Notes and Comment Blog

She was accused

Mar 23rd, 2015 11:12 am | By

In Kabul last week:

An Afghan woman who was lynched after being falsely accused of burning the Koran was killed for tackling superstitious practices, witnesses say.

Farkhunda, who was beaten to death by a Kabul mob last week, had been arguing with a mullah about his practice of selling charms to women at a shrine.

In the course of the argument she was accused of burning the Koran and a crowd overheard and beat her to death.

Some people murdered a woman over a single copy of a particular book. She wouldn’t have burned “the Koran,” by the way, even if she’d done it, which she didn’t. She would at most have burned a Koran. It’s not a scarce book.

Farkhunda, 28, was beaten, hit by bats, stamped on, driven over, and her body dragged by a car before being set on fire.

A policeman who witnessed the incident on Thursday told AP news agency that Farkhunda was arguing with a local mullah. Her father said she had complained about women being encouraged to waste money on the amulets peddled by the mullahs at the shrine.

“Based on their lies, people decided Farkhunda was not a Muslim and beat her to death,” Mohammed Nadir told AP.

That’s not a reason to beat someone to death. That’s not even a reason to rebuke someone, let alone commit any kind of violence against her.

Shukria, a woman visiting the shrine on Monday, told the BBC that the attack was “not just an attack on Farkhunda, but on all Afghan women. They have killed us all”.

Demonstrators have called for justice and planted a commemorative tree.

The New York Times said she was mentally ill in its March 20 story, but the BBC says

Initial claims that the woman was mentally ill have been contradicted by both a relative and a neighbour, who said she was training to be a teacher.

So that’s one more teacher Afghanistan doesn’t have.

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

Without conditions

Mar 23rd, 2015 10:36 am | By

So this happened. The Irish Independent reports:

Maryam Namazie was due to give a talk to the Society for International Affairs on Monday on ‘Apostasy and the rise of Islam’ but decided to withdraw from the event after college security imposed “certain conditions”.

“I’ve just been informed… that college security (why security?) has claimed that the event would show the college is ‘one-sided’ and would be ‘antagonising’ to Muslim students,” she wrote on her blog.

“I was told that two conditions were required for the event to go ahead; one, that it only be open to students of the college, and two, that there would be a moderator to chair the talk”.

Speaking to, Ms Namazie said she decided against speaking because “such conditions had not been placed on other speakers.”

Last month preacher Sheikh Kamal El Mekki was invited to Trinity College in an event co-hosted by the TCD Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Irish branch of the AlMaghrib Institute.

His visit to the university was controversial because, in the past, the scholar has explained why apostates should get the death penalty and why the punishment of stoning exists for adultery.

And yet no conditions were imposed on his talk, but they were imposed on Maryam’s. Why’s that then? She doesn’t call for anyone’s death. She doesn’t “explain” why people should be killed for having sex or leaving Islam, or for anything else.

“It is unsettling because these people are given free access to a campus, while those who oppose violence and speak out against the violation of rights of non-Muslims and Muslims alike have restrictions placed on them,” said Ms Namazie, who was invited to speak in part because of Mr El Mekki’s lecture.

“No conditions were placed on his talk, nor was there threats to cancel his event over concerns that his position on death for apostates would ‘antagonise’ ex-Muslim and Muslim students who do not support apostasy laws.”

“If you criticise the Islamist movement, which is a far right political movement, you are seen as attacking ordinary Muslims – and this is not the case. Muslims are not a homogenous group. If you criticise the English Defence League, you’re not attacking the English.”

Maryam is working with other societies at TCD to get an (unconditional) invitation to speak there.

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

Reasons not to permit fracking near Chaco Canyon

Mar 22nd, 2015 3:50 pm | By

Una Vida Chaco Canyon rock art, enhanced.

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Kivas at Pueblo Bonito Chaco Canyon Ruins.

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Just leave it alone mkay?

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

That’s right, break all the things

Mar 22nd, 2015 1:22 pm | By

Let’s see, where are some places it wouldn’t be a good idea to subject to fracking. The center of Florence, probably. Machu Picchu. The Great Wall. Giza. Stonehenge. Chaco Canyon.

Oh wait – that last one can’t be right.

The renowned Native astronomical and sacred site of Chaco Canyon and its environs may be in danger from encroaching fracking wells, environmental groups fear.

“They are not thinking about the spirituality of those lands,” said Jemez Pueblo governor Joshua Madalena to theDurango Heraldin New Mexico, referring to the companies that are conducting hydraulic fracturing in the area.

With companies on the verge of investing millions of dollars into fracking enterprises, a group calling itself the Partnership for Responsible Business took journalists and others on an aerial tour of the region to draw attention to the proximity of proposed wells to sacred sites, and the need for unified planning given that the land involved has a hodgepodge of owners.

The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) owns 19 percent of the land in question, theDurango Heraldnoted, while the rest is controlled by a mixture of tribal members, tribes and others, BLM field manager Gary Torres told the newspaper. One of the major companies planning to work in the region is Encana, which is aiming to drill 45 to 50 exploratory wells, spokesperson Doug Hock told theDurango Herald. He added that company plus WPX Energy and Logos Resources plan to invest heavily over the next 12 to 18 months.

