Notes and Comment Blog

A whole different level

Feb 14th, 2015 10:13 am | By

The Guardian can do it, so why can’t the BBC?

One civilian has been killed and three police officers injured after armed men opened fire on a cafe in Copenhagen where a debate on Islam and free speech was being held.

The meeting was attended by Lars Vilks, the controversial Swedish artist who has faced death threats for caricaturing the prophet Muhammad. Also in attendance was François Zimeray, the French ambassador to Denmark.

That’s how you explain who Lars Vilks is without pretending he did something wrong and deserves to be pursued by theocrats who want to kill him. They could have left “controversial” out but at least they didn’t say he “sparked” or “provoked” or “set off” or “courted” anything.

“They fired on us from the outside. It was the same intention as [the 7 January attack on] Charlie Hebdo except they didn’t manage to get in,” Zimeray told AFP.

“Intuitively I would say there were at least 50 gunshots, and the police here are saying 200. Bullets went through the doors and everyone threw themselves to the floor,” the ambassador added.

“We managed to flee the room, and now we’re staying inside because it’s still dangerous. The attackers haven’t been caught and they could very well still be in the neighbourhood.”

Fabulous. Imagine the fun.

Niels Ivar Larsen, one of the speakers at the event, told Denmark’s TV2: “I heard someone firing with an automatic weapons and someone shouting. Police returned the fire and I hid behind the bar. I felt surreal, like in a movie.”

Helle Merete Brix, one of the meeting’s organisers, said: “I saw a masked man running past. I clearly consider this as an attack on Lars Vilks.”

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, condemned what he called a “terrorist attack”.

Well it wasn’t a friendly greeting.

Danish reports said there were about 30 bullet holes in the window of the Krudttønden cafe where the meeting organised by Lars Vilks was being held.

The cafe in northern Copenhagen, known for its jazz concerts, was hosting an event titled “Art, blasphemy and the freedom of expression” when the shots were fired.

The meeting was also being held to mark the anniversary of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie issued by Islamic fundamentalists after he wrote The Satanic Verses.

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day. Happy Fatwa Day to you too.

Vilks, 68, outraged many Muslims in 2007 after he depicted the prophet Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog.

Oh look, they do stick the target on him after all. You were doing so comparatively well, Graun, why mess it up now?

In 2010 Swedish newspapers reprinted the controversial cartoon after two Muslim men were arrested and subsequently charged in the Irish Republic in connection with an alleged plot to murder Vilks.

Since then he has received numerous death threats and has lived under constant police protection.

A hellish way to live.

The Lars Vilks committee gave its freedom prize to the Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, in October 2014 – three months before the terrorist attack on its Paris office.

Gerard Biard, the magazine’s editor-in chief, who received the prize in Copenhagen, survived the attack as he was in London on 7 January.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, Vilks said that even fewer organisations were inviting him to give lectures over increased security concerns.

He also thought that Sweden’s SAPO security service, which deploys bodyguards to protect him, would step up the security around him. “This will create fear among people on a whole different level than we’re used to,” he said. “Charlie Hebdo was a small oasis. Not many dared do what they did.”

They’re getting what they want. Terrorism works. They’re making it harder and harder and harder for us to say anything they don’t like.

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

One killed

Feb 14th, 2015 9:31 am | By

Reuters says one person was killed in the shootings in Copenhagen.

One civilian was killed and three police were wounded on Saturday in shooting at a public meeting in the Danish capital Copenhagen attended by the controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks, police and the Danish Ritzau news agency reported.

Danish police confirmed one civilian had been killed in a shooting and said the suspects had fled in a car.

Ritzau said both Vilks and the French ambassador, who was also attending, were both unharmed, but that three police had been wounded. The gathering was billed as a debate on art and blasphemy.

Just over a month ago, 17 people were killed in France in three days of violence that began when two Islamist gunmen burst into the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, opening fire in revenge for its publication of satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad.

Bad bad bad bad news. The implications are horrific.

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

From Copenhagen

Feb 14th, 2015 9:22 am | By

Just publicly posted to Lars Vilks’s Facebook page by Jenny A Wenhammar who is at the Copenhagen blasphemy conference with him –

– meeting in Copenhagen was attacked.

