Notes and Comment Blog

And a little child shall lead them

Feb 12th, 2014 9:53 am | By

Nilanjana Bhowmick at the Time website explains why Dinanath Batra has bullied Penguin into recalling and destroying Doniger’s book.

First of all, she makes a factual claim that I hadn’t seen before.

Penguin Books India has agreed to recall and pulp all copies in India of The Hindus: An Alternative History by U.S. scholar Wendy Doniger, raising concerns over freedom of expression in the world’s largest democracy.

Only in India? I thought it was all copies, period.

The move by one of India’s major book publishers is a settlement with members of the Hindu group Shiksha Bachao Andolan, which has filed civil and criminal cases over the work.

In a conversation with TIME, Shiksha Bachao Andolan president Dinanath Batra explains why he thinks Doniger’s book hurts Hindu sentiments and is propagating lies about Hindu deities and national icons. No stranger to controversy, Batra had earlier taken on Indian educational boards for what he says have been distortion of facts and has actively opposed and subsequently stopped the introduction of sex education in Indian schools, saying it was against Hindu culture and religion.

In other words he’s an experienced religious bully.

TIME: What are your objections to Wendy Doniger’s book, The Hindus?

Batra: Her intention is bad, the content is anti-national and the language is abusive. Her agenda is to malign Hinduism and hurt the feelings of Hindus.

Sigh. Is he six? He sounds as if he’s six.

Why does it matter so much to you about what someone writes about Hinduism?

If someone makes a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad,  Muslims are outraged around the world. So why should anyone write anything against Hinduism and get away with it? It matters because this book is hurting the sentiments of Hindus all over the world. I am a Hindu. When I read the book, I felt hurt. It hurt my sentiments.

I guess he is six. It’s funny that a child of six is running this organization that people pay attention to, and being interviewed by Time.

Will you protest against every book that doesn’t fit your idea of Hinduism?

We are against anything that hurts people’s religious sentiments. Our movement is aimed at cleansing distortions from education in India. We have also taken on the Indian educational boards for wrong facts in their textbooks. We will protest against any book that portrays a negative image of our society.

We think everyone is six. We speak for all the people who are six.

Don’t you worry that your objections might seem outdated in today’s modern world?

We are not against modernity, but we are against westernization.

By “westernization” he means “being older than six.”

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


Feb 12th, 2014 8:52 am | By

Possibly Non-stamp Collector’s most brilliant and hilarious video.

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

Otherwise it is another country

Feb 11th, 2014 4:31 pm | By

Salil Tripathi gives his view.

Last night I asked Doniger what she thought about her publisher’s decision. Deeply concerned, she told me: “Penguin has indeed given up the lawsuit, and will no longer publish the book. Of course, anyone with a computer can get the Kindle edition from Penguin, NY, and it’s probably cheaper, too. It is simply no longer possible to ban books in the age of the Internet. For that, and for all the people who have expressed outrage over this, I am deeply grateful.”

I also asked Penguin for its response. At the time of writing, Chiki Sarkar, Penguin’s publisher, had not replied.

Those who disagreed with Doniger had options—to protest, to argue, to publish their own book as response, and if they had a copy, to shut it. Nobody is being forced to read it. Now, go to your electronic readers, buy it, download it, read it; if you go abroad, get copies—there’s no ban on its import; and reinforce the idea that a pluralistic India does not have singular views. India thrives in its diversity and plurality—its culture and its opinions.

As freedom of expression itself is under threat, and India undergoes its own period of darkness and chaos, Doniger’s philosophical equanimity offers hope, that this, too, shall pass. It must, otherwise it is another country.

I hope so.

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

Guest witticism by Anthony K: The purity of Engliſh ſpellyng

Feb 11th, 2014 4:21 pm | By

Originally a comment on Humanity’s never-ending search for a synonym.

….to the point where they butcher their spelling of any word that has the letters “man,” or “men,”…

Goodneſs me! Wé ſhall not brook þeſe linguiſtic inſults! The purity of Engliſh ſpellyng ſhall not be ſullied!


Mumble….godesdamned kyds þeſe dæġs with þeir ſpellyng…mumble…Chaucer…mumble


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

That’s not how to write a book review

Feb 11th, 2014 3:50 pm | By

Here’s the petition to Penguin to “withdraw” Doniger’s book and to apologize.

The following is a petition from concerned signatories to the Penguin Group asking for an apology for the publication of the factually incorrect and offensive book The Hindus-An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. We expect Penguin Group to withdraw the book immediately.

