Notes and Comment Blog


Apr 26th, 2016 4:01 pm | By

The New Statesman has disappointing news:

Naz Shah resigns from Labour frontbench

The Bradford West MP has stepped down following the emergence of remarks made prior to her election as an MP.

Damn. I was so happy when she trounced Galloway.

Shah has resigned as parliamentary private secretary to John McDonnell, after the political website Guido Fawkes revealed that, prior to becoming an MP, she argued that Israelis should be relocated to the United States.

Or Madagascar or Poland? That’s not fair, but…Damn, this is disappointing.

Shah released the following statement on Monday afternoon: “I deeply regret the hurt I have caused by comments made on social media before I was elected as an MP. I made these posts at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high around the Middle East conflict. But that is no excuse for the offence I have given, for which I unreservedly apologise.

“In recognition of that offence I have stepped down from my role as PPS to the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. I will be seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations, and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including anti-semitism.”

The worst copsplaining ever

Apr 26th, 2016 3:35 pm | By

From the You have got to be kidding department:

The head of a Cleveland police union said the family of a 12-year-old black boy shot dead by a white police officer while playing with a pellet gun should use money from a $6 million settlement to educate children about the dangers of handling real and replica firearms, while an attorney representing the boy’s family blasted the comments.

You cannot be serious.

A Cleveland cop killed Tamir Rice, not out of malice but out of grossly reckless incompetence, and the police union chief thinks it’s a good idea to tell his family how to spend the settlement money? And not only that but to imply in the “advice” that the kid or his family or both did something wrong? And not only that but to put the onus of educating kids about how not to get killed by cops in parks on the surviving victims? And not only that but none too subtly hint that the Cleveland police are in no way at fault in the death of Tamir Rice?

Good grief.

“Something positive must come from this tragic loss,” said Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. “That would be educating youth of the dangers of possessing a real or replica firearm,” he said.

At the expense of the very people left mourning their dead boy. Something positive must come from the reckless way the cop opened fire seconds after they drove up, and it’s the family who has to make that happen – not the people who did the killing, but the family of the boy who was killed.

Are you serious??

H/t Cam

De lange arm van Erdoğan

Apr 26th, 2016 12:31 pm | By

My column for the Freethinker this month is an invitation to Erdoğan to arrest me for insulting him.

RT reports on a Dutch cartoon that does the same thing.

A front-page caricature went public in a popular Dutch daily De Telegraaf, showing Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan as a sinister ape squashing freedom of speech in Europe.

The cartoon illustrates a brawny ape with President Erdogan’s face – turned red and puffy – squashing a slim woman resembling Dutch columnist Ebru Umar.

The Dutch cartoon is a reflection on the latest developments in Ankara’s crackdown on freedom of speech in Turkey and beyond.

Umar’s case appears to be the most recent in the growing log of media crackdowns in Turkey. She was arrested on Saturday over tweets Ankara said“insulted” Erdogan, and released on Sunday on condition she stays in Turkey and reports to the police.

Erdoğan is a head of state. Cartoons go with the territory.

You can’t arrest us all, Mr Erdoğan.

Guest post: How inferential science works and why it matters

Apr 26th, 2016 11:25 am | By

Guest post by James Garnett.

How inferential science works, episode one: the null hypothesis.

Ever wonder what things like medical studies are actually showing, and why they are sometimes (often?) disproved?

Inferential studies attempt to demonstrate a correlation between two things, generally speaking. That correlation is stated in a way that can be tested, through what is called a null hypothesis. Think of it as the default assumption. For example, in simple (aka not rigorous) terms: “the amount of cholesterol in the food that a person consumes is correlated to the amount of cholesterol present in their blood”. A statement of that nature can be tested, and disproved.

But null hypotheses cannot be proved. There are simply too many factors at play. It’s sort of like jury trials in the USA: we don’t prove someone innocent, we prove them “not guilty”. You can never prove innocence, you can only show that you don’t have evidence to prove guilt.

Moreover, a proper null hypothesis can be very hard to formulate. The example that I used above is a bad one, for example, because there are different types of cholesterol (among other reasons).

So a lot of studies start out with improper null hypotheses, and review plus later studies show their results to be unreliable. (Plus there is this problem of pressure to show positive results, rather than negative ones. Nobody cares if a scientist shows that bird feathers don’t cause prostate cancer, to indulge in a bit of hyperbole. But negative results matter.)

