Notes and Comment Blog

Yes, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz writing a book

Oct 15th, 2014 4:14 pm | By

Yup, that’s what he says, at 5:45:

That’s why I’m writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, that’s why I give money to his organization.

Well all right then. That could do some good. It will boost Maajid’s visibility, and it will probably inform Sam Harris.


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

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Oct 15th, 2014 4:09 pm | By

Well this is a new angle – although so far I’ve found only angry Islamist sources for it, but they say it’s in a segment on CNN. The claim is that Sam Harris is writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, and that he gives money to the Quilliam Foundation. If that’s true, well, that’s good news.

Here’s the awful 5pillarz on the subject:

The prominent Islamophobe Sam Harris has revealed that he is writing a book with Maajid Nawaz and that he’s giving money to the Quilliam Foundation.

Harris made the admission during an interview with CNN which can be seen HERE after 5 mins 45 secs

It’s not an “admission” because it’s not a bad thing to do. It’s a good thing to do. The people at 5pillarz are dreadful.

The Quilliam Foundation, a supposed counter-extremism think-tank,  is regularly given a platform by the mainstream media to demonise Islam and Muslims and is rejected by vast swathes of the British Muslim community.

Bullshit. Quilliam doesn’t demonize Muslims, and part of the reason some Muslims reject it is because people like those behind 5pillarz tell lies about it.

Now to watch that video.


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

We recognize no such thing

Oct 15th, 2014 11:36 am | By

The UK’s National Union of Students recently refused to condemn IS because to do so would be Islamophobic. Or rather, “””Islamophobic””” – one set of scare quotes isn’t sarcastic enough.

Hand-wringing delegates at the NUS blocked a vote to show solidarity with Iraqi Kurds and condemn Islamic State militants because they say it’s “Islamophobic”.

The bill called for the Union – which claims to represent UK students – to support unity between Muslims, condemn the bloody terror of ISIS (also known as the Islamic State), and support a boycott on people who fund the militants.

But the motion offended Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia, who said: “We recognise that condemnation of ISIS appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamaphobia.

“This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.”

Progressive Muslim friends of mine are unsurprised to learn that it’s Bouattia who said that ridiculous thing. She doesn’t like progressive Muslims, either.

Birmingham student Bouattia says she plans to put forward another motion in the next meeting to condemn ISIS that “will in no way pander to Western imperialistic intervention or the demonisation of Muslim peoples.”

ISIS has wreaked misery in Syria and Iraq, slaughtering thousands of Kurds and other Iraqis, raping and kidnapping women, beheading innocent victims including British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines.

Baffled delegates pointed out the motion specifically expressed “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”.

Roza Salih, a student of Kurdish descent, had worked on the resolution for the NUS to condemn the Islamic State and to campaign for democracy in Iraq.

Also significant is the fact that the vast majority of the victims of IS are Muslims.


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

A massive job that will have no end

Oct 15th, 2014 10:55 am | By

Terry Sanderson has an enthusiastic, inspired post on Maryam’s conference on Secularism last weekend. He says it wasn’t like any other conference on secularism he’s ever been to.

It was a truly international event that made everyone there feel that they were engaged in a momentous worldwide call for change. It was just a start, but the passion generated was the kind that can move mountains.

To start with, there was a majority of women among the 250 delegates. They had come from all over the world, bringing with them some horrific stories of suffering at the hands of religion.

Many speakers from Muslim backgrounds told of the persecution and discrimination and the sometimes heroic resistance to it. Wherever there is theocracy it seems there is also resistance. Individuals and groups, very often women, very often religious themselves, who are seeking to create a secular space where they and their communities can be free to make their own choices and exercise their own beliefs.

It was right that women were the dominant presence at this conference, for it is women who are the most numerous victims of theocratic regimes.

He was worried about the safety of some people who spoke, and inspired by their courage.

One speaker, told us she experienced some nerves before her speech – on women, religion and the religious-right. The last time Magdulien Abaida spoke at a conference in Benghazi it was interrupted by members of Islamist militia group who subsequently abducted her from her hotel room.

We were told of the people who had been murdered, tortured, silenced and had their rights removed just to enable religious hegemony to continue.

