Notes and Comment Blog

If you think abortion is a touchy subject in pop culture now

Dec 28th, 2015 1:08 pm | By

A pop culture site drew up a list of most controversial tv show episodes. Coming in at number 2 is the one in which Maude (of Maude) had an abortion. It aired in November 1972.

If you think abortion is a touchy subject in pop culture now, imagine a TV show dedicating a two-part episode to it before the Roe v. Wade decision even came down. That’s exactly what the series Maude did in 1972 when it tackled abortion head-on in an episode where Maude discovers that at the age of 47, she’s pregnant. Throwing typical sitcom gags and quips out the window, this episode deals with the problem in a real world way, explaining the pros and cons of the decision, and letting us as viewers see how something like this can affect a person’s life.

In the end, Maude gets the abortion, but the subject is never treated as an easy decision for laughs. This is a serious matter, and the show did its best to highlight a woman’s right for a national audience. Despite its good intentions, the episode sparked a firestorm of controversy, especially within religious circles. Seeing the importance of such an episode, CBS regularly showed “Maude’s Dilemma” in reruns during summer hiatuses.

The Chicago Tribune did a piece on the episode twenty years on.

Twenty years later, it is doubtful a similar show could be broadcast on network TV.

In 1972, the word “abortion” was used exactly twice on “Maude`s Dilemma” – once on each show. Nowadays the “a” word has practically been purged from the prime-time vocabulary and is heard almost exclusively on talk shows and some daytime soaps.

A handful of programs- “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Cagney and Lacey” -have tackled the issue, but for the most part, a major character`s having an abortion is not even considered an option on network programming.

These days, prime-time pregnancies usually result in a false alarm (a 1990 episode of “Roseanne”); a decision to have a baby, followed by a tear- drenched recitation of a previous abortion (a 1985 episode of “Cagney and Lacey”); or an affirmation of the right to choose even while deciding to have the baby (“thirtysomething” and this year`s controversial episode of “Murphy Brown”).

And why’s that? Money. Controversy—>money.

The reasons for this are twofold: the presence of organized pressure groups threatening to boycott the products of advertisers who sponsor shows they disapprove of, and the economic concerns of the networks, threatened by competition from cable TV and home video. These factors lead many people to believe that “Maude`s Dilemma” would not make it onto today`s TV schedules. “You automatically think, ‘Of course it could be done today, look what we did 20 years ago,'” said Susan Harris, who wrote the “Maude” abortion shows. “But we have a very interesting (political) climate today, with the influence of the religious Right. The economy is different today, and the networks would feel less likely that they could take a stand.”

Susan Harris. You know who Susan Harris is? She’s the creator and head writer of a slew of classic sitcoms, and besides that?

She has a son named Sam.

Ironic, isn’t it.

Floods and more floods

Dec 28th, 2015 12:38 pm | By

Much of Yorks and Lancs and Greater Manchester is still under water. The BBC has photos.

Central streets in York hip-deep in water, feet above the door sills of shops.

A heartbreakingly huge pile of full bin-bags outside a bookshop in Hebden Bridge.

A wholly submerged bridge in Cawood.

Two guys in water above their waists.

The north is a hilly area, but the towns and villages are mostly in the valleys. The valleys are river valleys.

To make it all worse, Cameron is there. Heckuva job, Davey.

“Our hand will reach you wherever you are”

Dec 28th, 2015 12:21 pm | By

The BBC reports:

An anti-Islamic State activist and filmmaker has been shot dead by assassins in broad daylight in Turkey.

Naji Jerf, 38, was shot with a silenced pistol in downtown Gaziantep, near the Syrian border, Turkish media reported.

Mr Jerf was the film director for Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of journalists who risk their lives daily to report on IS abuses.

So he was slaughtered (silently) for reporting on slaughter. Of course he was.

It is the second murder of a member of the group in as many weeks, after Ahmad Mohammed al-Mousawas killed in Syria.

Mr Jerf was a vocal critic of the so-called Islamic State. He directed two recent documentaries about the group – one about the killing of Syrian activists in Aleppo, the other about the work of RBSS.

No wonder they slaughtered him.

This is not the first time IS has murdered a member of RBSS on Turkish soil. In October, Ibrahim Abdul Qader was beheaded in the southern city of Urfa.

