The myth of ‘religious extremism’

koranku-klux-klan_3153153b

I hate ‘religious extremism’.  It seems an obvious thing, to most decent human beings, to state.  The thing is, for many centuries, most religions have been pretty extreme.  Its only in more recent times that we have seen a watering-down of certain faiths and denominations in response to the trends, norms and ever-changing values of western society.

However, while we tolerate and, more to the point, glorify, the concept of religion in all its forms, we feed into the notion that the supernatural, un-proven, irrational entities and their accompanying values, offer acceptable belief systems, we allow the roots of extremism to fester.

If we accept the moderate teachings of most modern religions, that fit in with our current western sensitivities and world view (while neglecting or under-playing the many vicious, evil and immoral teachings of their ‘sacred’ texts) but deem the fundamentalist, death-obsessed (but true-to-the-letter of their barbaric scrolls nonetheless) interpretations wrong, we stand as nothing more, nor less, than hypocrites.

As an anti-theist, I see not only the existence of any god or gods as irrational, unproven and highly improbable, but the faith-based systems that accompany its belief as potentially enormously damaging, offering, for many, a justification to, at best, discriminate against and bully those of us who choose not to believe, or, at worst, commit heinous acts in its name.  Heinous, unspeakable acts that ARE often justified, approved of and oft encouraged, in numerous verses and texts of each abrahamic faith and many others.  To refute this is denial.  To accept those who choose to ignore these as ‘moderates’ is to accept the premise of religion in all its forms.  If you have to accept one warped belief (just because it sounds more palatable) based on mythical beings you must, therefore, accept another, even if its teachings irk with yours.  They are both warped and based on an irrational premise.

I dislike Islam no more than any other religion. I despise them all in equal measure. When people do ‘good’ in the name of religion, it is despite the religion not BECAUSE of it. Humans do not learn morality from religion, from the fear of God being instilled into them or the motivation of an eternal life.  On the contrary, too often their innate and learned morality is compromised by the irrational and hateful teachings of age-old nonsense.

We cannot rid the world of religion and I would never, as a liberal, seek to ban religions or stop free-thinking adults from choosing to follow and believe whatever they choose to. But we must, as a society, do more to encourage humanism, delegitimise religion in all its forms (from faith-based education, complete separation of state and religion, have the media refrain from seeking religious leaders’ opinions on issues totally unrelating to theology) and protecting our children from the chains of religion and indoctrination by insisting that only adults can affirm to membership of any given belief.

It is time we ceased placing any religion on the pedestal of respectability that so many believe it deserves and expose it for the complete and utter rubbish that it is, albeit trash you are entirely free to follow, in your own time, as an independent, free-minded adult.

Letter from Limburg #9: The religion of fitness

Basic Fit Maastricht Bosscherweg_1

Dear Blighty,

Today, I went to church.  It was the first time in years I had set foot inside a religious building, even longer a Christian one.

For many years, I have made the conscious decision not to set foot inside Christian buildings.  You see, Blighty, ever since the age of 11, after I had started at a Church of England secondary school, I soon realised that it was all BS.  Actually, I think it was more the fact that church services were as boring as Hell (which is an unfair comparison, Hell always seems a far more intriguing and interesting prospect than regurgitating the Benedictus and listening to a vicar droning on about another verse of the bible). This stubborn, but, in my opinion, principled position, has meant I have sat outside Winchester Cathedral, Barcelona’s La Segrada Familia and St.Blah Blah Blah Church in Melbourne, while my fellow travelling companions ventured inside to gawk at stained-glass windows, crucifixes and to light candles along with the thousands of other tourists who visit such places every day as yet one more stop on their itinerary.

I somehow felt that, by entering such buildings, I would be condoning their actions, both currently and historically.  I have occasionally, since my church ban, visited buildings of other religions, in order to learn about (and ultimately criticise) them.  But as both an atheist and, more importantly, an anti-theist, it strongly goes against my own values to give these buildings the kind of gravitas such things as the tourist industry bestows upon them.  Now, some among you may point out a hypocrisy in the fact that I have visited Auschwitz.  But Auschwitz, thankfully, no longer functions as it was intended, and exists as a testament to the worst atrocities of the human race.  Functioning religious buildings and their associated faiths rarely make apologies for the historic wrongs, least of all the present evils they continue to poison in the minds of millions across the planet.  While they exist to serve this purpose, I refuse to penetrate them.

However the church I entered today no longer serves a religious function.  It is now a gym.  And its been around 2 months since I last set foot in one.  Now, that’s unusual for me!

Since the age of 16, I have been a regular gym-goer.  In recent years, I would attend 5-6 times per week.  These last two months have, for various reasons, been my most sedate.  And, boy, did I feel it upon my return?!  Lost strength, soreness, stiffness – for the first time, in a long time, I felt unhealthy and out-of-shape.

Up until this two month sabbatical, I may have been described as attending the gym ‘religiously’.  Indeed, the parallel between the rituals of regular exercise and religious practice are frequently drawn, at least in language. ‘Fitness is my religion’, some claim.  As I head towards the pulpit of the former Dutch church, passing treadmills and stationary bikes in the place where pews filled with prayer sheets and hymn books once stood, I reflect on the notion and the extent to which fitness and religion collide and compete.

With a decline in church attendance and a belief in a god, accompanied by the explosion of gyms and fitness-related businesses across the Netherlands and western Europe, has the pursuit of a fitter and healthier physical existence replaced the desire to follow a path of righteousness in order to gain infinite spiritual existence in the after-life?  Have we replaced the notion of being created in God’s image with attempting to mould ourselves into our own version of statuesque living ‘gods’?

Of course, there are perhaps some obvious parallels.  Both impact on the lifestyle of the follower, requiring a slavish commitment and habitual repetition of certain actions and behaviours in the effort of goal reaching – be they physical or metaphysical.  But that is, I believe, where the parallels cease.

While I do my bit to promote exercise, I’ve never really been a part of the ‘fitness community’.  Although I am a qualified personal trainer, I tend to believe that a fitness regime should be part of a balanced lifestyle, not be your life.  Yes, I spend significant time and effort on my own diet and exercise, but I’m not one for attending fitness expos, entering competitions, hanging around with other fit freaks or being drawn into dull convos about who’s lifting what and who’s consuming the least or most calories.  Nor am I one for pushing slogans like “Be a beast”, “Get big or die trying” or “Eat, Train, Sleep”.  I think there should be more to life than that.

However, while I am certainly no high priest or major guru for the fitness world, as a lifestyle choice, it offers something that religion doesn’t: real tangible physical and mental benefits in this world.

