Tag Archives: Islam

Is swine flu non-kosher?

Compare the faith-fulness of these Orthodox rabbis with the prosaic Church of England recognition that holy water is not actually holy enough to stop the spread of swine flu.

According to beliefnet, a planeload of rabbis and mystics held an airborne prayer meeting to ask their god to spare Israel from swine flu.

Flying Rabbis Pray to Save Israel from Swine Flu
JERUSALEM – A planeload of Israeli rabbis and Jewish mystics held an airborne prayer meeting in the belief that it could help check the spread of swine flu in Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Yediot Ahronot daily said a plane with 50 people on board circled over Israel on Monday, with the passengers chanting prayers and sounding the ritual ram’s horn. (From beliefnet)

A plane? Why did they have to get in a plane?

I can only assume it’s to get closer to Him Upstairs, in a touchingly childlike belief that their god actually lives in the sky.

In which case, I suggest that it might be easy to get funding for a few manned space missions, if the astronauts promise to pray fervently once they’re out of earth’s atmosphere.

Despite having fallen victim to the dread disease (for which I got free Tamiflu, courtesy of the NHS, :-p to US Republicans) I never realised that swine flu had a religious dimension. But the rabbis are not alone.

Here are a few swine flu magic stories, transmitted to me by the magical powers of Google Loki .

An Imam claimed that swine flu affirms the power of the Koran. He assumed muslims couldn’t get it because they don’t eat pork or work with pigs. :-) ( Bit of an epic science fail , there.)

I guess he’s had to reconsider the accuracy of Allah’s smiting strategy by now, given that even pilgrims returning from Mecca have come down with the virus.

The god of conservative Christians was busy smiting to put a stop to idol-worship rather than pig-eating. Republican faith Chat said:

SWINE FLU: GOD’S LATEST PUNISHMENT OF IDOL-WORSHIP
,,,but let’s face it: God doesn’t punish nonbelievers today to the same degree He did in the days of old. ….. And as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson aptly observed, 9/11 reflected God’s fury for our tolerance of abortionists and homos. But lately, the Lord’s slaughter has been limited to the occasional flood, tornado and plane crash which involve just handfuls of nonbelieving sinners. But no more! The Lord is back with a vengeance.
One of God’s favorite conduits for extinguishing evil is swine. Surely, we all remember the time that Jesus cast the devils possessing a nudist into a herd of swine which promptly drowned themselves. This time, the swine are staying alive and killing the devils, a/k/a Mexicans, a/k/a Catholics, a/k/a cultists, a/k/a idol-worshippers.”

(Ok, I admit it, this one must be a spoof site.)

Buddhist normally get off relatively unscathed in this column but this suggests there’s a publicity-hungry lunatic fringe in every religion.

Taiwan Buddhist master says swine flu is warning for mankind
A Taiwan Buddhist master said Thursday that swine flu is “the earth’s warning” to human beings to stop destroying the environment. Master Cheng Yen, 72, nicknamed Taiwan’s Mother Teresa for her charity work, gave the warning in her daily speech to her disciples around the world.
Choked with tears, Cheng Yen said it is not a coincidence that it was exactly this time six years ago that severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, broke out. (from Earth Times)

(I love the idea that “Taiwan’s Mother Teresa” is a nickname. You’d think it was much easier to say “Cheng Yen” )

Anyway, she thinks that everyone becoming vegetarian and looking after the environment would prevent swine flu.

Clothes as magical objects

Oh, ffs. How many spurs to blog ranting can a woman take before noon on a Sunday morning?

The Big Question on BBC is debating the question “Should Britain ban the burqa?” (The basis of the topic is French president Sarkozy’s burqa ban) The answer is so obviously “NO” that you wonder how small a question has to be to qualify as “big.”

There follows a fair bit of debate about the burqa and its religious and social significance. There’s a burqa-clad woman saying it’s a religious issue for her. Another one defending wearing a veil as a personal choice. A male muslim scholar saying that burqa-wearing is not an integral part of Islam, anyway: it’s purely a cultural, rather than religious, garment. Nobody really deals with the implications of a ban.

Fortunately, there are no overt BNP speakers, this week, but the show does bring on Peter Hitchens… (Mail on Sunday columnist. Paleoconservative, scourge of political correctness. Christopher Hitchens’ brother – could be seen as almost his Evil Twin.)

The discussion never focuses much on what the concept of a burqa ban really means.

You have to dismiss instantly the argument that banning burqas will somehow “liberate” muslim women. In Europe, there must be already be many avenues of recourse for women who feel that they are pressured into wearing islamic dress, without having to compel those women who want to wear it – for whatever reasons – to abandon it. (Just like the careworkers who feel their very being is threatened if they can’t wear crosses at work.)

