An unusual religious headwear battle has hit a boiling point in Surrey, B.C., where a “Pastafarian” is fighting for his right to wear a colander in his driver’s licence photo.
Obi Canuel, who is an ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, says the Insurance Corporation of B.C. is denying him the right to be able to wear the spaghetti strainer on his head.
The 36-year-old says he believed he would be able to wear the kitchen accessory when he renewed his licence last fall because ICBC affirms the right to religious expression.
But, the insurer disagreed. In a letter, they told him “there is no religious requirement that prohibits you from removing the colander for the purpose of taking the photo to appear on your driver’s license.”
ICBC said its religious head covering policy strive to strike a balance between respect for the driver’s religious beliefs and a need to preserve the integrity of the licensing system.
The company said it would not issue a new driver’s licence with the colander photo, but encouraged him to go into any office and have a free colander-free photo taken – and a new licence would be issued.
“The truth is sometimes I have the spiritual inkling to wear the colander and I don’t think ICBC should be making decisions about what kind of religious headgear is appropriate or not,” Canuel told CTV Vancouver.
Strangely, a photo of Canuel wearing the exact same strainer on his head was approved for his new B.C. Services card.
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was created nine years ago by a U.S. man to satirize certain aspects of creationism. It follows a belief that an undetectable flying pasta creature created the universe after “drinking heavily.”
As it gained popularity in the media, the Flying Spaghetti Monster became a symbol against intelligent design used in the public education system.
At least four countries, including the U.S., allow Pastafarians to wear colanders in their driver’s licence photos.
Canuel documented his struggles with ICBC in a YouTube video titled “Dear ICBC: Where is my license?”
What do I know?
Like most other American Christians, I can’t claim to know much about Islam. I took a two-month class on the religion in college, and learned a bit about it in high school, but other than that, I have had no immersion into the religion, and only see it through the lens of the war.
But let’s focus on what we do know. Muhammad was a normal and pious man, born around 570 C.E., married to an older woman, living his life when the angel Gabriel came to him and ordered him to recite. The Qur’an is the result of this recitation from illiterate Muhammad. The Qur’an is the living word of God, similar to how Christ is the living word to the Christian God. Muslims worship only God, Islam means “submission to God,” and Muhammad was a prophet, just as Abraham, Jesus, and all the Old Testament prophets were.
Out of the Qur’an comes the Five Pillars. They are 1) Confessing faith in one God, 2) Prayer five times a day, 3) Alms-giving, 4) Fasting at Ramadan, and 5) hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca, a historically relevant city to the Muslim faith.
Sunnis follow Muhammad’s example. Shiites follow Muhammad’s example but also, long ago, chose to follow the example of Muhammad’s descendants, like Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law.
Jihad means “struggle.” It is not holy war, but it can be. It puts a name to the inner struggle each Muslim goes through to submit to God rather than follow their own ego.
Muslims believe that humans were created with fitra–a good framework everyone is born with, but that many people forget and get distracted from the true path. This negates the need for a Savior, unlike Christianity, which is a religion based on the saving blood of Christ. All one needs to do to be saved in the Islam faith is to follow the Five Pillars.
Treatment of Women
We look at Muslim women covered head to toe, living under strict rules and say the religion and culture is oppressing them. Muslims look at American women wearing next to nothing on TV and billboards, putting all their worth in their bodies, and say American culture and Christianity are objectifying and oppressing their women. Both sides argue that their women are better off.
These differences will always bother the modern, democratic West as well as the traditional, Islamic East. It overlaps into all the question both religions ask: do we move forward with our ideas and technology, or do we try to go back to the way things were in the Bible or in Muhammad’s time? No text or living example can tell us what to do about stem cell research. The ambiguity in both Christian and Islam doctrine create unanswerable questions and unnegotiable relations between nations.
But we look at the stories of Muslim men killing their sisters because they were raped, or seen with a man who wasn’t part of the family, and we Westerners cannot condone it due to cultural difference. How can two civilizations agree to disagree when innocent people die? It is difficult to know when to intervene with another nation.
Yet, many Muslim women feel hopeful that they will attain more freedoms as time goes by. Only a hundred years ago in the US, women weren’t allowed to vote. How can we rush other cultures to catch up to us?
Violence and Jihad
Another reason Christians and Muslims can’t get along is violence. The unforgettable attacks and counterattacks of the last decade have shown us that people will fight and die for their religion. Christians and Americans question Muslims: how is your religion peaceful when so much war and killing has happened since its beginning?
Muslims turn around and ask us the same thing. Christianity has a history of violence, too. The US has turned to violence to get what it has wanted.
But why did Islam extremists attack us? As Western thought and modernism spread, along with American culture, to almost every nation, Muslims cannot help but see these new ways of thinking and living as imposing on their religious tradition. When we try to make their religious governments into democracies, they don’t see it as a gift of freedom, they see it as an attack on their religion. When the World Trade Centers fell down and fingers were pointed to Al Qaeda, Christians too felt their religion was being attacked. Christians tend to tie up their religious conviction with patriotism, and freedom has become a synonym for the American way of life.
