Notes and Comment Blog

The Jaafari Personal Status Law

May 1st, 2014 11:56 am | By

Another one it would be good to sign.

Tell Iraq: Don’t Legalize Forced Child Marriage

Any minute now, the Iraqi Council of Representatives will vote to legalize forced child marriage.

The specifics of the legislation (part of the Jaafari Personal Status Law) are terrifying:

  • There will no longer be a minimum age to legally marry (it’s currently 18) but the law provides policies for divorcing a 9-year-old;
  • A girl’s father would legally be able to accept a marriage proposal; and
  • The girl would be legally prohibited from resisting her husband’s advances and leaving the home without his permission. It’s a recipe for a life in domestic and sexual slavery.

Currently, Iraq has one of the most progressive policies on women’s rights in the Middle East — setting the legal marriage age at 18 and prohibiting forced marriage.

Brave Iraqi women have been fighting against removing the minimum age for marriage, for their sake and for the sake of their daughters. Last month on International Women’s Day, countless women attended demonstrations in Baghdad protesting the Jaafari Personal Status Law. They called it the “Day of Mourning”.

We may not have much time to stop Iraq from legalizing forced child marriage and a lifetime of domestic and sexual slavery for girls and women. Call on the the Iraqi Council of Representatives to vote “no” to the Jaafari Personal Status Law today.

In partnership with the Arab Human Rights Academy (AHRA).

It’s not a recipe for slavery, it is slavery.

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

Nightmares from the past

May 1st, 2014 11:34 am | By

The Irish Times reports:

The Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has been arrested in connection with the 1972 abduction, murder and disappearance of Jean McConville.

Detectives from the PSNI’s serious crime branch are questioning Mr Adams at Antrim station about the murder of the widowed mother of 10 children.

Mr Adams remained in police custody overnight following his arrest yesterday.

The BBC gives some background.

Mrs McConville, one of Northern Ireland’s Disappeared, was kidnapped in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

The claim that she was an informer was dismissed after an official investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

The widow was held at one or more houses before being shot and buried in secret.

The Disappeared are those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles.

The IRA admitted in 1999 that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared.

She kidnapped in front of her children. That’s a nice touch, isn’t it.

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

What’s in a name

May 1st, 2014 10:19 am | By

In more tooth-grinding news from Pakistan, a mosque in a suburb of Islamabad has been named after the guy who murdered Salmaan Taseer.

Taseer was shot and killed by Mumtaz Qadri, a member of his own security detail, at the Kohsar Market in Sector F-6 on January 4, 2011. The shooter Qadri has become a divisive figure in Pakistani society. He is hailed as a ‘hero’ by some and denounced as a cold blooded murderer by others. Clerics from the Barelvi school of thought are among those proclaiming Qadri’s ‘heroism’.

Perhaps this is why a mosque in the suburbs of the very city Taseer was killed in, has been named after Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. The mosque is constructed on a 10-marla plot of land, next to a girls’ seminary, the Jamia Rehmania Akbaria Ziaul Binaat. Even though the housing society is not fully developed and several houses in the neighbourhood are still under construction, there are already four mosques, catering to people from different schools of thought, in close proximity to each other.

The mosque’s prayer leader, Mohammad Ashfaq Sabri, told Dawn: “The mosque was built to pay tribute to the services of the man who taught a lesson to a blasphemer,” adding that the name was chosen in consultation with religious scholars and residents of the area.

“A lesson to a blasphemer” is it. What did the “blasphemer” Salmaan Taseer do? He tried to give support and comfort to a Christian woman accused of “blasphemy” by some hateful neighbors. What a world, where you have to watch what you say about imaginary or long-dead religious heroes, or be killed.

But those living in Ghori Town say no one asked them. In fact, several residents Dawn spoke to refused to be named for fear of reprisals.

“I know who Qadri is and what he did. I have a very different opinion of him, but I can’t speak out because I’m afraid something might happen to me or my family,” said one of the mosque’s neighbours.

