Notes and Comment Blog

234 missing schoolgirls

Apr 26th, 2014 5:01 pm | By

Those abducted schoolgirls in Borno state, Nigeria, are still missing. Borno women appealed for the girls’ release on Wednesday.

Women in Borno State yesterday stated their willingness to go into the Sambisa Forest in search of schoolgirls abducted from the Government Girls Secondary School Chibok two weeks ago.

The women, who appeared in black dresses and sobbed over the incident, spoke to journalists in Maiduguri, where they urged for the release of the female students.
Authorities believe that at least 234 of the schoolgirls are still missing, after some of them escaped from their Boko Haram kidnappers.

Prof Hauwa Abdu Biu, who spoke on behalf of the concerned women yesterday, called on the sect to release the girls, saying the abduction was inhuman.

“We are ready to go into the bush to search for them if we could get somebody who will led us. These girls are innocent and no harm should befall them,” she said, sobbing.

“The abduction of innocents’ girls violates their human rights, is a crime against humanity and is prohibited under the international humanitarian law.

“Women in Borno State condemn in its totality such acts of violence as attacks on schools deny children their rights to learn in a safe environment, thereby jeopardising their future.”

And making quite a nightmare of their present, too.

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

Human rights in Iran

Apr 26th, 2014 4:55 pm | By

Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN and author of The Problem From Hell, raised objections to a recent UN election.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power protested the election of repressive regimes including Iran to the U.N. Committee on Non-governmental Organizations which deals with civil society groups accredited to the United Nations.

Iran’s U.N. Mission responded Thursday by rejecting “baseless accusations” raised by Power on the status of human rights and civil liberties in the country.

Did it? Iran thinks the status of human rights and civil liberties are pretty good in the country?

Power accused Iran in a statement Wednesday night of regularly detaining human rights defenders and “subjecting many to torture, abuse and violations of due process.” She called its unopposed candidacy “a particularly troubling outcome” of the election.

Is she wrong? Rayhaneh Jabbari would say no she’s not wrong.


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

Promoting isn’t starting

Apr 26th, 2014 11:42 am | By

There’s a comment on The racism of the white wolf who cried Islamophobia that suddenly clarified for me what is probably a widespread misconception.

Interesting post, I’m a little bit disheartened by your suggestion of Harris & Dawkins as racist. I know at times they have not provided the nuance on Islam we would all like to see (something especially hard on twitter) but they have at least started a discourse which really did not exist from the liberal perspective circa 10 years ago.

No. That’s seriously wrong.

They have helped to draw attention to that discourse, but they certainly did not single- or rather double-handed start it all by themselves. The two of them did not create or start the discourse ex nihilo. It’s really pretty insulting to say they did – insulting to all the other people who contributed to starting that discourse long before Dawkins and Harris played any part, and with more inside knowledge about it. I mean, obviously, all the ex-Muslims and secular Muslims and liberal reformist Muslims who did. Ibn Warraq, Taslima Nasreen, Tarek Fatah, Homa Arjomand, Southall Black Sisters, Irshad Manji, Maryam Namazie – all were active well before The End of Faith and The God Delusion. Yes, Harris and Dawkins wrote best-sellers, but that doesn’t mean that they started the discourse, and they didn’t start it. (To be fair, I think they would say the same thing.)

Give them due credit, by all means, but don’t give them more than their due.

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

A person who has died in blasphemy will not receive God’s forgiveness

Apr 26th, 2014 10:55 am | By

Jeswan Kaur is one person in Malaysia who objects to tyrannical theocratic meddling.

The country’s administration is in a mess and still, the ruling government continues to rejoice in demonising other faiths and uphold the superiority of Islam, which the Federal Constitution safeguards as the official religion.

From the threats to non-Malays to back off from using the word ‘Allah’ to the seizure of more than 300 bibles in Iban and Malay languages to the uncalled for Jan 2 raid of the Bible Society of Malaysia premises in Damansara Kim to condemning Valentine Day’s as the ‘root of all evil’, the Barisan Nasional government continues to display its pre-occupation with the persecution of the non-Malays.

See why secularism is better? Including for religious people? It means the state leaves people’s religion alone as much as possible.

