Notes and Comment Blog

Why worship a god who gets enraged at a cartoon?

Jan 19th, 2014 1:07 pm | By

More on the fury at Maajid Nawaz.

There’s an exceedingly vivid and nasty threat, for one thing.

IMRAN @Abdul_al_Jame


I would be glad to cut your neck off, so your kufr friends won’t be amused by your humour.In sha Allah may my dua get accepted

That account is now gone, so that’s something, but still – what a revolting sentiment.

Via Homo economicus’s blog, Nawaz’s response to all the shouting:




Shiraz Socialist has a post In defense of Maajid Nawaz.

5Pillarz, a blog written largely by and for British Muslims, has decided that Nawaz should be their top candidate for ‘Islamophobe of the Year’. The EDL is mentioned at the bottom of their list of suggestions, as a kind of afterthought.

As Maajid Nawaz says:

“Why are many on the “Left” largely silent on Muslim reformers. Want to defend minorities? Well, we’re a minority within a minority, defend us”

As someone from the ‘Left’ I’m happy to defend and support Maajid Nawaz – though I’d draw the line at voting for him.

All this, because a cartoon.

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

What is a scholar?

Jan 19th, 2014 12:13 pm | By

And another thing.

What is it with using the honorific “scholar” for people who parse the fine points of a religion? How is that scholarship? As in the Independent article for instance:

Some scholars point out that it is against the teachings of Islam to force anyone to stay within the faith. “The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave,” said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Does thorough knowledge of dogma really qualify as scholarship?

I don’t think newspapers and other media tend to refer to astrologers as scholars, however vast their knowledge of astrology is. They refer to them as astrologers, which has a different connotation – a less respectable one.

I suspect a public relations move here.

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

She didn’t want me to poison their heads

Jan 19th, 2014 11:44 am | By

The Independent has a story on being an ex-Muslim.

Amal Farah for instance, a banking executive.

Born in Somalia to Muslim parents, she grew up in Yemen and came to the UK in her late teens. After questioning her faith, she became an atheist and married a Jewish lawyer. But this has come at a cost. When she turned her back on her religion, she was disowned by her family and received death threats. She has not seen her mother or her siblings for eight years. None of them have met her husband or daughter.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – telling my observant family that I was having doubts. My mum was shocked; she began to cry. It was very painful for her. When she realised I actually meant it, she cut communication with me,” said Ms Farah. “She was suspicious of me being in contact with my brothers and sisters. She didn’t want me to poison their heads in any way. I felt like a leper and I lived in fear. As long as they knew where I was, I wasn’t safe.”

Which illustrates what is so problematic about passionate religiosity – it motivates people to cut ties with their own children for the sake of loyalty to a package of illusions. What could be more horrible?

It can be difficult to leave any religion, and those that do can face stigma and even threats of violence. But there is a growing movement, led by former Muslims, to recognise their existence. Last week, an Afghan man is believed to have become the first atheist to have received asylum in Britain on religious grounds. He was brought up as a Muslim but became an atheist, according to his lawyers, who said he would face persecution and possibly death if he returned to Afghanistan.

In more than a dozen countries people who espouse atheism or reject the official state religion of Islam can be executed under the law, according to a recent report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The Independent looks for dissenters, but it looks in the wrong place.

Some scholars point out that it is against the teachings of Islam to force anyone to stay within the faith. “The position of many a scholar I have discussed the issue with is if people want to leave, they can leave,” said Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “I don’t believe they should be discriminated against or harmed in any way whatsoever. There is no compulsion in religion.”

Why ask the MCB? Why not ask liberal Muslims instead?

Baroness Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith and Communities, agreed. “One of the things I’ve done is put freedom of religion and belief as top priority at the Foreign Office,” she said. “I’ve been vocal that it’s about the freedom to manifest your faith, practise your faith and change your faith. We couldn’t be any clearer. Mutual respect and tolerance are what is required for people to live alongside each other.”

Bullshit. Her top priority has been to demonize secularists.

