Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kosher, halal, and circumcision

The Muslim immigration to Europe brought with it quite a lot of concern of locals about both Jewish and Muslim traditions that have been around here for a very long time, but are now coming to the public attention again with a new force.

Many Muslims and Jews say that at least some of the people who raise these issues just don't like Muslims, Jews or both. This is undoubtedly so, but it doesn't mean that these are not real issues. It's just that the debate on them sounds rather strange nowadays.

First of all, I find it really strange that people on all sides of the debate often claim that ritual slaughter is barbaric. Or that it is humane. Ritual slaughter, just like regular slaughter, can be as barbaric or as humane as you make it.

At best, the ritual slaughter is cutting the animal's throat very fast with a sharp knife, with the result that the animal loses consciousness immediately. At worst, the animal does not lose consciousness immediately and is hoisted up by its hind legs to bleed out while conscious.

In spite of the popular misconceptions to the contrary kosher and halal slaughter are permitted in Finland, as long as it's done in a proper slaughterhouse and the animal is stunned right after the cut. There is nothing particularly barbaric about this method, unless you disapprove of eating meat in general.

There are some disagreements among both Jews and Muslims as to whether it's kosher/halal to stun the animal after the cut. And yes, some think that it's not, Jews more often than Muslims. Do we have to cater to them? The demand for any kind of kosher meat is so low in Finland that it is AFAIK not slaughtered in Finland anyway, and as for halal - well, stunning is permitted in Saudi Arabia, so wouldn't that be kosher (sorry) enough for the vast majority of Muslims? And IME Jews and Muslims are people like everyone else, in that in the absence of superkosher and superhalal they make do with what they have.

Has anyone besides Abdullah Tammi ever demanded unstunned kosher or halal meat in Finland? (That's not a rhetorical question.)

One point that is rarely raised: people who wish to follow very strict kosher and halal guidelines and don't believe in stunning don't need to become vegetarians or compromise their beliefs, of they are not so inclined. Fish does not require ritual slaughter in Judaism or Islam, and stunning birds after cutting their necks is not required by law in Finland.

In short, I think that Finland already has the right laws, as in Eläinsuojeluasetus 7.6.1996/396.

As to circumcision, the situation is complicated. There is no proper law, and treating it as battery is difficult since authorities have in effect permitted it ever since Jews and Muslims lived here, which is a fairly long time. It has become an issue only after the Muslim immigration of the 90s, which made it more common, raised demand for having it taxpayer-funded, and brought the issue of the female circumcision. A few thoughts on banning circumcision:

1. The people who discuss circumcision as is it were a medieval custom long forgotten in Europe and only brought here by recent Muslim immigration are of course very wrong. Circumcision has been around and permitted for a long, long time. I think that a child's right to bodily integrity is more important than freedom of religion, and that banning non-medical circumcision would be a great step forward, but that's exactly what it would be: a huge step forward. It should be treated as such. As in "we realize that is has been permitted pretty much all over the Western world all the time, but times change and we think it's time to ban it, and this is why...".

2. The people who think that it should be funded by taxpayers are making a step backward. It used to be funded by NHS in UK; when it stopped being so, the rates fell dramatically.

3. The problem of people not obeying the law and doing it anyway is real, and something needs to be done about it. OTOH, if it were illegal it would be a lot less common. My rather obvious suggestion would be to make it mildly punishable if done illegally but in proper medical conditions, and make the punishment a lot more severe for people who do it in a way that endangers the child's health. OTOH, the punishments for grievous bodily harm are ridiculously small in Finland in any case.

Anyway: I see how it is a matter of principle for many people, but IMO even laws that would make at least some people give up on this custom would be good.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The less-radical younger generation

This seems almost too funny to be true. Remember Omar Bakri, the man that the newspapers usually politely call "firebrand cleric" because a newspaper can get in trouble for using a more descriptive term, for example "delusional Islamist sociopath"?

His daughter Yasmin turned out to be a pole dancer. Which, of course, totally doesn't have anything to do with the way they took her out of school at 16 for an arranged marriage.

