Notes and Comment Blog

All sides

Apr 13th, 2015 6:36 pm | By

Sarah Khan has an excellent public post on Facebook saying it comes from all sides.

Misogyny, objectification & hypocrisy about women on ALL sides. Maajid Nawaz by going to a strip club is happy to pay for women’s objectification for his sexual purposes. If you believe in women’s dignity and rights, you don’t just challenge Islamists’ abuse of women; you challenge all those capitalist corporations and services which seek to make huge profits on the exploitation of women’s bodies and for sex. (I believe in the rights and dignity of sex workers by the way who are regularly abused and denigrated.) You challenge unequal pay. You challenge all the inequalities that continue to exist between men and women in our country.

I suppose most of you have seen the story about Maajid? The Daily Mail reported it last week and he added some points afterward. He went to a strip club, it was his “stag night” (silly expression, and idea); his future wife was fine with it.

On the other hand I have seen how male community leaders and imams have paid for services of prostitutes, who have had secret nikkahs without their first wife’s knowledge and permission, and who silence women’s voices and marginalise them in all walks of life. What I find distasteful is the pretence on ALL sides by those who claim to care about women’s rights but who have been shown to abuse and denigrate women in in one shape or form. Often Muslims say “the West” oppress women by sexualising them; but so do many Muslims on a daily basis. That’s why women have to cover, that’s why women’s voices are allegedly “awrah,” that’s why women should be segregated because women ARE sexual objects and responsibility and blame therefore falls on them. We are told this is because women and women’s sexuality are responsible for the moral fabric of society. Such normalised attitudes yet so wrong.

All sides.

One of the reasons why we set up Inspire was not only to challenge extremism but to address gender discrimination and the abuse of women’s rights and their objectification. And we will continue to do so within Muslim communities but also in wider society too. Hence we support the Everyday Sexism project, and many other women’s campaigns and groups. Which is why I oppose Maajid’s use of strip clubs, but also the deceitful “concerns” of people who have never genuinely supported women’s rights or feminism – but who are now jumping up and down pretending to claim the higher moral ground.

Yeah, religious zealots don’t make the best feminists.

Read the whole thing.

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

Be ever tranquil and mild

Apr 13th, 2015 5:41 pm | By

Since the core of our Maximum Critic’s case is that we’re too angry and rude and obnoxious, and also unfair to Our Leaders, especially Richard Dawkins, I thought I would take a squiz at RD’s Twitter feed to see how placid and polite and pleasant he is being in contrast to angry rude obnoxious us.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 20 hours ago
.@iconoclasmrules @pennjillette This, from Penn, strikes me as philosophically spot on. What flaw has your great philosophical mind found?


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins 18 hours ago
@impossiblebones @pennjillette Oh for heaven’s sake, how is such crass misunderstanding possible? Impossible bones? Impossibly ridiculous.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 12
@1Bblthmpr You’ve obviously never read a biology textbook or a book about evolution. Please do so & then come back if you want to argue.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins
I know no science, never read a biology book & have low IQ, but I know evolution is false bcos it doesn’t make sense to my uneducated mind.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 11
@Adnan_Asif14 In the same sense of “theory” gravity too is only a theory. I suggest you test it by jumping out of a high window.

There are plenty of other tweets not in that vein, and some in a similar but less blatant vein. One in a more benevolent vein

Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins · Apr 11
What kind of “man” ENJOYS shooting birds on spring migration through Malta? Referendum to abolish the “sport” today. …

Also, I’m not opposed to a waspish tone as such. It would be odd if I were, since I have one myself. I think it can be good and necessary to express some anger on some subjects; I think writing and discussion would be badly impoverished if we eliminated all trace of anger. I’m just wondering what it is that makes our Maximum Critic so agitated about our anger and not Dawkins’s anger.

Greta has been wondering much the same thing about the Secular Policy Institute.

Does the “problem” of atheist leaders “getting media attention by causing controversy” include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Peter Boghossian, or any other fellows in your institute known for making controversial statements, both about religion and about other atheists? Also, does it include Michael Nugent, who in recent months has written 32 blog posts, totaling 75,000 words, criticizing PZ Myers? If not — why not? How do you decide which controversies are acceptable and which are not — and who gets to make that decision?

It’s actually more than 32; it’s 38 or 39 now, although 2 or 3 of those were more about me than about PZ. Since they’re around 4 to 5000 words each, it’s also way more than 75,000 words – though many of them are repeated over and over again, so it’s not that many original words. But you get the idea – 75k words is a very low estimate. Anyway – who is actually causing controversy around here? Is it really only those poopy Freethought bloggers?

No wonder the stereotype of a secular person is condescending and angry.

Do you have a problem with the image of atheists being condescending and angry when it comes to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Peter Boghossian, or any other fellows in your institute known for their angry, cutting criticism of religion?

That’s what inspired me to go look at RD’s Twitter.

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

The diarrhea is a good thing if it’s “detox diarrhea”

Apr 13th, 2015 4:06 pm | By

For more on this MMS “treatment” one post of many by Orac on the subject:

Let’s recap. MMS is bleach. Specifically, it is a 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water that generates chlorine dioxide when diluted with citric acid-containing or other acid-containing foods, as instructed. This is a chemical used for water purification that a quack—yes, quack—named Jim Humble has touted as a miracle cure for just about everything from cancer to AIDS to a wide variety of conditions, serious and not-so-serious. There is no currently known valid medical reason to give this chemical to anyone to treat anything. None of this is (or should be) in serious dispute from a strictly scientific, medical, or ethical standpoint.

