Notes and Comment Blog


False idols

Mar 6th, 2015 9:14 am | By

The BBC has more on the destruction of Nimrud.

IS began demolishing the site, which was founded in the 13th Century BC, on Thursday, according to Iraqi officials.

The head of the UN’s cultural agency condemned the “systematic” destruction in Iraq as a “war crime”.

IS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, says shrines and statues are “false idols” that have to be smashed.

“They are erasing our history,” said Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani.

They really aren’t “false idols” now; they’re ancient artifacts. They’re history, they’re art, they’re mythology, they’re archaeology, they’re anthropology, they’re part of the rich exciting story of human creativity. They don’t have to be smashed. There’s no human need that smashing them meets. Smashing them is a power move. IS is all about power for a few male fanatics to force all 7 billion of us to live in a bare theocratic hell.

Nimrud lies on the Tigris river, about 30km (18 miles) south-east of Mosul, which IS controls.

Many of the artefacts found there have been moved to museums in Baghdad and overseas, but many remain on site.

BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir says the attempt to destroy Nimrud is already being compared with the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha rock sculptures in Afghanistan in 2001.

Don’t forget the tombs in Mali.

Image result for timbuktu tombs

Aljazeera

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



Goodbye to Nimrud

Mar 6th, 2015 8:59 am | By

IS is still busy destroying Assyrian sites and their artifacts.

Islamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Iraqi government said, in their latest assault on some of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural treasures.

A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul said the jihadis, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous, had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris river.

“Daesh terrorist gangs continue to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry said, referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym.

“In a new crime in their series of reckless offences, they assaulted the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy machinery, appropriating the archaeological attractions dating back 13 centuries BC,” it said.

Added to the list that includes the Bamiyan Buddhas and the Timbuktu tombs.

Nimrud, about 20 miles south of Mosul, was built around 1250BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran.

Many of its most famous surviving monuments were removed years ago by archaeologists, including colossal winged bulls, which are now in London’s British Museum, and hundreds of precious stones and pieces of gold, which were moved to Baghdad.

I know those winged bulls at the British Museum.

Their real name, according to Wikipedia, is Lamassu.

A lamassu (Cuneiform:

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



A letter to King Salman

Mar 5th, 2015 5:24 pm | By

A press release from Amnesty International

WASHINGTON–On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District) and James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd District) have sent a bipartisan letter to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman. The letter urges the new King to free all prisoners of conscience—including blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair—and to allow women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia.

The letter garnered 67 congressional signers and endorsements from 17 women’s, human rights, religious freedom, and advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners of conscience such as blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu Al-Khair,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Sixty-seven members of Congress have already raised their voices in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Now, Secretary Kerry must do the same when he visits the Kingdom tomorrow.”

The imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as the ban on women driving, the restrictions of the male guardianship system, and so-called “anti-terror” laws that have criminalized peaceful expression, have all brought Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to the forefront of the U.S.–Saudi relationship. By signing this letter, U.S. representatives are urging King Salman to end the imprisonment of peaceful critics, violations of women’s human rights, religious persecution, and the crackdown on advocates and reformers.

Well good. Let’s hope the Saudis don’t just throw it away and forget about it.

Endorsing Organizations

Amnesty International USA, International Christian Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK, In Defense of Christians, Human Rights Watch, Project on Middle East Democracy, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, US National Committee for UN Women, Women’s Action for New Directions, Women Thrive Worldwide, Peace X Peace, Equality Now, PEN American Center, Center for Inquiry, National Organization for Women Foundation, Universal Muslim Association of America, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

The letter can be read at:

http://amnestyusa.org/pdfs/LetterCongressToWhiteHouseSaudiArabiaMarch2015.pdf

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



Ruining it for the rest of us

Mar 5th, 2015 5:02 pm | By

Another atheist woman who says no thanks to the atheist “movement” because it’s such a shit-show.

But as defensive as I’ve gotten with believers, I’ve never actually been tempted to join an atheist group. Partly, that’s because it’s hard to avoid the white men ruining it for the rest of us by using atheism as just another platform for a macho power struggle. Atheism offers no guarantee of other shared ideas or philosophies – and when white male atheist leaders and communities act racist, Islamophobicand misogynistic, I find myself wishing that there were another way to describe my non-beliefs.

It’s sad. The “movement” could have been good, but it took a wrong turn and then a whole bunch of wrong turns and here we are – a big swathe of atheists repulsed by organized atheism.

The piece is from January, by the way. The situation has improved out of all recognition since then.

Hahahahaha totally kidding, no it hasn’t.

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



Guest post: Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world

Mar 5th, 2015 3:58 pm | By

Originally a comment by newenlightenment on Letters demanding £5,000.

(Repost)

Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world. Here he is in 2008 at a rally for the ultra Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist)* praising Mao’s cultural revolution and denouncing free Tibet protestors as ‘Running dogs of imperialism':

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuWNlFkrihQ

The CPGB (ML) is a tiny little sect whose sole purpose appears to be to endorse every brutal despot in existence, provided that despot is at least vaguely anti-American. The party has pledged its colours to North Korea, its chairman Harpal Brar wrote an entire book praising Robert Mugabe, they offer unconditional support to Hamas and Hezbollah and have marched under the slogans ‘victory to Assad’ and ‘victory to Gaddafi’. (Though even they draw the line at ISIS) since they lack any resources to bribe Galloway in the manner to which he is accustomed I can only conclude he was at that meeting out of genuine solidarity with their warped ideas.

