Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

No action taken

Feb 26th, 2015 6:15 pm | By

The IHEU on the murder of Avijit Roy and the potentially lethal attack on Rafida Ahmed Bonna.

“Abhijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.”

These were the words of an Islamist activist referring to Avijit (or Abhijit) Roy early last year. The man making the threat, who is well-known to the authorities, has repeatedly and openly talked about wanting to see secular and freethought writers dead, and those under threat have complained that authorities have ignored his threats and incitement, despite his credible links to Islamist extremists and similar murders taking place.

Tonight, IHEU joins with freethinkers and humanists from Bangladesh in calling for an end to this fatal appeasement of death threats by the authorities in Bangladesh.

Avijit Roy was a well-known writer, founder of the freethought blogging platform Mukto-Mona, which he described to IHEU as “an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent”. He had previously provided IHEU with analysis around the arrest and threats against “atheist bloggers” in Bangaldesh in 2013.

Bob Churchill comments:

This loss is keenly felt by freethinkers and humanists in South Asia and around the world. He was a colleague in humanism and a friend to all who respect human rights, freedom, and the light of reason. Our thoughts are with his family, and his many friends, supporters, and admirers who will be deeply hurt by this senseless crime.

We cannot know the assailants who carried out tonight’s vicious murder. But we do know this: Those who have openly made the most serious and credible threats on Roy’s life have been allowed to do so with impunity and now he is dead. As Roy himself warned, Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islamism, and he knew his own life was under threat. That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now.

We mustn’t be pushy, now. We must respect the faith of people of faith, even when they’re attacking us with machetes.

Bangladeshi writer and activist, Asif Mohiuddin, who spoke in a plenary session at last year’s World Humanist Congress about the threats by Islamists against himself and others for for their humanist writings and secular activism, said of Avijit Roy tonight:

“He was like my brother. This a great loss for the nation, and for all freethinkers in the world. We called him Richard Dawkins of Bangladesh. He was the nicest person I ever met. Just yesterday he wished me well on my birthday, today he is dead. I can’t believe this! He was my dearest friend and we worked together for 6 years against religious fundamentalism.

He was my hero, and hero of many young freethinkers in Bangladesh. Many young people were inspired by him so much. Now we have a big atheist and agnostic community, gay and lesbian community, that was possible only because of him. He was our support in every step. Whenever we had any problem, he solved that very quickly.

I am very much upset. Please do something, create some pressure on Bangladesh government by writing. Many freethinkers are in risk, they will die.”

Then there are extracts from emails Roy wrote about the Islamist who called for his murder.

The following text is from emails exchanged from 21 March 2014 onwards; the first email was almost certainly sent to multiple organisations and media. (The square brackets are his own, except where otherwise stated with emphasis in italics.)

[21 March 2014] I am often involved in causes that rally support for free speech movements in Bangladesh through my writing and activism. Recently, I found that I have been targeted by a group of militant Islamists and terrorists. Farabi Shafiur Rahman, an extremist who is allegedly linked to the radical Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbut Tahrir [a terrorist organization that operates in 40 countries (including Bangladesh) around the world] has given me a death threat through a facebook status. It is worth noting that he is the same Farabi who threatened to kill a Muslim cleric officiated at Ahmed Rajib Haider’s (a popular blogger known by the psuedonym Thaba Baba, who was hacked to death last year by machete-wielding Islamic militants) funeral last year during Shahbagh Movement. Police at that time arrested Farabi on charges of “instigating the murder” but he was granted bail. Although he has continued to threaten many progressives in Bangladesh, no official action has been taken against him.

There’s more. It’s all sickening.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

#Free Raif

Feb 26th, 2015 5:34 pm | By

In Copenhagen:

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Outside the embassy

Feb 26th, 2015 5:29 pm | By

In Vienna today:

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: For all three luminaries

Feb 26th, 2015 5:22 pm | By

Originally a comment by Gem Newman on Follow, peasants.

