No to Anti-Semitism, No to Islamophobia

“ATTENTION: PLEASE refrain from using anti-semitic language when expressing support for Palestine and Palestinians. It is ABSOLUTELY unacceptable and I will call you out on it. The Palestinian cause invites ALL who stand for justice and equality and all who want to be on the right side of history including American Jews. They have been some of our closest and most loyal allies and the last thing we need is to alienate people by using the same tactics and hateful rhetoric that is used against us. Let’s learn from history. Stay focused, stay principled – your cause is pure, your cause is just. No need to contaminate it with misguided hate.”

Photo of Linda Sarsour on the Brooklyn Bridge

Linda Sarsour
Director, Arab American Association of New York

Why Is This News?

I was reading CNN and after seeing the headline “Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism” I had to doublecheck and make sure I hadn’t slid over to Fox somehow.

I had not.

I ask again, why is this news? People convert back and forth between religions or no religion all the time. Why is the conversion of a single blogger, who is certainly not prominent, worth reporting on a national news site? The only thing I can even venture to guess is that they view it as a small repudiation of atheism, and Christians in the newsroom just couldn’t pass up a chance to take a swipe at atheists. It seems awfully cynical to look at it that way, but I can’t imagine any other way this could be deemed newsworthy.

Catholic Church Evicts Hate Crime Victim

So this happened:

Alexis Alison Lancaster, 39, was approached at an RTA Red Line station and verbally harassed with antigay slurs as she excited the train on November 19. [T]he suspects… beat and kicked the victim, allegedly stealing her cell phone and leaving her bruised and unconscious.

Then Lancaster did some of her own police work, but alas:

Lancaster says she was able to track down her cell phone with the use of its GPS, but that police were not interested in following up.

And as a result of this hate crime:

Following television news coverage of the attack, Lancaster was evicted from the apartment she lived in for 13 years. The apartment is owned by the Catholic church.

Smooth move, Clevand Catholic leaders.

H/t ES

Two Very Misunderstood Religions

The topic of misunderstood religions is very à propos. The “western world” continues to grapple with its fear of Islam, and American conservatives are trying to decide if the Mormon religion of top Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney counts as “Christian” in their estimation.

Due to circumstances out of my control, I interacted with Mormons and Muslims early in life, inspite of growing up in a tight-knit Catholic community. Familiarity averted fear, and access to information created at least a base level of understanding.

Later in life I moved to central Brooklyn, where I encountered adherents of religions I had never previously come in contact with: Hasidism and Rastafari.

Now these are some misunderstood religions. Non-Jewish New Yorkers have a lot of information-free ideas about Hasids: that they are all wealthy (and probably bankers or jewelers), that they are all perverts, that they are all Zionists, that they have no sense of humor or fun.

White college students have some very specific misconceptions about Rastafari that are well known. Generally speaking, I don’t encounter people who can express much knowledge of this movement/religion besides a vague association with Jamaica, weed, Reggae music, and dreadlocks.

There is soooo much more to these two religions that coexist nearly side-by-side in the truly unique cultural mix of Brooklyn. Where else in the world?

Hasid Family in Williamsburg

Photo by Lonnie Francisco

I had the good fortune to stumble across this extremely helpful website written by a Hasidic Jew. I highly recommend it as an introduction to Hasidism.

Rastafari Symbols

I haven’t yet found as good of a “101” source for Rastafari, but I did come across the Rasta Times out of Trinidad and I’d say for basic information for complete outsiders, just refer to the Wikipedia page, which goes quite in depth.

Annnnd here is what can happen when members of these two religions meet.

Rohan Marley and Shneur “DeScribe” Hasofer

Rohan Marley and Shneur “DeScribe” Hasofer

And here’s one more article about the unique cultural combinations that can happen around here.

Some Conservatives Kindly Took the Time out of their Day to Broadcast to the World that They Are Racist & Islamophobic

Newt Gingrich helpfully informed the confused world that there need be no more concern about the Palestinians displaced and mistreated by the Israeli state, because Palestinians don’t exist.

