Friday, March 31, 2006

Te Radar: May God protect us all from religious fanatics

A cockerel in Kyrgyzstan this week was, like some kind of kidnapped Western innocent in an Iraqi terror house, about to have its head unceremoniously hacked off when a small boy realised that it appeared to be crowing, "Allah, Allah."

Ironically, the bird was being dispatched because it was considered too aggressive.

Now, however, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, the sacred squawking of the cockerel, recorded by the family on their mobile phone and broadcast around the world, has ensured the fame, and life, of the bird, and resulted in one lingering question: Where on earth is Kyrgyzstan?

Regardless, it isn't only backwoods Where-is-stans that have a monopoly on religious cranks. In the United States recently, the trial of a vaccine that could prevent the human papilloma virus, a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, was halted after Christian conservatives argued that vaccinating young women against a disease that could mutilate or kill them might lead to promiscuity.

This, it seems, is a worse blight than cancer. Still, this is a nation that reveres such religious relics as a toasted cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary on it.

The 10-year-old sandwich is remarkably free of mould, although this may say more about the amount of preservatives in American food than the quirkiness of a prankster Saviour.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a man who converted from Islam to Christianity was condemned by clerics whose world view extends barely to the end of their potholed street. They called for him to be torn limb from limb for this heinous crime, if the state failed to provide him with a fair trial and sentence him to death.

For once the words of President George W. Bush seemed oddly apt when he described the situation as "deeply troubling".

Also troubling for an Indian man was waking to discover that he had inadvertently muttered "I divorce thee" three times while sleeping, thus unwittingly divorcing his wife according to Islamic tradition.

Local clerics upheld the divorce, demanding that the man and his wife, neither of whom have any wish to separate, must now do so for at least 100 days if they wish to remarry. Unfortunately, the woman must also spend the night with another man, who must then also divorce her.

Odder still was the revelation of a British jihadist on trial for alleged terrorist activity who confessed to planning the most elaborately bizarre terror scheme yet devised.

His plan was to distribute leaflets for a fictional takeaway bar and poison any food that was ordered. One has to admire his enterprise, if not his audacity.

He had already confessed to selling poisoned burgers, and planning to poison beer at football games.

The real question here is how he could tell if his plan was working? After a night at football, with the traditional English intake of beer and bad food, who would notice that they had been poisoned by anyone other than themselves?

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