The next fact that is not in serious dispute is that a woman named Kerri Rivera, operating out of a quack clinic in Mexico, has been touting MMS as a “biomedical” treatment for autism. As part of the treatment, she advocates feeding MMS to autistic children every two hours over the course of 72 hours (her “72-2 protocol”) and giving children MMS enemas three times a week. She admits that the side effects included at minimum diarrhea and fever. In fact, she says that the diarrhea is a good thing if it’s “detox diarrhea” and that the fever means the immune system is being stimulated, thus making it a good thing as well. What is also not in dispute is that Rivera brought this message of bleaching autism away to the yearly autism biomed quackfest known as Autism One last month, making even some die-hard supporters of autism quackery cringe. Again, there is currently no known valid medical reason to give this chemical to any autistic child to treat autism. Again, none of this is (or should be) in serious dispute from a scientific standpoint.

It’s terrifying. Why not just claim that razor blades are a “treatment” for autism and asthma and AIDS, or that motor oil is, or rat poison, or Drano, or a knife to the heart?

I’m wondering how people can get away with this.

I’m incorrigibly naïve.

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

American personnel are rarely disciplined under the local legal systems

Apr 13th, 2015 12:22 pm | By

Chris Allbritton at the Daily Beast has much more on that Colombian report.

U.S. soldiers and military contractors stationed in Colombia allegedly sexually assaulted as many as 54 Colombian children between 2003 and 2007, according to a report commissioned by the Colombian government and the FARC leftist rebel group. But none of the Americans have been prosecuted because of bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity, the report alleges.

Spokespeople for the U.S. Army told The Daily Beast that they’ve seen no evidence of such crimes.

How astonishing! When things were set up so that responsible officials wouldn’t see evidence of such crimes, how astonishing to learn that they haven’t seen any.

The section detailing American involvement in the conflict was edited by Renán Vega Cantor, a leftist professor of history at la Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Bogotá.

“In Melgar and neighboring Girardot,” he wrote, “53 minors were sexually abused by mercenaries, who also filmed and sold the tapes as pornographic material. Also in Melgar, a contractor and a sergeant in the United States raped a 12-year-old girl in 2007. Both their activities, as well as their immunity, contribute to the insecurity of the population in conflict zones.”

“There is abundant evidence of sexual violence and total impunity, thanks to bilateral agreements and diplomatic immunity of U.S. officials,” Vega continued, “part of sexist and discriminatory behavior known as ‘sexual imperialism’ similar to what happens in other places where U.S. military forces are stationed.”

The Army spokesperson said the Army had seen no credible evidence of this but an investigation is possible.

Military cooperation between Colombia and the United States goes back decades—and has long given American troops diplomatic immunity. A 1974 Military Missions Agreement grants “United States personnel and their dependents the privileges, exemptions, and immunities accorded to the administrative and technical staff of a diplomatic mission under the Vienna Convention.”

But that cooperation was radically expanded under Plan Colombia, Washington’s $7.5 billion program to help Bogota fight drug cartels and leftist rebel groups like the FARC and National Liberation Army, or ELN.

Because US troops never get carried away, never punish civilians in any way, never rape, never conceal rape…and once again I find myself on the throne of Marie of Romania.

In the most explosive allegations in Colombia, Vega wrote, up to 54 young women and children were allegedly drugged and taken back to bases, where in some cases the abuse was alleged to have been filmed and sold as pornography. In the most notorious case, Colombian prosecutors accused a U.S. Army soldier and a defense contractor of drugging and raping a 12-year-old girl in 2007 after taking her back to a military base in Melgar where they were stationed.

The alleged victim’s mother recently told El Tiempo, Colombia’s biggest daily newspaper, that on the evening of Aug. 26, 2007, her two daughters, 12 and 10, went to buy food in downtown Melgar. A couple of hours later, the younger daughter returned alone, saying her older sister had disappeared after going into a nightclub to use the bathroom. The two U.S. military men left her in a park the next morning, according to several witnesses, El Tiempo reported at the time.

Afterward, the mother went to the base to confront the men who she says raped her daughter. “The response was, ‘Your daughter is a little whore; nothing happened here,’” she told El Tiempo.

According to McClatchy, the two men were not arrested. Instead, they were flown out of the country under diplomatic immunity and have never been prosecuted despite attempts by Colombian prosecutors.

I had this idea that diplomatic immunity didn’t cover rape and other violent crimes. I thought that was why Strauss-Kahn was arrestable, for instance. Also, soldiers are not diplomats.

It’s a problem the United States military faces around the world. There are hundreds of cases of alleged sexual assault of civilians by U.S. military personnel and contractors in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and elsewhere. However, American personnel are rarely disciplined under the local legal systems and often receive little more than letters of reprimand from the chain of command.

How very colonial.

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

“Your daughter is a little whore; nothing has happened here”

Apr 13th, 2015 11:42 am | By

Speaking of rape, and denial, and cover-ups…the International Business Times reports:

The U.S. Army has pledged to investigate recently resurfaced allegations that American soldiers and contractors sexually abused more than 50 Colombian minors in the mid-2000s, weeks after the accusations appeared in a report on the Colombian government’s battle against rebel militias.

