Roberto Malini: Poetry Before the Law

Feb 13th, 2012 4:59 pm | By

Roberto Malini, co-president of EveryOne Group, an NGO supporting Roma people and refugees, left a poem he wrote for Hamza Kashgari in a comment. I want it to be more visible than that, so here it is again.

Poetry Before the Law

on the deportation of the poet Hamza Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia

Spare the poet, O Law,

for his soul expands

beyond the sources of reason,

as far as truth.

Spare the poet, O Death,

for his heart is the brother of a quasar

that ignites the Universe.

Spare the poet, O Faith,

for his song rises like the Sun

and reawakens the eternal in stone.

Roberto Malini (English translation by Glenys Robinson)

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

Warsi stands with pope in fighting for faith

Feb 13th, 2012 4:11 pm | By

Oh vomit. Sayeeda Warsi is off to visit the pope, and by way of preparation she and the Telegraph unite in telling us all that we need more religion and less “militant secularism.” Warsi says it in her own article, and the political editor says it all over again in an article about her article. Why two articles where one would do? I have no idea.

First Warsi’s bullying theocratic shit, under the sinister threatening headline We stand side by side with the Pope in fighting for faith:

Today I have the honour of leading the largest ministerial delegation from the United Kingdom to the Vatican – our reciprocal visit following the momentous State Visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.

We will be celebrating the decision Margaret Thatcher took 30 years ago to restore full diplomatic relations between our countries. The relationship between the UK and the Holy See is our oldest diplomatic relationship, first established in 1479.

Yes well in 1479 secularism wasn’t an option. It is now. The “Holy See” isn’t a real country; it’s a clerisy; there is something badly wrong with the whole idea of having “diplomatic relations” with a small group of Catholic priests who believe themselves to have the right and the duty to boss all Catholics in the world and everyone else in the world along with them.

For a number of years I have been saying that we need to have a better understanding of faith in our country. Why? Because   I profoundly believe that faith has a vital and important role to play in modern society. But mistakenly, faith has been neglected, undermined – and   yes, even attacked – by governments in recent years…

I will be arguing that to create a more just society, people need to feel stronger in their religious identities and more confident in their creeds. In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths and nations not denying their religious heritages.

Really. Stronger than the people who bully and threaten random strangers who make jokes or ask questions about their religions? More confident than the people who demand that people be executed for asking questions about a religion?

What she says is wrong and morally bad. People need to stop saying things like that. Religious bullies need to stop bullying the rest of us.

My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; when states won’t fund faith schools; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere.

But the UK does fund “faith schools”; there are bishops in the House of Lords; religion is not nearly “sidelined,” meaning kept private, as it should be.

When we look at the deep distrust between some communities today, there is no doubt that faith has a key role to play in bridging these divides.

Right after it gets through with creating and widening them.

That’s some emetic stuff.

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

Interpol as theocracies’ little helper

Feb 13th, 2012 11:18 am | By

Interpol has said it had nothing to do with the extradition of Hamza Kashgari, but Dennis McShane MP apparently didn’t get the memo – or got the memo and didn’t believe it.

The charge of apostasy was maintained, his home was attacked and, again, sensibly enough, Kashgari decided it was time to leave Saudi Arabia. The response of the Saudis was to approach Interpol and ask them to issue an international search and arrest warrant.

Interpol is meant to be tackle serious crime, not act as the little helper for régimes that want to kill journalists.

Maryam too finds the memo not entirely convincing:

If it says so – though I am skeptical especially since its has done this before.

In 2009, a number of us wrote to its office complaining about Iranian opposition leaders being included on its wanted list at the request of the Islamic regime of Iran!

McShane has suggestions:

Pressure is important. This time last year the Egyptian military police arrested an Egyptian blogger. Maikel Nabil. He was jubilant about the fall of Mubarak but as he saw the increasing role of the military he criticised the soldiers. A military tribunal sentenced him to three years in prison but an effective international campaign got under way and on Saturday I got a letter from the Egyptian ambassador announcing that Nabil has been freed and pardoned.

