Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Friday, 30 January 2015

Screw the Law! Dominant Christian Majority Has 'Tradition!'

One of the women who brought forward the petition is Susanne Guenther, a member of the Salvation Army.
It's the stuff of an inspirational movie -- about the persecuted and downtrodden minorities in our society, who band together and stand up against the System, against The Man. Thus, with clenched fists raised and arms joined in solidarity -- defending their god who is apparently tied up with something else at the moment -- they scream out: You cannot keep us down! You can take away our lives but you cannaugh' take away our freedom!

Except that it isn't this really. It's two women and a crowd of 100 or so like-minded defenders of tradition. These are warriors for the way it's been for the past 100 years -- imported European Christian tradition -- what the majority still wants, soldiers fighting for the oppressed status quo.

They got together after getting upset. The privileged position of their completely dominant religion, Christianity, was finally ever so slightly but still not at all put in check at Brampton City council meetings for legal reasons. The newly elected mayor, after consultation with her council members and their lawyer, decided to drop one very specific magical incantation -- Lord's Prayer -- and replace it with a non-denominational spell.

Now to introductions.  First we have high school teacher Greta Archer.  She got mad and, among other things, said this directly to the new mayor at city council:
Because, I believe it should be maintained as a part of our Canadian Christian heritage and everything addresses... we think it's separate but really it's not...  state and religion... history tells us they are connected, whether we like it or not. Seeking direction is very very vitally important.. and maintaining what Canada, why I came to Canada: freedom, yes, but for the Christian heritage that I can pass on to my children and they to their children.
Freedom? Yeah sure, but for the Christian heritage. You know, 'tradition.' Anyone else better stand aside, because Canada is a Christian country, get into the slow lane and stay there, please.

At some point, Greta met Susanne Guenther, whom I've written about before as well. Susanne is a member of the definitely not LGBT-friendly Salvation Army. She started a petition just a month before Greta made her television appearance with the mayor.
To begin Council meetings with the Lord's Prayer is to acknowledge there is a higher power, and to petition a blessing for all the people of Brampton.  There are no exclusive terms within the prayer. It asks for provision and protection for all people. There can be no wording more inclusive than those already spoken. Canada is a Nation that has grown and prospered because of it's (sic) foundation of Biblical Principals (sic) that are for every people in this world. To remove a foundation is detrimental to a firm structure. 
Don't they both resemble each other? More Christian Dominionism, I say. As an exercise, replace Biblical principles with the laws of another religion and then think about both statements as really forming the basis of a country's legal and political system. I'll let you use your imagination. See what springs to mind.

Wednesday, Greta joined Susanne to present petitions garnering some 5,000 signatures at City Hall. These people are demanding that the City of Brampton shove their state-endorsement of Christianity down the throats of religious and non-religious minorities. Christians have been persecuted for too long here! -- a few months.
“We have come today to tell you that we find your abrupt, undemocratic removal of the Lord’s Prayer from council meetings disappointing and shocking,” said Brampton resident Greta Archer, speaking on behalf of dozens of residents who crammed into council chambers to petition against the move.

They want council to reinstate the tradition and presented a box full of petitions with about 5,000 signatures.
What Greta and the article seemed to be missing is that her 5,000 signatures, less than 1% of the city's population, doesn't count a single lick. The courts have settled this and the city's legal counsel knows it. This is a question of human rights -- the right of any Muslims, Jews, Jains, Raëlians, Wiccans or atheists in the room not to be completely alienated and intimidated by the state's obvious endorsement of a single religion.
“You have ripped a 130-year-old tradition right out from under us. “There is nothing in this prayer that should offend anyone.”
I hate these statements because they seem so disingenuous to me. If this prayer is so utterly meaningless and watered down, then let's chuck it. Obviously it holds very great meaning to a certain privileged majority religious group within Brampton who might feel threatened by moves to more inclusion and diversity. Privilege is often unfelt and hidden until it is exposed and removed. This is more than just a tradition this is an expression of dominance and one religion's stamp of ownership on a city, a country. Let's be real, both sides know this.

There is nothing in a Secular Humanist or even Pagan invocation that should offend anyone -- let's bring those out and have them before the council meetings. In fact, I suggest we start a petition to have Jedi and Flying Spaghetti Monster invocations complete with light sabers and spaghetti strainer hats. Can someone in Brampton start a petition for this? I'm reasonably certain that if word got out, more than 5,000 people would sign up.

'I' personally don't see anything that ought to offend Greta about this and 'I' question 'her' right to be offended. Why should she decide what offends her, right? If heads are to bow to His Noodliness, I expect Greta to honour the proper decorum and solemn tradition lest they cause blasphemous offence.

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.

The Toronto Sun 'boils' the situation down to 10 comments, most of which are favourable to secularism and separation of church and state.
God has no place in politics anyways. They removed the Lord’s Prayer from public schools a long time ago, so why would it still be in government buildings? Perhaps the councillors should be reminded they are there to represent the public, and just worry about doing their job. – brob
Oh, but I'm certain there are plenty of people who would love to see the Lord's Prayer in every school, government building, courthouse. This is a sliding scale, of course with a sort of theocratic state on one end.

