Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

The non-skeptical “Skeptiko”

Feb 15th, 2012 9:55 am | By

Ah, this brings back memories – Jerry Coyne did an interview with Alex Tsakiris of “Skeptiko”- which is “Skeptiko,” please note, not “Skeptico.” There’s a difference. I didn’t know that in September 2010, which is why I accepted Tsakiris’s invitation to do an interview.

It was a complete dog’s breakfast. The guy’s an asshole. He’s not a skeptic at all, and the name is pretty obviously meant to trap people in just the way that several people – including me – have been trapped. He’s a woo-meister. He didn’t tip his hand for the first few minutes, so we had an amicable conversation for that long, but then he did, and we hit a brick wall.

He bullshitted Jerry Coyne, too.

When I first agreed to the interview, I was told we’d talk mainly about my book and about evolutionary biology.  Several readers acquainted with the show warned me that Alex was a woo-meister who was into things like parapsychology and near-death experiences. Forewarned, I emailed Alex and he verified that we would indeed talk about evolution with perhaps a bit of discussion on the side about free will. He told me I wasn’t going to be “sandbagged.” LOL!

Quite. He’ll tell you anything. He’s an asshole.

Here’s a bit of the one I did:

Alex Tsakiris: [Robert Price] was on the show a couple episodes back. A very, very smart guy, funny guy, entertaining guy. Very competent New Testament scholar and also an Atheist. But the kind of dirty little secret, if you really read, is from a historical perspective we have to accommodate the idea that these visions, these kinds of experiences, these kinds of miracles, are well attested historically. Now, they’re not well attested in the way that Christians might want to fit them in, or they’d want to take this one and leave those ones out.

But from a historical perspective, even historians who are Atheistic agree that from the normal means that we have for looking at history-analogy, and how well the accounts are corroborated by different sources–we’ve got a lot of miracles there that we have to deal with. And this idea of…

Ophelia Benson: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Historians agree to that?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, the New Testament scholars like Bob Price and people of that ilk and I’d imagine other folks who you’d-I mean, this is really what you find from the Jesus Project if you really read what they’re saying…

But what they say is probably true is that these different people had an encounter with someone who is dead. In this case, it was Jesus. They had some kind of experience that they thought was very real, with someone who died. So that has to be incorporated in and yet it’s kind of glossed over depending on which side. Glossed over if you’re of that ilk and you want to see things that way.

Ophelia Benson: Yes, it doesn’t seem glossed over to me. It’s more a matter of saying that having an experience that you think is X is not the same thing as actually having the experience of X.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, maybe.

Ophelia Benson: But the people who saw Jesus could have been hallucinating it. Plus, the record differs in different accounts. None of them are historical accounts as properly-as normally understood.

Alex Tsakiris: Now, there’s a couple different things to tease out there. Yeah, there’s differences. Yeah, there’s contradictions. But this is a pretty well-for that much of ancient history, we have pretty good records. We have pretty good testimony on the different accounts in terms of what historians would normally piece together. And…

Ophelia Benson: I’m not sure that’s right. The way I understand it is that Mark is the earliest one and Mark doesn’t say anything about a vision. And the other stuff came after that and was a development of it. So it was basically confabulation. It was storytelling.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, I’m going to cut it off again here because on this show we haven’t talked too much about this New Testament scholarship stuff and it can get really geeky and really detailed.

So he simply edited out part of the interview. He edited out quite a lot of it, in fact, and substituted his own after-the-fact commentary.

The guy’s an asshole.

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

Less mealy-mouthed about their beliefs

Feb 15th, 2012 7:28 am | By

Now I’ve seen everything – now that I’ve seen an editorial in the Telegraph saying how swell Islam is compared to those other timid religions that won’t stand up for themselves.

It’s another Warsi-flatter, saying how right she is to order everyone to be intrusively religious and to go urge the pope to be more intrusively religious along with her.

It is unsurprising that it has taken a Muslim member of the Cabinet to speak out clearly and forcefully on the importance of faith in the life of the nation; followers of Islam tend to be less mealy-mouthed about their beliefs than many Christians.

