The World’s First Batman Themed Restaurant Is Coming To London In The Spring – Sick Chirpse

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People are gearing up to be obsessed with Batman all over again in preparation for Robert Pattinson’s new movie next year and Wonderland Restaurants have decided to cash in on this by opening up the world’s first Batman themed restaurant in London this spring.

Featured Image VIA

The frankly quite enormous complex will be located inside the Crown Estate’s Grade 2 listed building on Brewer Street in Piccadilly Circus and will feature five different themed restaurants and three different bars, including The Iceberg Lounge – a bar inspired by The Penguin that features cocktails, live entertainment and an international menu – a Harley Quinn inspired restaurant and an Old Gotham City speakeasy that will serve cocktails and sharing platters. Diners can expect to spend about £45 for a meal which isn’t too bad considering it’s in London and one of these hip new immersive experiences that everyone seems to be interested in.

Here’s what Wonderland Restaurants founder James Bulmer had to say about his new venture:

Trends in our sector are moving towards fun, immersive and experiential dining and our aim is to demonstrate this on a grand scale with exceptional food and drink to match.

I am still a child at heart, inspired by the greatest stories and storytellers.

For me, great food experiences are about unlocking guests’ emotions and creating edible memories.

I mean that isn’t really telling us much about the Batman restaurant but I suppose it gives us some idea of his mentality or whatever. Probably gonna have to wait to hear some reviews/see some actual pictures before I decide whether or not I want to check it out. Could see some losers getting addicted to it though because there’s gonna be so many different places to visit there, it would take you like a whole week of going every day to do it properly. That’s a lot of time you could be spending there.

For more of the same, check out Robert Pattinson’s new Batman costume. Looks awesome.

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Donald Trump claims viral picture of orange tan line was ‘photoshopped’

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Trump cries fake news

Donald Trump did compliment his wind-swept hair (Picture: Reuters)

Donald Trump has furiously claimed an image showing him with a dramatic orange tan is ‘fake news’ and has been photoshopped.

The US President has been widely mocked by social media users after the snap was posted by the unofficial Twitter account White House Photos on Friday.

The original picture showing the Commander-in-Chief walking to the Oval Office was taken by photographer William Moon, a reported Trump-enthusiast who attends press events.

Many Twitter users began mocking Trump using the #orangeface hashtag and comparing his appearance to cats, corgis, Mrs Doubtfire and the Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

One meme included the caption: ‘Tupperware after you store spaghetti in it.’

7983251 Trump claims his fake tan lines are photoshopped but his 'hair looks good' as meme of his face with orange streaks goes viral

One Instagram user compared Trump to Mrs Doubtfire (Picture: Instagram)

7983251 Trump claims his fake tan lines are photoshopped but his 'hair looks good' as meme of his face with orange streaks goes viral

This Instagram user compared Trump to a three-year-old (Picture: Instagram)

7983251 Trump claims his fake tan lines are photoshopped but his 'hair looks good' as meme of his face with orange streaks goes viral

Trump hit back at critics saying his hair ‘looks good’ (Picture: Instagram)

Another quipped that Trump’s look was ‘girls before YouTube make up tutorials’.

One Twitter user added: ‘Nobody tell him that his foundation doesn’t match his face.’

But Trump hit back in a trademark Twitter rant in which he claimed the black-and-white photo had been digitally altered.

‘This was photoshopped, obviously, but the wind was strong and the hair looks good? Anything to demean!’

7983251 Trump claims his fake tan lines are photoshopped but his 'hair looks good' as meme of his face with orange streaks goes viral

Social media users had a field day with the picture (Picture: Instagram)

7983251 Trump claims his fake tan lines are photoshopped but his 'hair looks good' as meme of his face with orange streaks goes viral

Trump was compared to cats and corgis (Picture: Instagram)

Following Trump’s claims, Mr Moon tweeted that the photo was not ‘photoshopped’ but he had used the ‘Apple smartphone’s photo app to adjust the color of the picture’.

Moon is not employed by the White House and is not a member of the White House News Photographers Association.

His Twitter bio reads: ‘White House Correspondent, Journalist, Photographer, Poet and Pesco Vegetarian.’

Similar pictures of Trump at the same time taken by official photographers clearly show a tan line, but the colour is not as dramatic.

A Washington Post investigation into the photo concluded that a bronzer, or artificial tanner, led to the orange hue on Trump’s face.

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The Devil Devours His Own – Crisis Magazine

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The sordid life of Jeffrey Epstein serves to highlight the decadence of the deplorable epoch in which we find ourselves, as do the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death. The web of vice and viciousness that he had spun was widespread, serving to entrap not only underage girls but also the rich and famous who preyed upon them. Using the allure of underage sex to lure his wealthy associates into his web, Epstein secretly filmed them in the act of sexually abusing minors, thereby turning his “associates” into his blackmail victims.

Epstein seems to have believed that the powerful people whom he’d entrapped in his “insurance policy” would have a vested interest in keeping him safe from the law, a strategy which worked for a while. In 2008, Epstein was convicted in Florida of sexually abusing a fourteen-year-old girl, receiving a scandalously light sentence, but due to a plea deal he was not charged with sexually abusing thirty-five other girls whom federal officials identified as having been abused by him.

