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Gagging the Mississippi

Sep 18th, 2010 | By PZ Myers

The Mississippi is a mess. I live in the agricultural, rural upper midwest, and one of the nasty surprises lurking beneath the rich green fields is that the rivers are ugly stews of fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides from agricultural runoff. We have data that it hurts people, too: premature births and birth defects show seasonal fluctuations that peak for children conceived in the spring and summer, when the chemicals are being sprayed into the air and are dribbling into the streams. The villains are agribusiness and overproduction and the corn ethanol boondoggle and horrors like the fecal lakes associated with swine farms. Louisiana’s environmental problems are partly the product of Minnesota’s toxic largesse.

It needs to be known. The … Read the rest

Malawi: Children Commit Suicide After Prayers

Sep 16th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

Ordinarily, not much is heard about Malawi -a country that was ruled for so many years by the late dictator, Kamuzu Banda. Apart from the recent case of a gay couple convicted and later pardoned by President Mutharika who is also the current Chair of the African Union, Malawi is hardly in the news.

But that does not mean that all is well with this country. No, all is not well with ‘Nyasaland’. Malawi like many other African countries is trapped in the vicious circle of poverty, ignorance, superstition and religious fanaticism. Independence has not brought this nation emergence and prosperity. Education has not resulted in emancipation, civilization and enlightenment. The different religious groups in the country are living together … Read the rest

A look into the Psychology of Dictators

Sep 15th, 2010 | By Jahanshah Rashidian

The behaviour of dictators like Ahmadinejad, Ghadafi, Idi Amin etc., is not solely a funny subject for people, a witty personage for media, and a caricature for satirists; such behaviour has the potential of catastrophes for a whole nation. They represent an Islamic, authoritarian or even totalitarian regime which is morally bankrupt and thus can commit any wrongdoing.
While many psychopaths are incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals and penal institutions, it has been recognised that a few of them were clever enough to enter the history of mankind, creating catastrophes. All these misfits need to rule is an insane ideology or belief system through which they surround themselves with mad people, devoted followers and blind killers who are equally clueless about … Read the rest

An open letter to Facebook founder on Namazie and Ahadi

Sep 14th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie

Mr Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Headquarters
156 University Avenue
Palo Alto
California 94301-1605

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

I am writing to ask that you reinstate the Facebook accounts of Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi as a matter of urgency. Their accounts were disabled without warning on Monday 13 September 2010. As well as reinstating these accounts, we ask that an explanation is provided as to why they were disabled.

Maryam Namazie and Mina Ahadi are well known human rights campaigners who have worked globally to end the barbaric practice of stoning, as well as other human rights abuses. Both have been awarded Secularist of the Year by the National Secular Society (UK) and named in the top 45 ‘women of the year’ … Read the rest

God, Goodness and Morality

Sep 13th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

An opening address delivered by Leo Igwe at the 2nd Annual conference of the Free Society Institute of South Africa, co-hosted  by the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

Date: September 11 2010 Venue Cape Milner Hotel, Cape Town South Africa

Once again the FSI has demonstrated its commitment to the mission of promoting free thought and free speech in South Africa. Last year we all met in this hall for the first conference of this Institute co-hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union. And I must say that last year’s event remains one of the best humanist programs I have attended in Africa. I was deeply impressed by the quality of the presentations, debates, and discussions. I was inspired … Read the rest

Why having chronic illness hasn’t turned me to god

Sep 9th, 2010 | By Amy Clare

As an atheist, I am often told that I shouldn’t criticise religion, as it offers comfort to people in difficult situations. When you suffer every day, the faithful tell me, you need the hope and meaning that religion gives you – the implication of course being that atheism is a luxury, something that only privileged, comfortable, healthy, able-bodied people can indulge in.

These same people are often surprised to learn that I have a debilitating chronic medical condition, and in fact I do suffer every day. And yet, I have still not turned to god. I still do not believe in an afterlife, despite the fact that in my Earthly life, I will probably never feel truly healthy or ‘normal’ … Read the rest

The Convenience Marriage of Fundamentalism and Perversion

Sep 8th, 2010 | By Lauryn Oates

In a 2003 essay for Daedalus, Christopher Hitchens wrote that, “religious absolutism makes a good match with tribal feelings and with sexual repression—two of the base ingredients of the fascistic style.”

There’s no doubt that repressed sexuality is a feature of most religions, and the cause of many an unhappy union made under god’s banner. But less often discussed is religion’s facilitative role to sexual perversions. The more fundamentalist the dogma, the sicker the stuff taking place in between the sheets.

