Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I was expecting to burn since I was little anyway...

The speaker for bigotted British Muslims has reared his head for his pre-Christmas hate speech again this year.  Anjem Choudary is telling Muslims that celebrating Christmas is a pathway to Hell and calls for his fellow bigots to boycott Christmas.
'In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in Western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas,' he raged in a sermon broadcast on the internet. 
Many take part in the festival celebrations by having Christmas turkey dinners.  Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah.  Many still practise this corrupt celebration as a remembrance of the birth of Jesus.  How can a Muslim possibly approve or participate in such a practice that bases itself on the notion Allah has an offspring?  The very concept of Christmas contradicts and conflicts with the foundation of Islam.  Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. 
Protect your Paradise from being taken away - protect yourself and your family from Christmas.'
I wish this guy would shut his trap; it's guys like this who ruin it for others, especially the Muslims who do enjoy this season.  This year, my family's been quite lucky that my mother hasn't descended into her annual tradition of guilt-ridden rants of banning Christmas in our house.  Our tree's up, presents wrapped, Christmas table's been set and we intend to celebrate Christmas as we do every year - with as little religion as possible, because we are gathered together as a family. 

And if celebrating being a family is going to land us in Hell, I will gladly be first in line to face Satan down myself. 

(Nod to Maryam Namazie; sourced from The Citizens Report and The Daily Mail)


Admiral Ackbar will be proud.
While most lingerie brands would usually pick a buxom lady to model their latest underwear collections, Dutch department store Hema have opted for a more unconventional choice.
Male model Andrej Pejic fronts the campaign for the ‘Mega Push-Up Bra’ from Hema that promises to ‘add two cup sizes’
I'm really impressed with this guy - it's hard enough for a woman to get a modelling deal like this.  And he makes an extremely attractive woman.

And as another feather in his cap, FHM ranked him 98th in their 2011 "100 Sexiest Women in the World".  Although in classic lads' mags fashion, his award was accompanied with a message to readers asking to "pass the sick bucket", which has since been removed from their website.  Someone must have had a crisis of sexuality in the office. 

I have to say, as far as advertising goes, this is really good.  If that bra can give a man that good a lift, it's a pretty damn good bra for a woman to consider.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Taking the piss (literally)

Some good news for the lovers of water sports in the Islamic world! 

Scientific proof that men's pee is purer than women's pee!  Never mind that the study was presided over by a professor who is commisioned to make scientific sense of his scripture of choice.  Or that biologically, it is easier to collect urine samples free from fecal contamination from boys than it is from girls.

An interesting fact about E.Coli is that not all of it is harmful to health.  In fact, it's present in our bodies almost all our lives and can even produce vitamin K, as well preventing the establishment of pathogenic bacteria in our intestines.  Don't know how that ruins your hypothesis, professors, but I think you need to work a bit harder still to sell your religious science.

(Nearly forgot to credit Maryam Namazie)

Monday, 28 November 2011

Sometimes I am ashamed of being English

The following video is not recommended to those who are easily enraged.

There's simply no words for the bitter disappointment and outrage I feel towards this woman.  This is her British country?  Well fucking whoop-di-doo.  If she represents what a "true Brit" is, then I refuse to be called a British citizen.

I did find some glimmer of hope though.  There's a young man (I assuming he's Carribbean) sat behind this atrocious woman, who was obviously getting extremely upset with her racist tirade (to the point where he even stood up quite aggressively, ready to confront her).  Not long after, a young white woman goes over to him and comforts him, even giving him a hug to help him calm down.  I also commend the women at the end of the video who stood up and took on this woman in front of everyone on behalf of the British public who abhor and despise this level of bigotry amongst the population.

That is what Britain should be about - kindness, support, respect and courage.  Not this wench of a woman who does not deserve to raise the child on her lap. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

These are the real demons

Evil has penned another name for itself, in the name of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).  An undercover report by Sky News has found out that this so-called church has been telling HIV sufferers that go to them to throw away their medication and go start families because they have been cured by the power of God.


A sprinkling of water and a few words shouted over a person isn't going to drive any illness out of a person's body and yet these people have the audacity to claim a 100% success rate at curing HIV sufferers!  And as a result of people believing this, at least 6 known people have died.  People who didn't need to suffer and die when real medicine and real professionals can help keep them alive and living as comfortably and normally as possible!

One pastor, Rachel Holmes, told one of the undercover reporters (who is a real HIV sufferer) that if she continues to vomit or suffer from diarrhea, she should not take her medication - it's evidence that the disease is leaving her body.  Never mind that this is already a recognised condition associated with HIV!  It's easy to say perhaps they deserved to die for beliving this drivel, but these people would have been desperate and looking for a permanent cure.  So they become easy prey for these vultures who call themselves pastors and prophets. 

And to me, the cherry on this sundae of disaster is the fact SCOAN is registered in the UK as a charity.  It's almost ironic, but I seriously hope the Charity Commision revokes that.  Why should these people get rich off the backs of vulnerable people and the country by peddling death and stupidity?

What has the church got to say about this whole debacle?
"We are not the Healer - God is the Healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure. Never a burden God cannot bear. Never a problem God cannot solve.
"To His power, nothing is impossible. We have not done anything to bring about healing, deliverance or prosperity. If somebody is healed, it is God who heals.
"We must have a genuine desire if we come to God. We are not in position to question anybody's genuine desire. Only God knows if one comes with true desire. Only God can determine this.
"That is why, if anybody comes in the name of God, we pray for them. The outcome of the prayer will determine if they come genuinely or not."
  You hear that?  It's not their fault if you're still sick and on death's door.  It's all God's work, so if you don't go in believing in his all-powerful healing, then it's actually your fault you're not cured.  Way to pass the buck, guys.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need something sweet to wash the bitter taste of rage and horror from my mouth.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Awww, just kiss and make up already.

Advertising is designed to get certain emotions going to sell their products or ideology.  Quite a few adverts cause controversy.  United Colors of Benetton have released one such ad campaign which has sent people up in arms.

Benetton's Unhate campaign is trying to spread the message of tolerance and "unhate".  Quoted from their website...
What does UNHATE mean? UN-hate. Stop hating, if you were hating. Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think. Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate
I think this is a WONDERFUL message to spread.  It's not everyday that a big firm would release a specific campaign urging people the world over to stop hating each other.  Unfortunately, this message is a little lost on some people.  First in line to argue this "controversial advertising" is the Vatican, on behalf of Pope Benedict.

Don't they make a lovely couple?
Locking lips with the Pope in that image is Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, a prominant imam and scholar of Sunni Islam from Cairo.  Other images in the campaign has Barack Obama kissing the leaders from China and Venezuela, Angela Merkel kissing Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of Palestine kissing the Prime Minister of Israel, and another personal favourite of mine, Kim Jong-il kissing the president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak.

Unfortunately, the Pope's poster hasn't been up for more than an hour before they were forced to pull it from their website due to complaints from Vatican City. 
"This shows a grave lack of respect for the Pope, an offence to the feelings of believers, a clear demonstration of how publicity can violate the basic rules of respect for people," said Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman.
The posters were unveiled in a "series of guerilla actions" according to the company, with the posters of Benedict/Ahemd, Merkel/Sarkozy and Obama/Hu Jintao being revealed in Rome, Paris and Milan respectively.  As of yet, the Pope is the only one considering taking legal action against the company for his particular poster, although I would be very interested in hearing the reactions of the other posters from the other featured leaders.  Alessandro Benetton, the deputy head of the company, knew what he was doing in this provocative campaign but wanted to share the ideal notion of love through these posters.  Good on him, I say; I love this campaign.
"The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders," Alessandro Benetton said in a statement.
 I suggest heading over to their website and check out the other posters.  It's like looking at movie posters for an upcoming rom-com next summer.  

(News source: Daily Telegraph)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Poppies and Poundland.

