Notes and Comment Blog

Allergy Treatment Spr

Jan 15th, 2014 4:47 pm | By

Now that’s a really horrifying use of “homeopathy” – that haha medical “treatment” that takes care to wash away every trace of the active ingredient.

Fake asthma remedy

It’s insulting on top of recklessly endangering, charging $15.99 for a tiny amount of water. But the reckless endangerment is the horrifying part. Asthma can kill! How can a “spray” with no active ingredient offer any kind of relief, temporary or otherwise, for asthma symptoms? It’s not going to shrink the swollen inflamed airways, so what relief can it offer?

It’s criminal.

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

27 Nobelists

Jan 15th, 2014 4:11 pm | By

The BBC reports that 27 Nobel laureates have written an open letter to Putin about his disgusting law against “homosexual propaganda.”

Leading figures including novelist JM Coetzee signed the letter, devised by Sir Ian and chemist Sir Harry Kroto and given to The Independent.

I heard this story on the World Service last night, including Harry Kroto reading from the letter. That was exciting, because I’ve shared a dinner table with Harry Kroto. He was at CFI’s Moving Secularism Forward conference in Orlando two years ago – and gave a very exciting and thrilling talk.

Sir Harry Kroto said he had “enjoyed the tremendous friendship of Russian scientists” during numerous visits, but had seriously considered cancelling his next trip, an invitation which he had accepted before the issue arose.

“I have decided to go and, while in Russia, make my grave concerns clear at appropriate moments by pointing out that I shall not consider any further invitations unless this law is repealed or moves to repeal it are taken and in addition a serious effort is made by the Russian Government to ensure the safety of the Russian LGBT community,” said Sir Harry.

He’s a great guy, and a firebrand.

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

No roots

Jan 15th, 2014 3:34 pm | By

A little back and forth on Twitter today between American Atheists and some people about belief in hell. It started with an observation that belief in hell is inconsistent with belief in [god's] unconditional love, which set off some “not all Christians believe in hell” pushback. So AA said

I suppose in that case, those Christians believe everyone goes to heaven?

@awhooker Not necessarily.

@AmericanAtheist What do they believe happens to those who don’t?

@awhooker No idea. You’ll have to ask a Christian what he/she/they believes.

Each individual will have a different conception of the afterlife. But not all Christian denominations believe in hell.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventism, and Christadelphianism don’t ascribe to such a belief.

Nothing remarkable about any of that, it’s just that it struck me what a footling, pointless, empty, ungrounded way of trying to get understanding it is. It’s all floating around in the air, tethered to nothing. It’s all just making it up.

With other kinds of conversations and arguments and attempts to get understanding, the parties are attempting to consult something – information, knowledge, data, evidence in the case of factual disputes, or values, rights, laws, politics in the case of disputes over principles, or both combined in many cases. But then there’s this weird other category where everything is just claims, and people believe them or they believe different ones, but in neither case is there anything more than just claims. These over here “believe” everyone goes to heaven while those over there “believe” some people go to heaven while other people go to hell. There are no roots on “believe” – it just dangles there, connected to nothing, leading nowhere.

Nothing new in that. It just annoys me afresh at times, the way people will take seriously states of affairs like “Each individual will have a different conception of the afterlife” as if that’s reasonable as opposed to an incoherent anarchic babble.

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

Reality horror tv

Jan 15th, 2014 12:07 pm | By

There’s a new tv series on the risibly-named “Learning Channel”: Escaping the Prophet. It’s surprisingly grim and real for TLC – home of the endless Duggar show, in which the role of fundamentalist hyper-patriarchal religion is drastically downplayed while a woman’s persistence in attempting life-threatening pregnancies is presented as heroic, and of a show about a Mormon guy with four wives, presented as a kind of cuddly soap opera.

Escaping the Prophet is what it sounds like – it’s about escaping that horrible little town on the Arizona-Utah border which is a miniature theocracy which people are not allowed to leave. Jon Krakauer wrote a brilliant book on Colorado City and the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, Under the Banner of Heaven. Its “prophet” – the one who needs to be escaped – is Warren Jeffs, who is in prison doing time for raping two underage girls.

It’s creepy and stressful to watch, so much so that I decided to stop and watch the rest later. It’s creepy and stressful because these people are being held captive and I don’t see why it can be on tv instead of dealt with by the cops.