One of Bakri's comments: "Islam has prevailed and you are defeated. The lowest people on earth are non-Muslims and that is why we have to put up with these fabrications and lies."

There is still some sense in the world...

...even in West Virginia.

The anti-farting charges were dropped.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The land of the free and the home of the buttplug

Finland is only trying to figure out how to prevent horrible violence, but the USA is already ahead of everyone.

In West Virginia, a man has been charged with battery on a police officer. For farting.

'"The gas was very odorous and created contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Patrolman Parsons," the complaint alleged.'

The man was also accused of passing gas loudly, lifting his leg while doing so, moving his chair towards the officer before farting, and fanning the gas towards the officer. The evildoer admits to farting, but not the moving and the fanning, and is claiming an upset stomach.

OK, maybe all the jokes about West Virginians are true, in that many of them are children of cousins, siblings, sheep or parents who happen to be all of the above. And OK, I've been to some restaurants (none of them in West Virginia) after which the customers' farts can and rightfully should be banned by chemical weapon limitation treaties. But one thing I would like to know: are they gonna ban beans for being a sort of anti-police ammo?

Why is hating everyone OK?

I am sure I've written about it before, but why, again, is hating all people much more acceptable, both legally and socially, than hating some group?

I think a direct incitement to kill people is illegal in any case, but anything short of it is not. If you write something along the lines of "I hate all Asians, they are like a cancer spreading on our beautiful planet", or even "Asians totally suck and are worthless and smell bad" the police will be at your door pretty soon. Ditto for blacks, whites, or any race or ethnic group you can think of. But you can write such things about all those groups put together, and not only not get arrested, but not even necessarily considered a psychotic creep.

Isn't it time to rethink this, especially considering that - thank God for small favors - I don't remember anyone ever committing a murder of a group of Asians, whites, blacks or anyone else for racial or ethnic reasons in Finland, but we just had a second spree killing for misanthropic reasons within one year?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let's ban, ban, ban something!

According to Tilastokeskus, 23 people died in 2006 from being shot during a manslaughter or by accident: 17 were victims of crimes, 4 were victims of accidents, and they are not sure about the remaining two.

During the same time, 41 people died in motorcycle accidents and 73 in boating accidents. There are 1620000 legal firearms in Finland, 737000 boats and 188 144 motorcycles plus 188 388 mopeds.

That's about 70435 legal firearms per one person killed by firearms, and since 57% of the firearms used in crimes are illegal firearms, 121713 legal firearms per one person killed by them. That's also 10096 boats per person killed by boating, and 9183 motorcycles and mopeds per person killed while riding one.

So, why do so many people demand a total ban on guns every time several people get killed, but I've never heard anyone seriously demand a ban on all, or even just recreational, boating and motorcycling?

Refugees and diversity

A number of blogs have been talking about immigration and refugees lately, especially on Uusi Suomi's list of election blogs.

In such discussions feelings run high, both sides sometimes use the kind of arguments that makes one feel ashamed for them, and most people seem to be a bit unclear on the concept of refugee.

Yesterday, however, I ran into one that made me inhale my tea. I don't remember which one of those conversation threads it was, but it went along the line of "how does taking refugees help the countries that they are coming from?"

I did a double-take. Say what? Why on Earth would you want to help them? Unless, of course, you are either the kind of person who defines "help" as "carpet bombing", or the kind of person who thinks that all the violent criminals just need help.

The current concept of refugee was created by 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and defines a refugee as a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country". Why a country generating such people should get any help, as opposed to a very hard kick in the nuts, is beyond my understanding.

I know that every time Holocaust or Nazis are mentioned in any political discourse, God (or is it Godwin) kills a kitten somewhere. Considering the date of the convention, however, a prototypical refugee they were thinking of was most probably a Jew trying to escape from Nazi Germany. Can you really imagine Americans, Russians, Swiss, Swedes, or any kind of furry little creatures from Alpha Centauri say "how does helping Jewish refugees help Germany?" No? Didn't think so.