Some women recounted the way that men, in the name of their faith, sought to control every moment of female lives – what women eat, when they eat, what they wear, who they can love, how they can love them – even how they go to the toilet.

Secularism is one crucial approach to ending such arrangements.

Our job is to persuade people of the value and brilliance of secularism so that they will embrace it when they are asked.

This is a massive job that will have no end, but we should promote the adoption of secularism wherever we can. Whether that is in our national governments, our local authorities or our shared institutions.

Religious leaders will never give up their power willingly. The people have to politely show them the door and tell them to return to their churches and mosques and temples and to stay there.

Only then will the terrible suffering that women have to endure under religious rule be alleviated. At some time in the future all women will be able to participate in the world on an equal basis as men, and secularism is what will make that happen.

Not secularism alone, no. As we keep seeing, there are other influences that motivate people to stop women participating in the world on an equal basis with men, influences that are nothing to do with theocracy or religion. But secularism would certainly be one huge step in the right direction.

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

Just one side

Oct 15th, 2014 10:27 am | By

Soraya Nadia McDonald at the Washington Post reports on the threatening of Anita Sarkeesian.

As escalating threats of death and rape marked Sarkeesian’s tenure as a video game vlogger, she’s been adamant about not allowing them to silence her.

The Utah State threat is just the latest one in the ongoing saga of Gamergate, an increasingly nasty culture war between video-game critics like Sarkeesian and a mob of gamers.

I really wish she hadn’t put it that way. It’s not true. Sarkeesian isn’t “increasingly nasty” and she isn’t engaging in any kind of war. It’s not a war, it’s a terror campaign. It’s not “both sides,” it’s one side. Talking about trope in video games is not waging war, it’s not nasty, it’s not threatening, it’s not doing anything wrong.

There aren’t two sides here. It’s not always the case that there are two (comparable) sides.

Typically, Sarkeesian does not back out of events because of threats — last month, someone threatened to bomb the Game Developers Choice Awards if they honored Sarkeesian. They proceeded anyway, under caution — and Tuesday night she clarified her reasoning for canceling the event at Utah State.

This instance was different because of Utah’s concealed carry law: Anyone in the state, including college students, can carry a concealed weapon as long as they have a permit for the gun.

“To be clear: I didn’t cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats,” she tweeted. “I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.”

According to university spokesman Tim Vitale, the university formulated a security plan when they knew Sarkeesian was coming, prior to her arrival. “We were going to not allow bags in at all,” Vitale said. Once the threat was sent, “We added officers, both uniform and undercover, and we were going to empty the room and sweep the room [for bombs].”

However, the university didn’t plan to use metal detectors or institute a temporary gun ban restricted to the confines of the lecture space. Utah State is a publicly-funded university.

When Sarkeesian arrived in Utah, campus police Capt. Steve Milne “explained by state law if someone has a legal concealed carry permit, that they were allowed by law to have that,” Vitale said. “In the end, it caused her to decide to cancel the event.”

Of course it did. When your hosts tell you they won’t be screening for guns or taking guns away if they find them, then it makes sense to decide not to go.

And so the bullies get what they want.

The Gamergate crowd responded to news stories reporting Sarkeesian alerted authorities with accusations that she was fabricating threats to serve herself and her message. She wasn’t, and law enforcement confirmed they were investigating the threats against Sarkeesian, which prompted the involvement of the FBI.

Wu was also accused of making up the threats against her, which has become a tactic to discredit the very women who are being targeted.

“I am a professional developer,” Wu told Kotaku. “The quickest way I could think of to end my career and destroy my credibility would be making something like this up and getting arrested for filing a false police report.”

But it doesn’t cost the bullies anything to make those accusations, just as it doesn’t cost them anything to make threats.

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

Stay out of Utah

Oct 15th, 2014 9:43 am | By

CFI’s legal honcho Nick Little gave me the link to Utah’s gun law.

(5) Unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish, or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule, or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.

(6) As used in this section:

(a) “firearm” has the same meaning as defined in Section 76-10-501; and

(b) “local authority or state entity” includes public school districts, public schools, and state institutions of higher education.

See that there? PUBLIC SCHOOLS and STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES are forbidden to restrict the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property in any way.

And if all these local authorities are forbidden to restrict the use of guns…doesn’t that mean people are allowed to shoot other people, pets, car windshields, windows, tires?

