Notes and Comment Blog

How to discourage the dissident voices

Jan 16th, 2015 11:55 am | By

Last week the Beeb took the temperature after the lashing of Raif.

Two Arabic hashtags that translate to “Raif Badawi’s public lashing” and “ lashing Raif Badawi” trended in Saudi Arabia with more than 250,000 tweets after news of carrying out the first round of lashes on Badawi was announced.

Unsurprisingly, there were some hooray tweets.

“He established a network to spread apostasy and to offend religion and the prophet’s verses and some people cry for him, I say he deserves more than this,” one Saudi twitter user commented.

But there were many who expressed their anger and dismay at the sentence, especially at a time when Saudi Arabia is battling with extreme fundamentalism.

“It’s religious extremism that deserves punishment because it’s what brought us the Islamic State and not liberalism which fights extremism” commented another Saudi on Twitter.

It’s odd to talk about Saudi Arabia “battling with extreme fundamentalism” when it’s so extremely fundamentalist itself. Remember: it refused to sign the UDHR when Egypt and Pakistan did. It has never signed it. It uses its oil money to fund Wahhabi evangelism around the world. It’s not an outpost of liberalism and human rights.

And while #JeSuisCharlie trended worldwide after the Charlie Hebdo attack, some of those who support Badawi started #JeSuisRaif to raise awareness about his case.

Je Suis Raif

Maryam Namazie tweeted “All those tweeting #JeSuisCharlie should also tweet #JeSuisRaif. @raif_badawi sentenced to 10 years prison & 1000 lashes. Saudi Govt STOP”.

It’s always good to see the BBC giving a shout-out to Maryam. They don’t do it often enough. Too much Sacranie, not enough Namazie.

Elham Manea, an associate professor of politics at Zurich University, believes that there could be a possible number of reasons why the punishment was carried out.

“It could be because Saudi Arabia wants to show that it will not submit to international pressure,” said Manea, who has been campaigning for Badawi’s release. “It could also be about an internal struggle and rivalry inside the ruling family.”

“But I’d say the most likely possibility is that the ruling family needs the support of the religious establishment against the tides of Arab Spring and dissident voices inside the kingdom, so this is what they are offering in exchange for their support,” said Manea.

The apartheid regime in South Africa also wanted to show that it will not submit to international pressure for years and years…and then changes came.


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

A blasphemous cartoon disrespecting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)

Jan 16th, 2015 11:30 am | By

A photographer for AFP, Asif Hasan, has been shot at a protest against Charlie Hebdo in Karachi, Dawn reports.

A protest organised by Islami Jamiat Talaba’s Karachi chapter on Friday turned violent when a clash took place between protesters and police. Security forces resorted to aerial firing, tear gas and water cannons to push back the charged mob.

Three party workers, who were affected by tear gas, have been transferred to the nearest hospital.

Agence France-Presse photographer, Asif Hasan, was shot while covering the rally.

“AFP photographer Asif Hasan suffered wounds resulting from gunshots fired by…protesters, police have not opened fire,” Abdul Khalique Shaikh, a senior police officer in Karachi, told Reuters.

“The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger and he has spoken to his colleagues,” Doctor Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital where Hassan was taken, told AFP.

Dawn explains about the protest.

Hundreds of people had gathered at Teen Talwar to register their protest over the publication of a blasphemous cartoon disrespecting Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

It’s not a “blasphemous” cartoon because the cartoonist and the magazine don’t subscribe to the system of taboos and exclusions that label it “blasphemous.” It’s “blasphemous” only to people who do subscribe to that system. And the cartoon didn’t “disrespect” the self-proclaimed “prophet” – it portrayed him as far more of a mensch than his nightmarish defenders. And never mind peace be upon him; how about peace for the rest of us? How about an end to the war on the rest of us that’s being carried on by his worst followers?

Today’s rally was aimed at registering its protest outside the French Consulate building. City police had blocked all the roads leading to the consulate and had stopped protesters from marching towards the consulate. The protesters were seen carrying batons.

The rally comes a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led Parliament in condemning the cartoons.

Oh shut up. Act like adults. Have some self-respect.

Rallies are also being carried out in the capital Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore against the controversial cartoons.

Religio-political groups of all schools of thought are observing today as a black day against the French magazine. The Tehreek Hurmat-i-Rasool, a conglomerate of 20 plus groups, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamatud Dawa, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, Sunni Tehreek and Sunni Ittehad Council also announced on Thursday launching a countrywide protest movement against the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo.

Maybe if they unite they can persuade the government to nuke Paris. You know they want to.

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

The Friday flogging is put off

Jan 16th, 2015 10:37 am | By

Sigh of relief: Raif’s second flogging has been postponed “for medical reasons.”

Not a sigh of full relief, obviously, but comparative relief.

Better than that, the king has sent his case to the Supreme Court for review.

The BBC reports:

The case of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes has been referred to the Supreme Court by the king’s office, the BBC has learned.

Blogger Raif Badawi’s wife said the referral, made before he was flogged 50 times last Friday, gave him hope that officials would end his punishment.

A second round of lashings was postponed for medical reasons.

You’ve put on your spectacle, KSA. Now let him go to Canada to join his wife and children.

