Questionable Motives

January 31, 2010

How does an American liberal become an islamic jihadist in a distant land?

This eleven page story from the New York Times describes how Omar Hammami from Daphne, Alabama, has become a key figure in one of the world’s most ruthless Islamist insurgencies. That guerrilla army, known as the Shabab, is fighting to overthrow the fragile American-backed Somali government. The rebels are known for beheading political enemies, chopping off the hands of thieves and stoning women accused of adultery. With help from Al Qaeda, they have managed to turn Somalia into an ever more popular destination for jihadis from around the world.

So how does one go from being a smart, popular, and talented young person with a bright and promising future into an active jihadist half way across the world? Omar explains:

“They can’t blame it on poverty or any of that stuff,” he continued. “They will have to realize that it’s an ideology and it’s a way of life that makes people change. They will also have to realize that their political agendas need to be fixed.”

Dena, Omar’s older sister, offers this conflicted reply.

“I think it’s admirable to stand up for what you believe in, but it gets hairy when you affect the lives of others,” she wrote.

Hairy. That’s an interesting way to describe killing, maiming, beheading, and stoning others.

Hammami responded that he understood how strange it might seem to “fight for beliefs,” especially as he had once been a liberal (under the influence, he wrote, of the teacher he still referred to as “Mrs. Hirsch”). But he had come to the realization that “we don’t live in a utopian society.”

So what needs to change? Well a good starting point according to Omar is a recognition that, “Human rights,” he said in an audio recording released by the Shabab last July, is “the Western form of democracy which cannot be reconciled with Islam.”

And it is religious belief that is the more important of the two, according to far too many people. And therein lies a good part of the explanation. I think it is that kind of assumption – a willingness to reduce the secular rights and freedoms of people to be subordinate to some other ideology, some other belief set – that clears a path for the transition from responsible citizen to murderous terrorist, a perspective that is essential to have in order to allow people to continue to think well of themselves while they carry out everything from small acts of righteousness like voting to reduce civil rights of others to horrendous acts of brutality on behalf of some ‘higher cause’ against other people. I am disgusted that the salve offered by religious belief about so much unnecessary suffering is so easily excused by assuming belief that all of us are merely preset pieces within God’s preordained plan. “You take solace in knowing that it’s in God’s hands,” said Shafik, Omar’s islamic father sunken in his armchair, as Debra, Omar’s southern baptist mother nodded. “And there is nothing you could have done to change it.”

I think that’s a cop out. I think we need to educate people to better understand and appreciate that what makes individual freedom possible is our collective and primary allegiance to and respect for secular enlightened values of equality, dignity, and fairness. There are far too many of us who think allegiance to the state and the religious majority it supposedly represents is where our allegiance properly belongs, but this misdirection and misunderstanding is as much to blame for creating more Omars as is the religion of islam. As the push in Western democracies continues to promote government support for christian values, the greater is the danger we face that we will lose our freedoms. We need to wake up, get off the fence, and push back any encroachment by anyone who campaigns or acts against the primacy of secular values.

January 30, 2010

Why does gay marriage need to be made legal?

Filed under: Equality,Gay Marriage,Homosexuality,Law — tildeb @ 8:22 pm

ROBERTSVILLE (Missouri) — When Highway Patrol Cpl. Dennis Engelhard was killed in a Christmas Day traffic accident near Eureka, the agency described him as single with no children.

Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”

Neither statement tells the whole story.

Engelhard, hit by a car that lost control in the snow, was gay. He left behind a partner of nearly 15 years who was not mentioned in his obituary or official information released by the Highway Patrol, although members of the agency knew about his sexual orientation.

If Engelhard had been married, his spouse would be entitled to lifetime survivor’s benefits from the state pension system — more than $28,000 a year.

But neither the state Highway Patrol pension system nor Missouri law recognizes domestic partners.

A fraternal organization that provides benefits to the families of troopers killed in the line of duty is also unsure if it will help Engelhard’s partner.


January 12, 2010

Should we tolerate religious discrimination?