There’s a petition to tell the BLM to knock it off.

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

A small, grizzled coven of old-school feminists

Mar 22nd, 2015 11:36 am | By

Here’s another “lad” for you: Martin Daubney, who was the other “men are oppressed!!” guy on TBQ – the one who said, hilariously, “the great things men do, when do we ever hear about that??” He was the editor of a lads’ mag for years and years and years and now he’s that guy who edited a lads’ mag for years and years and years and thus an expert in the toxicity of feminism. He did some toxicity of feminism explaining in the Telegraph last November.

Twenty years ago, loaded – the magazine I edited for seven and a half years – was debated in Parliament for its corrosive effect on young men – or “lads” as they had been christened after the magazine’s very first cover line.

Today, we’re in exactly the same boat, as the Home Secretarybans toxic pick-up artist Julien Blanc from entering the UK.

What same boat? “Pick-up artist” means “systematic premeditated sexual predator.” Are people supposed to treat that as just another vibrant aspect of human behavior?

And, of course, after much liberal rumination, it was concluded that Blanc’s very existence is propped up by today’s lads, who once again are fast becoming the most vilified sector of British society.

For if you believe Twitter, the liberal press or your more toxic feminists – never a wise idea – you’d think young, white, heterosexual males were the root of all evil in Britain.

Not a bit of it. Young, white, heterosexual males are not automatically lads. The word doesn’t pick out young white heterosexual males but a subset of them that acts a certain way.

It seems hard to imagine now, but thanks to loaded’s huge success – it sold 500,000 mags a month at its peak – by 1997 it felt like practically everybody in the UK was a card-carrying lad, even the girls (affectionately known as ladettes).

The new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was a lad, and his new, top-lad mate Noel Gallagher sniffed Charlie in the bogs at Number Ten during that infamous New Labour election party.

Were they overt unapologetic sexists? Did they publicly express contempt for women? I don’t remember that. Maybe I missed it.

Laddism’s only detractors were a small, grizzled coven of old-school feminists, mostly employed by the Guardian and Independent newspapers. Of course, they protested loudly, as is their wont, but struggled to be heard over the collective popping of corks and blaring of Now That’s What I Call Britpop CDs.

Ah yes, only the ancient witches of ancient feminism objected, and nobody gave a fuck about them, because of course we all hate ancient witches.

But fast forward a mere 17 years and the bovver boot is now firmly on the other foot – and set on revenge.

So it is that in 2014, the most widely hated sub-section of British society aren’t jihadists, child rapists or even politicians, but young, white, heterosexual men who drink too much, make ill-thought-out but usually harmless jokes and occasionally use the word “moist”.

First – why is the bovver boot now firmly on the other foot? What happened? What changed? Are people listening to the ancient witches of ancient feminism now when they weren’t 17 years ago? But if so, why? They’re even more witchy-ancient now, so why would people who hate ancient witches be listening to them more now? What happened in those 17 years to cause the change of foot?

And second, “usually harmless” to whom, according to whom? How does Martin Daubney know with such confidence that those ill-thought-out jokes are usually harmless? As someone who isn’t subject to misogynist contempt, how exactly can he tell?

Because what the lad’s critics fail to recognise is, like acne, being a lad is just another phase the overriding majority of young men grow out of.

More bullshit. The fact that most young men grow out of it is hardly a reason to foster and celebrate it, is it. If we’re supposed to be relieved that most young men grow out of it, why is it “toxic” of us to think they should be discouraged from growing into it in the first place? Many teenagers go through a phase where they have no idea how much alcohol it takes to make them throw up, and they grow out of it; is that a reason to celebrate drinking until you throw up?

…laddism is not some weird brain virus that consumes previously free-thinking men and turns us into misogynistic rape zombies. It’s not like being in the Hitler Youth.

Rather, being a lad is just something to do: a way of making friends at uni, of fitting in at the football, a perhaps unsavoury rite of passage before we grow up, something we dabble with before we realise we actually prefer carp fishing, triathlons, steady relationships, getting on at work, being a dad or watching Countryfile.

Of course it’s not a weird brain virus; it’s a bit of culture, like countless other bits of culture, and it can be encouraged or discouraged, valorized or condemned, wanted or not wanted. We get to choose, we get to say. We don’t have to treat racism or homophobia as some inevitable “phase” people go through or as “just something to do”; why should we treat sexism that way?

Loaded’s original lads were a two-fingered salute to the papoose-wearing, New-Man-cum-castrato the liberal newspapers extolled the virtues of, yet whom hardly any of us wanted to be.

Oh that’s attractive – men who pay attention to their children are castrated.

It’s funny that Daubney thinks he outgrew his laddism.

Every God needs its Satan: an antagonistic force to kick back against. And feminists need lads. What else would they rage about? Without lads, they’d be out of work. They can’t “solve” serious feminist issues like FGM, rape, or equal pay any time soon, so they fritter away energy on minutiae like getting sexist comedian Dapper Laughs sacked, banning Julien Blanc, or making Rosetta scientist Dr Matt Taylor publicly cry after wearing a “laddish” shirt.

