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.

A protection racket

Jan 25th, 2012 11:21 am | By

The LSE student paper reports on the cartoons and free speech and “Islamophobia” and shut-uppery affair. It has details.

On 20th January, members of ASH Society met with Stanley Ellerby-English, Students’ Union Activities and Development Officer, who explained “the situation, the complaints that had been made and how the action of posting these cartoons was in breach of the Students’ Union policy on inclusion and the society’s constitution.” The society agreed to certain outcomes, though these have not been disclosed yet; however, the Students’ Union will “now be telling the society that they cannot continue these actions under the brand of the SU.”

Chriss Moos, President of the LSE’s Students’ Union ASH Society, responded to the formal complaints that had been filed against the society, stating that the issue should not be framed as one pertaining to Islamophobia.

“We firmly reject the allegation that actions of our members have ‘sought to marginalise’ anyone, have caused ‘harm to the welfare of Muslim students’ or constituted a ‘targeted campaign,’” Moos said. “Although we reserve the right to criticise religious ideas, as humanists we will always oppose any targeted campaign against any community. We strongly oppose any form of anti-Muslim prejudice. The cartoons criticise religion in a satirical way. They do not target or call for the targeting of Muslims or any other religious group.  Framing the criticism of religion as ‘discrimination’ or ‘Islamophobic actions’ is highly misguided and results in the stifling of valid debates. We do not discriminate amongst religions in our criticisms.”

The Students’ Union sabbatical officers addressed the issue at the UGM held on 19th January and inestigating the claims. An Emergency General Meeting (EGM) is scheduled for Thursday 26 January at 1:00p with two separate motions, one on antisemitism and the other on Islamophobia, to be discussed.

Ah so the E was for Emergency? Or perhaps the reporter is making the same mistake I did.

“There will be two separate motions which will lay out what these types of discrimination incorporate and that the SU stands against them,” said Sherelle Davis, Anti-Rascism Officer. “The recent Anti-Semitic incident on the ski trip and the Islamophobic actions taken by certain campus groups have brought these issues to the forefront of race relations at the moment and it’s important the SU take a stance on it.”

The Students’ Union issued the following statement to further reiterate their stance on religious discrimination on campus: “the LSE community’s values of tolerance, diversity, and respect for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or religious affiliation are not in accordance with the offensive nature displayed in the recent cases of antisemitism and Islamophobia. We respect the need for freedom of expression and discussion, but believe there must be a balance between respecting freedom of speech and protecting the communities that make up the student body at the LSE.”

And by “protecting the communities” she means “protecting people we sort into certain groups (and not others) from hearing or reading or seeing anything that might imply that their groups’ ideas and beliefs might be wrong or illiberal or unfortunate in any way.” In other words by “protecting” she means “stultifying and insulating.”

It’s not just ASH and atheists and secularists who are harmed by this crap, you know. If anything the harm done to the people being “protected” is worse than the harm done to the people who already have access to thinking uninhibited by the proxies for god.

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

If we want to live together peacefully

Jan 25th, 2012 10:40 am | By

Jesus and Mo are watching current events. (Well they would be, wouldn’t they.) (That is one good thing about all this; Streisand effect; lots of new fans of J and M.)


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

It’s a boy it’s a frog it’s a plane it’s WEIRD

Jan 25th, 2012 10:35 am | By

Oh for god’s sake.

I was looking at something (reluctantly) in the Daily Mail, and noticed another headline, so took a look at that…

Young girl has short hair shock-horror!!!1111!!!!!!!!!!!

I know the Mail specializes in being as stupid as possible, but honestly………….

Angelina Jolie’s little tomboy Shiloh unveils her very short haircut

Angelina Jolie has said daughter Shiloh prefers to ‘dress like a boy’ and ‘thinks she’s one of the brothers.’

And now the five-year-old has a new short back and sides like her older male siblings.

Shiloh dressed in utilitarian black for the fun day out with her mother and two of her brothers, Knox, three, and eight-year-old Pax, which exacerbated the effect.

Exacerbated the effect?? Made a bad thing even worse? Because a child of five has short hair? Jeezis, police gender roles much?

I feel like starting a Butch League or something.


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

One stop shopping

Jan 25th, 2012 10:09 am | By

I’ve done a lot of posts about all this shut-uppery at UCL and Queen Mary U and LSE. I thought it might be useful to collect them all in one place.

