Notes and Comment Blog

Taslima’s tv serial axed

Dec 20th, 2013 10:53 am | By

You already know why, without looking for more. Concerns; community; sentiments; been told; might hurt; controversy. The Times of India tells the sordid tale:

Abdul Aziz of minority group Milli Ittehad Parishad said they had written to the producers asking them to withdraw Taslima’s name and reference from the serial and withdraw scenes that might create a controversy. “We have been told that there are some scenes in the serial that might hurt our sentiments. Through this serial she is trying to come back to Kolkata. Therefore we have opposed this,” Aziz said.

Oh well then. If you have been told there are some scenes in the serial (that you have not seen) that might hurt your sentiments (which of course must not be hurt because whateverthefuck) then by all means write to the producers asking them to withdraw Taslima’s name and reference from the serial and withdraw scenes that might create a controversy, because you get to decide. You and your “we” get to decide.

Influential Muslim religious leaders echoed Aziz’s concern. Maulana Quari Fazlur Rehman said, “Good that this was done else it would have spread disquiet among the Muslim community. This would have vitiated the atmosphere.” Nakhoda Masjid Imam Md Shabir added, “She is one of those persons who revels in denigrating a particular religion and its Prophet. Why does the Centre give her so much liberty? She inflames passions by her words and deeds, poses a grave law and order risk and yet we give her refuge.”

Maulana Nur-ur Rahman Barkati, Shahi Imam of the Tipu Sultan Mosque in Kolkata, said, “We will not allow the channel to show the serial at all”. Idris Ali, who chairs the Trinamool Congress Minority Cell, alleged that Taslima was trying to break peace and harmony in the state. “We will not let her do that,” Ali said.

The voice of theocracy.

Then Taslima is allowed to speak.

“It is unbelievable that the state government has banned the serial that is about women’s rights. Some Muslim fundamentalists objected and the serial was taken off. The fundamentalists do not have any inkling about the story line and still they want to stop it, only because it is scripted by me. Perhaps their grudge is directed at me for writing ‘Lajja’, which I wrote two decades ago,” Taslima told TOI from Delhi. She lamented that the state government was not allowing her to stay in Kolkata.

According to Bangaldesh-born author, the story line is based on three sisters – one with dark complexion not getting married though she is intelligent. Her father cannot afford to pay dowry. The other sister is a victim of sexual assault and the third is a student. “The story revolves around these three sisters. So the Muslim fundamentalists have nothing to fear about. It has nothing against fundamentalism,” she said.

The idea of the serial was conceived long back, when Taslima was staying in Kolkata. “The director had even completed shooting 30 episodes while I was in Kolkata. But it got stalled after I was forced out of the city. It’s unfortunate that it got stalled again after the producers spent so much money on shooting 50 episodes and advertising the serial.”

Could the BBC and PBS pick it up? And the CBC and the ABC and is there a BC in New Zealand?

I want to see it.

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

Very welcome

Dec 19th, 2013 6:19 pm | By

The British Humanist Association has a statement on LSE’s apology for the bullying of Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis for wearing Jesus and Mo Tshirts at the LSE Freshers Fair.

Professor Calhoun of the LSE wrote to the students involved ‘acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies,’ and he also said, ‘LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events.’ (more…)

Long long night

Dec 19th, 2013 6:09 pm | By

Ah, yes. I know this one. The Stare.

I know this one and it made me laugh and it’s almost the longest night of the year, so I figure you need it.

Via Life With Petz

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

Guest post by Bernard Hurley on making judgements

Dec 19th, 2013 4:47 pm | By

Originally a comment on Why the one and not the other replying to “Minow”.

It would surprise me, because it would seem to be a very upfront admission that you are not applying any principle at all, but merely wanting to permit those freedoms that you find amenable and forbid those you don’t like the look of. This is generally the position of liberals I meet, but it is rare to have them own it.

Nice try, Minow. So you have some debating skills after all! I have to say that being as ancient as I am – I was born in the first half of the last century – I have been called many things, but I can’t recall having been accused of being a liberal since at least the mid 70′s. But it was never just “liberal,” it was always something like “soggy liberal” or “bourgeois liberal” and was considered mildly insulting. On the other hand, I hail from a long line of Irish peasants, gypsies and horse thieves, many of whom would have been gratified to learn that one of their number would one day be promoted to such dizzy heights, even if only in your fevered imagination. So, since I’m obviously unable to attain your level of political sophistication, if you want to call me a liberal, OK I’ll be a liberal; just don’t make me wear the badge permanently.

