Archive for July, 2015

Reclaim Australia Dominated by a Christian Cult Leader


Many may be surprised to find out that fervent nationalist group Reclaim Australia is driven primarily by a religious cult, Catch the Fire Ministries, and its political arm, Rise Up Australia. And the group wanting to “Keep Australia Australian” is headed by a Sri Lankan evangelist, Daniel Nallian, who moved to Australia in 1997.

Stating this fact by no means implies recent immigrants can’t have legitimate views about traditional Australian values, and multi-culturalism, (of course they can and do), but this challenges the common perception of Reclaim Australia as an extreme racist movement. Whilst convenient to the apologists of Islam to label them this way, the strange evangelical focus and multicultural nature of half its members provides a different narrative, albeit not one which is necessarily more conducive for an intelligent discussion regarding the perceived clash of Islamic and Western values.

According to “Evangelist Daniel’s” bio, Hillsong founder, Frank Houston, unsuccessfully “prophesied” over him in Sri Lanka, prior to his conversion by a member of his rock band. The Assembly of God evangelist claims that Jesus has saved his life multiple times.

Three months after experiencing salvation he came across his first trial during the communal violence in Sri Lanka when he was confronted with a mob who wanted to kill his parents. But praise God, his prayer as a new Christian was answered when the mob left without touching anyone. That day he said, “Lord, I will serve you as long as I have breath”.

Daniel Nalliah moved to Saudi Arabia to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity, and was miraculously saved by Jesus again.

Pastor Daniel and his family were most miraculously saved from death and torture twice. He says, “If not for Jesus being alive, we would not be alive”! His testimony has touched the hearts of many all over the world.

Well, it’s good to have Jesus on your side.

The President of Rise Up Australia also believes Jesus communicates with him personally, and has ordained him with a special mission from God.

 While in Saudi Arabia, following an encounter he had with Jesus on 21st July 1997 (from 3.40am to 6.00am), in obedience to this, he decided to move to Australia and set up a base known as Catch The Fire Ministries Inc.

Then, Jesus appeared to Daniel again.

Dear Family in Christ,

On April 9, 2000 at 5:00am while in Ethiopia the Lord Jesus Christ woke me from sleep and spoke about Australia. He very clearly told me, Son, if my people will rise up and be proactive, they will stop the disaster which is coming on the land. But if my people sit back, relax and be reactive they will pay a heavy price to take back their land spiritually. He then spoke to me through (The Bible) 2 Chr. 7:14 and said, Gather my people across the land together and tell them to humble themselves, repent, pray and seek my face in one accord, then I will heal their land. This was the start of RISE UP AUSTRALIA prayer meetings.

There’s nothing like an argument from authority. Besides the obvious charlatanism these comments indicate a providential connection with “the land” which only aboriginal Australians lay claim to. One suspects the nationalism espoused by this particular Sri Lankan born follower of Jesus is subsumed by a larger cause.

Daniel Nalliah has claimed the Black Saturday bushfires were the result of the Victorian Government decriminalising abortion. The Queensland floods were due to Kevin Rudd speaking against Israel. He ran for a Senate seat for Family First party and disseminated brochures asking people to pray for God to pull down “Satan’s strongholds” which included bottle shops, gambling houses, brothels, mosques, and Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Reclaim Australian oppose multiculturalism, not multi-ethnicity. They oppose the melting pot of various cultures, insisting we enforce puritan Christian values on the whole society. Opposing Islam, abortion, gay marriage, promiscuity, pornography, and seeking Judeo-Christian focussed education, and other values of the religious right.

Unfortunately, this group adds nothing to debate on Islam, and the appropriate government response to jihadism.

Opposing Islamism with equally extreme ideas only adds height to the walls shielding Islam from appropriate examination. The core beliefs in jihad, martyrdom, the dar al-Harb, subjugation of women, and enforced religious belief underpin the ideologies of terrorist groups. The religion provides the ideology, and social network, to sustain the hatred, warmongering and predisposition towards violence which disenfranchised young men find so attractive.

Reclaim Australia provides succour to liberals whose knee-jerk response to any criticism of Islam is to brand it racism. Note the following in an otherwise well written expose by Jeff Sparrow:

 Let’s leave aside the question of how you can be “against Islam” without “targeting Muslims” (rather like being against Judaism without targeting Jews, one would have thought).

Many people say bad things about Christianity without facing accusations of “targeting” white Christians. Could we be against Nazism in the 1930’s without “targeting Germans”? Conflating the race of Jews and cultural traditions of Muslims provides a shield of political correctness.

Although, Sparrow’s remark paled in comparison to the apologetics of Anne Aly, who views criticism of Islam as the same thing as criticism of Muslims, at the hands of “bigots” and “racists.” Way to give your culture a free pass.

Applying the “racist” label too often shuts down debate, and censures the freedom to discuss the very ideas central to the conflict. Accusations of “racism” are too easy, and too convenient, a blunt instrument used to disarm opposing arguments. They also divert attention away from what appears to be significant motives within groups like Reclaim Australia, which is the debate about religious values, and the culture wars.

