Notes and Comment Blog

To protect the slut-whisperers

Jun 27th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

The Rude Pundit has a suggestion in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling in McCullen.

There’s a sweet little church in Grafton, Massachusetts.

The congregation participated in 40 Days for Life, an action during Lent that 17,000 churches around the world took part in, with another 40 Days planned for September 24 to November 2.

The St. Mary’s churchgoers headed over to Worcester to protest at a Planned Parenthood and to “sidewalk counsel” women there…

Come September, and maybe even before, the parishioners will be harassing every woman who goes to the Planned Parenthood, even those just going for pap smears and help getting pregnant. And they will no doubt be joined by the anti-abortion radicals, the fetus picture carriers, the screamers, the hysterics who shame women.

“Is it really necessary to be out on the sidewalk instead of praying at home?” St. Mary’s wants to know. Look up at that picture again. What do you see in front of St. Mary’s? That’s a nice, wide, very public sidewalk. The parking lot is across the street, so most of the people attending church services on, say, a nice summer Sunday will have to walk that sidewalk, a sidewalk just like the one outside Planned Parenthood in Worcester. A sidewalk like the one that Eleanor McCullen “gently” counsels women from outside a Planned Parenthood in Boston.


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

What the Saudi representative actually said

Jun 27th, 2014 10:51 am | By

Paul Fidalgo explains why the Saudi representative had a triple meltdown at the UN Human Rights Council on June 23 (last Monday).

Part of that has to do with what CFI is and what it’s been doing lately.

The organization for which I work, the Center for Inquiry, sees as part of its core mission the proliferation of the rights to free belief and expression around the world. In recent years, we’ve worked very hard to raise awareness of the threat posed by state-sanctioned anti-blasphemy laws, which criminalize religious criticism; apostasy laws, which make leaving the majority religion a crime; and the various forms these violations of human rights take, such as laws against “offending religious feelings.”

This work has extended to Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sudan, but Saudi Arabia looms particularly large.


Saudi Arabia, however, has been a major focus of ours in recent months, and thanks to their own defensiveness, they’ve actually helped us to shine an ever-brighter spotlight on their suppression of free speech and belief.

In 2012, liberal Saudi activist Raif Badawi, founder of a website for open discussion of religious, political, and social issues, was arrested for insulting Islam, and for apostasy, the latter of which is punishable by death. More than a year later, a court found him guilty of insulting Islam and “showing disobedience,” and sentenced him to six years in prison and 600 lashes. You read that correctly, six hundred lashes. With a whip. The charge of apostasy was dropped for the time being, but after a review almost another year later, a higher court actually increased his sentence to 10 years and 1000 lashes. He has been in prison for over two years now, awaiting his fate. His wife recently fled with their children to Canada, where she presses for international intervention on her husband’s behalf.

But this particular case does not end with Badawi himself. Waleed Abu al-Khair is also a reform activist as a human rights lawyer and founder of a human rights watchdog group in Saudi Arabia, who also happens to be Raif Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law. Al-Khair had long been a target of the Saudi government, and in 2013 he was charged with a number of offenses including “breaking allegiance to and disobeying the ruler,” “disrespecting the authorities,” and “offending the judiciary.” After months of court battles, al-Khair was arrested in April of this year, and could potentially remain in prison for 20 years under Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism laws. And why is a human rights reformer being charged under a terrorism law? As Eman Al Nafjan wrote in the New York Times, “The authorities knew all along that Waleed Abu al-Khair was guilty. They just needed something better to charge him with.”

Suffice it to say, Raif Badawi no longer has Waleed Abu al-Khair to represent him.

It is the plight of these two victims of persecution — guilty of nothing more than speaking their minds, believing as they wish, and seeking a way to a fairer and freer Saudi Arabia — that CFI chose as their focus for its statement to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on June 23, 2014. CFI is one of many NGOs that have “consultative status” at the UN, and we frequently speak out on issues regarding free expression and belief, and the persecution of believers and nonbelievers alike. Our chief UN representative, Michael De Dora, was recently elected president of the UN’s NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and works alongside our allies in the NGO community, such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union. CFI has UN representatives in New York and Geneva, where the Human Rights Council convenes.

This makes me proud to know them.

