An Iranian artist has been sentenced to a five year prison term for setting the Koran to music. I would express outrage and alarm but I am writing from Canada and am in no position to point fingers. In Canada, we call our sharia courts "human rights commissions".
Nick Packwood, "Provoking the faithful", Ghost of a Flea, 2009-07-14
Victor sent me this link with the comment "Thought you might find this interesting... Worrisome, even." He was right, I do find it quite disturbing:
As part of a revision to defamation legislation, the Dail (Irish Parliament) passed legislation creating a new crime of blasphemy. Update: The bill went to the Seanad on Friday, July 10, passing by a single vote. This attack on free speech, debated for several months in Europe, has gone largely unnoticed in the American press.
[. . .] How does this impact free speech? Just don’t be rude.
- Atheists can be prosecuted for saying that God is imaginary. That causes outrage.
- Pagans can be prosecuted for saying they left Christianity because God is violent and bloodthirsty, promotes genocide, and permits slavery.
- Christians can be prosecuted for saying that Allah is a moon god, or for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for saying that Islam is a violent religion which breeds terrorists.
- Jews can be prosecuted for saying Jesus isn’t the Messiah.
At risk of being too flippant, it's really just a codification of the kind of thought pattern exemplified by Canada's various "Human Rights" commissions, focusing on religion, rather than other forms of free thought and free expression.
The actual text of the new legislation goes a long way to convert the police into uniformed Revolutionary Guards:
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [Amended to €25,000]
2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
37. Seizure of copies of blasphemous statements.
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 36, the court may issue a warrant (a) authorising any member of the Garda Siochana to enter (if necessary by the use of reasonable force) at all reasonable times any premises (including a dwelling) at which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that copies of the statement to which the offence related are to be found, and to search those premises and seize and remove all copies of the statement found therein, (b) directing the seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person, © specifying the manner in which copies so seized and removed shall be detained and stored by the Garda Siochana.
(2) A member of the Garda Siochana may (a) enter and search any premises, (b) seize, remove and detain any copy of a statement to which an offence under section 36 relates found therein or in the possession of any person, in accordance with a warrant under subsection (1).
(3) Upon final judgment being given in proceedings for an offence under section 36, anything seized and removed under subsection (2) shall be disposed of in accordance with such directions as the court may give upon an application by a member of the Garda Siochana in that behalf.
What's the Gaelic for "Death to the infidel"? Expect to hear a lot of it in the future.
Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict — which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane — the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not "run." Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it, is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. ("They fell for it? But it's too easy!") Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that "the genuine will and desire" of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with.
Christopher Hitchins, "Don't Call What Happened in Iran Last Week an Election: It was a crudely stage-managed insult to everyone involved", Slate, 2009-06-14
I'm sure we'll see the various provincial and federal HRC organizations codifying this list and issuing punishments on a per-use basis.
James Lileks has the right attitude:
People who put bumper stickers like this on their car are looking for a new religion, whether they realize it or not. It's interesting that so many people today are abandoning "traditional" religions, but can't seem to get by without replacing it with some woo-woo, new age mumbo jumbo about Mother Gaia and her sweaty folds.
Lou Dobbs isn't usually my cup of tea, but it's tough to disagree with him on this. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, is always worth listening to.
Jeff Rigsby provided a link to an article discussing the original non-binding resolution.
H/T to Chris Myrick.
Victor sent me a link to this CBC.ca article on a recent theoretical solution proposed by two Montreal researchers:
. . . a question that has long vexed evolutionary biologists: How did a mechanism thought to help build life self-assemble?
Sergey Steinberg, a biochemistry professor at the University of Montreal, found the answer in the ribosome, a relatively large mechanism within the cell that takes RNA instruction and builds proteins.
His discovery, made with student Konstantin Bokov, has been published in the scientific journal Nature.
Scientists have long wondered how chemicals spontaneously came together to create proteins before life itself began.
Steinberg and Bokov's theory fills in a critical step in how life got started four billion years ago, said Stephen Michnick, the Canada Research Chair in Integrative Genomics at the University of Montreal.
A key breakthrough came when Steinberg found that chemicals could spontaneously come together and form something as complex as a ribosome. Previous theories had suggested only simple proteins could form spontaneously.
While the article is certainly interesting in its own right, the comment thread is another Scopes Monkey Trial in the making (comments in reverse chronological order):
Science is surely never perfect, nor can it answer everything at any one time. It evolves and refines itself, as time and experience continues, and as new ideas, evidence and methods come about.