Part of the reason is that Colorado City is physically very isolated. Part of it is probably the fact that things went so badly when the authorities intervened at the Yearning for Zion Ranch. But still – it’s quite blood-chilling to see this unfolding as just another bit of reality tv when it’s such a stark case of unlawful confinement.

Escaping the Prophet follows Flora Jessop on her mission to take down one of the most reportedly dangerous polygamist cults in America. Flora, a social activist, an advocate for abused children, and the author of the 2009 book Church of Lies, endured extreme physical, mental, and sexual abuse during her life in the church, until she escaped at the age of 16. Now, she works closely with law enforcement, the Attorney General of Arizona, and a network of inside informants to help rescue runaways and extract victims within the community, as well as to help empower families who chose to stay and fight. Using her difficult memories and her passion to help others, she works to deliver justice to the very people that she feels wronged her.

The FLDS religion remains one of the most secretive communities in America, a world of unquestioned authority, arranged marriage, and little contact to the outside world. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints continues to be led by its president – and self-described prophet – Warren Jeffs, despite his 2011 conviction on two felony counts of child sexual assault.

In each episode, Flora, along with partner Brandon (a former member of the FLDS and one of Warren Jeffs’ nephews) offers aid and attempts to extract a number of families from the FLDS community.

I don’t get it. I don’t get why it’s a matter of attempting. I don’t get why a bunch of cops don’t go with them.

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

You can’t say that?

Jan 15th, 2014 11:01 am | By

There was a conversation on RTE the other day, a conversation which touched on homophobia; the video of the conversation was taken down from YouTube and then restored with parts removed.

RTE has removed content from the RTE Player featuring Rory O’Neill’s interview on The Saturday Night Show.

In an interview following a performance by O’Neill’s alter ego Panti, host Brendan O’Connor spoke to the performer about homophobia in Ireland. O’Neill spoke about how he believed Ireland had a bad rep but as a small country could change much faster.

Nothing too horrifying there. He goes on to say that everybody knows gay people, which makes it hard to “be mean” about the subject.

Because Ireland is such small communities grouped together, everybody knows their local gay!

Maybe twenty years ago it was ok to be really mean about him, but nowadays it’s just not ok to be really mean about it.

The only place that you see it’s ok to be really horrible and mean about gays is on the internet in the comments and people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers.”

Rory O’Neill

When O’Connor asked who the writers were that O’Neill was talking about he named Breda O’Brien and John Waters, as well as the Iona Institute.

And the interview was later taken down. reports:

RTÉ confirmed its actions in a statement to

        Last weekend’s The Saturday Night Show was removed from the Player due to potential legal issues and for reasons of sensitivity following the death of Tom O’Gorman as would be standard practice in such situations.

The programme has since been returned to the online player but O’Neill’s interview has been cut short.

What potential legal issues?

Can anybody seriously think that anything he said was libelous? If so, things are more different on that side of the Atlantic than I had realized.



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

Enormous, disproportionate impact on black minority women

Jan 15th, 2014 10:20 am | By

The Independent reported on the LSESUASH et al. letter to the UN special rapporteur yesterday. That’s good: major media coverage, and non-right-wing major media coverage at that.

Mr Moos, who was recently involved in a freedom of expression battle with LSE, believes that any type of segregation should be fought and that the UN pressure would help public discussion.

He said: “We hope that the UN will air their concern about the on-going issue of gender discrimination in public institutions in the UK, and advise the UK government on how to ensure full compliance with the existing human rights legislation that outlaws discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics like gender.”

As opposed to treating gender as a special case because culture or because religion or because oh shit we don’t want to get into it. (more…)

No hypocrisy

Jan 14th, 2014 5:15 pm | By

Gnu Atheism on the pope:


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


Jan 14th, 2014 4:50 pm | By

Another one. From the New York Times:

A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage violated the federal Constitution, the latest in a string of legal victories for gay rights and one that occurred in the heart of the Bible Belt.

The state’s ban on marriage by gay and lesbian couples is “an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit,” wrote Judge Terence C. Kern of United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in Tulsa, deciding a case that had languished for nine years. The amendment, he said, is based on “moral disapproval” and does not advance the state’s asserted interests in promoting heterosexual marriage or the welfare of children.

The judge stayed his ruling in anticipation that the state will appeal, but it’s a start.