So once again it is time to write to the Saudi Ambassador, and to William Hague so that our Ambassador in Riyadh can make protest. The Commonwealth Secretary General should get involved to as it is to Malaysia’s shame that they send this harmless young man to the possibility of a dusty public square and the executioner’s sword. The Home Secretary too should ask why Interpol is acting as an agent for the most blood-thirsty and cruel of régimes. Might Twitter pay for his legal defence. And when of our Royals takes tea with one of their Royals perhaps a few whispered words might be muttered about why in the 21st century Royals — Muslim, Christian, whatever —  should not chop off heads because of a tweet.

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

Known for his reformist views

Feb 13th, 2012 10:50 am | By

PEN International on Kashgari.

PEN demands his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also calls upon the Saudi authorities to provide him with immediate and effective protection.

According to PEN’s information, Kashgari, a 23-year-old writer from Jeddah, tweeted a series of messages addressed to the Prophet Mohammed on the anniversary of the Prophet’s birth on 4 February 2012, some of which conveyed questions about his faith. Twitter registered more than 30,000 responses to his tweets, many of which accused him of blasphemy and called for his death. On 5 February 2012 Nasser al-Omar, an influential cleric, called for Kashgari to be tried in a Sharia court for apostasy, which is punishable by death, and the Saudi King Abdullah called for his arrest, vowing to seek extradition if Kashgari left the country. On 6 February Kashgari issued an apology and deleted his feed, but to no avail. Someone posted his home address in a YouTube video, and people searched for him at his local mosque. On 7 February 2012, Kashgari fled to Malaysia. He was arrested two days later in Kuala Lumpur on 9 February as he was trying to continue his journey to New Zealand, where he planned to request asylum. He was deported to Saudi Arabia on 12 February 2012.

Note especially that King Abdullah called for his arrest and swore to seek extradition if he escaped the country. “Reformist” King Abdullah.

It’s a great pity that Kashgari didn’t get a flight directly to New Zealand or at least to some secular country. It’s a great pity that he went first to Malaysia. I wonder if he had to for some reason – perhaps because he would have needed a visa for other countries.

Kashgari is a poet and former columnist with the daily newspaper Al Bilad, and he is known for his reformist views. On 7 February 2012 Al-Bilad issued statement saying that they had fired Kashgari five weeks earlier “because of the inadequacy of his general views for the approach of the newspaper.”

Yes because we can’t be having reformist views. All reform was accomplished by the prophet, so anything done after that is anti-the prophet and blasphemous and evil. Stasis is the only way to go.

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

Those who are wanted by their countries of origin

Feb 13th, 2012 9:27 am | By

Malaysia today is defending its extradition of Hamza Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia where he could easily be executed for saying he has questions about Mohammed.

International rights groups have slammed the deportation but Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Malaysia was not a safe haven for fugitives.

Jiddah-based newspaper columnist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained Thursday at the Malaysian airport while in transit to New Zealand. He was deported Sunday despite fears from rights groups that he may face the death penalty if charged with blasphemy over remarks he tweeted that many considered offensive.

“I will not allow Malaysia to be seen as a safe country for terrorists and those who are wanted by their countries of origin, and also be seen as a transit county,” Hishammuddin said.

“Those who are wanted by their countries of origin” is it. What if they are ”wanted” by their countries of origin for being gay? For being critical of their government? For leaving the religion of their parents? For marrying without the permission of their parents? For not wearing the hijab? For using an electrical switch on “the sabbath”? For laughing at the wrong moment? For not bowing low enough?

Is there any reason too stupid, too vicious, too trivial, for a country to “want” people and Malaysia to obey that “want”?

Probably not, given the profound triviality and viciousness and stupidity of Saudi Arabia’s reasons for “wanting” Kashgari.

He said the deportation followed a request from the Saudi government. Allegations that Kashgari could be tortured and killed if he was sent back home are “ridiculous” because Saudi Arabia is a respectable country, he said.

Oh is it. Is it really. Tell that to foreign domestic workers there. Tell it to people executed for “adultery.” Tell it to women arrested for driving cars. Tell it to convicts sentenced to having their hands and feet amputated. Tell it to everyone who has been hassled by the Mutawwa’in.

Local rights group Lawyers for Liberty said Kashgari arrived in Malaysia on Feb. 7 from Jordan and was leaving the country two days later to New Zealand to seek asylum when he was detained.

