Posts Tagged ‘islam’

#JeSuisCharlie

charlie hebdo banner2

A Hard Lesson to Learn

‘One year on and they still haven’t learned their lesson.’ This is the message being sent by religious leaders to the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attacks of last year.

Henry Samuel, writing in the Telegraph informs us that:Charlie Anniversary Edition

Anouar Kbibech, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, CFCM, said he was “hurt” by the [anniversary] issue while Abdallah Zekri of the Watchdog against Islamophobia group said it was “very violent and insulting towards religions”. Catholic leaders also expressed shock. Abbot Pierre Amar of Versailles said: “Among the dead were believers who were buried in churches. Victims’ families will be insulted when they see this caricature. I don’t understand, I’m speechless.

Hurt? Violent? Insulting? Speechless? Hardly. This lack of understanding regarding freedom of speech, freedom of expression, the freedom to mock ideas that others see as both harmful and beyond reason (or not) is merely an echo of last year’s papal forthcomings which informed the survivors of the cowardly attack that one should expect to be hurt if you go around insulting religion. Any religion.

Must Try Harder

Of course, for the fundamentalist the ability to take offence doesn’t stop at ink. Is that hair you are showing? Did you just smile? What was that you just thought? Come November’s other grim Paris anniversary will they be saying ‘Look, there they are, still laughing and drinking and joking and singing and playing music and prostituting themselves on the filthy streets of Paris. One year on and they still haven’t learned their lesson.’

Just how much more insulting to religion could these disgusting Parisians have been?

Oddly enough there doesn’t yet appear to be people dying in the streets following Charlie Hebdo’s portrayal of God as a killer, still at large. Perhaps attacking all Abrahamic religions in one go was a wise decision by the satirical publication, perhaps not – either way I need not wonder what would be happening this week had they portrayed the prophet Mohammed in such a way?

Idolators!

Interesting, then, isn’t it, that an image of Allah doesn’t stoke the ire in quite the same way that an image of a mere prophet does. Surely, in Islam, this behaviour would be classed as idolatry or shirk – an unforgivable sin in Islam if it remains unpardoned before death.

Still, idolatry, like all forms of blasphemy, are victimless crimes, aren’t they? Oh, wait…

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Vive Charlie Hebdo! Vive la liberté

Anvil Springstien.

https://www.facebook.com/anvil.springstien

Share the fear – it dilutes it… No, really, it does [above images are facebook banner size]. Oh, and below, one of the best bits of satire you’re ever likely to see: “The Idiots Killed Me…” [by Dilem. Algerian Cartoonist. Credit: @DilemAli] Share this image at your leisure – no,  no, wait, sorry, no, don’t wait… share it now, make it viral. It’ll take ten seconds to put it on your facebook page or place it in a blog post. Do it. Let’s make people bored shitless by this image! “The Idiots Killed Me“:

The Idiots Killed Me

#Syria #Isis #StopTheWar #TheGodThatWasntThere #Voltaire

Doubting Justin

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the right reverend Justin Welby, speaking in an interview for a BBC religious programme, has said that the despicable and religiously inspired attacks on the citizens of Paris had made him ‘doubt’ the presence of God.

JustinWelby

Really, Justin? One wonders how you managed to get by with your faith intact upon hearing of the 17 million dead of World War 1, the 60 million dead of World War 2, the 500,000 dead from the illegal Iraqi War, the 250,000 dead – and counting – from the Syrian War, the 7,600,000 annual death toll from cancer, the 5,000 deaths from Ebola, the 21,000 men, women and children who die every day from hunger-related causes, the 20 million murdered by Stalin, The millions more by Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il and his bastard offspring, the bombings of thousands of civilians in Korea and Vietnam by Johnston and Nixon, then there’s Id Amin, Titi, Suharto… the list is endless, much of it inspired, indeed demanded by the texts of the two main religions of the world – the Bible and the Qu’ran, and watched, one can only assume, pitilessly by their deities.

When will the penny drop, Justin? How long will it take to erode the delusion you carry in your head?

Perhaps, given the geographic and religiously inspired nature of last week’s attacks I should Voltaireend this brief missive with the words of one of the greatest ever Parisians, Voltaire (it was his birthday yesterday, by the way, Justin. You may wish to pay your respects at his home of exile in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden – there’s a commemorative plaque you can look for).

Ever a wag of wit and concision, Voltaire hits the nail on the head every time. Hope you’ve got your pen ready, Justin.

