In a document on its ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ strategy, the British Government states, in a section entitled ‘Strengthening the role of faith institutions and leaders’, that ‘It is not for Government to intervene in theological debates’. However, the entire Labour Government strategy regarding Islam and Muslims since the 9/11 attacks invalidates this claim. Since 9/11, the British Government’s line has been that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ that has been ‘hijacked by extremists’. The Bush Administration and the Blair Government adopted an identical approach in the aftermath of 9/11. President Bush announced on September 17, 2001 that ‘The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace’. On … Read the rest
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‘He looks my age,’ says my nine-year-old son. ‘He looks sort of like me.’
There’s a picture on my screen: a small, slight boy who, for legal reasons, we’ll call M. He’s being cuddled by his 17 year old big brother Z. Both boys are smiling. They have been reunited after a long, hard separation.
Back home in war-torn Afghanistan their parents and a sister were killed. Big brother Z was first to come to Britain, traumatised, in November 2008. He has refugee status, studies for his GCSEs at school in Leicester.
This past October little brother M made his way here. Despite M’s size, his vulnerability, his boyish looks, officials said, you’re not 14, you’re an adult.
Instead … Read the rest
Do atheists have any spirituality? A certain internaut wracked his brain about this problem in a comment to one of our articles, and he was not alone. I used to get this question at various meetings and was met with astonishment when I asked for a definition of spirituality.
Spirituality seems to imply a soul. It is not mentioned in a passport, but if there were a place for it, in mine I would have to write: N/A. But can there be a soulless spirituality? An atheist has consciousness, but you may search and search for a soul. Moreover, he/she is skeptical about the existence of a soul in a believer as well, and this skepticism shades into irony or … Read the rest
It took a Bertrand Russell to first notice that political ideologies tend to evolve over time into their polar opposites; and it took a George Orwell to point out that words which today nearly all people embrace, such as freedom and democracy, can mean very different things to different people. Today, however, most people are jaded enough to accept and even expect these sorts of insincerities. To point them out at all has become banal.
But every once in a while it is incumbent upon honest people to go back to the drawing board and remind themselves what ideologies represent and what words really mean. Nowhere is this more necessary than in the debates surrounding group rights and multiculturalism.
There … Read the rest
The lack of a strong and united democratic and secular movement in Iran has left the way clear for the Islamic regime for the further destruction, plunder, and bloodshed of our country. Although the panic-stricken bullets of Islamic mercenaries would suffocate any voice of protest, people are brave enough to resolutely claim their freedom despite any risk of torture, rape, and execution as “Mohareb” (heretic).
Unfortunately, the worst-ever conditions of our people have not enough stimulated responsible reactions among all democratic and secular activists to form a united movement to free the country from the plague of the Islamic regime.
Sadly, yet the people of Iran must wait; such a liberation movement has long been deemed illusory. It is however … Read the rest
The tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas, and the near miss by underwear bomber, Umar Abdulmutallab, are being analyzed by the chattering classes as a failure of intelligence. In one sense, that’s right.
The army psychiatrist charged with the murders is seen as a closet terrorist whose deployment orders drove him over some psychological edge. He has a record, we’re told, of being argumentative, self-righteous about his religion, unwilling or unable to locate his religious ideas in any context that would limit their effect, and devoted to the jihadist philosophy of the Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki.
Umar Abdulmutallab on the other hand is a sad instance of a privileged upbringing in which fundamental personal and educational questions went unresolved. It … Read the rest
Justice, they say, is the first condition of humanity. That means justice is imperative for human existence and coexistence. Justice is necessary for any society to grow, develop and flourish. Any movement that gives primary consideration to the human being must take the quest for justice- the enthronement of a just society- seriously. Millions of people around the world are living, languishing, suffering and dying under unjust conditions imposed on them by fellow human beings. And this is particularly the case in Africa.
The humanist outlook cannot thrive in a situation of so much injustice and deprivation. Humanism cannot take a firm hold on a society where unjust institutions abound and oppression prevails.
So for humanism to flourish in Africa, … Read the rest
This morning the Sunday Times published an article about Amnesty International’s association with groups that support the Taliban and promote Islamic Right ideas. In that article, I was quoted as raising concerns about Amnesty’s very high profile associations with Guantanamo-detainee Moazzam Begg. I felt that Amnesty International was risking its reputation by associating itself with Begg, who heads an organization, Cageprisoners, that actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and individuals.
Within a few hours of the article being published, Amnesty had suspended me from my job.
A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others? For in defending the torture standard, one of … Read the rest
I want you to remember two names – Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour.
They were two young men who were executed by the Islamic regime of Iran at dawn this past Thursday, January 28 for the ‘crime’ of ‘enmity against god’.
Yet another two beloved, murdered for protesting medievalism and theocracy…
And whilst this act of barbarity will leave many of us outraged and ‘speechless’(see writer Jim Herrick’s act of solidarity against the executions), we can only do them justice if we keep the pressure on.
The Islamic regime of Iran is on its last legs and will do anything it can to maintain power just a while longer. It is flexing its muscles to intimidate and … Read the rest
There is a limit to the legitimate interference of political opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
J.S. Mill, On Liberty, Chapter One.