So I’m not applying any principle at all. Maybe not. I value things like freedom, compassion, fairness, kindness and rationality; I don’t claim I always live up to these values, but if by applying a principle you mean dogmatically following some pre-ordained recipe without taking into account such values, without regard to the manifest consequences of one’s actions and without taking into account any cogent arguments there may be for not following the recipe in a particular instance, then I freely admit to not applying any principle. When I say that a case can be made for women only accommodation on public transport late at night, I don’t pretend it wouldn’t involve coercion, of course it would. I accept this and make an argument for allowing it in this case. You, on the other hand, make no argument for segregated public meetings but seem content to carry on denying the obvious.

As to whether I merely want to permit those freedoms I find amenable and to forbid those I don’t like the look of, you may well be right. It doesn’t seem like that to me, but it is always difficult to judge one’s own motives. On the other hand who are you to judge? If you find that question difficult to answer let me help you out:

When you have been thrown out of college for a year because you dared to question their connections with a racist regime (at that time apartheid South Africa) then, perhaps, just perhaps, you will be qualified to start thinking about making a tentative judgement.

When you have been severely injured at a demonstration against this racist regime, kicked by policemen as you lay helpless on the ground, attacked by some fanatic as you are stretchered to an ambulance without any of the copious number of police in attendance doing anything to stop it, and then, to cap it all charged with and convicted of “threatening behaviour,” then, you will not exactly be qualified to make such a judgement but I will be willing to consider what you say.

When you have been standing on a freezing picket line for days on end only to be confronted by idiots who found it particularly amusing to throw condoms filled with urine at you, then maybe ….

I could go on and tell you about other times when I have been concerned to permit those freedoms I find amenable and to forbid those I don’t like the look of, but, short of showing you the scars on my legs from when some racist scum threw boiling oil over them (oh, yes, that’s another occasion,) I don’t think you would believe how anyone could be quite as “liberal” as I evidently am. Perhaps you were only joking when you said it.

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

Pastors hate him! Learn this one weird trick

Dec 19th, 2013 4:40 pm | By

American Atheists has a new advertisement

Embedded image permalink

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

The dog ate it

Dec 19th, 2013 12:28 pm | By

David Futrelle has more on the oh so funny campaign to flood an anonymous survey on sexual violence with fake claims.

Although the information is being collected to track trends, and no one will be charged with anything as a result of such a report, a number of Men’s Rights subreddit regulars decided it would be a great idea to flood Occidental College with false reports to basically break the system, and they suggested this to much acclaim; others proudly reported that they’d sent in bogus reports.

So what has happened since then? The story has been picked up by a number of sites, including GawkerBusiness InsiderRawStory, and LAist. In a followup post, Adam Weinsten of Gawker confirmed that Occidental College had indeed been hit with some 400 bogus rape reports in the past 36 hours — that is, after posts encouraging false reports appeared on 4chan and the Men’s Rights subreddit.

Meanwhile, on the Men’s Rights subreddit, after belatedly realizing that this whole thing makes them look kind of bad, the subreddit’s mods are trying their best to make the whole embarrassing thing go away — and not really doing a great job of it.

But as for “this whole thing makes them look kind of bad” – it doesn’t really, because there is no “them” to make look bad, because they don’t use their real names. They’re safe from repercussions in their real lives.

Futrelle demonstrates a lot of evasion and diversion of attention on that subreddit though, all amusing in the usual eye-rolling way.

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

You don’t believe unless

Dec 19th, 2013 12:07 pm | By

A philosophical aphorism seen on Twitter…

You don’t believe in freedom of speech unless you believe in freedom for speech that you consider ugly, offensive, deplorable, dangerous…


The first three adjectives are standard fare, and reasonable, and so on. But the last one? That’s a whole different category, and it’s far from obviously true. Depending on how “dangerous” we’re talking about, it’s not true at all.

There have been many examples in very recent history of speech used to foment hatred of outgroups with a view to getting rid of said outgroups, and the result was “ethnic cleansing” aka genocide.

No, I don’t believe in freedom for speech that’s dangerous in that way, and no that doesn’t mean I don’t “believe in freedom of speech.”

But then I’m not sure I “believe in” the need for swearing a loyalty oath to freedom speech. I get the principle, and I basically agree with it, but I also don’t think it’s an absolute, and I think one does need to consider particulars.

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

LSE apologizes to Chris and Abhishek

Dec 19th, 2013 11:37 am | By

Yes really. It’s not a solstice version of April Fools. There’s an actual statement on their actual website.

LSE statement on events at LSE SU Freshers’ Fair

The London School of Economics and Political Science has today apologised to two students from the LSE Students’ Union Atheist Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) who wore t-shirts depicting Mohammed and Jesus at the SU Freshers’ Fair on 3 October 2013 and who were asked to cover their t-shirts or face removal from the Fair. The Director of the School, Professor Craig Calhoun, has written to the students acknowledging that, with hindsight, the wearing of the t-shirts on this occasion did not amount to harassment or contravene the law or LSE policies.

The two students, Mr Chris Moos and Mr Abhishek Phadnis, formally appealed to the School on 12 November.

