Posts Tagged “religionism”

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fires to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP) / via Washington PostChristianity’s history is dotted with controversies, rifts and schisms. They range in severity from differences over heresy (with each side calling the other “heretical”) in which different Christian congregations existed side-by-side for a time, such as the Donatist schism, to conflicts over doctrines and dogma that occasionally erupted in violence (either in the short term, e.g. the Nestorian heresy, or longer term, e.g. as the Iconoclast controversies), as well as schisms that ended up creating entirely-separate churches (e.g. the Great Eastern Schism or the Reformation).

The result of this long history is that Christianity isn’t a single entity, but rather, a collection of many different institutions whose only point in common is that they revere the figure known as Jesus Christ and ostensibly follow his putative teachings. (As it turns out, going all the way back to its origins, Christianity has always been a collection of varied movements. At no point in its history was it ever a single group following a single set of doctrines.) When Westerners think of religious schisms and conflicts, this history is what they tend to think of.

Even so, Christianity isn’t unique in this regard. All major religions have had their rifts, conflicts, “heresies,” and variant teachings.

Perhaps the most famous of these outside of Christianity is the Islamic schism; dividing that religion into Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims (with around 85% of the world’s Muslims belonging to the former sect).

This schism has its origins with the aftermath of the prophet Mohammad’s death in 632 CE. The two men who were his most likely successors as leaders of Islam were his first male convert, Abu Bakr, and his son-in-law Ali. Abu Bakr ended up being chosen, over the protests of Ali and his followers (the Shi’atu Ali or “partisans of Ali,” hence the name of their sect). The degree to which Ali himself conceded this choice isn’t entirely clear; aside from hard feelings over it, not much happened during Abu Bakr’s rule (which only lasted a couple of years), and Ali acted as an advisor to Abu Bakr’s successor Umar, so there was some comity at that point, although resentments undoubtedly lingered. Ali finally was named caliph, or leader of Islam, only in 656 (almost 25 years after Mohammad’s death) during the chaos that erupted after Umar’s successor Uthman was killed by rioters.

That Ali wouldn’t order the execution of those rioters caused the low simmering resentments between Uthman’s and Ali’s supporters to break out in the open, launching a civil war within Islam now called “the First Fitna.” Ali was assassinated and his son succeeded him, but within months abdicated in favor of Muawiyah, a leader of Uthman’s faction, thus ending the Fitna.

The conflict erupted anew in 680 when Muawiyah died and Husayn, another son of Ali, refused to accept Yazid, Muawiyah’s son, as the next caliph. Husayn was killed during the Battle of Karbala that very year.

This turned out to be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back; at several points during the preceding decades, both sects had at least tried to get along, and the one war that had broken out in full fury had been settled; but Husayn’s death at Karbala proved to be too much for the Shi’ites to take. There would never again be any meaningful attempted accord. What’s more, there were rifts within each side; Ali’s assassin had belonged to a group within his own faction who’d rebelled against Ali’s efforts to negotiate an end to the First Fitna. And Yazid and his immediate successors ended up dealing with rebels that broke away from their original faction, as well.

In other words, the whole thing ended up being one monstrous clusterfuck.

The tensions and differences opened up by these 7th century conflicts — which at that time could have been ameliorated, had cooler heads prevailed back in 680 — still reverberate today. An example of this was made evident this weekend in Teheran, where — as the Washington Post reports — the Sunni state of Saudi Arabia’s execution of a famous Shi’ite triggered massive protests (WebCite cached article):

Iran’s Supreme Leader warned on Sunday that there would be divine retribution for Saudi Arabia’s rulers after the execution of a renowned Shiite cleric, sustaining the soaring regional tensions that erupted in the wake of the killing.

The warning came hours after crowds of protesters stormed and torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran to vent their anger at the execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was among 47 people put to death in the kingdom on Saturday.

In a posting on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that the execution “will cause serious troubles for the politicians of this [Saudi] regime in a very short time….The hands of divine vengeance will surely snatch — by their necks — those cruel individuals who took his life.”

The execution of Nimr, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, has ignited sectarian tensions across the already inflamed region and jeopardized U.S. diplomacy aimed at tamping down conflicts in the Middle East.…

The Saudi consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad was also set on fire during the protests that erupted after Nimr’s execution was announced.

As WaPo explains, the Saudi executions were hardly some kind of Shi’ite purge:

Most of the 47 executed on Saturday were Sunnis accused of participating in Al Qaeda attacks.

As a side note, it looks as though Iranians have some kind of obsession with attacking embassies.

This outburst of violence isn’t actually the worst of the Sunni-vs-Shia conflict going on in the world. The Syrian Civil War has been, among other things, a proxy war between the (Sunni) Saudis and the (Shi’ite) Iranians, both making use of their own partisans in the region (such as Hezbollah, which is patronized by Teheran). Compared to the carnage there, setting an embassy ablaze might seem like small potatoes. But such are the tensions between Islam’s two main sects that violence can break out over virtually anything at all, almost anywhere there are Muslims.