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

Well obviously people can bring guns to Sarkeesian’s talk

Oct 15th, 2014 9:01 am | By

As you probably already know, yesterday evening Utah State made a statement saying that Anita Sarkeesian had canceled her talk scheduled today October 15. Here’s why:

Oct. 14, 7 p.m.
Anita Sarkeesian has canceled her scheduled speech for tomorrow following a discussion with Utah State University police regarding an email threat that was sent to Utah State University. During the discussion, Sarkeesian asked if weapons will be permitted at the speaking venue. Sarkeesian was informed that, in accordance with the State of Utah law regarding the carrying of firearms, if a person has a valid concealed firearm permit and is carrying a weapon, they are permitted to have it at the venue.

I’m just fucking stunned.

So that’s it – we can’t have freedom of speech or association – we feminist women, we anyone who says something that bullies don’t like. We can’t have it because bullies will announce they’re going to shoot us and other feminists if we go to X place and talk, and because the officials at X place won’t take the most basic and obvious step to protect us.

That’s really brilliant, isn’t it. Now they’ll just do that for everything. No feminist will be able to appear in public ever again.

I’ll quote again from their statement 3 hours earlier, at 4 p.m., where they said they would take every step.

Sarkeesian’s talk will go ahead as scheduled, and we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our students. Prior to the threat, Utah State University police were already making preparations for security as the speaker had received similar threats in the past. Enhanced security measures will now be in place, which include prohibiting backpacks and any large bags.

The safety and protection of students and staff is paramount at Utah State, and we will take every precaution to ensure that attendees will have the opportunity to hear Sarkeesian, a national speaker, tell her perspective about an important topic. As an institution of higher education, it is important that we provide our students with rich learning experiences from a variety of sources.

They will prohibit backpacks and large bags, but they will not prohibit guns. Guns will be allowed. People will be permitted to bring guns to the talk. Guns are ok, guns are fine, it’s only backpacks and bags that are a problem. It might be possible to suffocate someone with a backpack or a bag.

Will the government be issuing us with targets to wear?

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

Relief for Texas

Oct 14th, 2014 6:26 pm | By

But one piece of good news – that is (as so often) one undoing of a piece of bad news. The Supreme Court blocked Texas’s horrible admitting privileges law, allowing 13 clinics to re-open.

The court’s order, staying a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that the law could go into effect, will allow more than a dozen of the clinics to resume operation, according to the group that challenged the law, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The action will allow 13 abortion clinics that closed after the appeals court decision to reopen, said Nancy Northup, president of the center. “We’re absolutely thrilled.”

The group told the justices that “if the stay entered by the 5th Circuit is not vacated, the clinics forced to remain closed during the appeals process will likely never reopen.”

The court’s decision is not a judgment on the Texas law, but whether the law’s new restrictions should be delayed while the legal battle continued.

So it’s not a permanent undoing of a bit of bad news, but it will be a relief to a lot of women in Texas for now.

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

Not a joke

Oct 14th, 2014 6:11 pm | By

This is the terrorist email:

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

It’s anti-feminist terrorism now

Oct 14th, 2014 6:07 pm | By

Ok can we stop talking about online harassment as just some big joke, or as drama or rage-blogging or doing it for the clicks or any other dismissive bullshit now?

From the Standard Examiner:

Utah State University plans to move forward with an event featuring a prominent Canadian-American author, blogger and feminist, despite threats of terror, a spokesman said Tuesday evening.

The decision came after several staff members received an anonymous email terror threat on Tuesday morning from someone claiming to be a student proposing “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if it didn’t cancel the Wednesday lecture.

The email author wrote that “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.”

They’re going ahead with the event, but with extra security.

The email was sent to Ann Austin, director of the Center for Women and Gender Studies, along with several others, according to a spokesman for the center.

Sarkeesian is the author of the video blog “Feminist Frequency” and the video series Tropes vs.Women in Video Games, which analyzes how women are depicted in pop culture. Sarkeesian will be speaking at 11:30 a.m. in the Taggart Student Center Auditorium.

The email was a warning to all staff and students at USU if Sarkeesian’s talk wasn’t canceled “a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out” against those in attendance, students, staff and the women’s center.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the email continues. The threat is “giving (USU) a chance to stop it.”

