Sikh’s Bald Move Gets Hair-Trigger Response

If you want to make money, don’t sell sand in the Sahara, and don’t become a barber in Sikh territory; the Sikh god says never to shave your hair.

So now, the world’s actual problems be damned,

Malaysian Sikhs are angry with a local Sikh politician who has shaved his head bald at a Chinese temple in the Northern Peninsular city to protest against money politics in the General Election being held today. Jagdeep Singh Deo, a candidate for the Datuk Keramat state seat in northern peninsular Malaysia, joined other Chinese candidates campaigning in the General Election to protest by having their heads shaved bald.


Why, sir, that’s an insult!

The Gurdwara Sahib Kangar president Pritpal Singh has described Jagdeep’s act as an insult to Sikh religion, the basic tenet of which is never to shave their hair.

He’s right. Has Mr. Jagdeep no sense of duty?

Pritpal said Jagdeep had forgotten the fundamentals of his own religion. … “Cutting your hair or going bald without any medical reason is unacceptable. It is worse coming from a public figure like him,” the New Straits Times quoted Pritpal as saying. “There are many other ways of showing one’s displeasure. As a Sikh, it is his communal duty to bear in mind the sensitivity of all Sikhs and their religion,” Pritpal said.

[image via Sojourn Church]

Vatican Gags African Whistleblower Priest

From the L.A. Times:

He is a celebrity across eastern and central Africa, a gospel music star known to many as the “Dancing Priest.” But for years he also was a keeper of painful secrets — his own and many others’.

In going public, Anthony Musaala [photo] has forced the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda to confront a problem it had insisted didn’t exist. And he may stir a debate far beyond Africa’s most Catholic of countries.


The Ugandan priest has been suspended indefinitely by the archbishop of Kampala for exposing what he calls an open secret: Sex abuse in the Catholic Church is a problem in Africa as well as in Western Europe and North America.

The African Catholic Church is fast-growing, pious and traditional. As the church elsewhere forks out billions of dollars to compensate the child sex abuse victims of priests, few African Catholics have questioned the assumption, voiced recently by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, that the African church is purer than its counterpart in the West, which is regarded as secular and permissive.

It’s not more pure, says Musaala. He says he has the evidence to prove it.

“The Vatican turns a blind eye because it doesn’t want to be embarrassed about this blooming church. But I think it’s time we had the truth,” Musaala says.

In March, he wrote to the archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Lwanga, about priests who fathered children, kept secret wives or abused girls or boys, and called for a debate on marriage for priests.

One of the cases of abuse he cited involved himself. He was one of numerous boys sexually abused at 16, he says, by Catholic brothers at one of Uganda’s best boarding schools. He also alleged several other cases of child sex abuse in his letter.

“Wherever you go, people know about this. It’s like an open secret. People know. Nothing is ever done,” said Musaala in an interview.

[image via The Notice]

Islam and Terrorism: Ali Rizvi Punctures the Pet Myths of Radical Muslims and Their Enablers

Over at the Huffington Post, Ali A. Rizvi has an eye-opener of a piece about militant Islam.

He starts off with a quote.

“The ambassador answered us that [their right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Guess who? Rizvi reveals that

The above passage is not a reference to a declaration by al Qaeda or some Iranian fatwa. They are the words of Thomas Jefferson, then the U.S. ambassador to France, reporting to Secretary of State John Jay a conversation he’d had with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, Tripoli’s envoy to London, in 1786 — more than two and a quarter centuries ago.

That is before al Qaeda and the Taliban, before the creation of Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, before Khomeini, before Saudi Arabia, before drones, before most Americans even knew what jihad or Islam was, and, most importantly, well before the United States had engaged in a single military incursion overseas or even had an established foreign policy.

At the time, thousands of American and European trade ships entering the Mediterranean had been targeted by pirates from the Muslim Barbary states (modern-day North Africa). More than a million Westerners had been kidnapped, imprisoned and enslaved. Tripoli was the nexus for these operations. Jefferson’s attempts to negotiate resulted in deadlock, and he was told simply that the kidnapping and enslavement of the infidels would continue, tersely articulated by Adja in the exchange paraphrased above.