They’re still pestering our group to join. The group’s organizer finally got fed up and said that we wouldn’t, because a lot of these guys were “gross”. That prompted this response from them:

Gross thoughts? I don’t understand.

Is there anyone else in your group I could speak with?

I’ll put it this way. In the last month I’ve traded more than 400 emails with group leaders.

They don’t normally have this much unexplained anger.

I mean, come on, really. How can you be a serious person and have so much hate for all three luminaries? Keep it to one, please!

I’d had enough at this point, so I had to chime in again:

Hey, you can talk to me, if you want. I founded the Winnipeg Skeptics five years ago.

While I would have perhaps phrased things a little more diplomatically, I’m certainly no more interested in having the Winnipeg Skeptics associated with Dawkins, Harris, or (especially) Shermer than Ashlyn is. Given what they’ve said recently, and the reaction that we’ve seen in some quarters of the various secular communities, you can’t possibly be naïve enough to be surprised when some people don’t respond positively to your “luminaries”.

As I said, you can talk to me, but you probably don’t want to. I may have started the group, but Ashlyn is the group’s organizer and leader, so talking to me won’t get you anywhere.

You should also probably learn to take “no” for an answer.

This apparently annoyed them a little, because they fired back:

Hi Gem,

I already marked you as a no.

You are a smart, evidence-based person, right? So I have to tell you that you have your facts wrong.

You are the one who is naïve. From the thousands of groups that I have reached out to, and have traded email personally with about 400 of them, yours seems to be the only one shaking with loathing about the academics who have done so much for the secular movement.

Perhaps you’ve fallen victim to groupthink, the idea that your tiny community of friends represents the viewpoint of the world. No one’s going to take you seriously with that attitude.

The fact is, if you are open to facts, that Richard Dawkins personally has more Facebook followers than the whole secular movement put together, and while some people have their concerns, we generally love him. You are the one in the minority.

Hey, facts are facts, I guess.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Fascinating, tell me more

Feb 26th, 2015 5:03 pm | By

It’s been a busy day. I’m hoping to help make something happen.

Meanwhile, I got an email from an acquaintance who believes every bit of Republican propaganda he ever hears or reads, no matter how outlandish it may be.

This is today’s consignment of Republican propaganda shameless bullshit:

Image result for bullshit

The word “Dhimmitude” is found in the new health care bill; so what does it mean?

Thought this was interesting and worth passing on.

Obama used it in the health care bill.
Now isn’t this interesting?
It is also included in the health care law.

Dhimmitude — I had never heard the word until now. I typed it into Google and started reading. Pretty interesting. It’s on page 107 of the healthcare bill. I looked this up on Google and yep, it exists. It is a REAL word.

Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-Muslim populations conquered through jihad (Holy War). Specifically, it is the TAXING of non-Muslims in exchange for tolerating their presence AND as a coercive means of converting conquered remnants to Islam.

ObamaCare allows the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States .
Muslims are specifically exempted from the government
mandate to purchase insurance, and also from the penalty
tax for being uninsured. Islam considers insurance to be
“gambling”, “risk-taking”, and “usury” and is thus banned.
Muslims are specifically granted exemption based on
How convenient. So I, as a Christian, will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivable, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax.
Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan (the Muslim) will have no such penalty and will have 100% of his health insurance needs paid for by the de facto government insurance.Non-Muslims will be paying a tax to subsidize Muslims. This is Dhimmitude.

I recommend sending this on to your contacts.
All American citizens need to know about it !!” href=”“>“>
Health Insurance Exemptions
Apr 13, 2010 … Dhimmitude
is the Muslim system of controlling non-muslim populations
… The ObamaCare bill is the establishment of Dhimmitude
and Sharia …” href=”“>“>

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Meet Avijit Roy

Feb 26th, 2015 12:06 pm | By

A 2007 interview with three members of Mukto-Mona, one of them being Avijit Roy, who was murdered in Dhaka yesterday. His wife Rafida Ahmed Bonya was badly injured.

