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

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

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

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

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

Irrational Beliefs Have Real World Consequences

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

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

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

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

Conservatives’ Syria refugee response labelled as ‘discrimination’

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

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

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

Can we vote these people out, please?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

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

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

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

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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!
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".

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!

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.