This is why the idea that “GMO’s are bad” is a faulty starting point. Which GMO’s? What methods of engineering? You have to be specific. If you’re not being specific, you’re reacting upon emotion and intuition—that is not science. It may be a starting point for science, but it’s not conclusive or reasonable in and of itself. You may believe that corn seed variety X that is GMO is bad, but what does that say about the oil from GMO olives? Nothing. Specificity matters.

This is one of the major reasons why GMO labeling is a bad idea, and why it keeps losing when brought up during popular election initiatives. The labels don’t tell you anything of value—they only play upon your fears.

And yes, I’ve been called a “shill for Monsanto” for stating this kind of opinion in the past! Still waiting for my first Shill Royalty Check, though.

And sometimes it’s just for the money

Apr 26th, 2016 11:13 am | By

You get your ideological beheadings, and then you get your cash beheadings. A Canadian man who was beheaded yesterday represents a failed transaction.

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the beheading of a Canadian hostage kidnapped by Islamist militants in the Philippines.

John Ridsdel, 68, was taken from a tourist resort with three others by the Abu Sayyaf group in September 2015.

In November, the Islamist militants released a video showing Mr Ridsdel and three other captives, and demanded a ransom of $80m (£55m).

Now, ideology gets a look-in too, since it was Islamists demanding the cash to buy back John Ridsdel, but it’s still a matter of no-pay no-return.

A Philippines army spokesman said Mr Ridsdel’s severed head was found on the remote island of Jolo, hours after the Abu Sayyaf ransom deadline expired.

They have to pay for the guns and machetes somehow.

Tell the family

Apr 25th, 2016 11:58 am | By

Sarah Ditum and Julie Bindel were on Victoria Derbyshire’s chat show this morning to talk about free speech and no platforming. Behold a clip:

I haven’t seen the rest of what they say yet, assuming Derbyshire kept her promise to return to Julie after the news, but this on its own is worth discussing.

There are people, there are people who are incredibly vunnerable [sic] who do feel very specific types of harm. Tell the family of trans people, the families of queer people who have committed suicide because of the likes of people who have invalidated their identities – Julie Bindel.

That claim is contemptible moral blackmail. No, feminist women talking about gender do not cause trans people to commit suicide, and it’s sheer bullying to claim they do. No, people don’t get to silence feminist women who need to talk about gender more than anyone by accusing them of causing suicides. No, trans activists don’t get to declare a monopoly on talking about gender while women are still viewed as and treated as the subordinate, stupid, frivolous sex.

Two more chopped to death in Dhaka

Apr 25th, 2016 10:48 am | By

The BBC reports:

Police in Bangladesh say two people including a leading gay rights activist and editor at Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine have been hacked to death.

The US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Xulhaz Mannan, who also worked at the US embassy.

Another person was also injured when the attackers entered a Dhaka flat.

People who like violence and murder have that advantage over people who like better things.

BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan, which had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.

Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.

A British photographer who knew Mr Mannan and the other victim, known as “Tonoy” and named in Bangladeshi media as Tanay Mojumdar, said they and other friends had set up Roopbaan with the aim of spreading tolerance.

And tolerance is seen as a deadly enemy by fanatics. If there is tolerance, then fanatics are not in charge, and fanatics think that fanatics must be in charge.

Both men were openly gay and believed that if more gay Bangladeshis came out then the country would have to accept them, the photographer said.

Which I think is broadly true, if other conditions are right – if there is tolerance and peace and a general rejection of violence. That of course does not describe Bangladesh right now.

They were also were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally”, held on Bengali New Year, 14 April, since 2014. This year’s rally was banned by police as part of widespread security measures.

“Both were extremely gentle, non-violent and aware that being openly gay and active in their work was a personal danger,” the photographer said.

Fanatics don’t like gentle and non-violent – except in so much as it makes it easy for them to pick off the gentle and non-violent with their machetes.

Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday.

Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed “very soon”.

And that’s not a joke. Could someone invite him to London or Stockholm today please?

Embedding hatred

Apr 24th, 2016 5:39 pm | By

The BBC has more details on Erdoğan’s way with dissenters.

