All entries by this author

The moral amnesia that develops when a dictator dies

Mar 7th, 2015 6:17 pm | By

The Independent talks to and about Mona Eltahawy, who has a book coming out (which I get the privilege of reviewing for Free Inquiry).

Egyptian-American Eltahawy, who lived in the UK between the ages of seven and 15, believes the radicalisation of young Western Muslims is only partly explained by a “feeling of marginalisation and alienation” and being “lost between different cultures”.

“For some people religion becomes their only form of expression and opposition and it can take a very violent turn,” she says. “This is not a majority of people who identify as Muslim. We are showing you can still belong to this religion; you can still be a Muslim and find other ways of expressing your

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News from Manchester

Mar 7th, 2015 6:04 pm | By

Nazir Afzal has resigned his job as head of the Crown Prosecution Service for the north west. Too bad; he was apparently very good at the job.

The region’s top prosecutor has been in the spotlight for his high-profile comments on child sexual exploitation and grooming.

A CPS spokesman said: “We are continuing to reduce the number of staff employed across the organisation and Nazir Afzal is leaving the Service as part of this ongoing drive for efficiency.

He was responsible for all criminal prosecutions across Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Cumbria.

He led about 700 lawyers, legal staff, and administrators.

Nazir has pioneered work to tackle honour-based violence and forced marriage, initially bringing this issue to the top

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What mercy looks like

Mar 7th, 2015 5:36 pm | By

The Saudi legal system, not surprisingly, subscribes to the same legal theory as does the most talkative rapist in the Jyoti Singh case: that women are committing a crime if they are outside on their own, and should be punished for being raped in those circumstances. The IBT reports that

A 19-year-old woman, who was reportedly violently gang-raped by seven men in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison…

Well, women are supposed to keep themselves safe from rape by never leaving home. Obviously if they are raped it’s their fault.

The so called punishment that the woman received was according to the Sharia law, which dictates a Saudi Arabian woman not to

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The disenfranchisement of these young men

Mar 7th, 2015 10:47 am | By

The BBC did a conversation with Asim Qureshi of CAGE this week, and before the conversation they did a clip where he makes his case on his own. I hit pause because I wanted to interrupt him. After telling us that he worked with celebrity beheader Mohammed Emwazi, starting at 1:30 he says

What role does our society play in relation to the disenfranchisement of these young men, to make them feel like they don’t have the ability to actually use the system in order to effect change in the grievances that they have with British domestic and foreign policy?

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=afdeFuJbK3E

I wanted to interrupt him to say bullshit.

There is no enfranchisement that could enable “these young men” (such … Read the rest

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IS destroy another ancient site

Mar 7th, 2015 10:08 am | By

Well that’s Iraq for you: it’s rich in historic sites, so Daesh has lots of fun projects. This time the ancient city is called Hatra.

Islamic State militants have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi officials say.

A tourism and antiquities ministry official said the extent of the damage at the Unesco world heritage site was unclear, but they had received reports that it had been demolished.

Hatra was founded in the days of the Parthian Empire over 2,000 years ago.

And now the Empire of Islam is obliterating everything that’s not itself.

Hatra, located about 110km (68 miles) south-west of Mosul, was a fortified city that withstood invasions by the Romans thanks to its thick

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Bombs kill 50 people in Maiduguri

Mar 7th, 2015 9:50 am | By

Another Saturday in northern Nigeria.

At least five blasts have killed 50 people and injured 56 in the city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, an official has told the BBC.

Two crowded markets and a busy bus station were targeted by suicide bombers, witnesses said.

Witnesses in one of the markets described gory scenes with men, women and children lying on the ground.

In pieces, no doubt.

Boko Haram hasn’t said anything yet, but no one will be surprised when they do. They were pushed out of Maiduguri last year, and since then they’ve been in a forest nearby, making life hell for everyone.

The attacks took place over about three hours – the first one targeting the city’s Baga

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Meet your new teacher

Mar 7th, 2015 9:08 am | By

I wonder why this seemed like a good idea.

