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.

Making an example

Sep 8th, 2012 10:38 am | By

Another petition you can sign, this one recommended to me by Bruce Everett. It’s to put some heat on Alan “destroying the joint” Jones. Formally it’s to urge advertisers to get him to apologize, but really I think it’s to get him to take some heat. (I mean who cares if he apologizes, really? What good is that? But some heat might décourager les autres.

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

Hatred and the hijab

Sep 7th, 2012 6:03 pm | By

Via Lauryn Oates, a terrific article on the myth that the hijab protects women against sexual assault.

I was only 6 years old when my family was forced to flee the civil war in Afghanistan for Pakistan in the late 1980s. My sister, Neelo, who is five years older than me, was enrolled in a Saudi-funded Muslim Brotherhood-inspired public school for Afghan refugees. She, like many Muslim women, wore a simple headscarf.

I remember Neelo picking up her tiny bag, wrapping her scarf around her hair, and going to her first day of school. I also sadly remember her coming back from school that day and telling our parents: “The guards told me, ‘Either you are going to wear the full hijab or wear a chador [an Afghan burqa], or you can’t come to school.’” Her tiny headscarf was no longer enough.

Age 11. Ordered into a body bag at age 11.

Neelo was forced to wear the most restrictive form of the hijab—almost exactly like the woman in this image. Things were fine until the next year, when I started school myself. My mother sat me down and told me that from then on I would have to walk my sister to school every day.

I grew to hate it. Every school day, for years, as the two of us walked toward Neelo’s school, men would stare at her, sizing up her body behind the dark clothes, whispering to each other, making signs with their hands, making catcalls, taunting her, and saying things like how pretty she was—even though the only thing you could see on my sister’s body were her eyes.

The men who passed us on sidewalks would say demeaning things—things sexual in nature that I was too young to understand. My mom and dad wanted me to walk her to school because if I wasn’t with her, who knew what these men would do? I grew up hearing stories about women being groped, punched, even abducted—all while wearing hijabs. The perpetrators were from all ethnic groups and were both Pakistanis and, like us, refugees.

The experience left me angry, helpless, and traumatized.

It’s hatred. Hatred, contempt, domination. It leaves me angry and traumatized too. It makes the world feel like an alien place sometimes.

The myth that there’s a correlation between the hijab and a low incidence of sexual harassment and violence against women actually systematically victimizes them. Men are doing women a disservice in that they are placing blame on women who don’t cover themselves, as well as insinuating that a woman who is attacked while wearing a headscarf somehow did something to deserve it. As with all victim-blaming, this prevents women from speaking up about sexual assault. Many mainstream conservative Muslim clerics and pseudo-social scientists—like Zakir Naik, in this video, which is a must-see for anyone wanting to learn about this issue—openly imply or proclaim that women who don’t wear the hijab are callingfor sexual harassment and sexual violence. They go so far as correlating a woman’s right to wear what she wants in the West with a high incidence of sexualized violence against women there.

That’s what it’s like. It’s as if, by going outside, you’ve actively asked for attention or interference.

I’m celebrating World Naked Head day.

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

No emerald palace

Sep 7th, 2012 3:54 pm | By

The good news is, Rimsha has been granted bail. The bad news is, it’s about $10,500 or £6,200. The worse news is, would anyone keep her safe if she did make bail?

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says Rimsha is the first person accused of blasphemy to have been granted bail by a trial court.

Blasphemy is not a bailable offence but her lawyers pleaded that she was a juvenile.

Blasphemy is not a bailable offence. Blasphemy is not a bailable offence. Would you believe it? It shouldn’t even be a crime, yet it’s such a crime that it’s not even bailable.

Honestly, you would think that Allah really existed and lived in an actual palace made of emeralds and appeared on the balcony to the whole world every day. You would think ah really existed and did wonderful things for people all the time, and that “blasphemy” did real harm to this real and beneficent Allah, and that everyone knew that, and that Rimsha had actually committed it, and there was actually reason to think so.