CFI planned to deliver a short and impassioned statement to the Human Rights Council, through our representative Josephine Macintosh, forcefully condemning Saudi Arabia’s persecution and imprisonment of Badawi and al-Khair, demanding that all charges against them be dropped, and that they be immediately freed.

What made this doubly powerful was that Saudi Arabia has itself recently became a member of the Human Rights Council, an irony not lost on many.Brian Pellot,the human rights reporter for the Religion News Service, rightfully called their election to the Council “a disgrace.” Be that as it may, members they are, and on this particular Monday, Saudi representatives were there in the room to hear themselves be condemned for their oppression.

They did not like it.

You can see it transpire in a video that is becoming somewhat viral (as much as a video of a UN council meeting can be viral), as Macintosh attempts to deliver the CFI statement harshly criticizing Saudi Arabia, the Saudi representative tries on three separate occasions to silence her. Three times, the Saudi representative frantically appeals to the Council’s presiding vice president, brashly shouting over Macintosh with a sense of panic in his voice. I don’t speak Arabic, but while the real-time translation of the Saudi representative interprets him as asking for the statement to end for what sounds like procedural minutia, two native Arab speakers I know told me that his words more accurately translated to “I ask you to shut her up!”

Oh really! I did not know that. How very…diplomatic.

Why does this matter? This dust-up in the Human Rights Council is remarkable for several reasons. For one, it may have been the first confrontation of its kind for the Kingdom. As investigative journalist Ali AlAhmedtweeted, “Kudos 4 @center4inquiry 4 making history by being the 1st ever NGO to address #Saudi HR abuses at #UN HR Council.”

Secondly, while CFI is among the largest secularist and skeptic groups in the world, it is still a relatively small player in terms of the wider global NGO community, as compared to, say, an Amnesty International. And yet our statement so troubled the Saudi delegation, got so deeply under their skin, that they felt compelled to resort to embarrassing outbursts before the rest of the assembled world representatives. As Michael De Dora told the news outletMiddle East Eye, “It doesn’t look good for Saudi Arabia. By trying to silence us, and looking a bit desperate in doing so, they have actually caused more attention to be given to the statement we were delivering.”

And then people who pay attention learn that Saudi Arabia was trying to get the Human Rights Council to “shut up” a representative of an NGO who was reporting on human rights violations by Saudi Arabia. Not a good look.

It kind of reminds me of the US’s opposition to the International Criminal Court. Also not a good look.

Perhaps most importantly, our statement put on the record what everyone knows to be true, that Saudi Arabia fails every test for compliance with even the most basic tenets of universal human rights. As a member of the United Nations, it is implied that it shares a belief in what the UN charter says about “respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” As a member of the Human Rights Council, it must be held to a high standard indeed. As we declared in our statement, over the shouts of the Saudi representative,

As an elected member of this Council, Saudi Arabia is obliged to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate with the Council”. If it is to retain any credibility as a member, we urge it to reform its laws so as to protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression, cease the use of corporeal punishment, and repeal Article 1 of its interior ministry’s decree defining atheism as terrorism.

This is perhaps what upset the Saudis most, that a statement from a relatively small organization of infidels was able to call them out before the eyes of the world for lacking credibility. We named them as blatantly unworthy of even being in that room.

The world noticed. Will they continue to shrug? We certainly aren’t going anywhere. For Raif, for Waleed, for their families, and for the countless others being crushed for their voices and their thoughts, our spotlight will ceaselessly shine directly into the faces of the oppressors until the intensity of the light, and the heat of the gaze of the civilized world, become too much for them to bear.

That’s beautiful.

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

To engage in personal, caring, consensual conver­sations

Jun 27th, 2014 8:57 am | By

Ok I’m reading the McCullen opinion, and already in the first sentence I have a problem. This is going to take years – it’s 52 pages.

In 2007, Massachusetts amended its Reproductive Health Care Facili­
ties Act, which had been enacted in 2000 to address clashes between
abortion opponents and advocates of abortion rights outside clinics
where abortions were performed.

Um, no. That makes it sound like a matter of political theater, or debates that turned into clashes. The clashes were between abortion opponents and women attempting to enter the clinics where abortions were performed. The abortion opponents try to stop them.