Professor Calhoun has also acknowledged the difficulties faced by staff dealing with the matter on the day: “Members of staff acted in good faith and sought to manage the competing interests of complainant students and yourselves in a way that they considered to be in the best interests of all parties on the days in question.”

The School recognises that this apology will occasion debate and discussion. LSE and the LSE SU have already put on record concern over the nature of some of the social media debate on this matter in the past, which has been highly personalised. It is hoped that this will not be repeated. LSE takes its duty to promote free speech very seriously, and as such, will discuss and learn from the issues raised by recent events.

So there’s that.

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

Acid attacks in Egypt

Dec 19th, 2013 11:01 am | By

At Women Under Siege, Reem Abdel-Razek writes about a recent incident in Cairo.

A few weeks ago I received a message from a friend in Cairo about a horrible attack on her sister, Esraa Mohamed. Esraa was walking in her own neighborhood at 3 p.m. when she realized she was being followed by a well-dressed, respectable looking stranger. He said, “I am not harassing you but don’t forget to wipe off your pants.”

She suddenly began to feel a burning pain in her backside and rushed into a cafe to see what was wrong. It was then that she realized she couldn’t remove her pants and took a cab home. By that time the pain was so excruciating that she almost fainted; her buttocks and the back of her thighs had been burned by acid that had eaten into her flesh. The doctor who examined her said she had second and third-degree burns, with cell necrosis in some areas. The diagnosis was “chemical burn by an unidentified corrosive.”

Esraa described the attack to a journalist friend who wrote a story about it. After she spoke out, she received messages from other girls who said the same thing had happened to them, but they had not told anyone or come forward because they were ashamed and embarrassed. She also received several messages on Facebook saying she’d deserved what happened to her for not wearing the veil.

How pathetic is it that part of my reaction to that story is relief that it wasn’t her face? Oh thank you so much, well-dressed stranger, for throwing your acid at women’s bums instead of their eyes and mouths and noses. At least Esraa Mohamed isn’t blind now, at least she can still eat and drink and talk.

Since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, there has been much commentary about sexual harassment and violence against women in Egypt. Many believe the attacks on women in Tahrir Square were initiated by mobs hired by Egypt’s security forces as a means of intimidation, similar to the “virginity tests” forced upon some of the girls who were arrested during a protest in March 2011. They see violence against women as a means of scaring them away from political activity. While this is true, it is only part of the explanation: Violence against women in Egypt long precedes the revolutions of the last three years.

It has been growing for decades. A study done in 2008 showed that 83 percent of women get harassed in Egypt. But numbers alone cannot show how scary the harassment is, how it makes women feel, and how their families usually blame them instead of the men who harassed them.

The role of Islamist propaganda in promoting the acceptance of violence against women often gets overlooked by those who are afraid of appearing “Islamophobic” or racist. But addressing the roots of violence against women is one of the most important steps in eradicating it.

Reem Abdel-Razek and the Centre for Secular Space set up a Facebook group, You are not alone, where you can send messages to Esraa Mohamed.

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

Next jape, how about a little arson or gbh

Dec 18th, 2013 5:59 pm | By

So some shits wanted to think up a new way to harass people and they thought of a brilliant plan: to spam a college’s online anonymous sexual assault reporting system with sarcastic fake reports. Hilarious. Right? Yes. Hilarious.

“Late Monday, the 16th we started seeing a stream of what we would call suspicious reports that were being submitted” to Occidental’s Google-based assault reporting form, said Jim Tranquada, director of communications for the Los Angeles college, which has faced scrutiny in recent months for underreporting sex assaults involving its students.

That’s about the same time that commenters on Reddit’s r/MensRights subreddit began discussing plans to spam the college’s reporting system with phony accusations.

Haha. Hahaha. Because how dare a college try to do anything about sexual assault on its campus? It should mind its own business, right?

That system received about 400 separate assault allegations in 36 hours. “That’s far more than we have ever received in the past,” Tranquada said. “The sheer number of reports was suspicious.”

“What we found suggests that these report were the work of an off campus group of trolls who are involved” on the politically incorrect forums of 4chan and Reddit, Tranquada said.

That’s not the right term for them. That’s a trivializing term. Sexism and misogyny aren’t just “politically incorrect” any more than they’re just “rowdy” or “sweary” or “high-spirited.”

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

Rupert Sutton clears up some things

Dec 18th, 2013 5:38 pm | By

Rupert Sutton of Student Rights has a reply to Priyamvada Gopal’s article at the Rationalist Association. It’s calm

Unfortunately, [Gopal's] attempt to persuade greater numbers of people to criticise reactionary religious practice was marred by a number of inaccurate attacks on my organisation, Student Rights, which seeks to highlight political and religious extremism on university campuses regardless of provenance. This included claims that we had brought the issue to national attention despite a lack of evidence for its occurrence, and presented the campaign as part of a running battle between white conservatives intent on imposing their views on others, and the beleaguered representatives of minority communities standing against this. This is simply not the case, and both misrepresents Student Rights and the campaign itself.

