Notes and Comment Blog

The space for such ideas is shrinking in Muslim countries

Mar 17th, 2015 3:56 pm | By

Raza Rumi writes about Bangladesh’s slide into theocratic misery.

The brutal, cowardly murder of freethinker Avijit Roy on the streets of Dhaka is a reflection of embedded intolerance in many Muslim societies. Bangladesh, despite its secular credentials, is no exception.

Rumi has experience of that kind of brutal cowardice.

This incident left me deeply disturbed. As someone who was also subjected to (missed) bullets in 2014, Roy’s murder brought back memories of my close brush with death, subsequent exile and the fear of returning to my own country, Pakistan. Like Roy and many others, Islamist extremists found my views unacceptable to the extent that physical elimination was the only answer. I miraculously escaped the assassination attempt, but my driver was killed and another companion was injured.

While a few gunmen were arrested, the trial lingers on. But from my experience as an analyst, Pakistani courts seldom punish attackers, and the masterminds are never apprehended or brought to book.

So there’s no reason not to murder infidels, apart from conscience, and the conscience of this brand of murderer is all on the other side – murdering infidels is righteous.

One can disagree with the approach that some atheists take to matters of faith, but it is utterly disconcerting to note that the space for such ideas is shrinking in Muslim countries. And Bangladesh is no Saudi Arabia or even Pakistan. Its liberation in 1971 from Pakistan was an act of defiance to preserve the political and cultural rights that the so-called Islamic Republic of Pakistan was trying to suppress. For Bangladesh to become more like Pakistan is even more tragic.

In addition to Bishwasher Virus, Roy was also promoting his book, Shunno Theke Moha Bishwo (From Vacuum to Universe), at the Immortal 21st Book Fair held each year in late February. The date of the festival coincides with an important period of Bangladesh’s secular history, when students were killed by security forces for demanding equal rights for the Bengali language. At that time, Pakistan had tried to impose Urdu as a national language on East Pakistan, which later became Bangladesh in the war of 1971.

The enduring fault line in Bangladesh since its independence has to do with the existence of Islamist groups such as Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed the creation of the country and found greater political space due to its alliance with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition outfit. Both these parties boycotted the 2014 elections and, therefore, are excluded from the current system of governance.

But there are other, softer versions of Islamism that are rising in Bangladesh. For instance, the Tablighi Jamaat has found major traction in society. Like in other Muslim countries, Islamist ideas are appealing to the younger segments of the population.

And not just other Muslim countries; also countries with significant Muslim populations.

For decades, Bangladeshi governments, like their nemesis in Pakistan, have appeased religious passions. A clear case is that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina covers her head. There is no Quranic injunction for women to wear a hijab (headscarf). This was true for Pakistan’s slain prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, who also demonstrated similar acquiescence to religious fervor by not only covering her head with a scarf, but also donning Islamic rosary beads to prove piety and credentials of being a devout Muslim.

Media freedoms have also been under threat as the incumbent Bangladeshi government has, on occasions, tried to muzzle critical commentaries on elections and the democratic evolution. But surely the religious opposition to free-thinking remains the most serious challenge, leading many to leave the country and not return. Taslima Nasreen, a writer, has been in exile for decades, scared of the radicals back home. Ironically, she is blamed for being too “extreme” in her views.

So Bangladesh empties of independent thinkers, secularists, rebels, critics, nonconformists, apostates, kuffar – how can that be good?

I had always admired Bangladesh as a secular nation and even wroteabout its cultural and intellectual space. Sadly, it is only following the country it left behind in 1971: Pakistan. But when it comes to religious bigotry, few Muslim countries are safe for writers, bloggers and those who challenge extremist interpretations of Islam.

I am afraid of returning home to Pakistan. I was lucky to have narrowly escaped the fate of Roy and perhaps will not be as fortunate next time. The Taliban affiliate that tried to kill me number in the thousands, are well-organized and entrenched. Their level of intolerance is such that I am not even an atheist, yet I am a target.

I mourn Roy’s loss and also lament the state of exile that pernicious extremist ideologies have forced me into.

It’s enough to break your heart.

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

When you cook a steak

Mar 17th, 2015 1:17 pm | By

So of course we have to take a look at the Christian Domestic Discipline Network – Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage.

Hello & Welcome to the Christian Domestic Discipline Network!

This website is intended to be a haven for those practicing Consensual Christian Domestic Discipline, and for those who ernestly wish to learn about Christian Domestic Discipline.

What is Christian Domestic Discipline?

In order to describe to you what is Christian Domestic Discipline, I’d first like to start with what it is not.

Christian Domestic Discipline is not domestic violence. Neither is it abuse. It is an arrangement between two adults who share the belief that the husband is the head of the household and with that position comes the right to enforce his authority.

An arrangement? Adults? Consensual? Is this discipline, or BDSM?

Christian Domestic Discipline is not BDSM. It is not a game. While we do not deny its sometimes erotic nature, it is ultimately not for erotic purposes. It is often much different than the domestic discipline you will find outside of the Christian faith.

Well that’s confusing. It’s erotic but it’s not BDSM. It’s erotic but it’s ultimately not for erotic purposes. I think they must be doing it wrong. The real thing isn’t supposed to be for erotic purposes even temporarily and en route.

A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is set up according to the guidelines set forth in the Holy Bible, meaning the husband has authority over his wife within the bounds of God’s Word and enforces that authority, if need be, through discipline including but not limited to spanking. He uses his authority to keep peace and order in his home, protect his marriage, and help his wife mature in her Christian walk.

In a true Christian Domestic Discipline marriage, discipline is tempered with the knowledge that the husband must answer to God for his actions and decisions in his position of authority.

