nicholls, is feeling better these days after receiving multiple emails supporting his denial of science, presumably from a non-evidence-based electorate.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

'Indecent' Statue of Woman In Israeli Settlement 'Hurts Religious Sensibilities', Gets Smashed

(source)
The brutes in ISIL like to smash statues. So did the barbaric Taliban. And now, so do fundamentalist uber orthodox Jews in the small town of Teqoa, Israel. (Print page version to get around paywall). It's interesting to see how fundamentalist flavours of both religions really begin to look the same as they get more extreme. In this case we have female nudity and idols (statue).
A statue in the shape of a woman, somewhat resembling a Christian icon, has caused a storm in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. Religious people complain that the figure hurts their religious sensibilities, while secular residents accuse them of behaving like the Islamic State.
Local artist Ariela Beit On created a graceful female form statue and placed it in the middle of a traffic circle in the communal town. This angered people whose religion apparently makes them despise the female form. A petition was made to take down the statue based on holy scripture.
“A statue of a human form is a fundamental and sensitive issue in Jewish identity and culture. Everyone knows the second commandment, which says, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” the petition says, referring to Exodus 20:4.

"The Talmud and the Jewish legal tradition forbid making human statues, even for ornamentation. Putting this statue in a place we and our children pass every day is inappropriate and hurts our Jewish sensibilities .... We support the right of every person to put whatever statues he likes on his private property. But why put such a statue in a public space that belongs to us all?”
Sadly, there are secular people also living in this community and they were shocked that someone apparently smashed the statue's breasts and eyes. I find it interesting that there is such a brutal reaction to a statue of a woman and such a targeting of the breasts. It's almost metaphorical.
One religious woman sent an email to other residents saying she had no problem with people dressing as they saw fit, “but still — and this really but really isn’t a religious issue — I’m not interested in having a provocative statue (male or female) in my town, opposite my house. Yes, provocative — one that emphasizes sexual organs. In my view, this is compulsion. Let me decide when and how I want to give my young children an anatomy lesson.”
Take a look at the picture below. It's not anywhere approaching what's in the Vatican! Unless women are going around in big burlap sacks, I don't see what amazing new bumps kids might see on the statue they haven't already seen at home and in their everyday.

Anyway, the settlement was founded as mixed religious and secular. I'm guessing that means that religious people have a right to act out when their sensibilities are offended while secularists get to shut the hell up if they're offended.
“And like everywhere, the religious don’t know where to stop," he said. "So the statue broke the camel’s back .... Maybe it hurts their sensibilities, but things also hurt my sensibilities.”
Isn't this always the excuse? Religious sensibilities get hurt and it's instant license to go around breaking things and killing people, isn't it? 'She forced us to do it! She enraged our religious sensibilities!' One secular resident proclaimed in an email that the Islamic State has come to our town!

Still, I'm uncertain about the rules for this sort of thing in Israel and I guess it's their settlement. She should have also probably asked whatever sort of government they have in this communal settlement before plunking the statue on public land -- apparently nobody has a problem with her keeping her statues on her own private property.

This town definitely doesn't sound like my cup of tea and if I were one of the secular residents, I would take this as a cue to get out.

The 'indecent' Wise Woman of Tekoa status prior to being smashed.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Prominent US Hasidic Rebbe Equates LGBT People With Murderers

Grand Rabbi Mayer Alter Horowitz
I'm a firm believer in coming right out and saying what you believe. After reading this article about Boston's Grand Rabbi Mayer Alter Horowitz, I can safely say that this rebbe let it all out for everyone to see.
"There is a community which wants to murder other people," he said. "It's their nature and they must murder – so we should give them equality? Why give them equality, because they are murderers?"
He' referring to the LGBT community. To give you an idea of how skewed, bent, warped, flattened and atomized his moral compass is, he believes that gay people are just as bad as murderers.
The Rebbe stressed that he was aware of the distress of the LGBT community members, particularly the religious ones, but that violating the Torah's commandments was unthinkable. "Just like we have agunot (women chained to their marriage) – isn't that unfortunate? Don't we want to find a solution? If we have a solution, we implement the solution. If we don't have one, we don’t."
Horowitz does have a point about women chained into their marriage. Just recently, one husband refused to let his wife divorce him for 18 years(!) and only let her go after two years in prison and learning he had a grave illness. So yes, things are rough in the Haredi community. Still, prison-like marriages are hardly an excuse!

His explanation is classic: isn't that unfortunate? He's basically saying Nothing we can do about this: God said so! Thus wiping his hands of any kind of moral responsibility whatsoever.

He goes on to point out that 2-3% of men in the community are gay -- who knows how he got this information. His suggestion to them is to suffer in silence by marrying a woman who merely wants sex for procreation or those who do not want a relationship with a man. Perhaps these would be lesbians forced to stifle their sexuality? I'm uncertain if Horowitz cares about or even acknowledges the existence of lesbians.

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.

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