It can be said of only a very few texts that they are touchstones for important discussions across many generations. John Stuart Mill produced such a text in 1859, and friends of freedom would do well to celebrate the sesquicentennial of On Liberty. At a time when challenges to human rights and freedom of expression continue around the world, the message of this relatively short work remains a clarion-call for liberty and the … Read the rest
On Tuesday January 5, at about 7.00am some police officers and soldiers led by two crime merchants in my community, Edward Uwah and Ethelbert Ugwu stormed my family compound in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria. They arrested me and my aging father. We were detained briefly at the local police station in Ahiazu before we were transfered to the zonal police headquarters in Umuahia. The officers threatened to beat us when we asked them to allow us to clean up and change our clothes. One of the soldiers brought out his gun and threatened to shoot my father when he wanted to make phone calls to alert other family members of our arrest. The police held us throughout … Read the rest
‘Islamophobia’ has many definitions, but it is generally understood to incorporate an irrational bigotry towards Muslims and a view of Islam which is based on prejudice. While anti-Muslim bigotry is undoubtedly a problem that needs to be confronted, the elasticity of the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is dangerous, for it is open to abuse by those who seek to silence legitimate criticism of Islamism and Islamic beliefs and practices. Arguably, for many who push the idea that the West is in the grip of rampant ‘Islamophobia’, silencing criticism of Islamist politics or Islam itself is their true intention. The most disturbing aspect of the rise of the discourse of ‘Islamophobia’ has been the deliberate conflation of opposition to a religious ideology … Read the rest
The Nigerian author, Ben Okri in his book, A Way of Being Free, said, “There are many ways to die, and not all of them have to do with extinction. A lot of them have to do with living. Living many lies. Living without asking questions. Living in the cave of your own prejudices. Living the life imposed on you, the dreams and codes of your ancestors.” I quite agree with him. The author did not make specific reference to any nation, race or continent. But any time I read this piece, it seems to me as if he is addressing Africans. Because I think Africans are dying in so many ways, in ways that many of them do … Read the rest
New York, NY December 4, 2009—The Center for Inquiry (CFI), an international organization that fights for science and reason, launched an anti-superstition campaign in May 2009 to highlight and combat the abuse of alleged child witches throughout the African continent. Now witch hunter Helen Ukpabio, head of the Liberty Gospel Church in Nigeria and a frequent target of criticism by CFI, has filed a lawsuit in Nigerian federal court against Leo Igwe, CFI’s representative in Nigeria.
A mob of about 150 members from Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church attacked Igwe and others during a “Child Rights and Witchcraft” event in Calabar, Nigeria on July 29, 2009. At the end of the frightening event, Igwe found his eyeglasses smashed and his bag, … Read the rest
One compelling reason not to believe the standard-issue God exists is the conspicuous fact that no one knows anything at all about it. That’s a tacit part of the definition of God – a supernatural being that no one knows anything about. The claims that are made about God bear no resemblance to genuine knowledge. This becomes immediately apparent if you try adding details to God’s CV: God is the eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient creator of the universe, and has blue eyes. You see how it works. Eternal omnipotent benevolent omniscient are all simply ideal characteristics that a God ought to have; blue eyes, on the other hand, are particular, and if you say God has them it suddenly becomes … Read the rest
Had William Hazlitt written his essay “On Persons with One Idea” today, he would surely have found room for the field of postcolonial studies. It is a field with only one idea: namely, that imperialism and racism are such dominant features of modern life, and had such a foundational role in the construction of our present society, that they inform every aspect of our ideas, culture, and history. Postcolonialism is, in theory, anti-hierarchical and anti-oppressive. But because it has only one idea, it can easily become oppressive in practice, and to quite a large extent. To show that this is true within the context of one postcolonial scholar’s book, The Intimate Enemy by Ashis Nandy, is the purpose of this … Read the rest
“It is not the belief in witchcraft that we are concerned about…..we acknowledge people’s right to hold this belief on the condition that this does not lead to child abuse.” Gary Foxcroft
I get the sense that some of us in the humanist and human rights communities try hard to placate religious people amongst us by insinuating that it is okay to believe in witches and witchcraft, so long as no one gets hurt. While this may be considered reasonable to some it does seem to suggest a certain level of patronisation towards people who hold superstitious beliefs, to the effect that they simply cannot be convinced of the folly of their convictions. Our assumption that others are unable to … Read the rest
One Law for All campaign is organising a rally on Saturday 21 November 2009 at 1200pm in London’s Hyde Park. The rally aims to oppose religious laws in Britain and elsewhere, show solidarity with people living under and resisting Sharia, and to defend universal rights and secularism.
Simultaneous acts of solidarity and support for the rally and its aims will take place in countries across the world including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, Nigeria, Serbia and Montenegro and Sweden.
Moreover, winners of the campaign’s art competition exposing the discriminatory nature of religious law and promoting freedom and equal rights will be announced at the event.
One Law for All Spokesperson, Maryam Namazie, commented, ‘Sharia law is becoming a … Read the rest
After the sacking of its chairman, Prof David Nutt, it seems likely that many of the remaining members of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will resign in sympathy and that nobody of any standing will serve on it unless the government repents. This it is unlikely to do for reasons that, I believe, have more to do with Britain’s relationship with the USA than with more strictly national considerations, never mind pharmacological or scientific ones.
Prof Nutt is one of our most distinguished neuroscientists, and the views for which he was dismissed are founded on good evidence. They are also neither new nor particularly radical and he has been expounding them for several years. I know … Read the rest
Following the defenestration of Professor David Nutt, earlier in the month, from the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs for allegedly intruding on politics in making public his views on the relative risks of legal and illegal drugs, I was moved by simple exasperation to write something in response. This is part of what I wrote and tells the little-known and rather bizarre story of how cannabis came to be prohibited. It also discusses the relative toxicity of cannabis and alcohol and describes what I call the Avocado Theory of illicit drug use.
Many people will have heard of (or even seen) the hilariously alarmist 1930s American anti-drug film ‘Reefer Madness’ which implied that cannabis led inexorably to degradation, … Read the rest