Thank you Dear Muslima. I love seeing an anti-feminist man explaining to feminists what the serious feminist issues are, in aid of getting them to shut up about what he considers the frivolous ones.

These hollow, token victories not only make modern, online feminism seem increasingly toxic, petty and anti-man: they further fuel the lad’s persecution complex, add to their anger and drive them to more extreme acts of anonymous Twitter hate.

Yup, and women going outside causes men to rape them.

If we just ignored laddism, it might go away. After all, it almost happened in the noughties. But with a plethora of angry women lambasting lads’ every politically incorrect act on social media, and drawing angry return fire, there’s zero chance of that happening any time soon.

As a fully reformed and rehabilitated former lad, it makes me sigh wistfully.

Nope. Nope nope nope. Not reformed at all, not even a little bit.

By demonising lads and attempting to ban their entertainment – porn, Page 3, the London School of Economics Rugby Club, Dapper Laughs or even Julien Blanc – you perversely make the lifestyle choice just that little bit more attractive. Prohibition has never – and never will – work.

It’s so easy to think of examples where prohibition has indeed worked. He’s not a great thinker, is he. Maybe all that laddism took a toll after all.

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

Another university rugby club

Mar 22nd, 2015 10:14 am | By

And then they discovered that it was a pattern. What a surprise.

The men’s rugby club at the London School of Economics, disbanded this week over a homophobic and misogynistic leaflet distributed to prospective members, had previously been involved in actions including “blacking up” and playing Nazi-themed drinking games, according to the university’s students’ union.

The revelations came as it emerged that another university rugby club, at London Business School (LBS), was dissolved for 12 months last year following complaints about racism and lewd sexism in a leaflet produced to mark a tour of France.

Oh gosh, it’s just lad culture, it’s just banter, what’s everyone getting so worked up about? [insert here reference to women’s underpants getting bunched or twisted or in a knot or otherwise misaligned]

In an email to members to further explain Tuesday’s decision to disband the men’s club for an academic year, the LSE students’ union president, Nona Buckley-Irvine, said an investigation had uncovered “a negative culture within the club that has existed for years”.

I think by “negative” she means “bad” or “harmful” or the like.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Wow wow wow. This is unbelievable. Email from LSE: list of what else the men’s rugby club got up to over the years

It’s a war on bloke culture, I tells ya.

The men’s rugby club at LBS, also part of the University of London, was disbanded last year after it distributed a 50-page tour booklet filled with explicit images of a sexual nature and references to positions such as “torturing Muslims”, “aiding terrorists” and “sweating like a rapist”.

An LBS spokesperson said: “The investigation did uncover a wider cultural issue within the men’s rugby club which was completely out of line with our values. The club opted to take collective responsibility and a decision was taken to disband the men’s rugby club for an academic year.”

War on blokes!

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

Bigotry masked as banter

Mar 22nd, 2015 9:59 am | By

The shutting down of the LSE rugger club came swiftly, after no one copped to writing the leaflet.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Nona Buckley-Irvine, general secretary of LSE students’ union, said the club would be disbanded for the academic year after the flyer handed out at the freshers’ fair on Friday described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”.

The club apologised for the offending booklet, which said “outright homosexual debauchery” would not be tolerated and that women playing sports were “beast-like”. The leaflets were confiscated after uproar among students. The LSE and the students’ union launched an inquiry on Monday.

That’s still this academic year, so they’ll be back next autumn, probably with a good deal more oversight of their publications.

Buckley-Irvine said the sanctions were implemented after no one from the club took responsibility for the derogatory comments, adding: “It is important to note that in our investigations with members, the club was blamed as the body who produced, edited and gave out the booklet. Not one person within the club was willing to take personal responsibility for the booklets. In this case, responsibility does have to fall on to both individuals and the club as a whole, and individuals will be sanctioned separately in addition to this decision concerning the club.”

Buckley-Irvine also spoke out against the derogatory references to “poly” students, referring to former polytechnics which have now been converted into universities.

I went to an all-girls crammer in north Oxford when I was 17. We were told not to date students from the poly in Headington. I’m not even joking; that happened.

On Tuesday the university began an investigation into the incident and also held a women-only meeting to discuss the misogynist comments and wider issues affecting female students. Buckey-Irvine added: “Our actions in disbanding the club demonstrate the seriousness of the situation, and our commitment to challenging cultures that allow misogyny, sexism or homophobia to exist.”

The decision met with approval from fellow students. Lisa Mckenzie tweeted: “Rugby team has been disbanded for misogyny. None of them would own up to their ‘slag’ lit cowardly and misogynistic.”

Dalia Gebrain wrote: “A great stance taken by @LSE against bigotry masked as banter. People dismiss how harmful this culture is.”

“Banter”=hostile work environment.

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

To stare at the crumpet on the treadmills

Mar 22nd, 2015 9:25 am | By

Ok I’m curious about this “banter” nonsense that I was asking about yesterday, via the BBC Big Questions a week ago that started with a segment on “bloke culture.” I’m repulsed by many aspects of this, and one of the main repulsion-sources is the assumption that the natural state of men is loud emphatic unabashed loathing of women, and that rejecting or avoiding that state is an artificial and harmful kind of repression and discipline.

