Notes and Comment Blog

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

Hey baby, look at my latest book

Apr 12th, 2014 10:50 am | By


Remember that horrible piece by David Foster at Comment is Free saying it should be totally fine to ask a total stranger for sex? Well guess who shared it on Twitter.


Richard Dawkins @RichardDawkins

“Adults of both genders [should be] comfortable both making and receiving straightforward sexual propositions.” 

Well if nothing else, that at least helps to explain Dear Muslima. Not that we didn’t know that was the reason for Dear Muslima, but that helpfully puts it on the record for people who were in denial. Richard was pissed off at Rebecca because he doesn’t want guys being told “don’t do that” – don’t corner women at 4 a.m. to ask them for sex. He doesn’t want guys being told “don’t do that” because he thinks adults – like him for instance, and any women he wants to hit on – should be comfortable both making and receiving straightforward sexual propositions. He thinks that because he wants to feel comfortable that way himself. The important thing is for men to feel entirely free and comfortable to ask women they don’t know for sex.

The important thing is not for women who don’t want to be constantly and permanently subject to being asked for sex by strangers, to feel confident that that won’t happen in places where they go to do other things. Women who want to be able to do their jobs while at work? Pffffff – they’re just prudes. Women who want to be treated as colleagues instead of potential fuck buddies? Bah, they’re those awful sex-negative feminist types. Life is a cabaret, get yer kit off, I’ve got a straightforward sexual proposition for you, and if you say no I’ll get my revenge.


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

Welcome, voters, how long can you hold it?

Apr 12th, 2014 10:01 am | By

Election officials in Miami-Dade County have thought of a fabulous new way to disenfanchise people: lock up the restrooms (toilets, WCs, washrooms) at polling places so that voters faced with long lines will give up and leave.

Earlier this year, the Miami-Dade County Elections Department quietly implemented a policy to close the bathrooms at all polling facilities, according to disability rights lawyer Marc Dubin. Dubin said the policy change was in “direct response” to an inquiry to the Elections Department about whether they had assessed accessibility of polling place bathrooms to those with disabilities.

“I was expecting them to say either yes we have or yes we will,” Dubin said.

Instead, he received a written response announcing that the county would close all restrooms at polling places “to ensure that individuals with disabilities are not treated unfairly,” a January email stated. “[T]he Department’s policy is not to permit access to restrooms at polling sites on election days,” Assistant County Attorney Shanika Graves said in a Feb. 14 email.

That’s like saying “the Department’s policy is to whack people waiting in line to vote with heavy wooden baseball bats.”

Did someone mention voting rights? Never heard of them.


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

CAIR shuts down “Honor Diaries” at universities

Apr 11th, 2014 4:42 pm | By

More from the shut-uppers at CAIR.

Writers and producers of “Honor Diaries” are standing by the film they made about abuses women face around the world, despite criticism it received from the U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), reported the Washington Examiner on Thursday.

CAIR called the film, which showcases nine Muslim women who speak about their experiences with honor practices such as forced marriage at young ages, denial of education and female genital mutilation, “islamophobic.”

It’s also forced marriageophobic, child marriageophobic, denial of educationophobic, and FGMophobic. So the fuck what? Shut up, CAIR. You’re not the boss of everything.

The controversy began after CAIR convinced officials at University of Michigan to cancel a screening of the film last week and then confirmed a second cancellation of the film showing at the University of Illinois.

[breathing flames]

Clinical therapist and activist on global women’s rights Zainab Khan who appears in the film says the organization is “utilizing tactics of censorship.”

“It’s completely dangerous and shows their mode of operation: bullying, scapegoating, censoring, avoiding issues.”

It is and it does. This organization needs to be seen for what it is, and people on the left need to stop treating it as some kind of equivalent of the NAACP or the ADL.

CAIR officials said it wasn’t censorship and that the organization had only informed sponsors of the documentary showing that the issues presented in the film were done so unfairly.

“The screenings were not canceled by CAIR,” said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper.

“They were canceled by the screening sponsors after they were informed of the hate agenda and Islamophobic history of the film’s producers. Replacement events dealings with this issue are now being planned with the screening sponsors and actual representatives of the American Muslim community.”

And of course “actual representatives of the American Muslim community” means “people who are completely uncritical of Islam and act as amateur public relations staff for it.”

In an interview with the Washington Examiner, human rights attorney Paula Kweskin, a writer and producer for the film, said it was clear that the Muslim advocacy group had not seen the film in its entirety.

Kweskin said the inspiration for the film stemmed from the Arab Spring in 2011 when women were at the front of a lot of the protests. While supporters hoped that it would result in greater equality for women in the Arab world, it has not been the case. Women and children are the greatest victims of the ongoing conflict and women in Egypt are regularly victimized for protesting.

This film needs to be seen. Universities need to stop jumping when CAIR says jump.

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

Fetal stand your ground law

Apr 11th, 2014 4:08 pm | By

Sometimes I can’t believe what I’m reading.

A Senate subcommittee in South Carolina is seeking to expand the state’s “Stand Your Ground” defense law to include protections for all children, including unborn ones, beginning from the moment of conception.

In other words a Senate subcommittee in South Carolina is seeking to legalize the murder of abortion providers.