The threats increase throughout the letter, saying at one point that even if security is increased it won’t save anyone and feminists on campus won’t be able to defend themselves.

“One way or another, I’m going to make sure they die,” it said.

Sarkeesian poses “everything wrong with the feminist woman” and that is why she is being targeted, the email states. “She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU.”

Can we stop fucking around and say this shit is unacceptable now? Can we? Can we stop pretending it’s just “disagreement” or “dissent” or “free speech”? Can we?

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

To be a bit disingenuous

Oct 14th, 2014 5:41 pm | By

Part of the point of #AnApostatesExperience was to provide a counter to the pablum put out by Reza Aslan. Heina talks about how unhelpful Reza Aslan is to ex-Muslims.

I read his No god But God when I was experiencing doubts but trying to stay Muslim. Even then, I found his trumping up of some highly uncommon “liberal”/”progressive” interpretations of Islam to be a bit disingenuous.

His views hardly represent any significant percentage of Muslims, let alone many. I [am] very much in favor of promoting reformist voices but not when they pretend the situation is anything other than it is or obscure the truth in any way.

Quite. The reformist Muslims I know are very realistic about the situation as it is and how difficult it is for them to be heard.

The lack of consideration of ex-Muslims from left-wing types is why many ex-Muslims find ourselves in a very uncomfortable position. It’s not as if we don’t see the xenophobia and racism behind much of the professed right-wing sympathy for us. At the same time, at least there is overt sympathy of any kind there. It doesn’t hurt that there is also money to hire bodyguards for when things get out of hand and power that can amplify our voices.

I made a conscious choice to avoid going neo-con, but I honestly don’t feel too angry that there are ex-Muslims in genuine danger who go that way. I feel more angry about those atheists who are the first to step up with criticisms of Christian apologia but give Reza Aslan a free pass. Where else can ex-Muslims go when we are forgotten by white liberal/progressive types?

Be where ex-Muslims can go.


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

How ugly is she?

Oct 14th, 2014 3:23 pm | By

Sexism? What sexism? I don’t see any sexism. There’s no such thing as sexism.

A New Hampshire Republican has sparked outrage after he called a Democratic congresswoman “ugly as sin” and claimed she would lose to her female Republican opponent because she’s more “attractive.”

New Hampshire state GOP Rep. Steve Vaillancourt wrote an incredibly sexist blog post last week in which he compared current Democratic US Rep. Anne McLane Kuster to opponent Marilinda Garcia. Specifically, he attacked Kuster’s appearance while creepily praising Garcia’s.

So let’s go straight to the blog post.

Vaillancourt starts with a warning, “to avoid the PC police sending out  a warrant for my arrest.” Haha. See what he did there? Haha. The guy’s a wit.

Then he gets down to business, which is to call one candidate ugly and the other one attractive.

How attractive is Marilinda Garcia? You know how opposition ad makers usually go out of their way to find a photo of the opponent not looking his or her best. Well…Democrats and Annie Kuster supporters can’t seem to find a photo of Marilinda Garcia looking bad at all.

As for Annie….oh as for Annie…and before I continue, I offer that caution, caution, caution, gain.

Let’s be honest. Does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.

If looks really matter and if this race is at all close, give a decided edge to Marilinda Garcia.

How ugly is Annie Kuster? Again avert your eyes if you don’t want to hear it, but I actually thought of Annie Kuster last weekend when I was in Montreal. Not far from the Second Cup Coffee Shop I at which I was sipping and writing is a bar called Mados. It’s on the section of St. Catherine Street which is blocked off for pedestrians only in the summer; it’s near the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Thus, tens of thousands of Montrealers and visitors walk by Mados on their way to the fireworks displays on summer nights.

On almost any given night, standing for all to see in front of Mados is a rather attractive drag queen. People stop to pose for pictures with this Mado drag queen; other drag queens gather round because, you see, Mados is a drag queen bar…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Long live Victor Victoria; long live La Cage Aux Folles.

By now you probably know why I think of Annie Kuster whenever I walk by Mados; sad to say, but the drag queens are more atrractive than Annie Kuster….not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ve promised myself for years not to use this anecdote, but after seeing the story about the seven to ten point boost for the attractive, the story has political relevance.