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.

Monday, 26 January 2015

New Greek Prime Minister Proud Atheist & Firm Secularist

Alexis Tsipras. By FrangiscoDer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month, we heard about Greece's Justice Minister, Haralambos Athanasiou, who refused to even talk about same-sex marriage and LGBT parents adopting in Greek, because: religion.
He said: “Our country has structures. We have to look at it from the religious point of view, the political point of view, the social point of view. The ministry of justice will not, under the pressure of anyone, examine such an issue without calmness and composure."
This was after his Prime Minister had originally announced they would redress LGBT inequality but then caved to fundamentalist clerical pressure.
Following the judgment, the prime minister Antonis Samaras’s conservative-dominated coalition signalled that it would redress the wrong but got cold feet when rightwingers and clerics reacted in fury. Greece and Lithuania stand alone in refusing to grant such rights.
Well, Antonis Samaras and his party got thrown out in the last Greek election.  His conservative party has been replaced with SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left). When's the last time you heard a party that calls itself radical left win an election in Europe?

New Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras is openly atheist, which could very well be a first for Greece.
"As scores of news photographers clicked away, Alexis Tsipras took his oath of office today in Athens. He said he promised to uphold the Constitution and look out for the welfare of Greeks. Tsipras is an atheist, so he refused a religious oath — the custom in this Greek Orthodox country. He's the first prime minister to do so. He's only 40, so he's also the youngest leader in Greece since 1865.
So, this is about the strongest message he could have sent to conservative religious clerics in Greece. Further reports indicate that he is also not adverse to working with religious groups -- he hasn't an axe to grind -- but it seems clear, for now at least, that he isn't one to be pushed around by the church.
GREECE'S new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made history within hours of his victory by informing the Archbishop of Athens, very politely, that clerical services would not be required for his swearing-in ceremony. An avowed atheist who has nonetheless made a point of dealing courteously with senior clergy, Mr Tsipras lost no time in making known that his oath of office would be a secular procedure. It was also explained that when the whole cabinet was sworn in, a more junior cleric (but not the archbishop) would be invited to assist those who wished to take a religious oath.

It's hard to overstate what a rupture this marks with the ceremonial culture of Greece. For as long as anybody can remember, every senior office-holder, from socialists to right-wing dictators, has assumed the post with a ritual involving Bibles, crosses and often holy water, sprinkled about with a sprig of basil. The opening words of the Greek constitution recall the theological formulas of the early church which predate by the Hellenic state by more than 1,300 years: "In the name of the holy, consubstantial and indivisible Trinity......" 
Tsipras is a committed secularist who seems willing to work with everyone in the country to bring about true and real state-church separation -- or so I've read. This is great news and we can only hope that, without religious excuses against it, LGBT equality -- including same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption -- will be not far behind for Greece.

Still waiting for an atheist to be Prime Minister of Canada.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Irrational Beliefs, Woo & Superstition: Another Child Dies

By Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A publication ban has been lifted and the Toronto Star identified Sean and Maria Hosannah as having killed their toddler daughter through neglect. The article starts out with information about the ban itself, but I'm more interested in the original case, which I do not recall seeing in October.
The couple was convicted of manslaughter by failing to provide the necessaries of life by a jury in Brampton last October, but until now the names of the parents and the toddler who died could not be published due to a sweeping publication ban.
You'll see that this case resembles an incident in Calgary where Jennifer and Jeromie Clark starved their son to death while implementing a strict religiously motivated vegetarian diet. Well, it seems like history has repeated itself. The Hosannahs also implemented a strict vegetarian diet apparently believing this would be more nutritious for the child based off no evidence.
An autopsy concluded four months later that she died from complications of asthma and malnutrition. The trial heard she had a rare case of rickets blamed on a lack of Vitamin D, which had also caused two broken bones. She had not seen a doctor since March 2010 and had not received any vaccinations.
Maria testified that she was very, very, very, very, very concerned about her daughter. I believe her. I think she was so concerned as to be paranoid and this paranoia is rooted in superstition,   pseudoscience, a distrust of science, medicine and Big Pharma.
She said Matinah was born healthy, but believed her daughter was “experimented on” in hospital after her birth. She said Matinah was injected with antibiotics without Sean and Maria’s permission, “and they cause a lot of side effects, something that could cause, you know, a child’s death.

Matinah Kabirah Hosannah was born on Nov. 26, 2008, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Toronto, and weighed 2.575 kg (5.9 pounds), according to an agreed statement of fact filed in court. She was given antibiotics and fed intravenously because her doctors were concerned she had low blood sugar and a possible infection. She was discharged on Nov. 30.

