Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Female Pakistani Singer Killed In Peshawar

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 1, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Ayman Udas, a rising female vocalist in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province, was shot at her home, allegedly by her own brothers.

Her death has rattled the city’s jittery artistic community, as local musicians and dancers in Peshawar — a city renowned for its vibrant artistic life — face increasing pressure as the region falls under greater Taliban influence.

Some attributed Udas’s death to the Islamist militants, but her husband told reporters that his wife was killed because she broke family traditions.

A beautiful woman in her early 30s and mother of two, Udas recently remarried after a divorce. Her two brothers, Alamgir and Ismail, disapproved of her divorce, remarriage, and her artistic career, all of which disgrace a family’s name in conservative Islamic society.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RADIO FREE EUROPE RADIO LIBERTY”

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Religious zealots hog the headlines as swine flu spreads

Posted in The Freethinker by Skepdude on May 1, 2009

AS swine flu began its spread across the globe, first to step up to the pig ignorant podium was Israel’s deputy Health Minister, who wanted its name changed to “Mexican” flu to avoid ruffling Jewish feathers.

Then up stepped imam Amadia Rachid, based in the Italian city of Salerno, who claimed this week that the swine flu virus affirms Islam’s teachings. Said Algerian-born Rachid:

We believe that what is happening shows the truth of our faith. Even Muslims who live in Italy are talking about swine flu at the moment … many believe the disease confirmed the teaching of the Koran

He added:

The Islamic faith doesn’t explain exactly why pigs should be considered unclean animals. But it’s clear that, for most theologians, it is precisely to avoid the spread of disease that Islamic tradition tends to keep men away from pigs.

Shortly after – despite the fact that global health experts insist that the mass slaughter of pigs is entirely unnecessary and a waste of resources – Egypt, one of the few Islamic states which allows pig breeding, began giving the chop to the country’s estimated 300,000 pig population.

pigs

According to this report, at one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, scores of angry farmers blocked the street to prevent Health Ministry workers in trucks and bulldozers from coming in to slaughter the animals. Some pelted the vehicles with rocks and shattered their windshields and the workers left without killing any of the animals.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “THE FREETHINKER”

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Taleban ‘kill love affair couple’

Posted in News by Skepdude on April 14, 2009

The Taleban in Afghanistan have publicly killed a young couple who they said had tried to run away to get married, officials say.

The man, 21, and woman, 19, were shot dead on Monday in front of a mosque in the south-western province of Nimroz.

Nimroz is an area where the Taleban have a strong influence.

Governor Ghulam Dastageer Azad told the AFP news agency the killings followed a decree by local religious leaders and were an “insult to Islam”.

Dangerous region

Mr Azad said: “An unmarried young boy and an unmarried girl who loved each other and wanted to get married had eloped because their families would not approve the marriage.”

Officials said the couple were traced by militants after they tried to go to Iran. They were made to return to their village in Khash Rod district.

“Three Taleban mullahs brought them to the local mosque and they passed a fatwa (religious decree) that they must be killed. They were shot and killed in front of the mosque in public,” the governor said.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC”

Religious Persecution Wolf in Anti-Defamation Sheep’s Clothing

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 30, 2009

The Inquisition is back, and this time it has set up shop at the United Nations. Consider the resolution “Combating the Defamation of Religions” passed by a comfortable margin last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva (and passed by the General Assembly every year since 2005).

The resolution decries a “campaign of defamation of religions,” intensifying since 2001, in which “the media” and “extremist organizations” are “perpetuating stereotypes about certain religions” (read: Islam) and “sacred persons” (read: Muhammad). It urges UN member states to provide redress “within their respective legal and constitutional systems.” Capitalizing on cartoon riots and Western anxieties over the excesses of the war on terror, the language conflates peaceful criticism of Islam with anti-Muslim bigotry and seeks to stifle speech in the name of “respect for religions and beliefs.”

In my capacity as UN representative for the secularist think tank Center for Inquiry, I spent a surreal two weeks at the Council participating in the negotiations over the language of this resolution, sponsored by a 57-member intergovernmental body called the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC.