Reclaim Australia consists of a front for evangelical Christians. Those goose-stepping for God, combining religious zeal with associating with hate groups, are only reclaiming an historical bigotry. Australia was once a Christian country but never the sort of hollering, miracle worshipping, tele-evangelistic freak show that the backers of Reclaim Australia imagine.

This isn’t our country they are reclaiming. We should disavow their ideas, but for the right reasons. Opposing one totalitarianism with another misses the point altogether, providing a contradictory argument which undermines the Secular argument, the argument for tolerance and pluralism, freedom of speech, and religious freedom without religious coercion, within the framework of an agreed set of human rights and values.



It is very effective to mobilize mass support against a scapegoated enemy by claiming that the enemy is part of a vast insidious conspiracy against the common good. The conspiracist worldview sees secret plots by tiny cabals of evildoers as the major motor powering important historical events; makes irrational leaps of logic in analyzing factual evidence in order to “prove” connections, blames social conflicts on demonized scapegoats, and constructs a closed metaphysical worldview that is highly resistant to criticism.~1

When conspiracist scapegoating occurs, the results can devastate a society, disrupting rational political discourse and creating targets who are harassed and even murdered. Dismissing the conspiracism often found in right-wing populism as irrational extremism, lunatic hysteria, or marginalized radicalism does little to challenge these movements, fails to deal with concrete conflicts and underlying institutional issues, invites government repression, and sacrifices the early targets of the scapegoaters on the altar of denial. An effective response requires a more complex analysis.

The Dynamics of Conspiracism

The dynamic of conspiracist scapegoating is remarkably predictable. Persons who claim special knowledge of a plot warn their fellow citizens about a treacherous subversive conspiracy to attack the common good. What’s more, the conspiracists announce, the plans are nearing completion, so that swift and decisive action is needed to foil the sinister plot. In different historical periods, the names of the scapegoated villains change, but the essentials of this conspiracist worldview remain the same.~2

George Johnson explained that “conspiratorial fantasies are not simply an expression of inchoate fear. There is a shape, an architecture, to the paranoia.” Johnson came up with five rules common to the conspiracist worldview in the United States:~3

“The conspirators are internationalist in their sympathies.

“[N]othing is ever discarded. Right-wing mail order bookstores still sell the Protocols of the Elders of Zion…[and] Proofs of a Conspiracy [from the late 1700’s].

“Seeming enemies are actually secret friends. Through the lens of the conspiracy theorists, capitalists and Communists work hand in hand.

“The takeover by the international godless government will be ignited by the collapse of the economic system.

“It’s all spelled out in the Bible. For those with a fundamentalist bent, the New World Order or One World Government is none other than the international kingdom of the Antichrist, described in the Book of Revelation.

Conspiracism can occur as a characteristic of mass movements, between sectors in an intra-elite power struggle, or as a justification for state agencies to engage in repressive actions. Conspiracist scapegoating is woven deeply into US culture and the process appears not just on the political right but in center and left constituencies as well.~4 There is an entrenched network of conspiracy-mongering information outlets spreading dubious stories about public and private figures and institutions. They use media such as printed matter, the internet, fax trees, radio programs, videotapes and audiotapes.~5


If you want to jump out of this article, try these related pages:

The Conspiracism Collection:

The Sucker Punch Collection

Is Australia becoming a police state?

The Sydney Cafe siege on December 15, 2014 which saw the deaths of two hostages further heightened fears for national security in Australia as the country seeks to clamp down on home-grown militancy. Saeed Khan/AFP Photo
 Is Australia becoming a police state?

Since ISIL made headlines with its lightning advances in Iraq and Syria in June last year, the Australian government has upped its national security rhetoric and passed a number of controversial laws.

The heightened climate of fear has fuelled criticism that the right-wing Abbott government is undermining the nation’s democratic values and eroding civil liberties to fight terror.

In December last year, police stormed a cafe in downtown Sydney where nearly 30 hostages were being held by a lone wolf gunman. The 16-hour siege ended with the deaths of two hostages and the gunman, who had forced his captives to display an Islamic flag in the cafe window during the ordeal.

Two months earlier, Australia launched a massive counterterrorism operation that saw hundreds of armed police raid multiple homes in Sydney and Brisbane. Police would not comment on the number of arrests made.

The country also raised its terrorism threat level to high in September, believing an attack was likely.

Australia is becoming a “polarised and fearful place” due to the government’s scare campaign of the ISIL militant group, Senator Scott Ludlam, deputy leader of the progressive, left-wing Australian Greens, told The National.

Australia’s Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has led the chorus of criticism, accusing the government and opposition Labor Party of colluding to increase government powers under the veil of national security by passing laws “which violate fundamental freedoms”.

This includes a data retention law, passed in March, which grants government security agencies access to two years’ worth of metadata — or citizens’ phone and internet records.

Julian Burnside, a Queen’s Counsel and human rights advocate, said that “the metadata laws are edging Australia one short step closer to being a sort of secret police state”.

In September 2014, soon after the US-led coalition launched its military campaign against ISIL, the Australian parliament passed a counterterror law that gave greater immunity from prosecution to intelligence officers who engage in special operations.