Maria spoke at length to police about her family’s diet. She said she only buys whole foods, and stays away from sugar. Most of the meals she cooks are vegetarian, she said, and typically include oats, brown rice, lentils and navy beans. She said she avoids fish “because of with mercury and stuff like that.”
This is a familiar story about parents who have bought into conspiracy ideas about vaccines, injections, fad diets, etc. This sort of non evidence-based thinking is quite prevalent in middle-class Canadian families -- more prominent on the West Coast, I would think. 

This event is made more tragic because the mother appears by all accounts to be well meaning. She is just misguided and undermined by her belief in so much woo -- she did her best but her lack of reality based beliefs worked against her and her child. This is the danger of faith -- whether it be in religion or alternative medicine, etc. If anyone asks what the harm is, this is it.

Naturally, the poor child wasn't vaccinated either.
Her family refuses vaccinations for religious reasons, she said, telling police she had converted to Islam from Roman Catholicism.
What can you do when your compass for reality has been completely broken and you've bought totally into an anti-vax, anti-antibiotics, whole foods narrative, which is so popular these days? What happens when you believe you must cook vegetarian for your baby but do not have enough knowledge to do this safely? You are drifting in open sea with no compass and no rudder; you've lost your footing in reality.
When asked at the end of the interview if she and her husband had provided the best possible environment for their daughter, including warmth, nutrition, education and love, she replied: “We did the best that we can.”
It's sad. It really does matter if your beliefs are true. Irrational and false beliefs can have fatal consequences.

The couple both face possible life sentences.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Raif Badawi's Second Lashing Delayed Again This Week & Saudi King Dead

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. (source)
Amnesty International reports that Saudi physicians have found Raif Badawi to be still unfit for a second course of lashes.
The planned flogging of Raif Badawi is likely to be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds. The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out.
His initial barbaric fifty lashings along with years in jail already and diabetes on top of it all -- which can compromise the body's ability to fight infection --  have likely taken their toll.

Although, I cannot help but think that this sudden concern, along with a recent move by the king to forward the case back to the Supreme Court for a second look, may actually have more to do with it. I mean, this is a kingdom that beheads people for witchcraft!

Visit the Amnesty International webpage Five Ways You Can Help Raif Badawi to keep this pressure on.

Speaking of the king of Saudi Arabia forwarding Badawi's case to the Supreme Court:  Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies
"His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1am this morning," the statement said.
So,  Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Abdullah's brother, is now king -- the new leader because: they came from the same womb. You can tell I despise the whole idea of monarchy, right?

I wonder what impact, if any, this will have on Raif's case.
Al Jazeera referred to Prince Salman's views reported in a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable.  Salman said that "the pace and extent of reforms depend on social and cultural factors, ... that for social reasons—not [religious] reasons—reforms cannot be imposed by the [Saudi government] or there will be negative reactions, ... [and] that changes have to be introduced in a sensitive and timely manner." According to the cable, he said that "democracy should not be imposed" in Saudi Arabia, since the country "is composed of tribes and regions and if democracy were imposed, each tribe and region would have its political party."
Well, that doesn't sound promising.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Malaysian Authorities Demand Muslim Fangirls Turn Themselves In For Kissing K-Pop Boy Band Boys

Here are those B1A4 boy band troublemakers corrupting Malaysian youth! (source)
I know, I know, I'm obsessing over whacky Sharia Law rules in Islamic countries too much lately. So, what's happening in the US and Canada? Just roll we me please, okay? Let me get this out of my system.

The latest news is from Malaysia: where people were forbidden from going to Halloween parties (because atheists were using the holiday to de-Godify Muslims), goofy magic carpet ceremonies were done to recover the missing MH370, and sex bloggers got thrown into the slammer for eating pork during Ramadan (also likely because they were sex bloggers).

This video of K-Pop band B1A4 on stage ostensibly flirting with and hugging young Muslim girls has caused great furor in Malaysia which has actually made it all the way up to government officials.

I know I certainly cannot stand it for more than 10 seconds, but is involving the government really necessary?
During the show, the singers invited several fans onstage to meet the group. Three fans wearing head scarves were invited to act out scenes from a Korean drama. During the skits, the girls shared hugs with the singers; one girl was cuddling with one idol while another received a kiss on her forehead.
This has apparently triggers calls for arrest! This girls are being asked to turn themselves in!
A video of that was posted onto YouTube on Jan. 10. It quickly went viral in Malaysia, triggering outrage among the country’s religious conservatives. Malaysia — which has civil laws strictly outlining what’s not appropriate in terms of public displays of affection — moved quickly. The country’s Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department, charged with maintaining religious moral standards, said last Wednesday the three girls will be given a week to turn themselves in.
If they do not do so, warrants for their arrest will be issued, the department’s director said. The concert’s organizers are also being investigated.
I people need to relax a bit here. Well it turns out that one local Muslim group believes that K-Pop is a secret conspiracy to spread Christianity across Malaysia!
Meanwhile, a local Islamic group in Malaysia has accused K-Pop of being an agent of Christian infiltration, claiming that most Korean singers are practising Christians and noting the high number of evangelicals from South Korea. The group said Korean pop culture masks the spread of messages from “church activists” to youth in countries like Malaysia.
This could also be because South Korea is perhaps the most Christian country in all of Asia. I guess atheists use Halloween parties while Christians use K-Pop. I wonder what Buddhists use.

