Notes and Comment Blog

The doctor died

Jul 29th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Very bad news: the doctor who was leading Sierra Leone’s fight against the worst outbreak on record has died from the virus.

The death of Sheik Umar Khan, who was credited with treating more than 100 patients, follows the deaths of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two US medics in neighbouring Liberia.

Ebola is believed to have killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in February, according to the World Health Organisation. The contagious disease has no known cure. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding.

Khan, 39, hailed as a “national hero” by the health ministry, had been moved to a treatment ward run by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières in the far north of Sierra Leone.

Damn. I heard him chat with a reporter while at the hospital last week, saying he was optimistic. I was hoping he would make it.

“It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral haemorrhagic fevers,” said the chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo.

Very bad news.

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

Guest post: Funny thing about the ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ verse

Jul 29th, 2014 4:46 pm | By

Originally a comment and another comment by Marwa Berro (who will be blogging here under her real name starting August 1!) of Between a Veil and a Dark Place on A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

Funny thing about the ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ verse. It is almost always (quite conveniently) quoted out of context. It actually means the exact opposite, that you can’t be internally compelled to see the one and only Truth, but you sure as hell can be punished for being evil enough to refuse to see it. The rest of the verse and the one following it:

[ 2:256] Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

[ 2:257] Allah is the Protector of those who have faith: from the depths of darkness He will lead them forth into light. Of those who reject faith the patrons are the evil ones: from light they will lead them forth into the depths of darkness. They will be companions of the fire, to dwell therein (For ever).

The ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ verse turns out to be literally a preamble to explaining how/why anyone who believes otherwise is wrong, evil, and doomed to utter damnation.

Cuz that’s not normative or exclusionary at all.

Also, re: intermarriage in Islam. I’ve wanted to write about this so many times, not least because I have so many friends suffering from this problem. Obviously most of what I have to say is in the context of Lebanon, but you would have no idea what a huge, pervasive problem the struggle for interfaith marriage is in Lebanon. You know that we don’t have civil services for marriage so people can only follow religious laws to get married, and they can’t have legitimate public relationships without getting married either, and even when it’s not literally illegal for them to get married in Lebanon without their families agreeing to some roundabout conversion thing–which almost never happens because of all the governmental bureaucracy involved in conversion and shitty sectarian social politics– the stigma makes it even worse than Islam technically dictates.

Examples: I have a couple of atheist friends from Sunni and Shia families who after being disowned by their parents and struggling for years before finally getting parental permission to get married (another shitty prerequisite can you fucking believe it), have now spent years trying to find a shiekh who will agree to marry them. Every cleric they’ve gone to, even the ‘progressive’ ones, refuse because of fear of upsetting each other’s communities, especially as the woman is Saudi and the man is Lebanese and you gotta know the Shia-Sunni enmity is great between Hezbollah and the Saudi gov’t, so obviously this young couple can’t be married.

I have another couple of atheist friends, an Iraqi man from a Shia family and a woman from an Armenian Orthodox Lebanese family who have had to hide their relationship for almost a decade now, down to having to have home-abortions when accidents have happened, despite the fact that it’s technically legal for him to marry her in both Lebanon and Iraq. The stigma is just too great, and it’s very often Christian families who resist interfaith marriages because the only legal ones are Christian women marrying Muslim men, which means in their thinking their daughters are going to basically be inducted into her husband’s family, faith, and customs, and basically they will lose an entire branch of family from their community. It’s literally thought of in terms of those things. Ironically, Christian families seldom have problems with their sons marrying Muslim girls who convert, not only because men are less scrutinized in general but also because they would be bringing somebody into the fold that way; instead of losing a daughter, one is gained.

And I have had friends who struggled for years through solid interfaith romances before having to break up because they couldn’t keep up the secrecy or their families just kept giving them grief, and more often than not these romances have been Christian women with Muslim or Druze men, and Druze friends of all genders with non-Druze partners, because the Druze are even bigger sticklers about no interfaith marriages than Muslims are–they don’t allow it under any circumstances whatsoever. Just last year there was an honor crime in Lebanon where the family of a Druze woman who had eloped lured her and her husband back under pretense of accepting their marriage and castrated him. In fact, a sizable chunk of the honor violence in Lebanon has to do with interfaith romances.