At the panel discussion about freedom of speech in Copenhagen organized by the committee of Lars Vilks, during the speech of Inna Shevchenko there were around 20-40 shots. In the room together with her were also Lars Vilks and French ambassador Francois Zimeray. Inna escaped with some people through the back door, and is at the moment at the police station. The meeting is said to continue and not be stopped by terror.

— with Lars Vilks and Inna Shevchenko.

One person was killed in the shooting.

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

Shootings at blasphemy seminar in Copenhagen

Feb 14th, 2015 8:58 am | By

The BBC reports:

Danish police have said three officers were shot and wounded at blasphemy debate in Copenhagen where the French ambassador was speaking.

Two gunmen are said to be still at large.

Reports say up to 40 shots were fired outside the venue in the Danish capital.

Controversial Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who has drawn caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, was also present at the debate.

Thanks, BBC, be sure as always to sneak in some condemnation of people who dare to do things like caricature Mo. Lars Vilks is “controversial” only among theocrats.

The area around the venue, reportedly a cafe, is under lockdown, the BBC’s Malcolm Brabant reports.

Police have erected cordons and are searching a nearby park, he adds.

Lars Vilks stoked controversy in 2007 by drawing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad dressed as a dog.

There it is again, only more so – Lars “stoked controversy” by doing something that should be perfectly ordinary.

But that’s not the point. The point is that they want to silence us all. It’s too bad the BBC can’t even report on an ongoing gun attack on people at a conference without sticking a target on some of those people.



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

No papers for you!

Feb 13th, 2015 5:38 pm | By

When parents go bad.

On Sep. 24, 2014, 18-year-old Alecia Faith Pennington left her family and childhood home with the help of her grandparents. Having been raised in a staunchly Christian, homeschooled family in Texas, she was ready to set off and pursue a new life.

You know, that needs a re-write.

On Sep. 24, 2014, 18-year-old Alecia Faith Pennington escaped her family and childhood prison with the help of her grandparents. Having been imprisoned in a fanatically Christian family in Texas that wouldn’t let her go to school, she was ready to escape and find a life.

But there’s a glitch: she has no paperwork of any kind.

Ms. Pennington, who says she’s now 19, has launched a campaign via YouTube and Facebook called “Help Me Prove It.” In the video, she explains her strange circumstance: she was born at home, after which her parents neglected to file for a birth certificate or a social security number; she was homeschooled and therefore has no school records; she has never been to a hospital and is without medical records. Furthermore, her parents have refused to help her in any way.

Never been to a hospital or a doctor of any kind – which is or should be criminal negligence.

She appears caught in a Kafkaesque bureaucratic web – one that’s been dubbed “identification abuse,” which  a small percentage of homeschooled children and adults sometimes experience, often due to the anti-government views held by their parents.

It’s appallingly abusive. She’s basically enslaved – her parents have systematically deprived her of everything she needs to get an education and/or work.

James and Lisa Pennington have refused to help, according to their daughter.

James and Lisa live in Kerrington, Texas, where they serve on the board of the Hill Country Home School Association. In 2010, they were named the 2010 Texas Home School Coalition Association’s “Leaders of the Year,” according to the THSCA website. Lisa is also an ardent Christian, homeschooling, and parenting blogger, posting at Hip Homeschool Moms and The Pennington Point.

In other words she’s an “ardent” child abuser. Very hip.

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

Isis efficiency

Feb 13th, 2015 4:37 pm | By

Just imagine the fun of being a Muslim in Raqqa. It’s a good deal more peppery than life in Chapel Hill, according to what the Independent says.

Residents of a city besieged by Isis have described living under strict bans on alcohol and cigarettes, with anyone caught smoking publicly flogged, handed huge fines and even reportedly executed.

I dislike smoking myself, but I don’t think people should be executed for it.

Raqqa, in Syria, is one of the group’s biggest strongholds.

A leading figure with Isis’s police force was recently found in  Deir-al-Zor beheaded and with a cigarette in his mouth, with the sentence “O Sheikh this is munkar (hateful and evil thing)” written on his body.


Isis swiftly shut down shops selling cigarettes and water pipes after Raqqa fell and banned street vendors from selling smoking materials. One man described militants bending his fingers with pliers after being [he was] caught smoking in the street to Al Monitor.