He puts that so calmly and politely.

Placed alongside the claims that Student Rights is a “reactionary and opportunistic” group which has “cynically” chosen to focus on segregation, it is clear that these criticisms were a veiled suggestion that we use issues such as this to malevolently target the Muslim community. This disregards our focus on far-right groups like the BNP and French Front National. Whilst it is true that we cover events featuring Islamist speakers more frequently than we cover the far-right, this is by no means an attempt to stigmatise Muslims, but instead reflects the fact that thankfully the far-right are an increasingly rare sight on our campuses these days.

And in any case Islamists aren’t the same category as Muslims. I, for instance, despise the US Conference of Catholic Bishops; it doesn’t follow that I despise Catholics.

But the most disappointing element of the article was the way in which the voices of ethnic and religious minorities were sidelined. This placed Ms Gopal in the odd position of arguing that progressives affiliating to ethnic or religious minorities should not disregard this issue, whilst ignoring those from these communities who have been the most vocal campaigners. Last week’s rally outside the offices of UUK gave a prominent voice to women and was dominated by Maryam Namazie and Pragna Patel, two leftist activists who have driven gender segregation to the forefront of the news agenda and been instrumental in ensuring cross-party political consensus against it.

Exactly. Gopal’s ignoring of that fact, and sidelining of the voices of ethnic and religious minorities while in the very act of claiming to stand up for them, is why I’ve been so much less calm and polite about her article than Rupert Sutton has been.

As we highlighted following UUK’s withdrawal of its guidance, the campaign drew together a broad church of students, equality groups, and human rights activists from across the political spectrum. Presenting it instead as an opportunistic attack on Muslims overlooks this, and risks furthering claims of groups like the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) that criticism of gender segregation amounts to “anti-Muslim propaganda”. IERA, whose members have excused domestic violence and supported the return of execution for fornication, (a ‘crime’ which is disproportionally used to repress women), are not representative of the UK’s Muslim community and must not be allowed to claim as such.

Ultimately, rather than being a campaign ‘hijacked’ by a cabal of ‘deeply conservative white males’, this was instead an example of an inclusive movement which showed that challenging reactionary tradition is not limited to any particular culture or community far more effectively than Ms Gopal’s article did. Had she been at the rally last week she would have seen many of the UK’s progressive activists and organisations protesting together against gender segregation regardless of race, religion, community, or political affiliation, and it is unfortunate that she has allowed her perception of the work my organisation does to blind her to that.


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

The Yuk-Factor

Dec 18th, 2013 4:04 pm | By

This is an article I wrote in 2003. I thought I’d lost it because it was removed from the page where it was originally published, and I’d failed to stash a copy securely and couldn’t find it on the internet archive. Then just now I realized what the right search term would be to find it, and sure enough it was. So I’m publishing it again.

There is a famous morality tale in Herodotus.

Darius…called together some of the Greeks…and asked them what they would take to eat their dead fathers. They said that no price in the world would make them do so. After that Darius summoned those of the Indians who are called Callatians, who do eat their parents, and, in the presence of the Greeks…, asked them what price would make them burn their dead fathers with fire. They shouted aloud, “Don’t mention such horrors!” These are matters of settled custom, and I think Pindar is right when he says, “Custom is king of all.” [3, 38. David Grene translation]

Herodotus noticed twenty-five centuries ago what people go on noticing today: customs and taboos differ from one society to another, one town to another, one household to another. Some people think circumcision is disgusting, some think its absence is; some think female genital mutilation is repugnant, others think female genitals in their pre-mutilation state are. Chinese women used to find unbound feet just as ugly and crude and silly-looking as men did; they endured the pain and crippling of binding, and forced it on their daughters and grandaughters. The result was generations of women who could barely walk and couldn’t possibly run, but were proud owners of the lotus foot – a foot which, by being folded in half, created a new orifice just the right size for an erect penis. Custom is king of all.

Such customs and taboos, however arbitrary and even harmful they may be, have their uses. They help create and reinforce group solidarity and loyalty. They’re yet another way of demarcating and emphasizing that highly prized difference between Us and Them, Our People and Those Other People, Self and Other. Like many animals, humans organize their lives around what Freud in one of his moments of lucidity called the narcissism of minor differences: Friend and Stranger, Greek and Barbarian, Home and Away, Blue and Green, Man United and Liverpool, Big Endian and Little Endian, Native and Alien. Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jew, believer and infidel – it’s all too obvious where this goes. People in 16th Century France slaughtered each other in wholesale lots over a drop of wine and a bit of bread. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 is said to have been triggered partly by the use of beef tallow to lubricate guns. The issues involved can seem staggeringly trivial, but to some at least the payoff in arousing and engorging the sensation of loyalty and Hurrah for our team is worth it.