Last Wednesday one of my short stories came out, and it deals with a Muslim-Christian romance in Lebanon–I won’t give the ending away, but after reading it one of my friends back home from a Druze family who’s had to hide her boyfriend from a Muslim family for years messaged me saying that she’s often considered doing what the couple in my story did to end up together.

The story is here, btw. Sorry for the shameless plug, but it’s really relevant, not just to the stigma of interfaith marriage, but to more general feminist issues, especially how rape cases are treated and handled in Lebanon as well (Article 522 of the Lebanese penal code exonerates a rapist who marries his victim):

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

Punished by angels from dusk to dawn

Jul 29th, 2014 11:29 am | By

Sara Khan of Inspire has an eloquent piece at the Telegraph on the Trojan Horse affair and its implications for Muslims who are not fans of bigotry and hatred. Sara of course is one such Muslim.

One of the most shocking findings, from both Birmingham City Council’s report and from the Government’s own investigation into the Trojan Horse affair, was the incredulous hate peddling promoted to young children by fundamentalist Muslims who attempted to infiltrate a number of schools. Children had been told not to listen to Christians because they were “all liars”; and how they were “lucky to be Muslims and not ignorant like Christians and Jews.” Schools put up posters warning children that if they didn’t pray they would “go to hell” and girls were taught that women who refused to have sex with their husbands would be “punished” by angels “from dusk to dawn”. One of the ringleaders of the Trojan Horse plot told an undercover reporter that “white women have the least amount of morals”, white children were “lazy” and that British people have “colonial blood.”

Read that passage slowly and think about it. Can you imagine schools – state schools – teaching that to children? It’s appalling. It’s a horrendous thing to do to children – to shape them into hate-filled fanatics.

And imagine being a liberal Muslim like Sara, seeing people actually defending it in case it would be “Islamophobia” not to.

These bigoted views are exactly that – bigoted. As a Muslim I object to those hardliners who aggressively suggest such views are Islamic. They are not. Yet this hate peddling was done in the name of Islam. I have seen over the years how sexist, homophobic and intolerant Muslims deliberately manipulate my faith to justify sexism, homophobia and intolerance to other faith communities. They hide behind the excuse of “Islam”, and argue they are within their religious rights to hold such bigoted views – and British society too often acts as if these are the natural rights of all Muslims. Such an attitude was seen, frustratingly, in the Muslim Council of Britain’s statement in response to the Trojan Horse findings, but also from Birmingham City Council, who did little to stop such practices as there had been a culture within the council which was more concerned about potential allegations of “Islamophobia”. This paranoia incredibly took precedent over the welfare and well-being of children in our schools.

That wouldn’t happen if people didn’t think the nastiest stuff was somehow the most authentic. Why not treat people like Sarah as more authentic, instead?

Take the Muslim Council of Britain. In their statement they complained that Mr Clarke was “conflating conservative Muslim practices to a supposed ideology and agenda to ‘Islamise’ secular schools.”

For the record, I’d like to know: what exactly does the MCB define as conservative Muslim practice? Does the MCB believe homophobia, sexism, intolerance and the “inferiority” of other faiths are conservative Muslim practices? The religious conservative Muslims I speak to tell me they are offended that this could ever be justified as such.

So let’s here a lot more from people like Sara and a lot less from the MCB.

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

Logic and rhetoric

Jul 29th, 2014 10:49 am | By

My cosigner (it’s kind of like the Declaration of Independence – we are Signers) Richard Dawkins has been tweeting about the logic of saying X is not as bad as Y. The logic is that saying X is not as bad as Y is not the same thing as saying X is good. Quite right; it’s not. A mouthful of curdled milk is not as bad as a mouthful of shit, but that doesn’t mean a mouthful of curdled milk is good.

X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.

Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.

Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.

There was some back and forth, then more stand-alone tweets.

Whether X or Y is worse is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of LOGIC that to express that opinion doesn’t mean you approve of either.

