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

Sunday, 23 November 2014

US Hindu Group Upset With Art Featuring Indian Gods In Modern Settings

Image of modern-day Lakshmi by photographer Dina Goldstein in her new installation Gods of Suburbia.
In December 2013, it was the 'Lord Ganesh socks'. Then, in July 2014, it was the 'Lord Ganesh duvet cover'. Now it's an art installation in Vancouver called Gods of Suburbia that's got American Hindu statesman Rajad Zed and his Universal Society of Hinduism rather upset.
Rajan Zed, who often makes the news as president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, objects to the way Ganesh is shown sitting on a bench in Fairview Elementary school in Vancouver, being bullied. Lakshmi is seen in a modern kitchen with a snake slithering towards her.
Here is the meat from his official press release. Emphasis my own.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA), was highly critical of Dina Goldstein’s photo project for trivializing the highly revered deities of Hinduism, Ganesh and Lakshmi.

In this photo project, Ganesh is shown sitting on a bench in Fairview Elementary and apparently being bullied by kids. Lakshmi is seen struggling in the kitchen with a snake slithering towards her.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees. Ganesh and Lakshmi and other Hindu deities were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and it was not appropriate to unnecessarily drag them around to push your personal interests.

Rajan Zed pointed out that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at belittling it were painful for the devotees. Artists should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, Zed added.

Zed further said that Hindus welcomed art world to immerse in Hinduism but taking it seriously and respectfully and not for refashioning Hinduism concepts and symbols for personal agendas. Distorting of Ganesh and Lakshmi was highly slighting of ancient Hindu traditions.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken lightly. No faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered, Rajan Zed noted.
Well, Boo hoo!

How is this any different than Muslims demanding we not draw the prophet? Zed is quite welcome to revere his gods as much as he likes, but that's where his rights end. Goldstein can paint whatever she pleases and it's obviously nothing personal. This is simply what she does with all topics, sacred or otherwise, and she's rather good at it.

These images are all rather good and thought-provoking as well. My favourite is Lord Xenu auditing someone! You can also see Charles Darwin as well.

More Info on Education in the Hasidic Jewish Community

“Mod Squad”, by Gerald Rich (2012). CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Just yesterday, I posted about a former Hasidic Jew who was suing government agencies and the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish schools he attended as child because they ill-prepared him for life in secular society. He and his friend from the same schools cannot even properly speak either of the national official languages nor write them. They blame the schools for just teaching them to pray and nothing more.
Yonanan Lowen claims that the two schools he attended growing up in the Tash community in Boisbriand, north of Montreal, ill-equipped him for modern society, let alone making a living.

The father of several children, he said he cannot find work outside the chassidic community. He left the Tash community in 2010 before moving to Montreal.
After writing the post, I had second thoughts. I suppose the very notion seemed so unthinkable to me, that my mind rejected it. I see Hasidic Jews all over Montreal and they do not seem unable to function. However, I wondered if it was their community that supported them and whether they would go to pieces in a similar fashion the plaintiff, Yonanan Lowen, did when faced with the secular world outside of the group. So I asked for some feedback and started doing a little research.

Well, Lynn Davidman, author of fascinating looking book Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidic Jews, did a Q&A over at Oxford University Press blog. Her explanation of the challenges to Hasidic Jews leaving the group mirrors Lowen's situation almost perfectly.
In contrast, the Hasidic defectors did not know much about the secular world. They grew up speaking Yiddish, and newspapers, television, and other forms of secular media were banned from their homes. They grew up in a community in which they were encapsulated physically, socially, and ideologically. They were taught that non-Jews are threatening and that many of them were like animals. So they were terrified of leaving: they did not have the education needed to find jobs to support themselves in the secular world; they had no idea how to find an apartment, or how to finance it; the men spoke Yiddish and poor English. So they had a lot more cultural learning to do in order to leave than I had. Also they had to “disinscribe” the Haredi markers from their bodies—learn to dress differently (putting on pants was a big deal for the women) and comport themselves in a more open way.
So it would seem that Lowen's charges here do seem to be perfectly possible, afterall. It really does sound like a cult.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Lives of Two Sick First Nations Girls vs. Group Rights & 'Faith Healing'

By LaurMG. (Own work.) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
We all know how that court case went down on Friday. I think it's rather depressing that our country allows children to receive unproven, unscientific treatments for life-threatening conditions like cancer.

The state is no longer in the business of defending gravely ill First Nations children from hucksters who would sell them ridiculous woo cures. First Nations parents can now forgo real medical treatment for their children and go off to massage establishments in Florida to be treated by a bogus 'naturopathic doctors' -- who are neither even licensed naturopaths nor doctors... nor even First Nations traditional healers!  These believe vitamin C and raw food can cure people of cancer. What have we come to here?

The one take home point here is that this decision is not in the best interest of the child.

In fact, the first child to have stopped chemo, Makayla Sault, has become gravely ill again.
On Nov. 6, Christian music star Adam Crabb posted on Facebook and Twitter that Sault was critically ill. Crabb posted an update on Nov. 8 that was signed by her father, Kenny Sault.

"As many of you know Makayla suffered a major infection and had to be hospitalized (Nov 5)," read the post.

"At that point because of her weakened immune system from chemo (that she stopped 8 months ago) the doctors gave her 24 hours. She is home (Nov. 8) and is asking for the body of Christ to stand in the gap in prayer for her against this infection."

He went on to say the Nov. 9 service at the fellowship centre was being dedicated to his daughter.

"We are asking all churches around the globe to dedicate a time to prayer in their service," he wrote. "We are believing together for divine miracles to take place … Nothing is impossible. She thanks everyone for their outpouring of love."
Her father insists the infection is due to the chemo. The sad thing is, this could be true, but quitting chemo and going on a boat cruise and being out and about with compromised immune system is not at all standard medical protocol. It seems that no matter what happens, it will never be the leukemia though, always the chemo.

