Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Victory for San Diego Firefighters: No Longer Forced to Drive in Homosexual Display

The San Diego Fire Department has dropped its requirement for on-duty firefighters to drive the gay parade routes after firemen complained of sexual harassment this summer. Now only volunteers will drive the route, the San Diego Tribune reports. Early this August four firefighters were forced by their superior to drive in the parade in the Hillcrest neighborhood of the city on July 21. On August 1 they filed complaints of sexual harassment with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing after receiving sexually explicit taunts and gestures as they drove in the parade. They complained against the fire department that had forced them to be exposed to the harassment by requiring them to participate in the parade.

As a result, the Fire Chief Tracy Jarman and San Diego Firefighters Local 145 revised their policy to ensure that only volunteers will drive in the parade. Going into effect immediately, the Fire Department will offer four hours of overtime pay to anyone who volunteers to drive in the parade. In this way, officials hope that enough firefighters will step forward, ensuring that unwilling drivers will not have to participate. Fire department spokesperson Maurice Luque was confident that the department will find enough volunteers, saying, "Someone is going to step up and want four hours of overtime."

The four firefighter's lawyer, Charles LiMandri of Michigan's Thomas More Law Center, however, still has reservations about the new policy, questioning whether it actually provides sufficient protection for firefighters' right to freedom of conscience as well as their own personal safety in the parade. Pointing out the weakness in the new policy, LiMandri stated, "It doesn't say clearly that no one will be ordered to participate." Nevertheless, the San Diego Fire Department has claimed that they are not going to force anyone to participate.

This new policy is a victory for those who fight to defend heterosexual marriage within the city. Especially in recent years, San Diego has relentlessly worked to bring itself up to step with other liberal Californian cities. On July 17, for example, despite the protests of numerous city residents, the city council voted unanimously in favor of proclaiming July official "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month in the City of San Diego."

The firefighters' victory is not the first time that homosexual supporters and activists have been required to step back. Two years ago it was discovered that a number of sex offenders were volunteering in the Gay Pride Week festivities. San Diego residents were outraged by this discovery, particularly when it was found that a molester, "Marty the Clown", was set to entertain in the San Diego Gay Pride Children's Garden as he had done in past years. Pride organizers were hit with a wave of criticism and complaints until the offenders were taken off the list of volunteer staff (see here).


An ex-Jihadi tells what it was like

For almost four years I was on the front line of British Islamism, serving as a regional officer in northeast England for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist group committed to the creation of a puritanical caliphate. Since leaving the group in 2005, I've been concerned at just how easy it was for me to join a radical Islamist movement and why there was hardly any support available when I decided to leave. Hizb was a large family in many ways, a group offering social support, comradeship, a sense of purpose and validation.

At 21, it was intoxicating for me. I embraced my new Islamist identity and family with eagerness. Islamism transcends cultural norms, so it not only prompted me to reject my British identity but also my ethnic South Asian background. I was neither Eastern nor Western; I was a Muslim, a part of the global ummah, or community, where identity is defined through the fraternity of faith. Islamists insist this identity is not racist because Islam welcomes people of all colours, ethnicities and backgrounds. That was true, but our world view was still horribly bipolar. We didn't distinguish on the basis of colour but on creed. The world was simply divided into believers and non-believers. It was a reality that came back to haunt me last month when I realised that Bilal Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed, the two men linked with the alleged plot to attack London and Glasgow, were among my closest friends when I studied at Cambridge University.

My time in Cambridge was a turning point. I was studying for a doctorate, researching the development of Islamic political thought in late colonial India, which proved to be my saviour. My research caused me to find marked points of rupture in the historical and theological narrative of what the Hizb was having me believe. Previous generations had failed, the Hizb told me, to apply Islam to the reality of a changed and changing world in the early 20th century. What I found could not have been further from this.

Throughout my thesis I was able to survey a wide range of Muslim opinion across the Indian subcontinent, among whom Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a leading figure. He explained how Islam obliged Muslims to create a harmonious society. He was adept at offering lucid explanations from the texts of the Koran to show a secular state was validated through Islam. Failing to accommodate diversity showed a neglect of the Koran's opening chapter, al-Fatiha, which emphasises tolerance and mercy. Focusing on division rather than common humanity violated God's unity, said Azad, who insisted in The Tarjuman al-Qur'an that "the unity of man is the primary aim of religion". When independence came in 1947, Azad resisted the creation of Pakistan. Forming an exclusionary political identity in this way was against the essence of Islam.

My findings suffocated me. Far from being emancipated by my discovery, I fell into a spiral of confusion. I had sacrificed all my friends and family for a cause. Had it all been in vain? I felt overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness. And herein lies the problem. There was nowhere for me to turn. I didn't want to take my concerns to the Hizb because I knew what its response would be. If I weren't bullied back into action, I'd be made to feel guilty for leaving. I knew the protocol. When I embraced Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Islamist way of life there was an established network offering social support and validation. Shedding my old life was easy because I was absorbed by an alternative and more self-assured culture.