Remember, there was no Palestine existing as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places.

He went ahead and renamed these 11 million non-people, “a group of terrorists that are firing missiles every day.”

Somebody go tell all those confused fake Palestinians with their totally fake grievances! My Palestinian friends are going to be pretty surprised to hear that they don’t exist, but that they nevertheless spend their days firing missiles!

Fun fact: Israel as a state didn’t exist until 1948. Does this mean that Israelis are an “invented people” too?

In related news, The Learning Channel (TLC) is running a reality show about 5 Muslim families in Michigan called “All-American Muslim”. EVERYBODY PANIC!

The Florida Family Association, for one, is panicking.

The Learning Channel’s new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.

Wow. They don’t even address how many of the people featured on the show don’t even exist, because of their fake Palestinian roots.

The FFA has started a boycott campaign to erase this threat of tolerance and diversity from television. Lowe’s has enthusiastically jumped on board, saying that “there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe’s advertising guidelines, including the show you [the FFA] brought to our attention.”

I would love to hear a more thorough explanation of exactly why that is. No really. I’m sure it would be fascinating.

The FFA kindly provides a list of companies that have dared to continue advertising, even after they were warned that the show depicts MUSLIMS. I recommend taking time out of your day to support those companies or send them a note of thanks.

Assess the danger level yourself:

Politician Blames College, Marijuana for her Brush with Same-Sex Pedophilia

Linda Wall is running for a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates as an Independent. She would like you to focus on her qualifications for office, such as her strong anti-gay and ex-gay credentials, and not pay too much mind to her little “mistake”: that one time when she sexually molested a female middle school student while she was a gym teacher.

You see, she was under the influence of “college” and “marijuana”, and, well, now she’s a Christian, and we all know Christians never molest children or have same-sex orientations. So your daughters are safe around her now. She even alludes to this incident on her campaign website:

[W]hen I went away to Longwood College, I allowed liberal professors to destroy my Judeo-Christian upbringing. I guess one could say I became the “prodigal daughter”. But when my rebellious years came to a close I knew it was the Lord that I needed.

I mean can you really blame her after what she must have went through? She added: “You do that out of college sometimes. Some people do, some people don’t.”

Yeah, some people (statutorily) rape children out of college, some don’t. Six of one, half dozen of the other, ya know? And now that she has done time fervently lobbying to restrict gay’s and women’s rights, we can all forget about this, right?

As an aside, I would like to offer a helpful tip for confused news reporters: statutory rape of a child is NOT a “lesbian affair”, as I have seen reported in several headlines. It is child molestation, aka pedophilia. I know it is easy to confuse consenting relationships between grown adults with one adult taking advantage of a child in their care, but with some deep thinking I’m sure you’ll be able to sort out the difference.

Previously, Wall had admitted that she “was in the lifestyle for a decade“. Perhaps in penance, she has spent much time in recent years working on criminalizing LGBT people by guaranteeing that gay sex remains a state crime (except when she commits it, apparently), preventing gay people from obtaining legally-recognized unions, protecting gay-bashing as *not* a hate crime, and making sure Virginia schools Don’t Say ‘Gay’, like a similar law in Tennessee. In her thorough witch hunt, she personally uncovered “the homosexual agenda”:

“When I started investigating this thing, I saw that there was definitely an agenda out there to indoctrinate children into homosexuality. … There is no gay gene, people aren’t born homosexuals, so the only way to get people in the lifestyle is to recruit them. That’s how you spread your agenda.”

Well, she’s one to know, as she clearly did little recruiting herself when she was “in the lifestyle”. But she’s Christian now, so it’s all cool.

Psychologizing Ireland’s Confrontation with the Vatican over Child Abuse

Ireland has long allowed itself to be a bit of a theocracy, ruled in part from afar by the Vatican. Why a country would allow its social policy to be so thoroughly controlled by a distant clique of elderly (mostly white) men, supposedly celibate but obsessed with sex, is beyond me, but it happened.

