Welcome to our articles section. The articles below either have been written specifically for ButterfliesandWheels or are appearing here having been published elsewhere previously.

If you’re interested in writing an article for ButterfliesandWheels, please click here for our information for contributors page.

The MCB and the Muslim Marriage Contract

Aug 24th, 2008 | By Allen Esterson

On 21st August 2008 Reefat Drabu of the Muslim Council of Britain posted an article on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website in which she defended the decision of the MCB to withdraw support from the proposed
Muslim Marriage Contract as follows:

The marriage contract produced by the Muslim Institute is simply one interpretation of shariah. It is not the shariah that needs to be re-invented, but a change in behaviour among some sections of our diverse Muslim communities. This is an onerous task that cannot be achieved through blustering demands and emphatic slogans that will only resonate in the salons of Islington and Notting Hill…

MCB represents and serves diverse Muslim communities…The MCB is a broad-based inclusive organisation of

Read the rest

On Intellectual Ethics

Aug 17th, 2008 | By Stephen Law, R Joseph Hoffmann, Daphne Patai, Nick Cohen

The story

From ‘You Still Can’t Write
About Muhammad’
by Asra Nomani in The Wall Street Journal.

A journalist named Sherry Jones wrote a historical novel about Aisha, who was married to Mohammed when she was 6, though he waited until she was 9 before having sex with her. The novel was due to be published this August; last April Random House sent it to several people for comment, including Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Texas in Austin. Jones has put Spellberg on the list because she had read Spellberg’s book, Politics, Gender, and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ‘A’isha Bint Abi Bakr. Spellberg thought the book was terrible; on … Read the rest

The State of the Nayshun

Aug 9th, 2008 | By R. Joseph Hoffmann

As we wait for the inevitable decline in Barack Obama’s fortunes and lament the fact that the political campaign being waged in the world’s greatest democracy has become a battle between a feisty old man in a baseball cap and a young Cicero increasingly prone to leaden rather than silver tongued oration, it’s appropriate to take stock of the intellectual condition of the nation.

My friends, as the feisty old man likes to say, Things are Not Good. Nearly half a century ago the mini-genre of “Why Is America So Fucking Stupid” was born with the publication of Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, though some would argue (I would) that the genre can be dated from … Read the rest

Investment in the Placebo Effect

Aug 3rd, 2008 | By Stewart Justman

Advised Daniel Cathell in a much-consulted manual for physicians published in 1922, “It is often very satisfying to the sick to be allowed to tell, in their own way, whatever they deem important for you to know. Give to all a fair, courteous hearing, and, even though Mrs. Chatterbox, Mr. Borum, and Mrs. Lengthy’s statements are tedious, do not abruptly cut them short, but endure and listen with respectful attention, even though you are ready to drop exhausted.”[1] The physician doomed to such recitations would have been that much more exhausted if instead of sitting in the comfort of his own quarters he made house calls one after another. In its own way, even medicine was a laborious trade. “It … Read the rest

David Littman’s Statement to UN HRC June 16 2008

Aug 2nd, 2008 | By AWE and IHEU

UNHR Council: 8th Session (2-18 June 2008): President: Ambassador Doru Romulus Costea Speaker: AWE Representative David G. LITTMAN. Monday (4:40-6:05p.m.) 16 June 2008

Follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action:Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system (item 8)

Mr President
[Words in red not pronounced on President’s advice, after the meeting was suspended 30 minutes]
In the context of integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations System, we wish to draw attention to four examples of widespread violence against women that we believe merit far greater attention from the Council.

1. Regarding FGM, our detailed written statement [The 1st interruption by Egypt’s delegate occurred here; about 15 others … Read the rest

Calls to Kill in the name of God or Religion

Jul 30th, 2008 | By IHEU and AWE

Joint written statement submitted at the Sixty-second session of the UN Commission on Human Rights by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), and the Association for World Education, and the Association of World Citizens, February 28, 2006.

1. The legitimacy of the use of violence and acts of terrorism in the name of Islam is
the subject of continuing debate within the Islamic world. The debate, which is clearly
divisive, turns on interpretations of the concept of Jihad when carried out as “Holy War.”

2. It is significant that persons close to those who carried out the London bombings on
7 July 2005 and the earlier attacks in Madrid, as well as other terror attacks, claimed that
they did … Read the rest

To be a moderate

Jul 27th, 2008 | By Carl Anders

There are only so many areas in life where it is possible to be moderate. In fact, the term “moderate” has the feeling of an insult implying a less than desirable condition. Even Dante seemed more annoyed with the Agnostics than with homosexual clerics and corrupt politicians. However, in socio-political circles it is possible to be moderate and get away with it.