See? That’s not erotic! That’s authoritarian and bossy and you have to obey me. I think if these two are having fun while doing that, they’re doing it wrong and pissing off god!

[samples one article]

Oooookay this is totally erotica and the Christian stuff is just some kind of joke-window dressing.

When you discipline your wife, for either misbehavior or maintenance it is best to start slow and warm up her bottom, spanking her with less intensity and not going full force right out of the gate.

After a sufficient warm up you will be able to spank her with great intensity and a longer period of time, hence enforcing a proper punishment and the tears that are sure to flow.

Remember to take you time with the discipline, by spanking her longer you will find that the submission from her is greater than one done quick just to get it over with, By spanking her for a greater period of time also shows that you as her HOH take your responsibilities serious.

Most new HOH tend to start of thinking that by bringing her to tears they have accomplished the goal of LDD, this is not entirely true. If you spank with fast, hard swats you will cause her to cry, that is true, but you have failed to take into account what is truly needed. She needs and desires to submit to you and your decisions as her HOH, and by taking time to slow down the spanking and thoroughly punishing her she will find solace and be happier.

To make this a clearer to some, when you cook a steak, and use high heat to seer the top, and then try to eat it you will find the steak cold and unsatisfying, just like a woman might feel after a very brief but hard spanking, yes she cried but only out of pain and learned only pain from the spanking. But slowly warming her bottom up, you will be able to spank her longer.


I’ll leave you two alone now…

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

The originals don’t have iron bars

Mar 17th, 2015 12:54 pm | By

One bit of slightly less bad news – the Telegraph reports that most of the artifacts Daesh smashed up in Mosul were replicas.

[T]he head of the country’s national antiquities department confirmed they were plaster copies of priceless originals.

“None of the artefacts destroyed in the video is an original,” Fawzye al-Mahdi told the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Curators at the Baghdad Museum studied the video and found that many of the artefacts that appeared to have been destroyed were in fact safe inside their own museum.

They also found that others are held in museums around the world.

That doesn’t do Nimrud and Hatra any good, but it’s still something.

The findings confirmed suspicions voiced by archaeologists when the video was first released.

“You can see iron bars inside [the statues],” Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London, told Channel 4 News.

“The originals don’t have iron bars.”

Atheel Nuafi, the governor of Mosul who had to flee the city when Isil seized control of it last year, confirmed that most of the destroyed objects were copies, though he said two were originals.

“There were two items that were real and which the militants destroyed,” he told Iraqi television. “One is a winged bull and the other was the God of Rozhan.”

Any Buddhas with earphones?

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

God said I could

Mar 17th, 2015 12:22 pm | By

Georgia Republicans are working on passing a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” aka RFRA that would be one of the worst in the country.

The bill, the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” is one of a raft of similar bills (RFRAs, for short) wending their way through state legislatures across the country. The bills are part of the backlash against same-sex marriage, but they go much farther than that. Like the Hobby Lobby decision, which allows closely-held corporations to opt out of part of Obamacare, these laws carve out exemptions to all kinds of laws if a person (or corporation) offers a religious reason for not obeying them.

You can offer a religious reason for not obeying all kinds of laws. The US is already packed with religious exemptions to laws governing parents (you don’t want to take your sick kid to a doctor? Knock yourselves out!) among other things, but hey, there’s always room for more.

For example? Restaurants could refuse to serve gay or interracial couples, city clerks could refuse to marry interfaith couples, hotels could keep out Jews, housing developments could keep out black people (Genesis 9:18-27), pharmacies could refuse to dispense birth control, banquet halls could turn away gay weddings, schools could specifically allow anti-gay bullying, and employers could fire anyone for any “religious” reason.

The national movement to pass these laws is well-funded and well-coordinated; most of the laws are written by the same handful of conservative legal hacks in Washington, working for organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, both of which have had a hand in the Georgia bill.

God said white people are best. God said women are whores. God hates fags. God said straight white men have Dominion Over the Earth.

Some legal commentators have said that the law would give a pass to spousal and child abusers, as long as the husband (or father) has a religious pretext. Which is easy to provide; the Christian Domestic Discipline Network, for example, offers a host of rationales for “wife spanking.” And let’s not forget Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares his rod hates his son. But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

The Christian Domestic Discipline Network? Uh…

So far the bill hasn’t been getting much attention. Let’s hope that changes. The vote is April 2.

H/t Kausik

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

Based on our experience

Mar 17th, 2015 12:03 pm | By

More from the Douglas Starr article: he goes to talk to the current president of the Reid Company, Joseph Buckley.

When I asked Buckley if anything in the technique had been developed in collaboration with psychologists, he said, “No, not a bit. It’s entirely based on our experience.”

Well there’s part of your problem right there. So many flaws, it’s hard to know where to begin. What about the fact that “our experience” can perfectly well include false confessions? What about the circularity? What about the obvious possibility that “our experience” could be of doing it wrong for generations? What about the need to test your assumptions?

Buckley said that the principle of compassion still guides his company, and that Kassin and other critics misrepresent him. He told me that the Reid Technique’s sole objective is to elicit the truth, and that the police interrogate only people whom they suspect of involvement in a crime. He said that critics ignore the various ways a suspect can show that he is telling the truth, and pointed out that a properly trained interviewer begins an accusatory interrogation only if the suspect appears to be lying or withholding information during the behavioral-analysis interview.

But there again – what if the interviewer’s beliefs about “the various ways a suspect can show that he is telling the truth” are wrong? What if the interviewer’s beliefs about when “the suspect appears to be lying or withholding information” are wrong? What if the assumptions underlying the behavioral-analysis interview are wrong?