It doesn’t matter if their choices are incomprehensible to the rest of us.
Dress or ornaments are forms of communication. If the things being communicated seem absurd or offensive, surely we can challenge them or – Toutatis forbid, on current showing – just live and let live.

If the state gets engaged in ruling about what communication is acceptable, it comes bang up against the concept of freedom of expression.

And Sarkozy as feminist spokesman, indeed. A man whose only interest to the non-French world is his trophy wife.

(A wife who seems to have blithely overlooked Sarkozy’s lack of physical or mental charms, on the basis that he was the French president, in a way that seems unlikely to have happened if he was a shop assistant. Which makes even his wife seem like an odd feminist, unless you can expand the meaning of “feminist” to imply – “does whatever it takes to get wealth and power for herself”.)

Even a Spectator columnist, Rod Liddle, pointed out that
“Saqrkozy’s burqa ban panders to racism not feminism.”

Spot on. A burqa ban is a symptom of racism, not secularism, nor feminism.

Indeed the whole idea could be designed to polarise French society and provide new recruits for muslim extremism – in the same way that the Xian fundies are using every worker who’s told to remove a cross or promise ring to recruit people to their mad groupings.

As if the world isn’t dangerous enough, without creating more and more intolerance. Ah, there’s finally a convincing explanation on NewsBiscuit

Terrorism in the 21st century

Go on home Osama Bin Laden, you are so last century in your, frankly pathetic, attempts to destroy western civilisation. For over five years now we have heard the mantra about how evil Islamic Terrorists want to destroy the decadent, freedom loving, west and how they will try to bomb us into submission.

Basically they are just impatient amateurs. If they wait long enough we do it to ourselves.

Lets look at the world of 2008:

In my job, I travel by air a lot (*) and as a result get constantly annoyed by the idiotic rules we suffer under the guise of “security.” I get monumentally annoyed by the fact that I have to check in hours before my flight, but should I want a drink during the inevitable two hour delay, I have to pay extortionate airport charges because 101mls of water is deadly (while 99mls isn’t). I get really annoyed at the obnoxious attitude most airport security staff have – although, in all fairness this is probably a reaction to suffering annoyed passengers day in, day out…

Outside work, I am a hobby photographer. I love taking pictures on my travels and feel that the cities and towns of my own country are on a par with anywhere else in the world. However in the new world of “Security” taking photos in public places of tourist landmarks results in a uniformed member of the public (**) coming up to me and asking me what I am doing. Thor forbid that a terrorist group be inexpert enough to need to overtly set up a large Digital SLR to take photographs rather than use a mobile phone or compact camera (the millions of people doing that get ignored…).

Travel around the UK and you will be recorded on CCTV along pretty much every urban street. Go into a shop and you will be recorded on CCTV. Drive along the road and you will be subjected to all manner of electronic surveillance – because, basically, you cant have any expectation of privacy in a public place (***). Despite the idea all people are innocent until proven guilty, the government have decided that Islamic Terrorists are different and the state should be able to imprison them for 42 days before it has to show enough evidence to make a charge, let alone convict. Thank the Lords this has been rejected (for now).

In the UK, religion has always been a minor part of public life and thank Odin, this is still pretty much the case. However, since the Evil Islamic Terrorists appeared, there has been a (so far minor) upsurge in people equating “Christian” with “British.” As such, an attack by Islam on Christianity is being sold as an attack on our fundamental “Britishness” to the point at which the tabloids and tacky local TV have people talking in all seriousness about how the United Kingdom is a “Christian nation” and “Britain was founded by Christians for Christians” – obviously these historically challenged dullards are watching too much American propaganda but that is another issue.

This is the non-religious, freedom loving, civilisation that is so threatened by Islamic terrorists. Hmm. Osama would love it here. Ironically, even our recent fear-inspired legislation wasn’t quite enough to smash western civilisation.

Trumping an army of Osama Bin Ladens, when it comes to smashing down western civilisation the real master is simple free market economics.

It is a sad state of affairs that we can pass laws regulating every aspect of your private life, but even in the face of an economic melt down the thought of regulating “The City” is beyond the pale. City traders can, effectively, lose millions of other peoples money with not even a hint of censure – still getting huge bonuses on the eve of begging the taxpayer for a fortune to cover their losses. The crazy irony of this sees us giving them money so they can give it back to us and tell us it is our own savings… Despite their monumental failings, and complete lack of anything resembling expertise, the banking sector still claims it “knows what it is doing” and should be allowed to function unregulated. Can you imagine catching a con-artist stealing your money, then giving them more money because they know how best to get your money back!!! Insane is an understatement.

