A New Ending for ‘My Brother the Islamist’

A few years ago, British filmmaker Robb Leech began delving into the reasons why his white middle-class stepbrother Rich had converted to radical Islam.

Rich Dart, who’d started calling himself Salahuddin al-Britani, associated with fundamentalists such as the outspoken terrorism promoter Anjem Choudary, and advocated that Britain should place itself under Sharia law.

Over twelve months, Robb filmed his stepbrother’s new life, and turned the footage into the hourlong 2011 BBC documentary My Brother the Islamist. It’s available in its entirety on YouTube. I’ve embedded it below for your headscratching pleasure.

Just be aware that as of today, it needs both a new ending and a new title. 30-year-old Salahuddin al-Britani, formerly Richard Dart, was convicted on terrorism charges this afternoon, along with two accomplices. Dart had travelled to Pakistan to try to undergo terrorist training; also, with his co-conspirators, Imran Mahmood and Jahangir Alom, he plotted a bomb attack on Royal Wootton Bassett, a town that plays a central role in the repatriations of British soldiers killed in combat.

Dart/al-Britani pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years behind bars.

The film about him should now probably be renamed My Brother the Terrorist.

The Guardian‘s account of today’s trial is here.

High Tea: UDV Church Uses Hallucinogen As Sacrament; ‘Returning to the Cosmic Uterus’

Via NPR:

A small church in Santa Fe, N.M., has grown up around a unique sacrament. Twice a month, the congregation meets in a ritualized setting to drink Brazilian huasca tea [also called ayahuasca], which has psychoactive properties said to produce a trance-like state.

UDV, founded in 1961 by a Brazilian rubber tapper now revered by followers as Mestre Gabriel [photo], stands for Uniao do Vegetal, which means “the union of the plants.” Huasca tea contains DMT, considered a Schedule 1 drug (in this case, a powerful and illegal hallucinogen) by the U.S. drug-warrior establishment.

Anthropologists who’ve trekked to the Amazon to try the “vine of the soul,” as it’s called, have described the intense experience it produces as death, returning to the cosmic uterus and rebirth.

UDV founder Mestre Gabriel

UDV members are pretty gung-ho on the brew.

Barbara, an electrologist, says the tea cured her Lyme disease; Satara, a substitute teacher, claims huasca amplifies perception of herself and the world — like turning up the volume on a radio. Joaquin, a tattooed massage therapist, says the tea is much more spiritual than tripping on acid; and Pete, a martial arts teacher, says he’s here to be part of a community of people all trying to get closer to God.

Jeffrey Bronfman, national UDV vice president, swears people drink huasca for spiritual reasons. Despite the bitter taste — some congregants head for the bathrooms to vomit right after taking the sacrament — he sees the substance as a pathway to something good, a higher consciousness.

“The tea is really an instrument to help us get in touch with our own spiritual nature. It’s not something that takes people into a state of disorientation.”

He and his congregation have had to spend years in litigation with the federal government, right on up to the Supreme Court, to gain the right to drink huasca. The Supremes decided in 2006 that if Native Americans have the right to eat peyote, UDV members must be allowed to partake of their tea.

Wanna join? The church isn’t looking for new members, Bronfman says, so you may have to get high spiritual someplace else. Like Peru.

More than 40 ayahuasca lodges in Peru advertise on the Internet with pitches like, “Your vibrations will begin to harmonize with the flow of nature! Click here for rates.”

But beware bad trips — and bad characters:

Some of the experiences turn out badly. Articles have described a few spiritual seekers who’ve died or gone berserk during rituals, and women who’ve been molested by unscrupulous shamans.

[photo via VCU]


P.S.: To clarify, I don’t see the use of huasca tea, or other sacramental drugs, as a moral failure or a crime on the part of the church. At all. More power to the UDV members — and may I just add, “good for you.”

I do find it odious and annoying that the federal government has strictly verboten any drug that contains DMT  — unless you belong to a certain faith.

Religion excuses everything.

I’m not blaming the church; I’m blaming the double standards of America’s policy makers and judicial authorities.

Dirty Collar: Priest Indicted for Child Porn

Yesterday, on a sunny and otherwise normal Wednesday in the St. Louis Archdiocese, the formerly unthinkable* happened: Father William F. Vatterott was indicted by a federal grand jury for possession of child pornography.

