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.

Funny man with great expertise and huge following

Mar 27th, 2015 5:12 pm | By

There’s a list of people who defended Jeremy Clarkson because hey who doesn’t punch an underling in the face now and then?

David Cameron is one. His kids like the show. That’s the important thing.

Rupert Murdoch is one. On Twitter he shyly offered his support:

How stupid can BBC be in firing Jeremy Clarkson? Funny man with great expertise and huge following.

That’s the formula then? If you’re

  • a man
  • funny
  • expert
  • hugely popular

you’re allowed to punch people in the face at work? Well all right then. Rules are rules.

Snoop Dogg is one.

Snoop Dogg told the Sun earlier this week: “He isn’t part of Top Gear – he IS Top Gear.

“If they even think about firing him, Britain needs to boycott the BBC until he is reinstated.”

More than a million other people are that many more.

More than 1million people have signed political blogger Guido Fawkes’ petition calling on the BBC to reinstate Clarkson. Reasons for signing include “Jeremy is a bastion of light in a dark PC world” and “I hate the BBC lefties”.

Yeah. It’s such a lefty PC bullshit thing to say tv stars can’t punch their underlings. Where did all the balls go? Huh? Is everybody emasculated around here? Whither the cojones? Is it just pussies running everything now? Where’s my trigger warning? This may be politically incorrect but I say hit everybody in the face! Hitting people in the face is what made this country great! God bless you and God bless America.

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

Brendan O’Neill is broken-hearted over Clarkson

Mar 27th, 2015 4:35 pm | By

Yet again Brendan O’Neill says something more disgusting than I would have thought possible. Yet again!!

I’m gutted to hear that the BBC has given Clarkson the big heave-ho over his fracas with that producer who didn’t have his dinner ready on time.

Why? Because it’s further evidence of the Beeb’s self-emasculation, its sheepish, apologetic jettisoning of anything that might rile right-thinking viewers or make Hampstead-dwelling licence fee-payers choke on their Ovaltine.


Clarkson punched his underling in the face. He split his lip. He assaulted him. In what universe does that have anything to do with “right-thinking” or Hampstead? Since when is it “politically correct” to have rules that bosses aren’t allowed to punch their underlings? What the hell is this, Henry 8’s court after nine straight hours of boozing? How is it in any way “sheepish” for the BBC to fire Clarkson for punching an employee? Is the BBC supposed to allow its stars to punch employees? How is this decision the BBC “emasculating” itself? Is that what “masculine” means to Brendan O’Neill – top people being allowed to punch their subordinates in the face with impunity?

Notice also that he too calls it a “fracas.” What bullshit. Call it what it is, not something nicer because you approve of it.

With the elbowing aside of JC, we are witnessing not simply the sacking of an employee over a scuffle, but the willingness of a scandal-stung, crisis-ridden BBC to ditch anything that has the whiff of controversy and to bend its knee to the bland, larks-free worldview of the right-on.

“Controversy”? “Larks”? What is the matter with him? What will he write next – “Hooray for Bullying, Bullying is Fun”? And again, why is he making it about political correctness? Is it only liberals who think the workplace should not be a boxing ring?

In the oceans of ink that have been spilt over Clarksongate, or Punchgate, or whatever gate this is, the least convincing commentary has been that which tries to convince us this is just a workplace disciplinary matter.

Just as you or I would be sacked if we walloped a co-worker, especially someone below us in the pecking order, so Clarkson deserves the boot too, says his army of haters in the media and on Twitter.


Please, Telegraph, stop paying this loathsome man to write this shit.

And now, cravenly, like a hostage reading from a script written by his captors, the BBC has capitulated and got rid of one of the jewels in its crown, the man who made it millions of pounds and won it millions of viewers around the world.

What gobsmacking idiocy. The BBC had already, in recent years, offered up its cojones for a public kicking, becoming an increasingly wimpish, risk-dodging sorry excuse for a public broadcaster.

He forgot to say the BBC is pussy-whipped. What are you if you offer up your cojones? Pussy-whipped, definitely.

Well done, liberal elite. You’ve won. You’ve made the Beeb as bland as you are.

I won’t miss Clarkson on Top Gear, because I didn’t watch him on it. But millions and millions of people, here and abroad, will miss him. And all of us, Clarkson fans or not, should be worried that the BBC has finally been completely colonised by the dead, dogmatic, fun-free outlook of a minuscule, if hugely influential, section of British society.

