Stupid cultural peculiarity #5,674: big is beautiful / child abuse

Maybe, but that doesn’t mean we need to encourage people to be unhealthy.

I am always amazed by how easily we tolerate “religious” or “cultural” customs just because of their stated source. It really needs to stop. I don’t care if it’s a person’s religion or their heritage that condones an illogical, inconsiderate, and/or inhumane act. They need to discontinue that custom. Sure, one might think where does the line get drawn about what customs “make sense” versus those that do not? Am I suggesting that only Western ideals will win out? No, in fact, the choices are generally not that hard. If they are, there’s discussions to be had–but often topics are just avoided, or ridiculousness accepted on its face just because something is cultural or, more often because it’s religious.

These girls eat 14,000 to 16,000 calories daily. Recommended for a healthy 12-year-old girl is 1500 calories; in comparison, an adult male bodybuilder eats up to 4000. (photo from MC)

I first heard about force-feeding of women in Mauritania when I found this article in Marie Claire magazine. This is particularly troublesome when one considers that it’s more specific than just “women”– it is force-feeding of children that is the concern. I am amazed that I’d never heard of this “leblouh” before. If I haven’t heard of this from any of the blogs, newspapers, and magazines that I read, or from any of my friends or their friends–obviously this is an issue that is not getting any attention. Perhaps because Mauritania is not such a huge country, and a minority of it’s poor, uneducated women are really not a priority for anyone? Probably so–but this kind of sick point of view should be condemned. The fact that the world sat by while the junta government took over and ran rigged elections was just a prelude to these kinds of abuses returning.

Until recently, it appeared that force-feeding and the big-is-beautiful ethos were dying out. Although leblouh has never been outlawed in this Islamic republic, in 2003 the government started a campaign to fight child abuse and raise awareness of the health risks of obesity. Moreover, as diverse global influences — from knockoff Western fashions to Nigerian pop music and French TV — slowly reached the masses, young women in cities like Nouakchott, the capital, were beginning to slim down under their mulafa robes. But in December 2007, progress stalled when gunmen with suspected ties to al Qaeda’s North African wing murdered four French vacationers near the capital, causing tourism and foreign investment to plummet. Then, in August 2008, a military coup removed the democratic government and installed a junta that favored “a return to tradition.” An election in July kept the junta in power, despite claims of massive vote-rigging.

Surely, when we turn a blind eye to one problem, others will arise.


Photoshop on front page: no one really notices, do they?

He’s walking in front; he’s walking behind; does it matter?
Well, Al-Ahram newspaper in Egypt certainly thinks so! For their recent front page spread, they didn’t want their country’s president to be lagging behind anyone else, so they made him lead the pack!

obviously not good enough!
original Reuters photo

Instead, an alternate reality:

click to enlarge
front page of Al Ahram

Quoted in an article on Al-Masry Alyoum, “Samy Abdel Aziz, dean of the faculty of mass communication at Cairo University, said the president’s perceived importance should not be affected by his position in a photo,  [since]  ‘Formal aspects do not add to realities.'”
Uhh–if it didn’t affect realities, why would anyone bother to change it? I need to have a word with Cairo University about what kind of people they have running their shops!

Hope you get to walk in front of someone today,

Sunni vs. Shia in Kuwait

Religious people have nothing better to do with their lives. Again. So some of them cause a stir, and others follow like sheep. In the end, there is problems between real people over non-real topics. Good job, guys.

Muslim Sunni Activists Seen Gathered In Kuwait’s Suburb Of Firdous Late Monday Evening To Condemn Disparaging Remarks Against The Wife Of The Prophet Mohammed (Arab Times.)

So there is a big debate going on in Kuwaiti parliament about what to do and the situation is divided on denominational lines.
Here is an article from Arab Times today.  Not good news in a country that seems to be slowly moving towards more conservatism.
What did this Yasser Al Habib say that has caused such a stir? [For background, Aisha is one of the Prophet Muhammad’s wives, and has a very special place in Islamic history.] Here is an example from his blog. Personally, I find it almost charming that this agitation is from a “blogger”– a term that is not generally associated with radical religionists! Anyway, so this guy has said for example that

Aisha is certainly the enemy of Allah and His messenger (peace be upon him and his pure family). He said that she had committed uncountable heinous crimes against the religion of Islam and the Muslim people among which were: assassination of the holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his pure family) and rebellion against Imam Ali (peace be upon him).
In addition to her being happy after she was told of the martyrdom of Lady Fatima and Imam Ali (peace be upon them both). She continuously abused the mistress of all women, Lady Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her) until she caused her to cry, fired arrows at the coffin of Imam al-Hassan (peace be upon him), caused the killing of thirty-thousand of Muslims, fabricated Hadiths and accused the pure lady Maria the Coptic (peace be upon her) of lies and adultery, let alone the shameful practice of adult nursing which has blackened the history of Islam.

and further that based on several “proofs,” she is currently “now in hellfire, hanging by her legs and eating her own flesh.”
WOW. While not a huge religious scholar, years of religious study and I have never come across anything this crazy. I feel that if this were a generally held view at all, even in Shia circles, I would have heard SOMETHING of this. So, I’m going to go ahead and file this under “crazy.”
In the end, I can understand sidelining the idiots of the world, or the divisive of the world, but following them and allowing ourselves to be divided along lines of religious and ethnic contexts… well, it’s just typical of organizations which urge you to have “faith” and “believe” and “follow” as if these were all virtuous things.
Cheers to the awesomeness of religion.


PS. Also predictably, there is a Boycott Yasir Al-Habib Facebook group!

Where is the aeroplane?

Sometimes, it’s not enough to know when the plane has landed or taken off. You just want to SEE the thing–even if it’s in icon form.
So, until we have real-time satellite visual tracking available to us, we have this:
You simply put in your flight number and voilà, you have something that looks like this:

is it a plane?

While I wait for my beautiful wife to get here, the little icon on this map isn’t moving nearly fast enough! But I am SO glad that I can see it moving!

Hope your day goes well,

Red Panda

When they think Panda, most people think large, furry, black, and white. Adorable as Giant Pandas are, though, there are other pandas that are equally awesome, and unfortunately endangered.

Distantly related to the larger, better-known black-and-white giant panda, the red panda is a solitary creature found in the mountains of Nepal, Myanmar, and central China. Photograph by Mark W. Moffett

Meanwhile, these guys just made their public debut the other day, after a harrowing summer of fighting through infancy. On the cuteness meter, there is no disappointing.

baby red panda
The Assiniboine Park Zoo gave the media a glimpse of two infant Red Pandas that were born in the facility in mid-June. Zookeeper Janice Martin holds one of the cubs on Thursday, September 2, 2010. (Winnipeg Sun)

According to National Geographic’s article, “The red panda has given scientists taxonomic fits. It has been classified as a relative of the giant panda, and also of the raccoon, with which it shares a ringed tail. Currently, red pandas are considered members of their own unique family—the Ailuridae.
Red pandas are endangered, victims of deforestation. Their natural space is shrinking as more and more forests are destroyed by logging and the spread of agriculture.”
The National Zoo in Washington and the Brooklyn Zoo in New York both have Red Pandas–and there are apparently 800 or so of these lovely creatures in zoos worldwide. Hope you can get to see one!