Archive for December, 2015

Farkhunda's half-finished grave outside Kabul. / Lynsey Addario for The New York TimesBack in March I blogged about a woman from Kabul (about as cosmopolitan a city as one can find in Afghanistan) who was killed by a mob after having been accused of burning a Qur’an that she never actually burned. I predicted, at the time — in spite of condemnations by the Afghan government — that justice almost certainly would not be done for this woman. Yes, many people were arrested and prosecuted for this crime, but as the New York Times reports, pretty much everyone involved is going to get away with it nonetheless (WebCite cached article):

At first, the trial and convictions that followed seemed a victory in the long struggle to give Afghan women their due in a court of law. But a deeper look suggests otherwise. The fortuneteller who several investigators believe set the events in motion was found not guilty on appeal. The shrine’s custodian, who concocted the false charge of Quran burning and incited the mob, had his death sentence commuted. Police officers who failed to send help and others who stood by received slaps on the wrist, at most. Some attackers identifiable in the videos avoided capture altogether.

The Times explains the twists and turns this case took, the trials, appeals, etc. Strangely, a lot of the trials and appeals hinged mainly on the issue of who struck the first blow against Farkhunda, rather than delving into what was, essentially, a conspiracy to arrange her murder, and holding those who orchestrated it accountable for their participation. Given his public’s general approval of Farkhunda’s murder, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has essentially caved in on the matter. And Farkhunda’s family has had to flee the country.

Back when I blogged about this senseless and unjust slaughter, I said:

Yes, I’m sure a condemnation by Afghanistan’s new president Ashraf Ghani is certain to bring this practice to an end. No doubt!

And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.

Yup, looks like I called this one … sad to say. The Afghan government and people managed to live down to all my expectations of them … and then some. I’m sure they’re very proud of their backwardness, stupidity, childishness, and cowardice. Well done, Afghans! I’m also sure your al-Lah is proud of you, too!

Photo credit: Lynsey Addario / The New York Times.

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Trikonasana Yoga-Asana Nina-MelOver the last few years, some American Christianists have decided that yoga, of all things, is an abomination against their deity. The angry theocrat Al Mohler came out against it 5 years ago, and occasionally it kicks up a Christianist furor, as happened a couple years ago in California.

The latest example comes from Ted Shoebat, the Christofascist son of the claimed ex-PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, who — as Right Wing Watch reports and provides video — has demanded that yoga, of all things, be outlawed and yoga studios raided (WebCite cached article):

Extremist right-wing activist Theodore Shoebat dedicated his most recent video to railing against the evils of Hinduism, declaring that if he was a dictator, he would invade India, destroy all Hindu temples and force everyone to convert to Christianity.…

“Yoga? Outlawed,” Shoebat continued. “And anyone who teaches yoga? Punished by the state … I think the U.S. government needs to crack down on this evil, demonic thing called yoga … You’re teaching yoga, have the SWAT team bust open the doors to that place and just arrest everybody.”

Note, this isn’t really new for the furious little Teddie. He’s previously called for all gays, and those who support them (even Christians), to be executed summarily (cached). He also supports Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump for president, with the expectation he’ll also have all Muslims executed, as well (cached).

Note that Teddie’s father Walid has a dubious history. He’s a Muslim convert to Christianity who said he’d been a Muslim terrorist, although he was almost certainly not involved in at least one terror attack he’d claimed to have been part of (cached). As one would expect, this has brought him a acclaim from evangelical Christians who love such claims and don’t really give a flying fuck whether or not they’re truthful, and has made a living on the Christian lecture circuit as a “terrorism expert.”

At any rate, I can’t fathom why “mainstream” Christians — who presumably find such views atrocious and unacceptable — haven’t done anything about the angry little Teddie or his father. Hmm. I mean, they may well be offended that this guy is speaking for their religion, their deity, and even them … but he just keeps spewing these ridiculous demands for people he dislikes to be killed.