The latest show of prejudice and discrimination against the non-Malays comes in the wake of the death of DAP’s former national chairman Karpal Singh on April 17. The MP for Bukit Gelugor died in an accident near Gua Tempurung on the North-South Expressway.

Karpal, who would have turned 74 on June 28, was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Penang to attend a court hearing in the morning. The country’s best criminal and constitution lawyer’s demise not only shocked the nation but the grief shown by the rakyat left the BN government red-faced.

What’s the problem? People were saying “RIP” to mourners. Uh oh, that’s Christian.

this touching farewell to a defender of the truth rankled the National Fatwa Council.

It promptly reminded Muslims that they are not encouraged to use the phrase to a non-Muslim because of its Christian connotations. In a statement on its website, the council said Muslims could express their condolences but it had a bone to pick with ‘RIP’, claiming that it was a form of prayer used by Christians during the 18th century and regularly engraved on tombstones.

“Condolences can be expressed to a non-Muslim families as long as there are no religious implications,” it said.

Justifying its ruling, the council said RIP was an assumption that the non-Muslim person would receive God’s blessings.

“It is similar to the Latin prayer of ‘May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace’. From an Islamic point of view, a person who has died in blasphemy will not receive God’s forgiveness and blessings,” said the council.

Ahhhhh that’s a pretty thought. “From an Islamic point of view” lots of dead people are now miserable because they were not Muslim when they were alive. No peace, no forgiveness, no anything good for people who chose a different religion or no religion. Cherish that grudge.

[T]he council never shies away from pushing the envelope when it comes to the Malay agenda, even if it means trampling on the people’s fundamental rights.

Two months ago, the council demanded the government take action against the pro-human rights movement, Coalition of Malaysian Non-governmental Organisations (Comango) which it claimed was trying to destroy Islam in the country. There seems to be no stopping the council and its bigotry – little wonder then why Malaysia and her children continue to suffer from an ‘identity crisis’.

And from a plague of bossy vindictive purity-enforcers.

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

Down with equality, liberty, and human rights

Apr 26th, 2014 10:31 am | By

A Malaysian Islamist group makes things helpfully clear by attacking the very idea of equality and human rights.

Equality, liberty and human rights are “godless” and “faithless” ideologies created by atheists to destroy Islam, hardline Islamic group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) said today.

Since Malaysia’s general elections in 2013, the non-governmental organisation has been  growing in popularity, striking a chord with more conservative Malay Muslims who support its push for Malaysia to become an Islamic state.

ISMA’s uncompromising views and bald statements have been criticised mainly by Malaysia’s non Muslim minority and rights groups. Some have likened ISMA to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mainly by non-Muslim minority groups and rights groups? Why not the non-extremist mainstream Muslim groups that we’re always hearing are so much more numerous and real than the Islamists? Why not liberal secularist Muslims?

Speaking at  ISMA’ s convention for Muslim women, its president Zaid Abdul Rahman also said civil society groups are proxies of a Zionist-Christian agenda that seeks to confuse Muslims with ideologies which are unIslamic.

“Islam is Islam. Ideologies are not part of Islam and all these ideologies are from the west..liberalism, liberty, equity and human rights are all agenda of the atheist.

“They are a godless and faithless ideology.

“There is no liberal islam or socialist islam. You are either a Muslim or a jahilliah (an ignorant),” he said.

That simplifies the choices. There is no liberal Islam, and you are either a Muslim or a jahilliah – so either you’re a Correct Muslim or you’re an Ignorant; all liberals are ignorants.

Zaid said ISMA, which strives to ensure the “purest” form of Islam is upheld in Malaysia, was set up  to counter the threat against Islam.

Despite accusations to the contrary, Zaid claimed that ISMA promotes moderation and its version of Islam is universally suitable.

“We Isma promote moderation and I believe our model is timeless”.

Right. A version of Islam that opposes liberalism, liberty, equity and human rights is the epitome of moderation and suitability.


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

If only committed Christians would rise to the challenge

Apr 25th, 2014 5:34 pm | By

Want some sophistication? Damon Linker has some for you. Well not exactly sophistication maybe – more like pseudo-sophistication, or silliness that looks like sophistication when it’s placed next to even sillier silliness.

