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.


Being “schooled”

Oct 5th, 2014 12:13 pm | By

A great guest post on Hemant’s blog by Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider on how and why Reza Aslan is wrong about Islam.

A video clip of Aslan responding to Bill Maher’s comments on Islam went viral last week.

Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and the Huffington Post.

Although we have become accustomed to the agenda-driven narrative from Aslan, we were blown away by how his undeniably appealing but patently misleading arguments were cheered on by many, with the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple going so far as to advise show producers not to put a show-host against Aslan “unless your people are schooled in religion, politics and geopolitics of the Muslim world.”

Only those who themselves aren’t very “schooled” in Islam and Muslim affairs would imply that Aslan does anything but misinform by cherry-picking and distorting facts.

Muhammad and Sarah correct Aslan point by point.

Aslan contends that while some Muslim countries have problems with violence and women’s rights, in others like “Indonesia, women are absolutely 100 percent equal to men” and it is therefore incorrect to imply that such issues are a problem with Islam and “facile” to imply that women are “somehow mistreated in the Muslim world.”

Let us be clear here: No one in their right mind would claim that Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh are a “free and open society for women.” Happily, a few of them have enshrined laws that have done much to bring about some progress in equality between the sexes. But this progress is hindered or even eroded by the creeping strength of the notoriously anti-woman Sharia courts.

For example:

  • Indonesia has increasingly become more conservative. (Notoriously anti-women) Sharia courts that were “optional” have risen to equal status with regular courts in family matters. The conservative Aceh province even legislates criminal matters via Sharia courts, which has been said to violate fundamental human rights.

There’s much more, all informative. I gotta go. More later.

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



Making a stand

Oct 5th, 2014 11:22 am | By

Sara Khan wants an Islam that is about mercy and compassion rather than an Islam that is about murdering people who have mercy and compassion, such as Alan Henning. Sara is heartbroken about the murder of Alan Henning.

It is well documented that it was the plight of young Syrian children that moved him to take that dangerous journey back to the country. As his family, friends, colleagues and local community testify, he was a man of integrity and of humanity and yet, tragically, it was these virtues that led to his death. I cannot find the will or the heart to take part in Eid festivities as I know those same friends, and indeed the nation, will be mourning the gentle, spirited cabbie from Salford.

If you were to sit with Isis, what common language would you bring to the table to try and come to some resolution, when it is difficult to find a starting point? I have seen grown men, Muslim scholars and ordinary Muslim women cry at the news of Alan’s death. But their tears are also shed because they know that not even ultra-conservative preachers in the UK can influence the group. Isis appears only to follow one law, that of death and destruction, and our challenge is understanding how best to deal with this ever existential threat to humanity.

How do you talk people out of joining Isis and other groups that are only a little less terrible?

This is why, last week, we launched #makingastand. The campaign encourages women to take the lead in exerting influence in their communities and to root out extremists who are preying on their children. But it is also designed to provide an alternative narrative for young British Muslims: to pledge their allegiance to their country, to respect human rights and to be a peaceful, thoughtful member of British society.

And of global society – not the ummah, but the community of all human beings. Respecting human rights requires understanding that local loyalties must not be allowed to trump universal human rights.

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



Our beliefs shift slightly from moment to moment

Oct 5th, 2014 9:12 am | By

Dan Linford started a Facebook discussion with this reminder, which he gave me permission to quote:

Here is your daily reminder that the following two statements are not consistent with each other and that I can imagine no reason for holding both to be true other than prejudice:

1. Religions are more about their official doctrines or statements in their holy books than what the adherents actually believe;

2. The reason religion is worth criticizing is the danger posed by its adherents in virtue of their belief in holy books.

The first statement is not just inconsistent with the second, it also doesn’t make much sense on its own. Religions are about both – official doctrines and what adherents believe – as well as other things – rituals, practices, communalism, the sacred, tradition, the ancestors. meaning, mattering – many things. Also, [what the adherents actually believe] isn’t really an item, because who knows what “they” believe, because it will vary between people and also within people – our beliefs shift slightly from moment to moment, so it’s hopeless trying to treat [what the adherents actually believe] as a specifiable thing.

But the second one, if reworded a little, is actually something I think. I commented to say so:

It’s not that I think or say that everyone believes what’s in the holy books. It’s that I think what’s in the holy books is in them, and that it represents a standing threat and danger, and that therefore it’s worth trying to pull or coax more & more people away from thinking of them as holy books, to reduce the danger they represent.

I agree with Dan that it’s silly to assume or say that all believers of X religion believe everything in the holy book of X. But it’s at least equally silly to assume that no believers of X religion believe anything in the holy book of X. It is pretty fair to think that some believers do take at least some parts of their holy books very seriously indeed – witness that guy I blogged about a few days ago, who plans to prevent his daughter from getting an education because Titus 2.

I gotta say, I hate holy books. I wish they didn’t exist. I wish they were an idea that had never occurred to anyone. I don’t hate special books, treasured books, admired books, but I think holy books are one of humanity’s worst ideas.

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



They address each other as Haval

Oct 4th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

Houzan Mahmoud linked to an article about the 7,500 Kurdish women who fight ISIS in Syria.