Democratic State Senator Brad Hutto shared with The State his concern that any new law would be redundant, as it is already legal for a pregnant woman to respond with deadly force. He asked supporters of the measures — three are currently pending — to provide him with an example in which an unborn child’s life would be threatened when the mother’s isn’t.

The subcommittee passed a bill it called “The Pregnant Women’s Protection Act,” but abortion-rights activists claim the name of the bill is a misnomer used to disguise the fact that this bill is actually a back-door effort to grant constitutional rights to embryos from the moment of conception.

And thus remove said rights from pregnant women.

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

Just thought you should know

Apr 11th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

Via Political Loudmouth on Facebook.

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

We do no favors when we shut our eyes to this link

Apr 11th, 2014 3:40 pm | By

The Wall Street Journal has a condensed version of what would have been Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s talk at Brandeis had they not rudely withdrawn her invitation to receive an honorary degree. (Yes, I’m spelling it out in full every time.)

You deserve better memories than 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. And you are not the only ones. In Syria, at least 120,000 people have been killed, not simply in battle, but in wholesale massacres, in a civil war that is increasingly waged across a sectarian divide. Violence is escalating in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Libya, in Egypt. And far more than was the case when you were born, organized violence in the world today is disproportionately concentrated in the Muslim world.

Another striking feature of the countries I have just named, and of the Middle East generally, is that violence against women is also increasing. In Saudi Arabia, there has been a noticeable rise in the practice of female genital mutilation. In Egypt, 99% of women report being sexually harassed and up to 80 sexual assaults occur in a single day.

Especially troubling is the way the status of women as second-class citizens is being cemented in legislation. In Iraq, a law is being proposed that lowers to 9 the legal age at which a girl can be forced into marriage. That same law would give a husband the right to deny his wife permission to leave the house.

Is this a good trend? No, it’s not a good trend. Is it completely unconnected to Islam? Hardly.

Two decades ago, not even the bleakest pessimist would have anticipated all that has gone wrong in the part of world where I grew up. After so many victories for feminism in the West, no one would have predicted that women’s basic human rights would actually be reduced in so many countries as the 20th century gave way to the 21st.

But at that point, it might surprise her detractors to learn, she takes a turn to optimism.

Today, however, I am going to predict a better future, because I believe that the pendulum has swung almost as far as it possibly can in the wrong direction.

When I see millions of women in Afghanistan defying threats from the Taliban and lining up to vote; when I see women in Saudi Arabia defying an absurd ban on female driving; and when I see Tunisian women celebrating the conviction of a group of policemen for a heinous gang rape, I feel more optimistic than I did a few years ago. The misnamed Arab Spring has been a revolution full of disappointments. But I believe it has created an opportunity for traditional forms of authority—including patriarchal authority—to be challenged, and even for the religious justifications for the oppression of women to be questioned.

Yet for that opportunity to be fulfilled, we in the West must provide the right kind of encouragement. Just as the city of Boston was once the cradle of a new ideal of liberty, we need to return to our roots by becoming once again a beacon of free thought and civility for the 21st century. When there is injustice, we need to speak out, not simply with condemnation, but with concrete actions.

One of the best places to do that is in our institutions of higher learning. We need to make our universities temples not of dogmatic orthodoxy, but of truly critical thinking, where all ideas are welcome and where civil debate is encouraged. I’m used to being shouted down on campuses, so I am grateful for the opportunity to address you today. I do not expect all of you to agree with me, but I very much appreciate your willingness to listen.


Well that didn’t work out.

How embarrassing.

Shame on you, Brandeis.

I stand before you as someone who is fighting for women’s and girls’ basic rights globally. And I stand before you as someone who is not afraid to ask difficult questions about the role of religion in that fight.

The connection between violence, particularly violence against women, and Islam is too clear to be ignored. We do no favors to students, faculty, nonbelievers and people of faith when we shut our eyes to this link, when we excuse rather than reflect.

Or when we silence brave women who talk about that connection.

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

Even the woman is guilty

Apr 11th, 2014 2:56 pm | By

In India, where politicians are out trying to make themselves popular, one guy said a surprising thing.

In a bizarre and grotesque statement, the state Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Abu Azmi said women who were raped should also be punished. The statement came after this reporter questioned Azmi about SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s comments on rape.

Yadav had, at a rally in UP, said that the death sentence, as punishment, for rape was too harsh. “Ladkon se aisi galtiyan ho jati hain, to iska matlab yeh to nahi ki unhe phaansi de di jaaye (Boys make mistakes, but this doesn’t mean you hang them),” he told the gathering. 

When this reporter asked for Azmi’s comments on his chief’s statements, he replied that rape was punishable by death in Islam. “Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty.”

Let’s apply that across the board. Murder? Punish the killer and the corpse. Robbery? Punish the robber and the person robbed. Assault? Punish both of them.

Or maybe not. But then why do that in rape cases?

He further added, “In India, if you have sex with a person with consent, it’s fine. But if that same person complains, it’s a problem. Nowadays, we see a lot of such cases. Girls complain when someone touches them, and even when someone doesn’t touch them. It becomes a problem then, and the man’s honour is ruined in this. If rape happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in Islam.”