I have no idea how anyone could feel threatened by this group. They exude a sort of nightmarish wholesomeness that makes me wretch -- but this is just me personally.

A story about this over on the BBC points out that most of the blame is being levied at the girls; a sort of Malaysian fan-girl slut shaming, I suppose.
This whole insanity seems much bigger than these three girls and this K-Pop band, dontcha think? Maybe, we should all stop and rethink whether Islam and Islamic ideas about modesty really do have something to do with this. I think it probably does.

Look, these are just kids and did they really know what the hell was going to happen up on stage? Can anyone be expected to think straight in a frenzy of madness such as that? Can we please not arrest children?

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Saudi Fatwa Issued Against Wintery Fun

One of the snow sculptures. Look, the snow woman even has the proper face coverings!
Another week, another new and nutty religious prohibition from an over controlling Saudi cleric. I simply must place it here for posterity -- it's for my collection.
The fatwa, by Mohammad Saleh Al Minjed, said that building snowmen or any replica of an animal, even if it is for fun or recreation, could not be condoned. Only lifeless things, such as ships, fruit and buildings could be imitated, the fatwa said.
Surely even Saudis must be beginning to realize that things truly have gone too far? One blogger thinks so... although we all know what happens to bloggers who express themselves in Saudi Arabia.
We have snow for fleeting days, maybe even hours, and there is always someone who wants to rob us of the joy and the fun,” he posted. “It seems that the only thing left for us is to sit down and drink coffee,” he said.
Quiet, buddy! They'll be after your coffee and chairs next! Now you've done it. By next month there will be no furniture or caffeine left in the country.

It's not like these people were building snow penises or giant middle fingers. They were just having a little fun -- fun bad... fun bad...
Manama: Saudis in the northern areas drew on their imagination and sense of fun as they braved the cold weather to build snow camels in a rare tribute to the local culture.

One citizen in the Province of Tarif used his snow camel to promote the colours of local teams, drawing praise from the fans, while another opted for the traditional ghitra and agal to cover the head of the snowman he built.
This cleric is a jerk. There, I said it. I would like to think that the Saudi people will eventually be stretched to their very limit. Can you imagine being told what you can or can not make with snow?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Saguenay Mayor: The 'Devil' Did It! #JeNeSuisPasJean

It's been awhile since we've heard from our favourite mayor, Jean Tremblay. What's he up to these days when he's not in the Supreme Court trying to force everyone to listen to prayers to his god in city council meetings, anyway? Is he still on his barnstorming cross-province book tour after declaring journalists and atheists nincompoops? Does he finally have his apparent xenophobia problem out of his system?

Aren't we about due for something to pop up?... say on Twitter.
We're forgetting the real author of this event: "The Devil".
It seems that Tremblay is convinced there is a diabolical supernatural force behind the Charlie Hebdo attack. Satan apparently despises political satire in cartoon form. In fact, he went out of his way, apparently, to attack this French magazine, which has published some real doozies against the Tremblay's own Roman Catholic church. It doesn't make much sense -- but does it really need to make much sense?

The tweets generated dozens of sarcastic responses. The Huffington Post article on this points out this new classic.
Stop everything! We're no longer searching for two men but rather a little red devil with horns and pointy tail!!
Thus was born the twitter hash #jenesuispasjean, I am not Jean.

It's nice to see people ridiculing this sort of thing here in Quebec.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Taking Offence Should Never Let Anyone Get Away With Murder

Protesters in support of jailed Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.
There is very good article on the Pakistan website The Nation about the human right to free expression, especially in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last week. It's written by Karachi-based writer Saima Baig (blog).
The massacre at Charlie Hebdo happened on Wednesday. Armed gunmen killed 12 people, including the editors of the satirical weekly newspaper, because their religious sensibilities were offended. Because protecting an ideology is more important than human life. The satirical newspaper was not just anti-Islam, it used humour to criticize other ideologies as well.
She also refers to a recent similar murder in Pakistan of a Muslim who was accused of blasphemy.
He says Mahmood was arrested in 2011 after claiming to be Islam's prophet, but authorities freed him recently after concluding that he was not mentally stable.
Even being deemed not guilty by the authorities, but rather mentally unstable, earns you a body riddled with bullets in Pakistan. Such is the result of blasphemy laws and a population willing to completely disregard the law when motivated by zealous religion. As Saima eloquently puts it: Because if the guardians of the law of the land will not kill him, the self-proclaimed guardians of Islam will happily take on that responsibility.

She goes one to strongly point out that everyone is entitled to be as offended as they want, but that you have no right break the law and kill people.
As human beings there is no way anyone should be able to justify such atrocities. Freedom of expression is a universal human right. Take offense if you must, that is your right. The reaction however must never be murder, nor should it be apologia for murder. Your faith should be strong enough for you to not be bothered with a cartoon. Your outrage should be better directed at forced marriages, FGM, violence against other sects and violence against homosexuals and transgender people.
People who would take offense to these cartoons while, say, happily attending Raif Badawi's public thrashing for running a liberal website and blogging things -- these people thoroughly revolt and offend me! Yet, I will not be driven to murder because some people are obviously mentally unstable or sick and thus behave in odious manners.