“We have to be free from the Syrian government,” says YPJ member, Evin Ahmed, 26, (pictured above). She continues, “We need to control the area ourselves without depending on them. They can’t protect us from [ISIS], we have to protect us [and] we defend everyone…no matter what race or religion they are.”

Ahmed, like many of the YPJ, is fiercely loyal to her fellow-soldiers. She insists, “I love being a YPJ soldier, I love the other soldiers, we are closer than sisters. This is the only life for me. I can’t imagine living any other way.”

This sentiment, says Trieb, is echoed by all members of the YPJ, who live by a code of honesty, morals, and justice. “Their motto is ‘Haval’ or ‘friendship’,” explains Trieb, “and is of utmost importance to them. They treat each other (and treated me) with a sense of solidarity and sisterhood. They address each other as Haval, and when they spoke to me, they would call me ‘Haval Erin’. It enforces a constant sense of belonging and support.”

Like “comrade.”

Several of the women, like General Zelal, 33, (pictured below) one of the leaders of YPJ, expanded upon the idea of the independence the group brings women of the region: “I don’t want to get married or have children or be in the house all day. I want to be free.  If I couldn’t be a YPJ I think my spirit would die. Being a YPJ soldier means being free—this is what it means to truly be free.”

“There is a sense among the women,” says Trieb, “that the YPJ is in itself a feminist movement, even if it is not their main mission. They want ‘equality’ between women and men, and a part of why they joined was to develop and advance the perceptions about women in their culture—they can be strong and be leaders.”

It would be nice if it didn’t take life and death emergencies to make that possible though…

Sa-el Morad, 20, (pictured below), shared with Trieb that she enlisted in order to prove that, “we can do all the same things that men can do; that women can do everything; that there’s nothing impossible for us. When I was at home,” she recalled, “all the men just thought that the women are just cleaning the house and not going outside. But when I joined the YPJ everything changed. I showed all of them that I can hold a weapon, that I can fight in the clashes, that I can do everything that they thought was impossible for women. Now, the men back home changed their opinions about me and other women. Now they see that we are their equals, and that we have the same abilities, maybe sometimes more than them. They understand we are strong and that we can do everything they can.”

According to Trieb, the women are indeed seen as just as strong, disciplined, and committed as their male counterparts. They endure many months and levels of rigorous training in weaponry and tactical maneuvers before they are even allowed to fight. They are also wholly celebrated by their community, which Trieb notes is unexpected in a part of the world where women are often seen as inferior to men.

To some in the region, they are seen as potentially more of a threat to ISIS than male soldiers. As Trieb recalls, “The saying among many Syrian Kurds is that ISIS is more terrified of being killed by women because if they are, they will not go to heaven.”

Let’s hope they all go that way then.

Read the whole article, and see the stunning photos of the soldiers.

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



So deeply ingrained that you hardly notice it is there at all

Oct 4th, 2014 5:00 pm | By

Terry Pratchett gave a talk in 1985 titled Why Gandalf Never Married.

(Well first of all because Tolkienland is almost entirely male. Tolkien clearly didn’t want no stinkin’ women cluttering up his myth. Women are downers; everybody hates them.)

While I was plundering the fantasy world for the next cliche to pull a few laughs from, I found one which was so deeply ingrained that you hardly notice it is there at all. In fact it struck me so vividly that I actually began to look at it seriously.

That’s the generally very clear division between magic done by women and magic done by men.

*waves from the back row*

I notice it. I notice things like that. Feminists do notice things like that. It’s why everybody hates us, even more than everybody hates women. We notice things like that, and what things like that imply about what everyone thinks about women. And then we get very pissed off and worried about the future for girls, and we talk about it a lot, and everybody hates us even more.

Let’s talk about wizards and witches. There is a tendency to talk of them in one breath, as though they were simply different sexual labels for the same job. It isn’t true. In the fantasy world there is no such thing as a male witch. Warlocks, I hear you cry, but it’s true. Oh, I’ll accept you can postulate them for a particular story, but I’m talking here about the general tendency. There certainly isn’t such a thing as a female wizard.

Sorceress? Just a better class of witch. Enchantress? Just a witch with good legs. The fantasy world. in fact, is overdue for a visit from the Equal Opportunities people because, in the fantasy world, magic done by women is usually of poor quality, third-rate, negative stuff, while the wizards are usually cerebral, clever, powerful, and wise.

Well yes. Welcome to the wonderful world of Being Aware of Cultural Stereotypes Everywhere.

Of course magic done by women is usually of poor quality, third-rate, negative stuff, because that’s how women are in the stereotypes. That’s why we fight them. Because they self-perpetuate, and they lead to all sorts of shitty consequences.

Now you can take the view that of course this is the case, because if there is a dirty end of the stick then women will get it. Anything done by women is automatically downgraded. This is the view widely held — well, widely held by my wife every since she started going to consciousness-raising group meetings — who tells me it’s ridiculous to speculate on the topic because the answer is so obvious. Magic, according to this theory, is something that only men can be really good at, and therefore any attempt by women to trespass on the sacred turf must be rigorously stamped out. Women are regarded by men as the second sex, and their magic is therefore automatically inferior. There’s also a lot of stuff about man’s natural fear of a woman with power; witches were poor women seeking one of the few routes to power open to them, and men fought back with torture, fire and ridicule.