“Stealing £1 is bad. Stealing an old lady’s life savings is worse.” How DARE you rank them? Stealing is stealing. You’re vile, appalling.

That’s all true. He’s right. But there’s more to it than that. I offered three replies myself.

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson · 33m

@RichardDawkins But Richard there is rhetoric as well as logic. The 2 have differnt rules. Sometimes “Y is worse!” means “shut up about X.”

@RichardDawkins It of course doesn’t mean that as a matter of *logic*. But used rhetorically, it does.

@RichardDawkins To put it another way, there’s the matter of implication, which can work differently from the way logic works.

I have more room here, enough room so that I don’t have to spell “different” as “differnt” in order to finish my sentences.

It’s true that “X is less bad” ≠ “X is good” or “I approve of X.” I think Richard had in mind the passage about the molestation he experienced at school compared with other, less tolerable forms. I don’t think he had in mind “Dear Muslima” – which of course is a mere comment on a blog, not a passage in a best-selling much-translated much-discussed book. But “Dear Muslima” does a good job of illustrating what I mean about rhetoric and implication. The whole point of “Dear Muslima” was very plainly to say that women face horrendous forms of abuse and denial of rights in places where Islamic laws and/or customs have authority, and therefore women who face much milder forms of abuse in secular democracies should…talk less about it, or talk about it more temperately, or something along those lines. It’s hard to spell out the implication exactly, because it is an implication, but it’s something along those lines. That much is not ambiguous. You’d have to be a very primitive bit of AI to miss that.

So, in fact, even though Richard is right about the logic, he seems to be forgetting about rhetoric, and we know he understands that kind of rhetoric because in “Dear Muslima” he used it himself.

So it’s not that he’s wrong about the logic, it’s just that that’s not all there is to it.

Note to commenters: please keep in mind The Statement, and word your comments accordingly. Seriously. Reasoned argument only. I know people get heated about this; I know I get heated almost every time I hit the keyboard, no matter what the subject; Not On This Thread.

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

Not getting it

Jul 28th, 2014 4:00 pm | By

Not getting it.

There are of course people not getting it. Lots of them.

There’s Phil Giordana for instance, on Dan Fincke’s public FB post on the statement.

No, sadly. it will be another excuse for the mob to do as they please and cast away any semblance of rationality or honesty. Don’t accommodate the online SJWs.

Don’t accommodate the people who give a shit about social justice issues? But there’s no need to “accommodate” us. I carefully excluded any such need from the statement. So I wondered what the hell he meant.

Don’t accommodate the online SJWs? So people should keep on with death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; photoshopping people into demeaning images, vulgar epithets?


He explained. It’s because he’s banned from commenting on my blog.

Ophelia Benson: I never threatened anyone online, never attacked peoples’ appearance, apologized to you for using what you consider “gendered slur”, yet I’m still banned from your blog. You fuckwit! (that one’s fine, OB said so).

Yeah that’s not getting it. Just totally not getting it. He’s thinking that because I don’t let him comment on my blog, he’s entitled to punish me with death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; photoshopping people into demeaning images, vulgar epithets. The whole point of the statement is that he’s not. He doesn’t get it.

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

Reasoning with people who want to spike the heads of their adversaries

Jul 28th, 2014 11:14 am | By

Nadette De Visser at the Daily Beast reports on a recent demonstration in The Hague (Den Haag):

“Death to the Jews” chanted the crowd waving the black flags of the Islamic State, or ISIS as it used to be known. They were looking for new supporters for their cause, the creation of a worldwide caliphate answering to the man who now calls himself Ibrahim: a zealot too radical even for Al Qaeda who has stormed through Syria and Iraq carrying out mass executions, crucifying rivals, beheading enemies. But these marchers were not in Syria or Iraq; they were in The Hague in The Netherlands. And their message was one tailored to the disaffected young descendants of Muslim immigrants in Europe.

“We are Moroccans,” went out the cry over a portable loudspeaker. “The French killed the Moroccans but they didn’t kill them all; the grandchildren of the few men left protest against the West, America and the Jews.”