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

Emergency! Everybody to get from street

Jan 24th, 2012 5:08 pm | By

Great news! The LSE Students’ Union has another statement out. It’s another pip. It’s about an urgent EGM on Thursday – which I take to be an Emergency General Meeting (but perhaps it’s Electric, or Elegant, or Educational, or Elevated*). Emergency, emergency! Why I bet we can guess what that is…

In light of recent events there will be two anti-discrimination motions being discussed and debated at an EGM this week, these are: No to racism – no to Islamophobia! and Stop Anti-Semitism Now.

Guessed right.

Stop racism no to Islamophobia! – in the form of a cartoon image of two guys having a beer on the Facebook page of a student group. That’s racism ‘n’ Islamophobia? No, but in studentworld, it’s so much like it that it’s worth punishing just the same.

Union believes

1. In the right to criticise religion,

2. In freedom of speech and thought,

3. It has a responsibility to protect its members from hate crime and hate speech,

4. Debate on religious matters should not be limited by what may be offensive to any particular religion, but the deliberate and persistent targeting of one religious group about any issue with the intent or effect of being Islamophobic (‘Islamophobia’ as defined below) will not be tolerated.

5. That Islamophobia is a form of anti-Islamic racism.

Union resolves

1.To define Islamophobia as “a form of racism expressed through the hatred or fear of Islam, Muslims, or Islamic culture, and the stereotyping, demonisation or harassment of Muslims, including but not limited to portraying Muslims as barbarians or terrorists, or attacking the Qur’an as a manual of hatred”,

2. To take a firm stance against all Islamophobic incidents at LSE and conduct internal investigations if and when they occur.

3. To publicly oppose actions on campus that are Islamophobic based on the aforementioned definition,

4. To ensure that all Islamophobic incidents aimed at or perpetrated by LSE students either verbal, physical or online are dealt with swiftly and effectively in conjunction with the School,

5. To work with the Pro-Director for Teaching and Learning and Deans to address Islamophobia and other forms of racism on campus and methods to alleviate it,

6. To ensure that this definition is used to promote and enhance legitimate debate regarding the morality and legitimacy of international conflicts and oppose illegitimate acts of Islamophobia on campus.

 4 is good. 4 is very special. Debate should not be limited, but it will not be tolerated.

5 too. A form of “anti-Islamic racism” – as if Islamic were a race. “A form of anti-Christian racism” – doesn’t work, does it. (Mind you, it might, in Nigeria or Egypt for instance. But are British Muslims being targeted the way Nigerian and Egyptian Christians are? Are they being blown up or shot down in large numbers? Not that I’ve heard.)

1 under Union resolves is good too. Hatred of “Islamic culture” is a form of racism. So, what, then? Hatred of the way many Saudis treat foreign servants for instance, is that racism? Hatred of laws against “adultery by force” that allow a raped woman to be sentenced to 12 years in jail, is that racism?

And then all the rest of it is good, because clearly the whole point is to lay the groundwork for sending the LSE ASH to Re-education Camp.

Especially 6. “Let’s agree to accept our definition so that we can define anything we want to as Islamophobia and then proceed to pitch exquisitely self-righteous fits whenever we find some. Let’s punish us some cartoons, man!”

* No: it’s Extraordinary. H/t Gareth Chan.


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

Spot the agenda

Jan 24th, 2012 10:33 am | By

The letter to the Guardian cited a survey.

“Muslims deserve a better press than they have been given in the past decade.” And according to a recent ComRes poll, one in three people in Britain today believe that the media is responsible for “whipping up a climate of fear of Islam in the UK”.

The letter calls it a ComRes poll, but that’s just a brand name. What it really is is an Ahmadiyya Muslim Association survey, and to be exact, it’s an Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK Islamophobia Survey. It’s not an impartial bit of research, it’s an agenda-driven poll.

The poll was commissioned by one of the UK’s oldest Muslim groups, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in order to inform its plans to counter the tide of prejudice against Islam and highlight strategies to promote better community relations.

The poll comes on the eve of Britain’s biggest annual Islamic convention which will see 30,000 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community gathering at a 220-acre site in Hampshire. Foremost on the agenda will be ways to build bridges between communities and spread the word that Islam means peace.

That’s an agenda. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (it’s amusing that ComRes slipped and called it the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) plans to counter “the tide of prejudice against Islam” – which is to say, it plans to persuade people that Islam is good. That’s an agenda. It wants to “build bridges between communities” (it’s been following Stedman!) and “spread the word that Islam means peace” – which is to say, it wants to persuade people that Islam means peace when in fact it means submission. That’s an agenda.