That relies on what Carol Tavris refers to as the hydraulic theory of psychology, in which people are seen as like boilers that need valves to release the pressure so that they don’t explode. But people aren’t like boilers, and raging at hated others isn’t a release valve at all, it’s a way of stoking even more rage and loathing, and passing it on to others.

Promoting systematic hatred of sets of people is not a healthy thing to do. Human beings don’t have a good history with that kind of hatred. Stoking group-hatreds doesn’t end well.

So. What’s “bloke culture”? The same as “lad culture” I assume, so I started with that, and found an item from last October. The rugger club at LSE passed out a leaflet at the freshers’ fair that was an epic festival of misogyny and other hatreds dressed up as “banter” – a leaflet

in which it described women as “mingers”, “trollops” and “slags”.

View image on Twitter

It’s odd that the highlighting starts so late, after the bit about “the crumpet” and “is a cunt.”

There are further references to “the perfect hedonistic cocktail of barbarism, beverages and women” while and another section suggested a committee member embodied everything the club holds dear: “debauchery, hedonism and misogyny”.

The men’s rugby club has issued an apology, and says it is organising a workshop for its members, who it says “have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’”.

“Banter” isn’t some magic word that makes it ok to shit on underlings. It doesn’t work like that.

Someone from the club issued a statement.

“The executive committee will cooperate fully with the student union to ensure such behaviour does not take place in the future. As a club, we will be taking steps to ensure that something like this cannot happen again. We have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of ‘banter’ and we are organising a workshop for all our members.”

It is not the first time the LSE student union has hit the headlines. In January 2012, the university investigated allegations that a Nazi-themed drinking game led to a brawl in which a Jewish student’s nose was broken during a skiing trip to Val d’Isère. The trip had been organised by the student union and was attended by 150 students from the university’s athletics union.

Hahaha Nazis haha banter hahahaha it just doesn’t get any funnier than that.

A women-only meeting is being held on Tuesday at the student union to enable female students to talk about the incident and broader concerns affecting women at the LSE. There is growing concern across university campuses around the country about a culture of misogyny and discrimination – known as “lad culture”. A recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey showed more than a third of female students have been subjected to unwanted or inappropriate groping or touching.

Why is it known as “lad culture”? That’s one question I have. That makes it sound ok. Why make it sound ok? Why normalize it? Whose idea was this, anyway?

I see from the links the Guardian provides at the end of the story that the rugger club was shut down – so it’s like Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma. Good outcome, but why is the BBC promoting the kind of thing by burbling about “bloke culture”?

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


Mar 21st, 2015 3:15 pm | By

Hmmmmmmyes. Holding my nose and watching the first twenty minutes of that TBQ, the part devoted to The Tragic Plight of Blokes and Their Excellent Bloke Culture. I’ve paused at 11:45 and may never watch the remaining 8:15 minutes, but I got a look at the dread Milo Yiannopoulos. At 11:10 a woman interrupts him to correct a factual claim, and he blocks her interruption with “Sorry I’m talking about men darling.” Kate Smurthwaite, I’m happy to say, goes ballistic, and the obnoxious presenter makes an obnoxious patronizing quip about oh dear I’m leaving.

Sexism as all a barrel of laughs for the masses, how revolting.


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

Their honour is more important than loving their children

Mar 21st, 2015 12:10 pm | By

This is heartbreaking. Nazim Mahmood jumped to his death from a balcony seven months ago after coming out to his parents. His partner of 13 years, Matthew Ogston, talks to Sarfraz Manzoor.

The two were soon inseparable. Matthew was working as a web designer and Nazim was a medical student. Their families did not know they were gay. After a year they bought a house. It had two bedrooms so their families might assume they were just housemates. “We used to have to keep the window blinds in our front room closed so no one would see us,” says Matthew. “When we walked down the street we made sure there was some distance between us just in case a family member of his spotted us together.”

They grew tired of looking over their shoulders and wanted to stop hiding, so when Nazim was offered a job at a London hospital in 2004 they seized the opportunity to move to the capital. They would be far from their families, in a city where they knew no one and could fashion a new life together. “In London we felt free,” Matthew says. “We didn’t have to worry about bumping into our parents.”

They were happy, but Nazim was sad about the distance from his family.

The following year, Matthew came out to his parents, who were loving and accepting of both of them, but for Nazim, whose family were culturally conservative Muslims, the only strategy was to keep the solid borderlines between the old life in Birmingham and the new life in London.

And then one day he did tell them, and two days later he jumped off that balcony.

Matthew was suicidal himself.

He is convinced that Nazim spoke to him, telling him to set up a foundation to help other young gay men and women driven to depression because of religious homophobia. He had a reason to go on at last.

The Naz and Matt Foundation was announced at a special service held in London for Nazim, two weeks after his funeral. The service featured contributions from a gay Muslim, gay Hindu, a gay vicar, a trainee Rabbi and a lesbian interfaith minister. Matthew has been seeing a psychotherapist but he doubts any counsellor can help to liberate him from the questions that haunt him. “I don’t have answers to the questions I have and I can’t find peace of mind because there are no answers.”