Another journalist, Fares Hamadi, was killed in the same attack. IS subsequently published a video warning: “You will not be safe from the knife of the Islamic State. Our hand will reach you wherever you are.”

They can do it, and we know they can do it, and they know we know they can do it.

End of year dreck

Dec 27th, 2015 4:06 pm | By

The New Statesman – it’s sad. Emad Ahmed tells us about his year in Islamophobia. If his piece were all about people shouting on buses and attacking in the street and Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump, I’d agree with him, but this is the Staggers, so of course it’s not.

It’s so alarmingly difficult to identify as a Muslim today. I’m having to prove my sensible existence in a world dominated by dramatic headlines and tweets. The Charlie Hebdo attacks proved this. The whole purpose of that silly magazine (which has made international headlines in the past) is simply to offend, a degree above satire.’t. It’s an anti-racist magazine, a magazine of the left. Its whole purpose is to resist the Trumps and Le Pens, as well as the Islamists. That doesn’t mean anyone has to like it, it says nothing about its quality, but it just is not true that its whole purpose is to offend.

Of course everyone has the right to be offensive and annoying (within the limits of the law), but why bother? The response to those attacks was Islamophobia, pure and simple, fuelling exactly what Islamofascists across the globe love.

Pure and simple? Hardly. Maybe that’s his problem: he thinks he sees simple (crude) facts when he doesn’t. Of course the response to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the streets outside and the Kosher supermarket was not Islamophobia pure and simple – what a disgusting, callous, self-involved thing to say. The response was grief and fear and anger, and even the anger was mostly at fanatical Islamist murderers, not Islam itself, let alone at all Muslims.

The New Statesman shouldn’t be publishing simple-minded shite like this. It should do better.


Dec 27th, 2015 1:18 pm | By

The BBC News helicopter has footage of flooding in the north of England.

Rescuers have been evacuating homes in York where water levels are still rising, and thousands of people in north-west England are without power.

Some of them are friends of mine, and probably of yours.

City of York Council said the River Ouse was 5.1m above normal summer levels and was expected to peak around lunchtime on Monday – close to its highest recorded level of 5.4m.

It said about 500 properties were directly affected by flooding and a second rest centre was being opened for residents.

Meanwhile, North Yorkshire Police is urging people not to travel to flooded parts of York, as well as the Selby area, where the Ouse has burst its banks and is threatening homes in the village of Cawood.

And as for West Yorks…

  • Police say West Yorkshire is experiencing its worst flooding in 70 years with more than 2,000 homes in Calderdale and 1,000 in Leeds affected

Stay dry.


Did the Angel Gabriel say anything about hanging up a big sock?

Dec 27th, 2015 11:49 am | By

The Huffington Post asked 15 atheists some silly questions about Christmas, and there are a few amusing bits in the answers.

They put Dawkins at the top, of course, and what’s amusing about his answers is how in tune with his Twitter persona they are. It’s as if he thinks he’s been asked to perform “impatient” for a game of charades.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Unlike many a false caricature of an atheist, I have no problem with Christmas and no desire to rain on the Christian parade. I enjoy Christmas carols, especially when sung by a great choir like that of New College, Oxford, or King’s College, Cambridge. But only real carols about Jesus, NOT fake carols about Santa or reindeer or the loathsome “Jingle Bells”.

So he’s being grouchy about how carols should be about Jesus, god damn it, not bells or reindeer.

What do you do on the day?

People’s stories of how they spend Christmas are never interesting. Who cares when they open their stockings or when they carve the unfortunate turkey?


Would you go to church if family or friends wanted you to?

Yes. As a matter of courtesy if it means a lot to them, since it means nothing at all to me other than a little wasted time.

Of course, if he did go, he would be prone to angry outbursts every few minutes.

It’s amusing that Peter Tatchell is more militant on that point than Dawkins is.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Not being a Christian, it’s just a holiday period; a chance to have good meals with friends, watch films on TV and start preparing my next human rights campaign.

Do you celebrate it despite being atheist?

No. That would be hypocrisy and a form of mental schism.

Can an atheist celebrate Christmas and remain true to their own beliefs?

An atheist can make their Christmas a non-religious celebration but cannot, in good conscience, join in the religious elements.

Would you/do you attend church on Christmas if family or friends wanted you to?


Short and to the point.

They saved the best for last, which is Kate Smurthwaite.