There are escorts, who are there to try to protect such women from the protesters, but they wouldn’t be there if the protesters weren’t so intrusive and aggressive.

But more substantively…p 3:

The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate inter­ests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petition­ers’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of com­municating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conver­sations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vocifer­ous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively sti­fled petitioners’ message.

There’s an issue here. I guess it doesn’t arise that much because people don’t act like anti-abortion protesters much. It was an issue with the Hari Krishnas once upon a time, I think…

The issue is to do with our right to move around in public freely without other people deliberately blocking us, pestering us, harassing us, soliciting us, getting in our way. It’s similar to the issue I had with street harassment in Paris as a teenager.

Imagine if there were always a bunch of people on the sidewalk in front of your front door, hassling you whenever you arrived home. That would be hellish.

Apparently the First Amendment protects their “right” to do that.

I’m not convinced. Even leaving abortion aside – I’m not convinced. It’s this business of “they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conver­sations with women” – hey I don’t give a fuck what other people “seek” to do if doing it entails their getting all up in my face. The word “consensual” frankly doesn’t belong there, and borders on insulting. I’m not at all convinced that people in general have a constitutional right to try to insist that I “consent” to listen to them.

The law is a clumsy instrument to deal with harassment, but not dealing with harassment at all is a seriously bad idea.


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

To depart as swiftly as possible from Sudan

Jun 27th, 2014 7:46 am | By

In better news, Meriam Ibrahim is again out of prison, and this time she’s safe at the US embassy. Since the US is where she wants to go, and her husband is a US citizen, that’s the best place for her inside Sudan.

On Monday the appeal court annulled her death sentence and freed her, after which she went into hiding because of death threats.

Wani, a US citizen since 2005, said he hoped the family could start a new life in America. But 24 hours later security service agents apprehended the family, including a baby girl born while Ibrahim was shackled to the floor of her cell, claiming that her travel documents were forged. Ibrahim’s lawyer, Elshareef Mohammed, said more than 40 security officers stopped them boarding a plane to Washington.

The US state department said its envoy then met Sudanese foreign ministry officials at their request and told them the family needed to be able “to depart as swiftly as possible from Sudan and that we are happy to help in any way we can”.

Next steps? The trip to the airport; boarding the plane; takeoff; goodbye Sudan.

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

The holy duty to be raped

Jun 27th, 2014 7:34 am | By

There is really only one Commandment: Control All The Cunts. From the Assyrian International News Agency:

On June 12, only two day after capturing Mosul and other territories in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria issued a decree ordering the people to send their unmarried women to “jihad by sex.” In the proclamation ISIS threatens to impose Sharia law on all who fail to comply with the decree.

Here’s a translation of the decree, followed by the original in Arabic. AINA cannot confirm the authenticity of this document.

In the Name of Allah the Merciful

Subject: Mandate

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
The State of Nineveh

In the Name of Allah the Merciful

After liberation of the State of Nineveh, and the welcome shown by the people of the state to their brotherly mujahideen, and after the great conquest, and the defeat of the Safavid [Persian] troops in the State of Nineveh, and its liberation, and Allah willing, it will become the headquarters for the mujahideen. Therefore we request that the people of this state offer their unmarried women so that they can fulfill their duty of jihad by sex to their brotherly mujahideen. Failure to comply with this mandate will result in enforcing the laws of Sharia upon them.

Allah we have notified, Allah bear witness.

Short, brutal, to the point. Hand over the women so that we can fuck them. If you don’t we will torture you and call it “sharia.” Allah says so.

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

So, explain to America why anyone would make a woman CEO

Jun 26th, 2014 6:05 pm | By

Hahahaha some silly woman thought she could do a high-level job but tv personality Matt Lauer put her straight. He wanted to know if she was going to be able to do the high-level job and take care of her children. He also asked her if she got the job because she’s a fuzzy touchy-feely wooooman, because why else would anyone ever hire a woman for anything, except wet nurse or prostitute.

Today Show host Matt Lauer on Thursday asked General Motors CEO Mary Barra if she felt she could run a company and be a good mother during an interview about the company’s controversial recalls.

“I want to tread lightly here,” Lauer said before launching into a question about why Barra got the CEO job, noting that she is extremely qualified.