Annie Kuster looks more like a drag queen than most men in drag.


Politics in America.

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

Because he was an Iraqi Kurd, not an American

Oct 14th, 2014 2:53 pm | By

Peter Ford at the Christian Science Monitor excoriates the hypocrisy of Western journalists’ failing to report on the murder of Muhanad Akidi.

But you have likely never heard of Mr. Akidi. Why not? Because he was an Iraqi Kurd, not an American.

It is hard not to detect more than a whiff of hypocrisy here, in a part of the world where the United States is often accused of hypocrisy.

And the whiff is particularly rank when it comes from the media, which should hold itself to higher standards.

Only two online news outlets reported Akidi’s murder by Tuesday evening: The Russian news agency RIA Novosti and a small Belgian newspaper published in Flemish, De Standaard.

Akidi is the first Iraqi reporter whose death at the hands of IS has been officially confirmed, though a cameraman for a local TV station, Raad al-Azzawi, was killed last Friday according to his relatives, after refusing to work for IS in Tikrit.

Akidi was kidnapped by IS two months ago and there has been no mention of him in the foreign press at all.

Granted, he is just one of many Iraqi civilians caught up in this conflict. In September alone, over 1,100 Iraqis died of acts of terrorism or violence, according to the United Nations. Journalists aren’t special, in this sense. Iraq’s minorities – Christians, Yazidis, Kurds – can attest to the vengeful slaughter perpetrated by IS.

Moreover, the murders of Mr. Sotloff and Mr. Foley, who were abducted in Syria, not Iraq, were videotaped and uploaded for propaganda purposes, precisely because they were Americans and their deaths would shock and appall a Western audience. Their profession appears to have been less important than their nationality; IS has now started butchering Western aid workers.

It’s a long time since I covered the Middle East. But I am quite sure that many people there have just the same suspicions of Western intentions today as they ever did – that America and its allies only get involved to protect their own interests, not those of the locals.

A cynical journalist might say that is only to be expected. But even the most cynical journalist might hope that the Western “mainstream media” as we are often sneeringly called, would pay a little more attention to the locals.

We should do what we can to remind them.


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

Muhanad Akidi and Raad al-Azzawi

Oct 14th, 2014 2:34 pm | By

I saw this on Twitter yesterday but couldn’t find any news sources at all, so I delayed posting about it. Now there are news sources, such as the International Business Times.

Tributes have been pouring in for Kurdish journalist Muhanad Akidi, who was reportedly murdered by IS militants yesterday [13 October].

His death was confirmed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who said he was executed at the Ghazlani military base.

This photo was on Twitter yesterday too.

Kurdish journalist killed

News of the journalist’s death comes just days after reports that Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi was publicly executed near Tikrit.

The 37-year-old is believed to have been executed with a single shot, alongside his brother and two other civilians in the small village of Samra on Friday. It is thought they had refused to declare their support for Islamic State and work for the extremist group.

One of al-Azzawi’s relatives later said: “They came to his home and took him and his brother. He did nothing wrong; his only crime was to be a cameraman. He was just doing his job.”

IS doesn’t confine its murders to people who do something wrong.

Social media users have been circulating photos of Akidi and al-Azzawi, specifically calling for them to be remembered like western journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded.

Indeed. Remember.

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

The view from nowhere

Oct 14th, 2014 11:42 am | By

John Walker points out in a post on #GamerGate that there’s no escape from being political. Claiming to be not political is political; there is no not-political ground to stand on. (Unless you have always lived alone on a desert island, but then how did you get there?)

There’s a new game out, called Koala Fighters XVII. It’s a game about an elite squadron of fighter pilots, who are taking on the menace of the invading koala hordes. In it, throughout, are cutscenes showing bare-breasted women being kidnapped by the evil koalas, threatened with torture and death, to be rescued by the amazing gang of pilot men.

The game is, obviously, brilliantly well made, featuring some of the best koala shooting action ever seen in a game. However, when reviewing this game, gaming site Poltaku comments on how the nudity and sexual stereotypes are disappointing. Meanwhile, Sensible Gaming Reviews, leaving the politics out of games coverage, doesn’t say anything of the sort, not seeing the feature necessary to mention. GameBros4Ever, meanwhile, reviews the game and comments on how brilliantly the breasts are animated, and how great it was to feel like a powerful man in the cockpit of the plane.

