“I don’t hope to reform angry bigots. Like the world that produced it, bigotry is complex.” (Getty Images)
Have you found yourself facing a lot of Islamophobic sentiment online these days? So has Helen Razer

By Helen Razer

 

Apparently, the world is headed at high speed to hell in a handcart stuffed with cash, fossil fuel and bombs. I have no notion what to do about this complex mess. I believe that anyone who says that they do know what to do about this complex mess is fairly deluded. I don’t think the answer is prayer, compassion or reason. And I certainly don’t believe the answer is despising Islam.

Despising Islam is currently a fairly popular hobby. It’s a bit like Pokémon GO for people who haven’t got the hang of their smartphones yet. Or, it’s part of a long tradition of falsely finding a single cause for all the bad stuff in the world.

At various times in western history, we have blamed Jews, women, the devil, indigenous peoples and everyone not in the west for things, like poverty, that are our own stupid fault.  Choose your victim, history. Gotta Catch Em All.

I don’t hope to reform angry bigots. Like the world that produced it, bigotry is complex. But, like the angry bigots, I too have moments of totally stupid simplicity. Every so often, I find myself arguing with angry bigots. I don’t do this with any hope of fixing angry bigots. I do it because making them feel bad feels good to me.

I too have moments of totally stupid simplicity. Every so often, I find myself arguing with angry bigots.

Yes. I know. This is not very noble. But, short of acquiring a PhD in international relations and political economy, redistributing all the world’s resources and wealth and convincing the UN it is a bunch of arse, that’s all I’ve got. Making myself feel better.

In an effort to make you feel better, I offer you an abstract of recent Facebook arguments with anti-Islam bigots. I will offer you a common argument, and then my response.

Oh. I should say that these are not intended for use by persons of the Islamic faith, who have had a lot of practice defending themselves. I do not presume to speak for Muslims. I am speaking only for shitty middle-aged white atheist ladies who enjoy being mean to idiots.

Islam makes women dress differently from men! Stop Islam!

Almost without exception, every society and culture and religion has different wardrobe conventions for women and men. Have you recently visited Australia? Just as an Australian man who dresses in a way that is perceived as too “effeminate” faces censure, a woman who fails to look sufficiently “feminine” will cop it.

Also, I am blocking you.

Islam has Sharia Law! The Quran is full of punishment!

Religious law is not peculiar to Islam. Have you heard of the canon law of the Catholic Church? Did you know about Judaism’s Halakha? Even those “non-violent” Jains Sam Harris told you about have codes, one of them being what we in the west would call suicide.

Look, fella. I believe in the usefulness of religious decree about as much as I believe you could find my clitoris with a torch and Google Maps. But, the thing is, people of all religions sometimes ask their clerics for rulings. Yes, it’s odd. No, unless it results in measurable harm to a person, it doesn’t harm your society or you.

The matter of religious law affecting state governance is, of course, another problem and, again, hardly peculiar to Islamic nations. And, the matter of extreme interpretation or misuse of religious texts is hardly just a Muslim thing, is it? Mussolini was pretty cosy with Mother Church. Just a few years back, Serbian priests blessed the forces that massacred and raped, whoops, Muslims. Like all institutions, and all texts, religion can get screwed up, especially in times of conflict.

Also, have you ever spent any time at all with the Old Testament? Swearing at your parents is a crime that demands your death (Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9). So too, for men, not being circumcised (Genesis 17:14), having sex with a menstruating lady (Leviticus 20:18) or with another bloke (Leviticus 20:13).  Oddly, beating the life out of one of your slaves gets a free pass.

Also, I am blocking you.

Muslims Bomb People! Including Children!

The targeted death of all persons, especially children and civilians, is abhorrent. Again, this is not a Muslim specialty. We will never know the number of non-combatants killed by drone strike. We may never know the civilian toll of the Iraq war and the cruel sanctions that preceded it.

What we do know, especially following the Chilcot Report, is that the ongoing conflict between apparently Muslim forces and apparently democratic ones is often irrational, always horrific and very difficult to get one’s head around, as the best minds in foreign policy will tell you.

But, you know. You go Glen Coco. Blame The Muslims.

Also, I am blocking you.

Why Can’t Muslim Middle Eastern States Be More Reasonable, Like That Nice Place, Israel, Which Never Brings Religion Into Anything?

You mean, the same Israel that just appointed as the chief morale-booster to its defence forces a guy that says it’s technically okay to rape Arab women during combat? Or, do you mean another Israel?

Here’s a link. Here’s another one. They are from Israeli press. You will find that many Israeli and Jewish people are just as disgusted with the appointments of persons like Rabbi Eyal Karim as Muslim people are with the self-appointment of douche-lords from Islamic State.

