Thursday, June 30, 2005
Racial and Religious Hatred Bill: Amendments to Define Religion
Two amendments have been proposed which define 'religion', in an attempt to negate some small proportion of the vast array of devastating criticisms that an average child could raise against this Bill.
The first lists included religions:
For the purposes of section 17A a religious belief is confined to— (a)
Christianity; (b) Islam; (c) Hinduism; (d) Judaism; (e) Buddhism; (f) Sikhism;
(g) Rastafarianism; (h) Baha’ism; (i) Zoroastrianism; (j) Jainism.’.
the second lists excluded beliefs whose adherents are not protected:
17B Groups not protected by Part 3 For the purposes of section 17A any group of
persons holding the following religious beliefs or lack of religious belief
shall not enjoy the protection of this part of the Act— (a) Satanists; (b)
believers in human sacrifice to propitiate a deity; (c) believers in animal
sacrifice to propitiate a deity; (d) believers in female genital mutilation to
live in accordance with the rules of a religion; (e) believers in violence as a
means of proselytising a belief; (f) believers in the supremacy or superiority
of one race over another; (g) believers in the supremacy or superiority of one
gender over another; (h) Scientologists; (i) Jedi Knights.’.
My first reaction is of course to applaud the recognition that Scientology deserves its ignominious place alongside 'pretending to be religious as a joke' (being a Jedi) and 'murderering children'.
However, the Bill is not improved by either of these definitions, which miss the point of the scientology example.
(As an aside, I don't believe any such lists will be approved. An exclusive list would be more likely. Such a list could actually improve the Bill, for example, by saying, "No persons are protected on account of any belief which has political implications, i.e., implications for the disposition of law or the organisation of society).
In any case, here's some reasons why they don't improve the Bill (the first three look at the amendments on their own terms; the others follow secular criticism of the Bill in general):
1) The lists are inspired by convenience, contemporary events and the limited knowledge of MPs, rather than legal principle, and will therefore soon look outdated: 'Child sacrifice' has been recently in the news in relation to voodoo. (It is notable that the drafters had the wit not to include 'Demonic Possession/ Exorcism' amongst the exclusions: the Catholic Church still believes in them!)
2) The items on the list themselves require further definition; and they can only be enforced partially to have the intended effect. Amongst the exclusions, Islam and Christianity 'believe in violence' by any rational interpretation of their scriptures, but obviously won't get excluded. For the inclusions, will the Bill really attempt to reach definitive conclusions about whether Unitarians; Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons are Christians? (Theologically, none of them can be, but all claim to be).
And what on earth is 'Islam'?! (Hadeeth or no Hadeeth? Perhaps we can invite the Ayatollahs and the Mullahs to thrash the matter out on someone else's planet).
3) Religions are conspicuously excluded for no reason: Why shouldn't pagans get the same protection? What about Falun Gong, surely the most persecuted religion in the world? Likewise, there's many hideous cults worse than 'Jedi', and many yet to be invented. Why should a religion that proposes death by various means for all homosexuals be protected, but one that says women are superiour to men not be?
The Aum cult that murdered random people on the Japanese subway claims to have reformed, but what can this mean? Where is 'Islam' on this curve?
4) Any such amendments accentuate, rather than negate, the nature of the Bill as a protection for religion (rather than people, as is pretended): There will be a list of beliefs which are worthy of protection, or not. 'Persons' or 'Groups' are then defined only according to these beliefs. If it can be shown that there is one person who holds a protected belief, then the belief is protected.
5) The question of Scientology 'not being a proper religion' is one of the greatest absurdities that jurisprudence has ever been faced with. It is well documented that the organisation is malevolent and harmful. It cannot matter to the public interest whether the participants genuinely share theological or metaphysical notions: Pretending to be a Jedi has little ill effect. Whether or not Jediism, Zen, Freemasonry or Gaia-are 'religious' are knotty philosophical questions with no profound political significance.
