Archive for the “World Politics” Category

World-wide politics

BlasphemyUnbelievably, it’s a crime in many countries to “dis” a religion or any aspect of one. Of course, this makes no sense at all … since offending a religion causes no harm to anyone or anything. The religion will remain what it is, and its followers will continue to follow it, in spite of that disrespect. Nothing changes, just because someone “blasphemes.” Not. One. Fucking. Thing.

Despite the fact that many places have such laws on the books, very often this is still not enough for some truly sanctimonious folk. They feel a compulsion to take that blasphemy law into their own hands. An example of this, as the Associated Press reports, just happened in Jordan (WebCite cached article):

A prominent and outspoken Jordanian writer on Sunday was shot dead in front of the courthouse where he had been on trial for posting a cartoon deemed offensive to Islam on social media.

A Jordanian security official said the shooter was a former imam, or prayer leader, at a local mosque, and said the man had been motivated by his anger over the cartoon posted to Facebook by writer Nahed Hattar. The shooting was the latest in a string of deadly security lapses in Jordan.…

Jordanian media, citing anonymous officials, identified the shooter as Riad Abdullah, 49, a former imam in northern Hashmi, a poor neighborhood in Amman. The reports said Abdullah had recently returned from a trip abroad, but gave no further details.…

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the suspect said he was motivated by the cartoon, which depicted a bearded man, smoking and in bed with two women, asking God to bring him wine and cashews. All physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad, even respectful ones, are forbidden under mainstream Islamic tradition.

While the government of Jordan condemned this vigilante killing, Hattar’s supporters contend the government actually had put him in jeopardy, by having charged him with “blasphemy” in the first place. And lots of Jordanians are happy that Hattar had been gunned down:

But on Sunday, social media accounts of prominent Islamists in Jordan and elsewhere were celebrating Hattar’s death, saying he deserved it for blasphemy.

I expect the killer in this case to be showered with praise, as happened to a Pakistani who assassinated the governor of Punjab in the name of protecting that country’s blasphemy law.

Killing people over “blasphemy” is the height of foolishness … because as I pointed out at the start of this post, mocking, criticizing, or disrespecting a religion quite literally cannot harm it or any of its followers. A religion is a collection of ideas, and as such, can’t be damaged by disparagement. Its followers will continue to believe in it, and it will endure irreverence. The only reason to act out violently over “blasphemy” is immaturity. It’s long past time for the world’s religious believers to grow the fuck up, get over themselves, and accept that not everyone loves their faith (whichever one it may be).

Photo credit: Silly Deity, via Flickr.

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Missionaries of Charity Mother HouseThe canonization of Mother Teresa has been brewing since her death in the late 1990s. The Pope at the time, John Paul II, had been a serious fan of hers, and greased the skids so as to speed up her sainthood — something that usually takes decades, if not centuries. He arranged for her beatification (the first step in the process) in 2003, and many in the Vatican have worked hard since then to get her sainted. As the Religion News Service reports, she is now “Saint Teresa of Calcutta” (WebCite cached article):

Mother Teresa, the tiny nun who devoted her life to the poor, was declared a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican as he celebrated her “daring and courage” and described her as a role model for all in his year of mercy.

At least 120,000 people crowded a sun-drenched St. Peter’s Square for the canonization of the acclaimed nun who may have worked in the slums of Kolkata but was a force to be reckoned with by political and religious leaders around the world.

Mother Teresa’s reputation for charity goes beyond just the Catholic Church, largely thanks to her having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. But the reality of her work doesn’t support this reputation. She’s been accused of not having actually helped all the ailing in her “hospital,” due to her devotion to the idea that it’s actually good for people to suffer (good for them, and for humanity as a whole).