Do you celebrate it?
Yes. Of course. I celebrate whatever the hell I like. It’s religions that tell people what they can and can’t do – not atheism. If I want to go to church, then mosque, then temple, I can. I can do what I like.

That’s a key point you know. Religions have arbitrary taboos, atheism doesn’t. The second option is the better one.

Do you see the event as still primarily celebrating Jesus’ birth? Or is it more of a commercial event?
It’s a pagan festival. Yule. It long predates Jesus. Aside from the name there’s almost nothing about Christmas that has anything to do with Christianity. Did the wise men bring a partridge in a pear tree? Did the Angel Gabriel say anything about hanging up a big sock? But it’s ok Christians, us godless heathens warmly welcome you to celebrate our festival with us…

We’re good that way.

Out of our wardrobes

Dec 26th, 2015 10:57 am | By

Yvonne Ridley on Facebook:

Will men of Faith and no faith stop telling women what to wear – whether in general, in protest or in preference. Just get the hell out of our wardrobes and stay out!

This is probably in reaction to Maajid Nawaz’s tweet on December 21:

My Muslim sisters who support International Hijab day. Why not take off hijab to support acid victims like [t]his too?

Ridley isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, is she. Who told women to wear hijab in the first place? It was a man, wasn’t it? She wears it herself, and in doing so, she is obeying a rule laid down by a man.


A great many shells and skulls of churches

Dec 25th, 2015 3:57 pm | By

I have this collection of letters by Sylvia Townsend Warner and I started rather randomly re-reading it yesterday. She’s a demon with words – I’d forgotten.

She went to Barcelona in 1936 to help with the resistance to Franco’s coup, working in a Red Cross office.

Heard of it by wire, sprang into the car, and drove across France at a rate which would have been intolerable if we had not been on our way to Spain.

I don’t think I have ever met so many congenial people in the whole of my life.

She describes how the workers are running everything, and how terrific it all is.

There are a great many shells and skulls of churches. It seemed quite natural that churches should have been used as machine gun nests, I have never seen churches so heavy and bulky and bullying, one can see at a glance that they have always been reactionary fortresses.

She met no one who resented the gutting of the churches, though she did meet two women who were a little uneasy that bastard god might punish them.

And you cannot imagine, after this mealy-mouthed country, the pleasure of seeing an office with a large painted sign, Organisation for the Persecution of Fascists. Anarchists, of course. That beautiful directness is typical of anarchism, a most engaging type of thought, though I do not want to be an anarchist myself. The world is not yet worthy of it, but it ought to be the political theory of heaven.

P.S. It is only the papers which call the Spanish Communists. They are nearly all anarchists…

That’s a nice Xmas present, don’t you think?


Dec 25th, 2015 11:16 am | By

A horrible tale of violent domestic abuse in Watford:

A woman who beat her teenage daughter-in-law to death has been jailed, along with five members of the girl’s family, in what a senior detective described as one of the most harrowing cases of domestic abuse he had seen.

Shahena Uddin, 19, died after suffering severe injuries and choking to death on her own vomit.

Over the course of the trial the court heard that Ms Uddin had suffered mental and physical abuse at the hands of her family, including being forced to drink toilet water and eat her own faeces.

The other family members were all siblings. One of her brothers was her guardian, and his wife is the one convicted of beating her to death. Three other brothers and a sister make up the rest.

The Independent doesn’t say anything about religion, but I wonder. I wonder if they all grew up in a conservative brand of religion that teaches suspicion and hostility toward women and girls.

Is this what happens to Ex-Muslim voices?

Dec 25th, 2015 9:45 am | By

Well that’s festive. Eiynah of Nice Mangos on Twitter:

Within hours of uploading, before I even shared the link, our episode with @MaryamNamazie has been removed from @YouTube @theqpodcast

(I removed the Twitter abbreviations for ease of reading.)

Embedded image permalink

Embedded image permalink

Figures, doesn’t it. Mustn’t let those ex-Muslim women talk freely; must shut them down by “reporting” them to YouTube.

A very undue burden

Dec 24th, 2015 4:39 pm | By

Remember Purvi Patel? I blogged about her case last March 30-April 1 – here, here, here, and here. She was sentenced to twenty years in prison for having a stillborn baby.

In October PRI reported on the appeal:

Patel has now filed an appeal of that conviction with the Indiana Court of Appeals. She’s represented pro-bono by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Marshall and Indiana University law professor Joel Schumm. Marshall’s representation, in particular, shows the precedent-setting importance of her case. Marshall previously founded the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.