He argued—and judges have regularly agreed—that if a suspect infers leniency from an interrogator’s guise of sympathy, that’s the suspect’s problem. (Critics may not like the fact that police sometimes lie to suspects during interrogations, but a 1969 Supreme Court decision affirmed their right to do so.)

No, I don’t “like” that fact very much. FindLaw has details on the decision.

It’s a remarkably ramshackle system for one that deprives millions of people of their liberty and a few of their lives.

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

Here’s that Buddha with his tunes

Mar 17th, 2015 11:12 am | By

Via Kenneth Wong SF.

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

The Buddha rocks out

Mar 17th, 2015 11:05 am | By

Two and a half years in prison for advertising a bar with a poster of Buddha in earphones.

A New Zealander and two Burmese men have been found guilty of insulting religion in Myanmar over a poster promoting a drinks event depicting Buddha with headphones.

Philip Blackwood, who managed the VGastro Bar in Yangon, was arrested in December along with bar owner Tun Thurein and colleague Htut Ko Ko Lwin.

They have each been sentenced to two and a half years in jail.

Burmese law makes it illegal to insult or damage any religion.

From what I know of Siddhartha, he would think that’s a crock of shit.

The poster, which was posted on Facebook to advertise a cheap drinks night, showed Buddha surrounded by psychedelic colours. It sparked an angry response online.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen growing Buddhist nationalism in recent years.

And persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Yay religion!!

[T]he judge, Ye Lwin, said that though Blackwood apologised, he had “intentionally plotted to insult religious belief” when he uploaded the poster on Facebook, reported AFP news agency.

Blackwood, 32, said he planned to appeal against the sentence.

Speaking after sentencing outside the court before being bundled into a car, he said that he was “pretty disappointed” with his punishment, which was “more than the maximum sentence”.

“I have said that I was sorry so many times,” he said. “It was nothing to do with me.”

Before sentencing he said that he had removed the image and posted an apology when he realised it was being shared online and provoking outrage.

Well that doesn’t cut it with religious nationalists aka theocrats. Revenge is theirs.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said that the three men acted in a culturally insensitive way but should not have been sent to prison.

“By using the Religion Act to criminalise these three individuals, rather than accepting an apology and dealing with it in another way, the government is, sort of, setting up more witch hunts against persons that these Buddhist groups view as being insulting to their religion,” he said.

Is it really even “culturally insensitive”? Clearly it is according to the most zealous religious nationalists, but why take their pov as the normative one? I doubt that Burma is completely empty of more easygoing and kindly people who don’t object to friendly images of the Buddha.

Also – did the BBC include the image so that we can judge it for ourselves? Of course it didn’t.

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

Iago in the interrogation room

Mar 17th, 2015 10:27 am | By

Speaking of that New Yorker article – it’s well worth reading. It’s about US law enforcement’s widespread reliance on “the Reid technique” for eliciting confessions, which was concocted by a retired cop out of…nothing in particular.

A growing number of scientists and legal scholars, though, have raised concerns about Reid-style interrogation. Of the three hundred and eleven people exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing, more than a quarter had given false confessions—including those convicted in such notorious cases as the Central Park Five. The extent of the problem is unknowable, because there’s no national database on wrongful convictions. But false confessions, which often lead to these convictions, are not rare, and experts say that Reid-style interrogations can produce them.

See, the goal with confessions is not quantity but quality. I mean, sure, it would be great for law enforcement and thus for the rest of us if they could get truthful confessions in every case, but the “truthful” part is key. Dragging false confessions out of exhausted subjects is not helpful.

Thirty-five years ago, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology named Saul Kassin began researching the psychological factors that affect jury decisions. He noticed that whenever a confession was involved, every juror voted guilty. Alibis and fingerprints didn’t matter in these cases. Kassin read the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda decision and found that it repeatedly cites the Reid Technique manual as the most authoritative source on American interrogation techniques. When he bought the manual, he says, “my first impression was, my God, this reads like a bad psychology textbook. It was filled with assertions with no empirical proof.”

Today, Kassin has appointments at Williams College, in Massachusetts, and at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York, and is widely regarded as a leading expert on false confessions. He believes that the Reid Technique is inherently coercive. The interrogator’s refusal to listen to a suspect’s denials creates feelings of hopelessness, which are compounded by the fake file and by lies about the evidence. At this point, short-term thinking takes over. Confession opens something of an escape hatch, so it is only natural that some people choose it.

Do you think the Miranda ruling makes this not a problem? More than 80% of suspects waive their Miranda rights.

The Reid interrogation technique is predicated upon an accurate determination, during Behavioral Analysis, of whether the suspect is lying. Here, too, social scientists find reason for concern. Three decades of research have shown that nonverbal signals, so prized by the Reid trainers, bear no relation to deception. In fact, people have little more than coin-flipping odds of guessing if someone is telling the truth, and numerous surveys have shown that police do no better. Aldert Vrij, a professor of psychology at the University of Portsmouth, in England, found that law-enforcement experience does not necessarily improve the ability to detect lies. Among police officers, those who said they paid close attention to nonverbal cues did the worst. Similarly, an experiment by Kassin showed that both students and police officers were better at telling true confessions from false ones when they listened to an audio recording of an interview rather than watch it on video. In the experiment, the police officers performed less well than the students but expressed greater confidence in their ability to tell who was lying. “That’s a bad combination,” Kassin said.

It’s the Dunning-Kruger combination. You really don’t want that in police interrogations.