“The cold hard truth is that Malaysia has bent over backwards to please Saudi Arabia, breached international law by not allowing (Kashgari) to seek asylum and instead handed him on a silver platter to his persecutors,” it said.

For shame, Malaysia.

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

Moderation and tolerance

Feb 12th, 2012 6:18 pm | By

Someone called Daisy Khan* had a really fatuous piece at Comment is Free on Thursday about “Islamophobia” in the US.

She started by making the issue entirely one of terrorist violence. There isn’t much, she said. Therefore, no issue.

But terrorist violence is not the only issue. It’s much more complicated than that. There is also the issue of women’s rights, and the issue of gay rights, and the matter of apostasy, and then there’s blasphemy. You’d never know any of that mattered from reading Daisy Khan.

Our allies in the interfaith and civil rights communities are working to counteract the fabricated opposition to Islam that is gaining strength in America today.

To counteract opposition to Islam? Really? We’re not allowed to oppose Islam? At the beginning of the piece, Khan talked about demonization of Muslims, which is another matter – but here at the end the problem becomes opposition to Islam. Opposition to Islam is itself a civil right, and one that millions of people around the world don’t have – like Hamza Kashgari for example. (He doesn’t even have the right to make a questioning comment about Mo, let alone oppose Islam.)

We are allowed to oppose Islam, and there are reasons to oppose it. What happened to Hamza Kashgari today is one such reason: one “Muslim country” summarily extradited him to another “Muslim country” which he had fled to escape being executed for “blasphemy.”

You’d never think that kind of thing was possible from reading Daisy Khan.

We know that the bulk of the American public recognises the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance.

The what? The truth of what? The truth of Islamic what?

If there is a truth that Islam is noteworthy for moderation and tolerance, then why the fuck did Malaysia extradite Hamza Kashgari to Saudi Arabia under arrest for “blasphemy” for saying he questioned Mohammed in some things? What, exactly, does that have to do with moderation and tolerance? How dare Daisy Khan talk about “the truth of Islamic moderation and tolerance”?

H/t Eric.

*By which I meant only that I didn’t know who she is, and possibly should have. I meant it as a sort of signal not to expect me to know who she is…probably in case I made any stupid assumptions about her.

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

Free Hamza Kashgari

Feb 12th, 2012 5:41 pm | By

You know the drill – same old same old. Join this Facebook group. You know the media report it when causes get big support on Facebook, so join. I added a few people, because you can’t just invite any more – but I’m shy about adding because it seems so presumptuous, so if I neglected to add you, add yourself. And all your friends. Don’t be shy!

And sign the petition.

And say harsh things about Malaysia as well as Saudi Arabia.

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

At Maryam’s place

Feb 12th, 2012 12:53 pm | By

Maryam’s post on the Free Expression Rally is up.

So is her post on Malaysia’s outrageous deportation of Hamza Kashgari.

Malaysia’s home ministry has said that ‘The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities’. Which basically means that any asylum seeker or refugee must be returned as it is a case for the government in question!?

Maryam is kept very busy by all these attacks on our right to say what we think.

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

Malaysia extradites Kashgari

Feb 12th, 2012 12:18 pm | By

Malaysia has deported Kashgari back to Saudi Arabia.

Police confirmed to the BBC that Hamza Kashgari was sent back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday despite protests from human rights groups.

Mr Kashgari’s controversial tweet last week sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats.

That’s the BBC doing it again – his tweet “sparked” more than 30,000 calls for him to be executed (or “responses” as the BBC put it). It’s just a little bit his fault for being controversial. Just ever so slightly.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Slightly random, since Kashgari didn’t actually “insult” Mo. But the BBC wants to make sure everyone realizes it blames Kashgari just a little.

Mr Kashgari apologised and deleted the tweet, but when he continued to receive threats, he left for Malaysia.

The two countries do not have a formal extradition treaty but Malaysia has good relations with Saudi Arabia as a fellow Muslim country, says the BBC’s Jennifer Pak, in Kuala Lumpur.

