Notes and Comment Blog

Time for the UK to cut these ties

Jan 23rd, 2015 4:42 pm | By

Sunny Hundal on the BBC blasts the UK government’s hugging of the Saudi regime.

Blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticising Saudi Arabian clerics on his internet blog.

British blogger Sunny Hundal said this case, and others like it, mean the UK should stop “hugging” the Saudi regime.

In a personal film, he said it was time for the UK to cut these ties and “treat the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the contempt it deserves”.

We might as well be hugging IS.

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

Progressive Muslim voices are actually everywhere

Jan 23rd, 2015 3:33 pm | By

Via Tehmina Kazi, a brilliant piece at Open Democracy by a friend of hers, Akmal Ahmed Safwat, an oncologist in Denmark.

Instead of verbally denouncing terror, many Muslims in the West are now challenging the radical, ultra conservative and violent Wahhabi/salafi version of Islam that gives religious justification for hideous crimes. They are doing so through a growing movement of progressive Muslims such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Muslims for Progressive Values (USA) and the Liberal Muslim Network (Norway).

We progressive Muslims do not distinguish between atrocities committed by radical movements like Al-Qaida or Boko Haram and those committed by despotic dictatorships that dare to call themselves “Islamic” governments; the ones that administer the death penalty for apostasy and homosexuality; that practice stoning and flagellation; that legitimize child marriage. Both justify their atrocious practices through selected, outdated interpretations of primary Islamic scripture and a so-called “irrefutable authority” of ancient scholars and books.

Yessssss. I’ve been saying this for years – it’s not just terrorism, it’s also the brutally reactionary theocratic rules and practices that we need to oppose and resist. The latter affects vastly more people than the former can.

Wahhabi/salafi Islam is a literal way of looking at religious texts, taking it out of historical context and extending straight lines to current times. Its authority is often external to the Qu’ran, using things that are claimed to have been spoken(hadith) or performed (sunnah) by the prophet. These claims and interpretations are man-made.

Progressive Muslims, on the other hand, believe that history matters and that these claims can be challenged. The ancient Islamic Scholar Al-Shafi’i, changed his fatwas when he moved from one Islamic country to another because he acknowledged how his previous ideas did not suit the new environment. Yet today’s salafists insists on applying Al-Shafi’s old fatwas unchanged, more than 1000 years after his death.

Progressive Muslims essentially differ from traditionalists in the way we approach the Qur’anic texts. In his book, The Place of Tolerance in Islam, UCLA scholar Khaled Abou El-Fadl says “It is impossible to analyse any verse, except in the light of the overall moral thrust of the Qur’anic message. TheQur’an commands Muslims to do the good and it is not accidental that the word used for ‘the good’ is ma’aruf, meaning ‘that which is known to be good.’ Goodness in the Qur’anic discourse, therefore, is a lived reality, the product of human experience and constructed normative understanding.”

As an atheist, I don’t really think any religion is the best place to look for the good, but since most people are not atheists, that’s somewhat beside the point. I think it’s urgent and beneficial for theists to shape their religion in such a way that it helps them to do the good. I think we should all try to do the good, using whatever paths can get us there. But it has to be the good – so hatreds and repressions are right out.

So, when we progressives say Islam is a religion of justice, tolerance andcompassion, we approach the holy texts with these values and vision and let the Qur’an guide us to an understanding of contemporary life. Consequently, we support women’s rights and agency and human rights for all. We support the civil rights of the LGBT community. We reject the idea that shari’a is immutable. We support procedural secularism and the separation of church and state. We oppose capital punishment.

This is how we distance ourselves from Islamists’ crimes, by trying to livema’aruf on a day-to-day basis.

Progressive Muslim voices are actually everywhere, what is missing is critical mass. The problem with challenging the status quo is that you are marching into an unequal battle. Progressive Muslims are individuals and academics facing radical movements as well as whole countries moving towards political domination.

The rest of us need to help them and signal boost what they say.

Furthermore, we are competing with Saudi Arabia’s unlimited petro wealth, a nation that has spent close to $100 billion dollars to export Wahhabi Islam into Islamic societies and thus assert its political influence. Through monopolizing satellite media and infiltrating religious institutions previously known for its progressive views, Saudi Arabian Wahhabism has managed to grip the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims. El-Azhar in Egypt is just one example.