It’s about hell. Eternal punishment. Suffering as the reward for doing bad things.

So you already know what the sophistication is. No no no no no no no hell is not devils and pitchforks, no no no no no, that’s just silly. It’s [drum roll] Alienation From God.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh that’s not a thing. You could accuse me of being alienated from Artemis, if you wanted to, but it would leave me unruffled. It’s the same with god.

But I’ll let him tell it, because he seems to think it’s good and compelling.

[T]he most theologically cogent view of hell found in classical Christianity maintains that it is the state of mind (or soul) of someone who is alienated from God. Living a life that is out of harmony with God is painful, and to die and be confronted so decisively with the error of your ways — to be made to see that you made a wreck of your life by separating yourself from God, and to have to learn to shatter your pride by reforming yourself in his divine presence — is, one imagines, excruciating. But it is intrinsically painful, not externally imposed by torturers in some fire-and-brimstone-filled dungeon.

Or in the words of theologian David Bentley Hart, “What we call hell is nothing but the rage and remorse of the soul that will not yield itself to love.” In refusing to “open itself to the mercy and glory of God, the wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair.”

This is what hell must be if God is truly good.

I, for one, find this far more plausible than the popular vision of hell as a torture chamber run by sadistic demons. And I suspect that at least some young religious skeptics might, too, if only committed Christians would rise to the challenge of making the case.

Oh blah. If God is truly good, God has a lot of explaining to do. It could start with what definition of “love” it’s working with.

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

A pause

Apr 25th, 2014 4:37 pm | By

Afusat Saliu (and her very young daughters) have won a temporary reprieve.

The Home Office had ordered Saliu to fly to Lagos on Friday after she had exhausted all attempts to stop her deportation.

But a last-minute intervention from her MP, George Mudie, has enabled her to stay temporarily in the UK. Mudie has written twice to James Brokenshire, the security and immigration minister, asking him to intervene. The Home Office has told Mudie that Brokenshire will be writing to him about Saliu’s case.

“The assumption is that this is a pause,” said Mudie. “I would be extremely disappointed if they tried to detain her while this is still going on. This is so important and sensitive.

“[Brokenshire] has got to satisfy himself that he is absolutely certain that these children are not in danger. It would be unforgivable if anything happened to these children if they go back.”

It seems very unlikely that he can be certain of any such thing. Saliu fled Nigeria because her family wanted to cut her daughter. Remember how Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her sister Halima were cut? It wasn’t because her parents wanted that; they didn’t. Their grandmother had it done in the parents’ absence.

Saliu arrived in the UK in 2011, and says that she fled Nigeria when her stepmother told her that her oldest daughter, Bassy, would be cut.

She gave birth to another child while in the UK, and has vowed to do everything possible to stop her daughters going through the mutilation she did.

“I don’t want them to be mutilated,” she said. “I know it will happen if I have to go back with them, I know it because it is the culture of my family.

So now it’s wait and see.



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

She knew she had to finish

Apr 25th, 2014 3:49 pm | By

Katherine Switzer on that marathon, and what it meant, and what it felt like to be mauled by an enraged Jock Semple.

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

How far

Apr 25th, 2014 11:31 am | By

Nostalgia for slavery. Well naturally, right? Who wouldn’t miss that?

[14 years ago] Maurice Bessinger, owner of a chain of South Carolina barbecue restaurants called Maurice’s Piggie Park, began distributing pro-slavery tracts in his stores. One of the tracts, called the “Biblical View of Slavery,” said the practice wasn’t really so bad, because it was permitted in the Bible. It argued that many black slaves in the South “blessed the Lord” for their condition, because it was better than their life in Africa.

When the tract was discovered, Mr. Bessinger was denounced and his restaurants boycotted. Many retail stores pulled his distinctive (to be kind) yellow mustardy barbecue sauce from their shelves.

But one prominent South Carolinian decided to stand up for Mr. Bessinger. Glenn McConnell, then a state senator from Charleston,stocked the sauce in his Confederate “art gallery,” which was loaded with secessionist flags and uniforms, as well as toilet paper bearing the image of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. When a local power utility banned its trucks from the parking lots of Piggie Park, Mr. McConnell threatened a legislative vendetta against the company.