Beulles Hit, leader of the California division of the Sainted Aryan International Church, spoke out against the proposed anti-segregationist bill introduced earlier this week in the state’s legislature. He said, ” I have the highest regard for people of other races, people who enjoy the freedom to worship their creator any way they want, but it’s racist for this government to insist that my freedom of religion be put aside so that this church is forced by law to act against its founding principles of racial purity and harmony.”

Since the early 1930s the Sainted Aryan International Church, with nearly 3,00 divisions world wide, has preached a message of love and racial purity. Although it allows members of other races to join the Church and work in their affiliated schools funded by the taxpayers, only pure Aryans are sanctified to be pastoral leaders.

“The Aryan purebreds are revealed in Mien Kampf to be the Chosen One,” explained Pastor Hit. This principle goes to the very core of the Church’s mission: to promote love and racial purity.

“The proposed legislation would cripple our ability to practice our religious beliefs,” said the Pastor. “It is not only discriminatory against our beliefs but undermines the very notion of religious freedom.”


Something here isn’t right, is it? That’s because I just made it up. There is no Aryan church… but there could be. If there was, could we intervene and declare that this kind of racism will not be tolerated? When the discriminatory practices of a religion is in conflict with secular rights of equality and respect for the dignity of a person, which side do we choose? And there’s the rub: we have to choose. Will we we institutionalize in jurisprudence the right for religious practices to be outside the secular law? If so, on what grounds? Is religious belief merely enough?

The headline reads: Catholic ban on women priests ‘illegal under Harriet Harman equality bill,’ with the subtitle, The Roman Catholic ban on women entering the priesthood will become illegal under Harriet Harman’s controversial Equality Bill, according to Christian charity, Care.

Note how the bill is presented… not so much as a legal push for equality to remove discriminatory practices within a religion but more as  a personal bill by Harriet Harman.

A new report by the leading charity – backed by a legal opinion from a leading QC – says the Bill will make it impossible for all churches and faith-based charities to insist that their senior staff lead private lives in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Wow. HH is attempting to control how people live their ‘private’ lives. No one wants that. But is this charge true? No. The bill is intended to force illegal discriminatory practices to end, whether the practice is done in a church or at home. We alreadylive with this law at home, meaning that we are breaking the law if we discriminate on the basis of gender or race or what have you. And most people think this is a pretty good law.

CARE said that, under the Bill, which will be considered by the House of Lords on Monday, it would be illegal for a Christian charity to sack a senior manager for adultery or living an openly gay lifestyle.

Why should an organization be able to fire a senior manager for doing something that is not illegal and which has absolutely nothing to do with the job? Presumably, such a sacking is fine if it discriminates against the little people in the organization, but senior managers? The nerve!

The same rules would, it added, apply to Muslim and Jewish churches and charities.

How horrible: a level playing field. Imagine what life might be like without special favoritism for the local religion.

However, the biggest potential showdown is likely to be between the government and Britain’s 4.3 million Catholics over the church’s tradition of an all-male, celibate priesthood.

I wonder why? Isn’t every religion’s earthly hierarchy equally misogynistic? They aren’t? Who knew?

Previous legislation in 2007, also backed by Ms Harman, the Commons Leader and equality minister, forced the closure of two Catholic adoption agencies for refusing to comply with new laws requiring them to place children with gay couples.

Imagine if all agencies had to comply with the same law. Chaos, I tell you… pure chaos.

CARE’s report – A Little Bit Against Discrimination? – warns that the proposals contained in the Bill are a serious threat to religious liberty in Britain.

Ah yes… here we go… it’s all about religious freedom by avoiding that whole discriminatory practices issue.

John Bowers QC said in a legal opinion for CARE that the Bill could make it unlawful for a church to require a priest or minister to be male, celibate and unmarried, or not in a civil partnership.

Yeah… so? They can still be male, celibate and unmarried, and not in a civil partnership.

When the Bill, which aims to wrap up all existing equality legislation in one piece of law, was debated in the Commons, ministers MPs tabled more than 100 amendments to it – but ministers imposed a “guillotine” on the Bill and prevented most of them being discussed.