I’d like to know that this is all it really is. But the fact is that the consensus fantasy universe has picked up the idea and maintains it. I incline to a different view, if only to keep the argument going, that the whole thing is a lot more metaphorical than that. The sex of the magic practitioner doesn’t really enter into it. The classical wizard, I suggest, represents the ideal of magic — everything that we hope we would be, if we had the power. The classical witch, on the other hand, with her often malevolent interest in the small beer of human affairs, is everything we fear only too well that we would in fact become.

Yes…That’s the same thing. That’s not a different thing, it’s the same thing. The classical wizard represents the ideal, and the ideal is of course male. That’s the same thing. Always, without even thinking about it, thinking the ideal, the standard, the generic, the typical, the best, the most usual, the classic, the normal, is male, while the female is always the exception, the weird, the not as good – that’s the same thing. It’s the entrenched stereotype, that we’re all stuck with (unless we grew up in a very unusual and very isolated bubble), that males are general and right while women are defective.

 

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



Terrible social energies

Oct 4th, 2014 12:11 pm | By

Another uh oh atheism has a dudebro problem article, this time from Amanda Marcotte.

She points out that you would think atheism would be a natural for women, given the way religions view women. (Spoiler: as inferior, and not fully human.) She points out that feminism has had a long tradition of outspoken atheists and religious skeptics.

Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton preferred “rational ideas based on scientific facts” to “religious superstition.”  Major feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir argued that belief in God exists in part to “repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.” Modern feminist writer Katha Pollitt received the “Emperor Has No Clothes” award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2001, where she said that religion is dangerous because “it connects with very terrible social energies that have lain in civilization for a very long time.”

And yet…New Atheism has turned out to be not all that welcoming to women, and as for feminist women…

Many of the most prominent leaders of the New Atheism are quick to express deeply sexist ideas. Despite their supposed love of science and rationality, many of them are nearly as quick as their religious counterparts to abandon reason in order to justify regressive views about women.

Sam Harris, a prominent atheist author who has previously  been criticized for his knee-jerk Islamophobic tendencies, recently came under fire when he added women to the category of people he makes thoughtless generalizations about. Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein interviewed Harris, and during the interview she asked him why most atheists are male. “There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women.” He added, “The atheist variable just has this— it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

There was an immediate uproar among female atheists, and understandably so, as Harris didn’t even consider that it could be atheism that has a problem, instead immediately assuming that the problem is women themselves. His reaction to the criticism, which was immediate and probably a bit overwhelming was not, however, a demonstration of the tough “critical posture” he characterized as “instrinsically male.”  Harris replied to his criticswith a hyper-defensive and tediously long blog post titled, “I’m Not The Sexist Pig You’re Looking For.” His strategy for disproving accusations of sexism was to engage in more sexist declarations, in the time-honored bigot strategy of saying it’s not bigotry if it’s true.

And we criticized that article too, and he responded with even more waspish hostility, and that’s just how the atheist “community” is these days – domineering men and the women who attempt to get a word in edgewise.

Needless to say, for women who reject religion because it so frequently portrays women as mentally inferior helpmeets who exist to serve men’s needs, Sam Harris is not offering any hope that atheism will give them a meaningful alternative.

It would be nice to dismiss Harris as an outlier, but sadly, pompous sexism followed up by defensive posturing is the order of the day for the dominant male leadership of the loosely organized world of atheism. In a lengthy investigative piece for Buzzfeed, Mark Oppenheimer demonstrated that the problem extends beyond sexist condescension. Instead, the bros-before-hos attitude of much of atheist leadership is quite likely serving to protect actual sexual predators.

With Dawkins and Nugent overtly telling us to stop talking about it, and others doing so less directly, yes, it quite likely is.

The reaction to Oppenheimer’s story was swift and did much to support the claim that the atheist community protects sexual predators, much like the Catholic Church did during the priest pedophilia scandal. Richard Dawkins, possibly the most famous atheist in the world, immediately went on a tear on Twitter, blaming victims for their own rapes if they were drinking. “Officer, it’s not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk,” he tweeted, comparing being forced to have sex with the choice to drive drunk.

When called out on it,  he doubled down by suggesting that rape victims are the real predators, out to get men put in jail: “If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don’t get drunk.”

That’s our “community.”

Dawkins has spent the past few years using Twitter as a platform to rail against feminists for daring to speak up about sexual harassment and abuse. He not only rushed to Shermer’s defense regarding allegations of sexual assault, but rushed to Harris’ defense regarding allegations of sexism, even though Harris’ sexism is so off the charts it becomes downright comical. Dawkins used to cling to the idea that he was an outspoken critic against the oppression of women, but lately he’s more occupied with praising professional anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.

There are many excellent feminist speakers and writers in the atheist movement, men and women who bring the same critical eye to sexism that they apply to religion. Most of them, however, are mostly known only within atheist circles. People like Dawkins, Shermer and Harris are the public face of atheism. And that public face is one that is defensively and irrationally sexist. It’s not only turning women away from atheism, it’s discrediting the idea that atheists are actually people who argue from a position of rationality. How can they be, when they cling to the ancient, irrational tradition of treating women like they aren’t quite as human as men?

