Friday, January 26, 2007

Muslim whining in India too

Apparently Indian-style exercise for schoolchildren can be unislamic!

A mass yoga exercise for five million children in India, aimed at kick-starting a health drive, has provoked calls for Muslims to boycott schools today. The central state of Madhya Pradesh wants all children to take part in the Surya Namaskar, which in Sanskrit means "sun salutation". Elaborate preparations have been made for the performance of the 12-posture exercise and the Pranayama, the yogic breathing technique espoused by Swami Ramdev. In the absence of the yoga guru, who is holding a camp in Bangkok, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, will lead the session.

His commands will be broadcast at 9am from the city of Bhopal across the state on radio and television. Every child aged 11 and above has been invited to participate and every state minister ordered to attend. "We have a firm belief that Surya Namaskar is good for health and we want to teach it to everyone who is interested," Ajay Vishnoi, the health minister, said. "Five million children will be doing this."

The event has angered India's 150 million-strong Muslim community, which fears further marginalisation by the majority Hindu population. Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalists. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board appealed to the state governor to intervene, while the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, one of India's leading Islamic organisations, sought a high court injunction against an "unconstitutional" event. Both approaches having failed, Muslim leaders advised parents to avoid "an embarrassing situation" by not sending their children to school. "India is a secular country, and we don't think it is right on the part of the Government to hurt our religious sentiments by favouring a practice of the majority community," Shamshuddin Ahmed, a member of the Muslim law board, said. "Our religion does not preach reverence to the Sun. It teaches to pay obeisance to the maker of the Sun, Allah."

The controversy is the second in four months involving the promotion of Hindu nationalism in state schools. There was outrage in September after all educational institutions were instructed to sing Vande Mataram, the national song, to mark its centenary. Muslim leaders protested that the song, which translates as Mother, I Bow to Thee, was also against their principle of bowing before no one but Allah. The Government ruled that it was optional to sing the song - a rallying cry for Indians fighting British rule - but the BJP condemned the objections as unpatriotic.

Similarly, it is emphasised that the Surya Namaskar is not compulsory. "No one is forcing people to join in," Mr Vishnoi said. "It is for whoever wants to. It is nothing to do with religion. It is a health function." Swami Ramdev plans a yoga training and research centre in the state. The guru, who has broadcast daily on his TV channel since 2002, is said to have a $50 million empire.

Salutary salutations

The Surya Namaskar is said to strengthen the body, improve circulation and regulate breathing. Benefits include stronger abdominal muscles, reduced anxiety, improved memory, hair loss prevention and a less prominent Adam's apple. Pregnant women and hernia sufferers are advised not to do it



The Church of England put pressure on the Prime Minister last night over the gay adoptions row with a letter giving warning that "rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation". The Archbishops of Canterbury and York declared on the side of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster after Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor wrote to every member of the Cabinet stating that the Catholic Church could not accept a law forcing its adoption agencies to accept gay couples.

The intervention by Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu in a letter seen by The Times places unprecedented pressure on Tony Blair. If he accedes to the demands, he will face accusations from the gay rights lobby and many within his own Government of being a "Vatican puppet". If he stands by the gay lobby, he risks alienating hundreds of thousands of Catholic Labour voters.

It is thought that Mr Blair, an Anglican whose wife is a Catholic and who has long been known to be sympathetic to the Church himself, favours a compromise. However, most other Cabinet ministers are taking a much harder line and believe that compromise is impossible. If the Church is allowed to opt out, they argue, it would undermine the fundemental position of law.

In their letter, Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu highlight the danger of the row escalating to the point where some might question the ability of people with a strong faith to be in government. They say: "It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free to argue that members of the Government are not fit to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation."

They give warning that the argument over the Sexual Orientation Regulations has reached damaging proportions and that "much could be lost". They say: "Many in the voluntary sector are dedicated to public service because of the dictates of their conscience. In legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups the Government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights to have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk. "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning." They draw a comparison with doctors working for the NHS, who are entitled to opt out of performing abortions if it goes against their conscience. They said: "It is vitally important that the interests of vulnerable children are not relegated to suit any political interest. And that conditions are not inadvertently created which make the claims of conscience an obstacle to, rather than the inspiration for, the invaluable public service rendered by parts of the voluntary sector."

Their letter came as Mr Blair signalled his support for Catholic adoption agencies to opt out of gay rights laws despite accusations of blackmail by bishops threatening their closure. Downing Street said Mr Blair had taken charge of the search for a compromise amid a stand-off between the Catholic Church and supporters of gay rights over a new law to curb discrimination. But supporters of the new regulations insisted there was no scope for a middle way without breaching the principles of equality law.


Children used as experiment, says British magistrate

A magistrate who says that he was forced to resign because he did not feel able to place children in care with same-sex couples said yesterday that the children were being used as guinea-pigs in a social experiment. Andrew McClintock, 62, a member of the Christian People's Alliance council, has served as a magistrate in the family courts in Sheffield for 15 years, ruling on whether children in troubled families needed to be placed in care.