I find myself rather nauseous thinking too much about this, so I thought I would sprinkle a random sampling of reaction from people who are evidently more rational than the judge in this case.

In A native ‘right’ to refuse life-saving medicine? It does natives no favours, the Globe and Mail writes:
Aboriginal rights are an elemental part of Canadian law. They are also a complicated part, a fact never made more clear than last week when an Ontario judge ruled that an innocent aboriginal girl must be allowed to die in the defence of those rights.
...
It is hard to believe that anyone could be so determined to protect a right that they cannot see the agony J.J. will endure. Without chemotherapy, a young girl’s life is going to be ended by an entirely treatable medical condition. Would a parent in 16th-century Canada whose child was dying from a painful ailment have turned down the opportunity to save her, had it existed?
In the Winnipeg Free Press,  Prof. Arthur Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics writes:
The decision pits the protection of First Nations' rights against a child's right to timely medical intervention, effectively creating two standards of health care for children.

"The first implication is that Canadian children in need of care and protection will be protected by the courts, except when they are First Nations children," Schafer said.

"This decision establishes the right of First Nations children to die unnecessarily."
In an excellent article, Doctors say science doesn't back First Nations girls' treatment, Tom Blackwell exposes this for what it is -- little girls falling prey to a sham, quackery, snakeoil, a charlatan.
The late founder of a Florida alternative health clinic that treated two cancer-stricken Canadian aboriginal girls built her program on the notion that wheat grass holds remarkable healing properties, born out partly by a Bible story and the eating habits of dogs and cats.

Hippocrates Health Institute still extols the virtues of the grass - and at least twice in the past six months its director promoted such theories at a southern Ontario First Nations community.

Sham-science watchdogs are calling the clinic's treatments essentially useless, but its message seemed to resonate at the Six Nations reserve and a neighbouring Mohawk community.
Rosie DiManno writes in the Toronto Star -- emphasis mine.
Aboriginal culture, not a youngster’s very life and death dilemma, has triumphed. Traditional healing can be substituted for the scientific medical intervention that has a 90 to 95 per cent chance of curing a gravely ill little girl.

It was indeed a precedent-setting decision from the bench. I will be blunt: First Nations parents can now kill their kids — because that is the inevitable consequence — on the grounds of aboriginal sovereignty, the historical exceptionalism which invests aboriginal peoples with special legal and constitutional status.

That’s what the jam-packed courtroom was cheering Friday, showing how dismally skewed priorities have become in this sad case where everybody clearly has striven to do the right thing for a cancer-stricken 11-year-old — and got it catastrophically wrong.

How this finding, delivered by Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward, can be reconciled with an existing ruling rendered years ago by the Supreme Court of Canada — that state intervention is a legitimate restriction on religious freedom when a minor’s life is at stake, a decision that arose over the refusal of Jehovah’s Witness parents to permit blood transfusion for their severely anemic one-year-old daughter — remains to be seen. But an appeal would take time, even if expedited, and that’s what the little girl hasn’t got, time.
She goes on to write that group rights are the paramount issue; not a child’s life that hangs in the balance. She is cultural collateral. This is the ultimate conflict here. It would appear that the court has decided to not intervene to save the lives of these children for political and historical reasons -- by honouring treaties and the autonomy of these nations, it is allowing them to effectively let their children get sick and, sadly, die.

DiManno, like many of the other writers, goes on to point out that both mothers packed up and went to a resort-style massage centre -- a quacky clinic in Florida which seems to pack a whole lot of woo and very little -- if any! -- authentic First Nations healing! 

This last frustrating observation is made crystal clear by Wayne K. Spear in the Huffington Post. Spearhimself a Mohawk, writes an article on the very thought that re-occurs to me every time I think about these cases: Why Does the Fight For Aboriginal Rights Equal a Rejection of Science? He drills down to the very tragic core of this problem an is concise and excellent.
A growing number of people are turning away from, and against, science and modernity, and for a number of causes -- environmentalism, mistrust of corporations, dislike of secularism, traditionalism, and in extreme cases religious fundamentalism. Alternative medicine has been a growth industry for years, and there's no reason to expect a reversal of this trend. Get ready for more parents who prefer crystal to chemotherapy, vitamins to vaccines, and prayer to Prednisone.

That last one has received less-than-due attention in the media. When the mother of Makayla Sault told the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network that she had "initially went against [her] beliefs and logic and started chemotherapy at the McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton Ontario," she mentioned "ancient Indigenous knowledge" and the Hippocrates Health Institute of West Palm Beach, Florida. But neither she nor her pastor husband, nor her supporters, nor the media (to my knowledge, at least) have mentioned the one belief that perhaps most makes sense of it all: the belief and active prominence of the parents in a fundamentalist Christian sect that teaches the merits of faith healing.
In previous posts about Makayla, I've pointed out that her parents are both evangelicals and that Makayla herself believes that Jesus told her to leave the chemo and that she is cured. However, popular media has either ignored this or downplayed it. There is a whole lot of faith healing in there, of underlying evangelical Christianity. Just re-read Makayla's father's prayer request above -- released by a Christian music star!