Which brings us to your next question, before I start blocking you,

Why Don’t Muslim People Ever Condemned the Actions of Others?

They do. All the time. Including the Australian Grand Mufti who said, after the Paris attacks last year, “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims … at this time of unspeakable horror”.

A Muslim could tattoo France’s tricoleur one on cheek, “sorry” on the other and all the Quranic passages that counteract all the other Quranic passages which recommend battle. You’d not see it. Just like I’m no longer seeing you because YOU ARE BLOCKED.

Right. I figure these may save you some time. If you think any of the arguments are useful, don’t feel bad about cutting-and-pasting them from Helen. You will find that the bigots just cut-and-paste from the One Nation website—or, if they are a bit posh, the worst writing of Christopher Hitchens.

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League of the South president says Trump’s presidency will bring ‘no mercy to Jews and minorities’


Donald Trump has named his campaign manager Steve Bannon who has it has been stated in court does not like Jews as his senior White House adviser.

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Donald Trump has named his campaign manager Steve Bannon who has it has been stated in court does not like Jews as his senior White House adviser.

In a press release, the presidential transition team announced that Trump had named Reince Priebus his chief of staff, and Steve Bannon his senior advisor:

President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that Trump for President CEO Stephen K. Bannon will serve as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will serve as White House Chief of Staff.

Bannon and Priebus will continue the effective leadership team they formed during the campaign, working as equal partners to transform the federal government, making it much more efficient, effective and productive. Bannon and Priebus will also work together with Vice President-elect Mike Pence to help lead the transition process in the run-up to Inauguration Day.

As CNN’s Jake Tapper pointed out on Twitter, court documents suggest that Trump’s new White House senior adviser doesn’t like Jewish people:

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So it begins. Anyone who thought that Trump would moderate or not bring the ugly beliefs of those who are the backbone of his support to the White House have now gotten a massive wake-up call. In 2017, an anti-Semite is going have the ear of the President Of The United States, and occupy an office that is steps away from the Oval Office.

This should be the biggest story in the country right now, but instead, it will be treated by many with a collective shrug as Trump has marked a significant milestone in rolling back the social and culture progress of the last eighty years.

Trump isn’t planning on making America great. One look at who he is hiring for key positions suggests that he wants to send the US back to the Stone Age.

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Priest Peter Searson in a school staff photograph

CREDIT: via Candace Sutton from news.com.au

HE WAS a paedophile, a psychopath and a thief who despised women, had a fetish for children and a sneering hatred for the locals of the tiny community.

The creepy Father Peter Searson, who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, liked dressing up in an army uniform and carried a pistol he sometimes pointed at parishioners.

He stole $40,000 from the parish finances, killed or tortured animals in front of children and showed them a dead body in a coffin.

He got children to touch his penis, made them kneel between his legs, loitered around the children’s toilets and audio-taped primary schoolers in the confessional box when their admissions became “hot”.

Searson was the fifth child-molesting priest sent by the Catholic Church to the working class community of Doveton, 31km southeast of Melbourne.

With his four predecessors — Father Thomas O’Keeffe, Father Wilfred Baker, Father Victor Rubeo and another priest — Searson gave Doveton’s Catholic Holy Family congregation a 35 year period of sexual abuse.

But as letters from desperate locals show, it was Searson that tore Doveton apart.

Within just two years of his appoinment as parish priest, Doveton’s parishioners and parents were so desperate to rid their community of Searson’s vile presence, they mounted a petition to remove him.

Father Peter Searson (above) who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, carried a pistol and left a trail of broken lives in his wake.

Father Peter Searson (above) who wore his yellow fingernails long and manicured, carried a pistol and left a trail of broken lives in his wake.Source:Supplied

The Holy Family Church at Doveton where Searson abused children and tore the community apart with his divisive nature. Picture: Google

The Holy Family Church at Doveton where Searson abused children and tore the community apart with his divisive nature. Picture: GoogleSource:Supplied

This parent said she had taught her daughter to treat Father Searson as “Danger stranger” and asked what priest made children kneel between his legs and ask them about undressing. Picture: Royal Commission.

This parent said she had taught her daughter to treat Father Searson as “Danger stranger” and asked what priest made children kneel between his legs and ask them about undressing. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

One parent wrote to the church complaining that Searson had criticised mothers who worked and demoralised anyone who did not put $5 or $10 in the church plate weekly. Picture: Royal Commission.

One parent wrote to the church complaining that Searson had criticised mothers who worked and demoralised anyone who did not put $5 or $10 in the church plate weekly. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

Dozens of handwritten notes and letters of complaint written to church authorities reveal shocking details of his abuse and Doveton locals’ anguish at his continuing presence.

The letters, tendered in evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse, lay bare a harrowing period in Doveton’s history.