It’s a bullies’ charter. He gets more loathsome every time I read him. Next week I suppose he’ll be giving advice on how to burn children with cigarettes when no one is looking.

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

Oh, so that’s who’s running Indiana

Mar 27th, 2015 3:55 pm | By

Via Reba Boyd Wooden of CFI-Indiana, the IndyStar shared a photo of the governor signing Indiana’s new RFRA.

Here’s a photo of Governor Mike Pence signing the controversial “religious freedom” bill this morning in a private ceremony in his Statehouse office, tweeted by official Twitter account.

We’re updating this story as fast as we’re learning more information:


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

Surrounded by a cheering crowd

Mar 27th, 2015 3:40 pm | By

Der Spiegel is running a letter from Raif Badawi tomorrow, the Guardian reports today.

Jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has written in his first letter from prison of how he “miraculously survived 50 lashes”, part of his sentence for “insulting Islam”, a German news weekly has said.

Badawi, 31, recalled that he was “surrounded by a cheering crowd who cried incessantly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest)” during the whipping, according to a pre-released article from Der Spiegel’s edition to be published on Saturday.

That’s so disgusting. The cheering is disgusting, the praise of the celestial bully is disgusting, the apparent belief that the celestial bully fully approves of the sadistic unmerited punishment is disgusting. It’s all disgusting.

It’s foul. “Our god hates you! We’re thrilled that you’re being whipped! We love each one of the fifty blows on your naked back! Yay! We love that one! And that one! And that one! God hates you, we hate you, we’re ecstatic that you’re being given pain and that we get to watch it! Hooray hooray hooray! God is lovely! And merciful!”

“All this cruel suffering happened to me because I expressed my opinion,” Badawi is quoted as writing in what Der Spiegel said was his first letter from prison since he was jailed in 2012.

“He’s in a poor condition,” his wife Ensaf Haidar was quoted as saying. “He suffers from high blood pressure but above all he is mentally very stressed.”

Saudi Arabia in early March dismissed criticism of its flogging of Badawi and “strongly denounced the media campaign around the case”.

Saudi Arabia is a rotten stinking carcass.

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

Saudi Arabia makes up with Sweden

Mar 27th, 2015 3:19 pm | By

Reuters reports:

Saudi Arabia has decided to send its envoy back to Sweden, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Friday, in a move that will ease a diplomatic row over the Arab country’s human rights record.

I hope that doesn’t mean Sweden has crawled or begged or, especially, withdrawn anything Margot Wallström said.

Saudi Arabia withdrew its envoy earlier this month over Swedish criticism of the monarchy’s treatment of women and dissidents.

In January, Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted criticism of Saudi Arabia’s flogging of human rights activist blogger Raif Badawi, calling it a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression”.

She has also criticized policies affecting women, who cannot drive cars and need permission from a male guardian for many decisions.

Riyadh then canceled a speech Wallstrom had been due to give to the League of Arab States, and Stockholm later ended a long-standing defense cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia.

Wallström said true things about Saudi Arabia. I hope she hasn’t been forced to take any of them back.


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

Dancing for Raif

Mar 27th, 2015 12:28 pm | By

At Place des Arts, Montréal.


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

No flogging for Raif today

Mar 27th, 2015 11:52 am | By

Amnesty International Deutschland:

From Eduard Nazarski, director of Amnesty International in the Netherlands:

 From Norway:

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

The scandal is that there isn’t a scandal

Mar 27th, 2015 11:12 am | By

Nick Cohen has a piece in the Spectator about Margot Wallström and Saudi Arabia. Hey guess what I just wrote a column for Free Inquiry about? That same subject! It’s a good subject. The more people who write and do cartoons about it the better. That’s part of what Nick says – the subject is being neglected.

The backlash followed the pattern set by Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and Hebdo. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador and stopped issuing visas to Swedish businessmen. The United Arab Emirates joined it. The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Muslim-majority states, accused Sweden of failing to respect the world’s ‘rich and varied ethical standards’ — standards so rich and varied, apparently, they include the flogging of bloggers and encouragement of paedophiles. Meanwhile, the Gulf Co-operation Council condemned her ‘unaccept-able interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, and I wouldn’t bet against anti-Swedish riots following soon.