Take the bacha baz of Afghanistan for instance. The bacha baz are men who take boys as lovers, or more accurately, as repeated rape victims. Over the years I’ve worked in Afghanistan, there has always been hushed … Read the rest

Open letter to the BBC

Sep 8th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie
BBC Sunday Live invited me to join its debate on whether ‘it is right to condemn Iran for stoning’ on 5 September 2010 via webcam. During the debate, the programme allowed only two interventions via webcam (that of Suhaib Hassan of the Islamic Sharia Council and Mohammad Morandi of Tehran University – both of whom were in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s stoning and/or execution). I (who had presumably been invited to defend Ms Ashtiani and oppose stoning in the debate) was never given the opportunity to speak.   To the BBC’s Sunday Live Programme   I am writing to ask that you rectify gross inaccuracies regarding Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case and that of stoning in Iran in your upcoming programme.   Presenter… Read the rest

Lose Your Illusion: Essays by Joumana Haddad

Sep 5th, 2010 | By Max Dunbar

Here are a few statistics you may or may not be familiar with. The 2002 Arab Human Development Report estimated that the Arab world translates around 330 books annually, one fifth of the number translated by Greece. Taking the long view, the authors also estimated that the Arab world had translated 100,000 books since the Caliph Ma’mun in the ninth century. This is just under the average number translated by Spain in a year. How many books are actually produced? We don’t really know. While they admitted that there were ‘no reliable figures’, the researchers indicated that ‘many indicators suggest a severe shortage of writing; a large share of the market consists of religious books and educational publications that are … Read the rest

Secular Nepal – Challenges Ahead

Sep 1st, 2010 | By Ravi Dhungel

Nepal is the youngest secular country in the world. With the interim constitution moving farther away from the nitty-gritty of constitution making, the so-called secular Nepal lingers farther away on the horizon. The politicians are busy manifesting the new but failed doctrine in the name of national consensus to make the national government, merely for the sake of power. Paradoxically, the pro-Hindu faction keeps on demonstrating and chanting against the abolition of the Hindu kingdom, the religious icon of Nepal.  There are hundreds of ethnic groups based on particular religions. Ethnic diversity prevails along with the geographic diversity of Nepal. The society is inevitably polarizing in terms of caste, region and religion.  Is this the notion of the new secular … Read the rest

To Ban or Not to Ban? The Burqa, Religious Identity, and Politics

Aug 31st, 2010 | By Timothy Rowe

A great deal of confusion surrounds the burqa and the issue of its being worn in Western countries. A traditional religious garment, the burqa covers a woman’s face and body so completely that only a small slit for the eyes remains to allow the sight of the person behind it.[1] Earlier in the year French legislators passed a vote deploring the apparel, and the lower house recently passed a bill 335-1 which would see it made illegal to wear in public, a vote quickly condemned by Amnesty International as threatening to freedom of expression and religion. While the bill will move to the Senate later in the year, should France actually enact a ban it would not stand out … Read the rest

I will continue to speak out for justice and human rights

Aug 24th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

The recent attack on my family which led to my father’s loss of one eye was an unfortunate development. It was yet another attempt to intimidate us and undermine our campaign for justice.

 To any intelligent observer of the trends in Nigeria, this incident would not have come as a surprise. Because Nigeria has practically been taken over by thugs, hoodlums, kidnappers and bandits.

Nigeria is held hostage by forces of dark age and barbarism. Anything that appears to be civil or enlightened about Nigeria is mainly on the surface. Since independence Nigeria has been descending gradually into anomie, anarchy and criminality. Nigeria has derailed and deteriorated due to misrule, bad governance, collective irresponsibility and insensitivity, lack of vision and … Read the rest

“They think they can do anything to women”

Aug 17th, 2010 | By Maryam Namazie
Join 28 August action of 100 cities against stoning   Hello   Thanks so much for your support of the campaign to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from death by stoning and execution. The public outcry is what has kept her alive so far. When her 22 year old son Sajjad first wrote an open letter asking people everywhere to intervene there was no legal recourse left and she was to face imminent death by stoning for ‘adultery.’   In another letter written a few days ago, Sajjad reiterates Ashtiani’s innocence and says: ‘What sort of justice is this?’ (http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com/2010/08/sakineh-ashtianis-son-do-not-let-her-be.html).   The Islamic regime in Iran is doing everything it can to kill Ashtiani and push back the international campaign. The regime has… Read the rest

A violent attack on Leo Igwe’s family

Aug 12th, 2010 | By Leo Igwe

Around midnight on Wednesday August  4 2010,two gunmen invaded my family house in Mbaise in Imo state in Southern Nigeria. They shot twice in the air and my mother fainted. They later descended on my aging father and started beating him. They blindfolded him with a piece of cloth and hit him several times with stones.