So, fitness is actually more than religion.  Its a lifestyle, but not a belief system, but one that actually delivers what it promises.  It requires you make biological, physical changes for benefits in this life, not moral adjustments for the carrot-stick of a paradise in the next.  Religion is an empty, hollow contract between you and an invisible man in a place that does not exist.  Fitness is a promise to yourself to be a better person physically, and potentially mentally, than you were yesterday and than you will be today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, many of the motivations that drive those down a fitter path are often shallow and two-dimensional, driven by a desire to look better, be sexier, and, in turn, feel better.  There’s no reason to feel guilty about it.  As long as its not the only thing that drives us in life, then we should be able to steer  clear of venturing too far down the ‘dickhead’ path (the occasional ‘dickhead’ moments are permissible).  Plus, these are goals many of us pursue through a multitude of avenues, least of all the fashion and cosmetics industries.  Fitness is yet another, albeit one that requires long-term persistent commitment and drive.  Of course, you can’t workout a personality at a gym, that’s something you’ll have to work on elsewhere, if you don’t have one.

Religion rarely fulfils these goals.  On the contrary, it will frequently makes you look less appealing and it certainly isn’t sexy.  Any temptation you may have of evangelising and ‘spreading the word’ or, god (you choose the one) forbid, you decide to impose the judgements of your religion and ‘holy’ book on others, and you too will take a long ol’ drive down the highway of ‘dickheadedness’.  Not only will you share the arrogance of a ‘dickhead’ fitness freak, your arrogance is driven even more by delusion than even his/hers may be.

So, here’s the skinny: fitness people can be dickheads, sometimes driven by their obsession with the gym/pumping iron/the body beautiful (more often steroids), but, there’s nothing from within the fitness industry that will:

  • cause you to stop eating a food just because a book says so (it will be for a REASON, be it calorific, protein/carb/fat content and health).
  • make you hate gays, Jews, muslims, other denominations of your own belief system, non-believers, blasphemists, atheists…
  • require you to wear specific clothing (although being naked in the gym is not usually permitted, keep that to home workouts), cut your hair a certain way, cover your hair, grow a beard, wear a little hat…
  • make you chop off your foreskin and that of your son’s.
  • believe your wife, and every woman, should be treated differently to you just because she was born with a vagina.
  • encourage you to blow yourself up and commit suicide in a multitude of other ways, while killing others in process.

So, if you don’t want to be a racist, homophobic, wife-hating, child-abusing, nonsense-spouting, fairy-believing, deluded dickhead, don’t follow a religion.

If you don’t mind being a healthy, fit, clear-headed, positive-thinking, pumped-up dickhead, then come to the iron-side.

Is fitness the new religion?  Not really.  Its a heck of a lot better for you.

Give it a go, Blighty.  You might like it!

Benedict x

 

Letter from Limburg #8: My Solution To Combatting Extremism

puntos-programa-electoral-geert-wilders_1007910998_124213452_667x375

Dear Blighty,

I’d like to introduce you to a man from Limburg:  Geert Wilders.  He’s become quite a name recently.  Not only here in the Netherlands, but also around the world.

Just in case you weren’t aware, the Dutch just had an election on Wednesday.  It was generally thought, in the world press, that Geert would ride the same wave of populism that enabled Brexit to occur and Trump to triumph by gaining the largest number of votes.  But they were wrong.  Geert and his Party for Freedom came in second place, behind the governing party of Mark Rutte and not far ahead of the liberal D66 and the left-wing GreenLeft party.  The populist wave that the likes of Nigel Farage predicted, leading to the collapse of the EU, did not occur in the Netherlands.  Of course, it remains to be seen what will happen in France and Germany.

Geert Wilders’ politics are generally accepted as being on the far-right.  With his anti-EU stance and a closed-borders approach, its easy to accept this description.  His main party platform has always been focused on, what he calls, the ‘islamisation’ of Dutch culture.  Its not a new concern and its one that has previously cost a politician, Pim Fortuyn, his life.  Geert too is now under constant security 24 hours a day.

The fears about the impact of islamic extremism are shared across the board.  But Geert takes it one step further.  He makes the argument that Islam itself, not just its extremists, is an incompatible ideology with the Dutch values of freedom, democracy and tolerance.  His response is to call in measures like banning the Qu’ran, getting rid of mosques, muslim schools and stopping immigration from muslim countries.

Opponents decry these measures.  The Netherlands has long been a country known for its liberalism and tolerance.  How then, opponents argue, can you curtail freedoms and be intolerant to a certain group of people just because you dislike what they might say and believe?  Aren’t you, as a result, compromising the very values of liberalism and tolerance that the Dutch hold dear?

Now, I may make myself even more unpopular here, but I do not disagree with Geert’s analysis.  I think the values that guide Islam and huge chunks of its teachings are entirely against the principles that we hold dear.  Where I disagree is with his conclusion about how to deal with it.

Just as Chuka Immuna stated in your parliament this week, Blighty, I am not a fan of the use of the word ‘tolerant’.  I’d like to think that we do more than just tolerate most groups of people in western, liberal democracies.  That we celebrate, embrace and encourage diversity and difference and the fact we are able to live together and enjoy the things we do share in common.  However, I think it is naive to believe that, at times, there aren’t groups of people that, at best, we must ‘tolerate’.

Where Geert and I disagree in our position is that, while I recognise that Islam poses a threat to western society, I don’t think we should stop pointing the finger there.  Geert claims the Netherlands is based on Christian, Judeo and Humanist values.  I believe only one of those to be true.  I think that all religion poses a threat to the humanist and secular principles that western, liberal democracies generally base their belief systems.

Geert rejects this argument, making the point that, had he criticised Christianity or Judaism, he wouldn’t require 24 hour security, need to wear a bullet-proof vest at public appearances, be under fatwah by some in the Muslim faith and receive continual death threats.  This may be true and it may be accurate to say that the Islam of today is a far more vicious, violent and brutal religion that its abrahamic colleagues.  But you don’t need to rewind the clock back too far to see the ugly side of Christianity and Judaism and the misery that they wrought upon millions throughout the centuries.  Islam may be playing catch-up, but they’re all pretty sick philosophies, if you ask me.

Christianity and Judaism have been playing PR in a desperate attempt to lighten their tone, lessen the importance of the many death and violence obsessed passages of their holy scriptures, and, in some denominations at least, to seem more appealing to an enlightened masses and even segments of the community it flat-out states it despises and wishes death upon. The Old Testament and Torah are vile, vitriolic pages of the worst order – encouraging pedophilia, genocide, murder of homosexuals and enslavement, to quote just a few of its wonderful teachings.  Of course, Christians will write-off over half of its biblical contents because, they claim, Jesus came and preached ‘love thy neighbour and forgiveness’.  Not that the New Testament isn’t without its own degree of barbarity and questionable principles, not to mention the fact that God must be rather short-sighted if he had to send his ‘only son’ to confess that many of his previous teachings were in fact lies!