Yet there is no ‘Wallström affair’.

Outside Sweden, the western media has barely covered the story, and Sweden’s EU allies have shown no inclination whatsoever to support her. A small Scandinavian nation faces sanctions, accusations of Islamophobia and maybe worse to come, and everyone stays silent. As so often, the scandal is that there isn’t a scandal.

The Western media did cover it a little – that’s how I heard of it. But it should be a bigger story, yes.

Sweden is the world’s 12th largest arms exporter — quite an achievement for a country of just nine million people. Its exports to Saudi Arabia total $1.3 billion. Business leaders and civil servants are also aware that other Muslim-majority countries may follow Saudi Arabia’s lead. During the ‘cartoon crisis’ — a phrase I still can’t write without snorting with incredulity — Danish companies faced global attacks and the French supermarket chain Carrefour took Danish goods off the shelves to appease Muslim customers. A co-ordinated campaign by Muslim nations against Sweden is not a fanciful notion. There is talk that Sweden may lose its chance to gain a seat on the UN Security Council in 2017 because of Wallström.

To put it as mildly as I can, the Swedish establishment has gone wild. Thirty chief executives signed a letter saying that breaking the arms trade agreement ‘would jeopardise Sweden’s reputation as a trade and co-operation partner’. No less a figure than His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf himself hauled Wallström in at the weekend to tell her that he wanted a compromise. Saudi Arabia has successfully turned criticism of its brutal version of Islam into an attack on all Muslims, regardless of whether they are Wahhabis or not, and Wallström and her colleagues are clearly unnerved by accusations of Islamophobia. The signs are that she will fold under the pressure, particularly when the rest of liberal Europe shows no interest in supporting her.

I will be so livid if that happens. Prepare to make a big stink.

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

Not a freestanding choice

Mar 27th, 2015 10:33 am | By

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown notes and laments a retreat from progressive values among Muslims.

The hijab, jilbab, burqa and niqab are visible signs of this retreat from progressive values.

This article will divide people. Women I respect and like wear hijabs and jilbabs to articulate their faith and identity. Others do so to follow their dreams, to go into higher education or jobs. And an increasing number are making a political statement. I am not assuming that the coverings all represent simple oppression. What I am saying is that many women who take up the veil, in any of its forms, do so without delving fully into its implications, significance or history. Their choice, even if independently made, may not be fully examined.

The claim that it’s a “choice” and that that fact preempts everything else that could be said about it is very peculiar given the existence of so many places where it’s not only not a choice, it’s enforced with violence, including lethal violence.

Huda Shaarawi set up the Egyptian women’s union in the early 1920s. One day in 1923, as she disembarked from a train in Cairo, she threw off her veil and claimed her right to be visible. Educated Iranian women started feminist magazines and campaigned against the veil around the same time. These pioneers have been written out of history or are dismissed as western stooges by some contemporary Muslim intellectuals.

After the transformative 60s, Muslim feminists resumed the fight for equality. European rule was over. It was time. The Moroccan academic Fatema Mernissi, Egypt’s Nawal El Saadawi and the Pakistani scholar Riffat Hassan all argued for female emancipation. They rightly saw the veil as a a tool and symbol of oppression and subservience. Mernissi’s Beyond the Veil ( 1975) is a classic text. So too El Saadawi’s The Hidden Face of Eve (1975).

Mona Eltahawy’s Headscarves and Hymens can now be added to that list.

But do those who choose to veil think of women in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and even the west, who are prosecuted, flogged, tortured or killed for not complying? This is not a freestanding choice – it can’t be. Although we hear from vocal British hijabis and niqabis, those who are forced cannot speak out. A fully burqaed woman once turned up at my house, a graduate, covered in cuts, burns, bruises and bites. Do we know how many wounded, veiled women walk around hidden among us?

The burqa has many uses.


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

Hand them over, Chuck

Mar 26th, 2015 5:46 pm | By

Wo! Here’s one bit of good news amid all the horrors and fatuities – Priss Choss can’t keep his bullying letters to government ministers a secret after all.

The UK supreme court has cleared the way for the publication of secret letters written by Prince Charles to British government ministers, declaring that an attempt by the state to keep them concealed was unlawful.