And the worst part of it is, there’s no stopping it. No Sunni-Shia accord is on the horizon and there’s no chance of any reconciliation. It’s not going to happen. Just goes to show what can result from people obsessing over metaphysics — i.e. nothing good.

Photo credit: Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA, via AP, via Washington Post.

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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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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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Help! Help! I'm being repressed! (Dennis the constitutional peasant, Monty Python & the Holy Grail)Leave it to Texas Senator, GOP presidential candidate, and avowed Christofascist Ted Cruz to take advantage of Friday’s Islamist terror attacks in Paris as a foundation for his own attack on separation of church and state here in the US. He compared those attacks, as CNN reports, with American Christians having to deal with people whom they disapprove of:

Ted Cruz used the backdrop of the terror attacks in Paris as the latest evidence that Christians are under siege, making a pitch on Saturday to evangelicals here that tied together his take-no-prisoners foreign policy with his faith-driven domestic agenda.…

But Friday’s attacks in France recalibrated Cruz’s message and its overall tone: He began the event with a lengthy moment of silence, and Cruz spent nearly as much time discussing the perils of “radical Islamic terrorism” as he did government persecution of Christian merchants and educators.

“Right now as we speak, it is persecuting Christians. It is persecuting Jews. It’s even persecuting fellow Muslims,” Cruz said of Islamic extremists, as part of a prayer at Bob Jones University, a prominent Christian school. “We ask for unity for the people of America, and we ask finally, that you bless this gathering in celebration of the liberty to worship you with all of our hearts, minds and souls.”

This is just the latest example of a longstanding trend of Religious Rightists and preachers using terrible events — natural disasters, massacres, etc. — to promote their unrelenting and dour metaphysics. Usually their appeal is based on the presumption that their God allowed the disaster to happen because he’s angry about something. Other times — such as this one — the appeal is based on the idea that something happened because profane agents in “the World” are out to get all the “True Believers” and destroy them because of their holiness. Or something.

The comparison in this case is not apt, no matter how fervently Teddie or his sheep believe otherwise. Islamist terror has nothing at all to do with wedding-chapel owners who break the law by discriminating against gays, nor has it anything to do with public-school coaches who insist on leading public prayers even though it’s illegal and they’ve been ordered not to. Christianists like Teddie and his ilk love to bellyache and whine that they’re being “persecuted,” but in fact, they’re not. Actually, Christians are in the majority in the US and are not going anywhere. All that’s happened to Christianists is that they’ve lost their once-expansive privilege of controlling others’ lives, imposing their beliefs on everyone, and relegating people they hate to second-class status. That’s just not “persecution,” and Teddie or anyone else endlessly intoning that it is, cannot and will never magically make it so.

The reason these people think this way is because they’re delusionally paranoid, due to their religion’s own inherent psychopathology. They’re just not capable of comprehending that not being in control of everything and everyone — and being unable to harass and oppress people they dislike — isn’t “persecution.” Quite the opposite, it’s “freedom,” the very “freedom” they claim to want to promote. In truth, what they’re after is freedom only for themselves; they expect everyone else to knuckle under and just obey their every whim.

Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

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'Je Suis Charlie' / Bild (DE)Ten months ago, Islamist terrorists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing a dozen, then went on a rampage in the Paris region. They did this, reportedly, to avenge their prophet Muhammad, who apparently had been harmed by some cartoons, thus forcing some of his followers to kill the blasphemers who’d insolently dared draw them. Or something like that. I’m still not clear as to how a long-dead man could have been harmed by mere cartoons, but then, I’m just a cynical, cold-hearted godless agnostic heathen and couldn’t possibly be expected to understand such important sacred notions, could I?

Well, by now most of my readers have already heard the news that the Islamists have done it again. This past Friday they launched a savage series of attacks on Paris. The details of this multiple-site massacre are still being collected, but France’s president Francois Hollande has said this was “an act of war” by ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood, and they’ve claimed responsibility for it.

Clearly, the “Religion of Peace” has shown its true colors … again! … even if, by now, no sane person actually needs such an illustration. Predictably, Muslim leaders and organizations around the world have condemned the attacks on Paris, but let’s be honest: Those condemnations will accomplish nothing whatsoever. ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck and all its ilk will continue their barbaric terror campaigns, and they’ll keep attracting Muslim recruits from around the world. It’s not going to stop just because some scholars of Islam mouth recriminations against Islamist terror. The Islmists already don’t give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks, and they’re not going to, ever. Mere words don’t matter, and have no discernible effect on them.

The sooner the world’s Muslims begin actively (rather than just verbally) dealing with the festering sore deep within their religion, which these violent barbarians believe grants divine sanction to their savage terror campaign, the sooner something can actually be done about it. But sadly, I just don’t see that happening. Not enough of them have the courage to do so.

Photo credit: Bild (DE).

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