Desire for that invidious thrill of belonging is no doubt what motivates the relentless nagging about Family Values in the US over the past twenty years or so. Forget all that Wider Community stuff, forget going down to Mississippi to try to help undo some of their more vicious and destructive taboos and group loyalties and untraversable borders, forget famines in Ethiopia or little wars in Asia, just stick to your own clan and let other people stick to theirs. Nobody really gives a damn about anybody but relatives, after all, so let’s just all hunker down in our own tiny group. I had a senior relative who used to rebuke my misbehavior when I was a child by saying sternly ‘We don’t do that in this house,’ which always made me dislike him quite a lot, but no doubt gave him a thrill.

It’s a popular thrill, saying ‘We don’t do that here.’ Leon Kass, chair of the Council on Bioethics in the Bush administration, wrote a famous article for The New Republic in 1997, entitled ‘The Wisdom of Repugnance.’ ‘Repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason’s power to express it,’ he said. But this business of repugnance we can’t quite articulate should give us pause – should make us come to a screeching halt, in fact. Why can’t we articulate it? Could it be because there is nothing to articulate? If we have good reasons for doing or not doing a thing, aren’t we normally able to put them in words? ‘Because I said so’ is all right when telling children what to do, because who has time to explain every single thing to a five-year-old, but for an actual official indeed presidential council, one expects a little more. Arm-waving and saying ‘I can’t explain’ don’t really match the job description.

Especially since people have always ‘just somehow known’ in their guts or their hearts or their gluteus maximus, without being able to say why, all sorts of things that the world would be better off if they hadn’t just known. That Africans should be slaves, that Jews were polluting Germany, that women should be kept under house arrest at all times, that witches should be burnt, that the races must never mix. We’re all too adept at thinking what we’re not used to is inherently disgusting. John Ruskin never consummated his marriage because he thought his wife’s pubic hair was disgusting. He’d never seen a living naked woman before, only paintings and statues, and he wasn’t used to it. No doubt he thought it was very wrong of Effie to have it. All sorts of things are disgusting. Slimy wet rotting vegetation is disgusting, pus is disgusting, a swollen decomposing squirrel in the woods is disgusting. But is there any moral content to this disgust? Should the squirrel pull itself together and stop decaying in that nasty way? Should pus take thought and transform itself into peach ice cream?

Habit and familiarity have a great deal (though not everything) to do with what people find disgusting but very little to do with ethics. Cruelty, exploitation, injustice, violence don’t become better with repetition, they only become easier for the perpetrators, such as the regular guys turned obedient Jew-killers of Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men. Disgust is good clean fun and provides endless amusement for children, but it’s worthless as a moral compass. Saying ‘Ew, ick, yuk, gross,’ and saying ‘That’s wrong’ are two different things. It’s a long-standing confusion, going back to Plato if not farther, to think the beautiful is the good and the good is the beautiful, but it’s not necessarily so.

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

Some state sponsors?

Dec 18th, 2013 3:37 pm | By

I wish I could find a better source for this story than Murdoch’s New York Post

After the 9/11 attacks, the public was told al Qaeda acted alone, with no state sponsors.

But the White House never let it see an entire section of Congress’ investigative report on 9/11 dealing with “specific sources of foreign support” for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

It was kept secret and remains so today.

President Bush inexplicably censored 28 full pages of the 800-page report.

Not just redacted, not just covered with black lines, but blank pages where approximately 7,200 words should have been.

A pair of lawmakers who recently read the redacted portion say they are “absolutely shocked” at the level of foreign state involvement in the attacks.

Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) can’t reveal the nation identified by it without violating federal law. So they’ve proposed Congress pass a resolution asking President Obama to declassify the entire 2002 report, “Joint Inquiry Into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Some information already has leaked from the classified section, which is based on both CIA and FBI documents, and it points back to Saudi Arabia, a presumed ally.

The Saudis deny any role in 9/11, but the CIA in one memo reportedly found “incontrovertible evidence” that Saudi government officials — not just wealthy Saudi hardliners, but high-level diplomats and intelligence officers employed by the kingdom — helped the hijackers both financially and logistically. The intelligence files cited in the report directly implicate the Saudi embassy in Washington and consulate in Los Angeles in the attacks, making 9/11 not just an act of terrorism, but an act of war.

Hmm. A few years ago when the Saudi king visited the British queen, Jack Straw talked some emetic garbage about our shared values. Hmm.


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

Annoying aspects

Dec 18th, 2013 1:40 pm | By

Tehmina Kazi, director at British Muslims for Secular Democracy, has an excellent list of

Aspects of the gender segregation debate that have annoyed and perplexed me.