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

Both of the above are for you, but perhaps we can add one more from the great man in case you bump into David Cameron:

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Anvil Springstien.

NoteThe title of the piece, ‘The God Who Wasn’t There’ is taken/borrowed/filched from the 2005 independent documentary written and directed by Brian Flemming. The film examines the existence of Jesus and takes a look at the evidence for the Christ myth – well worth a watch. AS

The God That Wasn’t There – Wikipedia Link

Note: This article is presented unfinished, but as the situation is fluid and fast-moving I thought I would publish it as an ongoing piece that will be added to and completed over the next few days. AS

#Syria #StopTheWar #ISIS

Nous sommes tous Humains. Nous sommes tous Parisienne!

The shocking and despicable acts that saw the deaths of 129 (now 130) innocent people in Paris should be condemned by all sane people throughout the world. Of course, sanity also demands that we should sit back, take stock, and formulate a rational and reasoned response.

The temptation for a knee-jerk reaction to events such paris-logoas these, whilst understandable, is never the right thing to do. I can understand, in part, the increased bombing of ISIS positions by Hollande – he needs to be seen to be doing something – yet it takes little analysis to understand that this war in Syria has been raging for four years now, with 250,000 dead and over six million displaced persons – men, women and children – precisely because this is a proxy war between multiple powerful agencies, arming, supplying and funding a large and ever changing alliance of groups on the ground. ISIS has been bombed for over a year now by a coalition of eleven countries – including France and led by the most powerful nation on earth – with little apparent degradation.

It does not appear to have made France any safer. Neither, with a large nod to the British media, has the fact that France has an independent nuclear deterrent. If the constant bombing of Syria has not increased the safety of France – or Britain – how would British involvement in furthering such bombing help? Further, if the recent addition to the bombing in Syria by Russia is increasing the refugee crisis – and by implication the power of the recruiting sergeants for terrorist groups, as has been claimed, how then would the addition of British air power not add yet more momentum to this?

There are at present simply too many unanswered questions. Would such an action be legal? What would it seek to achieve? How would it end? Can its goals be achieved without ground forces? What would participation do to Britain’s ability to project diplomacy with regards to Syria? The attack on Paris should not be used as a political or emotional lever to move for a further vote in the UK parliament to join in the bombing of Syria without first answering at least these questions.

Party-Political Claptrap

Unfortunately, this is exactly what was being repeatedly touted in Britain in the moments immediately following Monday’s international minutes silence in respect of the Paris victims. Cameron said as much at the G20 summit earlier that day in Antalya, Turkey, and was instantly supported by Liam Fox, conservative Member of Parliament for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for Defence, who reiterated that Cameron could take immediate action without the consent of parliament whilst remaining within the constitution. Cameron’s claim that we should step up to the plate and not allow other countries to provide for the safety of the UK is purely emotional nonsense and nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the masses, to appear heroic, even – party political claptrap at its very worse.

No doubt we can also expect the attack on Paris to be used as political leverage in pushing the disgraceful Draft Communications Bill or ‘Snoopers Charter’, and indeed, the replacement of Trident.

Act of War

Much has also been said regarding president Hollande’s declaration that the attack was an ‘act of war’. France has been a member of Nato since 2009 and could claim, under Article Five, that an attack on one member state is an attack on all. He neglected to mention this in his impassioned speech at Versailles, though did bring up an EU article with similar wording – presumably to avoid seeking legality from the United Nations in the face of the usual veto from permanent members of the Security Council such as Russia or China.

Still, the difficulty of getting a UN resolution may well change as, only hours before China is informed of the murder of the latest of its citizens held hostage by ISIS, Russia confirms that its Metrojet airliner in Sinai was in fact brought down by an explosive device. Indeed as we speak Hollande has tabled an intermediate resolution at the UN. One that falls far short of Chapter 7 whereby members can use force to enact the resolution.  Testing the water, perhaps. [UPDATE: This resolution was passed unanimously. Since the vote, various British commentators have suggested that this in itself would allow for military action.]

So what can be done?
The Military Option

First, let me state from the outset that I understand that something must be done. Whilst hardly a hawk, I am far from a pacifist and realise that Islamic State has to be defeated, militarily, on the ground: their Caliphate, or claim to one, unlike the political ideology of al Qaeda, is dependent on actual territory rather than political demands. Defeating Islamic State on the ground destroys the basis of that Caliphate, in effect destroying ISIS. This would not stop other groups, such as those in Libya and other African nations announcing a new Caliphate, but would dramatically reduce the currency of such claims as to be almost worthless, and, in consequence, remove a large ‘pull’ factor for foreign jihadis prepared to travel and fight.