“What I generally gravitate toward are cases where it seems like an intense passion has interfered with dispassionate interpretation and application of the law,” Marshall told the South Bend Tribune in April. “It struck me that this case may be a textbook example of that phenomenon.”

That tactic appears to underpin the appeal released today, in which Patel’s legal team writes, “Resolution of this appeal does not necessitate delving into any contentious issues. It requires nothing more than straightforward application of well-accepted neutral principles of law such as those this Court addresses every day.”

Patel’s lawyers argue “there are powerful reasons to challenge the conclusion there was a live birth.” But even if so, there’s little Patel could have done under such circumstances to save an extremely premature infant, the appeal states.

As for the feticide charge, the appeal argues that it was improperly applied to cover abortion, and that the conviction also violates Patel’s constitutional rights. Furthermore, Patel’s team writes, “the Feticide conviction depended on the plainly wrong position that one can be guilty of Feticide (i.e., the killing of a fetus) even if no fetus was killed (as the State adamantly maintains was true here).”

National advocacy organizations have authored two amicus briefs in support of the appeal. The first, by National Advocates for Pregnant Women and signed by several reproductive rights groups, states: “Allowing the judicial expansion of Indiana law to prosecute women in relation to their own pregnancies endangers public health and the civil rights of all people who are or may become pregnant.”

“While the Indiana General Assembly has unquestionably regulated abortion, and criminalized third parties who harm women’s pregnancies, it has not enacted a modern law that makes it a crime for a woman to have an abortion or experience a pregnancy loss,” the brief continues.

NBC News reported some days later:

Lawyers for Patel filed an appeal of her conviction in May. Her legal team, headed by Stanford Law professor Lawrence Marshall and Indiana University law professor Joel Schumm, stipulated in the brief, released Oct. 2, that multiple errors were made by the state of Indiana in the case against Patel that require the reversal of her conviction–and, furthermore, that the conviction of Patel went against the United States and the Indiana Constitutions.

Marshall and Schumm’s appeal outlines how applying the feticide statute to women who choose to have abortions is unconstitutional, explaining, “If the Court decides to grant relief on statutory grounds, the Feticide Statute must be invalidated as violating the United States and Indiana Constitutions. This is because the statute, as so interpreted, would place an ‘undue burden’ on women by exposing them to severe criminal penalties absent proof they had any idea they or anyone else were doing anything wrong.”

The Indiana attorney general’s office will file a brief in response to Patel’s attorneys in November. The appeals court will then decide if it will hold oral arguments.

And Purvi Patel will wait, in prison.


Return of the Georgians

Dec 24th, 2015 3:28 pm | By

Hopeful news for Galápagos tortoises, maybe. First, the New York Times last week:

Originally there were at least eight species of Galápagos tortoise, scientists now believe. (One was discovered only this year.) At least three species are now extinct, including tortoises on Pinta Island. The last one, George, was discovered wandering alone in 1972 and taken into loving custody. His death, in 2012 at more than 100 years old, was a powerful reminder of the havoc visited by humans on delicate ecosystems worldwide over the last two centuries.

Whalers and pirates grabbed them up because they could live in a ship’s hold for up to a year without food or water.

There are two types of Galápagos tortoises: saddlebacked and domed. The sailors much preferred the smaller saddlebacks, which were easier to lug around and said to taste better. They were also easier to find: Domed tortoises live at higher elevations and can weigh 300 pounds. Saddlebacks evolved at lower elevations and feed on drier vegetation.

Saddlebacked tortoises disappeared from Santa Fe Island and Floreana Island, a favorite hangout for sailors posting letters for other ships to carry home. With George’s death, the Pintas were gone, too.

Or so they thought, but there’s a plot twist.

More than a century ago, it turns out, sailors dumped saddlebacked tortoises they did not need into Banks Bay, near Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. Luckily, tortoises can extend their necks above water and float on their backs. Many of them made it to shore, lumbered across the lava fields and interbred with Isabela’s native domed tortoises.

In 2008, scientists tagged and collected blood samples from more than 1,600 tortoises living on the flanks of the volcano. Back in the laboratory, there was a genetic eureka: Eighty-nine of the animals were part Floreana, whose full genetic profile DNA had been obtained from museum samples.