Yet, even in Britain, where the freedom to change faiths is recognised, there is a growing number of people who choose to define themselves by the religion they left behind. The Ex-Muslim Forum, a group of former Muslims, was set up seven years ago. Then, about 15 people were involved; now they have more than 3,000 members around the world. Membership has reportedly doubled in the past two years. Another branch, the Ex-Muslims of North America, was launched last year.

Their increasing visibility is controversial. There are those who question why anyone needs to define themselves as an “ex-Muslim”; others accuse the group of having an  anti-Muslim agenda (a claim that the group denies).

Well, the reason is pretty obvious from everything that has gone before, including the Independent’s mindless resort to the Islamist MCB as an authority.

Maryam Namazie, a spokeswoman for the forum – which is affiliated with the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) – said: “The idea behind coming out in public is to show we exist and that we’re not going anywhere. A lot of people feel crazy [when they leave their faith]; they think they’re not normal. The forum is a place to meet like-minded people; to feel safe and secure.”

But then fair play to the Indy, it does let four exes along with Maryam have their say. Good.



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

Galloway adds his mite

Jan 18th, 2014 5:23 pm | By

George Galloway is getting in on the act.

galloGeorge Galloway @georgegalloway

No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Majid Nawaz, cuckold of the EDL

Cuckold!! Prurient, sexist, misogynist and illiberal all in one word. What a vile, disgusting man he is.


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

Still shouting

Jan 18th, 2014 4:51 pm | By

The threats directed at Maajid Nawaz on Twitter continue. It’s very dispiriting, seeing people devote so much energy and outrage at something so thoroughly

  • not a problem
  • not a source of real harm or suffering
  • not a big deal
  • not their business
  • not “forbidden” except in the minds of people who insist on sorting the world into Forbidden and Permitted
  • not even what they think it is, to wit, “a drawing of the prophet”

when the world is so packed to the rafters with real problems, real harm, real suffering.

In general I don’t like that argument – that “don’t talk about what you’re talking about, talk about something more important” – because it’s so often deployed to tell feminists to shut the fuck up and because we have to tackle ALL THE THINGS not just the very most important and because we’re allowed to do what we’re good at, what speaks to us, what we know something about, and the like.

But still. There are limits. There are spoiled entitled self-obsessed people who think their every annoyance is earth-shattering while some pesky famine across the world doesn’t get their attention. And there are fanatics determined to rage at trivia while ignoring tragedies.

The people raging at Nawaz are in the second category, and they’re a depressing example of humanity.

As for me, I’m kind of wishing I could make myself eligible to vote in Hampstead (I did live there once! is that any use?) so that I could vote for Nawaz.

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

Any depiction of the prophets

Jan 18th, 2014 12:15 pm | By

The British Muslims for Secular Democracy Facebook page is, sadly, infested with Muslims who are very much against secular democracy, who are constantly trolling the page.

One of them posted the link to a nasty article about “prominent members of the Muslim community” writing to Nick Clegg to tell him to dump Maajid Nawaz as a candidate because he tweeted that innocuous Jesus and Mo cartoon.

It’s a disgusting piece of work.

The campaign comes after Nawaz posted a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and Prophet Isa (as) on his Twitter feed. Any depiction of the prophets is considered offensive to most Muslims and has traditionally been prohibited by the majority of scholars.

Nawaz, who’s the chairman of the anti-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, defended his decision to post the cartoon by saying that it was not offensive and that scholars were split over the depiction of the Prophet. He also accused others of inciting his murder by calling him “a defamer of the Prophet.”

But Irfan Ahmed, who is an executive member of the Pendle Liberal Democrats, called on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem leadership to sack Maajid Nawaz as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC).

Ahmed has written to the leadership of the Lib Dems and says he has also had a leading Lib Dem agree with him that Maajid’s comments are “childish” and “impolite”.

Commenting, Irfan Ahmed said: “I call on Maajid to do the right thing and quit whilst he is ahead. He has already done enough damage to the Lib Dems, him sticking around is very damaging for the party. My call to Nick Clegg is clear, sack Maajid or lose voters and core campaigners up and down the country.

