Nutball bigots force school closure over class writing a single sentence in Arabic

A meaningless image in parts of the United States

Schools in Augusta County in Virginia were closed Friday and a weekend holiday concert and athletic events were canceled amid an angry backlash about a school lesson involving the Islamic faith.

Officials said they had not received any specific threats but were alarmed by the volume and tone of the complaints, including some from outside Virginia…In response, additional police were stationed at county schools Thursday.

In a statement, school officials said: “We regret having to take this action, but we are doing so based on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County school board, out of an abundance of caution.”

Anger over the lesson has escalated since a teacher at Riverheads high school had students in her class complete an assignment one week ago. It involved practicing calligraphy and writing a statement in Arabic.

The statement translated to: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

At a forum Tuesday, one parent said the assignment promoted a false religious doctrine, while other parents expressed outrage. Some demanded that the teacher be fired…

School officials said the aim of the lesson was to illustrate the complexity of the written Arabic language, not to promote any religious system.

In a statement, district officials said they will use a different example of Arabic in future classes.

The assignment was given by Cheryl LaPorte, a longtime teacher at Augusta County Schools, in a World Geography class at the high school. In the course of learning about different regions around the world, the Staunton News Leader reports, students also study the regions’ culture, which includes its predominant religions.

I have this problem with devotees of religion as a component of patriotism. Using mythic ideology to justify bigotry and ignorance is not an excuse for shutting down education. The fools who forced this are as much of an embarrassment to Americans as individuals as it is to the whole nation.

Pakistani Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy

A Pakistani Christian man has been sentenced to death for blasphemy, in a case which sparked fierce rioting in the eastern city of Lahore last March.

Sawan Masih was convicted of using derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed in a row with a Muslim friend.

Hundreds of Muslims attacked the city’s Christian Joseph colony, torching homes, when the allegations surfaced.

Allegations of blasphemy against Islam are taken very seriously in Pakistan, where 97% of the population are Muslim.

Several recent cases have prompted international concern about the application of blasphemy laws.

Sawan Masih’s lawyer said a judge announced the verdict during a hearing at the jail where the trial has been held, amid fears for his client’s safety if he attended court.

The 26-year-old Masih, who is a father of three, has consistently maintained his innocence during the year-long trial…

Critics argue that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are frequently misused to settle personal scores and that members of minority groups are also unfairly targeted.

Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by the minority Ahmadi community.

Any expectation of fairness in the use of a patently absurd law is misplaced. Not that I expect anything more from sectarian zealots. No matter which continent.

Flat-earthers who consider science untouchable and secular law untenable are stuck into definitions of culture that hasn’t changed since the Stone Age.

Saudi blogger faces death penalty for denouncing Islam

A Saudi Arabian judge has recommended that jailed blogger Raif Badawi stand trial for denouncing Islam, or apostasy, a charge that carries the death penalty.

Badawi, who has been imprisoned since July 2012, was convicted in July on charges of insulting Islam through his Free Saudi Liberals website and in television comments…He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes…

Badawi came into legal troubles shortly after he launched his website in 2008. At that time, he was arrested and held for questioning for one day.

Amnesty International has said Badawi’s case “is clear case of intimidation against him and others who seek to engage in open debates about the issues that Saudi Arabians face in their daily lives.”

Good thing we live in a nation where you are safe from violence if you publicly disagree with the religious beliefs of your neighbors – your state and your nation.


Brave women defy driving ban in Saudi Arabia

More than 60 women claimed to have answered their call to get behind the wheel in a rare show of defiance against a ban on female driving in the ultraconservative kingdom…

Saudi professor and campaigner Aziza Youssef said that the group received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven on Saturday. She said they had no way to verify the messages.

If the numbers are accurate, this year’s campaign is the most successful effort yet by Saudi women demanding the right to drive.

Youssef said they had not received any reports of arrests or women being ticketed by police.

A security official said that authorities did not arrest or fine any female drivers on Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media…

Youssef said she and four other prominent women activists received phone calls this week from a top official with close links to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, warning them not to drive on Saturday…

The activists changed the original plan to drive only on Saturday to make the campaign open-ended, in response to the threats.

Though no specific Saudi law bans women from driving, women are not issued licenses

Clerics who hold far-reaching influence over the monarchy enforce the driving ban, warning that breaking it will spread “licentiousness”.