As for yoga being a form of Hinduism, as practiced in most places in the US, it’s no such thing. Yes, it’s true it began among Hindus as a form of devotion, but over the centuries, not to mention the miles, it’s lost pretty much any connection it had to the religion known as Hinduism. Some of the practices and poses have Hindi names, but that’s about as close a link as you’ll find in most American yoga studios. Having people killed over it, though … ? What the fuck!? I mean that seriously … what the fuck is wrong with Ted Shoebat and why the hell are people actually letting jabber on like the the juvenile, ignorant, furious douchebag he is?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Gustave Doré, 'Godfrey Enters Jerusalem', via Art PassionsAs I’ve blogged already, the Great Neocrusade has broken open. Christianists around the country have had it with Islam and they’re just not going to put up with it any more. Many are exacting vigilante justice on their chief rival religion. Any whiff of anything being somehow pro-Islam has aroused their ire.

A great example of this is in Virginia. As Mediaite reports, the Augusta County School District closed all its schools today due to a torrent of militant Christianist outrage (WebCite cached article):

Augusta County School District in Virginia cancelled school Friday citing security concerns after a teacher’s lesson on calligraphy garnered hateful messages from across the country.

The assignment by Riverheads High School teacher Cheryl LaPorte asked students to copy the shahada, a Muslim statement of faith that translates as “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

During a forum Tuesday night, parents expressed outrage over the school’s “indoctrination.” Augusta County parent Kimberly Herndon said the teacher took away the rights of the students, telling the forum, “if my truth can not be spoken in schools, I don’t want false doctrine spoken in schools.”

The teacher and the school district denied this was “indoctrination.” Instead, it was a calligraphy exercise … nothing more. Here is a scan of the offending lesson:

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: 'Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.' / via Mediaite

Scan of Riverheads High School lesson, relevant portion reads: ‘Practicing Calligraphy: Here is the shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, written in Arabic. In the space below, try copying it by hand. This should give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.’ / via Mediaite

The value of this lesson is explained within its text: By asking the student to try replicating this calligraphic shahada, students will find out something about Arabic calligraphy, in a way they never could, merely by reading descriptions of how it’s done.

While the shahada, literally “testimony,” is one of the Pillars of Islam and therefore has religious significance for Muslims, having to replicate it does not — contrary to common Christian belief — automatically make one a Muslim. No one can convert to any religion, Islam included, against his or her will. There is no magic inherent in speaking or writing out the shahada … or any other ritual phrase from any religion, for that matter. Saying the shahada publicly can signify one has converted to Islam, but this must be intentional.

Allow me to demonstrate by typing out the shahada myself (in English):

There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God.

There. Done. Now … does this make me a Muslim? No. It doesn’t. I remain as non-religious as I’ve ever been. I’ve never had any intention of joining Islam or living by its precepts, and I will continue never being part of it and never obeying it.

Now, if I can do this and not magically be made a Muslim, then Riverheads High School students aren’t going to be magically made Muslims by trying to copy out the shahada in Arabic script. Hence, there is no indoctrination here. None. Not a fucking speck of it!

I find it amazing that so many Christians — a lot of whom don’t even think al-Lah, Islam’s deity, is real — could actually be afraid of the supposed magical power of one of Islam’s ritual phrases. It’s almost laughable. (Please note: Truthfully, Jews, Muslims and Christians all effectively worship the same deity, the God of Abraham. They just think differently about him.)

It’s long past time for American Christendom to fucking grow the hell up already and stop caterwauling about shit they cannot change. Islam exists; it’s not going away; there are lots of Muslims in the world; and it’s best just to accept that reality rather than continue bellyaching against it.

Photo credit: Top, Art Passions; middle, Mediaite.

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'Go ahead, say 'Happy Holidays' and make my day'  / Modified still from Sudden ImpactWhile this is (arguably) more amusing than anything else, this story exemplifies the sanctimony of the so-called “Christmas warriors,” those Christians who’re convinced there’s a “war on Christmas” in the US and that the Forces of Darkness (aka “secular progressives,” “New Atheists,” the ACLU, etc.) are trying to outlaw it as an opening step toward abolishing Christianity entirely. As I’ve blogged for many years no, no such effort exists, but that doesn’t stop militant Christianists from deluding themselves into thinking it’s real.