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

More book-demolition

Jan 15th, 2015 6:23 pm | By

And speaking of silencing writers – in Lebanon the silencers have silenced some dead ones.

Ancient books in a historic library in the Lebanese city of Tripoli have been torched by Islamist[s], after a pamphlet purportedly insulting religion was found inside one of the books.

Security sources say that up to 78,000 books, many irreplaceable ancient Muslim and Christian texts and manuscripts, are now unsalvageable, according to Agence France Press.

The Al-Saeh library in the Serali neighborhood was set ablaze after a local gang to objection [took exception] to a sheet apparently insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, found hidden in the pages of one of the library books.

One sheet in one book, so they destroyed 78,000 books.

Lebanese blogger Elie Fares, who runs the website A Separate State Of Mind, blogged on Saturday night: “The country is burning, let’s not worry about a library. A lot of people might say that. But the library in question was a true national treasure, containing 78000 books, many of which exist in very few copies and many of which are, ironically, books about Islam.

“We just lost 78,000 books. We have lost many innocent lives as well over the past few days. And for the sake of what?

“I’m not Muslim but I’m more Muslim than the lunatics who torched that library and so are most of the people of Tripoli that many Lebanese love to dismiss so easily.”

This is not a good trend.

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

The silencing of Perumal Murugan

Jan 15th, 2015 6:11 pm | By

Soutik Biswas at the BBC has more on Perumal Murugan and his silencing by protesters.

Madhorubhagan, first published in 2010, is set a century ago, It’s a gripping fictional account of a poor, childless couple, and how the wife, who wants to conceive, takes part in an ancient Hindu chariot festival where, on one night, consensual sex between any man and woman is allowed. Murugan explores the tyranny of caste and pathologies of a community in tearing the couple apart and destroying their marriage.

Well we can’t have that – no exploring of any tyrannies, or someone will get pissed off.

One critic said the novel “lays bare with unsparing clarity a relationship caught between the dictates of social conventions and the tug of personal anxieties”. Fellow writers lauded Murugan’s stark and shocking imagery and his “sensitive portrait” of the couple. “Childless couples, especially the women in these marriages, suffer untold humiliation even today. If anything deserves to be banned, it is this control over women’s sexuality,” says Murugan’s translator Aniruddhan Vasudevan.

India has a long and chequered history of banning books – usually for allegedly offending religious and community sentiments, misrepresenting the country or perceived obscenity – but such a drastic reaction by a writer who has been clearly intimidated is unprecedented.

Things reportedly came to a head at a so-called “peace meeting” on Monday between Murugan and the groups opposed to him. The author has not spoken about the meeting – the groups had demanded that he offer an unconditional apology, delete the controversial portions, take back unsold copies and stop writing on “controversial subjects that hurt the sentiments of the people”.

See? What did I say? No you may not explore any tyrannies, because we will give you tyranny if you try. Poor India, full of such horrible shouting meddling interfering demanding people with such easily “hurt sentiments.”

It is also not entirely clear why the groups got worked up over a novel published in Tamil four years ago. Murugan reckons the English translation One Part Woman, which was published last year by Penguin, is probably the reason, and that “somebody who read it could have instigated the local organisations“. He believes caste groups, incensed by some characters in his novel, and pro-Hindu organisations ganged up to force his hand.

“Caste groups” presumably meaning upper caste groups, because what do the lowest castes have to gain from silence?

In December, the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, National Volunteers’ Organisation) burnt copies of the book, prompting his publishers and writers to issue a strong statement that cultural vigilantes “have all too often bullied writers and publishers, attacking our fundamental rights and freedoms of speech and expression”.

None of the political parties – regional or national – have spoken in support of Murugan. Many say this conspiracy of silence among India’s political parties when it comes to freedom of speech bodes ill for the world’s largest democracy.


“The silencing of Perumal Murugan,” says historian Ramachandra Guha, “is a sad day for Tamil Nadu and for India.” He and others believe that if Murugan does not return to writing in India’s disturbing climate of increasing intolerance of freedom of speech, it will be a tragedy.

One newspaper sharply reminded that the “spirit of orthodoxy and heterodoxy have coexisted” in the Indian intellectual traditions from ancient times. An online petition is already drumming up support for Murugan’s right to free speech. “Right now Murugan does not need a pep talk,” says Vasudevan his translator. “Perhaps he should be allowed to feel the exhaustion while we speak, write, march and read. Hopefully, after allowing himself to fully feel the sadness and exhaustion, he will emerge.”

Writers of the world unite.

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

Guest post: A Departure from the Humanist Society of South Australia

Jan 15th, 2015 5:36 pm | By

Guest post by Bruce Everett

In November of last year, eight months after resigning from committee, I resigned entirely from the Humanist Society of South Australia (HSSA). Unlike my resignation from committee, my resignation from the organisation was undertaken with nothing in the way of explanation, my intent to leave being stated in only two sentences. Aside from a short status update on Facebook which nobody seemed to notice, up until the topic was raised by one Mark Senior here in the comments at Butterflies and Wheels, I’ve made no public mention of my resignation.

Now, given that Mr Senior has attempted to fill the explanatory vacuum with his own narrative of ridiculous and unverified speculation, I’ve opted to air my grievances with the HSSA in public. Those experiencing discomfort on account of my disclosures can thank Mark for his efforts in making it even remotely worth my time and attention.


