Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City XXIII

1 08 2008

Two weeks in fundie . . .

  1. This is an old one, but the title of this World Net Daily article says it all: “Soy is making kids ‘gay.’” (Via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)
  2. Nigerian diners see the name of Allah in a piece of gristle. (Via Fundies Say the Darndest Things)
  3. From September, taxpayer-funded “faith schools” in Britain will be able to reserve head-teacher positions for religious teachers and “and voluntary aided schools [will be able to] require some non-teaching staff to follow a religion.” (British Humanist Association)
  4. Remember Council Nedd and his In God We Trust organisation? They’re urging Barack Obama to condemn the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Imagine No Religion” billboards. In God We Trust, which is responsible for a billboard campaign asking “Why Do Atheists Hate America?,” describes the “Imagine No Religion” billboards as “hateful.” (CNSNews)
  5. Britain’s Chief Rabbi blames declining religious belief for “the spread of depression, stress, eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse.” Because religion causes you to do good things, and nonbelief causes you to do bad things. It’s so simple! (Mail)
  6. The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy is Commanding Contrition from PZ Myers for his Communion Cracker Crucifixion. (Pharyngula)
  7. US organisation Pray At The Pump claims that petrol prices have fallen below $4 a gallon because they (*posthoc* . . . sorry, just had to clear my throat) prayed for it to happen. (Norwich Bulletin)
  8. A poll of Muslim students at British universities suggests that almost a third think that killing in the name of religion is justified, a third support a worldwide Islamic caliphate, and about a quarter believe that men and women are not equal in the name of Allah. (Guardian)
  9. Women were excluded from participating in a parliamentary choir at a special sitting of the Israeli Knesset, held in order to welcome British PM Gordon Brown, in order to placate the cherished beliefs of Haredi parliamentarians. ““I am the director-general of all MKs,” said the Director-General of the Knesset, “and I don’t have any wish to cause situations that would make MKs get up and leave.” Because bigots have feelings, too. (Haaretz)
  10. And bigots with delicate sensitivities that must under no circumstances be upset by inadvertent contact with filthy evil menstruating women, also ride buses. That’s why Egged, Israel’s largest bus company, is continuing to maintain sex-segregation on routes that pass through Haredi districts, where women must sit at the back and men sit at the front. This is in spite of a 2006 incident in which a 50-year-old Canadian woman, on her way to pray at the Western Wall, was set upon by the local Taliban “modesty patrol” who punched, kicked, slapped and pushed her when she refused to sit at the rear of an Egged bus. (All well in keeping with the thesis that religious faith is a prerequisite for moral behaviour, as you can see.) (Jerusalem Post)

The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Iftikhar Ahmad

29 05 2008

Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamics has (it appears) been spamming blogs and discussion boards with an essay arguing for the state-funding of Islamic schools in the UK as a way of improving the academic lot of British Muslim children. He prophesies that “A day will come when all Muslim children will attend state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role model [sic].”

I want to begin by acknowledging the least objectionable, and in some cases semi-reasonable elements of his argument. Islamic schools are not just faith schools, he contends: they are also bilingual schools.

Bilingual Muslim children need to learn standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity.

Agreed. And I would add the obvious point that proficiency in English will enable these children to function as productive citizens and workers in Anglophone societies like the UK.

They need to be well versed in Arabic to recite and understand the Holy Quran.

Hmmm . . . OK. If a knowledge of Arabic affords one an enriched understanding of Islam and the Koran, and facilitates a critical/heuristic approach to the religion, then by all means should these kids learn Arabic. If the aim is to inculcate a submissive, dogmatic approach, whereby the main objective is for the kids to learn the text by rote, then I can’t see why the UK Government should embrace that as a funding priority.

They need to be well versed in Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry.

Again, that seems valid to me, but there seem to be cognitive advantages to multilingualism that are (in my view) even more important than keeping immigrant children in touch with their cultural roots (not that the latter isn’t a valuable objective). Moreover, as Ahmad rightly points out: “A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village.” (Underline the words “global” and “village” here. They will become important later on.) Read the rest of this entry »

Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City X

13 03 2008

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The stupid!! It burns!!! Upon hearing tell of visions of the Virgin Mary appearing in the sky, 50 Indians have burnt their retinas staring into the sun. (via Pharyngula)
  2. Britain is deporting two Iranian homosexuals on the grounds that “provided Iranians are discreet about their homosexuality, they will not be persecuted.” (via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)
  3. Gandalf teh Gay wants to destroy Baby Jesus!!!!!!!!! (Scotsman)
  4. A Catholic bishop in the UK likens criticism of Catholicism to Holocaust-denial, and demands that school libraries ban “anti-Catholic” books. (Independent)
  5. The same bishop furthers the case for putting a stop to funding sectarian schools with tax dollars (or pounds in this instance) by decreeing that crucifixes be hung in every classroom, and reality-based sex education be banned from every classroom. I say: let the Vatican fund his madrassahs. (Daily Mail)

UPDATE: Bruce has a compelling post on disturbing connections between the In God We Trust foundation (remember those “Why Do Atheists Hate America?” billboards?), dominionism and the modern incarnation of the Knights Templar. These aren’t your daddy’s neo-medievalist lunatics!

“Religious apartheid”: the role of religion in state education in the UK

5 02 2008

A recent episode of the BBC’s “Big Debate” (hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby) looked at the role of religion in a 21st century state education system. The “negative” side, so to speak, included Richard Dawkins, who maintained that while he favours comparative religious education, faith schools by definition label children with the religion of their parents, a practice he considers abusive. Alongside Dawkins was MP Barry Sheerman, Chair of the DCSF Select Committee who doesn’t mind faith schools, as long as they’re not serious about their faith, and who cited worrying evidence of the unfair treatment of the issue of homosexuality in Catholic schools, and the poor treatment of women in Muslim schools. Speaking in favour of faith schools and religious worship in comprehensive schools was Bishop Peter Price, a former teacher who emphasised the roots of state education in C of E schools in the early 19th century, and claimed that C of E schools have an obligation to teach about other faiths. He also stressed that the history of England is a Christian history–a point he would often return to, as if it were the last word to be had on the topic. Price was joined by Oona Stannard of the Catholic Education Service, who advocates “maintained faith schools” because of their transparency and accountability, given that they are subject to inspections by Ofsted.

The programme also canvassed the opinions of a wide range of stakeholders: RE teachers and consultants, Catholic and Muslim students from both faith schools and comprehensive schools, as well as representatives of various faiths. One of the latter, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, offered a blunt, though in many ways accurate assessment of faith-based education that can be summed up in two words: religious apartheid. Read the rest of this entry »

Things they’d have difficulty believing in Salt Lake City IV

12 01 2008

The week in fundie . . .

  1. The city council of Green Bay, Wisconsin, installs a nativity scene above the entrance to the city hall–simply to spite the Freedom From Religion Foundation and their “Madison values.” (The Carpetbagger Report)
  2. Middle-class parents in the UK are baptising their children late to ensure they are eligible for enrolment in tax-payer funded faith schools. (The Times)
  3. Won’t the real Mike Huckabee please stand up? The Nation uncovers the uber-fundie that is the Republican presidential candidate.
  4. “God’s Basic Training”–the Christianisation of the US military. (Military Religious Freedom Foundation)
  5. Pope Benedict: teh gay marriage is a “threat to world peace.” (