Islam is indeed medieval in development.  But so are most of the societies in which it originates and dominates.  Count ourselves lucky to have reached an elightened era that values humanity not BECAUSE of religion, but despite it, and let us not forget the millions of victims it took along the way.

Yes, the philosophy and teachings that guide Islam are incompatible with today’s western culture.  But so is Christianity and Judaism.  In fact, religion itself is incompatible with the predominantly  progressive secular and humanist society we are creating in much of The West.

We cannot ban the Qu’ran or close borders to people who happen to have been born into the Islamic faith.  That fundamentally goes against the values that we in the West hold dear.  It also further pits Islam against the West and against other religions, when we should be recognising that the belief in supernatural entities and in divinically-attributed doctrinal systems that dictate how we should live our lives should be consigned to the cess pit of human progress.  But not banned.

The only way that extremism can be truly combatted is by a culture of dis-crediting and de-legitimising religion.

Let’s ‘tolerate’ religion.  Let’s do just that.  But no more.  Let’s not encourage it or give it a greater voice or allow it more clout.  Religion should be a private thing.  No more.   End all religious education, remove religion from ALL workplaces, cease allowing religious leaders from being part of the legislative process, giving them tax cuts, allowing charitable status, we need to stop consulting with them on matters relating to social policy, giving them air time on our TVs and radios, or column space in our media, simply because they are religious leaders – if they must, then their belief in mythical, unproven, unfounded ghouls, ghosts and spirits should banish them to the back-page bile as pedalled by other such fraudsters who call themselves ‘psychics’ and astrologers.

Rather than assisting Christianity particularly in its widespread PR campaign to make itself more appealing to the public by accentuating the more palatable aspects of its preachings and dictates and glossing over or ignoring the vile, heinous, vicious, hateful and blood-thirsty verses, we need to call it out for the nonsense that it is.  By all means, allow people to believe what they want in their private lives, but we must stop promoting religious belief as an equally valid and relevant philosophy to a humanist, secular, rational, science-based society.

By encouraging, often promoting, religion, as we too often do in the West, we enable a breeding ground for extremism to occur.  It is very difficult, hypocritical in fact, to state that one person’s interpretation of scripture is incorrect but another’s is not, simply because it fits in better with your model of how society should be.  The fact is, most extremists or fundamentalists are being far truer to the letter of their religion than the ‘pick and mixers’ who now reject large chunks of their sacred texts simply because it doesn’t fit in with the liberal, largely humanist, values that we now hold dear.  But that doesn’t make either more true or more valid.  As far as I am concerned, they are both a complete load of bull-shit.  But if you accept and celebrate one, you must, through extrapolation of the bizarre logic of faith and belief, tolerate the other.

Geert Wilders’ campaign failed, but it did expose cracks in how far Dutch tolerance is prepared to be pushed.  While I admire his campaign to be honest about the place of Islam in our society, when too many politicians seem too scared or unwilling to do so, I would wish that he, and others, could extend that honesty to the impact, and offence, of all elements of religion, to our liberal sensitivities.

As a society that is not officially secular, Blighty, I hope you’re able to take a few of my concerns on board.

Best of luck with tackling your extremists!

Benedict x

WARNING: Porn ain’t so bad

download

Many anti-porners will attempt to hypothesise the negative effects that viewing pornography can have on the individual viewer and on society at large.  Having contributed to well over 50 debates on TV, radio and at universities, usually in opposition to some member of the anti-porn lobby, I notice it is very easy to throw assertions, but proving any of these hypotheses is impossible.  It can be equally difficult, at times, to prove the arguments in favour of pornography too.

However, here is a list of 35 things we know, for sure, that legal pornography cannot be accused of doing, proving that such legalised activities as smoking, drinking, over-eating and belonging to organised religion, really do pose more of a threat to you and your health, and those of your children and loved ones, than pornography ever could.

 

Legal pornography does not:

  • pollute your lungs with carcinogens and breathe poisonous toxins over your children.
  • clog your arteries or raise your cholesterol.
  • cause a heart attack.
  • affect the health of your liver and brain.
  • cause you to be impotent or infertile.
  • cause you to be intoxicated or high with the possibility of indulging in unruly or anti-social.
  • cause you to end you up in A&E as a result of being overly intoxicated or high.
  • physically harm you in any way.
  • dislike you because you happen to support a certain football team.
  • look down on your because you sound a certain way or have a certain accent.
  • care what clothes you wear, if you wear clothes, have tattoos, piercings or facial hair.
  • discriminate against you on any grounds – except that you can afford it.
  • damage your un-born child.
  • force you or your child to marry someone not of their choosing.
  • mutilate your genitals in its name.
  • tell you that eating a pig, having consensual sex with someone of the same sex or using contraception is a sin and will result in spending an eternal afterlife in a pit of fire.
  • beat you until you recite its holy text correctly.
  • promote a holy text where its ‘divine creator’ is responsible for at least (according to its own numbers) 2,821,364 deaths.
  • force you to watch it.
  • teach you that it is better to gang-rape a virgin teenager than have consenting sex with someone of the same sex.
  • imprison or kill you for choosing to abort an unborn child.
  • hate you for not watching it.
  • dunk your head in water, thereby inducting you into it, despite being way too young to know what the hell is going on.
  • make you believe you have the right to kill, in its name, those who do not watch it or support it.
  • encourage you to hang around outside the funerals of dead soldiers, denouncing them and their government.
  • encourage you to fly passenger aircraft into tall buildings.
  • encourage children to blow themselves up in its name.
  • encourage you to run away to a rogue terrorist state involved in brutal and mass murders of innocent civilians.
  • move known paedophiles from one diocese to another in an attempt to conceal past cases of child abuse.
  • look after your children and then beat or rape them while doing so.
  • force you to cover your hair, body and face and punish you for not doing so.
  • force you to grow a beard and punish your for not doing so.
  • torture or execute you for being homosexual .
  • torture or execute you for not believing in it.
  • start a war in its name.

The problem with pornography is…

family-safe-pornography-nggid0212-ngg0dyn-600x450x100-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010

… well, just that.

We speak of ‘pornography’ as if we know what each of us is referring to exactly and yet, very often, some of us have quite different notions of what pornography is.

For some of us too, the word ‘pornography’ is highly loaded.  It only takes some people to hear the first syllable and the look of revulsion on their face is enough to make even the most bitter of lemons seem an attractive alternative.