So it's getting to that time of year when a particular paper flower is being adorned on almost every lapel in the British Isles.  Everyone from politicians and news readers to the proprietor of your local corner shop is likely to be sporting one like the annual fashion accessory it's become.  I will be wearing one as well - have done for years and its meaning to me hasn't changed; not just as a symbol of rememberence for the wars our nation has fought in the past but also as a symbol of solidarity for our troops today. 

As a whole, society agrees to this interpretation.  Sometimes though, a little too fanatically - an employee in Poundland in Lisburn was asked to remove their poppy because the store's dress policy doesn't allow for it.  Like any grown-up in a workplace, she walked out and the media was alerted.  As expected, Poundland didn't intend for any offence.
"On 28 October a situation in Northern Ireland was brought to the company's attention where a store colleague was politely asked to remove a poppy by our store manager in order to comply with company policy."
"The store colleague decided to walk out and stated that she would return on Monday next wearing her poppy."
Most work places allow the wearing of a poppy, but if somewhere doesn't approve of "accessorising" the uniform, as it were, then as an employee you are contractually obliged to comply.  If you don't agree with it, then bring it up in a mature manner, perhaps through a union or with a few of your colleagues who agree with you.  Walking out and proclaiming you haven't learnt anything isn't going to win you much favour in the workplace and will most likely label you as a troublemaker.  If anything else, just don't wear the poppy at work - there's nothing stopping you from pinning one on your coat after you leave.

I read another blogger's take on this (The Guyliner on Huffington Post UK) and he makes a good point. For some reason, people look down on you when you don't wear a poppy, or when you walk past the collection tins without putting something in.  When I was more naive, I used to think the same way about people who didn't wear poppies for Rememberence Day, and every year I would buy a poppy in part to show my support and in part because I didn't want people to think I DIDN'T support the soldiers.

Until recently, I had a fabric rose pinned to my coat for the local hospice when they were collecting outside my local supermarket.  I say until recently, because like anything pin to my coat, I eventually lose it from general moving around.  I lamented the loss slightly (it was a nice rose) but you know what?  Only I'd notice the missing flower.  And it didn't mean I lost my support for the organisation either.  The same applies here.  Just because there isn't a poppy on your lapel doesn't mean you don't support the troops or the charity - really, I think you can do no worse than the extremists last year who burned poppies as a deliberate act of incitement and display of non-support.

Breast Cancer Awareness has a pink ribbon, the Marie Curie Foundation has a yellow daffodil.  Heck, Help the Heroes has a little medal.  And yet, no one will look at you strangely if you don't wear any of these.  Just because this time of year, it becomes almost high fashion for this red poppy to be worn everywhere (and yes, high enough fashion that there are designer poppies for sale as well).  I think this story is a little blown out of proportion - a bit like when nurses and air stewardesses are asked to remove their crucifixes at work, though the reasoning behind this example is only slightly different. 

All in all, I guess what I was trying to say is that there's no need to blow up because your employer told you not to wear a flower to work - I can't wear my favourite ring to work and I don't whinge about it.  There's more important things to worry about and if you're worried about being able to wear a poppy to work, maybe you should be worrying more about why you're wearing that poppy in the first place.  In fact, maybe you should be thinking more about the troops who are represented by that flower than the flower itself.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

It's a busy weekend.

Anyone else surprised we made it to the 22nd of October?  No?  Good, let's move on...

Another chapter in political history has been made with the death of a tyrant.  Colonel Muannmar "Mad Dog" Gadaffi, as we all know by now, had been killed two days ago.  This is bittersweet news - the people have a chance at a true democracy after over forty years under his harsh reign.  However, I got the same disappointed dread I felt when Osama Bin Laden was killed earlier this year.  For all the crimes he is guilty of, Gadaffi should have been made to stand trial and made accountable for everything he has done, in a court of justice.  Instead, he was executed, although reports have argued against it, saying he had been mortally wounded before being shot in the head.  If that was the case, if they were so eager for him to die, why not let him bleed to death instead of helping along?  And not only that, but allowing his body to be photographed by everyone on their mobile phones whilst it lays in refrigeration, awaiting transportation. 

It may have been a war, but I don't understand why a little decorum from the rebels couldn't have been practiced.  But then again, this is my shallow opinion of the matter.  The next step would be for Libya to pick itself up again and show the world what it can do with its own people speaking up for themselves. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sharia Law isn't special or unique, no matter how you dress it.

Well, it's been a while since my last post.  I was going to post up another Curious Reading since I've found where I hid my booklets by Dr Naik, but something else has set my blood pressure going (which, given its poor state anyway, is probably a good thing in the long run). 
BRUNEI Darussalam will soon see the creation of a unique hybrid legal system where Islamic laws are integrated into existing civil legislation, making them Syariah-compliant.
In a country that already runs on traditional religious grounds, this only convinces me that rather than sell itself as a modern, fair nation, it's taking five steps back into the Dark Ages.  A senior council member commented that instead of having a seperate law for Muslims and non-Muslims, the two systems will be integrated into one Penal Code, to comply with Sharia law for offences punishable under the Quran.  According to the text, there are six areas of punishable crimes - Theft and Robbery (for some reason, they are separate sections), Illicit Sexual Relations, Unproven Accusations of Illicit Sexual Relations, Drinking Intoxicants and Apostasy. 

From what I am able to recall, these rules aren't anything new for the country.  Corporal punishment is in effect in Brunei and as a child, I remember seeing PSAs on television regarding the punishments a person faces for performing illegal acts (mostly to do with drug trafficking).  I do remember that unrelated, unmarried men and women weren't allowed to be alone together in public or private and there have been reports of couples being arrested for such "crimes" (and being cousins doesn't exempt you from this, by the way).  Drinking was always forbidden for Muslims and given the society out there, I don't blame anyone raised in an Islamic household for not coming out if they stopped believing in Allah. 

There have been complaints to this new system of laws, over the "draconian punishments" prescribed under Hudud (restrictions and punishments for serious crimes), such as amputation of hands for theft and flogging for adultery.  In defence, Zuraini Haji Sharbawi, a senior counsel, points out that the burden of proof under Hudud is "very, very difficult".  An example -
For someone to be punished for sex with a minor, there must be at least four witnesses to fulfil the burden of proof.
Who does this protect, really?  The minor or the offender?  This can only be an advantage to the predator in this situation; where is the victim going to find four witnesses to their abuse?   When sex outside of marriage has such a taboo in their society, who is even going to believe them when they try to report their abuse?  In fact, even if they are brave enough to report their sexual abuse, if they are unable to prove that an adult has had sex with them through witnesses, the victim themselves will be punished for unproven accusations of illicit sexual relations.  Sure, some can claim that this law prevents innocent people from being accused of being sexual predators, but this protects the abusers more than saves the innocent accused.  And even outside of the whole paedophilia net, unmarried couples aren't allowed to "fornicate" either.  And affairs are punishable by flogging.  How is this considered right by any means?  Suppressing people's sexual desires doesn't make them any more or less moral than anyone who sleeps around as long as no one is hurt. 

In addition to this reformation, there will be a review panel to decide if every case should be brought to the Hudud court, or the Takzir court (civil offences with no punishment under Hudud).  Forgive my cynicism here, but if the people employed on the panel are supporters of such a system, who support a moral code based on a scripture as opposed to a society's opinions, I don't hold a lot of hope for anyone who is unlucky enough to be caught drinking, not believing in Allah or for having sex out of marriage and wedlock. 

This system has been cited as unique and special to Brunei, but I fail to see how this is anything more than a redressing of Sharia Law.  At the end of the day, they are still using religion to punish people and I don't see how this will result in a fair and just judicial system.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Surreal Late Night Conversations with Dad

I adore my Dad, no question about it.  He's always been the stable, reasonable, rational force in my upbringing, even when he wasn't there half the time.  It's thanks to him I had the foundations to be able to think skeptically as a child, in an environment where hard questions were dismissed or silenced.