If you don’t subscribe to any political party it gets even easier. You can believe in free trade, feel that there are significant benefits to globalisation, and that this can be achieved without compromising fundamental worker rights. The two are not mutually exclusive.

You can feel that there has to be a system to retain and encourage entrepreneurs … Read the rest

This Is An Annoyance-Free Zone (but tacky souvenirs welcome)

Jul 17th, 2008 | By Josh Slocum

It’s probably too much to hope the Parliament of New South Wales is hanging its head after a righteous scolding by the Federal Court of Australia[1]. After all, the government was bold enough to outlaw “annoying” the Catholic throngs descending on Sydney for a five-day Pope-a-Rama. Attempting to shame the Catholic Church is likewise futile; given its irony-free staging of the world’s biggest adolescent/clergy mixer, we must presume it innocent of that emotion.

But let’s try anyway.

Previously, on “World Youth Day. . .”

The Vatican picked Sydney for its latest “pilgrimage of faith, where young people from diverse backgrounds meet and experience the love of God.” Events from July 15-20, 2008, will include spiritual favorites: multiple catechisms, on-site confession, … Read the rest

The Animal Liberation Front and Intimidation

Jul 12th, 2008 | By Ophelia Benson

On Tuesday October 18 2005, a member of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) rang a hotel in Anaheim, California. A pharmaceuticals conference was taking place at the hotel. One of the delegates was Steve Ruckman of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a company which uses animals in research and testing. A communiqué from the ALF dated October 25, which includes the warning “Associate with HLS and we will ruin your life,” reports the conversation this way:

“ALF: Hello, I stayed in Room xxx recently and think I left something behind.

Concierge: What is that?

ALF: A bomb. You’ve allowed HLS to come into your hotel, now you will pay the price.

Concierge: What was that?

ALF: If Steven Ruckman from HLS takes

Read the rest

Identity is That Which is Given

Jul 9th, 2008 | By Kenan Malik

The anthropologist Margaret Mead once observed that in the 1930s, when she was busy remaking the idea of culture, the notion of cultural diversity was to be found only in the ‘vocabulary of a small and technical group of professional anthropologists’. Today, everyone and everything seems to have its own culture. From anorexia to zydeco, the American philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has observed, there is little that we don’t talk about as the product of some group’s culture. In this age of globalisation many people fret about Western culture taking over the world. But the greatest Western export is not Disney or McDonalds or Tom Cruise. It is the very idea of culture. Every island in the Pacific, every tribe … Read the rest

The myth of Science in the Quran

Jul 8th, 2008 | By Adrian Reddy


In 1976, a book was published which claimed that the Quran “..does not contain a single statement that is assailable from a modern scientific point of view”. The book: ‘The Bible, the Quran and Science’ [1] had been written by a French doctor, Maurice Bucaille, who became interested in Islam after he was appointed family physician to King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. In the early chapters, Bucaille proclaims articulately, enthusiastically and with apparent sincerity that the scientific accuracy of the Quran is such that “I could not find a single error…“ and that “…there can be no human explanation” for its contents.

Such a claim was not new. Something similar had been expressed in the 13th century by the … Read the rest

Honour crimes or terrorism against women

Jul 2nd, 2008 | By Azar Majedi

Today all speakers talked about honour crimes as a widespread form of violence against women. What bewilders me is the name given to this horrendous crime: honour. Honour has a very positive connotation. Regardless of one’s world outlook and beliefs, the word honour has a good ring to one’s ear. When you hear this word, you fill up with positive and good feelings. The combination of these two completely opposite concepts to describe one phenomenon brings a lot of contradictions and confusion: “honour crimes!”

I have given this phenomenon a great deal of thought. I posed this question: Why is this brutal act being described so positively? After reflecting on this issue for some time, I came to see a … Read the rest

Pew Study Finds One in Five Atheists Believe in God

Jul 1st, 2008 | By Anne Singer

Washington, DC – The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a second report from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey on Monday concluding that Americans are highly religious and tolerant of other religions and that religion is politically relevant. While none of this is news, the study’s findings about nonreligious Americans are.

Pew reported that 21 percent of atheists in their survey said they believed in God or a universal spirit, that six percent of them considered it a personal god, and that 40 percent of agnostics feel certain that God exists. Conversely, among respondents who say they are affiliated with a religious tradition (Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, etc.), a surprising number said they actually do not believe in … Read the rest

Heat and Light: Christopher Hitchens and His Critics

Jun 29th, 2008 | By Max Dunbar

The case against Christopher Hitchens can be summarised, broadly, in a kind of comic list as done by the British satirical magazine Private Eye:

He supported the Iraq war
He likes a drink
He smokes, as well
He supported the war
He tends to be aggressive in debate
He likes a drink
He supported the war
…That’s it.