Mr. Bessinger died in February. Mr. McConnell is now the lieutenant governor of South Carolina.

I wonder how he treats his support staff.

In that state, it is not considered a stain to have fought passionately to keep the Confederate flag flying on top of the Capitol dome, or to have appeared on a notorious white-nationalist radio program in 2007. (All of this is meticulously chronicled on the website of the invaluable Southern Poverty Law Center.)

No reputational damage was done even when Mr. McConnell, a well-known Civil War re-enactor and then president pro-tem of the Senate, appeared in a 2010 photograph dressed as a Confederate general, standing between a black man and a woman dressed as slaves. The man was wearing a floppy hat and holding a washboard; the woman wore an apron and a bandanna. When black leaders protested, Senator McConnell said the photo actually showed how far the state had come in race relations.

Ooh ooh I know this game! I can play too. “The fact that I can call you a bitch and a cunt shows how far the world has come in gender relations.”

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

Welcome home; this may pinch a little

Apr 25th, 2014 11:12 am | By

Oh, horrors. Afusat Saliu is being deported from the UK to Nigeria today with her two very young daughters. The daughters will be cut up there.

Afusat Saliu, 31, and her two children aged one and three, face deportation to Nigeria on Friday. Saliu, who was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child, has appealed to the Home Office on the grounds that her daughters could face FGM if sent back to their home country. But her appeal was rejected on Thursday. Nigeria has the highest number of genitally mutilated women in the world.

Sometimes it seems like trying to tidy a beach by picking up a grain of sand and then another and then another…


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

Jump to condemn the obviously condemnable

Apr 25th, 2014 9:49 am | By

Marwa Berro at Between a Veil and a Dark Place: Missives of an Ex-Muslim Woman did a post last week wittily titled The racism of the white wolf who cried Islamophobia.

I’m tired of a certain faction of Western liberals, especially white guys, Westsplaining about how anti-Muslim bigotry and Western colonialism and imperialism and international geopolitics provide *essential context* for understanding the sources of Muslim problems, which don’t come from a vacuum, how there are striking *parallels* between liberal critique of Islam and right-wing anti-Muslim bigotry.

Not that there’s no such thing as anti-Muslim bigotry, not that imperialism and geopolitics have never fucked anything up, but…there’s more to it than that.

But those things are not an *explanation*. They are contributing factors at best that neither sufficiently explain nor excuse the blatant transgressions of Muslims and the horrible conditions in Muslim-majority countries. There is also an ironic lack of focus on Arab imperialism and the manner in which Islam has been reified, propagated, and been used to justify horrors in the Middle East and South Asia *far preceding* the West dipping its fingers into that mess. Sorry to strip you of credit for this, really, but it’s not the West that created the dehumanizing elements of Muslim cultures.

Not everything is about us (us being people in “the West”). Neither for credit nor for blame is everything about us. We don’t make everything happen. It can be useful to remember this.

There is also ironic lack of focus on the booming (essentially) slave trade disguised as a migrant worker system exploiting Africans and South and Southeast Asians that is utterly normalized in the Gulf and Levant.

That’s one reason I bring it up a lot. The main reason is of course that it exists and it’s horrible, but it’s also to make the point that people treat others (especially Others) like shit in a great many places.

And the supreme irony here? The blatant condescension of this PoV. It really is such a white-centric thing to try to explain the Muslim issue in those terms, to essentialize our problems in terms of your culture’s imperialism. It is also–and I’m not holding my breath for anyone to realize this anytime soon–buying into the same anti-brown racism to continually draw analogies between liberal critiques of Islam and right-wing anti-Muslim bigotries, to present eg the often-racist ignorant spewings of Dawkins and his ilk as the FACE of liberal and atheist discourse regarding the matter so you can self-righteously jump to condemn the obviously condemnable just as you raise it to the level of being representative of the entire liberal and atheist community, ironically completely drowning out and excluding the voices of Ex-Muslims and progressive Muslims, especially women, from the categories of ‘Western’ and ‘liberal’ and ‘atheist discourse’, othering us and contributing to our silence and marginalization. We don’t want Dawkins and Harris to be the driving voices of liberal discourse regarding Islam either. Stop excluding us. Stop alienating us. Stop reducing us to the norms of our home cultures, as if we’re incapable of engaging with them or transcending them, and stop creating a binary between us and our values and liberalism and its values.