Apparently, an atheist is currently in peril in Pakistan -- punishable in Pakistan by death. Thank you, blasphemy laws -- if they don't get the atheist, the mobs will.
In Pakistan not only is the blasphemy code an instrument of punishment and revenge, apostasy and hence atheism is equally punishable, often by death. In the last few days an atheist was threatened by a "reformist" over a disagreement. The threat was to expose the atheist's name in a blog, which would have definitely put his life in danger.
Another atheist actually got death threats for blasphemy, with special pages being made on Facebook to spread vile messages.
So, she is asked: Why concern ourselves with non-believers, atheists?
Well why not? Someone has to speak for them. They live in fear and cannot reveal their lack of belief. Their lives and their freedoms are equally important. It is critical that we accept that people have a right to criticize and make fun of things we hold dear; that people can change their minds and as adults get rid of the indoctrinations of their childhood.

I would really quote the entire article, so I better stop here. Go read the whole thing. It's short and powerful.

Take a look at a recent post I made about striking down the blasphemy laws still on the books here in Canada. Given what's happening in the world, how can we call ourselves a civilized country if we still have them here?

Ottawa Imam Wants People Who Draw Stuff He Finds Offensive to Just Go to Jail, Okay?

Imtiaz Ahmed wants it to be a crime here in Canada to publish any sort of satirical cartoons that mock or make fun of religious leaders.
“Of course we defend freedom of speech, but it has to be balanced. There has to be a limit. There has to be a code of conduct,” Ahmed said.

“We believe that any kind of vulgar expression about any sacred person of any religion does not constitute the freedom of speech in any way at all."
Oh silly me! I forgot to mention that Imtiaz just so happens to be a religious leader himself! What a coincidence, right?
Ahmed said there should be limits placed on freedom of speech to prevent the publication of offensive material. He says that seems to be the case for events such as the Holocaust. Members of the public denounce those who say the Holocaust never happened.

“We don’t want the Jewish community to be hurt by these sentiments,” Ahmed says.
I don't see this analogy working because people who deny the Holocaust happened are clearly delusional given the mountains of evidence for it having happened. Furthermore, members of the public denouncing Holocaust deniers is not the same a putting into a place a law against these people.

Now what about if religious leaders happen to deny the Holocaust? Are we allowed to mock or denounce them? Do we need to have a State-issued decision chart for this? Please, Imam, I need to know how to think and what I'm allowed to say, mmmkay?

How is this any different than pseudo-divine North Korean dictators limiting free speech in precisely the same way? How about teens being arrested for mocking the president in Turkey? What about the Russians making it illegal to insult anyone's religious feelings?

According to Douglas Todd, the Ahmadiyya Muslims are a tiny and eccentric minority in the Muslim community, who do missionary work and proselytize through media exposure.
Even though Canada’s Ahmadiyya Muslims make up less than one per cent of the world’s Muslims (about 2.5 per cent of those in Canada), they are a missionary group that actively seeks new converts.

And they do much of their proslytizing through the mainstream media, which is currently looking for Muslims to interview about violence, peace and the ethics involved in the satirizing of religion.
I wonder what happens if a religious leader gets sick and tired of Ahmadiyya Muslim proslytizing all the time. What if they find themselves insulted and mocked by this small group distorting 'their' version of Islam?

I wish people would realize that as soon as we start limiting free speech to make one group happy, we are giving that group more rights than others -- whether it be one religious group over another or religious leaders over non-religious people. Nobody ever has the right not to be offended.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Highest Ever Grossing Bollywood Movie 'PK' 'Hurting' Sensitive Religious Fundamentalists

Actor Aamir Khan plays a space alien trying to figure out what's going on in modern day India. (source)

There's this new Bollywood film called PK (pee-kay is Hindi for 'tipsy') that I keep hearing about lately. I'll admit that I really don't get Bollywood but this film has rapidly become the highest grossing Indian film ever ($60.5 million USD since December 19th!). The interesting bit is that the Indian fundamentalist religious right is completely losing their minds over this.

It appears to be about space alien -- an extraterrestrial Mr. Bean -- who gets stranded in modern India and tries to make sense of religion. I bet you can probably guess how successful the alien is at that, right? We all know that nothing is more effective at ruffling religious feathers than questioning in the form of satire.