The verdict – the culmination of a 10-year legal fight by the Guardian – is a significant blow for the government, which has been battling to protect the Prince of Wales from scrutiny over his “particularly frank” interventions on public policy.

In 2012, Dominic Grieve, then attorney general, said the correspondence contained the prince’s “most deeply held personal views and beliefs” and disclosure might undermine his “position of political neutrality”, which he might not easily be able to recover when king.

Interesting argument, isn’t it – the priss has been the opposite of politically neutral, so that has to be kept secret, so that people will think he’s politically neutral, even though he isn’t.

The 27 letters were sent between Charles and ministers in seven government departments in 2004 and 2005. Five of the seven judges in the supreme court ruled in favour of the Guardian’s case to see the letters. The verdict was delivered on Thursday by Lord Neuberger, the president of the court.

The judges concluded that Grieve did not have the legal power to veto a freedom of information tribunal, which had decided the memos should be published.

Cameron doesn’t see it the way I do. His government might redact parts of the letters. He thinks the royals should be meddling with government, because after all, they are the royals.

Cameron said: “This is a disappointing judgment and we will now consider how to release these letters. This is about the principle that senior members of the royal family are able to express their views to government confidentially. I think most people would agree this is fair enough.”

Not a bit of it. What’s fair about it? What’s “fair” about inheriting a right to whisper in the government’s ear?

In 2012, the tribunal ruled that the correspondence between the prince and ministers in Tony Blair’s government should be made public. The tribunal said it was in the public interest “for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government”.

Grieve overruled the tribunal, arguing that publication of the letters between September 2004 and April 2005 would seriously damage the Prince of Wales’s kingship.

All the more reason to make them public, you fucking fool. “Oh no, you mustn’t see the letters, because if you did, you wouldn’t want him as king at any price.” “Oh well then, you’re right, keep them hidden.” Yeah that’s not how this works.

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

More from the war on cartoonists

Mar 26th, 2015 5:10 pm | By

Speaking of cartoons, and cartoonists…two cartoonists in Turkey have been sentenced to 11 months in prison for a cartoon about Erdoğan.

A senior Council of Europe (CoE) official has expressed concern over an increase in the number of criminal cases for alleged insults against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemning the recent sentencing of two Turkish cartoonists, Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan.

“I am very concerned about reports from Turkey indicating that there is an increase in the number of criminal cases for alleged insults against the president of the Turkish Republic. In this connection, I condemn the recent sentencing of cartoonists Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan,” CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks said in a written statement March 26.

If anyone is supposed to be wide open to satire and mockery, it’s people who have real power over others, like oh say heads of state for example.

“This sentence is misguided and, along with a pattern of criminal prosecutions, sends a chilling message to media professionals and all those who want to exercise their right to free expression. I urge the authorities to decriminalize defamation, including by repealing the offence of insulting the president of the Republic, in order to restore a more serene climate in which freedom of expression can be safely exercised.”

Baruter and Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen, were sentenced to 11 months in prison over a satirical piece on free speech, in which they were convicted of including a hidden gesture which was said to “insult” Erdoğan. In the cartoon, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam, to mark his inauguration.

A popular satirical weekly, eh? Why does that sound familiar…



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

One of 7 million copies

Mar 26th, 2015 5:00 pm | By

Here is Chris Moos in the very act of showing “brandishing” the cover of the January 14 Charlie Hebdo.

Embedded image permalink

Via Chris on Twitter

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

In all fairness

Mar 26th, 2015 1:51 pm | By

George Zimmerman, the guy who shot Trayvon Martin to death, says he’s a great guy but Obama’s a baddy. Or something.

Zimmerman lashed out in a 13-minute video posted online Monday by his lawyer. He said with the Justice Department investigation behind him, he finally felt he could speak out “without fear of retaliation” by the president.

Dude. You’re the one who followed Trayvon Martin for no reason, not Obama.

In the video, Zimmerman compared his ideals to those of Anne Frank, saying, “I still believe that people are truly good at heart, as Anne Frank has said, and I will put myself in any position to help another human in any way I can.”

So he’s saying that Trayvon Martin wasn’t another human? Because he can’t think he put himself in a position to help Trayvon Martin, now can he.

At any rate, he’s cool with it. He’s glad he “survived” and he doesn’t feel guilty that Trayvon didn’t, that is, that Trayvon died of being shot by him.