By the start of 2005, I was mentally no longer an Islamist. But there was no denying that emotionally I didn't have the courage to leave the Hizb. Then my nightmare was realised. I watched as London came under attack on July 7, 2005, by four British Muslims who claimed 52 innocent lives. This was the cauldron of Islamist hate boiling over.

When I resigned from Hizb ut-Tahrir, the social network that had once so warmly embraced me turned bitterly cold and confrontational. The inward love was replaced by the external hate. At 24, I had to rebuild my life, almost entirely from scratch. Traditionally, it is at university that you forge your most enduring and meaningful friendships. Overnight, mine disappeared. Then came hope. During recent months I have spoken at length with Ed Husain, author of The Islamist, who was also once in the ranks of the Hizb (and whose book extracts were reprinted in these pages last month). It was the revelation I was waiting for. When I met him, Husain's first words, breaking their way through a beaming smile, were: "It feels like I've known you for years."

Immediately our stories resonated with remarkable familiarity. We had both experienced the same feelings of isolation and desperation before we plucked up the courage to leave. Finally, I was not alone. Like old war veterans we shared stories, discussed what made us leave and what the future held. Having been a senior member in the Hizb, I know there are scores of others with similar concerns. Some of them have also left and are coming together to form a united front against Islamism. They are not irreligious sell-outs, agents or part of some Judeo-Christian cult committed to the downfall of Islam, as groups such as the Hizb would like to suggest. They are simply former Islamists who have rejected a particular political ideology while remaining committed to their Muslim faith.

The significance of this should not be underestimated. When I first left, I emphasised that the challenges of Islamist extremism could never be overcome until the Muslim community formulated its own response. Since meeting Husain and becoming aware of the emerging network of other former members, many of them also holding a senior rank at one time, I was reassured. An influential figure who is still within the movement but close to leaving recently told me and Husain, "Don't worry, your message is being heard."

The landscape in the Muslim community is changing. Just as the divisive message of political Islam has been spread by young men across Britain, there is a growing number of former activists leading the charge against the ideas that we once helped to promote. I only hope that our testimonies will encourage those still within Islamist movements to find the moral courage to leave.


Baby-feeding correctness

Katie Price, also known as Jordan, the British glamour model with big ambitions and even bigger breasts, has long taken pleasure in shocking the more uptight and prissy inhabitants of Britain's cultural landscape. She has inflated her breasts to 34 FF. She's posed topless for the Sun, nude for FHM, and Wow, Really Nude for Playboy. She used to turn up to movie premieres in items of clothing so revealing they made the once-shocking miniskirt look like the fashion equivalent of the burqa. She stood in the 2001 UK General Election, promising voters free breast implants, more nudist beaches and a complete ban on parking tickets (she got 713 votes). And amidst a cacophony of caterwauling about what a thick chav she allegedly is (the Chavscum website calls her `tacky talentless scum' and a `munting annoyance'), she has built a formidable one-woman modelling and promotions business. According to the Daily Mail's list of `Britain's Richest Celebrity Chavs', Price is worth œ30million, making her one of the wealthiest women in Britain.

Now she has done something that is apparently more shocking than anything on that list of nose-thumbing, puritan-baiting activities. This time she's really wound up those who fancy themselves as the guardians of our moral values. She has caused a `furious row', and has been accused of taking part in an `extremely cynical.stunt'. One organisation has denounced her as `appalling' and is planning to make a complaint about Price and others to the Advertising Standards Authority. What did Katie do next, to attract renewed attacks on her character? You had better be sitting down before you read this: She posed for a photograph in which she is shown bottlefeeding her newborn baby.

That's right - in the current issue of the celebrity magazine OK!, a postnatal yet glamorous Price can clearly be seen feeding her three-week-old daughter, Princess Tiaamii, from a bottle. What's worse, the bottle says `SMA' on it, SMA being one of the leading manufacturers of formula milk for babies. The breastfeeding lobby is up in arms. As a headline in yesterday's Independent on Sunday put it: `Breastfeeding lobby criticises Jordan for infant formula "stunt".' Groups such as the National Childbirth Trust and Baby Milk Action have slammed OK! as irresponsible for publishing such a photo during World Breastfeeding Week and at a time when `in this country, only 48 per cent of six-week-old babies are breastfed, while a quarter of babies get no breast milk' (1). They believe that Price and OK! may be in cahoots with SMA. There is a ban in Britain on promoting infant formula for babies under the age of six months, and some suspect that Price's photo-shoot - in which a loving mother is shown feeding her lovely newborn baby with a bottle of SMA-branded formula - is an `appalling' cynical attempt to circumvent the ban (2). Elsewhere in the current OK! there is an advert for SMA milk for babies over the age of six months.