There is a good likelihood that before too long, scientists WILL be able to turn a bunch of mixed molecules in a jar into a medium all-dressed - rising crust and with extra pepperoni - all at the press of a button ! They'll also be able to explain how it's done.
As a favor, to the majority of Canadians, who are Lord Fearing and morel, please stop your antichrist-ian hatred, on these and all other forums, forever.
If your scientists are so great tell me this, can they take molecules ,in a jar and zap them with electricity, and turn them into a salami or a pizza. Nope, that takes God to make protenes, as was predicted in Hosea 13:16.
I will pray for you.
Melo Man wrote:
TheSnowpooch wrote: As a concerned mother of 6, I am blessed for to have been homeschooling my children from birth. This is all more antiChristian hooey, as was predicted in Joshua 14:12
"As a concerned non-believer of a dead-beat sky-wizard, may your 6 children someday overcome the burden of the sins of their mother and find their own truth. "
Melo Man 12:54 (UTC-5:00)
Now that's "anti-christian". Sadly for 6 human beings it's more than hooey.
Hah. The French knew this ten years ago (google ribosome site:.fr). What's really fascinating is what happens when two electrodes and direct current are added to a protein mix dissolved in water, such as the kind that athletes drink. You get hydrogen gas, the same kind as found in stars. If you don't believe me, try it at home using tin foil for the electrodes and a couple of d size batteries. This proves that stars are former planets that caught fire when their inhabitants misused electricity for strange genetic purposes. We must end these Frankenstein like experiments before our planet catches fire too.
Old-fashioned types might think that those Britons - okay, make that "Britons" - helping to manufacture bombs for the Taliban are engaged in an act of treason. But, as a current court case in Quebec helps clarify, giving support to the Queen's enemies in their attempts to kill your compatriots is now just another vibrant, colorful manifestation of cultural diversity.
As the International Free Press Society notes, Said Namouh is on trial up north for aiding and abetting terrorism. The Crown charges that Mr Namouh distributed jihadist snuff videos, offered advice on bomb-making, volunteered his expertise for a planned truck bombing, and threatened governnments (including Canada's) with troops in Afghanistan. Defense counsel René Duvall doesn't deny any of this, but says his client's enthusiasm for violent jihad is protected on grounds of freedom of religion and (mirthless chuckle from your humble typist) Canadians' cherished right to freedom of expression. As Maître Duvall put it outside the court, "Where do you draw the line?"
In fact, the line seems to be pretty clear: If a jihadist says he wants to kill Canadian troops, he's just exercising his right to freedom of religion. If I quote what he said in Canada's biggest-selling news weekly, we'll be charged with "flagrant Islamophobia" and hauled up in court.
Mark Steyn, "Which side of the war would you like to be on?", National Review, 2009-02-22
The larger story here, unaddressed by both exhibit and reviewer, is what did that civilisation do with these potentially game-changing insights? The answer is that it marginalised them as mere trinkets and toys for the elite, and set them aside as curiosities mostly incompatible with an Islamic universe ordered by the will of Allah. The 11th century Islamic civilisation armed with a vastly better understanding of geography, medicine, physics, rudimentary mechanics and robotics continued to spread its borders, but largely sat in scientific neutral after the 13th century.
Europe, meanwhile, rediscovered many of the classical themes, philosophies and knowledge that earlier Islamic scholars had been so careful to preserve. And then went on to make practical use of them in commerce, politics, transportation and warfare.
If I get anything out of exhibits like this, it is the opposite of what the designers intended. While I am awed by the intellectual achievements of men like Ibn Said and Al-Jaziri, I am saddened that their patrons did not see any practical social use for their innovations. Islam has squandered its historic intellectual capital, just as it continues to do so today.
Chris Taylor, "Sultans of Spin", Taylor & Company, 2009-02-10
H/T to Adriana Lukas.
Mike Riggs rounds up the reports on the firebombing of Martin Rynja's home in London. Rynja is the publisher of Sherry Jones's controversial novel The Jewel of Medina:
Since losing her contract with Random House, Jones has pinned much of the blame for her book's ups and downs on Denise Spellberg, a professor at UT-Austin. In her efforts to dissuade anyone from publising Jewel, Spellberg has argued that it "use[s] sex and violence to attack the Prophet and his faith," and called it "soft core pornography." But Jones is either naive or scrambling to deflect attention by arguing that pejorative labels are the culprit here, or that all would be well if only radicals could read her book:
"The planting of that bomb is Martin Rynja's letterbox was not about my book," Jones said, noting that the novel was not yet available in Britain. "It's not about the content of my book. It's not about the ideas in my book. It must be about the rumors and innuendos....I feel that the people who resorted to violence are responsible," Jones emphasized. "But her use of the word 'pornography' has done nothing to help the situation."