Adja’s position wasn’t a random one-off. This conflict continued for years, seminally resulting in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed into law by President John Adams in 1797. Article 11 of the document, a direct product of the United States’ first-ever overseas conflict, contained these famous words, cementing America’s fundamental commitment to secularism:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext, arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Yes, the establishment of secularism in America back in the 18th century was largely related to a conflict with Islamist jihadism.

So where did Abdul Rahman Adja’s bin Laden-esque words come from?

They couldn’t have been a response to American imperialism (the start of the conflict precedes the presidency of George Washington), U.S. foreign policy, globalization, AIPAC or Islamophobia. Yet his words are virtually identical to those spouted ad nauseum by jihadists today who justify their bellicosity as a reaction to these U.S.-centric factors, which were nonexistent in Adja’s time.

Now, Rizvi reaches his key point. If I could mind-beam it to every person in the West — especially to those who keep insisting that there is some elusive “root cause” to Islamic jihad that transcends religion — I’d be a happy man.

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and the foiled al Qaeda-backed plot in Toronto, the “anything but jihad” brigade is out in full force again. If the perpetrators of such attacks say they were influenced by politics, nationalism, money, video games or hip-hop, we take their answers at face value. But when they repeatedly and consistently cite their religious beliefs as their central motivation, we back off, stroke our chins and suspect that there has to be something deeper at play, a “root cause.”

The taboo against criticizing religion is still so astonishingly pervasive that centuries of hard lessons haven’t yet opened our eyes to what has been apparent all along: It is often religion itself, not the “distortion,” “hijacking,” “misrepresentation” or “politicization” of religion, that is the root cause.

Next, here’s Rizvi making short shrift of the feeble accusation every critic of Islam must swat away over and over: that we’re “islamophobes.”

As an atheist Muslim (I’m not a believer, but I love Eid, the feasts of Ramadan and my Muslim family and friends), I could be jailed or executed in my country of birth, the country I grew up in and a host of other Muslim countries around the world for writing this very piece. Obviously, this is an unsettling, scary feeling for me. You may describe that fear as a very literal form of “Islamophobia.” But is that the same thing as anti-Muslim bigotry? No.

Semantics matter here. As much as I have differences with the contents of Islam’s canonical texts, I know that most Muslims are good, peaceful people who have barely read the Quran and seldom follow it except for the occasional cherry-picking and hearsay, much like the adherents of any other religion. Most of the 1 billion Muslims in the world (with the largest populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) don’t even understand Arabic.

My own incredulity over seething Muslim anger against Western makers of cartoons and satirical TV shows always leads me to this question: How puny is your faith that a few words of jest can injure it? How feather-light is your belief in Allah that a cartoonist drawing your prophet warrants you drawing your sword?

Good idea

Good idea

Rizvi, however, has a more substantial response:

It is important to understand why criticism, satire or mockery of any ideology isn’t bigoted or racist. Criticizing capitalism does not make you an anti-capitalist “bigot.” Criticizing religious ideology is no different. No one is born pre-circumcised or pre-baptized with a hijab or a yarmulke sewn to their heads.

It is clear now, as it always has been, that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, educational status, financial status, citizenship status, marital status and family background have little to do with Islamist terrorism. Before the Russian Tsarnaevs from North Caucasus, we’ve had Richard Reid, the Hispanic Jose Padilla, the Nigerian underwear bomber, California’s Adam Gadahn and others. The only common denominator among them is Islamic belief and religious fervor, which is not a race or ethnicity.

His conclusion:

The “root causes” of jihadist terrorism are the same today as they were when Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja said those historic words to Thomas Jefferson. We want to be honest about it so that we can actually do something about it.

For the fast-growing secularist/humanist movement, criticism of religion isn’t a demonstration of bigotry but a struggle against it. To us, bigotry against bigotry isn’t bigotry, and intolerance of intolerance isn’t intolerance.

[top image via Naval History and Heritage; bottom image via undhimmi]

Offense? Nun Taken.

John Waters recalls the nuns who set him on his path to film-making glory.

‘The first thing I can remember rebelling about really, was when I was about 8-years-old and every Sunday we’d go to church. Once a year they’d read us this pledge that we had to take for the Legion of Decency, which was the Catholic Church rating the movies — what you could see and what you couldn’t — and the condemned ones were the ones they’d tell us you’d go to Hell if you saw these movies.


