A few weeks ago, I sat in a meeting in Vancouver. During a boring bit, I was fooling around with Google, and I stumbled upon a paper entitled, “The (Re)production of Afghan Women” by one Melanie Butler. I recognized the name as I had been interviewed by Butler for this paper, which was published in 2008. Melanie had not really explained the actual topic of what became her graduate thesis in political science at the University of British Columbia, nor sent me a final copy of her paper, nor used any of my statements from the interview in her final paper, which might have interfered inconveniently with the narrative she was weaving. She knew what she would say before she … Read the rest
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When I was four, I was an angel in the school nativity play. I had wanted to be the angel Gabriel, but my teacher had gently informed me that Gabriel was a boy. Mary had already been cast, so the only parts left for other girls were generic angels. I was disappointed but then I realised, what did Mary do exactly? It seemed to my young mind that all she did was have a baby; it was the baby that everyone was interested in, and the baby was a boy. I soon learned that all the good parts to play in this story belonged to the boys, and with every passing school year and corresponding nativity play, I felt more … Read the rest
The Pentagon should respect the constitutional separation of church and state and cancel a planned National Day of Prayer event, particularly in light of its recent labeling as a “Christian-themed event” by an Army spokesman, the Secular Coalition for America said today. The Pentagon should also sever all operational ties to the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a radical right wing organization headed by the wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, and housed in Focus on the Family’s headquarters.
“It is bad enough that the administration is going ahead with an observance of the National Day of Prayer, correctly ruled unconstitutional by the courts only last week. But for the Pentagon to hold an explicitly ‘Christian-themed event’ … Read the rest
If you walk at random in a Muslim district in the West, especially in Western Europe, you will certainly find somewhere, at least in one corner, an Islamic butcher’s shop with the word “halal” written on its shop-window. For the products of meat, the word “halal” is a badge of Islamic quality.
Muslims believe that since blood is not ritually a pure substance, slaughter is necessary to promote the thorough draining of all of the animal’s blood. Furthermore, the verse “Bismillah al Rahman Al Rahim”, in the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful, is necessary to render the meat halal or lawful to eat.
The word halal refers, here, to meat killed and prepared in line with Islamic dietary … Read the rest
A new study conducted by the Washington based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life says that Africans are among the most religious people on earth. The study titled Tension and Tolerance: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa was based on more than 25,000 interviews conducted in more than 60 languages in 19 countries. According to the study at least half of all Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa believe Jesus will return in their lifetime. One in three Muslims in the region expect to see the re-establishment of the caliphate – the Islamic golden age – before they die. At least three out of ten people across much of Africa said they have experienced divine healing, seen the devil being driven … Read the rest
In September 2009 I submitted an article to the feminist journal Women’s Studies International Forum, and in February 2010 I was informed that the journal had decided against publication. Nothing unusual in that, of course. No doubt the great majority of articles submitted to journals are rejected, for a multitude of reasons. But when I enquired why no reason had been given, the Editor-in-Chief replied that the paper had not been sent out for review as she did not feel that it had sufficient evidence in terms of references or citations to back up some of the claims that were made.
Now, whatever deficiencies there may have been in the article, insufficient citation was not one of them. In … Read the rest
The standard collectivist critique of individual rights has been with us a long time. It was best formulated in its classic outlines by the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century, amidst a great many cries for social and political change. The line the Church took at the time was essentially to say that rights cannot be understood without respect to “duties,” and that suffering and self-sacrifice are great virtues against which the individual should not be protected. As the classic statement on Catholic social teaching, the Rerum Novarum (1891), puts it, “The… pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany … Read the rest
Circumcision, or for non-believers “genital mutilation”, is in some societies one of the most ancient rituals still practised. The historical background of this old ritual, as to when and why it started, is not precisely known. The practice varies from region to region and from epoch to epoch in its total or partial removal of the foreskin or clitoris.
Circumcision, in its different forms, is practised in a big part of the world. The Jews were the first to adapt it as a sign of religiosity; it is mentioned in the Old Testament as a religious ritual and preserved its practice into our times. Circumcision was banned by the ancient Romans and Greeks considering it as an act of barbarity. … Read the rest
I need help. I need help to understand how and why someone would write a story about how Canadian Women are forcing their beliefs upon Muslim Women. I pasted this chunk below:
At the heart of the relationship between feminism and imperialism is an Orientalist logic that posits Western women as exemplary and emancipated in relation to “Other” (Afro-Asian/colonized) women, thereby charging the former with the responsibility of saving the latter from their backwards (i.e. Muslim), uncivilized cultures.
And even though I don’t understand at all the words Orientalist or feminism theory, I do understand what this chunk means, and now I want to speak my truth.
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
‘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