Ahmede Hussain

How has Mukto-Mona evolved? Can you please explain the idea behind Mukto-Mona for our readers?

Avijit Roy: Mukto-Mona came into being in the year 2000, with the intention of debating and promoting critical issues that are of the utmost importance in building a progressive, rational and secular society, but usually are ignored in the mainstream Bangladeshi and South Asian media. On 26th May, 2001, I created a Yahoo group under the name Mukto-Mona. A year later, it was developed into a complete web site (, which, to the best of my knowledge, was the first South Asian Humanist and Rationalist forum on the net. Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science.

Since its existence, Mukto-mona has been able to draw the attention of many like-minded thinkers including many distinguished authors, scientists, philosophers and human rights activists from all around the world. We have always tried to raise our voices wherever people’s freedom and civil liberties have been attacked. For example, we were (still are) acrid critics of Bush’s policy of aggression and invasion of Iraq in the name of the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Within the subcontinent, we have affiliations with the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations and the Science and Rationalists’ Association of India (SRAI) led by Prabhir Ghosh. The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has also provided continuous encouragement and support to us. Mukto-Mona forum is approaching 3000 members.

In a region where a majority of the people live in abject poverty and do not have access to the Internet, how can Mukto-mona help establish a secular society?

Avijit Roy: Despite our limited resources, mind you, Mukto-Mona is not an NGO run by donations from foreign countries. We carry out activities with our own funds i.e. donations collected from our members of advisory and editorial board (who are mostly expatriate Bangladeshis such as researchers, activists, students, etc) we are trying to target the most neglected areas. For example, as our first project, we undertook the reconstruction of a primary school in remote Roumari in Bangladesh. We have additionally promised to continue our support for more years provided the school authority promote secular and rational thinking among the students. We undertook that project for many reasons: that was a place of poor rural people and thus was neglected by the rich class/government. Secondly, the most important stage of life when we can instill a value/lesson in the minds of our children is when they are in primary school.

We have started publishing books on science and rationalism. In a few remote areas, our activists have formed Rationalist Forums drawing likeminded youth and students. Such forums or associations provide a sense of cohesiveness in the mind of young humanists and they do not feel they are isolated. In the future, we plan to work on mobilising and uniting youth toward rationalism and humanism in every part of Bangladesh.

Fortunately, we are not alone. There exist vast number of like-minded people in the world and nothing can beat the internet in making friends with such people. For example, we have humanists of Bangladesh and other South Asian origin in our group from virtually every corner of the world. Lots of people are showing eagerness to help Mukto-Mona in every possible way but we have been cautious in our response because we simply don’t want to turn into yet another NGO. Ours is not just an organisation, it symbolises a movement, an ideal.

This is a very bad day.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More of us killed

Feb 26th, 2015 10:17 am | By

This is baaaaaaaaaaaaaad

Blogger and writer Avijit Roy has been killed and his wife, blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, severely injured when unidentified miscreants hacked them at TSC of Dhaka University on Thursday night.

Avijit, son of former DU teacher Dr Ajay Roy and also the founder of Mukto-mona Blog, and his wife have been admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital in critical condition immediately after the attack.

Later, he died while undergoing treatment around 10:30pm, said Shahbagh police station OC Sirajul Islam.

This is horrifying.

They’ll kill us all.

DU Proctor Amjad Ali said: “I came to know the writer had been receiving threats from militants because of his anti-communal activism.”

Among the teachers of Dhaka University who rushed to Dhaka Medical College hospital hearing the news of the attack, were Professor Dr Abul Barkat, Professor Anwar Hossain.

Professor Anwar Hossain said the those, who are against the country’s liberation, democracy, free thoughts and attacked Humayun Azad, have perpetrated this.

Liton Nandi, Dhaka University Chhatra Union president, told the Dhaka Tribune they were set to bring a torch procession, protesting the attack and killing in a short time.

We need to get Taslima the hell out of the subcontinent.