…with his decision against the state’s own ban on such marriages, “Judge Kern has come to the conclusion that so many have before him — that the fundamental equality of lesbian and gay couples is guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, in a statement issued late Tuesday.

Rights trump religion. So there.

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

The “nice” pope isn’t

Jan 14th, 2014 3:31 pm | By

The ever so much more nice guy pope has pitched a big fit about women having the audacity to terminate their pregnancies.

He said it was was “frightful” to think about early pregnancy terminations.

Easy for him, isn’t it. It’s not his life that will be messed up and perhaps irreparably thrown off course by an unwanted pregnancy. He can afford to drool sentimentally over a process inside someone else’s body that he chooses to think of as a “baby” or even a “child.”

“It is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day,” he said in part of the speech that addressed the rights of children around the world.

No, it isn’t. It is no more horrific than it is to think that there are “children” who will never see the light of day because their potential parents didn’t fuck at a particular moment. That’s just as true you know. If they fuck a little later and conceive and have the child, why, that child replaces the ones that would have seen the light of day if the parents had fucked at some other time. Omigod the horror!

Dreadful man, horrified by the absence of imagined children and completely unconcerned about the women who have to bear the children.

The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says that there has been concern in some quarters of Roman Catholicism that the pope has not been putting the church’s view on abortion forcefully enough.

Our correspondent says that the Pope’s stance favouring mercy over condemnation has made more conservative Roman Catholics uneasy, but they will welcome his latest remarks.

Because they’re all about punishing and controlling women, and that’s what those shits care about.

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


Jan 14th, 2014 2:36 pm | By


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

Displaying and honoring

Jan 14th, 2014 12:36 pm | By

An Oklahoma Bill from 2009, HOUSE BILL 1330.

An Act relating to the state capital and Capitol Building; providing for legislative findings; creating the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act; authorizing the placement of a monument displaying and honoring the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol; authorizing the Secretary of State to work with certain persons in designing a monument; providing for the location for the monument; authorizing the Attorney General to defend certain challenges; providing for codification providing for noncodification; and providing an effective date.

Stupid. There shouldn’t be such a monument. It’s a horrible theocratic set of “commandments” and it doesn’t belong anywhere near any government buildings.

The ten. Protestant version.

I. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

II. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

III. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

IV. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.

V. Honor thy father and thy mother.

VI. Thou shalt not kill.

VII. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

VIII. Thou shalt not steal.

IX.  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

X.  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.

See? The first four are brazenly theocratic. The Oklahoma legislature has no business telling any citizen to do or not do any of those things.

Part of their rationale goes like this:

3. That the Ten Commandments represent a philosophy of Oklahomans and other Americans today, that God has ordained civil government and has delegated limited authority to civil government, that God has limited the authority of civil government, and that God has endowed people with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

That’s not a philosophy, it’s a religion, that is dependent on invocation of an imagined person who does not communicate with us. It has no business being mixed up with government.

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

Guest post: clarification on the hijab and the niqab in France

Jan 14th, 2014 11:19 am | By

Originally a comment by Irène Delse on More on the Big Questions.

Let me be the token French citizen and resident, here, and clarify a few misconceptions.

1) There is no general ban on the hidjab in France. There simply is not. Maybe Ms. Sahar al-Faifi was thinking of a recent law (enacted under the former president, right-wing leader N. Sarkozy) against the wearing of full-face veils, like niqab or burqa, in public spaces. (Wether this confusion was an honest mistake or deliberately done in order to generate F.U.D. about “islamophobia”, now, is another question.)

2) This law is a can of worms, that much is true. It was crafted as a way to combat Islamist (mostly Salafist) influence in the Muslim communities, and the government used a few high-profile incidents to justify what they saw as a “necessity” for this law: things like a niqab-clad woman refusing to take off her face veil to testify in court even though she was offered to do so in a side-room with a small number of witnesses. There was also a few jewelry thefts in Paris by men dressed up as female tourists from Saudi Arabia. The niqab served to hide their faces to security cameras in the luxury shops they “visited”! Of course (as could have been predicted by even the thickest of politicos if they had taken the time to think about social and historical circumstances), the law backfired and gave even more publicity to the ultra-conservative Islamists, who now can pose as “victims”. By the way, this law only entails first a cautioning, and then a fine for a repeat offense. But in some instances, it led to confrontation (also predictable) between the woman’s family and/or neighbours and the police, hence more incidents and heightened tensions with a part of the Muslim population. Sigh. There’s many reasons not to be a fan of Sarkozy, and this law is only one of them.