Sadly, this contempt for women coming from the top trickles into the ranks, allowing everyday misogynists who happen not to believe in God feel justified in their hatred of women anyway. Subsequently, there’s a thriving online community of people who live to harass not just women, but female atheists in particular, trying to drum any women out of the movement who want to be included as equals instead of as support staff for the male stars. Feminists like Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina, who upset the image of atheism as a “guy thing,” are subject to a relentless drumbeat of abuse through social media by people who prefer an atheism that’s a little more like fundamentalist Christianity, where women know their place.

Dawkins and Harris – and Coyne and Nugent and Blackford and others – could work hard to discourage that and drive it out, if they wanted to, if they gave a shit. But they don’t, so they don’t. That’s our “community.” I look forward to Nugent’s next 5000+-word post saying why I’m wrong to say that.

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



The plot twist

Oct 4th, 2014 10:32 am | By

There’s a compilation of scathing reviews of the new “Left Behind” [shudder] movie.

There’s one funny line.

“The running time is spent avoiding religion to such a loony extent that no one explains that this mass vanishing is God’s work until the film is nearly over. It’s almost as though screenwriters Paul Lalonde and John Patus believe people might buy a ticket to Left Behind and not know the twist, like someone sitting down to watch Godzilla and being shocked by the entrance of a giant lizard.” —The Village Voice

That’s one movie I will not be seeing, not nohow.

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



Sexism as counter-culture

Oct 4th, 2014 10:22 am | By

Robyn Pennacchia takes a look at sexism in gaming & atheism & similar as a matter of people in counter-cultural “communities” thinking they get a pass on little foibles like sexism precisely because they are counter-cultural. That’s a very important point that should get more attention and emphasis.

She found it in political activism when she was just a sprout. She got frustrated and pissed off and ended up leaving activism because of it. Then there was the “lit scene.”

There’s been a lot of attention, recently, paid towards sexism, sexual assault, harassment and misogyny in certain counter-cultural or non-mainstream groups. Specifically, the gaming community, the atheist community and, now, the alt-lit community.

One thing all of these groups have in common is that they are primarily populated by men who think they are not “bros.” Usually, they consider themselves intellectuals. Often, said men have a perma-vendetta against the sort of men they consider “bros.” For the most part, they’re not “alpha-males,” they weren’t jocks in high school–they were, more often, nerdy or even shy.

They are always the first to lock arms with you and rail against sexism coming from these other types of men. They are always happy to poke fun at Pat Robertson saying something horrifically misogynistic. They like to think of themselves as “the good guys” and the jocks and bros as “the bad guys.”

That that that. We’re different, we’re better, we’re special. We’ve seen the light, we’ve thrown off the shackles, we’ve spat out the Kool-Aid. We’re enlightened. We’re the roving coyotes, not the huddled sheep. We’re awake, not asleep. We’re cool. It is not possible that we are anything reactionary or clueless or unhip. We’re out there on the high wire, dancing and floating. Feminism is the boring repressive old Mommy who makes us get down and set the table for dinner.

I’m glad that more attention is being drawn to issues of assault, misogyny and sexism in these communities. It’s important. It’s also a lot harder than calling out Rush Limbaugh, because none of us have to live with Rush Limbaugh. I want to make these spaces safer for women, because we have as much right to them as men do.

It’s not just bros and jocks and finance dudes and yuppies and Christians and Republicans who are shitty to women. Being part of a counter-cultural or progressive community does not give you a free pass to be shitty to women without being called out on it. We need to hold our own communities to an even higher standard than we hold those in the opposition, we need to welcome criticism, and we to realize that the ones who call out shitty behavior in these communities are not the threat, but that those who protect it and shield it from criticism are.

We need to hold our own communities to an even higher standard – wouldn’t you think that would just be a truism? When the Catholic church and the military and the NFL and fraternities and universities are so notoriously bad at doing anything about rape within their ranks, wouldn’t you think rebel groups such as atheists and skeptics would be all the more keen to define themselves against that revolting precedent? Yet here we are, with the Big Name Atheists lining up to trash the people who try to do that. Do they really think that will work out well over the long haul?

 

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



Where women and girls are tagged with a price

Oct 3rd, 2014 5:57 pm | By

Via Ghaffar Husain of Quilliam: The Islamic State puts price tags on women, literally, and sells them.

By the end of August, the Islamic State had abducted up to 2,500 Iraqi civilians, most of them women and children, according to a new United Nations report based on more than 450 interviews with witnesses.

Some have been awarded to fighters, others sold as slaves in markets in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

There were several reports of an office in Mosul where women and girls are tagged with a price and offered for sale to buyers.

That’s done with Allah’s blessing, is it? That’s the kind of submission Allah has in mind?

One Yazidi girl told the U.N. she was taken prisoner after her village was attacked on Aug. 3. She said she was raped several times before she was sold at a market.

In another incident in early August, up to 500 women were taken by the militants as they swept through a Yazidi village in northwestern Iraq. Two days later, 150 of them, mostly from Yazidi and Christian communities, were sold as sex slaves or awarded to Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Because they’re things, and enemy things at that. Allah’s fan club can treat them anyway they want; Allah told them so, according to them.