The proposed amendments fail to grasp the significance of this: It would be impossible for them to do so without undermining the whole purpose of the Bill, which ultimately must demand special deference for religious ideas.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Groups AND Persons Unite Against Radical BNP Theology!!
Ianyat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain has tried to justify the absurd new Racial and Religious Hatred Bill in an article in The Times.
Bunglawala tries to pick an example of an action that might be a new offence under the new law. (This is much better than the Government could do during the debate. Uniquely, they could give no example of what types of harm would be prevented by the Bill which are not covered by existing legislation). His example is:
"ONE DAY in November 2001 a large group of protesters from the British National Party dressed as Crusaders and paraded outside the Houses of Parliament with placards reading “Get Islam Out Of Britain”. Had they been overtly targeting a racial group, they would have been breaking the law - incitement to racial hatred has been a crime since 1986. To get round the law, groups on the far Right have been cunningly reformulating their noxious rants. Instead of targeting racial groups, they target unprotected religious groups."
From this we learn that to 'target' Islam is to target a 'group'. This is not what the MPs who voted for it think:
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): "In the past, I have voted against such a provision. Since the Government have granted an amendment to make it clear that the offence is incitement against people on the ground of religious hatred, I am happy to support the measure today. I do not believe that it prevents people from speaking out about their antipathy to specific religions."
Lynne Jones' thoughts are, in fact, a little confused. This is not suprising: The Bill itself commences by referring to 'persons', but quickly switches to 'groups'. And you don't have to intend to stir up hatred against them. Your actions must only be likely to do so. Bunglawala must, therefore, be closer to the center of the mist than Jones. There is no distinction: If you speak about a religion you speak about its adherents, and the supposedly important inclusion of the word 'persons' in this latest version of the Bill is not significant.
As no religions are to be excluded from the definition of religion, then it would be equally illegal to say:
"Get Scientology out of Britain!"
"Get the Unification Church out of Britain!" (Moonie-ism)
"Get Unitarianism out of Britain!" (The Chistian heresy of not believing in the trinity).
"Get Theonomy out of Britain!" (The belief in the equal validity of the Old Testament).
"Get Charismatics out of Britain!" (Christian Sects who emphasize spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues.)
A critic might argue that Scientology is not a 'real' religion. A fair point. We should consider what the difference is supposed to be or why it is important. Secularism means that there should be no deference to religion in law at all, including, for example, in charity law. The law and its all-too physical sanctions must not concern itself with anyone's metaphysical or theological beliefs.
I oppose scientology because of its actions, not because of its metaphysics. (Although the metaphysics of Scientology happens to be a very good way of mocking it). The same applies to Islam. Opposition to it is unlikely to be a theological quibble. It will usually be related to the fact that Islam is also a political philosophy.
A critic might then say: "But these are absurd examples that have no relevance in the real world!" Quite the contrary. I myself have protested against Scientology and expressed myself in strong terms. I did so last week. The matter is therefore of great practical and immediate importance to me. I don't want to be bundled into the back of a police van to await the Attorney General's arbitrary dispensation.
The key point in Bunglawala's argument is, as he informs us, that the "far Right have been cunningly reformulating their noxious rants". This sort of claim is frequently heard. It refers to a single political organisation, the BNP. (It cannot conceivably be meant to refer to, for example, the National Front, whose avowed aim is the enforced repatriation of non-whites). Those who make it cannot have studied their subject closely:
The BNP is an overtly racist organisation that has made no 'reformulation', let alone a cunning one. The BNP's Fuhrer, Nick Griffin, has explained in tedious detail both that
A) the BNP is a party of racial theory ("Mankind is divided into races, and those races, while sharing many common features of humanity, are innately different in many ways beyond mere colour.." "..We don’t hate anyone, especially the mixed race children who are the most tragic victims of enforced multi-racism, but that does not mean that we accept miscegenation as moral or normal. We do not and we never will.") and
B) that dropping the principle of enforced repatriation was only done for strategic reasons. (Although it was going to far for a BNP candidate to say "“I’m the grandfather of two mixed-race children who I love dearly.” That is unnaceptable.)