The latest Christmas warrior I’ve heard about, as the Houston Chronicle reports, is Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller, naturally a Republican (WebCite cached article):

Miller wrote on Facebook – in a post that’s been shared almost 2,000 times and liked by 5,000 fans – that he’s ready to get physical with the next person that wishes him a “Happy Holidays.”

Miller wrote: “If one more person says Happy Holidays to me I just might slap them. Either tell me Merry Christmas or just don’t say anything.” The post is accompanied with an image of a cowboy on a steer riding under a pharmacy sign that says “We will never take the Christ out of Christmas.”

Here’s his threat as it appeared on Facebook:

Sid Miller, Texas Ag Commissioner, posting on Facebook

Sid Miller, Texas Ag Commissioner, posting on Facebook

How wonderful — not to mention Christian — of the guy! You can almost feel all that Yuletide “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” oozing from that post.

I have to hand it to the Texas Democratic Party for posting a reply via a comment on the post which is an 80s-video-game-style animated image saying “Happy Holidays.” The Chron points out some of Miller’s past mouthiness (particularly a time he threatened to nuke all Muslims). Yeah, he’s that kind of Texan, and not too different from what I’ve come to expect from the Texas GOP (which has given us the Christofascist likes of Louie Gohmert and Ted Cruz).

Photo credit: Top, modified still from Sudden Impact; middle, Sid Miller via Facebook.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

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Santa Claus in a parade in Toronto 2007 dsc128This year’s edition of the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas” continues to be waged across the country. The latest battleground is in San Jose, CA. A mother’s complaint, the San Jose Mercury News reports, led to the cancellation of a kindergarten class field trip to see Santa … and other parents are furious (WebCite cached version):

A Santa storm is brewing in San Jose.

After a field trip to visit Santa Claus by kindergarten students at Sartorette Elementary School was canceled by administrators on the heels of a complaint by one Jewish mother, things are getting ugly down on Woodford Drive.

Angry parents plan to descend on the board meeting Thursday, threatening a student walkout Friday if the Cambrian School District’s board fails to reinstate the annual Santa trip. The woman who made the complaint, who identified herself only as Talia and declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening, stood by her claim that having kids write or visit Santa unfairly imposes one religion on all students. She fired off an angry letter Dec. 7 to fellow parents at the charter school, alleging she was “ambushed by a group of moms from Ms. Kay’s class” who she said yelled at her for “ruining Santa for the kids.”

As is very common in these cases, those who see nothing wrong with public-school kids being paraded annually up on Santa’s lap rely on appeals to tradition (e.g. “They’ve always done this at Sartorette!”) as well as appeals to the masses:

“It’s very upsetting that the district would act after taking one person’s opinion and not talking to the 500 other families at the school,” said Melanie Scott, mother of a first-grader who took the field trip last year.

Both of these lines of thinking are fallacious; just because something has always been done or always been thought, doesn’t make it acceptable or correct; and just because many people approve of something, likewise doesn’t make it proper.

I love how Christianists accuse the complaining mother of “ruining Santa for the kids.” That whine makes no sense. If parents want their kids to sit on Santa’s lap, there’s nothing preventing them from taking their kids to a mall or some other place and doing so! Neither this mother’s complaint, nor the field trip’s cancellation, changes that … at all. They’re as free to do so as they’ve ever been. How and why are they claiming otherwise?

The obvious question to be asked is, if these parents are so vehement about making sure their kids sit on Santa’s lap, why aren’t they willing to make that happen on their own time? Why do they require the school to get it done for them? Why divert kids’ learning time to something that could be done elsewhere? I just don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with a latent desire for communal reinforcement; that is, they’re not so much concerned with whether or not their own kid(s) get to sit on Santa’s lap this year, but rather, whether or not their kid(s)’ entire class must do so.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Insanity: At least it's better to be someone who cannot think clearly than one who clearly cannot think.' / Motifake.ComNo sooner did I blog about the continued irrational phenomenon of “Sandy Hook truthers,” than I see another story about these paranoid freaks and wingnuts. The Seattle Times reports Amazon has had to change its online review process because of “truthers'” attacks on a survivor’s book (WebCite cached article):

Amazon.com is revising its product review system six weeks after The Seattle Times reported on activists posting reviews [cached] to push their political and social agendas.