After one of these sessions, I found my way into a private conversation with the chair of the negotiations, a delegate for the government of Pakistan. We were soon joined by the representatives of the United States, Canada, and the European Union. There we were, “the West,” standing at the front of an empty conference room, gingerly trying to reason with this feisty, yet solicitous, Pakistani diplomat.

The American delegate noted that, “History shows that criminalizing speech doesn’t work,” when the chair interrupted her to propose a case he hoped would hit home. Suppose someone were to say that the Virgin Mary was not a virgin but a promiscuous woman? What could be the purpose of this statement, he asked, except mockery?

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “RELIGION DISPATCHES”

Whoring for Islam European style

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 27, 2009

Or put it another way, spineless, cowardly body oks call to curb religious criticism.

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s top human-rights body approved a proposal by Muslims nations Thursday urging passage of laws around the world to protect religion from criticism.

The proposal put forward by Pakistan on behalf of Islamic countries — with the backing of Belarus and Venezuela — had drawn strong criticism from free-speech campaigners and liberal democracies.

A simple majority of 23 members of the 47-nation Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution. Eleven nations, mostly Western, opposed the resolution, and 13 countries abstained.

The resolution urges states to provide “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.”

Which is all nice and dandy. After all we all are opposed to acts of hatred, discrimination and coercion. So I wonder what sort of defamation are they after to abolish anyway.

Muslim nations have argued that religions, in particular Islam, must be shielded from criticism in the media and other areas of public life. They cited cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as an example of unacceptable free speech.

“Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism,” the resolution said.

And if anyone ever claims this is not about stifling all criticism and free speech when religion is concerned needs to shut up. Just refresh my memory who was committing the violence and acts of hatred after the Muhammad cartoons were published? Why yes, the muslims were! So, let me get this right they want us to do away with our freedom of expression so that they don’t have to act violent in retribution. Talk about a logical pretzel. Talk about giving Islam a bad name. No wonder they want to hide as much of that as possible.

Opponents of the resolution included Canada, all European Union countries, Switzerland, Ukraine and Chile.

“It is individuals who have rights and not religions,” Canadian diplomat Terry Cormier said.

Absolutely right, even though from the point of view of the islamic countries this is about human rights, more specifically their right not to be offended or criticised, even when they want to incinerate and kill everyone else. The Right not to be Offended. Wow!

India, which normally votes along with the council’s majority of developing nations, abstained in protest at the fact that Islam was the only religion specifically named as deserving protection.

Of course why not. Why should Islam get special treatment? All delusions should be protected to the same extend from warranted criticism.

Esther Brimmer, Obama’s nominee for the job of Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizational Affairs, told a Senate hearing Tuesday that the council was a “major disappointment, diverted from its mission by states with some of the worst human rights records.”

Indeed Esther, indeed.

‘Most Express Sympathy for the Censorship’

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 18, 2009

The firing of a magazine editor in Turkey over her intention to put a story about Darwin’s evolution theory on the cover has generated a flood of criticism. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with the editor about just how conservative Turkish society has become.

No issue divides Turks more than the country’s alleged creeping Islamization. Early last week, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (Tubitak) sparked an international controversy after it prevented the publication of a cover story about Charles Darwin’s evolution theory in Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), one of the country’s leading science journals. The publication’s editor-in-chief, 41-year-old Cigdem Atakuman, claims she was fired as a result of the incident.

Secular Turks are outraged and the world is watching. Did Tubitak, which publishes Bilim ve Teknik, censor a feature about the theory of evolution under pressure from the conservative Islamic-oriented AKP-led government because it couldn’t be reconciled with Muslim religious beliefs?A senior Tubitak official has blamed the editor for removing the story, according to Turkish daily Hürriyet, saying changes were made at the last minute and rushed. But Atakuman has denied the allegation, saying the deputy head of the council, Ömer Cebeci, told her the cover story was too controversial and that he no longer trusted her to responsibly perform her duties. The paper claims the incident has been reduced to a case of “one person’s word against the other’s.”