Turkey’s hard line on insults:

  • Between August 2014 and March 2015, 236 people investigated for “insulting the head of state”; 105 indicted; eight formally arrested
  • Between July and December 2014 (Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency), Turkey filed 477 requests to Twitter for removal of content, over five times more than any other country and an increase of 156% on the first half of the year
  • Reporters Without Borders places Turkey 149th of 180 countries in the press freedom index
  • During Mr Erdogan’s time in office (Prime Minister 2003-14, President from 2014), 63 journalists have been sentenced to a total of 32 years in prison, with collective fines of $128,000
  • Article 299 of the Turkish penal code states that anybody who insults the president of the republic can face a prison term of up to four years. This sentence can be increased by a sixth if committed publicly; and a third if committed by press or media

It’s pretty staggering.

A wide range of people have been hit by the charge, from writers to artists, journalists to protesters.

A 16-year-old boy was indicted earlier this year for calling the president a thief during a demonstration. He could be jailed for up to four years if convicted.

Even a former Miss Turkey has faced the charge, for posting a poem deemed to insult the president on her Instagram account.

And as for a working journalist…

Those targeted for their tweets include a former television journalist, Sedef Kabas. In one, she made reference to a massive corruption probe against the political establishment, including Mr Erdogan, which had been shelved by a government-appointed judge.

“Never forget the name of the judge who dropped the investigation,” she wrote on Twitter.

The following day, police turned up at her house, confiscated her laptop and phone, and she was charged.

She could face a sentence of up to five years for her tweet and another four years for making police wait at her front door.

“Those who back the governing party are free to insult and use defamatory language, while those critical of what’s happening are suffering,” she tells me.

“They’re trying to polarise people as religious and non-religious, pro- and anti-Erdogan – and are embedding hatred in people. He’s passing the message to his supporters: if you hate them, you’ll support me more adamantly. War is being used as a tool to receive more support.”

The Beeb asked to talk to the AK party but were told no.

One thousand eight hundred forty five

Apr 24th, 2016 5:26 pm | By

Last month the Associated Press did a piece on Erdoğan’s 1,845 prosecutions of people who “insulted” him. That’s 1,845 just since 2014.

Turkey’s justice minister says as many as 1,845 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since he came to office in 2014.

Erdoğan has been accused of aggressively using a previously seldom-used law that bars insults to the president, as a way to muffle dissent. Those who have gone on trial include celebrities, journalists and even schoolchildren.

I wish the AP had said how many were convicted and what the punishments were.

Responding to questions in parliament on Monday, Bekir Bozdag said his ministry had allowed 1,845 cases on charges of insulting Erdoğan to go ahead.

He defended the prosecutions, saying: “I am unable to read the insults levelled at our president. I start to blush.”

Oh well then – there’s no more to be said. Strength of feeling is an infallible guide to the justness of an accusation.

We ask urgently for the names and written comments

Apr 24th, 2016 5:02 pm | By

The Washington Post reported on that nonsense about Turkey’s forlorn hope of punishing everyone everywhere who insulted Erdoğan.

What should someone in the Netherlands do if someone says something “derogatory” or “defamatory” about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? According to an email sent out by Ankara’s consulate in Rotterdam, Turkish organizations in the country should write in to report the insult.

This email, uncovered by Dutch news organizations Thursday, has sparked anger in the Netherlands, with the Dutch prime minister demanding an explanation from Turkish authorities.

You can see how it would, seeing as how Erdoğan doesn’t actually own the Netherlands, or the world, or in fact even Turkey.

“I am surprised,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Germany during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It’s not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action.”

Sure it is – it hopes to make everyone stop it right this minute.

This happened just days after Merkel agreed to the prosecution of Jan Boehmermann for being rude about that nice Mr Erdoğan.

According to German prosecutors, at least 20 “private individuals” had filed complaints against Boehmermann after his poem aired on state broadcaster ZDF. At the request of the Turkish government, Boehmermann will now be prosecuted under section 103 of the German penal code, a section that decrees “whosoever insults a foreign head of state … shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.”

Merkel has suggested that while her government will now work to change the law to remove this section, she had to respect the law as it stood. The Netherlands has similar “lèse-majesté” laws against insulting foreign heads of states, which is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, though Dutch lawmakers are now working to remove them.