But the letters and the petition were all in vain. Searson remained at Holy Family for 13 years until he was finally ousted for assaulting two boys.

By then, Searson’s sexual abuse and divisive nature had left a trail of broken lives.

Doveton was little more than two decades old when Searson arrived to lead the Holy Family church as its parish priest.

Established in the 1950s, the post World War II suburb was a disadvantaged, low socio-economic public housing estate settled by migrants.

It was on January 21, 1984, that Searson turned up at the church next door to Doveton’s Holy Family Primary School.

He already had a disgraceful record with children and a reputation for hating women.

Complaints about the then 61-year-old stretched back to when he had worked at the St Paul’s School for the Blind at Kew in Melbourne a decade before.

Peter Searson was the fifth paedophile sent to Doveton, following on from Victor Rubeo (right) pictured with one of his victims, Paul Hersbach.

Peter Searson was the fifth paedophile sent to Doveton, following on from Victor Rubeo (right) pictured with one of his victims, Paul Hersbach.Source:Supplied

Paul Hersbach (above) in 2014 after giving evidence at the Royal Commission about how Father Rubeo molested both himself and his father. Picture: Alex Coppel.

Paul Hersbach (above) in 2014 after giving evidence at the Royal Commission about how Father Rubeo molested both himself and his father. Picture: Alex Coppel.Source:News Corp Australia

Originally from Adelaide, and a latecomer to the priesthood, Searson received his first formal complaint of sexual abuse in 1974, 12 years after his ordination in Rome.

By 1978, he had been moved to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the northwestern Melbourne suburb of Sunbury.

Apart from claims of sexual abuse, Searson caused “deep and bitter resentment … and hurt” among parishioners, according to a letter tendered at the royal commission.

Written by his assistant priest at Sunbury, Phil O’Donnell, to the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne in 1982, it describes how Searson’s “utter humiliation of women has to be seen to be believed. He revels in reducing people to tears”.

Father O’Donnell said Searson had driven parishioners away with his open nastiness, had savaged normally “tough” parish nuns, making them cry, and launched bitter recriminations at members of the congregation he did not feel had put enough in the church plate.

A 1983 letter from the principal of St Anne’s Catholic School in Sunbury to the local bishop highlights a shortfall in a church loan.

Letter from parishioners to the Archbishop complaining that Searson had delivered a sermon on pornography

Letter from parishioners to the Archbishop complaining that Searson had delivered a sermon on pornographySource:Supplied

“Made from the school’s Provident Fund in 1978 for a library and resources area, the loan was for $90,000 and the cost shown is only $57,927. I wonder what the balance was used for,” the principal wrote.

The headmaster at the next school Searson was to be transferred to, Graeme Sleeman, would later tell the church hierarchy he had proof that Searson had stolen $40,000 from school funds.

But Mr Sleeman’s pleas fell on deaf ears in the church hierarchy.

Searson’s transfer from Sunbury to Doveton set off a flurry of complaints.

One handwritten letter, from a group of parishioners, expressed their “disgust at the way” Searson had conducted a Mass for children taking their first communion. with a sermon “based on pornography/censorship”.

The litany of grievances about Searson include his abuse of the school’s tuckshop ladies, padlocking the school gates to keep children out, and punishing children if their parents lodged complaints.

Searson allowed his dog, Rex, described by one assistant priest as Searson’s “only friend”, to urinate and defecate around the tuckshop,

Searson had also “pointed a handgun at a couple” of parishioners and was “turning people, especially teenagers and children … away from the church”.

Two years after his arrival in Doveton, parishioners and parents petitioned for his removal, but they were to suffer his abuse for 11 more years. Picture: RC.

Two years after his arrival in Doveton, parishioners and parents petitioned for his removal, but they were to suffer his abuse for 11 more years. Picture: RC.Source:Supplied

Searson had also berated parishioners for not leaving at least $5 to $10 in the church plate because they were “not below the poverty line”.

And “people employed at the school have been threatened by Father with their jobs if they disagree with him”.

Letters between church and school officials note that when Searson was asked about complaints he demanded to know the names of the parents who had reported on him.

TAPING CONFESSIONS

In November 1985, Catholic nun Sister Joan Powell wrote to a church superior to complain that Father Searson was audio taping children’s confessions.

She wrote that Searson had told the Grade Five teacher that, referring to the children’s confessions “when it starts to hot up I’ll start the tape”.

Concerns were raised about Father Searson’s behaviour. Picture: Royal Commission.

Concerns were raised about Father Searson’s behaviour. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

In the letter to Father Doyle, Sister Powell wrote: “There is one girl in the Grade 5 class whose parents have already asked that their daughter not go to Fr. Season for confession because she was so upset after Father made her kneel between his knees.