That’s on Facebook; there’s also a version re-posted on a blog (in case you can’t see the Facebook one).

3. Those who are unable to see why it is problematic for a public body like Universities UK to prioritise the whims of external speakers over university public sector equality duties, and THE SPIRIT of equalities law.

That; very exactly that.

9. Confusion over the distinction between discretionary segregation (where people randomly sit where they wish, perhaps in same-sex clusters) and organised segregation (which is either enforced by the event organisers, or requested by the student societies in question).

Minow please note.

12. Assumptions that those who campaign against gender segregation in university events MUST also automatically oppose it in congregational prayers.  This is not about acts of worship, as Equality and Human Rights Commission Chief Executive Mark Hammond made clear: “Universities can also provide facilities for religious meetings and associations based on faith, as in the rest of society. Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organised religion where its doctrines require it.  However, in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the Commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender.”

I hope British Muslims for Secular Democracy grows and prospers.

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

Where is the real scandal?

Dec 18th, 2013 1:15 pm | By

A different set of battle-lines…The Guardian reports via the AP in Delhi:

An Indian diplomat said US authorities subjected her to a strip search, cavity search and DNA swabbing following her arrest on visa charges in New York, despite her “incessant assertions of immunity”.

The case has sparked widespread outrage in India and infuriated the New Delhi government, which revoked privileges for US diplomats to protest against the woman’s treatment. It has cast a pall over India-US relations…

Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested on Thursday outside her daughter’s Manhattan school on charges that she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national.

Prosecutors say the maid received less than $3 (£1.80) per hour for her work.

The “widespread outrage in India” is apparently all for the diplomat, none of it for the maid who was paid less than half the minimum wage. Hmm.

In an email published in Indian media on Wednesday, Khobragade said she was treated like a common criminal.

“I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a holdup with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity,” she wrote.

Oh, like a common criminal, as opposed to like a rich person who paid her servant poverty-level wages.

Khobragade’s case has touched a nerve in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly and heavy-handed treatment by the police is normally reserved for the poor. For an educated, middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable, except in the most brutal crimes.

Well that says it all. Horrible treatment is reserved for the poor, while prosperous people go first class even when arrested. Imagine a system in which all suspects get basic rights and no suspects get to go first class.

Prosecutors say Khobragade claimed on visa application documents that she paid her Indian maid $4,500 a month, but that she actually paid her less than $3 an hour. Khobragade has pleaded not guilty and plans to challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Marie Harf, the US state department deputy spokeswoman, said Khobragade did not have full diplomatic immunity. Instead, she has consular immunity from the jurisdiction of US courts only with respect to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

Oh gee, so underpaying her servant and lying about it on visa application documents isn’t part of the exercise of consular functions? Who knew.

Funny thing: I read about this via Priyamvada Gopal’s Twitter feed. On this subject, I like her take.

gopalPriyamvada Gopal @PriyamvadaGopal

India–where it’s normal for middle class women to treat poor women like crap but be above the law themselves. Where is the real scandal?

‘I’m elite, not common, like my maid’. Strip-searched Indian diplomat: I was treated like a common criminal by US 

Indian diplomat underpays servant, misleads on visa app, breaks US law- and SHE’S the victim? And NYPD shd treat *all* with more dignity.

Quite. Well said.

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

Misery in Mississippi

Dec 18th, 2013 4:40 am | By

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit in federal court today to stop pervasive anti-LGBT bullying and harassment committed by students – and even faculty members and administrators – within the schools of Mississippi’s Moss Point School District.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Destin Holmes, a district student who endured such severe harassment she was eventually driven out of school. She temporarily left the district in March 2012 to be homeschooled after the then-principal at Magnolia Junior High School called her a “pathetic fool” and told her, “I don’t want a dyke in this school.”

The principal. Not a classmate, but the principal. One who is supposed to have a fully developed prefrontal cortex, and thus supposed to be able to control sadistic impulses. (Also, one would think it would be part of the job description, however implicitly. “Calling the students names? Right out.”)

During her time at Magnolia Junior High School, students and district staff called Destin slurs such as “it,” “freak” and “he-she.” Destin heard such insults as many as 20 times a day. She also was denied access to the girls’ restroom by a teacher. Another teacher even refused to allow her to participate in a classroom activity where teams were divided by gender because Destin – according to the teacher – was an “in-between it.”

The lawsuit describes how Destin and other students perceived as LGBT were subjected to anti-LGBT slurs on a daily basis and were physically threatened or attacked by peers. While many of these abuses occurred in front of teachers or were reported to school officials, school personnel did little to stop the abuse.

The harassment took a severe toll on Destin. Even after she threatened suicide, school officials failed to take appropriate action. When a social worker providing mental health services for Destin met with the then-principal about the need to stop the harassment, the principal said he wouldn’t follow the social worker’s suggestions because “when you are in my school, you follow my lead since I allow you to be here.”