Why yes, yes they do. Some are so much less mealy-mouthed that they threaten cartoonists and novelists with death for failing to submit to their god and their prophet. Some actually try to do the killing themselves. Some actually succeed. Countries governed by “followers of Islam” are all nasty authoritarian places at best, vicious theocracies at worst. Is that really what the Telegraph is admiring and promoting?

 …politically correct fawning by public bodies over the sensitivities of other faiths has left many Christians feeling inhibited about asserting and celebrating their own beliefs. It has also left many wondering exactly when it was that Britain stopped being a Christian country. Combine that with the aggressive intolerance of the militant secularists, and it is little wonder that the Church of England frequently feels beleaguered.

Diddums. It “feels beleaguered” while it has bishops in the House of Lords and quite a lot of air time on the BBC. It doesn’t get to shove people off the sidewalk the way it used to, but it has hardly lost all of its very real power.

Last week, we had the perfect illustration of this baleful process, when the National Secular Society succeeded in a High Court attempt to prevent Bideford Town Council doing something it had done for centuries – holding a short prayer service at the start of its meetings. The atheist former councillor who pressed the case argued that the council had no right to “impose” its religious views on him, conveniently ignoring the fact that no one had forced him to attend the prayers, and failing totally to see that it was he who was seeking to impose his views on others, not the other way round.

That atheist former councillor is “an evil little thing,” isn’t he. Theocracy speaks the same language everywhere. No one “forced” him to attend the prayers but it’s awkward and inconvenient to opt out. That’s how majoritarian bullying works. The Telegraph’s approval of majoritarian bullying is a squalid spectacle.

Such instincts, Baroness Warsi notes, are “deeply intolerant”, and have historically been the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Her warning that the removal of faith from the public sphere is dangerous is, therefore, both timely and right, and all credit to her for sounding it. It is high time that many of our religious leaders were similarly assertive, and stopped seeming so apologetic about their faith.

Totalitarian regimes is it? You mean like Franco’s Spain? Like Saudi Arabia? Like Iran? For that matter, like Elizabethan Britain?

Does the Telegraph really want that? If it doesn’t, what the hell is it playing at?


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

Sahara TV on Helen Ukpabio

Feb 14th, 2012 5:32 pm | By

Sahara TV talks to Pastor Godwin Umotong of Liberty Gospel Church in Houston about the “deliverance” mission of Helen Ukpabio.

Where are the mermaids, by the way? Are they in the Gulf of Mexico?

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

Valerie Tarico on Plan B and motivated beliefs

Feb 14th, 2012 5:10 pm | By

Remember the caring sensitive Mummy whose disabled daughter was raped and who decided not to let her have Plan B? Because “It’s about taking the life of an innocent child”?

Well Valerie Tarico has an excellent post on The Big Lie about Plan B.

Plan B doesn’t cause abortion. It stops or delays ovulation. No egg, no fertilization, no pregnancy – no abortion. It’s that simple.

Well then why did the caring sensitive Mummy say it did? Why did she get all maudlin about the innocent child whose life had to not be taken?

So why does the Religious Right keep telling us that post-coital contraceptives function by aborting teeny babies? Because in the minds of many true believers, when you’re on a mission from God the end justifies the means. That’s one reason religious belief has such inconsistent moral consequences, including wildly inconsistent effects on truth seeking and truth telling. Chris Rodda’s book, Liars for Jesus, focuses primarily on the way that Christian fundamentalists are rewriting history to justify theocracy. Katherine Stewart’s book, The Good News Club, sheds light on the deceptions fundamentalists use to woo grade school children for conversion. A NARAL investigation exposed a host of deceptions that are the stock in trade of Crisis Pregnancy Centers including the falsehood that abortions causing breast cancer. Different lies for different ends.

Not that they necessarily know they’re lies, Tarico adds. Self-deception is a powerful thing.

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

The Women’s Ministry should exist to improve the lives of women

Feb 14th, 2012 11:37 am | By

Houzan Mahmoud will soon have a statement on Iraq’s Women’s Minister Ibtihal Kasid Alzaidi, who thinks and says that women are not equal to men. Not a good thing for a Women’s Minister to think.