Surely I’m just leaving the HSSA because Mark is there, and I don’t like Mark, right? This is only partially correct; I don’t like Mark. I won’t deny this. If you want particulars beyond the immediately relevant, you can use Google.

Late last year, here at Butterflies and Wheels, it was claimed by Mark (writing as “Mofa”) that in addition to my seemingly being a “Muslim apologist”, I left the HSSA in a hissy fit because an anti-harassment policy he opposed, which he’d claimed earlier in the year was rigged to target people like him, was not adopted by committee. The problem with this assertion is that it has been my understanding that the policy was passed as a bylaw by committee around March of last year.

Despite such glaring ridiculousness, Mark’s antics are at most tangential to only a handful of my reasons for departing the HSSA. He’s not central to anything I am or have ever been involved in, and at most points in this post, he won’t feature at all.

This latest case of Mark not knowing what he’s on about can’t all be laid at his feet, and is related to one of my problems with the conduct of the HSSA’s leadership. The HSSA’s anti-harassment policy is a secret policy – it has been passed as a bylaw, but as of last verification (December 2014 – far too late), its implementation has not been announced to the membership. What good is a harassment policy if the membership is unable to know their obligations in relation to standing policy, or what protections they are entitled to under it? How do you square such secretive governance with the IHEU Minimum Statement that affiliated Humanist organisations are supposed to bide by?

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality [Emphasis added]”.

(IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism, retrieved January 2015)

If you can reconcile closed governance like this with the IHEU Minimum Statement, then either you’re a lot smarter than me or you’re just able to twist your mind into knots. At any rate, it’s the Australian Federal Election of 2013 that really brought out the anti-democratic sentiment.

There’s a phrase I loathe, that I’ve heard the Secretary of the HSSA use at least one variant of on a couple of occasions; “…and these people vote!” Despite my sceptical brow-raising at this, all I’ve ever got in response are sentiments like “some enlightenment figures had serious concerns about allowing people to vote” and “perhaps someone should give a talk about it”. Certainly, in the manner of Devil’s Advocate, or in formal debate with speakers from outside the organisation, it would be useful for Humanists to go over the shortcomings of democracy as per certain Enlightenment figures. Ultimately though, if the position you argue from is “democracy; no thanks”, then you can’t affirm the IHEU Minimum Statement, and strictly speaking, shouldn’t even be a member of an IHEU affiliated body, much less be on the committee of one.

More recently, this anti-democratic sentiment has found expression with both the HSSA President and Secretary supporting calls for the current Prime Minister Tony Abbott to release documentation demonstrating his renunciation of past foreign citizenship – members of the Australian Parliament not being able to hold dual citizenship. Aside from the Birther-esque attack on participatory democracy inherent to the sentiments of the campaign, the President and Secretary demonstrate a massive double standard in supporting this initiative.

Through 2013 up until nominations for Australian Humanist of The Year (AHoY) 2014, the HSSA Secretary pushed for the HSSA to nominate former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. A former Prime Minister who, like the current Prime Minister, was born overseas, thus raising the same issues of prior citizenship and documentation. Notably, neither the President nor the Secretary of the HSSA was particularly bothered about Gillard’s non-disclosure at the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I would much prefer a Gillard government over the Abbott nightmare we currently have in power. The Abbott Government is particularly hostile towards people like me, and towards people I care for. My point is, that as ever, double standards are the litmus test for hypocrisy – in this case in terms of the democratic values affirmed by the IHEH minimum statement.


I haven’t even touched on the non-exhaustive list of complaints I detailed in my resignation from committee earlier in 2014; the jokes about Asians cooking people’s pets, the weird body language around People of Colour, the racist dismissal of a Sam Harris talk at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention as “Indian neuroscience”. The response I received to these complaints (and others) was that the people making these comments were busy and hard-working, and hence made mistakes.

“It’s been such a long, hard shift; I just slagged off seven different ethnicities! I couldn’t help myself! What a day! Normally I just slag off three before supper, a Scotch and bed!” – This does not happen.

Not mentioned in my resignation from committee earlier this year, thanks to the timing, was an incident on the HSSA Facebook page, where I argued with the President over my concerns about anti-Semitism on Australian university campuses and over expressions of solidarity with Hamas made by Socialist Alternative. The President’s line of argument was both apologetic and unoriginal; extreme action (by Israel) draws extreme responses; perhaps Socialist Alternative didn’t know about the details of the Hamas charter I cited; etc., etc.

This kind of response is ridiculous, and unbefitting of a Humanist leader. Are we to adopt the fictional assumption that in the last intifada, the middle class suburbs of eastern Australia were heavily bombed, and accordingly, make allowances for agitated Socialist Alternative members? Are we to overlook the fascist pedigree of Hamas that has roots reaching back before modern Israel, or the fact that Hamas also brutalizes the Palestinian population, or the fact that the genocidal content of their charter has been well known for decades?

I guess if like the President, I chose to keep company with people who make statements like “THEEEEEEY have milked the memory of The Holocaust for too long!” I’d be under pressure to learn how to accommodate certain viewpoints.