Ah yes, how cozy and communitarian and ummah-ish – a fellow Muslim country that executes people for “insulting” a “prophet” who’s been dead for 14 centuries.

“The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities,” Malaysia’s home ministry said in a statement.

But he wasn’t in Saudi Arabia - he’d left it. Countries don’t automatically extradite people to countries that have insane disgusting rights-violating laws. Lots of countries won’t extradite murder suspects to the US because the US has the death penalty.

This is loathsome.

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

However unwise

Feb 12th, 2012 11:06 am | By

The long arm of the law shouldn’t be helping theocratic hell-holes like Saudi Arabia to arrest people for non-crimes like saying something critical about Mohammed.

Interpol has been accused of abusing its powers after Saudi Arabia used the organisation’s red notice system to get a journalist arrested in Malaysia for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police in Kuala Lumpur said Hamza Kashgari, 23, was detained at the airport “following a request made to us by Interpol” the international police cooperation agency, on behalf of the Saudi authorities.

Kashgari, a newspaper columnist, fled Saudi Arabia after posting a tweet on the prophet’s birthday that sparked more than 30,000 responses and several death threats. The posting, which was later deleted, read: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you … I will not pray for you.”

More than 13,000 people joined a Facebook page titled “The Saudi People Demand the Execution of Hamza Kashgari”.

Notice that that “insulted” in the first para should have scare-quotes on it. That tweet is not “insulting.” It’s thoughtful dissent, at most.

Notice the disgusting fact that 30 13 thousand people are willing to say he should be killed for uttering such a mild and thoughtful dissent.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia called for him to be charged with apostasy, a religious offence punishable by death. Reports suggest that the Malaysian authorities intend to return him to his native country.

Religious offences should not be extraditable. Nobody should ever be extradited to Saudi Arabia for any perceived “religious offence” under any circumstances.

Jago Russell, the chief executive of the British charity Fair Trials International, which has campaigned against the blanket enforcement of Interpol red notices, said: “Interpol should be playing no part in Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of Hamza Kashgari, however unwise his comments on Twitter.

Oh just leave off the last bit, dammit. What was unwise about it? Unless “unwise” just means “risky to self,” but it can’t mean that, because Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be pursuing Kashgari for risking his safety nor would Interpol help Saudi Arabia for that reason. Russell apparently felt some horrible need to appease the murderous theocratic bullies by pretending to think Kashgari really did do something just a little bit wrong. Don’t do that.

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

Councillor Imran Khan understands religious freedom

Feb 11th, 2012 10:48 am | By

There was, unsurprisingly, mixed reaction to the Bideford council ruling. But one reaction stood out – a Tory councillor’s, at that.

Imran Khan, a Conservative councillor on Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, welcomed the ruling.

Mr Khan is a Muslim but said he was not particularly religious.

“Religion has no place in politics. The High Court judgement is a victory for everyone who believes that democracy and religious freedom is the cornerstone of Western free society.

“The judgement clearly states that councillors are welcome to pray before meetings, thus respecting religious values.

“Under the old regime I had to wait outside the room while everyone else was praying. This meant that it appeared I was being late or just plain rude to other people’s religions as I walked across the floor afterwards,” he added.

Bishop of Exeter, please give that your careful attention. Please think again about your reaction.

The Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, said he would encourage councils in his area to continue holding prayers before the start of their statutory business.

He added: “I think it’s a great pity that a tiny minority are seeking to ban the majority, many of whom find prayers very, very helpful, from continuing with a process in which no-one actually has to participate.”

Think about it from the point of view of the tiny minority, you big bully.


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

Real vigilantes of Karachi

Feb 11th, 2012 10:27 am | By

You know how it’s impossible to keep up and you’re always missing stuff? I missed Maya Khan. I saw a mention somewhere, but didn’t have time to follow it up.

One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in “immoral” behavior.

It shouldn’t be called comic, not even “darkly.” It doesn’t sound the least bit comic to me. I’ve heard too much about posses of that kind in Gaza, in Saudi Arabia, in Malaysia. There’s nothing funny about them. Mohammed and Tooba and Hemat Shafia were a kind of posse of that sort, restricting their vigilantism to their immediate family.