What a great friend Galloway is to the Muslim world, endorsing a Chinese dictatorship that occupies and subjugates Muslim East Turkestan with far more viciousness that Israel has ever shown in Gaza. He displayed that same friendship when he endorsed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of over a million Muslims. Fraternal love towards the Muslim world must have been utmost in his mind when he opposed effective intervention in Bosnia, to prevent the attempted genocide of its Muslim population by Milosevic’s thugs. Galloway once said ‘a billion Muslims know my name’. I truly hope so, George, I hope they never forget it.

*not to be confused with the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) or the Revolutionary communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) never mind the Communist Party of Britain, the Communist Party of Great Britain or the New Communist Party of Britain. Seriously, I’m not making any of this up.

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



Guest post: No other MP acts like that

Mar 5th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

Originally a comment by Rosie Bell on Letters demanding £5,000.

I’m ardently hoping that this will backfire on Galloway. The disgusting scumbag has threatened to sue people before, they’ve told him to take a hike, and a hike he has taken.

Various top-notch lawyers are offering free advice to his victims. This article below gives a good & amusing account of Galloway’s & his lawyers’ doings.

“Chambers appear to be focused on immigration, serious crime and fraud and personal injury, among other topics. But above all, they are, according to their own website “calculated risk takers”, who are “not afraid to take on challenges that would daunt many others”.

They boast that their ethos “is to ensure that the ordinary person has access to good quality legal advice as public bodies, insurance companies & multi-national companies which has led us to take on many ‘David & Goliath’ legal struggles for justice”.

This does not seem to tie in with the pursuit of one Twitter user who received a letter from Chambers demanding money. That person, with only 70 followers on Twitter, told the Guardian: “I’m not a politician. I’m not remotely influential. I deleted it. I have been suffering terrible health problems [since receiving the letter]. I’m on antidepressants and suffering from chest pains.”

Chambers’ apparent risk-taking, would seem to have backfired rather spectacularly.

Private Eye magazine said it had “drawn the letter to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which takes a dim view of this sort of ‘speculative invoicing’”.”

Galloway is grossly litigious. A couple of times he’s had a point, when accused of dodgy financial dealings in major newspapers, but most of the time it’s been to stifle criticism. He’s an MP, he has plenty of media space to argue with or even shout at people, but he prefers to try & destroy them instead. No other MP acts like that. That Twitter spat with Hadley Freeman would have passed into cyberspace and been forgotten in a day or two if he hadn’t sued her.

A good piece here about the vague defamatory laws in the UK which allow this sort of rubbish and the difference between an ordinary person defending their reputation and a public figure.

The UK and Europe have never adopted the so-called public figure exception to defamation law, which would further promote public debate by creating a stronger presumption of freedom for speakers when they are discussing high-profile politicians, or other persons who have visibly entered the cut and thrust of politics.

One rationale for that doctrine is that someone like Galloway has broad and immediate access to influential media and public fora, within which he can more than adequately respond to such criticisms, without having to run to the courts to defend himself.

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



Reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Mar 5th, 2015 11:36 am | By

So people set up a Twitter account for Galloway’s victims.

A Twitter account has been set up to offer free legal advice to those apparently being sued by George Galloway.

A number of people reported being sent a letter written by lawyers acting on behalf of the Respect MP, informing them that they need to pay over £6,000 each, according to The Times.

In response the @SuedByGalloway account has sprung up purporting to put people in touch with solicitors and lawyers who can offer them free legal advice on the issue.

Those behind the account – who wish to remain anonymous – told the Huffington Post UK: “We are doing this because we are disgusted with the way Galloway is threatening and intimidating people on Twitter thus attempting to stifle free speech and free expression.”

There has been a lot of response.

One of the lawyers helping those behind the account is Mark Lewis of Seddons Solicitors who has past form helping people defend against libel claims who normally wouldn’t be able to pay the legal costs.

He confirmed his involvement to the Huffington Post and said: “It must have been very frightening for individuals to get demands for £5000 plus VAT for the legal costs for sending one letter.

“Someone has to stand up to this type of demand. I have advised that a report be made to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in respect of such action.”

Quite right. And the next day, so it came about.

A legal firm acting for Respect MP George Galloway will be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), it has emerged.

Lewis, who was a leading figure in the News of the World hacking scandal confirmed to the Huffington Post UK that he would be making a complaint to the SRA on behalf of three clients on Wednesday.

Informing Legal Cheek the costs demanded in the letters “could never be justified”, he said: “A lawyer’s duty is to stand up for people who cannot otherwise defend themselves from very threatening demands. Mr Galloway’s solicitors claimed £5,000 plus VAT for standard letters on top of damages. That is horrific and brings the solicitor’s profession into disrepute.

“Mr Galloway’s spokesman says that the letters weren’t shown to the client before they were sent. This is a matter of practice and the SRA must investigate.”

Dreadful man. I hope he is humiliated and baffled.

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



Letters demanding £5,000

Mar 5th, 2015 11:07 am | By

George Galloway’s lawyers have been sending people letters demanding money for…retweeting an allegation that Galloway is anti-semitic.

George Galloway has ordered lawyers to issue Twitter users who alleged he was an anti-Semite with letters demanding £5,000 and threatening legal action.

The Bradford West MP has reportedly singled out up to a dozen people, including some who had only re-tweeted other posts and a charity worker with just 75 followers.

The letters, seen by The Times, were issued by Bradford-based Chambers Solicitors. They said the recipient was “required” to pay legal costs of £5,000 plus VAT into a HSBC bank account by 10 March.