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

Say more good things about Islam please

Jan 24th, 2012 9:37 am | By

Another busy day for the shutters up.

A bunch of Islamist bullies managed to get Salman Rushdie’s video talk to the Jaipur Literary Festival blocked.

A bunch of Islamist bullies and some allies wrote a stupid letter to the Guardian demanding more friendly coverage of Islam in the media.

Let’s take a look at that letter. (Martin Bright has been arguing with Sunny Hundal, who signed the letter, at Twitter for an hour or two. Sunny ended up saying he signs letters he doesn’t agree with, leaving Martin and also Padraig Reidy gobsmacked.)

That letter is a dog’s breakfast.

Over the past decade, a number of academic studies have indicated a worrying and disproportionate trend towards negative, distorted and even fabricated reports in media coverage of the Muslim community. Recent research at Cambridge University concludes that “a wider set of representations of Islam would signify a welcome change to reporting practices. Muslims deserve a better press than they have been given in the past decade.” And according to a recent ComRes poll, one in three people in Britain today believe that the media is responsible for “whipping up a climate of fear of Islam in the UK”.

See what they did there? In just the opening paragraph? They jumped from “the Muslim community” to Islam to Muslims and back to Islam again. So what’s the demand? That all three get friendlier coverage? That Islam itself is somehow owed less in the way of “negative” media coverage?

Yes, probably, but the idea is to make that more difficult to notice by throwing in mentions of Muslims and “the Muslim community” to dilute the mentions of Islam. Treating all three as interchangeable of course leads people to think they are, when in fact they’re not. Talking about “the Muslim community” leads people to think that all Muslims are much of a muchness, all think pretty much alike, all seethe at “negative” coverage of Islam, all demand more Islam-friendly media.

An alternative inquiry is necessary to investigate what many regard as widespread and systematic discriminatory practices in reporting on Muslims and Islam in the British media. Victims – whether prominent or not – of alleged discriminatory media coverage have a right to have their testimonies catalogued and examined thoroughly by credible, independent assessors. Recommendations can then be made to improve ethical standards in the reporting of not solely the Muslim community but of all sections of society.

There it is again - Muslims-and-Islam – treated as essentially the same, and inseparable, and both having rights and both being victims of widespread and systematic discriminatory practices. It’s a fundamentally theocratic idea.

And then, some of the signers…

Dr Muhammad Abdul BariChair, East London Mosque
Dr Omer El-Hamdoon Muslim Association of Britain
Moazzam Begg Cageprisoners
Lindsey German Stop The War Coalition
Robert Pitt Islamophobia Watch

No thanks.

Maryam did a post on this.

Islamophobia is nothing but a political term used to scaremonger people into silence. [And yes I'm looking at you Islamophobia Watch.]

Well I am sorry but no can do.

You cannot attribute human qualities to a belief system or Islam and Islamism in order to rule out and deem racist any opposition or criticism.

Just in case they didn’t know, let me repeat. Criticism, mockery, opposition to and even hatred of a belief Is. Not. Racism.

Nor is it a violation of the rights of people who hold the belief. Holding a belief does not confer a right never to hear the belief disputed or mocked.

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

It has come to our attention that you are wicked

Jan 23rd, 2012 5:22 pm | By

The LSE Students’ Union has put out a statement on its quarrel with the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society. It’s a horrible little document.

On Monday 16th January it was brought to our attention via an official complaint by two students that the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society posted cartoons, published by the UCLU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, depicting the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus “sitting in a pub having a pint” on their society Facebook page. Upon hearing this, the sabbaticals officers of the LSESU ensured all evidence was collected and an emergency meeting with a member of the Students’ Union staff was called to discuss how to deal with the issue. During this time, we received over 40 separate official complaints from the student body, in addition to further information regarding more posts on the society Facebook page.

Why? Why did they bother to collect “evidence”? (Meaning they looked at the Facebook page and nodded solemnly - yep, there it is – ?) Why on earth was an emergency meeting called (and who called it?)? An emergency? Because of a cartoon of Jesus and Mohammed having a beer? Why did they call an emergency meeting to discuss how to deal with the issue? What issue? Why did they think there was an issue? Why did they think it needed dealing with? Why on earth did they think it was up to them to “deal with it”? Who do they think they are? The Stasi? The Inquisition? The Taliban? What makes them think it’s any of their business that somebody has a harmless image on a Facebook page? Not images of women being raped and torn in half, mind, but of two guys having a beer. Who cares that they got “over 40″ complaints? No doubt there was a little knot of people running around in a frenzy of joy because somebody was listening to their pathetic bedwetting “complaints” but so what?