Anyway, the whole idea was to take some minority groups or persons from where they are being persecuted by the majority or the powers that be, and move them to the places where they would fit in better.

Tens of millions of refugees were successfully resettled during the last century. Usually the successful resettlement involved people moving from a place where people were less like themselves to a place where people were more like themselves, either in ethnicity, religion, way of life or political opinions, or at least to a place where the locals were more accustomed to people like themselves. Jews and political dissidents from German-occupied Europe fled to pretty much anywhere that would take them, Germans who disagreed with Communism fled from East Germany to West Germany, Poles fled from the Ukraine to Poland, Finns fled from the Carelian Isthmus to the rest of Finland, Hindus and Sikhs fled from Pakistan to India and Muslims fled from India to Pakistan, Hindus fled from Bangladesh to India, Jews fled from Muslim and Communist countries to Israel and the US, people who disagreed with Communists fled from Communist counties to the West, people who disagreed with radical Shia Islam fled from Iran to the West, and pretty much everyone who could fled from the Khmer Rouge Cambodia to anywhere.

The whole idea of refugee resettlement is to reduce diversity in the world. If it's increasing the diversity, you are doing something wrong. And when I say "diversity", I don't mean the skin color, but the way of life.

This is not to say that countries should never take refugees that are different from the locals - the Bahai, for example, don't have a Bahai country to go to, and have successfully integrated, well, everywhere where they are not considered to be Islamic apostates.

In 1967 people fleeing wars were added to the definition of a refugee. This did have a point: after all bombs don't care whether you are a member of a majority or a minority and whether you have a good government or a bad one. But it also did create quite a lot of refugees, and, more problematically, quite a lot of refugees who are not looking forward to settling down in a country that's more appropriate for them, but want to stay somewhere until the war ends, without any wish to properly integrate in the new country. Some of the countries who accept them also sort of expect them to go home after the war, and support them for years without making any integration demands on them. Of course many of those wars turn out to be forever, and people who have lived for years on welfare usually have no intention to go back or to find a job. To complicate matters further, sometimes those wars really do end fast and the war refugees really do go home.

The problem, of course, is that while with the persecuted minorities you usually do know that they need a permanent new home, the war might last 2 months or 20 years. I don't think there is an easy solution to that.

I do however think that refugees should only be taken to places where they will more or less fit in. By that I mean people who prefer to live under the Western system to the West, people who prefer living under Sharia to the countries that have Sharia, people who prefer to live under Communism to Cuba and North Korea, etc.

Unfortunately there are always more refugees than resettlement places for them, and somebody always has to be left behind. For example, the people who would like to live under Sharia and simultaneously receive European-style social benefits can stay where they are and wait for such a country to appear. With Britain permitting Sharia courts nowadays they might even have a chance.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Global attitudes report

Many news sources have quoted the Pew Research Center's global attitudes report yesterday. I am all for news sources reading long papers, picking out some interesting tidbits and digesting it for us, but why is it so rare for them to show some kind of link to the original source? Anyway, the full report is here.

The biggest news: negative attitudes towards Jews and Muslims on the increase almost everywhere.

My first thought, especially upon noticing that for example in Spain the dislike of Jews, Muslims and Christians is fairly high: what do they mean by the questions, and what do the respondents mean by the answers? More specifically, do they mean Christians as the people who truly believe in Jesus as the savior, the holy trinity, etc., or do they mean all the folks originally from a Christian family, most of whom express they Christianity only by celebrating Christmas? If somebody asked me how I feel about the religious group X, I would tend to assume the latter, but I am not sure they meant it, and even if they did, I am not sure it was understood that way.

In short: how large a percentage of the perceived anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian attitudes in each country are just an expression of a general distaste for religion? And how much of the distaste is based on the perception that all/most members of the group are religious?

This reminds me: in Finland I've run several times into people who sort of assume that all the Jews are very religious and actually believe in something, and were a bit disapponted by me. As an ex-boyfriend of mine explained to one of them: "You know how you don't go to church on Sunday? Well, Jews are the people who don't go to a synagogue on Saturday instead."

