Archive for the “World Politics” Category

World-wide politics

Aftermath of Brussels airport bombing / (UK) IndependentThis morning, we Americans woke to some terrible — but not entirely surprising — news. The “religion of peace” has struck again. As numerous outlets, including CNN, report just now, three blasts rocked the city of Brussels, Belgium (WebCite cached article):

Three explosions that ripped through the Belgian capital of Brussels on Tuesday killed at least 28 people, according to Belgian media, and raised the reality of terror once again in the heart of Europe.

“We were fearing terrorist attacks, and that has now happened,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters.

Belgian federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw said it was too soon to know exactly how many people died in the bombings. Yet the Brussels Metro Authority reported that 15 died and 55 were wounded in the subway station blast. And public broadcaster VRT said at least 13 more were killed, and about 35 were injured, in the two blasts in the Brussels airport departure hall.

Of the two explosions at the airport, at least one was a suicide bombing, Van Leeuw said. A blast happened there outside the security checkpoints for ticketed passengers and near the airline check-in counters, an airline official briefed on the situation said.

It’s not yet clear which exact Islamist-terror organization was behind these attacks; there’ve been no claims of responsibility and officials are only just gathering information.[Update 1] At this point there doesn’t appear to be much to say that hasn’t already been said many times already. So I will close with what I said after the Paris attacks last November:

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 Islamists 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.

Nothing will change, I’m sure … just as nothing was done in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. It never does. I’m reminded of this classic Bible verse:

That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

P.S. Christianists had best not use this to get on their high horses and start bellowing out their usual sanctimonious Neocrusading crap. Right-wing (and yes, Christian!) terror exists, and is a greater danger to Americans than Islamists’.

Update 1: Reuters reports that ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever has, in fact, claimed responsibility for the Brussels attacks (cached).

Photo credit: (UK) Independent.

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Supporters of Mumtaz Qadri during his funeral. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP, via The GuardianJust a little while ago I blogged about protests in Pakistan following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, who’d assassinated Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer, an opponent of blasphemy laws. Pakistan, you see, is still full of howling barbaric Islamists who like blasphemy laws, because they grant them an excuse to take out their rage on anyone they think dissed their religion.

Even so, these hordes of infantilized Pakistanis managed to outdo themselves, when — as the (UK) Guardian reports — some 100,000 of them showed up at Qadri’s funeral (WebCite cached article):

An estimated crowd of more than 100,000 people have attended the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri, in a massive show of support for the convicted murderer of a leading politician who had criticised Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

The vast gathering on Tuesday centred on Liaquat Park in Rawalpindi, where a succession of clerics made fiery speeches bitterly condemning the government for giving the go-ahead for Monday’s execution of Qadri, a former police bodyguard who became a hero to many of his countrymen after he shot and killed Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, in 2011.…

Many people had travelled from around the country to attend the funeral, and crowds spilled out of the park on to the adjacent thoroughfare where throngs crushed around the flower-strewn ambulance that eventually brought Qadri’s body to the event.

Some of the all-male crowd wore “I am Qadri” signs around their necks while others held up the front page of the Ummat newspaper for bypassers to kiss, which was entirely covered with a photo of Qadri’s dead and garlanded body.…

Sajjad Akhtar Abassi, a lawyer wearing the black suit and tie of his trade, condemned the supreme court for upholding Qadri’s death sentence last year.

“It is a court of law, not a court of justice,” he said. “Islam is a religion of peace and harmony but it does not allow anybody to use wrong words against the prophet or any other holy character.”

One must see the vast turnout for this funeral — and Pakistanis’ support for this vile assassin — to believe it:People crowd around the ambulance carrying the body of Mumtaz Qadri during his funeral in Rawalpindi. Photograph: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters, via The GuardianYes, we get what you’re saying, Mr Abassi. Islam might “a religion of peace and harmony,” but only so long as everyone belongs to the same sect of that religion. For anyone who’s not, there can be no “peace” nor “harmony,” just endless harassment. Because Islam, I guess.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Top, Anjum Naveed/AP, via The Guardian; middle, Faisal Mahmood/Reuters, via The Guardian.