Here's part of the plot synopsis from Wikipedia:
The alien travels to Delhi in search of his stolen remote. Due to his strange behaviour, the people in the city assume he is tipsy (tipsy translates to pee-kay in Hindi) and call him PK. Delhi turns out to be a very large city, and people tell him that only God can help him find his remote. PK tries to find God, but is confused by India's various religions and their confusing traditions. He later discovers that a godman, Tapasvi Maharaj (Saurabh Shukla), has his remote. However, Tapasvi falsely claims to have attained the object from God in the Himalayas and refuses to return it to PK. Bewildered, PK concludes that Tapasvi and other religious heads must be calling a "wrong number" to God and, as a result, spreading misunderstandings and meaningless rituals.
I believe it's that last part there that's causing religious fundamentalists in India to freak out over this film. However, there's also apparently a fair bit of sex and nudity too.

The English coverage is limited, but the online entertainment magazine Bollywood Mantra ran a short post about who's pissed off and why in 5 controversial scenes of ‘PK’:
1.The scene where PK chases a man dressed as Lord Shiva has attracted a lot of controversy on social media. Though the scene is faultless in the context, Hindu groups feel that showing PK chasing a Hindu god who then has to hide and escape by crawling under people’s feet is hurtful to the Hindu religious sentiment. Protests were also lodged against the part where PK is shown to be threatening Lord Shiva with his own Trishul.

4.The entire sequence where PK shows how a simple stone gets converted into a god has attracted protests from many quarters. It is being said that the scene needlessly hurts the sentiments of those who believe in and depend on God. The emphasis on fear being the main motivation behind religious worship is a viewpoint that has naturally not become popular. Moreover, it shows a Sikh student lying down in front of the stone in supplication, but Sikhs do not believe in idol worship and this is also hurtful to the Sikhs.

5. The sequence where PK clearly states that it makes no sense to travel to a faraway temple to pray for the recovery of a loved one is another controversial scene. Hindus has traditionally performed such pilgrimages from time immemorial in order to fulfil wishes. So, mocking such a pilgrimage is hurtful to the Hindu sentiment.
Here's more hurt feelings from right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spokesman Vinod Bansal:
"The movie makes fun of Hinduism in every possible way. For those who are saying it hits at other religions too, all together the scenes of attack on Christianity and Islam will last for two minutes. But for the rest of two and half hours or more, they keep making fun of Hinduism," said Bansal, on a day when protests were held at cinema halls in Delhi screening the film.

"The movie is so insensitive, the character was an alien, but the director was not," he said.
He then demanded a complete ban on the film, questioned its funding sources, blamed the censor board for being inadequate and then essentially said that vandalized theatres got what they deserved because they ran the movie: 'Are the theatres not guilty of screening the movie and being a party to the malignant agenda. (sic)'

For the most part, this is the typical boo-hoo, you hurt my religious sentiments I've written about before (one, two) -- it's religious people just not being used to people holding up their whacky beliefs to the light of satire/reason for a change. At worst the film suffers from either misrepresenting some religious tenets or perhaps showcasing common lay behaviour which does not coincide with official beliefs.

In fact, the reaction to this film is utterly insane. There is even protesting in the streets.

Further into the above news report, we hear from religious leaders who proclaim that nobody in the country should be allowed to mock religious or 'play with it'. They appear to have gone absolutely berserk and are actually demanding an apology for making the film and even threatening legal charges! This could very well be a test of India's claim to being a true secularist state.

Attempts to ban the film have even gone up to the Supreme Court of India, which has so far protected freedom of expression and secularism.
The first poster came out on 31 July 2014. A motion poster was also released on the same day on YouTube. The poster sparked a controversy[vague] as it featured Aamir Khan posing almost nude with only a transistor covering his private parts. Although the Central Board of Film Certification had already cleared the film, a PIL was filed in the court by the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front to ban its release saying it promoted nudity and vulgarity. The Supreme Court dismissed the plea and gave the movie a green signal.

There were also allegations on the poster being copied. It had similarities with the poster of a Portuguese musician named Quim Barreiros, which was released in 1973. The second poster was launched on 20 August 2014 at an event in Mumbai. This poster was also released as a motion poster on YouTube. The new poster featured Aamir Khan wearing traditional Rajasthani attire, also sporting dark glasses and holding onto a brass tenor. The promotional strategy for the movie was revealed by the makers at the launch of the second poster.

The third motion poster introduced Sanjay Dutt as Bhairav Singh. The fourth motion poster featuring Anushka Sharma along with Aamir Khan released on YouTube October 16, 2014. The poster introduced Anushka Sharma as Jagat Janani Aamir Khan stated that PK will have a poster campaign in which a new poster would be introduced every two to three weeks. By the time of release, 8 to 10 posters would have been launched. The teaser released on October 23.
Just watch this panel discussion which digressed into a complete yelling match. The host, along with most of the media from what I gather, references the constitution and the fact India is supposed to be a secular state -- then mayhem.

Entertainment channel Bollywood Uncut had this response when they apparently believed the Supreme Court banned the film:
If that's the case (banning), we think it's unfair. Because, aren't we the largest secular and democratic country in the world? The movie also tells us that no matter how different we are from each other and what we are in the end -- we are humans and self-belief is what keeps us going.
Are they? I suppose we'll find out, won't we?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Muslim Gets Death Sentence For 'Speaking Lightly' of the Prophet

Mauritanian writer Cheikh Ould Mohamed was handed the death sentence by firing squad on Thursday for speaking lightly of the Prophet.
Cheikh Ould Mohamed has been in custody since January 2, after his arrest for an article he wrote that appeared briefly on several Mauritanian websites.