But none of that is the case, and “blasphemy” is not a real crime and doesn’t harm anyone and Rimsha was just throwing out some garbage anyway.

Rimsha’s safety upon her release is likely to be a key concern for campaigners. Her father has previously said that he fears for his daughter’s life and for the safety of his family.

Her parents were taken into protective custody at an undisclosed location following threats, and many other Christian families fled the neighbourhood after her arrest.

If her bail payment is met, Rimsha is likely to be reunited with her parents, correspondents say.

There have been cases in Pakistan where people accused of blasphemy have been killed by vigilante mobs.

But the imam in Rimsha’s neighborhood wanted the Christians out, so he planted evidence, and if Rimsha ends up killed by a mob – oh well.

This case has only served to intensify concerns over the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Rights activists have long urged Pakistan to reform the laws, under which a person can be jailed for life for desecrating the Koran.

In March 2011 Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, was killed after calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

His death came just two months after the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, who also spoke out about the issue.

Despite no Allah, no emerald palace, no wonderful things, no reason to think so.

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

Kurdish DGHW

Sep 7th, 2012 3:41 pm | By

There was huge (two people) demand for a picture of the book so I took a video still. What Kurdish readers will see:

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

Fielding and MissSpidey

Sep 7th, 2012 11:32 am | By

Neil Denny of Little Atoms pointed out to me this piece on comedians using their fans to gang up on critics yesterday.

Being a public figure on the internet means having to deal with a barrage of abuse, which has been covered on this blog before, in my podcast interviews with Jonnie Marbles and Charlie Brooker.  It’s unpleasant and unnecessary, but people quickly become emboldened by the deindividuation that occurs when their identities are withheld, given that there’s no chance of getting a punch in the hooter.  Stewart Lee’s current show, Carpet Remnant World, involves a whittled down list of the most frothingly insane online critiques he could find on internet messageboards and social networking sites.  The “40,000 words of hate” can be viewed on his website.  They frequently seem unhinged, over-the-top and staggering in their lack of compassion and humanity – but such is the way with internet communication.  People vying for attention on a crowded medium quickly escalate the ferocity of their vitriol so their opinions stand out.

Except that if their identities are witheld, it’s not really “their opinions” that stand out, it’s those of WestKilburn47 or Shoopy or Trollsalot. But West and Shoop and Trolls still want their opinions to stand out, I get that. Still there’s something odd about investing your ego in an alter ego.

Noel Fielding decided to moblize his fans to go after a critic -

a form of safety-in-numbers bullying that cast fans and followers in the guise of a personal army, mobilised to defend the fragile ego of a lazy, uninspired narcissist.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, and I’ve previously written about Ricky Gervais’ penchant for the same sort of coordinated bullying.  Similarly thin-skinned, Gervais, while still new to the social networking site, quickly found that he could point his fans to negative reviews, and then pat these obedient, bile-spitting dogs on the head afterwards for fighting his battles.  Some of you, I know, will say ‘but he never actually asked them to do anything’, and you’ll say the same thing when we get back to what Noel Fielding has been up to lately, towards the end of this blog.  You have to decide what the reasons are for Gervais and Fielding posting these things – whether they know what the result will be – and then think about the approval explicitly given out afterwards.

That’s one of the complaints about the putative FT bullies, you know: that we do that. Well “we” don’t all do it, but it may be that some of us do, or do something like it. I’ve learned to try to be careful about that. On the other hand I think that as the level of venom goes up, the importance of relative size goes down. It’s not a straightforward calculation to make. Westboro Baptist is tiny, and feeds off publicity, but that’s not necessarily a reason to ignore it. So…it’s tricky. But the whole thing is worth keeping in mind.

(On the other hand I also see people who rant one minute about hugely popular FT blogs [? - only PZ and Ed are hugely popular] bullying smaller blogs, and rant the next minute about a comment on one FT blog [ok this one] that criticizes Dawkins. Wut? It can’t be both.)