The collapse of Iceland’s banks, and their governments apparent refusal to honour international agreements, has caused huge damage to the UK economy – on greater scale than any caused by terrorist attacks (if you ignore the cost of ensuing wars). If I deprived my next door neighbour of £100 I would expect to be arrested and probably jailed, however it seems if you add a few extra zeros everyone forgets about it. Iceland basically have held a gun to the governments head and taken our money. Wars have been fought over much, much less.

In an amazingly scary example of economic understanding, the Conservative shadow Chancellor said that the government should reimburse the councils that lost money to Iceland otherwise council tax would have to be increased to cover the loss. This seems sensible until you realise the effect would be to increase the tax burden on everyone to cover the mistakes made by a few. How would that be fair? Is this what we are to expect from a Conservative government?

I agree with the Government that the national banks and banking infrastructure is critical to the well being of the United Kingdom. I also accept the assertion that it is so important, spending £50,000,000,000 to shore up a system broken by greedy, selfish scumbags is in the public interest. I accept that this will mean other aspects of the national infrastructure will suffer and I accept that this is a necessary evil.

What I cant understand is:

  1. How can something so vital to the nation be outside complete government control? More importantly, how can something so vital be so heavily influenced by foreign nations which, when push comes to shove, have national self interest at stake? This really confuses me.
  2. Why is no one being punished for this? The bank failings are either malicious (in which case why don’t we invade a random country like we’ve done in the past) or negligent. Or both. The claim this is just the “market” is nonsense – the city traders claim to be financial wizards but abjectly failed to see this happening – either they are crap or they were played. Either way someone should be held accountable.
  3. Why the **** haven’t we enforced rock solid legislation to control such a critical asset? We’ve spent over £1000 per living person in the UK on them, why aren’t we having any say in them?
  4. How on Earth are the bankers getting away with claiming they “know best” on how to handle the current situation? (See 2) Blatantly they don’t or if they do, they are working against the national interest.
  5. Why are UK public bodies (Police and councils) allowed to invest money in foreign institutions? The quest for an extra percent of interest has meant public money is being sent to a foreign nation. Let me reword that – money paid by UK taxpayers has been given to a foreign country. Rather than invest in the UK economy dozens of UK public bodies chose to throw it down an Icelandic toilet and when they inevitable happened they cry to the government for more money….

I am going to have to stop here. The madness makes me want to scream. If anyone can explain this to me I would be very grateful.

* Apologies to environmentalists, but unless you are willing to pay me not to fly, my choices are limited.

** Sometimes referred to a “Police Community Support Officers” but that implies they are trained members of the law enforcement community, when in reality 75% of them are nothing more than jumped up busy bodies who get to wear a hat.

*** Well, this is true by definition. However there is a “spirit” of the law thing to consider. While you cant realisitically expect to be private walking down the street you can expect the state to not surveil your every movements. While it can be argued that the almost blanket CCTV coverage is not directed against you, the fact remains it is possible for someone to retrospectively search the databases and track your every movement. The fact the surveillance is directed against 65 million people doesn’t stop it being directed.

Rights fading away

If you hadn’t already noticed, I am a keen hobbyist photographer. I love going out with my family and taking pictures of everything around me. This is pretty harmless and it gives us nice pictures to hang on the walls or foist off on relatives in place of Christmas and Birthday presents. As a pastime, there could be much worse.

Being interested in photography, I always considered myself lucky that I was born in a democracy where people are basically free to indulge in their hobbies and predominantly interested in landscape photography where you dont have to ask someone to smile.

It seems, however, I was actually quite wrong and it is only my tendency for landscape shots that keeps me on the right side of the law. Despite our “evil freedoms” being abhorrent to the nutcases like Usama Bin Laden, we actually have a lot less than you would think. Actually, that isn’t true (yet) but I will come back to this.

Two news items from this weeks Amateur Photographer magazine give pause for thought about our “rights” and freedoms. The first is a worrying incident in the land of the free:

A TV crew filming a story about photographers being harassed at a US railway station were stopped by security and told to switch off their cameras. (…) Tom Fitzgerald, a reporter for Fox 5 television, was interviewing the chief spokesman for rail operator Amtrak when a security guard ordered the crew to stop filming. Ironically, the spokesman had apparently just confirmed to the reporter that photography was, in fact, allowed.

It continues to mention that this is not an isolated incident (flickr discussion) and the madness that “moves are afoot to introduce draft legislation designed to protect the rights of photographers to take pictures.”

It is doubly ironic that they tried to put paid to the film crew filming the company spokesman saying filming was allowed. What better example of corporate non-communication could there be?

