Sunday, April 21, 2013

An ecumenical Sunday meditation on ratbag fundamentalism ...

Irrespective of any alleged connection between Sheik Feiz Mohammed and the Boston matter - Aussie sheik on Boston suspect's playlist (forced video at end of Fairfax link) might just be more Alan Jones' style mis-speaking - the piece reminded the pond that it doesn't spend much time with crazed Islamic fundamentalists.

This is as much cultural conditioning as anything - if you grew up like the pond with a Catholic father and a Protestant mother in a schizo feud which exposed the madness of both sides, you're likely to revert as first port of call to crazed Christian fundamentalists like the Pellists and the angry Sydney Anglicans ... because somehow, in a strange, warped, perhaps truly weird way, they're the fundamentalists you grew up with ...

The Fairfax piece drew attention to a Sheik Feiz rant about Harry Potter:

In the anti-Harry Potter clip, which Tamerlan Tsarnaev registered a "like", Sheik Feiz tells a story about visiting a house where Muslim children are watching a Harry Potter movie and the father describes it as "harmless fiction". 
"Harmless?" Sheik Feiz shouts in the video. 
"This film, whatever you think about it, glorifies, magnifies, promotes paganism. "... What does Harry Potter do in his films with his devilish school mates? 
"They cast spells, learn magic, brew potions, learn how to tell the future." 

Now it's a long stone's throw between a "like", or a "prod" or a "poke" and crazed fanaticism of a killing kind, but let's brood a little about Harry Potter.

Naturally the pond finds Potter offensive, but mainly because he acts as propaganda for the joys of private religious education of a superior English private school kind, when surely there's nothing wrong with a decent taxpayer-funded public school education drawing out the finer points of magic, potions, and future-telling (we keed, we keed).

But does the Sheik's rant remind anyone of anything else?

Of course. Fundamentalist Christian ratbags, and some of them quite mainstream, such as Peter Smith, the bizarre British union leader of the small but influential ATL (Association of Teachers and Lecturers):

'Children must be protected from the more extreme influences of the occult and be taught in a responsible and positive way the risks of journeying into the unknown,' he said.'The premiere of Harry Potter the movie will lead to a whole new generation of youngsters discovering witchcraft and wizardry. We welcome the values this will ingrain, focusing on good triumphing over evil. Though it is important not to over-react to this entertaining phenomenon, the risks are clear.' 
... Smith said the ATL had a long-standing concern over children 'meddling in the occult'. 'Increasing numbers of children are spending hours alone browsing the internet in search of Satanic websites and we are concerned that nobody is monitoring this growing fascination,' he added. (Teachers warn of occult dangers in Potter movie magic)

And so on and so forth, in a self-serving, publicity-seeking way, and next thing you know Smith is being quoted by crazed fundies offering up Twelve reasons not to see Harry Potter Movies.

In fact, it's easy to lather up fear about increasing numbers of children spending hours alone browsing the internet in search of crazed Islamic and Christian fundamentalist websites, and the pond is truly concerned that nobody is monitoring this weird fascination with fundamentalist ratbags.

Just Google Harry Potter and Christian and evil and see what you get - chances are you'll land on Last Trumpet Ministries blowing their bizarre trumpet in Harry Potter? What Does God Have To Say?

As parents, we will answer to God if we allow our children to read witchcraft books. The Word of God will prevail mightily in your life only if such things of Satan are destroyed.

And if you scratch the surface of these fundamentalists, you'd find they share other sorts of obsessions - the Sheik also attracted attention by blaming women for being rape victims and moaning about the way telly cartoons glorified nudity.

Which is where the fundamentalist rubber craziness really hits the road - sex and sexuality, women's rights, homosexuality and gay rights. And before you say such extremism doesn't count, just look at Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott's shared denialism in relation to gay marriage. Children of the fundie Abrahamic mind, even while purporting to be atheist, still carting around several thousand years of superstition, prejudice and bile ...

According to his wiki this is what the Sheik said to over a thousand who'd forked over fifteen bucks a head to listen:

"A victim of rape every minute somewhere in the world. Why? No one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world... 
"Strapless, backless, sleeveless, showing their legs, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans: all this to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature. 
"Would you put this sheep that you adore in the middle of hungry wolves? No... It would be devoured. It's the same situation here. You're putting this precious girl in front of lustful, satanic eyes of hungry wolves. What is the consequence? Catastrophic devastation, sexual harassment, perversion, promiscuity... (wiki here)

It's the same old uncovered meat routine, cranked up to eleven, and the Sheik produced any number of other rants, advocating violence, abusing Jews as pigs, and carrying on like a pork chop ... perhaps because he can't eat a pork chop, or at least not in public ...