That principal seems to be confused. He seems to think he’s a dictator rather than a junior high school principal. Junion high principals don’t have as much arbitrary power as dictators have. This junior high principal doesn’t seem to know that.

Destin talks about it.


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

Ah there he is now

Dec 17th, 2013 6:08 pm | By

So, to complete the picture, who should chime in at the Spectator but…Douglas Murray himself. And what do you know, he gets it all wrong too. But of course he gets it wrong from the opposite direction.

He starts by quoting someone unknown who announced that ‘The left doesn’t really matter’. Hooray, he says.

If there is anyone who thinks that a shame they should just look at the contortions ‘the left’ is going through now over the issue of gender segregation. This is the process – which has been occurring on certain university campuses for some time and which a number of people, including colleagues of mine, have long highlighted – that consists of separating audiences according to gender. This segregation occurs because of the demands of some immoderate Muslims.

Anyhow – having been around as an issue for some time, the process has finally been picked up on more widely with such a head of steam that Channel 4 News has repeatedly focussed on the matter, there has been a public demonstration against such segregation, and now the Prime Minister himself has come out opposing it.

See? Got it wrong. The demonstration came first, and then Channel 4 News focused on it, first by reporting the demonstration. The demonstration caused the Channel 4 focus; we can tell this because the focus began with the demonstration. And who organized that demonstration? Why, the left. Not the whole of the left, certainly, but the big chunk of it that cares about rights even for female members of minority “communities.”

Which led me to spend some of the last hour reading the contorted posts and messages which self-described ‘leftists’ have been exchanging about all this and I think it is fair to say that there are several divides. A small number recognise that separating men from women in publicly funded institutions is a concerning and backward trend. Others disagree with that and (Muslim and non-Muslim) agree with that large number of people globally who believe that religion trumps women’s rights. Most interesting, though, are those who see that there is a problem with gender segregation but are fearful of saying so. The particular reason – and this really is a fascinating window into their minds – is that if they do oppose gender segregation they will put themselves in the same camp as certain ‘right-wing’ or ‘conservative’ people. Worse they will risk putting themselves on the same side of the argument as ‘right-wing’, ‘conservative’ people who are also male and possibly even have white skin. I discover that David Cameron and I are often cited as examples of where all this horror can lead.

He’s taken Gopal’s lead, and diminished and minimized the part played by the anti-Islamist left, although he doesn’t disappear it entirely the way she did. “A small number,” he says, then proceeds to drop that large chunk of the left which negates everything he so breezily says about the left. He’s not interested in us, he’s interested in the Gopal variety, so interested that it blots out all the others.

A plague on both their keyboards.

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

Concerns about the motivation

Dec 17th, 2013 3:48 pm | By

Daniel Trilling at the Rationalist Association blog offered their position on gender segregation today. He started with Gopal’s article.

The piece raised concerns about the motivation of the pressure group Student Rights, which has been campaigning on the topic, and the way in which the story had been picked up by the media, but argued that such concerns should not prevent people from criticising the policy.

No, not exactly. Gopal was exceedingly unclear that her concerns were only with Student Rights and the way the media picked up the story. Exceedingly unclear. It was not at all clear that she wasn’t talking about the people who organized and publicized the December 10 protest that triggered the media coverage. If that’s really all she meant to say, she did a very clumsy job of it.

Take the third and last sentence of her opening paragraph for instance.

For us, it is especially difficult to practise a commitment to gender equality and social change in a context so heavily shaped by an intolerant Western ‘liberalism’ passing itself off as ‘secular’, ‘enlightened’ and more knowing-than-thou.

It is just not self-evident that that is not aimed at secular liberals who protested the UUK’s guidance. I still think that looks as if she has exactly those people in mind.

Her next sentence, in the next paragraph, is the one where she gets her facts so wrong, and says Student Rights brought the issue to national attention, with a link to the channel 4 story on the December 10 protest. That link has now been removed, but it was there before, so that is what she thought.

No, it won’t wash. It’s really not that difficult to be clear about what you mean. I know this. I’ve done a lot of editing of other people’s writing, and I know the difference between clarity and the absence of it.

Back to the RA.

Regrettably, our initial choice of headline gave the impression that the piece criticised the whole range of groups who have spoken out on the issue. This includes groups we respect and support, such as the Council of Ex-Muslims and Southall Black Sisters, and a range of other individuals. The protest directed at Universities UK that took place on 10 December was broad based and worthy of support. We’ve now altered the headline but would like to apologise for any misunderstanding.

It wasn’t just the headline though. It really wasn’t.

Back to revisiting Gopal.