He said he would only feel guilty for Martin’s death if he thought he could have saved both Martin’s life and his own that night.

“Only in a true life or death scenario can you have mental clearness to know that you cannot feel guilty for surviving,” he said. “Had I had a fraction of the thought that I could have done something differently, acted differently so that both of us who survived, then I would have heavier weight on my shoulders. That sense in the back of my mind but in all fairness you cannot as a human feel guilty for living, for surviving.”

You can if you’ve killed someone for no reason. Sure you can.

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

Join us or else

Mar 26th, 2015 1:32 pm | By

A blog post from Feminist Freethinkers of New York.

Today I was approached by a highly placed individual in one of the ever-mounting number of secular coalitions. He wished for Reasonable New York and specifically Feminist Freethinkers to join their coalition.

RNY has chosen not to join any national coalitions as we are simply a local group whose main mission is to help promote the local member organizations.

I thought perhaps Feminist Freethinkers might benefit from such a relationship. But I did my research and realized that it was not a good fit for us. I tried to explain this to him and all hell broke loose.

First he insulted FFNY exclaiming that we didn’t really “do anything”. Then he went on to defend his organization ending with this choice line:

“I’m starting to believe that the reason the secular movement doesn’t have more women is the women. Prove me wrong.”

Golly – a highly placed individual in one of the ever-mounting number of secular coalitions turns out to be one of the people who spend all their time verbally attacking (feminist) women? You’d think they would have better filters than that.

I replied: “If you thought this approach would work you are dead wrong. It is offensive and ignorant. And it will be shared I can assure you.” To which he sent me an “Ethical fuck you.”

He spoke frequently of the “rage” and infighting within the movement and was clueless how he was contributing to it!

Good grief. Way to coalition-build.


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

Revealed at debate on campus shock-horror

Mar 26th, 2015 12:32 pm | By

More pusillanimous bullshit from university students shocked at the existence of cartoons that mention Mohammed. It’s the University of Manchester this time, which is extra annoying on so many levels…

First the headline

Charlie Hebdo cover revealed at debate on campus

Omigod you don’t mean it?!! The cover of a satirical weekly newspaper “revealed” at a debate on campus??!? Oh my god everyone run for cover, climb the trees, launch the lifeboats, pass the brandy – whatever shall we do?????

The subhead:

In a debate over free speech on campus, the controversial front cover of the memorial edition of Charlie Hebdo, depicting the prophet Muhammad, was revealed unannounced

Oh oh oh oh. The anguish, the terror, the sharp pain in the temples. There we were, having a safe warm cuddly happy debate about free speech on campus, and then somebody “revealed” something unannounced!

Then the photo, via the Free Speech and Secular Society:

Is free speech really dead at Manchester? Photo: Free Speech and Secular Society UoM

Oh look, you can’t see the terrifying cover. What a relief!

The special edition of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo which depicts the prophet Muhammad on the cover was put on display during a debate organized by the Free Speech and Secular Society (FSS) in the Zochonis Building on Wednesday 18th March.

Students’ Union Executive members participated in the event but were unable to stop a guest speaker from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) from showing the paper to the public. In February, the Students’ Union had forbade the public display of that particular edition of Charlie Hebdo inside the Union building.

Oh had it? Why? Why did the Students’ Union do that? Why did the Students’ Union of the University of Manchester forbid the public display of that particular edition of Charlie Hebdo inside the Union building? The cover with the image of “Mohammed” weeping and holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, under the headline “Tout est pardonné”? Why did they forbid that instead of welcoming it? What is the matter with them?

Notice also that they apparently would have stopped the guest speaker if they could have, the way that news program stopped Caroline Fourest days after the slaughter.

Chris Moos, who founded the Atheists society at the LSE, brandished the newspaper with the controversial depiction of the prophet on the cover during the event last Wednesday. He then said: “This is Charlie Hebdo. This is the cover that was covered up. Let’s just think about that. What on earth is offensive in this image? I really would like to know. Can anyone give me a good answer?”

It’s a good question. I would like to know too.

Notice the censoriousness of “brandished.”

Tension built up in the main lecture room of the Zochonis Building as panelists and members of the public alike joined a debate that was running smoothly and quietly until then.

Yeah, that pesky guy from LSE ended all that smoothness and quietude by introducing something that actually matters. How dare he.