Colombia’s Historical Commission on Conflict released a landmark 800-page report in February detailing the government’s fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a guerrilla group that engaged in a 50-year conflict with state forces. One section of the report focused on the U.S. military’s assistance to Colombia’s government in its efforts and noted harrowing accounts of rape and sexual abuse against underage Colombian girls.

Very nice of the US Army to take notice at last. It would have been even nicer to have taken notice of it at the time, but hey, these are men in power, and underage Colombian girls just don’t count.

“There is abundant information of sexual violence with total impunity, thanks to bilateral accords and diplomatic immunity to U.S. officials,” the report stated. In the towns of Melgar and Girardot, 70 miles from Bogotá, U.S. military workers allegedly abused 53 girls, recorded the acts and sold the footage as pornographic videos, the report said.

Good old American ingenuity and efficiency, eh? Entrepreneurship at its finest. First they get a free fuck with a nice tight little girl, then they get to sell the video. Score!

Although the report called it one of the most “notorious” cases of sexual violence of that time, Colombian media outlets began amplifying the allegations in the report in late March. On Friday the U.S. Army confirmed it would investigate the situation along with Colombian officials. “We take this issue very seriously and will aggressively pursue all credible allegations,” Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s criminal investigation unit, told USA Today.

Don’t lie, you fuckers. Obviously you do not take this issue very seriously or you would have aggressively pursued all credible allegations at the time.

(Am I going to get a scolding now for calling them fuckers and accusing them of lying? Ok I’ll fix it. Make that fucking fuckers who are fucking lying, the fuckers.)

Brace yourselves for this next bit; it’s nasty.

One case highlighted in the report, in which a U.S. military contractor and sergeant allegedly raped a 12-year-old Colombian girl in 2007, is well known in Colombia. Last month Colombian newspaper El Tiempo spoke with the girl’s mother, Olga Lucia Castillo, remarking that “half the country knows of her tragedy.”

Castillo told the newspaper her daughter was “never the same” after the incident. “When I was finally able to establish that the girl had been raped, we tried to find who was responsible and, despite the pain that overwhelmed us, I found them at the base and confronted them,” she said. “Their response was: ‘Your daughter is a little whore; nothing has happened here.’ ” Castillo said her daughter, now 20, has attempted suicide three times and rarely speaks or leaves the house.

Does the US Army take that “very seriously”? If it does, why did it respond that way? Why has it done nothing in the 8 years since?

All the little whores want to know.

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

Galloway, in a position of power, can make these comments

Apr 13th, 2015 11:20 am | By

Huma Munshi responds to George Galloway’s contemptible denial of Naz Shah’s forced marriage.

I cannot believe that Galloway is so ignorant as to allege that because Shah’s mother was present, the marriage was not forced. Galloway was an MP in Bethnal Green and Bow and now represents Bradford West, which both have large Asian communities. While forced marriage is not exclusive to south Asian cultures, he has, no doubt learned about the practice from his constituents.

Well maybe he listens only to his male constituents. I can’t see how he could make such a claim otherwise.

My family were present at my Muslim wedding ceremony in India 10 years ago, along with 500 other guests at a huge reception. I wore the ornate clothes and jewels of an Indian bride, my hands were patterned with henna; but this outward appearance did not – and does not – change the fact that this was a forced marriage in every sense. I had repeatedly told my parents that I did not want to go through with the ceremony, but to no avail. Like Shah I was emotionally blackmailed. My mother threatened suicide if I did not comply because of the dishonour it would bring on our family.

Munshi left the marriage. She was diagnosed with PTSD.

The ramifications of Galloway’s rhetoric are extremely worrying. By using Shah’s experience in this way, he puts future victims at risk. Using his platform and position as an MP he denies Shah the right to speak about her experiences by calling them into question. Shah says she was forced and emotionally blackmailed into her marriage – we should believe her. I worry about the impact Galloway’s comments will have on other survivors when they seek support. They already face the barrier of having to overcome the “honour code” which is drilled into them from childhood. The most important thing is to believe us victims of forced marriage when we say our parents were the perpetrators. Start with the premise of believing the victim – this in itself would be a revolutionary act.

As a British Asian Muslim woman it worries me hugely that someone like Galloway, in a position of power, can make these comments.

It’s so familiar, isn’t it. There are women making the claims and there are men in positions of power denying them, minimizing them, belittling them, ridiculing them.

It’s not a good look. It’s never a good look. You would think the men in positions of power would start to figure that out at some point.

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

Mrs Norris prevents waste

Apr 13th, 2015 10:29 am | By

Having reminded myself of that piece of sadistic officiousness by Mrs Norris, I might as well share it. It’s from chapter 15 of Mansfield Park, again via Project Gutenberg. Edmund and Maria are arguing about the propriety of Acting in a Play when Mrs Norris adds her bit.


In a few minutes Mr. Bertram was called out of the room to satisfy some doubts of the carpenter; and being accompanied by Mr. Yates, and followed soon afterwards by Mr. Rushworth, Edmund almost immediately took the opportunity of saying, “I cannot, before Mr. Yates, speak what I feel as to this play, without reflecting on his friends at Ecclesford; but I must now, my dear Maria, tell you, that I think it exceedingly unfit for private representation, and that I hope you will give it up. I cannot but suppose you will when you have read it carefully over. Read only the first act aloud to either your mother or aunt, and see how you can approve it. It will not be necessary to send you to your father’s judgment, I am convinced.”

