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Jun 092014
 

The issue of certain faith-based schools is in the media today. Specifically whether certain schools in Birmingham were targeted for take-over by islamic extremists. Lots of allegations floating around with lots of denials.

Determining the truth of the matter is not likely to be easy – do I believe Tory ministers or religious nutters? By nature, I’m inclined to ignore both.

But there is a simple answer to this problem. Take any sort of faith out of all schools; schools are supposed to be about education and not about fairy stories. Any kind of faith activity should be classified as an extra-curricular activity that takes place outside school and has no interference with the normal school curriculum.

It is probable that most faith based schools are relatively harmless, although even the best will lead to a sense of exclusion for those in attendance whose faith does not match that of the school. And of course teenagers are probably the most likely group to change religion or reject religion altogether.

But whenever faith-based schools are permitted, there is always the chance that some form of extremism may creep into the curriculum. And that includes all religions – there are extremist christians who want to block the teaching of evolution as well as extremist muslims, hindus, etc.

Ban ’em all.

Jun 052014
 

Apostasy can be loosely defined as renouncing a religion either to become an atheist or to convert to another religion. It has been in the news recently because of a Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy.

Of course in her case it’s not apostasy, but following her childhood religion – her mother was a christian and her absent father was a muslim. But Sudan does not recognise the mother’s religion in such cases.

However you slice it, the concept of apostasy is ridiculous – it basically forces people who have “lost their way” to pretend to follow a religion. Forcing someone to go to a mosque (or a church, etc.) will just annoy and bore the victim. And yes listening to some holly roller prattle on about his imaginary friend is very boring.

It is noticeable that only islamic countries have a criminal sanction for apostasy, and probably only for deserting islam. In fact that is not quite true – other countries have had laws against apostasy … or herest which to an unbeliever is pretty much the same thing. After all apostasy is along the lines of “you don’t believe in what we believe” and heresy is merely a slightly different flavour of “you don’t believe what we believe”. The “best” example of a christian country executing someone for apostasy is probably Poland,

Although there are plenty of other examples.

But countries with a history of christianity have progressed on from a primitive medieval society that executes people for “crimes” as ridiculous as apostasy. Ignoring the rights and wrongs of it, apostasy is another group’s convert. And executing someone for being a protestant, a jew, a muslim or an atheist is nothing more than persecution of a minority group and will sooner or later (hopefully very much sooner) lead to all sorts of problems with such a society.

After all, a persecuted minority does not have much interest in protecting the status quo – they might well want to start a revolution and kick out the leaders.

Islamic law-makers need to look at implementing apostasy laws even handedly and prosecute christians, jews, and atheists who convert to islam – because they are apostates too. And of course babies are not born with a knowledge of islam, so they can be considered apostates as well. If you threaten to execute islamic apostates, then you need to threaten to execute all the other apostates too.

And then you might realise just how foolish laws against apostasy are.

Mar 302013
 

In something I first heard about in the Daily Mail, so there was an instant credibility gap, it seems that Lord Carey has been blathering on about how Christians feel like a persecuted minority, and that the government is discriminating  against them.

Which is of course complete rancid rhino bile.

And any christian who feels persecuted against needs to take a good hard look at things.

According to the 2011 census, 59% of the UK population claimed to be christian. Given that 59% is more than 41%, I’d say that any christian who feels that they are a minority probably needs to take their socks off to count above 10. It is the rest of us – humanists, secularists, muslims, buddists, hindus, atheists, agnostics – who have the right to claim to be a minority. Given that 2001 (72% christian) was the first time the question was asked, it is hard to make historical observations regarding levels of christianity in the UK. Christians would of course say that we have been historically a christian society where everyone was a christian; others would say those who weren’t christian were under a great deal of pressure to pretend.

There are occasions when we get forced to sit through some sort of christian ceremony, although it was more common in the past than today. And it can be quite creepy listening to you guys speaking to your imaginary friend (or is it friends?).

Nothing to do with what goes on inside your churches of course, but christian ceremonies in public life can be excluding to those who are not christian. Take for example, the infamous council meetings where pre-meeting prayers are no longer permitted. Or rather praying out loud as part of the meeting is no longer permitted. If such prayers are part of a council meeting, they are effectively an unconscious expression of the kind of people who should take part in the meetings – that is practising christians. Or in other words, you are saying that the real minorities – atheists, muslims, etc. are not welcome.

Not that a period of silent contemplation at the start of a council meeting is a bad idea – indeed, it is probably a very good idea. And nobody is saying that you cannot talk with your imaginary friend(s) in the silence of your mind.

Carey specifically mentions the legalisation of gay marriage as one of the symptoms of “aggressive secularisation” within the government. Actually legalising gay marriage is simply doing the right thing; there is nothing in the legislation that forces anyone to get married to someone not of their choice! So it is merely allowing those who choose to, to get married to the person of their choice.

What christians who oppose gay marriage are complaining about, is that they are no longer allowed to impose their views of what marriage should be onto those who believe differently.

In other words christians are complaining about not being allowed to persecute others.