After a further ten years in which Epstein masterminded the trafficking of young girls to satisfy the pornographic and pedophilic appetites of his powerful network of friends, he was finally charged in July of last year with the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. A month later, he was found dead in his jail cell. Although the medical examiner originally recorded the death as being a case of suicide, there are so many anomalies and mysteries surrounding the circumstances of Epstein’s death that many people agree with Epstein’s lawyers that the death could not have been suicide.

One thing that is certain is that Epstein’s death removed the possibility of pursuing criminal charges. There would be no trial, and therefore Epstein’s powerful associates would not be exposed by their victims in a court of law. Seen in this light, or in the shadow of this possible cover-up, it is tempting to see Epstein’s “insurance policy” as his death warrant. He was too dangerous to be allowed to live when the lives of so many others depended on his timely death. It is no wonder that “Epstein didn’t kill himself” has become a hugely popular meme, nor that HBO, Sony TV, and Lifetime are planning to produce dramatic portrayals of Epstein’s life and death.

One aspect of Epstein’s life which is unlikely to be the focus of any TV drama is his obsession with transhumanism. For those who know little about this relatively recent phenomenon, transhumanism is usually defined as the movement in philosophy which advocates the transformation of humanity through the development of technologies which will re-shape humans intellectually and physiologically so that they transcend or supersede what is now considered “human.” At the prideful heart of this movement is a disdain for all that is authentically human and a sordid desire to replace human frailty with superhuman or transhuman strength.

Transhumanism rides roughshod over the dignity of the human person in its quest for the technologically “created” superman. Its spirit was encapsulated by David Bowie in the lyrics of one of his songs: “Homo sapiens have outgrown their use…. Gotta make way for the Homo superior.”

Most of Epstein’s so-called “philanthropy” was directed to the financing and promotion of transhumanism. The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation pledged $30 million to Harvard University to establish the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. It also bankrolled the OpenCog project, which develops software “designed to give rise to human-equivalent artificial general intelligence.” Apart from his support for the cybernetic approach to transhumanism, Epstein was also fascinated with the possibility of creating the “superman” via the path of eugenics. He hoped to help in a practical way with plans to “seed the human race with his DNA” by impregnating up to twenty women at a time at a proposed “baby ranch” at his compound in New Mexico. He also supported the pseudo-science of cryonics, whereby human corpses and severed heads are frozen in the hope that technological advances will eventually make it possible to resurrect the dead. He had planned to have his own head and genitalia preserved in this way.

In addition to his bizarre association with the wilder fringes of technological atheism, Epstein also co-organized a conference with his friend, the militant atheist Al Seckel, known (among other things) as the creator of the so-called “Darwin Fish”—seen on bumper stickers and elsewhere, it depicts Darwin’s “superior” evolutionary fish eating the ichthys symbol, or “Jesus fish” of Christians. Seckel fled California after his life of deception and fraud began to catch up with him. He was found at the foot of a cliff in France, having apparently fallen to his death. Nobody seems to know whether he slipped, jumped, or was pushed.

Apart from his unhealthy interest in atheistic scientism, Jeffrey Epstein was also a major figure amongst the globalist elite. According to his lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, he was “part of the original group that conceived the Clinton Global Initiative,” which forces underdeveloped countries around the world to conform to the values of the culture of death. Even more ominously, Epstein was a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, two of the key institutions responsible for fostering and engineering the globalist grip on the world’s resources.

As we ponder the sordid and squalid world of Jeffrey Epstein and his “associates,” we can’t help but see his life as a cautionary tale, the moral of which is all too obvious. It shows that pride precedes a fall and that it preys on the weak and the innocent. It shows that those who think they are better than their neighbors become worse than their neighbors. It shows how Nietzsche’s Übermensch morphs into Hitler’s Master Race and thence to the transhuman monster. It shows that those who admire the Superman become subhuman. It also shows that the subhuman is not bestial but demonic. It shows that those who believe that they are beyond good and evil become the evilest monsters of all.

Those of us who have been nurtured on cautionary tales such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength will know that fiction often prefigures reality. We see that the real-life figure of Jeffrey Epstein is a latter-day Viktor Frankenstein, reaping destruction with his contempt for his fellow man and his faith in the power of scientism to deliver immortality to those who serve it. We can also see that the transhumanism which Epstein financed is a mirror image of the demonic scientism of the secretive National Institute of Coordinated Experiments in Lewis’s prophetic novel. We may even be grimly amused by the fact that the “leader” of the demonic scientistic forces in Lewis’s tale is a severed head which has apparently been brought back to life.

There is one final lesson that the pathetic life of Jeffrey Epstein teaches us. It shows us that the adage “the devil looks after his own” is not true. It’s a lie told by the devil himself. The devil hates his disciples as much as he hates the disciples of Christ. Once he has had his way with them, he disposes of them with callous and casual indifference, much as Jeffrey Epstein disposed of his victims.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Drugs, death and stock trading – what became of the Goonies child stars | Buzz.ie

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Produced by Steven Spielberg, and directed by Richard Donner, The Goonies has become a Sunday afternoon TV classic – but 35 years on, what has become of its amazing cast?

Child stars may seem to have it all but the pressures – and dangerous opportunities – of fame can be a toxic mix when you’re at an impressionable age.