Another Ghori Town-resident, Mohammad Tufail, said: “Have you ever heard of clerics consulting anyone in the neighbourhood before naming a mosque? But I figure, what’s in a name? We just go there, pray and come back. I don’t want to get involved in the politics of these Maulvis.”

“I cannot comment on whether this is right or wrong. I work to provide for my family and I don’t want religious fundos beating down my door because they don’t like something I said,” said Faisal Rasool, another resident of Ghori Town.

That’s what their world is like – they’re hemmed in by violence-loving religious fanatics, and they’re afraid to say a word.

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

Raif Badawi

Apr 30th, 2014 5:42 pm | By

From CFI:

30-year-old Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian writer and activist, was sentenced last year to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. Badawi’s crimes? Founding a website, Liberal Saudi Network, dedicated to fostering open discussion of religion and politics; and calling on his country to respect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, and women’s rights.

According to the Saudi court, Badawi was guilty of ridiculing Islam. In the midst of his appeals process, Badawi could soon be charged with apostasy. The penalty for apostasy in Saudi Arabia is death.

To make matters worse, a Saudi court recently jailed Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Sami Abu Al-Khair, for his human rights activism.

There are global protests May 3.

In support of Badawi, the Center for Inquiry joins Muslims for Progressive Values in organizing a protest at the Saudi Arabian Embassy on Saturday, May 3, at 3:00 p.m. The embassy is located at 601 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20037, near the Foggy Bottom stop on the Metro.

The D.C. protest is part of several demonstrations set to take place May 3, organized under the banner of “Stand for Raif Badawi on World Press Freedom Day.” Other locations include Ottawa, Canada; Madrid, Spain; Bern, Switzerland; Tunis, Tunisia; and London, UK.

If you can attend, please join our Facebook event or email Michael De Dora at Attendees are encouraged to bring their own signs, though some signs will be provided.

Please come out on Saturday, May 3 to demand the release of Raif Badawi and be part of a global movement standing up for fundamental human rights!


Embedded image permalink

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

Pogu Yaga wept

Apr 30th, 2014 4:28 pm | By

From the Washington Post, more on those “marriages” in Nigeria.

Village elder Pogo Bitrus told Agence France Presse locals had consulted with “various sources” in the nation’s forested northeast. “From the information we received yesterday from Cameroonian border towns our abducted girls were taken… into Chad and Cameroon,” he said, adding that each girl was sold as a bride to Islamist militants for 2,000 naira — $12.

The Washington Post could not independently verify such claims, and the Nigerian defense ministry didn’t immediately return requests for comment Wednesday morning. But if true, the news would add another terrifying wrinkle to an already horrifying set of events…

Oh I’m sure they were just grabbed to do a little mending for Boko Haram, and will be set free any day now.

Parents have grown increasingly frustrated by what they perceive as a feckless governmental response. Some relatives have launched their own search, riding motorcycles deep into the surrounding forests in search of their girls. “My wife keeps asking me, why isn’t the government deploying every means to find our children,” relative Dawah said.

“All we want from the government is to help us bring our children back,” one father named Pogu Yaga, wept.

It’s been 16 days.

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

With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty

Apr 30th, 2014 3:47 pm | By

The sultan of Brunei is going ahead with the introduction of ferocious punitive “sharia” despite objections from people who aren’t savage theocratic monsters.

“With faith and gratitude to Allah the almighty, I declare that tomorrow, Thursday 1 May 2014, will see the enforcement of sharia law phase one, to be followed by the other phases,” the absolute monarch said in a royal decree on Wednesday.

Plans for the sharia penalties – which will eventually include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning – triggered condemnation on social media sites in the tiny sultanate earlier this year.

Well, Mohammed didn’t say anything about social media, so fuck all that.

67-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah – one of the world’s wealthiest men – said in his decree that the move was “a must” under Islam, dismissing “never-ending theories” that sharia punishments were cruel in comments clearly aimed at detractors.

“Theory states that Allah’s law is cruel and unfair but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair,” he said.

Imbecile. How does he know that? It’s in a book. In other words he doesn’t know it, but he’s too stubborn and pious to realize he doesn’t.