Brave women. Folks around the world need to let the monarchy in Saudi Arabia hear your support.

Kuwaiti jailed for 10 years for blasphemy in his Tweets

Why do religions fear words so?

A court in Kuwait has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison for endangering state security by insulting the Prophet Muhammad and the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in messages on Twitter.

Hamad al-Naqi was also found guilty of mocking Islam and provoking sectarian tensions.

Mr Naqi, a Shia Muslim, had said his Twitter account was hacked and that he did not write any of the messages. Some Sunni activists had demanded that he be sentenced to death for blasphemy.

An amended law endorsed by the Kuwaiti parliament last month stipulates capital punishment for any Muslim who, through any form of expression, insults God, his prophets, messengers, the Prophet Muhammad’s wives or the Koran, unless the defendant publicly repents.

If the defendant repents, a sentence of at least five years’ imprisonment will be imposed. Repeat offenders will receive the death sentence…

About a third of Kuwait’s 1.1 million citizens are Shia. The emirate’s Sunni-led government is concerned Shias may launch protests demanding more democracy and an end to discrimination, mirroring those in majority-Shia Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shia Eastern Province.

They don’t appear to be concerned in the least about freedom of thought or speech, though. Would you expect anything different from a monarchy supported by theocracy?

Think what we get to look forward to – between the FBI looking over our cyber shoulder at Tweets and blog posts and the all-American possibility of fundamentalist crazies and their flunkies in politics attaining complete control of the federal government some day?

Turkish women lead protests against plans to curb abortion

Thousands of abortion rights demonstrators staged the largest protest yet in Istanbul against plans by Turkey’s government to curb abortion, which critics say will amount to a virtual ban.

Al Jazeera Turk said that the nearly 4,000 strong crowd of mostly women took part in the rally in the city’s Kadikoy district on Sunday…

Health Minister Recep Akdag said last week the bill would be submitted to the parliament this month to curb abortion.

Akdag caused an outcry on Thursday when he told reporters that if necessary the government would even look after the babies of “rape victims.” Facing criticism, he said on Saturday that he did not mean rape victims can never have an abortion.

Abortion has been legal in Turkey since 1983 up to 10 weeks from conception. But under the proposed legislation wants to drastically reduce the time limit to as little as four weeks.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, has called abortion “murder” and he has repeatedly called on women to have at least three children…

The health minister had also announced plans to penalise hospitals that carry out elective caesarean sections, calling them unnatural…

Abortion rates in Turkey, however, have steadily declined since the practice became legal, though many Turks are choosing to have fewer children.

Once a secular government starts down the road of opportunism, alters the historical value of constitutional protections in an attempt to cater to theocrats, to get the votes of those whose understanding of democracy must first meet the approval of a religion — that government is doomed to acquiescence on issue after issue. Secular freedoms, individual liberty and choice take a back seat to scripture and holy writ.

IMHO, Erdogan and Akdag are cowardly fools.

FBI Islamic training materials gave the OK to infringe on civil rights

Dick Durbin

Training materials used by the FBI for dealing with American Muslims and other Islamic communities have advised agents they can break the law and impinge on some of their targets’ civil rights.

The instructions were contained in confidential materials reviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of an internal FBI probe into what sort of training agents were exposed to when dealing with Islam…

Though that material has not been published – and senate staffers were not allowed to keep copies – committee member Senator Dick Durbin has revealed some of its contents in a letter written to FBI director Robert Mueller.

In the letter – first revealed by the Danger Room blog on – Durbin describes one slide that read: “Under certain circumstances, the FBI has the ability to bend or suspend the law and impinge on freedoms of others.”

That comment is sure to anger civil liberties groups and Muslim community organisations who have long complained that their community has been subject to undue harassment and racial profiling by law enforcement.

It should also anger any American citizen who believes our Constitution is worth defending.

Continue reading

French defend magazine firebombed over Muhammad cartoon

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The French government has rushed to the defence of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after an arson attack on its headquarters as it published an edition featuring a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on the cover as “guest editor”.

The Paris offices of the magazine were gutted after a fire broke out at 1am following reports of a petrol bomb being thrown through a window.