So Bunglawala is wrong about the facts. In any case, can it really be that we require new legislation just to hinder these nazi nincompoops? If they protest against Islam, why should this be treated differently than if they protested against Theonomy, or Communism? If they commit real crimes, then they should be arrested for them. We have no business stopping them doing anything at all, from prohibiting ALL their activities. Perhaps Nick Griffin likes to drink tea or go jogging. These would not thereby be 'cunning reformulations'. They would remain legitimate activitities that ordinary people engage in. To protest against religions is also such an activity.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Complete List of Idiots
Religious Hatred Law is back
As an aside - Sorry I've not been posting.. too busy with real work and my laptop is bust.
All a pity, as there's been a lot to talk about.
The criminalization of 'inciting religious hatred' is back as a separate Bill. It still offers me no protection from 'hatred', this dreadful harm, whilst offering special deference to religico-political beliefs.
The debate is here. Almost all the Conservative interventions are absolutely devastating and the Home Secretary provides no answer to any of them. His performance would be laughable if it were not so clear that to defend the logic of the Bill is neither possible nor relevant to his intentions.
Consider carefully the Home Secretary's response on the apparently hackneyed issue of Scientology, raised, alongside a succinct depiction of that organisation, by John Gummer (see also his subsequent interventions, which are brilliant). Charles Clarke's reassurance is false.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): May I take the Home Secretary back to the point about who defines what a religion is? When Lafayette Ron Hubbard set up scientology, he found it convenient to call it the Church of Scientology, but it is actually a dangerous organisation that preys on people with mental illness, and most of us would want to make that clear. However, it would be difficult to do so without indicating that one was very unhappy about those who promulgate scientology and make money from it. Self-certification of religion could be a means for outrageous and sometimes criminal organisations to protect themselves, which must be of considerable concern.
Mr. Clarke: The right hon. Gentleman and I have never discussed scientology, but on the basis of what he has just said I suspect we hold a similar view of the nature of that organisation. I must return to a point I have made already: the fact is that the Bill is about incitement to hatred, so for the right hon. Gentleman, or indeed me as Home Secretary, to set out our views and approaches about scientology is perfectly legitimate and will continue to be so.
OK, maybe MPs are safe in the House. But read how the police stopped an anti-scientology protest in Birmingham last October:
"Today, myself and 6 critics picketed the org Birmingham, England. Immediately the police arrived, and due to complaints by OSA the police moved us away from the org, turned our amplified sound system off, and BANNED us from distributing Operation Clambake Webmsaster Andreas' Xenu Flyers to public - claiming they incite religious hatred!"
(Can't get a link to this.. go here and follow International Pickets/ Europe/ Xenu Banned)
The police do not of course have the right to make any such judgement (the leaflet, which is informative and entertaining, can be viewed here.) But it seems that they did so, despite the fact that:
1) The law 'against promoting religious hatred' has not been enacted.
2) The law in any case will supposedly apply to promoting hatred against persons only.
3) Scientology is not, in the legal sense required for a charitable status, a 'religion'.
So the Home Secretary is wrong. Even in this supposedly most extreme case, that of the scam-cult of Scientology, the law (or could it be the existing offence of 'Religiously Aggravated Harrassment'? On the key point about the definition of 'religion', it is irrelevant which) is ALREADY being applied to protect Scientology from legitimate criticism.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Aussies Flayed by County Side
Somerset chased down 342 with 19 balls to spare. This review from Baggy Green in Aus makes no attempt to brush aside the extraordinary nature of the defeat.
And the Aussie skipper was quite clear they wanted to win this warm-up. He said beforehand: "It is probably a pretty important game for us now against Somerset and we've certainly got to try and get whatever we can out of that."