You have to wonder what former AHoY, Leslie Cannold, would make of all this. Further, given her objections to rape apologetics for Julian Assange, something that was a potential deal-breaker for her joining the WikiLeaks party, the President and Secretary’s views on the relevant rape allegations would probably be cause for further angst. Suffice to say, on more than one occasion, I’ve had to listen to both the President and Secretary go well beyond the kind of defence offered by last year’s AHoY, Geoffrey Robertson.

The most galling thing about a HSSA leader expressing these kinds of excuses and conspiricist ideations though, is the fact that Leslie Cannold’s name, like that of all recent AHoY award winners, has been invoked on more than one occasion at HSSA meetings in order to cast the HSSA in a prestigious light. I regret being as tolerant as I have been towards this disgrace and HSSA members should feel similarly embarrassed.

Writing about this wing-nuttery evokes the memory of an episode involving one of the members retained from the old (pre-2012) HSSA. The issue of Palestine’s treatment at the hands of Israel was raised at a Humanist meeting in 2013, where the mentioned member put his oar in by declaring Israel had no right in law to exist. It was one of those fevered declarations that promised to go off into the lands of legal fiction, historical revisions of UN decision making, and meta-ethical/jurisprudential equivocation. Before it could get that far though, the Secretary interrupted with the suggestion that the member should feature as speaker, on the topic of Palestine, at a future meeting.

As far as I know such a talk has not yet eventuated, possibly having been nipped in the bud on account of the elder member’s expressed views on 9/11, The World Trade Centre, and the strength of steel girders exposed to burning jet fuel. Apparently appealing to prejudice only gets you so far, which I guess is something to be thankful for.


Speaking as a poor person from the Northern Suburbs, I don’t appreciate the hostility inherent in the President inviting me to ‘like’ a Facebook page dedicated to denigrating poor people from the Northern Suburbs. On an interpersonal level, it’s not mitigating that the President is oblivious to this hostility. And if the HSSA is going to give commentary about poverty, something it does choose to do, surely the President’s cluelessness is relevant?

When I raised this matter on the HSSA Facebook page, on a thread about poverty, precisely because the President failed to properly address it at an earlier juncture when given the opportunity, I had my participation condescendingly illegitimated as “nasty” by the Secretary, as if mild sarcasm could ever make such a thing illegitimate.

Conversing down to poor folk, dismissively, in the context of a discussion about poverty, when there is already a neglected track record of classist hostility involved, is not good form. Couple this with the misanthropic and anti-democratic sentiments already in circulation, and you’ve got a serious cultural problem for any organisation professing to be democratic, compassionate and concerned about poverty. A “shut up pleb” wouldn’t have been out of place.

This is hardly the only expression of classism to be instantiated by the President or Secretary, but I trust I’ve made my point sufficiently.


So what now?

I’ve joined an interstate Humanist society so that I can remain IHEU affiliated. I don’t expect much, and being interstate I don’t expect to be able to keep an eye on their inner workings. But if any other HSSA members want to repeat my exodus, they can look me up and I can show them how.

The professional contacts I tried to bring to the HSSA, on account of just a whiff of the problems I’ve mentioned, have to varying extents been alienated. Potential future projects involving them will likely have to be undertaken independent of organised South Australian Humanism. Given the high profile of an education academic who was one of these contacts, their reluctance to renew their HSSA membership is a huge loss for South Australian Humanism. Not that the members have been kept informed about this.

I still have friends in the HSSA, including a couple I have no reason to distrust being on the present committee. I worry about them a little. In the first instance I usually worry that they’ll be having their time wasted, their efforts negated if they don’t fall narrowly in-line with the HSSA hobby-horse regime. But then I remember some of the prejudices in circulation, and my concerns drift to nastier issues.

It’s not that it’s impossible for the HSSA to be reformed; it’s that I don’t hold out much hope. At any rate, reform of the HSSA will necessarily require a change of leadership. The HSSA has potential leaders in its numbers capable of the necessary tasks, but so far, the President and Secretary have been elected unopposed – is there enough will for reform among the members?

If I’m going to be honest, I think the best solution for the HSSA is for decent South Australian Humanists to walk away and let the organisation fall apart. Starting again from scratch would require less energy than trying to launch initiatives from this quagmire.

~ Bruce

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

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister makes an appeal to Saudi Arabia

Jan 15th, 2015 4:48 pm | By

Here is John Baird’s statement on Raif Badawi:

“Canada is deeply concerned by the public flogging of Raif Badawi. This punishment is a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression, and we call for clemency in this case.

“The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. While Mr. Badawi is not a Canadian citizen, we will continue to make our position known, both publicly and through diplomatic channels.

“Canada has an active partnership and candid relationship with Saudi Arabia, and believes it can play a positive role in many of the region’s security challenges. We will maintain an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Saudi Arabia on a number of issues, including human rights.”

Canada has made representations to Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador in Ottawa, and Canada’s Ambassador in Riyadh has met with the Chair of the Human Rights Commission and has sought a meeting with the Government of Saudi Arabia. Minister Baird has also discussed this issue with concerned parties, including Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s Minister of International Relations.

Saudi Arabia is revealing to the world what a horrible god it submits to.

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

Saudi Arabia to human rights: no thank you

Jan 15th, 2015 4:43 pm | By

The BBC has a story on Raif.