Earlier in 2014, online bookstore stopped selling books by the well-known writer after an Islamic militant issued death threats on Facebook to the website’s owner.

The decision to withdraw his books was prompted by death threats posted to Facebook by Farabi Shafiur Rahman, an Islamist extremist allegedly linked to Jamaat-e-Islami.

Farabi accused Avijit of defaming Islam and the “prophet” Mohammed and accused chairman Mahmudul Hasan Sohag of “promoting atheism” by selling his books.

In his Facebook post, Farabi specified the office address of and called upon his “Islamist friends” in the adjacent locality to attack.

He also told Sohag that he would suffer the same fate as Ahmed Rajib Haider, a popular blogger known by the psuedonym Thaba Baba, who was hacked to death last year by machete-wielding Islamic militants.

One by one, they’re picking us off.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guns keep you safe!

Feb 26th, 2015 9:51 am | By

Except of course when you accidentally shoot yourself with them and die.

A Michigan woman who fatally shot herself in [the] eye was adjusting her bra holster, police said Wednesday.

The shooting happened at the home of Christina Bond, 55, on New Year’s Day.

“She was having trouble adjusting her bra holster, couldn’t get it to fit the way she wanted it to. She was looking down at it and accidentally discharged the weapon,” St. Joseph Public Safety Director Mark Clapp told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Well, that’s a shame. But up until that point, she was way extra safe because of that gun! So it balances out in the gun’s favor.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“That’s good fathering,” he says

Feb 26th, 2015 9:08 am | By

David Futrelle does some high spot notification on Jeff Sharlet’s report on the Voice for Men conference last year. I find this useful because I find Sharlet’s piece tough going – too much story-telling detail cluttering up and obscuring the interesting substantive parts. I have the same problem with his book The Family. Both are too much like fiction – presented too much as stories, with the usual familiar atmospheric detail of most contemporary literary fiction, which I tend to get very impatient with.

My favorite part is Futrelle’s intro –

A few days before alleged “men’s human rights” website A Voice for Men held its first convention last summer, the site’s founder and head boy Paul Elam put up a post imploring the alleged human rights activists planning to attend the event not to go around calling women bitches and whores and cunts, because the news media would be there, and this might make his little human rights movement look bad.

I’m paraphrasing here; Elam was a teensy bit more euphemistic, telling his followers that anyone caught “trash-talking women, men, making violent statements … anything that can be used against us” would get a very stern talking-to and, if they persisted, would be asked to leave.

Elam’s warning didn’t stick. Indeed, the woman in charge of publicity for the event – you may know her as JudgyBitch or Janet Bloomfield, neither of which is her real name – went on a bit of a Twitter rampage, happily denouncing critics of the group as, yep, “whores.”

Now that’s what I call scene-setting.

Here’s the first highlight, which I think is the best:

1) The Men’s Rights Activist who boasted that he would have disowned his daughter if she had pressed charges against the man she said raped her.

At a convention afterparty, the man in question told this little story to Sharlet, Elam, and a few others:

When one of his daughters came home one night and said she’d been raped, he said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Sitting with us, he hikes his voice up to a falsetto in imitation: ” ‘Oh, I just got raped.’ ” He laughs. There’s a moment of silence. A bridge too far? “I told her if she pressed charges, I’d disown her.”

Elam, whose attention has drifted, grins through his beard. “That’s good fathering,” he says.

I wonder if someone could get him interested in life in the caliphate.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The real caliphate

Feb 25th, 2015 5:44 pm | By

That Atlantic piece by Graeme Wood about what ISIS really is – it’s worth reading.

Here’s the deal: it’s not just Islamism (which is bad enough), it’s the caliphate. That’s why it’s so attractive to so many people, and that in turn of course is why it’s so scary.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

We get it wrong if we think it’s just more of the same, like al-Qaeda only more so, Wood says. It’s not. It’s not modern plus jihadism.