Baggy Green says Somerset rested no players.. but actually they rested all their international bowlers.. Caddick, Johnson (why has he been forgotten by England?) and Nixon McLean!
It should be noted that Kaspar's bowling figures (8-0-89-0) must be amongst the worst ever recorded. A chap called Sneddon went for 105 for NZ against England in 1983 in a ODI. But he bowled 12 overs, and he took a wicket.
Hildreth, the batsman who polished off the Aussies, is a 20-yr old who scored 210 for E-u19s last summer.
All good news!
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Darfur Genocide Continues Successfully
Everybody needs to keep reading Eric Reeves on Darfur. What else? Get angry. Write to your MP or something. Then forget about it.
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Religion in America
(Via Sully): Eugene Mirman got calls from a phone company who invited him to switch to them so that together they could destroy gay marriage. Perfectly ordinary day. Glad he recorded the calls, as everyone needs to hear this.
Mirman: "Like the fist of God we will smash them".
Mirman: (of AT&T, and other gay telecom companies) - "Are they mad future robots?"
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Innocent until WTF?
George W. Bush perfects doublethink*.
A news report from 'Myway' introduces us to as yet unknown complexities in the mind of George. Far from being empty, it's so overcrowded that many of his thoughts have apparently never met, & certainly not been introduced formally:
Regarding Guantanamo -
"President Bush called a human rights report "absurd" for criticizing the United States' detention of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said Tuesday the allegations were made by "people who hate America." "It's absurd. It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," Bush said of the Amnesty International report that compared Guantanamo to a Soviet-era gulag."
Then, talking about the Khodorkovsky verdict in Russia he says:
"Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been ajudged guilty prior to having a fair trial," Bush said. "We're watching the ongoing case."
O'Brien explains -
"..When we navigate the ocean, or when we predict an eclipse, we often find it convenient to assume that the earth goes round the sun and that the stars are millions upon millions of kilometres away. But what of it? Do you suppose it is beyond us to produce a dual system of astronomy? The stars can be near or distant, according as we need them. Do you suppose our mathematicians are unequal to that? Have you forgotten doublethink?"
Rush agrees with George about most things. He takes a lot of drugs.
He agrees that Amnesty International hates America: (Note to Self 1: The subject has developed resistance to satire).
"Amnesty International is a bunch of extremists and anti-Americans.."
"Amnesty International is just an anti-American front organisation."
A 'front organisation'? Really. Imagine this is true. That's a pretty fucking deep cover .With all those decades of fighting for human rights and democracy and criticizing America's enemies. 'Extremists'? The word is becoming slightly debased. Consider the alternative. Could it be that the old caricature is true and Conservatives really do respond to criticism by ignoring the issue and questioning the patriotism of the source, no matter how preposterous this is?
Incidentally, Rush also agrees with George that it's unnecessary for the elements of one's nutjob political worldview to be on speaking terms. Today, Rush thinks that the Liberal Media (which ALSO hates America) is giving too much time to the revelations about Deep Throat's identity. Whilst reporting it extensively himself:
"Now, this guy is a hero to the left today. Fox isn't doing anything on this right now. CNN has gone wall to wall with this, since about 11:45. They did it wall to wall at 11:25. They're talking to Jeffrey Toobin. They're talking to Bill Schneider."
"CNN is still doing the Deep Throat story! They're coming up on an hour almost on the Deep Throat story. Developing story. What's the news?"
Rush's own acount of the Watergate scandal is that, erm.. "you have various heroes of the Vietnam War according to the left and those are the people that caused us to lose it ". Yeah right, fucking Liberals. They did the same thing to Germany in WWI.
Rush often talks about Matt Drudge. "My friend Matt," he calls him. Drudge has, of course, led with the 'Deep Throat' story all day. So I've got one tired old question for you, Mr. Limbaugh,
"Why does Matt Drudge hate America?"
* "..to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.."
(Note to Self 2: Orwell AND Hitler: Orginality of thought, punctuation AND spelling. Cooking, sir, cooking. )