His text challenged some decisions taken by Islam's prophet Mohammed and his companions during holy wars, the source said on condition of anonymity.

During his trial, the judge told Cheikh Ould Mohamed he was accused of apostasy "for speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed".

I can't find the original text. Maybe it was censored for being blasphemous. One Muslim group proclaimed that this was the first text critical of Islam to have ever been written in the country!

Thousands of people apparently celebrated in the streets when his imminent death was announced. A member of one of the country's moderate Muslim political parties had nothing but praise.
Jemil Ould Mansour, the head of the moderate Islamist Tewassoul party, on Thursday hailed the ruling, saying: "It's the story of a criminal who got the fate he deserved."
Damn straight. You speak lightly of the Prophet and we'll kill you. If that's moderate, I would not like to see what extreme is in Mauritania.

It would appear that this religious mumbo jumbo may just be a mere pretext to get him shot. It seems like certain people in the country may not have liked his negative commentary on the caste system in the country. Besides being extremely Islamic -- following a strict form of Sharia Law -- the country seems to have a real slavery problem which it gets touchy about if anyone points it out. I guess all that religion hasn't liberated everyone yet. Anyway, lots of organizations have been on Mauritania's case about this.
In his article, Cheikh Ould Mohamed, named by some local media outlets as Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, claimed "an iniquitous social order" was being perpetuated in Mauritania, with an underclass that was "marginalised and discriminated against from birth" and to which he belonged.
The president of the country added that when it comes to petty things like democracy or freedom, Islam is just totally above all that silly stuff.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz responded by urging calm and telling the protesters he would take "all necessary measure to defend Islam and its prophet".

Islam, he added, "is above everything, above democracy and freedom".
I would have a problem with that. Better stay away from this country, lest I get shot.

Monday, 22 December 2014

New Pope, Same Story With LGBT in 2014

Pope John Paul II statue in Guadalupe, Mexico.
Michael Lyons, a fellow cantankerous atheist, over at Xtra wrote a short and delightfully snarky rundown of this past year's points of conflict between LGBT issues and religion: This year in queers vs religion.

It's a short read, but in it he sums up what I've been thinking of Pope Francis, whom has been made the media's darling because he seems like a reasonably likeable person.
One of the more infuriating instances was the media’s fawning over the Catholic Church not really doing a whole lot over LGBT people. “In an unusually public debate, 200 or so bishops talked of acknowledging the ‘gifts and qualities’ of gay Catholics but later backed down and failed to pass a measure on welcoming them ‘with respect and delicacy,’” the Post notes.

The publication also focuses on how the US has more than doubled the number of states that now allow same-sex marriage.

It also notes that virulently homophobic Pope John Paul II was proclaimed a saint by Pope Francis, so that probably gives him magical powers to be an asshole to LGBT people from beyond the grave.

Don't forget that in Ontario this year was the very first Pope John Paul II Day -- thinly veiled as Karol Wojtyła Day. I wonder what Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne -- who is gay -- thinks about this? Oh, she thinks it's a great idea. I'm pretty sure it's also the state endorsing religion as well. Yup.

And so it goes.

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.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Brampton Drops Lord's Prayer... And A Touch of Christian Dominionism?

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey explains what secularism is to a Brampton resident. (source)
During December 10th question period portion of the Brampton city council meeting, newly elected mayor Linda Jeffrey explained why the council decided to stop saying the Lord's Prayer to upset resident Greta Archer.

The entire exchange is only twelve minutes and is well worth a watch (skip to 3:30).

Here's a rough transcript of an example of the sort of thing we're up against when pushing for a secular nation. The transcribing bit was bloody painful -- give it a listen up above and you'll know why.
What is our heritage here? To me, the Lord's Prayer is a vital part of our Canadian Christian heritage and this needs to be maintained in council. Because what it says to me is that all of you are not proud enough.. are not proud... but you are in humility, willing to allow to be directed, guiding, given wisdom by God, to do your job, right?

It's very important to us to have that basis. Then, if you want add a more inclusive one, as the mayor said in the Friday November 7th newspaper, which was, Madam mayor, a shock to me, to tell the truth, because I voted for you.

We had enough of other things and we need a fresh start, but this hits me hard as a person who voted. This is the first thing that you brought and I strongly believe that we should be respectful of our diverse communities. I agree with that, but we must have a basis,  a base and then we be inclusive.

In all we homes, we have a rules, we have our standards and then we are welcoming and inclusive to other things. The Lord's Prayer is, to me -- how much more inclusive can we get? It is, to me, one of the most vital things.