Despite an appalling human rights record, the Saudi regime can always count on the West’s unconditional support in its quest for dominating the Muslim world.

In fact, a closer look would clearly show the striking resemblance between Saudi Arabia and the newly born Islamic State. It defies credibility and fundamental logic that Western nations would ally themselves with Saudi Arabia to fight ISIS, since the latter is the brainchild of the first and any difference between them is only in scale but not in kind.

At the end he says something very like what Maajid said on Fresh Air last week –

Legal philosopher, Abdullahi An-Na’im has taught us that the divide is not between Islam and western society but between people who have different values. He counsels us to promote connections between people who want to contribute to human values because people who share that commitment can collaborate effectively, irrespective of their own culture.

That. It’s not The West versus The Rest or West v Islam; it’s universal human rights versus fascism.

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

His father blogged about free speech in Saudi

Jan 23rd, 2015 3:02 pm | By

Here’s a good one to pass around.

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

A wink and a Sid James cackle

Jan 23rd, 2015 12:36 pm | By

Padraig Reidy at Index on Censorship explains about the Sun’s page 3.

The Page 3 girl was a typical product of the British sexual revolution. What started, with the availability of contraception to women in the 1960s, as a liberation, quickly became another way to reduce them. Freed from the terror of unwanted pregnancy, women and girls were now expected to be in a permanent state of up-for-it-ness. The popular films of the late 60s and early 70s, the On The Buses, the Carry Ons, the Confessions…, portrayed British society as a parade of priapic middle-aged men, always attempting to escape their middle-aged, old-fashioned wives, in pursuit of seemingly countless, always available, young women.

It was fun, it was cheeky, it was vampiric — depending on how you wanted to look at it.

Page 3 was part of this culture; this idea that sweet-natured young women with absolutely no qualms about sex were out there, just needing a wink and a Sid James cackle to persuade them into a bit of slap and tickle. Slap and tickle, though, is not the same as sex, or at least not sex as we might hope to understand it. The slap and tickle of the British imagination owes more to the pre-pill “sort of bargaining” described by Philip Larkin. In spite of the poet’s hopes, sexual intercourse hadn’t really begun in 1963.

Page 3 models were (are? Who knows?) very rarely erotic creatures. They were “healthy” and “fun”, perhaps a little “naughty”; always girls and never women.

Why not just inflate a couple of balloons and let it go at that?

In the 90s, new laddism, spearheaded by James Brown’s Loaded magazine, somewhat rehabilitated the Page 3 girl, or, more accurately, made looking at topless models seem respectable to men who would never buy the Sun (“men who should know better” as Loaded’s tagline went).

As the post-Loaded rush for young men’s money descended into boasting of nipple counts, the focus of feminist campaigning switched to the weekly Nuts and Zoo magazines. The Sun’s Page 3 carried on, outliving the rise and fall of Nuts (somehow, Zoo is still going), but is now taking a severe battering from the No More Page 3 campaign, led by young feminists. The very fact that there is uncertainty over the future of the feature is testament to that campaign’s success.

It would be easy to look for a free speech angle on this and come up with “killjoy feminists” versus, decent honest yeomen of England.

But it would be bullshit, he says. Calling for No More of something is more free speech.

Meanwhile, with hot and cold running porn in every kitchen, what’s the point of Page 3 at all? No one knows.

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

Why it’s so hard to believe women

Jan 23rd, 2015 12:21 pm | By

Huh. I normally have zero interest in Jay Leno, but he said something good the other day. Emily Yahr at a Washington Post blog shares the details:

Just a couple of months ago, it seemed like some kind of taboo for high-profile entertainers to address the allegations that Bill Cosby raped dozens of women. But in the past two days, a couple of famous names in the tight-knit world of comedy have broken the silence — and spoken out in support of the women who have come forward.

The most surprising voice may be Jay Leno, the former “Tonight Show” host who essentially spent his entire career on NBC, home of “The Cosby Show.” Leno is also known for avoiding controversy to the point of blandness — but he bluntly discussed the situation and didn’t defend the comedian.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard to believe women,” Leno said in a Q&A during a television conference in Miami. “You go to Saudi Arabia and you need two women to testify against a man. Here you need 25.”


