Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category
But according to a new poll, one in five Americans think that he is:
Americans increasingly are convinced — incorrectly — that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a growing number are thoroughly confused about his religion. Nearly one in five people, or 18 per cent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 per cent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34 per cent.
Some of this could be considered backlash for Obama’s apparent cardinal sin in promoting the principle of freedom of religion with respect to the plans to build a mosque in downtown NYC, near the World Trade Center site. Because everyone knows that the US is a Christian theocracy, and the Constitution be damned. And of course, freedom of religion simply means freedom to practice the “right” religion.
But between the conspiracy theorists who don’t believe Obama is American, the racists who question whether he’s black, white or purple, and now the growing segment of Americans who want to make an issue of his religion, you have to wonder where the percentage of Americans are who would honestly say that they do not care.
Why should Americans be so afraid of electing a non-Christian anyway?
It’s an obvious fallout of a culture that emphasizes that the personal is political, and that not only tolerates but expects its leaders to put personal religious conviction ahead of public interest when making decisions. The arguments haven’t changed much since Kennedy – a Catholic (gasp!) was elected in 1960. Separation of Church and State? Hogwash. They want a leader who is seen going to church and quoting the bible in speeches. Which is why any hint, suggestion or misconception about Obama is such a big story.
Us Canadians, in contrast, have a stronger tradition of making the distinction between the personal and the political. Jean Chrétien was a Catholic prime minister who refused to bow to religious pressure when passing legislation for same-sex marriage, for example. We expect our politicians to have personal lives that are just that – personal.
Barack Obama is Christian, not Muslim. But it would be nice to think that maybe one day, Americans would be happy to elect a Muslim president. Or a Jewish one. Or a Buddhist one. Or – imagine – an atheist one. Oh, the horror!
Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, recently reinstated by the Pope, much to the anger of Jewish groups worldwide, has issued the classic non-apology apology:
“Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems,” Williamson wrote.
In other words, “I’m not sorry for what I did; I’m just sorry it caused you headaches”. Has he been taking lessons from Mel Gibson?
The endless squabbling between the Hasidic Jewish Community and the general population in Outremont/Mile End has a new chapter.
The latest issue? The right to work out:
It was an unlikely confrontation in an alley behind the Park Ave. YMCA.
On one side, Renee Lavaillante, sun-loving pilates practitioner; on the other, Abraham Perlmutter, member of the Hasidic congregation of Yetev Lev, who believes those women in tights are corrupting young boys at the synagogue across the street.
The clash between the two came to a head yesterday over the YMCA’s new frosted windows, which block out the sun – and the tights.
It’s tempting to write this off as just another example of the wider community’s intolerance towards the Hasidic population. But in this case, it’s actually backwards:
In all the above examples, the community was attempting to curtail the rights of the Hasidim. In this case, the Hasidim are attempting to curtail the rights of the community.
Part of living in a free society means that you’re entitled to your own beliefs, standards and values, but you can’t go imposing them on anyone else as long as they’re not breaking the law or hurting anyone. The Hasidic community may not like the fact that women in Montreal have the right to walk around – or work out – in tights and sleeveless tops, but the fact remains that they do. And, like it or not, the Hasidic community can’t go around throwing stones at people who walk the streets in shorts, either. This isn’t Meah Shearim, and I don’t condone it when they do it there, either.
The Hasidic community has a right to its feelings on the matter, but doesn’t have a right to impose those feelings on anyone else. We will all get along better when we recognize this.
These women stood up to speak out against radical fundamenatalism in the middle east and in the world:
“We must speak out now, because we’ve got nothing to lose,” said Dr. Wafa Sultan, one of four Middle Eastern women taking part in a panel discussion in Montreal yesterday to argue their position on the West’s response to Islam.
The four were keynote speakers at an Institute of Public Affairs of Montreal conference. They talked before the event about the place of women under the yoke of an increasingly fundamentalist Middle East.
[ . . . ]
Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a former Miss Canada, has been leading an international effort to publicize the plight of an 18-year-old Tehran rape victim sentenced to death under sharia law. Afshin-Jam recalled a peaceful rally held in Iran in which the protesting women were dispersed by extremist, heavily veiled women.
“They feel more powerful,” she said of the veiled women.
Sultan said many Muslim women are not freely choosing to wear the veil, but do so because it’s in their best interest.
Islam has other ways of enforcing a bias against women, Afshin-Jam said: “In Iran, 65 per cent of university students are women but the laws say women are not allowed to be judges.”
And under sharia law, it’s very difficult for a woman’s word to be taken seriously, she said.
In the West, “we cannot afford to lose our cherished freedoms to radicalism,” Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian, told the conference audience later in a Delta Hotel meeting room.
We often wonder where the voices are, speaking out against oppression and injustice. They exist; there are too few of them so far, they tend to get drowned out, and those who speak sadly – in this country where freedom of speech is cherished – often fear legitimately for their personal safety. But more and more, they exist. And we owe it to them to listen to what they have to say. Because the more people speak out, the more courageous the next people will feel… and the next… and the next.
These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are traditionally the days when Jews ask forgiveness from people and from G-d for any wrongs we might have done throughout the year.