“I have been discussing this matter since Friday night with a high profile Lib Dem who agrees people who attack religions with cartoons and other jokes are impolite and childish. Lets hope Nawaz can get this into his skull. Clegg must choose, lose hundreds of supporters by keeping Nawaz or sack Nawaz and rescue the Lib Dems which would fizzle out because of people like Nawaz.”

Or to put it another way: bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully bully.

Meanwhile, Imam Shams Adduha of Ebrahim College said Muslims were very insulted by Nawaz’s actions.

He said: “Will it finally get through people’s (especially) the government’s head that Maajid and Quillium Foundation have nothing to do with Muslims and have zero credibility? Taking advice from a think tank whose founder and director insults us isn’t good for the government. Pretty stupid actually.

“It might also be a good idea for Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems to think twice about letting him stand for elections as a Lib Dem candidate. The thing about insults is, it’s not about whether you think something should insult, it about whether something does in fact insult. Cartoon caricatures of our Prophet do indeed insult us.”

Absolute bollocks. People like Nawaz and Tehmina Kazi (who set up the British Muslims for Secular Democracy page) are glowing testimonials to the possibility for people’s ability to be both Muslim and secular-and-reasonable.

Trolls on the Facebook page are calling Nawaz all sorts of names. They are not glowing testimonials to Islam.


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

Not permissible under any circumstance

Jan 18th, 2014 10:39 am | By

Sometimes they just twitch the curtain aside so that no one can fail to see that the whole point is to put men totally in charge of women so that no woman is allowed to say no to sex with her owner.

Like the president of the Maldives for instance.

Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has refused to ratify a bill that seeks to partially criminalize marital rape, calling it “un-Islamic.”

The parliament voted 67-2 last month to limit a husband’s right to have non-consensual sex with his wife. The bill says a husband cannot force his wife to have sex if the couple have filed for divorce, dissolution or mutual separation, and if the intent is to transmit a sexual disease.

That’s a very narrow law. I would have thought it was narrow enough to satisfy even the most conservative of theocrats. That’s a law that says it’s fine for a husband to rape his wife except only if the couple have filed for divorce, dissolution or mutual separation, and/or if the intent is to transmit a sexual disease. Any time it’s just a matter of he wants to fuck and she doesn’t, he’s totally allowed to force her to fuck.

And yet even that is “un-Islamic.”

Yameen vetoed the bill about a week after the vice president of the Maldives Fiqh Academy, Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, criticized its passage saying the Quran and the Sunnah, or the teachings of Islam, do not give a wife the authority to deny sex to her husband.

“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,” Latheef said.

Makes it brutally clear, doesn’t it. The husband is a person and the wife is a thing that the person owns. Islam doesn’t give her “the authority” to act like a person herself, so the husband is totally permitted to treat her like a thing.

At a victory rally following the presidential run-off vote last November, Yameen said his coalition had received a mandate “to save the Maldivian nation, to protect the sacred religion of Islam.”

The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago of about 330,000 people, claims to have a 100 percent Muslim population. Its constitution states that “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted.”

The sacred religion of Men In Charge, is what it is.


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

A volunteer at two charities for the homeless

Jan 18th, 2014 10:18 am | By

Today’s bit of crap news, or first bit of crap news.

A good guy has been killed in a suicide bomb attack at a restaurant in Kabul. The BBC reports:

Labour’s MEP candidate for the South East has been confirmed as among 21 people killed in a suicide bomb and gun attack in the Afghan capital Kabul.

Dhamender Singh Phangurha, 39, known as Del Singh, was killed in the attack at a restaurant in the city.

Born and raised in Southampton, he was a volunteer at two charities for the homeless and mentored job seekers.

Southampton Itchen Labour MP John Denham said: “Del was an inspirational man and simply one of the nicest people you could meet.

“Everything he did – delivering development aid in some of the world’s most dangerous places, running a charity marathon in the heat of Gaza, or representing the Labour Party – was driven by a passion to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Fellow Labour MEP candidate Anneliese Dodds said: “Del was a very generous, warm-hearted man who was passionate about ending injustice and unfairness.

“He always spoke about how he was proud to have started his working life alongside his mother on the shop floor of Mr Kipling’s cakes in Eastleigh.