But making even more waves is Larry Wilmore, who debuted his new series “The Nightly Show” on Comedy Central this week, filling Stephen Colbert’s old time slot. Wilmore devoted most of the second episode to Cosby and did not hold back.

Watching it. He plays a clip from Cosby’s gig in Ontario in which a guy in the audience shouts “Arrogant piece of shit! Rapist!” and Cosby goes “Stop it…Sssh, sssh…That’s all right, no clapping, nothing.” Wilmore responds: “‘Shush shush stop it’?Are you trying to quiet a heckler, or is that your pillow talk?”

“People are innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. However, this is the court of public opinion and this is my show, and that [expletive] did it,” Wilmore said.

“To me, it really is a simple case of: Here’s a famous guy who people protected, and because of his fame, nobody wanted to believe it,” Wilmore said. “I think it’s really that simple.”

I have a suspicion this is not a unique event.

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

Ominous headline: “New Saudi king promises continuity”

Jan 23rd, 2015 11:01 am | By

Booooooooo. Wrong. Bad move. Go back and start over. Lose a turn.

“Continuity” for Saudi Arabia means more fanatical religiosity governing everything, more theocratic meddling, more sadistic punishments for the utterance of liberal thoughts, more frenzied efforts to conceal the existence of women, more criminally bad treatment of foreign workers, more crawling before “god” and stamping on perceived inferiors.

Within hours of acceding to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman, 78, vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors.

“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

The new king’s profile was updated on his official Twitter account, where he wrote: “I ask God to help me succeed in my service of the dear [Saudi] people.”

Ha, that’s silly – he doesn’t mean people, he means men, and only some of those. He’s not doing any service to Raif Badawi.

Protocol permits no official mourning period, government offices stay open and flags remain at full mast.

The reason is that the House of Saud practises one of the strictest codes of Islam – known as Wahhabism – in which followers try to emulate precisely the behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad and avoid anything seen as un-Islamic “innovations”.

Public displays of grief are frowned upon by a religious establishment which views every aspect of life and death as a submission to God’s supreme will.

That means funerals are very austere and puritanical in character, with a strong impression of egalitarianism in death.

Because humanity has learned nothing in the last 1400 years, so it’s better to try to emulate precisely the behaviour of a guy who died 1400 years ago than to try to improve things for everyone as we learn more about human beings and their needs and wants and how to harmonize them.


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

68 confirmed measles cases

Jan 23rd, 2015 10:32 am | By

You know that measles outbreak that started at Disneyland? Pediatricians say yo, that’s a hint that people should be vaccinated.

The leading U.S. pediatrician group on Friday urged parents, schools and communities to vaccinate children against measles in the face of an outbreak that began at Disneyland in California in December and has spread to more than 50 people.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said all children should get the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine between the ages of 12 and 15 months old and again between 4 and 6 years old.

No, this is not like people who make Fords saying all people should buy Fords. It’s different from that.

“A family vacation to an amusement park – or a trip to the grocery store, a football game or school – should not result in children becoming sickened by an almost 100 percent preventable disease,” Dr. Errol Alden, the group’s executive director, said in a written statement.

“We are fortunate to have an incredibly effective tool that can prevent our children from suffering. That is so rare in medicine,” Alden said.

So rare and so so valuable. Wouldn’t we love to have an incredibly effective tool that can prevent AIDS or diabetes or cancers or Crohn’s or arthritis or Alzheimer’s?

Imagine having that and refusing to avail yourself of it.

The California Department of Public Health has reported 59 confirmed measles cases among state residents since the end of December, most linked to an initial exposure at Disneyland or the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park.

Nine more cases linked to the two Walt Disney Co-owned parks, were reported out of state – one inMexico, three in Utah, two in Washington state and one each in Oregon, Colorado and Arizona.

Officials say the outbreak appeared to begin when an infected person, likely from out of the country, visited the Anaheim resort from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20.

Among those infected are at least five Disney employees and a student at Huntington Beach High School, some 15 miles (24 km) from the park. Earlier this week, the school ordered its unvaccinated students to stay home until Jan. 29.