The initial phase beginning on Thursday introduces fines or jail terms for offences ranging from indecent behaviour, failure to attend Friday prayers, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Oh, brilliant – you’re not even allowed to not go to Friday prayers in Brunei.

A second phase covering crimes such as theft and robbery is to be implemented later this year, involving more stringent penalties such as severing of limbs and flogging.

Late next year, punishments such as death by stoning for offences including sodomy and adultery will be introduced.

Why stop there? Why not stone children to death for crying when they fall and skin their knees?

The UN’s human rights office said this month it was deeply concerned about the changes, adding that women typically bore the brunt of punishment for crimes involving sex.

Well they should have thought of that before deciding to be women.


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

And while I’m at it

Apr 30th, 2014 3:14 pm | By

The true meaning of nobility.

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

Now that’s the way to treat a cough

Apr 30th, 2014 3:12 pm | By

H/t Ray

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

Requirements of the Islamic Shari’a applicable to family and children

Apr 30th, 2014 10:38 am | By

That Telegraph article mentioned a “Sharia Law event at the Law Society’s headquarters on Chancery Lane, central London on June 24″ and provided a link but the link is a dud. However I found a link that works, and thus the event.

Developing services for Muslim clients – An introduction to Islamic Shari’a law for small firms

It’s not law. It’s not law. It’s not law. Stop calling it law. It’s not law.

Does your sole practice or small firm have a Muslim client base and practice in the following areas of law?

• Wills and inheritance.
• Family and children.
• Corporate and commercial (non-listed firms).

Do you want to better understand and serve the needs of your Muslim clients and build your business?

Designed as a forerunner to a planned future seminar series on Islamic law, this event will set you thinking on an important area of client service as our expert and authoritative speakers highlight some basic concepts and requirements of the Islamic Shari’a applicable to these practice areas.

That’s actually alarming. If they’re serious, and they really think “basic concepts and requirements of the Islamic Shari’a” are applicable to laws relating to for instance family and children – then they’re a fucking menace.

The event is fully booked.

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

It’s not “law”

Apr 30th, 2014 10:06 am | By

The Telegraph reported a few days ago that the Law Society will be giving a training course in sharia this summer.


A new training course being run by the Law Society this summer is described as an “introduction to Islamic Sharia law for small firms”.

What the hell. Sharia is not law in the UK. Period. In the UK, law is what is enacted by Parliament, it’s not any old thing that’s called “law” by one group or another. Sharia is a religious thing, not a legal thing. It’s not something the Law Society should be giving “training” in.

Critics said the fact that the Law Society was offering training in Sharia law created the “perception” that it was now “a legal discipline”.

Exactly; I say the same thing.

The Sharia Law event at the Law Society’s headquarters on Chancery Lane, central London on June 24 has already sold out.

It offers training in Sharia law covering wills and inheritance, family and children and corporate and commercial law.

The course is billed as “a forerunner to a planned future seminar series on Islamic law”, the Law Society said.

The Society said: “This event will set you thinking on an important area of client service as our expert and authoritative speakers highlight some basic concepts and requirements of the Islamic Sharia applicable to these practice areas.”

Some basic “requirements” – which are not requirements at all unless you buy into the religion and into the idea that the religion’s laws are “requirements” for you. Religious “laws” have no powers of enforcement to back them up; they are wholly dependent on the religions that purport to issue them, thus they have nothing to do with the Law Society and the Law Society should not be meddling with them.

The Telegraph apparently asked Charlie Klendjian about it.

Charlie Klendjian, a spokesman from the Lawyers’ Secular Society said: “It creates an ever increasing perception to the public and also to the legal profession that Sharia law is a legal discipline.

“Sharia law is not a legal discipline, it is theology and we can’t constantly keep giving it this credibility and it is certainly not for the Law Society to be doing that.

“It is damaging to the perception of the primacy of English law, and that is what the Law Society don’t appreciate.”

Which is quite astonishingly obtuse of them. Is the sharia training going to deal with how old a girl should be before she can marry? Is it going to deal with forced marriage? “Honor” violence? Children’s rights? Women’s rights? It will be interesting to find out.