Required??? Just like that? In advance of any trial, on their say-so? That sounds awfully…extortion-like.

Ron McKay, a spokesperson for Mr Galloway, confirmed his legal action to The Independent, claiming it was “normal practice” for lawyers to demand costs from a defendant before a the start of a libel case.

“If they don’t pay the money it will go to court,” he added.

Well, given the way the Indy is framing this, I have a suspicion it’s not normal practice at all.

Among those receiving a warning was Hadley Freeman, a Guardian columnist, who wrote a since deleted tweet about the Respect MP on 10 February.

Later that day, Mr Galloway wrote on Twitter: “I have begun legal proceedings against Hadley Freeman of the Guardian on her defamatory comments about me. No one should repeat them.”

The furore inspired the hashtag #libelGalloway to trend as people concocted joke statements to poke fun at his legal action.

A charity worker who re-tweeted a post supporting Ms Freeman, which repeated an anti-Semitism accusation, was among those receiving letters.

“I don’t have £50 let alone £5,000,” the person told The Times.

Another recipient told the newspaper they were “frightened” by the demands sparked by two re-tweets that were not meant as endorsements.

Mr Galloway has also personally threatened critics with legal action on Twitter, writing to one last week: “Most unwise of you to be writing these things. My lawyers will find you.”

Dreadful man.

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



Robert Kennedy Junior considers it important

Mar 5th, 2015 10:26 am | By

Well this is just a damn disgrace – Robert Kennedy Junior wants to show Oregon state senators a movie about mercury-containing preservative in some vaccines. Why? Because

He plans to urge them to vote against a bill that — with an amendment — would eliminate nonmedical exemptions from Oregon’s school immunization law.

The invitation came via emails to senators on Monday. Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, and Tim Knopp, R-Bend, confirmed to the Statesman Journal that they were invited to the screening.

Knopp said on Tuesday that Kennedy reached out to him on Sunday — presumably because Knopp is leading the opposition against Senate Bill 442 — and said he was interested in talking with the senators about the bill.

During a measles outbreak in Oregon, he plans to do this. It’s a disgrace.

“He’s very concerned about parental consent on this issue,” Knopp said. “He’s opposed to the bill with the amendments and wanted to talk to some senators.”

In the email that was obtained by the Statesman Journal, Kennedy writes that lawmakers and their staffers are invited to the screening of the documentary “Trace Amounts” at Cinebarre in downtown Salem and that he plans to hold a question-and-answer session afterward.

“I consider this issue so important not just for Oregon but for the entire country that I wanted to make the trip to Salem to further educate lawmakers,” the email reads.

He considers it so important to persuade legislators to let parents continue to put their children and everyone else at risk of a preventable disease. How public-spirited of him.

Kennedy wrote a book published last year about thimerosal, which has been phased out of most vaccines, except for flu shots. He argues that thimerosal is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there’s no evidence of that.

Well Robert Kennedy Junior doesn’t need evidence; he’s a Kennedy.

Oregon has the nation’s highest nonmedical vaccine exemption rate for kindergarteners, at about 7 percent. However, there are numerous enclaves in local communities where the exemption rates reach double digits. That has been alarming for public health and medical professionals, who say a certain level of community immunization rates need to be maintained to prevent against disease outbreaks.

Ah but Robert Kennedy Junior knows better; he’s a Kennedy.

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



To travel with Conradian determination

Mar 5th, 2015 9:52 am | By

Priyamvada Gopal adds more to the picture of the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh and the documentary and the reactions against it. I’ve disagreed with Gopal in the past and thought I was going to again, but in the end she makes good points.

She does some rather annoying sneering at Udwin on the way there though.

Udwin’s elevation to the status of free speech martyr and the ensuing controversy is likely to boost the viewing figures in Britain for a film that she describes as having been made through enormous personal sacrifice. She has stressed her abdication of home comforts to travel with Conradian determination to explore “the blackest recesses of the human heart”. Indian feminists, on the other hand, have expressed unease – not only with the timing of the documentary’s broadcast which might, they fear, result in a further trial by media of the accused, already fast-tracked through the judicial system because of the public outcry, but also with some of the premises both of the film and the associated “Daughters of India” global campaign against sexual violence to be launched next week at a star-studded New York screening.

As the leading feminist campaigner and Secretary of the All-India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, notes, Indian anti-rape protestors themselves have unambiguously rejected the patriarchal language which denotes women as daughters, wives or sisters entitled to protection in that capacity rather than as human beings who will assert themselves and resist attacks on their bodies and rights.

Indian women’s rights campaigners – who, as it happens, have been active and vocal on the question of rape for decades before December 2012, even if that miserable event galvanised a wave of impressive fresh protests – frequently find themselves wedged between Indian patriarchs who deny that rape is a serious problem or blame it on westernisation, and the well-meaning but often ill-informed “maternalism” of some western feminist quarters that lay the blame on a particularly retrograde mindset in India.

Oh yeah? I know plenty of Indian feminists who lay the blame on a particularly retrograde mindset in India. I’m a little surprised that Gopal doesn’t seem to know any.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not claiming that the US has a fabulous track record on this issue. Ha – what a sour joke. But I have a hard time imagining a US defense lawyer boasting that he would gather the whole family to watch as he set fire to his daughter for messing around. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there are such lawyers, and they’re just not reported in the media. But in any case, there’s no shortage of Indian feminists who are outraged at the mindset that says men get to punish women who go out at night by raping them and yanking their intestines out.