All three reviews are inherently political. Choosing to mention this specific feature of the game is a political decision, whether to condemn or celebrate. And crucially, choosing not to mention it is a political decision too. Not thinking it worth mentioning, also, is born of a political position on the matter. Indifference to something of importance to others is, of course, a political position. You cannot “leave the politics out of games coverage”. Politics are inherent. What is instead meant by this demand is, by its nature, “Leave politics I don’t adhere to out of games coverage.”

If you live among people and partake of what your society provides, you don’t have the option of being not political.

Wanting games coverage that doesn’t take issue with, for example, sexualised images of women (or men) is wanting coverage of a specific political leaning. It’s a desire for a specific political position to be taken in games coverage. Which is fine! But it’s not, in any way, leaving politics out of it.

The defense of the status quo is political. The stance of “change nothing” is political. Dismissal of criticism is just as political as the criticism dismissed.

There is an attempt to avoid this reality from GG by attempts to invoke the even deeper fallacy of “objectivity”. I’ve written at length on why objectivity is literally impossible for a human being, and further how deeply unhelpful it would be in games coverage. It’s immediately obvious that one cannot review a game objectively – one can only attempt to describe a game’s intended features while unavoidably infecting such an attempt with conscious or unconscious subjectivity. And describing a game’s intended features is the job of the publisher, and is already taken care of in descriptions of games on any gaming store. Objectivity is obviously not desired, but instead the term is used to suggest a politically “neutral” position on very specific subject areas. Attempts at neutral politics are obviously impossible, but more to the point, remains political.

And of course the pretence that it’s about neutrality is patent nonsense. By requiring neutrality on those specific subjects, such as anything regarding the representation of any group of people, it is a tacit endorsement of the opposing political position. The desire to mute criticism of the representation of women in a game is a tacit endorsement of the representation of women in the game. And again, of course, anyone is absolutely entitled to endorse that representation if it is their position. But it’s a position.

This is similar to the claim beloved by self-styled “skeptics” that emotion is an alien contaminant in any kind of discussion or disagreement, and that proper skeptics rely on reason and evidence and nothing else – especially not emotion. They say this with much rage and vehemence.


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


Oct 13th, 2014 6:15 pm | By

Update to add: Ex-Muslims of North America started this hashtage to highlight the often-neglected experiences of ex-muslims.

Go there on Twitter.

If you’re an ex-Muslim, contribute. If you’re not, read (and contribute: nons are tweeting their reactions, urging others to read, etc).

It’s powerful, some of it desperately sad, some of it joyous.

A few (without handles):

When the brothers of women you know from prayer tell you in the streets that you deserve to be sold into prostitution #AnApostatesExperience

Losing the friendship of every non-relative Muslim I knew & the love of some relatives #AnApostatesExperience

“Watching your mother accept she’s not allowed to visit her child’s grave, and not being able to say anything.” – #AnApostatesExperience

Crying at the end of Disney’s “Brave” b/c Merida resolved their differences and got her mom back…and I couldn’t.

Lying about your values and lifestyle to family so that they will still love you #AnApostatesExperience

Being told by your devout sister(real) that “you deserve to be killed for leaving islam as hadith clearly says” #AnApostatesExperience

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

They’re right, you’re wrong

Oct 13th, 2014 4:58 pm | By

You’ve probably already seen that dopy crude article by Michael Luciano explaining that atheism don’t need no stinkin liberalism. PZ has a post about it.

My favorite part, by which I mean the part that makes me cringe with loathing the most, is the way it’s illustrated – right at the top, under the title, before there are any words.


It’s like a giant “eat shit, bitches, it’s men who run this show and if you don’t like it you can fuck off.”

Tyson and Dennett don’t belong, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali doesn’t really belong (although she does in a way, as the only woman this guy thinks belongs), but the rest are…what they are. Happy to exclude women, at least, and likely to get hostile or contemptuous of both if asked to stop excluding women. In several cases likely to call us cunts for trying to say something. Hitchens, of course, is gone, and omigod am I sick of that photo, which so many pseuds and self-admirers have on their Twitter profiles. Fucking spare me. This isn’t Paris 1943 and we’re not in the Resistance, and cigarettes aren’t a badge of coolitude.