Of course, defeating ISIS – if it could ever be achieved in isolation – does not end the war in Syria, or the refugee crisis that it has caused, nor would it end the threat of Islamist terrorism in western democracies and beyond. Yet it is hard to imagine its defeat without it being bound up in an end to hostilities generally, and this can only be achieved with political agreement and military cooperation between the forces involved.

Boots on the Ground

So who then would act as Cameron’s boots on the ground? Certainly not the US who, after fourteen years of War on Terror 1 are not so keen to see its soldiers embroiled in War on Terror 2. It is widely known that the Peshmerga Kurds – even with air support, will not want to fight beyond what it see’s as its lands. What remains are a few friendly militia’s, the ineffective Iraqi Army and al-Assad’s own forces.

Hardly inspiring, yet nobody in their right mind could envision an EU or Nato force on the ground without the agreement of Russia or Iran. Similarly, could the west envisage allowing Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah troops (with or without Syrian Government support) to confront ISIS? When would they leave? Why would they leave? Would they then move against the al Nusra Front or the FSA? What would a western response to that be? The potential for a rapid spiral into unintended consequences is both unthinkable and unimaginable.

Almost.

This leaves the regional powers such as Saudi Arabia (the source of the wahabi/salafist ideology of ISIS), Qatar (suspected of supporting ISIS), Jordan and possibly Egypt. All of whom seem as keen as the Americans to use ground forces.

The description of the situation as a quagmire seems hardly sufficient.

United Nations

There is no other workable option other than a political settlement on Syria conducted through the provision of a UN resolution with full Chapter 7 provision. This has its difficulties, of course: the removal of Bashar al-Assad for one; oil and gas supplies to Europe, another; a belligerent Putin another still. Then there is the necessary use of ground forces from Muslim nations. All this above and beyond a complex, but necessary, plan for the reconstruction of political and civil society in Syria.

Nevertheless, this is what we need to be urgently calling for as our political leaders blindly steer us toward a massive strike on Syria without a prior political – or even military, solution being put before parliament. That Cameron thinks he can go away and develop such before bringing it before parliament next week is quite frankly laughable. That he is doing so without a moment’s glance towards our nation’s recent and past foreign interventions leaves one incredulous.

Foreign Policy

It would be tedious, for the reader at least, to begin to retrace the errors of past adventures abroad in order to temper present haste – that would necessitate a less than brief diversion through Bush and Blair, to The Hague. Allow me, instead to present a segment of today’s (Thursday 20/11/2015) Georgetown University speech by one of America’s democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders. Here he lays out the thought process that must occur before we begin to beat the drums of war. He does so with a concision that is sadly beyond me:

 “Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973 (show us that) (t)hese are the sorts of policies (that) do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.”

Cameron and Co’ would do well to have the above tattooed on their knees for when they start jerking.

Nearer to Home

In conjunction with international cooperation on a military and diplomatic front, and mindful of the outcomes of past and present foreign policy, we are aware of the need to confront and combat the importing of terrorism from Syria to our own shores – and that we need to do so whilst retaining the freedoms, liberties and democratic values that we hold dear. Yet the attacks on Paris, like the attacks on the UK, have, for the most part, been conducted by citizens of these respective nations, who, for whatever reasons, seek to identify themselves with a fascist totalitarian ideology based on a religious book with its roots in the 7th century.

How should we respond to this failure to identify with the values of liberal democracy, of justice, of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, of freedom both of and from religion?

Why would Muslim citizens torn between these identities choose one over the other?

Perhaps we should start by initially reconfiguring the question and asking why is it that most Muslims do not involve themselves in terrorism? Why is it that most Muslims, in spite of a holy book that demands the fall of infidel rule and the imposition, through force if necessary, of a caliphate, do not pick up arms to achieve this. The reality, of course, is far more complex than the oft touted Sunni-Shia divide, or the division between conservative, jihadi, and takfiri Muslims. The reality is there are, as with Christianity, as many forms of Islam as there are Muslims. The reason that all Muslims do not slay the Infidel wherever they may find them, is the same reason that Christians do not take their insolent children to the City gates to stone them to death.

The truth is that most people of faith would think either of the above totally abhorrent and so far removed from their image of their religion as to be a falsehood. A damned lie. That the words invoking such actions can be pointed to in their holy texts merely nod to the various forms of cognitive dissonance displayed by all people of faith: science healing their life-threatening infection attributed not to the Enlightenment or the development of evolutionary biology, but to prayer or divine intervention.