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Hmm. By its most ardent followers – but then there are the less ardent followers. You know how people are – some are ardent, and others are sort of ardent and sort of not, and maybe tomorrow they’ll decide to do something else. But then the ardents can kill millions and millions of people while they have the upper hand, so there’s that.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

But there is this impulse to deny it…

Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Well yes, the shifting social mores, like women walking around in the world without a real human’s permission. I think Said was wrong about a lot of things.

Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

And besides, who says religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington? Jeez, if only it didn’t.

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

I recognize that tradition!

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

That part doesn’t surprise me, it’s what I’ve assumed all along. It’s the part about the caliphate and its “legitimacy” I didn’t know.

The last caliphate was the Ottoman empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a long decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanized it in 1924. But Cerantonio, like many supporters of the Islamic State, doesn’t acknowledge that caliphate as legitimate, because it didn’t fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stonings and slavery and amputations, and because its caliphs were not descended from the tribe of the Prophet, the Quraysh.

Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.” Like bin Laden before him, Baghdadi spoke floridly, with frequent scriptural allusion and command of classical rhetoric. Unlike bin Laden, and unlike those false caliphs of the Ottoman empire, he is Qurayshi.

That last sentence is…frightening. It explains a lot, and it’s frightening.

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law.

The caliph has that.

It’s all pretty sickening. That’s enough of it for today.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Stop executing “apostates” and “blasphemers”

Feb 25th, 2015 4:43 pm | By

A press release of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain:

Stop executing “apostates” and “blasphemers” and release them now!

On 22 February 2015, a Saudi court sentenced a man in his twenties to death by beheading for apostasy.  The identity of the man has not been made public but, according to Al-Shabaka, he was arrested last year and is charged with becoming an atheist and insulting Muhammad, Islam’s prophet, on social media.

This heinous ruling comes against the backdrop of the recent attacks on freedom of expression in Paris and Copenhagen.  Whilst the Saudi government hypocritically condemned the Paris massacre as a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”, it condemned a man to death for similar “crimes” only a matter of weeks later. This ruling follows the recent case of Raif Badawi, a blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years’ imprisonment for a website promoting public discussion of religion and politics which has been deemed “insulting to Islam”.

Apostasy and blasphemy are punishable with death in Saudi Arabia and also in a number of other countries, including Iran and Mauritania.

In Iran, 30 year old blogger Soheil Arabi, has been sentenced to execution for “insulting the prophet” on Facebook.

In December 2014, a 28 year old Mauritanian journalist Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet”.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain is outraged at these death sentences. “Apostates” and “blasphemers” have not committed any crime and should be immediately released. The real crime is imprisoning and executing people for their beliefs and expression.

Clearly, there is no place in the 21st century for such medieval laws. Apostasy and blasphemy laws must end. And they must end now.

To demand the release of the unnamed atheist facing execution, please contact the Saudi embassy in your country of residence or Tweet @SaudiEmbassyUK.

Sign the petition in support of Raif Badawi here.

Join Facebook page to defend Sohail Arabi here or tweet @khamenei_ir.

Sign a petition in support of Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir here.

For more information, contact:
BM Box 1919, London WC1N 3XX, UK
tel: +44 (0) 7719166731


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Everyone agreed that she was an extremely disobedient woman

Feb 25th, 2015 4:23 pm | By

Update: This is not an actual report. Taslima’s head is on her neck where it belongs.

Taslima reports on her beheading at the hands of Islamist terrorists yesterday.

Bengali writer Taslima Nasreen was beheaded yesterday by Islamist terrorists at her home in New Delhi where she had been living in exile. A video of the decapitation was posted on social media sites this morning.

It was inevitable. Author of 41 books of poetry, essays, and novels, Ms Nasreen, known for her powerful feminist writings against the injustices and inequalities of religions, had to live under a succession of death fatwas.

They can’t behead her 41 books. Poor dears, that must be so frustrating for them.