Adventure comedy classic The Goonies was released in 1985, and the past 35 years have been something of a rollercoaster ride for its young stars Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Corey Feldman, Jeff Cohen, Jonathan Ke Quan, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton.

And let’s not forget John Matuszak’s memorable turn as Sloth

Some Goonies alumni have managed to maintain steady showbiz careers, some have tasted the dark side of fame, and a few have turned their backs on show business altogether.

24 Martha Plimpton today is barely recognisable as the young girl who lost her glasses in the secret cave (Image: Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Sean Astin (Mikey)

Sean is a Hollywood baby, son of Valley of the Dolls star Patty Duke and adoptive son of her husband – Addams Family star John Astin.

The Goonies was Sean’s first film, and after that, he went on to appear in a string of movies, including War of the Roses, Memphis Belle and Toy Soldiers.

Abuse Sean Astin is still acting today (Image: Warner Bros.)

He achieved new levels of fame when he played Sam in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy forming a lasting bond with co-stars Elijah Wood and Billy Boyd.

Since Lord of the Rings, Sean’s main success has been in TV. He’s added a second string to his acting bow with a number of high-profile voice acting rifles in animated series as well as showing up in Stranger Things, Supergirl, 24 and The Big Bang Theory.

act Sean’s best known for his work in the Lord of the Rings saga (Image: FilmMagic)

Sean’s personal life seems to have been relatively trouble-free. he married former beauty queen Christine Harrell in 1992, taking her Lutheran Christian faith in 2013, and they have three daughters together.

While younger readers may have no idea what The Goonies even was, they’ll know Sean as the voice of Reginald from Minecraft.

Martha Plimpton (Stef)

Martha is another Goonies star who just kept going. As well as starring in hit US sitcom raising Hope she’s appeared in everything from The Good Wife to Frozen II.

She’s had her greatest successes on stage though, receiving three consecutive Tony Award nominations and starring in innumerable Broadway hits.

Like Goonies co-star Sean Astin, Martha also pops up as a character voice in Minecraft.

actor These days, Martha focuses on stage work (Image: Warner Bros)

Corey Feldman (Mouth)

Corey Feldman became an Eighties icon. Alongside his showbiz mate Corey Haim, he appeared in cult vampire movie The Lost Boys as well as its belated sequel The Tribe.

The pair also appeared together in a fictionalised reality show – The Two Coreys – where the pair pursued an Odd Couple relationship with Feldman coming across as relatively clean-living and Haim playing the slob.

age Corey Feldman struggled to cope with the pressures of child stardom (Image: Warner Bros)

Haim’s hedonistic lifestyle caught up with him in 2010 when he died aged just 38. Feldman too has had problems with booze and drugs. By the time he was 19, he’d been arrested three times for heroin.

Feldman has hinted, more than once that the reason he and Haim were driven to drink and drugs was a secret subculture of abuse in Hollywood.

All Corey says that dark forces in Hollywood are out to get him after he spoke out about a paedophile ring (Image: Getty Images)

In 2013, he told US TV’s The View (their equivalent of Loose Women) that a massive organised paedophile ring wielded massive power in the entertainment industry.

Feldman was also a close friend of Michael Jackson, who invited him to his Neverland estate and showered him with expensive gifts. But, he insists, the disgraced star never approached him sexually.

Josh Brolin (Brandon)

amazing Josh is the son of James Brolin, star of the original Westworld (Image: Warner Bros)

A Hollywood wild child, Josh Brolin ran with a rough crowd in his youth. He stole cars to pay for drugs, and had a flirtation with heroin.

He said: “I mean, I never got into it and I never died from it, which is a good thing. I’ve had 19 friends who died. Most of those guys I grew up with, they’re all dead now.”

avengers Josh Brolin grew up with a movie star dad, but had a troubled childhood before finding his feet as an actor (Image: Getty Images)

Brolin survived and went on to have a long and successful career in movies. Debuting in The Goonies he has appeared in No Country For Old Men, Sicario, Deadpool 2 and as Thanos in the massively successful Avengers series of films.

He also has a sideline trading in stocks and shares, and even considered giving up movies for the stock market at one point

Jonathan Ke Quan (Data)

Jonathan was already famous when The Goonies opened, having played Indiana Jones’s sidekick Short Round in the Temple of Doom.

While he continued to act for a while after Goonies, he increasingly used his martial arts knowledge to pick up work as a fight choreographer.

baby Jonathan was the highest-profile member of the Goonies gang when the film opened (Image: Warner Bros)

Kerri Green (Andy)

Kerri, like many of the Goonies stars, made her debut in Steven Spielberg’s treasure-hunting comedy thriller.

But, unlike some of her co-stars, she struggled to sustain her early success. She earned good reviews for her role in romcom Lucas, where she played opposite Cory Feldman’s partner in crime Corey Haim, but after that, the big roles dried up.

Beauty Kerri spends her time writing and directing these days (Image: Warner Bros)

She made a few appearances on TV shows such as Murder, She Wrote and ER, but hasn’t done much acting since the 1990s.

Kerri spends her time behind the camera these days, with her own production company and a series of writing and directing credits.

Jeff Cohen (Chunk)

Jeff was suffering from chickenpox when filing on The Goonies started but kept quiet about it to avoid being dropped from the production.

broadway Jeff worked hard to slim down after The Goonies (Image: Warner Bros)

After the film wrapped, Jeff got heavily into college football in a bid to shed some of Chunk’s weight. He made a few more movies but then, according to a 2014 profile, “puberty hit and forced Cohen into early retirement.”