The Amtrak Goons are insane, but are not alone. We have a similar problem in the UK:

Olympics 2012 bosses have apologised to photographers who complained about heavy-handed treatment by security guards at the East London construction site. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) came under fire after two amateur photographers complained following a confrontation outside the site on 3 May. Louis Berk and Steve Kessel say they were left feeling intimidated after guards demanded to see their identification. ODA spokeswoman Laura Voyle said the guards approached the photographers ‘to investigate a report that they had been seen within the Olympic Park boundary’. However, the pair insisted they had been on a ‘public pavement’ and had not ventured onto the Olympic site itself. (…) And [Olympics Security Manager] promised to conduct a ‘review of instructions on how they will deal with issues relating to photography’.  (…) However, [Louis Berk] does not feel reassured, telling us: ‘What concerns me is that I still don’t know if the ODA realises that suspicion of taking photographs of their property from a ‘public place’ is not a cause for intervention by the guard force.’

There is more madness around the 2012 London Olympics but this highlights the current problem.

In a nutshell, both instances were the result of private Security Guards not being aware of the rules regarding their location. This is down to poor education by their employer. In the UK you can photograph almost anything (some locations are exempt under the 1911 Official Secrets Act) from a public place. If you can see it, you can photograph it. Kind of makes sense really. It is different if you are on private property, but 90% of the time the property owner will give permission. Again, it makes sense. I can only assume the law is similar in America.

What is worrying is that both instances show people have a default setting of STOPPING photography. I will be charitable and say neither organisation put out instructions to annoy members of the public (including tax payers who paid for the bloody Olympic-farce) so the security guards must have assumed the camera was a security threat. Over the last few months there have been lots of occasions where over zealous guardians have taken offence at people trying to take photographs, even in (weirdly) popular tourist destinations like Trafalgar Square. I have read claims that people were questioned because they could be “terrorists doing reconnaissance” (with an overt camera and tripod – good job Johnny Foreigner isn’t clever enough to use a mobile phone camera…) or other equally spurious risks (there were children present etc..).

The problem is, these fears (and certainly this one in particular) are nonsense. Bruce Schneier, BT’s chief security technology officer, recently wrote an excellent article for the Guardian where he dismisses most of these fears. The article is really, really worth reading even if you aren’t a photographer – there are many more “freedoms” at risk from our apathetic approach to them and “terrorism.” Schneier has an interesting theory that this madness where we fear long-lens cameras is because it is a “Movie Plot Threat.” Also worth reading.

Sadly, it may well be too little, too late for our society. We fear that the evil Islamic terrorists will destroy our culture, so to “beat” them we destroy it ourselves. Well done us.

All atheists aren’t bright

If you’re smugly thinking that your being a bit less stupid than the next person is evidenced by your lack of religious belief, I have some unwelcome news. Then again, if you think the idea of all atheists banding together in a broad unchurch of unbelief is silly, you may feel vindicated. (Snakes and ladders.)

There’s a blog on the Atheist Blogroll called Al-Kafir Akbar Its site in the lower reaches of the mental gene pool became evident in a climate-change-denial post. This post has already been elegantly and eloquently savaged by Black Sun Journal.

I was pretty struck by today’s post. Mohammed protector of infidels. I already suspect this story of the Swedish artist is rather more complex than it is being reported in the international media, although, with any more reports, it will indeed become yet another crazy international incident.

There is a bizarre capacity of small groups in the Islamic world to stir up mass hysteria over “insults” known at 15th hand, and only through the deliberate agency of rabble-rousing Islamic leaders. There is also an evil twin Western response, which assumes that the entire Muslim world is made up of demented fundamentalist fanatics.

Most atheist blogs are well able to oppose any flavour of fundamentalist nonsense without degenerating into mania.

But let me refer you to Al-Kafir Akbar’s blog again. This doesn’t fit into that camp of rational discourse. He says

.. those neurotic, thin-skinned cry-babies will be rioting again – peacefully, of course….. Al-Kafir akbar, ragheads! :)

I find this unpleasant. As I do the “Disprortionate Response” button. “Mr Akbar’s” “Islam & the War” blogroll includes Soldier of Fortune blog and Western Resistance.com that has the sort of posts that include one saying “Moderate Islam: a Reductio ad Absurdum.”

I am trying to see this as a cultural Europe versus USA thing and be more tolerant. But something about that “ragheads” word chills me. Despite sounding completely unlike “gooks”, it somehow sounds exactly the same.

Feelings about Islam in the US can go way beyond denouncing anti-humanist religiously-influenced practices. Many Americans and more and more Europeans go beyond reason into demonising Muslims en masse. The ultimate direction of this way of thinking is genocide.