Another interesting finding is that Muslims are becoming less and less fond of suicide bombings, with Lebanese people's support for suicide bombings falling from 74% in 2002 to 32% now, Pakistanis' from 33% to 5%, and Turks' from 13% to 3%.

Osama is also becoming less and less popular, from 20% to 2% in Lebanon. from 56% to 19% in Jordan. (The biggest decline in Jordan, from about 63% to about 23%, happened between 2005 and 2006. November 9, 2005, by a strange coincidence, happened to be the date of suicide bombings that killed 60 people and 3 suicide bombers in Amman.)

The only country where support for Bin Laden went up, from 44% to 58%, is Nigeria.

On antisemitism: in Western Europe the people under 50 disliked Jews less than the people over 50, in Poland and Russia the other way around.

In Spain, dislike for all three religions is very much up since 2005. Wonder why.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Banks paging Robin Hood

HS says that banks want to have a right to raise a mortgage's interest unilaterally. Not all the time, of course, but only when the bank is totally fucked.

Now that's an interesting idea. Do we, the customers, also get to reduce the interest when we don't have money? Or raise the interest on our bank accounts? "Hi, it's Vera, I am a bit broke, could you pay me a 50% interest on my account instead of whatever it is now?" Cool.

I ain't dead

Just have a very tiring flu. Some evil is living in my throat and keeping me awake at night. Tea and alcohol are exorcising it, but too slowly.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Separate but equal

Helsinki has its own segregated swimming now, for Muslim women only. It's in Jakomäki swimming pool, swimming lessons for Muslim girls only Saturday 9-10:45, free swimming for Muslim women 11-14:30. Infidels need not apply.

Sometime last fall they had swimming hours for immigrant women. Now city of Helsinki Sports Department has it listed as Muslim-women hours.

Different Muslim cultures has different interpretation of Islamic modesty rules, but I'd appreciate pointers at what particular interpretation says that Muslim men can swim with infidels of both sexes, whereas Muslim women can swim in the company of each other, but not in the company of infidel women.

This, however, is not the point. There might be Muslim women who truly and deeply feel that they need their separate swimming time. Damn, I used to like having separate swimming time for myself and my fellow computer science students. We rented the pool for a evening from the student union now and then. The city sports facilities are also available for rent by private groups. This, however, is not Muslim Women's Swimming Club ry renting the place and inviting their members, or some Aisha and Fatima renting it and inviting their friends. This is the city of Helsinki practicing discrimination on the basis of religion.

The issue of sex-separated swimming facilities is pretty similar in my opinion, but for all it's worth, Yrjönkatu pool has separate hours for both men and women, and Muslim women can use it just like anyone else. The fact that some of them seem to resent sharing the pool with infidel women makes one wonder whether the issue is really Islam as such (I've been to a shower with a bunch of religious-looking Bedouin women in Negev, they didn't run away or go blind), or possibly the fact the the parents of some particular African cultures don't want to have to explain to their daughters why everybody else's pussy is different from their own. After all, if vulva and clitoris are unclean, no wonder they don't want to swim in a pool full of them.

A few people in the HS forum defended the policy on the basis of "it isn't hurting anyone" (except for everyone else who might like to use the place on Saturday?) and that it would be wrong to begrudge the Muslim women their separate swimming time, and what's the big deal as long as everyone gets to swim at some point.

Now where have I heard that before? Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), a US Supreme Court decision upholding the doctrine of "separate but equal". I suppose a lot of people would say that a decision the US Supreme Court has made in 1896 should not be relevant in Finland in 2008. I agree. It hasn't even been relevant in the US since 1954.

Muslims have lived in Finland for more than a 100 years now, and somehow managed to survive without their own pool hours until now. A lot of them managed to swim with the opposite sex, or at least with the infidels of the same sex. The native-born Finnish Muslims seem to have no trouble whatsoever. The immigrants, or the native-born Finns who convert into the more restrictive forms of Islam, should understand that this society is not designed for them, and it's up to them to adapt to it.