He moved from acting to entertainment law. Partly, he says, “because I get to go to the parties but I don’t have to audition.”

business Today, Jeff is a hugely successful media lawyer (Image: Getty Images)

John Matuszak (Sloth)

Older than most of the other Goonies stars, Matuszak was already an established American Football player when the call came to play disfigured misfit Sloth in The Goonies.

camera John Matuszak (Sloth) Older than most of the other Goonies stars, Matuszak was already an established American Football player when the call came to play disfigured misfit Sloth in The Goonies.

The makeup, which took five hours to apply every day, disguised his appearance but Matuszak’s own face appeared in countless TV shows such as M*A*S*H, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team and Miami Vice.

Tragically, Matuszak died young – succumbing to a mix of opioids and cocaine in 1989. He was 38.


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In the wake of Brexit, turns out racism is a very British thing

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On Brexit day, CBBC shared a video clip from its Horrible Histories programme on Twitter. Comedian Nish Kumar introduced the clip, which was intended to be a lighthearted history of “British things” aimed at children.

Unfortunately, some flag-waving Brexit fans didn’t respond too well to being told that tea, sugar, and cotton aren’t really British. Kumar received a racist backlash from people who clearly aren’t big on history:

Ooh Nish Kumar is trending. Let’s take a l-

*a tsunami of gammon washes through the screen

English supremacists are literally losing their shit at Nish for telling them where tea, sugar & cotton actually come from.

😂✊🏾❤pic.twitter.com/qqcUK93Zyf

— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) January 31, 2020

Even the likes of BBC presenter Andrew Neil joined in the pile-on. Meanwhile, blame for the video’s “anti-British” message fell squarely on Kumar, despite the fact that Kumar only introduced the clip. In fact, the clip itself has been around for a while and wasn’t even made for Brexit:

Interesting that nobody had an issue with this song when it was first shown in 2009… It’s almost as if they have a problem with Nish Kumar, not the message? 🧐 https://t.co/TZ2tieyXlX

— oh look another fool (@ElenaBjxrn) January 31, 2020

Your racism is showing

Much as many people at Brexit Day celebrations might argue that they aren’t racist, just proud of being British, their true colours keep showing. And they are, quite frankly, disgusting:

Nish Kumar was born in Wandsworth.

— rufa ratae (@rufaratae) January 31, 2020

it only ended slavery by spending a king’s ransome by buying off slave owners, learn some history before opening yer cake ‘ole https://t.co/10fp91wnRT #bloodyknowalls

— John Boocock (@JohnBoocock) January 31, 2020

Clearly, Brexit has emboldened those with racist views, which is obvious from the spike in racially-motivated hate crime in recent years. So the far-right leanings of some celebrating Brexit Day come as no surprise:

this is moment we left the EU last night from within parliament square. amongst 1000s of ppl there were sizeable pockets of far-right. lads with swastika neck tattoos, ppl singing “oh tommy tommy”+deification of nigel farage. a big moment that felt a little like a tipping point. pic.twitter.com/eX8jGyqiYm

— Ben Smoke (@bencsmoke) February 1, 2020

“Make Britain Great Again”

The nationalist lines of ‘getting our country back’ and ‘making Britain great again’ has an eerie echo of the Trump-supporting MAGA crowd in the US:

Peak Leavers’ interview. Watch and weep. 😖🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/gQsGLeZQME

🕷Mrs Miggins Esq (@MrsMigginsHere) January 31, 2020

Sadly, Kumar’s experience of racism in the wake of Brexit isn’t the only one. It’s just more visible because of its public nature. Meanwhile, everyday experiences of racism for People of Colour carry on in Brexit Britain:

A friend posted this on another social media platform, left overnight in her neighbourhood. pic.twitter.com/CuFHgr7uTn

— Dorothy Lepkowska (@DotLepkowska) January 31, 2020

Those celebrating Brexit are doing so because they got what they wanted. But if they want me or Kumar to go back to where we came from, there’s bad news. Britain may have left the EU, but people like us aren’t going anywhere.

Featured image via YouTube/CBBC

By Afroze Fatima Zaidi

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Facebook hammered for Nigerian child trafficking adverts on its platform | P.M. News

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Cameroonian children who fled the fighting in their country’s English-speaking regions are taking refuge in Adagom community in south-central Nigeria, where some have been exploited by people looking to take advantage of their vulnerability. [Photograph: Philip Obaji Jr.]

By Philip Obaji Jr.

The Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, United Kingdom, and Centre for Children’s Health, Education, Orientation and Protection, Nigeria, have criticised Facebook following revelations that children, especially girls, were being trafficked from a refugee camp in Ogoja, Cross Rivers State, after being advertised for labour exploitation on the popular social networking platform.

The groups slammed Facebook for permitting child trafficking to take place on its service and also being slack to take action when such incidents happen.

In a joint statement, the non-profit organisations expressed dismay that it took Facebook 29 hours to suspend the account of the suspect, after investigative journalist, Philip Obaji Jr, had reported the account in contravention of the company’s policies of responding to enquiries within 24 hours.

The report revealed details of a named person, who had used his Facebook page to advertise photos of Cameroonian girls fleeing the ongoing conflict in Southern Cameroon’s Anglophone region.