He later fainted and the hoodlums ransacked the whole house and made away with whatever they found valuable. My father  bled from the right eye, nose and mouth. He had bruises on his head, hands, legs and chest. After the attack, some neighbours came and rushed him to a nearby hospital. From there, I moved him to an eye hospital in Lagos where the … Read the rest

The Future is Female

Aug 1st, 2010 | By Max Dunbar

‘Some folks don’t believe there is pious niggers, Shelby,’ said Haley, with a candid flourish of his hand, ‘but I do. I had a fellow, now, in this yer last lot I took to Orleans – ‘twas good as a meetin’ now, really; to hear that critter pray; and he was quite gentle and quiet like. He fetched me a good sum, too, for I bought him cheap off a man that was ‘bliged to sell out; so I realised six hundred on him. Yes, I consider religion a valeyable thing in a nigger, when it’s the genuine article, and no mistake.’

  •  Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Post 9/11, everyone wanted to have something to say about Islam. Governments … Read the rest

Visible or Invisible: Growing up Female in a Porn Culture

Jul 28th, 2010 | By Gail Dines

At a lecture I was giving in a large West Coast university in the Spring of 2008, the female students talked extensively about how much they preferred to have a completely waxed pubic area as it made them feel “clean,” “hot” and “well groomed.”  As they excitedly insisted that they themselves chose to have a Brazilian wax, one student let slip that her boyfriend had complained when she decided to give up on waxing. Then there was silence. I asked the student to say more about her boyfriend’s preferences and how she felt about his criticism. As she started to speak other students joined in, only now the conversation took a very different turn. The excitement in the room gave … Read the rest

Counterproductive Online Journalism

Jul 27th, 2010 | By Carl Anders

It is said that rejection is just the things you say to yourself everyday, except said by someone else. To a failed writer, this balance of rejection is firmly in the court of the rejecting editors encountered to date at this stage, but the maxim is similar in the world of Web 2.0. Blogs, comments, forums, social networking, it’s the stuff you say in your head, except communicated as text, but the difference is it’s unlikely you would say them to anyone’s face (at least not sober).

However, this caveat is often used to somehow dampen the impact of the internet. It’s just the internet; no one takes it seriously do they? Well, do they? As the print media will … Read the rest

Conference on political Islam v women’s rights

Jul 20th, 2010 | By Homa Arjomand

International Campaign Against Shari’a Court in Canada

Conference on

Effect of globalization of political Islam on Women’s Rights, in connection with
Polygamy, Neqab and Honor Killing

The problem of legal pluralism and cultural relativism with respect to women’s Rights

Discussion on separation of religion from state

Confirmed Speakers:

Social and political activist, founder of the Organization for Women’s Liberation – Iran, founder of  Mansoor Hekmat foundation, producer and host of several TV programs in Farsi and English on New Channel TV, a satellite TV broadcasting into Iran under the name of  No to Political Islam, co-founder of  the Center for Women and Socialism, editor of Medusa, the director of Radio International, a radio station broadcasting into Iran.

Azar Majedie… Read the rest

If speaking the truth is offensive, let us offend

Jul 19th, 2010 | By Lauryn Oates

On July 15, Aruna Papp, author of a recently released report, “Culturally-driven violence against women: A growing problem in Canada’s immigrant communities” published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s study, wrote in an editorial in the Vancouver Sun:

Problematically, most advocates and activists for female victims of abuse shy away from challenging the immigrant communities to examine their own traditions and cultural values in explaining the violence in their homes.

The ideology of multiculturalism, even among the most well-meaning advocates for female equality, tends to preclude any discussion of cultural values and traditions. Such advocates are afraid of being seen as “colonialist” and try to avoid a perceived “racialization” of an entire ethnic community.

Papp writes in the … Read the rest

With What Authority does a Public Philosopher Speak?

Jul 18th, 2010 | By Andrew Taggart

In the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, we have (so Internet gurus like to suggest) moved from a top-down, “authoritarian” approach to web content to an interactive, user-generated, kaleidoscopic, and, above all, more “democratic” social experiment. As Elie Ofek, a professor of marketing and expert on business innovation, recently put it, consumers “now want to customize content and products to fit their preferences and personality, get immediate feedback on their actions and opinions, and be rewarded for their contributions.” If the bromide that Internet content wants to be free is actually true, then how much more true is it that people in an open society, those committed to a virtual public sphere as well as to each … Read the rest