Articles

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Free Speech in a Plural Society

Jul 15th, 2009 | By Salil Tripathi

The Conference Room, British Library, London
February 20, 2009

Ian McEwan’s novel, Saturday, begins with the image of a sharp, bright light in the sky
that the neurosurgeon Henry Perowne sees from the corner of his eye on a restless
night when he is unable to sleep. It is a troubling time for Britain; it is February 15, 2003, the
day of the big march, where hundreds of thousands of people from around Britain are
going to come to central London, with the vain hope of stopping the impending war in
Iraq.

Perowne is a liberal; he does not like torture – in fact, he has learned much about Iraq by
treating an Iraqi refugee fleeing the terror of … Read the rest



Unscientific America and the ‘New’ Atheists

Jul 11th, 2009 | By P Z Myers

To return to Unscientific America again, I hardly touched on chapter 8, where they express their dismay at those uppity “New Atheists”. I am not going to address his personal criticisms of me — there’s no point, you obviously know I think he’s completely wrong, and the uncharitable will simply claim my disagreement is the result of a personal animus — so instead I’m only going to address a couple of other general points that Mooney and Kirshenbaum get completely wrong. They plainly do not understand the atheist position, and make claims that demonstrate that either they didn’t read any of the “New Atheist’s” books, or perhaps the simple ideas in them are too far beyond their comprehension.

This is … Read the rest



Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Jul 10th, 2009 | By Eric S MacDonald

This letter was sent a week ago. The archbishop has had time to receive it and was informed that it will be published here.

Dear Archbishop Williams,

I have been trying for over two years to write this letter, and it never seems to come out right. Your recent
letter to the press, co-signed by Archbishop Nichols of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi of the United
Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Jonathan Sacks, spurred me on to bring this process to an
end. You will probably say, and with some justice, that you have more important things to consider, but
since what you said has led me to a settled distrust of all religion, I believe that you should at … Read the rest



Fool’s Gold: Reflections on the Great Crunch

Jun 25th, 2009 | By Max Dunbar

In What a Carve-Up!, his State of England novel set just before the recession of the early nineties, Jonathan Coe introduced us to the criminal aristocrats of the Winshaw family, whose avaricious interests exert disproportionate influence on economics, foreign policy, healthcare, agriculture and art. Coe’s voyeuristic banker, Thomas Winshaw, describes banking as ‘the most spiritual of all professions’:

He would quote his favourite statistic: one thousand billion dollars of trading took place on the world’s financial markets every day. Since every transaction involved a two-way deal, this meant that five hundred billion dollars would be changing hands. Did the interviewer know how much of that money derived from real, tangible trade in goods and services? A fraction: ten per

Read the rest



Iran: Myths and Realities

Jun 24th, 2009 | By Azar Majedi

Iran is at the top of international news. What led to the mass protests? How did the situation change so dramatically over a week? What do people want? What will be the outcome of this protest movement? These are the questions discussed repeatedly on TV channels and in the press. Different political analysts and members of Iranian-American/European academia, all with different degrees of allegiance to the so-called state reformist camp, are invited to throw light on the situation. All these different commentators make one common assumption: “The people in Iran do not want a revolution.” By this, they mean that the people do not want to overthrow the Islamic regime. They claim that the people want an evolution, a gradual … Read the rest



The Movement Improves in Iran

Jun 23rd, 2009 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

After Iran’s disputed presidential election, we have three different categories of people who now challenge the regime by taking to the streets:

  • The first category belongs to a Muslim population who voted for Mousavi or Kahroubi by conviction; they still capitalise their hope in reforms within the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • The second one is those who voted for one of the “reformists” as a “catalyst” to ease the way for a secular and democratic regime. They voted for them as the lesser evils, hoping to have one of them pave the way toward freedom and secularism in the future.
  • And the third category belongs to the Iranians who boycotted the election and want an immediate democratic and secular regime
  • Read the rest



Iran’s Post-Election

Jun 21st, 2009 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

As Iran’s 2009 presidential election authorities surprisingly announced on Saturday June 13th that hard-line incumbent Mahmood Ahmadinejad was re-elected with about two-thirds of the vote, Iranian people were immediately casting doubt on he authenticity of the results. At the same time, the “reformist” candidates of the regime, Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Sheikh Mehdi Kahroubi, sparked accusations of fraud and branded the election a total farce.

It was originally quoted from some staff of Interior Ministry that a second round would have been needed to determine the victor between Mousavi and Kahrubi, who according to them received respectively first and second place, while Ahmadinejad would have already been out of the race.