But he has argued that the new civil partnership law could mean him sanctioning the removal of a child from its natural family to be placed in the care of a gay couple. Mr McClintock, a father of four, resigned from his position because he said that this would contravene both his personal religious beliefs and his duty as a magistrate to put the child's welfare first.

He is taking action against the Department for Constitutional Affairs, which runs the country's magistrates' courts, under the Employment Equality Regulations 2003, arguing that he is being discriminated against on religious grounds. He wants reinstatement. Mr McClintock was supported by protesters handing out leaflets on the first of what is expected to be a three-day employment tribunal.

He told the tribunal in Sheffield that children assigned to same-sex couples risked being teased in the playground about having two daddies or mummies. He said: "It is incompatible with the welfare of the child, who is becoming a guinea-pig in a social science experiment." He is claiming that his dignity had been violated after being told that he must sit on such cases despite his conviction that children should be brought up by heterosexual couples. There were precedents for his position of conscience and he should be accommodated, he argued.


Nation at risk from tyranny of tolerance

AUSTRALIA'S long-term difficulty in dealing with the now politically defunct noun "multiculturalism" is not unique to this country. It is not even unique to this time. In London earlier this week a newspaper columnist dug out some old quotes from Winston Churchill in 1938, then merely another politician but a man whose time was about to come. They were dark days as Churchill watched the tyranny of Nazi Germany spread across Europe and, as the Nazis pushed their violent, intolerant ideology on the world, the British Government simply looked on. Stunned mullets.

They were seemingly unwilling - or unable - to deal with the problem. "I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf," Churchill observed. He was never short of a quotable line, was ol' Winston. But he also warned that "if a moral catastrophe should overtake" Britain, future historians would sit back and be baffled as to how a great nation allowed itself to be destroyed so easily. Well, folks, who's to say it isn't happening again?

How many of you noticed that those Christmas cards you have no doubt recycled by now actually said Happy Holidays, and not the religiously correct Merry Christmas? Were the Christmas lights down in your neighbourhood this year? It wasn't so long ago that Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore thought it was a good idea to cancel Christmas decorations in the city so - and how many times are we hearing this? - as not to offend Muslims. Just this week concert promoter Ken West tried to ban the Australian flag because he believed it would invoke racial violence. Aside from showing common sense was officially dead and buried, West did a pretty good job of indicating the spirit of rock 'n' roll is in the early stages of rigor mortis as well.

Australia is not unique in its troubles, though. In England last week a woman graduating with her Metropolitan Police class refused to shake the Police Commissioner's hand because it was against her Muslim faith to shake hands with any man not her husband or a close relative. What did the commissioner do? Privately, they say, he was outraged at the lack of what we Westerners call manners. But he agreed, so as "not to cause a scene". For any right-minded person, though, shouldn't the immediate thought have been: If she cannot touch men, then how is she supposed to arrest them? The commissioner should have stripped her of her badge there and then. These are all examples of this politically correct pandering to other religions gone completely wrong. They are occurring at the disintegration of our own culture. Sure, this woman was entitled to her religious beliefs but when it comes to policing, the greater welfare of the community should have been put before her interests.

Sadly it wasn't, which is symptomatic of the problem in England, in Australia, and throughout the Western world. In a bid to stay modern, be fair and accept every man as equal, countries opened their borders to differing religions, races and persuasions when, according to the rhetoric, we should all have then joined in a group hug. It hasn't quite worked out that way. Hardline fundamental Muslims have moved in, happy to accept the freedoms and benefits of our culture - whenever it suited - while around the world their kill tally continues to rise. They sell their hate-mongering DVDs in western Sydney and then we excuse them because we are a "tolerant" society.

Well, it says here that tolerance these days is just cowardice dressed in a palatable mask. The true meaning has been lost in this dog's breakfast of political correctness. By pandering to religious sensibilities in such a manner Australia is just weakening its own culture and going down the path of ruin. Australia is a wonderful country and deserves protecting. It should not be allowed to be overrun by fundamentalists preying on our weakness to show "tolerance".

The small light of hope this week was Prime Minister John Howard's decision to reflect the feelings of the majority of this country by changing the multiculturalism portfolio to a citizenship portfolio. While it is hard to ignore the change could simply be an election stunt from Honest John cashing in on the wider feelings of the electorate, the hope is it is more a case of astute politics. With no more astute politician in Canberra, he gets the early benefit of the doubt.

Australia needs to be protected not just from the fundamentalists but from ourselves - from the dimwits all too willing to give this country away in the name of tolerance. For a long while Churchill was a lone voice in his opposition to Hitler, even becoming virtually banned from the BBC for being too anti-German. He was proven right only when it was almost too late.


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