Despite repeated bans on her books and threats on her life, Ms Nasreen never censored herself. Many people said that she was brave; others called her stupid. Everyone agreed that she was an extremely disobedient woman.

Now that is an epitaph. I want it for myself…but I can’t claim to be as disobedient as Taslima, because there’s so much less that I’m expected to obey.

Although she managed to acquire a semblance of domestic normalcy in her New Delhi apartment, Ms Nasreen considered herself “homeless everywhere”. She was never allowed to return to the country of her birth. She was also not allowed to reside in West Bengal where she had lived for four years before her deportation in 2007.

Ms Nasreen, however, had a great sense of humor. It could be sensed in the extremely graphic video of her execution. Bemused with her masked assassin struggling with his rather blunt blade, she asked him to pick up a much sharper knife from her kitchen that she had got from Germany.

Taslima does Galgenhumor beautifully.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Voldemort effect

Feb 25th, 2015 12:15 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz has some ideas on what to do about spreading Islamism in the UK.

For years, Islamists and other extremists have taken advantage of grievances of Muslims in Britain, and have successfully identified ways to integrate them under one “Islamic” banner. Sensitive issues such as Palestine, Kashmir, and Iraq have been used to bring together Muslim communities under unified goals. As a result, separate Muslim education programmes have increased among these communities, and inter-marriages between Muslims of different cultural backgrounds has become the norm. Through this, extremists hoped to create a religious “Islamic” identity that transcends, and grows on, ethnic and cultural differences.

It appears to be working. Half of British Muslims interviewed stated that prejudice against Islam makes it very difficult to be a Muslim in this country. Some 51 per cent do not believe that Muslim clerics who preach for violence against the West are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion. Increased sympathy for an Islamist cause, lack of integration, and the absence of acceptance of Muslims into British society makes it harder for Muslims to challenge Islamism, and tough for non-Muslims to understand it.

Islamism is a desire to impose a version of Islam over society, anywhere. It can also include an effort to introduce it here, in the country where we reside via entryism. By refusing to challenge its roots, and its inherent biases, we increase negative spillover effects on all Muslims who live here. This manifests as prejudice. The way to tackle Muslimphobia is to tackle prejudice against Muslims. What it is not, is to pretend that Islamist extremism does not exist.

It’s too bad the Obama administration didn’t invite Maajid to that conference on “violent extremism” last week. The Washington Examiner – which is not one of my favorite sources – reported that he and other anti-Islamist Muslims were excluded (as opposed to just not noticed).

Muslim reformers say the administration is ignoring them because they disagree with Obama’s refusal to acknowledge the Islamic roots of the extremists’ ideology.

Some of the most prominent reformers have argued for years that the ideological and theological roots of Islamist extremism must be addressed, but administration officials carefully avoided exactly that subject during Obama’s three-day summit.

And they avoided it in naming the summit – on “violent extremism” when what they meant was Islamist extremism.

The coyness really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“We have to own the issue of extremist Islamic theology in order to defeat it and remove it from our world. We have to name it to tame it,” Muslim journalists Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa wrote in an essay published Friday by the Daily Beast.

“Among Muslims, stuck in face-saving, shame-based cultures, we need to own up to our extremist theology instead of always reverting to a strategy of denial, deflection and demonization.”

Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist radical and one of those who signed the Times advertisement, is co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremist British think-tank. The refusal of Obama and his officials to name their real enemy is referred to among reformers as the “Voldemort effect,” after the villain in the Harry Potter books whose name could not be mentioned.

Nawaz told CNN on Wednesday that refusing to address the Islamist ideology directly puts all Muslims at risk of being blamed for the actions of a tiny minority — the exact opposite effect of what Obama intended by his approach.

It’s all a bit…ostrich-like.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Until modern times

Feb 25th, 2015 11:40 am | By

A Tory MP says astrology could have “a role to play in healthcare”. The Guardian has the risible details.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

And why would it cause a huge row? Because it’s bullshit, and medicine is supposed to be non-bullshit. The only way astrology could “take pressure off NHS doctors” would be by diverting patients into the Bullshit Department, which defeats the purpose of having a health service at all. I mean you could take the pressure of NHS doctors by deporting all their patients, too, or by executing them, or by sealing them up inside their houses. That wouldn’t be much of a favor to the patients though.