Its porn today and the end of civilisation as we know it tomorrow!  Or that’s what some will have us believe.

The fact is that we seem to treat pornography entirely differently from any other influences, industries and forms of expression in our society.  It is often whipped up with doom and gloom stories and tied, inextricably, to emotional responses that allow all sense of rationale to fly out the nearest open window, or, failing that, the minutest of cracks in the wall.

So, in an effort to try and put some degree of rationale on what is too often disproportionate and hypocritical scare-mongering that could so easily be voiced by the “WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!” lady from The Simpsons, I have compiled a short list (yes, another one of Bendy’s lists – as someone on Ask.fm accused me of doing too frequently) of myth-busting and sanity-inducing statements to, hopefully, reassure you that the end is not quite nigh just yet:

“Pornography is…”  

Well, what exactly?  Saying ‘pornography’ and believing that it is one homogenous thing, is like saying ‘religion’ (there he goes again!) and believing that the grey-haired, cake-making, WI member who attends her local CofE village church every Sunday is the same as a suicide bomber in Fallujah.

The fact is, they are worlds apart in many ways, except for the fact that they both believe, or purport to believe, in a supernatural entity called ‘God/Allah’.

When it comes to pornography, there is a plethora of material ranging simply from displays of human flesh to penetrative sex and yes, on the extreme of the scale, to acts that some would describe as violent.  (When I refer to ‘pornography’ I am speaking of legal pornography within the United Kingdom – much like I am referring to recognised religions, not cults, when I speak of ‘religion’).  The media, and those who are anti-porn (whatever it is they are actually ‘anti’) will frequently have you believe that it is all one thing.   It is not.  At its simplest definition, ‘pornography’ is the visual or literary portrayal of acts of a sexual nature.  But that is all that all ‘pornography’ really shares in common.

You wouldn’t blame a wine connoisseur for the binge-drinking epidemic.

There is a certain snobbery in our country around the wine culture and those people who might call themselves ‘wine connoisseurs’.  It is perceived to be  a real skill and an indication of refinement within our culture.  I have never heard anyone lay the blame for the thousands of young people who go binge drinking every weekend, often crowding our A&E departments, at the doors of the sophisticats we know as ‘wine connoisseurs’.  Perish the thought!

Yet, however you put it, these people are consuming a drug, one that the Independent Science Committee deemed to be the most dangerous of all substances, licit and illicit.  Wine, beer, spirits, alco-pops, they are all a poison that your body does not need.  Taken in excess, alcohol has PROVEN negative side effects on both the individual and on society at large.  In too many cases, it can also be directly linked to deaths.  And yet, the wine connoisseurs of the middle and upper classes can happily sip, suck and spit on their poison, sound in the knowledge that because THEY are able to regulate their intake, they will never be blamed for the suffering of others who cannot, or choose not to.

True, I hear you say, but you might blame individual alcohol companies now and then for products and pricing structures attempting to appeal to the young and most vulnerable.  And yet, when it comes to pornography, yet again, we see quite a different set of rules.

All pornographers, whether performers or producers alike, are usually tarnished with the same brush.  We are ALL responsible for those individuals who may, or may not (because nothing has yet been proven when it comes to porn), suffer negative side effects from consuming it.

While the director of Cobra beer might receive a Lordship for his role in the alcohol industry, which is obviously entirely blameless for any negative repercussions on an individual’s life, we have yet to witness a porn producer receiving similar acclaim for services to the British economy and sexual expression.

– You were / are a BAD role model for our children.

OK, so maybe I have a personal gripe here.  But I have heard it on more than several occasions and the level of hypocrisy here continues to baffle me.

Let me remind you that there are NO PROVEN NEGATIVE EFFECTS from the consumption of pornography.  None whatsoever.  I am not saying that there cannot be, but that none can yet be proven.  Sure, that is not a glowing praise for pornography, of course not.  But just bear that in mind as I rant on.

While the idea that an adult who is a teacher and who also chooses, in their own time (yes, OUTSIDE of the classroom) to participate in a legal activity which is participated in by consenting legal individuals which produces a product for the consumption of legal ADULTS which has currently no proven negative side effects whatsoever is utterly reprehensible in the minds of many, they would take no umbridge in the knowledge that their child is taught by people who, through their own actions and choices, indulge in activities that are life threatening and, in some cases, DIRECTLY so, for young people.

Are we really saying that someone who chooses to consume vast amounts of calories beyond their body’s needs, knowing that obesity is DIRECTLY attributable to DEATH, can be held up as a ‘role model’ more so than someone who performs in pornography?  That a teacher who takes a few puffs on a cigarette at break time and then breathes the toxins over your child during the following period, knowing the huge amount of DEATHS DIRECTLY LINKED to both smoking and passive smoking, is a better ‘role model’ for your children than someone who is comfortable exploring the various avenues of human sexual expression for other people to consume and enjoy?

I’m not saying these people cannot be role models in some ways, but don’t have one rule for one and another for something else.  This is nothing but total misplaced and disproportionate hypocrisy of the grandest scale!  And why?  Because its porn, of course.  D’uh!

– God forbid, my kids might see you naked or having sex!

You know what, despite the fact we know they shouldn’t, they might indeed tune in and see me being naked on screen or having sex in a porn film.

Is seeing anyone in their most natural state doing something which is, undoubtedly, one of the most natural activities, irrespective of the age of the viewer, something that I, or anyone else should be ashamed of?   Should I not be far more ashamed if a young person caught me sipping a glass or wine, chomping on a bag of chips or puffing on a cigarette?

While I can understand that some types of pornography may carry mixed and/or wrong messages, is the simple act of viewing human nudity or sexual intercourse really posing any danger or threat to anyone, including children?  We deem it perfectly acceptable to view animals in all their glory and gawp at them during coital action in the name of ‘scientific research’ or ‘nature documentaries’ and don’t believe that this is something that children should be protected from.  What, and more crucially, WHO are we really protecting here?  Is it really the children who should be growing up in a society that does not estrange sexuality from part of the human experience at any stage or are we actually protecting the many adults, including amongst them the parents and teachers, who lack the confidence and ability to broach the topic with the openness, relevance and maturity that any truly civilised society should be capable of doing?

– It’s the violent and rape porn I don’t like.

And, you know what?  Nor do I.

But its not the porn I don’t like, it the violence and the rape.

Funnily enough, I don’t tolerate violence or rape in any medium.  Which is why I have little tolerance for such activities as boxing and wrestling.  But, yet again, I don’t tarnish all sports with the same brush.  I recognise that while violence may exist within some sports, it is the principle of VIOLENCE that I oppose and not the fact that it is a sport.