So sometimes, when it's late at night, there's nothing but pessimism on the news and he's downed a few, I get a bit shocked by what he admits.  Like his belief that the world will end at 2012.  That the police should all be given guns and orders to open fire.  That we should arm ourselves ready for society's collapse.  That he wishes he had sturdier legs to run on when the apocalypse happens. 

There's something surreal in trying to associate those admissions with the man who taught me to always keep an open yet skeptical mind. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Morals? There's an app for that!

Or at least, a psychological test. 

In browsing through my reading lists, I came across a website called, where they have studies and surveys to test your moral thinking and ranking them according to how liberal or conservative you are.  I took the first survey on the list, "Moral Foundation Questionnaire", which was developed by Jesse Graham and Jonathan Haidt from the University of Virginia.  Their questionnaire relies on five pillars of moral foundation, based on Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect and Purity/Sanctity. 

It doesn't come as too big a surprise that each foundation is ranked differently according to either group, I suppose accounting for those who are more in the middle of the road with their affiliation.  In sense of accuracy and proper surveying, I would have prefered there be more conservatives taking this survey as liberals are very highly represented. 

Anyway, I'll post up my results for comparison and analysis.  The green bars are my results, blue for average liberal result and red for general conservative result.  The scales are based on the 0-5 system, with 0 being a complete rejection of that foundation and 5 being a full endorsement of that foundation and the basis of which you build your morality upon.

Harm/Care (4.3) - I'm not surprised this is my highest score, but what I am surprised with is just how highly it ranked.  I always thought myself empathic towards others and against harming someone intentionally, but I'm not exactly the most gentle person to have existed either.

Fairness (3.7) - Andrew Hall mentioned that this was the "Superhero Virtue"; so I suppose my sense of justice is nicely placed for a small time hero, like a minor mutant in the X-Men Academy.

Loyalty (2.5) - About average, so no real comment here. 

Authority (3.0) - Leaning more towards the conservative thinking here, but again, I'm not surprised.  I had been raised in a very authoritarian home and I do have a certain respect for people in positions of authority (police, military personnel, leaders, parents, teachers, employers etc), but that does mean my expectations of their conduct is high as well. 

Purity (2.5) - Again, slightly surprised with this one, though I suppose my lingering naivety has influenced a lot of this.  There's very few things I would consider "icky" nowadays, but I suppose hat does beg the question of just how "icky" are the things I was considering when filling out the survey ;-)

Man, I love doing things like these.  It fascinates me to actually see in some rudimentary form how I think.

Kudos to Andrew Hall (Laughing in Purgatory) for the link.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Curious Reading: Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, Part 2

And here we go with the second installment of my ripping through Dr Naik's booklet "Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam".  So without further ado, let's get to it!

Chapter 3. Hijab for Women

Here we go into another tricky topic for those with an interest in Islam and Women's Rights.  Doctor Naik begins the chapter by pointing out how ancient civilisations of the past have degraded their women, citing Babylon, Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations.  He uses Pandora as an example for Greek civilisation's degradation of women, for being the root cause of misfortune to human beings world wide. Please tell me I'm not the only one who felt like laughing at the irony that he used a myth as an example?  Not only that, but he himself calls her an 'imaginary woman'.  But I digress.  He also mentions in all these civilisations, sexual perversion and prostitution is rife, with women at the bottom tier of all societies.  Even in Pre-Islamic Arabia, he says that Arabs looked down on women.  (No change there, really).

So, what of his argument for the hijab?  Well, first he extols Islam as giving women equality and expects them to maintain status.  He hastens to add that men also have hijabs.
"Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do." (Al-Qur'an an 24:30)
So, a man's hijab is merely to look away if he starts thinking 'brazen or unashamed thoughts' about a woman he's looking at.  But if that's the case, then any honest man will end up walking into walls or lamposts more often.  Let's face it, men are no strangers to sexual thoughts, just like women.  And what of women?
"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appeart thereof; that they should draw veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons..." (Al Qur'an an 24:31)
Doesn't that seem a little one sided to anyone?  A man has to look away, but a woman has to cover up?  I have nothing against modesty - I think every woman has her day where she doesn't want to slap up but really, is full body coverage necessary?

So, Doctor Naik, what are the criterion for hijab?  Well, first off, he very briefly lays out the obligatory dress code for men, namely 'to cover the body at least from the navel to the knees'. For women, 'the extent of covering obligatory is to cover the complete body except the face and hands upto the wrist.  If they wish to, they can cover even these parts of the body'.  All right...still not helping on the one-sidedness there. And there's more as well, although this time it applies to both genders.
  • The clothes worn should be loose and should not reveal the figure.
  • The clothes worn should not be transparent such that someone can see through them.
  • The clothes worn should not be so glamourous as to attract the opposite sex.
  • The clothes worn should not resemble that of the opposite sex.
  • The clothes worn should not resemble that of the unbelievers i.e. they should not wear clothes that are specifically identities or symbols of the unbelievers' religions.
Quite the dress code there.  Pass me that potato sack, Doctor Naik, I'm feeling decidedly exposed now compared to that list.

Oh wait, fuck that!

There is nothing wrong with the human body that it requires a complete camoflage like that.  As for resembling the opposite sex, that's a point against encouraging transexuals or effeminate or butch dressers in their community as well.  And we all know that sexual attraction ranks lowest when we view the opposite sex, obviously!  That's why we don't have to even look at them or be interesting to look at; how dare we?  Actually, that's something I don't get - the suggested covering for men is only from the belly button to the knees, and yet you can't attract the opposite sex with the way you dress.  Don't they think a woman would catch a big eyeful if guys went along with that, or is that too immodest for the woman as well? (Oh wait, of course it is.  We're not supposed to be sexually aware).

But the hijab isn't all about how you dress.  It's about how you act as well.  Everything should be modest, from how we walk, talk, behave.  Bland, dull and homogenous.  I don't know if it occured to Dr Naik and others like him, but we're humans, not sheep.  We possess a thing called individuality.  Personality.  Some of us will be louder than others, more confident.  This enforced dress code is simply a way to drain independant thought from people, not just women.  And when you take that away from people, then they are far easier to preach to with no argument.

But that's not all.  The other reason for hijab for women - their own protection!  The hijab is supposed to be a billboard for men; that the woman is of the modest sort and it will put them off raping her.  There's also a situational example provided - the Example of Twin Sisters.
Suppose two sisters who are twins, and who are equally beautiful, walk down the street.  One of them is attired in the Islamic hijab i.e. the complete body is covered, except for the face and the hands up to the wrists.  The other sister is wearing western clothes or a mini skirt.  Just around the corner there is a hooligan or ruffian who is waiting for a catch, to tease a girl.  Whom will he tease?  The girl wearing the Islamic Hijab or the girl wearing the mini skirt?  Naturally he will tease the girl wearing the mini skirt.  Such dresses are an indirect invitation to the opposite sex for teasing and molestation.  The Qur'an rightly says that hijab prevents women from being molested.
Hmm, now, I'm not a criminal psychologist, but won't a rapist firstly focus on assaulting a woman walking by on her own?  Not with her sister or friends or whatever?  They don't particularly want to be caught, after all.  It won't matter if that woman was modestly dressed - if a man already has it in his head he wants to rape a woman, he will do it, hijab or not.  And is it me, or does the whole dress thing also smack heavily of "blame the victim"?  I'll be frank, I once thought like that.  That if you dress like a whore, expect to be treated like one.  However, I had since looked in the mirror.  I have walked out the door in shorts or mini skirts before.  It's not me inviting men, indirectly or otherwise, to molest me.  Oh, and incidentally, the men who do see me dressed like that don't instantly decide to attack me.  Oh no, don't tell me, it must be that those men ARE NOT MINDLESS FUCKING ANIMALS!  They are free to appreciate a woman's beauty, but it's not as if they're going to instantly want to rape them!  Leave that to the ruffians, hooligans and people whom other men would not want representing their gender. 