It was decided that the President and other committee members of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society would be called for an informal meeting to explain the situation, the complaints that had been made, and how the action of posting these cartoons was in breach of Students’ Union policy on inclusion and the society’s constitution.  This meeting took place on Friday 20th January at 10.30am. The society agreed to certain actions coming out of the meeting and these were discussed amongst the sabbatical team. In this discussion it was felt that though these actions were positive they would not fully address the concerns of those who had submitted complaints. Therefore the SU will now be telling the society that they cannot continue these activities under the brand of the SU.

Oh doesn’t that sound like a festive occasion. The ASH members called in to be told that a harmless cartoon is in breach of Students’ Union policy on inclusion. The members bullied into agreeing “to certain actions.” The bullies, sexually aroused by all this power to tell people off, deciding it’s Not Good Enough and they’ll just jolly well demand more; so, now they will actually get to tell the society that they cannot. Ooh ooh ooh ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That’s those members told. How was it for you?

The LSE Students’ Union would like to reiterate that we strongly condemn and stand against any form of racism and discrimination on campus. The offensive nature of the content on the Facebook page is not in accordance with our values of tolerance, diversity, and respect for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or religious affiliation. There is a special need in a Students’ Union to balance freedom of speech and to ensure access to all aspects of the LSESU for all the ethnic and religious minority communities that make up the student body at the LSE.

Yes we get it you self-important puffed-up little shits: you’re good and they’re bad; you’re against racism and they’re totally racists; the content is offensive and you’re good; you’re for tolerance, diversity, and respect and they’re for offensiveness. We get it. You think free speech needs to be “balanced” with self-admiring “concern” for self-aggrandizing complainers about worked-up “offendedness” about a cartoon that’s about as “offensive” as an Eccles cake.


Update: I forgot to say: h/t Alex Gabriel.

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

Seeing what you want to see

Jan 23rd, 2012 4:03 pm | By

Karen Armstrong tells us all, not for the first time, how swell Islam is.

First, she tells us the problem. It’s that “western people” think Islam is “a violent and intolerant faith” but this is all wrong. Couldn’t be more wrong. Very very wrong. It’s the hajj what does it, you see. Religion is like ice skating, you learn it by doing it, so the hajj teaches people to do all the good things.

The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.

Which is why everywhere we look, or nearly everywhere, that’s what Islam is like – non-violent and inclusive. That’s what it’s like in the very home of the hajj itself, Saudi Arabia. Women; servants from Indonesia; women; infidels; women – they’re all totally included and kindly handled. That’s what it’s like in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in Sudan, in Afghanistan.


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

That’s how it’s done

Jan 23rd, 2012 3:37 pm | By

There was a time when Lego knew how to market to girls without treating them like idiots or aspiring princesses.

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

Too much conflation of being offended and being intimidated

Jan 23rd, 2012 12:27 pm | By

The LSE Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society has told the LSE Student Union to take a flying jump. I should think so too.

There are no reasonable grounds for the LSESU’s instruction because we are in no way violating their policies or byelaws. The cartoons on our Facebook page criticise religion in a satirical way and we totally reject any claim that their publications could constitute any sort of harassment or intimidation of Muslims or Christians.

That there was no deliberate intention to offend is illustrated by the fact that the cartoons were posted only on the LSESU ASH page and not in other spaces. But even if some people are offended, offence is not a sufficient reason for certain artistic and satirical forms of expression to be prohibited. A university should hold no idea sacred and be open to the critiquing of all ideas and ideologies.

We want to engage with LSESU and work with them further to resolve the situation, but not in a way that jeopardises the legitimate criticism or satirising of religious and other beliefs. That is a freedom which is indispensable.

And the fact that the LSE Student Union thinks otherwise is appalling.

Andrew Copson of the BHA commented:

The officers of LSESU ASH have clearly been reasonable in their dealings with their union and it is clearly unreasonable for a simple satirical depiction of religious figures to be deemed tantamount to intimidation of religious students. The freedom to criticise all sorts of beliefs and hold them open to satire as well as intellectual critique is a vital generator of intellectual progress – something which universities should safeguard.

Safeguard. Not discourage, not frown on, not scold, not try to terminate; safeguard.

