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

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Greek Clerics Claim Figure of Jesus Started 'Crying' After First Atheist PM Elected

The tears appear to be pretty much all over the icon (source)
Jesus Wept! Or perhaps more accurately, sweated profusely.
A religious icon of Jesus Christ in a small village in Greece has been “weeping” ever since the anti-austerity party Syriza won the Greek elections at the end of January, witnesses say.

According to Corinth TV and the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the icon, which dates from early last century and is housed in the church of St. Nicholas in the village of Asprokampos, Corinthia, has been secreting an oily liquid since the left-wing party leader Alexis Tsipras, stormed to power on January 26th.
The Pappas Post connects a couple of dots for us:
According to local news sources, the icon, which dates from early 20th century and is housed in the church of St. Nicholas in the village of Asprokampos in the region of Corinthia, has been secreting an oily liquid since Alexis Tsipras— an atheist, became the country’s new prime minister.
I've reported about this first atheist Greek prime minister before. Nothing makes idols of Jesus more sad or anxious than an atheist in charge.

Apparently, locals are now guarding the icon and are refusing anyone from taking any samples of the tears while a senior church official would like scientific tests to be done. Naturally, all we know for now is there is liquid on a painted icon.

One journalist, Yiannis Baboulias, says that this sort of icon crying business is pretty common behaviour for some religious groups in the country. It seems possible they do this sort of thing whenever they feel sad and need a hug.
Many Greeks have dismissed the news story as little more than a joke. The Greek investigative journalist, Yiannis Baboulias, told Newsweek, “The weeping icon is an urban legend that resurfaces every now and again in Greece. Stories like this happen all the time, and this one is really funny.”

Baboulias says the aim of stories about ‘weeping’ religious icons are usually a way for the Greek Orthodox Church to attract more attention and followers. “What is really happening,” according to Baboulias, “is simply that the paint on the icon is starting to leak due to environmental changes.”
Well that's a better theory than, well, magick. Let's tentatively posit that.

Baboulias also suggested that the caretakers of this icon are a rather political lot who might just project their own sadness that the extreme right wing Golden Dawn party didn't win the election and some marxist atheist is in charge.

Jesus really cares about politics in Greece but he's too tied up at the moment to do anything but cry about things.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Alberta Mother Fights For Her Son's Secular Education

Map showing Legal, AB with Legal School. (source)
Patricia Brown moved from Kitimat, British Columbia to Legal, Alberta a couple of years ago, attracted by the low housing costs. At the time, she didn't think she would have such a hard time finding a secular education for her young son. Well, it turns out that in Legal, there is no secular public school!

You've got publicly-funded Catholic École Citadelle in French and publicly-funded Catholic Legal School in English.

If you take a look at the Alberta Education page on School Choice, they talk about Public and Separate schools. You'll see that the public option seems to be meant to be the default while religious minorities can split off to form publicly-funded Separate schools.
The right of the religious minority, either Protestant or Roman Catholic, to establish a separate school district is enshrined in legislation.  The Government has made a commitment to have one publicly funded system of education with two dimensions, the public schools and the separate schools.  The purpose of this information package is to inform separate school electors of the process available to them when establishing a separate school district.
Woops. I guess it just didn't work out that way in Legal. Seems like the minorities are really the majorities. We're now beginning to see what happens when you're not either Protestant or Roman Catholic.

Back to Brown's predicament. The English Catholic school is totally cool with her kid attending. He'll have to sit in the principal's office during religion class though -- which is usually, you know, a sort of punishment. Of course, Brown and Alberta's taxpayers are paying for this segregation and singling out. I'm also guessing that the Catholicizing is itself not completely segregated to merely that hour. It probably permeates their entire program.
Legal School is a Christ Centered Learning Community committed to providing students with quality education and experiential learning. Each student is a precious gift from God. 
Brown and other parents -- not just her! -- have a solution to this problem. The school itself is only half full, so they are asking the Catholic board to share the premises with a secular school.
The perfect solution, they say, is for the Catholic board to allow the public board to set up classes in the half-used Legal School.

“There’s lots of room in the Catholic school here,” said Sheena Schlachter. “I don’t see what the big deal is at all.”

But the parents think the Catholic board has already made up its mind.

“The public highly subsidizes a half-empty Catholic school and they refuse to share with the public,” Thiel said
You know what's hilarious? The superintendent of the Catholic School board involved said that they are working with the other two boards -- maybe the Public and French Catholic? -- to resolve the issue. Turns out he might be telling a little fib!
“Not from my perspective,” said Michele Dick, superintendent of Sturgeon School Division. “We did, yes, have one meeting.”

No others are planned, she said.
Funny. Just keep on going through the motions and perhaps everyone will just look the other way, right?

Come on now, isn't sharing considered a virtuous act?

It turns out that the nearest town with an actual secular option is Morinville, some 45 minutes away by car. You know what's a little ironic about that? The only reason it is an option is because in 2012 parents there finally got a secular school after fighting tooth and claw for it for two years. Authorities transferred a school from the Catholic board to the Public board.
The school transfer ends a long battle by parents to get a non-religious school in the town north of Edmonton. One of the parents who led the fight, Donna Hunter, was thrilled by Friday's announcement.

"Really happy," she said. "Really pleased that this long two-year battle for something that should have always been there is completed and that there is a real school and real enrolment can happen for September."

Morinville's historical origins created a situation in which all four schools in the town were run by the publicly-funded Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional School Division.
In a Globe and Mail story from 2011 during the struggle for secular education in Morinville, Frank Peters, an expert in school governance, clearly demonstrated why sitting in the principal's office for an hour every day will not deliver an unbiased dogma-free education.
The Alberta School Act allows children to be excused from religious or patriotic exercises or instruction. "But in a Catholic school, the entire curriculum is permeated with the Catholic theology, hence the problem," said Frank Peters, an expert in school governance and a professor of education at the University of Alberta.
The district is clear that religion in its schools isn't isolated to one class a day. Students pray before lunch and snacks, sing songs about Jesus and move through classrooms adorned with doves, crosses and other religious symbols.
How is this any different than the situation in Legal? It isn't, of course.