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper which is known for being a secular publication featuring cartoons, reports and jokes which deal with a broad range of topics. The newspaper’s offices were the target of a terrorist attack led by Muslim extremists in January 2015 which led to the death of 12 people.

That’s a very periphrastic way of putting it. Two Islamist men forced their way into the Charlie Hebdo offices and shot 12 people to death. That’s what happened.

As was reported by The Mancunion in February, the Students’ Union censored the exhibition of Charlie Hebdo to students at the Refreshers’ Fair, after the Free Speech and Secular Society informed the Union that it was going to have a copy of the paper on its stand for students who wished to see this historical edition. The Union said that the image could be made available to those who asked for it, though the open presence of the publication would be banned. The occurrence at the debate last Wednesday defied the embargo.

The ban is disgusting. The embargo is disgusting.


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

Allons enfants

Mar 26th, 2015 10:14 am | By

Weston High School in Montreal has its own branch of Amnesty International. It posted some photos a couple of days ago.

Kids today, eh?

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

Anti-slavery activists in prison

Mar 25th, 2015 6:05 pm | By

Another thing we can sign.

Biram Dah Abeid, Brahim Bilal, Djiby Sow have been sentenced to two years in prison. Lawyers are appealing the conviction and a  number of other anti-slavery activists have been released. We are working with the IRA Mauritanie to develop the next steps for they campaign the meantime please continue to SIGN and SHARE the petition calling for Biram and the IRA Mauritanie activists’ release.

Biram Dah Abeid is a leading anti-slavery activist in Mauritania, the country with the highest prevalence of slavery in the world1. The organisation he founded, the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement2 has fought for the freedom of countless men, women and children.

Mauritania fully outlawed slavery in 2007 but has systematically failed to end it in practice. It has fallen to activists like Biram to fight for people’s’ freedom and they face regular harassment and harsh treatment in their campaigning.

As you read this Biram and his fellow activists are sitting in a prison cell for their work to end slavery in Mauritania — and we need your help to secure justice. A huge wave of international pressure now could force the Mauritanian government to prioritize ending slavery and stop the harassment of anti-slavery activists.

Please call on the Mauritanian government to free Biram Dah Abeid and his fellow anti-slavery activists.


  2. and

H/t Kausik

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

You’re wearing that?

Mar 25th, 2015 11:13 am | By

Helen Lewis has been following the NUS Women’s conference, including the brouhaha about the jazz hands item. She has some questions about some of the votes.

The conference also voted to renew the no-platform on radical feminist Julie Bindel, for (among other things) reiterating her belief that “bisexuality doesn’t exist as a sexual identity, thus erasing bisexual individuals’ identities and experiences” and having “criticised women who wear the niqab in her article for the Daily Mail . . . [by] refusing to believe that Muslim women have made their own decision to wear the niqab she denies Muslim women agency”.

Oh really? What about Muslim women who criticize women who wear the niqab? Are they too denying Muslim women agency? Or are they just disagreeing with what said women do with their agency? I’ve just written a review of Mona Eltahawy’s new book for Free Inquiry; she’s very critical of the niqab and even critical of wearing hijab, even though she wore one herself for nine years. She’s also critical of simplistic non-arguments that it’s a “choice.” I wonder if the NUS Women will no-platform Mona.

If “the NUS Women’s’ Officers and members of the NUS Women’s committee shall not offer a platform to any transphobic speaker, biphobic or Islamophobic speaker”, who decides what qualifies as Islamophobia? It’s true that criticism of Islam can function as a cover for racism, but equally, religious beliefs and practices must not be accepted unquestioningly in a free, secular society. Only this week, Maryam Namazie – who was raised in a Muslim family but is now an atheist and secularist – pulled out of a talk at an Irish university after it was suggested that a discussion on apostasy would “upset” Muslim students.


There were many eminently sensible motions debated, including ones on childcare provision, support for rape survivors and better access to affordable housing. But it was this motion which really caught my eye:

This is an astonishingly conservative motion to be passed by a society which is otherwise so much at pains to stress the variety and fluidity of gender – for example, the conference has also resolved to “refrain from the use of ‘sisters’ and any other binary terms throughout the campaign”.

It is indeed. It’s as if they take manufactured rules about who gets to wear what to be not manufactured at all but biological. I wear jeans – black ones when I’m being “professional” – and I don’t consider that to be cross-dressing.