Such studies suggest that a troubling chain of events can easily take place in the mind of an interrogator. During the Behavioral Analysis Interview, the detective begins to form an impression, based in part on the suspect’s body language. The impression could be wrong, but the detective, sensitized to those responses, notices them more and pays less attention to others—an instance of confirmation bias. Increasingly convinced that he’s dealing with a liar, the detective questions more aggressively, and this, in turn, triggers more nervousness. The behaviors create a feedback loop, ratcheting up the suspicion and anxiety to the point where the detective feels duty-bound to get a confession. Psychologists call this cycle the “Othello error,” for the tragic escalation of accusation and fear that leads Othello to kill Desdemona.

Gregg McCrary, a retired F.B.I. agent, told me that Reid-style training creates a tendency to see lies where they may not exist, with an unhealthy amount of confidence in that judgment. “They just assume they’re interviewing the guilty guy,” he said.

And the wrong people go to prison, and sometimes to the lethal injection room.

There are alternatives.

In 1990, after a flurry of false-confession scandals in Britain, the government appointed a commission of detectives, academics, and legal experts to develop an interview method that would reflect up-to-date psychological research. After two years’ work, the commission unveiled their technique, called PEACE, for Preparation and Planning, Engage and Explain, Account, Closure, Evaluate. Training was provided for police departments throughout England and Wales, starting with major-crimes units. By 2001, every police officer in England and Wales had received a basic level of instruction in the method.

The method differed dramatically from previous practices. Police were instructed not to try to obtain confessions but to use the interview as a way to gather evidence and information, almost as a journalist would. They were to focus on content rather than on nonverbal behavior, and were taught not to pay attention to anxiety, since it does not correlate with lying. Instead, police were trained to ask open-ended questions to elicit the whole story, and then go back over the details in a variety of ways to find inconsistencies. For the suspect, lying creates a cognitive load—it takes energy to juggle the details of a fake story. Part of the process involved thorough preparation: police learned to spend hours drawing diagrams of the route they hoped an interview would take. Bluffing about evidence was prohibited. “We were not allowed to lie, coerce, or minimize,” Andy Griffiths, a detective superintendent with the Sussex Police Department, told me. Their job was simply to get as much information as possible, which, along with corroborating evidence, would either inculpate the suspect or set him free.

There are law enforcement people in the US working on developing approaches like that. Let’s hope they make headway.

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

Small favors

Mar 17th, 2015 9:59 am | By

Pakistan had a big hanging party today.

Pakistan has hanged 12 convicts, the largest number of people executed on the same day since the country overturned a ban on executions.

The men were terrorists, murderers or guilty of “heinous crimes”, an interior ministry spokesman said.

At least 27 convicts have been executed since the moratorium was lifted, most of them militants, Reuters reported.

It is estimated there are more than 8,000 Pakistanis on death row. Rights groups say many convictions are unsafe.

Human rights groups say that prisoners often do not receive a fair trial within Pakistan’s outdated criminal justice system and that poorly-trained police often use torture to force confessions.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that the latest executions took place in Multan, Karachi, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Jhang.

I’d like to be able to say that US death penalty cases at least got fair trials with no forcing of confessions, but I can’t. The Innocence Project has helped to make it unpleasantly clear that many convictions are not safe at all, including capital cases. Last December Ricky Dale Wyatt became the 325th person whose conviction was overturned via DNA testing. Douglas Starr’s 2013 New Yorker article Do police interrogation techniques produce false confessions? explained how behind other developed countries the US is in the way it trains cops to interrogate suspects. There’s a long ugly history of using arrest and conviction as a substitute for slavery.

But I guess we can be glad we don’t execute 15 people in one day.

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

In front of synagogues and Holocaust memorials

Mar 16th, 2015 5:50 pm | By

A distasteful little item from a long piece by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic, on anti-Semitism in Europe.

[T]he new anti-Semitism flourishing in corners of the European Muslim community would be impoverished without the incorporation of European fascist tropes. Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a comedian of French Cameroonian descent who specializes in Holocaust revisionism and gas-chamber humor, is the inventor of the quenelle, widely understood as an inverted Nazi salute. His followers have taken to photographing themselves making the quenelle in front of synagogues, Holocaust memorials, and sites of past anti-Jewish terrorist attacks. Dieudonné has built an ideological partnership with Alain Soral, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist and 9/11 “truther” who was for several years a member of the National Front’s central committee. Soral was photographed not long ago making the quenelle in front of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.


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

Let’s do the numbers

Mar 16th, 2015 3:40 pm | By

We’re bad, when it comes to executions, but we’re significantly less bad than Saudi Arabia. gives the tally: 35 last year, 39 the year before, 43 each the two before that; 46, 52, 37. There were big spikes in 1999 and 2000 – 98 and 85 respectively.

Our population is larger than that of Saudi Arabia – theirs is 28.3 million, ours is 318.9 million.

But then there’s the issue of the race of the people executed

race chart 1


Then compare that to the race of the victims.

race chart 2

See it?



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

Going for a new record

Mar 16th, 2015 3:22 pm | By

Saudi Arabia is working hard at being more horrible this year than it was last year. Every day in every way it gets worser and worser. The Telegraph reports via AFP:

A man convicted of murder was beheaded in the Saudi capital on Monday, amid a steep rise in the number of executions in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom this year.

The beheading of Saad bin Abdullah al-Jadid, who had shot dead fellow Saudi Abdullah bin Faraj al-Gahtani, took to 45 the number of executions since January 1, according to an AFP count.

I’m an American, so I have nothing to boast of. We execute lots of people too, and sometimes we fry them for an extended period before we manage to achieve death. But I’m pointing a finger at Saudi Arabia anyway.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s version of Sharia Islamic law.