Spear goes on.
Now imagine that this case had been wrapped in the cause of faith healing, as earlier this year the Schaibles of Pennsylvania had attempted to ennoble the death of their eight-month-old son -- the second such death of a child in their family, both from easily preventable and treatable cases of pneumonia. No, that wouldn't have done. The cause of indigenous rights, in contrast, doubtless presented itself as a more playable move. And since I'm a Mohawk myself, I've some flint in that game and must object.
Spear wraps up by suggesting that this isn't even a win for aboriginal culture in Canada. New Age treatment at a Florida massage therapy centre all based on a Christian Jesus-vision just might not be representative of their culture.
I'm embarrassed by the thought that this campaign is only promoting the idea that Indians are credulous, as well as unclear on the difference between Onkwehonwe-Neha and New-agism. I suppose the right to say no to medical science is indeed a right, but it seems like a shabby right to me in an era when science-based medicine is making considerable advances.

This campaign -- a mixture of Christianity, alternative medicines, New Age dabbling, and traditional herbs -- strikes me as an abuse of cultural integrity, rather than its defence. Unfortunately I've arrived too late: Justice Gethin Edward has already given the business a seal of approval.
In the end, it appears that nobody really wins here -- except, perhaps, the charlatan herbal treatment centre in Florida.

It's a terrible tragedy and I don't see it getting any better from this point forward.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

New Indonesian President Might Improve Situation for Atheists

By Credited to Indonesian State Secretariat [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Remember Indonesian atheist Alexander Aan, who got thrown into jail and nearly killed for posting stuff on his Facebook? -- perfectly reasonable stuff like "If God exists, why do bad things happen? ... There should only be good things if God is merciful."

He got released after serving his completely unjust sentence nearly a year ago and I'm uncertain how things are going, but I suspect he's trying to keep a low profile for his own safety.

Well, there's been news coming out of Indonesia lately that perhaps the Law, in theory at least, could be more on his side in future. This probably won't improve his overall safety, but it might keep other atheists from getting thrown into the slammer for expressing their disbelief in Islam. Well, maybe.
In this Sunni-majority country, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim has announced that a new law is to be introduced within six months to protect minorities from attack and to ensure that all citizens have the same rights. He also promised a change in regulations to make it easier for minority groups to obtain permits for building places of worship.

On Wednesday (5 November), Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo met with representatives of minority religions, something which they have long appealed for, but which had been rejected by his predecessor.  It is significant that this was the Minister’s first official meeting after being sworn in on 27 October. Christians, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis, Baha’is and followers of the native religion of the Sundanese people were amongst the minorities present at the meeting. The government also wants to give protection and equality to atheists, who have not previously been recognised under Indonesian law.  The 1945 constitution established a philosophy called Pancasila, according to which it was compulsory for every citizen to follow one of five named religions; atheism was not allowed.
The reforms would also involve removing religious identification from identification cards, which is something I've seen used in other Muslim countries to force public allegiance to Islam. Iran is one example of this.

Apparently, this is all coming because a more tolerant president was elected  in October, Joko Widodo.

Now, it seems like the only originator of this story is Barnabas Aid, which seems to be a nice enough organization concerned with helping persecuted Christians across the world. This story looks plausible enough, but I wouldn't take it at 100% until we see an actual news agency confirm the atheist angle. I have yet to find this. I see other stories referencing equality to minority groups, but nothing else actually coming right out and saying atheists are included. We all know that religious groups often forget atheists when they talk about freedom of religion. So, we'll need to wait and see.

Turkish Prime Minister: Muslims Discovered Americas Before Columbus

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey. By World Economic Forum [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I never knew who was the Prime Minister of Turkey before this month. Now, it seems like hardly a week goes by without me hearing about his government banning The Game of Thrones, or censoring a soap opera for demonstrating too much lip-o-suction, or replacing anything resembling biology with cute little baby animals and gardens in a grade six biology textbook. I know, right! It's so hard to keep up with this!

Well, now he's sharing his wealth of historical knowhow with us. It turns out someone else beat Christopher Columbus to his discovery of America thing: 12th century Muslims. So, they get to join the club alongside Norse explorers, Asians crossing the Bering Strait back when it was a landbridge.. and, of course, the Nephites and the Lamanites, if you're into that sort of thing!

Muslims found Americas before Columbus says Turkey's Erdogan

It turns out that Christopher Columbus said a hill somewhere sort of looked like a mosque.
He found large shells unlike those of Spain. Remarking on the position of the river and port, to which he gave the name of San Salvador, he describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful, like the Pena de las Enamoradas, and one of them has another little hill on its summit, like a graceful mosque. The other river and port, in which he now was, has two round mountains to the S.W., and a fine low cape running out to the W.S.W.
Perhaps someone could explain simile to the good President? Because, that's pretty weak.
The Turkish president - whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam - gave no further evidence to back up his theory, instead stating: "Contacts between Latin America and Islam date back to the 12th Century."
Right. Sure. You know what this sort of sounds like to me? Propaganda. Maybe dangerous nationalistic sort of propaganda, which doesn't require any sort of rooting in fact? Well, that's what I think it is anyway.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Turkish Soap's Kissing Scene Rebuked For Too Much 'Lip-o-Suction'

From “How to Kiss” LIFE Magazine 1942.
What is going on in Turkey these days? First they ban The Game of Thrones, then they replace genitalia diagrams (and any useful information on reproductive organs) in a biology textbook with pictures of fluffy baby animals, and now soap operas are being rebuked by the country's top 'media watchdog' -- for kissing too hotly.
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) took issue with a prolonged embrace between Elif and Omer, the main protagonists of the hit soap "Kara Para Ask" (Black Money Love).

The watchdog will meet in the next weeks to decide what action to take, which will likely involve a fine, the Hurriyet daily said.
The only fleeting consolation I can find from this latest round of religiously motivated prudish censorship is the reassuring knowledge that Kim Kardashian's latest champagne-glass-on-her-bum photoshoot -- I keep seeing it all over the place -- is unlikely to make it into Turkey. This only lasts for a second, though, because then my general disgust with any censorship kicks in and I realize that there is no room for censorship in a free and open society -- even when Kardashian is concerned.
But the RTUK took issue with a realistic and passionate scene in "Kara Para Ask" where Elif and Omer suck and bite each other's lips.