But then she does go on to make a worthwhile point. (Worthwhile by my lights, yes.)

Rape can be a perfectly modern weapon that is intimately connected to other systems of privilege, exploitation and inequality, including, in the Indian context, caste oppression, religious chauvinism, resource appropriation (including that of mineral-rich land from indigenous tribal communities by multinational corporations) and the vicious economic inequalities fostered by an unfettered capitalism prosperity that has yet to bring basic shelter and nourishment to millions.

To talk about rape in terms of a savage cultural psyche locked to the past is to miss the dense wood for the most exotic trees if that discussion does not examine how the same government appealed to now by Udwin is backed by Hindu right-wing political groups which allegedly wielded mass rape as a weapon against Muslim women in Gujarat in 2002 where Modi was chief minister. (One Hindu supremacist recently called for even dead Muslim women to be raped). To not note the ways in which rape has been systematically used to keep Dalit women and communities “in their place” by upper-castes threatened by change is to fail rape victims.

I don’t see any obvious tension between the two, but the reminder is useful.

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



Exploring ways of stopping the worldwide broadcast

Mar 5th, 2015 9:21 am | By

Leslee Udwin is appealing to Narendra Modi not to ban her documentary about the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh – but of course Modi is not the guy to undo that kind of ban. Modi is a Hindu nationalist, a right-wing patriot; of course he’s not going to listen to some liberal woman from the UK who is sullying India’s good name.

Shortly before her statement was released, the parliamentary affairs minister, M Venkaiah Naidu, declared: “We can ban the film in India. But this is an international conspiracy to defame India. We will see how the film can be stopped abroad too.”

Yeah good luck with that.

In her appeal on Wednesday, Udwin said: “India should be embracing this film – not blocking it with a kneejerk hysteria without even seeing it. This was an opportunity for India to continue to show the world how much has changed since this heinous crime. Sadly … the banning of the film will see India isolated in the eyes of the world. It’s a counterproductive move.”

For India as a whole, yes. For Modi’s party, maybe not so much.

India’s home minister, Rajnath Singh, told parliament that the government would ensure that “under no condition should this documentary be telecast … no one should show it on electronic media.”

The government would also block the dissemination of the film on any other platform, such as a web portal or on social media, he said.

Singh assured parliament that the Indian government was already exploring ways of stopping the worldwide broadcast. A notice had been sent to BBC4, which will show the film on Sunday in Britain, he said. “We will not allow anyone to leverage such unfortunate incidents [the 2012 Delhi rape] for commercial benefits,” he added.

A notice? What sort of notice? “We demand that you not show this documentary”? What does he mean they will not allow? They can’t not allow. They have no say in the matter.

It’s all just pandering to the constituents, no doubt, but it’s repellent all the same.

However, a BBC spokeswoman confirmed that India’s Daughter would be broadcast as planned. “This harrowing documentary, made with the full support and cooperation of the victim’s parents, provides a revealing insight into a horrific crime that sent shockwaves around the world and led to protests across India demanding changes in attitudes towards women,” she said.

“The film handles the issue responsibly and we are confident the programme fully complies with our editorial guidelines. The BBC will broadcast Storyville – India’s Daughter, in the UK on BBC4. The documentary has the backing of a number other public service broadcasters; however, the BBC is only responsible for transmission of the film in the UK.”

The film is also due to be broadcast in Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Canada.

But not the US, it would appear. I suppose PBS is too squeamish, or maybe it spent the whole budget on Downton Fucking Abbey.

The controversy over India’s Daughter has demonstrated how deeply divided India is on how to deal with violence against women.

The film is facing both vociferous criticism and support inside and outside parliament. “We have to confront the issue that many men in India do not respect women,” said Anu Aga, an MP and one of the country’s few top female industrialists.

“What the man [Mukesh Singh] spoke reflects the views of many men in India. Why are we shying away from that? Let’s be aware of the view and not pretend all is well.”

It’s about ethics in private bus driving.

Sunita Krishnan, a campaigner against rape who, like Udwin, is a rape survivor, described India’s Daughter as “a mirror for introspection”.

“It’s a fact that rapist language has been heard from prominent leaders in the country also,” she said. “By exposing a criminal’s mindset you’re not glorifying a rapist. The film is a platform for collective condemnation of such mindsets.”

I’m guessing Modi and his friends don’t want a platform for collective condemnation of such mindsets. Just a hunch.

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



Because it believes in universal values

Mar 5th, 2015 8:43 am | By

Nick Cohen informs us that Tell Mama is being torn apart by Islamists usurping Tell Mama’s liberal message.

Tell Mama is Britain’s most prominent opponent of anti-Muslim prejudice. It monitors everything from criminal assaults to everyday abuse. The far right loathes it, and the Conservative press sells the grotesque pretence that the group exaggerates prejudice to divert attention from the horror of Islamist violence.

But attacks from the right only wound. Tell Mama’s ‘friends’ in the Muslim community have turned out to be far more dangerous and are threatening to destroy the organisation. ‘I am on a knife edge,’ one activist told me. ‘I may just leave. I’m so fed up.’

There’s the presence of Islamists in Baroness Warsi’s Whitehall working group on anti-Muslim hatred, for one thing.

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of Tell Mama and a former adviser to Nick Clegg, told the Sunday Telegraph he was so concerned ‘about the kinds of groups some of the members had connections with, and some of the groups they were recommending be brought into government’ that he left Warsi’s committee.

Warsi is attempting to push Fiyaz Mughal back into line, Nick says.