This conflict has so far displaced millions of people with several thousand staying in refugee camps across Southern Nigeria.

The NGOs were exceptionally concerned that despite this case being reported to Facebook, it took the online platform hours to take action, thereby putting the victims at further risk of harm.

In one of the Facebook posts cited, the person had uploaded an image of a girl he claimed was “intelligent, hardworking and about 17,” and asked persons “interested in hiring her as a maid to inbox me.”

The organisations recalled that this would not be the first time Facebook would be accused of enabling child trafficking on its platforms.

“In 2018, Facebook was severely criticised by NGOs in South Sudan and across the world that its site had been used for the auctioning of a child bride in the country.

“Human trafficking is a growing global problem with over 40 million people at risk, according to the International Labour Organisation.

“Nigeria is known as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking victims with over one million trafficked each year, according to the Global Slavery Index.

“Human trafficking and slavery is illegal in most countries around the world, including Nigeria,” the NGOs said.

Debbie Ariyo, Chief Executive Officer of UK-based AFRUCA, an anti-child trafficking organisation, said, “It is concerning that social media platforms are increasingly being used by human traffickers to facilitate the sale of human beings, with little being done to address this. Social media platforms have become the 21st century slave markets. This has to stop.”

Betty Abah, Executive Director of CEE-HOPE Nigeria, stated that it appears Facebook has a discriminatory approach to addressing crimes against vulnerable children in Africa than other more advanced parts of the world.

“I do not believe Facebook would have failed to act if this was happening in a European country,” she added.

Both organisations urged the relevant government agencies in Nigeria to act to secure the well-being of refugee children in the country, and investigate the child trafficking allegations to ensure all perpetrators are brought to book.

They also called on Facebook to investigate the case as well as tighten its safeguard mechanisms to ensure that crimes such as human trafficking are completely eradicated on its platforms.

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Persecution of Muslims in China and India Reveals Important Facts About Religion and Geopolitics

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India, China and Myanmar are three Asian countries currently engrossed in carrying out physical and cultural genocides on their Muslim populations. While the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Uighur Muslims is well known, the recent introduction of a new law expressly aimed at dispossessing Muslims of Indian citizenship has alerted many to the reality that India’s ruling BJP government sees itself as Hindu first and foremost.

Questions such as “Why aren’t the rich Arab countries saying anything?” have come up, with the implicit inference that Muslim-dominated countries are supposed to stick up for Muslims everywhere in the world. Others have pointed out that despite suffering oppression in some parts of the world, Muslims are also responsible for brutal acts of oppression against other minority groups elsewhere, which allegedly negates the sufferings of the prior group.

In this article, I will pick through these questions and viewpoints with a goal of isolating some useful truths about how religion, geopolitics and human nature constantly interplay and produce much of the world around us.

Oppression is a Matter of Perspective

Which religion is the most oppressed? I like to troll my Christian friends with the image below whenever the topic comes up about some religion or the other allegedly imposing its will at their expense.

The truth is however, that this image could apply to just about every religion on earth. As a general rule of thumb, the only limiting factor on whether or not a religion functions as an oppressive tyranny in a particular jurisdiction is the proportion of the population that practises it there. Similarly, the only thing stopping any religion from being an oppressed and downtrodden identity is whether it is a small enough minority for that to be possible.

While Muslims in India, Myanmar and China are going through untold degrees of horror because of their religious identities, Muslims in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Northern Nigeria are simultaneously visiting very similar horrors on Bah’ai, Shia Muslims, Christians, Budhists and other minorities in those areas. It turns out that the mere fact of belonging to a religious identity does not in fact, confer unrestricted global victimhood.

This point is important because it disproves the notion held by every major religion that its adherents follow a single set of standards and do things in the manner of a global “brotherhood.” In reality, Islam according to a Rohingya Muslim hiding from the Burmese military, and the same religion according to an itinerant herder in Kogi State bear almost no similarity to each other save for the most basic tenets. Environmental factors in fact have a bigger influence on how religions are practised than their own holy books. 

The current antics of India’s ruling BJP and its Hindu fundamentalist support base provide an important case in point as to how this works. Looking at the evolution of Hinduism from a passive philosophy into an openly militant ideology gives an important insight into how religion is in fact, a thoroughly contrived and amorphous set of ideas that can be changed, adjusted, aligned and revised at a moment’s notice in justification of anything at all. 

Hinduism traditionally sees itself as a religion of thoughtful, considered spirituality as against the angry dogmas of its Abrahamic neighbours, but something interesting is happening. Some argue that it started in the days of Gandhi, and some ascribe it to current Prime Minister Nanendra Modi, but whoever started it is a side note. The key point to note is that based on political factors, i.e anticolonial senitment against the British and anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by India’s national rivalry with Pakistan, Hinduism has somehow been coopted into the narrative of a jingoistic, monotheistic, mono-ethnic state which is  historical nonsense.

India has always been a pointedly pluralistic society, and in fact the geographical area now known as “India” does not even cover the geographical area of the India of antiquity. That India was a place of Hindus, Budhists, Muslims, Zoroastrians and everything in between. Hinduism never saw a problem with pluralism because Hinduism itself is a very plural religion – it has at least 13 major deities. The conversion of the Hindu identity into a political identity movement is a recent and contrived phenomenon first exploited by Gandhi as a means of opposing British colonialism, and now by Modi to oppose the Pakistanis/Muslims – it is a historical falsity.

