Pakistani Killing Latest in Deadly Debate around Blasphemy Laws

The recent murder of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer for opposing blasphemy laws tragically showcases the high stakes of the fight for religious tolerance and against extremism.

Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, Pakistan and a member of the nation's ruling Pakistan People's Party, was allegedly murdered by a member of his security team as a result of his opposition to blasphemy laws and for speaking out against the proposed death sentence of a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, accused of blasphemy.

Taseer's murder is the most recent illustration of how deadly the debate over blasphemy laws has become—but unfortunately there is a long list of cases where laws have been used to squash religious freedom and repress religious minorities.

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How Many Secularists and Non-Secularists Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Poobah Self Disclosure: I’m an atheist. You may be a Christian…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

America is an unhappy place these days. Opposing forces not only bludgeon each other bloody, but as Mitch McConnell recently announced, they make it a political priority to wipe out their opposition like Genghis Kahn scorching the earth of the steppes. Nowhere is this fighting as pointless and picayunish as in the Secular v. Non Secular Death Cage Match.

As a rule of thumb Republicans are the logical home of the stupidly religiously zealous. Folks like the Family Research Council, Glenn Beck, and loopy Michele Bachmann trumpet vuvuzela the superiority of the God-ed while practicing the most shockingly unchristian behavior against the ungod-ed. Even their captive audience of soft-headed, opportunistic political drones have trouble with them – especially when they stop donating money and votes.

The religious zealots have a huge David and Goliath thing going on. “Dear God, give me a slingshot and guide mine rock into the eye of my Godless oppressors, the libruls.”

But fundamentalists have no lock on the asshat zealot market. Stop by a Jesus Freakery and read the comments. Go to a Atheisterie and the words seem plagiarized from the same source, “You’re a know-nothing asshole who’s a traitor intent on wiping out what crumbs of democracy we still have left.”

And one more similarity. Almost all the over the top bloviation mentions how much anyone who disagrees is some sort of hate-filled, brainless zot – as though we’re all Little Georgie Shrubs.

Most Christians are reasonably sane and the same goes for the secular crowd. All the reasonable ask is a bit of wiggle room because they’re entitled to it. They want to go to church (or not), put up the occasional Christmas Holiday tree (or not), and be safe from the incessant yawping of people who would staple the 10 commandments to everyone’s forehead or consign religious gatherings to a dank cellar with the lights turned out – sort of an ecumenical Gitmo.

But out there on the dark edge of Firebase Freedom lurk nuts to the left of us and nuts to the right of us, as unreasonably pissed about the, “In God We Trust” motto as they are by the, “Christians über alles and the hell with anyone else” brigade.

The balance between freedom of religion and freedom from religion is delicate and a very narrow gap. One person’s “absolute” freedom is another’s horrible shackle.

As with all Constitutional rights, we don’t get to vote on them or change them at will to suit our fancy. However, there’s nothing wrong with a legitimate argument about where the line lays. But, meanness for the sake of meanness is meaningless, rude, and counter-productive.

So everyone, let’s kiss and make up so we can go back to something important, like hating Congress and the President.

You know, something useful.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

An Open Letter to George W. Bush: Speak Out Against Bigotry

Opposition is mounting to the "Burn a Koran Day" scheduled for September 11th in Florida. President Obama today condemned the event, urging Pastor Terry Jones to cancel. General David Petraeus said it could harm our troops,Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it unrepresentative of Americans.Attorney General Eric Holder called it "idiotic and dangerous," and the Vatican has called the planned demonstration "outrageous and grave."

Condemning this event is a start, but it’s critical that we don’t lose sight of the big picture. There have been too many incidents of vandalism and anti-Muslim activity in recent days all over the country. 

We need our leaders to speak out against ALL of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that is pervading our political discourse. Former President George W. Bush and members of his administration spoke out for tolerance and freedom of religion during his presidency. 

They could make a difference by speaking out now. Will they?