In a sense he needs no introduction. (His entry in the contributors’ biographies of this book simply reads: ‘Christopher Hitchens is Christopher Hitchens.’) He is one of the West’s most prolific journalists, speakers and essayists, with a love of literature and hatred for oppression and superstition everywhere. A one-time Marxist, Hitchens’s politics could be defined not so much as ideological … Read the rest

Forced marriages and Divorce…and kangaroo sharia courts

Jun 21st, 2008 | By Gina Khan

I was asked to speak about forced marriages on a local radio show; I didn’t get to say a lot in a few minutes but there is a lot to be said under the current climate.

I wasn’t actually ‘forced’ into an arranged marriage. I was slowly coerced, manipulated and brainwashed by my dad and his family members over a short period of time, when I went on holiday with him at the age of 16. Soon after arriving, I was given some clothes and a ring. My engagement was announced without my knowledge or consent. I thought it was just a gift from my uncle. He had taken me shopping. I chose the ring and clothes myself without any … Read the rest

Health Report From Zimbabwe

Jun 19th, 2008 | By Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights

ZADHR is deeply concerned about the continuing violent trauma being inflicted on the Zimbabwean population. The escalation in numbers and severity of cases of systematic violent assault and torture during May was of a scale which threatened to, and for brief periods did, overwhelm the capacity of health workers to respond. Both first line casualty officers and specialists, especially surgeons and anaesthetists, to whom patients were referred had great difficulty in adequately managing the burden of serious physical trauma.

ZADHR commends the efforts of health professionals in Zimbabwe who continue to provide the highest possible quality of health care to victims of violence under extremely difficult circumstances.

In addition to individuals with significant physical injuries, members of ZADHR saw over … Read the rest

Time for a Paradigm Shift in Indian Higher Education

Jun 18th, 2008 | By Rajesh Kumar Sharma

Ever since the process of economic reforms began in the 1990s, we have been hearing pious noises about the urgent need to reform education also. Obviously, the linkage is pragmatically motivated: economic growth cannot be sustained over a long period without a suitably reformed education system. This is good as far as it goes. If a concern for sustaining economic growth can trigger reforms in education, we should embrace the opportunity.

But it would be disastrous to hang education from the peg of economics, as seems to be happening, without considering the other larger reasons for restructuring it. The need to see the larger picture is urgent also because the dominant vision of economics in the country today is itself … Read the rest

The Jesus Religious Attitudes Survey

Jun 2nd, 2008 | By R Joseph Hoffmann

Pollster: Excuse me, sir.

Jesus: I forgive you.

Pollster: No, I mean I want a minute or two of your time for a survey I’m doing.

Jesus: I have all the time in the world. And then some.

Pollster: We’re surveying religious attitudes–random sample, of 1200 adults. Can I ask, What’s your occupation.

Jesus: I am a messiah.

Pollster: Can you spell that.

Jesus: C-h-r-i-s-t. It’s the Greek form.

Pollster: Are you Greek?

Jesus: No, Palestinian Jew. I’ve been working here in the States for ages though. Things in Europe aren’t what they used to be. I find that in America, you can be anything you want—even a humble carpenter’s … Read the rest

Evidence is for conformists

May 27th, 2008 | By Tim Goot-Brennan

I remember a friend telling me only a few days after the Sept 11 attacks that the World Trade Centre had been wired with bombs either by the government or by the owner. It was also pointed out to me that the dust around the World Trade Centre had fallen in the shape of Satan’s visage. I wouldn’t have predicted it at the time, but the crackpot impulse behind these ideas has become common currency. In one American poll, a third of respondents registered their belief that the Bush Administration either aided the attacks or declined to stop them.

More recently the cult of Zeitgeist: The Movie, made by someone called Peter Joseph, has been brought to my attention. … Read the rest

Scientology: Cult or Mirror to all Faiths?

May 26th, 2008 | By Carl Anders

What is the difference between Jack the Ripper and the Suffolk Strangler? Apart from that we actually know Steve Wright is the latter and he was caught, what separates them?

Jack the Ripper rejoices in a whole tourism and franchise industry centred on him. He has films, television programmes, documentaries, books, cups, ashtrays, t-shirts and tours. How does one serial killer become so profitable? Why are there no Suffolk tours or films starring Johnny Depp?

Of course, timing would seem the obvious answer: with no living immediate relatives of Jack the Ripper; we feel it is safe to exploit his legend. It is just too soon to do the same for Steve Wright.

For Jack the Ripper read “recognised” religion. … Read the rest