“We see things very differently,” cried Maria. “I am perfectly acquainted with the play, I assure you; and with a very few omissions, and so forth, which will be made, of course, I can see nothing objectionable in it; and I am not the only young woman you find who thinks it very fit for private representation.”

“I am sorry for it,” was his answer; “but in this matter it is you who are to lead. You must set the example. If others have blundered, it is your place to put them right, and shew them what true delicacy is. In all points of decorum your conduct must be law to the rest of the party.”

This picture of her consequence had some effect, for no one loved better to lead than Maria; and with far more good-humour she answered, “I am much obliged to you, Edmund; you mean very well, I am sure: but I still think you see things too strongly; and I really cannot undertake to harangue all the rest upon a subject of this kind. There would be the greatest indecorum, I think.”

“Do you imagine that I could have such an idea in my head? No; let your conduct be the only harangue. Say that, on examining the part, you feel yourself unequal to it; that you find it requiring more exertion and confidence than you can be supposed to have. Say this with firmness, and it will be quite enough. All who can distinguish will understand your motive. The play will be given up, and your delicacy honoured as it ought.”

“Do not act anything improper, my dear,” said Lady Bertram. “Sir Thomas would not like it.—Fanny, ring the bell; I must have my dinner.—To be sure, Julia is dressed by this time.”

“I am convinced, madam,” said Edmund, preventing Fanny, “that Sir Thomas would not like it.”

“There, my dear, do you hear what Edmund says?”

“If I were to decline the part,” said Maria, with renewed zeal, “Julia would certainly take it.”

“What!” cried Edmund, “if she knew your reasons!”

“Oh! she might think the difference between us—the difference in our situations—that she need not be so scrupulous as I might feel necessary. I am sure she would argue so. No; you must excuse me; I cannot retract my consent; it is too far settled, everybody would be so disappointed, Tom would be quite angry; and if we are so very nice, we shall never act anything.”

“I was just going to say the very same thing,” said Mrs. Norris. “If every play is to be objected to, you will act nothing, and the preparations will be all so much money thrown away, and I am sure that would be a discredit to us all. I do not know the play; but, as Maria says, if there is anything a little too warm (and it is so with most of them) it can be easily left out. We must not be over-precise, Edmund. As Mr. Rushworth is to act too, there can be no harm. I only wish Tom had known his own mind when the carpenters began, for there was the loss of half a day’s work about those side-doors. The curtain will be a good job, however. The maids do their work very well, and I think we shall be able to send back some dozens of the rings. There is no occasion to put them so very close together. I am of some use, I hope, in preventing waste and making the most of things. There should always be one steady head to superintend so many young ones. I forgot to tell Tom of something that happened to me this very day. I had been looking about me in the poultry-yard, and was just coming out, when who should I see but Dick Jackson making up to the servants’ hall-door with two bits of deal board in his hand, bringing them to father, you may be sure; mother had chanced to send him of a message to father, and then father had bid him bring up them two bits of board, for he could not no how do without them. I knew what all this meant, for the servants’ dinner-bell was ringing at the very moment over our heads; and as I hate such encroaching people (the Jacksons are very encroaching, I have always said so: just the sort of people to get all they can), I said to the boy directly (a great lubberly fellow of ten years old, you know, who ought to be ashamed of himself), ‘I’ll take the boards to your father, Dick, so get you home again as fast as you can.’ The boy looked very silly, and turned away without offering a word, for I believe I might speak pretty sharp; and I dare say it will cure him of coming marauding about the house for one while. I hate such greediness—so good as your father is to the family, employing the man all the year round!”

Nobody was at the trouble of an answer; the others soon returned; and Edmund found that to have endeavoured to set them right must be his only satisfaction.

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

Led by Jim Humble, self-styled archbishop

Apr 13th, 2015 10:20 am | By

Authorities in Ireland are questioning parents of autistic children as part of an investigation into a “controversial” treatment.

The substance, known as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), is an industrial-strength bleach which its advocates claim acts as a miracle cure for a number of medical conditions, including autism, asthma, Aids, malaria and ebola.

Also Crohn’s, I think – if I remember correctly that’s what got Rhys Morgan involved in skepticism.

Fiona O’Leary, an Irish woman who has single-handedly mounted a campaign against a group led by Jim Humble — a former Scientologist and self-styled archbishop of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing — said there is need for urgent legislation in Ireland to deter parents from subjecting their children to treatment with MMS.

Bleach. The mind totters and sways; it collapses.

Ms O’Leary believes it is unlikely that any parents will face criminal prosecution as a result of the Garda investigation, but says some sanction needs to be put in place to prevent vulnerable children being forced to take bleach, either orally or as an enema.

The need for such legislation, argues Ms O’Leary, is because MMS promoters have been able to circumvent regulations governing the sale and supply of medicines by describing the product, whose constituent ingredients are perfectly legal, as a water purifier.

The mother of five, who lives in West Cork, said she was shocked by the results of laboratory tests on MMS conducted as part of an RTÉ PrimeTime documentary broadcast last week. They showed the main ingredient of MMS — sodium chlorite — had concentrations up to 520 times over the daily limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Hey, no more than you would get from swimming in a chlorinated pool for…oh, a thousand years or so.