More at Galleycat.
Perry de Havilland has Pat Condell's most recent video on the UN Human Rights farce, with a surprising shout-out to Canada (of all nations) for opting out.
I would have to say that this was an unexpected development:
Finally — or, So soon? — Sherry Jones has found a publisher for her lusty Islamic love story (and it has its own heavily-sourced and lengthy Wikipedia entry!):
[British] Publisher Martin Rynja (of British publishing house Gibson Square), describing himself as "completely bowled over by the novel and the moving love story it portrays," called Jones's book "an important barometer of our time":
"In an open society there has to be open access to literary works, regardless of fear," Rynja said in a press release. "As an independent publishing company, we feel strongly that we should not be afraid of the consequences of debate. If a novel of quality and skill that casts light on a beautiful subject we know too little of in the West, but have a genuine interest in, cannot be published here, it would truly mean that the clock has been turned back to the dark ages."
Given the situation in Britain these days, I'm actually astounded that a British publisher is willing to step forward and
become a target publish this book.
Jon sent me a link to this commentary on some mind-bogglingly bad public policy in a London council:
Later this month it's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It's one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, so I'd be obliged, please, if you'd all stay at home, turn off the TV and refrain from your usual activities. Ten days after that it's Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews fast and spend the day in synagogue. So I've also asked my Times colleagues not to work then. And I will be mightily offended if I learn afterwards that any of them have been eating.
You might not think I am being serious. But if I was Head of Democratic Services at Tower Hamlets Council in East London, I would be. Last week John Williams e-mailed each of the borough's 51 councillors with a similar instruction.
For the duration of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, they are, he told them — every one of them, Muslim, Catholic, Jew or atheist — to behave during council meetings as strict Muslims. They are not to eat or drink; they are to break for Muslim prayers; they are to do as they are ordered by the Muslim religion.
Strict Muslims do not eat or drink between sunrise or sunset during Ramadan. Because sunset will fall during the meetings, there will be 45-minute adjournments so that councillors can break their fast and pray. And to make things easier, there will only be seven council meetings during the month.
If any of those council members chooses to voluntarily observe the customs of another religion, fine, but being told to do so is rather too much. (Of course, if your council has fifty-one members, you probably have all sorts of other activities you need to be involved in.)
I'm also given to understand that the rules of science begin to bend and even break at the extremes of the universe's scale. Down where everything is subatomic-sized, things tend to be a bit random with mesons, leptons, quarks, brilligs, slithy toves, etc., subjected to Strong Force, Weak Force, Force of Habit, and so on. Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of outer space, matter, antimatter, dark matter, and whatsamatter are tripping over string theory and falling into black holes. God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.
In one way, however, faith in science does come easier than faith in God — if fear is any gauge of how real we believe a thing is. To judge by human behavior, people are not trembling before the Almighty much. But many of those same people are scared silly by science. They are frightened by a climate stuck in the microwave of technological advances, frightened by genetic modifications that may — who knows? — cross cabbages with kings and produce a Prince Charles, and naturally they are frightened by the clouds of mushrooms being grown in the science cellars of Iran and North Korea.
P.J. O'Rourke, "On God", Search Magazine, 2007-03
Ma malakat aymanukum — literally, what your right hands possess (ما ملكت أيمانکم) — is a reference in the Koran to slaves. Those with prurient interests, or considering life as a Muslim convert, may find themselves drawn to a better understanding of Islamic law regarding sex with slaves. A quick summary of the rules should come in handy. For example, if you co-own a slave she is off limits. Sex with your wife's slaves is also a no no. But if you are worried because your slave was married when you took her captive . . . no problem, go to town, she is yours so far as Allah is concerned. Just do not have sex with your slave's sister because that would be improper unless, presumably, you kill her male relatives and enslave her too in which case no harm no foul. No word on the age of . . . well, consent is not exactly a factor here . . . the age of your sex slaves but given Mohammad was the perfect man somewhere between the age of six and nine is the precedent. So if your slave is five years old better be safe than sorry and rape enjoy one of your ten year old slaves instead.
Nick Packwood, "What your right hands possess", Ghost of a Flea, 2008-07-25
If you can't trust the BBC, then who can you trust?
What looks like the Arabic word for God and the name of the prophet Muhammad were discovered in pieces of beef by a diner in Birnin Kebbi.
He was about to eat it, when he suddenly noticed the words in the gristle, the restaurant owner said.