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

More than one valence

Feb 14th, 2012 11:16 am | By

Something I’m ambivalent about:

On the one hand, there’s the value of being reasonable, and trying to see all sides of a question. There’s the value of not getting things wrong by being too one-sided; by confirmation bias; by seeing everything the way you see everything and so becoming blind to other ways of seeing everything. That’s different from the more political value of giving everybody a fair hearing, and letting people pursue the good in their own way as far as is compatible with the rights of others. The value I mean is epistemic and cognitive.

On the other hand there’s the value of countering a very loud, dominant, hegemonic, majoritarian, conformist brand of conventional wisdom.

Those two things are in tension. Hence my ambivalence.

On the one hand, as an atheist I think I have a duty to try to consider ways in which theism can be a good thing. On the other hand, as an atheist I also think I have a duty to help spread the minority view that theism is on the whole a bad thing, especially with regard to free inquiry.

Those two things are in tension.

The trouble is, there are already whole trainloads of people willing and eager to say that theism is wonderful and atheists suck. There are whole trainloads of people like that even in the UK and Australia and Canada and other places lucky enough to be more secular than the US, but in the US they also have a firm grip on the mainstream.

Given that fact I think we need a lot of unadulterated atheism just to make atheism more available. From that point of view, I actually don’t want to talk about ways in which theism can be a good thing. I want to insist that conventional wisdom notwithstanding, it isn’t.

But there’s always the nagging little voice in my ear droning away about confirmation bias and group psychology.

It’s a pain in the ass.

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

Lawyers for Liberty are pissed

Feb 13th, 2012 5:53 pm | By

At Malaysia’s Home Minister, for one.

Lawyers for Liberty is simply astonished and outraged at Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein and PDRM’s continuing attempt to spin further lies and deceit over the illegal and unconstitutional detention and deportation of Hamza Kashgari by now alleging or insinuating that he is a “criminal” or “terrorist” wanted by his home country.

The truth is Hamza had sent a few tweets on the Prophet Muhammad which he has since deleted and apologized. It must be noted a similar poem on the prophet was published on his blog a year ago but did not receive any negative reaction from anybody. More importantly, he belongs to a group of emerging young pro-democracy activists which among others had supported the Arab Spring. Just days before he fled Saudi Arabia, the police stopped him and his group of young activists from organizing a series of forums to show solidarity with the Syrian uprising. He has also been said to have been monitored by the Saudi Intelligence more than 8 months ago.

The cold hard truth is that Malaysia has bent over backwards to please Saudi Arabia, breached international law by not allowing Hamza to seek asylum and instead handed him on a silver platter to his persecutors and condemned him to torture and near certain death.

Keep the pressure on. Make it hot for them.


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

Roberto Malini: Poetry Before the Law

Feb 13th, 2012 4:59 pm | By

Roberto Malini, co-president of EveryOne Group, an NGO supporting Roma people and refugees, left a poem he wrote for Hamza Kashgari in a comment. I want it to be more visible than that, so here it is again.

Poetry Before the Law

on the deportation of the poet Hamza Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia

Spare the poet, O Law,

for his soul expands

beyond the sources of reason,

as far as truth.

Spare the poet, O Death,

for his heart is the brother of a quasar

that ignites the Universe.

Spare the poet, O Faith,

for his song rises like the Sun

and reawakens the eternal in stone.

Roberto Malini (English translation by Glenys Robinson)

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

Warsi stands with pope in fighting for faith

Feb 13th, 2012 4:11 pm | By

Oh vomit. Sayeeda Warsi is off to visit the pope, and by way of preparation she and the Telegraph unite in telling us all that we need more religion and less “militant secularism.” Warsi says it in her own article, and the political editor says it all over again in an article about her article. Why two articles where one would do? I have no idea.

First Warsi’s bullying theocratic shit, under the sinister threatening headline We stand side by side with the Pope in fighting for faith:

Today I have the honour of leading the largest ministerial delegation from the United Kingdom to the Vatican – our reciprocal visit following the momentous State Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.

We will be celebrating the decision Margaret Thatcher took 30 years ago to restore full diplomatic relations between our countries. The relationship between the UK and the Holy See is our oldest diplomatic relationship, first established in 1479.

Yes well in 1479 secularism wasn’t an option. It is now. The “Holy See” isn’t a real country; it’s a clerisy; there is something badly wrong with the whole idea of having “diplomatic relations” with a small group of Catholic priests who believe themselves to have the right and the duty to boss all Catholics in the world and everyone else in the world along with them.

For a number of years I have been saying that we need to have a better understanding of faith in our country. Why? Because   I profoundly believe that faith has a vital and important role to play in modern society. But mistakenly, faith has been neglected, undermined – and   yes, even attacked – by governments in recent years…

I will be arguing that to create a more just society, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds. In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages.

Really. Stronger than the people who bully and threaten random strangers who make jokes or ask questions about their religions? More confident than the people who demand that people be executed for asking questions about a religion?

What she says is wrong and morally bad. People need to stop saying things like that. Religious bullies need to stop bullying the rest of us.

My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; when states won’t fund faith schools; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere.

But the UK does fund “faith schools”; there are bishops in the House of Lords; religion is not nearly “sidelined,” meaning kept private, as it should be.

When we look at the deep distrust between some communities today, there is no doubt that faith has a key role to play in bridging these divides.

Right after it gets through with creating and widening them.

That’s some emetic stuff.

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

Interpol as theocracies’ little helper

Feb 13th, 2012 11:18 am | By

Interpol has said it had nothing to do with the extradition of Hamza Kashgari, but Dennis McShane MP apparently didn’t get the memo – or got the memo and didn’t believe it.

The charge of apostasy was maintained, his home was attacked and, again, sensibly enough, Kashgari decided it was time to leave Saudi Arabia. The response of the Saudis was to approach Interpol and ask them to issue an international search and arrest warrant.

Interpol is meant to be tackle serious crime, not act as the little helper for régimes that want to kill journalists.

Maryam too finds the memo not entirely convincing:

If it says so – though I am skeptical especially since its has done this before.

In 2009, a number of us wrote to its office complaining about Iranian opposition leaders being included on its wanted list at the request of the Islamic regime of Iran!

McShane has suggestions:

Pressure is important. This time last year the Egyptian military police arrested an Egyptian blogger. Maikel Nabil. He was jubilant about the fall of Mubarak but as he saw the increasing role of the military he criticised the soldiers. A military tribunal sentenced him to three years in prison but an effective international campaign got under way and on Saturday I got a letter from the Egyptian ambassador announcing that Nabil has been freed and pardoned.

So once again it is time to write to the Saudi Ambassador, and to William Hague so that our Ambassador in Riyadh can make protest. The Commonwealth Secretary General should get involved to as it is to Malaysia’s shame that they send this harmless young man to the possibility of a dusty public square and the executioner’s sword. The Home Secretary too should ask why Interpol is acting as an agent for the most blood-thirsty and cruel of régimes. Might Twitter pay for his legal defence. And when of our Royals takes tea with one of their Royals perhaps a few whispered words might be muttered about why in the 21st century Royals — Muslim, Christian, whatever —  should not chop off heads because of a tweet.

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

Known for his reformist views

Feb 13th, 2012 10:50 am | By

PEN International on Kashgari.

PEN demands his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also calls upon the Saudi authorities to provide him with immediate and effective protection.

According to PEN’s information, Kashgari, a 23-year-old writer from Jeddah, tweeted a series of messages addressed to the Prophet Mohammed on the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth on 4 February 2012, some of which conveyed questions about his faith. Twitter registered more than 30,000 responses to his tweets, many of which accused him of blasphemy and called for his death. On 5 February 2012 Nasser al-Omar, an influential cleric, called for Kashgari to be tried in a Sharia court for apostasy, which is punishable by death, and the Saudi King Abdullah called for his arrest, vowing to seek extradition if Kashgari left the country. On 6 February Kashgari issued an apology and deleted his feed, but to no avail. Someone posted his home address in a YouTube video, and people searched for him at his local mosque. On 7 February 2012, Kashgari fled to Malaysia. He was arrested two days later in Kuala Lumpur on 9 February as he was trying to continue his journey to New Zealand, where he planned to request asylum. He was deported to Saudi Arabia on 12 February 2012.

Note especially that King Abdullah called for his arrest and swore to seek extradition if he escaped the country. “Reformist” King Abdullah.

It’s a great pity that Kashgari didn’t get a flight directly to New Zealand or at least to some secular country. It’s a great pity that he went first to Malaysia. I wonder if he had to for some reason – perhaps because he would have needed a visa for other countries.

Kashgari is a poet and former columnist with the daily newspaper Al Bilad, and he is known for his reformist views. On 7 February 2012 Al-Bilad issued statement saying that they had fired Kashgari five weeks earlier “because of the inadequacy of his general views for the approach of the newspaper.”

Yes because we can’t be having reformist views. All reform was accomplished by the prophet, so anything done after that is anti-the prophet and blasphemous and evil. Stasis is the only way to go.

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

Those who are wanted by their countries of origin

Feb 13th, 2012 9:27 am | By

Malaysia today is defending its extradition of Hamza Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia where he could easily be executed for saying he has questions about Mohammed.

International rights groups have slammed the deportation but Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia was not a safe haven for fugitives.

Jiddah-based newspaper columnist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained Thursday at the Malaysian airport while in transit to New Zealand. He was deported Sunday despite fears from rights groups that he may face the death penalty if charged with blasphemy over remarks he tweeted that many considered offensive.

“I will not allow Malaysia to be seen as a safe country for terrorists and those who are wanted by their countries of origin, and also be seen as a transit county,” Hishammuddin said.

“Those who are wanted by their countries of origin” is it. What if they are ”wanted” by their countries of origin for being gay? For being critical of their government? For leaving the religion of their parents? For marrying without the permission of their parents? For not wearing the hijab? For using an electrical switch on “the sabbath”? For laughing at the wrong moment? For not bowing low enough?

Is there any reason too stupid, too vicious, too trivial, for a country to “want” people and Malaysia to obey that “want”?

Probably not, given the profound triviality and viciousness and stupidity of Saudi Arabia’s reasons for “wanting” Kashgari.

He said the deportation followed a request from the Saudi government. Allegations that Kashgari could be tortured and killed if he was sent back home are “ridiculous” because Saudi Arabia is a respectable country, he said.

Oh is it. Is it really. Tell that to foreign domestic workers there. Tell it to people executed for “adultery.” Tell it to women arrested for driving cars. Tell it to convicts sentenced to having their hands and feet amputated. Tell it to everyone who has been hassled by the Mutawwa’in.

Local rights group Lawyers for Liberty said Kashgari arrived in Malaysia on Feb. 7 from Jordan and was leaving the country two days later to New Zealand to seek asylum when he was detained.

“The cold hard truth is that Malaysia has bent over backwards to please Saudi Arabia, breached international law by not allowing (Kashgari) to seek asylum and instead handed him on a silver platter to his persecutors,” it said.

For shame, Malaysia.

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

Moderation and tolerance

Feb 12th, 2012 6:18 pm | By

Someone called Daisy Khan* had a really fatuous piece at Comment is Free on Thursday about “Islamophobia” in the US.

She started by making the issue entirely one of terrorist violence. There isn’t much, she said. Therefore, no issue.

But terrorist violence is not the only issue. It’s much more complicated than that. There is also the issue of women’s rights, and the issue of gay rights, and the matter of apostasy, and then there’s blasphemy. You’d never know any of that mattered from reading Daisy Khan.

Our allies in the interfaith and civil rights communities are working to counteract the fabricated opposition to Islam that is gaining strength in America today.

To counteract opposition to Islam? Really? We’re not allowed to oppose Islam? At the beginning of the piece, Khan talked about demonization of Muslims, which is another matter – but here at the end the problem becomes opposition to Islam. Opposition to Islam is itself a civil right, and one that millions of people around the world don’t have – like Hamza Kashgari for example. (He doesn’t even have the right to make a questioning comment about Mo, let alone oppose Islam.)

We are allowed to oppose Islam, and there are reasons to oppose it. What happened to Hamza Kashgari today is one such reason: one “Muslim country” summarily extradited him to another “Muslim country” which he had fled to escape being executed for “blasphemy.”

You’d never think that kind of thing was possible from reading Daisy Khan.

We know that the bulk of the American public recognises the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance.

The what? The truth of what? The truth of Islamic what?

If there is a truth that Islam is noteworthy for moderation and tolerance, then why the fuck did Malaysia extradite Hamza Kashgari to Saudi Arabia under arrest for “blasphemy” for saying he questioned Mohammed in some things? What, exactly, does that have to do with moderation and tolerance? How dare Daisy Khan talk about “the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance”?

H/t Eric.

*By which I meant only that I didn’t know who she is, and possibly should have. I meant it as a sort of signal not to expect me to know who she is…probably in case I made any stupid assumptions about her.

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

Free Hamza Kashgari

Feb 12th, 2012 5:41 pm | By

You know the drill – same old same old. Join this Facebook group. You know the media report it when causes get big support on Facebook, so join. I added a few people, because you can’t just invite any more – but I’m shy about adding because it seems so presumptuous, so if I neglected to add you, add yourself. And all your friends. Don’t be shy!

And sign the petition.

And say harsh things about Malaysia as well as Saudi Arabia.

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

At Maryam’s place

Feb 12th, 2012 12:53 pm | By

Maryam’s post on the Free Expression Rally is up.

So is her post on Malaysia’s outrageous deportation of Hamza Kashgari.

Malaysia’s home ministry has said that ‘The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities’. Which basically means that any asylum seeker or refugee must be returned as it is a case for the government in question!?

Maryam is kept very busy by all these attacks on our right to say what we think.

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

Malaysia extradites Kashgari

Feb 12th, 2012 12:18 pm | By

Malaysia has deported Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia.

Police confirmed to the BBC that Hamza Kashgari was sent back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday despite protests from human rights groups.

Mr Kashgari’s controversial tweet last week sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats.

That’s the BBC doing it again – his tweet “sparked” more than 30,000 calls for him to be executed (or “responses” as the BBC put it). It’s just a little bit his fault for being controversial. Just ever so slightly.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Slightly random, since Kashgari didn’t actually “insult” Mo. But the BBC wants to make sure everyone realizes it blames Kashgari just a little.

Mr Kashgari apologised and deleted the tweet, but when he continued to receive threats, he left for Malaysia.

The two countries do not have a formal extradition treaty but Malaysia has good relations with Saudi Arabia as a fellow Muslim country, says the BBC’s Jennifer Pak, in Kuala Lumpur.

Ah yes, how cozy and communitarian and ummah-ish – a fellow Muslim country that executes people for “insulting” a “prophet” who’s been dead for 14 centuries.

“The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities,” Malaysia’s home ministry said in a statement.

But he wasn’t in Saudi Arabia - he’d left it. Countries don’t automatically extradite people to countries that have insane disgusting rights-violating laws. Lots of countries won’t extradite murder suspects to the US because the US has the death penalty.

This is loathsome.

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

However unwise

Feb 12th, 2012 11:06 am | By

The long arm of the law shouldn’t be helping theocratic hell-holes like Saudi Arabia to arrest people for non-crimes like saying something critical about Mohammed.

Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.

Notice that that “insulted” in the first para should have scare-quotes on it. That tweet is not “insulting.” It’s thoughtful dissent, at most.

Notice the disgusting fact that 30 13 thousand people are willing to say he should be killed for uttering such a mild and thoughtful dissent.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.

Religious offences should not be extraditable. Nobody should ever be extradited to Saudi Arabia for any perceived “religious offence” under any circumstances.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: “Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.

Oh just leave off the last bit, dammit. What was unwise about it? Unless “unwise” just means “risky to self,” but it can’t mean that, because Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be pursuing Kashgari for risking his safety nor would Interpol help Saudi Arabia for that reason. Russell apparently felt some horrible need to appease the murderous theocratic bullies by pretending to think Kashgari really did do something just a little bit wrong. Don’t do that.

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

Councillor Imran Khan understands religious freedom

Feb 11th, 2012 10:48 am | By

There was, unsurprisingly, mixed reaction to the Bideford council ruling. But one reaction stood out – a Tory councillor’s, at that.

Imran Khan, a Conservative councillor on Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, welcomed the ruling.

Mr Khan is a Muslim but said he was not particularly religious.

“Religion has no place in politics. The High Court judgement is a victory for everyone who believes that democracy and religious freedom is the cornerstone of Western free society.

“The judgement clearly states that councillors are welcome to pray before meetings, thus respecting religious values.

“Under the old regime I had to wait outside the room while everyone else was praying. This meant that it appeared I was being late or just plain rude to other people’s religions as I walked across the floor afterwards,” he added.

Bishop of Exeter, please give that your careful attention. Please think again about your reaction.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, said he would encourage councils in his area to continue holding prayers before the start of their statutory business.

He added: “I think it’s a great pity that a tiny minority are seeking to ban the majority, many of whom find prayers very, very helpful, from continuing with a process in which no-one actually has to participate.”

Think about it from the point of view of the tiny minority, you big bully.


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

Real vigilantes of Karachi

Feb 11th, 2012 10:27 am | By

You know how it’s impossible to keep up and you’re always missing stuff? I missed Maya Khan. I saw a mention somewhere, but didn’t have time to follow it up.

One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in “immoral” behavior.

It shouldn’t be called comic, not even “darkly.” It doesn’t sound the least bit comic to me. I’ve heard too much about posses of that kind in Gaza, in Saudi Arabia, in Malaysia. There’s nothing funny about them. Mohammed and Tooba and Hemat Shafia were a kind of posse of that sort, restricting their vigilantism to their immediate family.

…trailed by a cameraman, the group of about 15 women chased after — sometimes at jogging pace — girls and boys sitting quietly on benches overlooking the Arabian Sea or strolling under the trees. The women peppered them with questions: What were they doing? Did their parents know? Were they engaged?

Some couples reacted with alarm, and tried to scuttle away. A few gave awkward answers. One couple claimed to be married. The show’s host, Maya Khan, 31, demanded to see proof. “So where is your marriage certificate?” she asked sternly.

What business is it of hers? None, obviously. Furthermore, putting the whole thing on tv could get her victims killed.

Images of moral vigilantes prowling the streets have an ominous resonance in Pakistan, where many still recall the dark days of the Islamist dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, when the police could demand to see a couple’s nikkahnama — wedding papers — under threat of imprisonment.

See? Not comic.

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

And more stupid

Feb 10th, 2012 4:57 pm | By

The decision on Bideford Town Council’s opening prayers gave another opportunity for people to talk crap.

The National Secular Society and an atheist ex-councillor won a test case ruling that Bideford town council, Devon, was acting unlawfully by putting prayer on meeting agendas.

It is understood the ritual dates back in Bideford to the days of Queen Elizabeth I, and the council has recently voted twice to retain it.

Lots of things date back to the days of Queen Elizabeth I; what of it? In the days of Queen Elizabeth I church attendance was mandatory and you had to pay a fine if you didn’t go. Is that a good arrangement? Miss that, do we? The mandatory attendance was also, of course, to one church only, all others being outlawed. Mosques and temples weren’t even thought of.

In short, Britain under the Tudors was a theocracy and that was that. No muttering there in the back row, or we’ll have your arm off. Council prayers shouldn’t be seen as a cozy old custom but as a vestige of an authoritarian godbothering society of a kind that pretty much no one in the UK wants to live in now.

Harry Greenway, a former Tory MP and ex-chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast, said: “I trust this ruling will be quickly reversed. If people do not want to attend prayers of this nature, they can stay away instead of meddling and busybodying with other people’s beliefs.

“Non-believers are not harassed in this way by believers. Why cannot the non-believers show the same kind of tolerance? I find this ruling puzzling in the extreme.”

The same kind of tolerance as what? How would believers go about harassing non-believers in this way? By telling them to stop not praying? Non-believers can’t show the same kind of tolerance because tolerance of not doing something is not the same as tolerance of doing something. A nuisance is not comparable to the absence of a nuisance. Cigarette smoke is not comparable to no cigarette smoke; loud music at 3 a.m. is not comparable to quiet at 3 a.m.; and so on. Non-actors are not making the nuisance, so other people are not “tolerating” anything by not hassling them; people who are making the nuisance are the ones requiring some kind of “tolerance.” Not all kinds of nuisance should be tolerated. It’s quite simple really.

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