The group also released a series of statements from the so-called Isis ‘Preaching Office’ describing the health problems that made smoking “a slow suicide“.

Ah! Well no wonder they execute people for doing it then. Speeds up the suicide.


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

19 Muslims massacred in Peshawar

Feb 13th, 2015 4:27 pm | By

Meanwhile…let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture. The much much much bigger picture; the orders of magnitude bigger picture. Like this item from CNN today

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for a Friday attack on a Shiite Muslim mosque in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan — a suicide bombing and gunfire assault that a hospital representative said killed 19 people.

The Islamist militant group said the attack was orchestrated by a commander who was behind December’s massacre of 145 people, including 132 children, at a Peshawar school.

Sixty-seven people were injured Friday, said Tauheed Zulfiqar, a representative of the Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar.

All of them Muslim, it would appear.

That’s just today, just in Pakistan. Then there are all the Muslims killed over the past few years by Boko Haram, and all the Muslims killed by Daesh, and all the Muslims killed in Somalia, Libya, Kenya, Algeria, Iran and Iraq, Syria, India – all the Muslims killed by other Muslims.

That’s a bigger picture. The murders in Chapel Hill are horrifying, but so are the murders at that Shiite mosque in Peshawar today.

Bigger picture is bigger.

That fact makes Erdogan’s show of indignation at Obama for not condemning the murders pretty contemptible.

Speaking on a visit to Mexico, Mr Erdogan criticised Mr Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and US Vice-President Joe Biden for not having made any statement about the murder of the “three Muslims”.

“If you stay silent when faced with an incident like this, and don’t make a statement, the world will stay silent towards you,” he said.

“As politicians, we are responsible for everything that happens in our countries and we have to show our positions.”

Mr Erdogan is a devout Sunni Muslim who has been increasingly critical of the treatment of Muslims living in Western societies.

The treatment of Muslims living in Western societies is a hell of a lot better than the treatment of Muslims living in Muslim societies. As theocrats, you are responsible for everything that happens in your theocracies, so give that some thought, Mr Erdogan.

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

Atheist but not also humanist

Feb 13th, 2015 12:15 pm | By

Michael DeDora has an excellent post on what Craig Hicks does or doesn’t have to do with vocal atheism and what vocal atheism has to do with being a decent human.

…as merely a position on whether god/s exist, atheism is no guarantor of moral behavior, and no guarantee should that be expected from it. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and many others — apparently now including Craig Hicks — are atheists who have killed. A person’s atheism only tells you that they reject the idea of a god. It does not tell you about the rest of their character, which, as with all people, can include a very human but very misguided hatred. I guarantee some atheists will continue to do violence in the world so long as both atheists and the world exist. Why atheists continue to defend atheism at the expense of a broader moral and philosophical framework remains a mystery to me. This event should remind us that mere atheism is not enough — that for humans to find decency and sustain it, we must construct and nourish moral frameworks that engender complete respect for our fellow humans regardless of their beliefs on religion or gods. Hicks was an atheist, but he was apparently not also humanist. Humanism provides no shelter for such hatred and murder.

Quite. For a good long while I was focused on being a vocal atheist, partly just because I was fed up with the taboo on being that very thing. I’m over it. The accumulated nastiness and brutalism of a huge swath of The Atheist Movement put me off it. I still am a vocal atheist, for sure, but also a vocal feminist and internationalist and advocate of universal rights and similar things.

Which brings us back to the issue of causation. It is very easy to point at reports of a parking dispute, or quotes from a Sam Harris book. But, as when examining terrorism and violence carried out in the name of religion, it is much more difficult to address complex reality, which in this case is that Hicks was most likely driven by a multitude of factors, which hopefully the police investigation will reveal. But, whatever his inspiration, Hicks is responsible for his actions. Yes, he might have found intellectual and emotional comfort in anti-religious writings. But not a single report has shown that the writings he consumed, or that he shared on his social media accounts, condoned violence against any innocent persons, including religious believers. One can think that religion is a burden on society, and that we would be better off without it, while also respecting the dignity and autonomy of individuals to believe in a religion and lead their lives peacefully. For all their stridency, I see no evidence that Dawkins or Harris believe otherwise, or that Hicks found otherwise in their writings.