“Del then worked extremely hard to obtain university qualifications and go on to a career in international development.”

Aldershot Labour councillor Keith Dibble tweeted: “Devastated to hear the terrible news of the tragic death of Del Singh. A good friend and colleague. Our thoughts are with his family.”

He added: “Del Singh [went] out campaigning with us in Aldershot last year in the county elections. Del we will miss you.”

What a god damn waste.



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

Hi how ya doin

Jan 17th, 2014 5:39 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz, LibDem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, whom you may have seen rocking the discussion on the Big Questions, is trying to persuade his fellow Muslims to learn to calm down about inoffensive cartoons like for example the one in which Jesus and Mo (of Jesus and Mo) say hi how ya doin.

He posted that one on his Facebook the other day, and got some indignant responses. He tweeted it earlier today, and got a flood of death threats.

happymurtad tweeted a drawing too.


Desis rightfully hurt by me drawing Gandhi in my notepad are now swearing vengeance and complaining to the UN.

Embedded image permalink

Then he followed it up with another.


The NAACP, who speak for all blacks, have just announced my apostasy from the Negro race for tweeting MLK sketch.

Embedded image permalink

I know which team I think is more fun.

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

Children 6-12 Years

Jan 17th, 2014 4:15 pm | By

Another way this Safecare Asthmacare product is likely to fool people who don’t realize it’s “homeopathic” or what “homeopathic” means. It’s the Details, which are helpfully provided on the Google page that appears if you Google the two words. (It’s sponsored. I’m helping Safecare market its “Asthmacare”…)

asthmaYou’d never know it was just a little bottle of water, would you.

But this is the really sneaky part.


Directions: Initially, depress pump until primed. Hold close to mouth and spray one dose directly into mouth. Adult Dose: 3 pump sprays 3 times per day (use additionally as needed, up to 6 times per day); Children 6-12 Years: 2 pump sprays 3 times per day (use additionally as needed, up to 6 times per day).

That. That ridiculous “up to 6 times per day,” as if there were such a thing as an overdose. That doctory-sounding bullshit about dose and times per day and as needed and up to, as if there were anything in it BESIDES WATER.

It’s sheer cargo cult. Wear the white coat, make passes in the air, push your spectacles up your nose with a medical forefinger, look solemn, list all the Lobelia and Quebracho, and pocket your $23 for a bottle of nothing.

A bottle of nothing for a respiratory condition that can kill.

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

Natural – safe – smart

Jan 17th, 2014 3:29 pm | By

Sure enough, it’s not just Target. I just checked my local Bartell’s, which is a big drugstore chain around here. I found the asthma section, which had only three items, two apparently medical and one also apparently medical unless you were actually looking for the homeopathic version. This is what it looks like:

Safecare AsthmaCare

If you’re not specifically looking for homeopathic bullshit, you’re likely to think that’s actual medicine for asthma. I wasn’t sure which it was at first. The banner saying “natural-safe-smart” and the bit about “no known negative side effects” seemed likely, but I had to turn it over to confirm that it’s “homeopathic.” People who don’t know better WILL THINK IT’S MEDICINE.

It’s horrifying.

It does include a warning, but then so does the version that apparently does contain some medicine. The warning doesn’t include saying for instance “this stuff doesn’t contain any active ingredient, it’s not medicine, it’s frankly just water.”

If you Google safecare asthmacare, as I just did, you get a bunch of places that sell it, including Walgreen’s and CVS. You can find its page at CVS, where it costs $22.99. (I think it was $16.99 at Bartell’s.) You get its blurbs.

Homeopathic. The smart medicine. For temporary relief of minor asthma symptoms: shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in chest. Natural, safe, smart. No known negative side effects. Not a rescue inhaler. A physician-based company established in 1989. 300 sprays per bottle. Approximately 100 adult doses. Taste-free, purified water base. No known negative side effects. No known negative drug interactions.

It’s fucking fraud, and it could easily kill people who are naïve or desperate enough to buy it thinking it really is medicine, just as it claims it is. This is asthma we’re talking about.