An Egyptian-born imam who in 2007 said that Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali should receive the death penalty for her criticism of Islam is now a Department of Justice contractor hired to teach classes to Muslims who are in federal prison.

According to federal spending records, Fouad ElBayly, the imam at Islamic Center of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, was contracted by the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons beginning last year to teach the classes to Muslim inmates at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md.

Does the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons also contract Nazis and KKKers to teach Christians?

It was April 2007 when ElBayly, the imam at the Islamic Center of

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Unoma Azuah has a book proposal

Mar 7th, 2015 8:28 am | By

Here’s a good Indiegogo project:

A book of Nigerian LGBT stories, told in their own words, in hopes that their voices will be heard.

Interview-based stories, so like Studs Terkel’s Hard Times for instance.

On the 7th of January, 2014, the Nigerian government passed a law that practically approved state-sanctioned homophobia. Since then, Nigeria’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) population have lived in mortal fear and damaged self-worth. They believe that if their stories could be heard, maybe they would draw empathy and understanding from their fellow compatriots.

My name is Unoma Azuah, a professor of English at Lane College, USA and a Nigerian by birth. Please help me fund “Blessed Bodies,” an anthology of Nigerian LGBT stories,

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Nabu was the god of writing

Mar 6th, 2015 4:52 pm | By

A Cambridge archaeologist, Augusta McMahon, tells us more about Nimrud and why it mattered.

Ancient Iraq is famous for many global “firsts” – Mesopotamia gave us the first writing, the first city, the first written law code, and the first empire.

The people of Iraq are justifiably proud of this ancient heritage and its innovations and impact on the world.

The first writing. This thing I’m doing now – it was invented by the Mesopotamians.

Trashing Nimrud, McMahon says, is trashing the Iraqi people.

Nimrud was the capital of the world’s first empire, the Neo-Assyrian Empire of the 1st millennium BC.

Lying 35km (22 miles) south of the modern city of Mosul in north Iraq, Nimrud covers some 3.5

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Off to Jeddah in the morning

Mar 6th, 2015 4:23 pm | By

Deutsche Welle reports that German Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel may have an uncomfortable trip to Saudi Arabia and its little neighbors in a few days, what with one thing and another.

From Saturday, he will be on a four-day journey through Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – all countries where Germany has significant business interests. Representatives from 140 German companies will be accompanying him.

Less exhilirating, however, is the fact that each of these countries is guilty of significant human rights atrocities in the name of Islamic law – including beheadings and brutal corporal punishment.

Oh, that. Well sure, but SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS INTERESTS.

The most notorious of these is Saudi Arabia, the first stop

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How not to clone a woolly mammoth

Mar 6th, 2015 11:35 am | By

I watched part of a thing on the Smithsonian Channel last night about the excavation of an unusually near-intact woolly mammoth in Siberia. It’s interesting.

At the beginning where they showed the excavation and what a lot of the mammoth there was, we got lots of shots of all the exciting bits there were. At one point there was excited exclamation about the freshness of the meat (which sounded odd – I’d expect “tissue” rather than “meat”), and we got to see a bit of mammoth flesh (or “meat”) that was pink instead of grey or ice-color. Then another guy showed us another, bigger bit, and he moved it back and forth a little, and then…he took a bite … Read the rest

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From #FreeRaif today

Mar 6th, 2015 11:16 am | By

AmnestyNow on Twitter

For 8 weeks we have stood in the cold and the snow outside the Embassy to demand they

English PEN -

Amnesty International -

Elham Manea -

Now outside of Saudi embassy in Rome for by Amnesty

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Desmond to Salman

Mar 6th, 2015 10:32 am | By

There seems to be quite a lot of good news for Raif Badawi today.

Desmond Tutu has sent a note to King Salman.

A human rights lawyer based in London has taken on his case and Waleed’s, pro bono, according to Nicolya Christi on Facebook.