“Two other girls in the class do everything possible to avoid F. Searson as he always cuddles them.”

The letters regarding Searson show the distress parents felt at his insulting snobbery — like the family he told them their house “wasn’t good enough” for a home mass because it didn’t have carpet — to their despair when the church did nothing about his sexual abuse.

Parent’s letter to the Vicar General of the Catholic Church complaining about Searson’s sexual abuse of young girls during reconciliation.

Parent’s letter to the Vicar General of the Catholic Church complaining about Searson’s sexual abuse of young girls during reconciliation.Source:Supplied

Written to the Archbishop, bishops, the Vicar General of the Church, they complain about Searson holding hands with children during confession, and asking young girls is “they looked at themselves when undressing”.

Many letters declare that both teachers and parents had advised children not to go alone to Father Searson’s office.

In July, 1987, schoolteacher Faye Chandley wrote a file note about a pupil who had “asked to leave classroom and speak with me” and had “sat in chair shaking and crying too ashamed to tell about what had happened to her”.

The girl, named Julie Stewart would later give evidence to the Royal Commission about what Searson had done to her as third-grader.

In Faye Chandley’s note, Julie tells her about Searson coercing her with dolls and wanting to “put his penis at the top of her thighs … talked of ejaculation — white stuff came out — wanted her to hold his penis”.

The abuse “went on for a couple of years” and caused problems for Julie at home.

Ms Stewart told the Royal Commission that Searson would force her to sit on his lap during confession and indecently assault her.

“He would say to me: ‘Do you love father?’ And I said ‘yes’. He would ask me to kiss him on the lips. I did,” she told the inquiry.

During her last confession she said Searson lifted her onto his lap and pushed her against his erect penis.

Note by teacher Faye Chandley about Julie Stewart confessing that Searson had sexually molested her during confession.

Note by teacher Faye Chandley about Julie Stewart confessing that Searson had sexually molested her during confession.Source:Supplied

Julie Stewart was molested as a nine-year-old by Father Searson told her ‘the Lord forgives you’. Picture: ABC TV.

Julie Stewart was molested as a nine-year-old by Father Searson told her ‘the Lord forgives you’. Picture: ABC TV.Source:ABC

List of grievances by teachers and parents against Father Peter Searson when he worked at Holy Family Catholic Church in Doveton. Picture: Royal Commission.

List of grievances by teachers and parents against Father Peter Searson when he worked at Holy Family Catholic Church in Doveton. Picture: Royal Commission.Source:Supplied

“He whispered in my ear: ‘You are a good girl. The Lord forgives you’.”

The nine-year-old snapped and ran screaming out of the confessional and was taken to the principal, Graeme Sleeman’s office.

Mr Sleeman, who also gave evidence at the inquiry, told how he resigned his post in 1986 at the school because of the abuse.

Parents launched a petition to get him back and to try and oust Searson, but nothing happened.

Searson would also belittle parents born abroad whose English was not up to his standard.

He also regularly made statements in his homilies saying that children whose mothers didn’t work should feel loved, while those who had working mothers must “feel unwanted”.

Despite the torrent of letters to Catholic leaders in Victoria, Searson endured at Doveton until March 14, 1997.

He was removed for an accusation of physical rather than sexual assault against boys.

Ms Stewart attempted suicide as a teenager, and received a $25,000 payment from the church which she said just “retraumatised” her.

The church paid a total of $291,000 to three of Searson’s victims via the Melbourne Response program.

Peter Searson died in 2009 before facing any child sex charges. One bishop and 15 priests paid their respects at his funeral in Melbourne.

The letters from parents and teachers about Searson are available on the Royal Commission’s web page.

If you or anyone you know need any help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

A parent’s letter complaining about Searson pointing his pistol at young boys in the church. Picture: RC.

A parent’s letter complaining about Searson pointing his pistol at young boys in the church. Picture: RC.Source:Supplied

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Islam’s Non-Believers
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A new film by Deeyah Khan, above – Islam’s Non-Believers –  follows the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, which supports ex-Muslims, often referred to as apostates or unbelievers, both in the UK and abroad.

The documentary – which can be seen here – provides an important insight into the hidden plight of young people in Britain, many of whom are leading double lives – pretending to still be Muslims including by wearing the veil or attending mosque – in order to avoid ostracisation, abuse and even violence.

Depression, self-harm, and suicide are some of the effects.

According to Sadia, one of the ex-Muslims featured in the film said:

I remember saying to my mum, ‘I don’t think I believe in God anymore,’ And her saying, ‘You can’t tell anybody else because they’ll kill you, we are obliged to kill ex-Muslims,’ and that it would put me at extreme risk if anybody else was to find out, so that conversation ended there.