While pressure was applied in private, a public campaign began on Twitter under the hashtag ‘Don’t Tell Mama’. It urged Muslims to wreck the organisation by boycotting it. Tell Mama’s critics accused it of being soft on the ‘heretical’ Ahmadi sect, soft on liberal Muslims who say cartoons of Mohammed don’t offend them, and soft on Jews.

In other words, liberal. Islamists don’t want no stinkin liberal.

Tell Mama knows a truth that it has taken my generation of liberal leftists half a lifetime to learn: there are two far rights in Britain. The group documents the behaviour of mainly white racists: thugs who spit at women in headscarves. But because it believes in universal values, it works with all who are victims of bigotry. Tell Mama’s board includes a Muslim support group for lesbians and gays, and Peter Tatchell, that indomitable fighter against homophobia, is also on it. Just as Tell Mama attacks prejudices against Muslims, so it defends homosexuals when Muslim clerics compare them to murderers and paedophiles.

Universal values and universal rights.

…the group’s enemies care nothing for consistent principles. They want others to condemn hatred against Muslims from white extremists, but not Muslim extremists’ hatred of Ahmadis, liberal Muslims or Jews.

Tell Mama may win through. But the people I’m talking to sound as if the stress is too much for them. If they go under, we will measure the triumph of sectarianism in yet more demands for double standards and restrictions on free speech, and yet more excuses for terror. In ways too few appreciate, however, we will also measure the awful consequences for British Muslims. In the East End of London, just down the road from where I am writing, the unemployment rate among Bangladeshis is astonishingly high. Hardly anyone talks about it, because blocks of British Asians are now identified as ‘the Muslims’, men and women interested only in religion.

It’s a deflection, in other words. Poverty and unemployment don’t matter, as long as no one is “offended” by a cartoon. That’s bad politics any way you look at it.

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



Guest post: We have had so many candle light marches

Mar 5th, 2015 8:09 am | By

Originally a comment by Nini Thomas on “In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

“India’s daughter” is being banned, great job by our government, kudos!!! Looks like this has invoked more furor than the rape case. The views expressed by the rapist is not new, these views have been expressed by so many people across India. This just goes on to prove that our so called culture is more worried about Log kya kahenge (What will others say!!).

We have had so many candle light marches, but it has failed to light our hearts and remove the darkness in our mindsets.

Our biggest achievement as a country was the successful mission to Mars, I hope that this mission helps us get a better insight on how men think and feel… maybe next mission should be to Venus to know where things are going wrong for women.

Even today I have seen mothers telling their little boys as young as 5 years, “Boys don’t cry, Boys don’t cook” and the words of wisdom for girls are “ Don’t play with boys, don’t talk loudly, help your mothers in the kitchen etc.”
I don’t have anything against girls entering kitchen, or talking softly, but are we not engraving this gender divide in our families by saying so…

Even today if a women is married off, and she has to by all means reduce the amount of time she spends with her family, after all she no longer belongs to that house. I know women who say that they don’t like going to house town for vacation because, they need to spend more time in husband’s house, and if they wish to go to their house, it’s a favor and not a right.

Women should not express opinion on any topic when men are talking. It is a sad truth that working women are not as liberated as it looks, they shoulder dual responsibility; work at office, come back and do the work as a housewife, mother and wife. In case she can’t handle it, she can quit the job and sit at home, after all her salary is supplementary and not so important. When will we understand that job does not always boil down to money, it much more…but when will we understand.

Yes I do have lot of fury within me, but it’s for me to decide how I vent it out, either I burn the whole world, or mold the next generation by inculcating better values in my children. Fathers, respect your wife… Respect other women in your life – mother, sister etc…. Mothers, be an example to your daughter, and show to your son’s how they should treat women.

Women time to rise and say I don’t want to be treated like a down trodden, I don’t need reservations, I will rise and stand, yes it’s right to raise your voice, we don’t need others to talk for us, we need to dust off a lot of age old taboos, and open our minds and say “No one can screw our lives, we have control over it”!!!!

Indian culture has no place for women is a statement which encapsulates the views of how women are looked at….

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



Back in the news

Mar 4th, 2015 5:19 pm | By

Via The Freethinker, have a cartoon:

Cartoon: David Fitzsimmons

Cartoon: David Fitzsimmons

It’s via The Freethinker, but you can also see it on the Facebook page of Shaykh Noor Ul Aqtab Siddiqi. He says he’s a public figure, but I suspect that’s aspirational more then descriptive. Barry Duke tells us more about him at The Freethinker itself.

Last month we reported that Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, of the Muslim Action Forum, praised scaredy-cat British media for not publishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Oh that kind of public figure. Remember the Muslim Action Forum? And that absurd “no cartoons of the prophet” demonstration in Downing Street? That’s who our Shaykh is.

Well, the Muslim Action Forum is back in the news. It has launched a “legal strategy” to stop insults against Mohammed. MAF is also asking supporters to “lobby your MP” to make “Islamophobia” a criminal offence.

The group states that they intend “to launch a series of legal challenges in the English Court system” because:

Depictions of our Holy Prophet peace be upon Him is the worst kind of ‘Hate Crime’ that can be perpetrated on the 3 million Muslims in the UK and 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide.

No, it isn’t. You might as well say depictions of Darth Vader is a hate crime against fans of Star Wars. It takes a lot more than that to make a genuine hate crime.

Next question?

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



Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed

Mar 4th, 2015 4:26 pm | By

Here’s another persecution on religious grounds.

