Archive for the “World Politics” Category

World-wide politics

Pakistani security officials clash with supporters of the Movement in Service to the Finality of the Prophet, a religious group, in Islamabad on Saturday as the government tries to disperse protesters who have blocked the main highway for days. (Sohail Shahzad/EPA/EFE/REX/Shutterstock, via Washington Post)We all know Pakistan is home to a lot of militant Islamists. The country has stern laws against anti-Islamic blasphemy, and it’s the place where a hundred thousand people turned out to mourn the Islamofascist assassin of one of their state governors. Pakistan’s pervasive, extremist Islamism once again reared its ugly head, as the Washington Post reports, in the wake of convictions after a mob murdered a university student almost a year ago (Archive.Is cached article):

When an anti-terrorism court sentenced one man to death and 25 others to prison terms Wednesday in the slaying of a student last year in northwest Pakistan [cached], the ruling was meant to send a strong warning that murder in the name of defending Islam would not be tolerated.

But the court’s decision immediately triggered large, angry protest rallies by religious groups in the area, along with homecoming celebrations for those acquitted of the mob beating and shooting death of Mashal Khan last April. Banners welcomed them as heroes of the faith.…

The movement, led by clerics from Pakistan’s largest and generally peaceful Sunni Muslim sect, has swelled since November, when a protest they staged in the capital, Islamabad [cached], ended with the federal government capitulating to their major demands and calling in army leaders to negotiate.

Really, the government of Pakistan is doing what it always does in cases like this: Surrendering to its people’s childish, irrational, violent Islamism. And that’s the reason Pakistan has become a bastion of Islamist extremism; its government won’t really press the issue, discipline their own people and force them to grow the fuck up already. Instead, they indulge the infantile rabble, because they haven’t the fortitude to deal with the inevitable backlash.

Will Pakistan’s One of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, via Assyrian Information Management military do anything about this? I don’t expect it. This is the same military that let none other than Osama bin-Laden live for years just under a thousand yards from their own equivalent of West Point, without ever having offered any explanation for how that happened.

As for blasphemy Lars Vilks Muhammad cartoon, via Gawker being a crime that must be punished with death … well, that’s just fucking ridiculous. Blasphemy is no crime at all, because it never harms anything. (Except maybe for believers’ feelings.) Islam won’t be damaged just because there was a non-believer on a university campus. It won’t be damaged if someone burns a Qur’an. It won’t be damaged if people draw cartoons of Mohammad. It simply won’t. Islam will continue on, as it always has, in spite of anyone’s “blasphemy.”

As I always do when blogging about the topic of murderous anti-blasphemy rage among Muslims, I’ve decorated this post with a couple added blasphemous graphics … just to tweak any infantile Islamofascists who might happen to see it. Boo hoo hoo, little babies. Book hoo!

Photo credits: Top, Sohail Shahzad/EPA/EFE/REX/Shutterstock, via Washington Post; middle, Jyllands-Posten, via Assyrian Information Management; bottom, Lars Vilks, via Gawker.

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Pope Francis in Prato (87)Over the last few years, Chile’s Catholic Church has been rocked by priestly pedophilia allegations. Many of them involve Fr Fernando Karadima, who was convicted in 2011 by the Church itself of having abused children (Archive.Is cached article). Karadima had been powerful and influential within Chile’s Church, having groomed many of its clergy. Among them is Juan Barros, whose elevation to bishop a few years ago was protested due to allegations he’d known about Karadima’s abuse but hadn’t tried to stop it (cached). There’s been acrimony in the Chilean Catholic Church ever since.

When it was announced that Pope Francis would visit Chile, it was widely assumed there’d be some drama. And sure enough … there was! His visit started out well enough, when he asked for forgiveness for “priestly pedophilia” (cached). I mean, it was an empty plea, but it was at least moderately conciliatory. But things went downhill from there, and as the Associated Press reports via RNS, the Pope left Chile on an unexpectedly harsh note (cached):

Pope Francis accused victims of Chile’s most notorious pedophile of slander, an astonishing end to a visit meant to help heal the wounds of a sex abuse scandal that has cost the Catholic Church its credibility in the country.

Francis said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadimas [sic], such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”

The pope’s remarks on Thursday (Jan. 18) drew shock from Chileans and immediate rebuke from victims and their advocates. They noted the accusers were deemed credible enough by the Vatican that it sentenced Karadima to a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for his crimes in 2011.…

“As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all,” tweeted Barros’ most vocal accuser, Juan Carlos Cruz. “These people are truly crazy, and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

What childishness! While I’ve been disappointed with how Francis has dealt with this scandal, this kind of response is beyond the pale.