“But some people are speculating that you also got this job because as a woman and as a mom because people within General Motors knew this company was in for a very tough time and as a woman and a mom you could present a softer image and softer face for this company as it goes through this horrible episode. Does it make sense or does it make you bristle?” he asked.

“Well it’s absolutely not true,” Barra responded. “I believe I was selected for this job based on my qualifications. We dealt with this issue — when the senior leadership of this company knew about this issue, we dealt with this issue.”


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

A sign of the nation’s moral decay

Jun 26th, 2014 1:34 pm | By

Is “Ann Coulter” just a very long-lasting Poe? She must be, right?

This time it’s Association Football.

I’ve held off on writing about soccer for a decade — or about the length of the average soccer game — so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation’s moral decay.


In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child’s fragile self-esteem is bruised. 

Oh right, that’s why nobody’s ever heard of David Beckham. That’s why there’s no movie titled Bend It Like Beckham. That’s why there’s no fuss when someone scores a goal. That’s why the goalie smiles happily whenever the ball gets past him.

Liberal moms like soccer because it’s a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

Seriously? I’m the most unathletic person on earth; I loathed all team sports when I was in school; yet even I goggle at the skill involved in good football. Also fuck her for the casual denigration of girls.

Then there’s even more stupid shit. It’s not violent enough – it’s no good if people aren’t wrecked for life in every game. You can’t use your hands. (That’s a good one. Right and in tennis you can’t just kick the ball; in chess you can’t just grab the queen and throw it out the window; in Monopoly you can’t just grab all the property cards and all the cash. That’s what makes them games. Sit down there in the back, Ludwig.) It’s force-fed (by libbruls, of course, in between slugs of latte). It’s foreign, in fact, it’s French. It’s immigrant.

If more “Americans” are watching soccer today, it’s only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

Now that’s a professional asshole.


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

It’s almost as if vaccines work

Jun 26th, 2014 12:40 pm | By


Via I fucking love science on Facebook.


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

Meet Leo

Jun 26th, 2014 12:00 pm | By

Here’s a gem! Tom Williamson of Skeptic Canary talked to Leo Igwe yesterday.

Leo’s a very exuberant guy. He does great interview.

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

Put those in the Do Not Recycle bin

Jun 26th, 2014 10:34 am | By

A “free speech” discussion on Twitter, spinning off the discussion of Badar and FODI and saying “honor” murder is morally justified. It’s annoying the way people recycle dopy platitudes that, if you pause to consider them, are actually complete bullshit.


I favour so let them speak. Alternative is views forced underground.

No it isn’t. That’s a very popular cliché, of course, but that doesn’t make it true, and it’s not true. There are a lot of alternatives to letting Uthman Badar give a talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House saying that “honor killing is morally justified” other than forcing that view underground. Does Uthman Badar look as if he’s been forced underground? Has his view been forced underground? Hardly.

An even sillier one is

Only light can disinfect views we find abhorrent

Nonsense. Often darkness is just the ticket. Some abhorrent views become marginal and despised, and that’s a good thing. Often giving abhorrent views “light” in the form of public attention makes them stronger and more popular, and that can be a bad thing.

It’s just magical thinking to assume that public discussion of harmful ideas – ideas that encourage bad treatment up to and including murder of kinds of people – always and everywhere “disinfects” them. It’s not that easy.

None of this is easy, none of it is simple, and passing around worn-thin banalities that are false as well as banal, does not make it any more so.

Updating to add an item:

Another thing people get wrong about this is making it a matter of an audience’s reception, of our emotions about the claims – that they are “abhorrent” or “offensive” or “shocking” or similar. No that’s not the point; the point is that they have the potential to harm people.

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

Guest post: A lot of psychology may as well be feng shui

Jun 26th, 2014 9:58 am | By

Originally a comment by Marcus Ranum on Which to believe?

diagnosis is difficult, even with training

That’s a red flag, right there.