Who does Matthew blame for Nazim’s death? “I blame a community that is so closed minded to allow these bigoted views that make families believe that their honour is more important than loving their children,” he says. “The respect and honour of the family is more important than the happiness of the children they gave birth to. How sick is that?”

The sickest.

They were engaged for three years but didn’t marry. “I have applied to have my name changed by deed poll to the name I would have adopted when we got married,” he says.

Why didn’t they get married? “Naz said it would not feel right to marry without being able to invite his mother,” says Matthew. “He wanted the unconditional love of his mum – that was all he had ever wanted: love and acceptance.”

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

Take thy reward

Mar 21st, 2015 10:55 am | By

I see that Twitter-activist for misogyny rights Milo Yiannopoulos was on that BBC The Big Questions last week, which I would have known yesterday if I had watched all of the segment on Whither Blokes? but I didn’t watch all of it so I didn’t know he was on. It’s bizarre that the BBC gives airtime to people like him, since he’s more a bully and harasser than he is an “activist.”

Anyway he was, and Kate Smurthwaite got new consignments of Twitter misogyny afterwards. One sample:

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Another sample, via Kate:

The oxygen one deserves two appearances.

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

Your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

Mar 21st, 2015 10:28 am | By

Here’s another thing we can sign – a call to political action to Free Raif and Waleed.

So far 12 MPs, 9 MSPs, and 4 members of the House of Lords have signed. Scores of prominent human rights activists, writers, lawyers and journalists have also signed as well as hundreds of others (see below). Please continue to add your name to this statement. Further action will be necessary.

Raif’s wife Ensaf Haidar has just written to us about this letter.
“I am very grateful for your action in support of my husband’s freedom– please help me get my husband back. His children need him”

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.

In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.

The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.

But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.

The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.

As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.

We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.

If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.

In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia



Links and instructions for signing are on the page.

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


Mar 20th, 2015 6:07 pm | By

University of North Georgia. College course catalogue. Illustration inside said catalogue.

University of North Georgia continuing education catalog

Interesting choice, especially with the caption.


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

No eclipse for you, children

Mar 20th, 2015 3:33 pm | By

Children at a London primary school were banned from watching the eclipse for “religious and cultural reasons.”

Council officials demanded an explanation from the head of the school in a multi-cultural suburb of west London.

Phil Belman, the father of a seven-year-old girl at North Primary School in Southall, rang the headteacher to express his anger.

My daughter was sent home yesterday to make a pinhole camera for the eclipse.

This morning I heard for religious and cultural reasons the kids were going to be banned from any part in the eclipse.

I was put through to him straight away and he confirmed it, religious and cultural reasons. I said that was totally outrageous. I asked him to elaborate and he refused.

It’s just going back to the dark ages really.

The part about refusing to elaborate is especially annoying. It’s a council school, not a private religious school; what is it doing banning all the students from watching the eclipse? What is it doing refusing to discuss the matter with a parent?

Ealing Council confirmed the pupils were not allowed out of their classrooms but said they were able to see the eclipse on TV screens.

The headmaster, Ivor Johnstone, issued a statement saying he was sorry for any disappointment.

The school made this decision when we became aware of religious and cultural concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly.

Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.

Don’t be sorry for the disappointment; stop banning things for religious reasons; that’s not the school’s job.

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


Mar 20th, 2015 2:57 pm | By

The Big Questions last Sunday – starting 20 minutes in they talk about apostasy. Amal Farah, an ex-Muslim, explains what it can be like to be an ex. Abdullah Al Andalusi bullshits for Britain. Kate Smurthwaite is there too. (The first twenty minutes are devoted to talking about whether Britain has become intolerant of blokes, which was so annoying I skipped ahead after a few minutes, but Kate was doing a good job of replying to the Bloke Representative.)


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

There shall be but one language

Mar 20th, 2015 11:20 am | By

Are you kidding me.

A public school in New York state’s foreign language department arranged to have “the pledge of allegiance” recited in a different language each day for a week. I despise “the pledge” for many reasons – I think it’s nationalistic, coercive, theocratic, and just generally dopy and obnoxious – but if you’re going to have one, reciting it in different languages is quite a cool idea.

And Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York decided to do that and it did it but uh oh uh oh, one of the languages was…brace yourselves…Arabic. Oh no!! Not Arabic!

So people pitched fits and the school said it was so so sorry and will never do it again.

Complaints were received from residents who lost family in Afghanistan and from Jewish parents, an official said.

What’s that got to do with anything?! Arabic is not the language of Afghanistan, and it isn’t invariably the language of anti-Semitism either. It’s a language, not a political affiliation or a party platform.

The school district superintendant, Joan Carbone, told the Times Herald-Record newspaper that the Arabic pledge has “divided the school in half” and that she had received numerous complaints.

A statement from the district apologised “to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful” and said the reading was intended to “promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country”.

An Arabic-speaking student read the pledge during morning announcements at Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York, on Wednesday.

I bet that student feels super-welcomed and accepted now.

Many students reportedly shouted their disapproval during the recitation, and later complained on social media.

Later in the afternoon, the school’s principal made a school-wide announcement to explain why the pledge was read in Arabic and to apologise for those who took offence.

