Drop Everything and Read…DEAR

Today, April 12 is Drop Everything and Read Day, or D.E.A.R Day.

I heard about it on local radio this morning, but it doesn’t seem to be an international event. It appears National D.E.A.R Day is commemorated annually in the USA to remind and encourage families to make reading together on a daily basis, a family priority. It’s celebrated on 12 April each year to honour American author Beverly Cleary who wrote many books for children and young adults.

Setting aside a day for encouragement of reading is a marvelous idea, and should be celebrated internationally. The statistics for literacy in South Africa is appalling and I’d venture to assert that the figures for the rest of Africa is not much better, probably worse. So any initiative to improve these statistics should be seized upon and disseminated widely. Sadly the government in South Africa seem set on a path to diminish the standards of education further and further each year and need constant reminding about their inanity.

However, the rest of the world should consider themselves lucky to not be governed by dodgy miscreants; so grab yourselves a book and get stuck into a few chapters. But for the love of literacy, please let it not be the Bible or the Koran or the Bagavad Gita or any other religious text. Please read something that imparts at least some intellectual enlightenment, not useless dogma.

Now that I’ve done my bit for R.E.A.D Day, I’m off to complete the last few chapters of The Form of Things by A.C Grayling…

Hate Not the Believer…

This Sunday, while with a group of friends who get together once or twice a month to provide food aid to orphaned or abandoned kids, we drove past a Mosque in a rundown area called Grasmere. I think it was towards the middle of the day and the call to prayer was being sounded through loudspeakers, probably mounted on one of the minarets. One of my friends quite uncharacteristically remarked that these Mosques were springing up everywhere, and that he hated the Muslims for their militant behaviour and the spreading of Islam. My friend is religious of course, but his religious allegiance is not important; the hatred shown toward a competing faith is.

I must have surprised the others in the car for the rebuke I offered, because they are all aware of my irreligious or Atheist stance. I commented that one should not hate a man for his religious beliefs, but rather hate what his religion and his religious teachers or clerics make him believe.  Before I could continue exhorting my abhorrence of the word “hate” we came to our turn-off to the children’s Place of Safety and the subject changed to something else. Since Sunday, several incidents have made me reflect on hatred, justification for hatred, and religion, Islam in particular.

When I got home that Sunday, I came across an article and a video in the online heraldsun, an Australian publication, “It’s OK to hit your wife, says Melbourne Islamic cleric.” The video clearly shows Islamic cleric Samir Abu Hamza instructing his male followers “…to hit their wives as a last resort, but they were not to make them bleed or become bruised. ” In case you’re thinking I’ve resorted to some sort of quote mining to deliberately distort his meaning and intention, the video available together with the article is quite clear that this is what he said. He went on to state that “If the husband was to ask her for a sexual relationship and she is preparing the bread on the stove she must leave it and come and respond to her husband, she must respond,” in a clear reference to a man’s right to demand sex from his wife.

Apart from the fact that this disgustingly patriarchal attitude belonged in times long gone by, why is it that clerics from the Abrahamic religions, but more especially Islam getting involved in the domestic affairs of men and women? It’s bad enough that clerics make wild pronouncements on prophets and gods, but this insidious need to pronounce on the private lives of adherents as well, is quite frankly, alarming. Is the hold of religious clerics on their congregations so tenuous, that they need to now control every aspect of your life to ensure total and utter submission and compliance? Are the clerics merely re-iterating what is written in the Koran? I found three English translations at ConversationalAtheist, for the Koranic verse that refers to (governs?) wife beating, and although they differ only slightly, they clearly condone such behaviour. What drives a cleric to re-inforce behaviour that is universally condemned as unacceptable? His religious conviction? His unquestioning belief? His religion? Or his teacher before him? The vicious cycle continues…

Over the last few days I’ve been conducting an online discussion via the comments page on one of my previous blogs “The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know…,” with a young Muslim women from Singapore Malaysia, I think. She’s obviously a bright young women, but some of her naive religious beliefs are quite depressing; frightening actually. It’s quite clear that her thinking has been moulded by her religious instructors, the clerics. She like so many others, people from all religions are quite oblivious that their religious “panel-beating” shows clearly when they defend their beliefs.

Now I don’t want to create the impression that Islam is the worst religion by singling it out for attention; all the other religions are on the same footing when it comes to perpetuating irrational beliefs and behaviour. The point I’m trying to get across is that religion needs the clerics to keep it alive; and these are the people we need to despise, not hate.