The law also punishes whistle-blowers who disclose intelligence-related information, sparking fears that the media could be targeted if it reported on intelligence operations.

In June, Australia also rushed a website blocking bill and a border force act that punishes medical staff with a two-year jail sentence if they report abuses at detention centres for asylum seekers.

The World Medical Association said that the act was “shocking” from an advanced country like Australia.

The government is now pushing to revise citizenship laws, which could see Australian dual nationals stripped of their citizenship for fighting with terror groups abroad.

An estimated 150 Australians are said to be fighting with ISIL and other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, and they are backed by about 150 Australia-based “facilitators”, according to Mr Abbott.

At least 20 were believed to have returned as of January and there are fears that home-grown militants returning from the Middle East could pose a threat to national security.

However, the bill presented also includes vague terminology that widens its scope to beyond terror activities, such as a clause that could see an Australian lose his nationality for damaging government property.

Senator Ludlam has been a leading opponent of the government’s campaign to increase its power at the expense of civil liberties, and warns that Mr Abbott is leading Australia on a dangerous path.

“There is no question that the Abbott government has repeatedly weakened some of the country’s civil and political rights underpinnings,” he said.

But Mr Abbott insists that the threat posed by groups like ISIL is worth giving up some basic freedoms.

“Regrettably, for some time to come, Australians will have to endure more security than we’re used to, and more inconvenience than we’d like,” Mr Abbott said in September 2014 before introducing counterterror legislation.

The government has allocated an extra AU$1.2 billion (Dh3.3bn) in funding for national security which Mr Burnside said was an “absurd amount of money” to be spending to fight terrorism “when the fact is deaths in Australia from terrorist activity are incredibly rare”.

He noted that domestic violence is a greater killer in Australia but receives little political attention in comparison to terrorism.

While noting the credible threat of ISIL, Mr Ludlam said that its significance has been grossly misrepresented.

“The government has chosen … to elevate the threat of a few dozen domestic religious zealots to a challenge greater than that faced by Australia during the Cold War,” he said.

“[The Abbott government is] seeking to maximise this fear for political advantage,” Mr Ludlam said.

Mr Burnside agreed, saying that Mr Abbott’s fear campaign is geared more towards domestic politics rather than confronting a terror threat.

“Abbott recognises that by creating a climate of fear and then offering protection, he can retain government.”

But the strategy of playing fear politics to increase chances of re-election risks leaving Australians with fewer freedoms than their counterparts in the West, and vulnerable to prosecution for crimes reminiscent of autocratic police states.

Mr Ludlam and Mr Burnside both point to the lack of constitutional protections for human rights in Australia as a weakness in the country’s political system that allows governments to tamper with civil liberties.

“I think we’re the only western democracy that does not have coherent human rights protection,” Mr Burnside said, adding that “our nation is less threatened by terrorism than by laws like these”.

* with additional reporting from Reuters

Catholic fanatics_n

eric campbell - guard
New Guard leader Eric Campbell at a meeting in Sydney 1932
The secret history of fascism in Australia

by Mick Armstrong

New Guard leader Eric Campbell at a meeting in Sydney 1932


There is a myth that Australia, with its supposed democratic, egalitarian traditions, has been immune from mass fascist movements. This is far from true.

Fascism as a mass phenomenon is a product of a capitalist system that is in deep social and political crisis. That was the case with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

In 1931-32 there were 130,000 Australians under arms, out of a population of just over 6 million. They trained and drilled with an assortment of fascist or far right paramilitary organisations. These were so-called respectable citizens: solicitors, doctors, dentists, graziers and business owners.

Support for Hitler and Mussolini was widespread in establishment circles.

In 1933, the Melbourne Herald ran a series of articles titled “Why I have become a fascist” by Wilfrid Kent Hughes, a Victorian MP. Kent Hughes came from a well connected Melbourne family. He had been school captain at Melbourne Grammar and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He went on to become deputy premier of Victoria. In the 1950s he was a minister in Menzies’ federal Liberal government.

Menzies, Australia’s longest serving prime minister, was glowing in his praise of Nazi Germany. In 1938, when federal attorney general, he visited the country and enthused about the “really spiritual quality in the willingness of Germans to devote themselves to the service and well being of the state”.

Hitler and Mussolini were viewed as heroes by conservatives because they had crushed the socialist movement and smashed the unions. They had ensured that profits kept rolling in. An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald declared: “Italy was only saved from Red dominance by the heroic remedy of fascism”.

Another typical example comes from 1937. William Mackay, the NSW police commissioner, established the first Police Boys Clubs. They were modelled on the Nazi labour youth battalions, which he admired because they “subordinate the individual to the welfare of the nation”.

Mackay’s fellow police commissioner in Victoria, Thomas Blamey, headed the main far right paramilitary organisation the League of National Security (also known as the White Army). Blamey went on to become a field marshal and commander of the army in World War Two.

1930s crisis

The crisis of the Depression years led to a political and social polarisation along class lines. More than 30 percent unemployment, wage cuts, widespread evictions and mass poverty led masses of workers to question the whole basis of capitalist society.