Yes, that’s right. That’s exactly right. If you have sex with a person with consent, it’s fine. But if that same person complains, it’s a problem. That’s how rape is defined. If you have sex with a person with consent, it’s sex. It’s fine. Sex with consent is fine. See how that works? If, on the other hand, the person “complains” i.e. says there was no consent – then that’s rape. That’s what that word means. It’s not fine to have sex with someone who does not consent. So the rest of that paragraph is all nonsense. There’s no such thing as rape with or without consent – it’s rape only if it’s without consent.

But it’s all right; he explained.

When asked for a solution to the problem of rapes, Azmi had this to say: “Solution is this: any woman if, whether married or unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be hanged. Both should be hanged. It shouldn’t be allowed even if a woman goes by consent.”

Oh. People who have sex should be hanged. Hmmm…I’m not sure Abu Amzi has thought this through.

But seriously – it actually just sounds like some guy thinking about women being able to charge someone with rape and getting all hot under the collar about it, as some guys do. When in doubt, call for women to be punished or killed.

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

You call that pluralism?

Apr 11th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

A local CAIR boffin wrote a gloating letter to the New York Times rejoicing at CAIR’S success at getting Brandeis to shit all over Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations welcomes Brandeis University’s cancellation of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an activist with a long record of vicious anti-Islam statements, some of which are quoted in your article.

It’s not “vicious” to criticize a religion, even harshly. Religions, like corporations, are not people, and do not have feelings to be viciously wounded.

We should all take note, however, that opposition to the honorary degree for Ms. Hirsi Ali did not come only from the Muslim community, but also from Jewish students and faculty members at Brandeis, one of America’s great Jewish-sponsored institutions of higher learning.

The lesson here is that those committed to a nation and a world of justice and peace can accomplish wonders when working together across different communities. This is in keeping with the values of pluralism, compassion and human dignity enshrined within both Islam and Judaism.

Director, Philadelphia Chapter
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Philadelphia, April 9, 2014

What world of justice and peace? What does Islam have to do with justice and peace? What country is there where Islam is entangled with the government that is a beacon of justice and peace? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Pakistan? Somalia? Indonesia? Malaysia? Afghanistan? What does Islam have to do with justice and peace? I don’t mean mouthing the words, I mean actually bringing it about.

And what does Islam have to do with the values of pluralism, compassion and human dignity, either? Same question again – where is the Islamist nation that’s an example to the world of pluralism, compassion and human dignity?

And now that we’re on the subject – why does American or any country need such a thing as “Islamic Relations” at all? There’s no Council on American-Catholic Relations is there? Or Council on Buddhist-Islamic Relations? Or any other equivalent?

Piss off, CAIR.


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

Pants on fire

Apr 11th, 2014 11:36 am | By

Ohhhhhhhhh fuck you, BBC.

Today’s must-read

Brandeis University’s decision not to bestow an honorary degree on a women’s rights advocate and outspoken critic of the Islamic faith has generated a firestorm of criticism from conservative media outlets.

Bullshit. Not just conservative. I’m not conservative, Kenan Malik is not conservative, plenty of people who have written about this are not conservative.

Ms Ali would go on to start a foundation to assist women in the West who were the victims of religious oppression, and she would occassionally have harsh words for the faith of her childhood.

In 2007, Ms Ali told Reason magazine that Islam needs to be defeated: “I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

Statements like these were cited by those who objected to Ms Ali’s appearance at Brandeis’s commencement ceremonies. On Tuesday they prevailed, as Brandeis announced that it “cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values”.

The decision was denounced by conservative commentators.

But not exclusively conservative commentators, you stinking weasels.

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

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Women Victims of Islam”

Apr 11th, 2014 11:22 am | By

I published an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali at ur-Butterflies and Wheels way back in 2005, when she was still an MP in the Netherlands. It was a talk she gave at a UN conference in Geneva, one of three. I published all three. Here’s the background information I provided at the time:

A one-day conference was held at the United Nations in Geneva on April 18 2005, titled ‘Victims of Jihad: Human Rights Abuse in the Name of Islam’. The conference occurred during the last week of the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. On April 12, the Commission on Human Rights passed a resolution condemning the ‘defamation’ of religion. The resolution, titled ‘Combating Defamation of Religions,’ expresses ‘deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism.’ The ‘Victims of Jihad’ conference cast doubt on the wording of that resolution, and the thought behind it.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Azam Kamguian, and Ibn Warraq all addressed the conference, and all kindly sent the text of their speeches to Butterflies and Wheels. Here, for your convenience, they all are.

I wrote to Ayaan at her parliamentary address and her assistant replied, with the text of Ayaan’s talk. I felt honored. 

In honor of Brandeis’s cowardly and insulting treatment of Ayaan, here is that article again.

Women Victims of Islam

Due to the sensitivity of this subject I will start by making a distinction between Islam and Muslims. Islam can be described as a civilization, as a source of spiritual guidance, as a way of life and so on. Most of all Islam is a moral framework, and central to this moral frame is the decree that a believer or follower submit his will to Allah. How this submission should be practiced is worked out in the Qur’an and hadith.

A Muslim is any one – regardless of race or sex – who subscribes to or testifies to believing, among other things, that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet. Besides accepting god as Allah, and his prophet, a Muslim also believes in a host of other things like the existence of angels, a hereafter with a range of different heavens and hells, more prophets, and the view that the world will come to an end as predicted in the holy Qur’an.