…trailed by a cameraman, the group of about 15 women chased after — sometimes at jogging pace — girls and boys sitting quietly on benches overlooking the Arabian Sea or strolling under the trees. The women peppered them with questions: What were they doing? Did their parents know? Were they engaged?

Some couples reacted with alarm, and tried to scuttle away. A few gave awkward answers. One couple claimed to be married. The show’s host, Maya Khan, 31, demanded to see proof. “So where is your marriage certificate?” she asked sternly.

What business is it of hers? None, obviously. Furthermore, putting the whole thing on tv could get her victims killed.

Images of moral vigilantes prowling the streets have an ominous resonance in Pakistan, where many still recall the dark days of the Islamist dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s, when the police could demand to see a couple’s nikkahnama — wedding papers — under threat of imprisonment.

See? Not comic.

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

And more stupid

Feb 10th, 2012 4:57 pm | By

The decision on Bideford Town Council’s opening prayers gave another opportunity for people to talk crap.

The National Secular Society and an atheist ex-councillor won a test case ruling that Bideford town council, Devon, was acting unlawfully by putting prayer on meeting agendas.

It is understood the ritual dates back in Bideford to the days of Queen Elizabeth I, and the council has recently voted twice to retain it.

Lots of things date back to the days of Queen Elizabeth I; what of it? In the days of Queen Elizabeth I church attendance was mandatory and you had to pay a fine if you didn’t go. Is that a good arrangement? Miss that, do we? The mandatory attendance was also, of course, to one church only, all others being outlawed. Mosques and temples weren’t even thought of.

In short, Britain under the Tudors was a theocracy and that was that. No muttering there in the back row, or we’ll have your arm off. Council prayers shouldn’t be seen as a cozy old custom but as a vestige of an authoritarian godbothering society of a kind that pretty much no one in the UK wants to live in now.

Harry Greenway, a former Tory MP and ex-chairman of the National Prayer Breakfast, said: “I trust this ruling will be quickly reversed. If people do not want to attend prayers of this nature, they can stay away instead of meddling and busybodying with other people’s beliefs.

“Non-believers are not harassed in this way by believers. Why cannot the non-believers show the same kind of tolerance? I find this ruling puzzling in the extreme.”

The same kind of tolerance as what? How would believers go about harassing non-believers in this way? By telling them to stop not praying? Non-believers can’t show the same kind of tolerance because tolerance of not doing something is not the same as tolerance of doing something. A nuisance is not comparable to the absence of a nuisance. Cigarette smoke is not comparable to no cigarette smoke; loud music at 3 a.m. is not comparable to quiet at 3 a.m.; and so on. Non-actors are not making the nuisance, so other people are not “tolerating” anything by not hassling them; people who are making the nuisance are the ones requiring some kind of “tolerance.” Not all kinds of nuisance should be tolerated. It’s quite simple really.

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

Incomplete nostalgia

Feb 10th, 2012 4:35 pm | By

Eric has an excellent post on a Telegraph article by Peter Mullen fuming about the terrible dreadfulness of the C of E in the matter of women bishops and priests. One thing in Mullen’s article snagged my attention right out of the gate.

There is now no doubt that the Church of England will consecrate its first  woman bishop within the next couple of years. This will happen without any statutory provision for those who in conscience cannot accept women’s  episcopacy. The significant minority of clergy and laity who oppose this innovation will simply be told to like it – or lump it and go elsewhere.  Thus tens of thousands of traditional and faithful Anglicans will be unchurched.

What a ludicrous thing to complain of. When was it ever otherwise? Was the Church of England until recently run like a democracy? Were significant minorities of clergy and laity who didn’t like something the church decided until recently not told to like it or lump it? 

Of course bloody not! It’s a church.

Funny that someone who makes such a point of being reactionary and kind of oblivious should have fallen for this trendy modern idea that Everybody is Special and no one should ever be told to like it or lump it (except people who think there should be women priests and bishops, of course).

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

Freedom of secularism

Feb 10th, 2012 9:28 am | By

The Catholic bishops have been gearing up for this fight for months.

Hours after President Obama phoned to share his decision with Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops’ headquarters in Washington posted on its Web site a videoof Archbishop Dolan, which had been recorded the day before.