Human Rights First launched an open letter to former President Bush last week. Here’s what we—and over 9,000 of our supporters—have to ask of the former president:


Dear President Bush,

 During your presidency, you stood up repeatedly against bigotry and hate and urged all Americans to do the same.

In 2002, you said, “America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith. America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country.”

Thank you for your leadership and your principled opposition to bigotry.

Right now, there’s a dangerous wave of intolerance sweeping the country. It began with the debate over the “Ground Zero Mosque,” but it is no longer only about an Islamic center in Manhattan. There are anti-mosque rallies taking place around the country, reports of arson and gun shots at a mosque in Tennessee, the Internet is filled with bigoted speech, and a church in Florida is planning a Koran burning on September 11th.

To stem this tide, people must speak out in favor of the American values of tolerance, diversity, and religious freedom. Your words will have added weight.

Please lend your voice to the defense of American values.

Thank you.


You can add your name to the letter here.  



The Non-Ground Zero Non-Mosque Mosqueteers

OK people, let’s calm down! Let’s just stop all this mosqlitizing and use a little common sense for a moment, shall we? Don’t make me turn this country around.

At its heart, the Non-Ground Zero Non-Mosque Mosque™  is a simple zoning application gone awry. If the gutted shell of that ex-Burlington Coat Factory sat almost anywhere else on Earth, the NYC Planning Department would be looking at how much traffic the place would generate and how many toilets to require per person. Instead, it’s caught between creating an international incident and/or sparking Civil War II.

What ever happened to the idea that governmental decision-making should be forced down to the local level? I mean come on Tea Baggers, it doesn’t get any more local than a planning department.

There are literally dozens of places this kerfuffle could’ve been avoided, but as usual, many people were busy helping demagogues turn themselves into demigods instead of simply minding their own business.

Encouraging the Bullies
It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that building anything remotely connected to Islam was going to be an uphill battle in today’s America. Of course, the Muslims could’ve simply opted to put their center somewhere else, but they’re under no obligation to voluntarily abandon their Constitutional rights. Although they shouldn’t be surprised at the blowback either. And quite frankly, giving in once they started down this road would’ve been a mistake anyway. There is no better way to encourage bullies than to back down from them when threatened.

As for the anti Mosqueteers, they seem to have bought into this newfangled delusion that the Constitution is up for a vote whenever you don’t like something.  To hear them tell it, if Muslims want to erect a religious venue the Constitution cannot be allowed to stand. However, if the Baptists want to nail the 10 Commandments to every flat surface in the Republic, it’s a Constitutional right. I’m not sure if this is a terminal case of disengenuosity or a complete inability to recognize irony when it bites them on the ass.

Ground Zero used to be two gleaming towers of steel. A brace of buck-ass krazy kamikazes turned it into a smoking hole in the ground. Many people (not Christians or Muslims or Jews or Atheists, or Druids… just plain folks) died. It was a horrific thing, especially if you had friends or family there or were just coming out or the subway as the towers fell.

When Lunatics Run Amok
But as bad as it was, bad things happen when lunatics run amok. As much as Commander Mission Accomplished would’ve like you to believe there is a “war” we can “win”, it just ain’t so. The best we can do it mitigate the problem by taking reasonable counter measures – duct tape, roll-plastic, and MRIs for airline passengers need not apply.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Americans were pissed. They looked upon the wreckage-choked harbor as a hallowed place where the nation could focus in an attempt to never let such a tragedy happen again. Today, tourists from across the globe, including a hefty number of Japanese, come to visit the place with cameras in tow and leis on display. The place is no less hallowed because of the gauche tourists and would be no less hallowed if a Shinto shrine went up.

In essence, both places are geographic spots on a map. Soil is soil. They are special because we made them special. They are hallowed because we all agreed they are hallowed. The point is that when someone from the opposite of the policitical or religious spectrum agrees with you, shut up and stop arguing with them. You’re on the same side.

If not, we’re no better than those krazy kamikazis. If there is a war to be won or lost, it will be decided over the idea that crazies can knock down some expensive real estate and we will willingly make ourselves more like them.

After all, that was exactly their intent.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!




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