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

The pen

Apr 12th, 2015 5:21 pm | By

More art via @Penamerican

Embedded image permalink

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

The Vatican had maintained a stony silence

Apr 12th, 2015 4:50 pm | By

The Irish Independent reports that the pope is said to have rejected the nomination of a close aide of President François Hollande as new French ambassador to the Vatican because he is gay.

The apparent rejection calls into question the Pontiff’s reputation as holding more liberal views on homosexuality.

Laurent Stefanini (54), a senior diplomat and Mr Hollande’s chief of protocol, was nominated in early January but the Vatican had maintained a stony silence over whether it accepts his credentials, officials in Paris said.

The usual time frame for acceptance is a month and a half. After that, a prolonged silence after a nomination is normally interpreted as a rejection.

Maybe they’re just thinking really hard.

French media widely reported that Mr Stefanini has been rejected because of his homosexuality.

‘Le Journal du Dimanche’ quoted a Vatican insider as saying that the rejection was “a decision taken by the Pope himself”.

‘Liberation’, the Left-leaning daily, said that “the Vatican’s homophobia seriously tarnishes Pope Francis’s image as being (slightly) more open-minded than his predecessors on sexuality”. In 2007, France nominated a gay ambassador to the Vatican who had a partner recognised under French law but the Holy See never responded to the nomination.

Look at it from their point of view. They’re the Catholic church. It’s their brand. If they started being less dinosaur-like, what would they have to offer? They’d just be another only-somewhat-terrible church, which is not very sexy.

Observers say the Pope cannot be seen to be adopting an overly gay-friendly approach that would shock the Church’s more conservative elements.

My point exactly.

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

Still defiantly drawing

Apr 12th, 2015 4:36 pm | By

PEN America comments on the arrest and charging of Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar.

The charges against Zunar demonstrate a troubling escalation of Malasysia’s crackdown on free expression and public dissent over the past months, feeding on a heavy-handed application of the colonial-era Sedition Act. In January, human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen was similarly arrested and detained for an allegedly seditious tweet. The draconian law was invoked again just over a week ago when police raided the offices of the independent news website The Malaysian Insider and arrested five journalists in under 48 hours.

Sedition isn’t really a very meaningful word except in a dictatorship or absolute monarchy or partyarchy. Political opposition is just that, not “sedition.”

This is not the first time Zunar has been investigated for his cartoons that expose the authoritarian and corrupt practices of the ruling government. The defiant cartoonist has for years been vocal about the political motivations behind Anwar Ibrahim’s repeated sodomy trials, which he illustrated in his 2010 collection Cartoon-O-Phobia. Hours before the book’s launch, police held Zunar for two days and confiscated sixty-six copies of his books. Many of his other published collections are banned in Malaysia and his office has been raided several times by government officials, who routinely seize copies of his books and take extreme measures to prevent them from being sold to the public.

Zunar pleaded not guilty to all nine charges last Friday, and his next hearing is set for May 20, 2015. If found guilty, he could serve up to forty-three years in prison. Undaunted by the persistent efforts to suppress his contentious views, he tweeted a cartoon of himself bound in cuffs and chains but still at work with a brush in his mouth. In a statement, Zunar vowed to continue the “fight through cartoons” and to keep drawing “until the last drop” of his ink, a sign that Malaysia’s heavy-handed tactics against its artists, journalists, and activists are ultimately ineffective at stifling the mounting criticisms against the Najib administration.

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

Having no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself

Apr 12th, 2015 12:42 pm | By

One of my favorite Jane Austen characters is Mr Collins.

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg, let’s have chapter 19:

The next day opened a new scene at Longbourn. Mr. Collins made his declaration in form. Having resolved to do it without loss of time, as his leave of absence extended only to the following Saturday, and having no feelings of diffidence to make it distressing to himself even at the moment, he set about it in a very orderly manner, with all the observances, which he supposed a regular part of the business. On finding Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth, and one of the younger girls together, soon after breakfast, he addressed the mother in these words:

“May I hope, madam, for your interest with your fair daughter Elizabeth, when I solicit for the honour of a private audience with her in the course of this morning?”

Before Elizabeth had time for anything but a blush of surprise, Mrs. Bennet answered instantly, “Oh dear!—yes—certainly. I am sure Lizzy will be very happy—I am sure she can have no objection. Come, Kitty, I want you up stairs.” And, gathering her work together, she was hastening away, when Elizabeth called out:

“Dear madam, do not go. I beg you will not go. Mr. Collins must excuse me. He can have nothing to say to me that anybody need not hear. I am going away myself.”

“No, no, nonsense, Lizzy. I desire you to stay where you are.” And upon Elizabeth’s seeming really, with vexed and embarrassed looks, about to escape, she added: “Lizzy, I insist upon your staying and hearing Mr. Collins.”

Elizabeth would not oppose such an injunction—and a moment’s consideration making her also sensible that it would be wisest to get it over as soon and as quietly as possible, she sat down again and tried to conceal, by incessant employment the feelings which were divided between distress and diversion. Mrs. Bennet and Kitty walked off, and as soon as they were gone, Mr. Collins began.

“Believe me, my dear Miss Elizabeth, that your modesty, so far from doing you any disservice, rather adds to your other perfections. You would have been less amiable in my eyes had there not been this little unwillingness; but allow me to assure you, that I have your respected mother’s permission for this address. You can hardly doubt the purport of my discourse, however your natural delicacy may lead you to dissemble; my attentions have been too marked to be mistaken. Almost as soon as I entered the house, I singled you out as the companion of my future life. But before I am run away with by my feelings on this subject, perhaps it would be advisable for me to state my reasons for marrying—and, moreover, for coming into Hertfordshire with the design of selecting a wife, as I certainly did.”