Well, I remember refusing to do this pledge and my mother was kind of shocked, but I was just a child, and she didn’t make a big deal out of it. And on Sundays, the nuns would read us this list, with this voice like the Devil, and you know, seeing this nun stand there saying, “Love Is My ProfessionMom and DadThe Naked Night.” I thought “What are these movies?” I’d never heard of them — they didn’t play at my neighborhood, believe me — but I would go and see them, or read about them, and clip the little list and keep a record of all these condemned movies.  The Mom and Dad poster is hanging right in my hall — it’s still that much of an influence. But it made me want to see these movies I’d never, ever heard of. So, in fact they encouraged me, [the nuns] encouraged my interest, without ever knowing it completely.’

It’s a variation on what would come to be known as the Streisand effect, I suppose, and it delights me.

[hat tip to — and image via — Dangerous Minds]

Canadian Hindu Priest Hears Teens’ Boyfriend Trouble, Volunteers His Own Sexual Services

A Canadian judge found a Hindu priest in Abbotsford, British Columbia, guilty of three counts of sexually interfering with two girls in his congregation.

Judge Neill Brown learned that Karam Vir, 33, an Indian national, had built friendships with the two girls, aged 17, over months. Vir [photo] approached the girls at the temple while they were dealing with relationship trouble with their boyfriends. He offered counseling and advice, but not without an ulterior motive.


The first complainant alleged Vir three times forced kisses on her and forced brief sexual intercourse and/or touching on her three times before she pushed him away, crying and asking him to stop.

In the other case, Vir gave the girl a ring to “protect her.” During their friendship she repeatedly asked Vir to stop talking about wanting to get physically involved with her and resisted his advances, once when he hugged her and tried to touch her chest and again when he pushed her onto a bed after giving her the ring.

The holy horndog is due to be sentenced in August.

[image via Asian Journal]

And the Word Became Flesh

Leviticus 19:28:

“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”

"WTF did I tell you?!"

Leviticus 19:28 and a half: “WTF did I just tell you?!”

Via Buzzfeed.

Friday Funny

Click to embiggen.

bibleright[cartoon by Saji, via Twitter]

Three Pastors Bilk Churchgoers out of $8 Million

A Canadian husband-and-wife team swindled 8.6 million dollars out of church members before getting caught.

Marlon Gary Hibbert, 49, and his wife Verna (a.k.a. Shelley), 48, served as co-pastors at several Toronto-area churches, where they managed to convince their brethren that they were highly-skilled foreign-currency traders on the side. Potential investors were told they’d double or triple their money. Dozens took the bait; more victims are expected to come forward.

The Hibberts had a website that explained their mission, promising to turn “ghettos into gardens” and “injustice into justice”:


According to the Globe and Mail,

police allege [Hibbert] made no money on the trading scheme, and instead used funds from later investors to pay investment “returns” to earlier investors.

The couple kept the Ponzi scheme alive Bernie Madoff-style — by frequently sending fake financial statements purporting to show that the value of the investments was skyrocketing.

An audit estimates the fraud at $8.6 million, of which $4 million remains outstanding. So far, police have identified 38 victims, bilked out of a total of $2.1 million.

Many of the investors have lost homes and retirement funds to the fraud.

Although only 38 victims are known by name so far, forensic audits show that around 200 people were defrauded.

A police investigator told reporters that some of the investors are now in bad shape financially and mentally.

“They are distraught, they still can’t believe someone like him could have done this to them…some of them, it’s their life savings that they’ve taken out of the bank through their RRSP [Registered Retirement Savings Plan].” …

One of the victims … was a stay-at-home mother with two blind children, who said she and her husband lost $60,000 that they had received from her mother-in-law’s estate. At the hearing, the unidentified woman was asked about the impact on her family and replied, “This is where I cry.”

The Hibberts are alleged to have burned through millions of dollars to fund their high-rolling lifestyle, complete with luxury cars and big homes.

Police believe the fraud was run between 2005 and 2010 while the Hibberts were pastors at the Masonic Church of God with locations on Queen St. East and on Midland Ave. in Scarborough. The Hibberts are now co-pastors at Life Centre Word of Faith Ministries.

Police also charged a third pastor with fraud, alleging that Lorraine Bahlmann, 47, mailed inaccurate account statements to victims.