The Hindus: An Alternative History is rife with numerous errors in itshistorical facts and Sanskrit translations. These errors and misrepresentations are bound and perhaps intended to mislead students of Indian and Hindu history.

Throughout the book, Doniger analyzes revered Hindu Gods and Goddess using her widely discredited psychosexual Freudian theories that modern,humanistic psychology has deemed limiting. These interpretations arepresented as hard facts and not as speculations. Doniger makes variousfaulty assumptions about the tradition in order to arrive at her particularspin. In the process, the beliefs, traditions and interpretations of practicingHindus are simply ignored or bypassed without the unsuspecting readerknowing this to be the case. This kind of Western scholarship has beencriticized as Orientalism and Eurocentrism. The non Judeo-Christian faith gets used to dish out voyeurism and the tradition gets eroticized.

Yes let’s handle all books that way – petition the publishers to withdraw every book that we think gets it wrong, or “offends” us, or isn’t as entertaining as we’d like it to be, or has not enough or too many pictures. Books that we personally don’t like have no right to exist.

The petition gives a long list of claimed mistakes, with commentary, and then sums up with its demands.

We emphasize that this defamatory book misinforms readers about the history of Hindu civilization, its cultures and traditions. The book promotes prejudices and biases against Hindus. Can Penguins editors really be incompetent enough to have allowed this to pass to publication? If this is not deliberate malice, Penguin must act now in good faith.

As concerned readers, we ask PENGUIN GROUP to:

1. WITHDRAW all the copies of this book immediately from the worldwide bookshops/markets/Universities/Libraries and refrain from printing any other edition.

2. APOLOGIZE for having published this book The Hindus: An AlternativeHistory. This book seriously and grossly misrepresents the Hindu realityas known to the vast numbers of Hindus and to scholars of Hindu tradition.PENGUIN must apologize for failure to observe proper pre-publication scrutiny and scholarly review.

It’s just unbelievable.


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

Destroy all the books

Feb 11th, 2014 3:32 pm | By

The BBC reports on Penguin’s decision to destroy all remaining hard copies of Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: an Alternative History.

Penguin India has agreed to recall and destroy all remaining copies of a book on Hinduism by a leading American academic, according to reports.

Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History had been the subject of a legal challenge claiming the text was offensive to Hindus.

Details of an apparent agreement between the Hindu campaign group Shiksha Bachao Andolan and Penguin India have been circulated online.

Penguin India has not yet commented.

Shiksha Bachao Andolan brought a civil case in 2011 against Penguin India arguing that the book was insulting to Hindus, containing what they described as “heresies”.

Since when do courts entertain lawsuits of that kind? Since when does a Hinduist campaign group in India have standing to pulp a book by an American academic on the grounds that it’s “offensive”?

Shiksha Bachao Andolan said it was happy with the settlement but Indian cabinet minister Jairam Ramesh told the Press Trust of India the decision was “atrocious”, adding the book was “not blasphemous by any means”.

The reports have prompted widespread criticism on social media, amid growing concern that religious groups are stifling free speech and artistic expression in India.

Ya think?



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

Wendy Doniger’s statement

Feb 11th, 2014 3:12 pm | By

Via Salil Tripathi, who shared it via PEN Delhi, Wendy Doniger’s statement on Penguin’s decision.

Statement from Wendy Doniger:

I was thrilled and moved by the great number of messages of support that I received, not merely from friends and colleagues but from people in India that I have never met, who had read and loved The Hindus, and by news and media people, all of whom expressed their outrage and sadness and their wish to help me in any way they could. I was, of course, angry and disappointed to see this happen, and I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in the present, and steadily worsening, political climate. And as a publisher’s daughter, I particularly wince at the knowledge that the existing books (unless they are bought out quickly by people intrigued by all the brouhaha) will be pulped. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India. Other publishers have just quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to save this book. Penguin, India, took this book on knowing that it would stir anger in the Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in the courts for four years, both as a civil and as a criminal suit.
They were finally defeated by the true villain of this piece—the Indian law that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends any Hindu, a law that jeopardizes the physical safety of any publisher, no matter how ludicrous the accusation brought against a book. An example at random, from the lawsuit in question:

That YOU NOTICEE has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by declaring that Ramayana is a fiction. “Placing the Ramayan in its historical contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who lived at various times……….” (P.662) This breaches section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Finally, I am glad that, in the age of the Internet, it is no longer possible to suppress a book. The Hindus is available on Kindle; and if legal means of publication fail, the Internet has other ways of keeping books in circulation. People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that may offend some Hindus.