Given the stigma and risks, it’s hard to know how many ex-Muslims there are in Britain, and internationally, but it’s a growing phenomenon.

The Internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity. Social media has not only given countless young people access to “forbidden” ideas and allowed them a space to express themselves where none existed – but it has also helped them find each other, share their stories and see that they are not alone.

This has brought with it courage and hope for the right to live as they choose. It’s become a global resistance movement.
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There are literally millions of us – in every home and “Muslim” family, on every street corner, in every city, town and village across Britain and the globe.

Atheism is ‘breaking like a tsunami’, says a worried official of the Islamic regime of Iran.

The “threat” of atheism explains why the Saudi government has equated atheism with terrorism and Egypt’s youth ministry has joined with the highest Sunni authority, Al-Azhar, to combat “extremism and atheism”.

Atheism is punishable with the death penalty in 13 countries and a prosecutable offence in many more, including via fines, imprisonment, flogging, and exclusion from civil rights, such as losing child custody.

And it is not just “over there” that apostates face persecution but right here in Britain with Imams and respected mainstream “community leaders” legitimising discrimination and/or inciting violence.

In the film, Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, justifies ostracisation by saying that Islam’s non-believers are “outside the human norms”:

How we treat people is the same; we don’t discriminate but our love cannot be the same, it’s just human behaviour. Islam is a pragmatic religion, it doesn’t expect people to behave outside the human norms.

[When asked on his position with regards the death penalty for apostasy in an ideal Islamic state, he refused to respond in usual double-speak.]

Shah Sadruddin, another “community leader”, is shown calling for the death of a Bangladeshi atheist blogger:

This son of a bastard is challenging us.
 
O Bangla’s Scholars, O Bangla’s Muslims, wake up! No son of a bastard will remain alive after swearing at my Prophet!

Sadruddin is a teacher/rector at an Islamic academy and madrasah and ran as a Conservative councillor and lost. In a clip for the Conservatives, he says:

I believe in equality, I believe in fairness, I believe in loving the human race and I hate to hate anybody.

rehana

Rayhana Sultan, above left, a young ex-Muslim from Bangladesh, says this form of hate speech can further intimidate ex-Muslims, forcing them back into the closet:

These kind of lectures create an environment that subconsciously teaches devout Muslims to see ex-Muslims or anyone who thinks out of the box as a threat, further ostracising them, de-humanising them, bullying them, so it further creates so much dangers for people to come out as an ex-Muslim.

Whilst apostasy is not criminalised here in Britain, many imams and self-appointed “community leaders” have created a climate where vilification and incitement to violence are permissible, particularly since there is no political will to recognise it as incitement.

Add to this, links to the transnational Islamist movement, British government appeasement of the Islamist movement, multiculturalism as a social policy which homogenises the “Muslim community” and fails to recognise dissent as well as accusations of “Islamophobia” to silence critics and you have a situation where young people born and raised in this country have neither the right nor the choice to think or live as they want.

Identity politics is literally killing us.

Deeyah Khan’s film is often hard to watch – parts of it are heart-breaking – but it also inspires and brings hope by highlighting those challenging apostasy laws and stigma and calling for equality – much like the gay liberation movement has done in decades past.

Clearly, the ex-Muslim movement deserves the support and solidarity of all those more interested in defending human rights and lives rather than religion and the religious-Right.

#IslamsNonBelievers
#NotAlone

Sign a petition calling for an end to apostasy laws.

For more information, visit the website of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.

Editor’s note: Islam’s Non-Believers was broadcast by ITV on October 13. In an analysis of the documentary, Luqmaan Al Hakeem wrote:

I came to realise that the majority of their reasons for leaving the faith were emotional and cultural as opposed to being intellectual reasons.

 

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The Christian lobby is now trying to convince women that abortion causes breast cancer
 Jane Gilmore

Last week the ACL sent out an email inviting people to attend a Melbourne screening of Hush, a documentary described as “a pro-woman perspective on the abortion debate”.

The ACL describes controversial anti-abortion documentary ‘Hush’ as “a pro-woman perspective on the abortion debate”.

Hush has been lauded by anti-abortion and religious groups around the world for its allegedly “balanced” reporting of thoroughly debunked myths – that abortion causes breast cancer, infertility and mental illness.

Perpetuating dangerous and disproved claims about serious medical issues is a definition of “a pro women perspective” I haven’t heard of before, but to be fair, there are many issues pushed out by the ACL that I find difficult to comprehend.

A still from the documentary 'Hush'.
A still from the pseudo-documentary ‘Hush’.  Photo: Hush

Hush props up the allegation of “balance” by claiming the director, Punam Kumar Gill, is pro-choice. Despite this, there are 28 people featured in the film discussing the alleged dangers of abortion, and only two who assert it is a safe procedure.