Raif Badawi, 31, was flogged 50 times last week and has been told he will receive another 50 lashes on Friday.

His wife Ensaf Haidar, who has sought asylum in Canada, noted that Western powers had condemned the punishment.

But she said she would like them to “do more” for Badawi by appealing to the Saudi government directly to free him.

The Gulf kingdom has so far not responded publicly to the protests.

They’re busy. So many liberals and infidels to whip.

Haidar praised the criticism of the flogging by the governments of the US, Canada, Germany and Norway and others, but said she wanted them to put further pressure on the Saudi government.

“I would like the Western governments to do more. I would like them to ask the Saudi government directly for his release, not just issue statements of condemnation.”

On Wednesday, Canada’s foreign minister appealed for clemency.

“This punishment is a violation of human dignity and freedom of expression,” John Baird said in a statement.

And a violation of many clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the ones that touch on human dignity and freedom of expression. But then that doesn’t matter because guess what, Saudi Arabia is not a signatory.

Most Muslim-majority countries including Egypt, Iran and Pakistan signed the UDHR in 1948, but crucially Saudi Arabia, where the King must comply with Shari’a and the Qur’an, did not sign the declaration, arguing that it violated Islamic law and criticising it for failing to take into consideration the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. Saudi Arabian law is completely at odds with the UDHR as all citizens are required to be Muslim. Therefore, non-Muslims risk everything from arrest to torture and the death penalty for their beliefs.

That’s MA student Jonathan Russell at the LSE blog in 2012; he was working as an intern at Quilliam.

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

All about you

Jan 15th, 2015 2:02 pm | By

Kiran Opal has a brilliant sarcastic post about kuffarsplaining. I know this person she’s talking about. I’ve encountered this person. This person is ridiculous.


  • Telling Muslims (or Ex-Muslims) that you, as a Western Non-Muslim know what Islam “really says”.
  • Converting to Islam, then using your white privilege to talk over non-white Muslims, while denouncing non-white Ex-Muslims as being ‘native informants’ and ‘Uncle Toms’.

Seriously. I have encountered that person.

  • Insisting that Islamists who murdered over a dozen people in Paris, or over 2000 people in Nigeria, or over 135 children in Pakistan were all somehow disaffected with your Western hedonistic countries’ ways, and had no agency or thoughts beyond thinking of you and how much they hate you , because the universe revolves around you and your country, and your culture, and your history, and your colonialism.
    • Note: Nobody else has a history of their own. No other cultures, communities, groups have their own power struggles, their own hierarchies, their own history of imperialism. It’s not like Muslims have had multiple empires of their own. It’s not like Muslims ran the longest running slave trade and the longest running empire in human history (look it up). It all somehow circles back to *you*.

Nailed it.

  • Making excuses for people who murder in the name of Islam.
    • Believing that calling out murderers who happen to be from Muslim faiths – who specifically murder people in the name of Islam, while reciting Quranic verses, and leaving videos about how they do it to glorify Islam – is ‘punching down’, which gives away the sense that you actually feel superior to them, without you having to admit it.

It’s all brilliant; go read the rest.

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

The pope tells us what we can and can’t say

Jan 15th, 2015 1:05 pm | By

The pope says we can’t insult religion.

Well he would, wouldn’t he. Anyway he does.

In provocative remarks which may cause consternation in France, the Pope said that freedom of expression had its limits, especially if it involved insulting or ridiculing religion.

He made the forthright comments to journalists on board his official plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, the two stops on his week-long visit to Asia.

That would be convenient for the Catholic church, wouldn’t it – but it’s wrong. Religion is one of the institutions that most needs insult and ridicule (as well as criticism and defiance). The pope’s religion undertakes to give us all orders, and we all get to answer back. We need to answer back.

Gesturing towards Alberto Gasparri, a Vatican official who organises pontifical trips and who was standing next to him on board the plane, he said: “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch in the nose.”

Throwing a pretend punch, the Pope said: “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

Has the pope been watching Sacranie on Newsnight? Stephen Law summarized what he said last week:

Towards end of the programme cartoonist Steve Bell was interviewed alongside ‘moderate’ Muslim Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Sacranie unequivocally condemned the attack on the Charlie Hebdo journalists. But he went on to suggest that there are limits to free speech. Sacranie drew an analogy popular with many Muslims between offending someone by insulting a dear member of their family and offending a Muslim by insulting their Prophet. Sacranie said he ‘would not dare’ to insult a member of your close family with the intention of hurting your feelings. He added that if he did, ‘I would perhaps get a punch on my nose’.

Maybe so, in both cases, but that is beside the point. A direct personal insult to one individual’s mother is not comparable to a generalized public insult to a public figure, especially one who has been dead for 14 centuries and is shrouded in myth anyway.

The Pope did not refer specifically to [Charlie Hebdo] but said that insulting religions was unacceptable and dangerous.

“There are so many people who speak badly about religions or other religions, who make fun of them, who make a game out of the religions of others,” he said.

“They are provocateurs. And what happens to them is what would happen to Dr Gasparri if he says a curse word against my mother. There is a limit.”

That’s a disgusting thing to say.