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

Penguin agreed to destroy all the hard copies

Feb 11th, 2014 3:02 pm | By

This again – Hindu nationalists going after the scholar of mythology Wendy Doniger. They’ve been doing it for years. I did an article/resource stash on Hinduists attacking scholarship and scholars such as Doniger more than ten years ago.

Ill-founded claims are the ones that get backed up with sticks, car antennas, guns, threats, petitions, calls for silencing, fatwas. There is a lot of that sort of thing around. The anger at the American scholar of mythology James Laine and his book about the Hindu king Shivaji is one example. A mob attacked and vandalized the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in January, destroying books and irreplaceable manuscripts. Scholars sat in tears among the wreckage afterward. In March the state of Maharashtra where the BORI is located sought the help of Interpol in arresting and extraditing James Laine. Other scholars of mythology such as Wendy Doniger and Paul Courtright are the object of threats and worse. ‘Vedic’ science and mathematics are introduced into the public school curriculum and history textbooks are altered without the consent of their authors, as the articles by Meera Nanda and Latha Menon for Butterflies and Wheels tell us. The war against research, inquiry, secularism, independent thought, scholarship and rationality goes on and indeed intensifies. It is a trend that needs watching.

Shikha Dalmia writes about the new instantiation:

The Indian blogosphere is up in arms today against Penguin’s decision to withdraw University of Chicago Divinity School Professor Wendy Doniger’s 2009 The Hindus: An Alternative History. The 700-page-plus tome offended Hindu nationalists, a scourge on humanity not quite as bad as the Ebola virus, who took exception to its description of the Shiv Lingam, a representation of God Shiva that Hindus worship, as a phallic symbol, among other things.

Folks at the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti — the self-appointed guardians of Indian knowledge — filed a suit in 2011 demanding a ban. They charge that the book had “factual inaccuracies” and was written with “a Christian missionary’s zeal” to denigrate Hinduism and show it in a poor light.” Never mind that Doniger is not a Christian and is actually a great admirer of Hinduism, which she regards as a far more existentially profound faith than monotheistic religions. In fact, her aim in writing the book was to save Hinduism from misinterpretations of both hostile alien interlocutors and nativist Hindutva boosters.

But before the Indian courts could rule (and it is bad enough that they allow such suits to even go forward), Penguin not only agreed to pull the book from India but destroy all hard copies within six months.

Yet another outrage; yet another cowardly collapse.

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

Humanity’s never-ending search for a synonym

Feb 11th, 2014 10:11 am | By

Heh heh. Seen on Facebook:

Avery Thompson Yeah. There’s no such thing as a “feminazi.” It’s a term coined by Rush Limbaugh to demonize feminists. So far, the only consistent (and I use that term lightly) definition I’ve seen of “feminazi” is “a feminist that I don’t like.”

Mark P Constable Ok, so what word should I use to describe an overly dominant woman that thinks anything with a penis should be placed under heel, to the point where they butcher their spelling of any word that has the letters “man,” or “men,” and think bras and tampons are on par with shackles?

Ed Brayton You should call them “unicorns,” since they also don’t exist except as a caricature in your mind. It’s not actual feminists you’re fighting against, it’s that scary feminist in your head.

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

Boundaries that parents and parental figures must respect

Feb 11th, 2014 9:32 am | By

Jessica Valenti says why it matters how we treat claims about sexual abuse.

I’ve never watched a Woody Allen movie. My parents refused to rent them after he began a “relationship” with Soon-Yi Previn and their explanation stuck with me through adulthood. I was around 13 years old at the time, and always looking to pick a fight—I asked why it mattered since Previn wasn’t his “real” daughter. My parents sat me down and talked about the responsibility adults have to children, and certain boundaries that parents and parental figures must respect.

It’s more than a little sickening how that got normalized over the past couple of decades. The guy married someone he’d been in a semi-paternal relation to, no matter how much he says he didn’t interact with Mia’s children. She was on a tiny list of women who were simply off limits to him.

As I grew older—as I had teachers come on to me as a teen, as I experienced the way grown men get away with sexualizing girls—I understood the significance of what my parents told me. Today, as an adult, I know that when we make excuses for particular, powerful men who hurt women, we make the world more comfortable for all abusers. And that this cultural cognitive dissonance around sexual assault and abuse is building a safety net for perpetrators that we should all be ashamed of.

There’s another thing we do when we make excuses for particular, powerful men who hurt women, besides making things nicer for the powerful men. We also make the world less comfortable for women. We tell women – all women – that women just don’t matter as much as powerful men. We tell women that we’ll throw them overboard in order to hang on to the favors of the powerful men. Mr Big groped you? Well that’s sad for you, but shut up, because we want him to speak at our next event, and frankly we don’t give a fuck about you.