Whether or not Gill really is pro-choice is irrelevant in the face of the claims made by the documentary, which gives significant weight to assertions by Christian anti-abortion researchers while ignoring overwhelming evidence from the medical profession that there is no reliable link between abortion and breast cancer.

It’s very much akin to the work of anti-vaxers, who cling desperately to risible claims by quack scientists, in the face of irrefutable evidence that they are wrong, because their feelings trump facts.

The film has been described as “a prototype of pseudoscience” by Dr David Grimes, who says he “advised the director in writing in September of 2014 of the poor credentials and discredited science of several anti-abortion activists interviewed for the film.

“She was apparently undeterred in conjuring up a conspiracy,” he says.

The documentary’s website lists a bibliography of the so-called “science” behind the breast cancer claims. The first article shows a possible small increase in the number of young women with breast cancer, but does not posit any possible causes. The second article was eviscerated by Discover Magazine in 2003, which utterly debunked the premise, methodology, results and conclusions of the study. And pointed out that – as Phyllis Wingo, chief of the cancer surveillance branch for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said – even if you accepted their flawed suppositions, “a relative risk of 1.3 – compared with the relative risk of 20 associated with smoking and lung cancer – is usually considered too weak to draw definite conclusions”.

The third link supporting the ludicrous notion that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer was written by Patrick Carroll, an insurance expert with no medical training, who works for the Pension And Population Research Institute, an obscure institution with a single-page website linking only to Carroll’s three papers on breast cancer and abortion.

These studies were used to prove a link that has been investigated and rejected by the National Cancer Institute, the Cancer Council of Australia, the American Cancer Society, and the Australian Medical Association, among many others.

Dr Tony Bartone, Vice-President of the Australian Medical Association, said the assertion is irresponsible. “There is no evidence that abortion is in any way linked to the development or onset of breast cancer.

“A patient suffering from breast cancer has enormous challenges to deal with, and they certainly don’t need this kind of misinformation adding to their already overwhelming worries,” he said.

“Also, patients making informed decisions about terminations do not need to be subjected to this kind of misinformation, which can only create significant and unnecessary further stress when they already have so many  concerns to deal with.”

What’s worse, the screening for which the Australian Christian Lobby was issuing invitations is a fundraiser for Women’s Forum Australia, “an independent women’s think-tank” founded by Melinda Tankard Reist, which claims to advocate for “women’s health and wellbeing”.

Of their 10 published news items, three were anti-abortion, six were about adoption (with a focus against same-sex parents adopting) and one was advocating against surrogacy. Their two events are the Hush screening and a Pregnancy Support Awards for services that persuade women against abortion.

Tankard Reist has long resisted publicly declaring any link to faith-based organisations, but the links between her, the organisations she’s founded, and right-wing Christian groups are difficult to ignore.

While faith is certainly a personal matter that no private individual should ever be obliged to disclose, it is relevant to public advocacy. Women’s Forum Australia has every right to argue against abortion if they choose to, but peddling dangerous misinformation under the guise of “balance” and “science”, and hiding a faith-based agenda behind an alleged concern for women’s health, demands some investigation and response.

ACL’s invitation to the event was forwarded to Fairfax Media and came directly from Dan Flynn, the Victorian Director of ACL. Kristan Dooley, the contact provided on the event information, confirmed to Fairfax Media that the event is a fundraiser for Women’s Forum Australia.

The ACL is very clear on its purpose, as stated on its website it is “seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics”. If the ACL is promoting a fundraiser, it would be unlikely to do so without some faith-based or ideological alignment with the beneficiaries.

Pseudoscience and discredited conspiracy theories do nothing for the anti-abortion cause. Using such things to raise funds for further advocacy is egregiously unethical.

If these are the best arguments they can make for an ideological crusade against a legal medical procedure that saves women’s lives, they desperately need to rethink their strategy.

And in the meantime, Australian women can rest assured that if they require an abortion, the procedure is safe, legal (in most states) and entirely a matter for each individual to decide.

 

Via:- http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/news-and-views/opinion/the-christian-lobby-is-now-trying-to-convince-women-that-abortion-causes-breast-cancer-20161018-gs535e.html

 

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In recent years, religion and the state in Russia have tended to be closely intertwined, with the state using the church as an instrument of manipulation. This is evidenced by the recent conflict over the staging of Tannhӓuser at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater. IMR legal expert Ekaterina Mishina analyzes the relationship between the government and the church in today’s Russia and draws parallels with totalitarian and fascist regimes of the recent past.