I talked to an employee about it. He said he would talk to his bosses in the pharmacy. (I gather he works in the pharmacy but isn’t himself a pharmacist.) I don’t suppose that will make any difference, but they should at least be made aware.

It’s far from being only Target. I wish it were only Target.

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

Putin to gays: you’re welcome here but hands off the kids

Jan 17th, 2014 12:51 pm | By

And that’s not a joke. That’s what he said. From the Washington Post:

President Vladimir Putin said Friday that gay people have nothing to fear in Russia as long as they leave children alone.

Putin met with a group of volunteers in the Olympic mountain venue at Krasnaya Polyana on Friday to wish them success at the Games. During a question-and-answer session, one volunteer asked him about Russia’s attitudes toward gays, a subject that has provoked worldwide controversy, and Putin offered what was apparently meant to be a reassuring answer for visitors to the Olympics.

“One can feel calm and at ease,” he said. “Just leave kids alone, please.”

That scummy piece of shit. What’s he got for the Jews? “Come on in. Just no killing kids for matzoh flour, thank you.”

News flash, Volodya: some straight men fail to “leave kids alone” – like Warren Jeffs for instance, like various Catholic bishops and priests for instance, like football coach Jerry Sandusky for instance.

In speaking to a room full of volunteers dressed in their Sochi warm-up gear, Putin attempted to put Russia on higher moral ground than other countries. Homosexuality is not a crime in Russia, as it was in the Soviet Union. Homosexuality was legalized in 1993. Police, he said, do not pluck gays off the street. In the United States, he asserted, some states impose criminal penalties for homosexual relations. Not Russia, he said. (In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that laws prohibiting gay sex were unconstitutional.)

Putin asserted that the idea of legalizing pedophilia has been discussed in some countries.

“There is nothing secret about it, look it up on the Internet and you’ll find it straightaway,” he said. “Parties have raised the issue with certain parliaments. So what, are we supposed to shuffle behind them like obedient dogs toward unknown consequences? We have our own traditions, our own culture, we treat all our partners with respect and ask for our traditions and our culture to be treated with respect as well.”

Ah yes the respect for traditions and cultures defense. You want us to respect your personal culture of homophobia, Mr Putin? Not going to happen.



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

Imagine if he’d portrayed him as coffee and a croissant

Jan 17th, 2014 12:04 pm | By

Remember the Greek guy who mocked a Greek Orthodox monk by pretending to call him a pasta dish? And was charged with blasphemy? Well he’s been convicted of that stupid non-crime, and sentenced to ten months in prison.

A man who created a Facebook page poking fun at a revered Greek Orthodox monk has been sentenced to 10 months in prison in Greece after being found guilty of blasphemy.

Thousands of Greeks took to social networking sites to protest against the arrest in 2012 of Filippos Loizos, 28, who used a play on words to portray Father Paisios as a traditional pasta-based dish.

“He was merely satirising in a country that gave birth to satire,” his lawyer, Yorgos Kleftodimos, said on Friday.

Aristophanes ring a bell? Loukian of Samosata? (Ok he was Assyrian but he wrote in Greek, and that amounts to being Greek.)

The charges against him, of insulting religion and malicious blasphemy, were filed after Christos Pappas, a politician from the far-right Golden Dawn party, brought the issue before parliament. Pappas is currently detained pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal group, as part of a government crackdown on Golden Dawn.

I wish Euripides were around right now.

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

Flora Jessop

Jan 17th, 2014 11:22 am | By

Almost exactly a year ago ABC News reported that Flora Jessop had managed to rescue her sister Ruby and Ruby’s six children from Colorado City and the FLDS. The linked report is annoying because it autoplays, but it’s worth it for the content.

It’s all there, just as it is in the Learning Channel episode, right down to the intimidation by theocops in grey SUVs.

Flora Jessop had been trying to get Ruby Jessop out for twelve years. The Arizona Attorney General stands in front of the cameras and says that women are held hostage by the FLDS.