No, neither do I. On the other hand there are a lot of intermediate steps, and there I’m not so confident. I think Dawkins encourages some contemptuous attitudes by modeling them so often and enthusiastically on Twitter. It’s a big leap from contemptuous attitudes to murder…but it’s a big leap, not an infinite gap. Contemptuous attitudes can and do lead to bullying, to violence, and even to murder. That can happen. It’s playing with fire, that kind of thing.

Of course, some anti-religious rhetoric is charged, and could provide cover for, or amplify, stereotypes of believers. Atheists must have a serious conversation about what counts as this kind of unfair rhetoric, what rhetoric should be welcomed and promoted, and what rhetoric should be rejected outright. But even when we decide on what counts as “too far” in intellectual criticism and argument, are we willing to blame the peaceful anti-religious people around us for inexcusable physical acts like cold-blooded murder?

No, of course not. But what about blaming the verbally belligerent people around us for creating an atmosphere of callous contempt? That I’m willing to blame those people for. To the extent that I’ve contributed to it I’m willing to blame myself.

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

She cannot fathom why it has taken so long

Feb 13th, 2015 10:58 am | By

Sometimes movie stars put their celebrity to good use.

Europe’s first academic centre to combat the brutality faced by women in warzones has been opened in London by Angelina Jolie, who called for “the empowerment of women to be the highest priority for the finest minds, in the best academic institutions”.

Jolie, a special envoy for the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), has just returned from northern Iraq, where she met some of the millions of refugees forced to flee from their homes due to Islamic State (Isis) violence. She said students of the centre on women, peace and security at the London School of Economics (LSE) had the chance to change the world.

That seems like a good thing to have.

The Hollywood actor, director and international women’s rights campaigner was joined at LSE by the former UK foreign secretary William Hague. The pair have worked together for three years on an initiative to prevent sexual violence in conflict.

A four-day summit hosted by Jolie and Hague in June last year, as part of the UK government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, resulted in a protocol signed by 151 countries and the LSE’s centre on women, peace and security is the latest step in trying to combat the use of rape as a weapon of war.

The groundbreaking LSE centre on women, peace and security will gather key thinkers, activists, policymakers and academics together in order to better tackle intransigent global problems such as the prosecution of warzone rapists and women’s engagement in politics.

Thumbs up.

Asked after her speech why it had taken so long for sexual violence to gain the world’s attention, Jolie said: “My emotional response is: I have no idea. I find it abhorrent and it makes absolutely no sense to me that we know that girls are being are being sold into sexual slavery; that when a woman is raped she is forced from her community; that girls as young as nine are being married off.

“I cannot fathom why it has taken so long. I cannot fathom why it has ever been alright to treat women this way.”

Christine Chinkin, professor of law at LSE and head of the new centre, said it would provide an opportunity to further her long-term commitment “to ending the marginalisation of woman’s human rights in academia, including the right of women to be free from all forms of violence”.

Yessssssss – I would love to see that marginalization and normalization ended. Good luck to them.

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

A typical Asian woman going through a typical Asian situation

Feb 13th, 2015 10:44 am | By

One woman killed by an abusive husband.

Mumtahina Jannat was killed by her abusive husband, Abdul Kadir, in 2011 after surviving years of being drugged, beaten and raped by him.

The abuse had started since she married Kadir at the age of 16, and continued till her death at the age of 28.

She’d approached various doctors, case workers and lawyers, but didn’t receive the support necessary to leave her husband and have sole custody of her children.

Her niece Onjali Rauf, who founded an anti-abuse charity called Making Herstory after Jannat’s death, has now spoken out saying that one of the biggest problems was that professionals all dismissed Jannat’s abuse as “a typical Asian situation”.

One judge told Jannat she was being “silly” when she said she was afraid her husband was going to kill her.

“One of the key things my aunt went through that lost her faith in the system was she was seen as a typical Asian woman going through a typical Asian situation and therefore being ignored by her case workers or her lawyers even,” said Rauf.

“She just felt like she didn’t have a voice, like her voice was numbed because of the fact that she represented a certain community.”

As if violence becomes less lethal when there is more of it.

Rauf was speaking at the launch of the Femicide Census, which has been created by Freshfields law firm for Women’s Aid and Nia, a charity working to end violence against women and children, to raise awareness about men’s fatal violence against women.