 

Orthodox activists have been demanding resignations of Boris Mezdrich, director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, and Timofey Kulyabin, stage director of Tannhӓuser, for a long time. In late March, the activists held the so-called “standing in prayer for protection of religious feelings” in Novosibirsk. Photo: RFE/RL

In 2003, Free Inquiry magazine published an article by political analyst Lawrence Britt titled “Fascism Anyone?” that defined 14 characteristics of a fascist political regime. The article evoked all kinds of reactions, ranging from positive to extremely negative. Particularly harsh criticism was offered by an anonymous commenter who wrote under the pseudonym “Fascist Heart.” Brimming over with enthusiasm, Fascist Heart (here referred to as “he” for ease) tried to tear to pieces both the article itself and its author. His main point was that Britt was an unpleasant and suspicious person because he was not a doctor of political science, but a former manager at such companies as Allied Chemical, Mobil, and Xerox Corp. According to Fascist Heart, no one could be interested in a former manager’s opinion on fascism and its characteristics, because that opinion would by definition be wrong. Apparently, if Britt had worked for some time as a dictator in some small fascist state and gained some experience there, the harsh critic would have approved of his conclusions.

Meanwhile, there are many examples to prove that you can be an outstanding political scientist even without a formal political education: Dmitry Oreshkin, for one, graduated from the Department of Geography at Moscow State University, with a Ph.D. in geography, while Vladimir Pastukhov was trained as a lawyer. I see no reason to dismiss Britt’s views just because he studied business, not political science—especially because the characteristics of a fascist regime defined by Britt generally do not contradict the definition of fascism outlined in the constitutional law of many countries.

According to Britt, fascism has the following features:

  • Powerful and enduring nationalism
  • A disregard of universally recognized human rights
  • A tendency to look for enemies and use the idea of atoning sacrifice as a unifying framework
  • A dominant position in society of the armed forces
  • Strong gender-based discrimination, homophobia, and condemnation of abortion
  • The exertion of state control over the media
  • A maniacal obsession with national security
  • The merging of religion and state
  • Protection of corporations
  • Harassment of trade unions
  • A contempt for intellectuals and the arts that results in the freedom of artistic expression coming under attack
  • An obsession with the idea of crime and punishment, often leading to the police having almost-unlimited powers
  • Rampant nepotism and corruption
  • Rigged elections

That said, Britt does not mention the following characteristics of fascism:

  • A fundamentally different political meaning of the concept of head of state as a result of the dramatic expansion of that role’s actual authority
  • Abandonment of the concept of electivity of the head of state, even under a republican form of government
  • The existence of only one legal political party (in Nazi Germany, the German National Socialist Workers’ Party; in Italy, the National Fascist Party; and in Spain, the Falange of traditionalists and nationalist-syndicalist juntas), with the head of that party (Fuhrer, Duce, Caudillo) usually having full state power
  • An open merger between the dominant fascist party and the state apparatus, resulting in the party becoming the core of a dictatorship
  • A dramatic reduction in the role of the parliament, with the parliament either being abolished (as in Italy, once the fascist regime stabilized) or degenerating into a purely decorative institution, deprived of any features shared by parliaments of democratic states (as in Germany or Portugal until 1974)1

In the constitutional law of many countries, fascism is defined as the most blatant, cynical, and severe form of totalitarianism.2 Therefore, some of the attributes set forth by Britt are common to the majority of fascist as well as a number of totalitarian regimes. One such common feature is the merging of religion and state. As Britt explains this concept, “fascist states use religion as an instrument to control public opinion. State leaders resort to religious rhetoric and terminology even when the basic principles of the religion are completely opposite to the actions or policies of the government.”

Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini was a pioneer in building meaningful dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation between the fascist state and the church. In 1929, Mussolini and Cardinal Pietro Gaspari, who represented the Holy See, signed three documents (the Conciliation Treaty, the Financial Convention, and the Concordat) that went down in history as the Lateran Treaty. This treaty stated that Roman Catholicism was the only state religion of Italy, that the Supreme Pontiff was sacred and inviolable, and that “any attempt against his person or any incitement to commit such attempt” was “punishable by the same penalties as all similar attempts and incitements to commit the same against the person of the king. The Concordat defined a wide range of rights and privileges of the Roman Catholic Church, and Article 1 of the Financing Convention provided for generous payments to the Holy See in exchange for ratification of the Conciliation Treaty.

The recent conflict surrounding the production of Tannhäuser has revealed a new dimension of the relationship between religion and the state in today’s Russia. It clearly demonstrates that if, contrary to the expectations of the state, the church does not act with sufficient toughness, Orthodox activists can be used to manipulate public opinion.