So, there you go.  A few statements that so many often band around without taking the moment to think about the, as is so often the case, hypocrisy of their ill-considered statements.  So, next time you decide to jump on that band wagon, just take a brief step back and ask yourself – is this really what I mean to say and, if I do, am I consistent in my opinion?

Most importantly, hopefully its made you realise that, as a result of the proliferation of pornography in recent years, the end is not quite as nigh as some may have you believe.  At least, its certainly not any nearer because of the porn.

Shag a dog & hide your face!

PP-Maquiso02

It took me a while to think whether or not I would actually write anything related to a story about a couple in North Carolina being jailed for making porn involving bestiality with a dog.  I mean, what more is there left to say?

But then I read the following comment, by someone calling themself, rather appropriately, ‘Blindman’, in response to the story:

“So while i think this act is disgusting, i honestly didnt know it was actually illegal.

You can literally by Dildos shaped like various animal dicks, machines that will pound you in every orifice, and make a video of you getting shit and pissed on while a transsexual has sex with you, and yet this is illegal? 

Maybe i don’t understand, but if these freak want to get it on with a dog and post it on a website dedicated to people having sex with animals, should it really be illegal.

Again, i feel after typing all that i need to say i find the act itself disgusting in the extreme, but i don’t find that a reason to make something illegal.”

It occurred to me that, while this person may possibly be blind, this would be no excuse for understanding that anyone/thing involved in the act of sexual intercourse with a human being must be able to demonstrate a consent that is humanly understandable.

Blind?  I think not.  Stupid?  Without a doubt.

It’s about consent.

Plain and simple.

No matter how ‘in touch’ you may be with the inner workings of your dog’s or cat’s mind, even if you were Dr. Dolittle, you are unable to demonstrate, beyond any reasonable doubt, that your pet has given consent for any sexual act YOU may CHOOSE to inflict upon it.  Even the regular humps I receive on my leg from my husky-mix are not an invitation or licence for me to do the same to her.

Bestiality is, quite rightly, illegal in the United Kingdom.  It astonishes me however, that on the shelves of sex shops on the continent, I can quite freely and legally purchase videos involving dogs, cats, horses – any animal actually – for just a few Euros.  (Although, seeing as Romania has recently decided to slaughter thousands of its own street dogs, should we be surprised that others who share the continent have similar levels of compassion for their four-legged ‘friends’?)  And yet, if these videos involved children, there would be an uproar.  Not that I support either, but there is the argument to make that, unlike animals, children are, in the vast majority of cases, able to explicitly give consent.  It is only the law that states that consent sought from minors cannot be recognised.

It is quite right, even though I am an animal lover, that we elevate the safety and well-being of children above those of beasts, but is it really so far-fetched an idea to see the hypocrisy that some are too blind or ignorant to understand if bestiality is ever deemed as acceptable?

We would be utterly horrified, and most of us are, by the idea of anyone under the age of 18 being co-erced or even, for that matter, ‘choosing’ to be involved in pornography, but force them to cover their faces in the name of religious freedom and we (or at least some) deem it acceptable.

In fact, thousands of minors in this country alone are FORCED, usually from an early enough age where they haven’t the ability, let alone the inclination, to object, to be mutilated, covered in a bizarre variety  of garb (most of which is never mentioned in any religious text whatsoever) depending on their sex and the religion, wear their hair in specific styles (men and women), be starved for certain periods of the year, to be forced to pray (or at least look like they are doing so) several times a day, and, to top it all off, be continually made to believe that if one fails to do any of these things, they run the risk of spending an eternity in the after-life in some burning pit of hell-fire.

Only this week, in a common-sense (albeit watered down, ruling) by Judge Peter Murphy at Blackfriars Crown Court, a defendant was told that she must remove her niqab if she wishes to testify.   Meanwhile, Birmingham Metropolitan College was forced (some might say ‘bullied’) to reverse a decision after over 8,000 people signed a petition against its policy to ban students from wearing the niqab.

Is religious freedom really something that deserves being fought for?  Why should something so irrational and based on nothing but myth and fairy tales and, without too much doubt, lies, be permitted the same level of freedom we bestow on things that are grounded in far more sense?  That we put religion on the same level as a race, gender, disability, age, sexuality is an utter insult to all those things.  Religion is a CHOICE.  The others are neither a choice and nor are they based on shoddy evidence and centuries of diluted chinese whispers, let alone give people a licence to involve themselves in, and co-erce others into, acts that would be otherwise intolerable in the minds of most within a sensible, evidence-based society.

We might draw the line at flying planes into skyscrapers, but it seems that, as long as its done in the name of a cult – uh-hum, my mistake – I mean, ‘religion’, then the rest of us either grin and bear it or, as is too often the case, elevate it to some level of respectability.    So, its okay to chop off your kid’s foreskin, force your little girl to conceal every portion of her head except (in some cases, including) her face , make your little boy shave off all his hair except a few strands behind his ears, deny your kids the right to access all forms of communication and access to the ‘real’ world and let them die because you refuse to allow them a blood transfusion or necessary medical treatment.   There are even cases in the USA, such as that of rastafarian, Ras Iyah Ben Makahna, who was permitted to import cannabis because, as the federal court argued, it was for religious reasons and consistent with his beliefs.  (Get this:  getting high allows people to get closer to God.  Well, there’s a f**king surprise!!!  When I’m high, I can get in touch with various fictitious beings too!)

It dawns on me that I’m missing a trick here.  I was dismissed from my teaching job for doing something that some people deem unacceptable.  If its cool to do completely irrational and abusive things, let alone the sane, sensible and legal thigs, in the name of religion, why on earth didn’t I take the time to set up a cult – sorry – a ‘religion’ and state that public displays of sexual activity were an essential part of my belief and enabled me to get in touch with a supernatural being too?  The truth is, it IS a fundamental, if not exactly an essential, part of my belief.  But my belief is in the human existence and experience and its ability to explore all avenues of its sexuality and does not hinge on the unlikely belief in a fictitious entity in the skies.  Am I being discriminated against for this?  Or is this just another example of a f**ked up society with a total inability to see the hypocrisies and double-standards of its own making?

Related articles

Women in Wales can now spread bile too!

womenbishops

Yesterday, the Church in Wales voted to allow women bishops.  While I recognise that it is undoubtedly the right and fair thing to do, forgive me for not believing that is it a positive move for society at large.  

As I listen to the Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan, on this morning’s ‘Woman’s Hour’ on BBC Radio 4, he makes no bones about the fact that this move will improve the image of the Church in Wales and, in his words, responds to claims by some that excluding women just doesn’t “make sense”.