Psychological states are too subjective to diagnose, so a lot of psychology may as well be feng shui, until neuroscience is able to establish cause/effect relationships in underlying disorders. The idea that psychology diagnoses “disorders” is also interesting to me, because itimplies that there is something broken – literally un-ordered in the patient, yet it’s equally possible that some of these things are learned behaviors. At this time we can’t tell whether any given person lacks empathy because:

  • there is an as-yet undiscovered empathy function in the brain, which this person lacks or has damage to
  • empathy is a learned behavior and this person somehow managed to not learn it
  • this person has had experiences that have convinced them that empathy is not worth demonstrating, so they (knowingly or otherwise) don’t show it
  • all of the above
  •  some of the above
  •  some degree of some of the above

It is my opinion that these are vague concepts in the philosophical sense (see: which means that epistemologically they may be impossible to know objectively. One can make statements of knowledge about such concepts only in reference to one’s own opinion, i.e.: I know I think that person X suffers from antisocial personality disorder which is easily true, but practically useless.

If you approach it reductively, you wind up with the same problem – since “antisocial personality disorder” is a list of behaviors, such as:

  • failure to conform to social norms
  •  irritability
  •  deceitfulness

etc. Those are also vague concepts. If someone wears white shoes before easter, are they demonstrating failure to conform to social norms, or is the social norm no longer relevant? If someone walks up to another person and licks their face, is that failure to conform, or …? Even “deceitfulness” is tricky – note that the authors of DSM choose the words very very carefully because “deceitfulness” is different from “lying a lot” because “deceit” implies some awareness of the lie on the liar’s part, hedging out someone who is merely mistaken or delusional. And, again, the difference between “deceit” and “mistaken” is vague — all of these are vague concepts.

A shorter form of what I wrote above is that psychology is largely a game of slapping labels on the downstream consequences of unknowns. Too many unknowns.

If you’re concerned about someone’s behaviors (as you perceive them) it’s best to forgo the process of labelling and try to deal as honestly as possible with the behaviors themselves. Acknowledge that those are also vague concepts and labels. But if you are a skeptic you would want to reduce things to facts and let your listener decide. So rather than saying “Marcus exhibited failure to conform to social norms” you can boil it down to “Marcus licked a stranger’s face, and said that’s what he does instead of shaking hands.” Rather than saying “Fred exhibited lack of empathy” you can say “Fred snapped a kitten’s neck with his bare hands and announced it was ‘interesting’ and showed no apparent emotion.” Skeptics are safest when dealing with what they perceive to be facts, though if you want to be a pyrhhonian you can also add “It appears to me now that…” to qualify your statements in order to ensure that your listener remembers they may be hearing your opinions or misperceptions.

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

Unknown hooded men

Jun 26th, 2014 9:40 am | By

A terrible piece of news from Libya:

The Libyan human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis has been shot dead by unknown assailants at her home in Benghazi on the day of the country’s general election.

“Unknown hooded men wearing military uniforms attacked Mrs Bugaighis in her home and opened fire on her,” said a security official, who did not wish to be named.

Her husband is missing.

Bugaighis, a lawyer, played an active part in Libya’s 2011 revolution, which overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. A former member of the National Transitional Council, the rebellion’s political wing, she was vice-president of a preparatory committee for national dialogue in Libya.

The US ambassador to Libya, Deborah Jones called the news “heartbreaking”, and on her Twitter account denounced “a cowardly, despicable, shameful act against a courageous woman and true Libyan patriot”.

Earlier on Wednesday Bugaighis had participated in Libya’s general election. She published photos of herself at a polling station on her Facebook page.

Maybe the Festival of Dangerous Ideas should offer a talk on why that was morally justified.

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

Hiba is on the BBC on the air right now

Jun 25th, 2014 5:48 pm | By

Ok that’s over. She was great, and she got a lot said! Often radio people interrupt their guests a lot, but Hiba’s good at not being interruptable.

I made the mistake of commenting encouragingly on her Facebook page while she was on the air, and was startled to see her “Like” the comment. Hiba in future close your Facebook page while you’re on the air!

But seriously: this is great. The Ex-hijabi blog is getting a lot of attention and that’s fabulous. Hiba got in a plug for the Ex-Muslims of North America and their parents the Ex-Muslim Council of Britain, founded by Maryam Namazie.


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

For walking home from school with a male classmate

Jun 25th, 2014 5:46 pm | By

The murder of 13-year-old Aya that Joanne mentioned:

A Tunisian man is accused of burning his 13-year-old daughter to death for walking home from school with a male classmate May 28 in Ibn Khaldoun, a suburb of Tunis.