I’m so fed up with being any part of a movement that has this ridiculous childish hero-worship thing going on. Guys, get over it.

Olivia at Skepchick has a nice post responding to the Parade Of Dudes.

Let me direct you to where Heina has already given a great explanation of how atheism as a movement already cares about social justice, and add that I suspect that the reason the Social Justice Warriors are so interested in bringing social justice to atheism is because we are a.atheists and b.people who believe that equality is a basic standard of human decency. The “woman problem of atheism” as Luciano so eloquently puts it, isn’t a problem because atheism has to be feminist. It’s a problem because any organization that repeatedly excludes, harasses, and ignores women is a shithole that needs to change. I’m not sure if Luciano missed this, but social justice movements actually ask everyone to live up to these expectations because they believe that societal structures that systematically oppress entire groups of people are a bad thing, whether or not they’re religious or atheist in nature.

That’s it. This is a long-term thing, so we all have to live together, and guess what, we don’t want to live among a bunch of scornful sexist assholes. We just don’t. If you make a big point of shaping your movement to be that way, you’re going to lose people.

Oddly enough, there are still some of us out there who are hoping that atheism and people with a shred of human decency are one and the same, and that’s what we’re appealing to. The people who are saying these things don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re liberal or conservative, but they do care if you are actively pushing them out of your movement, discriminating against them, and essentially treating them like worthless piles of shit. Oddly enough, the desire to be given basic human respect and equality is not associated with any political party. The inherent connection between equality and atheism is that there are people who are atheists who want to be treated equally. In case you haven’t figured out where the atheism comes from yet, it comes from the thousands of atheists who are female, people of color, disabled, queer, or any other minority who want an atheist community that lets them in.

It’s honestly not that hard to understand.


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

I do it for the clicks for other people

Oct 13th, 2014 3:35 pm | By

Update: I’m told that Noel Plum says he didn’t make money directly from this video.

Hahahahahaha – I Googled to find that piece where Sam Harris explained about the politically correct feminists, and in doing so look what I found – Noel Plum’s Patreon for the video he did about my take on Harris. He got $65.50 for it! That’s a lot more than I made for the post, I can tell you*. But we’re supposed to be the ones who “do it for the clicks,” remember? How come nobody ever says that about people like Noel Plum?


Sixty five dollars and fifty cents! I could buy a lot of Talenti gelato with that.

*Like, about 60 times more. Blogging really doesn’t pay unless you get many tens of thousands of hits per day, which I don’t.

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

They’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing

Oct 13th, 2014 3:28 pm | By

Libby Anne has another great post on the way the more anti-feminist of the atheist guys use Islamist misogyny and abuse of women as a pretext for belittling women’s issues closer to home.

She starts with something Sam Harris said on that much-discussed Bill Maher program.

Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They’ll criticize white theocracy, they’ll criticize Christians. They’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984. But when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us.

I have to say, when I heard this bit my jaw just dropped. That Harris could move smoothly from dismissing the very real and very present threat of violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers to condemning the treatment of women in “the Muslim world” is mind boggling. This is not how supporting women’s rights works. But even with that aside, Harris is so factually off on anti-abortion violence that I’m actually honestly surprised. I would have thought him more informed on this topic.

I wouldn’t. I think he really is closed off to the idea that there are still issues for women right here in the US, and as a result I think he fails to pay any attention to such issues or to inform himself about them. I don’t know why that is, I find it pretty mystifying in someone of his type, but there it is. He’s consistently clueless on the subject, and flippant and patronizing as well – when he’s not just downright hostile and contemptuous.

Violence against abortion clinics and abortion providers dates back to at least the 1980s and continues in the present. Eight doctors or clinic providers have been murdered, the last one only five years ago. In fact, the clinic that was bombed in the 1984 incident Harris mentions was bombed again in 2012—and completely gutted as a result. I hear of arson and death threats, and it shakes me. I’ve served as an escort at my local Planned Parenthood clinic. It can be very scary—for all involved. Women often have their license plate numbers recorded by anti-abortion protesters calling them “murderers,” and in some areas of the country doctors who perform abortions have to wear masks when entering clinics to protect their identities. Just recently a writer for the high-profile National Review called for hanging women who have had abortions.