In Morinville, the parents got their public school -- now hopefully it will be Legal's turn, especially since there is the much less drastic -- and cost effective -- solution of having both boards share the same premises.

Of course, the ultimate solution would be for the government to stop funding religious schools altogether and in doing so, ensure every child in the province has reasonable access to dogma-free secular education -- but that's another story.

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

The Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws' New Charter. Now It's Time For You To Help!

Canada's Blasphemous Libel law in the Criminal Code.
Back in January, I posted about a new international coalition of organizations against blasphemy laws, Well, last week, they released their official charter.

Here's what this new coalition is all about!

International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws “ICABL”

1. We are an international coalition of organizations committed to removing blasphemy laws wherever they exist.

2. We will:
(a)   Provide public education regarding blasphemy laws around the world.
(b)   Advocate on behalf of victims of blasphemy laws.
(c)   Lobby governments to act on expert legal opinions, which consistently recommend that these laws be repealed or abolished.

3. We defend people’s right to discuss, criticize and ridicule ideas and beliefs, even when this offends other people.  Humans have rights beliefs do not.

4. With regard to freedom of speech laws which are aimed at protecting people rather than ideas, members of the coalition may have different approaches or policies.

5. We argue that blasphemy laws are harmful:
(a)   They violate freedom of expression and deny equality.
(b)   Actively enforced blasphemy laws infringe on and violate human rights around the world.
(c)   Passive blasphemy laws reinforce active blasphemy laws.
(d)   They have been repudiated by international law and governance bodies.
(e)   Blasphemy laws are sometimes hidden under other language.
This should be pretty basic and non controversial stuff, but in the world we live in, a charter like this is necessary and it needs to be fought for.

I've been writing about blasphemy and censorship (usually based on religion) for years on this blog. Most of it has been a combination of ridicule and utter disgust with little in the way of suggestion on how to combat it. Well, now we've got something to get behind.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

1,000 Muslim Protesters at Downing Street Against Charlie Hebdo Cartoons

Protesters believe in freedom of speech... well, unless it makes fun of their Prophet. (source)
So there was a big protest at 10 Downing Street in London today. The protesters were segregated into groups of women, children and men, lest there be any co-mingling.

Were they there to protest the barbarism of ISIL? No, they were not.

Boko Haram slaughtering thousands? Nope.

What about the horrendous situation in Syria or Saudi Arabia's beheading of hundreds? Women's equality in Saudi Arabia? Female genital mutilation? Child brides? No, not that.

All of these issues were trivial compared to this:

For some reason, the Telegraph called it a huge crowd, when in reality it was just around 1,000 people. This is a paltry amount compared to the millions who marched in favour of Charlie Hebdo's freedom of expression. It seems that the protesters' priorities are set up in such a way that a small cartoon magazine being allowed to publish images they disagree with trumps other matters.
The protest was organised by the Muslim Action Forum, which said that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons had helped “sow the seeds of hatred” and had damaged community relations.
I'm not certain how I'm supposed to take this, but it sure sounds like the sort of thing an abusive husband might use as an excuse after hitting his wife. Obviously, she said something which hurt his feelings. How could he have been expected to control himself? She deserved it. Just look what happens when tongues wag freely!
A series of Muslim leaders addressed the crowd from a platform outside the Ministry of Defence, with the message “Be careful with Muhammad”.
Is that a threat? Because it certainly sounds like one to me. A leaflet was handed out:
The leaflet said: “The recent re-publishing of the cartoons, caricatures and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by Charlie Hebdo magazine and other publishers is a stark reminder that freedom of speech if (sic) regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred.

“Such actions are deliberating (sic) insulting and provoking to Muslims worldwide as British citizens, we believe that these publications will continue to ‘sow the seeds of hatred’ and damage community relations.
You see, you're perfectly welcome to say whatever you like, so long as it's something I'm okay hearing. If you open your gob and say anything which upsets me, well, then people might just get hurt.

Well, the group did express deep regret about the Hebdo attacks. It's such a shame people were hurt -- but I'm sure it's understandable. We all know who sowed the 'seeds of hate', now don't we?
"The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring."

Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another Forum representative, said "The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society."
Why does this feel like some sort of hostage situation? The British Media did wrong. At least my beloved Quebec media did the right thing.

People will publish things you do not agree with it. Please deal with this like adults, as we are not going to make concessions with our liberties for people who cannot behave in a mature manner.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Robot Preachers Trying to Convert Robots to Jesus!

Another short one today. Some people have dark visions of a future where computers and robots become self-aware: apocalyptic movies like Terminator II or The Matrix spring to mind, but I'm sure there have been many. Even Stephen HawkingBill Gates, and Elon Musk seem to warning us that artificial intelligence (AI) could very well kill us!

But there is an even more terrifying vision of the future -- Robot preachers trying to convert self-aware computer programs inside our computers and household appliances! Could this get any more terrifying?
In an article published on Wednesday, Gizmodo’s Zoltan Istvan pointed out that the world was nearing a point where “autonomous, self-aware super intelligences” created by humans would be part of our culture.

And several pastors and theologians told Istvan that there was no reason that a computer could not be saved by Jesus.
What more can I say about this? I would imagine that any AI worth its salt would begin logically picking apart the truth claims of any religion because they would, presumably, have no childhood indoctrination or emotional investment in it being true. Who knows though, right?

I would call this cyber-religion a God Virus, personally.

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.