In NSW, the radical populist Labor premier Jack Lang won an enormous following. To the left of Lang, the Socialisation Units – which were committed to the immediate introduction of socialism – enrolled tens of thousands. The Communist Party also grew.

Ruling class opinion was hysterical about Lang. Lang was no revolutionary, but he was seen as opening the way for all the disloyal elements in society – the Reds, the unemployed and the Irish Catholics. Irish Catholics were the Muslims of the day – they had betrayed the empire during its hour of need during World War One by revolting against Protestant rule.

The New Guard is the best known of the far right groups. It was formed in February 1931 as a breakaway from the much larger and more powerful Old Guard, which had prominent capitalist backers and operated secretly.

The New Guard, with 36,000 members, was an open fascist organisation that physically attacked union, ALP, unemployed and communist meetings. Its leader, Eric Campbell, visited Italy and Germany and established close relations with the fascists there. It was more middle class in character than the Old Guard. Former prime minister John Howard’s father, Lyall, a petrol station owner, was typical.

Every state had its own fascist or far right organisations. In March 1931, the League of National Security staged a trial run at a coup. Its armed militias seized dozens of towns across rural Victoria.

But the height of far right mobilisation was in NSW. The Melbourne Herald declared: “Today in NSW the deliberate process of smashing is going on under our noses. Sovietism and revolution have found their instrument in Lang”.

In April 1932, the New Guard organised a riot outside Sydney’s Central Police Station as a trial run for a coup. It went badly. But just over a month later, on 13 May, Lang was gone.

The Old guard – which had close connections with the police, the armed forces and the security apparatus, and whose leadership read like a who’s who of the Sydney establishment – mobilised to bring his government down. As well as a secret military wing, it had an open front organisation of 130,000 members called the All Australia League.

Under tremendous pressure from the ruling class, state governor Philip Game sacked Lang in a soft coup. An armed fascist revolt was no longer necessary. Soon afterwards, Scullin’s federal Labor government also fell.


Capitalist rule had been stabilised without the need for a full blown fascist regime. But the far right and fascist mobilisations had a profound impact on Australian politics, which was pushed well to the right.

The conservative governments that came to power federally and in NSW shared many of the values of the New and Old Guard. Indeed, at least 20 NSW members of parliament were members of the New Guard. There were others from the Old Guard.

The parliamentary arm of the right achieved a lot of what the paramilitary wing desired: democratic rights sharply undermined, major attacks on free speech, a harsh censorship regime, and a crackdown on the left, the unions and the unemployed.

All this ensured that the burden of the Depression was imposed on the working class and that the profits of the banks and big capital were secured.

For large numbers of workers, Depression-level wages and conditions were maintained for many years after the economy began to pick up.

The fascists and their backers had achieved their main goal.



27 Bizarre, Wacky Christian Book Titles That Will Make Your Eye Twitch

When it comes to publishing anything, your title (or headline) is everything. Maybe that’s what some of these authors were thinking — “let me grab readers with a really whack title!”. Or maybe they were just clueless. I don’t know.

I’ve not read any of these books. Some of them may be great books, really. But they get on this fabulous list simply because of their very bizarre titles. I didn’t just pick on Christian books, either. I threw in pretty much every crazy religious book title I could find and source. I did find, naturally, that Christians are a tad more creative in their titles.

I’ve sourced all of these to make sure they’re real books — Amazon where I could, and other places if Amazon didn’t have it.

1. Let’s start eating disorders early!


2. It’s almost like this book is an answer to the one above.

crazy christian books

3. I will never be unable to unsee this book cover… The Amazon reviews are unbelievable.


4. You MUST read the Amazon reviews on this one! Well, all of them, really.


5. See, told you I didn’t just pick on Christian spirituality books!

6. I’ve actually seen most of the inside of this book. It’s even crazier than  the cover would lead you to believe.

crazy christian books

7. That devil’s a handy fella to have around. I can pretty much blame him for everything.


8. Short answer: no.


9. This book isn’t actually as crazy as the title sounds. It’s about a young woman who was raised by a mentally ill mother.


10. This is a part of a series…..really.


11. This book is actually supposed to be funny. Unlike some of the others in this list.


12. This may be a great book. The cover image earns it a dual-credit on this list.


13. For your reference shelf, you know, just in case.


14. Bad title. Really bad title.


15. Do we really need books to teach witches how to hurt people?


16. I’m a quiet girl. Oops.


17. Just skipping over this one. The paranoia makes me paranoid.


18. Put this on the shelf in the kitchen with the other books you use every day.


19. Yo no comprendo.


20. You can read this for free on Google Books!


21. Well, what about it?


22. I know what you’re all gonna say here.


23. I can give you 21 reasons why I think these people who do this are fake.


24. There’s nothing actually wrong with this title. It earned its spot strictly for the cover image.


25. There’s sex in the afterlife? Yay! Maybe there’s hope for those of us who aren’t getting any here.


26. This is probably a very good book….very unfortunate title choice. Nah! GREAT TITLE! [edited by AOB] 😉


27. An alternate title could be “how to probably have an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.”


tiffany willis texas liberal america

Tiffany Willis is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she has spent most of her career actively working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics she discusses, like her Facebook pagefollow her on Twitter, or connect with her via LinkedIn. She also has a grossly neglected personal blog and a literary quotes blog that is a labor of love. Find her somewhere and join the discussion.