My friend Rogier Van Vugt tells me “both the 2de kamer (dutch congress equivalent) and the cabinet are expediting” this work to remove them, so that’s good. Erdoğan, however, remains a power-mad asshole. That’s right, I said Erdoğan is a power-mad asshole. Please report me to the Turkish embassy.

Within Turkey, critics of the government have complained that since becoming president in 2014, Erdogan has abused a law that bars insults to the president, with almost 2,000 cases openedin less than two years.

While these cases have caused controversy, they also enjoy support from many in Turkey: One Turkish man facing charges for allegedly assaulting his fiancee recently suggested that the assault was sparked by his partner’s insult to the Turkish president. According to Hurriyet Daily News, the man’s fiancee was called by police to testify about the alleged insult to Erdogan, which she denied making.

A man assaulted a woman because she “insulted” Erdoğan – not to his face, I imagine, but in absentia. Erdoğan must be remarkably fragile.

The Turkish Embassy in the Netherlands has attempted to downplay the controversy about the recent email, suggesting that the message was being misunderstood and that they only wanted organizations to email the consulate to report racism or hate speech. According to a translation from the BBC, the letter had read: “We ask urgently for the names and written comments of people who have given derogatory, disparaging, hateful and defamatory statements against the Turkish president, Turkey and Turkish society in general.”

That doesn’t make it any better. The “urgently” is sinister for a start – urgently why? What do they plan to do about it? And then the breadth of it – disparaging statements about Turkey or Turkish society should be reported to the Turkish Embassy? Well here’s me forming a very unfavorable idea of Turkish officialdom because of its complete cluelessness about the value of free speech.

Oklahoma to women: you have no rights, bitches

Apr 24th, 2016 3:00 pm | By

Oklahoma throws the very idea of women’s rights out the window. Don’t be stupid: incubators are machines, and machines don’t have rights.

An Oklahoma bill that could revoke the license of any doctor who performs an abortion has headed to the governor, with opponents saying the measure in unconstitutional and promising a legal battle against the cash-strapped state if it is approved.

In the Republican-dominated legislature, the state’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a Senate bill late on Thursday. Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, has not yet indicated whether she will sign it.

Under the bill, doctors who perform abortions would risk losing their medical licenses. Exemptions would be given for those who perform the procedure for reasons including protecting the mother or removing a miscarried fetus.

This is America, we don’t believe in women’s rights. This is God’s Country, and God is a man. Women are afterthoughts, put here to make coffee and be fucked.

Supporters of the bill said it will help protect the sanctity of life.

There’s no such thing as “the sanctity of life.” That’s an advertising slogan, not a real principle or rule. How many animals do we as a people kill every day? How many insects, bacteria, plants? We don’t have any universal law about “the sanctity of life.”

“If we take care of morality,” bill supporter David Brumbaugh, a Republican, said during deliberations, “God will take care of the economy.”

Nope, that’s not true.

Daily Dot has more.

The Center for Reproductive Rights urged Fallin not to sign the bill into law. Amanda Allen, CRR’s senior state legislative counsel, told the Daily Dot in a statement via email that the total abortion ban was “cruel and unconstitutional.”

“Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission year after year to restrict women’s access vital health care services, yet this total ban on abortion is a new low,” said Allen. “When abortion is illegal, women and their health, futures, and families suffer.”

Yes, but women don’t matter. Women are underlings. That’s the system here on planet earth.

CRR told the Daily Dot in an email that Oklahoma currently has only two abortion providers. CRR has filed eight lawsuits against Oklahoma state abortion restrictions in the past five years alone.

Two. Oklahoma’s a big state. That’s a lot of travel for some women.

On Tuesday, prior to the House passage of SB 1552, the Oklahoma Senate voted in favor of another law restricting abortion. The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2016 passed by 39-6 after being approval in the House. It would ban abortions performed on fetuses with Down Syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. The legislation would also revoke the medical licenses of doctors who perform procedures on these fetuses.

If signed by Fallin, the law would make Oklahoma the third state in the country, including North Dakota and Indiana, to ban abortions on fetuses with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.

Well, it won’t be men taking care of those children, so it’s ok.

Because of two tweets

Apr 24th, 2016 12:15 pm | By

So Turkey thinks it gets to arrest people for saying “insulting” things about government officials.