There shouldn’t be any unvaccinated students in school apart from the small number who can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons.

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

Saudi ambassador to Germany is saying Raif won’t be flogged again

Jan 23rd, 2015 9:56 am | By

International Business Times has an exciting story dated a few hours ago…but sadly it seems to be based on a misreading of a Facebook post, so not so exciting after all. Ludovica Laccino reports that a Saudi official has said Raif won’t be flogged any more.

Saudi Arabian activist blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for advocating free speech, may not have to serve the full decade in prison.

Badawi family’s spokesperson, Dr Elham Manea, who is also an associate professor specialising in the Middle East at University of Zurich, said on Facebook that the news was delivered by a Saudi ambassador in Germany.

She wrote: “Saudi ambassador in Germany informed NDR-TV that flogging will not continue and‪#‎RaifBadawi‬ maybe not have to serve the whole time in prison.”

Fantastic – but if you follow the link to Facebook, you find that Elham didn’t say that; the link is to a post that someone else wrote. The post is in German, with an automated translation below –

Noch mit Vorsicht zu genießen, es gibt noch keine offizielle Bestätigung. BBC meldet gleichzeitig den Tod von König Abdullah. Der Botschafter Saudi-Arabiens in Deutschland soll gesagt haben: “Die Bestrafung von Herrn Raif Badawi wurde, wie ich verstanden habe, gestoppt. Er wird keine Peitschenhiebe mehr erhalten. Ich nehme an, dass Herr Badawi, nachdem die Auspeitschung gestoppt wurde, nicht zehn Jahre in Haft bleiben wird.”
Elham ManeaJérôme SegalEnsaf Haidar

Even with caution to enjoy, there is still no official confirmation. At the same time, BBC reports the death of King Abdullah. The Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Germany is supposed to have said: “the punishment of Mr Raif Badawi was, as I understand it, stopped. He will receive no more lashes. I suppose that, after the whipping stopped, Mr Badawi will remain not ten years in prison.”
Elham ManeaJérôme SegalEnsaf Haidar

Followed by a link and headline and extract –

Prügelstrafe für saudischen Blogger offenbar gestoppt

Laut der saudi-arabischen Botschaft in Berlin soll der Blogger Raif Badawi offenbar keine Peitschenhiebe mehr erhalten. Außerdem könne auch die Haftstrafe verkürzt werden.

Google translate gives me –

Flogging for Saudi blogger apparently stopped

According to the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin blogger Raif Badawi is apparently no longer to receive lashes. In addition, the sentence could be shortened.

The source is, which is Norddeutscher Rundfunk, about which Wikipedia tells us –

Norddeutscher Rundfunk is a public radio and television broadcaster, based in Hamburg. In addition to the city-state of Hamburg, NDR transmits for the German states of Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Schleswig-Holstein.

So, that sounds like a reliable source.

But why is it only the ambassador to Germany who is saying this?

I don’t know, but at least he is apparently saying it.

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

An Islam of manufactured dogma

Jan 22nd, 2015 6:20 pm | By

Ziauddin Sardar says Islam has a history full of freethinkers.

“This has nothing to do with Islam,” say the imams. “These callous and fanatic murders have nothing to do with us,” say the mullahs. “Islam means peace,” say the worshippers. These disclaimers, and variations on them, have been repeated countless times by Muslim commentators since the Charlie Hebdo killings. They are designed to distance people from guilt by association with those who kill and maim in the name of Islam.

But what about the sentence recently handed down to the (mildly) liberal blogger Raif Badawi in the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia? Ten years in jail, a massive fine, 1,000 lashes over 20 weeks (currently suspended because the first 50 lashes have rendered him “medically unfit”)? Does this have “nothing to do with Islam”? Does the hashtag “Je suis un couteau” – referring to this week’s stabbing of 11 Israelis on a bus – have “nothing to do with Islam”? Not to mention the 10 Christians killed during Charlie protests in Niger last week, or the ongoing depredations of al-Qaeda, Isis, Boko Haram, the Taliban and the Laskar Jihad of Indonesia?