If christians still feel they are being persecuted in the UK, perhaps they should look at some of the real examples of christians being persecuted around the world (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians). Any kind of inspection of what happens around the world will make any decent person claiming that UK christians are being persecuted thoroughly ashamed. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the case (and frankly in the case of the BA employee, both sides could do with being told to just grow up), being unable to wear a cross in jewellery form at work hardly compares to being stoned to death.

Apr 222011
 

There’s a bunch of moronic Muslims who call themselves the Muslims Against Crusades who have announced that they are going to be organising a demonstation during the royal wedding. The sad thing is that they are not the only morons out there – search for “Muslims Against Crusades” and you will find numerous links to intemperate responses that in my opinion count as hate speech against all Muslims.

Every community has its lunatic fringe – Muslims included. And the MAC crew definitely qualify for that tag. After all, what is the point of campaigning about the crusades ? They’re ancient history.

Whatever anybody thinks about the crusades or what the west is currently doing in the middle-east, the two really are not linked. If you’re really cynical you might believe that the west is enforcing its views on the middle-east to get hold of the oil. But that has nothing to do with the crusades which were about religion and reconquering land that had previously been conquered by Islamic invaders – yes the first “crusades” were the start of the reconquest of Spain by Christian kingdoms against Islamic invaders who had conquered Christian lands.

The lunatic fringe makes a big point about how nasty the crusaders were back in the (nearly) dark ages. What they are forgetting is that was just how barbaric Europeans made war back then – whether we were fighting Muslims, Christians, or pagans. Or just fighting each other. If you have a complaint about how the world is today, and make ridiculous comparisons to the distant past you will look like a fool.

Now we turn to the other side who seems to think every Muslim springs fully formed from the forehead of a rogue Imam with a copy of the Koran in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. They are just as moronic; whilst there are Muslims who have extremist views, they are in a minority compared with the majority. Forcing all Muslims in the UK out of the country because of the views of a small minority would be just as bad as hanging an entire village because one of the villagers show a deer belonging to the King.

And why try to spoil the wedding day of what are probably a reasonably nice couple ? If you want to make a political point with a demonstration, there are plenty of other days when you can make your point known. Like the opening of parliament, the Queen’s birthday (the official one not the real one), etc. It is probably this that demonstrates beyond anything else that MAC are a bunch of losers with no real support in the Muslim community.

Sep 082010
 

Will he; won’t he ? That dumb American pastor who has promised to burn the Koran. I’m guessing he probably will after all it’s not every day that a piece of white trash like Terry Jones attracts this much attention. He’s the pastor of a third-rate church with at most 50 in his congregation showing that he isn’t even a particularly good frothing extremist like others in the US. In other words, he needs the publicity to keep going – why else would he announce this foolish escapade this year and not in previous years after 2001?

Of course it is probably offensive to Muslims everywhere; hell it’s even offensive to me, and I don’t like any organised religion – to me this is the burning of one of the great works of literature. It is also offensive that a knuckle-dragging white trash pastor cannot distinguish between the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims and the fanatical fringe.  Perhaps he can’t count over 10 without taking his socks off – after all there are in excess of 1.7 billion Muslims in the world today and if they were all inclined to violence, we would have a lot more terrorist attacks than we do.

Perhaps people are fooled by the rhetoric; the wild protests and threats of violence that we sometimes see take place in the Islamic world. Well, there is a big difference between what you say you will do, and what you are actually prepared to carry out. Who hasn’t said “I’ll kill him” in a moment of stress and anger ? And yet the overwhelming majority of us will never conceive of actually carrying out a killing such as that – the outburst is a way of releasing stress. Perhaps not quite the same, but bear in mind that what we say is not the same as what we do.

According to this article on terrorist attacks in the US, no more than 6% of all terrorist incidents in the US since 1980. 6% ? Unbelievable isn’t it ? Well the figures came from a report by the FBI which is available here (although you will have to do your own number crunching). It seems that Jewish terrorists are (just) more likely to commit terrorist acts in the US as Islamic terrorists. To bring in another source, the Europol report on the terrorist situation in 2009 (published in 2010) shows that of 294 terrorist incidents (including foiled attacks), just 1 was committed by an Islamic terrorist – an even lower percentage of 0.3%

Strikes me that those 1.7 billion Muslims are either exceptionally lazy, or are just not that interested in being terrorists. Undoubtedly people will point to Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as examples of just how active Islamic terrorists can be – fair point, but in all cases those are exceptional circumstances. And besides the overwhelming majority of the victims are Muslims themselves – if anything one might say that the “Islamic” terrorists are actually enemies of Islam as they seem to prefer killing their co-religionists to non-Muslims.

Back to our white trash pastor. Despite showing every intention of burning the Koran, it would have been nice if the world could have ignored him – that is what he deserves. Perhaps understandably, the Islamic world doesn’t feel this way and is undoubtedly working up to widespread protests on September 11th, and undoubtedly the tiny minority of Muslims who are actually terrorists will be planning their own form of reaction against this.