The Pope in no way condoned the attack on Charlie Hebdo, insisting that violence carried out in God’s name was “an aberration.”

“One cannot make war [or] kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

But those who ridiculed another religion should expect some sort of reaction, he said.

A frown, a roll of the eyes, a swear word, a decision never to buy the magazine again. That kind of reaction. But that, pope, is not what’s under discussion, so it’s irrelevant.

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

Devastation of catastrophic proportions

Jan 15th, 2015 11:38 am | By

Amnesty International has satellite photos that show the damage done by Boko Haram in Baga and Doron Baga last week.

Satellite images released by Amnesty International today provide indisputable and shocking evidence of the scale of last week’s attack on the towns of Baga and Doron Baga by Boko Haram militants.

Before and after images of two neighbouring towns, Baga (160 kilometres from Maiduguri) and Doron Baga (also known as Doro Gowon, 2.5 km from Baga), taken on 2 and 7 January show the devastating effect of the attacks which left over 3,700 structures damaged or completely destroyed. Other nearby towns and villages were also attacked over this period.

“These detailed images show devastation of catastrophic proportions in two towns, one of which was almost wiped off the map in the space of four days,” said Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International.

“Of all Boko Haram assaults analysed by Amnesty International, this is the largest and most destructive yet. It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins.”

The thing is, they’re attacking (and overcoming) military bases, so they’re getting more and more firepower. This is a very bad trend.

The BBC reported a couple of days ago that Goodluck Jonathan hasn’t even mentioned the Baga attack. Can you imagine? If armed criminals killed hundreds of people in a remote part of Scotland or Cornwall, can you imagine David Cameron saying nothing about it? If armed criminals killed hundreds of people in Alaska or Montana, can you imagine Obama ignoring it? It’s inconceivable.

The destruction shown in these images matches the horrific testimonies that Amnesty International has gathered. Interviews with eyewitnesses as well as with local government officials and local human rights activists suggest that Boko Haram militants shot hundreds of civilians.

A man in his fifties told Amnesty International what happened in Baga during the attack: “They killed so many people. I saw maybe around 100 killed at that time in Baga. I ran to the bush. As we were running, they were shooting and killing.” He hid in the bush and was later discovered by Boko Haram fighters, who detained him in Doron Baga for four days.

Those who fled describe seeing many more corpses in the bush. “I don’t know how many but there were bodies everywhere we looked,” one woman told Amnesty International.

Another witness described how Boko Haram were shooting indiscriminately killing even small children and a woman who was in labour. “[H]alf of the baby boy is out and she died like this,” he said.

Boko Haram fighters have repeatedly targeted communities for their perceived collaboration with the security forces. Towns that formed state-sponsored militia groups known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (Civilian JTF) have suffered particularly brutal attacks. Civilian JTF groups were active in Baga and a senior military official confirmed to Amnesty International confidentially that at times the military took these members on operations to attack Boko Haram positions. A witness told Amnesty International that during the attack on Baga that he heard Boko Haram fighters saying they were searching for Civilian JTF members, as they went house to house shooting men of fighting age.

After the attack on Baga, witnesses describe how Boko Haram drove into the bush rounding up women, children and the elderly who had escaped. According to one woman who was detained for four days “Boko Haram took around 300 women and kept us in a school in Baga. They released the older women, mothers and most of the children after four days but are still keeping the younger women.”

Of course they are. Fuck toys. Warmer and wetter than inflatable dolls, plus they can cook.

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

Tomorrow in Jiddah

Jan 15th, 2015 11:04 am | By

Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haider, thinks he won’t survive the second set of lashes tomorrow, the Huffington Post reports.

Last Friday he endured the first round of lashes — 50 strikes on the back of his body by a long, hard cane — in a public flogging held in the city of Jiddah. This Friday, he will reportedly be subjected to a second round of 50 lashes.

“Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging, his health is poor and I’m certain he will not be able to cope with another round of lashes,” Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haider, told Amnesty International.

It’s too bad the UN High Commissioner for human rights didn’t issue his statement sooner.

Human rights groups have condemned Saudi Arabia — which has a history of brutally quashing free speech — for its treatment of Badawi and have called for his immediate release.

“It is horrifying to think that such a vicious and cruel punishment should be imposed on someone who is guilty of nothing more than daring to create a public forum for discussion and peacefully exercising the right to freedom of expression,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa, per CNN.

View image on Twitter

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general, said last week that the U.N. human rights office was “deeply concerned about the flogging.”

The U.S. State Department has called for Saudi Arabia to “review Badawi’s case” and stop its “inhumane” punishment.

Badawi’s wife told Amnesty International that “international pressure” will be crucial in the fight to save her husband.

“I believe if we keep up the support it will eventually pay off. We must keep on fighting,” she told the rights group.

The god of the Saudis is a god of evil.

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

Mud News

Jan 15th, 2015 10:36 am | By

Sky News prevents Caroline Fourest from showing the Charlie Hebdo cover immediately after she explains that it’s a “very sweet drawing that puts Mohammed outside this crime.” They jerk the camera upward and then shift away altogether to the presenter, who apologizes to anyone who may have been Offended.

Cowardly obsequious crawling assholes. They endorse the stupid claim that the cover is “Offensive” and they endorse the fiction that Charlie Hebdo was to blame. C’est dégueullasse.

