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Religious leaders furious over Norway’s proposed circumcision ban

by Barry Duke

JENNY Klinge,  Norway’s Centre Party justice policy spokeswoman, has angered religious leaders by condemning the ritual circumcision of infant boys. Calling it “outdated” and “dangerous”, she called for its ban. She said:

In my view, this is a custom that we cannot accept in a modern, civilized society. Our aim is to prioritise the rights of small children. Fortunately, it has become forbidden to circumcise girls, now it’s time for boys to get the same legal protection.

Jenny Klinge says the ritual circumcision of infant boys is barbarous

She stressed that boys who have been ritually circumcised can never remove what she called “a religious marker” if they choose to convert to another religion or have no religious beliefs.

I’m not buying the argument that banning circumcision is a violation of religious freedom, because such freedom must involve being able to choose for themselves.

Read more... )

Glen Poole, Strategic Director of The Men’s Network in Brighton & Hove, reports on his Ending Unnecessary Male Circumcision in the UK blog that the proposed ban had also been condemned by Espen Ottosen, Information Director of Misjonssambandet (Federation of Christian Missionaries), and a Muslim Norwegian physician, Mohammad Usman Rana, who voiced his opposition in a newspaper article entitled Circumcision: Those who will forbid circumcision of young boys in reality invite a totalitarian guardian-state.

Poole points out that pro-circumcisionists claim:

To circumcise boys is a minor operation. Internationally there is a plethora of medical studies which report few complications. We know that the procedure actually provides health benefits.  Urinary tract infections for example are far less common among circumcised boys.  The risk of HIV contamination is also reduced.

Poole counters:

We say all the reported health benefits have either been disproven, contradicted or considered too insignificant to justify the agreed risks and complications which include bleeding, infections, meatus stenosis (narrowing of the urethra) and panic attacks. There isn’t a single medical association in the world that supports the procedure. 

The British Medical Association, for example, stated in 2003 that ‘the medical benefits previously claimed have not been convincingly proven’ and ‘that the evidence concerning health benefits from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it.

(Source: The Freethinker)

Nothing much to add to this except that I find it amusing to see a religious objection that protecting young children from abuse is "totalitarian". 'My goodness, laws against the mutilation of young boy's genitals? Parts of young children cut off in the privacy of my own home should be of no consequence to the government. It's the nanny state I say!'

Pretty much the only argument against this law is "what about freedom of religion?" and, to be frank, it's not looking like a strong case. You could make a similar argument for human sacrifice, though that has the added benefit that at least the person affected would be doing it of their own free will.

(x-posted to atheism)
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There are two sides to every story, but sometimes one of those sides is mainly BS.

With the recent story about France banning Muslim prayer my first reaction was that it was absurd. But then I thought about it...

Read more... )
(Main Source: EuroNews)

Muslims using the new space provided after the recent French ban on Muslim prayer.
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I've got a fair range of podcasts I'm following now:

1. Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo Film Reviews
This week the main feature is "Black Swan". I've only just start listening, but they've already done a review for a brand new John Carpenter movie! I am, of course, a big John Carpenter fan. I'd heard about John Carpenter's "The Ward", but with very little marketing I presumed it would probably go straight to DVD. Kermode actually seems to like it, though he doesn't wax lyrical about it.

Mark Kermode is a film reviewer with some very strong opinions and it's recently been claimed that one of his movie rants woke someone from a coma.

2. The News Quiz
The Friday Night comedy news quiz is a great way to feel better about the increasingly depressing news under this coalition government. The voices I recognise most easily are Jeremy Hardy and Sue Perkins. Sandi Toksvig does a great job of presenting the quiz.

3. Film Sack
I discovered these very recently. They like to pick cheesy movies and pick them to pieces. They also have an announcer who reads movie lines in an even cheesier voice than before. It's really really funny. This month's movie is Time Cop. It's actually the only Jean-Claude Van-Damme movie I've ever really enjoyed, but as you'd expect with this sort of movie, the best thing about it is the premise. It's noted early on that time travel is a great way to make money, yet nearly impossible to police. I'll be interested to see what they have to say about this one....

4. The Pod Delusion
Apparently these guys are now affiliated with the British Humanist Association. I haven't really been following these though.

