Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Deano in trouble

Former Aussie cricketeer Dean "Deano" Jones has been sacked from his job as commentator today, after being caught on air calling South African cricketeer Hashim Amia "the terrorist". Cynics might suggest that Jones' punishment was more for being foolish enough to use the slur on-air, rather than for the slur itself.

According to the Melbourne free tabloid MX, Jones apologised before leaving Sri Lanka, where the incident occurred: "I have no end of respect for the Muslim faith -- that's why I'm so sorry at making such a stupid comment."

Why do people pretend to have respect for religious faiths when they clearly and obviously don't? Why didn't Jones come clean and admit that what he said was a slur and potentially slanderous, no different from calling somebody a murderer or a criminal based on their religious belief, without having to dress it up in false pious respect for a religion he almost certainly knows nothing about and cares for even less?

Imagine if he had said, "What I called Hashim Amia was an insult and an slur against him. It is factually untrue. There is no evidence he has committed crimes of terrorism, and I was stupid and foolish to suggest he had, based only on his religion, without any good cause."

That's what it should be about, surely. An innocent man was slandered. His religion was the excuse, but it was an attack against him, not an attack against Islam. That people take it as such just shows how much unwarranted respect we give religion. Had Hashim Amia been an atheist, or a Christian, or a Buddhist, we'd have no trouble recognising that accusing him of crimes he hasn't committed is an attack against him.

The idea that we should respect religions has a pernicious effect on our thinking. We're living in a Bizarro World where a person's beliefs are given infinite respect and the person none. Millions of people (and I'm predicting that Dean Jones is one of them) think it would be perfectly acceptable to kidnap Hashim Amia out of his bed, fly him secretly half-way across the world to a secret prison, and torture him with an electric drill, on the suspicion that he was a "terrist" -- but insult his religion? Never!

I'm sure that Dean Jones, a clean-shaven man, has no respect for the idea that the (assumed) All-Powerful, All-Wise, All-Knowing Creator of the Universe cares deeply whether men cut their beard or not. That's so Howard Hughes. Is God an obsessive-compulsive control-freak? It certainly would seem so, judging by the things which His believers claim are important. God, so they would have you believe, cares deeply about how long you grow your hair and (for men) beard, whether you wear a hat or not, whether your clothes are made of a single fibre or a mixture of two (mixing linen and cotton is a mortal sin, according to the Old Testament). He cares about what you eat, when you eat it, how you prepare the food.

And let's not even mention sex...

How can anyone respect any religion, whether it is Christianity, Islam or any other, that describes the All-Powerful Creator as something like a creepy, obsessive, dirty old man with anger-management issues?

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