Turkish authorities on Sunday released a Turkish-Dutch journalist from police custody but barred her from leaving Turkey as they continue to investigate tweets she posted about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ebru Umar, a columnist for Metro newspaper, was detained for questioning late on Saturday at her home in the Aegean resort of Kusadasi, on the orders of a prosecutor for social media postings deemed to be “insulting to state leaders,” Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.

The thing is, Turkey, people with power are the ones who should be most open to public dissent, including “insult.”

In a short video posted on Metro’s website, Umar said she was woken up Saturday night by two police officers knocking on her door who told her to go with them because of two tweets.

A scene out of ordinary life – you’re at home asleep and you’re woken up by cops arresting you “because of two tweets.” Doing it in the middle of the night is such a nice touch – increase the stress and fear with no extra cost.

Human rights and media freedom groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the limited tolerance of dissent shown by authorities in Turkey, where nearly 2,000 legal cases have been opened against individuals accused of insulting the Turkish president since Erdogan came to office in 2014.

Good god. I knew he was touchy but I didn’t know it was that bad.

In a tweet, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he had called Turkish counterpartAhmet Davutoglu in the afternoon. Rutte said Umar’s detention “Directly hits our core values — freedom of expression and press freedom.”

Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said he was relieved Umar had been released and said he had informed Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that he “deplored” the situation.

“A candidate member of the EU should not meddle with press freedom and freedom of expression,” Koenders said in a statement. “I have often stressed that in discussions with Turkish colleagues and will continue to do so. It is necessary, as has been shown again.”

This is why Turkey should not be in the EU. Its candidacy should fail.

Umar wrote a column last week for Metro criticizing an appeal sent by Turkey’s consulate in Rotterdam urging Turks in the Netherlands to report cases of people insulting Turkey or its leader. She compared the letter to “NSB practices,” a reference to the Dutch branch of the Nazi party before and during World War II.

Oh ffs – report to whom? Turkey is trying to control what people say in the Netherlands too? That’s completely revolting.

Erdoğan is a fascist and an egomaniac. Come and get me, Turkey.

Another one

Apr 23rd, 2016 3:48 pm | By

In case the murder of Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique wasn’t enough, there was also the murder of a provincial Pakistani minister for minority affairs.

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN:  A provincial Pakistani minister for minority affairs was shot dead in his car by on Friday [by] men on motorbikes in the country’s restive northwest, officials said.

Sardar Soran Singh, who was a Sikh, had held one of several seats reserved for religious minorities in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly.

“Gunmen riding on two motorbikes came in front of the car and started indiscriminate firing which killed the minister on the spot,” Khalid Hamadani, district police chief told Agence France Presse.

All gunmen all the time.

We need both options

Apr 23rd, 2016 3:01 pm | By

Meghan Murphy says no, Prince was not trans. Prince was a guy who defied gender stereotypes. Defying gender stereotypes ≠ trans.

As Prince is mourned by millions across the world, his life and artistry are rightly being embraced as unconventional and as boundary-pushing in many ways, including in terms of gender. But, whereas 10 or 20 years ago, a man like Prince would have been celebrated, in death, as someone who did not conform to gender norms, today he is instead being transed. And this is a problem.

Well, to be precise, he would have been celebrated for that by some and ridiculed or excoriated by others. It’s not as if defiance of gender stereotypes was universally celebrated 10 years ago. But I think she means celebrated, by those who celebrated him, as someone who did not conform to gender norms.

It’s not a problem, to be clear, because people who suffer from sex dysphoria or who don’t conform to the gender binary are a problem, but because we need to allow people to push past gender stereotypes without being forced out of their sex. It is not progressive to say that a male who does not act like a stereotypical man must actually be a woman — it is regressive.

Emphasis added.

If we start to say that anyone who refuses or isn’t able to perform gender in the way society teaches them to is “trans,” we assume that the gender binary is real — that a person who is big and tall and hairy and who acts aggressively or pursues sex with women is a man and a person who wears heels and dresses and is gentle and polite and is objectified by men is a woman. Anyone who strays from these norms is, then, proclaimed “trans,” leaving no room for the rest of us to exist outside of these stereotypes.

We need both options. People who want to live as the other sex should be able to do that, and be happy and unmolested doing so. People who want to exist outside the stereotypes without switching sex should be able to do that. Both options.