Aya, a middle school student, died on June 7 from fourth-degree burns, Kapitalis and other local news sources reported.

“The father has been arrested since the incident occurred,” Allala Rouhma, a spokesperson for the Tunis Court of First Instance, told Tunisia Live. The father’s name has not been released.

Aya spent nine days in the Ben Arous Hospital for Burns and Injuries before succumbing to her injuries.

Source: Facebook

Those must have been nine horrible days. Burns are painful beyond imagining.

One group of activists called for a silent march in her memory on June 19. The Facebook event, ‘Aya, Voice of the Victim,’ called on Tunisians to participate and denounce her death and honor killings.

“This act is nothing more than a sign of a sick and suffering society that continues to demonize the female gender,” said the event’s page.

“What happened is strange in our society,” Feten Abdelkafi, one of the event’s organizers, told Tunisia Live.

“The poor girl was just returning from school with her classmate. I can’t believe that a father could do such a thing to his daughter,” she added.

Activists have called for greater media coverage of Aya’s death.

“I cannot believe that this case could fall into oblivion. What happened is an unacceptable crime. Further, the reactions of some people who justify this barbaric act reflect the degree of ignorance that prevails in the country,” activist and blogger Lina ben Mhenni wrote in a Facebook post.

The Facebook page I Too Was Abused was created in solidarity with Aya’s cause. The page has launched a hashtag #moi_aussi_j_ai_été_violentée, French for‬ “I too was abused,” to encourage women to tell their stories and take a stand against all forms of violence.

It mustn’t fall into oblivion.

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

Discussing evil is not wrong

Jun 25th, 2014 5:17 pm | By

And on Twitter we can see “edgy” Simon Longstaff commenting on the issue.

dangeOh gee people read the session title – silly silly people – they should have simply assumed the session title had nothing to do with the content, apparently.

Only, the title is so unambiguous, isn’t it. “Honour killing is morally justified.” It says what it says. It doesn’t even pose it as a question.

Also? Saying “honour  killing is morally justified” is not the same thing as “discussing evil.” The right title for the latter would have been, say, “Discussing the evil of honour killing.”

But he’s getting lots of attention for the FODI; no doubt that was the goal all along.

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

Extremely uncomfortable

Jun 25th, 2014 4:50 pm | By

Joanne Payton has a terrific post on the FODI provocation. (Hey they have a festival to run! They got your attention, right? Well there you are then.)

In Australia, there is an event called the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, with some high-calibre contributors, like Salman Rushdie and Steven Pinker. One of the speakers they invited was one Uthman Badar, of Hizb ut-Tahrir. The title of the speech was Honour Killings are Morally Justified.

Badar says he did not choose the topic himself, but accepted it upon the urgings of the board. The festival’s co-curator Simon Longstaff said he had nominated the topic for six years in a row, because the point of the festival is to push boundaries ”to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable”. Yet again, misogyny, racism and violence against minoritised women is considered edgy, rather than banal and conservative.

Thwack. Isn’t it though.

The thing that makes me want to smash things is the spectacle of one Simon Longstaff being so very languid and aesthetic about “pushing boundaries to the point where you become extremely uncomfortable” with other people’s lives. Simon Longstaff, and people like Simon Longstaff – men – aren’t subject to “honor” murder. Other people are; it happens a lot, more than anyone knows because it happens in secret so the stats are low. This isn’t a joke, it isn’t abstract, it isn’t in the past, it isn’t something we can be happily sure never happens in the real world. Quite the opposite. Simon Longstaff can go stick a corn cob in his ear if he wants to make himself extremely uncomfortable; inviting people to give talks saying murder of sisters and daughters is morally justified is not the way to give jaded Australians a treat.

What’s more edgy and dangerous and uncomfortable than suggesting the world is a better place because a Tunisian father burned his 13 year old daughter alive? What’s more edgy and dangerous than saying certain women and girls don’t deserve to live?

For Aya, it was ‘dangerous’ to walk home from school with one of her classmates, and no doubt somewhat more than ‘extremely uncomfortable’ to die of burns a few hours later.