5. Sounds Jewish
Having made four recommendations, it seems wrong not to add one more on and make this a "top five". Sadly we still haven't had a Guardian "Sounds Jewish" podcast this year. The Guardian podcast on Islam known as "Islamophonic" (who did a joint show on the Gaza troubles with "Sounds Jewish") appears to have disappeared entirely (though Riazat Butt is still busily writing religion stuff and caused some rather OTT annoyance for fellow Muslim bloggers with her twitter feed from Hajj).
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"We now have a situation where people can walk into a bank or any other secure area wearing Mickey Mouse ears and remain unquestioned about it."

The video starts with comments from Nicolas Sarkozy which are pretty comical, but when a spokesman said the quote above (switch "Mickey Mouse ears" for "burka") I nearly burst out laughing.

"Hey, someone wearing a nun's habit could walk into a bank without being questioned. We better crack down on those infamous nun bank robbers!" - How the heck is that any blooming different?

Video can be found here.
(Via Atheist Media Blog)

No sex and drugs, but perhaps a bit of rock n roll. We can't be having with this! :P

Update: There's been some confusion in [ profile] atheism about the context. The video is the first in a series of videos featuring a debate about banning the burka. Both Sarkozy and the other guy are saying what they are saying in support of a full nationwide ban on the burka for their respective countries. - Naturally bank security measures, should they decide they need them, are a whole different matter.

(x - posted to atheism)
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This might seem like a bit of a turnaround for me. I no longer think that Sharia courts in the UK are 'no big deal'.

That said, I stick by my assertion that there is FAR more to fear from independent Sharia courts than from Sharia courts working through arbitration with the UK justice system. As such, the decision to encourage Sharia courts to work through arbitration (meaning their rulings are overseen and checked against British law) is still preferable to independent Sharia courts and it is particularly hysterical when Islamophobes start posing the introduction of Sharia law as part of an inevitable "Islamization". In the end the people affected by Sharia courts in the UK are all Muslim.

The individual who has convinced me that Sharia courts are still worth getting concerned over (though not hysterical mind you) is ex-Muslim secularist Maryam Namazie. She explains my point above as follows:
There has been much controversy about Muslim arbitration tribunals, which have attracted attention because they operate as tribunals under the Arbitration Act, making their rulings binding in UK law.

But sharia councils, which are charities, are equally harmful since their mediation differs little from arbitration. Sharia councils will frequently ask people to sign an agreement to abide by their decisions. Councils call themselves courts and the presiding imams are judges. There is neither control over the appointment of these judges nor an independent monitoring mechanism. People often do not have access to legal advice and representation. Proceedings are not recorded, nor are there any searchable legal judgements. Nor is there any real right to appeal.

(Read the rest of the article here)

(Maryam Namazie is also involved in a protest to save a woman from being stoned for adultery in Iran.)

There's another good article about the problems with Sharia courts here.

(Cross-posted to atheism)
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John Milbank was a theology lecturer I came into contact during my degree. His Radical Orthodoxy movement apparently had a major following in academic circles, though there appeared to be very little mainstream knowledge of it. More recently he's been putting forward a number of articles into major news sources. He released a couple of articles in The Guardian's "Comment Is Free" section including one advocating "Red Toryism" (i.e. I want to vote Conservative yet still call myself a lefty) and another (which really infuriated me) advocating a new feminism biased in favour of men *facepalm*

So what's he done now? Well it turns out he's really pleased about certain recent comments by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but he doesn't think she quite kisses Christianity's arse enough. So he's published a new public article. this time on

I don't know if John Milbank mistook extracts from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book "Nomad" for an individual article or whether he is simply treating them that way. In any case the extracts on that website are no longer available, but I was able to find a cached copy of them which you can find in my un-edited post about this along with a copy of John Milbank's reply. Click here for my original un-edited article.

So how does John Milbank's article frustrate me? Let me count the ways....