Father Vatterott possessed the child pornography between June 2010 and June 2011. He is expected to appear in federal court to answer the indictment later in the week or early next week.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan noted that the St. Louis Archdiocese cooperated with the investigation.

Vatterott and sexy seminarian. Image via St. Louis Review.

Vatterott (right) and sexy seminarian. Image via the St. Louis Review.

Points to the other members of the Archdiocese for keeping their cool in front of the po-po. However, it’s now time to scramble, guys… who’s got the electromagnet?!

The investigation into Vatterott and his attempt to get shivved in the showers of the Missouri State Penitentiary began in 2011:

In June 2011, two teenagers contacted the Archdiocese alleging inappropriate behavior by the Catholic priest. Although no physical contact was reported, Father Vatterott was accused of participating in illicit electronic correspondence with the teenagers. One of the teenagers also came forward with allegations involving underage drinking and additional inappropriate behaviors that have not been publicly disclosed at this time.

A subsequent investigation found the Catholic priest to be in possession of at least two images featuring an unidentified nude underage male.

Vatterrot’s previous assignment was as pastor at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, which I’m not touching despite its obvious hilarity.

* Now banal

Orthodox Bishop Goes Down in Lurid Sex Scandal

Powerful Serbian bishop Vasilije Kačavenda organized orgies at which he and others raped underage boys and girls.

That’s among the sensational allegations that have been leveled against the holy man in recent months, culminating in Kačavenda’s tendering his resignation the other day, and the Orthodox Church accepting it.


One news report speaks of “a crush of lurid accusations that seem better suited to Caligula’s court than an Orthodox diocese.”

A key witness is Bojan Jovanovic, a former theological student, who claims he saw numerous orgies that had been organized or backed by the now-74-year-old bishop; and that Kačavenda personally asked him to supply young children for the sex parties. The lustful participants allegedly included other Christian-Orthodox clerics as well as prominent Serbian businessmen.

“They tried on many occasions to put me in a compromising situation myself or to pull me into their circle,” Jovanovic says. “[The bishop] also suggested that I should use the school where I was teaching science to bring him children up to the age of 10, but of course I refused.”

Three years ago, rumors started swirling around a photograph that showed the bishop in his extravagantly-gilded home with male stripper Dejan Nestorovic, who admitted to having a personal relationship with Kačavenda. Nice touch: In one snap, the two were posing next to what appears to be a Christmas tree.

After a Serbian newspaper recently obtained a grainy video purportedly showing Kačavenda in flagrante delicto with young men in various locations (you can look for snippets online if you’re so inclined), the walls came tumbling down.

Dusko Tomić, a lawyer in Bijeljina, says he has collected statements and other evidence from numerous sex-abuse victims claiming to have been molested by the bishop.

Among the people trying to get their story out are relatives of Milić Blažanović, a theology student who reportedly rebuffed advances from Kačavenda. Blažanović later died under mystifying circumstances in a remote monastery — when a bomb exploded in his room. It would be an odd way to commit suicide, especially for a usually cheerful young man with no known history of depression, but that’s the conclusion investigators reached — that Blažanović killed himself. The official finding didn’t stop unsubstantiated rumors that the bishop had had a hand in his death.

Other people, too, have recently slung accusations against Kačavenda, including a Bosnian Muslim girl who said the bishop had forced her to convert to Christianity and then raped her when she was 16.

Kačavenda napušta svoj tron | Društvo | Novosti.rs

Tomić, himself a follower of the Church, is incredulous over what he’s learned, and predicts that other careers will sustain damage in the sex-scandal fallout.

“When I read all the information and all the reports from different people that he abused, from people to whom he did much harm, I’m shocked as an Orthodox believer and as a human being that this kind of person is still present in public life. Kačavenda became a politician. And let’s not forget that he is a general of the Serbian Army. Let’s not forget that he’s a close friend of [Serb Republic President Milorad] Dodik and a lot of influential businessmen and entrepreneurs. All of them are in big trouble now.”

Kačavenda’s friendly relations with people in high places go back decades. He was said to be close to Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, later accused of genocidal war crimes (each man is sometimes referred to as the “Butcher of Bosnia”).

Kačavenda denies all charges of sexual abuse and other crimes. On Monday, he threatened to sue those who had “smeared and slandered him.”

The Church, in accepting his resignation, never mentioned the scandals, stating instead that the bishop was stepping down for health reasons.