It is a wonder that Longstaff didn’t realise that other speakers had balked the topic for six years in a row not because it was “uncomfortable”, but because it was morally repugnant: hate-speech as clickbait, where the names and faces of the victims are erased for the safe of a headline.


Joanne then coldly points out that he’s wrong to say that it’s mostly people in “the west” who condemn “honor” murder. (What an orientalist racist Islamophobic thing to say! A billion people in India, more than a billion in China, half a billion in Indonesia – get real.) We wouldn’t even know about it if it weren’t for non-western activists.

Overwhelmingly, the scholars and activists who work against ‘honour’-based violence are people working in their own countries and communities, both within and outside the ‘West’. To ignore this fact demonstrates a strangely Eurocentric world view.

Read the rest.


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

Which to believe?

Jun 25th, 2014 4:06 pm | By

Here’s an epistemological puzzle. What’s the right way to be a skeptic when it comes to thinking about a possible psychopath? I don’t mean a serial murderer or anything, but a more everyday kind of psychopath – you know, no conscience, compulsive lying, good at manipulation, persuasive, charming, successful.

You know a number of people who suspect that X is a psychopath of that type. You too know X and have always found X charming and persuasive.

What’s the skeptic thing to do? To doubt the people you know? Or to doubt your own sense of X? As a good skeptic, you know that people can be charming and persuasive and still be psychopaths, but you also know that not all charming and persuasive people are psychopaths, in fact most are not. As a good skeptic, you know that people can be wrong about other people, but you also know that that applies to you as well as to other people.

It’s tricky, isn’t it.

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

It says a lot about the reality of freedom

Jun 25th, 2014 11:34 am | By

Melissa Davey in the Guardian reports on the aftermath of the cancellation of Badar’s FODI talk.

A Sydney-based Muslim speaker has said the public outcry that prompted the Opera House to cancel his lecture called Honour Killings Are Morally Justified reveals the “extent and depth” of Islamophobia in Australia.

Does it? Or does it just reveal the extent and depth of opposition to “honor” murder in Australia? Which would be a good thing.

Badar said people had jumped to conclusions about his views before he had a chance to speak.

“Things were assumed and outrage ensued,” he said. “That is the way Islamophobia works. The assumption is ‘we know what the Muslims will say’. This a very instructive case as far as that goes.”

No it isn’t, and no it isn’t, and no it isn’t. All those claims are wrong. The talk had a title; there were no scare quotes indicating distance or irony; the title said what it said.

“I think the hysteria says a lot about Islamophobia and about the extent and the depth of it in this country.

“It says a lot about the reality of freedom and the space that minorities have to move in in this country, Muslims in particular.”

What about the space that Muslim girls and women have to move when the threat of being murdered for perceived sexual disobedience hangs over them? What about that kind of space to move? Does Uthman Badar give a flying fuck about that? Not that I can see; he’s worried only about his own space to flatter the practice of murdering girls and women for perceived sexual disobedience.

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

Potential participants

Jun 25th, 2014 10:50 am | By

CAFE is in the news again – the Canadian Association for Equality, you know, founded by Justin “not THAT Justin” Trottier, formerly the ED of CFI-Canada. Why is it in the news again? Because it’s been discovered that it cited women’s rights organizations on its application to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status, which it got.

…when the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), a self-described “men’s issues” organization, applied to the Canada Revenue Agency for charitable status last year, it listed the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), Egale Canada, and Status of Women Canada as potential participants in its “regular panel discussion series” on women’s and men’s issues. The CRA granted CAFE charitable status in March, 2014.

There’s just one problem: none of the groups listed has ever been involved with CAFE.

The executive directors of Egale and LEAF said they had no knowledge of ever being approached by the organization, and said they would not work with CAFE if they were asked. Before NOW contacted them, neither organization had any knowledge that CAFE had listed them on its application.

A spokesperson for Status of Women Canada, the federal agency, told NOW in an email that none of its representatives had ever been involved in a CAFE event.

Sneaky, eh? Deceptive? Sly? Less than forthright?

LEAF’s executive director Diane O’Reggio was shocked to learn CAFE had associated itself with her organization, which has been defending women’s legal rights for almost thirty years.