The idea of Mr. Collins, with all his solemn composure, being run away with by his feelings, made Elizabeth so near laughing, that she could not use the short pause he allowed in any attempt to stop him further, and he continued:

“My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced that it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly—which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford—between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh’s footstool, that she said, ‘Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. Choose properly, choose a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her.’ Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the advantages in my power to offer. You will find her manners beyond anything I can describe; and your wit and vivacity, I think, must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my general intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views were directed towards Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I can assure you there are many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to choose a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place—which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the four per cents, which will not be yours till after your mother’s decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.”

It was absolutely necessary to interrupt him now.

“You are too hasty, sir,” she cried. “You forget that I have made no answer. Let me do it without further loss of time. Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me. I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than to decline them.”

“I am not now to learn,” replied Mr. Collins, with a formal wave of the hand, “that it is usual with young ladies to reject the addresses of the man whom they secretly mean to accept, when he first applies for their favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second, or even a third time. I am therefore by no means discouraged by what you have just said, and shall hope to lead you to the altar ere long.”

“Upon my word, sir,” cried Elizabeth, “your hope is a rather extraordinary one after my declaration. I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time. I am perfectly serious in my refusal. You could not make mehappy, and I am convinced that I am the last woman in the world who could make you so. Nay, were your friend Lady Catherine to know me, I am persuaded she would find me in every respect ill qualified for the situation.”

“Were it certain that Lady Catherine would think so,” said Mr. Collins very gravely—”but I cannot imagine that her ladyship would at all disapprove of you. And you may be certain when I have the honour of seeing her again, I shall speak in the very highest terms of your modesty, economy, and other amiable qualification.”

“Indeed, Mr. Collins, all praise of me will be unnecessary. You must give me leave to judge for myself, and pay me the compliment of believing what I say. I wish you very happy and very rich, and by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent your being otherwise. In making me the offer, you must have satisfied the delicacy of your feelings with regard to my family, and may take possession of Longbourn estate whenever it falls, without any self-reproach. This matter may be considered, therefore, as finally settled.” And rising as she thus spoke, she would have quitted the room, had Mr. Collins not thus addressed her:

“When I do myself the honour of speaking to you next on the subject, I shall hope to receive a more favourable answer than you have now given me; though I am far from accusing you of cruelty at present, because I know it to be the established custom of your sex to reject a man on the first application, and perhaps you have even now said as much to encourage my suit as would be consistent with the true delicacy of the female character.”

“Really, Mr. Collins,” cried Elizabeth with some warmth, “you puzzle me exceedingly. If what I have hitherto said can appear to you in the form of encouragement, I know not how to express my refusal in such a way as to convince you of its being one.”

“You must give me leave to flatter myself, my dear cousin, that your refusal of my addresses is merely words of course. My reasons for believing it are briefly these: It does not appear to me that my hand is unworthy of your acceptance, or that the establishment I can offer would be any other than highly desirable. My situation in life, my connections with the family of de Bourgh, and my relationship to your own, are circumstances highly in my favour; and you should take it into further consideration, that in spite of your manifold attractions, it is by no means certain that another offer of marriage may ever be made you. Your portion is unhappily so small that it will in all likelihood undo the effects of your loveliness and amiable qualifications. As I must therefore conclude that you are not serious in your rejection of me, I shall choose to attribute it to your wish of increasing my love by suspense, according to the usual practice of elegant females.”

“I do assure you, sir, that I have no pretensions whatever to that kind of elegance which consists in tormenting a respectable man. I would rather be paid the compliment of being believed sincere. I thank you again and again for the honour you have done me in your proposals, but to accept them is absolutely impossible. My feelings in every respect forbid it. Can I speak plainer? Do not consider me now as an elegant female, intending to plague you, but as a rational creature, speaking the truth from her heart.”

“You are uniformly charming!” cried he, with an air of awkward gallantry; “and I am persuaded that when sanctioned by the express authority of both your excellent parents, my proposals will not fail of being acceptable.”

To such perseverance in wilful self-deception Elizabeth would make no reply, and immediately and in silence withdrew; determined, if he persisted in considering her repeated refusals as flattering encouragement, to apply to her father, whose negative might be uttered in such a manner as to be decisive, and whose behaviour at least could not be mistaken for the affectation and coquetry of an elegant female.

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

Authenticity is about more than a layer of cloth

Apr 12th, 2015 12:23 pm | By

The NY Times has an excerpt from Mona Eltahawy’s new book as an op-ed. I reviewed the book for the next Free Inquiry; it’s terrific.

I chose to wear the hijab at age 16, soon after my family moved from Britain to Saudi Arabia. I wanted to save my sanity, and so I struck a deal with God: I’d cover up, as I was taught a good Muslim girl should, if God would save me from a breakdown that I was sure would come in that country where women were considered the walking embodiment of sin. I wanted to hide — from eyes and hands that made going out anywhere, especially unaccompanied, hellish.

Almost immediately, I missed the wind in my hair. When I caught my reflection in a window, I did not recognize myself. I wanted to reconcile the internal and external me, but I was to discover that choosing to wear the hijab is much easier than choosing to take it off.