What does this point to?

To Be Continued…

Note: This article is presented unfinished, but as the situation is fluid and fast-moving I thought I would publish it as an ongoing piece that will be added to and completed over the next few days. AS

#FreeRaif

Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error*:

256 of Al-Baqara

468x283_raif_badawi

 

Not much to state here apart from disgust at the treatment of blogger and Saudi national, Raif Badawi for the heinous crime of ‘insulting Islam through electronic channels’. The thugs and gangsters that control his country have upheld the sentence of one thousand lashes and ten years imprisonment for encouraging debate on religious and political issues.

[wiki link HERE] – [some of Raif’s blog posts HERE via Ian Black @ The Guardian]

They themselves had debated, earlier, as to whether Raif had actually committed apostasy – that’s leaving the faith, punishable by death. It’s confusing, I know, but when you’re making shit up as you go along your train of thought can get kinda’ messy. Here’s how it can go… follow the logic here, Campers: to question is to blaspheme, blasphemy is disobedience to submission, disobedience to submission is insulting to Islam, an insult to Islam is a rejection of the faith, a rejection of the faith is the same as leaving the faith, leaving the faith is apostasy, apostasy is punishable by death.

Simples.

The level of linguistic gymnastics required to get from an imaginary theocratic misdemeanor to a capital crime is staggering and thus is generally seen as the purview of the wisdom of the Scholar or Jurist, but… this can often be abrogated in various Islamic jurisdictions – presumably for the logically challenged – by simply applying the death penalty directly to blasphemy.

I’m not too sure how this works region by region? It may have something to do with local SAT scores?

It does save both time and thought, though, which is handy as, let’s face it, most of these clowns – sorry, Scholars, are hardly the sharpest scimitars in the knife draw. It’s what comes of spending valuable educational time trying to work out whether a telescope, or a cat, is un-islamic or not.

Can you imagine trying to write under a regime such as this?

Can you imagine living in a society unsure as to whether your next word or action could be twisted to justify your imprisonment or death at the hands of the state.

Picture yourself living in a society where the tyrannical finger of accusation could cause you to be burnt alive – as happened to tens of thousands of women in the Middle-Ages for the imaginary crime of witchcraft, and continues to this day in Christian Africa and Hindu India.

Imagine living in a society where some fuckwit of a neighbour, offended or insulted by you – or merely having a keen eye on your new lawn-mower, could utter the word blasphemy and watch as you are beaten to death by a mob – and this implicitly condoned by the state, as happens today in Pakistan and elsewhere.

A prerequisite against such tyrannies is the encouragement, development and protection of free-speech. It is free speech and freedom of expression which guaranties freedom of thought, and it is freedom of thought, unconstrained by the inability to impart or receive information, which will allow us to attain anything that we may legitimately regard as wisdom.

I hate to sound like some kind of Social Justice Warrior here, but these people are just twats. Okay, David Cameron is a twat, too, but I at least get to call the twat a twat without my front door being kicked in. Watch:

“David Cameron is a fucking twat!”

See. No doors kicked in. No baying mob with burning torches.

I don’t doubt that freedom of speech has its problems: privacy; incitement to violence; lies; commercial interest; the media; fuckwit neighbours; the curtailment of wealth to buy access to the media; some twat calling you a twat, to name but a few, but these are issues that are only solved by the greater application of the very thing that raises these issues – more freedom of speech.

The problems of free speech are solved, in the main, by free speech itself. We do not solve the problems of free speech by having less free speech. We do not solve the problems of free speech by allowing groups, individuals or states the ability to deem what can and cannot be spoken of.

This is why freedom of speech must go hand in hand with a secular state.

No ideas, concepts or ideologies should be immune from discussion, debate, criticism, irreverence or mockery. What is sacred to me may not be sacred to you. I cannot be allowed to stifle or stop your opinion of what is sacred to me – especially when what is sacred to me may have implications as to how you may live your life.

We live in a time where freedom of speech is constantly under threat. Where media manipulation can win elections or, worse still, take nations into illegal wars. The world, my friends, is full of twats.

We need to be in state of constant vigilance against twatism.

Tony Blair, Arch Twat, [who really should be in the dock at the Hague] and a man supposedly steeped in the history of democracy will soon – having resigned as Middle East Peace Envoy [sic] – take up a new role as Chair of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) an organisation that promotes a tougher stance on extremism – particularly anti-semitism – and one that also seeks to impose a law across Europe that will make Holocaust denial a criminal offence.