So, a question for you, I noticed it was absent today. So was there a meeting that you had to drop it? Where did the idea come from to drop it? Is this your own idea?
She then asked Jeffrey for answers to those questions. The mayor suggested Archer to finish her questions due to time constraints. This is when things get even more frightening.
Did members of your transition team advise you to do this? Has any person of other faith asked you to do this? Is each of the regional and city councilors in agreement with this 100%... ... if so, if they are not in agreement, in a matter of transparency, we would like to know those of you who are not in agreement and we want to know the names.

Because, I believe it should be maintained as a part of our Canadian Christian heritage and everything addresses... we think it's separate but really it's not...  state and religion... history tells us they are connected, whether we like it or not. Seeking direction is very very vitally important.. and maintaining what Canada, why I came to Canada: freedom, yes, but for the Christian heritage that I can pass on to my children and they to their children.
Terrifying. She's all for diverse cultures -- so long as they know who's boss -- her Gawd. It sort of, kind of, sounds like Christian Dominionism, doesn't it?

Again, just a quick reminder that the council didn't drop all prayer, just this particular prayer. So the invocation could still very well be a Christian one -- or at least a monotheistic one. That's just not acceptable for Archer. Her god needs to be revered over all others by the government -- that's why she chose Canada, to be some kind of theocracy-lite. This is what this prayer means to her.

The mayor made a very reasonable and non-rambly response.
I'll speak to the Lord's Prayer. At the end of the day, the Charter of Right and Freedoms has indicated that since 1999 it is illegal for a municipal council to be reciting the Lord's Prayer in their council chambers and we have been one of the outliers as a community, the City of Brampton. So, as I arrived at council, I actually did a survey of all of council and spoke with each person individually about a number of issues and this is one.

As you begin a new term of council, you can decide whether you want to continue to do things the way you used to or whether you do, for a new term of council, in this case four years, do something different. I'm not going to speak about what each councillor said individually -- if you want to have that conversation with each one -- but the majority agreed that it was time for a non-denominational invocation to be part of our opening greetings at the beginning of a council meeting. So, I agree with you, I'm one who recites the Lord's Prayer when I pray but that's my cultural background. My goal here is to try to put the city of Brampton in a different place, to be not an outlier, to be leading edge.

So, each councilor gave me an answer, and the majority indicated either no prayer or a non-denomination. So that was the majority decision of council. ... ...
It would appear that Jeffrey not only understands that city councils should not break the law -- she is after all trying to improve transparency! -- but she also has a much better grasp on secularism than this resident.

Her private consultation with the members also avoided the any concerns councillors may have with good Christians wanting to see who needed shaming -- like what happened to Carolyn Parrish, the only member to vote against keeping the Lord's Prayer in Mississauga.
I've already received two tweets on my Blackberry; that I didn't stand for the Lord's Prayer today: "Now we know what her beliefs are," and one good Christian said, "We're gonna have to work on this and we're gonna have to shame her."
Archer wanted names. I'm not implying she would harass the councilors who wanted a more inclusive space, but there is an element of intimidation there. I wonder how the vote would have gone in Mississauga if mayor Crombie had done things the same way. Perhaps it wouldn't have been such a clean sweep to keep the Lord's Prayer.

Meanwhile, in the above video, the city solicitor was even called into the discussion. Archer asked how she and thousands of other concerned residents could get this changed. The mayor very wisely asked to city solicitor to speak to this. He succinctly brought up the 1999 ruling that rendered reciting the prayer illegal.  Call your lawyer, otherwise, case closed.

If only Mississauga could have been as reasonable as Brampton. Still, remember that all this hullabaloo is over the Lord's Prayer. This will be replaced with another non-denominational prayers, so people are still praying to god(s) before the meetings.

Oh, but it's all just a tradition, after-all. Let this indicate what this prayer really means -- it's a demonstration to all non-Christians that the Christian god is in charge and that politicians are to humble themselves to Yahweh and let Him guide their every move. This is about theocracy -- well, symbolically at least.

Go check out Veronica Abbass' excellent Orwellianesque piece on this over at the Canadian Atheist. There, she points out the Mississauga Newspeak which so starkly contrasts Brampton mayor Jeffrey's clear English.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

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

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

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

Irrational Beliefs Have Real World Consequences

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

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

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

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

Conservatives’ Syria refugee response labelled as ‘discrimination’

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

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

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

Can we vote these people out, please?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Former Mayor Violated Human Rights Settlement & Just Doesn't Seem to Care

Former Lord Mayor David Eke looks on during Paul Henderson's talk during the 2014 Lord Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. Photo by Penny Cole. (source)
There's a good piece by Grant Lafleche over at the Niagara Falls Review about the former Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor David Eke. Eke broke any semblance of government neutrality towards religion when he attended participated in the last Prayer Breakfast with all his mayoral bling on -- a breakfast that appeared to have gone out of its way to keep itself a purely Christian affair.

As Lafleche points out, It's just exhausting watching these politicians who just can't stop praying while in their capacity as public officials every chance they get during city council meetings or breakfasts. Then when you call them out for being non-inclusive or privileging their own religion over others they start flapping their hands about and protesting that it's not really a religious thing, per se, it's just tradition!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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