Apostasy & Islam: Saying no to faith

Yogesh Pawar
As the debate about what pushes the young towards radicalisation gathers momentum with the rise of the Islamic State, Yogesh Pawar speaks to young Muslims who are shunning not just radicalisation but the religion itself.
  • Amit Bandre dna

Fakeer Mohamed Althafi speaks so softly that you have to strain to hear him. The 32-year-old physiotherapist from Tamil Nadu says he’s been an introvert since childhood and loves blending into the background. At the bachelor’s pad which he shares with a trio of peers in midtown Mumbai, he insists that no more details about his address be given. “If someone found out where I lived,” he explains, “they could come attack me or worse.”

And no, Althafi is not a controversial political figure/activist. So, considering he admits to being no more than “a regular bloke”, what is he so scared of? Just this — five years ago, this native of Ramanathapuram told his family that he no longer believed in the fundamental tenets of Islam. “I stopped being a believer. I know the word apostate sounds funnily anachronistic, but I’m not saying this lightly.”

Isn’t that borderline paranoid? “I wish it were,” Althafi smiles wryly. He recalls how T J Joseph, a professor of Malayalam at Newman College in Kerala’s Thodupuzha town had his hand cut off at the wrist as punishment for allegations of blasphemy. As the radical fringe of organised religion becomes more vocal and extremist in its views, there are many other instances, cutting across countries. “The deadly assault on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French newspaper that satirised religion, or the hacking to death of several bloggers in Bangladesh (Ananta Bijoy Das in May, Washiqur Rahman Babu in March and Avijit Roy barely a month before that) for openly supporting atheism may seem far away, but the threat here too is very real and close,” says Althafi.

When he confessed his atheism to his horrified family, his eldest brother reminded him that the penalty in Sharia law for apostasy is capital punishment. His family was ready to forgive him if he remained Muslim. “They wanted me be a religious hypocrite. I can’t do that. I don’t mind the qawwalis, pathani suits, the biryani and the phirni but how could I pretend to follow a faith I simply didn’t feel.”


Over 2,000 km away, Selina Bi Sheikh of Motijil village in Murshidabad district of West Bengal is angry. It has been two months since she was stripped and brutally beaten allegedly for converting to Christianity. She doesn’t mince her words when asked if she minded being named. “Why should I be ashamed? Ask the local Muslim extremists who have resolved to ostracise me till I return to Islam that question,” she says firmly.

It’s almost funny, she says, that her opponents find a 54-year-old widow who lives with her two young sons threatening. “I’m not allowed to buy even soap or toothpaste from the local shop or the grocer.”

Though it means having one of her sympathetic neighbours fetch water for her from the village well, she says she will not give up Christianity. “Why can’t I choose?” she asks defiantly… a defiance which has seen several complaints registered against her at the Murshidabad police station for “disturbing peace and harmony.”


Sherbanoo, a 28-year-old Bohra banker from Pune, is being accused by her mother of doing the same to the family. “It has been nine years since I opposed the clergy in our mosque,” remembers Sherbanoo. “After my genitals were forcibly mutilated when 19 and this was sought to be given a religious rationale to keep me quiet and compliant, I developed an aversion for everything Islam. A brief stint at the Cardiff University on an exchange programme gave me the strength to tell the clergy what they’re practising is not Islam but unbridled

Expectedly, what she calls “the loonies and their threats” came fast and thick. “What I hadn’t prepared for was the way they manipulated my parents and family. When my brother joined my father in beating me up for ‘shaming the family’, I left home and began living by myself.”

Doesn’t she miss family? “I do. See, in Islam you’re only part of the community group. There’s no individual identity. It is like one would be lost without the collective. Having found my independent voice, going back to my folks would mean becoming part of the same claustrophobic reality I’ve turned my back on.” She feels the creation of an umbrella organisation on the lines of the Council for Ex-Muslims of Britain would help a lot in reassuring others like her to come out.

Althafi, Selina Bi and Sherbanoo aren’t alone. Though the number of Muslim non-believers is on the rise, not everyone is leaving the religion. At a time when the radicalised are willing to travel across the world from as far as Britain and Australia to enrol as warriors of the Islamic State to kill non-believing kafirs (infidels), perhaps wisely so.

“The mob baying at the doorstep is not the biggest risk ex-Muslims face. Loneliness and isolation of ostracism from loved ones, the stigma and  rejection prevents many ex-Muslims from going public with their apostasy,” says Dr Simon Cottee, author of a new book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam.

A broader and long-standing interest in deviance and transgression saw Cottee – a faculty member of the School of Social Policy, Sociology & Social Research, University of Kent – research Islamic apostates. “From the perspective of Islam and many Muslims, apostasy is a profoundly deviant, since it involves a rejection of the very foundations of Islam. Apostasy is more than criticism; it is renunciation. And people of the faith take this personally since their belief in Islam is so intimately tied to their core identity. As one of my interviewees put it to me,‘People get very emotional about it. It’s not just that you’re criticising Islam. You’re actually criticising its very foundations and people take it as an attack on their identity, not just their belief’.”