Let’s celebrate men like Prince and David Bowie and women like K.D. Lang and Patti Smith for refusing to fit into the stereotypical boxes patriarchal society laid out for them, not assume that those who rebel must, naturally, be the opposite gender or trans.

Yes let’s do that.

It pains her heart

Apr 23rd, 2016 11:58 am | By

Yesterday Samantha Power visited the refugee camp in Yola, Nigeria for women and girls fleeing Boko Haram. Here’s one story from one refugee:

When the boy next door joined Boko Haram, Mummy Ibrahim knew she had to run.

For the past few months, her next door neighbor had been telling everyone in their village just outside of Maiduguri that he was going to force Mummy, a soft-spoken girl with large eyes, to be his bride.

And, she said, he had finally figured out the way to do it: by pledging allegiance to Boko Haram and then taking, by force, the girl he had watched grow up into a gorgeous 15-year-old.

This is what I’m always saying – religion is such a useful tool for men who want to treat women as livestock belonging to them. Boy next door wanted to fuck Mummy Ibrahim, so he joined a murderous religious group that would give him “permission” to do just that, never mind what Mummy Ibrahim thought about it.

Mummy fled. In the middle of the night, she and her family crept out of their house and ran. It took two days to get to the village of Wuba, where friends hid them for two weeks, and then another week to make it to this town, where the United Nations has set up a refugee camp populated primarily by the women and children Boko Haram has driven from their homes.

On Friday, as Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, toured the camp, she was confronted by hundreds of those women and girls, standing over coal pots, sitting on mats, playing with babies. Ms. Power, who has been touring the region most affected by Boko Haram this week, promised them that President Obama had not forgotten them, that the United States would not rest until all the thousands of women believed to have been kidnapped by Boko Haram have been freed.

The whole thing is just so damn heartbreaking.

There was another Mummy: Mummy Jabula, 16, standing at the outdoor kitchen and looking curiously at the delegation of Americans. Boko Haram militants killed her parents four months ago, in their village not far from Maiduguri, she said. Mummy Jabula, the oldest of her parents’ six children, had grabbed her little sister and her four younger brothers and fled.

“I am the mother now,” she said. Asked about her parents, she started to cry and said something in Hausa. A woman standing nearby translated: “It pains her heart,” she said. “She can’t talk anymore.”

A few miles down the road, Christiana Joel, 14, said she was at church for a children’s day in April 2015 when Boko Haram fighters attacked her village of Lassa, in Borno State. Her father hustled her and her eight brothers and sisters back to their house, told them to leave only when it started looking really bad, grabbed his gun and took off to fight the Boko Haram militants. When the children eventually bolted from their house, Christiana’s oldest brother, Levi, disappeared in the melee. She has not seen him since, and seemed overcome when she spoke of him. She said he was her favorite brother.

Homo homini lupus.

Coddling the killers and chastising the dead

Apr 23rd, 2016 10:38 am | By

Paul Fidalgo and Michael De Dora wrote a piece for CNN the other day on the murders of atheists in Bangladesh. It’s good to see them on such a mainstream site.

An innocent young man is brutally hacked to death in the street by marauding thugs with machetes, and the government’s response is to effectively blame the victim. This is the outrageous and absurd situation in the supposed democratic state of Bangladesh, where a bloody campaign of terror is being waged against secularists and atheists who have criticized radical Islam. But rather than act to protect the rights and safety of its people, Bangladesh’s leaders are coddling the killers and chastising the dead.

One would expect in a civilized world to see the government stand up for the rights of its people and unify the country against this kind of violence based on religion. But that’s not what has happened. Rather than condemn the killers, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan scolded the victims, telling CNN: “The bloggers, they should control their writing. Our country is a secular state. … I want to say that people should be careful not to hurt anyone by writing anything — hurt any religion, any people’s beliefs, any religious leaders.”

This is only the latest shameful example of the Bangladesh government doing exactly what the terrorists want: to make people terrified that if they have something critical to say about religion, they could pay for it with their lives.

And lest we feel smug – the US and UK governments have done the same thing in the past, especially during the uproar over the Motoons. Both of them talked nonsense about respecting people’s cherished beliefs.