Ms Carbone said the pledge would only be read in English in the future.

The school’s student leader, Andrew Zink, who is in charge of the morning announcements, told the local newspapers that he knew the reading would attract controversy.

He permitted it to go forward, because he believed it was “the right thing to do”.

But the school unfortunately went belly-up to the ignorant and benighted people who “shouted their disapproval.”

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

Guest post: How Should We Live: Exploring Moral Dilemmas in Contemporary Africa

Mar 20th, 2015 10:57 am | By

Leo Igwe delivered The Blackham Lecture 2015 in Birmingham on March 12.

To all my friends at Birmingham Humanists, thank you for the honor of selecting me to deliver this year’s Harold Blackham Memorial Lecture.

I never had the honor of meeting Harold Blackham but I read about his great achievements. Notably his contributions to the British Humanist Association and to the international humanist movement. I am a product of that international humanist project. I stand here, grateful to Harold Blackham and others who contributed to the founding of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Blackham was a philosopher and a teacher who cared about moral education. He understood the importance of moral questions and inquiry to the humanist project.

How should we live? This is one of the great humanist questions. For me the question has been: How are we Africans to live in the face of contemporary moral dilemmas? This question leads us to more questions: How can Africans achieve a morally meaningful life in this 21st century? What are the moral choices open to them? How should an African live in a world where moral and educational choices are constrained by powerful local and international religious interests? Is there a secular way of addressing these moral challenges?

Stephen Law delivered the first lecture in this series. He discussed the topic: How Do We Raise Moral Children? Law identified two schools of thought, the authoritarian and the liberal. He noted a shift in moral attitudes from the authoritarian to the liberal since the second half of the 20th century. This shift to enhanced moral autonomy, not deference to external authority, has become the standard of raising moral children. The shift has been criticized by those who believe that greater moral autonomy leads to a situation of ‘moral malaise’ and propose a return to the authoritarian way of child rearing. Law faulted the arguments of those who advance a more authoritarian style of child rearing. This approach he argued would lead to a ‘society of moral sheep’, a society without a moral compass. Law stated that encouraging autonomous thinking by getting people to make their own moral judgments was a better way of raising moral children.

Micheal Hand continued with this debate in his lecture on moral education. He drew attention to the tension between the idea that morality must be learned and therefore can be taught versus the idea that morality is controversial and therefore cannot be taught. He identified two trends of moral education, moral formation and moral inquiry. Moral formation is a form of education in which students are taught to subscribe to moral standards. Moral inquiry on the other hand is investigating with students what moral standards are justified.

Moral inquiry can be directive and non directive. It is directive when the teacher persuades pupils to embrace some moral standards and reject others. Moral inquiry is non directive when the teacher aims to elicit from pupils what is and is not justified. Moral education should embrace both moral formation and enquiry if its aim is to achieve full commitment to moral standards.

How do we apply these thoughts and insights to the dilemmas confronting Africans today? First we need to put into perspective how the authoritarian and liberal approaches apply to the African moral landscape. The authoritarian conservative approach is regarded as ‘African’, as a position that is in line with ‘African values.’ But is authoritarian moral style really African? The liberal approach is taken to be ‘Western’ and often used to dismiss certain moral positions. Is the liberal moral position really western?

Labeling these approaches as African or western has caused confusion in the moral reasoning of Africans, particularly when they are faced with issues that require a shift in attitudes, a change in position or a revision of their thoughts or to embrace new ideas.

The authoritarian approach draws mainly from African traditions, Christianity or Islam. These sources are considered as unquestionable moral definitions in the society, but are they? Are these sources clear and unchanging or open to interpretation by every person for their own purposes?

Africa does not have a codified tradition that is invariable from person to person, community to community or country to country. The same is applicable to Christianity and Islam. The teachings of these religions span centuries. They are contained in oral and written traditions that sometimes contradict each other in numerous doctrines and dogmas that do not make coherent moral sense. When Christian armies fight Christian armies or Islamic armies fight Islamic armies, where is the one true word and for that matter, where is the one true god?

It hardly occurs to many Africans when they argue for a moral position on the basis of Christian or Islamic authority that they are making an argument based on religions that are foreign and ‘unAfrican’. Christianity was an Asian religion introduced into Africa by ‘western’ European missionaries and if Africans dismiss any moral position or prescription because it is western or unAfrican then it should dismiss Christianity. Islam is from Asia as well and thus also foreign and just as readily dismissed as unAfrican.

There is nothing in a liberal approach to morality that makes it western. There is likewise nothing in the conservative and close minded that makes it African. Liberal and conservative approaches can be seen all over Africa and all over the world in varying degrees. There is a conflation of these two ideas that is false.

African moral demagogues have used this conflation to justify morally retrogressive views and backward looking positions. It gives credence to this mistaken notion that openness to new ideas is European or that embracing new moral values is western, and not habits and dispositions that are found in all cultures. One can argue that contemporary Africans espouse Christian or Islamic morality however loosely conceived because of their liberal attitude in the past to what was once a new idea. Though one would argue that this happened through a process marked by coercion and compulsion, the spread of these foreign religions testifies to the openness by Africans to new ideas.