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



Making a stand

Oct 3rd, 2014 5:26 pm | By

Sarah Khan, director of Inspire, has a short outraged public post on Facebook.

I’m ‪#‎makingastand‬. I will not be celebrating Eid in remembrance of Alan Henning. There is nothing to celebrate. My faith has been hijacked by extremists. Wake up Muslims. Before more innocent people are murdered in the “name of our religion.” Reclaim our faith back from these monsters.

Sad, and right, and inspiring.

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



Sure, and North Korea’s the best at ending famine

Oct 3rd, 2014 5:08 pm | By

At Patheos – on the Catholic Channel – there’s a blog called Headlines from the Catholic World. On that blog there’s a post with the teasing title “Catholic Church the only body ‘effectively acting to eradicate pedophilia’.” There really is; I’m not making it up.

A former Vatican spokesman has written, against the backdrop of the house arrest of a former nuncio being investigated for abuse of minors, that the Church is the only international body acting effectively against pedophilia.

In an op-ed published in the Italian daily “La Repubblica” Sept. 25, Joaquin Navarro-Valls commented on the house arrest in Vatican City of Jozef Wesolowski, the former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic who was laicized earlier this year. He faces criminal charges under Vatican City’s civil laws.

The house arrest of Wesolowski “is a very important penal action,” stressed Navarro-Valls, who was head of the Holy See press office from 1984-2006.

What?

The Vatican (or the church) arrests one guy, and that makes it the only international body acting effectively against pedophilia? Why would that be the case? Other bodies arrest child-rapists. Does the Vatican get lashings of extra credit because it’s arrested so few (like, zero) in the past?

Navarro-Valls emphasized that “the Holy See was legally fit and morally ready” to handle such an “extreme and shameful crime” thanks to a “legal rigor the Church has been maintaining against pedophilia for 20 years, ever since abuses first came to light.”

No. No it hasn’t. It hasn’t been doing that. It’s been protecting the rapists and sending them from parish to parish, instead of doing that.

Anything to feel better, eh?

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



Taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria

Oct 3rd, 2014 4:08 pm | By

The bastards have killed Alan Henning.

Henning, a 47-year-old taxi driver from Salford in northern England, was part of an aid convoy taking medical supplies to a hospital in northwest Syria in December last year when it was stopped by gunmen and he was abducted.

Muslim groups across Britain, including some organizations that are highly critical of British foreign policy and blame Western interference for fanning the recent crisis in Iraq and Syria, had called in vain for his release.

His wife Barbara had called him a “a peaceful, selfless man” and appealed to Islamic State to release him.

But the murderers of Islamic State don’t release people, they butcher them.

Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK’s largest Islamic umbrella group, called the purported beheading of Henning “a despicable and offensive act.”

“It is quite clear that the murderers of Alan Henning have no regard for Islam, or for the Muslims around the world who pleaded for his life,” Shafi said.

It is quite clear that they have no regard for human rights, or fair treatment, or humanitarian work, or hospitals or medical supplies or the people who need them. It is quite clear that they have no regard for anything good.

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



The global community of human beings

Oct 3rd, 2014 11:42 am | By

Gina Khan and Maajid Nawaz flagged up this post by Amjad Khan at Left Foot Forward on Facebook. (The post is at LFF, the flagging up was at FB. God language is hard to do.) It argues that it’s not good enough for Muslims to say that groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda don’t represent them.

The first reason is that it doesn’t stop them. Most Nigerians hate Boko Haram, but Boko Haram doesn’t give a shit, and goes right on murdering and enslaving people.

The second point to be made is that statements such ‘they don’t represent me’ are only useful if they are a precursor to a sustained effort to challenge and undermine jihadism. In my experience, this is rarely the case, in fact, the opposite tends to be true.

Such statements tend to be another way of saying ‘this is none of my business because I don’t agree with them’. By merely declaring jihadists not representative of Muslims at large, many Muslims are in fact refusing to take ownership of the problem and merely performing a PR exercise.

I think that’s true but I also sympathize with Muslims who think they shouldn’t have to keep saying ‘they don’t represent me’. I’m ambivalent, as so often. It’s not my fault or my doing that there are some feminists who think there’s such a thing as “women’s way of knowing” and I shouldn’t have to keep saying that’s not my feminism. But then, reality is what it is, and sometimes we have to do things we shouldn’t have to do.

Muslims either go into conspiratorial mode or convince themselves that it is not their problem when faced with jihadi excesses.

And yet the very same people will then say they are concerned about Islamophobia and the Palestinian cause because it affects fellow Muslims and that they have concerns about the global Muslim community.

How can one be concerned about the global Muslim community and not want to tackle jihadism which, in the grand scheme of things, has killed far more Muslims tha[n] anyone else?

Rather than offering such shallow condemnations, we as Muslims need to stop being solely concerned with the image of Islam and Muslims and recognise that challenging jihadists and associated extremists proactively will do more to rehabilitate the image of Islam than shallow ‘not in my name’ statements.