The argument Dr Naik presents about Western society's false claim of women's liberation being a disguised form of exploitation then becomes laughable.  We are not degraded in body, soul and honour.  Having pride in our appearance is not degrading, and our souls are not any more tarnished for it.  We are not "mere tools in the hands of pleasure seekers and sex marketeers". 

The closing sentiment in this chapter is the kicker as well.  After his talk of the hijab preserving a woman's modesty, he brings out statistics on rape cases in America, which leads onto, wait for it....

Implementation of Islamic Sharia law!

You KNEW that was coming.

But wait!  It makes PERFECT sense.  Sharia law implements capital punishment for rapists, so that should be reason enough.  What husband doesn't want to punish a man who rapes his wife?  What father wouldn't want to kill the man who would hurt his little girl?  But hang on a sec.  Isn't this Sharia Law the same one that demands that a woman brings four male witnesses OF THE RAPE IN ACTION to prove it!?  Isn't this the same law that decrees that a married woman cannot be raped because sex is part of her duties as a wife, no questions asked?  Isn't this the same law that punishes raped women who cannot find witnesses to their rapes, executing them and labelling them adulterers? 

Umm, excuse me Dr Naik, but keep your Sharia Law.  I much prefer living in secular Britain, where religion has no place in politics and law, where a woman isn't blamed for her sexual assault, where a woman's testimony is enough to start an investigation and where she is not at risk of being executed for being a liar. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Curious Reading: Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, Part 1

I have recently bought myself some booklets off eBay about Islam, produced by the Islamic Dawah Centre International (I.D.C.I), thinking they should be an interesting read.  And interesting they are.  The first one I opened up is titled Answers to Non-Muslims' Common Questions about Islam, written by Dr Zakir Naik.  I did a little background research on him, and let's just say he's not very well liked in Muslim circles either.  So, this already picqued my curiosity on what he has to say...

Chapter 1.  Polygamy

And we hurtle headlong into one of my favourite topics in Islam.  And wow, does it get the blood boiling.  Here, Dr Naik attempts to justify polygyny (a man taking on multiple wives), firstly by pointing out that the Qur'an is the only holy text that encourages men to "marry only one", quoting this verse
"Marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one." (Al-Qur'an an 4:3)
 The clause there is that you should deal justly with all of them, but how many men can say they can?  Ah, there's a verse for that as well.
"You are never able to be fair and just as between women..." (Al- Qur'an an 4:129)
He goes on to say therefore that polygyny isn't a rule, but an exception.  It's permissible in Islam, but not compulsory.  But then why is is even mentioned in the first place?  Well, Dr Naik says that it isn't PRACTICAL for a man to only have one wife.  The ratio of men to women in the world leans too greatly to the women, therefore, there's not enough potential husbands out there for these women.  And the alternative for these women, living as unmarried spinsters, isn't even an option for him.
"Suppose my sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in the USA, or suppose your sister happens to be one of the unmarried women living in the USA.  The only two options remaining for her are that she either marries a man who already has a wife or becomes 'public property'.  There is no other option.  All those who are modest will opt for the first."  (Emphasis mine)
 "Most women would not like to share their husband with other women.  But in Islam when the situation deems it necessary Muslim women endued with faith could bear a small personal loss to prevent a greater loss of letting other Muslim sisters becoming 'public properties'."
 Public property!?  Women are not objects to be shared around the community and yet unless she's married, she's fair game?  And I love the cheek of the second paragraph.  It's down to the already married woman to show grace and allow her husband to take a second wife so that her 'sister' doesn't end up living the shameful life of being public property.  So by not allowing her husband to commit polygamy, it's the wife who's at fault.  Nice one.  After all, it's the lesser of two evils, isn't it?

Chapter 2. Polyandry

And what of the other side of the coin?  Why is polygyny allowed, but not polyandry (woman taking on multiple husbands)?  Here's what he says
"Let me first state emphatically, that the foundation of an Islamic society is justice and equality.  Allah has created men and women as equal, but with different capabilities and different responsibilities.  Men and women are different, physiologically and psychologically.  Their roles and responsibilities are different.  Men and women are equal in Islam, but not identical."
Here we go, straight into the roundabout nature of gender roles.  So, what reasons does he give?
1. If a man has more than one wife, the parents of the children born of such marriages can easily be identified.  In case of a woman marrying more than one husband, only the mother of the children born of such marriages will be identified and not the father.
This was his longest reason, going on to say how psychologically damaging it is for a child to not know their parents and that if a woman with more than one husband had to enrol her child into school, she would have to endure the shame of submitting two names for the child.  He does admit DNA tests nowadays can remove that confusion, citing "this point was applicable for the past may not be applocable for the present".  No shit.  Besides, there are plenty of children in the world who don't know their parents.  It's not nice, but they don't all instantly become psychologically damaged - it's down to how they are raised with the guardians they do have.  Hell, my youngest niece barely knows what her father looks like and she's the brightest, smartest and most well adjusted child I know.  And that's because she has a wonderful mother to raise her.
2. Man is more polygamous by nature as compared to a woman.
What?  Wow, so by nature, a man wants more sex than a woman?  That's why he's allowed more than one wife?  So, what of the women out there who do have multiple partners?  I suppose they're the exception to the rule, or are they 'public property'?
3. Biologically, it is easier for a man to perform his duties as a husband despite having several wives.  A woman, in a similar position, having several husbands, will not find it possible to perform her duties as a wife.  A woman undergoes several psychological and behavioural changes due to different phases of the menstural cycle.
And he tries delving into science for this one.  So, a man is completely capable of sleeping with more women, but a woman can't possibly sleep with more than one man?  Because she's biologically incapable to do so?  Oh, and lastly...
4. A woman who has more than one husband will have several sexual partners at the same time and has a high chance of acquiring venereal or sexually transmitted diseases which can also be transmitted back to her husband even if all of them have no extra-marital sex.  This is not the case in a man having more than one wife, and none of them having extra-marital sex.
I don't know how to break it to you, "Doctor" Naik, but STIs don't work like that.  All it takes is for one of either gender to have an infection for all of them to catch it through sex.  It doesn't matter if it's one wife between a couple of husbands or one husband between a couple of wives and none of them sleep with someone outside of the marriage.

And just in case those reasons don't leave you scratching your head, this chapter's closing statement is this.
The above reasons are those that one can easily identify.  There are probably many more reasons why Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has prohibited polyandry.
These reasons all scream extreme bullshit to me.  Although he tries to paint polygamy as inherrently good for women, he has done nothing but insult both women AND men in his reasonings.  Men are promiscuous, so having multiple partners is a good thing for him.  It's like saying men are inherrently violent, so we should allow them to beat the crap out of other people.  And women are not honourable unless they marry, even if it mean marrying a man who is already married, or else she becomes 'public property' and lives an unprotected and undignified life.  Well, excuse me Dr Naik, but I am my own woman.  I am not public property and by implying I am such is incredibly insulting and frankly, false.

There are many problems associated with polygamy, whichever gender follows it.  I find it very difficult to understand why someone would attempt to defend it, especially when they argue on behalf of one gender and not the other.  It just screams of entitlement and in this case, male supremacy.  Which, to be honest, Zakir Naik is a massive fan of. 

I'll stop the post here for now.  There're more chapters of this booklet which I will tear through in a later blog post, just so I don't overload this one.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bob Larson: The Pimpin' Exorcist.

Demon possession and exorcisms are a great money-spinner for those eloquent readers of holy scripture who want to swindle a bit of cash from the gullible and vulnerable, we all know this.  They glamourise their so-called profession, making it seem like it's almost a neccessity to have them around, to protect us from the evils of Satan.  Even though these fraudsters are often debunked and revealed for the fakes they are, they have fooled enough people to believe what they do is real and to stand up and vouch for them.

One guy I'm focussing on this time is one Reverend Bob Larson.  I only hit upon him by chance today whilst browsing the magazine rack at work, bored out of my mind.  It was the headline "I'm a TEENAGE EXORCIST" that caught me.  So, succumbing to my curiosity, I shelled out the 70p for the magazine.