Gee… I wonder what those amendments were all about? Perhaps how to make an equity law not quite so… what’s the word… equal?

The report’s author, Dr Daniel Boucher, said: ”The Equality Bill is a direct assault on the freedom of all faith-based organisations, from churches to charities. This Bill will make it unlawful for those organisations to employ people who are committed to a particular set of religious beliefs.

Not quite, Dan. One is not ‘free’ to practice any discrimination one wants. Or, at least, this bill aims to correct the current exemptions based on religiously inspired discriminatory practices.  You have the freedom to believe what you want but you don’t have the freedom to put those beliefs into practice if they break the law. Pretending that this issue is about religious freedom is a lie.

“This Bill in its current form is a further blow to the faith-based voluntary sector and will leave many people unable to access services they always have.

“This Bill in its current form is a further blow to the faith-based voluntary sector and will leave many people unable to access services they always have.

Only if one holds discrimination as a higher calling than respecting the equal rights of individuals and refuses to volunteer But that’s up to the volunteers.

“This legislation must be revised to recognise our plural society. It must recognise that there are many people in our country who have deeply held religious views and convictions, rather than trying to impose some modern day Stalinistic version of society where there is only ever one view that is right, the Government’s.”

Stalinistic? Since when was ‘equal rights for all’ attributed to Stalin? So if one disagrees with allowing religiously inspired discrimination to be exempt from civil law, one is a totalitarian communist, eh? Nice way to phrase the difference of opinion and a real show of support by example for this so-called respect for plurality.

Overall, the Bill is designed to deliver greater equality between people of different gender, race, religion and class.

Terrible, Just terrible. How dare they?

However, it has attracted criticism, particularly from businesses. It paves the way for ‘gender pay audits’ in large companies, obliging employers to disclose the average hourly pay they award male and female workers.

Uh oh. Is it possible that businesses also partake of the less-pay-for-those-wh0-have-a-vagina kind of plurality?

The planned legislation would also allow employers to give preference to female or non-white job applicants over equally qualified white men.

Again, this level playing field is a terrible burden for all. If you get rid of one discriminatory practice, who knows where it can lead? Other than a Stalinistic totalitarian state where every woman and member of a minority has a job scything wheat out in the great and fertile plain of communist Salisbury, that is, while white male unemployed former bankers wander the street in tattered three piece suits and bowlers.

Public bodies would have a legal duty to narrow the gap between the rich and poor in the provision of services. For example, local authorities would be expected to do more to help children from poorer backgrounds.

You mean that social services are in higher demand in the more dodgy areas than the swanky? I’m shocked.

If passed, the Bill could also oblige public sector bodies to consider the “gender balance” among employees of companies bidding for all government contracts.

Why shouldn’t companies that endorse equality benefit more than companies that refuse?

But Michael Foster, Minister for Equality on the Bill said: “The Equality Bill will still allow churches to hire only male clergy and will let faith-based charities continue to recruit people of the same faith where this is a requirement of the job, such as care staff who may also be asked to pray with the people they look after.

“We have been absolutely clear on this throughout the Bill’s passage, but as there has been some misunderstanding around our intentions we will amend the Bill to make this clear beyond doubt.”

What? Some misunderstanding? You mean the same people who tell us that we must learn the lyrics to the Internationale if this bill is passed? But they’re the ones telling us the Truth, just as they always have. Absolute truth is the standing order from this crowd… other than a bit of discrimination here and there, of course, but for god, you understand… and the wee children, of course… and the old and infirm, and those whose souls aren’t going to roast in fiery pits of hell… not like those disgusting homosekshuals and girls who, you know, flaunt their bits, and, well… the plurality parts of the unwashed population that just aren’t religiously decent. We need to keep them in line and if we can’t discriminate against them then all is lost.

A pity, really.

But don’t worry, you religious lot; I doubt the politicians have the secular stomach to pass such a necessary and justified bill.

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