Earlier this month, it was reported Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashesafter being convicted of insulting Islam, could face death by beheading, according to his family.

The case attracted worldwide condemnation when he was publicly flogged in January. His family said they have been told he is to be tried for apostasy.

At least we don’t execute people for “apostasy.”

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

The 2%

Mar 16th, 2015 12:32 pm | By

This was yesterday – bombs near two churches in Pakistan.

Two bomb blasts have killed at least 14 people near two churches in a Christian neighbourhood of the Pakistani city of Lahore, local officials say.

More than 70 people were hurt in the explosions, which targeted worshippers attending Sunday mass at the churches in the Youhanabad area.

An offshoot of the Pakistan Taliban, calling itself Jamatul Ahrar, has said it carried out the attack.

The murders. Jamatul Ahrar boasted that it had committed the murders.

The caption under a photo of weeping women says “Relatives of the dead consoled each other.” Well no – they wept and clung to each other.

A large crowd gathered at the scene of the blasts, protesting about the lack of security.

The crowd also attacked two men it accused of involvement in the explosions, killing both of them. Photographs from the scene showed a crowd setting the men’s bodies alight.

Yay religion.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, the chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a rights group, said the Lahore attacks highlighted the government’s failure to protect minorities.

Pakistan’s military last year began an offensive against militant bases in the mountainous north-west, bordering Afghanistan. Offshoots of the Pakistani Taliban have warned of attacks in response.

However, Lahore, the capital of the densely populated Punjab province, has largely escaped militant violence and is seen as a relatively peaceful city.

At least 80 people were killed by bombers at a church in the Pakistani city of Peshawar in 2013, in what is thought to be the deadliest ever attack on the country’s Christians.

Christians make up less than 2% of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population.

So that was yesterday.


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

Their imprint of destruction

Mar 16th, 2015 11:50 am | By

The BBC takes a long look at the devastation Boko Haram has left behind in northern Nigeria.

From one town to another, Boko Haram fighters have left their imprint of destruction – the charred remains of market places, homes, government buildings and farms.

Signboards have been painted over in black and replaced with Boko Haram insignia and inscriptions in Arabic.

“Thank you! Thank you!” a group of women chant as they praise the soldiers who reclaimed their town, Doron Baga, from Boko Haram.

They are the few people we found in the area. Most others fled after possibly the worst insurgent attack yet in the region.

Read the BBC piece itself, because they took pictures. Destroyed market, blackened sign, empty town.

Now the town is deserted. At the main market area, blackened-out shells have replaced what would have been busy shops.

Mangled motorcycles litter the streets, their tyres blown out. Decomposing bodies lie by the roadside and fill the air with the stench of death.

Death is their goal. Not death as a byproduct of their quest for a better world, but death itself. The more dead people, the better.

A group of women take shade under a tree away from the scorching heat. “Boko Haram fighters killed my sister,” one tells me.

“We attempted to leave three times for Maiduguri but the militants threatened to shoot us. They hardly fed us and we were very hungry. But when the soldiers liberated us, they gave us some food.”

Despite the successes of the military, many of the reclaimed towns are empty. Only small groups of women, children and the elderly can be found.

Death and emptiness: that’s what’s halal.

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

Bye bye, have fun

Mar 16th, 2015 11:05 am | By

I accidentally saw the last few minutes of the everlasting CBS news show 60 Minutes last night, and was horrified. It was about one Damian Aspinall and his Exciting Adventure of taking some captive-raised gorillas to Africa and abandoning them there. At the end Leslie Stahl said, “I wish we could end on an optimistic note but we can’t. A month later all five adult females were found dead” and so was the one juvenile.

Five adult female gorillas killed by the actions of their “owner” – a critically endangered species. I went incandescent with rage. I know, I’m always doing that, but then I’m always being given reasons, aren’t I.

I used to work up close and personal with gorillas at the zoo.

Daily Kos has a story.

A report on 60 Minutes this evening described the plight of British aristocrat Damian Aspinall, whose father raised a private menagerie of lowland gorillas. After his father died, he came to the conclusion that keeping wild animals in a zoo was wrong and cruel to animals. To rectify his father’s error, he decided to send gorillas that had been raised in Britain to Gabon in West Africa. Among those he sent were a troop of eleven gorillas whom had trained in a “gorilla school” to prepare them for the wild.

Five out of the eleven died within a month of being released.

“Private menagerie” gives a slightly misleading impression. Howletts (that’s what it’s called, and there’s another branch at and called Port Lympne) is open to the public, and it has had huge success getting gorillas to breed and raise the young. I once went to Howletts, in 1986, soon after I stopped working at the Woodland Park Zoo (where I’d worked for six years). The gorillas were impressive. They had a huge enclosure full of stuff to do, and there were babies and youngsters galore. Howletts at that time had more gorilla births than any other zoo in the world, as far as I know. Most zoos would rejoice at one, and Howletts had several every year.

But Howletts had its problems. It had a bad name among zoo keepers, because John Aspinall had a firm policy that keepers had to be hands-on with the animals, and the result was that not one but two keepers were killed by tigers. We thought that was very uncool.

And then, of course, Howletts is captivity, and there’s plenty of controversy about keeping animals in captivity for entertainment and/or education, and the “private” status of Howletts meant he didn’t have to live up to rules or expectations that govern non-private zoos. So there are issues. But I don’t know of anybody who knows anything about the subject who thinks it’s a fabulous idea to raise animals in captivity and then take them to Gabon and drop them there. It’s fucking criminal, is what it is.