Do we really want to censure or even imprison people for believing the delusion that something that happened, never really happened at all? Or for holding a thought or idea that may offend us?

We could, of course, choose the cheaper ‘free speech’ route and simply ask them to put up or shut up – to justify their claims with evidence, with reason, and with logic. In failing to meet these requirements they could simply be banished from public discourse to those shadowy parts of the web inhabited by truthers, birthers, and people who have been probed, to be made available occasionaly for universal mockery or filed forever under the letter ‘T’.

This strategy may not lie well for groups in our society who seek to silence others as they themselves believe in unevidenced things that patently didn’t happen – talking snakes, magic apples, virgin births, zombie gods – yet cling as dearly to their own delusion as the Holocaust deniers do theirs. These very same people – people presently lauded in our society and given high office – hold thoughts that are, in my view, as despicable, immoral and objectionable as the people they seek to silence. They should remain, however, as entitled to these views as their opponents and I would defend this entitlement to my last breath.

That said, I’d want these Twats in Hats out of the House of Lords, chop chop – another reason to demand a secular state.

Listen up… I want to know what Holocaust deniers are saying. I want to confront their evidence. I want to know who they are and why they are saying what they are saying. However unpalatable that may seem to me.

Without debate there can be no democracy.

I want to be able to take part in that debate.

I want to be able to call a twat a twat.

We need to support people who want to call a twat a twat.

I would appeal to all to click the link to the Amnesty petition. [HERE & below]

Sorry, meant to just quickly post the link to the Amnesty petition – ended up having a bit of a rant. It’s late, I’ll leave the corrections, links and typo’s till tomorrow [Yay! Done that now… I think?] as I wanted to get this up. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, I’m not normally one for online petitions, but… SIGN THE FUCKING PETITION!

PETITION – Amnesty International UK – Free Raif Badawi! – PETITION

The Truth only Stands Out Clear from Error when you can distinguish Truth from Error.

Anvil Springstien.

bbc_Raif_badawi

:

:

This from Amnesty International:

 

Someone present at Raif Badawi’s public flogging on 9 January described this account of Raif’s flogging for us. The witness has not been identified for security reasons.

‘When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

Raif Badawi had been brought to the square in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah just after midday. There was a huge security presence – not just accompanying Raif but also in the streets and around the mosque. Some roads had also been closed.

Raif was escorted from a bus and placed in the middle of the crowd, guarded by eight or nine officers. He was handcuffed and shackled but his face was not covered – everyone could see his face.

Still shackled, Raif stood up in the middle of the crowd. He was dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt.

A security officer approached him from behind with a huge cane and started beating him.

Raif raised his head towards the sky, closing his eyes and arching his back. He was silent, but you could tell from his face and his body that he was in real pain.

The officer beat Raif on his back and legs, counting the lashes until they reached 50.

The punishment took about 5 minutes. It was very quick, with no break in between lashes.

When it was over, the crowd shouted, “Allah-hu Akbar! Allah-hu Akbar!” – as if Raif had been purified.

Raif was taken away in the bus, back to prison. The whole scene had lasted less than half an hour.’

:

This from Ian Black. Middle East Editor. The Guardian

7th January 2015 [in reference to the Charley Hebdo attack]

Saudi Arabia called it a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”. The Arab League and Egypt’s al-Azhar university – the leading theological institution in the Sunni Muslim world – also denounced the incident in which masked gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “god is great ” in Arabic.

[See what these twats did here?]

:

Note:

The article title is taken from one of the most used verses in the Qur’an:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error*:”

256 of Al-Baqara

*Caution: Doublespeak Alert: May not mean what you think it means. May mean that there is Compulsion in Religion after all. May mean that Truth may not stand out clear from Error. May only apply during times of War. May only apply during times of Peace. May apply only to Infidels. May apply only to Muslims. May apply to Third Party’s. Always consult a Qualified Scholar. Always read the small-print. Contents may settle. The Truth only stands out clear from Error when you can distinguish Truth from Error.

#EveryPictureTellsaStory

I’d always thought that the Military – any Military – was rather absurd and infantile in the paraphernalia they would produce in order to impress both themselves and others. Marching in time, especially goosestepping and the various exaggerated movement associated with this, seemed to me to be particularly humorous. I could never get away from the fact that someone had made it all up, so to speak. It all seemed so, well… juvenile.

