well, i expect most of us have probably heard by now that, according to the not-at-all-bonkers iranian regime, that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes. i expect the haitians are buying their chadors as we speak. in the interests of balance, i thought it might be instructive to see which other religious figures are saying and doing stupidly daft things this week:
1. mobile phones damage your neshama
we are reliably informed that the son of the vishnitzer rebbe, a prominent hasidic sect (that’s vishnitz, not the rebbe himself, he can’t be a sect on his ownsome) doesn’t want yeshiva students to carry mobile phones, because they can damage the neshama which, in jewish mystical thought, is one of the higher and more holy parts of the soul. i should, in fairness, point out that the damage is indirect not direct, as the mobile phone *might* be able to access the internet which *might* lead to someone looking at porn. or the student might start texting girls, or looking at them, or talking to them, or something like that. anyway, i do feel i should mention that vishnitzer women don’t in fact shave their heads under their wigs, so there are untold sensual delights on the horizon once the students leave yeshiva and head for the wedding canopy, so presumably married students can be trusted to carry phones. nonetheless, this is not the only danger out there, as the rabbi went on to say; there is an even more terrifying danger to the haredi world – the haredi newspaper.
2. haredim forbidden to read haredi newspapers
yes, you heard right; the ultra-orthodox vishnitzer hasidim have been banned from reading the ultra-orthodox newspaper, hamodia. for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it’s slightly right of genghis khan and the only pictures allowed, if they’re of human beings at all, are something like this:
anyway, it’s not allowed. as hamodia itself declares:
“ALL Haredi Jews, by virtue of their faithful commitment to lead a wholesome spiritual life, free of the gratuitous violence and nudity so prevalent in today’s media, will neither own a television set, nor have internet access or radio in their homes.”
so, are the vishnitzers worried that pictures of the latest gedolim get-together might cause a ruckus? no, it’s because newspapers might, y’know, actually inform them about, y’know, stuff that, y’know, the rabbis might not actually want them to hear…. like reports of rabbinic corruption, for example, sorry, putting them at risk of falling foul of Torah prohibitions on tale-bearing and slander. i am sure mr justice eady would approve!
3. discriminating against christians will cause civil unrest in the UK
everyone’s favourite evangelist ex-archbishop, george carey, in a letter to the employment appeals tribunal objecting to a nurse rather stupidly being forced to take off her christian jewellery, threatened that:
“The fact that senior clerics of the Church of England and other faiths feel compelled to intervene directly in judicial decisions and cases is illuminative of a future civil unrest.”
yes, you heard right – christianity is under attack, apparently. ruth gledhill disagrees, pointing out that if you want to look for somewhere where christians are actually being persecuted, there are plenty of places, but i think predicting bedlam in bristol and uproar in uttoxeter is probably a bit on the alarmist side.
4. spate of hindu beheadings anticipated
apparently a headless body found at a temple of the hindu goddess kali was ritually decapitated and intended as a sacrifice. as loony religious behaviour goes, this one is hard to beat, but i look forward to john denham putting a well-funded programme to prevent human sacrifice by engaging with bemused community leaders from neasden. or something.
5. deepak chopra takes blame for american earthquake
my favourite right now – apparently, it isn’t immodestly dressed women, but fatuous, over-indulged, stupidly rich new-age gurus that cause earthquakes. followers of deepak chopra on twitter would have seen the following:
“Had a powerful meditation just now – caused an earthquake in Southern California. Was meditating on Shiva mantra & earth began to shake. Sorry about that.”
oh deary, deary, deary me.