It analyses existing census data and has found thatnearly half of the 694 British women killed by men over four years died at the hands of a partner or former partner.

It means Jannat’s situation is not uncommon – she is one of 319 women to be murdered by a partner, between 2009 and 2013.

And that’s no more normal or routine for her than it is for anyone else.

Karen Ingala Smith, chief executive of Nia, stressed: “Male violence against women is cultural – it is absolutely intrinsic and systemic in mainstream British culture.”

The Femicide Census now hopes to reduce femicides – murders of women – by raising awareness about the common themes involved in the killings.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the statistics show that violence against women “should be at the absolute centre of our social policy.”

Quite as if women actually mattered.

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

Raif not flogged again

Feb 13th, 2015 10:15 am | By

CBC News reports:

Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger jailed for criticizing Islam, has had his weekly lashes delayed for a fifth time according to Amnesty International.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes, to be delivered in batches of 50 every week.

He was flogged for the first time on Jan. 9. However, the next five flogging sessions were postponed. At least two of the postponements were due to medical reasons.

Well – they’re going to look like complete ogres and complete fools as well if they go ahead with it after this. They’re in a hot spotlight, and that situation isn’t going to get any better for them.

Amnesty International is calling for Badawi’s sentence to be quashed and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally so he can join his family in Canada.

Damn right. And his lawyer, too, Waleed Abu Al-Khair.

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

In front of the embassy

Feb 12th, 2015 6:03 pm | By

Ensaf shared some photos from Vienna.

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

Don’t stop until

Feb 12th, 2015 5:59 pm | By

Ensaf Haider has done a short video to thank people for working to free Raif. She asks us not to stop until he’s free and with them. Nope nope nope – not going to stop until then. On the ground, in Montreal – only then will I stop.

But then there is Waleed, and there are the others. Not stopping until they’re all free then.


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

The long-standing parking disputes

Feb 12th, 2015 5:44 pm | By

That Washington Post article that Glenn Greenwald linked to – it’s by Michelle Boorstein yesterday, on the (cough) tensions between atheism and Islam.

On Wednesday, the father of the two women said one of his daughters had mentioned Hicks’ before and felt he was anti-Muslim. A week ago, he said, she told her family she had  “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice near Chapel Hill, told The News Observer.

Later on Wednesday, Hicks’s wife insisted that the shooting was only due to parking arguments and not to any bigotry. “I can say with my absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victims faith, but in fact was related to the long-standing parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors. ” Karen Hicks said during a news conference.

Notice a problem with that? It was a fucking parking dispute. Who the hell murders three people over a parking space? Citing “long-standing parking disputes” really doesn’t do anything to fill the yawning void between a parking dispute, however longstanding, and murdering three people.

But reports that an outspoken atheist — most of Hicks’ many Facebook posts railed against religion — had attacked a family who were visibly Muslim (the women wore headscarves) tapped immediately into a conversation that has been going on since Sept. 11 about why several of atheism’s biggest figures have singled out Islam for criticism.

Among them are biologist and writer Richard Dawkins and neuroscientist Sam Harris, who have both triggered controversy with their comments about Islam.

And therein lies a whole different problem, which is that both of those examples of Atheism’s Biggest Figures are annoyingly crude and simplistic in what they say in public about Islam. Dawkins in particular thinks it’s useful to keep cranking out eye-poking tweets about Islam as a way to…whatever: fix it or lure people away from it or startle people into paying more attention to it. He’s wrong to think that’s useful. It’s the opposite of useful. It makes him look like a jerk who likes poking people in the eye, and by extension it makes all atheists look like that. This is one reason out of many I wish we had different, better Atheism’s Biggest Figures.

The tensions have been central enough that umbrella secular and atheist groups Wednesday were quick to release statements condemning the Chapel Hill killings. Ron Lindsay, president of the skeptics’ group Center for Inquiry[,] said atheists have in the past held conferences on the topic of Islam and tried to “reach out for dialogue” but the overtures have been viewed skeptically by Muslims.

Lindsay and other secular groups said Wednesday that the atheists’ particular focus on Islam has been triggered by the comments of big-name celebrities like Harris.