I’m not religious by most definitions, but I’ve always liked the concept, and particularly the notion that we need to be forgiven by people before we can be forgiven by G-d. The latter part is personal, but the former is, I believe, a prerequisite for all people of any religion or background who live in a society. See, a sin against G-d, such as failure to keep Shabat or eating pork, could only potentially affect the person committing it, so it’s up to each of us to decide for ourselves what we choose to observe. However, sins against our fellow human beings cause real harm to people. It’s the so-called “victimless crime” argument; a crime becomes more serious due to the consequence of committing harm to someone else.
So, in that spirit, I ask forgiveness from anyone reading this who I may have wronged in the past.
And, if you’re in the process of doing the same, and one of the people you happen to have wronged last year is Stephen Colbert, here’s how to make amends:
Believe it or not, other newsworthy things happened in the world yesterday and today. You’d never know it from watching the local news, of course, which has been covering Dawson nonstop since yesterday afternoon. But here are a few things that happened in the world outside our little corner:
- Sadaam’s judge doesn’t think he was a dictator. So what was he, then? A democratically-elected leader? A royal monarch? The winner of the first season of Iraqi Idol?
- The new Palestinian “unity” government appears likely to get its funding back from Europe, though the U.S. isn’t on board.
- Amnesty said Hezbollah committed war crimes, in what Charles Johnson over at LGF dubbed a flying pig moment. I’m shocked too. Amnesty gets so much more money and support when it’s directing its wrath at Israel.
- In a big sign of normalcy returning to the country, Israel’s getting its international soccer games back.
- Germany ordained its first rabbis since 1942. See that big middle finger in the air, you neo-Nazi assholes?
- Speaking of Jews and Europe, Pajamas Media is all over this under-reported story about the defamation trial that just begun in France against three Jewish citizens who questioned the French Channel 2 network for its coverage of the Mohammed Al-Dura affair.
- The Pope has pissed off Muslims, it seems, by making some statements that, regardless of their intent, will surely be taken way out of context. This could be a thing.
- Bibi said that Ahmadinejad is “more dangerous than Hitler”. You’d think such a normally-competent debater would’ve heard of Godwin’s Law, no?
- And in other news, Stephen Colbert’s bridge in Hungary looks like it isn’t going to happen, despite his large margin of victory in the online naming poll, due to the tiny problem of his failing to meet one of the qualifications – being dead. Whoops! (By the way, Budapest rocks!)
Okay, I think that about does it for the ten-second catch-up. Or, as the BUZZ puts it, some “temporary relief from ignorance”.
Something Damian Penny wrote the other day came back to me just now: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Damian was, of course, referring to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. However, I think the quote is a good one, and it popped into my head when I read about today’s ruling against teaching creationism in schools:
A federal judge on Tuesday banned the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution by Pennsylvania’s Dover Area School District, saying the practice violated the constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools.
[ . . . ]
The school district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed teaching intelligent design was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in high school biology classrooms.
Before you jump down my throat, I’m in no way implying that Holocaust denial is comparable to creationism. What I am saying, however, is that there’s a clear difference between fact and invention – as in the case of Holocaust denial – which I think we all recognize fairly easily. What many people fail to recognize, however, is that we must also make a clear distinction between fact and belief.
Evolution is a scientific fact. Creationism (repackaged as “intelligent design” or whatever you rename it) is a belief. It is based on faith, not evidence, and cannot be proven for the simple reason that it cannot be disproven.
Today’s ruling banned the teaching of creationism because it violates the separation of church and state. I think the real reason it ought to be banned from science curricula is because it isn’t science. After all, there is no constitutional ban on teaching Holocaust denial in history class, and yet I’m sure we would all call for the dismissal of any teacher who tried, simply on the grounds that it’s wrong.
I have no objection to the teaching of creationist theory in a course about religion, humanities, or cultural studies. But high school biology teachers who teach creationism as scientific fact are muddling fact and belief. People are entitled to hold a belief, but when teaching science, they need to stick to facts.
And so, to restate Damian’s point, everyone is entitled to his own beliefs, but not his own facts.
Hurricane Wilma is heading towards Florida in what seems like an extra underline to this year’s horrible “act of God” season:
Tropical Storm Wilma is the 21st named storm of the 2005 season and is expected to become a hurricane before heading to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and possibly the battered U.S. Gulf coast by the end of the week.
The last time this many storms formed since record-keeping began 154 years ago was in 1933.
Am I the only one who finds it a bit anachronistic that insurance companies still refer to “acts of God” in those words in their policies?
Still, I bet the religious nuts – the ones who believe that the end of the world is imminent – are having a field day this year. Hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes, tsunamis… it’s all way too biblical for my taste.
Here’s Irshad Manji, once again refusing to be silenced on what she believes despite what I’d imagine is relentless pressure:
Still, as long as Muslims live in pretense, we will be affirming that we have something to hide. It’s not enough for us to protest that radicals are exploiting Islam as a sword. Of course they are. Now, moderate Muslims must stop exploiting Islam as a shield – one that protects us from authentic introspection and our neighbours from genuine understanding.
Manji has risked an awful lot to publish her besteselling book and a series of essays, give speeches, and become a visible force for change that has been too easily silenced through extremist intimidation. The least we can do is read what she has to say.