"Here is a scene that goes one or two steps beyond just kissing, a scene shown in great detail and length and which is pure eroticism," the watchdog was quoted as saying.
Way to drain the fun right out of life, RTUK. They are still kissing and anything can be made erotic.  I suppose that the new rule on increasingly prudish Turkish television is that any sort of kissing will need to resemble a light peck on your granny's cheek -- even between lovers? 

This group is clearly so outside of reality now that statements like this make sense to them:
It explained: "Rather than love, the concept of eroticism refers to nudity and behavioral rituals, such as kissing and lovemaking, that come before nudity and makes the transition to sex possible."
Newsflash: These are all the sorts of things people in love do. Unless you're the sort of religious fanatic who would prefer a completely chaste and lust-free life the sort you might see in nightmarish fundamentalist theocratic dystopian novels.

The article goes on to mention how the ruling political party is trying to impose its islamic morality upon the ostensibly secular nation. Americans and others in the West should take this as a cautionary tale about the importance of separation of state and church.

You may be wondering how the RTUK can be such authorities on kissing and the degrees of eroticism. Well, wonder no more. It turns out, they've been reading The Art of Kissing -- available for just $9.74 in hardcover from Amazon.ca!
In The Art of Kissing, William Cane reveals that there is more to kissing than simply locking lips. Through a hundred thousand interviews he has discovered the truth about what men and women do, think, and feel when they kiss. Their input and his expert knowledge can help you to master the secrets of great kissing.

With specific techniques for more than thirty types of kisses, this updated and revised edition features:

* Overcoming first kiss shyness
* Secrets to increasing your 'kissability'
* Complete instructions on French Kissing
* Electric kisses, neck kisses, ear kisses and much more

Transform your kissing technique, pucker up with passion, and master The Art of Kissing today!
The paperback version seems more popular. It got 22 reviews with a four-star rating, so you know that the Turkish Supreme Council is using only the best research material -- well, someone's got to do it. I wonder if the members of this media watchdog are great kissers or not? I guess now we'll never know.
The wordy report by the regulator bizarrely quotes from a book by US kissing guru William Cane, "The Art of Kissing", to describe the embrace shown in the scene as "lip-o-suction".
 Lip-o-suction.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Preacher's Obsession With 'Extremely Tight Pants' Designed By 'Teh Gays'

By Claude TRUONG-NGOC (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Still sort of bummed that the weekend is over? Why not listen to Anthony Morris III, a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses? Watch these three videos and then Google some moar. It's really oddly amusing.




To be honest, I really don't pay too much attention to skinny jeans -- especially what the metrosexuals happen to be wearing. I think the most dangerous thing about these tight pants is #bendgate.

I can tell Morris thinks about men and women in really tight pants rather often. Wearing Spanx, yoga pants while jogging, tight pants with snappy suits.

In a couple of the videos, Morris really puts on his homophobe tinfoil hat when he states that homosexual men design these jeans so he can see young men in them... and presumably get their rocks off(?) -- but are they really looking and obsessing over this any more than Morris? The science is still out on that one, I'll admit.

I feel as if my job is done here. No need to go much further into this. Really.

Can someone make a music video or mix of this? Please?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Game of Thrones is Too Much for Turkish Army

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 3 November 2014

Things Are Getting Absurd & Dangerous In Egypt

Religious Endowments Minister Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa (source)
It's fun and all writing about Egypt's whacky reactions to belly dancing on television, but things really do seem to be going from bad to worse there when it comes to human rights.

What's particularly concerning to me is how the government wishes to stamp out anything they think is atheism (which includes actual atheism) alongside throwing eight gay men into jail for getting married. I'm pretty sure both of those things are human rights violations. They're playing atheism up as being the largest threat to their very existence with homosexuality a close second.

Well back in September, as incoherently as ever, government minister of Religious Endowment Mohammed Mokhtar Gomaa declared that he knew where the sudden wave of atheists and homosexuals are coming from. It's sort of predictable. Actually, I'll give you one guess.
Interviewer: How do you explain the spread of atheism in our society? Has it become a widespread phenomenon?

Gomaa: Yes, it has. There are two reasons for this atheism. One reason is the hijacking of religious discourse by extremists and terrorists. Some people have their own opinion about our religion. The other reason is the colonialist Zionist force, which sponsors and supports atheists and atheism, and finances homosexuals and homosexuality, in order to fragment this society. They want to undermine the stability of our region any way they can -- by means of terrorism, of atheism, of nihilism, and of deviance. So we must confront atheism, nihilism, homosexuality and moral depravity the same way we confront nihilism and terrorism. Our society cannot thrive unless we take a moderate approach.
Israel and the Jews, naturally. Only days ago, I wrote about a Malaysian politician who was blaming the Jews, New World Order, atheists, --- insert anyone who's not Malaysian and Muslim here -- for moral decay there.

Moderate approach? Like, arresting gay people and throwing them into jail for three years? Or do you mean throwing Alber Saber into jail for being an atheist -- atheists can get five years in jail just for being atheist.

This tone seems a bit more ominous and, frankly, fascist than the cuddly and misguided government initiative to deal with atheism.
The ministries of Waqfs (Religious Endowments) and Youth have said they will launch a nationwide campaign to tackle atheism in the predominantly Muslim country. The planned drive will recruit the efforts of moderate clergymen, psychologists, sociologists and political specialists to address the youth, according to local media.
With these statements by Gomma, we have a clear identification of threatening elements of the country's population.  Mere disbelief in god or one's sexuality is characterized as radical or terrorist or impure, the enemy to the stability of the region and a threat to society.