“I don’t think he’s an Islamophobe. But it’s fair to say in his writings that he portrays Islam as inherently more violen[ce]-prone than other religions and that has had an effect on some people, maybe an unintended [e]ffect. A lot of people tend to see Muslims in their mind a[s] more of a threat and tend to lump Muslims together,” Lindsay said. “To try and put things in focus, clearly we’re concerned about Islamic extremism, but we always make this clear, this is a small minority of Muslims.”

I’m tired of having to live with the unintended effects of Harris and Dawkins being provocative. I think they’re both clumsy at it; I think they’re both rude rather than wittily challenging, which I think is what they intend. I think they’re both very full of their own importance and prickly when disputed. I’m tired of having them as putative Leaders.

Meanwhile, a group of atheists is raising money to donate to a cause championed by one of the Muslim victims. Barakat, whose family was from Syria, had started a crowd-sourcing campaign to collect donations for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation. His “Refugee Smiles,” focuses on providing dental care to refugees of the Syrian War in Turkey.

“There are conflicting reports about what the motivation was,” said Dale McGowan, executive director of the humanist nonprofit, Foundation Beyond Belief, a national organization based in Atlanta. “It doesn’t matter. It’s someone who identified with our community. We need to make a strong statement against the act.”

Quite right. The conflicting reports don’t matter: he was part of the atheist community and we need to repudiate the whole thing – the leader-worship, the male-centrism, the belligerent tweets, the hostility for its own sake. Enough already.

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

Better off asking questions

Feb 12th, 2015 5:03 pm | By

Glenn Greenwald tried to school Maajid Nawaz. That didn’t go well.

Maajid posted a screenshot.

Embedded image permalink

@ggreenwald @SamHarrisOrg as if to say “those poor natives are just born like that and we must patronisingly defend everything about them”

Aka the racism of low expectations.

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

Pope opens mouth, inserts scarlet slipper

Feb 12th, 2015 1:42 pm | By

Pope pope pope. You really should learn to think before you speak. NPR says why.

Pope Francis said that couples who opt not to have children are being “selfish” as he spoke of a “greedy generation” that’s choosing not to procreate.

Think, pope pope. Slow down, stop talking, take a breath, and think.

Any luck yet?

Pope pope, you opted not to have children yourself. Officially. You look very fucking stupid saying things like that, given your own choices.

I know – you expect us to treat that as different, because it’s part of your ReLigIon. Nope. Not gonna do that. It’s not different, it’s the same, so you have no standing to go tut tut at everyone.

That’s before we get to the fact that it’s terrible advice at a time when the planet may be tipping into a rapid slide to drought and famine and mass extinction.

Speaking at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Francis talked on the joy of children and their importance in society, at one point reminiscing about his own mother.

“A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society,” the pope said. “The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

Except, of course, when the ice caps are melting and the rivers are shrinking and the coral reefs are dying and the crops are failing.

I suppose he thinks his buddy God will intervene at the last minute and reverse all that, and then we’ll want all those extra babies.

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

Last Saturday in London

Feb 12th, 2015 1:22 pm | By

Peter Tatchell spoke at the “Sharia law, apostasy and secularism” conference in London last Saturday, the one that Maryam organized.

Although Sharia law is not the law of the UK, there have been repeated and on-going attempts by Islamists to apply Sharia principles in law and education, in a bid to make these public institutions Sharia-accommodating. This is a direct threat to human rights; most notably to the human rights of UK Muslims.

Speaker after speaker last Saturday warned of an Islamist agenda of stealthy, creeping, subtle Sharification. This involves sustained attempts by Islamists to pressure public institutions, in the name of religious freedom and multiculturalism, to make special allowances for their reactionary sectarian clerical values.

By Islamists, please note, not Muslims. Most Christians are not Christianists and most British Muslims are not Islamists.

The conference organiser Maryam Namazie made an impassioned plea:

“Islamism is an international far-right movement that has murdered innumerable Charlie Hebdos over several decades across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, including many Muslims who have dared to…live twenty-first century lives (that are) prohibited by the Islamists. Being a woman, a freethinker, being gay, being unveiled, improperly veiled, an atheist, going to school, driving a car, having sex, falling in love, laughing out loud, dancing….’offends’ them. Calling for civility, censorship, silence or ‘respect’ for the ‘offended’ is merely heeding the Islamist demand for submission (to clerical authority) at the expense of dissenters – whether (they) be Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia or Roya Nobakht in Iran.”