We, African youth and defenders of freedom and human dignity, with the support of human rightsliberty and freedom defenders, have learned with great sorrow that the death penalty has been imposed on Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Mkhaitir who was accused of apostasy despite his multiple recantations of the statements in question.

This heavy sentence was imposed based on assertions that Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Mkhaitir “spoke lightly of the Prophet (PBUH)” in an article published on Mauritanian websites on December 30, 2013. In the article, entitled “Religion, Religiosity, and the Blacksmiths”, Mr. Mkhaitir demonstrated how the “Zawayas”, or marabouts, manipulated historical facts cited by Muslim scholars to justify their dominance over the “blacksmiths”, of which he is a member. He accused Mauritanian society of perpetuating this “iniquitous socially inherited” cultural order into the present.

Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mohamed Mkhaitir publicly clarified his statements in an article published on December 31, 2013. He wrote, “To all those who have deliberately misunderstood my point, you know that I have not blasphemed against the Prophet (peace and salvation be upon him), and I never will. I certainly understand your readiness to defend the prophet because I too share this propensity to love and defend him. I assure you that we are all equal in our desire to defend all that is sacred to us.” One can still find his statement of clarification in some sites, such as on his Facebook page, which shows the date of publication is authentic.

The crime of apostasy is defined in section IV (entitled Act of Indecency toward Islam) of the Mauritanian Penal Code, established under the order of July 9, 1983. Article 306, paragraph 1 of the criminal code indicates, “Every Muslim guilty of the crime of apostasy, either by word or by action of apparent or obvious, will be invited to repent within three days.”

They go on to explain that he really didn’t commit “the crime of apostasy.” I don’t care if he did or not; he obviously did nothing to merit so much as a ticket, let alone imprisonment and execution.

The IHEU has more, from January.

The defendant, Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed (sometimes named alternatively as Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould M’Kheitir, or Mkhaitir), has already been detained since January 2014. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, relating to an article he wrote in which he challenged decisions taken by the prophet of Islam and his companions during the “holy wars”. The prosecution argued that the writing constituted “speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed” and therefore was evidence of apostasy.

The death sentence handed down on 24 December 2014 by a court in Nouadhibou, north-west Mauritania, breaks a moratorium on death-for-apostasy rulings otherwise upheld in the country since 1960.

The article by Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed was also said to have criticised the caste system, accusing Mauritanian society of perpetuating “an iniquitous social order” drawn from Islamic precepts, in which those at the bottom of the hierarchy were “marginalised and discriminated against from birth”. Indeed, Mauritania has the highest proportion of slaves today in the world, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and other human rights groups have repeatedly highlighted slow progress on the part of the state to in fact abolish slavery.

Well they’re obviously far too busy prosecuting citizens for saying anything critical of Islam. Priorities, people!

Just weeks before the sentencing, the ongoing case featured in theIHEU Freedom of Thought Report. The report noted that around his arrest in 2014, “there were a number of protests condemning his actions and angry at the pace with which his case was being dealt. There were numerous calls, including by imams, scholars and professors, for M’Kheitir’s execution. One preacher, Abi Ould Ali, offered 4,000 Euros to anyone who killed the blogger. The Mauritanian government and opposition parties supported the protests. President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said, “We will apply God’s law on whoever insults the prophet, and whoever publishes such an insult.””

Lawyers for defendant argued that he was repentant and pleaded for leniency. Local Islamic organisations reportedly claimed that Mohamed’s article, which circulated on multiple online outlets, was the first text critical of Islam ever published in Mauritania. The verdict was celebrated joyously by many in court and on the streets.

Commenting on the sentencing, President of IHEU, Sonja Eggerickx, said:

“When doubting religion, or calling for social justice, are branded crimes — let alone capital crimes — the state’s contempt for human rights is starkly exposed.

“As we have seen in our work on slavery in Mauritania at the UN in Geneva, there are forces deeply resistant to the reform on Mauritania’s discriminatory social hierarchy. People representing these forces often claim Islam as a a justification for caste and slavery, and then brand all criticism of caste and slavery as anti-Islamic.

“The charge of apostasy — whether or not the charge is linked with social or political activism, whether the accused really is an apostate or not, and regardless whether there is public support for the sentence — is always a profoundly tyrannical charge. Apostasy laws contradict in the most basic and blatant sense, the human rights to freedom of thought and freedom of expression which we all share.”

It’s enough to make you want to pull all your hair out.

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



Two living, breathing human beings

Mar 4th, 2015 11:38 am | By

A “godless science-researcher” wrote an impassioned, humane post about the murder of Avijit Roy, who was his friend.

Hacked to death. Hacked. To death. Two living, breathing human beings, returning home after their day’s work, set upon by murderous assailants who dragged them to the pavement and hacked away at them with machete-like sharp instruments. Two human beings, a man who has succumbed to his deadly injuries, and a woman, who sustained severe injuries to her hands and forehead as she tried to protect her companion. Two human beings, my friend and his wife.

It is particularly horrifying. It’s all too easy to imagine what it would be like.

Bangladesh-born, resident of suburban Atlanta in the state of Georgia, and an engineer by profession, Avijit has consistently been a prominent voice for reason and free thought, denouncing religious extremism and intolerance. I haven’t had the pleasure of being acquainted with his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, but from common friends and acquaintances, I gathered the impression that she was his perfect partner, a blogger who shared his passion for rationality. Avijit founded the Bangla-language blog Mukto Mona (“One with a Free Mind”) in 2000 to offer the Bangla-speaking freethinkers from the subcontinent and beyond a valuable platform to discuss science, reason and humanity.