Well that’s a point. Difference feminists haven’t been engaging in campaigns of mass murder, nor have they been stoning women to death, nor have they been sentencing and executing “adulterous” couples, nor have they been enslaving Nigerian schoolgirls by the hundreds. If they had been, I would be pretty damn motivated to do everything I could to oppose and stop them. I do believe in globalism and universalism, so I do think that murders in Afghanistan or Somalia matter every bit as much as murders in Canada or Scotland. Never mind the global Muslim community or the global feminist community; just join hands to defend the global community of human beings, vulnerable before armed gangs of zealots.

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



Let them take a limo

Oct 3rd, 2014 10:30 am | By

Another big win for the Texas Taliban and another big loss for women of childbearing age in Texas.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday allowed Texas to begin enforcing tough new abortion restrictions that will effectively close all but eight abortion facilities in the nation’s second-largest state. Unless the Supreme Court steps in, the law is poised to have the most devastating impact on abortion access of any such restriction across the country.

Under the law’s force, which will close 13 clinics, one out of six Texan women seeking an abortion will now live more than 150 miles from the nearest clinic.

Texas is an enormous state. It’s bigger than a lot of countries. It also has a large population, unlike big-in-size states like Wyoming and Montana. Eight places to get an abortion is nowhere near enough for such a colossus. 21 isn’t enough, and 8 is pathetic.

A lower court judge had previously ruled on August 28 that the law was unconstitutional, because it “would operate for a significant number of women in Texas just as drastically as a complete ban on abortion.” But in Thursday’s ruling, the three-judge panel in New Orleans said the law would not impose an “undue burden,” staying the district court decision as the state appeals.

Not undue, huh. Having to travel more than 150 miles is not an undue burden for, say, a woman in a low-wage job who can’t afford a car? Please.

George W. Bush appointee Judge Jennifer Elrod, writing for the Fifth Circuit, wrote that the district court judge had overreached because “in our circuit, we do not balance the wisdom or effectiveness of a law against the burdens the law imposes.” She conceded, “We do not doubt that women in poverty face greater difficulties.” But Elrod argued the court was required to find that a “large fraction” of women would be affected by the law, even as she noted that the number of affected women in rural Texas was 900,000.

Well but you see Texas has over 25 million people, so even though almost a million is a lot of women, it’s not a Big fraction. Sucks to be you, poor women in Texas.

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



Count the knees

Oct 3rd, 2014 9:58 am | By

Sarah Posner raises an interesting question – is it ok for Tim Tebow to pray on one knee after scoring a touchdown, but not ok for Husain Abdullah to pray on two knees in the same situation?

Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized last night for praying in the end zone after returning an interception for a touchdown. Tim Tebow has similarly prayed — although, apparently, the two prayers aren’t “similar:” one is Christian, and one is Muslim.

The Kansas City Star reports Abdullah is a “devout Muslim” who promised himself that if he scored a touchdown, “I’m going to prostrate before God in the end zone.” Last night, he was penalized for apparently violating Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook (“players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.”)

The league has made exceptions, the Star reports, “for religious expressions, such as Tim Tebow’s prayer while kneeling. But Abdullah may have broken the rule by sliding with both knees into the prayer.”

Ok well the answer to that question would have to be no. Either neither is ok, or both are ok. The number of knees in contact with the ground can’t be the criterion, because it’s not much of a criterion – it looks a tad bit too much tailored for the occasion – as in, “Oh, oops, Tim Tebow was allowed to get away with it, so maybe we shouldn’t have penalized this Husain guy for doing pretty much the same thing. Oh dear. Oh, I know – he had two knees on the ground! Whew!”

But should they do it? No. I think they should knock it off. It’s missionary work, and I think people shouldn’t exploit audiences to do that. It’s obnoxious and rude.

 

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



A loosely organized collective that wants to bully women

Oct 2nd, 2014 6:16 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte (I belatedly see) has also written about Intel’s move to obey the anti-social justice campaigners and punish Gamasutra.

[A]ny lingering hope that GamerGate is about bringing integrity back to journalism were dashed this week, when GamerGate participants convinced Intel to pull its advertising from the gaming website Gamasutra in order to punish Gamasutra for publishing on opinion they don’t like, a piece criticizing GamerGate for making gamers look like misogynist idiots.

The purported concern of GamerGate is to end gaming journalism’s “increasing corruption by money and hype,” as Auerbach explained. If that’s true, it’s awfully fishy that GamerGate’s first major victory is to threaten journalists with lost revenue for writing about their honestly held views. That the journalist in question, Leigh Alexander, happens also to be yet another young, outspoken woman suggests yet again that GamerGate never was and never will be about corruption in journalism, but is simply a loosely organized collective that wants to bully women out of the gaming world.

#Not all women! Not women who hate feminism and feminists. They can stay…as long as they follow instructions.

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



The bullies spoke and Intel listened

Oct 2nd, 2014 5:36 pm | By

UH OH – some people think it would be a good idea to have better gender representation in video games, on account of how the human species isn’t actually 90% male, and we all know what a crazy and destructive thought that is to think. Here’s a bit of news from that battlefront:

Intel has pulled an advertising campaign from video gaming website Gamasutra after it reportedly received a number of complaints from self-identified gamers upset that the site was championing fair gender representation in video games. The decision by the world’s largest chipmaker to remove its advertising from the site comes as a result of a coordinated campaign called Operation Disrespectful Nod, apparently orchestrated by supporters of the #GamerGate hashtag, who rail against so-called “social justice warrior” writers, journalists, and developers.