He criticised the BBC and TV scientist Professor Brian Cox for taking a “dismissive” approach to astrology, and accused opponents of being “racially prejudiced”.

Astrology is a race? I did not know that.

He told Astrological Journal:

I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors.

Ninety per cent of pregnant French women use homeopathy. Astrology is a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart.

No, it isn’t. And people using things ≠ things being effective.

Mr Tredinnick, 65, added: “Astrology offers self-understanding to people. People who oppose what I say are usually bullies who have never studied astrology.

“Astrology was until modern times part of the tradition of medicine … People such as Professor Brian Cox, who called astrology ‘rubbish’, have simply not studied the subject.

“The BBC is quite dismissive of astrology and seeks to promote the science perspective and seems always keen to broadcast criticisms of astrology.”

Good lord.

Lots of things were until modern times part of the tradition of medicine – because the science of medicine (like other science) is cumulative and progressive. That “until modern times” bit is important: it’s a signpost for the fact that research got done. Lucky us to live at a time when medicine can do better than astrology.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Mosul library

Feb 25th, 2015 10:53 am | By

It had been thought that ISIS burned 8000 manuscripts and documents from the Mosul library. Now, the Independent reports, there’s a corrected estimate.

AL RAI’s chief international correspondent Elijah J. Magnier told The Independent that a Mosul library official believes as many as 112, 709 manuscripts and books, some of which were registered on a UNESCO rarities list, are among those lost.

Mosul Public Library’s director Ghanim al-Ta’an said Isis militants then demolished the building using explosive devices.

“People tried to prevent the terrorist group elements from burning the library, but failed,” a local source told

Other reports indicated that Isis militants later broke into the library and constructed a huge pyre of scientific and cultural texts as university students watched in horror.

Among the documents believed lost are a collection of Iraqi newspapers from the beginning of the 20[th] century, maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period.

Because it’s the khalifa now, and all that pagan shit is haram.

A University of Mosul history professor told the Associated Press extremists began destroying the library – established in 1921 and symbolic of the birth of modern Iraq – earlier this month.

He claimed Isis members had inflicted particularly severe damage to the Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library.

Oh well, it’s just a chunk of human history and culture.

Allahu akbar.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Feb 25th, 2015 10:01 am | By

A public Facebook post by Valerie Tarico


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion

Feb 24th, 2015 6:10 pm | By

Uh oh – another celebrity star famous guy brought down by multiple accusations of rape.

This one’s a famous star yoga guy.

He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion. During trainings for hopeful yoga teachers, he paces a stage in a black Speedo and holds forth on life, sex and the transformative power of his brand of hot yoga.

Not to mention his black Speedo.

But a day of legal reckoning is drawing closer for the guru, Bikram Choudhury.

He is facing six civil lawsuits from women accusing him of rape or assault.The most recent was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian yogi, Jill Lawler, who said Mr. Choudhury raped her during a teacher-training in the spring of 2010.

The first complaint was filed two years ago. As more surfaced, and more women spoke publicly about accusations of assault and harassment, their accounts have created fissures in the close-knit world of yoga students and teachers who have spent thousands of dollars to study with Mr. Choudhury; opened studios bearing his name; and found strength, flexibility and health in his formula of 26 yoga postures in a sweltering room.

Deep rifts. Deep rapey rifts.

“A lot of people have blinders on,” said Sarah Baughn, 29, a onetime Bikram yoga devotee and international yoga competitor whose lawsuit against Mr. Choudhury in 2013 was like an earthquake among followers of his style of yoga. “This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”

A statement issued by lawyers for Mr. Choudhury and his yoga college, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said that “Mr. Choudhury did not sexually assault any of the plaintiffs” and that the women were “unjustly” exploiting the legal system for financial gain.