But, and I am honestly surprised to discover this, it turns out Ireland had a line. A line the Vatican should not have crossed. And it took decades, it took an international outcry, and it took thousands of cases of abuse, but finally, finally Ireland is starting to say ‘no’ to child abuse veiled by religion.

The Vatican and the Catholic hierarchy have a long and cherished tradition of sexual abuse of children. Priests and other authority figures have for centuries cultivated situations in which they manipulated the religious faith of believers into trusting them with their children, and then sexually assaulted the children. The Church has been well aware of this at the highest levels, and instead of moving to stop the abuse, it has moved to shelter it. It has shuffled abusers around to prevent exposure, it has frustrated private and public investigations, and it has intimidated survivors into silence. This pattern of behavior makes it clear that this order of “celibate” men is intent on preserving the tradition of child sex abuse, because if the intention were otherwise, the actions would reflect as much. Child sex abuse seems to have been considered a bit of a privilege for those Church leaders who found themselves so inclined.

But the Church’s own rhetoric around sexual morality (for others, not priests) may have led to this confrontation with Ireland’s leadership. The Church’s hierarchy of family-less, supposedly non-sexual men also have a centuries-long tradition of dictating the sexual behavior of others. They have preached many strange things about sexuality, but a major message has been that of the primacy of the nuclear family.

Decades of “family” messaging have encouraged heavily Catholic cultures to idealize and worship the perfect family unit: father, mother and children. And children are the only reason to have sex- any sex that is absent the intent to procreate is sinful. So CHILDREN!!! are very important. This is supported by lots of cute pictures of Jesus hanging out with children and the frequent repetition of Bible verses discussing children. There are also lots of cultural messages in general about the importance of children, and, reflecting the general fear of sex, the need to protect children from any knowledge of sexuality to keep them on the pure, narrow, straight path to heterosexual marriage.

BOOM! CONFLICT! The Vatican cherishes the sexually repressed family unit and encourages the cult of sexually-innocent childhood, yet also cherishes its ingrained tradition of child sex abuse. After years of being barraged with overwhelming evidence of this contradiction, finally Irish society decided to take a stand. And they choose to stand against child abuse. Though this seems like an obvious conclusion to make and so basic that it hardly merits praise, it is actually much more commendable than you would think given their deeply-held tradition of respecting Catholic authority, even to the detriment of their own sovereignty as a nation. And generally speaking, sexual abuse of the weak by the strong is condoned by societies worldwide, and so a Prime Minister taking the time to publicly rebuke it and form real measures to combat it, as Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently did, is really a sight to behold.

From the New York Times:

“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.

…“The rape and torture of children were downplayed, or ‘managed,’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution — its power, its standing and its reputation.” Instead of listening with humility to the heartbreaking evidence of “humiliation and betrayal,” he said, “the Vatican’s response was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”

Naturally, the Vatican and its vassals reacted grumpily to this attack on what they believe is their right and privilege. It withdrew its ambassador to Ireland and had the gumption to claim that the reports of sexual abuse were “unsubstantiated” and that Kenny’s concern with their abuse was “excessive”. There was concern that we are all forgetting about the true victims: the poor, so often wrongly accused priests.

[Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos] warned against “obsessive” pursuit of accused priests by bishops because of the damage it can do to the priests, whose souls, he said, were “at the center of the affair.”

Rarely is the right of powerful men to sexually abuse others challenged so publicly. It’s almost fun to watch the Vatican & co. squirm with indignation at this attack upon their sexual privileges. Thanks for that Ireland.

Read the entire, hilariously/depressingly-horrible official Vatican response to Kenny’s remarks and the Cloyne Report.

Read the Cloyne Report.

Rainbows Banned at Ontario Catholic Schools

That’s how much Ontario Catholic leaders hate fun: they banned images of rainbows in their schools because they are associated with — excuse me as I choke back vomit — gayness.