The majority on both sides want peace. But both sides are also called to spread their religion to all nations. Dedicated Muslims and Christians alike will fight for what they believe is right. This is the cause of the clash.
What Can We Do?
We have only dipped into this topic, and have already found material for endless debate. What can we do with this rising issue?
- For now, the best thing to do is to learn as much as we can about Islam. We must stay updated on what is going on in Islamic countries and we must hush our assumptions and listen for awhile.
- Understand and remember that there is fear on both sides. Western culture has become a force, a blind pillar of great evil to many other cultures in the world. Muslims also understand little about us. They fear us as much as we may fear them.
- Find the beauty in Islam. Instead of looking for its faults, look at it for inspiration for your own faith. How do Muslims find happiness? Looking for the positive aspects, we will have more than enough to love about this other culture.
- Talk about it with as many people as possible. Really listen to what other people are saying, and be respectful while still arguing your point. Communication is always the first step, and most of the time, we cannot even manage that. Let’s start the discussion.
Evidence of the castrations has emerged amid controversy that it was not included in the findings of an official investigation into sexual abuse within the church last year.
The NRC Handelsblad newspaper identified Henk Heithuis who was castrated in 1956, while a minor, after reporting priests to the police for abusing him in a Catholic boarding home.
Joep Dohmen, the investigative journalist who uncovered the Heithuis case, also found evidence of at least nine other castrations. “These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced,” he said. “There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.”
Mr Heithuis died in a car crash in 1958, two years after being castrated at the age of 20, while under the age of majority, which was then 21.
In 1956 he had accused Catholic clergy of sexually abusing him in his Church run care home.
Two clergymen were convicted of abuse but Mr Heithuis, a victim, was nonetheless transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel later that year.
There, court papers confirm, he was castrated “at his own request”, despite no submission of his written consent. Sources told Mr Dohmen that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.
Cornelius Rogge, 79, a well-known Dutch sculptor whose family knew Mr Heithuis in the 1950s, reported the castration to an official inquiry into abuse within the Catholic Church. But his evidence was ignored.
“We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were gone. He did that. He was maimed totally. It was a huge shock,” he said.
Last December, an official investigation by Wim Deetman, a former Dutch minister, received 1,800 reports of sexual abuse by clergy or volunteers within Dutch Catholic dioceses in the period since 1945.
The Deetman inquiry received a report of the Heithuis case from Mr Rogge but it was not followed up because “there were few leads for further research”.
Evidence emerged on Monday that government inspectors were aware that minors were being castrated while in Catholic-run psychiatric institutions.
Minutes of meetings held in the 1950s show that inspectors were present when castrations were discussed. The documents also reveal that the Catholic staff did not think parents needed to be involved.
There are also allegations that Vic Marijnen, a former Dutch Prime Minister, who died in 1975, was linked to the case.
In 1956, Mr Marijnen was the chairman of the Gelderland children’s home where Mr Heithuis and other children were abused. He intervened to have prison sentences dropped against several priests convicted of abusing children.
Dutch MPs will today call for a parliamentary investigation into the allegations.
“I am shocked that boys were being castrated in the 1950s,” said Khadija Arib, a Labour MP. “I want an independent investigation. We must find out how many cases there were, who knew about it and why the government did not act.”
Kathmandu, Nepal (CNN) — A 40-year-old mother of two was burned alive in central Nepal after she was accused of being a witch, police said Saturday.
Dhegani Mahato was attacked and set on fire by family members and others after a shaman allegedly accused her of casting a spell to make one of her relatives sick, Police Officer Hira Mani Baral said.
The attack occurred Friday in Bagauda in Chitwan district, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) southwest of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, Baral said by telephone.
Police arrested 10 people, including two shamans, five women and an 8-year-old boy, in connection with the burning.
“Those arrested have confessed to their crime and will be charged with murder,” Baral said.
Mahato had just finished cleaning a cowshed early in the morning when she was attacked, Baral said.
She was beaten with sticks and rocks before being doused with kerosene and set afire, an attack witnessed by her 9-year-old daughter, according to the local police report.
Neighbors told police they were alerted to the attack but by then it was too late to save her.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appealed to the people not to heed to shamans and faith healers.
The government announced 1 million Nepalese rupees (about $14,000) in compensation for Mahato’s two children.
Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.
Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”
More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.
Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.
Kashgari’s detention has triggered criticism by human rights groups of Malaysia’s decision to arrest the journalist and of Interpol’s cooperation in the process.
Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: “Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.
“If an Interpol red notice is the reason for his arrest and detention it would be a serious abuse of this powerful international body that is supposed to respect basic human rights (including to peaceful free speech) and to be barred from any involvement in religious or political cases.”