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

Southall Black Sisters

Apr 29th, 2014 5:44 pm | By

At the protest yesterday. Via Chris Moos.

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

At the Law Society protest

Apr 29th, 2014 5:40 pm | By

In London yesterday. Via Chris Moos.

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

A police officer, not a doctor, by her bed

Apr 29th, 2014 5:03 pm | By

In El Salvador, a nightmare I can’t even read about without quaking with fury.

Cristina Quintanilla was 18 years old in October 2004 when, seven months pregnant with her second child, she collapsed in pain on the floor of her family home. “I felt like I was choking, like I couldn’t breathe,” she says, shaking at the memory.

Quintanilla, who lives in San Miguel, El Salvador, fell unconscious and, bleeding heavily, was taken to hospital by her mother. When she woke up, dizzy from blood loss and anaesthetic, and having lost her child, she says she was startled to find a police officer, not a doctor, by her bed.

Because she’s a woman and she had a miscarriage, so OBVIOUSLY she committed a crime.

“It was strange because doctors wear white but he was wearing blue … He said, ‘From this moment on, you are under arrest.’ This confused me even more.”

Quintanilla says she was interrogated while still under the effect of anaesthetic, handcuffed and brought from hospital to a cell in a police jail, accused of having killed ker child. Within 10 months, she was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. “It was another huge tragedy in my life. I had a son, who was three years old. How could I ever be with my child, with my family, with a sentence [like this]?”

See? That’s why I can’t read it and stay calm. THIRTY YEARS IN PRISON FOR HAVING A MISCARRIAGE.

El Salvador has one of the world’s strictest abortionlaws, with abortion a crime even when a woman’s life is at risk. Human rights activists say this has created a system of persecution in the country’s hospitals as well as its courts, where any woman – and particularly a poor, young woman who loses her baby – is suspect.

Dozens of women like Quintanilla have reportedly been prosecuted and imprisoned on homicide charges after suffering miscarriages, stillbirths, or obstetric emergencies away from medical attention.

Because when in doubt, persecute a woman.

According to the Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto (Citizens’ Coalition for the Decriminalisation of Abortion), 129 women were prosecuted for abortion-related crimes in El Salvador between 2000 and 2011, with 49 convicted (23 for abortion, 26 for homicide).

In a report published with the Centre for Reproductive Rights, the Agrupación says: “Enforcement of the country’s abortion law has had serious consequences in hospitals and healthcare centres, where any woman who comes to an emergency room haemorrhaging is presumed to be a criminal.”

In many of the cases documented, health workers had reported women to the police.

As if miscarriage simply didn’t exist!

High-profile backers of El Salvador’s abortion ban include senior figures in the Catholic church, National Republic Alliance party and the influential lobby group Sí a la Vida (Yes to Life).

While Beatriz’s case was being debated, José Luis Escobar, archbishop of San Salvador, reportedly suggested it would be inhuman and “against nature” for her to have an abortion, saying: “Sure, [Beatriz] has health problems, but she’s not in grave danger of death. Since we need to consider both lives we need to ask, whose life is in greater danger. We think that the foetus is in greater danger.”

How I wish there were a technology that could make some archbishops and cardinals pregnant against their will. How.I.wish.

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

Saudi Arabia demands criminalization of everything

Apr 29th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

Hahahahahahahaha this is the funniest headline I’ve seen in awhile – it’s in the Independent -

Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record

You must admit.

Ok so what’s the problem? What rights are they neglecting? Prisoners’? Children’s? Foreigners’? Asylum seekers’? Those of the disabled?

No, none of those. It’s the rights of Mohammed and Islam that Norway has been neglecting. How are those human rights, you wonder? They’re…not.

Saudi Arabia has criticised Norway’s human rights record, accusing the country of failing to protect its Muslim citizens and not doing enough to counter criticism of the prophet Mohammed.

Hey, you know what? No country should do anything to “counter criticism” of Mohammed or any other religious figure.