3) As for the hidjab or other religious garments like kippas, Sikh turbans, etc., that don’t hide the face, they are banned here in two very precise circumstances:

a) For students public schools and high-schools, on school ground and during school-organized excursions. The rest of their time, they do as they want.

b) For government workers, during their hours of work, including certain private contractors who provide a public service (like a hospital, nursing home or child-care), if they are subsidised by the national or local government.

But, and this is a very big “but”, these lregulations on religious symbols and garments have been accompanied for more than 20 years now by directives to help schools and other administrators enforce them in a conciliatory way, in order to let believers practice their religious customs (like covering their head) in a way that doesn’t attract disproportionate attention to them. For instance, a hidjab is out, but a bandanna knotted over the hair is fine, and so is any other kind of hat than a kippa. In fact, I have a colleague who is an Orthodox Jew and he’s perfectly OK with wearing a beret at work, and so is the government agency we both work for! (Berets are a commonplace style for men here, and so are bandannas and knitted hats for both sexes.)

What this means in practice is that no, a believer doesn’t have to “choose between [their] career and [their] religious/cultural identity”, as A Hermit fears, but find a style that doesn’t shout out loud “look at the religion first, but the citizen and human being last”. I hope Québec finds a way to build some similar compromise and spare themselves more political strife under the guise of religion.

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

Letter to the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights

Jan 14th, 2014 10:23 am | By

A letter to Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, from Radha Bhatt, Marieme Helie Lucas, Nahla Mahmoud, Chris Moos, Maryam Namazie, Pragna Patel, Abhishek Phadnis, and Fatou Sow. They write to draw her attention to the increasing incidence of gender segregation on public university campuses in the United Kingdom, and to seek her intervention in the matter.

Gender segregation reinforces negative views about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

Speaking of that…it’s very damn unfortunate that the only women from Muslim backgrounds the BBC saw fit to invite to participate in that Big Questions on gender segregation were there to defend it. There were plenty of people there to oppose it, good, but they were all men. It’s right that Chris and Abhishek were there because they’ve been way out front on this, but it’s a great pity that Maryam or Pragna or Nahla or Radha couldn’t have been there too, to disrupt that very strong visual in which the two shrouded women were right smack in the middle.

(There was also Tina Beattie, ironically. I say “ironically” because I think she talks awful guff about religion, but she was right on this. She interrupted David Lammy when he was talking about how he respects his constituents, he doesn’t shake hands with women when he goes to a Jewish Orthodox temple. I scowled at that and asked “you respect whom?” so I was glad that Beattie interrupted him to say the same thing and then point out that the reason for not shaking hands is in case the woman is “polluted.” Menstrual blood you know; ew ick filthy women.) (But then, he wasn’t clear about what he meant – whether it was refusal to shake hands with a woman who offered, or not offering to shake hands with a woman after shaking hands with the men. There are degrees of disrespect there.)

The letter, minus the paragraph of background that you already know:

We are compelled to seek your intercession in this matter after Universities UK (UUK), the representative body of British universities, issued, on 22 November 2013, Guidance for universities on ‘External speakers in higher education institutions’. The Guidance featured a hypothetical case study (of a visiting speaker who insisted that the audience be segregated by gender) which concluded that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”. The case study triggered a protest by students and women’s rights campaigners outside the London offices of UUK on 10 December 2013, and, following sustained criticism, was withdrawn on 13 December, pending further legal advice. (The original guidance is attached: ExternalSpeakersInHigherEducationInstitutions.)

UUK has claimed that the case study was merely ‘hypothetical’. However, besides UCL, there have been several cases of students complaining about gender segregation, for example at Leicester University and Queen Mary University London. A poll by the Times Higher Education revealed that out of 46 universities that responded, 29 do not have prohibitions against gender segregation in place. The Federation of Islamic Students Societies, for example, has issued guidelines on how to run a successful Islamic student society. These prescribe to “maintain segregation between brothers and sisters, keeping interaction between them at a minimum”.