The creation of Hindu fundamentalist movements like the RSS (which PM Modi belongs to) is something done in response to environmental factors. Spectacles like the RSS march below are evidence of yet another religion undergoing constant and ongoing evolution into whatever suits its purposes.

Something similar happened when medieval Europe turned into colonial Europe and European Christianity transitioned into a peaceful and pacifist ideology after centuries of being a bloodthirsty doctrine. The environmental factors that created the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, book burnings and witch hunts went away with the introduction of an industrial society, and thus the religion too transitioned.

In plain English, what all this means is that nobody actually practises a religion in the pure sense they imagine they do. Everyone who subscribes to a religion merely practises a version of it that is subject to the culture and circumstances of their environment and era. This is directly connected to the next major insight raised by these events.

Geopolitics is all About Self-Interest…Everyone Gets it Except Africa

While anti-Muslim violence has continued apace for years in China, Mynammar and India, the question has often been asked: “Why are the wealthy Arab nations not saying anything?” There is a perception that since the Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of Islam and Arabs – particularly Saudis – are viewed as the global gatekeepers of the faith, they must be at the forefront of promoting the interests of Muslims worldwide.

To many, the fabulous wealth and international influence that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE enjoy, in addition to the presence of two of Islam’s holiest cities – Mecca and Meddinah – in Saudi Arabia, means that they have a responsibility to speak for the global Muslim Ummah and stand up for them when they are unfairly targeted and mistreated. Unfortunately for such people, the wealthy nations of the Arab Gulf region tend to respond to such questions with little more than an irritated silence – and with good reason.

To begin with, these countries are not democracies led by the wishes of their almost uniformly Muslim populations. They are autocracies led by royal families who came to power in the colonially-influenced 20th century scramble for power and influence. Saudi Arabia, which houses Islam’s holiest sites, is named after the House of Saud, its royal family which came into power in its current form at the turn of the 19th century. The priority of the regimes in these countries first and foremost is self-preservation.

Self-preservation means that before throwing their significant diplomatic and economic weight behind any attempt to help out fellow Muslims, the first consideration is how doing so will benefit them. India for example, is a country that has close diplomatic ties with the UAE, and supplies most of their cheap labour for construction and low-skilled functions. India has even coordinated with UAE special forces to repatriate the dissident Princess Latika when she made an audacious escape attempt in 2018.

What does the UAE stand to gain if it napalms its diplomatic relationship with India by criticising Modi’s blatantly anti-Muslim policy direction? It might win a few brownie points with Islamic hardliners and possibly buy some goodwill among poor Muslims in South Asia, but how much is that worth? The regime and nation’s self-interest is best served by looking the other way, so that is exactly what they will do.

The Saudis make a similar calculation. At a time when they are investing heavily in military hardware to keep up with their eternal rivals Turkey and Iran, and simultaneously preparing for the end of oil by liberalising their society and economy, does it pay them to jump into an issue in India that does not particularly affect them? As the status of their diplomatic relationship with the U.S. remains unclear following the Jamal Khasshoggi incident, are they going to risk pissing off the Chinese because of Uighur Muslims?

In fact self-interest like that mentioned here is the basis of the considerations that underpin all international relations. Well I say “all,” but what I really meant to say was “all except African countries.” It is only African countries that take diplomatic decisions based on little more than flimsy emotions and feelings of religious affinity. Gambia for example, has dragged Myanmar before the UN and filed a genocide case against it on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims.

This would be commendable and great were it not that Gambia itself is hardly a human rights luminary, and generally has little business fighting an Asian battle when its own worse African battles lie unfought. The only thing Gambia stands to gain from fighting a diplomatic war that the rest of the world seems unwilling to touch is the temporary goodwill of a few Muslims in Asia and around the world – goodwill that cannot translate into something tangible for it.

To coin an aphorism from social media lingo, you could call it ”diplomatic clout chasing.’

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Slaves, nannies, and maids: Oscars value women of colour – in subservient roles | Film | The Guardian

For Oscar voters, what makes a great performance has disturbingly narrow criteria for non-white performers. The observation that people of colour are only ever recognised for playing slaves and criminals, that their stories are only ever seen as important when they deal with tragedy and suffering, does not strictly belong to the unenlightened past. This week’s Oscar nominations prove that such judgments are planted firmly in the present.

The kinds of roles being written for people of colour over the past decade have begun to expand to encompass a wider range of experiences. Just recently we were graced with the luminous Jennifer Lopez as savvy stripper Ramona in Hustlers; newcomer Nora Lum (Awkwafina) as the conflicted granddaughter of a dying matriarch in The Farewell; Lupita Nyong’o in a remarkable two-in-one turn in Jordan Peele’s Us. This all goes without mentioning the incredible performances that never quite picked up steam: Alfre Woodard in Clemency, for instance, or Song Kang-Ho in Parasite. But never mind the fertile pickings. This year the Academy has nominated one person of colour – Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. This outcome is dismaying, partly because it falls neatly into a familiar pattern: a person of colour performing a racially specific form of suffering, the outlier in a sea of white nominees.

