Since the 9/11 attacks, the world has become all too aware of the growth of a fanatical ideology grounded in an extreme interpretation of Islam and centred on totalitarian fantasies. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of a far more politicised brand of Islam often referred to as Islamism. This loosely connected movement seeks to bring about global Islamic rule by creating a series of Islamic States which are to be ruled according to strict adherence to Shari’ah law. At the same time, we have seen the emergence of an even more extreme ideology, which in this article I have termed ‘Jihadism’. While there are considerable similarities between Islamism and Jihadism, there are significant differences that mark Jihadism … Read the rest
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The One Law for All campaign against Sharia law in Britain is to be launched at the House of Lords on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2008 from 4:00 to 5:00pm.
According to campaign organiser, Maryam Namazie, ‘Even in civil matters, Sharia law is discriminatory, unfair and unjust, particularly against women and children. Moreover, its voluntary nature is a sham; many women will be pressured into going to these courts and abiding by their decisions. These courts are a quick and cheap route to injustice and do nothing to promote minority rights and social cohesion. Public interest, particularly with regard to women and children, requires an end to Sharia and all other faith-based courts and tribunals.’
The campaign has … Read the rest
In an ideal world people would perhaps live such healthy lives that medicine would wither away. In this spirit, utopias are portrayed as realms where the ills of the world at large are ruled out both in principle and in practice.
Among the first genuinely preventive medical measures was the control of traffic into and out of municipalities hit by the plague, a policy that may have contributed to the eventual disappearance of that scourge from Europe. In some cases visitors from plague-infected regions were temporarily confined on an island. A utopia might be envisioned as such an island writ large, except that in this case the quarantine secures against infection from the surrounding world instead of the other way … Read the rest
If you walk at random in any Muslim district in Europe, you will certainly find somewhere an Islamic butcher with the word ”halal” written on its shop-window. For meat products, the word “halal” is a badge of Islamic quality.
Muslims believe that since blood is not ritually a pure substance, slaughter is necessary to inhibit 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 laws. Jewish and Islamic religions demand that slaughter be carried out with a … Read the rest
The cliché goes that atheism is a form of theism; Tina Beattie writes:
A professor of theology (Denys Turner) tells of how he makes a bet with his students that, if they can tell him why they do not believe in God, he will tell them which Christian denomination they were brought up in. He says he usually wins the bet.
I’d love to make that bet with Turner: being a liberal atheist born to liberal atheists, I suspect it’d be easy money for me. (Admittedly my great-grandfather was a Glaswegian missionary, and I’ve always regretted that he died before I was born.) But in this critique of the ‘New Atheists’ Beattie often treats unbelief the way that Turner apparently … Read the rest
Earlier this month, the BBC reported that Pope Benedict XVI had opened a Synod of more than 200 cardinals and bishops from around the world to examine the modern lack of interest in the Bible. As in many of his recent pronouncements, the Pope took the opportunity to repeat the same tired old claim that because modern Western society is apparently turning away from Christianity and the Bible, we are seeing the growth of ‘destructive influences’. Once again, secularism is blamed for the ills of modern society, while the Pope proposes that a return to ‘Scripture’ will solve our problems.
I decided it was time to take the Pope’s advice and re-read some ‘Scripture’. Having previously come away from reading … Read the rest
The article by Charles Murray, discussed in a Note and Comment with a measure of disapprobation, raises awkward questions that need to be faced and which rarely are. The problem is that liberal-minded people, and I am one such, are not immune from falling into the trap of believing what we wish to be true rather than that which is true.
Let me first digress to tell a story. Almost twenty years ago, a senior colleague of mine became quite well-known for
writing highly regarded books on relativity and quantum mechanics (the `Uncle Albert’ series) that were targeted at
young teenagers. He gave our (physics) department a talk on the research that he did in preparation for writing
these books. … Read the rest
At long last, a protracted and often fierce election campaign is over. America has selected its new president. We congratulate Barack Obama, and we pledge our support for his efforts!
President-elect Obama will face awesome problems left over from the Bush administration. But let us focus on the positive. Obama is the first person of mixed Anglo-African parentage to attain the presidency. Heroically, he represents a significant extension of the scope of American democracy. His election reminds us that the United States really is the universal society on this planet and reconfirms America’s identity as a truly (if not yet perfectly) multiracial, multi-ethnic, multicultural nation. Bravo!
The United States is the first major country founded under the ideals of the … Read the rest
Energizing the base (1)
Energizing the base (2)
Palling around with terrorists
Ready to be president
Underestimating Sarah Palin
Joe the plumber
Real American Hero
Reaching across the aisle
Bold new vision
Second Amendment Rights
Strong on foreign policy
Strong on security
The fact that nearly half of all Americans reject evolution is depressing enough, but the opinions of college graduates may cause despair. One in three holders of bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees deny that “Darwin’s theory of evolution [is] proved by fossil evidence.” Even more dismal, only about one-third of U.S. college graduates and postgraduates admit to a “belief in evolution”—while about sixty percent accept Creationism or its Trojan Horse, Intelligent Design. In over thirty countries, including every other advanced society, a higher percentage of the general population accepts evolution: in pious Ireland, for example, the number accepting evolution is sixty percent higher than in the U.S.! Americans are just as likely to choose to believe in ghosts and UFOs as … Read the rest
James Parker comments bluntly in the November Atlantic that ‘The average Christian—as if we needed reminding—makes a piss-poor apologist for his own faith. One might expect a doctrine as insolently extraordinary in its claims as Christianity to have produced some tip-top debaters, but oh dear…’ This teasing remark seems apt for the best-known Anglophone Christian apologist, C S Lewis, at least to anyone who has been unimpressed by the ‘lunatic, liar or Lord’ trilemma. In this engrossing book John Beversluis takes the trouble to analyze Lewis’s arguments in detail.