That’s not to say that Church leaders aren’t vigilant about fighting immorality. Serbian Patriarch Iriniej recently has been vocal in his opposition to a planned gay-pride march in Belgrade, saying that such an event would cast a “moral shadow” over the country.

[top image via zokstersomething; bottom image via Novosti]

Hamas TV: Cute Kids Sing of Blowing Selves Up For Allah; Serenade ‘Explosive Device of Glory’

Everybody sing! Don’t know the words? They’re easy:

“Jihad bestows pride and glory upon you when you become a martyrdom-seeker.
Oh explosive device of glory – with her blood she created freedom.
Ask [suicide bomber] Fatima Al-Najjar how one should live a life of pride.”

For an extra dose of WTF, wait for the guy in the chicken costume.

[hat tip: Middle East Media Research Institute]

Christians Offer Human Sacrifices: Their Own Kids

It’s not a new case, but this one just came to my attention in the wake of the news about Herbert and Catherine Schaible. The Schaibles, if you’ll recall, are the fundamentalist Christians from Philly whose kids keep dying because mommy and daddy believe in prayer, not doctors.

They would get along fabulously with Susan Grady, a mother from Oklahoma. Last year, Grady was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for refusing to call a doctor for her son Aaron. Instead, she prayed and prayed, but God didn’t listen. Aaron, who had complications from diabetes, died, two months shy of his 10th birthday.

Susan Grady [photo] told detectives that she did not consider taking Aaron to the doctor. She told them that “I was trying to live by faith and I felt like God would heal him,” according to the affidavit.



Two and a half years isn’t much for knowingly causing your child’s death, but it’s better than what the Schaibles got after their first kid died — nothing but probation. Their youngest, still a baby, paid the price for the court’s soft-hearted verdict: he’ll join his older brother six feet under when the autopsy is done.

I hope the parents will buy him a pretty headstone. Maybe an engraved Bible verse from Genesis 22 would be nice.

Parents Douse Muslim Girl in Acid For Looking At a Boy: ‘It Was Her Destiny To Die This Way.’

Father: “She turned to look at a boy. I’d told her before not to do that.”

A compilation of acid-attack victims’ stories, via the YouTube channel ConversationWithA.

See also the photo essay Faces of Islam:


Rabbi Broyde Said To Have Created Yet Another Fake Jewish ‘Expert’; This One May End His Career

Earlier this month, it emerged that prominent rabbinical judge and law professor Michael Broyde invented the character of an older rabbi who would go online to praise Broyde’s scholarship. The comments left by this fictitious elder were really left by Broyde himself.

After Broyde admitted as much, he lost his seat on the rabbinical court, but not his professor job at Emory University.

Now, Emory may be forced to reconsider. It seems that Broyde created, out of thin air, yet another elderly religious scholar, Rabbi David Tzvi Keter. According to the tenacious Steven I. Weiss at the Jewish Channel, Broyde, posing as Keter,

…alleged he’d had conversations with now long-dead sages in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The alleged conversations were used to produce a manufactured history of statements from long-dead scholars that buttressed an argument that Broyde had made in a highly-touted article published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. Broyde, in a later publication, subsequently quoted this second identity’s alleged findings as further proof of his original argument.


Now we’ve crossed into new territory — that of fraudulent scholarship. Broyde’s previous fabulation was shameless but not that shameless. This new one, if it checks out, would appear to be the academic equivalent of suicide.

If Broyde created this second identity and alleged historical evidence, that would “clearly be false scholarship” and “clearly require disciplinary review,” according to Professor Celia Fisher of Fordham University, where she is director of the Center for Ethics Education.

For a man who was a top candidate for the U.K.’s Chief Rabbi job just last year, Broyde’s fall from grace is a stunner.

Anyway, the ball’s now in Emory University’s court.

[hat tip: Failed Messiah]

Tsarnaev ‘Angry’ When Islam Was Called Violent

The ex-husband of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s sister told the New York Times in an e-mail that the Boston bomber

“…was looking for connections between the wars in the Middle East and oppression of Muslim population around the globe. It was very hard to argue with him on themes somehow connected to religion. On the other hand, he did not hate Christians. He respected their faith. Never said anything bad about other religions. But he was angry that the world pictures Islam as a violent religion.

He certainly did a bang-up job of dispelling the idea.