The article was about a young woman called Savannah Scherkenback, a nineteen year old from Arizona.  She talks about her studies under Reverend Larson, how she's studying to be an exorcist after she went to his ministry for an exorcism (which, to be honest, sounded more like she needed a Senokot and a good fart). 

And young Savannah isn't the only young exorcist in the ministry.  In fact, Bob Larson has quite a few young ladies under his wing, training them in the ways of scamming the vulnerable exorcising demons.  In fact, in the Reverend's own words,
We've found that our female, teenage exorcists are particularly effective, because they're so sensitive and very pure.
Excuse me whilst I suppress this ominous shudder down my back.  

Others in Savannah's class include her younger sister Tess, Larson's own 16 year old daughter Brynne and Melanie and Christina Massih.  All of them under 20 years old, all of them very beautful girls and all of them believing this bull of demons possessing people and stalking the planet for prey.  I will commend them for their intended spirit - by all accounts, they believe they're doing good in the world.  But I can't help but gawk at them.  The people they help sound genuinely in need of professional medical and psychiatric help, like most victims of exorcisms.  Unfortunately, these girls have been brainwashed into a cult, thinking themselves as warriors for God.  I dread to think what would happen to one of these girls if one of their exorcisms goes wrong and either they or their client ends up seriously hurt or dead?  

In my search for info about this guy, I found his website, a Facebook page dedicated to him and a Youtube account with videos of his exorcisms.  Incidentally, his website offers a "Demon Test" so you can find out if you're in need of his ministry (although you do need to pay $4.99 for the privilege, which I am just not inclined to do right now); his Youtube channel is probably not for the faint-hearted.  I only watched the most recent video which was uploaded in April, but it did take a lot for me to sit and watch it as he exorcised a demon from two women.  Even though it was him shouting a lot and waving his Bible around, I have a certain awful taste at the back of my throat about it.  I suppose because I know how easy it is to fool someone into thinking they are possessed.  I know, being someone who believed that themselves (I might blog about that some day, actually).  

This isn't his first apperance in any media, by any means, but learning about Bob Larson has made me wonder - just how many of these people are there?   And just how much do people believe them?  It kinda makes me sad to think about it too much.

And yeah, I'm still raising a skeptical eyebrow over his popular team of sensitive and pure teenaged female exorcists.  I'm sure I've seen that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Musical Monday - Children of Africa

If you haven't heard of Symphony of Science, I suggest you look up their playlist now.  They're heavy on the auto-tune, but it works. 

Not my favourite of their collection (it's still We're All Connected), but this is still a good song and it does grow on you.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Faith in World essay competition

I have to admit, I was a massive geek in high school. Essay writing was my forte; there was something about researching a topic and writing it out in your own words with your own opinions that always stirred something in me. 

So, hearing about the Faith in World essay competition really picqued my interest, and really made me wish I was back in high school so I could join in (though what I would have written then would probably make me cringe now).  Run by the Archbishop of Canterbury, I wrongly thought he would only extol essays that lauded over faith and belief in God.  Indeed, the essays that have won or received honourable commendations have ranged greatly in their handling of faith.  And as said by the Archbishop, it's encouraging to see the level of thinking teenagers nowadays extending to something greater than who the next X-Factor winner should be. 

It would be interesting to read the full essays of the winners and commended writers, but for now, I will put down my favourite quote from one of the commended writers, by Richard Picardo, aged 15.
“We, as an intelligent race, are born with the innate ability to empathise with others, and with a strong desire to help people, even if our efforts go unrecognised or unrewarded. Indeed, many values which are fundamental principles of our modern society were not acquired because of religion, but rather due to visionaries who had the courage to fight organised religion and the state for what they believed in. Do we need to be religious to be good? Absolutely not.”

Thursday, 30 June 2011

All these equal rights are taking away our religious privilege!

Don't worry, these aren't my words, per se.  Rather, I was translating what one Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has been saying.  It would seem that he, along with other religious leaders, are worried about the lack of "religious liberty" and that the number of believers in England are "extraordinarily low".
"I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organisations is an erosion of religious liberty."
He suggests that with the rise of equality laws and rights in England, many religious people will be repeating history by leaving the country in what he calls a mass exodus on the same level as the Mayflower pilgrimage from the 17th century when English Separatists left England for America. 

At face value, you would feel sorry for them if there was a good reason for why they feel like they are not being given their religious liberty.  What then is it that these people are disappointed about? 
> Charles Wookey, the assistant general secretary of the Catholic bishops conference of England and Wales, told the MPs that religious organisations were struggling with “rapid social change”. This meant they were forced to alter practices that had been in place for many years, he said.
 > Roman Catholic adoption agencies have closed because they cannot reconcile the requirements under the new laws with their belief that children should not be placed with gay couples.
So....Lord Sacks and other religious leaders are angry they have to keep up with the times, drop out-dated and irrelevant practices and not be bigotted?   Oh dear, poor them!  How dare we treat gays, women and the secular society as equal human beings?  How dare we allow gay couples the right to adopt, to tell people that they cannot pass their bigotted ways down to children, that people cannot use their faith to mistreat others as they see fit? 

Lord Sacks has it all wrong.  England is one of the few countries in the world where ANY religion can be practiced freely, without fear of prosecution as long as it does not infringe on the rights and welfare of others.  So no, sirs, you cannot complain that you are being singled out, silenced and downtrodden.  You are only complaining that you cannot do the singling out, the silencing and keeping the heathens down yourselves.  If you want the Government to stop telling you to open your doors and stop being such bastards to others, then by all means, hop on a boat and leave (I think you might find some brethren in America who would gladly take you in).  The people left behind will be grateful for it. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

News from the Motherland

Those close to me know that I wasn't English-born; I in fact hail from the exotic sounding (and sometimes difficult to spell correctly) land of Brunei Darussalam, a tiny little speck of a country nestling on the equator over in Asia.  Although its population is diverse, it is mostly made of of Muslim natives and thus a lot of the laws and ways of life is influenced as such, with religious ministers sitting in government and the Sultan of Brunei being the figurehead of religious piety for the country.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, I point you to an old post of mine talking about Zamzam water, the "holy" water from Mecca that Muslims are inadvertantly killing themselves with.  And now, I point you to this article from the old country, particularly the following quote.
The other book, 'Air Zamzam: Untuk Apa Ia Diminum' (Leila's Translation - Zamzam Water: Why do we drink it?) , which is divided into three sub-topics, details the significance of drinking 'Zamzam' water and explains how the water could be used as a medical cure for illnesses.
Now, since learning that the water is contaminated with all kinds of "tasty" barteria and high levels of arsenic, I fail to see how it can be used to cure illness, short of killing the drinkers themselves. 

I am curious to read what he has to say, I'll have to admit.  I may get my mum to pick me up a copy whilst she's out there visiting family.  And given the exchange rate, £2.50 is a bargain for a paperback book. 

Friday, 17 June 2011

Oh look, a bigoted Conservative politician!

It's nice to see how far equal opportunites has come along since the days where only the healthy, wealthy, white men were allowed rights.  But look!  I see a healthy, wealthy, white male politician who thinks that a disadvantaged group should be treated less fairly than others.