While many in the Church in Wales might support the ordaining of female priests on ideological grounds of sexual equality, there are many within it who simply see it (although may not admit it) as a cynical and pragmatic move to improve the appeal of an institution that has lost so much support in recent years.  But the fight for equality acts, yet again, as a smokescreen to the realities of religion and raises many questions about the motives of those in the church to treat their organisation, not as the God-given establishment it oft claims, but a business that seeks to widen its appeal to the masses through positive marketing campaigns of this ilk.

If God was the omnipotent being his believers claim, why were his psychic abilities not tuned into the future desire for female ordination, but instead let them wait hundreds of years and battle for this ‘right’?

Indeed, if God was so loving of all his subjects and cared about their equal treatment, why were women not always ordained from the inception?

If, as I strongly suspect, that God has nothing to do with it (as most fictitious entities who are not directed by their author / animator tend to), then we must raise these fundamental questions around the motives of The Church in Wales:

– If a religion is either true or not true (for it cannot be both – God either exists or he does not – and your version of the truth is either the correct one or it is not), why is the ‘image’ of your organisation and its appeal, beyond the realm of ‘spreading the truth’,  any concern of yours?

– Is female ordination simply your cynical attempt to appeal to a greater audience, responding to contemporary calls for gender equality, and thereby increase the numbers of bums on seats and pounds in your donation box?

– If, as the Archbishop claims, the lack of female priests just didn’t make sense to the majority, since when is the church in the business of making ‘sense’?  The whole point of religion is precisely that it does not make sense, that it is a belief in the irrational and does not need to conform to the trends and whims of terrestrial society.

So, while many may be celebrating this latest move as a good thing for the church and a victory for female equality, I would argue that it is a negative move for society at large.  That women now have the opportunity to spread the same amount of lies, bile and vitriol as their male counterparts is not something I take any amount of pleasure in.  That women, who we often see as the more trustworthy, caring and nurturing sex, may, as a result of all these perceptions, ‘improve’ the image of the church and its appeal to, among other people, women and the young, thereby clouding the reality of the message, contradictions and hypocrises of religion, is a scary prospect indeed.

Respecting Religion

RESPECTRELIGION

I was deeply disturbed by a recent event that took place at my old university. According to ‘The Independent’, students attending a debate about sharia law organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary University in London were told they would be “hunted down and killed” by a man who burst into their lecture theatre and filmed them on his phone.  The man had reportedly been motivated by a call to action placed on extremist website, Islamic Awakening.

After I was informed of this, I made the following postings on Twitter:

How long are we going to let religious nutcases who have no evidence for their beliefs, threaten, harm & kill us in our own free-thinking land?  You might be able to bully & beat religion into your own children, but don’t fucking dare threaten me with your unsubstantiated bullshit.  The idea that religion, by sheer virtue of being a religion, demands respect is utter nonsense. It requires no more respect than the respect it has for other groups in society. Which is not a lot much of the time.


I was then pleasantly surprised to be joined in a debate by one of my former students who challenged some of my views, particularly the manner in which I had expressed them:

STUDENT:  I dunno, that seems to me to be a bit of a generalisation.  I’m anti-religion myself, but to state that religious groups not be respected undermines society’s views on tolerance all together, right?  We should respect all groups of people regardless of if what they’re saying makes complete sense or it’s all utter bullshit.


ME:  Its not the bullshit I have no respect for, it is the lack of respect some religions have for others and yet expect respect.  


STUDENT:  Sure but that applies to extremists.  It appears (to me anyway) like you’re criticising all religious people.


ME:  It definitely applies to extremists but, I would argue, also applies to some who might class themselves as moderates too.  


We should absolutely tolerate difference, but for things we have choice over, we must be prepared to justify and be judged for.  Tolerance for the intolerant is surely intolerable even for the most tolerant if the safety and security of all is paramount.   I promote tolerance of difference for things which we have no control over. My tolerance does not extent to hate-mongers.


STUDENT:  Which isn’t the case because the majority of religious people i know are peaceful, respectful and -to an extent- open-minded.


ME:  Many religious people are indeed. But many are not and they use religion to justify their actions.  Those who are peaceful and respectful are so in spite of their religion, not usually because of it.  They are pickers and choosers and ignore the most wicked and brutal parts of their religion.  Which is good for society, of course.  But their moderation comes from a moderate society, not from a religion.   I am not thankful to their religion for their moderation, I am thankful to an enlightened society that has impacted on their interpretation of their religion to justify to themselves and make it seem more respectful and relevant to others.

STUDENT:  Exactly, and I commend liberal thinkers who take into account sociological changes when interpreting and practicing their religion and respect them more for it.   The beauty of free people do not have to follow religious texts to the word and can change aspects of it.  I don’t think religions should be viewed as institutions set in stone that cannot be changed, so I think it’s wrong to criticise religion itself, rather criticise those who are too narrow-minded to accept different views.


ME:  I do not disagree with you at all, (think I share a lot in common with you to be honest) but, playing devil’s advocate, let me present the following arguments to you:


– If a holy text is, as some believe, the actual word of God, why would it need changing?


– Is not the changing of interpretation to suit modern society simply a PR campaign by some in those religions to make it appear more palatable and spread the delusion of God to people who might otherwise question it?


– Should the fundamentalists not at least have more respect for the fact they are not ‘pick and mix’ followers?


– If a God-created religion needs changing, isn’t it evidence that it was not created by a God at all?  If she has, surely she would have had the foresight to have predicted these societal changes.


STUDENT:  Hmm… I guess, because personally I view all religions as different interpretations of one ‘higher entity’,   I pretty much disregard the validity of ‘holy’ texts.  So when I look at them I’m more inclined to be focusing on positive aspects they promote, and disregard the more negative as mere views of the time that they were written, which is why I, on the whole, respect religion but condemn religious fundamentalism.


ME:  But if you disregard the texts you disregard the whole basis of Judaism, Christianity & Islam and simply say that their belief is a belief in a higher entity and that is all. Which clearly gels with your own interpretation, but isn’t that you basically saying that each of those religions is based on utter bullshit except for the fact they believe in a higher entity?  Therefore expressing, as I was, a lack of respect for much of the basis of each of the main religions in this land.


STUDENT:  I think any religion is just a human attempt to conceptualise and understand a higher entity, or ‘God’, so I wouldn’t call the basis of religion ‘utter bullshit’, just an attempt to rationalise the world as we know it and I think it’s a false dichotomy (A level English 😉 ) to say you either respect or disrespect religion as a whole.