Erivo’s nomination for Harriet, a film that received middling reviews, is not a preposterous decision. Actors are often recognised for individual work that might stand out in an otherwise mediocre film (take Renée Zellweger in Judy). I’m not bothered by the quality of Erivo’s performance. There are far more egregious entries on that front, with the likes of Charlize Theron for Bombshell, or Scarlet Johansson for Jojo Rabbit, reaping nods (have the Oscars ever been a legitimate meritocracy?). Far more worrisome is what Erivo’s nomination suggests about the way Academy voters evaluate performers of colour, who seem to be the most visible, and taken the most seriously, within the trappings of white pity.

That voters overlooked a performance like Nyong’o’s in Us, a chilling interpretation of two sides of the same self, is telling. It doesn’t matter that this performance matches, if not surpasses entirely that of Joaquin Phoenix’s in Joker, even though both actors play, with tremendous physical commitment, psychologically tormented characters in genre films. Instead, the Academy prefers the Nyong’o who starred in 12 Years a Slave (2013), a film in which she is a slave, raped and humiliated. For these efforts, so difficult for the conscience to ignore, she was awarded best supporting actress.

In the last decade, only 14 women of colour were among the 100 women nominated by the Academy for the best actress and best supporting actress awards. There were even fewer men of colour (nine out of 100). That the same types of roles – slaves, nannies, and maids – continue to be the magic ticket to the red carpet, feels particularly ugly considering the range of parts played by white nominees. This year, for instance, the characters of Erivo’s fellow best actress nominees include a Fox newswoman, an icon of classic Hollywood, an aspiring young writer, and a hopeful divorcee. In 2019, Yalitza Aparicio was nominated for her performance in Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Aparicio is one of the few Latin American actresses to receive the honour, joining Adriana Barraza as a deported nanny in Babel, and Catalina Sandino Moreno as a drug mule in Maria Full of Grace.




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As moving as these performances are, these films leave a bitter taste as they reaffirm tired conceptions of Latin American women. Aparicio plays a housemaid silently enduring racism and neglect, which recalls another Academy favourite – Tate Taylor’s The Help (2011), which stars Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis as resilient maids, as well! Such slim parameters betray the desire, perhaps even the need by Oscar voters, for a particularly cheap form of pathos, one that simplifies and minimises the experiences of non-white people by placing them on the margins or in the past. Those performances that don’t square with this mould are often considered too “light,” too niche, or too subversive for the Academy, all of which indicates the incredible myopia of its voting body and the thinly veiled racism that guides it.

Perhaps hoping for a consistently diverse pool of Oscar nominees is blind optimism; the more time passes, the anomalous triumphs of films such as Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, feel like a fever dream. By opening up its membership to more women and people of colour, and enlisting diverse talent such as John Cho, Issa Rae, and Tiffany Haddish to present its nominations, the Academy has attempted to create an image of inclusivity. But given this year’s batch of nominees, that commitment has proven to be both superficial and a bad joke.

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The General’s Death Upsets Iran’s Plan

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Qassem Soleimani, who was Iran’s most hyped general, loved publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East. He was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit. (Photo by Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA/AFP via Getty Images)

While analysts and policymakers are busy speculating on ways that Tehran’s ruling mullahs might avenge the killing of their most hyped general, the real question that needs considering may be elsewhere.

The question is: what effect Soleimani’s death might have on the power struggle that, though currently put on hold, is certain to resume with greater vigor in Tehran.

Tehran’s propaganda tries to sell Soleimani as a kind of superman who, almost single-handedly, brought Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and parts of Afghanistan and Yemen under Iranian control while driving Americans out of the Middle East and crushing ISIS’s so-called Caliphate which tried to rival the Islamic Republic in Tehran. Soleimani himself did a lot to promote that image and, doing that, received much help from Western, especially American, and Israeli media that bought the bundle of goods from Tehran.

Facts, however, offer a different portrait of the late general. Soleimani joined the Islamic revolution in 1980, aged 27, at a time that the mullahs were busy putting together a praetorian guard to protect their new regime. A few months later, the ragtag army that Soleimani had joined was sent to help the remnants of a heavily purged national army fight an invading Iraqi force. With over 8,000 officers and NCOs of the national army purged by Khomeini, the new regime offered a fast track to people like Soleimani who had joined the military with no proper training and often little or no formal education. Thus, just three years after he had joined the military, young Soleimani found himself in command of a division of raw recruits. Under his command, Iranian forces suffered three of their biggest defeats in operations Al-Fajr 8, and Karbala I and Karbala II. Mohsen Reza’i, then chief of the Revolutionary Guard, describes the three battles as “a string of catastrophes” for Iranian forces.

However, Soleimani, who was to demonstrate his genius for networking and self-promotion, scored one lasting victory when he attached himself to Ali Khamenei, the mullah who was to become the Islamic Republic’s “Supreme Guide”.

Khamenei started as Deputy Defense Minister and rose to become President of the Islamic Republic. Soleimani, mocked as “the mullah’s bag-carrier”, was always at his side. In the 1990s, as Khamenei slowly built himself as the sole arbiter of Iran’s fate, Soleimani seized the opportunity to secure a fiefdom for himself.