The gulf state called for all criticism of religion and of prophet Mohammed to be made illegal in Norway.

Ok then I call for Islam to be made illegal in Saudi Arabia. Why not? If Saudi can, we all can.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was in Geneva to hear the concerns from 91 other countries. He told Norway’s NTB newswire prior to the hearing: “It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations,” reported The Local.

Human Rights Watch last report noted that in 2012 Saudi Arabia “stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens.”

It continued “Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention. The year has seen trials against half-a-dozen human rights defenders and several others for their peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.”

Still, it’s nice of them to try to help the rest of the world do better.

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

Mass “marriages”

Apr 29th, 2014 12:10 pm | By

New news from Nigeria – Monica Mark reports in the Guardian:

For two weeks, retired teacher Samson Dawah prayed for news of his niece Saratu, who was among more than 230 schoolgirls snatched by Boko Haram militants in the north-eastern Nigerian village of Chibok. Then on Monday the agonising silence was broken.

When Dawah called together his extended family members to give an update, he asked that the most elderly not attend, fearing they would not be able to cope with what he had to say. “We have heard from members of the forest community where they took the girls. They said there had been mass marriages and the girls are being shared out as wives among the Boko Haram militants,” Dawah told his relatives.

As “wives” – meaning, as slaves, chattel, livestock; wholly-owned property to be poked at will.

Reports of the mass marriage came from a group that meets at dawn each day not far from the charred remains of the school. The ragtag gathering of fathers, uncles, cousins and nephews pool money for fuel before venturing unarmed into the thick forest, or into border towns that the militants have terrorised for months.

On Sunday, the searchers were told that the students had been divided into at least three groups, according to farmers and villagers who had seen truckloads of girls moving around the area. One farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents had paid leaders dowries and fired celebratory gunshots for several minutes after conducting mass wedding ceremonies on Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s unbearable. Our wives have grown bitter and cry all day. The abduction of our children and the news of them being married off is like hearing of the return of the slave trade,” said Yakubu Ubalala, whose 17- and 18-year-old daughters Kulu and Maimuna are among the disappeared.

And the rescue efforts are failing because Boko Haram has sleepers.

Nigeria’s armed forces face an uphill battle against the insurgents, who operate in small, mobile units and are drawn from communities that spill across the country’s porous desert borders. Near daily aerial bombardments have been halted as ground troops have poured into the forest in search of the girls.

“We are trying, but our efforts are being countered in a way that it is very clear they are being tipped off about our movements. Any time we make a plan to rescue [the girls] we have been ambushed,” said an artillery soldier among a rescue team announced by presidential decree over the weekend. In one clash, he said, 15 soldiers were killed by the insurgents.

“We know where these girls are being held in the forest, but every day we go in and come out disappointed. Definitely somebody high up in the chain of command is leaking up information to these people,” said the soldier, whom the Guardian was able to reach three times during shift breaks. Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, said in 2012 that Boko Haram had secret backers among government and security officials.

Those girls were sitting physics exams. I guess Boko Haram has shown them what they get for being so clever.

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

The very worst moment

Apr 29th, 2014 11:52 am | By

A piece by channel4 news on April 25th:

Amid mounting public fury and an international outcry over the fate of 230 kidnapped Nigerian teenaged girls – now missing for nearly two weeks - the mother of one of the girls has warned that unless they are rescued urgently, she and other parents would likely be collecting their children’s dead bodies.

Speaking by telephone from Chibok, the town in north-eastern Borno state where the girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night, a distressed Mrs Rahila Bitrus told Channel 4 News of her family’s anguish and accused the Nigeriangovernment of failing to act fast enough.

“They’d assured us they would rescue our children but today, it’s 11 days since the abductions and we still haven’t seen our daughters,” she said. “We are going through the very worst moment of our lives.

“The kidnapping has caused us great pain and sorrow,” said Mrs Bitrus. “We are praying and fasting for the safe return of our daughters.”