So what? It would hardly be shocking to discover that a celebrity had used a photo-shoot or a TV appearance or some other publicity stunt to promote a product. They do it all the time. What is shocking, however, is the furious response to a perfectly pleasant photograph of a mother feeding her child. That an image of bottlefeeding can be greeted with such horror - denounced as `appalling' and `irresponsible' - shows how intolerant and hectoring the breastfeeding lobby has become. The `strong advice' that babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of life is now promoted by everyone from the World Health Organisation to the National Health Service (NHS). And it is guilt-tripping mums and limiting their choices. Today's incessant promotion of breastfeeding (and the simultaneous demonisation of bottlefeeding as an activity so abhorrent that it apparently should not be depicted in popular magazines) long ago crossed the line from Health Campaign into the territory of the Moral Crusade.

Anyone who picks up the current issue of OK! probably would not be shocked by the Katie Price photo-shoot (unless you have an aversion to pink and half-naked, permantanned celebrities). It is your average `introducing the latest celeb baby to the world' type of spread. There are 19 bright and at times garish full-colour photos of Price, her husband Peter Andre, the former singer, and their daughter Princess Tiaamii - and only in one photo is Price shown bottlefeeding her daughter. Yet that is one photo too many for to the breastfeeding lobby. Today's breastfeeding moralists - or `militant lactivists' as they call themselves in the States - believe that mums should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months (and longer if possible) and should shun the bottle entirely.

In Britain, from the moment a woman gives birth she is cajoled by the health authorities, under the direction of the central government's Department of Health, to breastfeed her baby. Even though surveys continually show that a majority of women do bottlefeed their babies in the first six months of life, still the authorities promote the message that exclusive breastfeeding is the best, safest and most responsible option. An Infant Feeding Survey from a few years ago found that where 69 per cent of babies are breastfed initially, around a fifth of breastfeeding mothers give up within the first two weeks and over a third give up in the first six weeks. The percentage of mums who exclusively breastfeed falls as their babies get older: mothers seem to breastfeed less and bottlefeed more as their infant reaches four months, six months and especially nine months of age (3). Yet while mums seem to prefer mixing breast with bottle, the NHS dishes out leaflets on why every new mum should only breastfeed, bans are enforced on the promotion of formula milk for babies aged six months and under, and breastfeeding promoters rail against the publication of a photo showing a celebrity bottlefeeding her three-week-old baby.

Breast milk is, in some ways, better for babies than formula milk (though formula is still perfectly safe and nutritious). Scientific studies suggest that breast milk offers some protective effect against certain babyhood illnesses, and breastfeeding also allows mothers to regain their figures quite quickly after giving birth. However, today's militant lactivism is about much more than informing mothers of the fairly limited health benefits of one form of milk over another. It is about laying down the line on what makes a Good Mum and what makes a Bad Mum.

Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are seen as natural and earthy. They're seen as women who are willing to follow the advice of Health Workers Who Know Better and to elevate the interests of their newborn baby above their own. Their use of their breasts for feeding is taken as a sign that they have bought into the current trend for child-centred parenting (4). Mothers who opt for the bottle are looked upon as problematic, possibly even troublesome. After all, if they ignore health workers' advice about breastfeeding, what else will they decide to do their own way? Bottlefeeding mums are judged by some to have snubbed child-centred parenting in favour of adopting methods of feeding and childrearing that grant them the flexibility to continue doing things that they enjoy: socialising, working, returning their breasts to their recreational state for their own and their partner's pleasure. Breastfeeding has effectively become a government-imposed test of good motherhood: those who pass, by obediently breastfeeding baby for six months, are praised and celebrated; those who fail, by turning to apparently evil formula milk, are looked upon as `irresponsible', possibly even `appalling'.

That breastfeeding has become a moral crusade is clear from the language that is used to promote it. The message that `breast is best' is strengthened by stringent bans on the advertising of formula milk for infants under six months of age, and by harsh judgements against those, such as Katie Price, who admit publicly that they bottlefeed. Indeed, it's hard to escape the conclusion that what really upset the militant lactivists about Price's spread in OK! magazine is not just the SMA photo, but also what Price herself says about breastfeeding.