And now we have Nazimuddin Samad, a bright, promising young law student, brutally slaughtered in public for exercising his basic human rights to freedom of belief and expression. Appallingly, as Samad’s blood still stained the street, Home Minister Khan said that part of the investigation would be “to see whether he has written anything objectionable in his blogs.” This is not how a democratic state should respond to the killings of innocent civilians.
Since the beginning of this emergency, our organization, the Center for Inquiry, has been working with the U.S. State Department, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and other nongovernmental organizations to find ways to protect or bring to safety at least some of the secularists who fear for their lives, and urge the Bangladesh government to stand strong for human rights. We have also worked to see pressure placed on Bangladesh by the United Nations, and supported a U.S. House resolution introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, that demands Bangladesh affirm its secular constitution, protect minorities, and prevent the growth of extremism.
Do it, Bangladesh. Do the right thing.


Apr 23rd, 2016 9:10 am | By

A mosaic dating to 2,400 years ago was dug up in what was Antioch in Turkey in 2012.

AA Photo

The inscription translates as “Be cheerful, enjoy your life.”


Rezaul Karim Siddique

Apr 23rd, 2016 7:57 am | By

Another one – except that this time the murdered person is not an atheist.

A university professor has been hacked to death in Bangladesh, in an attack police say is similar to killings of secular bloggers and atheists by suspected Islamist extremists.

AFM Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, was a professor of English at Rajshahi University in the country’s north-west.

He was attacked with machetes as he left home to go to work.

So-called Islamic State militants say they killed him for “calling to atheism” in Bangladesh.

The claim was made by IS-linked Amaq Agency, cited by US-based SITE Intelligence Group which monitors jihadist groups.

But Siddique’s colleagues say he was not an atheist and did not write on controversial subjects. (In Bangladesh I suppose “controversial” means anything that will annoy religious fanatics.) Police think he was chosen for the machete treatment because “he was involved in cultural activities.” I’m guessing that anodyne phrase could apply to a huge number of people in Bangladesh. Siddique founded a music school and edited a literary magazine.

Hundreds of students at Rajshahi University are reported to have protested on campus against their teacher’s death and demanded the immediate arrest of the perpetrators.

Siddique is the fourth professor at the university to be have been killed in the past 12 years. It is not clear why they have been targeted and no culprits have been punished.

There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

When in doubt, destroy everything.

Taslima in action

Apr 22nd, 2016 5:15 pm | By

Taslima spoke to the European Parliament on Wednesday.

I spoke at the European Parliament today about how freethinkers getting killed,& govt remains silent in Bangladesh.

Then it was lunch and discussion with the Human Rights Action Unit of the Parliament.

And a meeting with Elmar Brok, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the Parliament.

Tell them, Taslima.

Iranian authorities have called her a whore

Apr 22nd, 2016 5:08 pm | By

If you’re planning a jaunt to Iran any time soon, you should plan to break its dress code. Lizzie Dearden in the Independent spells it out:

As more and more Western tourists visit Iran, foreign women are being urged to break the country’s strict Islamic dress code to “make a stand” about the restrictive laws.

[T]housands of Iranians have been risking punishment by taking off their hijabs (headscarves) in public and snapping photos as part of a defiant online campaign to counter the “oppressive” law.

Now, the founder of My Stealthy Freedom is urging Western tourists to join them in a show of solidarity.

Masih Alinejad, who left Iran in 2009 and now works as a journalist in New York, said non-Muslims should join the fight against compulsory dress codes.

“The Islamic Republic that demands even non-Muslims visiting Iran to wear the hijab,” she told The Independent. “When compulsory hijab affects all women, then all women should raise their voice.”

Ms Alinejad said she was inspired by the actions of an Air France cabin crew who refused to fly to Iran after being ordered to wear headscarves upon arrival in Tehran earlier this month.

Mind you, I’m a coward, so I’m glad I don’t have a trip to Iran planned. I’d be terrified of the morality police.

For Ms Alinejad, the restrictions imposed on women’s dress are a key part of the government’s “discriminatory laws” and should be opposed by Western politicians and diplomats visiting the country.

Iranian authorities have labelled her a heretic, whore and CIA operative for her activism but [she] has vowed to continue her fight for women’s rights.

I hereby brand the Iranian authorities fascists, women-haters, and poopyheads.