I finally summoned the courage to stop wearing it in 1993, when I was 25 and had moved back to my birthplace, Egypt. For years, despite my inner doubts, I represented to others my choice to veil as a feminist one. If a woman could choose to wear a miniskirt, surely I could choose to cover my hair? I wanted people to address my mind and to not objectify me, I would say. Ultimately, I could not sustain that line of thinking because, as a feminist, I demanded that people address my mind and not objectify me, regardless of how I dressed.

Good point, isn’t it. Why should women have to bandage their heads in order to avoid being objectified? Why can’t they just be treated as people as a matter of right, and a matter of course, instead?

When I was a child in Egypt, none of my aunts wore head scarves. Photographs from family weddings in the 1970s show aunts with bare heads and dresses, at times standing next to belly dancers who sparkled in beaded bikinis and gauzy chiffon barely covering their legs. In today’s weddings, most of my aunts and their daughters are covered up, and there are no belly dancers.

Isn’t that sad? Time moving in the wrong direction – back to more restraints on women instead of fewer or none.

[T]he political revolutions that began in 2010 in the Middle East and North Africa have also inspired us to challenge social mores long taken for granted. Because I have finally been open about the fact that I once wore the hijab, I have heard from more and more women who want to unveil. “How did you take it off?” they ask. “How did you handle family pressure?”

For some who are rejecting the hijab, it’s their first public appearance without a head scarf in five or 10 years — in one case, 30. Many directly link their unveiling with the revolution and their personal understanding of freedom. What happens in Egypt influences the rest of the region; I see the pendulum swinging the other way again.

My head scarf came off 22 years ago, but I have never stopped wrestling with what veiling means for Muslim women. Authenticity is about more than a layer of cloth on one’s head. To be acknowledged as more than our head scarves is the right of every Muslim girl and woman.

Headscarves and Hymens is her book.

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

A fear that you might touch a woman by accident

Apr 12th, 2015 11:49 am | By

This again. The New York Times:

Francesca Hogi, 40, had settled into her aisle seat for the flight from New York to London when the man assigned to the adjoining window seat arrived and refused to sit down. He said his religion prevented him from sitting beside a woman who was not his wife. Irritated but eager to get underway, she eventually agreed to move.

Laura Heywood, 42, had a similar experience while traveling from San Diego to London via New York. She was in a middle seat — her husband had the aisle — when the man with the window seat in the same row asked if the couple would switch positions. Ms. Heywood, offended by the notion that her sex made her an unacceptable seatmate, refused.

Yes, sorry, guys – you can’t do that. We discussed it, and decided. You can’t refuse to sit next to people on public conveyances because of their category. It’s not allowed. You don’t get to treat certain kinds of people as a contaminant.

A growing number of airline passengers, particularly on trips between the United States and Israel, are now sharing stories of conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to follow their faith and women just hoping to sit down.

Fuck “trying to follow their faith.” They can do that at home. They can do that in public if it doesn’t affect other people. They can’t do it in public when that means treating other people as a contaminant.

The Times finds a haredi Rabbi who says the phenomenon is rare and the haredi men he knows have no problem sitting next to wimmmmmmmin on public transportation.

But multiple travelers, scholars and the airlines themselves say the phenomenon is real. The number of episodes appears to be increasing as ultra-Orthodox communities grow in number and confidence, but also as other passengers, for reasons of comfort as well as politics, push back.

“It’s very common,” said Rabbi Yehudah Mirsky, an associate professor of Judaic studies at Brandeis University. “Multiculturalism creates a moral language where a group can say, ‘You have to respect my values.’ ”

So when unreconstructed Afrikaaners fans of apartheid get on planes they can refuse to sit next to people who aren’t sufficiently pallid?

Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, a Modern Orthodox Talmud scholar who grew up in the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect, said, “When I was still part of that community, and on the more conservative side, I would make every effort I could not to sit next to a woman on the plane, because of a fear that you might touch a woman by accident.”

That’s the problem – that’s a stupid fear. It treats women as a contaminant.

The issues on airplanes echo controversies over efforts to separate men and women on buses and streets, as well as to remove women from some news photographs.

“The ultra-Orthodox have increasingly seen gender separation as a kind of litmus test of Orthodoxy — it wasn’t always that way, but it has become that way,” said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College. “There is an ongoing culture war between these people and the rest of the modern world, and because the modern world has increasingly sought to become gender neutral, that has added to the desire to say, ‘We’re not like that.’”

Gender separation is a terrible issue to make a litmus test of anything, because it can’t avoid subordinating women, just as racial segregation did and does subordinate one race in relation to another.

So just knock it off.

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

She just wants to go home

Apr 12th, 2015 9:46 am | By

News24 reports on the situation of Zainub Priya Dala, but the only new news it has comes from her Twitter feed, which I’d already seen, so I’ll just quote her directly, starting 9 hours ago.

I am admitted to St.Joseph’s Psychiatric Wing it was diagnosed that I have PTSD. No, I was not dragged kicking and screaming here

I spoke to a religious leader as I was in turmoil and his views were that I be admitted here so I can reflect on my religion and imaan

I then reluctantly came in for admission and soon realised I won’t be left alone as a staff member recognised me and the news spread

It seems like bad and also confused advice. Why would a psychiatric hospital be a good place to reflect on religion?