And there is this -

It will be out April 1.

I’m hoping there will be an edition in English. I’ve done some string-tugging to that effect.… Read the rest

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At the North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal

Mar 6th, 2015 9:33 am | By

The UNESCO Director General has a statement on the vandalization of Nimrud.

“I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.

© Creative Commons Nimrud Lamassu’s at the North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal, Iraq

“We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone

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False idols

Mar 6th, 2015 9:14 am | By

The BBC has more on the destruction of Nimrud.

IS began demolishing the site, which was founded in the 13th Century BC, on Thursday, according to Iraqi officials.

The head of the UN’s cultural agency condemned the “systematic” destruction in Iraq as a “war crime”.

IS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, says shrines and statues are “false idols” that have to be smashed.

“They are erasing our history,” said Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani.

They really aren’t “false idols” now; they’re ancient artifacts. They’re history, they’re art, they’re mythology, they’re archaeology, they’re anthropology, they’re part of the rich exciting story of human creativity. They don’t have to be smashed. There’s no human need that smashing them meets. … Read the rest

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Goodbye to Nimrud

Mar 6th, 2015 8:59 am | By

IS is still busy destroying Assyrian sites and their artifacts.

Islamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Iraqi government said, in their latest assault on some of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural treasures.

A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul said the jihadis, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous, had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris river.

“Daesh terrorist gangs continue to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry said, referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym.

“In a new crime in their series of reckless offences, they assaulted the ancient city of Nimrud

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A letter to King Salman

Mar 5th, 2015 5:24 pm | By

A press release from Amnesty International

WASHINGTON–On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District) and James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd District) have sent a bipartisan letter to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman. The letter urges the new King to free all prisoners of conscience—including blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair—and to allow women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia.

The letter garnered 67 congressional signers and endorsements from 17 women’s, human rights, religious freedom, and advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical

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Ruining it for the rest of us

Mar 5th, 2015 5:02 pm | By

Another atheist woman who says no thanks to the atheist “movement” because it’s such a shit-show.

But as defensive as I’ve gotten with believers, I’ve never actually been tempted to join an atheist group. Partly, that’s because it’s hard to avoid the white men ruining it for the rest of us by using atheism as just another platform for a macho power struggle. Atheism offers no guarantee of other shared ideas or philosophies – and when white male atheist leaders and communities act racist, Islamophobicand misogynistic, I find myself wishing that there were another way to describe my non-beliefs.

It’s sad. The “movement” could have been good, but it took a wrong turn and then a whole … Read the rest

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Guest post: Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world

Mar 5th, 2015 3:58 pm | By

Originally a comment by newenlightenment on Letters demanding £5,000.

(Repost)

Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world. Here he is in 2008 at a rally for the ultra Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist)* praising Mao’s cultural revolution and denouncing free Tibet protestors as ‘Running dogs of imperialism’:

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuWNlFkrihQ

The CPGB (ML) is a tiny little sect whose sole purpose appears to be to endorse every brutal despot in existence, provided that despot is at least vaguely anti-American. The party has pledged its colours to North Korea, its chairman Harpal Brar wrote an entire book praising Robert Mugabe, they offer unconditional support to Hamas and Hezbollah and have marched under the slogans ‘victory to Assad’ … Read the rest

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Guest post: No other MP acts like that

Mar 5th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

Originally a comment by Rosie Bell on Letters demanding £5,000.

I’m ardently hoping that this will backfire on Galloway. The disgusting scumbag has threatened to sue people before, they’ve told him to take a hike, and a hike he has taken.

Various top-notch lawyers are offering free advice to his victims. This article below gives a good & amusing account of Galloway’s & his lawyers’ doings.

“Chambers appear to be focused on immigration, serious crime and fraud and personal injury, among other topics. But above all, they are, according to their own website “calculated risk takers”, who are “not afraid to take on challenges that would daunt many others”.

They boast that their ethos “is to ensure that … Read the rest

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