“We’re concerned that this organization has used our name in this manner,” said O’Reggio. “We absolutely are not associated with this group and what they stand for.”

“We’re obviously a feminist equality organization and we think the beliefs that they espouse are absolutely in contradiction and opposite to the work of what our organization does.”

O’Reggio said it was “very disingenuous” for CAFE to suggest to the CRA it had a working relationship with LEAF, and she’s concerned the men’s group used her organization in order to gain charitable status.

Helen Kennedy of Egale Canada suggests that CAFE is trying to paper over the nature of the group by using these names.

The group also claimed it was planning to work with university scholars from women’s studies departments, and specifically named Professor Sarita Srivastava, an associate sociology professor at Queen’s who studies anti-racist challenges to Canadian feminist groups. On its application CAFE said it was “currently” setting up a panel discussion to include Srivastava.

Reached by email, Srivastava told NOW that she was “stunned” to learn her name was on the form, which was date-stamped in a National Capital Region mailroom on July 26, 2013. According to Srivastava, more than four months before that she turned down an invitation from the group to speak about misogyny as part of a panel discussion on “misandry,” the highly disputed term men’s rights activists use to describe systemic anti-male discrimination.

On the other hand she also says she didn’t actually spell out that she would never work with the group, so it’s possible that they could have intended to invite her to future events.

Yes it is, and that’s where the slyness comes in.

CAFE also listed only more benign lectures and books on its application, leaving off the overtly anti-feminist items. That looks perilously close to lying by omission.

NOW emailed a list of questions about this story to several of CAFE’s email accounts and to its founder, Justin Trottier. Trottier isn’t included among the members of CAFE’s leadership on the group’s website, but his signature appears on the CRA application’s supporting documents and he is named in the application as the organization’s chair. Despite repeated attempts, NOW did not receive a response.

It has proven difficult to get Trottier to speak on the record about the group he created. In a strange phone interview with CAFE last month, a man who would only give his name as “Justin” refused to reveal his full identity to NOW and claimed he was merely “working behind the scenes as a volunteer.” He could then be heard feeding answers to CAFE spokesperson Denise Fong, who is Trottier’s fiancée.

During that interview Fong and “Justin” also denied CAFE had any association with a Voice for Men (AVFM), an online U.S. misogyny group, even though the CAFE website was promoting an AVFM conference at the time.

Justin Trottier is the gift that keeps on giving.

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

The accused is the oriental other

Jun 24th, 2014 6:12 pm | By

Here is the cached version of the page for Utham Badar’s (now canceled) talk at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.


For most of recorded history parents have reluctantly sacrificed their children—sending them to kill or be killed for the honour of their nation, their flag, their king, their religion. But what about killing for the honour of one’s family? Overwhelmingly, those who condemn ‘honour killings’ are based in the liberal democracies of the West. The accuser and moral judge is the secular (white) westerner and the accused is the oriental other; the powerful condemn the powerless. By taking a particular cultural view of honour, some killings are condemned whilst others are celebrated. In turn, the act becomes a symbol of everything that is allegedly wrong with the other culture.

That’s some high-class moral relativism there. Yup we funny people who insist that it’s wrong to murder family members or anyone else for having sex, we’re the secular white western meanies, and the people who think it’s right and good to murder family members for having sex are the oriental other. Shout out to Edward Said! Although I seriously doubt he would be much flattered by the homage of Uthman Badar.

But “the powerful condemn the powerless”? Is that fair? I think the victims of honor killings – the people murdered – are the powerless and the people doing the murdering are the powerful. I honestly don’t think that people who murder their daughters or sisters or mothers or wives get to claim to be the powerless victims.

Notice, also, the pretentious pseudo-literary word-juggling, the “critical theory” airs and graces, the palaver about symbols and the epigram about condeming some and celebrating others – notice it and feel nausea at the cynical frivolity, the vanity, the having it both ways, the showing off. This isn’t some fucking game. This is girls and women like those of the Shafia family, pushed into a canal in the family car. This is a girl like Banaz Mahmod, brutally murdered by her father and uncle. This is real girls and women murdered by their real fathers and brothers, it’s not something to preen about and bandy words about on the stage of the Sydney Opera House.

What a piece of scum, this Utham Badar.

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