Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ashura






So on the bus coming home on Sunday I look out of the window and see all this going on. The road is down to one lane and there are hundreds of people walking around, with banners and a big group of topless men in the middle chanting and vigorously slapping their chests in rhythm. I recognise this as the big Shia festival with ritual mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn. I later found out it was at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq. I remebering see them doing this on the news in Iraq after decades of being banned from doing it during the time of Saddam Hussain. But they also do it in Manchester.

So I decided to get off and take some pictures. I have a new digital camera so it was a good opportunity to play with it. Some pictures didn't come out that well in the fading light of the winter late afternoon, but I still thought these pictures were worth sharing.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Corruption

It ocurred to me as I was watching the news last week that the most important story was not the racism row on Big Brother or the storms (which certainly disrupted my day) but the corruption probe into an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

First thing's first, why the hell are we selling arms to Saudi Arabia? I despair that we don't seem to learn from history. Saudi Arabia is a regime with terrible human right violations. In all likelihood we'll be at war them in 20 years, just like we're at war with Iraq 20 years after selling them weapons. Why do we do this?

But not only that but the government closes down an investigation of corruption in the arms deal between BAE and Saudi Arabia because of "security reasons." And to hear Blair defend this decision saying, "our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country...that strategic interest comes first." Which is basically saying that Saudi Arabia can do what the hell it likes and we will go along because Saudi Arabia has "strategic importance" - just like Iraq had stragic importance in opposing Iran. Blair seemed to me to be admitting that corruption had taken place but had decided to shut down an investigation because the Saudis wouldn't like it. My opinion of Blair just gets lower and lower. This government is entirely corrupt. This is an utter rejection of the rule of law. This is so blantantly unethical and probably illegal.

On the subject, I recently found out about DESO - the Defence Export Services Organisation. This is a government department with the sole purpose of working for the arms trade industry. This mean that British state taxpayers' money is going towards a department with the sole perpose of working for private arms companies in bringing about arms deals. Follow the link for details of the campaign to shut it down.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Religious freedom news: new laws in Romania

The Church Times has reported (Jan 5 2007, page 5) that the Romanian Parliament has rushed through a law on religion that restricts religious freedom. Religions have to be registered in Romania, which creates problems for minority religions (of which Unitarianism is of course one). To be registered as a religion with the most rights requires more than 23,000 adult members. This (I think) would enable Unitarianism to be registered in this category, one of 18 officially recognised religions. But smaller groups will have much reduced rights.

One would hope that a condition of belonging to the EU would be religious freedom, in practice as well as in theory. But hey, we still have a blasphemy law and one state religion in this country.

I wonder if laws like this effect Unitarians in other countries around the world where their numbers would only be in the 10s or 100s.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Things to do in 2007

1. Get a girlfriend or boyfriend.
2. Get a spiritual director.
3. Learn to drive.

4. Oh yeah, and pass all the courses and stuff that I'm doing.