It's sounding very xenophobic and as if Egypt is really gearing up for a Saudi-style culling of 'undesirable elements' in their population. It sounds like something dreadful is about to happen. It looks to me like atheists and LGBT people are the most threatened minority in Egypt today.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Jordan Cancels Halloween


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

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

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

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Rising Atheism Identified as 'a Key Challenge' facing Egypt


Egypt has had many challenges recently, like the Arab Spring or that whole military coup back in January.

For mercy sake, the country is still reeling over that televised belly dancing competition, which surely shook society to its very limit! With all these belly dancers on television, is there any hope? Does anyone have any time to consider the political situation in Egypt when pelvises continue to oscillate on national television?

Keep calm, though. Even with belly dancing not completely resolved, the Egyptian government and senior clerics have bravely identified the rise of atheists as truly the largest, most dire threat to their entire civilization.
 In a sign of unprecedented concern, Egypt’s top Islamic official recently warned against the spread of atheism in the traditionally religious country.

“Atheism is no longer a marginal issue,” Shaikh of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayeb, said on Egyptian state TV. “It has become one of the many challenges facing the country. There are agencies and institutions in the country concerned about this issue.”
And because education, employment, healthcare, poverty, secularism and democracy are 'just fine thanks', the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Ministry of Youth have teamed up to ensure young people are 'thinking right' and 'believing the right.'
The ministries of Waqfs (Religious Endowments) and Youth have said they will launch a nationwide campaign to tackle atheism in the predominantly Muslim country. The planned drive will recruit the efforts of moderate clergymen, psychologists, sociologists and political specialists to address the youth, according to local media.
I guess there are two positive  points here. It's obvious that atheism is making some progress in Egypt and it appears to be at least moving the discussion towards a more moderate point. They've even taken to banning fundamentalist Islamic clerics from giving sermons, which seems rather overbearing and unconstitutional to me, frankly.

Like lots of religious people who do not understand atheists, a Christian representative thinks this whole atheism business is some sort of rebellion against tradition.
“After revolting against the political regime, attention is turned to rebellion against the family’s authority and then the religious authorities represented by clergymen. Some people believe that as long as the ruler of the country is deposed, why not depose the chief of the world too.”
Also according to him, high unemployment and materialism is also a cause. Shouldn't the government be concentrating on the unemployment situation? Maybe a little materialism might help in coming up with concrete solutions to jobless rates rather than these pie in the sky witch hunts against belly dancers and atheists.

Apparently, there is an estimated 2 million atheists in the country out of nearly 90 million which is hardly a sizable minority.

If you're caught, you get up to five years in prison as well. That should be the real story here. Maybe Egypt should also concentrate a bit on their human rights and freedom of conscious problems as well.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Baptisms In Pointe-Claire Public Pool

Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre, Pointe-Claire, Quebec. (source)
Are you tired of all those people crowding you at your local public pool? Are you nervous taking a shower when you've inevitably forgotten your flip-flops? Is the chlorine or salt water too aggressive? Do you resent having to wear those tight head condoms? Are you suspicious of strangely coloured underwater clouds lingering around young children?

Well, things were even more distressing this past weekend over at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre. It seems like churches are bringing their members to the pool and baptizing them!
Pointe-Claire resident Ninon Choquette said she was at the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre on Saturday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. for “open-swim” when a group of bathers, including several dressed entirely in white, entered the pool area.
Well, at least they were fully clothed.
“The pool is in no way a place of worship,” said Choquette. “We go there to relax, to play with our children and to get in shape, not to undergo religious exercises.
Apparently, this is a pretty common thing.
Bill Gate is the manager of the Pointe-Claire Aquatic Centre.

Over the years, Gate said, he has seen baptisms take place in the pool, “one or two people … it’s over in 30 seconds.”
Choquette also asks the question of what's the limit, here. Indeed, what's next, funerals? In response, she made the very reasonable suggestion that religious groups rent the pool outside of regular swim hours for their religious ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the complaint has made it all the way up to the mayor of the city who responded by stating that religious events in city facilities are forbidden without prior city council approval.

This is apparently what happens when churches do not have the resources to baptise within their own premises and the Canadian winter is setting in -- and they're not into BieberBaptisms.

One commenter to the article could see no reason why anyone should have any problem with churches performing religious rituals at the public pool:
Why has this offended anyone? It is a public place. How you enter the water or why should be of no concern to anyone else. No one is hurt by someone choosing baptism and if it makes someone uncomfortable, don't watch. Why should it not be allowed? How about a mother breast feeding her child in the pool area? That makes some people uncomfortable, should that not be allowed? What happened to living in a place of freedom? What is it about God that offends some people so greatly that they would take precious time out of their day to complain? There are so many more productive things to fill your time with.
I wonder if there are any Satanist groups nearby who would be interested in doing some of their rituals there? If Christians get to have their ritual there then everyone from the Satanists to the Pastafarians should jump right on in.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Saudi Grand Mufti discovers Source of all Evil and Devastation!

(source)
Finally, someone has figured out what's wrong with the world! It's been Twitter all this time.

The Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh -- voted 12th most influential Muslim in the world -- revealed this important news on his Monday television programme Fatwa. What a great name for a television show!
... according to Saudi Arabia's top Muslim cleric, Twitter is "the source of all evil and devastation".

Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, made the comments on his Fatwa television show earlier this week.

"If it were used correctly, it could be of real benefit, but unfortunately it's exploited for trivial matters," he said about the social networking site.