In his book The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, David Kertzer writes that Pope Pius XI worked closely with Mussolini for more than a decade, giving the fascist regime the institutional power and moral legitimacy of the Roman Catholic Church. According to Kertzer, this alliance was particularly remarkable because of the fact that Mussolini was a staunch supporter of secularism. However, the deal turned out to be beneficial for both sides.3

When, on April 1, 1939, the nationalist leader Francisco Franco came to power in Spain and the Second Republic fell, the winner turned out to be primarily the Catholic Church, which had suffered heavily during Republican rule in the 1930s. Article 3 of the Constitution of 1931 separated the church from the state and declared that there was no official religion in Spain, thus putting an end to the centuries-old power of the church in that nation. Article 26 of the Constitution introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious communities. In particular, organizations considered to pose a threat to national security were abolished and their property nationalized. Once in power, Franco immediately banned all the reforms of the Second Republic that had had an extremely negative impact on the spiritual and social role of the church in Spain. The church regained its privileged status immediately after the end of the civil war: in June 1941, the rights of the church were formally recognized in an agreement between the Vatican and the government of Franco and then finally formalized in the Concordat signed in August 1953. The church fully adapted to the conditions of the Franco dictatorship, with Cardinal Goma, the Archbishop of Toledo, coining the famous phrase “divine totalitarianism.”

Soviet-style totalitarianism, by contrast, was not so kind to the clergy. The first conflict emerged in December 1917, when the decrees “On Civil Marriage, on Children and on Keeping Civil Registry Books” and “On Divorce” made marriage and family relations exempt from the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Soviet Criminal Code of 1922 clearly demonstrated the attitude of the Bolsheviks to the church. It criminalized the “use of religious prejudices of the masses to overthrow the workers’ and peasants’ government, or to incite resistance against its laws and regulations” (Art. 119); “commission of fraudulent acts to incite superstition among the masses of the population, as well as to benefit in such a way” (Art. 120)“; “teaching religious beliefs among minors in public or private educational institutions and schools” (Art. 121); and “practicing worship in public institutions and enterprises, as well as placement of any religious images in such buildings” (Art. 124).

It wasn’t until the post-Soviet period that the relations between the Russian authorities and the church started to warm up, and gradually this relationship morphed into something that is very reminiscent of the “merging of religion and state.” In this sense the Pussy Riot case is symbolic. Instead of being prosecuted under Article 5.26, part 2, of the Code of Administrative Offenses for “insulting religious feelings of citizens or desecration of articles, marks and emblems relating to the world outlook symbols thereof,” members of the punk group were convicted of criminal offenses under Article 213 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism). The conviction of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina is a classic example of the genre of selective enforcement. Apparently, in order to avoid accusations of religiously based prosecution, Russian lawmakers decided to create a respectable legal framework to prosecute those who offend the religious feelings of citizens. On June 29, 2013, Article 148 of the Criminal Code, which until then had modestly criminalized “illegal obstruction of the activity of religious organizations or of the performance of religious rites,” was expanded to include new provisions. The revised article criminalized “public actions expressing obvious disrespect for society and committed to insulting the religious feelings of believers,” as well as the commission of such acts “in places specially designated for worship and other religious rites and ceremonies.” It thus became much easier and more convenient for the state to protect the feelings of the faithful.

The recent conflict surrounding the production of Tannhäuser has revealed a new dimension of the relationship between religion and the state in today’s Russia. It clearly demonstrates that if, contrary to the expectations of the state, the church does not act with sufficient toughness, Orthodox activists can be used to manipulate public opinion. After all, except for Metropolitan Tikhon, who filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office, none of the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church called for any action to be taken against the director of Tannhäuser or the director of the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater. On the contrary, on March 5, the official website of the Russian Orthodox Church published an explanation by Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Information Department, in connection with the situation. His words were correct and encouraging: any believer or priest, he wrote, who notices something in the public sphere that he considers blasphemous or insulting to his feelings should not immediately rush to the Prosecutor’s Office. “A sinner is not only the one who blasphemes God, but also the one who falsely accuses someone of blasphemy,” claimed Legoyda. However, these words were ignored by Orthodox activists. A prayer event held in the center of Novosibirsk on March 29 looked quite menacing. Slogans like “Down with American quasi-occupation” did not make this rally look like something peaceful, and appeals to “protect the sacred and save Russia” sounded very much like the infamous “Kill the Jews and save Russia.”

In today’s Russia, the government actively uses religious communities to manipulate public opinion, even though religion and state are legally separated in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution. Protection of religious feelings is increasingly being used as an argument to justify harassment and escalate criminal persecution. It could also come in handy for officials seeking to justify the reintroduction of censorship.

 

References:

  1. See. А.А. Мишин, Конституционное (государственное) право зарубежных стран. Москва, “Статут”, 2013, pp. 149–157.
  2. Ibid, p. 150.
  3. David I. Kertzer, The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (New York: Random House, 2014).

 

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