Nationwide from Monday on, millions of disappointed people … Read the rest



Unveil Women in Iran!

Jun 20th, 2009 | By Azar Majedi

Women!

The women’s liberation movement in Iran has earned the respect and admiration of all. It has not let the Islamic regime to rest for even one second. Any progression of this movement is tantamount to a huge set back of this misogynous regime. There has been 30 years of constant conflict and battle between women’s liberation movement and the Islamic regime. By imposing the Islamic veil and gender apartheid, the Islamic regime has kept the society in captivity.

Today, the mass protest movement has resolutely come forth. Society is in an upheaval. The balance of forces has turned towards people and liberation from tyranny. It is exactly in such situation that the brave and freedom loving women in Iran … Read the rest



Gina Khan’s Diary

Jun 17th, 2009 | By Gina Khan

Gina Khan will be reporting regularly on the busy life of an anti-jihadist activist in Birmingham.

June 17 2009

Extracts from Reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Birmingham at Democratiya.

Ayaan’s books break the silence about Muslim women’s plight. I was a victim of domestic violence. I thought I had married a modern thinking British Muslim. My brother had warned me not to marry into a particular group of Muslims, mostly from Mirpur or Kashmir, saying to me ‘They will never change. They are controlled by their extended families. They will always be backward in their mindset.’ At the time, I dismissed his advice as discrimination, but it turned out to be true in many ways. Firstly, my husband hid … Read the rest



Reinforcing presumed religious identities

Jun 7th, 2009 | By Marieme Helie Lucas

From siawi.org.

June 4, 2009

It is beyond doubt that many people around the world, of various political opinions and creeds, will feel relieved after the discourse the President of the USA delivered in Cairo today. It is apparently a new voice, a voice of peace, quite far from Bush’s clash of civilisations. But is it so?

I presume that political commentators will point at the fact that Obama equates violence on the side of occupied Palestinians to violence on the side of Israeli colonizers, or that he has not abandonned the idea that the USA should tell the world how to behave and fight for their rights, or that the Israelo-Palestinian conflict is reduced to a religious conflict, … Read the rest



Measuring the Books: Truth Claims in Islam and its Others

May 11th, 2009 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

All religions make truth claims. These may be specific, as in the form of particular doctrines—heaven, hell, the trinity, the virginity of Mary—or more general: the finality of the Prophet, the exclusive role of the Church as a means of grace and salvation, the belief in the divine election of the Jews.

What is not so widely acknowledged is that these claims of truth are supported by a set of rationales, or to use Van Harvey’s famous term, “warrants” that provide security and confidence to adherents of the religious tradition.

The warrants are seldom available in the sacred writings and doctrines explicitly, but they are often observable in teaching, interpretation and conduct. The three book religions, which often have been … Read the rest



Religious Disagreements and False Allegations of Anti-Semitism

May 9th, 2009 | By Edmund Standing

A few months ago, two articles of mine that have been published on this website were described as the work of an ‘anti-Christian, anti-Semite hate monger’ and a ‘disgusting human being’. The articles in question point out the brutality, war crimes, genocide, and rape to be found in the Old Testament and the Jewish ethnocentricism and anti-Gentile bigotry that is present in the Gospel of Matthew. I am an anti-racist and strong opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, so it was somewhat surprising to find myself accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ for writing critically on Jewish religious texts. As I wrote at the time, this accusation was entirely dishonest and was based on the completely incorrect conflation of two separate … Read the rest



Denying AIDS

May 8th, 2009 | By Max Dunbar

The world’s leaning denialist is Peter Deusberg, a molecular biologist who argues that to prevent AIDS, and even cure the disease, it is necessary only to eat properly and abstain from toxic drugs. The American government’s top AIDS adviser, Anthony Fauci, takes a different view, as the New Yorker reported in March 2007. After hearing Deusberg speak at an AIDS research conference, the normally mild-mannered Fauci erupted. ‘This is murder,’ he said. ‘It’s really that simple.’

Damian Thompson, Counterknowledge

Many delusions are harmless. If you believe that Mossad brought down the World Trade Centre, such a belief won’t kill you – it won’t get you killed, despite so much hysterical insinuation to the contrary. Children do not endanger themselves with … Read the rest



Pig-headed Mullahs

May 7th, 2009 | By Fawzia Rasheed

I guess it was predictable. Divine retribution had to rear its ugly head over swine flu. Yes, in case you didn’t know, some mullahs claim that God gave us swine flu. They say the virus will devastate the pig-gobbling-West. Yankee infidels will be doomed, and the faithful spared.