To be fair, for all his faults, Dawkins has done a lot to amplify the voices of Ex-Muslims in general and e.g. Maryam Namazie in particular (but then he goes and undercuts some of that with his fatuous [at best] tweets about Islam). But yes: I think the non-Muslims who rant about Islamophobia do a very bad job of listening to people like Maryam and Marwa.

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

Rule 68

Apr 25th, 2014 8:32 am | By

Ireland has National Schools. The Wikipedia version:

In Ireland, a National school is a type of primary school that is financed directly by the State, but administered jointly by the State, a patron body, and local representatives.

I’m not sure what a “patron body” is or how it gets standing to administer state schools. The point I’m interested in though is that they’ve always been entangled with religion. Still Wikipedia -

National schools, established by the British Government with the Stanley Letter in 1831, were originally multi-denominational. The schools were controlled by a State body, the National Board of Education, with a six-member board consisting of two Roman Catholics, two Church of Ireland, and two Presbyterians.

Secularism, apparently, wasn’t an option.

Which brings us to Rule 68. Emma O Kelly reported for RTE a couple of years ago:

Comments by the head of the Catholic Schools Partnership at a conference today prompted me to look up the rules that govern the running of primary schools here.

They’re available online and they make for fascinating reading.

Published in 1965, its difficult to see many sections of the “Rules for National Schools” as anything other than an anachronism.

Even the language is from another era. Teachers and pupils for instance are always referred to as ‘he’. That is, apart from when the rules need to mention a female teacher or “mistress” as it calls them. For example the document states that Junior Infants boys should be taught “as a rule” by “a mistress” or by an “assistant mistress” as opposed to a male teacher. I wonder what was the reasoning behind that?

But its one rule above all the others that is now causing controversy. Rule 68 deals with religion in schools. The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, which is due to publish its final report shortly, believes this rule need to be abolished entirely. The Department of Education agrees that it has to go.

What is Rule 68?

Of all the parts of a school curriculum Religious Instruction is by far the most important, as its subject-matter, God’s honour and service, includes the proper use of all man’s faculties, and affords the most powerful inducements to their proper use. Religious Instruction is, therefore, a fundamental part of the school course, and a religious spirit should inform and vivify the whole work of the school.

The teacher should constantly inculcate the practice of charity, justice, truth, purity, patience, temperance, obedience to lawful authority, and all the other moral virtues. In this way he will fulfil the primary duty of an educator, the moulding to perfect form of his pupils’ character, habituating them to observe, in their relations with God and with their neighbour, the laws which God, both directly through the dictates of natural reason and through Revelation, and indirectly through the ordinance of lawful authority, imposes on mankind.

It’s dreadful. It asserts and demands right at the outset the very worst thing about religion, which is the pretense that it’s not this world and our fellow human beings (and other animals and the planet we depend on) that matter, but One Top Guy who is absent and unavailable yet demanding and absolute. It makes obeisance and submission to this imaginary Boss the most important thing, shoving everything else into inferior status. It’s the great human perversity: declaring the imaginary to be the boss of the real. The “proper use” of all our faculties – it says all – is “God’s honour and service.” How revolting, how abject, how clueless, how dangerous.

The second paragraph quickly falls into the usual confusion, talking about moral virtues that in fact mostly make sense only in terms of what we owe to each other as opposed to what we (are claimed to) owe to “God.” It gets downright incoherent with “in their relations with God and with their neighbour” – as if there’s no tension between the two, as if they hadn’t just spelled out the tension themselves. Then after that they move comfortably into the normal fascism, where we have to obey “lawful authority” because god says so. Priests of course are more lawful authority even than cops, not to mention bishops and cardinals and popes.

And that rule is still in force.

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

Back you go

Apr 24th, 2014 6:04 pm | By

It’s possible that Sri Lanka is doing Buddhism wrong. It’s also possible that I have a naïve view of Buddhism, and that non-attachment is entirely compatible with being petty and obsessive about things that don’t matter. You be the judge.

