Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Egypt: Converts to Christianity In Fear for their Lives

I am glad to see Fox News on the case of this Christian man and his daughter.

This is the same man we read about in May. While the Fox report attributes the court ruling against recognizing his conversion to a "threat to social order", it does not mention the report also said it was against Sharia (Islamic) Law. Also, the story doesn't connect the death threats with Islamic Law, i.e., that in Islamic Law, converting away from Islam ("apostasy") carries the death penalty.

See here Punishment for Apostasy

In Islamic law (sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars.

A minority of medieval Islamic jurists, notably the Hanafi jurist Sarakhsi (d. 1090), Maliki jurist Ibn al-Walid al-Baji (d. 494 AH) and Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), held that apostasy carries no legal punishment.[6] Some contemporary Islamic Shafi`i jurists, such as the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, some Shi'a jurists such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, and some jurists, scholars and writers of other Islamic sects, have argued or issued fatwas that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances, but these minority opinions have not found broad acceptance among the majority of Islamic scholars.

Hat Tip Ohio Anglican

Friday, January 22, 2010

How to act like a lady and how NOT to act like a gentleman

I thought one of the first rules of courtesy was to NOT criticize the behavior of other adults with whom one is interacting. Here we hear Arlen Specter repeatedly criticizing Michelle Bachmann. Actually it is worse than that. He is telling her how to behave: "Act like a lady."

As well as being churlish, he is being sexist. He seems to think it is alright for him to interrupt her, but that she should not interrupt him.

I guess "acting like a lady" means deferring to men.

Here is the opinion of the expert, Miss Manners, Judith Martin, from her book Miss Manners Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior:
On Correcting Others

Can Miss Manners, whose vocation, whose calling, is correcting etiquette transgressions, condemn the practice? Certainly. Miss Manners corrects only upon request. Then she does it from a distance, with no names attached, and no personal relationship, however distant, between the corrector and the correctee. She does not search out errors like a policeman leaping out of a speed trap. When Miss Manners observes people behaving rudely, she behaves politely to them, and then goes home and snickers about them afterward. That is what the well-bred person does.

The only way to enjoy the fun of catching people behaving disgustingly is to have children. One has to keep having them, however, because it is incorrect to correct grown people, even if you have grown them yourself. This is the mistake that many people make when they give helpful criticism to their children-in-law, who arrive on the scene already grown.

Miss Manners is constantly besieged by people who want to know the tactful manner of pointing out their friends' and relatives' inferiorities. These people, their loved ones report to Miss Manners, chew with their mouth open, mispronounce words, talk too loudly, crack their knuckles, spit, belch and hum tunelessly to themselves. They have bad breath and runs in their stockings. They are too fat, dress badly and do their hair all wrong. How can those who love these people dearly, for reasons that are not clear, and who wish to help them, for reasons that unfortunately are clear, politely let them have it?The answer is that they cannot, certainly not politely.

There are times, in certain trusting relationships, when one can say, "Cracking your knuckles drives me up the wall and if you do it one more time I'll scream," or "Have a mint—there's something wrong with your breath," or "What's that thing on your left front tooth?" No reasonable person should take offense at these remarks. Because they are so frank, they do not seem to carry a history of repulsion long predating the offense. Also, they deal with matters that are more or less easily correctable (although Miss Manners knows some determined knuckle-crackers she suspects aren't half trying to stop), and which it is plausible to assume the offenders hadn't noticed.

What is unacceptable is to criticize things a person cannot easily remedy or may not want to. People who you think are too fat either disagree about what too fat is, are trying to do something about it, or are not trying to do something about it. In no case is it helpful for them to know that other people consider them too fat. Even if it be proven that the mistakes of others come from gross ignorance or from maliciousness, it is not the place of anyone except God, their mothers or Miss Manners to bring this to their attention. As dear Erasmus said, "It is part of the highest civility if, while never erring yourself, you ignore the errors of others." Besides, it is a law of nature that he who corrects others will soon do something perfectly awful himself.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Greece: Athens immigrant problem, is this about race or religion?

I watched this video and the reporter says this is about race. But at the end of the report we see a protest in the street with the men shouting "Allah Akbar!" That indicates a religious issue.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sheikh Al-Masri describes a Muslim conversion trick

This is from a sermon by Egyptian cleric Mahmoud Al-Masri, which aired on Al-Nas TV on August 10, 2009. I came across it in the comments to a blog post about Taqiyya at Jihad Watch. The video does seem to confirm the claim that Islam teaches that deception is clever and good if it is deployed in the service of Islam. It ends with Al-Masri saying "This was a nice trick by this good Muslim."

To me, the story was morally repugnant. Even if we eliminate the anti-semitism and the threat of death parts, the basic idea of tricking someone into converting is vile to me. I don't think a Christian would be comfortable with having converted someone under such false pretensions. It goes against my basic understanding of the meaning of Christianity.