There’s a lot more; read the whole thing. Toward the end we get Noel Fielding’s attack on MissSpidey – which sounds horribly familiar at the beginning stages.

Back to Fielding, and he’s now in a narcissistic rage over the whole affair, continuing to repeatedly tweet about MissSpidey, advocating a namechange from “Twitter” to “Cunt Platform”, and talking about how he’s a “horrible boy who likes to pull the legs off spiders.”  A fairly lame attempt at contrition is made, before he RT’s a supportive fan, then immediately goes back into “fuck em” mode.  Then we get a spot of victim blaming for good measure before, finally, Fielding thanks his followers for the support.

The support was, as you can see from what he chose to retweet, abusive and insulting towards MissSpidey.  She was repeatedly opened up to the hostility of 340,000 followers, many of whom are young girls who worship Fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism.  Fielding personally set the tone early on to one of personal abuse, using MissSpidey’s avatar picture to make unflattering remarks about her appearance.  This thread was picked up by his followers, but they went further.  Much further.

MissSpidey was swamped by hundreds of mentions, from hundreds of users.  These tweets, as I’ve said, mocked her physical appearance as being “old” and “ugly” – in reality, she is neither.

Well I am, and it’s not a lot more fun being sneered at for that when you are than it is when you aren’t. Actually it’s less so. (That’s litotes.)

Then it took a more sinister turn, and MissSpidey found that her address had been tracked down and was being published by the “FieldMice”, who were also threatening violence.  Then she started to receive death threats – Noel Fielding was, as you’d expect, copied in on much of this by the fans seeking his approval, so presumably knew what was going on.  MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.”  I know, isn’t it?

MissSpidey suffers from Cyclothymic disorder.  Twitter was a vital support network for her.  With that suddenly taken away – through no fault of her own – and with a continuing barrage of hateful, hurtful messages being continually delivered to her, MissSpidey lost hope.  She tried to end her own life.

Not such a good outcome.


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

Everyday sexism

Sep 7th, 2012 10:49 am | By

Just a small one, and utterly routine, but then that’s just it – it’s routine.

An ad I saw on tv last night, or half saw, because I was doing something else besides – probably playing “toss the squeaky hedgehog” with Cooper. Something about a thing for guys, a thing guys like, a guy type thing. A cable channel, or service, or something like that. Anyway the “don’t you wish you could join all this fun” part was guys watching a game on tv and doing the usual sporty chatter and laughter.

Line of dialogue:

He throws like my sister!

Jolly guyish laughter.

So. Young girls exposed to that get more twigs added to the stereotype that Girls Can’t Throw and Sport Is For Guys and Girls Trying To Do Sport Is Just Funny Always and Hahaha Girls Throwing Hahaha.

Boys and men exposed to that get their existing stereotypes to that effect further augmented and entrenched.

And it’s just routine. Hardly anyone will even notice (so the stereotype will do its work below the radar).

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

Chocolate chip ice cream

Sep 7th, 2012 10:02 am | By

There’s been a fair bit of discussion of Edwin Kagin’s post on atheism+ yesterday. I haven’t read most of it though, just seen it in passing. I want to comment on a couple of things.

We are now experiencing a most divisive phenomenon where some atheists are viciously excoriating other atheists for not embracing loudly enough certain of a list of worthy causes to which they are joined.

That seems a very back-to-front way of putting it. The vicious excoriation has been coming from a coalition of haters of feminism and of feminists and, arguably, of women in general. It’s been coming from them for more than a year. It comes with (at the extremes, and there are lots of those) rape threats, ugly caricatures, sexist epithets, obsessive cyberstalking, and endless other forms of frothing raging retaliation.

The idea of atheism plus is not vicious excoriation, it’s escape and resistance. What atheism+ wants to escape and resist is not a failure to embrace causes loudly enough – that’s a grotesquely off-base way to describe it. Atheism+ is about escaping and resisting active energetic organized hatred of feminism and women. Active energetic organized hatred of feminism and women is not the same thing as not embracing loudly enough a certain list of worthy causes. It seems very obtuse (if not worse) not to see that.