Probably why I laughed so much at Monty Python’s The Ministry of Silly Walks.

I then (this morning) came across a shot of a certain Mr Baghdadi, Supreme and Glorious Leader (now rumoured to be dead) of a bunch of simple-minded thugs who have been persuaded that really really bad things are, in actuality, really really good things. Ah, yes, isn’t all religion simply wonderful. Main title card of Charlie's Angels

In this particular shot, Mr Baghdadi and his cohorts appear to be auditioning for a spaghetti western.  The pure childishness of the image took me back for – and I hate to say this but – I’ve been there: I joined the Armed Forces when I was sixteen years old. My first priority was to get hold of a weapon; my second, to get hold of someone with a camera to take a shot of me with said weapon. I can still recall how I held it for the camera. Juvenile, I know – but then in my defence, I, at least, was a juvenile.

The Baghdadi shot itself appears to be a rip-off of a late 70’s TV show called Charley’s Angels – hold on, I’ll do a quick Google… Yup, You can see the similarity, can’t you?

After I’d stopped laughing I became intrigued as to what must have went on during the actual ‘photo shoot‘: what must have been said; who was telling who to do what?

I penned a (rather rushed) scenario which barely competes with the hilarity of simply looking at the antics of these grown men in the original photograph. I’ll re-write it when I get some time, hopefully funny it up.

Meanwhile: Apologies for spoiling the humour.

Photoshoot

photoshoot

“Okay, five minutes everybody! Hurry up with those sandwiches and please, darlings, wipe you’re mouths. The last thing the world wants to see is a Jihadi with bacon and tomato ketchup on his upper lip.”

“Tea cups back on the pick-up, and if you need to go, then please, please, please go now”

“Anyone seen the yellow flag? Anyone? Listen up everybody. Bit of hush. Did someone pick up the yellow flag? No, darling, that’s black. Yellow – like custard… like a banana? Oh, thank goodness… thank you, James – that’s my whole vision for the shot, right there. Phew.”

“Okay, Stevie, if you go into my bag in the first pick-up you’ll find a large roll of grey gaffa-tape. I’d like the yellow flag taped to the tea-urn and placed here, and then we’ll build the shot around it…”

“Well then, put a heavy rock in it and we’ll clean it out before lunch. Yes, I know it’s got a Man United crest on it but it won’t be in the shot.”

“Can we have all the people who have a black flag to line up here, please… and everyone with an assault rifle… if you can just spread yourselves in between starting with the fat guy on the left?”

“Brilliant!” Sorry? Okay, darling, big boned it is. No offence meant.”

“Perhaps those without shoes in the middle?”

“Great!”

“Pistols now, people! Attention everybody or we’ll be here all day. Look, I know it’s hot but the sooner we get this done the sooner… thank you.”

“So pistols in a flying ‘V’ formation here, with Mr Baghdadi here at the front?”

“Yes, yes, on one knee would look really cool!”

“Yes, just like Daniel Craig in James Bond, Mr Baghdadi!”

“Okay, Let’s look at you all… hmm, the guy with the red band and the Liver Bird on your balaclava? Sorry? A present from your Gran? Er, okay, can we have you in the middle then, just behind the tea-urn?”

“Fantastic.”

“Could we possibly turn it inside out so we can lose the Liver Bird?”

“Wonderful.”

“You’re all stars, people! Nearly there.”

“Now. Motivation. I want you all to imagine… imagine that you’re protecting something very valuable – the most valuable thing you could ever think of. Your wife, or your first born child.”

“Sorry?”

“Yes, it could be the tea-urn I suppose?”

“Why not? In your imagination it could be a solid gold tea-urn!”

“Okay, imagine that the tea-urn is a golden tea-urn and you’re protecting it with your very lives.”

“Yes of course, down to the last brave warrior of Islam.”

“No, not quite like The Alamo?”

Magical? If that’s what you want.”

“No, no, not Custer’s Last Stand?”

Well, because they were both battles that were…”

“Yes, yes ‘Knights of the Magical Golden Tea-Urn’ – very good, Mr Baghdadi, another brilliant thought!”

“No, no, not… okay, yes, why not. Dragons.”

“Well, yes, I suppose the tea would give you magic powers if you drank it?”

“Look, c’mon, look everybody, hush now! Let’s just stick with the ‘Knights of the Magical Golden Tea Urn’, okay? You’re protecting the Magical Golden Tea Urn from an attack by fire breathing dragons but you’re protected from fire because you’ve all drunk the magic tea of life”

“Okay… hold that look… pistols a tad higher….”