"People are rushing to it thinking, 'It's a source of credible information' but it's a source of lies and falsehood."
According to the Mufti, people are using the site for trivial things -- like posting how they are feeling!  Not acceptable! Well, Twitter is enormously popular in Saudi Arabia, there was a mini revolt against the cleric's declaration.
One user tweeted: "People need an outlet to express themselves, to start to disclose what's hidden and drop the masks, without fear or commands, or censorship from anyone."
Of course Twitter can be used for good. I use it myself to promote things I'd like others to see. However, after reading some of the inanity on social media, I can almost sympathize with the Mufti.
 "These are not the high morals that Muslims should have and I call upon all people to contemplate seriously what they write before they post their tweets."
Think about your tweets, people!

Just kidding. Twitter isn't the source of all evil afterall! He's just wrong, that's all.

 Perhaps the Mufti could focus on all those people getting their heads hacked off for trivial things or all the slave labor and human rights abuses? Instead, the country has been monitoring Twitter to combat witchcraft and gay people. What a waste of resources.

Tragically, I was unable to find a Twitter feed for him or his programme.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Survey: 'Evangelicals, Americans Are Just Not That Into Your Church.'

William Hogarth. British Artist and Engraver. The Sleeping Congregation (1736)
Today seems to be a really good news day over at the Christian Post. A report came out about a study that shows unchurched (read: Nones) Americans are the least likely to fall anything Christian evangelicals have in their proselytizing toolbox in 20 years. They just don't want to go to church -- who can blame them?

Unchurched Americans Most Resistant to Evangelism Outreach in 20 Years, Survey Finds

Apparently, this is no wimpy survey. Some 40,000 interviews were done.
A new study from Christian Research company Barna Group reveals that unchurched Americans are the most resistant to outreach efforts by the church and friends than they've been in 20 years.

Data collected from 42,855 interviews show that 47 percent of U.S. adults who do not attend church said they were open to being invited to church by a friend – down from 65 percent in 1993.
That's almost 20 points in 20 years -- not trivial at all, but surely all part of God's plan.

President of the survey group, David Kinnaman, echoed in the article that the gap between churches and society at large is an ever widening chasm.
While the research does not reveal the cause of the rift between churches and their communities, he believes "monumental cultural changes" have made Christians seem "increasingly alien and difficult to understand."
Now there's an understatement.

The article seems to be saying that newer generations are less interested in Christianity partially because of monumental changes.  Changes like accepting LGBT people as not sinful, broken, corrupt, dangerous people but rather normal people who are naturally attracted to people of the same gender. I also blame the Internet.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Images of Women Censored By Ultra-Orthodox Vandalism In Israel

Concept art of proposed Egged bus ad which I believe says, 'We are women of Jerusalem, nice to meet you.' (source)
There's been controversy brewing in Jerusalem for the past six years, at least. It's about bus adverts featuring women -- any women at all. These aren't the half-naked sort you are likely to find on placards here in Montreal -- these women are fully-clothed, and yet this is even too scandalous to Orthodox Jews.

Thirty-six year old Sarit Zussman, who self-identifies as religious, wanted to have her picture put on the side of a bus as part of the Yerushalmi movement. This is a political organization with the goal of promoting secularism and curbing religious extremism in Jerusalem.
But even as Zussman tried, the odds were stocked against her. The sign with her photo never made it to an Egged bus. Egged, along with the Cnaan advertising firm, which is the exclusive franchisee for advertising on Egged and Dan city buses, refused to mount them.
The Yerushalmim movement and City Councilwoman Rachel Azaria refused to back down, and submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice, which was accepted. Transportation Ministry officials said they were absolutely opposed to barring women's images on their buses, which set off a debate between Cnaan and Egged over the length of the women's sleeves. The end result of that debate? No images – either of men or women – will appear on Egged's advertisements from this point forward. Egged says the decision was prompted over fear of bus vandalism. Zussman, however, came away feeling more motivated to fight than ever.
This is all in a story on October 3rd over at Haaretz. The signs were to feature women from the chest up with necks, faces and arms exposed. Apparently too much exposure for ultra orthodox Haredi Jews.
The signs from Yerushalmim's campaign were to feature photographs of female residents of Jerusalem with the caption, “Women of Jerusalem, nice to meet you,” and were set to be plastered along the sides of the city's iconic green Egged buses.
The above motto speaks to how images of women have been censored out of Jerusalem society in recent years. Many women, like Sarit, want to reintroduce themselves to society and show that there is nothing shameful about being a woman out in the public square.

It's also significant that a city councilwoman would oppose to censorship like this. Imagine how difficult it would be for her to get necessary exposure to be elected if her image was not allowed to be put up in public! Well, that was the case six years ago on Egged buses. I wonder how women real estate agents would do their jobs?
As much as Egged officials try to deny it, their business decisions bear great cultural significance. Knowingly or not, innocently or not, Egged and Cnaan have become active participants in a bitter culture war from which they have little chance of coming out clean.

Despite the fact that the people running the show at each firm are, themselves, not Haredim, and several pledges of avoiding politics notwithstanding, these firms are actually aiding the Haredi victory in the battle over Jerusalem's character.
Furthermore, it seems that Haredi Jews, who have the biggest problem with images of women in public places, also are the most numerous clientele.
But vandalism seems to be only part of the story here. The decision not to show images of women, even at the price of not advertising in Jerusalem at all, must be seen in the context of a business eager to hold on to its most important clientele – the Haredi riders who take up more seats than any other sector of the population.
Well, just a couple of days after the publication of the article, Egged decided to allow the advertisements afterall.
The campaign to reinstate the images was spearheaded by Yerushalmiot head Shira Katz-Vinkler, and Deputy Mayor Rachel Azaria (Yerushalmim), who holds the education and women’s rights portfolio, and whose own picture was once barred from buses during a political campaign six years ago.