We know that abusers are manipulative, often charismatic, and that they hide their crimes well.

Well yes, and we also know that that’s why they’re powerful, that’s why they make good speakers for our events, that’s why they pull in the start-struck crowds, and that’s why we’re not going to hold them accountable. We like them and we don’t like you, their victims, so just shut up and go away, or we’ll trash you in every newspaper and blog in the land.

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

Let my pastafarians go

Feb 10th, 2014 6:01 pm | By

Rory Fenton, President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies in the UK and Ireland, responds to the nonsense at Southbank University.

Students’ unions have a duty to protect the rights of their students, not their students’ beliefs. As President of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, I’ve seen a 2013-14 academic year in which this principle has been too often forgotten. 

It’s as if there’s a nonsense pill that students have been taking.

South Bank’s Atheist Society are no stranger to hostility from their students’ union. When they were formed last year and affiliated to their union, they were accepted only on the condition that they didn’t criticise religion or hold debates with religious groups, which is as absurd as telling the Socialist Society to steer clear of critiquing capitalism. Despite hopes that a new academic year would bring a more reasonable union committee, the group has faced constant opposition. Since the start of their first term, they have seen their posters torn down and stamped on the day they are put up, including posters simply showing Brian Griffin, Family Guy‘s atheist talking dog. I attended a meeting last term at which their union accused them of picking on Christians for a poster stating, “We may not be able to turn water into wine but we do like wine, join us in the bar next Thursday”.

Hmm. Was Southbank University a bible college until a couple of weeks ago? That might explain it.

The ultimate irony of these attacks on free speech is that they so often only give a louder voice to their targets. The LSE Union’s attempt at censoring students’ t-shirts lead to those same students being invited onto the BBC’s Big Questions, wearing those same t-shirts. South Bank’s Atheist Society’s pasta posters are now on blogs right across the country.

Oh yes, thank you for the reminder!

Noodly appendage to you too.

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

Because the rice worshipers will be upset?

Feb 10th, 2014 5:52 pm | By

The Student Union at Southbank University has removed a poster removed from an AHS stall at (yes this again) a freshers’ fair, on the grounds of (yes this again) “religious offense.” The poster was of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The SA displayed the well known image of the FSM on their pre-prepared stall the day before the freshers fair this week but when they returned to the stall the following day found that the posters had been removed. When they went to print some more to replace the missing posters they were stopped by union representatives who said that the posters had been deemed offensive and that it was the union that had removed them. The image parodied the Sistine Chapel painting of God poking Adam. The initial justification was that the posters show Adam’s genitals but when Cloe Ansari, Southbank Atheists President, offered to censor them, they then said the problem was religious offence, because the image was based on religious art. The next day their stall had been replaced with that of another society.

What the hell is wrong with students in the UK?

AHS President Rory Fenton said, “This is beyond parody and it is not the first time one of our groups have had similar problems with Southbank University, who were last year told not to criticise religion. We are very concerned by the tendency to censor our member societies for fear of offending religious sensitivities by overly zealous union representatives. Universities need again to be reminded to recognise our members’ right to free speech: the same rights that also ensure freedom of expression for religious students, adherents to the Flying Spaghetti Monster included. Universities must recognise that their duty is to their students, not their students’ beliefs”

Southbank University Atheist Society President Cloe Ansari said, “I felt harassed and intimidated – it was not aimed at protecting other students from harm, but rather an attempt to sideline and restrict our rights; perhaps perceived as the easier option rather than standing up to the (much bigger than us) “religious societies”. Rather than included, we have been made to feel as an unwelcome minority of secularists”.

It’s grotesque.

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

It can, and must, be fixed

Feb 10th, 2014 5:35 pm | By

Abhishek Phadnis reams the publishers and media outlets who refused to publish the Jesus and Mo cartoon that Maajid tweeted (and who talked as if they were occupying the moral high ground in the process, which made it all the more disgusting).

The media’s refusal to show the cartoon has elevated this ancient superstition into a masochistic national fetish, emboldening professional victims and censorious grievance-peddlers at the expense of inoffensive satirists. It has robbed the cartoonist of the presumption of innocence, by feeding insidiously into the notion among the uninitiated that the cartoon really must be beyond the pale if no outlet will show it. As Flemming Rose, the publisher of the Danish cartoons, lamented to Jytte Klausen, “once people see them, they see that they are not as bad as their reputation would indicate”.