Right, because what could be more gut-wrenchingly horrible than social justice? Thank god there are people who organize campaigns against it, and corporations that bow to pressure from such campaigns. Down with social justice! Up with keeping things as they are, or maybe making them even worse!

Organizers of the campaign exhorted people to contact companies that advertise on video game-focused websites such as Gamasutra and Kotaku in order to complain about five specific articles that suggested the concept of the “gamer” as an identity was fading away. In this case, their efforts were successful. “Intel has pulled its advertising from website Gamasutra,” an Intel spokesperson said to Recode. “We take feedback from our customers very seriously especially as it relates to contextually relevant content and placements.”

So they need to get more feedback, this time from people who don’t hate social justice with the heat of a thousand suns.

Operation Disrespectful Nod was born from the #GamerGate hashtag. Sincere users of the hashtag, as Vox explains, are ostensibly concerned with two main topics — the treatment of women in gaming, and the ethics of games journalism — but its supporters have been linked to campaigns of harassment against prominent women in the industry.

The hashtag was reportedly first used by actor Adam Baldwin when he made reference on Twitter to independent game developer Zoe Quinn. Quinn, the subject of a lengthy diatribe written by an ex-boyfriend, was the target of a harassment campaign after being accused of using sexual relationships with the press to secure coverage for her video games. #GamerGate supporters also attacked feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian, whose Tropes vs. Women in Video Games series attempts to call out and question sexist stereotypes in games. Sarkeesian and her family became the targets of a volley of personal attacks that resulted in her being driven from her home after receiving threats of sexual violence from a Twitter user who knew her actual address.

While many #GamerGate supporters have attempted to distance themselves from such harassment, the movement’s methods, leaders, and ethics are still questionable. Weeks after she was pilloried for her private relationships, Quinn revealed she had been idling in IRC chatrooms run by the orchestrators of the campaign against her. In a series of Twitter posts, she showed how a small group of 4chan users boasted about engineered the #GamerGate hashtag in order to target and attack those it saw as “social justice warriors.”

Such a noble cause, pissing on the very idea of social justice. #proud

The movement has maintained in part because it’s grown wider than gaming. Adam Baldwin continues to tweet on the topic not because he’s a gamer, but because he’s an outspoken conservative figure, vociferously opposed to the left-wing ideals the imagined cadre of “social justice warriors” uphold. Even Washington think tanks have weighed in on the side of #GamerGate supporters. The American Enterprise Institute, a high-profile right-wing group, issued a video in which host “the Factual Feminist” questioned whether games were sexist at all. Such interjections have extended the lifespan of the discussion, and the #GamerGate movement, even further.

And who is “the Factual Feminist”? Christina Hoff Sommers, of course, Richard Dawkins’s new best friend.

Intel says it was flooded with complaints about its Gamasutra ads, but it’s difficult to work out how pervasive support for #GamerGate is in the wider gamesplaying community — its supporters are amplified in the Twitter echo chamber and uncountable thanks to a prevalence of fake “sockpuppet” accounts that retweet messages of support.

Just like those other organized haters of social justice, the ones that target us “rage-bloggers” and “FTBullies.” Maybe they’re all the same three people, typing at the speed of sound.

The #GamerGate hashtag is inextricably linked to campaigns of harassment and its proponents have been demonstrably manipulated by a small number of people who want to hurt others for fun. Until now it has had no major successes, but by giving in to its demands and pulling its advertising from Gamasutra, Intel has legitimized a movement that has shown itself to be anti-feminist, violently protectionist, and totally unwilling to share what it sees as its divine right to video games.

It’s appalling.

Ernest Adams (who writes a column for Gamasutra) has a public Facebook post with his protest to Intel and the address where we can send ours.

I am gravely disappointed to learn that Intel has stopped advertising on the game developer Web site Gamasutra in response to pressure from gamers with an anti-diversity agenda. You should be aware that many game developers have been made the target of an orchestrated campaign of criminal harassment for their belief that video games should be for everyone, and Gamasutra also supports this view. Some developers have even been driven from their homes in fear for their safety.

By withdrawing your support for Gamasutra, you are sending a message to the game community that Intel, too, opposes diversity in games and is prepared to side with bigots and bullies.

sincerely,
Ernest W. Adams, Ph.D.
Game Designer and Founder, International Game Developers’ Association

If you would like to send a similar message, please do so here:
https://www-ssl.intel.com/content/www/us/en/forms/corporate-responsibility-contact-us.html

I borrowed some of his wording and combined it with some of mine and sent this:

I’m shocked to learn that Intel  has stopped advertising on the game developer Web site Gamasutra in response to pressure from gamers who don’t approve of efforts to make gaming more welcoming to women and minorities. Many game developers have been made the target of an orchestrated campaign of criminal harassment for their belief that video games should be for everyone. Some developers have even been driven from their homes in fear for their safety. Gamasutra shares the belief that video games should be for everyone. By withdrawing your support for Gamasutra, you are sending a message to the game community that Intel is prepared to side with bigots and bullies.