If you have a copy of Under the Banner of Heaven handy, check out pp 49-50. Krakauer describes the nightmare situation of Ruby Jessop and Flora Jessop’s attempts to rescue her. The publication date on the book is 2003. Two thousand fucking three – eleven years ago.

The way Krakauer segues into Ruby’s case is via Elizabeth Smart, and his point is that both of them were kidnapped and imprisoned by a Mormon Fundamentalist man.

Jessop in extremely relieved that Elizabeth Smart was discovered alive and thinks the outpouring of support Elizabeth has received is wonderful. But in Jessop’s view it underscores the disturbing absence of support for another young victim of polygamy – her sister, Ruby Jessop – whose predicament she first brought to the attention of government officials more than a year before Elizabeth was abducted.

Ruby was fourteen years old when she was observed innocently kissing a boy she fancied in Colorado City, For this unforgivable sin she was immediately forced to marry an older member of her extended family, whom she despised, in a fundamentalist ceremony presided over by Warren Jeffs. Like Elizabeth, Ruby was raped immediately after the wedding ceremony – so brutally that she spent her “wedding night” hemorrhaging copious amounts of blood. [Under the Banner of Heaven pp 49-50]

And there she was held, against her will, for twelve years.

From the ABC report:

Until recently, Flora Jessop said she didn’t know if she would ever see her sister again.

Ruby Jessop was forced into an arranged marriage with her step-brother when she was 14 years old, according to her sister and the Arizona attorney general.

“Twelve years ago, I got a call from my sister who has 14 years old and had been placed in an arranged marriage,” Flora Jessop told “She had managed to get away and I gave her a promise that I would do everything I could to keep her safe. Then, before I could get to her and get her help, she disappeared and was taken back into the group.”

Jessop, now 26, managed to flee from a radical faction of the Mormon church called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as FLDS, earlier this month. She was then able to gain temporary custody of her six children, who range from 2 to 10 years old.

Our own little Taliban.

The attorney general’s office has not provided details on how Jessop escaped or got temporary custody of her children, but said the escape was aided by $420,000 Horne made available. He said the money went towards more deputies working in Colorado City, an FLDS stronghold. The deputies were “instrumental” in helping Jessop and her children leave safely, Horne said.

Horne emphasized the need for more funding at a news conference, saying that the current funds will run out in six months.

That partially answers the questions we were asking the other day about why Flora Jessop has to do all this rescue work on her own.

“Ruby is one of thousands that have been trapped and abused and held under the regime of Warren Jeffs and she is just so happy to be out and her children are excited and able to go to a school for the first time,” Flora Jessop said. “To watch them play with toys and learn to become children has just been amazing.”

That’s not Afghanistan, it’s not Somalia, it’s not the Swat Valley. It’s Arizona, USA.


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

Central African Republic

Jan 16th, 2014 6:22 pm | By

It’s not good news.

A UN humanitarian official has warned against the risk of genocide in Central African Republic, where an ethnic conflict has caused over 1,000 deaths and left thousands uprooted.

“It has all the elements that we have seen elsewhere, in places like Rwanda and Bosnia. The elements are there, the seeds are there, for a genocide. There’s no question about that,” John Ging, director of operations for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told a news conference in Geneva.

Ging described the situation in CAR as a “mega-crisis” where humanitarian needs are urged for thousands of displaced people.

The two groups that hate each other are Muslims and Christians.

Whatever. Serbs and Bosnians; Hutus and Tutsis; Hindus and Muslims; Thises and Thatses.



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

Backing away

Jan 16th, 2014 5:40 pm | By

From September 2008, a New York Times editorial on libel tourism and Khalid bin Mahfouz’s lawsuit against Rachel Ehrenfeld.

When Rachel Ehrenfeld wrote “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It,” she assumed she would be protected by the First Amendment. She was, in the United States. But a wealthy Saudi businessman she accused in the book of being a funder of terrorism, Khalid bin Mahfouz, sued in Britain, where the libel laws are heavily weighted against journalists, and won a sizable amount of money.