At the time of her campaign, Egged refused to include her image, fearing a violent backlash from extreme haredi sectors, which routinely tore down such advertisements and threw rocks at the buses carrying them.
Noting the prevalence of hardei vandalism against buses with women’s images affixed to them, the government agreed to compensate Egged for any damage caused by the reinstituted practice.
This was good news. Except, wait... I'm hoping that any vandals would be fined appropriately if they were caught!

Well, it turns out that not long after the images actually made it onto buses, they were vandalized.
A few days ago, according to the group, the ads were vandalized.

“These images of everyday women of all faiths send a powerful message to anyone who seeks to limit the participation of Israeli women in public life,” NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said Tuesday in a statement. “In a healthy democratic society, it is crucial that the voices of 50 % of Israel’s population be welcomed. I expect the police to thoroughly investigate this vandalism and bring the perpetrator to justice.”
Here's one of these offensive adverts.


I find anyone who is offended by this advert deeply offensive.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

What Ugandan Religious Leaders Really Think About LGBT


In case you missed it, CNN has an interesting story about where several of Uganda's religious leaders stand on homosexuality.

On homosexuality: Uganda's religious leaders

Some of the comments are just as bad as you would think they would be after watching the news or films like God Loves Uganda.
"Homosexuality is abnormal, and we have to do anything we can to stop it. These people need to repent, need to feel guilty, need to feel that they have sinned." 
"Spiritually, it is against God's will. God created a man and a woman for reproduction. That is how we sustain humanity. If homosexuality continues, the human race will be wiped out." 
Pretty much what you'd expect.  While others were comparatively progressive.
"Today you say you hate gay people, tomorrow God will give you a gay son. And what will you do then? Hate him? You have to work with people who have different beliefs."
The project was undertaken by award-winning photojournalist Daniella Zalcman.
Zalcman interviewed imams, rabbis, pastors -- leaders in every denomination represented in the country -- to ask them what their views on subject really were.

"I went to American-style mega churches in central Kampala and a Pentecostal church in a tin shack in the middle of a slum," she recalls.

"Whenever there's a news item on this issue, we quote a few evangelical leaders who say truly horrific things, wishing death and injury and a fiery hell on gay people. But they're not representative."

Zalcman encountered an array of voices, some stringently anti-gay, others tolerant, and many expressing uncertainty due to a lack of information and limited contact with homosexuals.
It seems that the more thoughtful among them realize that they hadn't enough true knowledge or contact with LGBT people. The less enlightened appear to use their religion to justify their fear and dislike of the unknown.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

South African Pastor Now Tells Congregation to Eat Floral Arrangements

Maxwell Klinger eats a jeep on the television program M*A*S*H: "See? I'm crazy. I'm eating a jeep and I think it's tasty. What could be more crazy than that?" Nom! Nom! Nom!
Remember Maxwell Klinger on M*A*S*H? He would try any stunt to prove to his superiors he was insane so he could be discharged from service in the Korean War? One episode, he decided to eat a jeep to prove he was clearly insane and who wouldn't agree that there are some sort of psychological issues there? Well, this sort of thing doesn't appear to be mental illness to the congregation of one Lesego Daniel, who previously had his congregation eat grass, then ostensibly drink 'pineapple flavoured' gasoline -- he's got religion, so he's a prophet.

This time the pastor is advising his flock to graze on the floral displays around the church.

Pastor Daniel’s flock eats flowers

People started munching on daisies at his command.
“Eat this one,” said Daniel to one of his ushers. The woman ran to the flowers her pastor was pointing to and started chewing off the heads of the daisies and the leaves.

Others started running to the stage to get a taste of the flowers. At first the woman refused to share but Daniel told her to welcome others to also take part in “what the Holy Spirit was doing”.

Soon the whole stage was filled with people chewing away at the flowers.
Well, that must have been a sight. I am relieved, though, that Mr. Daniel chose flowers this time, as some of them are actually edible as far as science is concerned. So there is no miracle there if people didn't get sick -- assuming they are edible flowers. European daisies are at least are edible.
This daisy may be used as a potherb. Young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked, noting that the leaves become increasingly astringent with age. Flower buds and petals can be eaten raw in sandwiches, soups and salads. It is also used as a tea and as a vitamin supplement.
It's pretty apparent he's now simply trolling for attention.
“I’m making news,” Daniel said standing over his congregation as they fought over the flowers.
*sigh*

Maybe it's not a scam though. Perhaps this is just the way South African mega church pastors lose it completely.
On Sunday, he told his congregation that media reports claiming that his private life was falling apart and that he owned luxury cars and huge piece of land where not true and are only attempts to discredit him.
If so, then I suppose this is not really that distinguishable from Maxwell Klinger's situation. Well, on the outside, at least, both cases look insane to us. It's interesting that when religion is involved, stunts like this seem to increase faith and devotion in the congregation, while without religion, in Klinger's case, it was all part of an intentional ploy to draw on as much discredit as possible.

Has anyone seen Pastor Daniel eat the flowers?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Thriving "Surrogate Devil-Stoner" Industry Found at the Hajj In Mina

By Al Jazeera English (Small Jamarah up first) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Given its grotesque record of human rights violations, I like to keep a Google alert on pretty much all Saudi Arabian religion news. Well, this story fell into my filter today and I found it oddly amusing.

Paying money for stoning the devil by proxy illegal: Scholar

Compelling headline. It would seem that there is a burgeoning industry of surrogate stoners who, for a fee, will agree to go through all the burden of throwing pebbles at the devil (a cement wall?) for you. Look, people are busy these days. They'll also do the entire walk around the Holy Kabaa for you if you've got better things to do.
Several brokers are exploiting the ignorance of some pilgrims on the correct methods of performing the Haj pilgrimage to make money. These brokers, mostly expatriates working individually or for some Haj campaigns, convince some domestic pilgrims wanting to complete their Haj rites quickly, that they could do the rite of throwing pebbles at the Satan for a fee.