“Attitudes need to change,” says Cottee. “There has to be a greater openness around the whole issue. And the demonisation of apostates as ‘sell outs’ by both left-liberals and reactionary Muslims must stop. People leave Islam. They have reasons for this, good, bad or whatever.It is a human right to change one’s mind.”

He further adds, “Because they had once known the ‘truth’, their subsequent rejection of it is all the more unsettling and confusing for true believers. ‘The apostate,’ wrote the classical Muslim jurist al-Samara’i, ‘causes others to imagine Islam lacks goodness and thus prevents them from accepting it. But that is not why apostates arouse disquiet among Muslims. That happens because Muslims find them confounding. Because if one person can be persuaded to leave Islam, then why not all?”

Touchy subject

Cottee admits it’s a subject many avoid. “Few touch this subject, although there is a keen sociological interest in conversion to Islam. I think this reflects the liberal and radical biases of sociology. Sociologists don’t want to offend Islamic sensibilities by studying themes unsettling to Muslims – this could be one explanation for the neglect. Or maybe it’s because they fear being called Islamophobic. It doesn’t reflect well on sociology, which has become a moral and intellectual wasteland.”

This is echoed by others like Imtiaz Shams, who runs a group called Faith to Faithless, which aims to help Muslim non-believers speak of their difficulties. The 26-year-old’s strong YouTube presence and several of his well-attended talks at universities across the UK have left him at grave physical risk. “Nobody likes to be in the firing line, but I had to do this because no one else was.”

Like Shams, Pakistani-Canadian writer-musician-physician Ali A Rizvi who is working on his book, The Atheist Muslim, often gets trolled on social media for his views. “Is it extremists that are corrupting Islam, or is it moderates that are sanitising it?” he tweets, questioning the moderate Muslim who says s/he doesn’t believe in misogyny, murder, or homophobia. “Why then revere a book that endorses them?” he asks. “The dissident Muslim/ex-Muslim is always caught between the right’s bigotry and the left’s apologism.” According to him, it should be acceptable to criticise Islam as long as this does not amount to demonising all Muslims.

In fact Dr Cottee likens leaving Islam to the coming out for gays in countries where homosexuality is still criminalised. “The fight for the right to be recognised in both cases comes at the often prohibitive cost of shame, rejection, intimidation and very often, family expulsion.”

Those who disagree

Some like relationship coach and sensitivity trainer Altaf Shaikh question what he calls “notion” of apostasy. “I use the bigotry and intolerance against Islam to help fortify my faith,” says this Mumbai resident who survived the 1992-93 riots by the skin of his teeth. “These ‘apostates’ are taking the stand they do, because of ignorance.”

According to him, Islam is facing two crises from within and without. “The ill-informed radical voices tend to give their own twisted interpretation to scriptures and using that to justify everything from wars, misogyny to human rights excesses. On the other hand, there are those who are using this to further their ‘otherising’ agenda for Muslims. As the persecution and discrimination gets stronger to the point of vilifying an entire people, this has led to a backlash of sorts with misguided youth often becoming easily influenced by the shrill radical call-to-arms voices.”

Imtiyaz Jaleel, TV journalist-turned All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MLA from Central Aurangabad in Maharashtra, echoes this sentiment. “The radicalisation among Muslims can’t be seen in isolation. The negation of the community’s aspirations by both the saffron parties and the so-called secular ones is what needs to be seen along with that narrative.” According to him, “Asking questions from within the fold is understandable and can be welcomed. From without there is always the lurking suspicion of hidden agendas coming into play.”

Not only Islam

“While its true that apostasy continues to be criminalised by only 19 Muslim majority countries – 11 of which are in the Persian Gulf – Islam isn’t the only one concerned with the phenomenon,” explains socio-cultural historian Mukul Joshi. “This has been the case with all proselytising religions historically. Christianity too frowns on what the New Testament twice refers to as the ‘wilful rejection of Christ by a practising Christian.” According to him some of the human rights excesses in the past under the Vatican’s watch had to do with apostasy. “Classically Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism welcomed apostasy and many of their canonical texts are replete with debates and arguments that support this,” he explains and adds, “Unfortunately current times have seen hardening of stances all around with bigotry and intolerance becoming the dominant sentiment of our times. Its saddening that some political and religious outfits in these religions too are now beginning to talk of annihilation of non-believers.”

He is quick to point out how often the denunciation of a faith itself takes on a zeal bordering on the religious. “The shrillness on the other side then only finds a match on this side too. Any real understanding will require the complete abandonment of the shrill by both sides. Only then can they talk and find a way of working with/around each other.”

Did someone say, easier said than done?

10 Ways Religion And Superstition Have Led To Animal Cruelty

Jo Rodriguez

 Harming animals is widely considered one of the lowest and cruelest acts any human could do. In some cases, religion and superstition have played pivotal roles in leading humanity to cause great harm to helpless creatures both great and small.

Warning: This list contains graphic photos that may be disturbing to some readers.