(Is that me viciously excoriating? I don’t think so. I think it falls well short of that.)

One can be an atheist and like chocolate chip ice cream. This does not mean that it is a good idea to form a club that excludes, and sees as enemies, anyone who does not like chocolate chip ice cream, or who actually prefer some other flavors.

How many bloggers, laid end to end, would it take to bridge the gap between science and religion?

Lord dog, the Religious Right certainly need have no worry over us. We will self-destruct without their help.

A population that eats its own young will probably not long survive.

Sigh. Really? Liking or not liking an ice cream flavor? As an analogy for hating and dumping endless crap on feminists and (at the extreme) women? Really, Mr Kagin? That’s how much you think women matter?

He’s done lots of important work, and hats off to him, but that’s just embarrassing.


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


Sep 6th, 2012 5:56 pm | By

Rebecca says she’s just going to do it more. I say that too, likewise.

Let’s do it more.

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

That is some boring “story”

Sep 6th, 2012 5:07 pm | By

Ew. One of those Creepy Moments in Cyberstalking things, when you realize there’s a whole level of stalking you didn’t know about, and you’re being itted.

I hadn’t bothered to find out what Storify is. Then I saw a piquant tweet of Martin Robbins’s -

Martin Robbins@mjrobbins

40+ yesterday. When Mabus did this, skeptics were up in arms. When a deranged ‘skeptic’ targets women, silence.

So I followed the link and found myself at the Storify of [shudder] the stalker behind ElevatorGATE, who took the time to make more than 40 stories out of Twitter conversations in one day. Including one of mine. Or maybe more, I don’t know.

I should start charging a percentage.

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

In Kurdish

Sep 6th, 2012 4:38 pm | By

I got two copies today of Does God Hate Women? translated into Kurdish. The alphabet is Arabic.

The cover is beautiful. In pale green, with a faintly William Morris look, a woman’s face with snakes for her hair, a holy book, chains, lizards, a hand with an eye in the palm…very cool.

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

It’s all in your head

Sep 6th, 2012 12:30 pm | By

Misogyny? What misogyny?

I don’t know what you’re talking about! There is no misogyny!

Via Coffee Loving Skeptic on Facebook.

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

A throwaway piece of old fashioned Australian slang

Sep 6th, 2012 9:41 am | By

An unpleasant man, who is the Executive Director of The Sydney Institute, a conservative think tank, talks some drearily familiar unpleasant crap about Jane Caro and sexist epithets and destroying the joint.

Who would have thought that a throwaway piece of old fashioned Australian slang  could, within a few days, become a matter of international interest?  But that’s  the modern world of instant communications , home to the ”IIA” syndrome.   Meaning ”insult, indignation, apology” in that order.


That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If the “throwaway piece of old fashioned slang” (of whatever nationality) is a sexist or racist or homophobic epithet, it’s not automatically a bad thing if someone kicks up a fuss about it and attention is paid and there is discussion of the idea that epithets of that kind are bad and harmful. Lots of things used to be a “throwaway piece of old fashioned slang” and are now labels that non-brutal people don’t use.

When walking my dog Nancy early Sunday evening, I turned on to BBC Radio’s  World Today Weekend program. Feminist Jane Caro was banging on from Sydney about  just how sexist Aussie blokes really are.

Caro soon downloaded how 2GB  presenter Alan Jones had recently declared:  ”Women are destroying the joint.” The reference was to the former Victorian  police commissioner Christine Nixon and the Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore.   Then Caro commented how one-time Liberal Party operative Grahame Morris had  called 7.30 presenter Leigh Sales a ”cow”, after her interview with  Tony Abbott.

Shocking, when you think about it.  But not if you think for long.  For  starters, leftists such as Caro are invariably telling us that Jones is a mere  shock-jock. Shock-jocks attempt to shock.  That’s what they do.  As to Morris,  well he was born in country NSW. Calling a person a cow in such abodes is so  common that the word gets an entry in G.A. Wilkes’s A Dictionary of  Australian  Colloquialisms.