If you want a precedent, you can check out what happened to Lucy. It’s disgusting.

After Stahl said the adult females and one youngster were dead, there was a bit with Aspinall talking to the camera, saying if the gorillas all died his detractors would be overjoyed but he didn’t care, because blah blah blah. Well it’s not about him, it’s about them, so he should care!

Just from watching the 60 Minutes report, it was clear that this effort was doomed from the start. However well intentioned Aspinall may have been, expecting animals raised by humans to survive in the jungle was naïve bordering upon stupid. Gorilla experts such as those at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund warned that gorillas, being susceptible to shock when their surroundings were changed, would not do well in the wild after spending twenty years being cared for by people. Aspinall brushed off their advice, saying that only a “maverick” like himself could solve the problem of animal captivity.

However, the report quickly revealed the flaws in Aspinall’s plan. One video included in the story showed Aspinall reuniting with one of his favorite gorillas, Kwibi. Kwibi rushed out to see what was happening the minute he heard Aspinall’s boat nearby. As charming as the reunion may have been, rushing towards signs of human activity is extremely dangerous for a gorilla in the wild, given the threat posed by poachers. Furthermore, Kwibi, after meeting with Aspinall again, refused to let him go when he tried to leave. This was not the reaction of a wild animal, but of a domesticated animal that has been abandoned in the wild.

Furthermore, although the trainers at the “gorilla school” tried to teach the gorillas survival skills, to lure the animals into the wild they had to provide them with food. Associating humans with food is probably the best way to get a wild animal killed.

And it’s just fucking cruel. It’s like taking 4-year-old children to Gabon and abandoning them in the wilderness.

I’m amazed and horrified that no one was able to prevent him from doing this, and I seriously hope someone can prevent him from doing it to any more gorillas…which is his plan.

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

They pushed the whole world to subscribe to Charlie Hebdo

Mar 15th, 2015 4:50 pm | By

More from that long interview with Caroline Fourest.

What about Charlie Hebdo now?

The irony of this crime is that those jihadists have killed the journalists of Charlie Hebdo because they wanted to silence this newspaper, but today they pushed the whole world to subscribe to Charlie Hebdo. The cartoonists who have been killed, we grew up with them. They made us laugh since we were very young, about the actuality, about religion, about politicians, about everything! To see this pure violence, fanaticism, this completely stupid brutality against these sweet, smart and funny people, it created a big shock in France.  Today, Charlie Hebdo is the symbol of the progressive people who want to continue to be free to criticize religion, to defend a secular republic and democracy. It’s the symbol of those people who are fighting against the extreme-right, the conservatives who want to divide people and create hatred against Muslims. This was, is and will be the symbol of Charlie Hebdo. This is the balance, which we want to keep alive for many years.

Damn right. My copy is right here beside me, like a comfort blanket.

And what about Sky News cutting her off that time when she showed the Tout est pardonné cover, and then apologized to the audience for showing it for a second?

In the middle of this horror, it has been great to see the support of some colleagues from all around the world, even from those who took a risk, like in Turkey.  Yet, we’ve been completely betrayed by many of the newspapers from USA and UK. As they live in complete democracy, they’re not taking any risk, or they are not facing any pressure like the journalists in Turkey, yet they failed to show the cover. They’ve asked us continuously “what will Charlie Hebdo’s new cover be?” because the whole world was wondering about it. So I showed the cover on the Sky News, and they cut me out. And they’ve apologized to the viewers who could have been shocked! This is just insane! It’s a very sweet cover, where Mohammed is crying, it’s a cover of forgiveness for these brutal attacks. It’s what my colleagues could do after surviving a slaughter like that. And the channel is apologizing to the believers who can be offended by a cover of forgiveness, but not by the killing? There are many people coming from Muslim background who don’t share this opinion of these journalists. By saying that my colleagues did something “wrong” by drawing this cover, they are justifying violence. It’s very irresponsible of these media platforms.

Yes yes yes. It was revolting and infuriating.

I believe the religious rights are becoming more important than the rights of non-believers’. They revealed the bloody images of the victims from the slaughter, yet they cannot show a simple cartoon about religion. What Sky News did, created a scandal, and the debate is not over on that.

Good. I’ll be happy to hold your coat while you battle them.

They share worries about Erdoğan and the attack on secularism in Turkey. Then there’s the variety of people who go after her:

Even inside this secular democratic country, I’m criticized and insulted a lot for my works. I’ve been portrayed as an “Islamophobic”, since I criticize religion, and I’ve been attacked as “Islamophile” by National Front and the Catholic fundamentalists.

- Yes about that, you’ve been beaten on the street on broad day light by the conservatives, how did that happen?

For France 2 channel, I was covering as a very big Catholic protest against same-sex marriage. Yet I hid myself with a hat and a scarf.  FEMEN arrived and those fanatics attacked them brutally. In the middle of the fight they recognized me. I’m a journalist they particularly hate so they beat me as well. I have no doubt that every extremist can be as brutal and stupid as the other one. They’re using different identities, different flags such as a flag of a religion or a nation but once they’re patriarchal and extremists, they look quite the same to me. In their mind, in their hearts, they look very much alike.

That’s why I keep saying Islamism is fascism. It’s all the same shit.

How about Marine Le Pen’s efforts to make Charlie Hebdo a National Front issue?

I think that she’s the one who is the most illegitimate person to speak in the name of Charlie Hebdo. She’s one of the main targets of Charlie Hebdo, it’s known that Charlie Hebdo hates National Front. The organizations that sued Charlie Hebdo the most are the Catholics close to National Front. So she’s in a bad position to claim herself on Charlie Hebdo’s side.