That came in the shape of the project to “export” the Iranian Revolution to other Muslim countries. Initially, exporting the revolution, mentioned in the regime’s constitution as a sacred duty, had been regarded as a matter of propaganda and organizing sympathizers in Arab countries through outfits named Hezbollah. The task was handled by a special office in the Foreign Ministry headed by Ayatollah Hadi Khosroshahian. Partly thanks to lobbying by Soleimani, the task was taken away from the Foreign Ministry and handed over to the Revolutionary Guard. But even then Soleimani didn’t get the top job, which went to then Col. Ismail Qaani, the man who has now succeeded Soleimani as Commander of the Quds Force. Soleimani’s next move was to dislodge Qaani and get the top job himself. (Qaani was named as deputy). Even that configuration would not satisfy Soleimani, who had bigger ambitions. As long as he was part of the IRGC’s chain of command, he had to obey rules set by superiors whom he despised.

Thanks to Khamenei’s support, he succeeded in securing his independent fiefdom in the shape of the Quds Force which, though formally part of the IRGC, has its own separate budget and chain of command and is answerable to no one but Khamenei.

Next, Soleimani seized control of Tehran’s foreign policy in Arab countries, Afghanistan, North Korea, and South America and, in some sensitive areas, even Russia. The Islamic Republic’s presidents and foreign ministers have never had tête-à-tête talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Soleimani had.

It became a matter of routine for Soleimani to appoint Iran’s ambassadors to Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Doha and several other Arab capitals.

A dramatic illustration of Soleimani’s “independence” came when he shipped Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad to Tehran in a special airplane without even telling the Iranian president, let alone the foreign minister, who were also excluded from the Syrian’s audience with Khamenei.

A control freak, Soleimani insisted on deciding even the smallest details himself. In his one, and now final, interview, last November, the general talks of how Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had to clear every move with him.

Inside Iran, Soleimani built a state within the state. According to the Islamic Customs Office, the Quds Force operates 25 jetties in five of Iran’s biggest ports for its “imports and exports” with no intervention by the relevant authorities. A levy on imports of foreign cars is reserved for a special fund, controlled by the Quds Force, to cover expenditures in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and help pro-Iran Palestinian groups.

Soleimani had his own network of lobbyists in many Arab countries and some Western democracies. Hundreds of Iranian and Arab militants have enrolled in Western universities with scholarships from the Quds Force.

The Quds Force has registered vast tracts of public land in its name, claiming the need for future housing for its personnel. It also runs two dozen companies and banks, several shipping lines and an airline.

Soleimani, who loved making and publishing “selfies” showing himself close to battlegrounds in the Middle East, was never present anywhere near a battle but was always to come after the dust had settled, to take “selfies” and claim the credit.

A master of self-promotion, Soleimani received the rank of major-general without having risen through the hierarchy of the top brass like the other 12 men on the list. (After death, he has been promoted to Lt. General).

Some analysts in Tehran believe that Khamenei was planning to promote Soleimani further by making him President of the Islamic Republic in 2021. An image-building campaign started last year, as Soleimani was marketed as “the Sufi commander”, a label given to Safavid kings in the 16th century.

A committee of exiled Iranians in Florida also started campaigning to draft Soleimani as president.

If that was Khamenei’s game plan, there is no doubt that Soleimani’s demise will lead to more uncertainty regarding the future course of Iranian politics.

Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.

This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.

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Ukraine passenger jet crashes in Iran, killing at least 170

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TEHRAN: A Ukrainian airliner carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all on board, Iran state media reported.

The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said.

“Obviously it is impossible that passengers” on flight PS-752 are alive, Red Crescent head Morteza Salimi told semi-official news agency ISNA, adding that 170 passengers and crew had boarded the plane.

State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members had boarded the aircraft, which was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed all those on board the plane were killed.

AFP
People and rescue teams are pictured amid bodies and debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran. -AFP

“According to preliminary data, all passengers and crew members are dead,” he wrote on Facebook of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, which was bound for Kiev.

The Red Crescent said teams were assisted by soldiers and firefighters in the effort to recover bodies.

“After six o’clock (0230 GMT) this morning we were informed that a passenger plane crashed in the vicinity of Shahriar,” said Shahin Fathi, the head of its search and rescue unit.

“All operational teams were dispatched to the area,” he told state television. “Unfortunately… we haven’t found anyone alive.”

“Everyone is helping so that we can gather all the bodies that have been scattered in a wide area,” said Fathi.

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People walk near the wreckage after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran. -AFP

Press TV, state television’s English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.

The crash was likely to have been caused by “technical difficulties”, it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.

“The plane caught fire after crashing,” said Press TV.

A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.

American airline manufacturer Boeing tweeted: “We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”

The crash came shortly after Iran said it fired missiles at Iraqi bases in revenge for the killing of one of the Islamic republic’s top military commanders in a US drone strike on Friday.

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One of the engines of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on January 8, 2020, is seen in this still image taken from Iran Press footage. – Iran Press/Handout via Reuters

Following the missile strikes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf after rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.

“The (FAA) issues Notices to Airmen tonight outlining flight restrictions that prohibit US civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” it said in a statement.

“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”

Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure who headed the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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Emergency workers work near the wreckage of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on January 8, 2020, in this still image taken from Iran Press footage. – Iran Press/Handout via Reuters

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination and declared three days of mourning following the assassination which shocked the Islamic republic.

The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic. -AFP

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A Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed soon after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport.

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