The AHS and BHA also announced that they were beginning an investigation of how Student Unions were approaching issues of free speech and offence in relation to religious and non-religious beliefs with a view to providing guidance to institutions. [Jenny] Bartle [president of the National Federation of ASH] commented, ‘There has been too much conflation recently of being offended and being intimidated, with the implication being that they are equivalent. Such an assumption is a potential threat to free speech and free debate, and we are concerned to address this underlying problem in the long term.’

Good. Exactly so, and good.

Go to Free Expression Day. Sign the statement – along with Jessica Ahlquist, AC Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Jesus and Mo Creator, Taslima Nasrin, Salman Rushdie, Southall Black Sisters, Peter Tatchell, Alom Shaha, Deeya, Farzana Hassan, Gita Sahgal and many many more. Good company.


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

And there are more other critics of the word “Islamophobia”

Jan 22nd, 2012 12:56 pm | By

There’s Kenan Malik. I trust there won’t be too much sensitive frowning over the possibility that Kenan Malik is being obtuse about bigotry toward Muslims or immigrants or other races.

Ten years ago no one had heard of Islamophobia. Now everyone from Muslim leaders to anti-racist activists to government ministers want to convince us that Britain is in the grip of an irrational hatred of Islam – a hatred that, they claim, leads to institutionalised harassment, physical attacks, social discrimination and political alienation…

But does Islamophobia really exist? Or is the hatred and abuse of Muslims being exaggerated to suit politicians’ needs and silence the critics of Islam? The trouble with Islamophobia is that it is an irrational concept. It confuses hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims on the one hand with criticism of Islam on the other. The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ is all too often used not to highlight racism but to stifle criticism. And in reality discrimination against Muslims is not as great as is often perceived – but criticism of Islam should be greater.

I hope there won’t be too many irritable accusations that Kenan Malik is being “too literal” in saying that, or indeed that nobody thinks of the word that way except people who are being too literal.

If statistics for racist attacks are difficult to compile, it is even more difficult to define what is an Islamophobic attack. Should we treat every attack on a Muslim as Islamophobic? If an Afghan taxi driver is assaulted, is this a racist attack, an Islamophobic incident or simply a case of random violence? Such uncertainty gives licence to peddle all sorts of claims about Islamophobia.

And that’s where things go wrong.

‘Islamophobia’ has become not just a description of anti-Muslim prejudice but also a prescription for what may or may not be said about Islam. Every year, the Islamic Human Rights Commission organises a mock awards ceremony for its ‘Islamophobe of the Year’. Last year there were two British winners. One was the BNP’s Nick Griffin. The other? Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee. Toynbee’s defence of secularism and women’s rights, and criticism of Islam, was, it declared, unacceptable. Isn’t it absurd, I asked the IHRC’s Massoud Shadjareh, to equate a liberal anti-racist like Polly Toynbee with the leader of a neo-fascist party. Not at all, he suggested. ‘There is a difference between disagreeing and actually dismissing certain ideologies and certain principles. We need to engage and discuss. But there’s a limit to that.’ It is difficult to know what engagement and discussion could mean when leading Muslim figures seem unable to distinguish between liberal criticism and neo-fascist attacks.

In fact, we already live in a culture of growing self-censorship. A decade ago, the Independent asked me to write an essay on Tom Paine, the eighteenth century English revolutionary and freethinker. It was the 200th anniversary of his great polemic, The Age of Reason. I began the article with a quote from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses to show the continuing relevance of Paine’s battle against religious authority. The quote was cut out because it was deemed too offensive to Muslims. The irony of censoring an essay in celebration of freethinking seemed to elude the editor.

These days it is becoming increasingly common for liberals to proclaim free speech is necessary in principle – but also to argue that in practice we should give up that right. Ruminating in the Guardian about the fallout from the Behzti affair, Ian Jack, editor of Granta magazine, suggested that whatever liberals believe in principle, in practice we need to appease religious sensibilities. ‘The state has no law forbidding a pictorial representation of the Prophet’, he pointed out, ‘But I never expect to see such a picture. On the one hand, there is the individual’s right to exhibit or publish one; on the other hand, the immeasurable insult and damage to life and property that the exercise of such a right would cause.’ He added that ‘In this case, we understand that the price is too high – even though we, the faithless, don’t understand the offence.’

There’s Pascal Bruckner:

At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.