Many of the demonstrators covered their faces with Palestinian scarves or balaclavas. “Anyone who doesn’t jump is a Jew,” someone shouted as the whole group started jumping in a scene that might have been ludicrous if it weren’t for the hateful message. “Death to the Jews!” the crowd shouted in Arabic.

No. No “Death to the” – ever. No matter what comes after the “the” – whether it be Jews, Arabs, Gazans, Palestinians, Zionists, Sunnis, kaffirs, Haredi, atheists, whores, gays – whatever. No calls for mass murder, no demands for genocide, no shouts for extermination, no paeans to ethnic cleansing – none of that. No incitement to murder.

And of all places in the world that you would expect to be hypersensitive to that? The Hague?? Which knows a thing or two about genocide and what sets it off?

All rallies in Dutch municipalities require permission from the local city council, the police and the public prosecutor’s office. The ISIS demo had been granted permission on the grounds that it was in support of the detained Dutch recruiter for jihad, Oussama Abu Yazeed. But the fact that the mayor’s office in The Hague either was unaware the rally was ISIS-linked or deemed it legitimate regardless has raised serious questions about the city council’s judgment.

Dutch Labor Party (PVDA) member Ahmed Marcouch, a former policeman who sits on the parliament’s security and justice committee, was one of the many who criticized the local government: “Unacceptable!” he tweeted. “Threatening journalists and shouting racist statements is punishable by law.”

Marcouch, who has Moroccan roots himself, wants the Muslim community in The Netherlands to be more vigilant in opposition to ISIS and similar groups. The footage shot at the protest clearly shows a number of very young boys: “What are these kids doing there in the first place?” he asks. “ISIS is pure barbarism, it is bloodthirsty,” Marchouch told The Daily Beast in an interview. “We can’t allow them to win our children away from us.”

Well said. He sounds like a Dutch Maajid Nawaz or Tehmina Kazi. Good on him; may many more like him speak up.

The Hague’s Mayor Jozias van Aartsen recently claimed on Dutch radio that no red lines were crossed by the protests, but such declarations are facing mounting incredulity when pictures circulate on the Web like one posted by an Iraqi-Dutch citizen in the IS-ruled Syrian city of Raqqa. It showed him surrounded by the severed heads of seven men spiked on an iron fence. The photograph looks as if some parts of it may have been faked, but the sentiment is genuine enough. Beheadings, for ISIS, have become a kind of sport.

Many of the young people who end up surviving this horrific war for the caliphate will haunt Europe when they come back home, and security services all over the continent and, indeed, in the United States, are concerned. On Friday the Dutch public prosecutor’s office finally announced that an investigation into ISIS in The Netherlands is underway.

One thing is certain, ignoring ISIS will not make it disappear and reasoning with people who want to spike the heads of their adversaries on fences should not be an option.

There’s always this fatal magical-thinking optimism, that if we just ignore it it will fade away. No, the “it” doesn’t always fade away. Often it gets stronger and stronger and then it attacks.

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

If Chuck Norris

Jul 28th, 2014 10:19 am | By

Well, that makes a nice summary of everything I fear and hate.

If I were elected president I would Tattoo an American flag with the words, “In God we trust,” on the forehead of every atheist.” – Chuck Norris

It’s got it all – sadism, compulsory nationalism, compulsory theism, total ignorance of US history, even recent history, and bigotry toward atheists. Ok not quite all, there’s no gay-bashing or feminist-bashing, but it’s almost all.

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

Not Diogenes

Jul 28th, 2014 9:12 am | By

Mark Senior continues to be eager to let everyone know that he’s not going to pay any attention to any statements on the merits of disagreeing without being abusive about it. Hell no! Nobody tells Mark Senior not to act like an asshole!! Mark Senior will act like an asshole as much as he wants to, thank you very much!!!

markDescription: a tweet sent by Mark Senior to Richard Dawkins and to me with a photoshop of PZ with a clown’s read nose and, underneath, a putative quotation from Diogenes of Sinope saying “that which cannot withstand criticism or mockery is false.” The attribution is a lie, of course – if you Google the phrase the only results are the slime pit and Justin Vacula. Diogenes they are not.