Then she says god hates women.

There are no women’s rights in religious regimes, never! Because the religious domination always attacks the women’s body first. They want to control the body of women. I think it’s their main motivation. It’s been almost 16 years that I’m working on fanatics from all religions and I do not find them obsessed by spirituality. They are more obsessed about women and controlling women. This is why feminism should be leading the resistance against the fanatics. Of course this is exactly what the fanatics are afraid about. As a backlash to religious fundamentalism, fight for equality will grow bigger, a lot bigger than how fundamentalism is growing.

Yeah. Hating women is the first thing on their agenda, and everything else is far behind. This is why feminism should be leading the resistance against the fanatics.

There’s a lot more; read it all, it’s great.

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

The hallowed existence of women in the Islamic State

Mar 15th, 2015 2:35 pm | By

From last month – life for women under Daesh control.

Residents of Mosul, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour have told the Guardian in interviews conducted by phone and Skype that women are forced to be accompanied by a male guardian, known as a mahram, at all times, and are compelled to wear double-layered veils, loose abayas and gloves.

Their testimonies follow the publication this month of an Isis “manifesto” to clarify the “realities of life and the hallowed existence of women in the Islamic State”. It said that girls could be married from the age of nine, and that women should only leave the house in exceptional circumstances and should remain “hidden and veiled”.

That’s a “hallowed existence” all right – handed over to be sex slaves at age 9, and muffled in head-to-foot bags for life. The only thing more hallowed is a rotting corpse.

Sama Maher, 20, a resident of Raqqa who has been detained several times by Isis religious police, known as Hisbah, for violating Isis rules, said: “It is prohibited for a woman in Raqqa or Deir el-Zour to move anywhere outside without a mahram, a male guardian. It is a big problem as I do not have any, we are only five sisters.”

Well then she can’t go outside, obviously. This isn’t rocket science.

Daesh has closed universities, too, she says.

In Mosul, Isis published a charter within weeks of taking taking control of the city, restricting women’s movements and imposing dress requirements. Women were instructed to wear a Saudi-style black veil of two layers to conceal their eyes and a loose robe designed by Isis after it said some abayas revealed body outlines.

Many women initially objected to the Isis order but complied when they realised they could be beaten, humiliated and fined, and their husbands might be punished. Men are now forcing their wives and daughters to stay at home to avoid confrontations with Hisbah, which issues orders via the internet or by posting written statements at shops warning against violations of Islamic rules in the city.

Diary of Anne Frank, innit.

In Raqqa, the Isis “capital” in Syria, women were initially ordered to wear a black abaya covering the entire body. Soon after, a command to wear a veil was issued, then a third ordered a shield on top of the abaya. Women are also instructed to wear only black, including gloves and shoes. Isis subsequently ordered women to hide their eyes, requiring a a double-layered veil.

Then they ordered women to add a horse blanket, then a diving bell, then a tank, then they said the hell with it and buried them all 50 feet deep.

Mosul resident Sabah Nadiem said: “I went once with my wife to one of the old souqs to do some shopping, and after a short while I lost her among the crowd. The problem was that all the women were wearing veils and it was hard to know who was my wife.”

No problem, just grab all their butts until you recognize one.

In Deir el-Zour in Syria, the rules for female pupils and students appear to be stricter. “Little girls in primary schools have to wear an abaya until the 4th class, when they have to wear a veil too,” said Sali Issam, 15, a secondary school student. “Though all the teachers in girls’ schools are female, neither students nor teachers are allowed to lift the veil of their faces inside the classroom.”

Well you know what sluts girls are when they’re six.

Women in labour in maternity hospitals in Mosul are forced to comply with dress codes. “When I was in labour, I went to the hospital wearing a veil though it was too hot. Isis Hisbah were at the front door of the hospital. I saw some women in labour who seemed to be in a panic and did not have time to wear a veil. I was shocked to see that they were denied access to the hospital unless they put veils on their faces,” said Salah.

It’s kind of sad that the newborns all die because no one is allowed to get at them.

Buses are also stopped for passengers to be checked. If a woman is found without required dress or mahram, all passengers are forced to disembark and the bus is refused permission to proceed. “If Hisbah spot a woman without a mahram in a bus, the whole bus is evacuated and sent back because the driver accepted her,” said Maher.

In Mosul, single women are not allowed to be the last passenger on a bus, alone with the driver. Women are forced to get off buses before their destination if there are no other passengers present. Bassma Adel, 35, who works in a bank, had to get off a bus to avoid being alone with the driver even though she was not near her home.

“I had to walk to my house though the distance was long in inclement weather. One of my male colleagues passed by his car and offered to give me a lift. We drove for a short distance before we were spotted by Hisbah. They asked us for a document that proves my colleague was a mahram to me. When we failed to do that, they reproached us for being together in the car and humiliated us and ordered me to step down.”

There’s just no end to it, the relentless determination to make women’s lives shitty and difficult and degrading, down to the smallest detail.

Recently Isis ordered all female hairdressers to be shut down in Mosul. Samah Nasir, 43, had her own hairdressing shop for more than nine years – the only source of income for her three children as her husband is ill and unable to work. “I decided to reopen my shop despite the Isis embargo because I had nothing to feed my children and pay for my husband’s medications.”

Shortly after, Hisbah broke in her house and took her and her husband to a sharia court. “The judge ruled that I should pay $1,500 [£977] as a fine and get 10 lashes on the bottom of my feet in one of the rooms in the sharia court. I have not been in such a situation all my life.” Now Nasir rarely leaves her house.

Where she and her children and her husband are starving to death – or were when this was written; no doubt they’re all dead now.