“Say CHEESE!”

photoshoot

‘Knights of the Magical Golden Tea-Urn’

I’ve long held to the conviction that if your belief – and by belief I mean belief in anything – involved the wearing of headgear of any sort then I could dismiss said belief fairly rapidly. For example: someone could make a claim as in ‘I believe in such and such’, and I would respond with: ‘Does it necessitate the wearing of a hat?’ An answer to the affirmative would allow me to instantly dismiss said claim and get on with the more important things in life such as removing scratch-card residue from beneath my fingernails.

jewish Orthodox hatThe General Rule of Hat

This has held me in good stead for a number of years. Oft times people would walk up to me in pubs and ask: ‘Can I interest you in the Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection?’, and I would say: ‘Do I have to wear a hat?’, and they would say, ‘Sorry?’, and I, satisfied with the successful application of The General Rule of Hat,  would respond, ‘Oh, nothing… please, do continue.

Of course you must understand that this is just a General Rule of Hat. It’s not absolute. There are exceptions:

For example, occasionally I find myself fairly deep into a debate, discussion or conversation before coming to the realisation that a hat is about to make an tinfoil-Hatappearance. This usually happens at bus-stops and involves a large sheet of aluminium foil.

Fortunately society generally accepts that these people have a problem involving mental health and help is readily available.

Other times people are aware you employ a hat-filter and will deliberately hide the hat until a later time and then produce it in a ‘Tadaah!’ moment. Hat-wearers debating morality tend to adopt this tactic. One agrees on the immorality of, say for example, murder, rape, theft and slavery; you then bother to go into a long and detailed explanation of how one arrives at this moral position, when suddenly, ‘Tadaah!’ – a hat is produced and morality and immorality turn out to be at the discretionary whim of an invisible Magic Hat-Maker who lives in the Great Milliners in the Sky.

Voltaire perhaps should have said that in general good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things, but to make a good person do bad things, well, that takes a hat.

Currently No Help Available

More disingenuous folk will try to foster the illusion that no hat is required in their belief at all – even though after a short while in their company it becomes apparent, or at least implicit, that their place of abode holds a large wardrobe simply bursting with hats. bishops hatProponents of Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity, and the various forms of the Cosmological argument, are particularly adept at trying to employ this ‘Look, No Hats!’ stratagem – almost to the point of self-delusion: ‘Hat? What Hat? I see no Hat?

Hat-denial, it must be said, can be quite humorous to see – similar to watching someone play ‘whack-a-mole’, but with hats. Rational observers generally accept that these people have a problem involving mental hygiene. There is currently no help available for these people.

Still, those few exceptions aside, I hold great confidence in The General Rule of Hat. So much so that over time I’d expanded my thesis to include an inverse relationship between the size or grandeur of the hat worn and the amount of sense that would spew from the mouth positioned directly beneath it. The bigger the hat, the lesser the sense. Recently though, I’ve started to reassess this relativity aspect of The General Rule of Hat:

It began with the usual mid-spring reportage surrounding the activities of the Iranian religious police. As the sun starts to shine and temperatures soar, Iranian women, after being wrapped up all winter, begin to shed a few layers. This apparently gets the blood gushing through Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s old veins and, in order to avoid committing a very catholic sin, he grabs his hat and immediately starts talking out of it. This invariably results in a crackdown by the religious police involving such things as revealing or tight clothing; western hairstyles; hair colour; make-up and the like. It happens every year around this time and it’s about as newsworthy as David Cameron’s policies on ending child poverty.

People of The Hat

I myself barely register it anymore – just another part of the background white-noise of religiosity.

Besides, it’s hardly surprising to hear gobbledygook spouting from representatives of any of the three Abrahamic faiths – or People of The Hat, as I collectively refer to them. Yahweh, Yahwehwho started off this damn hat thing, has been responsible for a veritable tea-party of mad-hatters pouring forth nonsense such as stoning disobedient children to death, having the cheeky ones killed by bears, and throwing gay men off tall buildings when a decent mountain can’t be found. It’s normal run-of-the-mill sort of stuff. Abhorrent of course, but hardly, after two thousand years, shocking. This year, though, my interest was briefly piqued by the revelation that Iranian men have now come under the gaze of the grand Ayatollah for the incredibly un-Islamic practise of eyebrow weaving.