Islam as compiled in the Qur’an and Hadith could be viewed as static. The way Muslims believe or practice their religion is dynamic. The individual Muslim can choose to change. As humans they are endowed with reason and, if free, Muslims can, as Christians and Jews have done in the past and still do, progress by means of critical self-reflection. I regularly criticize Islam and especially the treatment of women as prescribed in the Qur’ an and Hadith. By doing that I have annoyed many Muslims, some of whom actually want to hurt me. Despite this, rejecting some of the teachings in Islam is not the same as rejecting Muslims. Muslims deserve to be and should be viewed in Europe and elsewhere like all other humans. What I ask is not to fear Muslims or persecute them for their beliefs. What I expect – both from Muslims and their non-Muslim supporters – is to have the opportunity to think, publish my ideas and engage in societal discussion about Islam as a moral framework without having to fear for my life.

Having said that, I would like to defend the proposition that in Islam women are subordinate to men. The sexual morality propagated in Islam leads, when put into practice, to cruel violations of the rights of women and girls. By making a statement like this one I know that I am inviting disagreement. I am most interested in the arguments of my critics. Let me demonstrate this inequality. According to Islamic teachings in the Qur’an and hadith: Muslim men are free to go where they want while most Muslim women are confined to their houses. Muslim men do not need permission to leave the house; women do. Muslim men are not obligated to veil their beauty but Muslim women must. A man may divorce his wife as easily as repeating the words “I divorce you” three times in the presence of two witnesses. A woman who wants to leave her husband must prove at least that he does not meet her material needs. She must prove that he is impotent. She must prove that he cannot make her pregnant. She must have the approval of her wali (or guardian). A man may inherit twice as much as a woman. His testimony in matters of conflict is worth twice hers. Just in case there is a hereafter, women know from the prophet that their sort is over-represented in hell, while men can look forward to 72 virgins and companionship with their men folk. It is demanded in the Qur’an that a woman obeys her husband indefinitely. For the man conforming to the wishes of his wife is an option. A man may have sexual intercourse with his wife when and how he wants. Her refusal will invite the curses of angels and the wrath of her husband. If a man rejects his wife in bed the angels are silent and her disappointment may lead her husband to think that she is in the grip of the devil, who fills her with uncontrollable desires. Even though a man may marry four wives provided he promises to treat them equally, a woman has the right to only one man. And even this right is limited by the fact that she cannot do so without permission from her guardian (father, brother, or paternal uncle).

Some of the Muslims who disagree with me say that I am confused by the way Islam is practiced in war-torn and backward Somalia, my country of birth. According to them I should look at the way millions of Muslims practice their religions in more peaceful and modern countries.

I acknowledge that there are indeed areas in the world such as the large cities of Indonesia (the world’s largest Muslim country), Turkey, and some North African countries where Islam has somehow found a compromise with modernity. I also recognize that there are thousands of Muslims who treat men and women, boys and girls in an equal manner. However I invite those who disagree with my statement on inequality between the sexes in Islam to compare the consistence between the teachings in the Quran and hadith and real life circumstances in the majority nations with large Islamic populations and especially those whose state of affairs are regulated according to the model of the prophet Muhammad.

Is one who takes note of the daily suffering endured by girls and women in Saudi Arabia and Iran (two countries based on the sharia) deranged and traumatized? Or is the reality of the Sharia difficult to endure when enforced by those who will tolerate no criticism of Islam?

Is the high rate of illiteracy among girls and women in the UNDP report on Human Development in 22 Arab-Islamic countries an outcome of the lowly position women and girls are accorded in their religion and culture, or is the report only meant to defame and insult the countries researched?

Why are Muslim girls and women over-represented in the shelters of the abused and the crisis houses for teenagers who run away from home? Is it a coincidence, or is the strict virginity required in Islam a possible explanation of why these girls are haunted by their families: their fathers, brothers and husbands, the very people who should be protecting them from external harm?

In order to reject the statement that women are subordinate to men in Islam, my opponents will have to answer disturbing questions like these honestly.

An argument often heard in defence of Islam is that the cruel treatment of Muslim women is not so much the outcome of the Qur’ an and hadith as God originally meant them to be, as a narrow and opportunistic abuse of these holy sources by men in patriarchal societies. This argument is not convincing because Islam was founded by a man in a patriarchal society. Islam is a tribal religion, founded under tribal conditions and a moral framework whereby those virtues held high in the Arab tribe are made divine. I do not intend to deny that the prophet Muhammad may have improved the position of women in the 7th century AD. For example he contributed to abolishing the custom of burying girls alive at the age of 7 and the right of men to marry as many wives as they wished. But let’s not forget that while these improvements may have seemed revolutionary 14 hundred years ago, now they are horribly outdated.

Continual reference to the improvements made so long ago does not make the current suffering of women abused in the name of Allah more bearable. All it does is divert the attention from the inhuman treatment of Muslim girls and women today and the fear they live in.