ME:  But your belief is not in a religion but in a higher entity. So if a text, which is the basis of these religions, is simply a human effort to rationalise the world as we know it at the time that we know it, isn’t that therefore a nice way of saying it is ‘utter bullshit’?  That it is man-made twoddle and the only leg they, rather shakily, stand on is a belief in an unproven higher entity?


I know of some interpretations of some religions for which I have more respect for.  But I do not respect them automatically because of their religious status.  Religions too often have an untouchable status in our society which elevates them to a level which some seem to think excludes from criticism and ridicule.  ‘Religions’ are, after all, no different from ‘cults’.  The differences are only in numbers of followers and length of life-span that has granted them greater acceptance in society.


 I’m not saying I disrespect religion per se.  I’m saying they should not just expect respect because they are a religion.  Of course, I do not class all religious people under the same light or, indeed, all denominations of a given religion.  


Clearly, I would not class you as someone who is religious.  Believing in a higher entity does not make you religious.


STUDENT:  So what would your view be on the Danish newspaper that depicted the prophet Mohammed?


ME:  Denmark is not a Muslim country.


Denmark is a democracy.


Why should rules that people who choose to be Muslims follow be imposed on those of us who choose not to be Muslims?  If visitors to Saudi Arabia must accept the principles of a violent and brutal Sharia legal system, then those who choose to reside and visit Denmark must accept that it is a free-thinking and democratic system with its own laws, none of which are dictated to them by any religion whatsoever.   


Its funny how so many newspapers in Islamic states will make anti-semitic comments or characterise Jewish people, but the moment a newspaper in a non-islamic state pokes fun at their religion the reaction of some muslims is of threats of death and violence.
As a citizen of the UK who chooses to continue to reside here, the only laws I follow are the laws of the land.  I am not Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, etc.  Anyone from any of those religions tries to impose their rules on me they can (with no respect whatsoever) fuck right off.


STUDENT:  I can’t really comment on islamic newspapers because i’ve never seen one LOL, but, in regards to the Danish one, surely that was an issue of disrespect for a religion, despite the fact Denmark is a secular state, the press should still have respect for a rule which is so highly regarded in the q’ran, although perhaps religions and religious people (even  though the number of people who think like this is small) should be open to criticism.  But i think it would lead to a lack of  intolerance to other religions.  Wait i’ve lost my train of thought :S


ME:  Ah, but this is exactly the crux of my argument: Why should any religion command respect just because those who believe it might be offended? This is ridiculous.


This is a religion that often has no respect for anyone who dissents from it in lands where Islam is the official religion.  That will stone, hang, beat, lash anyone who does anything they deem as ‘wrong’.  


The West is too often too scared to criticise precisely because of the extremists (not only in Islam) who are nothing more than bullies, brutes and psychopaths who believe they have a god on their side.  


Should we have to cower to them because of this?   


 Should we have to tip-toe and be victims of their bullying tactics or should, like the brave editors of the Danish newspaper, actually say, ‘look, you live by your rules I live by mine! Don’t like them, fuck off to a land where you agree with the rules.’


Too many people use the West as a money-making entity but have zero respect for our brand of tolerance and throw it right back  in our faces.  You want to live in a land where people are not free to criticise others, or express themselves sexually or according to their own religious beliefs or even possess none, as free/equal women, then please, go to Saudi Arabia or Iran or numerous other Islamic states.  You have options.  This land is for people who CHOOSE to live somewhere not dictated to by religious dogma.


Practice what the hell you want in this land, but don’t impose it on others.    


Any religion worth its weight in gold (or any other matter) should have no problem with being questioned. Its only because it fears people knowing too much or being able to question too much that it imposes such rigid and intolerant practices.  Any religion that imposes such practices is not a real religion.  If ‘believers’ only believe because they are bullied into it through coercive means and abusive practices, then its not a belief, is it?  Its an imposition.
Religion, where it fails, bullies and abuses, must be exposed.


We should never be too scared to stand up to the hypocrises of religion. 


STUDENT:  Very, very, very true.


ME:  Noooooo! Don’t give in that easily!!!!

Lay off the Muslims!

Here’s something I recently found from an old blog I started a couple of years when I was known as nothing but a good ol’ high schooL teacher.   Just thought I’d share it with you.  I’ll be digging up some other things from my past to see if and how much sense they make today and if, indeed, I still even agree with them:

Pakistani_boys

“We’ve seen the underachievement of young black males.  We’ve heard about the inner-city white working class boys who aren’t making the grades.  Well now its Muslim boys raising a cause for concern, at least in the London Borough of Redbridge.
Of course  ‘Muslim boys’ is as homogenous a group as ‘black males’ was/is.  Encompassing all our young men whether Sunni or Shi’a, Turkish or Saudi, Pakistani or Bangladeshi.  And yet, what do they have in common?  A religion and a demonisation of specifically Muslim males which was at its height in the aftermath of 9/11 and continues to permeate society.  Islamophobia is ever-present and for British-born Muslims, society emits an array of mixed messages.  For some of them, their families tell them they are not Muslim enough, not Pakistani enough, while the media warns against becoming overly-islamised and tells us that places like Pakistan are the breeding ground of Jihadists and the Taliban.   British-born, British-raised Muslims, sometimes who have never even visited their country of family origin face these images and perceptions every day.
Muslim boys are constantly, whether it being a serious term of offence or merely a joke among their peers, labeled as ‘terrorists’.  Simply possessing an Islamic name makes them target of increased suspicion, checks and interrogation by police, immigration officials, customs and other security services.
For most people in this country, Islamophobia means nothing. There are no Muslims in the Northamptonshire village from which I hail.  But for the sake of our Muslim boys, who are decent, innocent young souls, lay off the demonisation, lets give them something to be proud about, welcome them as part of our community and lets work with theirs and not against it.”

An Eye For An Eye… when it suits.

On Tuesday night, a report, by Fran Abrams on BBC Radio4’s ‘File on 4’, revealed that, of 200 local councils that were asked, 191 of them disclosed that there had been over 400 allegations of physical abuse at madrassas throughout Great Britain.  Despite the huge number of allegations, only 10 cases had been to court and only two resulted in convictions.  On top of this, the BBC also discovered 30 allegations of sexual abuse over the past three years.

MADRASSAABUSE

As those of you know who have been following me and my and my foster son’s campaign, ‘Azadi’, to, as one of its aims, bring an end to violence in madrassas in this country (http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/13956), these allegations of abuse come as no surprise to us.  However, what comes as a surprise and shock to me is the ongoing reluctance by many of those in the Muslim community to do anything about it.  Its actions are echoing the decades of abuse in the Catholic church, where, for many years there, as with the madrassas now, the attitude was to sweep it under the carpet and ignore it.