Phillip Davies, the MP for Shipley, suggests that those with mental health disabilities should be able to opt out of the national minimum wage to be more competitive at the work place.  Because, according to him, disabled people are less productive in the work place.  Yeah right - I'm sure my dyslexic, dysphraxic and depression-prone hard-working friends would be very pleased to hear that.   Especially the following quote made by him.
“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can't be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn't got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”
Apart from discriminating based on disability being against the law, I don't see how anyone with a learning disability would be less productive.  Many people cope in work with a learning disability and prove themselves just as capable.  In fact, in some cases, even more so because they feel like they have to work twice as hard as "mentally abled" people just to prove they can do it.  Some of the most successful people in history and in the world have proven themselves to be far more successful in life because they refuse to let such prejudices get them down.  In fact, I did a quick Google search to prove the point; apart from Richard Branson and Winston Churchill whom the Telegraph listed, we also have

  • Hans Christian Andersen (dyslexia)
  • Daniel Radcliff (dyspraxia)
  • Beethoven (dyslexia)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (dyslexia)
  • Agatha Cristie (depression)
  • Michaelangelo (depression)
  • Anthony Hopkins (dyslexia)
  • Albert Einstein (suspected dyspraxia, Asperger's syndrome)
  • Bill Gates (Asperger's syndrome)
I can go on, but then I would overload this post with names.  Fact is, often so called mentally disabled individuals are the most mentally abled of us.  They are more determined to overcome what people would assume to be a disadvantage and provide role models for others.

Despite the critism and the outrage, Philip Davis is unapologetic, claiming that disabled people have to "prove themselves" before moving up the payscale and that "left-wing hysteria" is to blame for the criticisms he received.  Well, sounds like this MP needs a pay review because if we were to follow his suggestion, I think he is earning far more than his brain cell states he should earn.

Is there a doctor in the house?

If there's anything to be learnt in politics, it's that photo opportunities are great for public opinion.  Especially involving children, the elderly or ill people.  So of course, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg would be found in a hospital ward, speaking to patients.  However, their little chat with the patients was interrupted by a very irate surgeon.

Doctor Nunn, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon of Guy's Hospital, took offence to the camera crew and political aides who did not adhere to the strict hygiene rules of the ward (i.e. rolled up sleeves and scrubbed arms), which were put in place to prevent to spread of superbugs in hospitals.  It was reported that a ward sister had authorised the staff's attire because they weren't coming into close contact with patients.  However true that may be, I do feel more inclined to agree with the doctor.  With the NHS in the state it is in most of the time, it's hard enough to be able to keep a hospital clean and safe for the people who go in to get better.  The last thing you want to do is to go into a hospital only to contract a horrible infection and die as a result.  Doctor Nunn was only thinking of his responsibility to his patients, and rightly so. 

I am not medically trained by any means, but I do think that the state of hospitals in the UK could stand to do better.  I miss the days when I could walk into a hospital and be overwhelmed by the smell of antiseptic and at the stark cleanliness of the building.  Then again, I have been called a bit of a weirdo for actually finding the smell comforting.  But why shouldn't it be?  Unless someone accidentally dropped a bottle of Dettol, I think it is a sign of good hygiene to be able to actually smell how clean a supposedly sterile environment is.  Or at least be able to tell at a glance how clean a hospital is if their cleaning products are odourless.  It could well be that the reports of infections such as MRSA are only feared because it's being reported more, but given how many hospitals are under review, have closed or are under going investigation due to outbreaks of infection or accused of neglect, I'm more inclined to think declining staff care and increased bureaucracy are to blame. 

Doctors like Nunn are a credit to their hospitals for not putting up with the bull of publicity stunts at the risk of patient health.  Sure, he came across as a bit of an arsehole about it, but in the medical world, I think someone who isn't afraid to storm up to the country's leaders and berate them on camera for allowing their staff to contaminate a ward is someone who can be a good example for other doctors in the country.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Musical Monday (a day late) - Strange choice this time,

It's been a couple of months since I did a Musical Monday post, mostly because I am admittedly a lazy wench, and partially because I couldn't decide on a song to post up.  However, on Sunday, a pang of reminiscence caught me out of the blue and I went searching for a melody that always haunted me in my childhood.

Haunting is the best way to describe this song.  Song is probably not quite the word to use either.  I am referring to the Azaan, or the Islamic call to prayer.  Like I said, odd choice.  Whilst I hold no particular reverence for the religion behind the call to prayer, nor did I ever enjoy the ritual itself, I did always enjoy the sound of it.  I guess it's the talent of the imam to make it sound just so. 

That's something I wondered about religious music.  As humans, we are attracted to certain melodies, chords, rhythms and sounds, so it wouldn't be any wonder why religion would use music as a way to attract followers as well and bring together the communities.  In this case, the Azaan is calling the community to pray together.  I remember the evening calls in particular, mostly because it would just start to turn dark, so the sky would be a heavy mix of pink and purple with dark and white clouds, the air would be cooling down but still carry that hint of humidity and I would have just finished my homework, dangling my feet over my grandparents' balcony as I ate or drank something sweet.  I suppose, ironically, those moments were when I cared least for the call of religious obedience and just revelled in my childhood freedom. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Rape: Be prepared!

You know, is it really that hard for some people to drum up some empathy for a victim of rape?  They've been through enough already - violated, humiliated and abused, left broken, afraid and vulnerable.  The last thing they need is for more grief to come from somewhere that should be helping them.

This being the case, I suggest avoiding getting raped in Kansas.   Especially if you fall pregnant as a result.  This month, legislators have approved a ban on abortion coverage on general health insurance policies, the only exception being if a pregnancy risks the life of the woman.  No other exceptions - not even a pregnancy as a result of sexual assault.  Sam Brownback, the Governor of Kansas, has been hard at work it would seem police abortions in his state - he already approved restrictions on late-term abortions, health and safety standards for abortion clinics and getting doctors to obtain written parental permission for minors' pregnancies.

Lance Kinzer, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (and Republican) said it best in the article when he said that "this bill includes very crucial pro-life language".  However, I get the feeling he wouldn't have had to spit it out like I just had to, along with another delightful quote "The fundamental issue here is not — although I wish it were — the ability to further limit legal access to abortion, but rather who pays".  I could ALMOST buy that he was truly concerned about the financial welfare of those hard-up businessmen who must have to shell out bags of money for abortions.

Oh yeah, about the whole businessmen thing? Apparently the banning of abortion coverage on company health insurances is also apparently good business sense.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will protect employers who oppose abortion rights from having to pay for policies that cover the procedures.
"I would view this as an important conscience protection for Kansas business owners."
So this bill isn't to protect the women affected by unwanted pregnancy, oh no no no.  This is to take care of the poor business owners who find it offensive that a woman has the choice to not be pregnant.  This is to help all those pro-lifers make it even harder for a woman to have an abortion.  This is to help all those repugnant far-right Republicans shove their version of morality and justice down people's throats, all the while screaming it's God's will, dammit! 

What's even sadder is that other states are looking to Kansas as an example for similar legislations, undoing the work of previous Democrats who fought to protect the rights of women in these states.  Democratic State Rep Annie Kuether sums all this up well - that women are basically treated as second-class citizens. 

In fact, to drive that point further, State Rep Pete DeGraaf has compared planning for pregnancy as a result of rape as being on the same level as planning for a flat tyre on your car. 
Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have spare tire on my car."
"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."
Yeah, because every woman should be aware she could be raped at any given time!  Why, it seems almost logical; she's only a second-class citizen after all.  And hey, it's also one of the few places in the world where it's the victim's fault if she does get raped, outside of say Saudi Arabia, Africa and Pakistan.  Oh, but don't tell the Republicans that, they hate being compared to those "savages". 

My friend, Grace Barton, has a proposal for DeGraaf, actually.
"Can I put something to him? Can we ban his health cover for AIDS if he gets raped and catches it?"
 You know what, Grace?  Doesn't sound like a bad idea at all.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Never too young

Chris Whitehead from Cambridgeshire is a brave young man.  With the warmer weather that usually signals the summer, school kids obviously want the chance to wear cooler uniforms.  However, due to school policy brought into effect two years ago, boys at Impington Village College aren't allowed to wear shorts in the warmer months.  In protest, Chris attended school in a skirt, thanks to a loophole that didn't prevent boys from doing so.  He reasons that it's discriminatory against boys as girls were allowed to switch to skirts come summer time, but boys have to remain in long trousers.
In the summer girl students are allowed to wear skirts but boys are not allowed to wear shorts. We think that this discriminates against boys. I will march in a skirt with other boys waving banners and making a lot of noise.
I will be wearing the skirt at school all day in protest at the uniform policy and addressing the assembly with the student council, wearing a skirt.
I find it really uplifting that this young man was able to find the courage within himself to make a bold statement for what he perceived to be a wrong in school policy.  He has been cited as being interested in politics as a career.  Good luck to him, I say.  If he can hang on to his guts and his strong principles, then I can see him becoming a valuable asset in the world of politics.