That, among other reasons, is why it is so important to take a moral stand against those teachings and practices in Islam that degrade women to a species between human and animal. For those Muslims who agree with me, and for those Europeans who do not wish to look away, taking this moral attitude means that we should take action. Debate with Muslims living in Europe, and through words and pictures challenge the sexual morality in Islam held by so many European Muslims; Provide protection from honour killing for Muslim women who are on the run. Introduce a control system as an instrument to eradicate female genital mutilation. (There is controversy on whether this is Islamic. It is remarkable however that many Muslim countries practice FGM. Indonesia, is an example of a country where FGM came with the Muslim missionaries). Interfere through the schools and day care centres with the way Muslims in Europe start their families and bring up their children. Stop financing faith based schools.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Dutch Member of Parliament and author of the film ‘Submission.’




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


Apr 11th, 2014 10:28 am | By

So what’s the first thing I read after writing that? Jason Linkins in the Huffington Post on Brandeis and the fallout thereof.

Here’s a thing that happened in the immediate wake of Brandeis’ decision to put the kibosh on Hirsi Ali’s planned appearance: The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol started typing stuff. Here’s what he came up with:

As Lori Lowenthal Marcus notes, Brandeis University has in recent years bestowed an honorary degree on Tony Kushner, who called the creation of Israel as a Jewish state “a mistake” and who attacked Israel for ethnic cleansing and for causing “terrible peril in the world.” Brandeis has also honored Desmond Tutu, who compared Israel to Hitler, attacked the “Jewish lobby” as too “powerful” and “scary,” and complained of the “Jewish monopoly of the Holocaust.”

As it happens, Tony Kushner is one of my favorite playwrights. So you can only imagine how excited I am that one of the (logical and predictable) after-effects of this Brandeis flap is that Kushner now has got a target painted on his back.

Quite, and so does Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She already did but Brandeis renewed the paint and added flashing warning lights.

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

Further thoughts on Brandeis

Apr 11th, 2014 9:56 am | By

And another thing.

Those two core sentences in Brandeis’s statement taking back the honorary degree it had announced it was awarding to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

What’s this “we cannot overlook” shit? They already had overlooked it. Putting it in that stuffy self-righteous reproachful way makes it look as if Hirsi Ali had pulled a fast one. It puts the blame on her. It bleats at her because Brandeis fucked up. It’s a very sly, covert, manipulative way of putting her in the wrong instead of itself. It’s an object lesson in how to be a lying sniveling backstabbing bureaucrat.

And then the last sentence carefully avoids taking any responsibility, let alone blame. That all by itself is bullshit, independent of what you think of Hirsi Ali. If you’re going to give someone an honor, then do your homework before you go public with the honor. Once you go public with the honor, it’s too late.

And then there’s the fact that it doesn’t say what these “past statements” were, leaving room for people’s lurid imaginations to go to work, and also leaving room for people who can’t stand a word of criticism of Islam to smear her even more than they already have. Brandeis basically trussed her up and handed her over to her enemies, some of whom are violent. Did Brandeis pause for even a second to remember Theo Van Gogh?

In this sense, what Brandeis did was quite similar to what Channel4 News and BBC Newsnight did to Maajid Nawaz by refusing to show the Jesus and Mo cartoon: they gave aid and comfort to the people who were threatening Maajid. Brandeis has given new oxygen and respectability to people who threaten Hirsi Ali, people who would kill her if they could.

Why did they do it? I actually don’t know; I can’t figure it out. If they knew enough about her to want to give her the award, they knew enough to make them refuse to be intimidated by CAIR. I really don’t know why CAIR’s bullying was enough to make them cave.

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

You’re in good hands with the Vatican

Apr 10th, 2014 5:45 pm | By

From last week – Cardinal George Pell is leaving Australia for a new job in the Vatican, and for a good-bye present he told a royal commission that priests should be insured against being sued for child sexual abuse. Elizabeth Farrelly is…shall we say, taken aback.

Our man in purple, our alpha priest, moral paragon. Our Vatican princeling, just days from taking up his dauphindom in Rome: he said that? He dropped this fissile solipsism on our public debate and left, smacking the dust from his hands like, we’re done now, right?

For this was no dinner party throw-away. The cardinal – fully frocked, schooled and premeditated – breathed his proposition into the stone tablets of a royal commission. He wanted it recorded and kept. Forever.

But insurance? Does he think child sex is some unavoidable occupational hazard? Something a priest will sooner or later fall to? An accident? If you wanted to maximise the damage already done to countless children, you’d be hard put to find a surer way, or crueller.

And does he think the church should just be able to put in a claim and then sail on majestically unperturbed?

Consider for a moment. Is abuse insurance like car insurance, green-slip to start and no-claim bonus for good behaviour? Or is it like health insurance where you select your cover to suit. Ten grand, say, for talking dirty to preschoolers. A hundred grand for touching. What, half-a-mill for penetration? Or is professional indemnity the model – the surgeon’s slip of the knife, the architect’s of the pen?

Apologies if you think this talk indelicate but, as the sex fiend said to the shrink, I’m not the one drawing the dirty pictures here.

Insurance is risk management.  Pell’s purpose, one can only presume, was to downscale the entire abuse project from major moral issue to mere workplace risk. This is appeasement, the moral equivalent of adapting to, rather than mitigating, climate change. Is this what confession teaches? Outsource your risk?

It’s business. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business. He’s got to answer to the stockholders.