Endless global war over access to dwindling resources. Justified on all sides by appeals to increasingly polarised beliefs in nonsense.. Which takes us back to the environmental threats topic again….

Yes, terrorism is vile and terrifying. (The clue’s in the name.) However, Europe has lived in the face of terrorism for decades, barely paddling in the ocean of craven fear, bigotry and database-driven authoritarianism that the world seems to be now diving into. In most cases, the way to stop terrorism is to find out what it’s really about and to deal with that.

(Look more closely at the Swedish artist Lars for a good-natured and good-humoured response to bigotry. He tried to buy the Egyptian cartoons that insult him.)

Quick history lesson, the mention of which will probably annoy the hell out of many US readers. Read Wikipedia on the Stern gang. The founders of the state of Israel got it by carrying out a terrorist campaign against the UK, who held Palestine as a “protectorate”. To this end, they even supported Germany in World War II.

(Stern) differentiated between ‘enemies of the Jewish people’ (e.g., the British) and ‘Jew haters’ (e.g. the Nazis), believing that the former needed to be defeated and the latter manipulated. To this end, he initiated contact with Nazi authorities, in order to enlist their aid in establishing a totalitarian state on Nazi lines., open to Jewish refugees from Nazism, in exchange for collaborating with Germany against the British Empire in the Second World War. (from Wikipedia.)

An object lesson in why you shouldn’t give into terrorism. At the same time, this shows you why terrorism presents an attractive option to people who can’t get what they want by normal methods.

Don’t have nightmares

This is a link to a really good, if disturbing, video. It discusses parallels between extreme Islam (in the shape of a Muslim man with a Hitler moustache) and Christian fundamentalism and how this has given our rulers a pretext to build up our fears to achieve their ends.

h/t to paul canning whose blog reminded me about the video Charlie Brooker showed to da yout’ this week, and even provided a link.

Charlie Brooker’s sample of young people found it infinitely more interesting than the youth tv dross he also showed them.

Oddly, given that Charlie Brooker is a tv critic so brilliant that he can make you chortle out loud, (hence giving away the fact you are secretly reading his Guardian column in work) his own tv ventures are not usually crowned with glory. But, even so, it takes a superhuman effort of will to disagree with his conclusions on any programme. And, he’s right on this one.

Egyptian cartoon

Life before death refers to a sort of online argument between a Swedish and an Egyptian cartoonist.

This is a pretty wierd story all round. What is it about Scandinavians and cartoons about Islam? How is that the Islamic world seems to be poring over Northern European newspapers and art shows?

I live in only slightly-less-Northern Europe and I couldn’t get my hands on a Norwegian or Danish or Swedish newspaper without getting on a plane.

And if I could, I couldn’t understand a word without some very serious Babelfishing.

Oh, I guess I’d just have to look at the cartoons then.

Which may explain why the Islamic world is on a hair-trigger with regard to any Scandinavian artworks that involve men with beards. For Freya’s sake, they could just stop having the Nordic press delivered every day and there wouldn’t be a problem.

One completely irrelevant thing about this debate is that the Egyptian lad is a genius cartoonist. The Swedish lad is outclassed here. (Yes, I AM too lazy to check the names and I want to sound a bit like a football commentator on this one) So, in my too-sceptical way, I thought. “Maybe this cartoonist is playing with the blogosphere to get some well-deserved exposure for his work”

I mean, if you are a cartoonist in the Islamic world, it must be difficult to go about your daily work of cartooning without offending someone. Then you look at the vast international exposure that comes to cartoonists from small Nordic countries that you probably never heard of before for doing a few uninspired but religiously offensive funnies.

Wouldn’t you say “I want some of that sweet fame”? You can’t actually produce an offensive-religious cartoon yourself. (After all, Salman Rushdie’s still in hiding well over a decade after writing an “offensive” novel and he lives in the non-Muslim world and has lots of wealthy and powerful friends…) But you can produce a cartoon that is meant to offend a Scandinavian cartoonist.

OK, the international cultural impact is a bit diminished by the Swedish lad being bowled over by the gratuitously offensive genius of the Egyptian lad’s cartooning and wanting to buy the work.

But it still sort of works. Those of us who would never have seen the Egyptian lad’s drawings have all seen them. And (despite some vitriolic abuse on their quality in the comments on Life before Death) we can all see he’s a world-class artist.

Give him a job on a Swediish newspaper, please. That’s got to be the perfect way to distribute your cartoons throughout the Muslim world.

And the Swedish lad strikes a blow for the Nordic good-natured rationality that we all love. Win win, really.