I had the privilege of writing for Mukto Mona a few times. I couldn’t continue writing on relevant topics for various reasons, but it was – to my good fortune – enough to create a bond between Avijit and me. Sometime in 2012, Avijit wrote me a message on Facebook asking if I was the same person who wrote for Mukto Mona. I was elated to be so recognized – because by that time I was already acquainted with his scholarship, the books in Bangla on science and religion he had authored, and his persistent, powerful and courageous efforts to defend reason and bring enlightenment to an increasingly fractious and irrational world. We became friends on Facebook, and continued to be in touch.

We make friends in these ways, so it all becomes personal. Damn right it does.

Avijit was an avowed atheist, but the predominant theme of his writings was secular humanism, guided by reason. (If you are able to read Bangla online, do read his public Facebook note on his experience in authoring and publishing books.) He was a strong voice for opposing irrational beliefs, blind faith and superstitions, and especially reactionary fundamentalism in religion regardless of specific creeds. He also spoke out against the false equivalence between secularism and fundamentalism often drawn by so-called moderates in Bangladesh, and held them culpable for the cultural decline of that country – a country which, in a matter of decades, has turned from its scholastic traditions marked by thought and intellectual query to a regressive society where radical Islamic hardliners hold sway over public life, liberally dispensing abuse and death threats to freethinkers, atheist writers and bloggers with impunity, and in effect rewriting the cultural norms of that society to suit their ideology; a country where authorities do nothing to ensure safety of those opposed to religious extremism, where rationalist bloggers and writers have been attacked and murdered, and arrested under the odious, medieval ‘Blasphemy law’. Avijit and his daughter, Trisha Ahmed, had chronicled this painful state of affairs in a 2013 op-ed in the Free Inquiry magazine.

That’s happened in the US to some extent too – a turn away from secularism, a valorization of “faith” and goddy thinking, a rejection of rational inquiry. It’s a bad trend.

The shock of Avijit’s death – he was of my age – numbed me enough to make it difficult to get the words out. But if there is one thing that gave me courage and hope, it was the wise and intrepid words from young Trisha, who wrote: “To say that I’m furious or heartbroken would be an understatement. But as fucked up as the world is, there’s never a reason to stop fighting to make it better. I’ll carry the lessons he taught me and the love he gave me forever.” As would we, in our hearts.

Violence perpetrated for whatever reason has become commonplace in the daily lives of many societies across the world. And religion ranks amongst the highest of such reasons. A recently released report by Pew Research Center shows a global region-wise map of social hostilities around religion. Not shockingly, the Indian subcontinent features prominently as a region with very high religious hostilities in the society.

But that statistic did not hit home as much as it has done now.

It’s personal.

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



You have to know where you are

Mar 4th, 2015 11:11 am | By

No doubt most of you are aware of the head-shaking and puzzlement and alarm, and sometimes just plain anger, about Jamila Bey’s address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as a representative of American Atheists last week. Debbie Goddard has thoughts and questions about it at Skepchick. Rai Rhoades is unpleased at Rhoades to RealityJames Croft has big doubts at Temple of the Future.

Quoting James:

American Atheists’ overtures to CPAC and to the Republican Party make me uneasy. I can’t help the sense that this is less about promoting atheist visibility and acceptance, and more about cozying up to powerful people  under the cover of a completely unrealistic image of “conservatism”. It’s as if not only do they want conservatives to be OK with atheists, but they want atheists to be OK with conservatives – and they’re willing to overlook the very troubling record of contemporary conservatism to make their case.

As if to prove my point, at one moment in her speech Bey looked out into the crowd and said: “I see people who love this country and believe in the equality of all people.”

No you don’t. You really don’t, Jamila! You see a subset of the most conservative activists in the country, people whose job it is to oppose LGBTQ equality, women’s equality, and the equality of people of color. People who quite literally lead the charge against equality in America! It’s one thing to play to your audience, but quite another to flatly reject reality. This is pandering, and it makes me wonder about motives. I’m all for humanizing atheists in the eyes of conservatives, but lying about conservatism to do so is dishonest.

That. The thing is, there are ways atheists can be humanized, to conservatives and to anyone, that are not open to conservatives. (No doubt the reverse is also true, but I’ll leave the specifics of that to conservatives who want to underline the inhumanity of atheists.) It’s fine to say conservatives put their jeans on one leg at a time; it’s not fine to say that conservatives believe in the equality of all people – not in the USofA it’s not. It’s as James said: conservatives and especially CPAC are programatically and officially opposed to the equality of people. Conservatives like and trust hierarchy; in many ways hierarchy is the whole point for conservatives. In many ways love and trust of hierarchy and dislike and distrust of “leveling” is and always has been the core of conservatism. It’s no good trying to pretend that away. It’s no good denying it. It’s no good pretending it’s not true because you want it to be not true.

Hierarchy versus equality has always been the border between right and left. It’s not “small government” – that’s far more tangential.

This is political GPS.

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



Only then will she eat the leftovers

Mar 4th, 2015 10:30 am | By

The New York Times reports on a new study that finds Indian women are far more undernourished and underweight than women even in poorer countries.

You know what this results in? Undernourished babies, lots of whom die in or out of the uterus.

That’s the thing about hating women – it has some knock-on effects that even non-women don’t want. It’s hard to get the amount of hatred that should be directed at women exactly right.

The poor [bad] health of children in India, even after decades of robust economic growth, is one of the world’s most perplexing public health issues.