And? “Bitch” is extremely common in the US, too, but that doesn’t make it benign. It’s not benign.

A sense of perspective might help. In the meantime, Morris should be counselled  against using 19th century colloquialisms in these oh-so-sensitive-times.  And  Sales should desist from getting offended about not very much at all.  At least it would free up the BBC for some real news from the antipodes.


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

Reporter stunned to learn that poverty makes people desperate

Sep 5th, 2012 4:50 pm | By

The BBC’s Rahul Tandon reports on a woman in India who gave her daughters away because she was too poor to give them a decent life.

Media reports in India suggested that she sold the girls for 185 rupees ($3; £2).

When I ask her if that is true, her voice rises: “I could never sell my children. I could never do such a thing. I gave them to good families where they would be well looked after.”

Purnima is now in a shelter in Bijoygunge, about 60km (37 miles) from Calcutta, and her daughters Piya (10), Supriya (eight) and Roma (four) have been reunited with her.

Even taking into account the helplessness of her situation, I find it hard to believe that this woman could just give up her children.

What? Seriously? He finds it hard to believe?

It’s common. It’s been common throughout history. Where’s he been?

Purnima is still not sure. She tells me she still feels that her daughters deserve a better life than the one she can offer.

On the drive to meet Purnima, I was convinced that no parent could ever willingly give up their child, that there must have been a financial motive behind it.

As I make my way home, I think about our conversation. The truth is, if I was in the same situation as Purnima, maybe I would have taken the same decision.

Ya think?

Sheesh. Does the phrase “foundling home” ring any bells? Never heard of the baskets left at the doors of churches? Never heard that there’s quite a lot of poverty in India?

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

Reverse trolling

Sep 5th, 2012 12:02 pm | By

The stats have been showing a lot of hits via New Matilda for the past three days, and via a comment rather than the post. New Matilda must be big.

Anyway, the post is by Jane Caro, and it’s about the waves kicked up by her piece on “the wave of misogynistic remarks recently” (gosh, why does that sound so familiar?) and her tweet inviting suggestions for “new ways of ‘destroying the joint” being a woman & all.’

I had no idea whether I’d get any takers, but it took off like wildfire. Surgeon Jill Tomlinson added the hashtag #destroyingthejoint and a twitter phenomenon was created.

The tweets from both men and women were mostly hilarious, some borderline obscene — unleashed vaginas featured prominently (I was guilty of a couple of those myself) and some made powerful points. Jill Tomlinson tweeted about the way Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was #destroyingthejoint.

Twitter flashmob kind of thing. That can be fun – or, in the wrong hands, it can be just more wave of misogynistic remarks. That’s why I’m not as optimistic as Caro is.

…the hilarity and humour of #destroyingthejoint is precisely the point. In the past, we often — quite understandably — reacted to comments like the above with outrage, but outrage is defensive. It is the response of the powerless. Social media has given the powerless, many of whom are women, a voice and a platform.

As one commentator put it, #destroyingthejoint is reverse trolling. That’s why I think so many people, particularly women, have taken to the thread so wholeheartedly. Instead of feeling hurt and angry about the way women are routinely dismissed and put down by many of the powerful, they have felt gleeful, naughty — and yes, powerful.

They are not on the defensive this time, they are on the offensive. Maybe it is my advertising background but I have long argued that satire, humour and wit are much more powerful weapons than indignation. This weekend, twitter proved it.

That’s cool, but it works only as long as it works. The flashmob breaks up and goes back to work, the misogynist trollers stick around and keep at the trolling.

Still – Caro is great, and I’ll be delighted if she’s right and I’m wrong.

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

Receiving a daily flood of hatred

Sep 5th, 2012 9:27 am | By

Bullying works. Systematic relentless daily bullying can break people and make them give up. Jen is sick of it, so they have succeeded in silencing her for the time being. She’s getting out.

I love writing, I love sharing my ideas, and I love listening to the ideas of my readers. But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I just can’t take it anymore.