Not to mention all the non-violent Muslims who nevertheless say it’s not permissible to draw cartoons of Mohammed.

The psychotic followers of these organisations all think that they are Muslims, and their Islam is based on beliefs that millions who subscribe to Wahhabism, the Saudi version of the religion – and its kin, Salafism – accept as essential ingredients of their faith. For example, that sharia, or Islamic law, is divinely ordained and immutable; that apostates and blasphemers should be killed; that women should be shrouded and confined to four walls and that men are their guardians.

This is a widespread version of Islam, made more so by modern communications; increasingly gaining followers in Europe, it can be, and is, used to justify all manner of atrocities. Yet this is an Islam of manufactured dogma which relies on neither the Koran nor the example of the Prophet Mohamed.

It’s something people invent as a method of social control, he says. But then he also says it goes way back.

But tightening the screws has long been the way in the Muslim heartlands. For example, in a highly influential decree from the 10th century CE, the Abbasid caliph Abdul Qadir, denounced critical thought as “counter to Islam” and ordered his subjects to dissociate from philosophers and freethinkers, who were required “to repent”, despite the fact that numerous verses in the Koran exhort believers to think, reflect and raise questions.

Right, so…the denunications and forbiddings have a long history too.

Four hundred years later, when power had shifted from Abbasid Baghdad to Mamaluk Cairo, religious scholars banned independent reasoning on issues of faith – or as the formula has it, “closed the gates of ijtihad”. In doing so, they laid claim to have solved all the problems of humanity. In fact, they shut the door on the Enlightenment, which already-established Arab scholarship would do so much to kick-start.

Theocrats always want to stamp out free thinking as a method of social control.

Today, as in history, all attempts to rethink our understanding and relationship with God, to interrogate orthodox belief, to bring reason back to Islam, are shunned – not just by the fanatics but by the vast majority of Muslims. The manufactured articles of faith seem to have an unassailable hold on Muslim minds. And so the moderate free thinkers’ legacy, so vital at this time of sectarian warfare within Islam, is swept collectively under the carpet of accepted, if artificial, doctrine.

This phenomenon is the central problem in all varieties of Islam. In the absence of reason and criticism, the heritage has become toxic. At best, it promotes intolerance and bigotry; at worse, it manifests itself as fanaticism and violent jihadism. And until more Muslims question it, they cannot claim that its manifestations have “nothing to do with Islam”.

For the first time, I agree with Ziauddin Sardar about something. I think he’s shifted.

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

London, Tunisia, Jordan

Jan 22nd, 2015 5:46 pm | By

Via Elham Manea on Twitter

London –

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Tunisia -

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Jordan -

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The people


shall never be defeated.

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

Belfast and Dublin

Jan 22nd, 2015 5:40 pm | By

More protests in more places for Raif.

Via Amnesty on Twitter –

Belfast City Hall –

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Via Amnesty Ireland -

The Saudi embassy in Dublin -

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

Salman takes over from Abdullah

Jan 22nd, 2015 5:08 pm | By

The king of Saudi Fascist Arabia has died and his half-brother has replaced him. The New York Times gives some background.

Abdullah’s reign was a constant effort to balance desert traditions with the demands of the modern world, making him appear at times to be shifting from one to the other.

When popular movements and insurgencies overthrew or threatened long-established Arab rulers from Tunisia to Yemen in 2011, he reacted swiftly.

On his return from three months of treatment for a herniated disk and a blood clot in New York and Morocco, his government spent $130 billion to build 500,000 units of low-income housing, to bolster the salaries of government employees and to ensure the loyalty of religious organizations.

He also created a Facebook page, where citizens were invited to present their grievances directly to him, although it was not known how many entries actually reached him.

Was it known how many people ended up in prison for having grievances?

But in at least two telephone calls he castigated President Obama for encouraging democracy in the Middle East, saying it was dangerous. And he showed no tolerance in his country for the sort of dissent unfolding elsewhere.

The grand mufti, the kingdom’s highest religious official, proclaimed that Islam forbade street protests. Scores of protesters who failed to heed that message were arrested in the chiefly Shiite eastern provinces. A new law imposed crippling fines for offenses, like threatening national security, that could be broadly interpreted.

Imagine our surprise.

Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia had hurtled from tribal pastoralism to advanced capitalism in little more than a generation. The fundamentalist clerics who gave the family legitimacy remained a powerful force. Women who appeared in public without the required covering risked arrest or a beating from the religious police.

And Raif Badawi was tortured for uttering some thoughts about secularism and liberalism.

The king also grappled with domestic crises. The deaths of 15 girls in a dormitory fire in Mecca in 2002 caused an international uproar when it was learned that the religious police had not let them escape from the flames because they were not properly dressed. Furious, the king dismissed the head of women’s education.

In 2007, he pardoned a teenage girl who had been sentenced to six months in jail and 100 lashes after being raped. She was convicted after being found in a car alone with a man who was not her relative, a crime under Saudi law.

Though Abdullah made it clear that he thought the girl was guilty, pleasing the religious authorities, he pardoned her, he said, “for the greater good.”

The piece doesn’t mention Raif Badawi.

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

In Houston

Jan 22nd, 2015 1:58 pm | By

Another protest, this time in Houston yesterday.

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

The other 15 women

Jan 22nd, 2015 1:37 pm | By

However, one piece of better news – though I can’t really call it good news, given the eight years wasted…

A pardon granted by El Salvador’s Parliamentary Assembly to a young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage is a triumph of justice and gives hope to the other 15 women languishing in jail on similar charges, said Amnesty International.

In 2007 “Guadalupe” received a 30 year jail sentence after authorities wrongly suspected she had terminated her pregnancy. She was only 18 years old.

Now she’s 25 or 26. She lost eight years because she had a miscarriage.

El Salvador has one of the most draconian abortion laws in the world, criminalizing abortion on all grounds, even when a woman or girls’ life or health is in danger and in cases of rape. Women and girls suspected of having illegal abortions are also often cruelly and deliberately charged with homicide, as in Guadalupe’s case.

The other 15 women jailed after suffering pregnancy-related complications are also seeking pardons. Their cases will come before the Parliamentary Assembly in the coming months.

My Body My Rights is Amnesty International’s global campaign to stop the control and criminalization of sexuality and reproduction by governments and others. Over 2014-2015 the campaign is working for change in people’s lives in a number of countries, including El Salvador. This campaign aims to remind world leaders of their obligations to respect, protect and fulfil sexual and reproductive rights.

15 more women.

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

What Amnesty actually said

Jan 22nd, 2015 1:31 pm | By

Hm. We have a discrepancy in what people are saying about Raif. As I posted a few hours ago, Amnesty says the doctors have said he shouldn’t be flogged again, but they also said

Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead.

But the BBC is reporting that as Amnesty saying “Saudi Arabia has postponed the flogging” – which is inaccurate. Did the Beeb just misread it?

They go on –

Amnesty said the decision was made after doctors advised against this week’s 50 lashes on health grounds.

But Amnesty didn’t say that. They said the opposite, and I’m not seeing any update on their site.


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

Known for his analytic approach to the complex plight of humanity

Jan 22nd, 2015 1:05 pm | By

Michael Shermer is on the book tour for his new book explaining morality.

Morality? Shermer?

Yes. Bemusing, isn’t it.

Known for his analytic approach to the complex plight of humanity, New York Times bestselling author Michael Shermer (Skeptic Magazine) brings his characteristic insight to the nuanced relationship between science and morality in his latest book, The Moral Arc. From paying ransom to Somali pirates and the dilemmas of being a Nazi, to an analysis of the Bible’s basic principles, Shermer unpacks the philosophies behind some of today’s greatest moral questions. He’ll explain how beginning with The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, scientific ways of thinking have made society more moral and in turn, created a freer, more just world.

Not by themselves they haven’t.

The subtitle of his book is

How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom

They don’t; that’s how. Not on their own. They can help; they can help a lot; they can correct a lot of mistakes. But they don’t just lead humanity toward justice, like a beacon in the night. Science and reason on their own can’t, for instance, convince someone that it’s immoral to get someone drunk and then steer her into your hotel room and then have sex with her. You need more than science and reason for that.

Shermer on morality. Funny old world, isn’t it.