The lawsuit is a case of what legal experts are calling “libel tourism.” Ms. Ehrenfeld is an American, and “Funding Evil” was never published in Britain. But at least 23 copies of the book were sold online, opening the door for the lawsuit. When Ms. Ehrenfeld decided not to defend the suit in Britain, Mr. bin Mahfouz won a default judgment and is now free to sue to collect in the United States.

And guess what that does. It makes other writers very cautious.

Most writers, particularly those who concern themselves with arcane subjects like terrorism financing, are not wealthy. The prospect of a deep-pocketed plaintiff coming after them in court can be frightening. Even if the lawsuit fails, the cost and effort involved in defending against it can be considerable.

The result is what lawyers call a “chilling effect” — authors and publishers may avoid taking on some subjects, or challenging powerful interests. That has already been happening in Britain. Craig Unger’s “House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties” was a best seller in the United States. But its British publisher canceled plans to publish the book, reportedly out of fear of being sued. (A smaller publisher later released it.)

Ms. Ehrenfeld says that even in the United States, writers and publishers have been backing away from books about terrorism financing — particularly about the Saudi connection — out of fear of being sued. It is hard to know if other books are not being written out of fear of lawsuits — that is the essence of the chilling effect.

Interesting, isn’t it, given that Saudi Arabia already gets Special Treatment because of that sticky black liquid they have so much of and because of their putative help in the world’s quarrel with jihadists. Combine that with fear of lawsuits and you get an untouchable theocracy that is hellish for women and foreign workers.

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

All of the Shaykh’s demands

Jan 16th, 2014 1:00 pm | By

Because it came up, I thought I might as well take a look back at those grotesque libel cases from the recent past.

One is the suit against Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World (Cambridge University Press, 2006), by J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins. Collins wrote it up at History News Network.

On April 3, 2007 Kevin Taylor, Intellectual Property Manager for the Cambridge University Press (CUP), contacted Millard Burr and myself that the solicitors for Shaykh Khalid bin Mahfouz, Kendall Freeman, had informed CUP of eleven “allegations of defamation” in our book Alms for Jihad: Charities and Terrorism in the Islamic World and requested a response. 

They sent a response, seventeen pages worth, but CUP considered it not good enough and caved completely.

On May 9, 2007 CUP agreed to virtually all of the Shaykh’s demands to stop sale of the book, destroy all “existing copies,” prepare a letter of apology, and make a “payment to charity” for damages and contribute to legal costs. After further negotiations the press also agreed, on June 20, 2007, to request 280 libraries around the world to withdraw the book or insert an erratum slip. During these three months of negotiations Millard and I had naively assumed that, as authors, we were automatically a party to any settlement but were now informed we “are out of jurisdiction” so that CUP had to ask “whether or not they [the authors] wish to join in any settlement with your client [Mahfouz].” On 30 July 2007 Mr. Justice Eady in the London High Court accepted the abject surrender of CUP which promptly pulped 2,340 existing copies of Alms for Jihad, sent letters to the relevant libraries to do the same or insert an errata sheet, issued a public apology, and paid costs and damages.

And according to Collins they did that not because the case had merit but because it would be too difficult and expensive to fight it in the English courts.

Millard Burr and I had adamantly refused to be a party to the humiliating capitulation by CUP and were not about to renounce what we had written. Alms for Jihad had been meticulously researched, our interpretations judicious, our conclusions made in good faith on the available evidence. It is a very detailed analysis of the global reach of Islamic, mostly Saudi, charities to support the spread of fundamental Islam and the Islamist state by any means necessary. When writing Alms for Jihad we identified specific persons, methods, money, how it was laundered, and for what purpose substantiated by over 1,000 references. I had previously warned the editor at CUP, Marigold Acland, that some of this material could prove contentious, and in March 2005 legal advisers for CUP spent a month vetting the book before going into production and finally its publication in March 2006. We were careful when writing Alms for Jihad not to state explicitly that Shaykh Mahfouz was funding terrorism but the overwhelming real and circumstantial evidence presented implicitly could lead the reader to no other conclusion.

So that’s that bit of history, only seven years ago.