1. The Enlightenment was Christian...
Read more... )

2. Christianity is the source of feminism...
Read more... )

3. TRADITIONAL Christians are NEVER biblical literalists...
Read more... )

4. Science was nurtured by Christianity and is the direct result of monotheism.

Read more... )

5. Christians have historically been against forced conversions...
Read more... )

6. In various theocracies and dictatorships around the world Islam has an unfair privilege. Why don't we give the same unfair privilege to Christianity in the west? (Also, Christians don't get enough opportunities to proselytise. Blah Blah Fatwa Envy Blah Blah...)
Read more... )

7. Muslims will prefer Christianity if they are properly informed, whereas they tend to choose Islam because they are coerced.
Read more... )

8. Muslims ought to be apolitical mystics. Christians on the other hand...

Read more... )

9. Rowan Williams advocated "parallel legal jurisdictions"...
Read more... )

10. Rowan Williams and Tariq Ramadan are idiots - therefore that whole Christian proselytising scheme...Read more... )

11. "The lamentably premature collapse of the Western colonial empires."

Read more... )

Bits I actually agreed with

Read more... )

Some silly links

Read more... ) (Cross-posted to atheism)
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John Milbank of the Radical Orthodoxy movement has written a new public article. After publishing an anti-feminist tirade (requesting that we set up a new feminism biased in favour of men) on The Guardian's "comment is free", John now writes in response to an extract from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book on

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's extract on that website is no longer available, but I was able to find a cached copy of it, which is copied under the cut. John Milbank quotes a chunk of it, so instead of posting that same chunk twice you will find it bolded in my copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book extract below.Read more... )

So, I was surprised to find that, after an introduction which I found deeply dodgy, there are some parts where John Milbank talks a bit of sense. I guess he's less likely to have an article brim-full of fail when he's discussing religion rather than feminism. Below I have bolded parts which I find particularly dodgy and, in places, I have included links which I believe aid refutation of those statements (and I shall explain those links below). Those parts I find myself agreeing with or approving of are underlined as well as bolded, because I don't feel it is fair to only point out the bad points while ignoring the better parts.

Christianity, the Enlightenment and Islam
By John Milbank
ABC Religion and Ethics | 24 Aug 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali doubtless shocked many of her admirers and detractors alike when she concluded her recent article on the ABC's Religion and Ethics website, "Seeking God, but finding Allah," by praising Pope Benedict XVI's stance on Islam and calling for an alliance between atheists and what she calls "enlightened Christians" in their struggle against a common foe.
Read more... )

My Response

Read more... )
Another writer has also noticed the issues with John's article, decrying his article as "a throwback towards the more obscene forms of Orientalism and colonial arrogance".

Also there's another criticism of John Milbank here (on a different issue).

And he's found on a list of University Professors who have supported 9/11 conspiracy theories.

And if this didn't amuse you enough, here's a link to an old post of mine where I typed out a definition given by one of his Radical Orthdoxy contemporaries, Catherine Pickstock, of the concept of "transcendence".

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"And I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this Center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion. Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience.

This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are."

President Dwight David Eisenhower, June 28. 1957
At the dedication of the Islamic Center in Washington, DC

(via Doorman-Priest)
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Maryam Namazie has recently spent quite a bit of time campaigning against the proposed stoning of Mrs. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for the "crime" of adultery. Namazie is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now, the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, amongst many other things. When she was recently invited to take part in a debate about the proposed stoning on a BBC Sunday Live debate, it wasn't for her good looks. So imagine her surprise when, in the actual show, they failed to find the time to include her as well as making some quite major errors about the case. (It seems pretty certain that Namazie would have been more informed on this case than any of the people interviewed on the show.)

Here's the actual debate itself:

Maryam's own reaction was as follows:
I was meant to speak on BBC Sunday Live's debate today on whether it was right to condemn the regime for Sakineh's stoning.

In the live debate, they managed to interview Suhaib Hassan from the Islamic Sharia Council defending stoning and someone from Tehran saying she faces execution for murdering her husband but somehow there was no time in the debate for me.

Even the presenter, Susanna Reid, said stonings were rare and that none had taken place since the 2002 moratorium! In fact 17 people have been stoned since the moratorium; also there are court documents provided by her lawyer specifying her stoning sentence for adultery. BBC had all this information. Without providing evidence to the contrary, BBC Sunday Live took as fact the regime's pronouncements on her case. They failed to mention that the man charged with her husband's murder is not being executed and that the trumped up murder charges are an attempt by the regime to silence the public outcry and kill Sakineh. As Sakineh herself has said: "they think they can do anything to women."