Apparently Iranian men, just like blokes here in the west, are becoming more adept at personal grooming, hair care, intimate hygiene and washing behind the ears. Now, being a somewhat largely unreconstructed western male who barely moved beyond the wash, rinse, repeat instructions on the Head & Shoulders bottle, I had absolutely no idea what eyebrow weaving was?

ayatollah

Intrigued, I decided to research the story only to find that eyebrow weaving or threading, rather than some extreme sexual fetish, is a simple procedure for plucking and shaping the eyebrows – and eyebrows in Islam, would you believe, are taken very seriously indeed. So much so that to err in the eyebrow department can severely damage your health – and your afterlife. Get it wrong and you’ll burn in the proverbial fire. No, really, honestly. And the most shocking aspect of all of this? The one thing that had me gasping and short of breath? You guessed it: Hat size! Yes, hat size. Each and every Islamic ‘Scholar’ I consulted/listened to/viewed, wore a hat in accordance with The General Rule of Hat as one might expect – but what became quickly apparent was that their hat size never faltered from the miniscule. For the most part they wore a simple white skull-cap. Hardly Ayatollahesque at all, yet the nonsense that exploded so casually and yet so profusely from their mouths was worthy of the very grandest of hats.

I’d hate to bore you with the seemingly limitless extent to which certain People of the Hat can go on, and on, skullcap hatand on about body hair – so allow me to attempt a brief summation of the salient points:

Islamic men (it’s implicit they’re men) should grow the beard, trim the moustache, shave the pubes, and pluck the armpit hair (ouch!), whilst women of the faith (it’s explicit they’re women) may remove hair from the upper lip, thighs, calves and arms, but on no account should they ever, ever, ever pluck the eyebrows – never – I simply can’t stress this enough. Weaving, threading, plucking – whatever you want to call it, however you want to phrase it, this Allah/Yahweh character doesn’t like it, see’s this as a Major Sin – and will hurt you for doing it.

Yes, it would seem that this Allah/Yahweh geezer really does have a big downer on Islamic women who pluck their eyebrows. As to why? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps he was knocked-back by some lass with great eyebrows in a previous creation? Either way, we definitely know he doesn’t like it because a big mate of Mohammed – a bloke called ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood’ – said he was out with Mo’ one night and they were chatting on about life, the universe, and everything, as one does, when Mo’ said he’d been chatting with Gabriel (that’s the Archangel Gabriel, yeah?) and Gabriel had said that he’d been chatting earlier still with Allah, and Allah had mentioned in passing that he didn’t like eyebrow plucking at all. Not one little bit. Can’t stand it. Hates it, in fact.

A moment on the lips, a lifetime in the Hadith

I can just imagine Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood’s jaw dropping at this momentous revelation:

Really, Mo’? He actually said that?

Yeah, really went off on one, apparently. And that’s not all…

Hold on, Mo’… let me get a pen”.

He then wrote down what Mohammed had said that Gabriel had said that Allah had said:

Allah has cursed the woman who does tattoos and the one who has them done, the woman who plucks eyebrows and the one who has it done, and the one who files her teeth for the purpose of beauty, altering the creation of Allah.”  [al-Bukhaari, 5931; Muslim, 2125]

And now, all these years later, with Iranian metrosexual men queuing up to use the latest in eyebrow weaving technology, it really does throw a cat amongst the pigeons as to what Allah may actually like or dislike. Does this now apply to men as well as women when we can see that it’s obvious that Allah is pissed-off with a tattooed lass with sharp teeth and cute brows? And doesn’t it seem somewhat bizarre that removing eyebrow hair would alter the creation of Allah whilst a bloke shaving off his pubes would not? Can you see the trouble a seemingly harmless piece of gossip can cause? A moment on the lips, a lifetime in the Hadith. Who knew that Mohammed was such a jangler? The Ayatollah Al Khomeini really does have his work cut out for both him and his hat.

So, what to make of all this? Can we unpack it and make sense out of it at all? The simple answer is ‘No‘. My take on this is that it’s pointless looking for sense in nonsense. The really important thing to take away from all of this – apart from the lesson regarding the dangers of idle chat & tittle-tattle – is that, unfortunately, the size of the hat bears no relation to the quality of stupid beneath it.

This element of the theory has been shown to fail under the weight of the available evidence. It was a falsifiable aspect and has thus been shown to be false. I therefore unequivocally withdraw the relativity aspect of The General Rule of Hat.

Hold on… unless of course the small skullcap is merely symbolic of their inner-hat – which could be fucking immense?

You can throw your own hat into the ring below, if you so wish.

Anvil Springstien.