If this were some dumb corporation – some downtown retailer, say – a far lesser abuse scenario would have seen heads roll, many and large. Were the abuser Joe Blow, he’d be jailed as a rock spider. Were the abuse organised, secret, power-protected, woe betide, especially the ringleader.

Yet Paragon Pell shrugs, denies responsibility and skips away to Rome. A fine example he set, squirming in the witness box, blaming his colleagues, his lawyers and the children themselves. Yet the church, far from enforcing virtue, promotes him.

It’s how they roll.


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

Dave Silverman writes an Open Letter to Brandeis

Apr 10th, 2014 1:10 pm | By

This is that letter.

April 10, 2014

Dear Mr. Lawrence,

I remember well my years attending Brandeis University. I remember the classes, the teachers, the students, and even the food. But perhaps most of all, I remember the activism.

I remember the student tables in Usdan pushing a diverse set of agendas. I remember the Republicans and Democrats; I remember Triskelion promoting awareness of LGBT issues. I remember a speech by Meir Kahane, who actively preached the murder of Muslims in Israel, proclaiming “violence is not the road to peace, but it is the road to survival.” I remember a student-made and staffed shanty-town protesting Brandeis’ investment in South Africa during Apartheid, and the pride I felt when Brandeis wisely divested.

Today, that pride is gone as Brandeis has caved to religious intolerance masquerading as political correctness and uninvited a valuable voice in the discussion of religion in public life, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Ms. Hirsi Ali is not “hateful” as some have claimed, nor does she promote violence. She is an eloquent spokesperson for the millions of women and children worldwide who live under the tyrannical thumb of Islam, as she did as a child. She speaks out in defense of justice, equality, and freedom of expression for all people. She speaks for me.

My education at Brandeis has, in no small way, allowed me to rise to the position of president of American Atheists. My job, and indeed my reason for waking up in the morning, is to fight for the rights of those whose voices too often go unheard in the forum of public debate. Those whose most basic freedoms are crushed by theocratic regimes throughout the world.

Addressing some of the most fundamental questions about human rights, particularly the rights of self-determination and free expression, is complex and difficult. When entrenched religious beliefs are used to justify cruel, immoral actions against hundreds of millions of people, we have an obligation to speak out. The criticism of religious beliefs has, in recent years, become taboo for some. This taboo, perhaps, has grown as a result of the privilege we have to live in places where diversity and the agency of individuals is paramount. Ms. Hirsi Ali’s experiences, however, are different.

Her background allows her to speak with clarity about one of the most challenging questions of our time: whether a robust commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue, and social justice is possible when we look the other way when confronted with the realities of Islamic extremism.

What you have done to Ms. Hirsi Ali is rob her of such an opportunity. You have robbed her of the opportunity to speak to Brandeis students about her lived experiences as a child in Somalia and Kenya. You have ended the “dialogue about these important issues” before it has even begun.

I find it inconceivable that you elected to invite her to speak and honor her with a degree without knowing what she stands for and what she has said about the destructive role that religion in general, and Islam in particular, plays in the well-being of women. What you have done is cave to the pressure of those who wish to censor the realities of the lived experiences of a brave woman.

No new information has changed your mind; you chose to stand with those who would rather ignore Ms. Hirsi Ali than to engage with her and with the very real problems she fights.

Recent polling indicates that fully one-third of college-aged Americans are non-religious. Many are atheists. We stand for freedom of expression and of conscience. We stand for the right to criticize all institutions and ideas, including the ones that some hold most dear. We support the rights of all people to live without being married off as children or having their genitals mutilated in the name of “culture” or religion.

I abhor your decision to withdraw your invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religiously motivated deserves recognition and honor. You have chosen instead to side with people who see criticism of religion as a crime.

Today, you have done nothing to “safeguard the safety, dignity, and well-being” of the members of our global community. You have only prevented a powerful voice for such action from being heard by your students. And you have done so in perhaps the most cowardly and dishonorable ways possible.

For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my association with Brandeis University. Accordingly, I am withdrawing my membership in the Alumni Association, ending financial support of the University, and encouraging others to do the same.

I question whether Brandeis is still a place in which all ideas are open for discussion. No worldview, political position, and certainly no religion is above criticism. I will encourage students who value activism, diversity, and freedom of expression to choose educational opportunities other than Brandeis. Until Ms. Hirsi Ali receives an apology from the University, I will continue to question your professed commitment to these values.

It is my hope that Brandeis again becomes a place that thrives on diversity and dialogue and returns to its history of unapologetic activism and social justice, even in the face of criticism and adversity.

Goodbye, Brandeis.


Dave Silverman ‘88

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

Actually Cameron should be ashamed to say so

Apr 10th, 2014 12:29 pm | By

The BHA notes that Cameron too is doing the “Britain is a _____ country” number.

Echoing the deeply mistaken comments of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles MP earlier this week, the Prime Minister David Cameron has today repeated the assertion that ‘Britain is a Christian country and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say so’ at a reception for Christians at Downing Street.

You know, you really would think that people in government, of all people, would know better than to say things like that. You would think that even though it’s obvious enough why people who depend on elections to do their chosen jobs are likely to pander to their audiences of the moment.

Cameron should know better than to say things like that because he’s simply defining a big chunk of the population as Alien. That’s a grotesque thing for someone in government to do.