A Toronto PD detective said that further arrests and charges are anticipated.

For more 2013 cases of clergy members shaking down their congregations and committing large-scale investment fraud, see here, here, and here.

My Husband the Biblical King

Good judgment and intelligence took a 10-year leave of absence:

Tracey Sharp was induced to live for more than a decade in a menage of seven ‘wives’ who shared a single ‘husband’. Moreover, she was persuaded to believe the absurd fiction that Philip Sharp, once a Messianic Jewish rabbi, was a Biblical king who had been instructed by God to have multiple wives and a brood of children.

‘I do question how I got involved,’ says Tracey, 46, who has two daughters, Naomi, nine, and Mischa, three, by the self-styled king. She left his Sussex harem in November after their relationship disintegrated into a succession of blazing rows.


Why did all these women fall under a deluded man’s spell? All it took was Philip Sharp invoking the will of god.

“He said he’d had a visitation from God and was about to be a king, and I think he genuinely felt God had decreed he should take many wives and that what he was doing was right. … I was in love with the man and he is very powerful and persuasive. He assured us everything was sanctioned by God and he quoted passages from the Bible to back this up. He could have told me the sky was luminous orange and I would have believed him.”

The women were instructed to keep their heads covered — Sharp wanted to be the only one to see their hair — and were called to prayer at 6:30am every day. Says his estranged wife,

‘The hardest thing was recognizing that he wasn’t a king. He wasn’t called by God. He was just a man with a giant ego.

No shit hon. They all are.


P.S. Think seven wives is impressive? At last count, this Islamic faith healer had 86.

[image via Daily Mail]

Christ Is Coming, Screw Global Warming

Nothing matters when Christ comes back:

The United States has failed to take action to mitigate climate change thanks in part to the large number of religious Americans who believe the world has a set expiration date.

Research by David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado uncovered that belief in the biblical end-times was a motivating factor behind resistance to curbing climate change.

“[T]he fact that such an overwhelming percentage of Republican citizens profess a belief in the Second Coming (76 percent in 2006, according to our sample) suggests that governmental attempts to curb greenhouse emissions would encounter stiff resistance even if every Democrat in the country wanted to curb them,” Barker and Bearce wrote in their study, which will be published in the June issue of Political Science Quarterly.


The study, based on data from the 2007 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, uncovered that belief in the “Second Coming” of Jesus reduced the probability of strongly supporting government action on climate change by 12 percent.

For this blog, I digest reams of religious news and information every day. It seems incontrovertible to me that much of the “Second-Coming” crowd, despite the naysaying they hear on Fox News, wants global warming to be true, and doesn’t mind bringing it about — by doing nothing.

That’s because climate change provides “evidence” of Biblical prophecies. In other words, if conservative-evangelical Christians can’t have another world-wide flood or an epic plague of locusts, they’ll take major droughts and record-breaking typhoons — celestial indicators that Jesus will return.

Any day now.

[image via Youth Voices]

Shedding Blood For Allah: Pew Study Says More Than 350 Million Muslims Support Violent Jihad

Tuesday saw the release of a major international Pew Research study into the opinions of Muslims on a variety of topics. The full report (PDF) is here, but let’s just take a quick peek:

The study is a four-year effort by Pew, which conducted 38,000 face-to-face interviews in 80-plus languages for the survey. In total, 39 countries and territories were included, all of which had over 10 million Muslims living there. …

A majority of Muslims in Asia, Africa and the Middle East favored sharia law being adopted as the law of their countries, with the highest support recorded in Afghanistan at 99 percent. …

The study says that 72 percent of Indonesian Muslims favor making Islamic law the official legal code in the country, compared to 86 percent in Malaysia and 77 percent in Thailand having the same opinion.


A strong majority surveyed said so-called honor killings could never be justified. The only exceptions came in Afghanistan and Iraq, where majorities condoned executions of women deemed to have shamed their families by engaging in premarital sex or adultery.

Finally, to Pew’s credit, it didn’t ignore the elephant in the room:

The survey found the global median for Muslims opposed to violence in the name of Islam was 72 percent.


Even though that group includes individuals like the 2009-era Tsarnaev brothers — then still moderate and not yet radicalized — let’s take it at face value and rejoice that a solid majority of Muslims does not openly engage in (or openly support) murder for Allah. 72 percent! Terrific!