First, some students wanted to form a Gay-Straight Alliance. President of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Nancy Kirby, said “It won’t be a gay-straight alliance. When I look at a gay-straight alliance, I see an activist group. We are answering the students’ request for support and assistance, not for activism. Students don’t want to become activists…”

Halton Catholic District School Board Chair Alice Anne LeMay said the board “doesn’t allow Nazi groups either. Gay-straight alliances are banned because they are not within the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Then students at St Joseph Catholic Secondary School decided to name their club Rainbow Alliance instead. But their principal Frances Jacques said that was “too LGBT-sounding.” She instead mandated the name “Open Arms”, which completely obscures the purpose and actual membership of the group.

One student, Leanne Iskander, has tried to start some sort of LGBT group at that school, and already has 40 members. Of the Open Arms name, she said, “There’s no point having the support there if students don’t know it’s there, so the name is important.”

She reports that members of the group have been victims of homophobic bullying. Her group tried to set up an information booth.

She reports: “We brought signs and posters with rainbows, and we were told that we can’t put them up. They said rainbows are associated with Pride. There’s so many other things that a rainbow could be. It’s ridiculous.”

Since rainbows couldn’t be displayed openly and proudly, the students baked rainbows into the cupcakes by dying the batter in a rainbow of colours.

Leanne Iskander and Taechun Menns

Leanne Iskander and Taechun Menns setting up the rainbow cupcakes at St Joe's Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga. (Meagan Smith of St Joe's)

You can find some of Iskander’s own words about her experiences at the Torontoist.

Show your support and keep up-to-date on the students’ struggle by joining the St. Joes Gay-Straight Alliance Facebook group.

H/t to Autostraddle.

If We Don’t Have the Same Daddy…

Robert BentleyMoments after he was sworn in on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the new Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, had this message for all Alabamians:

”Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”

Good governance in action, Christian nationalist style!

“What are you, a camel jockey?”

What is going on people? There is too much haterade being served up these days, and it is getting rather hard to handle, so I’m going to have to ask you to tone it down.

Like, WTF is this:

Two men have been arraigned on hate charges after allegedly beating an Imam, calling him a “camel jockey” and throwing his religious head covering onto the subway tracks early Wednesday morning.

And this:

The controversy started this summer as the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley moved ahead with plans to build a 25,000-square-foot mosque on a plot of land the group owns. The proposal stirred hostility with some residents because of fears the mosque would attract Islamic extremists.

Right, the muslims are the extremists here. I guess my irrational woman-brain just can’t comprehend your amazing feats of logic.

Muslims Wearing Their “Garb”

My mistake. I forgot to throw this up on the blog when it began a couple weeks ago. Now, here it is:

Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things

From the site:

Former NPR analyst Juan Williams, among other ignorant people, has an irrational fear of Muslims, and thinks you can identify them based on what they look like. Here I will post pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as “Muslim garb” or a Muslim look.

If you have the memory of the newt, the statement that got Juan Williams fired and provoked the ire of the above blogger was:

[W]hen I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Amina Tariq is garbed in organic Muslim lettuce.

Amina Tariq is garbed in organic Muslim lettuce.

Muslim and legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey often wore the traditional suit and tie of his culture.

Muslim and legendary jazz drummer Art Blakey often wore the traditional suit and tie of his culture.

Madhubala had no problems donning traditional Muslim glamor in her prime.

Madhubala had no problems donning traditional Muslim glamor in her prime.

Yoga: Satan’s Exercise Preference

From the Seattle P-I: Yoga and Christianity Don’t Mix

From the New York Daily News: Yoga a Dangerous ‘Risk’ for Christians

From the NYDN article:

Stating that yoga “threatens” to push Christians into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality, [Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert] Mohler asks, “Should any Christian willingly risk that?”

…”Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding,” he wrote. “Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine.”