That Humanist


123 meme
February 5, 2008, 11:02 am
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Tagged by This Humanist. Here are the rules:

  • Pick up the book nearest you with at least 123 pages. (No cheating!)
  • Turn to page 123.
  • Count the first five sentences.
  • Post the next three sentences.
  • Tag five other bloggers.

Here goes:

Once a year, the skies were full of Color-by-Deluxe clouds: pink and purple, magenta and vermilion, saffron and green, these powder-clouds, squirted from re-used insecticide guns, or floating down from some bursting balloon-cluster wafting across the sky, hung in the air above the deities ‘like aurora-not-borealis-but-bombayalis’, as the painter Vasco Miranda used to say. Also sky-high above crowds and gods, year after year – for forty-one years in all – fearless upon the precipitous ramparts of our Malabar Hill bungalow, which in a spirit of ironic mischief or perversity she had insisted on naming Elephanta, there twirled the almost-diving figure of our very own Aurora Bombayalis, plumed in a series of dazzle-hued mirrorwork outfits, outdoing in finery even the festival sky with its hanging gardens of powdered colour. Her white hair flaying around her in long loose exclamations (O prophetically premature white hair of my ancestors!), her exposed belly not old-bat-fat but fit-cat-flat, her bare feet stamping, her ankles a-jingle with silver jhunjhunna bell-bracelets, snapping her neck from side to side, speaking incomprehensible volumes with her hands, the great painter danced her defiance, she danced her contempt for the perversity of humankind, which led these huge crowds to risk death-by-trampling ‘just to dumpofy their dollies in the drink,’ as she liked incredulously, and with much raising of eyes to skies and wry twisting of the mouth, to jeer.

That’s from “The Moor’s Last Sign” by Salman Rushdie. I’ve read the book and I’m currently listening to another of his, Shalimar the Clown.



Faith Schools
February 4, 2008, 4:35 pm
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Faith schools (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, and now Hindu, Jewish), paid for in the most part by British tax payers, are growing stronger and more isolated. Imagine a Jewish faith school in the heart of London, which shields its trusting students from the rest of society so much that the students have heavy Jewish accents, without a trace of that London cockney. Schools where children are taught evolution, but where most students don’t end up “accepting it” (in the words of a teacher at said school). Or a similar faith school, that teaches Noah and the ark together with lessons in science. How is this anything other than miseducation, under the guise of “faith education.”

The BBC has an interesting article about how Faith schools are to get their own vetting. Moreover, this body has been set up in the name of “community cohesion.” Why should “some private Muslim and Christian schools in England” have their own joint inspection body? What is so special about these schools?

Will this joint inspection body overlook the teaching of science and creationism in the same class, overlook those students that don’t “accept it” because of a dogmatic bias in the education, but now do so uniformly across two religions and with a better understanding of why said schools have such a bias? And how does this contribute to community cohesion? When you don’t even have the accent of the country in which you are born, how can we really expect cohesion? How can we expect integration, feelings of shared welfare?

Here‘s a story of a Jewish school reprimanded (by the “powerless ombudsman”) for not taking on a non-Jewish student. Their rules of admission state that the “school gives preference to Jewish children, then siblings of pupils, and thirdly to ‘children of families not of the Jewish faith demonstrating particular moral and/or religious strengths which are not likely to conflict with the Jewish ethos of the school’.” Perhaps their idea is that they’ll accept students outside of the faith if there’s a good chance of converting them to the faith.

The British Humanist Association web site has some great information about faith schools, which I won’t repeat here. As humanist though, surely these faith schools demand our attention. These schools are teaching ignorance to the young – to those that aren’t in a position to know otherwise. Many would I find this repugnant, immoral, and an abuse of authority.

Post Script: The Telegraph has an article on how Female Muslim medics ‘disobey hygiene rules’. Apparently the medical students are not washing their hands properly because the indecency of exposing their arms appears to outweigh their knowledge of science, bacteria and the spread of diseases. So strong is their sense of morality, that they’d rather indirectly spread disease (and perhaps death, albeit inadvertently) – quite contrary to their chosen station.