Those of us who have followed the news media’s refusal to show any illustration of Mohammed over the past decade will recall being fobbed off with soothing explanations that the climate is unsuitable, the editorial justification not strong enoughor the content too crude, to publish the images in question. Nine years after the Danish cartoons affair, the Goldilocks moment of this piece is upon us – an utterly innocuous depiction of Mohammed is at the heart of a major news story, at a time when the right to depict it is in question and a nascent school of Islamic thought is defying crude reactionary opposition in urging the media to show the cartoon. If they won’t show it now, they never will.

The Islamist propensity for violent offendedness is the national equivalent of a child’s tantrum in the cereal aisle, not an insuperable law of physics for which every allowance must always be made. It can, and must, be fixed, and if the media won’t support those undertaking this thankless task, the least it can do is admit it’s scared, and stop getting in the way.

Beautifully said.

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

It’s nearly that day

Feb 10th, 2014 4:56 pm | By

Heh heh heh

H/t Lisa Ridge

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

Also I am hearing rumors

Feb 10th, 2014 3:59 pm | By

Huh. I kind of vaguely though that “the atheist community” would be horrified by the DDOS attack on Saturday. Huh. I haven’t seen much of that. (But maybe I’ve missed it. That could be. I don’t see all the things.) I have seen some of the other thing – like for instance accusing us of blaming our “fellow atheists.”

Huh. No we haven’t. Not one person said “it was our fellow atheists who did this!”

But that’s ok, because the way to accuse people of something and not be held accountable for it is to preface your accusation with “I am hearing rumors that.” Then, for extra points, when someone points out that it’s a pack of lies, you say you were rebuking the people spreading the rumors.

So I have heard there has been DDOS attack against several social justice Atheist websites. Also I am hearing rumors that they are blaming other atheists for these attacks. It blows my mind that the first people you would point your finger at would be your fellow atheists when there are hordes of religious people out there who would like nothing more than to either convert you or ruin you. Well done kids.

Yeah, that’s someone rebuking people for spreading rumors that we are blaming other atheists for these attacks. Suuuuuuuuuure it is.

I still like some atheists. But “the community”? No. Too many assholes like that in it.

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

Bowling for abortion access

Feb 10th, 2014 3:39 pm | By

Sarah Moglia is doing a National Abortion Access Bowl-a-thon. (I like typing -a- things.) Her team is Coup de Twat. You can donate RIGHT HERE.

She says you don’t have to be as fancy as she is to support abortion access, so do it!

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

Unemployed and homeless, they quickly become prey

Feb 10th, 2014 11:38 am | By

Bill Cooke has an article about humanists helping pregnant teenage girls in Uganda at the CFI blog.

Since 2011 HALEA has been working with a group of girls in the local district it is based in. It began after a survey of its immediate neighborhood found 111 teenage mothers, nearly all out of school and unemployed. Religious superstitions are such in Uganda, that pregnant girls are often thrown out of the family home and suspended from school. Unemployed and homeless, they quickly become prey to unscrupulous relatives or to organised crime.

Faced with a daunting problem in their own back yard, HALEA supporters began by helping those girls willing to return to school. This often meant persuading the school authorities of their legal obligations. And usually, it also meant HALEA taking on the ongoing school expenses on the girls’ behalf. 26 of them returned to their studies. Another 21 were given some basic computer skills and nine undertook other vocational training.

But they’re running out of money, and cutting back on what they do.

In Uganda it costs about US$440 to keep a teenager in vocational training for a year. Overall HALEA has helped 57 girls, but this year the programme is only able to support the ten girls still at school. —  CFI is concerned about this cutback, and will be happy to take donations on HALEA’s behalf for this program, or you can donate directly to the HALEA website.

Bill and Melinda – just down the hill from me – please note.

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

Why women have to stfu

Feb 10th, 2014 11:08 am | By

Deeply stupid man explains that women can’t do things like talk and give lectures in public because come on, guys, keep it real. Imagine a woman giving you a lecture. Imagine it! Are you going to listen to what she’s saying? Please! You’re not going to look at her as if she’s a wall unless you’re a wall. Amirite?

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

More art for your walls

Feb 10th, 2014 10:56 am | By

Forbidden. Not allowed. Right out. Impermissible. Banned. Don’t even think about it.

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

Rot and corruption

Feb 10th, 2014 10:40 am | By

Via PZ, who cites the American Life League, this thing of horror:

Suffering is a grace-filled opportunity to participate in the passion of Jesus Christ. Euthanasia selfishly steals that opportunity.

That is sick. Sick sick sick sick.

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