Among her critics was the late British journalist Christopher Hitchens, who hosted a documentary and wrote a book explaining that her charitable reputation was undeserved. You can watch that documentary, Hell’s Angel, right here:

But for many fans of Mother Teresa, particularly devout Catholics, wouldn’t accept anything Hitchens had to say about her; after all, he was one of those horrific “New Atheists” and isn’t to be listened to. But she had other critics, including Dr Aroup Chatterjee, who’d worked for her clinic for a time (cached), and a team of Canadian academics, whose review of her work concluded she was “anything but a saint” (cached). None of those folks has any anti-Catholic or anti-religious axe to grind. So their criticisms should get some attention … even if they weren’t enough to prevent her canonization.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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A PNG image of Pikachu, arguably the most recognisable Pokémon.This is another of those times I’d never expected to blog about a topic, but find it necessary to do so. Most of you have heard, by now, of the suddenly-wildly-popular mobile game Pokemon GO (why it’s “GO” and not simply “Go,” I have no idea, but that’s how marketing works, I guess). What you probably haven’t heard is that Pokemon is un-Islamic. Yep, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic police decided that, many years ago. As Reuters reports, the popularity of Pokemon GO inspired them to re-issue their fatwa against it (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body has renewed a 15-year-old edict that the Pokemon game franchise is un-Islamic, Saudi media said on Wednesday, although the fatwa made no mention of the successful new Pokemon GO mobile game.

Nintendo’s augmented reality app, in which players walk around real-life neighborhoods to hunt and catch virtual cartoon characters on their smartphone screens, has become an instant hit around the world.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars said it had revived a 2001 decree against a Pokemon card game in response to queries from believers.

The Council argued that the mutations of the creatures in the game, who are given specific powers, amounted to blasphemy by promoting the theory of natural evolution.

“It is shocking that the word ‘evolution’ has been much on the tongues of children,” the fatwa read.

It also said the game contained other elements prohibited by Islamic law, including “polytheism against God by multiplying the number of deities, and gambling, which God has forbidden in the Quran and likened to wine and idols”.

The reissuance declaration even accused Pokemon of promoting “global Zionism” — whatever the hell that might be. A lot of people accuse parochial outfits like the Council of Senior Religious Scholars of being out-of-touch. That, clearly, is not the case here. These guys definitely are in touch with what’s going on in the world. It can’t be mere coincidence that — at the very time Pokemon GO has gone viral to the point where it’s making headlines — they reissued their anti-Pokemon fatwa. They’re much more clued into the world than would otherwise seem to be the case.

Back in the day, I used to laugh at evangelicals who condemned Dungeons & Dragons as “Satanic” and claimed that players conjured up demons (cached). This kind of bullshit pronouncement is really no different, other than the religion that made it. It’s every bit as irrational and asinine.

Photo credit: Ken Sugimori/Nintendo, via Wikipedia.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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'100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter' (English translation) / Charlie Hebdo, via Huffington PostOnce again, the world has been treated to yet another example of how “the Religion of Peace” conducts its affairs. By now you’ve no doubt heard about the attack on a church in northern France, in which a priest was killed (WebCite cached article):

Attendance was sparse at the 9 a.m. Mass on Tuesday at the Église St.-Étienne, a 17th-century church in a working-class town in Normandy. Many parishioners were on vacation; so was the parish priest.

Mass was ending around 9:30 a.m. when two young men with knives burst in. They forced the auxiliary priest, the Rev. Jacques Hamel, 85, to kneel. When he resisted, they slit his throat. They held several worshipers and at least one nun hostage, while another nun escaped. Officers from a specialized police unit descended on the church. A short while later, officers shot the young men dead as they emerged from the church.

The brutality in St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen in northern France, was the latest in a series of assaults that have left Europe stunned, fearful and angry. The Islamic State took responsibility for the killing. Two of its “soldiers,” it said, had attacked a church “in response to the call to target Crusader coalition states.” By killing a priest as he celebrated Mass, the group framed the assault as an act of religious war between Muslims and Christians.

This New York Times article also rather “helpfully” pontificates:

Whether [the attack] will be perceived by the French as a struggle between religions and cultures is less clear. For now, some French politicians seemed willing to take the bait and use the language of sectarian and cultural division.