A British tourist is to be deported from Sri Lanka because of a Buddha tattoo on her arm.

Naomi Coleman was arrested as she arrived at the airport in the capital Colombo after authorities spotted the tattoo on her right arm.

A police spokesman said the 37-year-old from Coventry was arrested for “hurting others’ religious feelings”.

Ms Coleman is being held at an immigration detention camp after a magistrate ordered her deportation.

She was going to the Maldives next and said ok she would just go straight there but they told her no, she had to go back home. How does that work, I wonder – why does Sri Lanka get to decide her destination?

The UK travel advice on Sri Lanka warns of the sensitivity of the issue and tells visitors not to pose for photos in front of statues of Buddha.

Over the past year monks belonging to certain hardline Buddhist groups have led violent attacks against Muslims and Christians, a trend which has given rise to considerable concern among religious minorities in Sri Lanka.

I think the “hardline Buddhist groups” are also probably doing Buddhism wrong. But I’m not a Buddhist, so I don’t know.

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

He’s often wondered

Apr 24th, 2014 5:30 pm | By

Cliven Bundy has more bad ideas he wants everyone to know about.

Bundy is attempting to use his newfound fame to spread more than just his views on grazing rights, telling the Times he planned to hold a daily news conference.

Remember Joe the Plumber? I think what we have here is another such populist hero – Cliven the Cowboy perhaps.

During Saturday’s conference, Bunday shared his views on “the Negro”:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Mmm. I love drive-by sociology performed by random tresspassers and resource-thieves.

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

The sad fact is

Apr 24th, 2014 5:18 pm | By

Soraya Chemaly has a piece on the ubiquity and invisibility of everyday sexism.

A point she makes at the end should be a post-it on everyone’s forehead for a few years.

The sad fact is that while it is polite to express sexist ideas, confronting them is considered the height of rudeness and humorlessness. When a man at a neighborhood cocktail party comments rudely on my breasts or when another in a meeting interrupts me incessantly while trying to talk to other men, it is me, not them, who is considered hostile and unpleasant for saying, “My face is up here,” or “Would you please stop interrupting me?” When my children’s school fails, year after year, to teach my children a gender balanced history or enforces dress codes in sexist and homophobic ways and I am compelled to point these practices out as deleterious to girls and boys, reception to these ideas can be best described as tepid.

It’s true you know. You’re really not supposed to say anything. You’re supposed to sigh, and fume inwardly if you have to fume, and carry on as if nothing had happened. If you say anything you’re a bitch, a pain in the ass, a harpy, a Professional Victim – an ideologue, an obsessive, a keyboard warrior, a drama blogger, a source of division in a previously affectionate paradise.

Remember when I said anything about Shermer’s bit of casually smug sexism? Hoo-boy – outrage. His casually smug sexism was fine, my pointing it out was horrendous.

It’s a long long road up a high high mountain.

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

Guest post on why secularism matters

Apr 24th, 2014 11:29 am | By

Originally a comment by jesse on Built on Christian values.

Well, unlike the US, England (and the UK as I understand it) still has an established church, as do many other European countries, which may be part of the problem. In the US at least we can be more explicit about secularism, even though there has been a LOT of pushback.

The thing is, I’ve noticed that many westerners have no problem with secularism — until they run into religions and people who are “other.” Then, all of a sudden, it’s a bad idea. The connection between what looks like secularism and entrenched privilege for largely western cultural norms (which can be just as negative and arbitrary as anyone else’s) seems lost on such people.

One of the flip sides of secularism — at last coming at it from an American point of view — is that it means secularism for everyone. That means that if we are going to do work-arounds to accommodate people’s freedom of conscience, then that applies to everyone, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Zoroastrian. The school cannot operate in a way that privileges one group over the other. It’s really that simple.

You can’t stop people from praying in school, but you can’t lead one (as a person in authority). You can offer space to religious clubs or groups but you can’t tell the Satanists or atheists they can’t meet in your gym while Campus for Christ can. You can’t tell students not to wear yarmulkes or headscarves or turbans, and you can’t have the 10 Commandments posted in the classrooms. People can do whatever they like within their religious community (within reason) but you can’t give it state sanction.