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

Hey Christina Hoff Sommers

Jul 27th, 2014 3:17 pm | By

Christina Hoff Sommers seems to be getting more unpleasant – or maybe just more active on Twitter, or maybe just retweeted by more people I happen to see. At any rate I find her increasingly unpleasant. I saw one tweet of hers this morning that was so obnoxious I replied to it.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers 4h
Hey feminists, will you stop making recklessly false claims like/ “Women own only 1% of world’s property.” …

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
.@CHSommers Hey Christina Hoff Sommers, will you stop bashing “feminists”?

Someone replied to me and Sommers favorited her reply. Of course she did. I replied back. Sommers won’t be favoriting that. (Nor will Paul Elam, who chimed in.)

Vandy Beth Glenn ‏@RedVelvetCakes 3h
@OpheliaBenson @CHSommers Ophelia, what did she say about “feminists” that is untrue?

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson
@RedVelvetCakes @CHSommers That they all, generically, make the claim she cites. Replace “feminists” with “Jews” & see how it sounds.

Sommers was once a philosopher. That’s kind of sad.

Updated to add:

Sommers replied. Dishonestly.

Christina H. Sommers ‏@CHSommers
@OpheliaBenson Wow! So criticizing your brand of evidence-free feminism is analogous to anti-semitism. Muddled thinking, Ophelia.

So, naturally, I replied.

Ophelia Benson ‏@OpheliaBenson 3m
@CHSommers No. That’s not what you did. You didn’t criticize a particular brand of feminism. You said “Hey feminists” – just that.

Don’t call me muddled because you overstated your case. That’s not respectable.

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

What have you got against flamingoes anyway?

Jul 27th, 2014 10:35 am | By

Latsot (Look at the state of that) lists some of the tropes, in a comment at oolon’s place. Quoted with permission.

It would be too depressing to describe all the ‘arguments’ against rape culture I’ve seen, but it might be fun to list some of the tropes. For an especially masochistic definition of ‘fun’. Some of these you’ve already mentioned.

1. Women all the time be faking accusations
2. Being falsely accused of rape is worse than being raped
3. Someone you admire once accused someone of rape so accusing people of rape is always bad (never quite understood this one)
4. You SJW types say you should always believe the victim no matter what (rather than you should always believe the victim PROVISIONALLY unless there’s a good reason not to, which is what we actually tend to say)

5. The slymepit has lots of examples of FTBullies behaviing badly, therefore…. and I get a bit lost here… people who rape or threaten rape or enable rape are…ok…?
6. FTBullies are evil. Therefore anyone evil is an FTBully. Therefore FTBullies are evil. Why are they evil? Mostly because they are not fans of rape culture apologists.
7. He was joking when he threatened to rape someone or said he was glad they were raped.
8. It wasn’t a real threat because it was on the Internet.
9. He kindasorta said he was sorry when the entire internet condemned him so he’s presto-changeo forgiven by the internet jesus.
10. He hasn’t said anything unbelievably shit in the last fortnight, so he’s totally not a horrible bigot.
11. Look over there, a FLAMINGO.
12. What have you got against flamingoes anyway? I’m not changing the subject, YOU ARE. I don’t even know of ONE flamingo who’s a rapist.
13. Being liberal is somehow and inexplicably a bad thing
14. Caring about people is somehow and inexplicably a bad thing
15 Atheism is only about not believing in gods. Unless we are telling off believers for the same things we refuse to tell non-believers off for.

Your turn.

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

In a material world of blind indifference

Jul 27th, 2014 10:08 am | By

One rather peculiar response from a reverend:

@CLGrossman @RichardDawkins @OpheliaBenson Well said but why/ How? In a material world of blind indifference who decides what is is “civil”[?]

That’s not peculiar for a reverend*, of course, but it’s peculiar in itself.

Who decides? Human beings decide. We decide because we’re the ones affected. We decide because we want various things. We want to be able to have reasonable conversations. We want to be able to talk without fistfights or insults or taunts. We want at least a minimal baseline of peace and co-operation.

That’s who decides. The people who have a stake decide. That’s true even in a material world of blind indifference. The material world is blindly indifferent to me (and you and us and them and her and him), it’s true, but that doesn’t mean we are all indifferent to each other or to ourselves.