But confession has no more in common with race than it has with secular ideology. Muslims, like Christians, come from the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe, just as Marxists, liberals and anarchists come or came from all over. In a democracy, no one is obliged to like religion, and until proved otherwise, they have the right to regard it as retrograde and deceptive. Whether you find it legitimate or absurd that some people regard Islam with suspicion – as they once did Catholicism – and reject its aggressive proselytism and claim to total truth – this has nothing to do with racism.

Do we talk about ‘liberalophobia‘ or ‘socialistophobia’ if someone speaks out against the distribution of wealth or market domination. Or should we reintroduce blasphemy, abolished by the revolution in 1791, as a statutory offence, in line with the annual demands of the “Organisation of the Islamic Conference”.  Or indeed the French politician Jean-Marc Roubaud, who wants to see due punishment for anyone who “disparages the religious feelings of a community or a state”. Open societies depend on the peaceful coexistence of the principle belief systems and the right to freedom of opinion. Freedom of religion is guaranteed, as is the freedom to criticise religions. The French, having freed themselves from centuries of ecclesiastical rule, prefer discretion when it comes to religion. To demand separate rights for one community or another, imposing restrictions on the right to question dogma is a return to the Ancien Regime.


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

No Jaipur Literature Festival for you

Jan 22nd, 2012 12:27 pm | By

Yesterday Praveen Swami reported that

Local intelligence officials in Rajasthan invented information that hit men were preparing to assassinate eminent author Salman Rushdie in a successful plot to deter him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, highly placed police sources have told The Hindu.

I didn’t post about it yesterday only because it was a little thin (and it’s absolutely extraordinary), so I decided to wait.

Now Salman Rushdie has said on Facebook and Twitter:

I have investigated this myself and am now convinced that the story is true. I was lied to by the Rajasthan authorities, and don’t know when I have felt so angry.

Staggering. So much for secular India.

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

It’s only a ruddy parking ticket

Jan 22nd, 2012 11:27 am | By

Remember the Monty Python court room bit?

Behold Michael Sean Winters yesterday in the National Catholic Reporter, doing a very similar bit.

President Barack Obama lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.

I do not come at this issue as a Catholic special pleader, who wants only to protect my own, although it was a little bracing to realize that the president’s decision yesterday essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us. Nor, frankly, do I come at the issue as an anti-contraception zealot: I understand that many people, and good Catholics too, reach different conclusions on the matter although I must say that Humanae Vitae in its entirety reads better, and more presciently, every year.

No, I come at this issue as a liberal and a Democrat and as someone who, until yesterday, generally supported the President, as someone who saw in his vision of America a greater concern for each other, a less mean-spirited culture, someone who could, and did, remind the nation that we are our brothers’ keeper, that liberalism has a long vocation in this country of promoting freedom and protecting the interests of the average person against the combined power of the rich, and that we should learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. I defended the University of Notre Dame for honoring this man, and my heart was warmed when President Obama said at Notre Dame: “we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief. In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.”

To borrow from Emile Zola: J’Accuse!

And so on, for 13 more throbbing paragraphs, all to upbraid Obama because, to quote the NCR’s own reportage,

Although Catholic leaders vowed to fight on, the Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.

It’s quite extraordinary that Winters thinks (or pretends to think) that requiring all health plans to cover contraceptives and sterilization is somehow the opposite of a greater concern for each other and of protecting the interests of the average person against the combined power of the rich. It’s quite extraordinary that he thinks it’s liberal to want to make it harder for women to use contraception. It’s quite extraordinary that he thinks it can possibly be liberal to attempt to force people to have children when they don’t want to. It’s extraordinary that he thinks the church should interfere with and mess up people’s lives in that way.

Zola, of course, wrote his famous essay in response to the Dreyfuss affair. Then, the source of injustice was anti-Semitic bigotry. Today, while I cannot believe that the President himself is an anti-Catholic bigot, he has caved to those who are. In politics, as in life, we are often known by the company we keep. Hmmmm. Sr. Carol Keehan, a woman who has dedicated her life and her ministry to help the ill and the aged or the fundraisers and the lobbyists at NARAL? Is that really a tough call?

What a disgusting bit of rhetorical bullying. Because Obama hasn’t caved to Catholic demands over insurance coverage for contraception, therefore Obama is doing something mysteriously bad to Carol Keehan?

Theocracy at work.

H/t  Dan Fincke.

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

There are other critics of the word “Islamophobia”

Jan 21st, 2012 4:44 pm | By

There was that statement by 12 writers in Charlie Hebdo in 2006 for instance. It includes this:

Islamism is a reactionary ideology that kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present.