He called on Interpol to stand by its obligations to fundamental human rights and “to comply with its obligation not to play any part in this case, which is clearly of a religious nature”.
Interpol, which has 190 member countries, has a series of coloured notice systems that police forces around the world use to pass on requests for help. Contacted at its headquarters in Lyon, France, the organisation did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the Kashgari case.
In response to past criticisms of the red notice system, it has said: “There are safeguards in place. The subject of a red notice can challenge it through an independent body, the commission for the control of Interpol’s files (CCF).”
Last year Interpol was accused by Fair Trials International of allowing the system to be abused for political purposes when it issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based leader of an Asian separatist movement, Benny Wenda, who has been granted asylum and has lived in the UK since 2003.
This makes me so angry.
A 35-year-old Iranian web programmer is facing imminent execution in connection with developing and promoting porn websites, charges that his family insist are trumped up.
Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada who was arrested in October 2008 after his arrival in Tehran, is convicted of designing and moderating adult content websites, acting against the national security, insulting and desecrating the principles of Islam, and agitating the public mind.
Speaking from Toronto, Malekpour’s wife, Fatemeh Eftekhari, said her husband has been informed of the verdict and has been transferred to solitary confinement for the sentence to be administered if the supreme court sanctions it. She says her husband was a web programmer who had written photo uploading software that was used in a porn website without his knowledge.
Human rights groups have expressed alarm over a sharp increase in the use of capital punishment in Iran. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), 121 people have been hanged between 20 December 2010 and 31 January this year. An ICHRI report published in mid-January said that Iran has hanged an average of one person every eight hours since the beginning of the new year.
Last week prosecutor general Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told reporters in Tehran that two people had been sentenced to death for running porn websites, without naming the convicts.
“Two administrators of porn sites have been sentenced to death in two different court branches and the verdicts have been sent to the supreme court for confirmation,” Dolatabadi was quoted by IRNA state news agency as saying.
Malekpour, who has been kept in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for the past two years, was arrested by plainclothes officers and was initially kept in solitary confinement for almost a year without access to legal representation.
“For a long period we even didn’t know that he was arrested,” Eftekhari said. According to Eftekhari, Malekpour’s arrest was in the face of a new crackdown by Iranian government on “indecent” websites in 2008 to fight what they had described as “the campaign launched by western governments to corrupt Iranian youth”.
A year after his arrest Malekpour was put on state television to confess. He later retracted the confessions in a letter sent from inside prison in which he said they were taken under duress.
“A large portion of my confession was extracted under pressure, physical and psychological torture, threats to myself and my family, and false promises of immediate release upon giving a false confession to whatever the interrogators dictated,” he writes in the letter.
“Once in October 2008 the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water.” He went on to say: “While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck. Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios.”
Eftekhari said: “Even if my husband’s charges were true, which they are not, it’s hard to imagine why he should be sentenced to death. I think Iran is trying to intimidate the opposition or any sign of protest by sentencing an unprecedented numbers of prisoners to death.”
Malekpour’s sentence has prompted reactions from human rights activists and organisations who have launched a campaign to save his life. Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign affairs minister, has also expressed concerns over his sentence.
Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International in Canada, an organisation which has sought for Malekpour’s sentence to be commuted said: “Amnesty International is very concerned that Saeed Malekpour is facing a death sentence in Iran after an unfair trial and reports that he was tortured in order to confess to his crimes.”
Last month Iran executed Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian woman convicted of drug smuggling, which resulted in a freeze of the Dutch diplomatic contacts with Iran.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed a new revision of the model funding agreement for Free Schools by the Government in order to preclude ‘the teaching, as an evidence-based view or theory, of any view or theory that is contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.’ This highly significant change has been made in order to ban creationism from being taught in Free Schools, and prevent creationist groups from opening schools. The change follows the BHA coordinating the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’ campaign, which called for this precise change.
In September, the BHA came together with thirty leading scientists and science educators including Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss, and five national organisations to launch ‘Teach evolution, not creationism!’, which called on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism and garnered significant press coverage. The BHA also launched a government e-petition making the same call, which has now garnered over 20,000 signatures.
In subsequent written correspondence with civil servants, the BHA stated that ‘Our concern is for the government to make absolutely clear that there is no chance it will ever accept [creationist Free School] bids, or allow any state-funded school to teach creationism as science, anywhere in the curriculum, and this is only possible through a change in the law… we would support any adjustment to the model funding agreement to add a statement [to this effect]… Could we request that the next time the [Free School] model funding agreement is reviewed, our desire for this point’s inclusion is considered?’
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We congratulate the government for taking this significant step to prevent creationist Free Schools. There is still further work to be done to ensure that all schools, not just Free Schools, are prevented from teaching creationism, to include evolution in the primary National Curriculum, and to ensure evolution’s teaching in all schools. We look forward to working with the government and all those who care about rational and evidence based education to achieve these additional changes.’