Except … well, what about the other 28 percent? There are 1.3 billion Muslims on this planet. If 28 percent of them support violent jihad, that’s 364 million Muslims who condone the murder of apostates, blasphemers, gay people, cartoonists, loose women, and possibly everyone godless enough to attend the Boston marathon.

In the United States, the picture is only marginally better. Eight out of ten U.S. Muslims say it’s not cool to strap a bomb to your chest and kill a bunch of kuffar. But two out of ten say that’s dandy. There are 2.6 million Muslims living in the U.S. … x 19 percent  … Yep, almost half a million of them give suicide bombers a big thumbs-up.

Relieved? Reassured? Me neither.

Now let’s take a closer look at the report itself (pages 68-71), rather than the summary:

The survey finds widespread concern about religious extremism in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle EastNorth Africa region. In nearly every country surveyed in these regions, at least half of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremist groups.

So roughly half a billion Muslims have no such concerns. Got it.

In Indonesia, nearly eight-in-ten Muslims say they are worried about religious extremism (78%), including more than half (53%) who are worried about Islamic extremists.

That’s adorable. That means that 25 percent of Indonesian Muslims are worried about non-Muslim extremists (of which there are very few in that country) to the exclusion of the violent agitators, murderers, and terrorists in their own midst. And in their way, they’d be right. They themselves will likely not be the targets of fellow Muslims. That fate will have to be borne by Indonesian Christians, Buddhists, or agnostics — or by tourists brave enough to visit a Bali nightclub.

My main takeaway from the Pew study is that the Muslim world seems to be radicalizing at breakneck speed.

Consider: After Gallup opinion-polled tens of thousands of Muslims across 35 nations in the mid-aughts and released its report in 2007, we were told that Muslims were almost totally non-violent. They only desire that the West show a little “respect” for their religion.

At the time, Dalia Mogahed, the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, could hardly stop talking about how widespread the Muslim aversion to Islamic violence was. She said she found that 93 percent of her fellow believers don’t want to see a drop of blood spilled in the name of Mohammed. What she left out was that the seven percent who do amounted to 91 million Muslims.

No doubt there is a difference between Gallup’s questions and methodology on the one hand, and Pew’s on the other. But if their respective numbers are even in the ballpark, and in seven or eight years’ time we’ve gone from roughly 90 million devout self-confessed supporters of Islamic violence to more than 350 million, we may well wonder if the message that Islam is “the religion of peace” is getting through to the followers — much less anyone else.


A huge thanks to Pew for gathering and publishing the data. There is much to be learned from the report, and I’ve already spent a couple of hours poring over the fascinating data. Over the next week or two, in dribs and drabs, I’ll share more of the results.

[photo via Sultan Knish; graphic via]

Church Teacher Kills Man in Road Rage Assault

Librado Cena [photo] told police he was mad that another driver honked at him one afternoon in Northern Virginia last month. Naturally, he followed the man’s car into the parking lot of a mall, cornered him, and hit him in the head, according to court papers.


That night, the victim, 63-year-old William Hays O’Brien, slipped into a coma; and a week and a half later, he died of his injuries.

Now, guess where Librado Cena works? At St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, in Fairfax, VA (remember folks, Virginia is for lovers). His title: Director of religious education.

I’ll bet he’s been teaching people that stuff about turning the other cheek.

What Does My Name Mean? Librado, The Meaning Of Names

After the blow, O’Brien had a facial discoloration but initially didn’t seem seriously harmed. He returned home but called 911 hours later, telling the emergency dispatcher he had “a headache that’s about to make my head blow off.”

An ambulance was sent to O’Brien’s home. Paramedics forced their way inside and found O’Brien unconscious and unresponsive on the dining room floor, according to the search warrant. O’Brien was transported to a local hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering from a traumatic brain injury, court papers say. He was listed in critical condition and later died as a result of his injury.

Though Cena was the one who attacked O’Brien — the altercation was caught on a surveillance camera, and O’Brien was seen defending himself — the church man told cops “I think it was an even exchange,” adding “I would say he instigated it.”

Cena is currently charged with “aggravated malicious wounding.” Fairfax County prosecutors don’t rule out that he’ll face additional charges.

[screen shot via themeaningofnames; mugshot via onenewspage]