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Protests such as this one in Lahore took place in several major cities / AFP/Getty photo, via BBC NewsSome five years ago I blogged about something that, I suppose, could only have happened in Pakistan, which is home to millions of howling barbaric Islamist fundamentalists. One Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri had killed Punjab’s provincial governor, Salman Taseer, because the latter had supported repealing Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

To give you an idea of what sort of lowlife Qadri is, he’d been Taseer’s bodyguard! And to give you an idea of what sorts of primitive religionist savages Pakistanis are, a bunch of their lawyers showered Qadri with flowers when he arrived to a court appearance, back then.

I bring this up because the machinery of Pakistani justice eventually held Qadri accountable for his crime, and he was executed. But as Religion News Service reports, Pakistanis showed their true colors, by protesting (WebCite cached article):

Pakistan on Monday executed a man who killed the governor of Punjab province over his call to reform strict blasphemy laws that carry a death sentence for insulting Islam.

Street protests broke out within hours by supporters of the killer, who consider him a hero for defending the faith. The head of the Islamabad Bar Council called for a day-long strike of lawyers in protest against the hanging.…

Protesters briefly blocked the main road between Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Monday after news of the hanging broke. Police later dispersed them and closed off the road to prevent more demonstrations.

Chaudhry predicted larger demonstrations coinciding with Qadri’s funeral, which his legal group said would be held on Tuesday.

“From what we are seeing, this protest movement is only going to increase,” he said.

As is usually the case when such things happen, I will simply point out that blasphemy laws are ridiculous and childish. Blasphemy harms nothing and no one, ever. If a religion has any veracity, no amount of “blasphemy” can change that. If a deity has power, no amount of “insults” can take it away. Blasphemy laws only serve to infantilize people and prevent them from hearing something they might not like. Boo fucking hoo.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty photo, via BBC News.

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Donald TrumpSince entering the presidential primary, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump has railed against a lot of people. These range from John McCain to Mexico (and Mexicans and generally) to Megyn Kelly to NBC Universal to Fox News to Jorge Ramos to Jeb Bush to Megyn Kelly (again) to Ted Cruz to Fox News (again) … and on and on and on and on. Hardly a night goes by when Trumpie isn’t on Twitter ranting furiously about something or someone. At any given moment he’s engaged in some kind of tiff with at least 4 people.

Well, today he found a new enemy to trade harsh words with … a person one wouldn’t have expected to mix with anyone, let alone the angry, perpetually-lying real estate magnate. It was, as CNN reports, none other than the Jesuit Pope Francis (Webcite cached article)

The Pope, who was traveling back to Rome from Mexico, where he urged the United States to address the “humanitarian crisis” on its southern border, did not tell American Catholics not to vote for Trump.

But Francis left little doubt where he stood on the polarizing issue of immigration reform.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel,” the Pope told journalists who asked his opinion on Trump’s proposals to halt illegal immigration.

The infantile little boy Trumpie, of course, would have none of it:

Trump immediately fired back, calling Francis’ comments “disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he said in statement.…

“If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president,” Trump said.

Wow, gotta love Trumpie’s “appeal to ISIS/ISIL/IS” as some sort of “proof” of his own righteousness and veracity. That’s just laughable. Note, too, an additional little plaintive whine:

Trump added that the government in Mexico, where Francis spent the past five days, has “made many disparaging remarks about me to the Pope.”

Oh, the poor little thing! Why, people actually complained about him to each other! What a fucking little crybaby. I mean, come on, little Trumpie. Act your age, fercryinoutloud!

Now, the Pope’s declaration that Trumpie is un-Christian wasn’t unprovoked, as CNN explains:

The tussle between Trump and Francis — two outsized personalities who seldom shy from speaking their minds — seems to have been building for some time. Before the Pope traveled to Mexico, Trump cast the pontiff as a political naif who “doesn’t understand the dangers” at the U.S.-Mexican border.

By calling the childish little Trumpie un-Christian, then, the Pope was giving as good as he’d gotten. It’s also interesting to see him playing a role in the US presidential election. It’s not as though he could make it worse than it already is, and at least he seems to have thought out what he said, unlike others — in the race — who just spout off angrily all the time like juvenile little twits, spewing a steady stream of outrageous lies in the process (cached).