That’s true even if you do believe in a god. In that sense it actually is somewhat peculiar for a reverend to ask the question. Does he really think atheists are blindly indifferent because the material world is? Has he never met a single one?


*His profile says he’s Vicar at Christ Church Lye, in the West Midlands.

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

Haw haw

Jul 26th, 2014 2:17 pm | By

Not everyone is board, but we knew that.


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

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

Jul 26th, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.

Also posted at RDF.

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


Jul 26th, 2014 10:37 am | By

Have a friendly set of caricatures, for purposes of comparison. Crispian Jago’s deck of “Skeptic” cards from 2011. (Some of the people in the deck don’t fit the category very well – Dennett, Aaronovitch, Grayling, Hitchens, Peter Singer, Andrew Copson – they’re not primarily skeptics, not professional Skeptics.)

The caricatures are done by Neil Davies.

Here’s Anthony Grayling:

H/t Catherine Xanthë

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

Crucified in the main square

Jul 25th, 2014 3:41 pm | By

ISIS have also been using crucifixion as a punishment. What history wonks they are.

A man has survived being crucified by Isis in Syria, after the jihadists raided his village and nailed him to a cross for eight hours.

The unnamed man from Al-Bab, near the border with Turkey, was crucified as a punishment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

He managed to survive the ordeal.

But eight others who received the same punishment did not survive. The men, from Deir Hafer in the east of Aleppo province, were subjected to the same treatment and crucified “in the main square of the village, where their bodies will remain for three days”, the Britain-based monitor said.

It’s a very horrible way to die – slow torturous suffocation as the weight of the hanging body compresses the lungs.

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

Good idea

Jul 25th, 2014 3:19 pm | By

From Blue Nation Review:

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

So close

Jul 25th, 2014 12:50 pm | By

Greta has a terrific post on the question of what will you accept in an ally before you decide that’s not an ally after all.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, as you’ve seen, and also as you haven’t seen, because I’ve been doing it out of sight.

Here’s a crucial bit of Greta’s post along with my response posted there and on Facebook:

In many instances, of course we can agree about some things while disagreeing about others, and agreeing when someone says (X) doesn’t automatically mean you agree when they say ( Y ). But when someone crosses a clear line into vile and unacceptable behavior, the community needs to make it clear that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We need to show that some lines absolutely should not be crossed, and that if people cross them there will be consequences. Supporting someone’s work when they’ve acted abhorrently means there are no consequences.And that’s especially true in the case of rape threats, persistent harassment of women, and other misogynist behavior — because in the atheist community, we don’t, unfortunately, currently have a clear ethical standard that this is unacceptable. We have a culture in which it’s depressingly common for people to engage in this behavior, and for other people to defend, rationalize, trivialize, dismiss, or victim-blame it — without consequences, or without serious consequences.

Leaders in the movement do this, and remain leaders. We need to change that culture. We need to make it unmistakably clear that we do not tolerate this behavior. Promoting people’s work who engage in this behavior is tolerating it. And tolerating this behavior helps perpetuate it.

Yes yes yes yes yes.

The sad thing? (A sad thing.) I was working on it. I was talking to one of those leaders – one of the Leaderest of them – about exactly that, and what a good thing it would be if he did make it unmistakably clear that we do not tolerate this behavior. He said he would consider it; he even asked me to suggest some wording. He even suggested we sign it jointly. He even sent me a revision for my opinion. I said it’s great, let’s do this thing.


So close. We were so close.

That. I thought it was going to happen. It would have been a game-changer. It should have happened. It should happen. But – silence has fallen.

So damn close.

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

A Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim

Jul 25th, 2014 11:55 am | By

But there is one good thing: Meriam Ibrahim and her family are safe, out of Sudan.

Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag flew to Rome with her family after more than a month in the US embassy in Khartoum.

There was global condemnation when she was sentenced to hang for apostasy by a Sudanese court.

Mrs Ibrahim’s father is Muslim so according to Sudan’s version of Islamic law she is also Muslim and cannot convert.

She was raised by her Christian mother and says she has never been Muslim.