I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for people.

At least in the US, one of the reasons for an explicitly secular constitution is that there was a large variety of Christian sects in the US even then. Secularism was meant in part to leave room for that, so you wouldn’t leave anyone feeling alienated.

Let’s not forget that in 1780 the religious wars in England and Oliver Cromwell were not so far in the past — a century or so — and in fact much of the violence that we associate with Cromwell’s rule in Ireland spilled over into the Americas as well, though the targets weren’t Catholics. (In that case it was the Puritans, who supported Cromwell, engaging in battles with the people in places like Maryland, who supported the monarchy and its restoration). To say nothing of the then-current religious violence in Ireland. The founders of the US were not eager to repeat those experiences, nor create any more divisions between the colonies than already existed. Secularism was a principled position, but there was a very concrete political reason for it also.

When people feel alienated from the political process or the society in which they live, that’s when you get political violence (and religious violence). It is no accident that the countries that have a lot of terrorists and insurgencies tend to be ones that have managed to convince large sectors of the population that the ballot box and politics are ineffective. And that’s why secularism is so important to a modern — and yes, multicultural — society. You need to have a situation in which everyone feels like they are getting heard, where everyone has a stake in continuing some established order and method of resolving disputes. Otherwise yes, you do have whole classes of people who feel like they have no stake in the society at large, and that’s not good.

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

Real enough?

Apr 24th, 2014 10:57 am | By

For the people who think cyberbullying is trivial or unreal or harmless or totally incapable of being traumatic – have a little collection of case studies.

Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri native, started messaging a boy she had never met via MySpace. The comments posted by someone using the account name of “Josh Evans” began friendly but eventually turned aggressive and derogatory. These comments were public and other classmates could read and comment on them. As a result of the cyberbullying on MySpace, Megan hanged herself in her closet. The user “Josh Evans” was later found to have been created by a parent of [one of] Meier’s classmates.

Or how about this one?

Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old new girl from Ireland, was bullied upon her arrival at the Massachusetts high school. She was tormented by a group of students the newspapers later dubbed the “Mean Girls.” Bullying at school followed her home via social networks including Facebook, Formspring and Twitter. She was also sent threatening text messages and called names such as “Irish slut” and “whore.” After an especially intense day of bullying, Prince hanged herself in a stairwell at her home.

Or this?

Jessica Logan was an 18-year-old high school senior who sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend. After the couple broke up, the boyfriend sent the photos to hundreds of other teenagers. The photo sharing led to name calling and taunts at school, where she was called “slut,” “porn queen” and “whore.” The taunting continued via Facebook, MySpace and through text messages. After attending a funeral for a boy who had committed suicide, Jessica came home and hanged herself in her room.

Bad things are bad things.

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

Cameron’s subtext

Apr 24th, 2014 10:22 am | By

The sociologist Abbie Day, who is Reader in Race, Faith and Culture, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London, has an article on Cameron’s recent issuing of religious instructions.

She notes the low church attendance and census decline but says they’re not all that matters.

…it’s easy to get distracted by numbers, which are themselves never neutral but are instead collected and presented, often anecdotally, to fulfil specific goals and make certain points. What is counted is what is perceived (by certain actors) to count. A group that is small numerically can be a majority in terms of power and voice – which is exactly what we are seeing with Cameron’s assertion and the response.

One-third of primary schools are managed by the Church of England and the popular ones insist on parental attendance for two years before a child even gets on the waiting list. Bishops sit in the House of Lords and recently tried to over-rule the Commons. The Queen is head of state and head of the Church. Apart from the British Humanist Society (BHS) and the National Secular Society (NSS), few voices complain about that imbalance; many see it as a quaint vestige of history.

On the one hand it’s pro forma but on the other hand it has a lot of clout.

There is not, however, anything quaint about forms of ethno-national violence carried out by members of the English Defence League or other fascist groups on grounds of ‘religion’. It is this toxic connection that people signing the British Humanist Association (BHA)’s letter of protest are, rightly, worried about, as signatory and Goldsmiths’ Professor of Psychology, Chris French, told the BBC on Monday.