Cross-dressing is always an exploration of queer identity – because it makes obvious the fact that gender is a performance. The motion suggests that as long as the cross-dressing is not done for “shock value”, it is OK. But the whole point of cross-dressing is shock value. It is jarring to see categories we assume to be stable so obviously undermined and that makes it attractive to experimental, iconoclastic people. It’s why performing artists from kd lang to Conchita Wurst have made gender non-conformity part of their artistic expression.

When I was at university, we had cross-dressing nights of the type now deemed repressive by the NUS. The atmosphere always seemed (at least to me), very queer-friendly; because even the manliest men were being shown quite how much of their gender role was a performance. I’m not claiming that it magically cured homophobia, but it did suggest that people were open to the idea that the unspoken gender conformity of “real life” was, objectively, really weird. If you can accept that there’s no real reason women wear skirts and men wear ties, that gets you closer to acknowledging there’s no real reason that women are expected to be carers and men are expected to be cabinet ministers.

There is one reason women are expected to wear skirts, and that’s ease of access. Remember that whole thing about taking upskirt photos on buses? And how it turned out that’s not illegal? Yeah. That’s why skirts. Do NUS Women really want to codify that? I can’t see why.

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

The very young ones they give to madrassas

Mar 25th, 2015 10:15 am | By

More hideous news from the Boko Haram front.

About 500 children aged 11 and under are missing from a Nigerian town recaptured from militants, a former resident of Damasak has told the BBC.

A trader in the north-eastern town told Reuters news agency that Boko Haram fighters took the children with them when they fled.

Five hundred.

The senator representing the north of Borno state, Maina Maaji Lawan, told the BBC’s Nigeria correspondent, Will Ross, that the case in Damasak was typical and many hundreds of children were missing.

He said: “The very young ones they give to madrassas [Islamic schools]… and male ones between 16 and 25, they conscript them and they indoctrinate them as supply channels for their horrible missions.”

Boko Haram caused international outrage in April 2014 after it abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok town in north-eastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

The group’s leader Abubakar Shekau has said the girls have been married off.

That’s another euphemism, like “fracas.” The girls have been enslaved. They’re not “married,” they’re enslaved. They’re not wives, they’re slaves. Kidnapping is not marriage.

Damasak businessman Malam Ali, whose brother is among those missing, told the BBC Hausa Service that young boys had been put in a madrassa by Boko Haram when they took over the town.

Following the recapture of the town, those boys had not been accounted for, he said.

Our correspondent says the conflict has torn many families apart.

So that’s life in Damasak right now.

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

The abuse contained the strongest expletives

Mar 25th, 2015 9:57 am | By

The BBC has finally sacked Jeremy Clarkson, and it tells us (up to a point) what the “fracas” was. (Note, by the way, the self-serving word. People do love to do that – use the passive voice with no agent [“what happened” “what was said”] and mild words in place of accurate ones. “Fracas” – it sounds like 18th century gents quarreling over ale in Sam Johnson’s sitting room. “Fracas” is cozy for “that time I punched and shouted at and threatened someone.” The word is “assault” at the very least.) (I’m well aware that millions of people must have already said all that. I wanted to say it anyway.)

In a statement from BBC Director General Tony Hall we’ve learned exactly what took place on that night in a North Yorkshire hotel.

A report has been published with blow-by-blow details of what happened in the now infamous “fracas” between Mr Clarkson and one [of] his producers, Oisin Tymon.

This is one time (and not the only time) when the famous BBC scare quotes are well chosen.

The scene is the patio of a hotel in North Yorkshire on the evening of a long day of shooting and travel.

  • The physical attack lasted around 30 seconds and was only halted by the intervention of a witness.
  • Mr Tymon did not retaliate.
  • The verbal abuse was directed at Mr Tymon more than once – both during the attack and subsequently inside the hotel.
  • The abuse contained the strongest expletives and threats to sack him.
  • The abuse was at such volume it could be heard in the dining room and the shouting was audible in a hotel bedroom.

The “strongest epithets” – well there’s only one really. It’s that one that we’re always told is in no way denigrating of women, because it’s what men call other men. Clarkson repeatedly called Tymon a cunt.

I suspect that Jeremy Clarkson isn’t a very nice man.

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