Due to very strong meds and the people pointing and whispering I told the nurses to call my doctor and discharge me

I felt that I would be safer at home, especially with the journo’s etc calling non-stop. But my doctor was gone on leave and

it was understood that his locum ( a qualified psychiatrist) herself could not authorise a discharge. She placed me on further meds

Ok that seems fucked up. I know pretty much nothing about how psych hospitals operate, and nothing about what kind of turmoil Dala was in, but even so, it seems badly wrong that she couldn’t leave when she wanted to. I could see waiting if she had no immediate way to get home and had too many drugs in her system to drive herself, but that’s not how she describes it. It seems outrageous to force her to wait for release from a doctor who is gone on leave.

Hence I am here at St. Josephs and cannot be sent home until the doctor comes back. The wait, the reporters as well as the other patients

adds to my anxiety & paranoia. I know this: I need to get home. My husband is not FOR me being here, he just wants all this to just go away

After being harrassed by a journo about “The Satanic Verses” I admitted it befuddled me.He reported that I expressed admiration for it!

All this because she said, at a writers’ festival, that Salman Rushdie is among the writers whose style she admires.

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

Here is the chance to say thanks

Apr 12th, 2015 9:18 am | By

I found such a treat at the top of my email queue this morning, from one Daniel Paden (not a name I recognize, though I do know of a Reap Paden). It’s a link to and the text of a fundraising appeal for said Daniel Paden.

I’ve been a podcaster for the last 8 years. If you have been entertained and/or educated by

•The Angry Atheist Podcast
•Modern Satanism
•DREAD Radio
•The Apartment J podcast
• Reap Rants (heard on American Heathen)
•FCUK Radio
Or any of the other videos, blogs, interviews that I’ve done in the past here is the chance to say thanks. Once I get past this revenue hurdle then I can get back to creating content and addressing whatever is being done that is unfair, plain stupid or just deserves to be mocked. Thanks



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

“I just saw it was something serious and ran to help”

Apr 11th, 2015 4:43 pm | By

Now for a happier item – a taxi driver who did the right thing. Twice.

A Watford cabbie who pulled a pregnant woman and baby from a burning car wreck has been honoured with a bravery award for his heroic actions.

Azhar Shah witnessed the horror smash at the junction of Stratford Road and Park Road, in Watford, while driving his taxi just days before Christmas 2012.

The 44-year-old was overtaken by a car speeding at about 60 miles per hour through the cross roads.

He saw the car crash into another vehicle crossing the junction with such force that the second car twisted around in the air and dropped down in smoke in the carriageway.

He ran over to help, and pulled a woman who was eight months pregnant out of the car.

But when the shocked woman was safely in his taxi, sheltered from the cold, Azhar heard her screaming “my baby, where’s my baby?”

The child was still in the burning car.

Knowing the car could explode at any time, Azhar raced back to pull out the baby from the mangled wreckage.

He disclaims the title of hero, saying it’s human nature to want to help.

H/t Tehmina Kazi

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

Each one

Apr 11th, 2015 4:31 pm | By

More from Tom Vandenbosch:

Tom Vandenbosch ‏@TVandenbosch Apr 7
RIP Laban Kumba, a talented student leader. A brave man, he actually fought with the terrorists!

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Laban Kumba

Tom Vandenbosch @TVandenbosch  8 hours ago
He just turned 20. QT “@kenyanpundit: RIP Branton Whakungu. #147notjustanumber ” We will name them, one by one.

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Branton Whakungu

Tom Vandenbosch @TVandenbosch  8 hours ago
Relatives and friends paid their respects to Angela Nyokabi Githakwa, 21

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Tom Vandenbosch retweeted
The African Success™ @IMwauraKimani 18 hours ago
Yesterday, my friend buried his cousin Angela Nyokabi Githakwa (Jojo) #RestInPeace #147notjustanumber @kenyanpundit

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

More from Garissa

Apr 11th, 2015 4:10 pm | By

Boniface Mwangi ‏@bonifacemwangi 6 hours ago
Tonui’s colleagues said goodbye to him with a 21 gun salute. #147notjustanumber #GarrisaAttack

Mr. B ‏@Benogola Apr 9
147 seconds of silence in memory of the 147 students killed in #GarrisaAttack. #147NotJustANumber

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Well that one made me start and look more closely – that looks like Red Square at the University of Washington, I said in surprise. I looked at Mr B’s profile – he’s in Seattle. Damn, if I’d known I would have gone.

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

She was loved by everybody in the family

Apr 11th, 2015 4:00 pm | By

Milton Nkosi reports for the BBC on heartbreak in Nairobi as parents collect the bodies of their children murdered in the Garissa slaughter.

I watched mothers, fathers, other relatives and friends break down in tears at Chiromo mortuary in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, as coffins of their young sons and daughters were handed over.

There could not have been a more poignant moment to witness the deep pain and grief suffered by families of those who perished in the Garissa University College attack last week.

They are taking their children home to the hills and valleys of this beautiful land for burial.

No more college. No more future.

Back at the mortuary I heard about 23-year-old Susan Kwamboka Onyikwa.

She was studying to become a teacher and her uncle Ngunyi Yusuf, a former banker, had come to fetch her body.

“Susan was marvellous. She loved cooking and being at home. She was loved by everybody in the family,” he told me.

With tears swelling in his eyes, the 42-year-old continued calmly: “She was a very good lady. We are devastated.”

She would have been a teacher. Now she won’t. Now her family is devastated.

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