Universities UK claims that it has still not abandoned the case study, which is merely pending “review”. Instead, a number of public statements made by their Chief Executive, Nicola Dandridge, and by the organisation itself, give us reason to fear that the case study may quietly be reintroduced to the report, with purely cosmetic alterations that do not neutralise the danger it poses to gender equality and women’s rights.

We hope you will appreciate that it is difficult enough resisting gender-segregation in public spaces even with equality and human rights legislation demonstrably in our favour, and that a recurrence of this Guidance will irretrievably damage the cause of gender equality and women’s rights in Britain by emboldening the apologists of this practice.

Should you wish to investigate these incidents, we would like to forewarn you of a common misconception that has been encouraged by apologists for this practice, namely that it is “voluntary”. It is not, inasmuch as it is beyond dispute that attendees at these events are expected to sit in specific zones, on pain of eviction. The prefix “voluntary” merely implies that such events will sometimes have three sections – men’s, women’s and mixed. We hope you will agree that this token concession does little to address our principal objection to this practice, which is that it amounts to the appropriation of a public space in the name of religion or culture, in a manner that undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment for women. We also hope you will concur that, for many women, particularly those from ethnic minorities, the ‘choice’ of mixed/segregated seating is often made under considerable duress.

Finally, we would also like to draw your attention to a legal note submitted to UUK by Radha Bhatt, an undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge, which provides a succinct illustration of the manifest illegality of gender segregation under Britain’s Equality Act 2010 and the European Convention on Human Rights, and reminds UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.

We are concerned that beyond the cases we have brought to your attention, there is a persistent issue of discrimination through gender segregation at public universities in the UK and also elsewhere. Recently, for example, a professor at York University in Canada faced reprimand for upholding gender equality in his classroom. Gender segregation is often done in the name of respecting cultural and religious rights with culture, religion and ethnicity often presented as inextricably intertwined and seen to supersede women’s rights and equality in the hierarchy of rights.

Even though the UK is a signatory to CEDAW and despite the fact that the issue has been brought to the attention of university administrators and policy makers, public institutions in the United Kingdom continue to fail to uphold an environment free of discrimination.

We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to your intercession on this pressing human rights issue.

Yours Sincerely,

Radha Bhatt, undergraduate student of the University of Cambridge
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Abhishek Phadnis, President of LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Fatou Sow, International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws




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

A precedent

Jan 14th, 2014 9:46 am | By

A young guy from Afghanistan has been granted asylum on the grounds of his non-belief in “God” (or, specifically in his case, in “Allah”), This is believed to be a first.

The Afghan was brought up as a Muslim and fled the conflict in his native country. He arrived in the UK in 2007, aged 16. He was initially given temporary leave to remain until 2013 but during his time in England gradually turned to atheism.

Enough said. He can’t go back to Afghanistan in that condition, now can he.

[His lawyers] helped him submit his claim to the Home Office under the UN’s 1951 refugee convention, arguing that if he returned to Afghanistan he would face persecution on the grounds of religion – or in his case, lack of religious belief.

He could, the lawyers argued, face a death sentence under sharia law as an apostate unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs. Evidence was also presented showing that because Islam permeates every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan, living discreetly would be virtually impossible.

Like for instance being shouted at by the muezzin five times a day every day. Imagine trying to be “discreetly” atheist with that racket going on.

Claire Splawn, a second-year law student at the University of Kent, prepared the case under the supervision of the clinic’s solicitor, Sheona York. Splawn said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected.”

York added: “We are absolutely delighted for our client. We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism.

“The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”

More thoughtful than religious belief itself is, if you ask me. (I know, I know, believers can be thoughtful. I know. But the belief itself? To the extent that it really is belief, as opposed to a hope or a metaphor or a way of being in communion with other people or tradition, I can’t see it as really thoughtful.)



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

More on the Big Questions

Jan 13th, 2014 5:19 pm | By

Ten minutes in. The woman in the niqab is Sahar al-Faifi, a community organizer and geneticist (the caption says). She says the big question assumes there is a conflict between religious rights and human rights and there is no such conflict. Same-sex marriage is totally impermissible in Islam, she says; that is agreed upon.

But it doesn’t mean for me to actually project my belief into my action allowing myself to discriminate against them. So that’s, that’s – you know, the human rights and the religious rights are in align. There is no conflict between the two.