“Never before,” Archbishop Dolan said, setting the tone, “has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

Ah yes Archbishop Timothy Dolan. We’ve encountered him before.

In April 2009, for example, claiming that “traditional, one-man/one-woman marriage is rooted in people’s moral DNA.” In March 2010, for another example, arguing that it’s all so unfair because other people failed to stop child abuse too so why pick on the Catholic church? Yes really. He kept a blog, the then archbish of New York did.

What causes us Catholics to bristle is not only the latest revelations of sickening sexual abuse by priests, and blindness on the part of some who wrongly reassigned them — such stories, unending though they appear to be, are fair enough, — butalsothat the sexual abuse of minors is presented as a tragedy unique to the Church alone.

That, of course, is malarkey.  Because, as we now sadly realize, nobody, nowhere, no time, no way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how to adequately address it.

The Catholic church, which wants us to think it’s morally better than the rest of us, pointing at others like a three-year-old and shouting that they did it too. This is the man who thinks he’s entitled to tell Obama and all of us what to do. This is the man at the head of the organization which officially believes that a mother of four in Phoenix should be dead now, instead of having an abortion that saved her life.

This is the man who is bitterly aggrieved that not everyone bows the knee to his church.

The speed and passion behind the bishops’ response reflects their growing sense of siege, and their belief that the space the Catholic church once occupied in American society and the deference it was given are gradually being curtailed by an increasingly secular culture.

When, exactly, was that “once”? When was that lost Golden Age when the Catholic church was given deference in American society? Not in 1960 when Kennedy was running for president, certainly. Not before that, when immigration from mostly-Protestant countries was heavily favored over immigration from mostly-Catholic ones. So, when, then? After 1960…and probably not during the later 60s either, given the fact that deference wasn’t much in fashion then. Shall we date it from Jimmy Carter’s run for the presidency? Let’s do that. 1976 to now – not a very long Golden Age, is it. Not such an extended Golden Age that the bishops have much reason to think they have a permanent right to it.

And as for an increasingly secular culture…well let’s hope so, because the alternative is letting Timothy Dolan and his few benighted male officially-celibate colleagues tell us all what to do and what we can have. I don’t want Timothy Dolan having any say whatsoever in what I do and what I can have. I think he’s wrong about nearly everything, and that he got there for all the wrong reasons.

The bishops have found allies among conservative evangelicals, who do not share the Catholic Church’s doctrinal prohibition on contraception but are delighted to see the bishops adopt the right’s longstanding grievance that government has declared a war on religion. They have been joined by the bishops of Eastern Orthodox churches (like Greek, Russian and Ukrainian) and two Orthodox Jewish groups — small constituencies but ones that lend the cause a touch of diversity.

Diversity shmiversity. I don’t care how “diverse” they are; I don’t want them and their bossy unavailable god telling me (or anyone) what to do and what we can have.

Catholics may be persuaded by the argument that the mandate is a violation of religious liberty. One indication is that several prominent Catholic Democrats who supported Mr. Obama in 2008, supported the health care overhaul and defended the president at many junctures, have broken with him on the birth control mandate.

Michael Sean Winters, a writer for National Catholic Reporter, a liberal independent weekly, said: “I think they misjudged that no matter what people think about contraception, that’s an internal Catholic debate. Catholics do not like interlopers.”

But they are running hospitals, hospitals that are used by non-Catholics, often hospitals that are the only ones available for hundreds of miles. Therefore it’s not an internal Catholic debate. The bishops are the interlopers in the health care system.

It is of course possible to see the whole thing as an issue of religious liberty, but that’s a good reason not to let the Catholic church take over chunks of the health and education sphere the way it has.

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

Grovel for the sake of it

Feb 10th, 2012 8:25 am | By

Brilliant. The Obama admin knows the bishops and the Republicans won’t be mollified but the admin is submitting anyway. Worst of both worlds! Lose-lose! Give way on the principle but gain no actual votes or support. Good thinking!

The Obama administration, seeking to rein in a runaway political furor over birth control and religious liberty, is set to announce a possible compromise on Friday that is meant to calm ire from the right about a new administration rule that would require health insurance plans — including those offered by Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and charities — to offer free birth control to female employees.