Her 17-year-old daughter, Ruth, an art student at Chibok Government Girls’ Secondary School, was about to sit exams. Insurgents suspected of belonging to the jihadi group Boko Haram – whose name means “western education is forbidden” – abducted the girls from their dormitories, loading them onto trucks, before setting the boarding school ablaze.

The girls, who are all aged between 16 and 18 and mostly come from Christian families, are thought to be held captive in a notorious region of difficult, rough terrain called the Sembisa Forest, a known jungle hideout of Boko Haram in Borno State. Around 40 girls escaped early on. Their accounts appeared to confirm that the kidnappers were from Boko Haram.

I suppose their being mostly from Christian families makes them all the more likely to be badly treated – although Boko Haram seems to be eager to treat everyone as badly as possible, so maybe the religion doesn’t make any difference. Boko Haram doesn’t leave itself room to treat some people even worse than others.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he is “appalled” by the abductions. In a statement on Friday to Channel 4 News, he said he had discussed the kidnappings with the Nigerian foreign minister and was talking to the authorities about “how best to assist in their efforts to secure the girls’ release.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking as the United Nations special envoy for global education, said he too was in contact with the Nigerian authorities and had offered assistance. He told Channel 4 News: “The world must wake up to the escalating tragedy now engulfing Nigeria. Today the lives of 230 teenage schoolgirls hang in the balance.”

The Islamist militant sect’s escalating campaign of terror has killed more than 4,000 civilians in just four years. It claims to be fighting for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, with strict adherence to Sharia law.

Wole Soyinka, Gordon Brown and human rights activists have expressed the widely-held fear that the girls could already be imprisoned in unreachable bush camps and held for years to be used as sex slaves. There is also speculation in Borno State that the girls are being used as human shields to deter military action against Boko Haram camps.

(One of the pictures being used on Twitter to petition for more efforts to find the missing schoolgirls).

There is much anger at the government.

Women’s rights activists – whose number include some of the missing girls’ mothers – have condemned the government’s rescue efforts as incompetent. They say they are ready to risk their own lives by storming the insurgents’ hideout themselves to persuade Boko Haram to release the girls.

“We are very angry,” women’s rights lawyer Hauwa Shekarau told Channel 4 News. “We are not happy with efforts so far and we are demanding the government do more.”

Ms Shekarau, who is President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers Nigeria, said civil society groups felt powerless in the face of deep-seated public mistrust of the federal government’s rescue efforts.

“Eleven days have gone by and we still have no information about the whereabouts of these girls,” she said.

Now it’s fifteen days.

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

Lend a voice

Apr 29th, 2014 11:38 am | By

Via Stepping Stones Nigeria

[It's Borno, not Burno]

#BringBackOurGirls Very little is known about what the authorities are doing to bring back the 200+ girls abducted whilst at school. Even the exact figure of the girls taken is different between reports. These are precious lives and, if you care, we need to keep the pressure on the Nigerian Government and international organisations to rescue these girls. Sign now at:

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

Your business is to ensure that the law is human rights compliant

Apr 29th, 2014 11:32 am | By

A joint press release: ‘Wills without bigotry – protest against the Law Society’

About 70 protesters rallied outside the office of the Law Society to condemn their endorsement of discriminatory sharia law on April 28 2014. The protest was organised by anti-racist, feminist and human rights groups, namely One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, and London School of Economics SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. Chris Moos was the master of ceremonies of the rally.

At the protest, Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters called upon the Law Society to withdraw its guidance:

“Our message to you is this: Wake up: You are the Law Society and not a body advising on the compatibility of the law with religious principles! You have no business in normalising discriminatory religious principles in the legal culture and practice of this country. Your business is to ensure that the law is human rights compliant and not anti-rights compliant. Your business is to tear up the guidance. Your business is to stand with us on this side of the fence and on this side of history.”

Maryam Namazie, founder of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation argued:

 “There is no place for Sharia in Britain’s legal system just as there is no place for it anywhere. Sharia – like all religious laws – is based on a dogmatic and regressive philosophy and a warped understanding of the concepts of equality and justice. It is primitive and patriarchal and based on inequality, retribution and religious [im]morality. It is not a rule for equals and has no place in a modern state or system of law. Law Society listen up: you must immediately withdraw your shameful guidance. Now! In the words of Algerian women singing for change: “We aren’t asking for favours. History speaks for us.”


Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“The Law Society is violating its own equality policies by providing guidance on Sharia-compliant wills and offering training courses in Sharia law for high street lawyers. It is colluding with Sharia law principles that discriminate against women, non-Muslims and children who are adopted or born to unmarried parents. This is a direct attack on the equal rights of many Muslims, especially women. The Law Society is supposed to uphold the equality values of British law. Instead, it is undermining them. The Law Society would never provide guidance to facilitate racist or homophobic-compliant wills. Why the double standards?”


Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and activist, appealed to the Law Society:

“Religious bigots are highly skilled at trampling on the rights of women, children and non-believers. They don’t need The Law Society to help them. The value of daughters is THE SAME as the value of sons. All marriages, religious, non-religious, gay or straight are marriages. And every child is legitimate. Faced with bigotry it is the job of all of us – including the Law Society – to challenge it. The protestors today did exactly that. When will The Law Society follow suit and rip up this ‘guide to discrimination’?”


Abhishek Phadnis, president of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society, added:

“I come from a country which has seen this divisive trend being taken to its logical conclusion – where a woman’s rights to, among other things, alimony and inheritance, depend entirely on her religion, there being different laws for each community. The resulting discrimination has visited appalling suffering upon Muslim women in particular. I have no wish to see it replicated here. A man may choose to be as spiteful and chauvinistic as he wishes, but it is not something our public institutions should encourage or condone. I hope the Law Society will withdraw this Note before it causes any further damage”.


James Bloodworth, the Editor of Left Foot Forward, said:

“In issuing its guidance on Sharia-Compliant Wills, the law society is lending respectability to something that should have none: the view that women are in some way second class citizens.”


Diana Nammi, Chief Executive of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, commented:

“I am here today to represent thousands of women and girls from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan who live here in the UK. Many of these women, like me, have fled countries where Sharia law is practiced. […] There is a lot of money to be made by lawyers from drafting Sharia compliant wills. We cannot allow for women’s rights to be sacrificed so that lawyers can cash in. The Law Society must never step beyond its remit of secular law.  It has no just reason to legitimise any religious law.”


Ramin Forghani, Vice-Chair of the Scotland Secular Society, who had travelled from Glasgow to join the protest, asserted:

“I’m Iranian and I well know what happens when the barrier between religion and legal system gets destroyed. Shame on the Law Society!”


Rumana Hashem from Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Social Justice, Secularism and Equal Rights added:

As a Bengali-Muslim resident in the UK, I faced enough discrimination in this country in relation to ethnicity, gender and migration for the last seven years. I cannot tolerate further discrimination in relation to my religion and sex. [...] When Muslim countries like Bangladesh are moving away from religious law and moving towards secularism and gender equity by overcoming religious rules, how can the Law Society in the UK provide guidance for legitimising Sharia Law in a state which is meant to provide secularism and human rights for all?


Other speakers at the rally included Jason Scott of the London Atheist Activist Group and Yasmin Rehman of the Centre for Secular Space.


The rally finished with protesters tearing pages from a copy of the Equality Act and pinning them to the fence of the Law Society, symbolising the contravention of the Act by the Law Society.


As the master of ceremonies of the rally, Chris Moos concluded:

“Our protest has sent a clear and loud signal to the Law Society that secularists and equality campaigners will not stand by and watch while the Law Society is undermining the basic principle of secular equality enshrined in the law. We hope that the Law Society will accept our legitimate concerns and address them by immediately withdrawing the practice note. The Law Society needs to act now, or face even more scrutiny from secular and human rights campaigners.”

The open letter kick-starting the campaign against the Law Society on March 23rd was signed by scientist Richard Dawkins; Egyptian activist Aliaa Magda Elmahdy; writer Taslima Nasrin; Founder and Director of Basira for Universal Women Rights Ahlam Akram; founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue Marieme Helie Lucas; and Raheel Raza, President of Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow amongst others.