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

That offend the Prophet of mercy

Jan 22nd, 2015 11:59 am | By

Now have some revolting kakk from the International Union for Islamic Scholars.

(That’s not “scholars” as normally understood, of course. It means not people who have read and understood many books, but people who have read and memorized one book.)

IUMS calls for the Islamic nation to continue in the legal peaceful demonstrating to defend the great messenger, and calls for the West to protect Muslim communities from attacks.

Defend him from what? He’s dead. It’s too late to defend him because he has no life to defend any more.

IUMS had received with deep sorr[ow], the insistence of some of the re-deployment of graphics or movies that offend the Prophet of mercy, the Great Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him

But they don’t offend him, because they can’t offend him, because he’s not alive to be offended. People who are no longer alive can no more be offended than they can be surprised or delighted or giddy or afraid. You have to be alive to have feelings and thoughts. This is basic. Living people can be hurt; dead people can’t. Dead people can sustain damage to their posthumous reputations, but that’s all.

ignoring the feelings of a great nation that came into the world with values and ethics and knowledge and civilization that lit up the whole world, and spread goodness between the people , and is still trying to recover, under the conspiracy of the conspirators on it, to continue to provide universal mission based on freedom, compassion, justice, and the reconstruction of the earth

No. That universal mission is not based on freedom. Not even a little bit; not in any sense. Submission is not freedom, it’s the opposite of freedom.

It’s not great on compassion or justice either, at least not going by its current record in countries where Islam is entangled with government.

and about the continued abuse of the systematic Holy Prophet, IUMS affirms the following:

  • The Union confirms that the Islamic religion forbids not only the contempt of the Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him, but denied contempt of all religions and the prophets and holy sites.

No. The Islamic religion can “forbid” what it likes, but it doesn’t get to impose its rules on people who have never signed up to obey them.

•The Union calls on Islamic countries to submit a global law draft criminalizing defamation of religions and the prophets and the holy sites of all, through a global conference to discuss clauses in complete freedom.

Such a law, of course, would be, again, the very opposite of freedom. It’s not freedom that these “scholars” want. It’s global authority they want, and they can’t have it.

• The Union calls on Western countries to provide full protection to the Muslims living in their country, whether they are citizens or residents or visitors, especially after a series of systematic attacks, they have suffered from after the events of the French newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” and till now.

Certainly. All people should be protected.

And guess who is the president of this fine outfit.

Mr. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
IUMS President
Nope nope nope.

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

#Free Raif in Berlin

Jan 22nd, 2015 10:55 am | By

Via Twitter

FgN @felooz_tweets · 4 hours ago
Protesting with @SAIDYOUSIF in Berlin to demand freedom & end to the flogging of Raif Badawi. #FreeRaif .@amnesty_de

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Another -

Cem Özdemir @cem_oezdemir · 7 hours ago
Jetzt vor Botschaft von #SaudiArabien in Berlin. Stoppt die Folter! Freiheit für #RaifBadawi! – Danke, @amnesty!

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Conflict News @rConflictNews · 5 hours ago
Protest now infront of #saudi embassy in #Berlin demanding to stop the flogging of .@raif_badawi via @SAIDYOUSIF

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One more -

FgN @felooz_tweets · 5 hours ago
With @SAIDYOUSIF protesting infront of Saudi Embassy in Berlin demandin freedom for Raif Badawi #FreeRaif @amnesty_de

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

She will greet him at the Montreal airport

Jan 22nd, 2015 10:42 am | By

The Guardian talks to Ensaf Haider.

A few days before his birthday, the liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi received 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah, his hometown. Thousands of miles away, in her modest basement flat in Québec, his wife decided to avenge his cruel treatment with a birthday party. She put a piece of cake aside to be frozen for him, just in case.

“I feel destroyed. But I don’t want to sit in a corner and cry,” says Ensaf Haidar softly, sitting on her eldest daughter’s bed. “That would be letting Raif and my children down.”

I so badly want him to get to eat that piece of cake…before it gets freezer burn.

Haidar is composed but visibly exhausted from the events of the last few weeks. The first flogging of her husband took place, after Friday prayers, on 9 January, and sparked an international outcry. But she hides her sadness as much as possible from their three children. As she talks, Tirad, 10, plays hockey with two blond-haired boys in the hallway. His team are the Montreal Canadians, local heroes in Québec.