Yes, having to always reserve the pool privately is quite inconvenient for the kind of Muslims who can't swim in the same pool with infidels. Right. It's supposed to be inconvenient for them. In case somebody did not get the memo, this society has not been designed for the convenience of the fundamentalist Muslims, but of mostly-secular mostly-Lutherans. Live with it.

And no, I don't even think that accommodating requests of immigrant groups is always a bad thing. I just don't think that "we don't want our women to swim with unclean infidels" is a request worthy of being accommodated.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

"We can't expect them to learn Finnish, now can we?"

The minister of Labor and the fearless leader of the Greens, Tarja Cronberg, took part in a press conference on security policy in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Quite predictably she thinks that the war in Georgia has no bearing on Finland's security situation, there are no reasons to join NATO or to raise defense spending, etc.

She also demanded that the status on the Russian minority should be secured in the Baltic countries and in Finland, and suggested that Yle should have more Russian-language programming for this purpose.

"Regardless of what happens in Russia and what Russia does, Finland should take care of its growing Russian minority," she said.

However, she said, securing the status of the Russian-speaking minority is not about the security policy. She just happened to mention it during the press conference on security policy for no reason at all.

Why, I am touched. Cronberg wishes to take care of my poor little Russian-speaking self. Medvedev and Putin also just want to protect and take care of my poor little Russian-speaking self, in their own way.

When I was very young and roamed the street of St. Petersburg with less regard for personal safety than is strictly advisable, I found one and only one 100% indicator of an impending rape attempt: if a strange man suddenly volunteered to protect me from bad guys, it always meant that he was about to attack me physically, and the unsolicited words "I'll walk you home, there are a lot of hooligans around, it's not safe on your own" coming from a strange man always made me look for whatever could be used as a weapon.

By a strange coincidence, I feel the same way about politicians.

Seriously, though: what does Cronberg think to achieve by increasing the amount of Russian programming on Yle? Apart from licking Putin's ass, that is.

Russian-speaking people in Finland either speak Finnish, in which case they can watch and listen to the Finnish programming, or should be learning Finnish, in which case they'd do better to learn Finnish than to listen to the Russian programming. Does anyone, even the fearless leader of the Greens, really think that integration of the new immigrants is helped by providing them with entertainment in their native language as opposed to, say, providing them with more Finnish-language classes?

In the time since my arrival to the US we went from one Russian-language newspaper to five TV channels. From all I've seen it really did not improve integration, although at least part of the cause-and-effect went the other way (the less-integrable people came later and created demand for the Russian channels).

Russian-speaking people in Finland already have Russian bookstores, lots of Russian books in the public libraries, and three Russian-language channels that can be ordered on cable TV. What many of them don't have is a good working knowledge of Finnish. A new Russian channel would hardly serve that purpose.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Movies and seats

Been to the movies yesterday. Kung Fu Panda, which was OK, and the new Indiana Jones, which I liked better.

Made me wonder about a few things, not related to these particular two movies:

1. Why do most people seem to dislike the front rows regardless of their actual location, the size of the screen, the angle, the height, etc.?

2. Am I the only person who orders the tickets "one ticket to the movie X, row Y please"? How come they never seem to hear or acknowledge my location request? The conversation usually continues: "is row Z OK"? "No, I would like row Y, please." Row Y invariably has more free space than row Z.

3. What the hell is wrong with the people who want to get up and watch the end credits? I can understand people wanting to get out as soon as the end credits start, although I disapprove of it because they get in the way of those of us watching the credits, but why the hell some of the people who want to watch the credits themselves seem to have a problem with the idea that somebody behind them might want to watch them too, and that they are not quite transparent?

4. What's the point of having places for senior citizens on public transport? If there are no senior citizens around, they don't need them, and if they are around, isn't it nice to offer them a seat even if it isn't a designated senior citizen seat? Are the designated seats just so that everyone knows who should be the first to give up their seats to the elderly?