Apparently he identifies himself with the Wahhabist cause, which reminds the pond that the US's alleged friend in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, is responsible for a huge amount of hypocrisy, hysteria and Islamic fundamentalism. ('Jihad' sheik to face new probe). Some friend ...

Now it's taken centuries for secular societies to bring religious fundamentalism under control, some more successfully than others. The United States has struggled, its struggle compounded by the way its gun fanatics make it easy for religious and secular crazies to pick up a fearsome amount of destructive weaponry. The Boston matter produced another display of destruction on parade in a country where gun death numbers (31,076 in 2010) are up there with car death numbers (32,885 in 2010).

And Israel has gone off into theocratic madness and apartheid, such that it more and more resembles Iran, a pity when it started off with such hopes for a secular state and even had socialist kibbutz inspirations.

What's even more difficult is how easy is the fundamentalist way and how difficult the way of the moderate secular or religious person. It's easy to be extreme, it's so much harder to take a deep breath, step back, and let the loon next to you go about their business, which might well be to exploit and abuse the liberality of the moderate. It's hard to be intolerant of the intolerant and remain tolerant ...

(click to enlarge)

There are remedies - laughter and satire are the most valuable, and that helps explain why the Egyptian government recently decided to persecute satirical news show host Bassem Youssef (here).

Unfortunately the conservative commentariat aren't part of the solution, they're part of the problem. They spout the same sort of fear, loathing, anger and hostility that still drips from the keyboards and the sermons of fundie clerics - the hostility to gays getting married is just the most recent and most common example, with the usual bunch incapable of admitting New Zealand might just have taken a step in the right direction.

All that can be done is to keep harrassing and harrying and laughing at them, albeit mostly in a moderate way, though perhaps extreme laughter should be allowed.

This can produce results. The Sydney Anglican website, for example, is in turmoil, getting more obscure, prosletyising and other-worldly by the day.

The re-vamp, makeover, call it what you will is supposed - in the site's words - to help visitors hook up with people and a church (Revamp to welcome visitors).

It's a remarkable mis-understanding of how the web works, proposing that a bland, banal introduction will somehow lead visitors into the world of Sydney Anglicans.

Discover Jesus, hear a testament, a postcode find a church is all you've got for a visitor?

Imagine a rough equivalent, say a newspaper or a magazine throwing up a minimalist portal as a front page, not much more than a splash page in terms of content  and thinking it was somehow beguiling (imagine a retailer doing the same - oh okay no mention of Hardly Normal's incredibly pathetic web presence).

So that's the Sydney Anglicans online, spiralling out of control into confusion. Naturally the pond refused to look any deeper - surface is the deep - and turned to the week old thoughts of the prattling Pellists for the Daily Terror.

It always amuses the pond to take a draught of Pellist thinking, as it frequently involves comments about sex and sexuality from an organisation dedicated to the fantastically weird and hugely unnatural notion that the way to wend through life should involve chastity and sexual frustration and all the warping and the wefting that involves ...

And what do you know? In this week's homily, A New Judge, Cardinal Pell explains why judges and priests should wear frocks:

I think it is useful and appropriate that at least senior judges wear distinctive robes to emphasize the majesty of the law, which transcends them as persons and which they are bound to uphold even, or perhaps especially, against interfering governments.

Translation. Any excuse to wear a frock! Time for a frock parade:

Sure enough, Pell - after praising learned judges for donning ceremonial scarlet robes and donning long white plaited wigs - immediately sinks the slipper into activist judges:

To my mind judges are appointed to implement not so much to make the law, which is the function of governments. This is why I opposed a Bill of Rights, which future generations of lawyers would want to interpret creatively. In the U.S.A. in the notorious Roe v Wade case in 1973 their Supreme Court moved from the right to privacy to a women's right to abortion. These decisions should be made by parliaments, whose members the people can accept or reject in the ballot box.

Translation. The Catholic church will never stop yammering about the right of the church to control women and what they do with their bodies, just as it will keep on insisting its priests maintain chastity and stay truly weird.

Why they still don't think you should put a condom on a walnut.

When you see a cleric like Pell discussing Roe v. Wade in such a simple-minded, fundie parrot-like way, you thank the long absent lord for a secular state ...

There's no way out of this sort of fundie madness, except to maintain the rage, in a modest and moderate way, against fundie madness ... and continue to agitate for education and laugher ...

Or maybe take the path of New Zealand.

But wait you say, in this ecumenical piece about raving ratbag fundamentalism the pond hasn't mentioned Jewish folk, even though the pond has lain with Jewish folk and done the devil's work and even broken bacon together in a surreptitious way. 

Oh well, here's a cartoon by one Eli Valley, found here, having a go at ultra-Orthodox Judaism. Click to enlarge:

There, the ecumenical meditation is done for the day, even as the fundie madness marches on ...

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