Badawi’s wife and children have fled a land of sand and blistering heat for Sherbrooke, a snowy, moose-spotting town of about 150 000 residents some 150km (93 miles) east of Montreal. The family was granted refugee status in Canada upon their arrival in October 2013, and this is where she calls home now.

I hope Raif can get some comfort from the fact that his children are free from the Saudi torturers. Well obviously he does get some, because how could he not; I hope he gets enough to help him.

They married in 2002 and honeymooned in Syria. Among her many pictures in her living room, there is one of them smoking shisha in Damascus, looking carefree and innocent, her hair uncovered. “With him, I could be myself. He would treat me with as much respect in public and in private, contrary to other Saudi husbands. And he would even vacuum at home,” she says, proudly.

After he founded the Free Saudi Liberals in 2008, Badawi started being intimidated by the regime. He had envisaged the blog as a forum for social and political debate, but the authorities viewed it with suspicion.

What’s there to debate, from their point of view? There’s haram and there’s halal. Simple; nothing to debate.

the young idealist, who also owned a language and IT school, quickly became a pariah and was banned from leaving the kingdom in 2009. Haidar’s father took legal steps to enforce a divorce but she refused and has not spoken to her family since.

Increasingly worried for the children, the young couple organised for her to leave in the winter of 2012 with Najwa, 11, Tirad and Myriam, 7. “He promised to join us two months later, and I thought to myself: but that’s an eternity!”

She could not have known then that, more than two years later, she would still be waiting. Haidar, who has obtained her permanent residency in Canada, has not been able to hear her husband’s voice since he was moved to a new jail three weeks ago.

Though he tried to reassure her, she could tell his spirits were low. “Being separated from the children is the most difficult thing for him, she says. “He wonders what age they will be when he sees them again – 20 years old? 30 years old? The thought is unbearable.”

So, that answers my question. No. He misses them too much for that to be possible.

Given that Badawi, who turned 31 on 13 January, is diabetic and does not have a strong build, she is deeply worried about his receiving another 50 lashes on Friday.

At the same time, though, she is not giving up hope. The US, EU, Britain and others have urged Riyadh not to pursue Badawi’s flogging – even if there is still no sign that Saudi Arabia’s key western allies will back up their rhetoric with punitive action.

I wonder if the Saudi authorities ever consider how their actions make people loathe the religion that motivates them to torture Raif.

Eighteen Nobel laureates have written an open letter calling on Saudi academics to condemn the flogging. On Thursday, Amnesty International will hold vigils outside the Saudi embassies in London and Ottawa, while protests are planned for countries including Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Ottawa, you see? Told you so.

Haidar takes succour from the knowledge that, in the past, the Kingdom has eventually bowed to international pressure over its treatment of detainees. The British-Canadian William Sampson was released in 2003 after being tortured for two years and seven months in a Riyadh jail.

She firmly believes that Badawi will one day live with her in Sherbrooke, and she behaves as such, filling in her income tax forms as a married woman rather than a single parent even though the latter would bring in more benefits.

If her wish comes true, she will greet him at the Montreal airport by doing something that is strictly forbidden in the streets of Jeddah. “I will give him the biggest kiss on the mouth!” she says, smiling like a school girl in love.

Show them!

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

At the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah

Jan 22nd, 2015 10:20 am | By

The doctors have again said Raif should not be whipped tomorrow, Amnesty reports.

The planned flogging of Raif Badawi is likely to be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds. The committee, comprised of around eight doctors, carried out a series of tests on Raif Badawi at the King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah yesterday and recommended that the flogging should not be carried out.

Nothing surprising about the assessment – deep cuts caused by repeated blows of a stick would of course not heal completely in two weeks.

“Instead of continuing to torment Raif Badawi by dragging out his ordeal with repeated assessments the authorities should publicly announce an end to his flogging and release him immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Raif Badawi is still at risk, there is no way of knowing whether the Saudi Arabian authorities will disregard the medical advice and allow the flogging to go ahead.”

The authorities should release him immediately and unconditionally and let him leave the country and join his wife and children in Québec.

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