Some had genes indicating their parents were living purebred Floreana tortoises, hinting that the species may not be extinct after all.

Seventeen tortoises were shown to have high levels of Pinta DNA. Tortoises can live for more than 150 years, so some of them may well be George’s immediate next of kin.

And from an animal rescue site ten months ago

After 100 years of dwindling birth populations, attacks by invasive species, and heavy casualties from fishing and whaling, baby tortoises were found born in the Galapagos Islands. This is huge news for a species that has been struggling to survive for a century, relying on humans raising young tortoises bred in captivity until they are large enough to not fall prey to rats and predators. Finding naturally born young is evidence that conservation efforts are helping rebuild the islands ecosystem, which has been damaged, possibly irrevocably, since the 17th century.

Rats have been the biggest threat to the tortoise population since their accidental introduction to the island via ships infested with them. The rats root out nests and eat the eggs and newborns of numerous island species, hurting more than just the tortoise population. Thankfully, the island of Pinzón, home to the newborn tortoises, was declared rat-free in 2012, and the results are already showing.

Happy holidays, tortoises.

An improvement

Dec 24th, 2015 11:46 am | By

Good news, up to a point:

Saudi authorities have reduced a Sri Lankan woman’s sentence for adultery from death by stoning to a three-year jail term after an appeal, Colombo’s foreign ministry has said.

The woman, 45, who is married and had worked as a domestic helper in Riyadh since 2013, was convicted in August of adultery with a fellow Sri Lankan migrant worker. The man was given a lesser punishment of 100 lashes because he was not married.

It’s great that she won’t be killed by having rocks thrown at her head. (It’s disgusting that that was ever a possibility.) It’s not great that she’s been sentenced to three years in prison. It’s a violation of her rights. Having sex outside her marriage shouldn’t be any kind of crime; the state should have nothing to do with policing whatever agreements married people make about sex outside the marriage. Some people have open marriages (aka are poly), some aren’t; it’s not a state matter either way.

The death penalty sparked uproar in Sri Lanka, from which hundreds of thousands of men and women migrate to wealthy Gulf Arab states every year to take up jobs as maids or drivers. Their remittances are an important contributor to the south Asian nation’s GDP.

Saudi Arabia has been criticised by western human rights groups for the number of crimes that carry the death penalty there, including adultery, drug smuggling and witchcraft.

Not to mention liberalism, and secularism, and “apostasy,” and atheism.

Saudi Arabia, currently chair of the UN Human Rights Council, has executed more than 150 people this year, mostly by public beheading, the largest number of executions in 20 years, Amnesty International said last month.

That’s not right, actually. Saudi Arabia is the chair of one panel of the HRC, not the HRC itself. The Independent reported in September:

As head of a five-strong group of diplomats, the influential role would give Mr Trad the power to select applicants from around the world for scores of expert roles in countries where the UN has a mandate on human rights.

Such experts are often described as the ‘crown jewels’ of the HRC, according to UN Watch, which has obtained official UN documents, dated 17 September, confirming the appointment.

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said that the appointment, made in June but unreported until now, may have been a consolation prize for the Saudis after they withdrew their bid to head the 47-nation council following international condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record.

So they got a consolation prize for being so wholly unacquainted with the very concept of human rights. Ok…

Ecumenical abuse

Dec 24th, 2015 9:15 am | By
Ecumenical abuse

Golly. CJ Werleman on Twitter:


CJ Werleman ‏@cjwerleman
Maajid Nawaz tells Muslim women to remove their hijab. Slobbering, white, fascist atheists still think he’s a Muslim.

Why is CJ Werleman policing who is a Muslim? Why is he implying that Maajid Nawaz is not a Muslim, thus aligning himself with Islamists who try to incite violence against Maajid? Why is Werleman helping Islamists bully Maajid for being a reformist? Why is he doing it in such an ugly, abusive, vituperative way? What’s the matter with him?

(Also what’s this “white” bullshit? Does Werleman think he’s not white? Why do people do that?)

The vessel for honor

Dec 23rd, 2015 4:34 pm | By

More from Asra Nomani.

NPR’s Ari Shapiro interviews Asra Nomani, co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement and author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam, about the op-ed she co-wrote with Hala Arafa in the Washington Post about why, as Muslim women, they are asking other Muslim women to not wear the hijab.