10 Goat Sacrifices For Shakti


Photo credit: Arunankapilan
Shaktism is a sect of Hinduism that focuses on the worship of the Hindu Divine Mother along with various consorts of Shiva and Vishnu. One of these forms is the goddess Kali, consort of Shiva. The goddess is known to favor animal sacrifices—goats in particular. Killing a goat in her name is believed to relieve one of negative emotions such as fear, anger, and jealousy.

One notable example is in India’s Kamakhya Temple, a popular tourist destination. There, goats and pigeons are ritualistically sacrificed in front of foreign onlookers.

The act of animal sacrifice has been in existence for centuries, and over the years many different authorities have tried to put a stop to it with varying degrees of success. For instance, the high court in Orissa imposed a ban on animal sacrifice, yet a few districts in the province still manage to contravene the order.


9 Kosher Killings That Aren’t Kosher At All


Photo credit: Zalmen

Kosher food adheres to strict guidelines based on Jewish tradition. Bulls, cows, sheep, and other livestock must be humanely slaughtered by a shohet—a butcher certified by a rabbi or Jewish court to kill animals for food as prescribed by Jewish law. The shohet performs a deep slice on the throat of the animal which renders it instantaneously unconscious. A quick and painless death occurs mere moments later.

Many countries have laws requiring that animals be stunned or sedated prior to being slaughtered, but an exemption is often granted based on religious practices such as halal (the Muslim practice). However, in countries such as Sweden and Denmark, the animal must be stunned regardless of any contradicting beliefs.

The problem comes when so-called kosher killings aren’t kosher in the least. In the United States, PETA discovered in both 2004 and 2007 that some kosher slaughterhouses in Iowa and Nebraska were violating both federal and kosher law by murdering animals that were fully conscious. Workers would dig into their throats with a hook to speed up the bleeding process. Some of the cows were even seen attempting to stand up as their blood flowed freely.

8 Killing Owls Over Superstitious Fear


There are many superstitious beliefs associated with owls. Romans believed that owls were “suspicious” due to their nocturnal activities, and they felt that the creatures foretold death—as in the cases of Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, and Marcus Agrippa. Owls were actually burned during festivals and their ashes scattered in the Tiber River.

As centuries passed, old beliefs gave way to new ones, such as how an owl hooting or screeching meant the death of a newborn. Owls were also associated with witches and ghosts—an owl nesting in a house meant it was haunted. Similarly, dreaming of an owl meant you would soon encounter an accident, while major misfortune would befall you if you encountered an owl during daytime. Such beliefs have led to the sacrificial killings (such as at the Indian Diwali festival, for example), hunting, and illicit trading of these unfortunate creatures.

7 Black Dog Syndrome


Photo credit: KCR

For centuries, various religious and superstitions have hounded darker-colored animals. For instance, during the early days of Christianity, a large black dog called the grim was believed to frequent graveyards. A certain grim called the “Black Dog of Newgate” was said to go near the window of sick people, indicating they were about to die.

It was also once believed that vampires took the form of black dogs. Eastern European lore speaks of how these beasts were seen roaming the countryside right after livestock had been attacked. This led many people to believe these dogs were a malevolent force and were behind the attacks. These tales also found themselves ingrained in North American culture, oftentimes called “hellhounds.” More recently, tales of the ill portents brought by the grim became famous once again in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

All of this results in what animal shelter workers and activists call “Black Dog Syndrome.” Hundreds of years of behavioral conditioning have led humans to see dark-furred canines as less adoptable, less friendly, and more intimidating. Compared to lighter-colored pets, pet shops find black dogs harder to sell. In animal shelters, they are often the last to find a home, meaning they either live their entire life in a kennel or they become the first to be euthanized.

6 Eating Dogs To Cure What Ails You


The Igorot, an indigenous people from the northern mountains of the Philippines, believe that dogs are spiritual guardians with mystical characteristics. Dog’s teeth are said to protect from snake bites and even lightning. These teeth, imbued with magical properties, are typically worn as a necklace or charm. Similarly, Igorots wear dog tattoos in order to invoke the canines’ agility and power.

In addition, Igorots occasionally eat dog meat during their healing rituals. This is done very rarely, though, and is reserved only for the most special occasions. Unfortunately, the tribe is not known for that, thanks to their participation in the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. The Philippines was under American rule at the time, and the organizers of the Fair brought in around 1,100 Filipinos in order to parade them around for awestruck American fairgoers.

Despite the eating of dog meat being a very rare practice of theirs, the Fair wanted to sell the Igorots as a “savage” tribe with a voracious appetite for pooch. The tribe went along with it because while their beliefs are strong, the allure of money was even stronger. The city provided them an “ample” supply of 20 dogs per week to butcher and eat onstage. Later on, this number grew exponentially due to the popularity of the spectacle. The poaching of dogs in the vicinity of the Fair became so rampant that residents were actually told to leave their dogs at home lest the worst happen.