Far-right, not far-left. Right-wing, not left-wing.

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, saluted those who continue to “bravely challenge deadly religious far-right movements whose end game is to shut down secular democratic spaces and to terrorise us into silence. The time has come to….reject the politics of hatred, whether emanating from the racist far-right or the religious far-right.”

Another conference speaker, Marieme Helie Lucas, founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue, warned against:

“A growing restriction on our freedoms and civil rights in the name of religious tolerance; an endless abandonment of secular values….(and of) equal rights to all citizens – agnostics, atheists and believers alike. We are heading towards unequal rights and different laws for different categories of citizens – all condoned by ‘democratic’ states. The right to practice according to one’s own belief should not supersede universal rights.”

Hold that thought.

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

Listen up, sons of the house of Saud

Feb 12th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

The government of Quebec is once again calling for the release of Raif Badawi.

The National Assembly unanimously passed a motion condemning the whipping of Badawi, and expressing support for his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children.

The motion calls on the governments of Quebec and Canada to do everything possible to secure Badawi’s freedom.

“We will not put our arms down. The democratic world has to say loud and clear that we don’t want those practices to go again without any notice from the rest of the world,” said Premier Philippe Couillard.

Haidar, as well as some of Badawi’s supporters, watched the debate as it happened.

The premier has brought up the case directly with Saudi Arabian ambassador to Canada.

Poor Saudi Arabia. They must be getting so tired of hearing about this.

The case has sparked international outcry and widespread protest.

There have been numerous demonstrations across Quebec, asking for Badawi’s release.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, has called on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to pardon him. The United States has also asked Saudi Arabia to cancel the 1,000 lashes.

And so has Charles Windsor. We’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but ‘Raif’…

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


Feb 12th, 2015 11:30 am | By

A really gruesome thought has occurred to me.

First, fair warning: I’m speculating about the motives of Craig Hicks in killing the three people in that Chapel Hill condo. I know it’s stupid to speculate about the motives of killers in the absence of knowledge…but that ship has sailed. People already are speculating about the motives, and if we – by which I mean we vocal atheists – stay silent we just come across as evasive or worse.

Plus there’s the fact that it looks like a hate crime against Muslims because Muslims, and there was anger at the fact that it wasn’t being reported.For that reason too I think we shouldn’t ignore it.

So I’m speculating; that is, I’m trying to think about what might be his motives, or perhaps more accurately what set him off.

We don’t know; we don’t know that he went to their condo to complain about parking and then flipped out, but that seems to be one likely explanation. It doesn’t seem to fit a planned murder of three people for the crime of being Muslim, or a planned murder of three or two people or one person for parking in his parking spot. We don’t know, but suppose the story is that somebody parked in his spot and he went to the condo to make another fuss about parking.

What has occurred to me is that when he went there he found a man, and two women in hijabs. Two. It has occurred to me that he could have flipped out because of the two women in the condo. He had encountered Deah Barakat and Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha before, but perhaps he’d never seen Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha before. I don’t suppose he got into a friendly chat with them about who’s visiting from out of town. It has occurred to me that he may have seen a second woman there and leapt to the conclusion that Deah was going in for polygamy, right there in the same condo complex with him, and flipped out.

I don’t know, obviously. It’s sheer speculation. But there is a big gap between going to someone’s door to complain about parking, and shooting three people in the head. A huge gap.

It is a horribly gruesome thought.

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

MEPs strongly condemn the flogging of Raif Badawi

Feb 12th, 2015 10:21 am | By

From a press release today by the European Parliament:

Case of Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia

MEPs strongly condemn the flogging of Raif Badawi by the Saudi Arabian authorities as a “cruel and shocking act” and call on them “to release him immediately and unconditionally” and to ensure that his conviction and sentence, including his travel ban, are quashed.  They see Mr Badawi’s case as a symbol of the assault on freedom of expression and peaceful dissent in the country, and “more broadly of the Kingdom’s characteristic policies of intolerance and extremist interpretation of Islamic law”.

Parliament instructs its Delegation for Relations with the Arab Peninsula to raise the cases of Mr Badawi and other prisoners of conscience during its forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia and to report back to its Subcommittee on Human Rights.

The resolution was passed by 460 votes, to 153, with 29 abstentions.

Pariah state.


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