I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.

That stinks.

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

Cooper is in a dark place

Sep 4th, 2012 6:28 pm | By

You know Cooper? The dog I live with now and then?

He went swimming in Vancouver with his real humans ten days ago and sliced open a paw, and had to get stitches and a bandage. I took him to the vet hospital for the second bandage change this afternoon and they told me there was a “buildup of oil” because of the confinement of the bandage, so he has to be on zero activity for two weeks and he has to wear the cone. I wanted to rip my own head off on getting that news.

So we came home, and I picked up the dreaded plastic cone where it was sitting waiting, and tried to put it on him but he leaped backward (naturally). Since the fastening mechanism looks like a medieval torture device and is very hard to manipulate, I was stymied, and besides I didn’t want to put a huge rigid plastic basket around his head. He wasn’t licking the paw, and he was sleepy from the walk we’d been on before going to the hospital, so I put it off…And belatedly thought to look for advice online (duh) and learned that there are soft cones. Soft cones! Well why the hell would anybody use those plastic horrors then?

I phoned the vets to ask if that was ok, and they said oh yes, it’s what they use on their dog, so the dog and I got in his car (perhaps to be considered too much activity, but I wasn’t going to leave him alone on top of the other miseries) and went to the local vet pet store. Did they have soft cones? They did indeed. I practically cried when I saw it. Soft. A dog can sleep in a thing like that. It will pillow its little face.

So we went home, and I had gathered my wits and made a better plan: I got out a stinky dried salmon treat and went outside with him and it – and then had to put it back in the treat jar and go get a cloth to wipe the ropes of treat-drool off his jaws before putting the collar directly into their path. By the time I got the treat out again and went back outside he’d licked the drool off and was all tidy. I put the treat down where he knew it was there, and told him to sit, and put the collar on. The other thing about the soft collar is that it has velcro straps instead of a medieval torture device that you have to thread through slots. Just a tiny bit easier to work with.

It was a bitter moment. Disillusionment enters his life for the first time – and a rift is created between us. He’s known me since he was this:

I got him to eat that first day. And now – this. How could I?

Well, I sat down on the bottom stair (after putting the fragile antique jar that sits there in a cupboard lest he blindly bash into it) and called him over and cuddled his ears and he leaned into me and wagged his tail.

Then he sat hunched over for half an hour without moving, looking as if he were in shock. Then he went to sleep.

I now think it may actually be tranquilizing him a little. It’s opaque and black, which is crap for navigation, obviously, but maybe it’s calming, like horse blinders. Since he has to be inactive for two weeks, that’s the best thing he can be.

I’m a worrier. Can’t help it.

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

Mapping religious persecution

Sep 4th, 2012 11:50 am | By

Brian Grim of the Pew Research Center and Roger Finke of Pennsylvania State University have a new book, The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century. Guess which religion plays the starring role.

Writing about Islam in today’s politically charged climate is difficult, Grim and Finke admit. Many commentators, they say, tend to be either overly critical or timidly uncritical.

The thinly-veiled xenophobes on one end and the overcompensaters on the other.

Among the researchers’ findings:

• Seventy-eight percent of Muslim-majority countries, compared with 10 percent of Christian-majority countries and 43 percent of other nations, had high levels of government restrictions on religion.

• Violent religious persecution is present in every country with a Muslim majority with a population of more than 2 million.

• Sixty-two percent of Muslim-majority countries had at least moderate levels of persecution, with more than 200 people persecuted. In comparison, 28 percent of Christian-majority nations and 60 percent of other countries had similar levels of abuse.

• At the highest levels of persecution, 45 percent of Muslim-majority countries — more than four times the percentage of Christian-majority countries — were found to have more than a thousand people abused or displaced because of religion.

Not the least bit surprising, alas, but it’s useful to have some numbers.

However, one need only consider the role religion played in the Sudanese civil war or what Grim and Finke refer to as the “religious cleansing” of neighborhoods in Iraq based on Shiite-Sunni differences to understand the deadly toll religious persecution is exacting in Muslim-majority nations.