See what she did there? She completely contradicted herself. She said there is no conflict, and then she promptly described a conflict. Same-sex marriage is right out in Islam, but she doesn’t get to act on that. Why not? Because acting on it would violate human rights!

They get onto the French “ban” on the hijab, and al-Faifi says if there were such a thing in Britain she would be stuck at home, she wouldn’t be able to go out. Which is nonsense, because the French “ban” isn’t a ban everywhere, it applies only in government buildings. Nobody points that out. The presenter asks her to remind everyone why she hides her face and she says “it’s an act of worship and it’s modesty.”

It’s “an act of worship.” Why? Why is sticking a piece of black cloth over your face “an act of worship”? Why is it an act of worship only for women?

I think that’s just some grandiose words that don’t mean anything, to explain a stupid and nasty custom that stifles women.

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

Her brother told her she is here just to die

Jan 13th, 2014 4:17 pm | By

Never never be born a girl in Afghanistan. Never.

A girl who says she is nine years old was captured at a checkpoint in Afghanistan wearing a suicide vest. The BBC reports her story as she told it.

It was late evening, the mullah was calling for prayers and my brother took me outside and told me to put on this vest. He showed me how to operate it, and I said: “I can’t – what if it doesn’t work?” And he said: ‘It will, don’t worry.’

I was scared and he took the vest back from me and he hit me hard, and I felt scared. Then [he gave me back the vest and] left me near the checkpoint where he said I had to operate it.

She wandered off and slept in the desert that night, and in the morning a soldier from the checkpoint found her.

When I told the commander my story he told me to go back home and I said: “No, they beat me there and I am not treated well.”

He said: “OK, well if you’re not going home then we have to take you to the provincial capital.” That’s when they brought me [to Lashkar Gah and] I spoke to another commander, the senior commander, and that’s how I come to be here.

Even if the government says it will guarantee my safety I am not going back – the same thing will happen again. They told me: “If you don’t do it this time, we will make you do it again.”

That’s a loving family she has.

My father came here and told me to go back and I said: “No, I will kill myself rather than go with you.”

I don’t have a mother, I have a stepmother and she was not very nice to me.

I did everything at home. I cooked, I made bread, I washed clothes, I cleaned the whole house and they still weren’t happy – they would treat me badly, as if I was a slave.

I didn’t go to school because they didn’t let me. I can’t read a word, I can’t pronounce anything. It’s because I wasn’t taught – nobody taught me how… of course I want to go to school.

My brother told me: “You’re here in this world and you will die. You are not here to learn or to do other things or to expect that your word will carry any weight. You are here just to die and do your duty.”

Never, never, never be born a girl in Afghanistan.


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

Leaving the couple in pools of blood

Jan 13th, 2014 3:47 pm | By

From last week, the BBC reports another political murder in northwest Pakistan.

On a hot and humid night in late August, a small group quietly scales the wall of a mud-brick house in a village near Pakistan’s north-western town of Akora Khatak.

In the dim, starlit courtyard, they make out the figures of a man and a woman lying in two separate charpoy cots, sleeping. About 15 minutes later, they walk out through the main door, leaving the couple in pools of blood.

So we know roughly what’s coming. The two were of the “wrong” family or ethnic group or caste for each other; or the woman had been ordered to marry someone else; or the woman’s younger brother had been accused of something or other.

The code is simple: Any contact, even just communication between a man and a woman outside of customary wedlock is considered a breach of the honour of the woman’s family, and gives it the right to seek bloody revenge.

The woman’s family must first kill her and then go after the man.

The mere expression of suspicion by the woman’s family is enough evidence and the community demands no further proof.

The mere expression of suspicion is enough to justify murder of two people, no questions asked. So if a woman’s brother or father gets irritated with her, he can simply express suspicion and wham, she’s gone. (I’m betting it doesn’t work if a woman’s sister or mother tries to use that trick, because obviously a woman’s claim is worth less than nothing.)

One person who hopes to change that is Rukhsana Bibi, now a widow, who claims that she survived an “honour killing” in a village near Akora Khatak and has taken the unusual step of publicly speaking out, trying to seek justice through the legal system.

Ms Bibi suffered horrific chest and leg injuries when she and husband, Mohammad Yunus, were victims of a brutal attack while they lay sleeping in the courtyard in Akora Khatak. Her husband was murdered, but Ms Bibi survived with seven bullets in her body: two in the chest, three in the left leg and two in the left hip.