Men Behaving Badly: U.S. Buddhist Monk Leaks Sexytime Recording of Another Buddhist Monk

A Buddhist monk in Massachusetts may regret having sex with Men. Maya Men.

Ms. Maya Men (we’ll refer to her as MMM from here on out, to avoid confusion) is the plaintiff in a case that came before a Massachusetts judge yesterday. The woman is upset over the existence and alleged distribution of a compromising tape that shows her making sexytime with Nhem Kimteng, a Cambodian monk (photo). Kimteng was helping MMM lead a $10 million Buddhist temple project in Lowell, Mass.


The monk has been dismissed from the Community of Khmer Buddhist Monks’ temple project (though it could be argued that he was just exploring MMM’s temple, in a totally holy and Biblical sense). Other members of Lowell’s Khmer Vat community see evidence of Men behaving badly, and want her kicked out too.

According to the temple’s website, MMM

oversees the temple’s daily activities and manages the Buddhist monks appointments and makes sure everything is running smoothly.

Well, things aren’t so smooth anymore. “The [Cambodian] community is being destroyed by the two individuals in the tape,” Lowell City Councilor Vesna Nuon said.

MMM, who doesn’t seem to have heard of the Streisand Effect, claims that five defendants violated her right to privacy and her constitutional rights. She has suffered emotional distress as a result, she says.

One of the five accused of distributing the involuntary porn tape is another Buddhist monk, Cheng Leang.

MMM is asking for punitive damages, and money for an investigation to track down and destroy the original recording and any copies.

Yesterday, the judge ordered two defendants, including Leang, to stop making or distributing any copies of the recording. The men were also ordered not to contact MMM or go within 100 feet of her. The three other defendants agreed not to distribute the recording, but without conceding that they’d done so previously.

MMM’s attorney said he will be investigating reports that local businesses are selling the sex tape for $1.

One thing is certain: As a community dedicated to “solidarity,” “compassion,” and “peacefulness,” Khmer Vat followers still have a ways to go.

[photo via birdstardesign]

Paris Knife Attacker Screamed ‘Allah is Great’

The assailant had severe mental problems. Not sure how that sets him apart from other Allah worshipers who sow mindless death and destruction.

An Iranian screaming “Allahu Akbar” on Tuesday attacked a rabbi and his son with a knife as they were entering a synagogue in Paris for the morning prayer.


The 50-year-old rabbi, identified as Philippe Baroukh, suffered cuts to his throat while his 18-year-old son was stabbed in the back. They were immediately transported to the hospital to undergo surgery and are out of danger.

The attack took place in the Beth-El synagogue on rue Saulnier in the 9th district of the French capital. …

“This man had escaped on April 16 from a psychiatric hospital,” a police source said.

Train Plotting

Two men in Canada were charged yesterday with plotting a terrorist attack on a train.

The Huffington Post:

Two Canadian residents have been charged in an alleged terror plot to attack a Via Rail passenger train.

Raed Jaser [photo, left], 35, from Toronto and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, from Montreal, face terrorism-related charges,

…including “participation in a terrorist group,” and “conspiracy to interfere with transportation facilities for the benefit of a terrorist group.”


The News, Australia:

Officials in Canada said Mr Jaser and Mr Esseghaier had “direction and guidance” from al-Qaeda members in Iran but no financial assistance, and there was no reason to think the planned attacks were state-sponsored.

In New York, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne declined to discuss reports that the plot targeted a passenger line between New York City and Canada. However, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that Canada has kept New York posted on the investigation.

The National Post:

Chiheb Esseghaier is a Tunisian-born PhD student at a Université du Québec nanotechnology lab who was threatened with expulsion for his disruptive behaviour and strict religious views that alienated his colleagues.

One colleague at Institut National de la Récherche Scientifique (INRS) in Varennes, Quebec, described Mr. Esseghaier, as “a brainwashed person, basically,” who tore down posters he did not approve of, and pestered the administration to install a prayer room. …

His co-accused, Raed Jaser, is a Palestinian born in the United Arab Emirates, who has permanent resident status in Canada.


Raed Jaser, 35, was convicted of threatening death in 2001, receiving a sentence of two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. But his record was recently cleared after he applied for — and received — a pardon.

The encouraging news: The initial tip to police about the intentions of the darling duo came from an imam in Toronto.

[suspect sketches via CTV News, Montreal]