Authoritarian and liberal approaches come to the table of moral discourse and reasoning with this confused baggage. This confusion has led to dilemmas hampering a clear shift in attitudes because many Africans refrain from ‘openly’ and publicly’ endorsing change even when a change is needed and is necessary. They present a moral position which they would have otherwise discarded just because they do not want to be seen or blackmailed as liberal or western in their approach. They do not want to identify with liberal attitude that is equated to moral license, irreverence, corruption, alienating lifestyle, and a betrayal of African values. One subject where these moral ambiguities are pronounced is the campaign against witchcraft accusation in Africa.

The colonialists outlawed witchcraft accusation and witch hunting as an extension of the enlightenment understanding of the natural world. These new laws put the accuser not the accused in the wrong. Witchcraft accusation is a form of death sentence. The enlightened considered witch hunting a practice that was repugnant to “natural justice, equity and good conscience.” But the custodians of African values have had a different idea. Since independence, witchcraft has been reintroduced as a crime by some African states. The anti-witchcraft accusation legislation, wherever it exists, has been ignored, misinterpreted or repealed in what some have argued was an initiative that is consistent with and in furtherance of “African tradition and values.” What is African tradition; accusing innocent people of committing imaginary crimes?

In 2006, Zimbabwe repealed legislation introduced during the colonial period that outlawed witchcraft accusation. In its place, Zimbabwe enacted a law that recognized the existence of supernatural powers and criminalized the use of magic to harm someone. The new law legitimizes traditional healing practices like “rolling bones to foretell the future, divination, attempts to communicate with the dead, using traditional powders and fetishes to ensure the desired sex of a child”. According to a BBC report a professor and a sociologist who was chairman of Zimbabwe’s Traditional Medical Practitioner’s Council thinks that witchcraft could be of some benefit to the modern world. He says it could be used to catch a thief. Zimbabwe could do the modern world a huge favor by appointing this witch to head its police so he could demonstrate the tremendous power of witchcraft and show them how police work is really done.

The BBC report says that it would be difficult to prosecute someone under this law. “The repealing of the witchcraft laws is another sign that Zimbabwe’s government is continuing to move away from Western values and placing more emphasis on the country’s own traditions.“ What is Zimbabwe’s tradition in this case? Divination? Necromancy? and the use of traditional medicine? Africa is also witnessing a move away from “Western Christianity”. This move has led to the emergence of African churches that are championing witch hunts. African pentecostal pastors have become the modern day witch hunters in what has emerged today as African or Africanized Christianity.

In the last three years I have been researching witchcraft accusation in Northern Ghana. This is what an accused woman has to say about the accusation.


“The only relationship is that my colleague’s son got married to her. And then she was also staying in the same room with me. I provided everything she needed. When her pomade and bathing soap finished I tried my best to buy some for her. And all they say now is that I have killed her. Forgetting how I suffered for her. Why is it that when she was a small girl, I was the one who did everything for her, then I did not harm her and now they are accusing me of killing her?”

In another interview, a woman who was accused of betwitching the daughter and subsequently banished to the witch sanctuaries in the region asked me. “How can I give birth to a child, nurtured her and now she is an adult I decided to kill her?”

African tradition is used as the moral justification for the continued practice of the Osu caste system among the Igbos in Southern Nigeria. The caste system discriminates against lower caste people called Osu. The Osu are regarded as untouchables and unmarriable by the higher caste persons. I have been campaigning against this obnoxious practice. I have received letters from both lower and higher caste persons who have been affected by the harmful cultural practice.

This is from a young man who was affected by the tradition:

Dear Sir/Madam

I have read and understood this write up on the so called OSU matter, I am a young man of 31years old from Abba in Wangele local area goverment Imo State of Nigeria but i live in South Africa. Last year 2014 I have met 3 ladies from the same Imo state that I wanted to marry of which they accepted me but their family refused because they said I am OSU, My reason for writing to you is to find out if there is anything possible one can do to stop this OSU of a thing in our Igbo land especially in Imo state where I come from because this has been keeping many of our youths single. Hope to hear from you soon thanks.

It is not only the so called Osu who are affected, the higher caste people are suffering too. A ‘free born’ lady,affected by the practice wrote me and said:

Dear sir,

My name is Q T .I am 25yrs old,a native of ezeogba in emekuku owerri,imo state. I am a christian and also from a religious background

I read your article on osu caste and it inspired me a lot.I am a victim of this evil tradition in the sense that my marriage was canceled because of it. My fiance happens to be an Osu (as they said) from umuofor,Ebgu in owerri,imo state and me a nwadiala .Despite my parents christian faith and strong positions in church,they have vehemently refused me from marrying him. And we both love each other very much

We have done everything humanly possible to make my people understand but to no avail. Even now,the battle is still on in my family.

The question I keep asking is how long will this evil tradition prevail? Can’t something be done about it? Where are the so called religious leaders? Is this actually the plan of God for “Igbos”?. I taught the Holy book said we shouldnt call whatever God has created unclean. isn’t it supposed to be one people, one nation, one igbo ,one culture?
We need to arise and abolish this evil tradition. we have to call on our leaders both religious,traditional and political leaders,human rights activist,NGOs and the igbo communities to help remove this leprosy from our culture. For the sake of our lives and that of our children(even those yet unborn),for the precious sake of our future.
This is from a broken heart,a wounded soul,a voice crying out for help just like many others who have been victims of this tradition. You can reach me through this email.