And then we get to what happened. I called it – it was the one about the woman being promised to some other man, as if she were a piece of furniture boxed up ready for shipment.

Ms Bibi tells me that she met Mr Yunus – a student of medical technology – at a village wedding in the summer of 2011. They fell in love with each other at first sight.

Although their meetings were rare, they frequently spoke to each other on their mobile phones.

She describes how their relationship went on like this until April, when her family arranged her marriage to a distant relative, an uneducated cattle tender in her village.

Unhappy and frustrated, she and Mr Yunus decided to run away.

They married in the north-west before going into hiding in the Akora Khatak area.

Well pieces of furniture aren’t allowed to decide for themselves whom to marry.


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

Lack of respect for the prophet

Jan 13th, 2014 1:27 pm | By

And in Mauritania – another journalist, another criticism of Mo, another “apostasy” claim, another potential death sentence. “Mo is the best thing ever and if you deny it we’ll kill you!” Well that sure convinces me.

A young journalist in Mauritania faces a possible death sentence after being convicted of apostasy for an article criticising the prophet Mohammed, AFP reported Monday (January 6th).

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed was arrested January 2nd in Nouadhibou and “was convicted of lack of respect for the prophet”, a judicial source told AFP.

And then the private sector got involved.

In Nouadhibou, a businessman even offered up money to anyone willing to kill Ould Mohamed.

In describing the January 3rd incident, Nouadhibou-based journalist Mostafa el-Sayed told Magharebia that “businessman and preacher Abi Ould Ali, a resident of Nouadhibou, said during a protest against the offending article that he was willing to pay 4,000 euros to anyone who killed the young author, unless he announced his repentance within three days.”

Yet many who denounced the article were angered by the businessman’s incitement to murder, saying it pushed society towards terrorism.

Not to mention that lacking respect for “the prophet” should not be a crime in the first place, let alone a capital crime.

“Those who incite to murder want to terrorise us,” young researcher Salihy Ould Ab said. They are just a group of salafists and Islamists who want us to erase our minds and refrain from thinking and criticism.”

“They are inciting people to kill a young man just because he wrote an analytical article in which he referred to some of the positions of the Prophet Mohammed. This means that Mauritania is on the verge of entering an era of terrorism,” Ould Ab wrote on his Facebook page.

It’s good to know that there are sensible people in Mauritania along with the vigilantes and theocrats.

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

A death in Cameroon

Jan 13th, 2014 12:36 pm | By

Via Yemisi - Gay Cameroonian, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, imprisoned for sending love text message to same-sex person, dies.

That’s appalling.

He was sent to prison in March 2011 for sending a text message declaring his love for another adult human.  The message was a simple “I’m very much in love with you”. How does such a message constitute harm? Why should this lead to imprisonment?

Cameroonian activist, Lambert Lamda, said Mbédé had been out of hospital for about a month before he died and had received no medical care during that period.  ’”His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him. I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn’t speak.


 He couldn’t get a visa to leave Cameroon.

In July 2013, a prominent Cameroonian gay rights activist and journalist Eric Lembembe was gruesomely murdered. Mr Lembembe’s neck and feet was broken and his face, hands, and feet burned with an iron. How many more will die before the world wakes up to its responsibility? This horrific treatment of a person because of their sexual orientation is why we bother.

Hiding under culture, religion or inhumane laws to commit crimes against humanity must be thoroughly condemned. Silence is simply acquiescence to oppression.

The hell with religion, culture and inhumane laws that allow or encourage crimes against humanity.

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

The big questions

Jan 13th, 2014 11:49 am | By

Here are Chris and Abhishek on the BBC show The Big Questions. The question, you will remember, was “Should human rights always outweigh religious rights?”

There’s also Tina Beattie, and a guy called Davis Mac-Iyalla saying yes they should, and (I skipped ahead) hot disagreement about (male) circumcision.

I skipped all the way ahead to get to the Chris and Abhishek part at about 50 minutes. They unzipped their jackets as requested to reveal the (shock-horror) Jesus and Mo T shirts.

Do they have the right to wear such T shirts? No, the woman in a hijab sitting (reluctantly) next to them says. No, another woman in a hijab in the back row says. “When you’re threatening our religion,” she explains twice. Of course, the T shirts don’t threaten her/their religion.

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