ASRA NOMANI: Well, what we argue in the piece is that the headscarf has become a political symbol for an ideology of Islam that is exported to the world by the theocracies of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Just like the Catholic Church in the 17th century did religious propaganda to challenge the Protestant Reformation, these ideologies are trying to define the way Muslims express Islam in the world.

And that ideology of Islam is not a good ideology. It’s a bad one: anti-human, coercive, cruel, and stunningly harsh toward women.

SHAPIRO: Are you urging Muslim women who feel most comfortable wearing hijab not to wear one or are you just saying to well-intentioned non-Muslims please don’t do this as a sign of solidarity?

NOMANI: Well, very interestingly in a movement that I call now the hijab lobby, sadly promulgated by women that some of us refer to as Muslim mean girls and their friends, are trying to put out this meme that we are denying women their choice. But of course in this world everybody should have their choice. What we are saying is we have to be smart about the ideology that is putting this idea into the world that a woman must be defined by her idea of modesty, that she is the vessel for honor in a community. And I believe that we have to be very pragmatic, too, about the consequence of this. Women in Iran and Saudi Arabia are jailed, punished and harassed if they don’t cover themselves legally, according to the standard of those countries. So the consequences for many women is oftentimes very dark.

Women in the UK and the US and other places are harassed if they do wear it, so you can see why people want to be in solidarity with them, but…hijab doesn’t become benign or feminist because of that harassment.

SHAPIRO: I see certain parallels between the debate over feminism where some women argue that women should not be forced to stay at home and take care of children. And there are other women who are saying you are criticizing my decision as a free liberated women to stay home and take care of my children.

NOMANI: Right, but at the end of the day here what we’re talking about is choice. And we’re talking about everybody’s free right to have choice. And so what we’re also getting are interesting messages like you really need to obey the command of Allah and put a scarf on your head. And what we caution well-intentioned Americans and others to think about is whether the scarf matches their own values related to issues of honor and shame.

That’s the thing, you know – it’s not a “choice” in the full sense, because it is a (putative) religious obligation or command. It’s a “choice” to obey a religious command, one that is violently enforced in some parts of the world. That’s a dubious form of “choice,” if you ask me.

There’s a very ugly comment on the interview:

If she wants a new Religion she can go another way. The evidence of Islam is firm. She is an apostate for her beliefs. She does not have to wear anything and can join any religion she wants here in America, but does not have any standing in religious rulings. She does not even understand the language of the Qur’an. She speaks with out any knowledge and mocks the religion. Specifically it is not just the women who have a dress code, but also the men, and they should cover their heads. Why aren’t these types of question asked of the Jews of this country. And I mean no disrespect towards them, of the Mennonites, or Quakers, or the Amish. But why is it always Islam that is being singled out. She is mocking and laughing in her tone which is totally disrespectful to those women who do wear hijab, or veil, or cover completely. Is it the religion you mock or is it Allah and then His prophet.

That comment calls her an apostate and then suggests she mocks Allah and “His prophet.” The penalty for both is death.

None of this is about “choice,” is it.

To differ with Oberlin college students

Dec 23rd, 2015 11:21 am | By

I agree with Fredrik deBoer up to a point, but only up to a point.

I was quoted in a couple prominent publications yesterday, repeating my complaints with Oberlin’s protest against the supposed cultural appropriation of bad cafeteria food. Predictably, this resulted in both a lot of praise and a lot of criticism on social media. I don’t take either too deeply to heart. But I am disappointed that, from both critics and supporters, this has resulted in a common refrain: that I must be something other than a leftist, that to differ with (for example) Oberlin college students on the question of cultural appropriation must mean that I’m a closet whatever.

In fact, I critique that practice because I am on the left.

Same here. I think a lot of accusations of appropriation are wrong and decidedly unhelpful – which is not to say that all of them are.

But after that comes the point where I stop agreeing.

In fact, I critique that practice because I am on the left. I’m part of a small but growing collection of people who feel that the left has lost its way, and that it must be steered back to its traditional roots: in materialism, in class solidarity as the basis of political organizing, in recognizing that racism and sexism can only be meaningfully addressed through structural economic change, in privileging the material over the symbolic or the linguistic, and in defining our purpose as building a mass movement — and thus necessarily reaching out and convincing those who are not already convinced.