Beversluis gives an account of Lewis’s Christian apologetics over a wide range of books, especially Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, Surprised by Joy, and A Grief Observed. … Read the rest
What would it be like to have world-class athletic ability, and to spend years of intensive training honing that ability, only to suddenly lose it all in the instant it takes your physician to utter a few words?
Hayden Roulston, a professional cyclist from New Zealand, has experienced this. After several seasons competing for the top-flight professional teams Cofidis and United States Postal Service, Roulston was diagnosed with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD), a rare and incurable heart disease known to cause sudden death in athletes. Notably, the prognosis is good for ARVD patients who refrain from exercise early in the course of the disease, which is why medical experts advise ARVD patients that they “should not do vigorous exercise.” … Read the rest
In the past two years the debates on religious conversions, caste and communalism have gripped India in a serious imbroglio which is fallout of the present nature of state politics in the country. The years 2007-08 have been the most volatile ever since the anti-Godhra riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002, which exposed the role that the governments in India have played in arousing communal passions through state machinery. These are difficult times, and the time that would follow poses more complex challenges for state-politics in India. We can trace the beginnings of these events in the year 2007, though hypothetically, to a controversy in Punjab: the chief of Dera Sacha Sauda (a religious sect founded 1948, which … Read the rest
In general, where religious values are dominant, gender discriminations remain influential at all levels in society. The monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – not differently from the primitive or undeveloped cultures, adamantly conserve their gender biases. In this article, I argue that gender inequalities in Islam go beyond the gender biases of other monotheistic religions.
The main reason for gender inequalities in Islam has roots in a traditional division of society into the two groups of “mahrams” and “non-mahrams.”: the mahram group contains the non-marriageable adult people who are close members of family, whereas the non-mahram group refers to the rest of people.
Asserting of non-mahram dogma in Islam is not initially unrelated to the Prophet’s concerns about … Read the rest
This article is excerpted (with permission) from the Center for Inquiry report Islam and human rights: Defending Universality at the United Nations by Austin Dacey and Colin Koproske (pp. 5-6, 9, 16, 17, 21-2, 23). Read the whole report.
As this paper is being written, sixty years after the issuance of the world’s first and greatest
statement in favor of universal human rights, both the document and the institution put in
place to protect its ideals (what has, since 2006, been called the UN Human Rights Council)
are threatened more than ever. There is now an alternative human rights system, infused with
religious language and layered with exceptions, omissions and caveats. The movement toward
“Islamic human rights” (IHR) has … Read the rest
‘Though it may wound the amour proper of some postmodernist humanities scholars to discover that a mere physicist could learn their jargon well enough, in a few months’ library research, to write a half-convincing simalcrum of it, that is, alas, exactly what happened.’
A lot has been written on this site about postmodernism, and especially its stylistic hallmarks: ambiguity over clarity, irony over actual humour, the buzzwords and red flags of management-speak. Deconstructionist writers portrayed themselves as radicals, often purporting to argue against capitalism or to support oppressed peoples. But as Nick Cohen pointed out, all they really offered was a dull satire of the ‘hegemon’. He quotes an American philosopher, Martha Nussbaum:
[R]esistance is always offered as personal, more
The Holocaust denying author and publisher Ernst Zündel is currently serving a prison term in his native Germany, having received a five year sentence in 2007 for denying the Holocaust. The books, pamphlets, and websites in which Zündel’s Holocaust denying and far-Right views are expressed were neither written nor published in Germany, but rather in Canada, where Zündel had lived for four decades.
Having failed to secure Canadian citizenship, Zündel spent a couple of years in the United States, but was sent back to Canada after he violated the terms of his stay by missing a meeting with an immigration official. Canadian officials then handed Zündel over to the German authorities, deporting him on the bizarre grounds that he, a … Read the rest
In the Cape Argus for July 24, 2008, I was drawn to an article about a “cult”. The article was your typical shocking piece of journalism, where the accused are a “deranged” lot. Their beliefs most would scoff at: “How could they have done that?” “Anyone can see they were crazy to belief that nonsense!”.
Durban (in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, in my country South Africa) brother and sister Hardus and Nicolette Lotter [who are] charged with murder of their parents, had apparently belonged to a cult. They had been influenced by Nicolette’s boyfriend, Mathew Naidoo, who claimed he was “God’s messenger”.
After being called to the house, 20-year old Hardus told police he was accosted in … Read the rest
For the past 1,500 years the assortment of Germanic, Slavic and Asian tribes known collectively as the barbarians have gotten a raw deal. Blamed largely for initiating the collapse of the Roman Empire, extinguishing the lamp of learning and precipitating the Dark Ages, they have been unable to defend themselves in a court of inquiry. Here is one case where the victors did not write the history (perhaps because most of them couldn’t write). But while the barbarians (literally “babbler” or one who does not speak Greek) did wreak a great deal of havoc, an impartial look at the facts will show that their role in abolishing Greco-Roman culture was almost nil.
In fact, most barbarian kings and warlords greatly … Read the rest