I’m not sure why Francis asked Chile’s priestly-pedophilia victims for their forgiveness, only to accuse them of slander a couple days later. It sure seems as though the Catholic Church’s handling of this scandal has been set back to the days when Pope John Paul II and his enforcer, who’d later become Pope Benedict XVI, were in charge, pathologically denying it all and desperately trying to keep it all quiet. That didn’t work out too well for them — but apparently Pope Francis never got the memo. Or he did, but decided to rip it up in the middle of his sojourn in Chile. What a fucking prick.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Dalit demonstrators shout slogans and protest in the Indian capital New Delhi, on January 3, 2018. / CNNTo a large extent, the occidental world views India through the lenses of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who used civil disobedience to lead his land to independence, and inspired many others to use that same tactic elsewhere. Also, India is home to a number of movements and sects which are famous for being pacifists; Buddhism, for example, originated there, as did Jainism, whose adherents sometimes go as far as to brush the ground as they walk so as to ensure they don’t step even on the tiniest insect.

The West has an often-idealistic view of India which, unfortunately, doesn’t coincide with reality — which is that India is more or less as violent as any other nation on earth. It’d be wonderful if it weren’t so; if India were in fact a grandly sacred land full of deeply spiritual people who’d never harm a fly; but that’s just not how it is. I don’t mean to say this as a specific condemnation of India: Human nature being what it is, it can’t really be any other way. India’s people have the same human nature as the folk of every other country.

As an example of this, as CNN reports, recently India has been rocked by protests and assorted violence, over its ancient caste system (Archive.Is cached version):

Security forces were out in full force in India’s financial capital Mumbai this week, as members of the country’s low-caste Dalit community demonstrated against alleged violence by right-wing Hindus.

The unrest was concentrated in suburban areas on the outskirts of India’s largest city, which also saw transport disruptions.

There were also sporadic protests across the state of Maharashtra, which Mumbai is located in.

These Right-wing Hindus were responding to protests by the Dalits, aka “the Untouchables”:

It all began when tens of thousands of Dalits, who rank at the bottom of India’s ancient Hindu caste hierarchy, gathered in the village of Bhima Koregaon, 170 kilometers (105 miles) outside of Mumbai, on New Year’s day to celebrate the 200th anniversary of a battle in which British colonial forces staffed with local Dalit fighters defeated a numerically superior army belonging to upper caste rulers of the region.

In the years since, many Dalits have come to regard the battle as an important historical moment when their community stood up against oppressive higher caste Hindus.

This year, Dalit activists claim that the annual commemoration was interrupted by right wing Hindu nationalists, who they say threw rocks at the gathering.

The situation deteriorated as riots broke out and two men died in the chaos, according to local media [cached].

CNN goes on to provide background for the Dalits’ protests and an oh-so-very-brief overview of the caste system itself. In the process, CNN mentions that the caste system is explicitly outlawed in India’s Constitution, but the article does not explain how deeply ingrained it is within India’s chief religion, Hinduism. In that religion, people reincarnate, via karma, into particular stations in life, i.e. their dharma, and hence into their castes. In Hindu tradition, and in the minds of some modern-day Hindus, the Dalits are “untouchables” — fit only for the lowliest jobs and the objects of societal oppression — because of this. To treat the Dalits any other way violates dharma. Thus, Right-wing Hindus view treating “the untouchables” as their equals in a democratic system as profane or even blasphemous.

It’s time for everyone to realize the very-real harm that religion inflicts on people … not just the Abrahamic faiths, which which most in the West are familiar, but the Dharmic faiths as well.

Photo credit: CNN.

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In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP)Australia has been investigating child abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy for several years now, and at long last, its report is final. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the numbers are staggering, and among contributing issues is the Church’s mandatory celibacy policy (Archive.Is cached article):

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

(That last part is for all the Roman Catholic apologists out there who think this investigation was merely a pretense for attacking their precious Church. It wasn’t. But I digress.)

Another problem cited in the report is the confessional secrecy:

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

This recommendation wasn’t exactly welcomed by the R.C. hierarchy:

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” [President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis] Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

Let’s be honest about it, though: The R.C. bureaucracy often uses the sanctity of the confessional to justify not reporting abuse to local authorities, the premise being that a priest’s superiors learned about it in the confessional. That, of course, is just a contrivance. I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine and dogma surrounding reconciliation (aka confession), but as I understand it, using the confessional as “cover” for one’s criminality — and especially using it to invite the collusion of the priest to whom one confesses — invalidates it as a sacrament. And that, in turn, lifts the secrecy provision.

But hey, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such holy things?

Photo credit: Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission, via Associated Press.

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East African witch doctor Wellcome M0002713I came across this horrific and blood-curdling story. As Religion News Service explains, witch doctors are sacrificing children in Africa (Archive.Is cached article):

In this landlocked country whose diverse landscape includes the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, many believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health.

Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015.

But experts said the number could be much higher.

Something I don’t care for in this story is its attempt at a kind of apologia for this terrible practice:

Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this landlocked nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits,” said Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer. “So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”

Look, times are tough in a lot of places — including, right now, the US territory of Puerto Rico, demolished by Hurricane Maria a week ago (cached). But we don’t see child sacrifice being carried out in those places. So pardon me for not buying this line of awful tripe.

The article describes what is done to the victims — and it’s bad enough that I won’t relay any of that here. If you want to know, you’ll have to get it from the article.

Let’s hear it for how magnificent metaphysics is and how religious belief is just so helpful — and necessary — for humanity … not! In this case, it is, quite literally, killing people, many of them children. We need to stop making excuses for it (e.g. the above-mentioned “times are tough” whine), stop pretending religion makes people “better,” and put an end to this evil once and for all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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In this Saturday, March 29, 2014 file photo, Aziza Yousef drives a car on a highway in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as part of a campaign to defy Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia says it will allow women to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. The kingdom, which announced the change on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, was the only the country in the world to bar women from driving and for years had garnered negative publicity internationally for detaining women who defied the ban. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)I’ve blogged many times about Saudi Arabia’s obvious misogyny. Among the ways Saudis repress their women is by making it illegal for them to drive. The Kingdom is the only country on earth that has such a restriction.

It’s a ridiculous restriction that Saudi clerics claim is required by Islam, but no other Islamic country has anything like it, which suggests this probably isn’t the case. They say it’s about “respect” for women (?). One of those clerics, a rather high-ranking one, even claimed that driving was physically harmful for women. That, of course, is a fucking lie … but he said it, and I’ll bet a lot of Saudis believe it.

Well, times are changing, even in the incredibly-reactionary Kingdom. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the Saudi prohibition on women driving, will soon be lifted (Archive.Is cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision to grant women the right to drive in the conservative kingdom marks a significant expansion in women’s rights, but activists said Wednesday it is also only the first step in a long list of demands for equality.

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving, and nearly three decades ago women first began agitating for the right to drive, at times facing arrest for their protests and for getting behind the wheel.

The lifting of the ban, which comes into effect next summer, is the most dramatic step yet in a campaign by the king’s son, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to modernize the kingdom. The young royal has been promoting change as needed to boost the country’s economy and ease international criticism, but he risks a backlash from powerful clerics from the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

It’s all well and good, I guess, that the monarchy is behind this rule-change, but it’s far from immediate, and it’s sure to be resisted, as the article mentions:

Almost immediately after the news broke, an Arabic hashtag on Twitter was trending that said: “The women of my house won’t drive.”

I can only hope things will continue improving for Saudi women.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Hasan Jamali.

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Vatican flag (8583012024)The Roman Catholic Church obviously has a major problem. It’s been decades in the making, and has been on the front burner of occidental society for going on 20 years now. But it doesn’t seem to go away … because Church personnel just won’t stop doing shit they know they’re not supposed to do.

The latest case doesn’t involve abuse of children by a priest … but it’s close. As the New York Times reports, the Vatican has recalled one of their diplomats from their Washington Embassy due to kiddie porn (Archive.Is cached article):

The Vatican has recalled a high-ranking priest working as a diplomat in the Holy See’s embassy in Washington after American authorities sought to strip his immunity and potentially charge him with possession of child pornography, the Vatican said Friday.

In a statement, the Vatican said that it had been notified by the State Department on Aug. 21 of “a possible violation of laws relating to child pornography images” by a member of its diplomatic corps.

The Vatican said the priest would face an investigation and potential trial in Vatican City. But some critics saw in the Vatican’s move a reflexive step to protect its own by whisking a priest away from a justice system in a foreign land.

The statement did not identify the cleric, but Italian news media reports and an American official familiar with the investigation said it was Msgr. Carlo Alberto Capella, who was ordained in Milan in 1993 and entered the diplomatic corps in 2004. He has also worked as a diplomat in Hong Kong and as the Holy See’s liaison to Italy.

The article suggests this is standard practice for diplomats accused of crimes, but let’s be honest here: It fully coincides with the well-worn, and well-known, Church policy of vacuuming up clergy accused of wrongdoing and shuffling them off someplace else. The Times relates a story of another Vatican diplomat — an archbishop, Jozef Wesolowski, nuncio to the Dominican Republic — who was similarly brought back to Vatican City and was supposed to have been “tried” for his crimes, only to die (conveniently) before that trial. I expect something similar to happen in this case; it will languish in the bowels of the Vatican Curia long enough for the just-recalled diplomat to die or to become so old or infirm that he ends up never being tried. Guaranteed.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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