There are many in the Muslim community who even perceive it as quite normal and acceptable behaviour, some parents even encourage it.  When I spoke to some former students of mine who had attended madrassas, some who still do, and asked about physical abuse, the response was “yes, it happens, so what?”.

There are those who argue that the Imams and teachers at these madrassas are only carrying on practices which are commonplace in such educational institutions in countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, indeed where many of them are born and have spent their training.  However, yet again, this is an example of a religious group’s actions which, although may be tolerated by some or even many within its own community, is at loggerheads with the values of the system within which it now chooses to reside.

As a result of the inaction (and wide-scale acceptance) by much of the Muslim community to allegations of abuse, victims rarely report the crime.  Indeed, as Fran Abrams discovered, there are even cases where victims have reported abuse and subsequently been ostracised by the community, despsite instances where the defendant was found guilty.  In other cases, victims who initially make allegations are pressured into dropping them for fear of community reprisals and bringing dishonour onto the family and their community.

Whatever the official numbers of physical and sexual abuses in our country’s madrassas, Nazir Afzal, the chief crown prosecutor for the North West of England, said he believed the BBC’s figures represented “a significant underestimate”.

What is happening in many British madrassas is a national disgrace and, furthermore, a disgrace to a religious community that is often the first to point its finger when, the so-called, ‘morals’ of others do not fit in with its own.  For a religion that believes in the principle of “an eye-for-an-eye”, it appears only to come into practice so long as, whatever is revealed, does not bring its own religion into disrepute.

Recently, I was publicly criticised, in the Ilford Recorder, by a parent of a former student of mine, a Dr Anwar Hussein, who stated that he is:

“very angry that my child, with hundreds of other minors at Beal High, was subject to a teacher who was engaged in working in the adult sex industry, which, as a follower of Islam, I find highly immoral, repugnant and completely unacceptable and incompatible with my religious beliefs.” 




Without wishing to remind Dr Hussein that this is neither a Muslim country, nor is my former employer, Beal High School, a Muslim school, it might also do him some good to hold a mirror to his own community and ask why so many of those who share his ‘religious beliefs’ find it acceptable to tolerate activities that go against our shared British values.  He chooses to live here.  I choose not to follow Islam, or any religion for that matter, thank you very much.

Personally, I believe that whatever my child’s teachers do outside of the classroom is entirely a matter of their choice, but the moment that teacher beats my child with a stick or touches my child in a sexual manner at any time (not to mention within the school time!!!), then I will be pulling that child from that school and bringing forward allegations without a second thought AND not giving a stuff whatever those in the rest of my community think or care about it!

Of course, Dr Hussein is an exception to this rule.  He would be one of the few within his community who would be brave enough to speak up and take a stand against the actions of some of his fellow religious compatriots.  Of course he would, I have no doubt.

Meanwhile, yesterday my son came home and revealed to me that one of his good friends, a fellow Pakistani, is due to be ‘married off’ in February next year.  The girl is 17 years old and, despite her parents wishes, does not want to be married.  Indeed, she has other plans for herself.  The parents are moving to Saudi Arabia and are insistent, prior to their move, that their oldest daughter is to be married.

It riles me to the core that so many parents, particularly, although not exclusively, within the Asian community, feel that it is their right, as a parent, to dictate the romantic and sexual lives of their children, not to mention the education and career.  These are parents who, in many cases, have chosen (for whatever reason, often economic) to live in this society, to breed in this society, to bring up children in this society, knowing full-well what the values of this society are, and yet to impose, on their British-born children, values that go totally against the values that we in Britain instill in the minds of our young British citizens.

For many years, I have been a strong supporter of multi-cultural communities.  I still am.  I have done and will always fight racism and discrimination wherever its ugly head appears.  Well over half of my friends and associates are either born elsewhere or of foreign parentage.  And, believe me, there are many cases where I would rather a foreigner as a neighbour than an ignorant, insular, inbred Brit, as so many of us are.

I also share great empathy with the many ethnic communities who originate from lands that were formerly of the British Empire.  I recognise how this country took advantage of your lands and peoples for its own selfish benefit; how you were made to believe that the Queen is your Queen, London your capital city and that you also are as British as a British-born man.  And yet, the reality, when you arrived on these shores, has been very different.  I recognise those wrongs and the mistreatment that you have been subject to for many years on these islands.

However, lets make it very clear: religion is not race.  Religion is a matter of belief and choice.  This choice, at times, you must have to justify and should be discriminated for.

Britain should absolutely open its arms to those who wish to live here and become proud, responsible citizens of this land.  But it should also make itself very clear to new arrivals, that, while they are welcome to live freely on these isles and to choose to do, to themselves, and believe, within themselves, within the privacy of their own home, whatsoever they choose (as long as it is within the laws of the land) that there are certain values of being a resident and citizen of Britain that they should respect:  those of liberalism, equality and democracy and an absolute respect for the rights of the individual (rights which extend to children too, believe it or not).

If, for whatever reason, your own values do not gel easily with those values that we hold dear in this country, well you have a choice:  to either adhere to those values or to choose to reside in another society that shares your values.

At school, I regularly had a form member and member of my Religious Education class, who happened to be Muslim, tell me how he believed that homosexuality was a sin and how all homosexuals should be executed.  This child’s parents were born in Pakistan, lived in Holland for many years and then decided, with full knowledge of the value system in our country, to move here.  My response to this student was always the same, “while I respect that is your opinion, you must recognise that this is not an opinion that is widely shared in this country. If you believe it so strongly, that it is so important to you to live in a society that shares that value, then you should choose, when you are old enough, to move yourself to a country where homosexuality is illegal and a capital offence.  It is neither of those things here and nor do we wish it to be.”

The only thing that inflicting your own values and beliefs on your child will do, is to bring resentment and misery into their lives and possibly a schism in your parent-child relationship that could last a lifetime.  Is that what you really want?

I have seen too many families ripped apart and children disowned because they tried to flex their individual rights muscles or did something that brought dishonour onto their family or their community.

Nothing is more important to me than my child.  I don’t have a biological child.  I have a child I am looking after because his own parents thought it was more important to have the words of the Qu’ran literally beaten into him thousands of miles away in a madrassa in Pakistan.

And where is that family now?  They too have fled to Pakistan for fear of what their son may say and how this may damage their own reputation and family ‘honour’.

Is this the love of a parent?
Is this a community who really cares?
Is this the sign of a community who really thinks the legal activities of teaching staff outside of school are more horrific than the beating and molestation of their children within one?

An Eye-for-an-Eye?
If only.  We would see a lot of Imams and parents beaten black-and-blue by their students/children.
If only they would be so brave.