In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Atakuman defends her position and says she is worried about the future of bias-free science in her country.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Atakuman, is it true that you were fired?

Cigdem Atakuman: Yes, it’s true. Up until now, there has been no official statement. But I was made to understand, verbally, that I have no future as the editor-in-chief of Bilim ve Teknik.

READ THE REST OF THIS AT “SPIEGEL.DE”

Egyptian Islamic Lawyers Urge Death Sentence For Convert

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 18, 2009

ISTANBUL — In the latest hearing of a Muslim-born Egyptian’s effort to officially convert to Christianity, opposing lawyers advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.

More than 20 Islamic lawyers attended the hearing on Sunday (Feb. 22) in Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary’s case to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religious affiliation. Two lawyers led the charge, Ahmed Dia El-Din and Abdel Al-Migid El-Anani.

“[El-Din] started to talk about the Quran being in a higher position than the Bible,” one of El-Gohary’s lawyers, Said Fayez, told Compass. “[El-Din said] people can move to a higher religion but not down, so people cannot move away from Islam because it is highest in rank.”

Memos submitted by opposing lawyers asserted that cases such as El-Gohary’s form part of a U.S. Zionist attack on Islam in Egypt, that Christianity is an inferior religion to Islam and that Copts protect and defend converts from Islam at their own peril.

“We received 150 pages from them that talked about religion,” said Fayez. “We are not in a position to talk about religion, we are only talking about the law.”

El-Gohary Beaten

El-Gohary was not present at the hearing, as attendance would put him at extreme personal risk. He had planned to obtain papers authorizing attorney Nabil Ghobreyal to act as his proxy representation in court, but staff members at the registry office swore at and beat him, lawyers said.

Judge Hamdy Yasin was forced to adjourn the case until March 28 because El-Gohary did not obtain the necessary proxy representation documents.

“I am now in a position where I can’t do anything else,” El-Gohary, who has been in hiding, told Compass. “I have to go [to court] despite the danger. I believe God will protect me. It’s a very hard decision, but I have to go.”

Copts and Christian converts have to face such systemic prejudice daily in the battle for their rights, he said.

“Our rights in Egypt, as Christians or converts, are less than the rights of animals,” El-Gohary said. “We are deprived of social and civil rights, deprived of our inheritance and left to the fundamentalists to be killed. Nobody bothers to investigate or care about us.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “AINA.ORG”

Good thing Mohammed never said anything censorious about oil

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on February 27, 2009

Now this is just getting silly. An Islamic theologian has declared that using ethanol as a fuel is sinful.

As if the debate around using ethanol to fuel cars weren’t already complicated enough, now an Islamic scholar has suggested that driving or even riding in a vehicle fueled by ethanol could be considered a sin for observant Muslims.

The opinion comes from Sheikh Mohamed al-Najimi, of the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy in Saudi Arabia. It is based on the part of Islamic law derived from a statement by the prophet in which dealing with alcohol in any form–including purchase, sale, transport, consumption, and manufacture–is strictly prohibited.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “PHARYNGULA”

Iraqi woman had 80 women raped then recruited as suicide bombers

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 4, 2009

A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.

Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.

In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT NEWS.COM.AU

Criminal brother killed sister for wearing make-up and mini-skirts

Posted in News by Skepdude on January 20, 2009

An attractive 16-year-old Muslim teenager was stabbed to death 23 times by her elder brother “to protect the family’s honour” after he tricked her in to meeting him at a McDonald’s burger bar car park.

Dark haired Morsal Obeidi was the daughter of an Afghan jet fighter pilot who fled the country after the Taleban came to power.

Together with his wife and five children the father settled in Hamburg, Germany in 1994 where Morsal grew up.

But although she had no problems adjusting to life in a European city her brother Ahmad (24) continually got in to trouble with police.

By the time he had tricked her in to meeting him, Ahmad had 30 convictions for assault and burglary. These also included a conviction for attacking a man with a knife after a drunken night out.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE BELFAST TELEGRAPH.