Cries from the mosques have this far resulted in culling pigs, along with spurning their owners and, of course, anyone with a penchant for pork chops. Even in Egypt, which hasn’t reported a single case of swine flu, over 300,000 pigs were butchered. Perhaps not so incidentally, their Christian owners were refused compensation. No doubt more ugly acts will follow wherever excuses can be found to wield power and create rifts between … Read the rest



How Pleasant to Know Mr Ham

May 2nd, 2009 | By Ed Turner

When I saw Bill Maher’s highly entertaining and hard-hitting documentary on world religion, Religulous,
I was interested that one of his interviewees was Ken Ham, the head of Answers In Genesis
(AIG) (not to be confused with the now-infamous insurance company), which is responsible for the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, USA.

Ham was given only a brief slot in the film, but I was fortunate (if that’s the right word) to have a much longer encounter with him just over one year ago at Liverpool University. I went to see give a talk called “Origins and Culture”. At the time I posted a bile-laden write-up on Liverpool Humanist Group’s website. After seeing Maher’s film, I thought the … Read the rest



Religious Laws and Customs are a Disgrace of the 21st Century

Apr 21st, 2009 | By Houzan Mahmoud

Du’a Khalil Aswad, a 17 year old girl from Iraqi Kurdistan was publicly stoned to death in the town of Bashiqa before 1000 men. None of them did anything to stop the stoning; on the contrary they rejoiced at the killing and took footage of the carnage on their mobile phones.

Du’a wasn’t from a Muslim background, she was a Yazidi, but she fell in love with a Muslim boy. The price of this love was to be publicly stoned in broad daylight. She was stripped of her dignity and pride, her life was taken away simply for falling in love with someone outside of the Yazidi tribe. Her killers were never brought to justice and a year after her … Read the rest



The International Conference on Secularism

Apr 14th, 2009 | By Azar Majedi

On 7th March 2009 an international conference organised by Organisation for Women’s Liberation (OWL) was held successfully in Gothenburg, Sweden. The conference heard speeches from many invited speakers and ended with the showing of the film “Maria’s Grotto” about honour killings in Palestine. Many organisations supported and sponsored the event, including: European Feminist Initiative, Network against Honour Crimes, Women for Peace in Sweden, Centre for Research which is a secular and academic institution.

More than 20 speakers were invited to the conference. Many activists from Ghana, Uganda, Pakistan and Bangladesh had shown interest to attend the conference but could not get entry visa. Also 3 of the speakers from Iraq, Jordan and Syria could not come due to visa difficulties.… Read the rest



Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State

Mar 31st, 2009 | By Max Dunbar

People often talk about the Islamic contribution to science, culture and art yet the name of Abu Nawas is more or less forgotten now. Canadian author Tarek Fatah, founder of the secular Muslim Canadian Congress (he has reported the obligatory death threats) paints a vivid picture of this remarkable Muslim artist:

He was a poet to reckon with and not to be antagonised, for fear of a satirical reprisal that would become the source of amusement and mockery in the marketplace and wherever the nobility sipped fine wine or paid to watch damsels dance to the voices of minstrels.

The immediate impulse is to compare this long-haired hedonist to a Middle Eastern Oscar Wilde. Although a devout Muslim, Nawas had … Read the rest



Do Religions Have Rights? Further Pages from The Victim’s Handbook

Mar 28th, 2009 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

The passage of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s “anti-defamation” resolution by the UNHRC is a completely non-momentous event, the kind therefore that will evoke cries of anguish from outraged friends of liberty everywhere. It is another installment in the non-luminous history of an increasingly irrelevant organization that seems only to be in the business of brokering perks, passing unenforceable resolutions, and offering obnoxious pedants a chance to grouse about America and Europe.

Crafted by the Pakistani delegation, the resolution urges states to provide “protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.” Essentially, its force is diminished by the simple fact that the twenty-three nation majority voting … Read the rest



Reinventing the Sacred for a Godless Age

Mar 25th, 2009 | By Kenan Malik

This is an extract from From Fatwa to Jihad, Atlantic, published April 2.

The argument against offensive speech is the modern secularized version of the old idea of blasphemy, reinventing the sacred for a godless age. Until the abolition of the offence in 2008, blasphemy was committed in British law if there was published ‘any writing concerning God or Christ, the Christian religion, the Bible, or some sacred subject using words which are scurrilous, abusive or offensive, and which tend to vilify the Christian religion’. The origins of the law go back a millennium. After the Norman Conquest of 1066 two orders of courts were established.

Church courts decided all ecclesiastical cases, under the guidance of canon law, which … Read the rest