It is worth pointing out (no matter how little good it will do) that the reaction to our white trash pastor is almost universally negative in the western world.

Jul 132010
 

Actually that isn’t quite the case – it is still in the process of being banned as of today. And of course the law actually reads something along the lines “people are prohibited from concealing their faces in public”. But we all know that it’s to ban Muslim women from wearing the full face veil or niqab.

I have mentioned the niqab before, so I will not be saying too much in this post.

France’s law may be a little over the top, but I do not believe that it is any more anti-Islamic than a law against beating your wife is anti-Islamic. Muslims in France may believe that France’s new law is anti-Islamic, but it is more a reaction against the perceived misogynistic tendencies behind the wearing of the niqab.

Muslims are saying that we should be more accepting of cultural differences when it comes to considering the niqab; I don’t disagree, but the negative image of the full face veil in Western society should also be considered when considering wearing the niqab. As mentioned before, an Islamic woman is still capable of demonstrating her “modesty” by wearing a burka despite not wearing the face veil, and by doing so she is showing her acceptance of Western cultural sensitivities.

Mar 302010
 

The UK government’s Prevent scheme has been accused of unfairly targeting the UK’s Muslim community. Except for the “unfair” bit, it is fair to say it does exactly that – and that is what it was setup to do. Specifically to counteract those on the fringes of the Muslim community who target young Muslims and attempt to “radicalise” them in the hopes that they can be recruited into terrorism.

Young people tend to be passionate about what they care about, and that includes politics. They often want to see change at a faster rate than is realistic, which makes them vulnerable to extremists who want to use violence to achieve their ends. Imagine if an initiative such as Prevent were underway at the beginnings of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland  in the 1960s – would the terrorism have lasted as long as it did ? Well we obviously don’t know, but it is a shame that it wasn’t tried.

The fact is that young Muslims are more likely to end up as terrorists than any other particular group of young people. Radical Christians might end up bellowing out that we all sinners, but that is just irritating and bad manners. Young hedonists may end up making a mess on the pavement at peculiar times of the night; whilst we might disapprove, it hardly compares to a suicide load of explosives.

Now of course most young Muslims are not going to wind up blowing themselves and lots of innocent people up; they are not even going to take a trip to the kind of summer camp where you learn how an AK47 works. But some are at risk of becoming radicalised and becoming terrorists.

If we can target those who are at greater risk of becoming radicalised and somehow persuade them that it is a bad idea, we can both protect ourselves and those young people. Those who say this is unfairly targeting the Muslim community are ignoring the fact that this benefits the Muslim community as much as it benefits the rest of us.

Perhaps they should ask the parents of those young people who have been killed whether persuading their sons and daughters to take another path is unfair.

Jun 232009
 

The BBC today is saying that that the Iranian Islamic republic is in crisis, although that probably has been the case for days now (or even years if you are interested in human rights as I am). The thing is that nobody seems to have picked up on what seems obvious to me – just how stupid the current leadership of Iran is.

If you are going to ignore the results of an election, don’t have one. Come up with some sort of fake crisis that makes one impossible. If people feel they have a say in their government and it is ignored they get a bit more annoyed than if they don’t feel they have a say.

If you are going to rig an election to come out the way you want, you should at least try to make it look honest. Doing such daft things as causing 150% (or whatever) of the electorate vote for you is not going to keep the electorate on your side. Give the electorate at least some choice in believing the results.

If people are rioting in the streets because of your rigged election, don’t say that you’ll review some suspicious bits but the result still stands. That will just make them riot harder.

At a certain level of violence in the streets, it is no longer sensible to send the thugs in. It is time to start thinking of a sensible solution.

If all this were to occur some place other than Iran, it might be more understandable – still stupid. But when the leadership of Iran acquired power in almost exactly the same circumstances ? You could almost believe that they want to destroy the Islamic republic – the protesters were not originally calling for the end of the republic, but the actions of the leadership have pushed them towards it.

Oct 202008
 

It was announced today (on the news at least … Sony may have announced it earlier) that Sony have released a game called “Little Big Planet” that has a music track that may annoy some Muslims. The track in question (please send corrections if I’m wrong) is a Mali language track, and quotes from the Koran. Apparently the singer is himself a devout Muslim. Sony in their not-so-infinite wisdom have announced that they are delaying the launch of the game, recalling all issued game disks, and re-mastering a version without the track in question.

Glossing over whether this music track really is offensive, it is perfectly reasonable for Sony to do something about this. But to do a full recall of the game disks already in the distribution channels? That’s pretty costly, and I would be pretty miffed if I were a Sony shareholder.

Why not simply issue a groveling apology, point out that it was a genuine mistake, promise to remaster all future game disks without the track in question, and issue an online patch to remove the track from disks that have already been distributed ?

Incidentally the track in question (Tapha Niang) is available at the artist’s website :-

http://www.worldcircuit.co.uk/#Toumani_Diabate::Boulevard_de_lIndependance

To “excuse” this mistake, if Muslims cannot agree on what is and what is not appropriate and Islamic, how can the rest of us avoid making mistakes like this ?

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