Its victory can only lead to a world of injustice and domination: men over women, fundamentalists over others.

On the contrary, we must ensure access to universal rights for the oppressed or those discriminated against.

We reject the “cultural relativism” which implies an acceptance that men and women of Muslim culture are deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secularism in the name of the respect for certain cultures and traditions.

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, a wretched concept that confuses criticism of Islam as a religion and stigmatisation of those who believe in it.

We defend the universality of the freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit can exist in every continent, towards each and every maltreatment and dogma.

The signatories are:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Chahla Chafiq

Caroline Fourest

Bernard-Henri Levy

Irshad Manji

Mehdi Mozaffari

Maryam Namazie

Taslima Nasreen

Salman Rushdie

Antoine Sfeir

Philippe Val

Ibn Warraq

There’s also Piers Benn in the New Humanist in 2002, a whole article on the subject.

‘Islamophobia’ is a negatively loaded word. Not many people would admit to being Islamophobic, any more than they would admit to being homophobic. [Indeed, there is an interesting parallel between the two concepts. Although 'homophobia' really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality. Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour. Of course, one might argue that language evolves and words change their meaning. But this misses the point. There is a real distinction to be made here, which needs to be reflected in language. With Islamophobia, the same applies.]* It is essential to distinguish criticism of Islam both from fear of Islam, and from fear, hatred or contempt for Muslims. But all too often, moral criticism of Muslim practices, or scepticism about doctrines, is dismissed as Islamophobic.

This is what I’m saying. What I’m saying is not particularly crazy.

*An unfortunate side point which I strongly doubt Benn meant the way a number of readers are taking it – but which certainly can be read that way, so it was indeed an unfortunate side point – and which has led to a tedious side dispute along with irritating demands for confession and prostration. I should have replaced it with an elipse. I didn’t, because that would have made his argument a little too abrupt, in the sense that he wouldn’t have written it that way. Mea culpa. Take the brackets as a disavowal. I do not, as some ungracious pastors do, love teh gayz but hate the behavior. I don’t think Benn does either and I don’t think that’s what he meant to say – but I know it reads that way, which is why I thought about replacing it with an elipse when I posted. I do hope that clears things up.

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

The organisers have refused to hand over the tapes

Jan 21st, 2012 3:33 pm | By

The police are still policing the writers who read from The Satanic Verses at the Jaipur festival yesterday.

A day after author Salman Rushdie made it clear that he would not be coming to India, alleging that he was told that underworld hitmen were out to get him, the raging debate at the Jaipur Literature Festival is still on. The police have now asked for the tape recordings of author Amitava Kumar reading out excerpts from Mr Rushdie’s controversial book – Satanic Verses – which is illegal in India. The organisers of the event, however, have refused to hand over the tapes.

Authors Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, as a mark of protest, used their session at the festival to read from Satanic Verses. Later, authors Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi also read out from the banned book. “We asked organisers today to provide us details and video footage of a session in which the book was allegedly read,” Jaipur Police Additional Commissioner Biju George Joseph said.

“We will examine whether the alleged reading from the banned book was done. It is a suo motu action. After examining the matter, appropriate action would be taken against those who were found guilty,” he said.


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

Hank Fox’s book

Jan 21st, 2012 10:06 am | By

I’m reading Hank Fox’s book Blue Collar Atheist - and it’s fantastic.

He has me choking up on one page, then giggling on the next, then shrieking with laughter on the next. He’s a genius with metaphors. I love love love this book.

Some good lines -

…we live in a society so permeated by goddiness that the idea that there might not be a God seems perversely even more mystical. [p 5]

On the emancipation of escaping the entanglement of religion and the peace that goes with it:

It was the peace of understanding that, while there might be quite a lot of the world unknown to me, there was nothing purposely concealed. [p 14]

I love that. It’s exactly what I think: the hiding cheating lying tricking aspect of the putative god is one of the things that I hate the most.

There’s an absolutely brilliant bit about candy bars and explanation, that culiminates with the mystery of M&Ms – that was the bit that got a window-rattling shriek of laughter from me this morning.

Tell all your friends. Seriously.


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

The UN plans to make everybody gay!!11!

Jan 21st, 2012 9:35 am | By

And then there are those zany Spanish bishops.

During his Boxing Day sermon, the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández, said there was a conspiracy by the United Nations. “The Minister for Family of the Papal Government, Cardinal Antonelli, told me a few days ago in Zaragoza that UNESCO has a program for the next 20 years to make half the world population homosexual. To do this they have distinct programs, and will continue to implant the ideology that is already present in our schools.”