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Patriarch Kirill, pictured with Russian President Vladimir Putin, claimed he was not surprised that 'honest' Muslims are flocking to Isis' quasi-religious state / Getty Images, via The IndependentRussia — once the majority component of a superpower that collapsed under its own weight — has become a backward country in more ways than one. In particular, the Russian government under Vlad “the Impaler” Putin has become repressive in several ways, and has been particularly harsh toward gays. Russia faces many issues, which are hard for Putin and his buddies to solve, so instead of doing that, he’s going after dissidents, critics, and LGBT folks, as if they’re the architects of Russia’s misery. (To be clear, they’re not.)

Now that Russia has inserted itself in the Syrian Civil War, it’s facing an enemy it hadn’t had to deal with before, i.e. ISIS/ISIL/IS/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-that-savage-brood. That’s put them on the radar of Russian society.

It’s no wonder, then, that one of Vlad’s friends, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and head of the Russian Orthodox Church, decided to toss some of Russia’s bogeymen into the same basket with ISIS/IS/ISIL/whatever. As the (UK) Independent reports, the Patriarch blamed the rise of ISIS, and its ability to recruit, on gays and “godless civlilization” (WebCite cached article):

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has partially blamed an increased acceptance of homosexuality for the rise of Isis.

Patriarch Kirill claimed he was not surprised that some Muslims are flocking to Isis’ quasi-religious state as a way of escaping the “godless civilization” that celebrates events such as Gay Pride.

In an interview published on the Church’s official website [cached], Kirill said: “[Isis] is creating a civilization that is new by comparison to the established one that is godless, secular and even radical in its secularism.”…

Kiril [sic] said because the “godless civilization is reaching maturity”, it should come as no surprise that those who are opposed to liberal, secular ideas end up joining terror organisations.

Kirill’s description of the dangers posed by “secularism” are very similar to what one often hears from the Religious Right, here in the US:

“If you call non-traditional relationships a sin, as the Bible teaches and you are a priest or pastor, then you risk not only your ability to serve but you may be sent to prison,” he said.

There is no such effort underway anywhere I know of — especially in Russia — but as with the American R.R., that reality didn’t prevent Kirill from saying it exists.

Also, the Patriarch characterized ISIS recruits as “honest” and “truly religious.” I’m not sure how well that will go over with the majority of the Muslim world, which opposes ISIS.

In general, I love when puritanical people open their mouths. Almost universally they can’t keep their rotten, stinking, scum-coated feet out of them.

Photo credit: Getty Images, via The Independent.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

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Shams ud-Din Tabriz 1502-1504 BNF ParisI bet you had no idea the game of chess … you know, the ancient game played with special pieces on a checkerboard … was profane in the eyes of the Almighty. Yeah, I know, it was news to me too. It took an Islamic scholar to figure that out. As the New York Times explains, that scholar is no less than Saudi Arabia’s highest-ranking cleric (WebCite cached article):

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric has declared the playing of chess “forbidden,” calling it a waste of time and money that creates hatred between players.

In a fatwa, or religious decree, issued in response to a question from a caller to a Saudi television show, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said that the game was “the work of Satan,” like alcohol and gambling, despite its long history in the Middle East. Chess is played across the Arab world.…

In his statement on the show, the grand mufti equated chess with gambling, which is forbidden in Islam.

“It makes the rich man poor, and makes the poor man rich,” he said. “It causes hostility and wastes time where it should not be spent.”

I suppose people can bet on chess matches, but as a game, chess doesn’t involve any gambling. So I’m not sure what Al-Shiekh’s beef is really about. It seems nonsensical.

Ironically, it was Arabs’ embrace of chess — which had originated in India, then moved on into Persia — which carried the game to the western world. As the Times reports, it remains popular in the Arab world, and this fatwa isn’t likely to accomplish much of anything, since people will continue playing chess in spite of it.

The lesson here is that religionism leads to all sorts of adsurdity. It grants undeserved authority and influence to dolts and clowns with the power to promulgate rulings and doctrines based on ignorance and idiocy.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

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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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