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

In the lab, studying screenplays

Jan 16th, 2014 12:18 pm | By

Ashley Miller is getting legal threats, from someone who says “From this point forward our attorney will be the only contact” and then promptly sends another email. The threats look very empty, but to be polite I will be careful not to cast aspersions on the enterprise in question. I won’t make any effort not to laugh, though.

The enterprise in question is called Cinematic Appraisals. I’d never heard of it before and now I have, so I hope they’re thanking Ashley for the free advertising.

Cinematic Appraisals has Science. It has a page about the Science, complete with a photo of Science In Action.

Cinematic Appraisals’ patent-pending Mind Science Method is based on neuroscientific research conducted over the last 40 years. The Mind Science Method measures neurobiological triggers and reactions, assigning a proven value for each level.

It’s long been known that moviegoers psychologically fall into a state of “suspended disbelief” when watching stories play out on film, which is just the beginning of what goes on in the psyche and the body during film watching. Viewers’ physiological responses also fluctuate depending upon their level of involvement with the story and action. While watching something highly stimulating, the human body releases a host of limbic chemical responses. The dose of chemicals released is proportionate to the level of emotional stimuli, creating lasting emotions.

In other words, when the protagonist runs, the connected viewer’s heart rate will increase. When the protagonist holds his breath, so does the connected viewer. This state has been compared to the state of partial hypnosis—a state normally only achieved when dreaming.

The Mind Science Method gauges this degree of connection with the material using our unique patented neurobiological algorithms. This allows the producer to tell when the screenplay produces this hypnotic-like state—and when it does not. This allows a producer to reverse-engineer the screenplay to create one audiences will love, before going through the expense of production.

They should branch out and do that with everything – poetry, novels, paintings, sculpture, ballet, hockey – everything.

More free advertising.

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

Guest post: libel threats in Ireland

Jan 16th, 2014 11:10 am | By

Originally a comment by mudpuddles on You can’t say that?

There have been a number of cases here in Ireland where politicians and other high-profile people (high-profile here, not necessarily anywhere else) have successfully sued individual broadcasters and / or their programmes or hosting company (which has in the past included RTE) over allegedly libelous or defamatory statements or programme content. A number of those cases have been valid, but some have been nothing short of bullying tactics aimed at silencing dissent or criticism. Most have succeeded. In one famous case from 4 or 5 years ago, the then-Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) threatened legal action after an art gallery hung two paintings depicting a caricature of him in a state of undress (in kind of a “the emperor has no clothes” concept). The art was removed. What’s worse, he also threatened legal action against RTE which included a piece about the art in its news programmes. Bizarrely, RTE issued an on-air apology to him on the news the following day.

As a result, there is an utterly ridiculous terror of libel, and way over the top efforts by RTE and other media (notably Today FM and the RTE radio outlets) to backpeddle and apologise profusely whenever any guest or interviewee says anything which might, at even the wildest stretch of the imagination, be considered to leave an opening for a lawsuit. It matters not whether any statement is backed up by rock solid evidence (such as is the case with the writings of John Waters, a disgusting bigot, and with the public statements and actions of the Iona Institute).

So RTE censoring a recorded interview, which has already gone out live, is not a shock. Its just indicative of the broader problem of cowardice and complacency within the media here, and a symptom of the cosy relationship that journalists and media organisations like to foster with the powers that be.

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

Oh no not again

Jan 16th, 2014 10:41 am | By

I saw someone on Twitter complaining about feminists complaining about Peta and its use of the female body yet again so I decided to be one of those feminists complaining about Peta and its use of the female body yet again. So I looked it up: what is it this time?

This time it’s women wearing bikinis made of lettuce (actually made of cloth but with lettuce or cabbage stuck onto the cloth). It’s women wearing lettuce bikinis in Minneapolis during the polar vortex.

So there you go: I’m complaining about it.

If you type “peta women lettuce” into Google images you get an astonishing quantity of images.

If you type “peta women” into Google images you also get an astonishing quantity of images.

Women as things to be deployed for advertising purposes. Yeah. It wasn’t cute when Madison Avenue did it and it’s not cute now. It’s not made cute by “irony” or “transgression” or hipster misogyny or any of the rest of the bullshit.

Yet again.


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