Price tells the OK! interviewer: `I don't care what people say - you don't have to breastfeed.' She goes on: `I don't want a baby drinking from me. The thought of it makes me feel really funny. I think only a certain person could handle my knockers!' She also waxes lyrical about the benefits and ease of instant bottlefeeding. `It's brilliant. I have 20 crates of teats and bottles, and I don't have to sterilise or heat anything. You literally take the teat out of the pack, screw it on, throw it away.. They gave me a tablet that dries your milk up so my boobs haven't hurt or leaked or anything.' In today's quite hysterical pro-breastfeeding climate, saying such things - that you think breastfeeding is weird, that you much prefer to use bottles and that you want only your partner to have oral contact with your breasts - is tantamount to committing a mortal sin. In the past, Price's comments would have been looked upon simply as one woman's expression of her mothering preferences. Today, such is the intensity of the lactivists' crusade that Price has landed herself in hot water for daring to challenge the orthodoxy and conformist campaigning of the breastfeeding lobby.

In many ways, Price, the former glamour model turned businesswoman, is more liberated than the breastfeeding cheerleaders at the Department of Health and in campaign groups such as Baby Milk Action and the National Childbirth Trust. The bottle was once seen as a symbol of women's emancipation. If women so chose, they could disconnect themselves physically from baby and instead buy readymade milk, which either they or, importantly, their partners could feed to their child. It seems Price prefers bottles to breast because she wants to get back to work (and her breasts are an important part of her public image) and because she wants only her partner to `handle her knockers': in other words, she is keen to continue carving out a successful career and enjoying her sex life. Militant lactivists, by contrast, seem to view breasts as semi-sacred expressers of milk, and call on all new mothers to submit themselves fully and physically to the task of childrearing. Who would have thought that big-boobed Jordan would make a better defender of women's liberation than the educated feminists in positions of power?


Sydney's Archbishop Jensen bans publicity-seeking Spong

Spong plays well with non-Christians because he too is not a Christian in any discernible sense of the word. Unlike most Anglicans today, Sydney diocese is very clearly committed to a New Testament faith -- and is flourishing because of it. That one diocese comprises a third of all Anglicans in Australia. Note that in the official pic below, Archbishop Jensen is NOT wearing vestments -- in accord with the evangelical orientation of the diocese. Spong, on the other hand, IS normally pictured in clerical garb -- to create an illusion of Christian identity. Jensen has no need of such aids

A row has erupted within the Anglican Church over a visit to Australia by an American cleric who has being accused of modernising Christ to the point of stripping him of all divinity. Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen has taken the extraordinary step of banning John Shelby Spong, a fellow member of the Anglican communion who arrives in Sydney this morning, from churches in his diocese.

By contrast, Anglican Primate Phillip Aspinall has invited Bishop Spong, a leader of the church's liberal wing, to deliver two sermons in Brisbane's St John's Cathedral. The retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, Bishop Spong will also give a public lecture at St Aidan's Anglican Girls School in Brisbane.

At the direction of Dr Jensen, the current edition of the Sydney diocese's newspaper, Southern Cross, has devoted two pages to an attack on Bishop Spong and his new book, Jesus for the Non-Religious. The book questions biblical references to the nature of the birth of Jesus Christ, his ability to perform miracles and the Resurrection.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Jensen, Bishop of South Sydney Robert Forsyth said Dr Aspinall was wrong to welcome Bishop Spong to Brisbane. "The judgment of the primate is, in our view, ill-advised," Bishop Forsyth said. "It is a mistake. It is the wrong thing to do." He said many in the church were distressed by Bishop Spong's latest book, the promotion of which was a major reason for his Australian visit. "He is attempting to reconstruct Christ to make him acceptable to the modern community but it is disastrous," Bishop Forsyth said. "Jesus ends up as a non-divine entity in this attempt to find a human Jesus. The result is a gutting of the Christian faith."

Dr Aspinall defended his decision to welcome the American bishop. "Bishop Spong speaking at St John's Cathedral is not particularly extraordinary," he said. "That Bishop Spong holds views which some Anglicans might find challenging is no reason to exclude him from speaking. "Our church has thousands of members and widely diverse views on a wide variety of subjects. "I am sure Anglicans willlisten respectfully to the bishop's views and make their own minds up."

One of the organisers of the visit, Brisbane priest Greg Jenks said Bishop Spong's critics were overreacting. "His new book is a good summation of how many people understand the place of Jesus," Dr Jenks said. "It is not dramatically new information. Bishop Spong has shown courageous leadership in our church of a kind we are in need of."

During a 2001 visit to Australia, Bishop Spong was banned by the then Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth, from Brisbane diocesan churches. But during a 2003 visit, he was a house guest in Brisbane of Dr Hollingworth's successor -- Dr Aspinall. While Bishop Spong has been barred by his own church in Sydney, the Uniting Church has welcomed him to the city. The Australian launch of Bishop Spong's book will be held on Thursday at Sydney's Pitt Street Uniting Church, where he will attend the Common Dreams Conference this weekend.

Bishop Spong, a prolific author and longtime supporter of female and gay priests, retired as bishop of Newark in 2000. Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Choir will perform for the bishop at a farewell service in the Spirit of Life Unitarian Fellowship church at the completion of his Australian visit next month.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: