Notes and Comment Blog


News from Manchester

Mar 7th, 2015 6:04 pm | By

Nazir Afzal has resigned his job as head of the Crown Prosecution Service for the north west. Too bad; he was apparently very good at the job.

The region’s top prosecutor has been in the spotlight for his high-profile comments on child sexual exploitation and grooming.

A CPS spokesman said: “We are continuing to reduce the number of staff employed across the organisation and Nazir Afzal is leaving the Service as part of this ongoing drive for efficiency.

He was responsible for all criminal prosecutions across Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Cumbria.

He led about 700 lawyers, legal staff, and administrators.

Nazir has pioneered work to tackle honour-based violence and forced marriage, initially bringing this issue to the top of the public agenda through a CPS conference in 2004.

He has the national CPS lead on tackling these crimes and on tackling Violence Against Women (domestic violence, rape and other violent offences in which women are predominantly the victims).

That’s why it’s a pity he’s going.

Nazir was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Years Honours List in 2005 for his public service and involvement with the local community and was named Legal Personality of the Year by the Society of Asian Lawyers, which represents around 15,000 professionals.

In 2007, he received the CPS Public Servant of the Year award, the UK Government’s Justice Award and the Daily Mirror newspaper ‘People’s Award’, voted for by readers.

In recent years he has also received the Law Society/Bar Council Mentoring award and was selected for the Asian Power 100 along with the Muslim Power 100 list.

Seems like an efficiency too many.

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



What mercy looks like

Mar 7th, 2015 5:36 pm | By

The Saudi legal system, not surprisingly, subscribes to the same legal theory as does the most talkative rapist in the Jyoti Singh case: that women are committing a crime if they are outside on their own, and should be punished for being raped in those circumstances. The IBT reports that

A 19-year-old woman, who was reportedly violently gang-raped by seven men in Saudi Arabia, has been sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison…

Well, women are supposed to keep themselves safe from rape by never leaving home. Obviously if they are raped it’s their fault.

The so called punishment that the woman received was according to the Sharia law, which dictates a Saudi Arabian woman not to be in public without a male guardian – the rule that the 19-year-old apparently did not follow.

Other Muslims wouldn’t recognize that as Sharia, but then that’s the problem with goddy law; the supreme court is in some other dimension where living humans can’t appeal to it.

In the incident, which reportedly took place in 2006, two men got into the vehicle where she was present along with her friend. She was then driven far away to a secluded place and raped by seven men. Three of the rapists also roughed up the friend in question.

Initially, the woman was sentenced to about 90 lashes because of the “crime” of not following the reclusive country’s rules. The men who raped her, however were given minor custodial sentences, which led to the woman’s lawyer appealing to the Saudi General Court.

However, instead of overturning the punishment to the woman, the court reportedly more than doubled the punishment to the woman, and the same was done for the accused men.

I remember that case. I blogged about it at the time.

Allah is merciful.

 

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



The disenfranchisement of these young men

Mar 7th, 2015 10:47 am | By

The BBC did a conversation with Asim Qureshi of CAGE this week, and before the conversation they did a clip where he makes his case on his own. I hit pause because I wanted to interrupt him. After telling us that he worked with celebrity beheader Mohammed Emwazi, starting at 1:30 he says

What role does our society play in relation to the disenfranchisement of these young men, to make them feel like they don’t have the ability to actually use the system in order to effect change in the grievances that they have with British domestic and foreign policy?

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=afdeFuJbK3E

I wanted to interrupt him to say bullshit.

There is no enfranchisement that could enable “these young men” (such as Mohammed Emwazi) to “use the system” to achieve their goals, because their goals are not attainable in a liberal democracy. Their “grievances” with British domestic policy for instance have to do with all the wicked infidel freedom that women have to walk around and make their own decisions without monitoring and control by men. There is no “enfranchisement” that will allow young men like Emwazi to change that. It’s not enfranchisement that could possibly make that happen, but only ruthless violence and destruction.

Qureshi is revoltingly, unctuously adept at using the vocabulary of liberal discourse to draw a thin veil over the disgusting mess of what Islamism is really about. He’s not talking about real disenfranchisement or legitimate grievances; he’s bullshitting.

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



IS destroy another ancient site

Mar 7th, 2015 10:08 am | By

Well that’s Iraq for you: it’s rich in historic sites, so Daesh has lots of fun projects. This time the ancient city is called Hatra.

Islamic State militants have destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra, Iraqi officials say.

A tourism and antiquities ministry official said the extent of the damage at the Unesco world heritage site was unclear, but they had received reports that it had been demolished.

Hatra was founded in the days of the Parthian Empire over 2,000 years ago.

And now the Empire of Islam is obliterating everything that’s not itself.

Hatra, located about 110km (68 miles) south-west of Mosul, was a fortified city that withstood invasions by the Romans thanks to its thick walls reinforced by towers.

Said Mamuzini, a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) local official, said the militants had used explosives to blow up buildings and were bulldozing other sections.

“The city of Hatra is very big and many artefacts of that era were protected inside the site,” he said, adding that the militants had already taken away gold and silver.

Here’s some background on Hatra, with a slew of photos by Thomas Twohey.

The ruins of ancient Hatra lie about three kilometers west of Wadi Al-Tharthar and about 105 kilometers southwest of the city of Mosul, in Iraq.

The site of the city is a gentle depression in a semi desert land between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates known as Al Jazirah. Due to it being in a isolated, near desert location little to no excavation work had been done on the site, until in 1951 the Iraqi government decided to begin examining the site. Prior archaeological expeditions had only measured and mapped the ruins. The excavations of the 1950’s resulted in the discovery of at least twelve further temples and since 1960 restoration work has been underway to preserve the structures, as well as continued archaeological excavations.

Most structures are built in limestone an gypsum and are a mixture of Assyrian, Hellenistic, Parthian and Roman styles.

The fortress city of Hatra arose in Al Jazirah, where it guarded the two main caravan routes connecting Mesopotamia with Syria and Asia Minor. The date of its foundation is subject of some debate. Most likely it was the Assyrians, but by the first century BC it had undoubtedly grown into a fortified city.

The present day remains date back to between the first century BC and the second century AD.

Fortification was immense. The city is guarded by two city walls. Once any enemy had crossed the first wall, he’d still be faced with a moat and the second wall. In fact the heavily fortified gates of the second wall can only be reached by ascending up ramps which run parallel to the wall.

Thomas Twohey

Excavated and restored, and now fascists have destroyed it.

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



Bombs kill 50 people in Maiduguri

Mar 7th, 2015 9:50 am | By

Another Saturday in northern Nigeria.

At least five blasts have killed 50 people and injured 56 in the city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, an official has told the BBC.

Two crowded markets and a busy bus station were targeted by suicide bombers, witnesses said.

Witnesses in one of the markets described gory scenes with men, women and children lying on the ground.

In pieces, no doubt.

Boko Haram hasn’t said anything yet, but no one will be surprised when they do. They were pushed out of Maiduguri last year, and since then they’ve been in a forest nearby, making life hell for everyone.

The attacks took place over about three hours – the first one targeting the city’s Baga fish market.

The explosion was caused by a suicide bomber in a rickshaw, eyewitnesses told the BBC.

It was not clear if the bomber was male or female.

Later Monday Market came under an attack. A trader there told the BBC that two other female bombers seemed to have exploded devices.

One had a bomb strapped to her body that detonated as she was being scanned at the gate leading into the market, he said.

Another woman exploded the bomb she was carrying in a bag a few feet away, he added.

There was another bomb at a bus station. Markets and bus stations – not where the rich and powerful hang out, not where soldiers hang out, but the easiest of easy pickings. A school in Peshawar, a girls’ school bus in Mingora, markets in Maiduguri.

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



Meet your new teacher

Mar 7th, 2015 9:08 am | By

I wonder why this seemed like a good idea.

An Egyptian-born imam who in 2007 said that Somali-born activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali should receive the death penalty for her criticism of Islam is now a Department of Justice contractor hired to teach classes to Muslims who are in federal prison.

According to federal spending records, Fouad ElBayly, the imam at Islamic Center of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, was contracted by the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons beginning last year to teach the classes to Muslim inmates at Cumberland Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md.

Does the DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons also contract Nazis and KKKers to teach Christians?

It was April 2007 when ElBayly, the imam at the Islamic Center of Johnston, protested Ali’s scheduled appearance at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown.

Because she’s critical of Islam.

Those comments have angered many, including ElBayly, who called Ali’s statements “poisonous.”

“If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death,” the imam told a local newspaper ahead of her university visit.

No, actually, that’s not how that works. You can be a socialist and then change your mind and criticize socialism. You can be a libertarian and then change your mind and criticize libertarianism. You don’t get so much as a ticket for doing that, let alone a death sentence. What a terrible religion Islam must be, to feel compelled to kill people for rejecting it.

And in any case Ayaan Hirsi Ali didn’t “come into the faith.” She was drafted into it at birth.

ElBayly was heavily criticized for his comments, which gained national attention at the time. He apologized in a letter to the newspaper and seemingly resigned his post.

But that resignation was temporary, it turns out.

The federal Bureau of Prisons requires religious services contractors to provide credentials and other background information in their applications. One section asks applicants to list their associations with established religious organizations. According to recent news reports, ElBayly is once again the imam at the Islamic Center of Johnstown.

An interview is optional, so the Bureau may have skipped its chance to get ElBayly to unburden himself of his thoughts on apostates and critics of Islam.

Besides the credentials, applicants have to provide two personal references and a letter of recommendation from their local religious organization.

Perhaps the highest hurdle for ElBayly to clear would be the program’s requirement to affirm, ”I do not endorse nor will I practice or use language in the institution that will support violence, terrorism, discrimination against other inmates.”

Oh well he will have just done the usual rationalization – it wasn’t language that would support violence or terrorism because reasons – she’s an apostate and a kafir so calling for her to be killed is entirely justified. That’s how it’s done.

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



Unoma Azuah has a book proposal

Mar 7th, 2015 8:28 am | By

Here’s a good Indiegogo project:

A book of Nigerian LGBT stories, told in their own words, in hopes that their voices will be heard.

Interview-based stories, so like Studs Terkel’s Hard Times for instance.

On the 7th of January, 2014, the Nigerian government passed a law that practically approved state-sanctioned homophobia. Since then, Nigeria’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) population have lived in mortal fear and damaged self-worth. They believe that if their stories could be heard, maybe they would draw empathy and understanding from their fellow compatriots.

My name is Unoma Azuah, a professor of English at Lane College, USA and a Nigerian by birth. Please help me fund “Blessed Bodies,” an anthology of Nigerian LGBT stories, captured in their own words.

The project will involve interviews with a diverse group of Nigerian LGBTs who reside in Nigeria and the diaspora. I have already started on my own but need support to continue. I humbly request the sum of $5000 which will cover:

· Flight fares to, from and around Nigeria ($2500)

· Accommodation, feeding and logistics ($600)

· Publication (e-copy and hardcopy) ($1500)

· Publicity ($400)

I hope that by this book, people around the world will have a first-hand insight into the plight of the LGBT Nigerian, and ultimately inspire calls for constitutional and policy reforms that protect the fundamental human rights of this marginalized community. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, and respect.

To find out more about me, please visit my website www.unomaazuah.com or read some of these articles below. Thank you.

1)http://www.researchgate.net/publication/242222728_The_Emerging_Lesbian_Voice_in_Nigerian_Feminist_Literature

2)https://iglhrc.org/sites/default/files/522-1_0.pdf

3)http://nigerianstalk.org/2014/01/31/whip/

She gets raves on Rate My Professor.

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



Nabu was the god of writing

Mar 6th, 2015 4:52 pm | By

A Cambridge archaeologist, Augusta McMahon, tells us more about Nimrud and why it mattered.

Ancient Iraq is famous for many global “firsts” – Mesopotamia gave us the first writing, the first city, the first written law code, and the first empire.

The people of Iraq are justifiably proud of this ancient heritage and its innovations and impact on the world.

The first writing. This thing I’m doing now – it was invented by the Mesopotamians.

Trashing Nimrud, McMahon says, is trashing the Iraqi people.

Nimrud was the capital of the world’s first empire, the Neo-Assyrian Empire of the 1st millennium BC.

Lying 35km (22 miles) south of the modern city of Mosul in north Iraq, Nimrud covers some 3.5 sq km (1.35 sq miles), with a prominent “citadel” mound within the city walls, on which are clustered the main administrative and religious buildings.

These buildings include the enormous palaces of several Assyrian kings and the temples of Ninurta, the god of war, and of Nabu, the god of writing.

They had a god of writing.

The Palace of Ashurnasirpal, also known as the North-West Palace, was first excavated by the British explorer Austen Henry Layard in the 1840s. His excavations are the source of the winged bull gatekeeper statues currently displayed in the British Museum.

Layard also recovered large numbers of stone panels that lined the walls of rooms and courtyards within the palace. These panels are of a local limestone, carved in low relief with beautifully detailed scenes of the king seated at state banquets, hunting lions, or engaged in warfare and religious ritual.

Extended excavations at Nimrud were next carried out in the 1950s-60s by Max Mallowan, the husband of crime writer Agatha Christie.

Mallowan and his team reconstructed the complex plans of the palace, temples and citadel, and his excavations recovered rich finds of carved ivory furniture, stone jars and metalwork, as well as hundreds of additional wall reliefs and wall paintings.

Remember back in December when some Greenpeace activists stomped on the Nazca lines in Peru? I was very pissed off about that, too, and they didn’t even do it out of deliberate malice. Destroying ancient artifacts is a terrible thing to do.

Large parts of Ashurnasirpal’s palace were reconstructed by Iraq’s antiquities board during the 1970s and 1980s, including the restoration and re-installation of carved stone reliefs lining the walls of many rooms.

The winged bull statues that guard the entrances to the most important rooms and courtyards were re-erected.

These winged bulls are among the most dramatic and easily recognised symbols of the Assyrian world.

They combine the most highly valued attributes of figures from nature into a complex hybrid form: a human head for wisdom, the body of a wild bull for physical power, and the wings of an eagle for the ability to soar high and far and to see and prevent evil.

The Iraqi restoration project also led to the dramatic discovery of several tombs of the queens of the Assyrian empire. These tombs contained astonishingly rich finds of delicate gold jewellery and crowns, enamel ornaments, bronze and gold bowls, and ivory vessels.

The technical skill and aesthetic sense of the artisans responsible are unrivalled in the ancient world.

So it’s too bad that Daesh saw fit to smash it all. Really too bad.

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



Off to Jeddah in the morning

Mar 6th, 2015 4:23 pm | By

Deutsche Welle reports that German Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel may have an uncomfortable trip to Saudi Arabia and its little neighbors in a few days, what with one thing and another.

From Saturday, he will be on a four-day journey through Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – all countries where Germany has significant business interests. Representatives from 140 German companies will be accompanying him.

Less exhilirating, however, is the fact that each of these countries is guilty of significant human rights atrocities in the name of Islamic law – including beheadings and brutal corporal punishment.

Oh, that. Well sure, but SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS INTERESTS.

The most notorious of these is Saudi Arabia, the first stop on Gabriel’s tour. Opposition parties have been making the usual appeals to Gabriel’s conscience in advance. Katrin Göring-Eckardt, parliamentary leader of the Green party, called on the vice chancellor to use his meetings to bring up the case of Raif Badawi, the DW prize-winning blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for allegedly “insulting Islam.” She also wants Badawi to be offered asylum in Germany. The socialist Left party MP Jan van Aken echoed the call and demanded that future weapons exports be made contingent on improvements in the human rights situation.

Good. Make it hot for them.

 

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



How not to clone a woolly mammoth

Mar 6th, 2015 11:35 am | By

I watched part of a thing on the Smithsonian Channel last night about the excavation of an unusually near-intact woolly mammoth in Siberia. It’s interesting.

At the beginning where they showed the excavation and what a lot of the mammoth there was, we got lots of shots of all the exciting bits there were. At one point there was excited exclamation about the freshness of the meat (which sounded odd – I’d expect “tissue” rather than “meat”), and we got to see a bit of mammoth flesh (or “meat”) that was pink instead of grey or ice-color. Then another guy showed us another, bigger bit, and he moved it back and forth a little, and then…he took a bite of it.

I laughed uncontrollably for at least ten minutes; it was eye-mopping and breath-depleting and like running up a hill.

Whaaaaaaaat?

Since when do people snack on the 40,000-year-old carcasses they’re excavating? I thought they were doing sciencey research, not digging up lunch.

One of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, I swear.

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



From #FreeRaif today

Mar 6th, 2015 11:16 am | By

AmnestyNow on Twitter

For 8 weeks we have stood in the cold and the snow outside the Embassy to demand they

Embedded image permalink

English PEN -

Amnesty International -

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Elham Manea -

Now outside of Saudi embassy in Rome for by Amnesty

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



Desmond to Salman

Mar 6th, 2015 10:32 am | By

There seems to be quite a lot of good news for Raif Badawi today.

Desmond Tutu has sent a note to King Salman.

A human rights lawyer based in London has taken on his case and Waleed’s, pro bono, according to Nicolya Christi on Facebook.

And there is this -

It will be out April 1.

I’m hoping there will be an edition in English. I’ve done some string-tugging to that effect.

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



At the North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal

Mar 6th, 2015 9:33 am | By

The UNESCO Director General has a statement on the vandalization of Nimrud.

“I condemn in the strongest possible manner the destruction of the archaeological site of Nimrud site in Iraq. This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” said UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.

© Creative Commons Nimrud Lamassu’s at the North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal, Iraq

“We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage

“I call on all of those who can, especially youth, in Iraq and elsewhere, to do everything possible to protect this heritage, to claim it as their own, and as the heritage of the whole of humanity.

“I appeal also to all cultural institutions, museums, journalists, professors, and scientists to share and explain the importance of this heritage and the Mesopotamian civilization. We must respond to this criminal chaos that destroys culture with more culture.

“I have alerted the president of the Security Council as well as the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The entire international community must join its efforts, in solidarity with the government and people of Iraq, to put an end to this catastrophe.

Likewise, UNESCO is determined to do whatever is needed to document and protect the heritage of Iraq and lead the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural artefacts, which directly contributes to the financing of terrorism. At stake is the survival of the Iraqi culture and society.”

The city of Nimrud (Kahlka), was founded more than 3,300 years ago. It was one of the capitals of the Assyrian empire. Its frescos and works are celebrated around the world and revered in literature and sacred texts. The Iraqi government has confirmed that the site was attacked by armed extremists using bulldozers on the 5th of March.

Where in the Koran does it say bulldozers are permitted?

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



False idols

Mar 6th, 2015 9:14 am | By

The BBC has more on the destruction of Nimrud.

IS began demolishing the site, which was founded in the 13th Century BC, on Thursday, according to Iraqi officials.

The head of the UN’s cultural agency condemned the “systematic” destruction in Iraq as a “war crime”.

IS, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, says shrines and statues are “false idols” that have to be smashed.

“They are erasing our history,” said Iraqi archaeologist Lamia al-Gailani.

They really aren’t “false idols” now; they’re ancient artifacts. They’re history, they’re art, they’re mythology, they’re archaeology, they’re anthropology, they’re part of the rich exciting story of human creativity. They don’t have to be smashed. There’s no human need that smashing them meets. Smashing them is a power move. IS is all about power for a few male fanatics to force all 7 billion of us to live in a bare theocratic hell.

Nimrud lies on the Tigris river, about 30km (18 miles) south-east of Mosul, which IS controls.

Many of the artefacts found there have been moved to museums in Baghdad and overseas, but many remain on site.

BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir says the attempt to destroy Nimrud is already being compared with the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha rock sculptures in Afghanistan in 2001.

Don’t forget the tombs in Mali.

Image result for timbuktu tombs

Aljazeera

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



Goodbye to Nimrud

Mar 6th, 2015 8:59 am | By

IS is still busy destroying Assyrian sites and their artifacts.

Islamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Iraqi government said, in their latest assault on some of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural treasures.

A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul said the jihadis, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous, had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris river.

“Daesh terrorist gangs continue to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” Iraq’s tourism and antiquities ministry said, referring to Isis by its Arabic acronym.

“In a new crime in their series of reckless offences, they assaulted the ancient city of Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy machinery, appropriating the archaeological attractions dating back 13 centuries BC,” it said.

Added to the list that includes the Bamiyan Buddhas and the Timbuktu tombs.

Nimrud, about 20 miles south of Mosul, was built around 1250BC. Four centuries later it became the capital of the neo-Assyrian empire – at the time the most powerful state on Earth, extending to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran.

Many of its most famous surviving monuments were removed years ago by archaeologists, including colossal winged bulls, which are now in London’s British Museum, and hundreds of precious stones and pieces of gold, which were moved to Baghdad.

I know those winged bulls at the British Museum.

Their real name, according to Wikipedia, is Lamassu.

A lamassu (Cuneiform:

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



A letter to King Salman

Mar 5th, 2015 5:24 pm | By

A press release from Amnesty International

WASHINGTON–On the eve of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District) and James McGovern (D-MA, 2nd District) have sent a bipartisan letter to Saudi Arabia’s new ruler, King Salman. The letter urges the new King to free all prisoners of conscience—including blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu al-Khair—and to allow women, religious minorities and peaceful political reformers to freely express themselves and fully participate in public life in Saudi Arabia.

The letter garnered 67 congressional signers and endorsements from 17 women’s, human rights, religious freedom, and advocacy organizations, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch.

“Saudi Arabia’s new King has a critical opportunity to enact major human rights reforms and free prisoners of conscience such as blogger Raif Badawi and attorney Waleed Abu Al-Khair,” said Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Sixty-seven members of Congress have already raised their voices in support of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Now, Secretary Kerry must do the same when he visits the Kingdom tomorrow.”

The imprisonment of blogger Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as the ban on women driving, the restrictions of the male guardianship system, and so-called “anti-terror” laws that have criminalized peaceful expression, have all brought Saudi Arabia’s human rights record to the forefront of the U.S.–Saudi relationship. By signing this letter, U.S. representatives are urging King Salman to end the imprisonment of peaceful critics, violations of women’s human rights, religious persecution, and the crackdown on advocates and reformers.

Well good. Let’s hope the Saudis don’t just throw it away and forget about it.

Endorsing Organizations

Amnesty International USA, International Christian Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-UK, In Defense of Christians, Human Rights Watch, Project on Middle East Democracy, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, US National Committee for UN Women, Women’s Action for New Directions, Women Thrive Worldwide, Peace X Peace, Equality Now, PEN American Center, Center for Inquiry, National Organization for Women Foundation, Universal Muslim Association of America, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

The letter can be read at:

http://amnestyusa.org/pdfs/LetterCongressToWhiteHouseSaudiArabiaMarch2015.pdf

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



Ruining it for the rest of us

Mar 5th, 2015 5:02 pm | By

Another atheist woman who says no thanks to the atheist “movement” because it’s such a shit-show.

But as defensive as I’ve gotten with believers, I’ve never actually been tempted to join an atheist group. Partly, that’s because it’s hard to avoid the white men ruining it for the rest of us by using atheism as just another platform for a macho power struggle. Atheism offers no guarantee of other shared ideas or philosophies – and when white male atheist leaders and communities act racist, Islamophobicand misogynistic, I find myself wishing that there were another way to describe my non-beliefs.

It’s sad. The “movement” could have been good, but it took a wrong turn and then a whole bunch of wrong turns and here we are – a big swathe of atheists repulsed by organized atheism.

The piece is from January, by the way. The situation has improved out of all recognition since then.

Hahahahaha totally kidding, no it hasn’t.

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



Guest post: Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world

Mar 5th, 2015 3:58 pm | By

Originally a comment by newenlightenment on Letters demanding £5,000.

(Repost)

Galloway’s endorsement of dictatorship extends beyond the Muslim world. Here he is in 2008 at a rally for the ultra Stalinist Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist Leninist)* praising Mao’s cultural revolution and denouncing free Tibet protestors as ‘Running dogs of imperialism':

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuWNlFkrihQ

The CPGB (ML) is a tiny little sect whose sole purpose appears to be to endorse every brutal despot in existence, provided that despot is at least vaguely anti-American. The party has pledged its colours to North Korea, its chairman Harpal Brar wrote an entire book praising Robert Mugabe, they offer unconditional support to Hamas and Hezbollah and have marched under the slogans ‘victory to Assad’ and ‘victory to Gaddafi’. (Though even they draw the line at ISIS) since they lack any resources to bribe Galloway in the manner to which he is accustomed I can only conclude he was at that meeting out of genuine solidarity with their warped ideas.

What a great friend Galloway is to the Muslim world, endorsing a Chinese dictatorship that occupies and subjugates Muslim East Turkestan with far more viciousness that Israel has ever shown in Gaza. He displayed that same friendship when he endorsed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of over a million Muslims. Fraternal love towards the Muslim world must have been utmost in his mind when he opposed effective intervention in Bosnia, to prevent the attempted genocide of its Muslim population by Milosevic’s thugs. Galloway once said ‘a billion Muslims know my name’. I truly hope so, George, I hope they never forget it.

*not to be confused with the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) or the Revolutionary communist Party of Britain (Marxist Leninist) never mind the Communist Party of Britain, the Communist Party of Great Britain or the New Communist Party of Britain. Seriously, I’m not making any of this up.

