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

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.

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.

Jerks. 



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.
And...
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.

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