The blaze happened just before the special “Sharia Hebdo” edition hit newsstands on Wednesday morning in what the paper mockingly called a “celebration” of the victory of the moderate Islamist party An-Nahda in the Tunisian elections and the Libyan transitional executive’s comments on Islamic sharia law as a main source of the country’s law. On the front page a cartoon prophet Muhammad said: “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter..!”

However, French politicians defended the magazine. The prime minister, François Fillon, said: “Freedom of expression is an inalienable value of democracy and any incursion against press freedom must be condemned with the utmost force. No cause justified violent action.”

The interior minister, Claude Guéant, said: “You like or you don’t like Charlie Hebdo, but it’s a newspaper. Press freedom is sacrosanct for the French.” He added that all French people should feel solidarity towards the magazine.

François Hollande, the Socialist presidential candidate, told Le Monde newspaper the incident demonstrated that the struggle for press freedom and “respect of opinions” was a permanent battle, adding that “fundamentalism must be eradicated in all its forms“…

The main representative body of the Muslim faith in France, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), condemned the fire, while its president pointed out that caricaturing the prophet was considered offensive to Muslims. “The CFCM deplores the deeply mocking tone of the newspaper towards Islam and its prophet, but reaffirms with force its total opposition to any act or form of violence,” it said.

I’ll probably never have an opportunity to live in a world where my repugnance for fundamentalist hatred and violence will come to rest. There doesn’t appear to a shortage in sight of bigots of any religious stripe who would gladly kill for their God or prophet.

I hope the French police are successful in catching these thugs. Lock ’em up and throw away the key.

18 killed in Taliban attack on police station in Pakistan

Daily life in Bannu: Selling food originally donated to flood victims
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Eighteen people were killed and 15 wounded when a suicide bomber ploughed his explosives-laden car into a police station in northwest Pakistan Wednesday.

The bomber’s car struck Miryan police station on the outskirts of the town of Bannu and badly damaged a nearby mosque.

District police chief Mohammad Iftikhar told AFP that most of those wounded were police officers and paramilitary personnel. “The target was the police station and the mosque is nearby. Police and paramilitary personnel were praying inside the mosque,” when the bombing took place, he said.

“There are some civilians also but most of the victims are security personnel,” he added…

The attack was immediately claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, who said it was to avenge US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan…

The suicide attack came as US Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Pakistan and delivered a bold message of support for Washington’s key anti-terror ally, telling the country that America is “not the enemy of Islam”…

The United States wants Pakistan’s army to do more to combat extremists on the border, including by launching a ground offensive in the district of North Waziristan, where it says key Taliban leaders reside.
The army has stalled on a ground operation, saying its troops are overstretched.

Looking at this from New Mexico, I don’t see a whole boatload of difference between death in Mexico and death in Pakistan. Sure, there’s a higher standard of living along our own border and the United States hasn’t started firing missiles from the drones we fly around border country [yet]. But, bandits killing almost indiscriminately – with little fear of retribution or capture – have the same look and feel regardless of language and politics.

I guess Mexico retains sufficient democratic infrastructure – and hasn’t the incredibly corrupt secret police like the ISI in Pakistan – but, bandits killing each other, murdering coppers and innocent civilians, still seems to be the same national sport.

How do you reward a community for their anti-terror efforts? Gawrsh, let’s set fire to their church!

Ahson Saeed, of Corvallis reacts over burnt debris from the mosque
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been called in to aid the investigation into an arson fire at the Corvallis mosque where Portland bomb plot suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud sometimes attended.

The fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center was discovered by an on-duty police sergeant at about 2:15 a.m. today. It took firefighters 10 minutes to put it out and it damaged about 80 percent of the office it was contained to. No one was injured.

FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele said it’s standard for the agency to become involved in attacks on religious groups, but that the possible connection between the fire and the arrest of Mohamud makes their involvement even more important…

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for the fire…

Arthur Balizan, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon stated: “We have made it quite clear that the FBI will not tolerate any kind of retribution or attack on the Muslim community…We are working very closely with the leadership at the mosque. We will find the person responsible for this attack and bring the full force of the federal justice system to bear…”

If you’ve followed the details of the teenage fool who wanted to commit terrorist murders at a tree lighting ceremony, you would know that the initiatives that turned this creep up to the FBI and Homeland Security came from the Islamic community in Oregon.

OTOH, the sort of cowardly bigot that committed the arson attack upon the Corvallis mosque will likely turn out to be someone who has trouble reading the Sunday comics.