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

Zeid tells Saudi to stop it

Jan 15th, 2015 10:23 am | By

A ray of hope? The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – who is Jordanian – has told Saudi Arabia to stop flogging Raif Badawi. Ok has asked, urged, called on, whatever – he’s not in a position to tell. But still.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Saudi Arabia on Thursday to stop the serial flogging of an atheist and civil rights blogger sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes over an extended period.

Raif Badawi, who set up a website called “Free Saudi Liberals”, received 50 lashes after Friday prayers last week and global rights groups say he is expected to be submitted to a second round on Friday.

“Flogging is in my view at very least a form of cruel and inhuman punishment,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement from his Geneva office. As such, it was banned under international rights law, he added.

“I appeal to the King of Saudi Arabia to exercise his power to halt the public flogging by pardoning Mr Badawi, and to urgently review this type of extraordinary harsh penalty,” said Zeid, a former Jordanian diplomat.


Funny, I listened to an interview with Zeid by the BBC last night and the interviewer asked about Raif (without naming him) and I thought Zeid gave a completely useless answer – generalities about capital punishment elsewhere. I was frustrated and furious – I was not expecting this! On the contrary, I thought it was a sign of the opposite – he wasn’t going to do a damn thing about it.

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

Guest post: Dear offended religious people

Jan 15th, 2015 10:01 am | By

Guest post by Saba Farbodkia. Originally a post at British Muslims for Secular Democracy on Facebook, published here by permission.

Dear offended religious people,

Please stop the hypocrisy. The right to offend is not exclusively yours.

If you know the holy scriptures of the religions that you uphold so dearly, you already know how offensive parts of them are to people.

Yet, some of you still continue to publish them. Some of you buy those publications and read them. Some of you recite them to your children. Some of you force your children to uphold them as sacred and act upon them as far as they can. And all of you regard those scriptures beyond questioning and criticism, otherwise why would you feel offended when one did so?

If you know the holy figures of the religions that you uphold so dearly, you probably know of a few things they have done that are offensive to people.

Yet, some of you consider them as the paragons of how one should live their earthly life, and all of you regard desecration of those figures an offense to the sacredness of your religion.

Your religions have not only deeply offended women, homosexuals, and non-believers, but have also been a source of physical pain and agony for them by the actions of those followers who have been literally following their instructions, throughout centuries and millennia.

And yet, the right of these people to offend you back by questioning, criticizing, and mocking the religious concepts that you uphold so dearly has been breached for most of the history, only granted to them for a couple of decades or centuries in some parts of the world, now, and not granted to them in so many other parts, yet.

Despite such historical privilege, you still whine when somebody starts to use their right to mock your religion or desecrate its figures. Worse than that, when a tragedy happens because some of your fellow offended religious people have gone nuts and killed a group of blasphemers, some of you distort a conversation that should be about the right to blasphemy, to a conversation about your offended feelings at the blasphemy that the blasphemers were killed for. KILLED FOR…

Take a moment and think about it.

If a group of atheist homosexual women, deeply agonized and in pain bullied by expression of your religious beliefs for decades, had gone nuts and had exploded a few mosques and churches and other religious centers for “incitement of hatred and prejudice” against them, and had killed a dozen of hate preaching Imams, how would feel if all the world would turn to you when you were moaning your loss, by changing the conversation to be about how offended their feelings would get the sermons were given at those centers? How would you feel if those religious centers were not even actually preaching such hate?

Do you see how hypocritical it is?

So this is what I am gonna do: Next time you mention something about empathy, and how it requires that people don’t offend each other, I ask you for empathy first. I ask you to stop offending people by giving up your support for religions that have such offensive concepts in their scriptures, or the actions of their holy figures as recorded by history. I ask you to show your empathy for your fellow human beings by leaving your religion. Until you haven’t shown enough empathy not to offend others, please don’t ask others to show that to you.

Please stop the hypocrisy. The right to offend is not exclusively yours. The empathy not to be offensive is not exclusively other people’s responsibility, either.

This is only intended for those religious people who feel offended at blasphemy, and took the CH events to express their feelings.
I understand there are many religious people like myself, who can take a witty joke about their religion with a smile, and face a serious criticism of it by a deep thought.

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

Dieudonné feels like “Charlie Coulibaly”

Jan 15th, 2015 9:26 am | By

AFP at the Guardian reports on the arrest of Dieudonné.

Notorious French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathised with one of the Paris gunmen, a judicial source has said.

Prosecutors had opened the case against him on Monday after he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday.

Coulibaly killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday and a police officer the day before.

In the US that wouldn’t get him arrested, although it probably would get him investigated and spied on by “Homeland” security – and I’m Millian enough to think he shouldn’t be arrested for that. But I think he’s a colossal asshole for saying it. Coulibaly was a murdering piece of shit, who carefully singled out Jews for murder. Dieudonné is disgusting.


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

How to deal

Jan 15th, 2015 9:13 am | By

Pliny the in between offers a helpful algorithm for the offended:

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

Cosby’s attorney has denied

Jan 14th, 2015 5:52 pm | By

So. Someone whose case does not fall under the statute of limitations is pursuing criminal charges against Cosby.