I agree that class solidarity is one basis for political organizing, and is badly neglected by the left these days, and should be recuperated…but I don’t agree that it should be the basis, to the exclusion of other categories. I absolutely don’t agree that racism and sexism can only be meaningfully addressed through structural economic change – that used to be the standard left approach and look at the result: sexism and racism were all but ignored. I don’t think I agree that the left should privilege the material over the symbolic or the linguistic, because I think they all matter. I think it matters that popular culture is so packed with all-dude entertainment, as if women were a tiny insignificant minority. I think it matters what culture we grow up in.

That said, I think his post is a useful corrective.

What links them

Dec 23rd, 2015 10:22 am | By

Kenan Malik in the New York Times compares and contrasts Donald Trump and Maryam Namazie.

What links them is that there are many people in Britain who do not wish to let one or the other speak.

Mr. Trump’s recent call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” caused outrage across the world. More than half a million Britons signed a petition to Parliament demanding that he be barred from Britain, a demand that has been backed by senior political figures.

The furor over Ms. Namazie’s views has caused fewer ripples, but is no less significant. Ms. Namazie is a founding member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, an organization that campaigns on behalf of those facing hostility for renouncing their Islamic faith, or “apostasy.”

But, Kenan points out, there are people fatuous enough to think and say that Maryam is “Islamophobic” and thus in the same category as Donald Trump.

All this reveals the odd relationship that many on the left have with Islam. They view all Muslims as helpless victims, and regard any criticism of Islam as a form of bigotry. A columnist for The Guardian, David Shariatmadari, called the attempt at Warwick to muzzle Ms. Namazie “reasonable” because “we don’t want to have any part in the further stigmatisation of Islam.” Some academics disdainfully dismiss liberal Muslim critics of Islam as “native informants” — defined by one academic as “insiders” who “air the dirty laundry of Muslim communities.”

So what’s left? If Exes are “Islamophobic” and liberals are “native informants” – what’s left?

Uncritical endorsement of reactionary Islamists, that’s what.

Just as Mr. Trump seems unable to distinguish between Muslims and terrorists, do many on the left seem unable to distinguish between criticism of Islam and bigotry against Muslims. And just as Mr. Trump views Muslims as an undifferentiated lump, all potential terrorists, those on the left also often view Muslims as a homogeneous community speaking with a single voice. Both ignore progressive Muslim voices as not being truly of that community, while celebrating the most conservative voices as authentic.

I once interviewed Naser Khader, a secular Muslim and a Danish member of Parliament. He recalled a conversation with Toger Seidenfaden, then editor of the left-wing newspaper Politiken, about the “Muhammad cartoons” that had caused global controversy in 2005 when published in another Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten.

Mr. Seidenfaden claimed that “the cartoons insulted all Muslims.” “I am not insulted,” Mr. Khader responded. “But you’re not a real Muslim” came the reply. To be a real Muslim is, from such a perspective, to find the cartoons offensive. Anyone who isn’t offended is, by definition, not a real Muslim.

And yet people who think that way call Maryam Islamophobic.

Doo wah doo wah

Dec 23rd, 2015 9:53 am | By

And speaking of reform and “the community,” there’s a busy Twitter hashtag #DuaAgainstMaajidNawaz. Yesterday it was full of disgusting requests that Allah kill Maajid in degrading painful ways, but then the liberals took it over and now it’s full of jokes. I made a few myself.

But as so often, it’s interesting to note that passionate religion doesn’t seem to inspire people to be kinder, but rather the opposite.

Simon ‏@wingedbullsimon 27 minutes ago
May your earbuds always be tangled. #DuaAgainstMaajidNawaz

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From within the community

Dec 23rd, 2015 9:22 am | By

It’s Jesus and Mo day, i.e. the day a new J & M appears.


So that means people like Maajid Nawaz and Irshad Manji and Tarek Fatah and Tehmina Kazi and Sarah Khan are totally outsiders, right? Of course.

Volume 7, Wrong Again, God Boy, with a foreword by ME, is out now.

The Patreon.

How does it get worse?

Dec 22nd, 2015 5:06 pm | By

It gets more degrading every day.

Trump, last night:

“Even her race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama,” the GOP frontrunner told a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I don’t know who would be worse, I don’t know. How does it get worse? But she was gonna beat — she was favored to win — and she got schlonged. She lost.”

See what he did there? She got penised. The weak worthless pathetic woman got penised, because she’s so weak and pathetic and vagina.

I don’t like the way we do things here. It’s bad.