This little tidbit is in line with what a lot of “experts” have said about ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck and its ilk … that they’re using terror attacks like this one to cause non-Muslims (especially Christians) to go on a raging crusade against Muslims, who — they presume — will then suddenly and magically flock to their banners, converting to their jihadist version of Islam. This thinking has driven the Obama administration’s approach to Islamist terror, as well as that of many other governments, and it explains their relative passivity in light of it all.

I concede Jyllands-Posten Mohammad Cartoon / 'Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins!' / via AINA the US and many other countries have engaged in military action against ISIS for nearly 2 years. While that’s all well and good, the problem with it is that it has done nothing to curtail ISIS. That savage brood remains free to train and ship vicious jihadists to many places, and even by mere “inspiration” launch attacks all around the globe. Two years of airstrikes have been absofuckinglutely useless in this regard. ISIS is as free as it ever has been to command or inspire primitive savagery throughout the world, and nothing the US or any other member of the anti-ISIS coalition is doing, is preventing it. It’s time for them to review what they’re doing and work to stop it.

A first step, toward that end, would be to recognize the role religion plays, here. As much as a lot of the world’s leaders would like it not to be the case, Muslim religiosity is the impetus of Islamist terror, especially where ISIS is concerned (cached). The role of various Sunni states in promoting Salafism around the world — including our putative ally Saudi Arabia in places like Kosovo (cached) — is something that must be dealt with. So long as outfits like ISIS has a pool of potential recruits either to bring aboard and train in their own territory, or merely inspire as “lone wolves” wherever they happen to be, they will remain a threat. What’s more, it turns out that a lot of recent attacks, in the US and Europe, were carried out by apparent “lone-wolf” jihadists who were on officials’ radar … yet those officials took no action whatsoever to stop them. Ignoring the threat these jihadists pose no longer works — telling others to ignore it won’t, either.

Note: Even with all of this having been said, I don’t approve of going on a rampage against all Muslims, which is what a lot of folks in the Religious Right — whom I refer to as “Neocrusaders” — advocate. Not all Muslims are terrorists … which goes without saying. To condemn all Muslims because some of them are terrorists, is irrational and even childish. What’s needed is to be pragmatic about it: Where there’s something to watch (for example, when someone’s co-workers report he’s mouthing off like an angry jihadist) maybe it’s best to pay fucking attention to what they’re telling you, instead of looking the other way (cached). I dunno, maybe I’m just being too rational and everything … but strangely enough, that seems quite obvious.

As I often do where militant Islamism is concerned, I’ve decorated this post with images intended to offend the extremists.

Oh, and, just a little obligatory note to all you Christianists out there: Don’t pat yourselves on the back over stuff like this. Your own religion has triggered some terroristic violence of its own. “Christian terror” exists, even if most folks would rather not know about it.

Photo credit: Top, Charlie Hebdo via Huffington Post; middle, Assyrian National News Agency.

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1099 Siege of JerusalemIt’s been a disappointing week for former House speaker Newt Gingrich. He’d presumed himself to be Donald “it’s my own orange hair!” Trump’s choice as running mate, but alas, it was not to be. That “honor” fell to Indiana’s evangelical-in-chief Mike Pence. In the wake of the recent attack in Nice, France (WebCite cached article), the Newtster decided to lash out, just when it became apparent the Trumpster had rejected him. His targets were, as one might suspect, Muslims in the US. As US News & World Report explains, Newtie demanded that Muslims in the US who like “shari’a law” be deported forthwith (cached):

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is responding to Thursday night’s truck attack in France by arguing for the expulsion from the U.S. of any Muslim who believes in Sharia law.

Gingrich is being considered as a possible running mate by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The former Georgia congressman said on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” that the U.S. “should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

What’s more, he blamed this attack on none other than President Barack Obama:

Gingrich is calling the attack in Nice, France, which killed at least 80 people, “the fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary, and to tell us the truth, and that starts with Barack Obama.”