“We are taking a close look at our policies regarding activism reviews and are considering changes,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook said in a statement.

The Times article reported on coordinated attacks by Amazon reviewers on Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago Monday. Lewis wrote “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” to describe her journey after the massacre.

Dozens of reviewers — conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were an Obama administration hoax to push for gun-control legislation — savaged Lewis on the Amazon book Web page as a liar and opportunist.

The article goes on to describe many of the “reviews” (which aren’t actually reviews, just sanctimonious caterwauling by enraged “truthers” who feel as though they’re entitled to visit their outrage and fury on the world), as well as the “truthers'” ongoing conspiracy to disparage Sandy Hook survivors at every step. (The irony of people who believe in a conspiracy theory concocting and participating in one of their own, is truly precious!) The Times also goes over other, similar campaigns involving other products Amazon sells.

The real problem here, of course, is immaturity. The Sandy Hook truthers, as well as other types of conspiratorial thinkers (e.g. the anti-Monsanto crowd), simply haven’t grown up enough to deal with their own insane impulses and feelings. So, like two-year-olds, they lash out however they wish, any time they wish, and rationalize it based upon the presumed “righteousness” of their “cause.” In this case, the “truthers” are visiting their insanity and rage on a company … for no good reason.

Photo credit: Motifake.Com.

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Rick Santorum lowering his head to pray at an Arizona Republican Party fundraiser in Phoenix, Arizona / Gage Skidmore, via FlickrAdd former Pennsylvania Senator — and current back-of-the-pack GOP presidential candidate — Rick Santorum to the list of militant Christianists who claim Islam isn’t really a religion and therefore isn’t protected by the Bill of Rights — which, ironically, was ratified 224 years ago this very day (WebCite cached article). Mediate reports on the Rickster’s idiotic Christofascist blather (cached):

Santorum even argued that Islamic principles are not entitled to complete religious protections due to the religion’s embrace of beliefs that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.

“Islam is different. I mean that sincerely, Islam is not just a religion,” Santorum said. “It is a political governing structure. The fact of the matter is, Islam is a religion, but it is also Sharia law, a civil government, a form of government. So the idea that that is protected under the First Amendment is wrong.

Note Rickie’s yammering and whining about shari’a law. He presumes it’s part and parcel of Islam and that anyone who follows that religion is obliged to follow shari’a law as well. He forgets two important things: First, there is no single entity known as shari’a law … different sects and cultures view it differently; and not all Muslims, even devout ones, want to live by any form of shari’a law at all (many came to places like the US and Europe specifically in order to get away from it).

Like many Christofascists Rickie-boy employs his own subjective definition of “Islam” in order to argue that Islam is something other than a religion and therefore isn’t entitled to the religious freedom provisions of US law. It’s a ridiculous premise, of course, but these folk are so sanctimoniously outraged that Islam exists — and that there are actually Muslims still living in the world! — that they just can’t control themselves long enough to understand how fucking childish they are. They view Islam as Christianity’s main rival, on a global scale, and simply can’t get over that some people prefer it to their faith.

About the only thing I agree with the Rickster about is that, as far as I know, barring Muslims from entering the country isn’t specifically unconstitutional. Yes, it would be stupid. It would paint people with far too broad a brush. It would be difficult to enforce; visa applications, as far I’m aware, have no line item for “religion,” but even if they did, people could certainly lie. It would wall off the US from the entire Muslim world, which is enormous. It would, quite simply, be a petulant and childish overreaction to Islamist terror … which could be better handled in other ways. But even with all that said, people who aren’t American citizens and who are trying to enter the country, don’t — as far as I know — have any Constitutional right of entry. (I invite any Constitutional scholars who read this, and think otherwise, to instruct me further on the matter.)

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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