I wondered if this was a rogue cleric and if posting this video would be like posting a video of Fred Phelps and using it to make a point about what Christians think. So I was googling trying to find out more about Mahmoud al-Masri and found a comment at Israellycool that says that in this video Al-Masri is reciting a poem by Ali Zayn El Abidin ibn Hussein ibn Ali ibn Abi Taleb, the great grand son of Mohammad. If that is true, then this sort of trickery that is repugnant to Christian morality really is part of Islam.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Berkeley High: More on eliminating the science lab periods

Well, the San Francisco Chronicle picked up on the story about the Berkeley science labs today, but avoided any discussion of the racial issues. For my previous post on this, see Berkeley High: Close racial achievement gap by cutting science labs classes. In this morning's SF Chron article, the reporter, Jill Tucker, did a good of explaining how the science lab periods work:
While most high school science classes incorporate labs into regular class time, Berkeley High requires most of its students to attend labs before or after school in the so-called zero or seventh periods.

That means showing up at 7:30 a.m. to, say, dissect frogs, or staying until 4:30 p.m. - additional class time that not surprisingly costs additional money.

Currently, students in regular or advanced science classes are required to take one lab class before or after school each week. Students in advanced placement courses take two.

And we find out the real problem is lack of attendance by underachievers:

Yet, while the labs typically are mandatory, students see them as extra time outside the school day, [advanced biology teacher Hilary] Rubin said.

On Monday, 14 of the 27 students in Qatami's lab participated. It was the first day back after winter break, but students said their classmates often skip it.

Zero and seventh periods cut into sleep, jobs, homework, sports and family responsibilities, students said. And they were supposed to be optional, not required.

In the previous article in the East Bay Express, we learn that the science labs were perceived to be "largely classes for white students". Now we know that:
1) the science labs are for all students, but,
2) many students do not put in the time and effort to attend the science labs.

So, why is this a racial issue?

Well, there are twice as many labs for the advanced science classes and we can guess that white kids are disproportionately enrolled in advanced science classes by looking at the racial achievement gap at Berkeley High. We see that for the year 2009 the following percents were at or above proficiency
English Language Arts
White 92%
Black 30.8%

White 87.1%
Black 31.3%

Is it also possible that it is disproportionately the white students who put in the time and effort to attend the science labs and it is disproportionately the black students who do not put in the time and effort to attend the labs? The article does have this paragraph:
But some struggling students don't always attend the extra labs - and ultimately fail the class, said advanced biology teacher Hilary Rubin. That wouldn't necessarily happen if the labs were incorporated into the school day.

Notice how the word "struggling" is used to refer to underperforming students, even in a situation where they appear to be slacking, i.e., not even attending the class at all, rather than making effort?

Another article in the SF Chron today discusses the honoring of the work of Frank Bayliss to get minority students to attend the science labs at San Francisco State University. Bayliss apparently raised funds to pay the students to attend the labs.

Maybe we could close the racial achievement gap at Berkeley High if we paid the black students to attend classes?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Berkeley High: Close racial achievement gap by cutting science labs classes

The East Bay Express has an interesting report on the recent progress of Berkeley High School's "High School Redesign Plan", tasked with the goal of closing the racial achievement gap. One item in the Redesign Plan that won "virtually unanimous" approval by the School Governance Council is to eliminate five science teachers and the labs they teach so that the money can be redirected to the lowest achieving students.
Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.

The item will go before the Berkeley School Board at their upcoming meeting scheduled for January 13th.

This is actually a brilliant way of "closing the racial achievement gap". It is very difficult to raise up the bottom achievers. Eliminating the opportunities for achievement works directly in that the achievement gap no longer can measure the top levels; If there are no science lab classes, then the differential in science achievement has been reduced. This also works indirectly by driving out the top achievers, whose families move them to other high schools. Driving out the high achievers is fine with those who seek to close the racial achievement gap because they believe that those high achievers are from families who can afford to sell their houses and move to different school districts or put their children in private schools.

Thomas Lifson at American Thinker has some interesting comments on the selective racism of this:
The sheer racism of identifying science as something primarily for whites seems not to penetrate the addled minds of those who fancy themselves advocates for black and Latino students. The absence of any consideration of Asian students is also striking. The city of Berkeley has more Asian households (12,641) than black households (10,874) or Latino households (8,466).

Consider that the university which makes its home in Berkeley and dominates both local employment and community's character has a majority undergraduate population of Asian students, thanks to the fact that California voters approved a state law eliminating racial preferences in state institutions. The science majors at the University of California, Berkeley overwhelmingly comprise Asian students. U.C. Berkeley also boasts 21 faculty members who have won Nobel Prizes, primarily in the sciences. The list of laureates includes two Asians and one Latino, all three science winners.

and Lifson also questions how much money should be allocated to raise up underachievers versus funding the willing achievers/ future contirbutors:
Aside from the repulsive racism of this move, the broader issue to be considered is whether society is better-served by cutting down the achievers and investing in the stragglers -- or whether everyone benefits from the achievements of those who apply themselves enough to excel. I have no hesitation in saying that I am in the latter camp. How does it benefit anyone to have an America made up of mediocre minds?