I urge you to drop Intel a line. Here’s that link again:

https://www-ssl.intel.com/content/www/us/en/forms/corporate-responsibility-contact-us.html

 

 

 

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



With a candy ass he keeps glued to National Public Radio

Oct 2nd, 2014 4:38 pm | By

Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, wonders whether the funeral procession really needs to be treated as something untouchably sacred like football or pumpkin pie or monster-large cars.

Bill Mayeroff is a blogger at ChicagoNow.com who wrote a post questioning the practice of funeral processions. It was picked up by the funeral-industry news aggregator site, ConnectingDirectors.com. All comments [sic].

“Let me guess, Bill Mayeroff is: 1. A baby boomer 2. A narcissist 3. An idiot.”

“I think this blogger should have this discussion face to face with the thousands of people who mourned and processed with any number of our fallen soldiers.”

“Although the article is so sophmoric that it doesnt earn the time of a reply, I feel I have to. It is all about respect of the dead. Something that the author probably knows very little about. He is an NPR listening, liberal, candy ass moron.”

“In today’s society, death rituals, etc. are often viewed as “inconvenient” to those involved. But, death should NOT be convenient – if it is, that person’s life didn’t mean much.”

So, commenters have established that Bill Mayeroff is a narcissistic, soldier-hating, un-patriotic baby boomer with a candy ass he keeps glued to National Public Radio in between ruining everyone’s Grief Work(TM). Except no, they haven’t. I too question the place of funeral processions. Many undertakers would say that’s because I’m an anti-funeral director outside agitator who hates sentiment and religion and wants to force families to bake-and-shake their loved ones. Or something.

Read the whole thing.

 

 

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



That’s a savior?

Oct 2nd, 2014 11:52 am | By

El Salvador is not a safe country for women. The secretary general of Amnesty International reports:

Beneath the surface of apparent peace in El Salvador, a hidden war is being waged. It is a war that does not involve guns or troops but one that has resulted in the imprisonment and unnecessary deaths and disability of thousands.

It is a war against women and girls that is documented in Amnesty International’s newreport, On the Brink of Death: Violence against Women and the Abortion Ban in El Salvador.

The report illustrates how a change in the law 16 years ago criminalized abortion in all circumstances, making it one of the strictest abortion laws in the world. Women and girls in El Salvador cannot have an abortion, even if continuing their pregnancy might kill them, or if the fetus is not viable and will not live. 
Even a nine-year-old girl pregnant after from rape cannot get an abortion.

Just to make sure no opportunity is missed, miscarriages are treated as suspected abortions.

Consider the story of Cristina. She was 18 years old when she miscarried. She passed out and was rushed to hospital where, instead of care and kindness, she was accused of actively terminating her pregnancy. In August 2005, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Men also are fighting this injustice. Dennis Muñoz, a lawyer who heard Cristina’s story, was so shocked he tracked her down to the prison where she was being held.

Together they fought a two-year legal battle to get her sentence reduced. They won her release, but not before she had spent four years in prison. Muñoz describes the country’s abortion ban as a “witch hunt against poor women.”

(Unlike Dawkins and Shermer and Blackford, Muñoz is talking about something that really can be legitimately called a witch hunt.)

Amnesty International believes that El Salvador’s total ban on abortion is a form of torture. It pushes women and girls to the brink of death. The ban violates women’s and girls’ right to life by forcing them to seek unsafe abortions, putting their health and lives at risk. It also denies them their right to health, privacy and to non-discrimination.

It is a shame to see El Salvador so far behind the rest of the world in its legislation on abortion. It is one of seven Latin American countries with a ban on abortion in all cases.

The Vatican is happy though.

 

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



It’s a witch! It’s an angel! It’s superfly!

Oct 2nd, 2014 10:44 am | By

Richard Bartholomew debunks a photo of a purported “witch” used to fuel hysteria about witches.

Nigerian sceptic Leo Igwe has drawn attention to a Facebook post by a certain Pastor I.C. Ezeugwu, in which Ezeugwu describes an event he held in “a remote village in Edo State”:

I titled the crusade “Operation Kill the Witches”. This title was necessitated as a result of the activities of witches in that village which included destroying the destinies of young people.

I took a look at that Facebook post – it dates from August 2013, well over a year ago, yet people are commenting every few seconds to say…”Amen.” It’s rather frightening.

amen

Bartholomew tracked down the image and found that it has nothing to do with “witches.”

Ezeugwu’s post is illustrated with a photo of what appears to be a dead human figure with wings; presumably, this is supposed “evidence” of the existence of witches:

Angel I.C. Ezeugwu

That’s not an image I have seen before, although apparently it’s been doing the rounds for a while; in May 2013, Pulse234 published it under the heading: “PHOTO: Witch Woman With Wings: Real or Fake?

It  in fact shows an art piece called Angel. It was created in 2008 by two Chinese artists, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. The photo was taken while the model was on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London. It’s a “life size sculpture in fibre-reinforced polymer and silica gel”.

Human beings, making up bogus pretexts to murder other human beings. So helpful.

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