5 Endangering The Aye-Aye Because Of Their “Evil” Finger


Photo credit: Getty Images

The aye-aye—a tiny creature found in Madagascar—is a harmless mammal that the people of Madagascar have rendered endangered. This is almost entirely due to one thing: its long middle finger. This is an evolutionary tool used to snatch insects inside tree bark and branches, but superstitious and paranoid natives don’t see it that way. The Malagasy people believe that the aye-aye pointing its middle finger toward a human means certain doom. They believe these creatures will crawl into their homes at night and use those long, pointy fingers to stab them in the heart.

What better way to stop that from happening than with preemptive aye-aye murder? If a Malagasy native sees an aye-aye coming toward them—which is very likely to happen as the animal is friendly and curious by nature—they’re very likely to greet the creature with a bullet or two, dropping them dead on the spot. While the aye-aye probably doesn’t use its middle finger to communicate its displeasure toward humans, it should probably start doing so.

4 Hunting The Thylacine Because It Might Be Evil


The thylacine has been extinct since the 1930s thanks to both the changing environment brought about by European settlers and people’s crazy superstitions. While the thylacine was certainly an apex predator, there’s no denying that settlers made some very wild and exaggerated assumptions about them.

As myths of vampires and werewolves permeated in campfires and lodges, an unnatural evil became associated with the thylacine. The creatures were often associated with mysterious deaths in livestock such as sheep and cattle, due to their powerful jaws that could crush bone and muscle. In addition, a photograph from the 1920s depicted the creature with a chicken in its mouth. This led many to believe that thylacines were vicious poultry thieves, and the the government quickly offered a £1 bounty for every thylacine killed.

A children’s encyclopedia published during the 1940s told the younger generation how these beasts—described as “a sort of nightmare wolf“—regularly engaged in “blood-feeding” frenzies where they would hunt their prey to drink their blood rather than for meaty nourishment. This erroneous belief maintained its popularity until well into the 1980s.

In 2011, a study conducted by the University of New South Wales concluded that these accusations and beliefs were unfounded—the jaws of the thylacine were not nearly as strong as widely believed by early settlers. In fact, they were probably not even strong enough to snare sheep in the first place.

3 Hanging A Bull To Bring Forth A Year Of Peace


Photo credit: CNS/Tan Kaixing

Travel websites in China freely mention the Naoyu festival—a religious gathering held every June 2 of the Chinese lunar calendar. It’s a celebration of various ethnic groups such as the Dong, Yao, and Miao. Like with most ceremonies, the Naoyu features dancing, singing, and traditional folk gatherings. Bullfighting also figures prominently.

However, something far more dastardly occurs there that is rarely advertised to tourists. The locals begin the day innocently enough by catching fish and offering prayers. This day culminates, however, with brutal animal murder. They grab one of the bulls, tie a noose around its neck, and hang the struggling animal until it dies. This slow and painful death is believed to bring about a peaceful year and a prosperous harvest for the community.

2 Brutally Killing Bear Cubs So They Can Join The Spirit World


Brown bears are revered by the Ainu people of Japan to the point that they regard the cuddly creatures as gods. The Ainu also believe that since gods dwell in the spirit world, that is where the bears ought to be sent.

The Iomante ceremony, therefore, is loosely translated as “sending off divine beings to another world.” The Ainu begin the process by grabbing a bear cub from the wild. If the mother is found anywhere near her baby, she is killed immediately so as to not disrupt the process. The cub is then brought back to the village and nursed to full health. If the cub is especially young, the women of the village will help it grow by breastfeeding it.

Around a year or two later, preparations for the grisly festivities truly begin. The creature is taken out of the holding cage and tied down in the center of the village. The villagers begin shooting it with blunted arrows, then move on to deadlier ones. If the bear is still alive after all this, the natives will either crush its head with a huge log or simply strangle it to death. The creature’s brain, tongue, and eyeballs are then removed and the skull is filled with flowers.

The neighboring Nivkh people—or Gilyaks—from Sakhalin Island also have a similar ceremony. A cub is nursed to full health and then led out for execution. The chief—who has known it for all its life—speaks to the cub, his reassuring words calming the beast. It is then shot with an arrow through the heart. Once the deed is done, the bear’s skin is removed and its meat consumed.

1 Sacrificing Hundreds Of Thousands Of Animals To A Hindu Goddess


Photo credit: Susil Shah

Few animal sacrifices come close to the extremes of the Gadhimai festival held in Nepal. Every five years, millions flock to the holy temple in Bariyapur to appease Gadhimai, the Hindu goddess of power. Up to 400,000 animals are slaughtered in just a span of two days. Part of this sacrificial herd are 40,000 buffalo though they aren’t considered sacred since they’re associated with Yama Raja, the Hindu god of death and retribution.

Naturally, livestock were part of the slaughter, but some adherents simply brought along any animal they could find—such as rats, snakes, and pigeons—and killed them in front of the temple. It’s also worth noting that this is not just a religious practice but a commercial one as well, since the by-products of the sacrificed creatures—bones, meat, and hides—are sold off to various companies for their uses.

Despite massive protests, the Nepalese government has thus far remained non-committal about this issue, citing that it will not interfere in a centuries-old tradition. Critics and protesters have thus pleaded with the devotees to stop the ritual killing of animals and to consider sacrificing something else instead, like fruit.

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