A child raised in India is far more likely to be malnourished than one from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia, the world’s poorest countries. Poor [bad] sanitation and a growing tide of drug-resistant infections also affect nutrition.

[Aside: it’s bad enough using “poor” as a pointless euphemism for “bad” even when it’s not confusing, but in an article that’s directly about poverty and an array of bad things, then it’s inexcusable. Poor countries have bad outcomes. Poor countries have bad sanitation and bad health in children. Let’s be clear about these things.]

But an important factor is the relatively poor [bad] health of young Indian women. More than 90 percent of adolescent Indian girlsare anemic, a crucial measure of poor [bad] nutrition. And while researchers have long known that Indian mothers tend to be less healthy than their African counterparts, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates that the disparity is far worse than previously believed.

By analyzing census data, Diane Coffey of Princeton University found that 42 percent of Indian mothers are underweight. The figure for sub-Saharan Africa is 16.5 percent.

And why is this? More hatred.

The reasons for Indian mothers’ relatively poor health are many, including a culture that discriminates against them. Sex differences in education, employment outside the home, and infant mortality are all greater in India than in Africa.

“In India, young newly married women are at the bottom of household hierarchies,” Ms. Coffey said. “So at the same time that Indian women become pregnant, they are often expected to keep quiet, work hard and eat little.”

They’re supposed to be like a car that gets exceptionally good gas mileage.

It also has to do with bad sanitation and sewage disposal.

Dr. Shella Duggal, Juhi’s doctor at the mobile clinic, said that almost every pregnant woman she treats in her visits to Delhi’s slums is severely anemic. Parasites, spread by poor [BAD] sanitation and dirty water, are a crucial reason, she said.

“So the first thing we do is deworm them and give them iron supplements,” Dr. Duggal said. “And then I tell them to eat.”

It is a prescription many of her patients find difficult to carry out, she said.

“These mothers are the last persons in their families to have food,” Dr. Duggal said. “First, she feeds the husband and then the kids, and only then will she eat the leftovers.”

It’s a bad arrangement.

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



The crucial W

Mar 4th, 2015 9:47 am | By

Wednesday night last week Cooper and I took our post-dinner walk down to Kerry Park, which is a little pocket park on the south slope of Queen Anne Hill with a sweeping view of the southern Cascades, Mount Rainier on the few days it’s clear enough, downtown, the harbor, and Puget Sound. If you’ve ever seen a postcard or generic photo of Seattle, it was taken from there. It was a beautiful windy night with clouds ripping across the sky. When we got to Kerry Park we found people arranging big illuminated squares on the grass, squares that held letters, one per square. While Cooper sniffed all the things I looked at the squares to read the message (upside down: I was standing at the top of them) – and got NET NEUTRALITY NO.

NO?? That seemed incongruous. The NO people would be at corporate dinners or on the phone to lobbyists, not messing around in Kerry Park at night. Huh. Then here came someone carrying another square. Ah. “Is that the W?” I asked her. “I hope?” It was, of course.

They asked us – the random people in the park at that moment – to help hold up the sign and be in the photo. Fun! So I wrapped Cooper’s leash around one of the railings and beed in the photo.

I found the photo at the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Net Neutrality Now!

(Photo: Rick Barry/Broken Shade Photo)

I’m behind the L, looking lumpy because in a hoody jacket.

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



Hicks would stare out the second-floor window

Mar 3rd, 2015 6:17 pm | By

The New York Times has more on the Chapel Hill murders.

A motive for the shooting may never be known. But interviews with more than a dozen of the victims’ friends and family members, lawyers, police officers and others make two central points: Before the shootings, the students took concerted steps to appease a menacing neighbor, and none were parked that day in a way that would have set off an incident involving their cars.

If those accounts do not prove what kind of malice was in Mr. Hicks’s heart, the details that emerge indicate that whatever happened almost certainly was not a simple dispute over parking.

They were all parked that day in a permitted way that didn’t interfere with Hicks – one in their assigned space, one in an unassigned space, one on the street. Nobody was parked in Hicks’s space.

The murders happened at Finley Forest, a complex on the eastern edge of this city popular with graduate students at the nearby University of North Carolina. Mrs. Hicks owns 270 Summerwalk Circle, a second-floor unit in Building 20 that looks out south over the parking lot. Her husband moved in after the couple married seven years ago; it was his second marriage after a disastrous first.

The contrast between the paunchy, balding Mr. Hicks and the rest of the complex’s residents was stark. Many were aspiring professionals and academics at a premier public university. Mr. Hicks was unemployed, taking night classes at a community college in hopes of becoming a paralegal. He spent long hours in his apartment with a collection of at least a dozen guns, including four pistols and a Bushmaster AR-15. Mrs. Hicks told her lawyer that Mr. Hicks would stare out the second-floor window, obsessing over neighbors’ parties, patterns and parking.

Ah; class. The Times is hinting that that could have played a role, and who knows, maybe it did. Nobody knows, and perhaps nobody ever will.

Hicks was increasingly obnoxious to them in the weeks before the murders. There’s speculation that it may have been the hijabs that pissed him off.

There is no question Mr. Hicks had a problem with religion. His Facebook page was full of quotations and memes denigrating Christianity. On Jan. 27, he shared a graphic that may have made reference to Islam: “People say there is nothing that can solve the Middle East problem … I say there is something. Atheism.”

Well, I have a  problem with religion too, and you can find masses of evidence for that on Facebook. I don’t kill people though. One of the reasons I have a problem with religion is the fact that it can be used to justify violence and murder.

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