Extra thought:  With the loophole in their uniform policy allowing boys to wear skirts, could this not be an opprtunity for possible transgendered boys to feel more comfortable in school?  I know kids can be cruel and bullying rife in any school, but this is an opportunity or and inspiration for others to use in their own fight for equality in school.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Of blasphemy and double standards

Personal story time!

I work in a rather enclosed office in a supermarket with five other women, although at most there is only three of us in at a time.  Coversation varies greatly between us all depending on which mix of women are in there.  Today, I was in work with two of them - one of them being the oldest in the office (for ease sake, let's call her Mary).  I was happily going about my work, filling in some forms when I come across something in one of them that made me exclaim in surprise.  Both women turned around in shock and berated me for swearing.

So what did I say?


It was my turn to turn to them in shock - it's barely swearing, I argued.  Worse had been cried out before by people on the shop floor.  Then Mary looked at me quite poigniantly.  I was being told off because I was blaspheming.  I don't know whether I hurt my situation with them at the time by laughing out loud.  Neither of them had ever come across as hugely religious, though Mary had proven herself to be quite conservative in the past.  It got me thinking though; my Dad had raised me to respect language but to also realise that sometimes words are just that.  Words.  At the time, he was trying to teach me that swearing wasn't all that a big deal if used right (humour, anger etc).  As such, I treat a lot of my own speech like that - I try to think about what I say and how I say it (easier written than spoken, I'll admit) but in the end, I'm not going to spilt hairs over how I use words to whomever, relevant censorship and borders applied, of course (I'm not going to openly swear in front of children, for example).

But what really tickled me was when one of the managers came in for their usual checks - mid-conversation, he declared "JESUS CHRIST!"  I immediately turned to Mary and cheekily responded "He used Jesus' name in vain, how come he can get away with blasphemy?"  She was ready for me, with a less than witty comeback. 

"It's unbecoming for a lady to swear."

Well Jesus Christ riding on a pogo stick from the bloodiest pits of Hell.  I guess I'm no longer a lady then.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

There's definitely something in the water

And it most certainly isn't healthy.

The Zamzam well in Mecca is considered holy to Muslims as being magically sprung when Abraham's son Ishmael kicked the ground when he was particularly parched to tears and Allah created the spring for the little mite to drink (no thanks then to his poor mother who ran from mountain to mountain to find her son a drink in the desert). 

I hope little Ishmael didn't drink too much of that water though because it would seem Allah had the last laugh on him.  Scientists have managed to get a pilgrim to Mecca to bring them a sample of Zamzam water to test.  What they found was high levels of arsenic in the water; three times over the maximum limit considered for safe drinking, not to mention high levels of nitrates and bacteria. 


I had the dubious pleasure of drinking the water a couple of times.  I remember my mother coming home with the little terracotta bottles, presents from relatives who could afford to go to Mecca on Hajj, and pouring me a glass of the stuff.  I can't say it was particularly refreshing, and thinking back, I do remember it tasting...different to the water I was used to grabbing from the tap in the kitchen.  Now I know why.  Nothing like a nice glass of diluted arsenic to get the tastebuds tingling. 

All joking aside, it is worrying that people are clamouring to drink this poison so willingly, just because they think it came from a sacred well.  And that it's being supplied in the UK (how they manage it, I don't know - export of Zamzam water is illegal).  But it's there on the shelves in London, in Islamic books shops, being sold to people who by all accounts are drinking it regularly.
"They depend on it, they don't drink anything else," said the owner of an Islamic bookshop in Upton Park.

Those people are killing themselves, pure and simple.  It's not the first time either that Zamzam water had caught attention.  In 2005, the Food Standards Agency did encounter the fake(?) bottles of water in London and they had high levels of arsenic back then too.  You'd think by now the people drinking it would figure out it wasn't healthy for them.  Heck, the fact that Saudi Arabia have made it illegal to export the water comercially would make them think twice about buying the stuff from the shelves anyway. And with this damning evidence, one would hope that the authorities in Mecca would put a stopper in the well, too.  But, given that the pilgrims don't want to believe their precious holy water might be killing them, it's not going to happen any time soon.

Friday, 6 May 2011

I know what I'll be doing on the 8th of November

Grabbing a blanket, a flask of hot chocolate and maybe a pair of binoculars and let the universe entertain me.

The huge rock, dubbed YU55, will pass within 201,700 miles of our planet in November.
The best times to view it will be between 23:28 on 8 November and 07:13 on 9 November (UK time).
Okay, not the most romantic of names for something that will no doubt be spectacular in the sky, but nonetheless, I have no doubt it will be a sight to behold.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Jim Jeffries is a funny man.

Why haven't I heard of him before? 

Warning, don't watch if you're sensitive, easily offended and general dislike caustic humour.

Found at 1 2 3 Religious Comics

Got yours in?

Today's a voting day in the UK yet again.  However, unlike voting for who you want to stay in the Big Brother house, who to get to the next stage of Britain's Got Talent or who you want to watch on Eurovision (which is next week, for those who like their annual dosage of high octane cheesy pop like yours truly), voting on the AV Referendum isn't as rivetting or as popular. 

I have to admit, I was a little floundered myself by the whole thing when I first heard it.  New voting system?  What's wrong with the old one?  HOW does the new system actually work?  Research was a little touch and go for me because I have to admit, voting does bore me a little bit.  Okay, a lot.  But then my Dad's words popped into my head - If you had the chance to vote and didn't take it, you have no room to complain if you don't like the end result.  So I decided to take a little time out today to read up on the alternate voting system.  At the moment, the current voting system is First Past The Post, which is basically whoever gets the most votes in.  It's not entirely flawed - it's direct, it's simple, it ensures one clear winner.

Or does it?

After all, if you only get one vote, but you vote for an unpopular person, then you'll have to make do with the knowledge your voice wasn't heard and someone you probably really didn't want in power gets in.  There is a sense of "tough luck" about it and having to put up with someone else's decision trumping yours.  It's also flawed in that if there's no single clear victor, then the Government has to go into a coalition like is has at the moment with David Cameron of the Conservatives and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.  People thought this was a good thing initially - even though David Cameron is the Prime Minister, Nick Clegg could still speak up for the Lib Dem voters and get some of his policies through, right?  Not so - Clegg has unfortunately proven he hasn't a backbone when placed next to Cameron.  His policies have been watered down to near enough non-existance, his own supporters have lost faith in him and he's become a bit of a joke as a deputy PM.

On the other hand, the new vote system being proposed is a numbering system that sounds complicated at first, but only if you don't concentrate.  The MP you most want in power is labelled as "1", your second choice as "2" and so on.  And you needn't number all of them, just the ones you support the most in the order of your own preference.  Then those first choice votes get counted up.  If one person gets 50% or more of the first choice votes, they get in.  If there's no such clear winner, then the person who gets got the least is eliminated and using the wonderful tool known as maths, you distribute the remainder 2nd, 3rd etc votes to their respective MPs.  This process continues until one person clearly comes out on top.  In theory, it means the end of coalition governments and extremist groups like the BNP won't even have a look in.  It's also been said though that it was only an excuse for Nick Clegg to ensure a victory for his party next election.  But to the people who say this, I ask this - wouldn't his party only get a victory if he gets a lot more second choice votes as well?  And it's not entirely a bad thing.  If you don't want him to be in with a chance at all, just don't put him down as your second or third choice, or as a choice at all.  You still have a say in that, after all.

Some people have complained this system is unneccessarily complicated, but is it?  I admit I found it a little confusing at first but that was down to the poor explanations I came across.  I probably haven't explained it all that well either myself.  Though I did draw parallels to one system that's in popular use at least once a year in Europe.