All the names were changed.

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

The reason why they killed my colleagues

Mar 15th, 2015 11:19 am | By

Dilara Gürcü talks to the amazing Caroline Fourest.

Let’s begin by talking about Charlie Hebdo. How would you define Charlie Hebdo?

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper, it’s a paper known to make people laugh about all types of power, domination and ideology. It’s very important to understand that no cartoon in Charlie Hebdo goes to publication without context. The fanatics and the literalists cannot or do not want to understand this. It probably did a hundred times more caricatures of the Pope, the Catholic Church then of Islam. They’re making caricatures about politics a lot, all types of politicians but especially the extreme right. The worst enemy of Charlie Hebdo is National Front and Marine Le Pen. There were lots of caricatures about Nicholas Sarkozy as well because it’s a leftist newspaper. It defends another type of economy, a less capitalistic one. Charlie Hebdo defended Palestine as well, yet it is less known. Charb and Tignous who got killed were strong pro-Palestine activists and there were many caricatures about Israeli soldiers at Gaza in Charlie Hebdo. It’s a newspaper reacting to the actuality. It means that if a Rabbi would kill in the name of defending Moses, then probably Moses would be the cover, as that would be the current actuality.

Then they talk about Charlie Hebdo’s publication of the Danish Motoons and the way Iran and Saudi and Syria used the cartoons as a way to distract their populations from more substantial problems.

Suddenly spontaneous crowds started to demonstrate in those countries, where we know demonstrations are not so free. “Spontaneous” crowds started burning Danish embassies. In Charlie Hebdo, we had one job as any newspaper did, to cover the actuality, so we did. But as we are Charlie Hebdo, we wanted to cover the actuality in our way. We published those cartoons inside the newspaper and our cover was different. We decided in a meeting that these fanatics are always making Mohamed speak in their sense, giving a bad image about religion. We wanted to portray Mohamed thinking he cannot stand those fanatics speaking and killing in his name. So in that cover Mohamed is almost in tears and saying “it’s so hard to be loved by assholes!” That cover is the reason why they killed my colleagues because the death threats started after that.

It was a benign intention, and that’s why they killed her colleagues. It’s terrible.

They talk about France’s long history of laughing at religion, and the way some countries make one religion official.

In France, we want every religion to be equal, and no religion is favored or prioritized by the state. To obtain that, we had to fight the Catholic Church, which was connected to state back in the medieval times and during the monarchy times. We established a secular republic by fighting against this. In order to fight we had to first de-symbolize the sacred power of the Catholic Church. It was a very insulting and violent process. For example in Charlie Hebdo, the actuality of pedophilia in church was covered many times, by portraying priests as child molesters.

Religion gets a huge boost from the most literal version of the halo effect. Mockery is a counterweight to that.

And what about that cartoonist who was fired from CH because of anti-Semitism? Was that favoritism?

I know this story very well and the propaganda that goes with it. Siné was fired because he insulted our director, wrote a lie in his column and then refused to correct it. This is something unacceptable in journalism! Yes, he used all racist clichés about Jews in his column. As I said, Charlie Hebdo is an antiracist newspaper. It defends the right to mock ideas or belief but not being racist against people. This is also against the antiracist law in France. A few years ago, Charlie Hebdo’s director did the same thing with another journalist who supported a writer who attacked Muslims. Surprisingly no one was shocked this time or no one noticed that this is solid proof that Charlie Hebdo is an antiracist newspaper. What is strange to me is why some people are accusing Charlie Hebdo of being Islamophobic yet they refuse to see that Charlie Hebdo does not incorporate racist journalists? Is it because for some people being racist against Jewish people is OK but blasphemy is not? I think we all know what their problem is.

To be continued.

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

Standing up for the right to blaspheme

Mar 15th, 2015 9:22 am | By

A news item that’s not being reported yet (Twitter can be very useful for that) – Maajid Nawaz got a motion on free speech and the right to blaspheme passed at the LibDems conference a few hours ago.

Embedded image permalink

Maajid 4 H&K @MaajidLibDem 6 hours ago
Motion on free speech & right to blaspheme PASSED!

Well done.

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

A prize for courage

Mar 14th, 2015 5:11 pm | By

A good thing today – Lars Vilks won an award.

A Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog has made his first public appearance since attending a debate that was targeted in a gun attack in Copenhagen last month.

Lars Vilks received a prize for courage from a free press group, at a heavily secured event in the Danish parliament.

His cartoon offended many Muslims and he now lives under guard in Sweden.

Oh damn, Beeb, you were doing so well. Two whole sentences you managed before blaming Lars for being almost murdered for drawing cartoons about religion.

And I doubt that it’s even true that his cartoon “offended many Muslims”; I think it offended a few, and those few are of the type who try to kill people who “offend” against their religion.

Mr Vilks, who has been associated with the Swedish left, received the Sappho award from the right-wing Danish Free Press Society.

Receiving the prize, Mr Vilks said he had not aimed to become a symbol of freedom of speech.

“I am an artist and my artwork is probably difficult to understand. Many have tried to understand what that dog is about. But I don’t even understand it myself.

“Some believe that it is a form of blasphemy, but I say that it is what art is all about. I show my things to the world and then the world must interpret it.”

It’s not an obviously “offensive” cartoon; the dog-human hybrid is rather handsome.


The armed security around the prize-giving – as well as its location in parliament – shows how much Denmark has changed since the February attack, says the BBC’s Malcolm Brabant in Copenhagen.

Our correspondent says the show of force is something of a culture shock for what has been a peaceful and relatively secure country.

Of course; it’s horrible.

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