A search of the kitchen's meat revealed three more pieces which bore the names.
The meat was boiled and then fried before being served, owner Kabiru Haliru told newspaper Weekly Trust.
"When the writings were discovered there were some Islamic scholars who come and eat here and they all commented that it was a sign to show that Islam is the only true religion for mankind," he said.
The restaurant has kept the pieces of meat for visitors to see.
And to think that other religions have miracles involving flaming topiary, resurrecting the dead, great floods, and other such over-the-top demonstrations, when all you needed to to do was to inscribe your own name in gristle . . .
H/T to John Parry for the link.
Personally, I think all religious beliefs — Christian, Muslim or otherwise — should be fair game for criticism and satire. Kari Simpson should have the right to speak out against homosexuality, and Rafe Mair should have the right to condemn her for it.
Many people are indeed more sensitive about possibly offending Muslims than offending Christians, either because of Western guilt or simply, old-fashioned fear. I have a real problem with that — but I certainly wouldn't want a situation where Islam can be criticized but Christianity is sacrosanct, either.
Damian Penny, "Speech Notes", Daimnation, 2008-06-29
I was brought up traditionally Church of England, which is to say that while churchgoing did not figure in my family's plans for the Sabbath, practically all the Ten Commandments were obeyed by instinct and a general air of reason, and kindness and decency prevailed.
Belief was never mentioned at home, but right actions were taught by daily example.
Possibly because of this, I have never disliked religion. I think it has some purpose in our evolution.
I don't have much truck with the ' religion is the cause of most of our wars' school of thought because that is manifestly done by mad, manipulative and power-hungry men who cloak their ambition in God.
I number believers of all sorts among my friends. Some of them are praying for me. I'm happy they wish to do this, I really am, but I think science may be a better bet.
Terry Pratchett, "I create gods all the time - now I think one might exist, says fantasy author Terry Pratchett", Mail Online, 2008-06-21
The Mount Vernon school board in central Ohio voted 5-0 late Friday to move ahead on firing a science teacher after an investigation showed he preached his Christian beliefs in class and used a device to burn the image of a cross on students' arms.
The board's attorney, David Millstone, said John Freshwater would be entitled to a hearing to challenge the dismissal.
Kelly Hamilton, who represents Freshwater, told the Mount Vernon News he would request such a hearing and that Freshwater denied any wrongdoing.
But Freshwater still has defenders: "With the exception of the cross-burning episode. . . . I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district" said Dave Daubenmire.
The man smiled. He didn't speak English, but he understood when I told him we were driving to Tuzla and he verified that the road we had just turned off was the right one.
So we continued driving toward Tuzla, in Bosnia proper outside the Republica Srpska, and wherever we saw mosques we also saw blown up houses.
There was pain and suffering on all sides during the war. No faction was entirely innocent. I take seriously the following observation written by Rebecca West in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon shortly before the outbreak of World War II: "English persons . . . of humanitarian and reformist disposition constantly went out to the Balkan Peninsula to see who was in fact ill-treating whom, and, being by the very nature of their perfectionist faith unable to accept the horrid hypothesis that everybody was ill-treating everybody else, all came back with a pet Balkan people established in their hearts as suffering and innocent, eternally the massacree and never the massacrer."
Nevertheless, it's obvious just from driving around that the Muslims of Bosnia really got hammered the hardest in the last war. I don't mean to pick on the Serbs, but the visual evidence, as well as the documented evidence, is just overwhelming.
Michael Totten, "The Road to Kosovo, Part I", Michael J. Totten, 2008-06-23
What stands in my mind, however, is this bit from the article, in which the teacher explained "he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an 'X,' not a cross." Because, you see, zapping an "X" into the flesh of your pubescent students with a tool that outputs 50,000 volts a pop is not a problem.
The particular tool comes with the following warning: "Never touch or come in contact with the high voltage output of this device." Any teacher willfully ignoring the safety instructions on high voltage equipment to use it to intentionally inflict pain and injury on his students, and to brand a large, recognizable pattern on their skin, is one that's going to land on my "fire this idiot" list. You don't even have to get into the religious angle, as far as I'm concerned. That's just the bonus round, as far as the firing goes.
Another choice quote from the article, from a friend of the teacher: "With the exception of the cross-burning episode. . . . I believe John Freshwater is teaching the values of the parents in the Mount Vernon school district," said the friend. Yes, well. That's a heck of an exception, now, isn't it.
John Scalzi, "From the 'That Doesn’t Actually Make it Any Better' Department", Whatever, 2008-06-21
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