However true it is that Britain is formally “a Christian country” it’s not at all true as a description, and the two are muddled together when people hear the claim. Prime ministers and presidents shouldn’t use that ambiguity to declare part of the population outsiders.

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

“Hats off to Brandeis University!”

Apr 10th, 2014 10:09 am | By

But of course there are people who are delighted that Brandeis University decided to publicly shame Ayaan Hirsi Ali by withdrawing its already announced award of an honorary degree. One of them is Duke University’s Muslim chaplain Imam Abdullah Antepli. He has a piece at the Huffington Post rejoicing at Brandeis’s clumsy and insulting move.

He tells us he was shocked by Brandeis’s decision to honor Ayan Hirsi Ali, and that he was all the more shocked because of Brandeis’s wonderful record of commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue and social justice.

Ok wait a second hang on. What about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s record of commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue and social justice? Does that go for nothing?

Look. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, like a lot of people, thinks Islam does not have a fabulous record of commitment to equality, diversity, dialogue and social justice. That’s the issue here. It’s not a matter of Brandeis liking equality, diversity, dialogue and social justice, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali not liking it. It’s a matter of Hirsi Ali seeing a massive tension between Islam and equality, which many people prefer to conceal or deny. It’s deceptive to pretend that all the concern for equality and social justice is on the side that hates Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

But that is how Antepli sets up his case.

[Brandeis] is one of the most diverse and welcoming campuses in the U.S. where all minorities thrive, including, and especially, Muslims on its campus. Before many other universities, Brandeis had and still has so many Muslim students, faculty members, administrators and a Muslim Chaplain.

How on earth could this university make such a move to endorse Ali, who is a professional Islamophobe and has a deeply troubling and destructive track record of publicly expressing hateful views of Islam and Muslims? For those who do not know who Ali is, she is one of several ex-Muslims whose souls were deeply scarred by the way they experienced Islam and various local cultural practices in their own life. She and others like her later found themselves spokespeople and poster children of those who have passionately promoted the “Clash of Civilizations” theory between Islam and the West since early 1990s.

All these Ayan Hirsi Ali’s needed to do was generalize their tragic and heart-wrenching personal experiences to the entire world of Islam and Muslims to verify and validate the demonic and monstrous images of this faith and its followers that these “Clash” dreamers have been championing.

He wants us to think that Hirsi Ali’s experience of Islam was peculiar and not generalizable, but that’s bullshit. There’s an abundant record documenting just how generalizable it is.

Having said all of this, I firmly and unequivocally support Ali and her supporters’ freedom to say whatever they want to say. I despise censorship and believe in the sanctity of freedom of speech. I also find Muslim hypersensitivity over criticism of Islam to be foolish and immature. The problem is, simply put, why a university with outstanding moral values would put a kosher seal of endorsement on hate, de-legitimization, dehumanization and exclusion and contradict herself with its core values?

Thank God and to all those who were involved. The story took admirable turns after it became public. Brandeis’ community and friends of Brandeis turned this potentially disastrous and destructive scandal into an admirable and exemplary teaching moment for all. Numerous Brandeis faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and community members fiercely protested the University’s decision and demanded for it to be rescinded. So many others from all around the country joined in support of the protest and signed petitions.

Brandeis’ decision-makers admirably moved quickly to correct this mistake and withdrew their decision to award the honorary degree to Ali.

He can’t do both. He can’t say he firmly and unequivocally supports Ali and her supporters’ freedom to say whatever they want to say and say Brandeis did the right thing by withdrawing the honor. Not giving her the honor in the first place is one thing, but giving it and then taking it back is quite quite another.

This mid-course correction is admirable, worthy of applause and exemplary for all, but especially, Muslims all around the world. This decision sets a moral standard for all of us in how not to turn each other’s renegades into heroes in our communities.

Renegades?? Just call her an apostate or a traitor and be done with it. People are allowed to change their minds, and yes, actually, we do get to pay special attention to that and rejoice at it. We can also frown at it and regret it if it’s a change from something we endorse to something we despise. If someone leaves the Catholic church, I rejoice; if someone converts to Catholicism, I scowl. Either way I don’t call anyone a “renegade” – that’s a revolting concept. It’s a part of the world view of Islam that critics of Islam particularly dislike: the notion that you are forbidden to change your mind.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Brandeis University, President Frederick Lawrence and all others who are behind this exemplary moral act. Thank you for not damaging already fragile, Jewish-Muslim relations any further. Thank you for not pulling the rug from under the feet of people who are admirably trying to repair the relationship and bridge the gap between these divided communities. As my Jewish brothers and sisters say, “Yashar Koach!” Well done, hats off to all of you and thank you.

There’s the thuggish note again. “Thank you for not damaging already fragile, Jewish-Muslim relations any further.” “Nice little place you got here, shame if something was to happen to it.”

This piece of dreck was originally published by the Duke Chronicle. Apparently the Huffington Post liked it enough to ask to republish it. Epithet deleted, Huffington Post.


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

Ayaan Hirsi Ali responds

Apr 9th, 2014 4:47 pm | By

A statement published by the Boston Globe:

Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me—just a few hours before issuing a public statement—to say that such a decision had been made.