Administration officials called the expected announcement an “accommodation” that they said sought to demonstrate respect for religious beliefs.

Well piss on them. It’s not their job to demonstrate respect for religious beliefs. Religious beliefs aren’t respectable as such. Beliefs are respectable if they’re reasonable; the very term “religious beliefs” implies the opposite of reasonability; this sick-making cant about respecting religious beliefs amounts to encouraging people to be unreasonable and dogmatic and stupid – artificially stupid, in the name of religion.

The administration announced the birth-control rule last month, and since then, Republican presidential candidates and conservative leaders have sought to frame it as an example of the administration’s insensitivity to religious beliefs, prompting Mr. Obama’s aides to explore ways to make it more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions, perhaps by allowing some employers to make side insurance plans available that are not directly paid for by the institutions.

Mr. Obama’s aides need to start exploring ways to demonstrate backbone and commitment to principle.

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

The sleep of reason

Feb 9th, 2012 4:29 pm | By

One of the things “faith” is good at doing – giving people a feeling of righteousness about doing something poisonous and horrible. Like the woman whose daughter

who suffers from bipolar disorder and limited cognitive abilities, went missing last Monday.  For more than 48 hours, we had no idea where she was.  Without all the gruesome details, after she was found, it came to light that she’d been brutally and repeatedly sexually assaulted.

A nurse gave the mother Plan B and told her she had 24 hours to use it.

But no. The woman decided not to give it to her daughter.

If the being that had done this to my daughter had been in front of me at that moment, I likely would have killed the bastard.

But Plan B is a whole other thing, isn’t it?  It’s about taking the life of an innocent child.

My daughter, though, you see, is adopted.  For all I know, she herself is the product of rape.  Her birth [mother] was known to prostitute herself, and for women in that life, rape is common.

And even if this wasn’t the case, what child deserves to die due to a parent’s sins and brutality?  Taking an innocent life is wrong – I know it, and every genuinely honest person on the face of the earth knows it.

She’s in a glow of righteousness, because she’s pretending to think a few cells are “a child.”  She’s in a glow of righteousness because she’s more concerned about the non-existent child than she is about her real, existing daughter…Or because she’s not but she’s forcing herself to sacrifice her daughter’s interests for the sake of the non-existent child anyway.

“Faith” can do this and I’m not sure anything else can. Ideology can beget monsters but not of quite this kind.

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

Your personal freedom? You must be joking

Feb 9th, 2012 10:55 am | By

A candidate for Egypt’s presidency by the name of Hazim Abu Ismail, “with affiliations to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis,” says how things are.

Host: You have already begun to try to impose a particular dress code for us.

Abu Ismail:  I’ve begun to? It’s the Lord of the Worlds [Allah] who said so. I have nothing to do with it!

Host: Allah left it for me to decide as a personal freedom.

Abu Ismail: Who said that?  Where’d you get that from. See, that’s the whole point: If you claim that Allah considers it your personal freedom, show me your reference? Nobody has ever said that – except for people have no understanding of Sharia.

Admirably blunt. Makes it very clear what is wrong with theocracy. It’s not the clerics or “scholars” who make these rules, it’s “the Lord of the Worlds” – who is not currently available, so the rules can’t be amended – nor, of course, can they be ignored. They can only be obeyed.

Host: So when He says “today I have perfected your religion for you” [Koran 5:3], He is only talking about the “creed.”

Abu Ismail:  Yes; for example, when you say “no coercion to join the Military Academy,” it means that you are free to join or not—but if you do join, then you are obliged to wear their uniform, to attend their classes, to attend the training with them, and to obey their leader.

Host: There is a problem here—shall I say to the unveiled woman who wants to avoid hijab that she should change her creed?

Abu Ismail: Exactly, bravo.  If she is a Muslim. You see, this is the difficulty; this is Islam.  Does she want to be a Muslim and not obey Allah’s rules? Let them say so; that’s all I ask; let them be honorable and just speak up.

What does he mean “Does she want to be a Muslim and not obey Allah’s rules?” What does wanting have to do with it? Most Muslims are simply born as such, and they are never given the opportunity to say they don’t want to be a Muslim and are therefore going to stop being one. It’s an incredibly obnoxious, taunting question. It’s like kidnapping someone and then asking, “Does she want to be kidnapped and not obey the kidnapper’s orders?”