Yes, Newtie. It’s certainly the case that Obama metaphorically put a gun to a sociopathic French Muslim’s head and forced the guy to go on a truck rampage through a Bastille Day crowd. Absolutely! Why, it can’t possibly have worked any other way!

I’m curious as to how the Newtster plans to carry out his “test” of American Muslims’ reverence for “shari’a law.” Imagine a scenario in which a Muslim who actually supports “shari’a law” — but who wants to stay so that he can work with the Muslim Brotherhood and President Obama to make sure it’s enforced here — would deal with it:

ICE agent: Mr Muslim, do you believe in “shari’a law”?

Shari’a-loving Muslim: (lying) No!

ICE agent: Oh, well, OK Mr Muslim, you can stay!

Shari’a-loving Muslim: Wow! Thanks, Mr ICE Agent! (goes back to plotting a takeover of the US)

I mean, seriously … what the fuck? I won’t even go into how Newtie-boy thinks the government is supposed to determine which immigrants comes from “a Muslim background.” As I’ve noted many times before, Neocrusaders like Newtie haven’t the first clue what “shari’a law” is, in the first place. As it turns out, it’s not a single iconic entity; it means different things to different Muslims, and is interpreted variously. Also, not all Muslims even want it; many who’ve come to the US have done so because they’re avoiding it!

It’s true there are murderous, savage Muslims in the world. There’s no doubt of it! It’s also true that some of them are right here in the US and have carried out horrific attacks in the name of their fierce religiofascism. But with that said, a proper response to one form of religiofascism is not to be religiofascist right back at it! Meeting sanctimonious rage with more sanctimonious rage, doesn’t cure the sanctimonious rage. A lot of the American Muslims whom the Newtster would like to deport, aren’t our enemies — and might even be our allies. All it takes is to spend some time figuring out what they’re all about, in order to know the difference. Castigating them all in one swoop, based on the bogeyman of “shari’a law,” isn’t going to cut it. It’s time for Newtie and his fellow Neocrusaders to fucking grow the hell up for once and stop acting like spoiled children. Their juvenile act is getting really old.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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'Islam violent?! How dare you!!!' / Jack Higgins, Chicago Sun-Times / via CAIR ChicagoOnce again, the world has been treated to an example of the sanctimonious piety of the so-called “religion of peace.” This time, Islamist militants stomped into a bakery in an upscale neighborhood of Dakha, Bangladesh’s capitol, and as CNN reports, a bunch of innocent people are now dead (WebCite cached article):

Bangladeshi troops stormed an upscale bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave Saturday morning, ending an 11-hour siege by militants who killed 20 people and two police officers, officials said.

It was the deadliest and boldest act of terror in a country that has become increasingly numb to ever-escalating violence by Islamist militants.

The victims — most of them foreigners — were among roughly three dozen people taken hostage when attackers stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery on Friday evening with guns, explosives and other, sharp weapons Friday evening, authorities said.

CNN goes on to explain that this is the most savage and audacious of a number of Islamist attacks in Bangladesh in the last year or two. Several of these were very public events, too. I’ve even blogged about some of them. Among the reasons the militants have been able to organize as well as they have, is that Bangladeshi officials have been doing the dance of triangulation … i.e. trying to appease them in the hope that they’ll stop, but at the same time going after them just enough to be able to say they’re going after them. That a lot of officials have more or less openly said they don’t blame the militants for what they’ve done, hasn’t helped.

CNN also explains that, while ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-barbaric-brood has accepted responsibility for this attack, it’s thought another group — al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (aka IQIS) — carried out this attack.

Note, too, this attack comes on the heels of the attack a couple days ago on the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey. As Maajid Nawaz explains in the Daily Beast, this has been a particularly savage Ramadan, and that’s been ISIS’s plan (cached). They’ve called for a worldwide “month of jihad,” it seems.

