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steve tomkins
crows nest
By Stephen Tomkins
More Crow's Nests here
Licensed to sin
March 2010

The latest trend among Muslims in Egypt is to have a recording of verses form the Qur'an as their mobile ring tone. It's devout, and devotional with it, but there is a catch.

The Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa has ruled that it is an offence against Islam to interrupt the Qur'an, so users have to let it play to the end before answering, and therefore miss their call. To be sure of keeping Islamic law they would also have to switch the phone to silent every time they went to the toilet.

Our friends the world religions have also been in the news this month after Southend Jobcentre formally apologized for making a visitor remove an item of clothing demanded by his religion. The item was a hood, and the religion Jediism.

390,000 people were persuaded to call themselves Jedi in the 2001 UK census, after a viral email promised that this would make it an officially recognised religion. Their hopes were cruelly dashed, and Jediism is still officially recognised in Britain as larking around.

The equality bill now going through the UK parliament explicitly excludes Jedis from religious rights (while including veganism and humanism), on the ground that to qualify as a religion it must be 'heartfelt'. I think by that reasoning we should be able to get Anglicanism excluded.

Staying with that most Christian of activities, apologising, a Catholic deacon in Cheltenham, Frank Wainwright, was persuaded to apologise for saying in a 15-minute sermon "Marriage is between Adam and Eve – not Adam and Steve." He was not apologising for Catholic doctrine, or even the shocking oldness of the joke, but for being flippant.

Five church members – probably gay, said Revd Frank – complained. Shortly after his apology, the Vatican issued new guidelines that sermons should be kept to eight minutes, though it didn't explicitly say this was to give preachers less time for bad jokes.

From Canada comes news that if you feel good about buying ethical products you shouldn't, because they're only a licence to extra-bad later. Experiments by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong of Toronto University found that after shopping online, participants who bought green products were less generous and more dishonest with money than others.

Apparently, we do a kind of moral double-entry bookkeeping in our heads, and if we feel we've done something above or below normal levels of goodness, we also feel we have a right/obligation to compensate. So if spend your time making your own clothes from homegrown hemp and building climbing frames for street children out of recycled landfill – we're on to you.

Finally, a 101-year-old woman in Henan province in China seems to have grown a devilish kind of horn from one side of her forehead and another is coming on the opposite side. I say she's grown them, but I think to be accurate they just grew themselves.

I will forego the opportunity mock her affliction (and then keep my next door neighbour's next Amazon delivery to balance things out). Physical appearances are not allocated according to what people deserve, otherwise Rupert Murdoch would have 18-inch horns, a tail with an arrow on the end, and a bullet hole through the forehead.
also see
hubris 2
Mark Howe's regular rant about Internet culture
strangely warmed
Andrew Rumsey's regular column about the religious life
loose canons
Stephen Tomkins' regular round-up of the saints of yore who were one wafer short of a full communion
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