“Their claims are false and dishonor Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world,” the statement said.

Maybe it’s not the claims that do that.

An August trial date has been set in Ms. Baughn’s case. In her complaint, she said Mr. Choudhury pursued her starting with a teacher-training she attended in 2005, when she was 20. She said he had whispered sexual advances during classes, and had assaulted and groped her in a hotel room and at his home.

In the other case involving a 2010 teacher-training, Mr. Choudhury’s lawyers argued that the woman had waited too long to file the lawsuit, beyond the statute of limitations. But the judge denied parts of the lawyers’ argument, saying the woman, known in court papers as Jane Doe No. 2, had endured so much damage to her life and psyche that most of the suit could move ahead.

It’s probably her karma.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Geneva Summit 2

Feb 24th, 2015 5:35 pm | By

Also at the Geneva Summit today

[T]he 2015 summit’s “Women’s Rights Award” was given to Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, the creator of a Facebook page titled “My Stealthy Freedom,” which shows pictures of Iranian women without hijabs. The page now has nearly 770,000 Facebook likes.

Addressing summit attendees before the awards ceremony, Alinejad said she was forced to wear a headscarf from the time she started going to school, aged seven. She explained that, to her, a headscarf is not just a small issue and it is not “just a piece of cloth,” but a way of quietening her voice and the voices of other Iranian women.

“Every time when I was running or walking in a free country and feeling the wind through my hair it just reminds me that for 35 years I didn’t have this freedom,” the journalist told the assembled activists, adding that her “hair was like a hostage in the hands of the Iranian government.”

During her acceptance speech, Alinejad said that she had ruminated carefully about whether to travel to Switzerland to accept the prize. “For Iranian journalists or for Iranian civil rights activists it is normal to be scared,” she said, adding that being Iranian and talking about human rights “comes with accusations.” However, Alinejad said that she had eventually come to a simple realization: “Whether you speak out or not they’re going to label you.”

And here she is:



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The Geneva Summit

Feb 24th, 2015 5:25 pm | By

Today’s news from Geneva is that Raif Badawi was given the Geneva Summit’s “Courage Award.” Sally Hayden reports at VICE:

Badawi is the 2015 recipient of the Geneva Summit’s “Courage Award” — sponsored by a coalition of 20 human rights NGOs from around the world.

Dr. Elham Manea, a spokesperson for Badawi, told VICE News that Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, is “delighted” at the news of the award, and that his children “are thrilled that their father is being recognized and also honored with such a prize from such a human rights summit. It means a lot.”

Manea talked to VICE News while on the train to Geneva, where she accepted the award on Badawi’s behalf. Haidar is currently in Canada, where she emigrated with the couple’s children. Manea added, however, that the family understandably remains very concerned about Badawi’s health and safety.

Also, they miss him.

During her acceptance speech to the Geneva Summit on Tuesday afternoon, Manea thanked the assembled human rights activists, and said the prize was truly a symbol that we stand “united in our humanity.” She continued: “Why does the Saudi government deny freedoms of speech, religion, and political association to it citizens? As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, why does Saudi Arabia imprison a young man who committed no crime, who only created a blog calling for freedom? Why does it flog a young man with 50 lashes for expressing and opinion? And as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, why does the Saudi government impose a system of gender apartheid on its female citizens?”

In a subtitled video message, Haidar told the summit that she was “astounded” by the honor of the award. “This prize bears a clear message to the Saudi regime, namely that the continued incarceration of Raif is a shame on it,” she said.

Via Ensaf:

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Without fuss

Feb 24th, 2015 4:30 pm | By

They do these things better in Denmark. Jesus and Mo Author was impressed. He tweeted about it, twice.

AuthorJ&M @JandMo · 6h
So impressed with Danish press + TV. All J&M reviews + interviews incl images without fuss. Miles ahead of UK

Embedded image permalink

Go Denmark!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)