Wheeeeeee! Demetrio Fernández must have a whole wardrobe full of tinfoil hats.

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

A big win for theocracy

Jan 21st, 2012 9:26 am | By

So Egypt is doomed. Islamists control two thirds of the seats in the People’s Assembly. In other words, the Assembly is in the hands of avowed theocrats.

The final results in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections confirm an overwhelming victory for Islamist parties.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won the largest number of seats under Egypt’s complex electoral system.

The hardline Salafist Nour party came second.

The overall results mean that Islamist parties control around two-thirds of the seats in the assembly, though the final share out of seats is not yet known.

It’s a disaster.

Check out some Islamists in Derby.

Ihjaz Ali, 42, Kabir Ahmed, 28, and Razwan Javed, 27, were found guilty of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

They distributed a leaflet entitled Death Penalty? at a mosque and through letterboxes, Derby Crown Court heard.

The court heard the leaflets showed an image of a wooden mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts. The leaflets said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality. They were handed out near the Jaima Mosque on Rosehill Street, Derby, and put through the letterboxes of people’s homes in surrounding streets. The court heard the leaflets were made and used as part of a campaign to publicise a protest in response to the Gay Pride festival held on 10 July 2010 in Derby.

By saying that gay people should be executed.

The men admitted distributing the leaflet but said they were simply following and quoting what their religion taught them about homosexuality and did not intend to threaten anyone.

Yes see that’s completely incoherent. “Simply” following and quoting what their religion taught them about homosexuality is indeed to threaten “anyone” when what their religion teaches them about homosexuality is that people should be executed for it. It’s not an escape clause or an “oh that’s all right then” or a decency stipulation to say “oh that’s just my religion.” Egypt’s Islamists can say exactly the same thing only now they have their hands on the power of the state so they can put the threat into practice. We don’t get to say “Oh well but they won’t do that” – not with the example of Iran to look at.

One gay man, who gave evidence but cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he received the Turn Or Burn and Death Penalty? leaflets through the door of his home on two occasions.

He said the first leaflet, Turn Or Burn, made him feel “quite horrified” and it was after he received Death Penalty? that he called the police.

“They made me feel terrorised in my own home,” he said.

“Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street.”

The unfortunate people of Egypt won’t have the option of calling the police when the Islamists start to close in on them.

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

Mr Rushdie regrets

Jan 20th, 2012 1:41 pm | By

More on Rushdie not in Jaipur.

Times of India:

Two prominent authors on Friday read out portions from Salman Rushdie’s banned book “Satanic Verses” at the Jaipur Literature Festival as a mark of protest after the India-born author had to pull out of the event over security concerns.

As the literary community expressed outrage over Rushdie not being able to make the trip, Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar used their session at the festival to read from “Satanic Verses”. The controversial book was banned in the country shortly after it was published in 1988, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Muslims.

Love those guys.

The organizers later asked Kumar not to go ahead with his reading. Kumar initially agreed to the suggestion but later continued reading from Rushdie’s work.

Later, authors Jeet Thayil and Ruchir Joshi also read from the Satanic Verses.

The BBC:

Author Salman Rushdie has withdrawn from India’s biggest literary festival, saying that he feared assassination after influential Muslim clerics protested against his participation.

The author had been due to speak at the Jaipur literature festival.

He said he had been told by sources that assassins “may be on the way to Jaipur to kill me”.

Wait for it -

Salman Rushdie sparked anger in the Muslim world with his book The Satanic Verses, which many see as blasphemous.

There it is. Wouldn’t do not to have that.

The author had been scheduled to speak on the opening day of the five-day Jaipur event which began on Friday, but earlier this week organisers said his schedule had changed and took his name off the list of speakers.

“I have now been informed by intelligence sources in Maharashtra and Rajasthan that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to ‘eliminate’ me,” Salman Rushdie said in a statement read out at the festival.

“While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances; irresponsible to my family, to the festival audience and to my fellow writers,” he added.

“I will therefore not travel to Jaipur as planned.”

Correspondents say the protests against this year’s planned trip are linked to crucial state elections due in Uttar Pradesh.

Correspondents say no political party wants to antagonise the Muslim community, which constitutes 18% of voters in the state, India’s largest.

Notice that correspondents apparently assume that Muslims can be seen as a solid bloc or a “community” which thinks and votes as one. Somewhat “Islamophobic,” that.




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