Welcoming her at the airport, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said: “Today is a day of celebration.”

Then she went to meet with the pope, which doesn’t sound like fun to me, but maybe if I’d been in her situation it would seem like the best fun in the world.

Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s vice-minister for foreign affairs, accompanied her on the flight from Khartoum and posted a photo of himself with Mrs Ibrahim and her children on his Facebook account as they were about to land in Rome.

“Mission accomplished,” he wrote.

A senior Sudanese official told Reuters news agency that the government in Khartoum had approved her departure in advance.

Mrs Ibrahim’s lawyer Mohamed Mostafa Nour told BBC Focus on Africa that she travelled on a Sudanese passport she received at the last minute.

“She is unhappy to leave Sudan. She loves Sudan very much. It’s the country she was born and grew up in,” he said.

That’s sad. It appears that Sudan did not love her back, though.

A last twist of the knife:

Last week, her father’s family filed a lawsuit trying to have her marriage annulled, on the basis that a Muslim woman is not allowed to marry a non-Muslim.

And you’re not allowed to leave Islam, and you’re in Islam if your father is a Muslim, even if you never even met the guy. But there is no compulsion in religion. Uh huh.

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

“We’re sure ISIS will follow through”

Jul 25th, 2014 11:08 am | By

As many people have pointed out here, and far more have pointed out elsewhere, the report that ISIS had ordered all girls/women aged 11 to 46 to undergo female genital mutilation may be a hoax. (Some have said it simply is a hoax, but that’s not clear yet.)

But at least it’s not purely a Western media hoax. Al Arabiya is taking it seriously. Yesterday it reported the same story I got from the BBC:

Staff Writer, Al Arabiya News
Thursday, 24 July 2014
The al-Qaeda-Inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered all girls and women between the ages of 11 and 46 in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations said on Thursday.

“It is a fatwa (or religious edict) of ISIS, we learnt this this morning,” said Jacqueline Badcock, the number two U.N. official in Iraq.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said, according to Reuters.

“This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” she added.

No one was immediately available for comment from Islamic State which has led an offensive through northern and western Iraq.

So, not confirmed, but not disconfirmed, either.

Today it reports that an Iraqi NGO thinks it will happen.

An Iraqi human rights organization said Friday that the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will likely implement a religious edict (Fatwa) that all females aged 11-46 in and around the northern city of Mosul undergo genital mutilation (FGM).

“We’re sure ISIS will follow through with what they’ve announced,” William Warda, head of media relations at Hammurabi Human Rights Organization, told Al Arabiya News

Women working for ISIS may be used to check whether or not females are genitally mutilated, said Warda, a leading member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement.

At the end, it tells us there has been no official word either way:

Meanwhile, ISIS has not officially confirmed or denied the report.

Are we all fully confident that ISIS won’t do that? Do we think their human sympathies and kindness will prevent them?

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

Your ‘victim card’

Jul 25th, 2014 6:43 am | By

More reasoned argument from Team We Hate Feminism – a friendly tweet from Mark Senior, who comments here as mofa.


Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

Please accept your ‘victim card’ (hope you have your sense of humour switched on)

regards mofa

mark2He’s late; I posted that on Facebook yesterday. I also pointed out that the jeans and shoes are all wrong. I wouldn’t wear shoes like that, and I never roll my jeans, much less wear them up above the ankle like that. Ew.

Above the jeans of course it’s exact.

But as an argument? Well I’m not sure what the argument is, exactly. That I’m wrong about everything because I’m so ugly? I’m not convinced that’s a valid argument. Maybe someone will make a video elucidating the premises.

Update to add:


Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

@jimnnewman @OpheliaBenson

Just clean fun…no one gets hurt

Jim Newman @jimnnewman

@MarkSenior3 @OpheliaBenson no one gets hurt? I’m detecting hurt feelings, insults, personal attacks, denigration, push to silence.

Mark Senior @MarkSenior3

Alex G liked his (except for the nose), Lousy Canadian will like his…RW’s is good too.

It’s very telling that he picked those out. They are relatively benign. But several of the others are not benign at all; it’s telling that he didn’t claim anyone will like those.

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