Oh looky there, that statement of theirs was even more deceitful than was apparent on the surface (which is how deceit works). I did wonder how that conversation had gone – “Hi, Ayaan, we’re taking the honorary degree back, you’re cool with that, right?” “Are you kidding me?” But I didn’t venture to speculate. So it’s good to have it spelled out that those miserable cowards wrote the statement to make it look as if she had agreed to the backsies when she did no such thing, he simply called her and told her.

When Brandeis approached me with the offer of an honorary degree, I accepted partly because of the institution’s distinguished history; it was founded in 1948, in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust, as a co-educational, nonsectarian university at a time when many American universities still imposed rigid admission quotas on Jewish students. I assumed that Brandeis intended to honor me for my work as a defender of the rights of women against abuses that are often religious in origin. For over a decade, I have spoken out against such practices as female genital mutilation, so-called “honor killings,” and applications of Sharia Law that justify such forms of domestic abuse as wife beating or child beating. Part of my work has been to question the role of Islam in legitimizing such abhorrent practices. So I was not surprised when my usual critics, notably the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), protested against my being honored in this way.

What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree.

What was initially intended as an honor has now devolved into a moment of shaming. Yet the slur on my reputation is not the worst aspect of this episode. More deplorable is that an institution set up on the basis of religious freedom should today so deeply betray its own founding principles. The “spirit of free expression” referred to in the Brandeis statement has been stifled here, as my critics have achieved their objective of preventing me from addressing the graduating Class of 2014. Neither Brandeis nor my critics knew or even inquired as to what I might say. They simply wanted me to be silenced. I regret that very much.

Not content with a public disavowal, Brandeis has invited me “to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.” Sadly, in words and deeds, the university has already spoken its piece. I have no wish to “engage” in such one-sided dialogue. I can only wish the Class of 2014 the best of luck—and hope that they will go forth to be better advocates for free expression and free thought than their alma mater. I take this opportunity to thank all those who have supported me and my work on behalf of oppressed woman and girls everywhere.

Thank you for doing the work.


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

Brush up your press release, start hiding it now

Apr 9th, 2014 4:38 pm | By

Brandeis’s original press release about its honorary degrees and commencement speaker for this year, via the Internet Archive:

brandBrandeis’s revised press release about its honorary degrees and commencement speaker for this year:

brand2We have always been at war with Eastasia.



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

Somebody did something, but we can’t say who

Apr 9th, 2014 3:56 pm | By

Brandeis issued a revoltingly passive-aggressive cowardly evasive statement about its chickenshit surrender to theocrats.

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement.

Weasels. Say it! “We rescinded our honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali scheduled for this year’s commencement.” Say “we,” dammit! Don’t say her “name has been withdrawn” as if it had been a miracle. There’s an agent or agents here; word your statement accordingly. “President Frederick Lawrence talked to Ayaan Hirsi Ali today and told her we’re withdrawing her name as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement.” Own it, say it, use subjects instead of the agentless passive voice.

She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

That’s it, that’s the rest of it. Note the total lack of an apology to Hirsi Ali for offering her something and then taking it back. Note the craven smarmy ass-covering blather. Notice, and spit.




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

Brandeis! You’re on the naughty stool

Apr 9th, 2014 12:43 pm | By

Holy shit. Brandeis has withdrawn an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Brandeis University said in a statement that Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali would no longer receive the honorary degree, which it had planned to award her at the May 18 commencement.

That is shocking.

Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006, has been quoted as making comments critical of Islam. That includes a 2007 interview with Reason Magazine in which she said of the religion: “Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace. I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.”

Brandeis, outside Boston in Waltham, Massachusetts, said it was not aware of Ali’s statements earlier.

That’s it? That’s what they’ve got?

I don’t agree with everything she says, much less her relationship with the Cato American Enterprise Institute, but that quotation seems like a very thin reason to withdraw an honorary degree a month before it was going to be awarded.

In 2007, Ali helped establish the AHA Foundation, which works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, according to its website. The foundation also strives to protect basic rights and freedoms of women and girls. This includes control of their own bodies, access to an education and the ability to work outside the home and control their own income, the website says.

More than 85 of about 350 faculty members at Brandeis signed a letter asking for Ali to be booted off the list of honorary degree recipients. And an online petition created Monday by students at the school of 5,800 had gathered thousands of signatures from inside and outside the university as of Tuesday afternoon.

Her foundation works to protect and defend the rights of women in the West from oppression justified by religion and culture, so Brandeis first offered her the honorary degree and then snatched it back. Well shame on you, Brandeis. I don’t like that phrase, but it seems like the only one that fits here. Shame.

“This is a real slap in the face to Muslim students,” senior Sarah Fahmy, a member of the Muslim Student Association who created the petition, said of the honor before the university withdrew it.

Oh, please. It is not. Catholic students shouldn’t have a veto on critics of the Vatican and Muslim students shouldn’t have a veto on critics of Islam.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, said, “It is unconscionable that such a prestigious university would honor someone with such openly hateful views.”

The organization sent a letter to Lawrence on Tuesday requesting that it drop its plans to honor Ali.

“This makes Muslim students feel very uneasy,” Joseph Lumbard, chairman of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, said in an earlier interview. “They feel unwelcome here.”

So Brandeis totally caved. Disgusting.

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