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



Guest post: No other MP acts like that

Mar 5th, 2015 3:48 pm | By

Originally a comment by Rosie Bell on Letters demanding £5,000.

I’m ardently hoping that this will backfire on Galloway. The disgusting scumbag has threatened to sue people before, they’ve told him to take a hike, and a hike he has taken.

Various top-notch lawyers are offering free advice to his victims. This article below gives a good & amusing account of Galloway’s & his lawyers’ doings.

“Chambers appear to be focused on immigration, serious crime and fraud and personal injury, among other topics. But above all, they are, according to their own website “calculated risk takers”, who are “not afraid to take on challenges that would daunt many others”.

They boast that their ethos “is to ensure that the ordinary person has access to good quality legal advice as public bodies, insurance companies & multi-national companies which has led us to take on many ‘David & Goliath’ legal struggles for justice”.

This does not seem to tie in with the pursuit of one Twitter user who received a letter from Chambers demanding money. That person, with only 70 followers on Twitter, told the Guardian: “I’m not a politician. I’m not remotely influential. I deleted it. I have been suffering terrible health problems [since receiving the letter]. I’m on antidepressants and suffering from chest pains.”

Chambers’ apparent risk-taking, would seem to have backfired rather spectacularly.

Private Eye magazine said it had “drawn the letter to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which takes a dim view of this sort of ‘speculative invoicing’”.”

Galloway is grossly litigious. A couple of times he’s had a point, when accused of dodgy financial dealings in major newspapers, but most of the time it’s been to stifle criticism. He’s an MP, he has plenty of media space to argue with or even shout at people, but he prefers to try & destroy them instead. No other MP acts like that. That Twitter spat with Hadley Freeman would have passed into cyberspace and been forgotten in a day or two if he hadn’t sued her.

A good piece here about the vague defamatory laws in the UK which allow this sort of rubbish and the difference between an ordinary person defending their reputation and a public figure.

The UK and Europe have never adopted the so-called public figure exception to defamation law, which would further promote public debate by creating a stronger presumption of freedom for speakers when they are discussing high-profile politicians, or other persons who have visibly entered the cut and thrust of politics.

One rationale for that doctrine is that someone like Galloway has broad and immediate access to influential media and public fora, within which he can more than adequately respond to such criticisms, without having to run to the courts to defend himself.

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



Reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Mar 5th, 2015 11:36 am | By

So people set up a Twitter account for Galloway’s victims.

A Twitter account has been set up to offer free legal advice to those apparently being sued by George Galloway.

A number of people reported being sent a letter written by lawyers acting on behalf of the Respect MP, informing them that they need to pay over £6,000 each, according to The Times.

In response the @SuedByGalloway account has sprung up purporting to put people in touch with solicitors and lawyers who can offer them free legal advice on the issue.

Those behind the account – who wish to remain anonymous – told the Huffington Post UK: “We are doing this because we are disgusted with the way Galloway is threatening and intimidating people on Twitter thus attempting to stifle free speech and free expression.”

There has been a lot of response.

One of the lawyers helping those behind the account is Mark Lewis of Seddons Solicitors who has past form helping people defend against libel claims who normally wouldn’t be able to pay the legal costs.

He confirmed his involvement to the Huffington Post and said: “It must have been very frightening for individuals to get demands for £5000 plus VAT for the legal costs for sending one letter.

“Someone has to stand up to this type of demand. I have advised that a report be made to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in respect of such action.”

Quite right. And the next day, so it came about.

A legal firm acting for Respect MP George Galloway will be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), it has emerged.

Lewis, who was a leading figure in the News of the World hacking scandal confirmed to the Huffington Post UK that he would be making a complaint to the SRA on behalf of three clients on Wednesday.

Informing Legal Cheek the costs demanded in the letters “could never be justified”, he said: “A lawyer’s duty is to stand up for people who cannot otherwise defend themselves from very threatening demands. Mr Galloway’s solicitors claimed £5,000 plus VAT for standard letters on top of damages. That is horrific and brings the solicitor’s profession into disrepute.

“Mr Galloway’s spokesman says that the letters weren’t shown to the client before they were sent. This is a matter of practice and the SRA must investigate.”

Dreadful man. I hope he is humiliated and baffled.

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