See this is why talking about this kind of thing is not anti-Muslim aka “Islamophobic” - it’s because the people who suffer most from the horrible aspects of Islam are Muslims.

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

Secularism on trial

Sep 4th, 2012 11:22 am | By

The European Court of Human Rights is hearing the cases of four British Christians who claim they were fired because of discrimination against their religious beliefs. You remember them. The two Christian women who insisted on wearing necklaces with a cross attached when their jobs required no jewelry. (Here’s a thing, which I hadn’t noticed before. Two women. Necklaces. This doesn’t come up with men. So in fact…it really is a matter of jewelry, not religious belief. It’s a matter of Gender Custom that women can wear necklaces and men can’t, so somehow it becomes a “religious obligation” for women to wear a necklace with a cross attached, while that’s not a “religious obligation” for men. That doesn’t make any sense. You might as well say it’s a “religious obligation” for women to wear four-inch heels with a cross stiched into the left one.) The relationship counsellor who said he had a conscientious objection to giving sex therapy advice to gay couples. The registrar who refused to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.

[A] lawyer for the government, James Eadie, said employees’ rights have to be limited in order to protect the rights of others.

He said: “These four linked cases at their core raise questions about the rights, and the limits to the rights, of employees to force their employers to alter employment conditions, so as to accommodate the employees’ religious practices.

“My submission will be that the court’s jurisprudence is clear and consistent, it is to this effect the convention protects individuals’ rights to manifest their religion outside their professional sphere.

“However, that does not mean that in the context of his or her employment an individual can insist on being able to manifest their beliefs in any way they choose. Other rights, other interests are in play and are to be respected.”

It seems bizarre that all four are being heard as one case, when the first two seem both so different from and so much less important than the second two. First two: dangly jewelry is prohibited for good reasons, find some other way to wear a cross. Second two: if you don’t want to do your job, then find another job. Amateur judging, at your service.


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

Speed marrying

Sep 3rd, 2012 4:21 pm | By

Lots of people gather in a ballroom at a Washington DC hotel for the the Matrimonial Banquet, a fun evening of speed dating and socializing with semi-arranged marriage as the goal. It’s part of the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, and it is in no way to be confused with a livestock market.

…in recent years, the demand for such banquets has increased, and the society plans to hold them more frequently. More Muslims are embracing them as an acceptable alternative to arranged marriages and the vagaries of 21st-century, American-style dating. Online matchmaking is also popular, but some prefer to meet in person. Saturday night’s banquet was sold out, as was a second one scheduled for Sunday.

Speed spouse-hunting; sounds fabulous.

Raza said he wanted to ask the women whether they wanted to keep working after starting a family, not so much because he had a staunch preference, but to gauge her reaction. “I want to see flexibility,” he said. “Is she angry when I ask? Does she look at me like, ‘You’re so stupid?’ If so, it’s not the right person.”

Aha. If she gives him a funny look on account of how it’s a sinister question, she’s not the right person. (But then would such a person be at a Matrimonial Banquet in the first place?)




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

I want to walk safely and like a human being

Sep 3rd, 2012 11:50 am | By

The BBC looks at the joys of being a woman in Cairo.

Said Sadek, a sociologist from the American University in Cairo, says that the problem is deeply rooted in Egyptian society: a mixture of what he calls increasing Islamic conservatism, on the rise since the late 1960s, and old patriarchal attitudes.

“Religious fundamentalism arose, and they began to target women. They want women to go back to the home and not work.

“Male patriarchal culture does not accept that women are higher than men, because some women had education and got to work, and some men lagged behind and so one way to equalise status is to shock women and force a sexual situation on them anywhere.”

In other words, it’s hostile, and meant to suppress and subordinate.

For women – like Nancy, who lives in central Cairo – it is a question of freedom.

“I want to walk safely and like a human being. Nobody should touch or harass me – that’s it.”

That is, indeed, exactly it.

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