(Side note: I have grown rather fond of Graham Norton's commentary - he's a good step from Terry Wogan.)

See, not honestly that hard at all when you think about it.  And if someone is obviously popular, then they will win anyway.  The least popular ones still won't get in.  And you can still sit well in the knowledge that even if your first choice didn't win, your second choice might.  And isn't it better than letting your last choice get in at all?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Dancing on graves

As you will have no doubt heard, one of the most high profile criminals in the world has been killed in Pakistan.  Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda and the man behind the deaths of hundreds of innocents, was shot dead in his compound during a US raid on his home.  When I first heard the news yesterday morning before work, I felt some grim satisfaction about it.  The world can heal a little bit more now that there is one less madman killing in the name of some ill-placed ideal and expert manipulation.  However, as the news broke through the day as I was listening to the radio, I felt a different grim sickness in my stomach.

Yes, Osama bin Laden was a vile, evil man with no compassion for fellow human beings.  Yes, he killed without hesitation.  Yes, he made many many lives miserable.  But is his death really a cause for celebration?  A lot of people, most of them being American, seem to think so.  The raucous cheers of joy from the streets of New York and the noise of jubilation was something akin to a street party.  Is it really right that we celebrate the death of another human being?  People have been saying that justice has been done, but wouldn't a better practice of civilised justice be to bring him to trial in a court of law, to judge him in front of millions and hold him accountable for his crimes?  It was good enough for Saddam Hussein, why isn't it good enough for Osama bin Laden?  A lot of people seem to believe that making him stand in court would be too humane, but wouldn't it be a better example to him?  Why should we stoop to his level and regress to barbarians?  We should be better than that. We are better than that.

I have said this a lot to people in the past 24+ hours, but it still holds true to me - death should never be celebrated.  Death should never be "right".  Sometimes necessary, but never right

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Some monstrosities know no bounds

Religion is often an inspiration for people to do good in the world - a ready moral compass for some.  For others, religion is nothing more than a mask - a horrible, mangled mess of a facade to hide their cruel and heinous behaviour behind.  It's an easy tool for the spiritually immoral to wave around and manipulate those who are scared or weak-minded to do the bidding of those less scrupulous people. 

It doesn't strike me as too odd that this story came out of Africa, but nonetheless, I am in shock that a community in South Africa allowed such an incredible monster into their midst. Paseka Mbhoro Motsoeneng claims to be a prophet, a son of God and performs "demon banishing rituals" in his Incredible Happenings Church.  The explicit stories that reporters have bourne witness to and subsequently reported have done nothing but leave an uneasy sickly feeling in my gut.

Sitting on the lap of a female congregant, Motsoeneng placed his hand on the head of a 17 year-old teen, who cannot be identified due to her age, and started praying for her.
Motsoeneng told the congregants her tummy had swelled up because some sorcerers had cast an evil spell on her.
 As he was praying for her she collapsed. Motsoeneng then told the teenager, who was lying on her back, to open her legs, which she did.
He then plunged his fingers into her private parts and started moving his fingers inside her vagina.
There's just no words for this.  But wait, there's more!

Part way through this ridiculous farce, another woman brought and fed him ice cream.  So, he's sat in the lap of one woman, fingering a teenage girl and being fed ice cream by another woman.  This scene would probably have made a straight-to-dvd movie in a sex shop somewhere, but no, this was one man claiming to wield divine power when he's really just getting his rocks off.  And all the more unfortunate for the poor girl being sexually assaulted, the ordeal isn't over.
He then invited a woman he said was a “medical doctor” and whom he called Zozo to examine the teen.

“This is a qualified doctor who will tell us what the problem is with this woman,” he said. 
By this time a group of female congregants had draped her lower body with what looked like a towel and surrounded her to prevent voyeuristic people from seeing her private parts. 
“Dr” Zozo then inserted what she said was pregnancy test apparatus into the girl’s vagina, with Motsoeneng looking on.
“The pregnancy tests came out positive. She is pregnant. I could also feel the limbs of the foetus,” Zozo announced .
Pregnant?  This girl needs a PROPER medical professional, a hospital and a clean and safe environment AWAY from this monster's grasp.  But unfortunately, what happened next is all the more sickening and tragic.
As Zozo was leaving the scene, Motsoeneng screamed: “Zozo, she is bleeding and her tummy has subsided.”
Zozo went back to inspect her before she rushed outside. She then came back wearing gloves and holding a pregnancy test kit.
She inserted them into the teen’s vagina and took them out.
She announced: “Now the kit shows neither positive nor negative results.”
Motsoeneng chimed in: “It is because she was sleeping with an animal.”
Motsoeneng then asked a women(sic) to fetch a bucket.
The young lass was then lifted from the ground and made to sit on the bucket with her legs wide open, bleeding profusely, while Motsoeneng looked on.

Let that sink in.

This horrendous monster, this scum of humanity, stood by and watched as a poor girl miscarried in front of an entire congregation, offering no help, no real medical expertise or heck, even any hint of sympathy.  Even more amazingly, the same girl appeared on his TV show a fortnight later with two stones, claiming she had given birth to them, when no such thing even happened!  I don't know which is more incredible, the fact Motsoeneng was able to get away with such deplorable behaviour, or that the girl went along with his scheme. 

This girl wasn't his only victim - he also "helped" a woman have better sex with her husband by feeling her up in front of him (but it's okay, the hand he used was sprinkled with holy water!) and also accused another girl of being a Satanist (the girl was spared expulsion after pleading from the congregation, but not until after he ordered her vagina be checked if it was wet.  How that became grounds for Satanism, I cannot fathom.)

It completely and utterly blows me away how this filth could get away with these crimes in front of EVERYONE - it's sexual and indecent assault.  It's deplorable, it's despicable and it's WRONG.  But because he's hiding behind religion and manipulating the weaker wills of everyone else, it's okay, because he's sent from God to help them.  I can only hope these people will one day wake up to the monster in their midst.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

In spirit of the weekend for those of you who enjoy a laugh:

Now go forth and stuff your face full of chocolate!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

99.999999% probably won't repost this

I'll be the first to put my hand up to admit that I used to be quite the poster of chain statuses on Facebook.  Back in the day, I also used to be prolific in sending out SPAM to people in the form of chain emails.  Now, I look at some of them and my face meets my palm. 

One that's cropped up in my feed at the moment is this old gem:
All of us have a thousand wishes. To be thinner, to be bigger, have more money, have a cool car, a day off, a new phone, to date the person of your dreams. A cancer patient only has one wish, to kick cancer's ass. I know that 97% of you won't post this as your status, but my friends will be the 3% that do. In honor of someone who died, or is fighting cancer, or even had cancer, post this for at least a day..
 Yes, it's one I myself posted as a status; after all, I knew people who suffered with cancer in various forms, why shouldn't I show my support?  Nowadays though, these kinds of statuses annoy me.  First off, the so called statistic.  I didn't repost the status on my Wall when I saw it - does that mean that the original person doesn't regard me as a true "friend"?  Does it make me a terrible person because it means I don't support or "honour" the struggle against cancer?  Not at all - just because I don't copy and paste a few words or forward an email doesn't make me any less of a person.  I still support those who suffer from this horrible disease.  I hug them when they're upset.  I donate to the charities and buy from their shops.  I think of my Oma and remember the stories my dad would tell me about her and her fight.  Does the lack of being a link in a spam chain make me less of a supporter?

I should hope not.

Edit:  Not long after posting this, I find another one in my feed.
It has been said that everlasting friends go long periods of time without speaking and never question the friendship. These friends pick up like they just spoke yesterday, regardless of how long it has been or how far away they live, and they don't hold grudges. They understand that life is busy and you will ALWAYS love them. Re-post if you have at least 1 of these friends. They will know who they are.......
 If that's so, they'll understand why I didn't repost it eiter.