What a joke: in one breath saying that order are orders, and they come from the Lord of the Worlds so they are absolute and permanent, and that people “want” to belong to this authoritarian system.

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

This god certainly hates women

Feb 9th, 2012 10:12 am | By

Another one gets away. Deborah Feldman was raised in the reactionary Hasidic Satmar community based in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. She escaped.

In her memoir, “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots,” out Feb. 14, she chronicles her oppressive upbringing and arranged marriage.

At 23, emboldened by classes at Sarah Lawrence College, she left her husband and the community for good — taking her 3-year-old son with her.

So often the way – college classes inspire and/or embolden people to escape. Fundamentalists are right, in their terms, not to want their children to get tertiary education.

She was married at 17, to a man she had met once. Their sex life was creepy beyond belief.

After the first time, you have to call a rabbi and he asks the man questions — did this happen? And he declares you either unclean, or not yet consummated. Once you’re consummated, you’re unclean, because you bled. So after the first time, your honeymoon is a no-sex period.

For two weeks every month, he can’t touch you. He can’t hand you a glass, even if your fingers don’t touch. He has to put it down on the table and then you pick it up. Secondary contact can’t happen. If you’re sitting on a sofa, you have a divider between you. It makes you feel so gross. You feel like this animal in the room. If there’s a question about your period, you take the underwear and put it in a zip-lock bag, and give it to your husband. He takes it to the synagogue and pushes it into this special window and the rabbi looks at it and pronounces it kosher or nonkosher. It’s so disgusting.

Maybe a little.

She says things are getting worse.

Over the past 10 or 20 years [the Hasidic community] has gone from being extreme to being ultra-extreme. They’ve passed more laws from out of nowhere, limiting women — there’s a rule that women can’t be on the street after a certain hour. That was new when I was growing up. We hear all these stories about Muslim extremists; how is this any better? This is just another example of extreme fundamentalism.

And notice the common element: it’s all about controlling women. It’s all about making the restraints tighter…and tighter…and tighter. God is always A Man; men are always the people, and women are always the others; the people always have to keep the others down; down down down. The people always have to strip the others of all rights, all capabilities, all modes of escape and autonomy. This kind of religion seems to be about almost nothing but puffing up men and stamping down women. It’s religion as constructed by stags in rut.



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

Disagreement is life

Feb 8th, 2012 5:33 pm | By

Libby Anne did a great post on disagreement the other day – on the value of it, and especially the value of being allowed it. She hasn’t always had that, you see.

Growing up on the line between fundamentalism and evangelicalism, in a family influenced by the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, disagreement was not allowed. Or to be more specific, disagreement simply did not happen. I have to be completely honest, the first time I learned that mainstream couples are okay with not agreeing with each other on everything regarding religion or politics I was shocked. Coming from my background, that made no sense. 

As a child and teen, I never disagreed with my parents, or with my church. Why would I? What we had was truth. When I reached college and began asking questions, my parents and my church had no ability to agree to disagree. Why? Because if I disagreed with them, then I disagreed with truth, and that meant I was flat wrong.

And that means you can’t find anything out for yourself (you can only be told things), and you can’t explore.

This is similar to the feeling of claustrophobia and exasperation I always have when religious apologists talk about the questions that science can’t answer but religion can.  No it can’t. The answers religion gives aren’t answers; they’re pseudo-answers, and dead ends. They’re not fascinatingly complicated and difficult, they’re short cuts.

When you believe you have absolute and final truth, and that having that truth is necessary to keep you from eternal torture and send you to the bliss of heaven, you lose the ability to agree to disagree. You also lose the ability to look beyond what you have and consider other ideas.

This was one of the biggest problems I faced when I started to question the things I’d been taught. Disagreement was not accepted. It was not okay. It could not be tolerated. This put me on a collision course not only with my family but also with the friends I grew up with and the church I grew up in. I had gone from one of them to an outsider overnight.

It makes me twitch just to think about it. It’s the death of thinking, and I can’t stand that idea.

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