Read more... )

I wrote my own email as follows. (If you are writing your own email of complaint please start yours from scratch rather than editing mine as they are less likely to take notice of a group of similarly phrased emails.)

Dear [whichever person I was writing to],

I am writing to complain about the decision to leave Maryam Namazie out of a recent broadcast on Sakineh's stoning sentence in Iran. (BBC Sunday Live) Maryam Namazie is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now, the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. As such, she had a very important position to add to the debate being both from a Muslim background herself and being very familiar with the issues in Iran.

In fact as someone actively campaigning for Sakineh's human rights, Namazie would appear to be much more familiar with the details of this case than any of the guests in the debate. There were a number of points she would have been able to clear up, such as the number of stonings since the moratorium in 2002 (which is 17 not zero) and what crime Sakineh's stoning is intended to punish (adultery, not murder). Not only that but she would have also noted that the man actually charged with her husband's murder is not under any threat of execution, never mind execution through a slow and painful stoning.

It strikes me as quite bizarre that a channel who would normally (quite rightly) consider it their duty to analyse and make criticisms of various governments across the globe, should suddenly find themselves uncertain about whether to criticise the cruel and gruesome stoning of a woman for the "criminal act" of adultery. However, I recognise that this question was raised for the purpose of debate. Nevertheless, in that case there was all the more reason not to exclude Maryam Namazie from the discussion.

I hope you recognise the seriousness of deliberately excluding Maryam Namazie, a keen campaigner for Sakineh's human rights, from a discussion about Sakineh's imminent death sentence. For Sakineh and her supporters this is more than just filler for a BBC slot on a Sunday and recognition of her plight of absolute importance which could mean the difference between life and death. I trust you will do the right thing and ensure Namazie receives the airtime to voice her concerns on this topic in the near future, before Sakineh runs out of time.

Thanking You In Anticipation,

Isn't it kind of ironic that in a debate about whether they can judge other cultures, they were actively silencing someone in contact with the relatives of the victim within that culture who is speaking in her defence? Strangely Iran's sharia ruling on stoning gets provided more of a defence than Sakineh....
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Preaching Hate In Our Streets
Extremist flyers call for Ahmadi Muslims' murder

Islamic extremists are promoting the murder of evangelical Muslims in Kingston town centre.

A police investigation was launched last month, after police saw leaflets being handed out calling on Muslims to murder Qadiyanis, a derogatory term for Ahmadiyya Muslims who are an evangelical sect of Islam.

It is believed the literature is linked to a terrorist attack in May, in which 92 worshippers were murdered by Taliban militants in Pakistan, where the government officially regards Ahmadiyya Islam as blasphemy.

Having made no arrests in connection with the incident, Kingston police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the people handing inflammatory literature, outside the Jane Norman store in Clarence Street.

A teenage Ahmadiyya girl who did not want to be named said she was “shaken and scared” after being handed a leaflet written in Urdu saying: “Kill a Qadiyani and doors to heaven will be open to you”.

Read more... )
(Source: The Surrey Comet)
(Via The Spittoon)

This is a story from a local paper called the Surrey Comet and relates to events in the area of Kingston. The article is not (currently) on their website, but The Spittoon have helpfully uploaded a scan of the article and I have been good enough to transcribe it for you.

This isn't the first time the paper have written about Ahmadis.
Read more... )

The Surrey Comet have also written at least two other articles on the Ahmadi community in the wake of the massacre in Pakistan.
(Source 1)
(Source 2)
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That Danish Cartoons Thing - A Reminder...
Hey, remember when we were making all that fuss about how Muslims shouldn't be starting violent riots in order to protest being accused of having a violent religion?

A few facts:
- The violent protests didn't take place straight after the cartoons were published. They took place several months later.
- The protests took place "spontaneously" in countries where spontaneous protest is not allowed.
- Did the cartoons appear in publications available in the countries where these protests took place? No, the protesters were instead shown fake versions of the cartoons which were even more inflammatory.
- Many of the more violent protests were actually organised as a political tool by which to refocus frustrations towards the west rather than towards their own leaders.