Pictures of the protest can be found here.

For more information, contact:

Maryam Namazie

One Law for All

077 1916 6731



Pragna Patel

Southall Black Sisters

020 8571 9595



Gita Sahgal

Centre for Secular Space

079 7271 5090



Chris Moos

LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society

074 2872 0599


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

Where did Ross Douthat disappear to?

Apr 29th, 2014 10:59 am | By

We’ve noticed many times how jeremiads about religious freedom seem to go in only one direction – freedom to refuse service to gay couples, freedom to refuse to perform medically necessary abortions, freedom to shield child-raping priests from the law. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate points to an example from silence as opposed to jeremiad.

On Monday, the United Church of Christ brought a federal lawsuit against North Carolina’s marriage laws, which were amended in 2012 to ban gay unions. What interest does the United Church of Christ have in toppling the state’s homophobic ban? Under North Carolina law, a minister who officiates a marriage ceremony between a couple with no valid marriage license is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor and can be thrown in jail for 45 days. And since gay marriage is illegal in North Carolina, that means any minister who dares celebrate a gay union in his church may face jail time.

I’m not certain why Ross DouthatRamesh PonnuruMollie Hemingway, and other vociferous conservative defenders of religious liberty aren’t vocally outraged about this fact. Nor am I certain why, if religious freedom is truly one of the most cherished values of American conservatism, the religious right wasn’t incensed when Unitarian ministers in New York had to risk arrest while performing commitment ceremonies under a similar statute in 2004. Surely a vision of religious liberty that would allow a storeowner to turn away gays at the door would encompass the basic principle of allowing houses of worship to honor lifelong commitments they deem worthy of solemnization in the eyes of God.

But then he goes on to admit that actually he knows perfectly well why: the conservative jeremiadists are interested in only their kind of religious freedom.

Anyone legitimately concerned about the rights of believers to practice their faith as they wish should be appalled by North Carolina’s marriage laws. The threat of a minister going to jail simply for celebrating a gay marriage is a real, and terrifying, affront to the very premise of “free exercise” of religion. Given how irrationally concerned conservatives are that ministers may soon be arrested in America for refusing to conduct gay weddings, I would hope they would be equally horrified by the specter of a minister being arrested for agreeing to perform one. But, of course, they won’t be. The right has settled on a stunningly specious new narrative of victimization and religious oppression; to observe that some Americans are facing religious oppression for their pro-gay views just doesn’t fit the storyline. Consistency and morality would command conservatives to enthusiastically join the United Church of Christ’s lawsuit. Hypocrisy will prevent them from saying a word.

That’s why I don’t go in for jeremiads about religious freedom: I know perfectly well I don’t want to defend every kind of religious freedom there can possibly be, so I don’t talk about it that simplistically. Be careful what you undertake to defend.


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


Apr 29th, 2014 10:39 am | By

Jessica Valenti points out one of the ways women are given special treatment.

When I argue with a sexist, there’s an inevitable point at which he will call me “sweetheart”. (I like to think of it as shorthand for “you’re winning”.) If I’m really making him feel foolish, he may resort to “bitch”. “Ugly” is the last refuge of the hopelessly destroyed.

I’ve been writing about feminism on the internet long enough that these names don’t really bother me. But nothing is more grating than when a man I don’t know – in comments, Twitter or real life – calls me “Jessie”.

I don’t know if I find the diminutive the most grating item, but I do find it grating. Which is worse, hatred or contempt? Hard to say. Are “cunt” “bitch” and “twat” worse than “honey” “sweetie” and “babyname”? I don’t know; both are special.

As it turns out, it’s not just me. Behind every female with an opinion is a man with a sneering nickname for her.

Sophia Wallace, a photographer and feminist artist, tells me, “In professional contexts, I suddenly become ‘Sophie’ with people who have an issue with me. Usually they think I have exhibited too much leadership and are trying to bring me down.”

Well, it’s like “boy,” isn’t it. It’s what you do to uppity inferiors – you remind them of their inferior status.

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