Tradition is used as the justification for female genital mutilation, ritual killing of albinos and persons with disabilities. The authorities of tradition, god or spirit are invoked to give moral legitimacy to torturing a witch to death, to the persecution and execution of homosexuals, to murdering persons who profess other faiths or those who hold critical or offensive views. We have seen this situation play out in many African countries where people attack kill and maim each other in the name of imaginary beings. Where students lynched their own teacher for supposedly desecrating the Quran, where islamic militants have attacked churches and mosques, killed innocent men and women and kidnapped school boys and girls in furtherance of their campaign to implement sharia law and enthrone an islamic state and in Niger where muslim fanatics protesting the cartoon of prophet Muhammad burnt down churches and killed people who had nothing to do with the cartoon.

A moral crisis is simmering in the region due to contradictory dictates of authoritarian dogma. An urgent moral awakening is needed to dispel mistaken notions that cloud reasoning. Moral education has been dogmatic and directive leaving no room for debate or deliberation with the moral educators be they parents, teachers, pastors or imams. Moral standards are presented as absolute unchangeable and eternal guides handed down from God, Allah or ancestors to mankind who should not revise or modify them.

Contemporary Africans are trapped in a moral cave guarded by traditional, Christian or sharia police sometimes backed by transnational establishments like the Vatican, OIC or the Anglican Communion.

People in the region are presented with a moral choice of remaining in the cage of traditional or religious authoritarianism or breaking away and embracing a new approach to moral thinking. To resolve this dilemma, a shift away from religious authoritarianism and dogmatism towards a secular liberal approach is needed. Africans must rediscover the centrality of their humanity, and begin to unlearn and abandon this pervading idea that without God or ancestors human beings have no moral compass. They must embrace the idea that we human beings are the moral compass. That the external moral authorities are human creations as well.

Moral education must embrace inquiry and criticism, ability to question and challenge without fear moral standards presented by preachers and teachers. Part of moral education should be subjecting moral teachings to critical evaluation and revising moral positions in the light of new knowledge, information and ideas. Morality is not cast on stone!

Moral instruction that aims to enhance individual autonomy should be the goal of moral education. With greater moral autonomy Africa would stop being a moral sheep following the dictates of OIC, Vatican, traditional, christian and islamic demagogues. Africans need to be able to hold independent moral positions.

Africans should begin to conceive morality in the words of Harold Blackham “As something unfinished”, as a process that is always in the making, ”as a material for creative use, a task for our responsible undertaking.”

Thank you.

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

The view from Proba-2

Mar 20th, 2015 10:37 am | By

The European Space Agency took a snap.


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

Today’s body count

Mar 20th, 2015 10:33 am | By

It’s 126 in Sanaa, Yemen. At two mosques, during prayers. Daesh says “we did that.”

Suicide bombers have attacked two mosques in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing at least 126 people and wounding many others, reports say.

Worshippers were attending noon prayers at the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques when at least four attackers struck.

The mosques are used mainly by supporters of the Zaidi Shia-led Houthi rebel movement, which controls Sanaa.

Islamic State (IS), which set up a branch in Yemen in November, said it was behind the attacks.

Is it “Islamophobia” to point out that this is Muslims killing Muslims?

Witnesses said two suicide bombers attacked the Badr mosque, in the south of Sanaa.

One entered the building and detonated his explosive device among dozens of worshippers, the witnesses added. Survivors then sought to escape through the main gates, where the second bomber was waiting.

Al Jazeera reported that the prominent Houthi cleric al-Murtada bin Zayd al-Mahatwari, the imam of the Badr mosque, was among those killed.

Two more bombers attacked the al-Hashoosh mosque, in the north of the capital, with one detonating explosives near the entrance and the other running into the mosque itself.

Lots of death. A big harvest of death. Major success in the body parts department.

“The heads, legs and arms of the dead people were scattered on the floor of the mosque,” Mohammed al-Ansi told Associated Press news agency, adding that “blood is running like a river”.

Mr Ansi said that many of those who were not killed by the explosion were seriously injured by shattered glass that fell from the mosque’s windows.

More than 260 people are reported to have been injured.

These were people at prayers, don’t forget.

Welcome to the Ummah.


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

Bumped up again

Mar 20th, 2015 10:12 am | By

There’s a report in Stern, in German, that Raif Badawi’s case has been sent by the Jeddah Criminal Court to the High Court. Elham Manea took it seriously enough to share with Ensaf Haidar, and Ensaf shared it with everyone.

That could be either good or bad; it’s unknown which.

But don’t worry – the OIC just told us that

Islam, which Saudi Arabia – a founding member of the OIC – is governed by, is centered on the values of justice, compassion, equality, tolerance and the notion of human vicegerency.

So obviously Saudi Arabia isn’t going to behead Raif for expressing an opinion about religion that the Saudi rulers don’t share. That wouldn’t be just or compassionate or egalitarian or tolerant.

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