A model who claims Bill Cosby drugged and sexually abused her at the Playboy Mansion met with Los Angeles police on Wednesday to pursue criminal charges against the comedian over the 2008 incident.

An attorney for Chloe Goins said after the meeting that his client is the first woman accusing Cosby of sexual misconduct whose case may fall within the statute of limitations.

More than 15 women have accused Cosby of sexual misconduct, including several who say the comedian drugged and raped them in incidents dating back at least four decades.

Quick, somebody make a joke about women not drinking around Bill Cosby hahahahahahahaha.

[Goins’s lawyer Spencer] Kuvin declined to discuss what Goins told detectives but restated her allegations that Cosby drugged her at a 2008 event at the Playboy Mansion. Goins does not know what happened while she was blacked out but Kuvin says she awoke to find herself naked and Cosby over her.

“Ms. Goins and I are here for two reasons: for justice and accountability,” Kuvin said.

And to be the punchline of Bill Cosby jokes.

Cosby’s attorney has denied some of the accusations against the comedian, saying they have been discredited or come from discredited accusers. Cosby joked about the allegations against him at a recent show in Canada and is scheduled to perform two shows in Denver on Saturday night despite planned protests.

“We hope that the people that are paying to attend Mr. Cosby’s shows understand that these victimized women have broken their silence now and they will not remain quiet any longer,” Kuvin said. “Mr. Cosby should, and will be held accountable for what he’s done.”

He said women reporting abuse “should be encouraged and not joked about.”

Not joked about, not called liars or crazy, not pressured to shut up, not offered a bribe to shut up.

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

The very newspaper that did the most to fight racism

Jan 14th, 2015 5:17 pm | By

Lliana Bird also objects to the whole “Charlie Hebdo is racist!” thing.

[O]ne thing I’ve found difficult to ignore is the growing voices of those who knew little of the cartoonists and journalists saying terrible things about them, which are quite frankly unsettling.

“Racist”, “Islamophobic” and “hypocritical” have been the most common accusations. Many seemingly educated friends and social media buddies seemed to be merely glancing at a few cherry-picked Charlie Hebdo covers without making any effort in understanding their true meaning or impetus (or often even of the French translation of the accompanying captions).

And that’s not enough, especially when the subject is people who were just murdered by two fanatical bigots for reasons that are beneath contempt.

Charlie Hedbo were leftists, some may even anarchists and punks. They printed numerous cartoons which were anti racism/xenophobia; that mocked and satirised the far right as bigots and racists. As long time reader and Frenchman, Olivier Tonneau pointed out in his excellent article, The National Front and the Le Pen family were in fact their primary targets above all others. Next came bosses, politicians and the corrupt. Finally they opposed organised religion. ALL organised religion. They didn’t hate or abuse or target any one group or religion. They did however mock ALL systems and organisations and individuals of power – from political to religious to everything in between. They were satirists, and all people, systems and organisations should be open to criticism and mockery (so long as it sticks within the laws of the land). They were democratic in their ridicule and satirisation. No one was exempt. To do otherwise would have been the hypocritical. Equal rights also means equal treatment.

I don’t agree with those last two sentences, because (among other reasons) equal rights don’t always mean equal treatment in areas other than satirical journalism. People can have equal rights but still also be stigmatized or scorned in various ways, and I do think that makes a difference to how (or if) they should be satirized. (A shorter way of saying that is to talk about punching up versus down, but I’m sick of that formula, and anyway I don’t like formulas.)

As Oliver Tonneau so beautifully writes: “Two young French Muslims of Arab descent have not assaulted the numerous extreme-right wing newspapers that exist in France (Minute, Valeurs Actuelles) who ceaselessly amalgamate Arabs, Muslims and fundamentalists, but the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism… I hope this helps you understand that if you belong to the radical left, then you lost precious friends and allies last week.”

Terrible, isn’t it?

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

Nothing, it seems, is enough

Jan 14th, 2015 4:40 pm | By

Salty Current has further thoughts on the failure of many to make the effort to understand Charlie Hebdo before declaring it racist.

I’ll repeat briefly the major point I’ve been making for the past several days: that I hate the approach that many people with basically good motives seem to be taking, which consists of a hostile-prosecutorial attitude that begins by assuming the worst, even on the basis of the most skeletal evidence and biased reports, and proceeds through various stages of half-listening to and then minimizing or dismissing evidence that contradicts or at least challenges the original impression.

Not the history of the publication and its political commitments or those of its staff, not the statements of the people who created and published the images, not their courage in defending blasphemy and going after the Right and numerous sacred cows, not the local context in which the images were created or viewed, not the history of French satire, not CH’s public reputation which would shape people’s interpretations, not films in which the artists describe their intent in producing particular images and the efforts to preclude their misuse,* not indications of the critic’s own ignorance – nothing, it seems, is enough for the self-appointed judges to pull back on their determination to smear Charlie Hebdo. The goalposts are moved again and again: from actively and openly racist to neglectfully employing racist tropes without concern for who might be hurt to insufficient efforts to make it impossible for others to misrepresent the images or use them in a harmful way. This last is simply an impossible standard, especially for a satirical magazine with a small circulation which works within local traditions and comments on current events.

It’s all that good. Read it.

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