To have Harris present concern about anti-abortion violence as “getting agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984″ is horrifying. He should know better.

He should, but…this is where we are. It’s fashionable (in some circles) to be contemptuous of feminism and thus of worries about violence against abortion clinics. It’s fine to worry about violence against women in Pakistan or Somalia, but it’s merely self-indulgent to worry about it in the US; that’s the view of this brand of atheist. I’ve heard from a lot of them on Twitter, and that’s what they say – and Harris is one of their patron saints.

I’m tired of seeing people emphasize the challenges women face in Muslim countries while downplaying the challenges women face elsewhere. This sort of thing makes it look like it’s more about having it in for Islam (or for religion) than it is about women’s wellbeing. That Harris is willing to dismiss not simply structural sexism but also opposition to women’s healthcare access is bizarre.

It’s not bizarre if he thinks feminists are high-maintenance princesses and/or politically correct harpies just looking for a reason to attack him, the all-important Sam Harris.

It is a measure of the ridiculous paranoia engendered by political correctness that in the second it took me to make that joke about my sex appeal, I worried whether my assuming that most women are heterosexual would offend some number of lesbians in the audience.

She: I’m not saying that women and men are the same.

Me: Okay, great. So I think you misunderstood the intent of what I was saying. I was just acknowledging that some differences in the general tendencies of men and women might explain why 84 percent of my followers on Twitter are men. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to get into this, because there are 200 people standing behind you in line patiently waiting to have their books signed.

She: You should just know that what you said was incredibly sexist and very damaging, and you should apologize.

Me: You really are determined to be offended, aren’t you? It’s like you have installed a tripwire in your mind, and you’re just waiting for people to cross it.

The reality is, Sam Harris dislikes contemporary feminism in his own part of the world, so it’s actually not all that surprising that he uses the oppression of women in Islam as an excuse to take a potshot at that kind of feminism. He’s not just a confused ally of feminism, he’s an opponent of feminism. Except in Egypt and Saudi Arabia of course; he approves of it over there.

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


Oct 13th, 2014 12:36 pm | By

Another human rights defender charged with a “crime.”

Within two weeks of releasing leading human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja from jail the Bahrain authorities detained another. On September 30 Nabeel Rajab was taken into custody for allegedly insulting the Bahrain regime on twitter.

Rajab has been exposing human rights violations by the U.S. ally for many years and spent from mid-2012 to mid-2014 in prison on trumped-up charges. He’s hit a nerve again, tweeting that Bahrain’s security forces act as an ideological incubator for ISIS. Bahrain’s military and police are drawn almost exclusively from the Sunni sect, with the majority Shia population virtually shut out of the services. Rajab’s September 28 tweet came days after news of a Sunni Bahraini security official leaving his job to join ISIS.

There’s a Twitter campaign to send out the same tweet and then tweet that you did so with the hashtags  .


Many #Bahrain men who joined #terrorism & #ISIS came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator.

Let’s do this thing.

The lack of security force reform in Bahrain has been a source of political unrest in the kingdom for years, and although parts of the U.S. government have tried to push for human rights progress the messages from Washington have been inconsistent and contradictory. Bahrain is part of the military coalition fighting ISIS but its own history of violent sectarianism has been largely overlooked by the Obama Administration.

Rajab’s lawyer Jalila al Sayed told me “It’s hard to predict what will happen with this latest case against Nabeel, but there is a real chance he could face several more years in prison for his tweeting.”

Thanks, Obama administration, that’s a big help.

The core problem is that the U.S. government isn’t uncomfortable enough with its military ally’s flouting of the rule of law to invoke proper consequences. The State Department failed to publicly call for the release of Maryam Al Khawaja and has so far failed to publicly call for the release of Nabeel Rajab (Al Khawaja has now left Bahrain but legal charges against her remain). Without meaningful censure Bahrain’s repressive regime has few incentives to stop its crackdown on human rights activists.

Manama appears to have calculated correctly that Washington’s military priorities will trump its embarrassment on human rights, perhaps even more conclusively now Bahrain is part of the anti-ISIS effort. The State Department’s primarily reliance on private diplomacy with Bahrain clearly hasn’t made much headway on human rights and it needs to adopt another plan.

Well maybe millions of people on Twitter can embarrass both governments.

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