In the wake of Student Rights’ aggressive campaign, which clearly targeted Islamic student groups, Universities UK – not a body known for championing social justice – issued guidance indicating that gender segregation of an audience at the request of a speaker at guest lectures was acceptable. The advice was withdrawn when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission deemed this advice discriminatory. The battle lines were drawn once again between so-called ‘muscular liberals’ (generally, in fact, deeply conservative white males with a commitment to the idea that West is Best) and defenders of the rights of minorities to their own customary or traditional practices.

Again – it is far from obvious that she is raising concerns about Student Rights while not doing so about the CEMB or One Law for All or Southall Black Sisters or LSESUASH. It is far from clear that she didn’t mean the snide “muscular liberals” to apply to all opponents of gender segregation, or that she wasn’t herself siding with defenders of the rights of minorities to their own customary or traditional practices.

After that she goes on to point out the obvious, which is that the silly two choices that she herself isolated are not the only possible choices, but she did that only after poisoning the well with all that belligerent rhetoric. If that’s not what she meant to do, she’s just not a good writer. She’s not dense or difficult, she’s just bad at it.

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

Why the one and not the other?

Dec 17th, 2013 11:56 am | By

Catching up with Catherine Bennett on gender segregation in the Observer on Saturday.

Naturally, much speculation, not all of it fanciful, has addressed the further privileges that intolerant faiths might soon, with the support of UUK’s useful idiots, be extracting from academe. Some speakers, for example, feel equally incapacitated by the prospect of women’s faces in a university audience, or “congregation” as a Muslim chaplain, Saleem Chagtai, referred to it last week on the Today programme. Can they, too – lawfully, and with the continued backing of Fenella Morris QC – demand that women cover up, be screened from sight, or evicted altogether, supposing, of course, this is consonant with genuinely held religious beliefs?

The answer is probably no, but then the question is why not? The question is why the one and not the other? Why is a comparatively minor form of gender inequality treated as acceptable when more major ones are not? Why is an incremental approach to gender inequality countenanced at all?

As much as this episode promised to endear our universities to certain clients, there must be reputational fears when their representative body, having considered all the evidence, concludes that sexual regulation by a controlling, all-male religious elite has nothing to do with sex discrimination. Like the Saudi driving ban, it just looks that way. “There does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating,” the report concluded, instantly facilitating further religious appropriation of publicly owned university spaces.

It’s so rich, that “merely” – especially coupled with that “imposing” and that “segregated seating.” There does not, does there? I beg to differ. There does.

…as Dandridge says, fetters were in use long after 1911, after the vote, even after 1920, when women were first allowed to graduate. In the 70s, her interview reminded me, it was still legal for the five newly co-ed Oxbridge colleges to impose limits (usually about 20), on the intake of female students, whose reception was apt to be guarded, when not overtly resented.

Prior to our rebellion, young women joining my – notionally co-ed – institution, many of us from mixed comprehensives, were herded off on our first night as undergraduates to be lectured by the resident cleric and doctor on our responsibility not to get impregnated. At least, back in the institutionally sexist day, we did not face intervention by a 70s version of Nicola Dandridge, drawing on her considerable legal education to argue, on behalf of the college, that treating women like brainless temptresses was a traditional feature of the academic culture.

I never got a lecture like that. I didn’t even realize I was fortunate not to.

If a cleric such as Saleem Chagtai, whose Islamic Education and Research Academy blanks out female faces on its website, can assure BBC and Channel 4 audiences that separate seating is justified by “psychological studies” as well as equalities legislation, presumably he is open to a change of heart when scientists such as the physicist Lawrence Krauss (who walked out of a segregated lecture) and advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission dictate the exact opposite?

Less promising, being inexplicable and beyond rational argument, is the matching enthusiasm on the part of British universities to find space for “genuine belief” and the supernaturally ordained. Although UUK has promised to review its guidance, it is not legal advice it needs at this stage so much as complete religious deprogramming.

We’re doing our best.


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

Now you see it, now you don’t

Dec 17th, 2013 10:34 am | By

As Rosie mentioned in a comment, the telltale link in Gopal’s article that I pointed out yesterday has been silently removed. I call that sneaky. It’s sneaky to correct a mistake silently instead of acknowledging it.

Here is the passage now:

I want to raise this because of the deft way in which Student Rights, an offshoot of the bullishly paternalist Euro-American think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, has managed to bring ‘gender segregation’ at some campus events to national attention despite evidence that events in which the audience is so segregated are not numerous. 

Yesterday, as I wrote, there was a link on “to national attention” and the link was to channel 4 on the protest – as is visible in the url:

As I wrote, that link was either a gross misrepresentation or an equally gross mistake, because the Henry Jackson Society had nothing to do with that protest. Apparently Rationalist UK saw the point, and that’s why it removed the link – but since the article had already been published, and read by quite a few people, and discussed – Rationalist UK should have openly corrected the mistake, not just disappeared it.

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