The evidence given to support the claim for Britain’s Christianity is that a particular set of values underpinning society is ‘Christian’. That claim is never substantiated by anything more than a vague reference to legal and moral norms but, again, factual accuracy is not the point: this is discourse. The objective is to cast ‘us’ as moral and ‘others’ as immoral.

Precisely, and isn’t that exactly why it’s such an extremely antagonistic thing for a head of government to do.

The kind of discursive Christianity indulged by Cameron is ahistoric, and more dangerous as a result. It will not decline as will institutional, church-based Christianity: most people who attend the Church of England are old, as are those who ticked ‘Christian’ on the census. Those people, once described as ‘the Conservative party at prayer’, are a declining percentage of the population -  from 71.7% in 2001 to 59.3% in 2011 -  but one to which Cameron wants to appeal.

Unfortunately, he also wants to appeal to those I describe as ‘ethnic Christians’ who do not attend church, do not believe in core tenets of Christianity – the resurrection, for example –   but want to claim national and moral superiority by aligning themselves to what they perceive as the national identity. This apparently closed, fixed identity characterises the nation and not, of course, those ‘others’ who arrive as immigrants, or even their children.

Cameron’s appeal was not to the dwindling minority of people attending the mainstream churches, but to those who, along with so many of the ‘new right’ sweeping Europe, pick and choose a tasty morsel of cultural capital to throw to the crowd.

The new Christian Cameron: bang on trend.

So what he said was actually a dog whistle to the EDL and their friends and allies. I didn’t really think of that. If she’s right, what he said, and did by saying it, was even worse than I thought.



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

Just put up with it, dearie

Apr 23rd, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Have some bad advice.

It’s given by someone called Penelope Trunk, who is the founder of something called Brazen Careerist, which is “a social network for young professionals.” She gives “career advice” at her website, I wouldn’t look to her for advice if I were you.

CBS News disagrees with me though, and offers her advice to a trusting world.

Of course, sexual harassment is ubiquitous. It is so prevalent on the job that girls can expect to encounter workplace harassment the first summer they work during high school. And it continues for a long time.

But don’t report it. That would be most unwise.

 In fact, smart women don’t file formal complaints against ordinary harassment. They either ignore it or handle it on their own.

Because that’s how progress is made – by individuals either doing nothing, or doing something on their own, covertly and with shame.

The bottom line for a woman, though, is that if you want to have a career of increasing power, you are going to have to keep quiet about the harassment.

So suck it up laydeez. Maybe things will get better some other century.

Once you become aware of the widespread tolerance for harassment throughout the world, it becomes clear that you will have to put up with it as a form of cultural diversity. If you want to be good at working with a wide range of people, you need to be good at brushing off harassment.

It’s the liberal thing to do.

H/t Jen Phillips

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

Can he say that on the air? Hell yes.

Apr 23rd, 2014 4:58 pm | By

Sexism? What sexism? I don’t see any sexism. You must be imagining things.

Conservative “pundit” and contributor to Fox “News” Eric Erickson is pissed at the thought that Hillary Clinton might run for president in a couple of years, because she’s so ugly.

“She’s going to be old!” Erickson noted. “I don’t know how far back they can pull her face!” he added.

“Can I say that on the air? I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t,” Erickson continued. “You know what I mean, though!” he added.

No, dude, go right ahead. Don’t be inhibited. Say what’s in your heart. Be authentic. If you’re grossed out by the thought of a woman who isn’t 18 and hot, be sure to say so. Any woman who isn’t 18 – or let’s be generous, let’s say any woman over 25 – and hot should be ashamed of herself for still existing.

Erickson then mixed up John McCain and Bob Dole and claimed that Democrats will call sexist attacks on Clinton — like, say, jokes about her being old and needing plastic surgery — bigoted because “every attack you could possibly level will [according to Democrats] be some phobia from the right if Hillary does get in.”

What I’m saying. All this palaver about sexism – how can it be sexist to point out how old and ugly Hillary Clinton is? It’s her fucking job to be young and hot, so it’s everyone’s duty to complain about it when she doesn’t do her job. Has she ever worked a day in her life? I’d like to see her put in a few hours selling risky mortgages for a change, like a real American.

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