Sadly, many Christianists will react to all of this with a rather vile kind of sanctimonious glee. They’ll think — and maybe even say out loud — something like, “You see? Islam is an inherently-violent religion! This proves it! We Christians aren’t like that, we’re peace-loving!” It’s true that savagery of this sort is, at the moment, more or less a product of Islamism. But with that said, Christians need to accept their religion isn’t immune to this sort of thing, either. There really is such a thing as Christian terrorism, even if there’s a strong tendency not to admit it. And the way to deal with the raging intolerance of Islamist militants is not to be fiercely intolerant right back at them. OK?

Photo credit: Jack Higgins/Chicago Sun-Times, via CAIR Chicago.

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Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Yerevan, Armenia, to Rome June 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)Time and again, as I’ve blogged so many times over the last few years, Pope Francis has done things and made comments that one would never have expected from any of his predecessors. Well, he did it again, this time aboard his plane returning from a trip to Armenia. As the Catholic News Agency reports, his remarks were wide-ranging, and — I expect — will touch off more than one controversy (WebCite cached article):

Catholics and other Christians not only must apologize to the gay community, they must ask forgiveness of God for ways they have discriminated against homosexual persons or fostered hostility toward them, Pope Francis said.

“I think the church not only must say it is sorry to the gay person it has offended, but also to the poor, to exploited women” and anyone whom the church did not defend when it could, he told reporters June 26.…

At the mention of the massacre in early June at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Pope Francis closed his eyes as if in pain and shook his head in dismay.

“The church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times, many times — when I say the ‘church,’ I mean we Christians because the church is holy; we are the sinners,” the pope said. “We Christians must say we are sorry.”

Changing what he had said in the past to the plural “we,” Pope Francis said that a gay person, “who has good will and is seeking God, who are we to judge him?”

Surely someone out there will say the Pope was “blaming” the Pulse nightclub massacre on Catholics or Christians; if one actually pays attention to what he said, though, that’s not it. He’s pointing out only that Christianity has contributed to an atmosphere of hatred for gays. That’s a long way — a very long way! — from saying that Christendom collectively conspired to massacre gays in Orlando FL. The two are, quite simply, not even close to the same thing.

I note, too, that the Pope explicitly said that all Christians, not just Catholics, should apologize to gays for marginalizing them. This is a departure from other similar comments in which a pope or other Catholic leader spoke only on behalf of his own Church and what it or its followers had done. On this occasion, Francis said, the apology must come from other sects than just Catholicism. I’m not sure many Christians from other sects — even those who otherwise profess respect for Pope Francis — will appreciate him having said this.

The Pope also veered away from potentially ordaining women as deacons:

As he did at the meeting with the superiors, Pope Francis told the reporters that his understanding was that women deacons in the early church assisted bishops with the baptism and anointing of women, but did not have a role like Catholic deacons do today.

In addition, while he’d been in Armenia, Francis had doubled down on his prior use of the word “genocide” to describe Turkey’s atrocities against ethnic Armenians during World War I. He explained this, too, during his return flight:

He used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915-18 because that was the word commonly used in his native Argentina and he had already used it publicly a year ago. Although he said he knew Turkey objects to use of the term, “it would have sounded strange” not to use it in Armenia.

The Turkish government reacted as childishly as one would expect. As Reuters reports via the Religion News Service, they shot back by accusing the Pope of being a crusader (cached):

A Turkish deputy prime minister said on Saturday (June 25) that it was “unfortunate” that Pope Francis had labeled the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide, and that it reflected the papacy’s “Crusader mentality.”

References to “crusading” are among the worst pejoratives found in the Islamic world, even if it is juvenile name-calling. As I’ve blogged previously, it’s long past time for Turks and the Turkish government to fucking grow the hell up already and stop throwing tantrums every time someone calls the Armenian Genocide a “genocide.” That’s what it was … and the Turks should act like adults and just deal with it, fercryinoutloud.

Photo credit: Paul Haring/CNS.

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