They also have them agree to do the Tawaf Al-Ifadha (circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba) on their behalf against a certain amount of money.
It seems to be mainly folks who live within Saudi Arabia or surrounding region. For them the whole pilgrimage is seems to be so "been there, done that..."  They would much rather spend the holidays at home with their families than attend this religious service -- just like me!
“Some domestic and GCC pilgrims are willing to pay between SR800 and SR1,000 for throwing the pebbles at the Satan on their behalf. They are rushing to go back to their homes to spend the rest of the Haj holidays with their families,” he said.
They said the money they make out from this job is enough to sustain them for a whole year.
That's between $240 and $300 CDN that people pay these religious ritual mercenaries, presumably at the gates, to go in and take care of this for them. I have no idea how involved this ritual is, but it seems a tad high. Like, is it worth all this not to just go in and do it?

What does it say about the societal pressures in these Islamic countries? It seems that people, who obviously do not wish to participate in these rituals, feel compelled to travel all the way to this site, navigate the throngs of people and then pay off some people to go through the motions.  I guess that's what happens when you apparently don't have any option to just say you're not that much into this.

A Muslim scholar and professor of criminal justice(!) comments that this is obviously incorrect -- the headline says illegal. Like any good forced religious observance, you must get an acceptable exemption: 1) In a great hurry to leave Mina (emergency only?); 2) unconscious due to illness; 3) hospitalized due to accident; 4) too old or weak; or 5) pregnant.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Jessa Duggar Writes Something Else On Her Instagram


It was only one day and already Jessa Duggar -- from the Nineteen Kids & Counting quiverfull-type-evangelical-homeschool-Christian-unreal-reality-television-family fame... Well... Listen... She's gone done written something else on her Instagram!


It's not so much the image, which is a haunting picture of children in a Nazi concentration camp. Nope, it's Jessa's description of the image that made people upset. (Emphasis mine.)
I walked through the Holocaust Museum again today... very sobering. Millions of innocents denied the most basic and fundamental of all rights--their right to life. One human destroying the life of another deemed "less than human." Racism, stemming from the evolutionary idea that man came from something less than human; that some people groups are "more evolved" and others "less evolved." A denying that our Creator--GOD--made us human from the beginning, all of ONE BLOOD and ONE RACE, descendants of Adam. The belief that some human beings are "not fit to live." So they're murdered. Slaughtered. Kids with Down syndrome or other disabilities. The sickly. The elderly. The sanctity of human life varies not in sickness or health, poverty or wealth, elderly or pre-born, little or lots of melanin [making you darker or lighter skinned], or any other factor. "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?" (Proverbs 24:10-12) May we never sit idly by and allow such an atrocity to happen again. Not this generation. We must be a voice for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Because EVERY LIFE IS PRECIOUS. #ProLife
First off, she has a pretty horrendous picture of what evolution is all about. I've heard it before from the evangelical crowd. Regardless of what the Nazis used to justify their atrocities, evolution is as close to proven fact as any theory in science can ever get. It's right up there with the theory of gravity and the theory of relativity.

However, it was her apparent equation of the murder of millions of self-conscious human beings during the holocaust with the termination of pregnancies -- not self-conscious fully-formed human beings... often not even close -- has offended many of her followers, some of whom were already getting over her anti-atheist comments the day before.
I love you and you are a sweet girl. But I am Jewish and I can't even understand why you would compare the Holocaust to abortion. Women have abortions because their life style or body is not fit for a child. Do you think women feel good after killing an innocent child? It was what they had to do to save a baby from a miserable life. The Holocaust was when 9 million innocent and defenseless people who were deemed 'less than human' were slaughtered. Please don't ever compare those two again. Again I say, you are a lovely girl, just don't compare slaughter to selflessness. -- _mya_butoryak_
Abortion is not murder if you look at science. A fetus isn't viable or alive within the time abortion is allowed. Comparing that to the Holocaust is horrendous. Those people were alive and slaughtered. They were put through hell. To say something that isn't alive is going through the same thing is unjustified. I hope your child does not grow up with the same prejudice and narrow-minded approach to life. Shame on you, @jessaseewald. God forbid you're raped. Would you want that reminder of the attack? And putting a child up for adoption? Well, there are 109,000 children in the foster care system in the United States alone. And millions of ALIVE children around the world waiting for a loving family to adopt them today. I pity you and your lack of compassion. -- mayniacmeg
Ironically, comparing the holocaust with abortion -- many of which are performed when pregnancy is under 12 weeks -- is sort of extra dehumanizing, I think, for the victims of the holocaust. As the last commenter pointed out, these people -- who were completely aware of their situation -- were made to suffer in the vilest and cruelest ways over extended periods. The suffering was totally unthinkably gruesome and horrifying. To say that's the same as abortion belittles the event.

Look, I'm no big fan of abortion. Who is? However, in many situation it's the lesser of several evils and, in the end, it must remain a woman's choice over her own bodily autonomy.

Some of you may wonder why I'm even covering this story. Well, Jessa is the product of her upbringing. It is a cloistered, sheltered evangelical Christian homeschooled upbringing that is anti-evolution, anti-climate change, (anti-science), anti-choice etc. So, this is apparently what you get. It's not Jessa's fault -- by all indications she appears to be an intelligent woman who's simply working with what she's got.

Another reason is that, apparently, half a million people follow this Instagram. It's sad, but these people are looked up to by thousands if not millions of young people. Her words may have more effect on some than all the teachers and public speakers out there.