Recent Attacks In The US
Now, we all know that there's been a general anti-Muslim feeling being promoted by certain far-right groups in the US (particularly those with an obession with tea bags). However, there's a similar absurdity in the recent decision to accuse Muslims of being terrorists and to then terrorise them.

First of all we had the knife incident, but now we have arsonists in Murfreesboro burning down an Islamic Centre:
Islamic Center officials have contacted the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, according to Ayash, and sheriff’s department investigators “told us they will be investigating this as a hate crime.” Ayash later said sheriff’s officials “asked her to correct her statement,” adding they plan to explore several different motives while investigating the arson.

Ayash said the most recent vandalism to the site “takes it to a whole new level.” The site has already been the target of two other vandalisms, both aimed at a sign marking the future site.

“Everyone in our community no longer feels safe,” she said. “To set a fire that could have blown up equipment and, God forbid, spread and caused damage to the neighbors there ... we really feel like this is something that we and the neighbors don’t deserve. When they (ICM officials) called me this morning I started crying.”
It's a bit odd how the authorities seem unkeen on referring to attacks on Muslims as hate crimes. The police said the same thing when dealing with the chemical attack on the Dayton Mosque. My best guess is that they are concerned about possible copycat attacks, so they are best off suggesting that the attack was the work of a random idiot rather than a premeditated act of hatred.

Right-Wing Groups In The UK

Of course, in the UK we've had our fair share of attacks on Muslims. I gave the example of BNP members responding violently to Muslims making use of a local community centre for Friday prayers. (The BNP denied it was them on the grounds that they would have used a brick, not a firebomb. *facepalm*) More recently there was a protest from the EDL (English Defence League) who appear to be made up of pretty much the same people. (I posted it to ONTD_P.)

Violence By Muslims Against Muslims

I have pointed out in the past that Christians weren't the only one's protesting against the building of mosques. There was a large Muslim protest against the building of a mosque for Ahmadis. I also mentioned the discrimination faced by Ismaelis and even Shia Muslims. However, I never got around to mentioning the massacre of Ahmadis which took place in Pakistan. Here's a response from a Pakistani: our own heartland Lahore 100 Ahmedis were slaughtered by the barbaric Taliban. They were not there on any political gathering or any political point scoring. They were not going to war zone. They were just offering their ‘Jumma Prayer’ to their Lord which they think is as farz (obligatory) on them as on any other Muslim. They were in their mosque, peacefully standing in straight lines bowing in front of the same lord as of the Muslims, Jews and Christians. There is no different version of this story. The enemy didn’t say that they (Taliban) acted in ’self defence’. Their enemy clearly mentioned their intention that they came to kill them indiscriminately irrespective they were men, women, children, young and old. Its pointless to mention that the barbaric didnt regretted the loss of human life because that’s what they wanted and came for. They took pleasure from the blood of the Ahmedis. In a short time span of few minutes they killed 100 Ahmedis.
It's pretty clear that Muslims cannot be dismissed in one single sweeping gesture. They are made up of a variety of different groups with different positions. Just as we should not believe fundamentalist stances about Christianity ("you cannot support Darwinism as a Christian donchaknow?"), we also should not believe certain claims by Muslims regarding Islam. For example, "there are no divisions in Islam" is quite clearly false.

And Another Thing...
Meanwhile Richard Dawkins has referred to Roman Catholicism as "the world’s second most evil religion" because obviously there's a clear hierarchy in this regard. (And presumably the top religion in that hierarchy is simply "Islam" while Christianity gets to be separated into distinct groups.) *facepalm*

I think we probably need to remember that Dawkins has never been the most diplomatic of people, but his recent decision to support Pat Condell's BS against a victimised minority should be called out.
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Pat Condell's latest vid points out a situation whereby someone was given compensation because someone told him a joke about the Irish and he found it offensive.

So... what's Pat Condell not taken into account?

Here's the really telling line:
"I couldn't believe my ears - we were in the midst of a racial discrimination hearing."

The guy who made the joke was a councillor at a racial discrimination hearing. The union leader received compensation because he was subjected to hugely unprofessional and offensive behaviour during a meeting in which Mr. Bamber was representing the local council.

Apparently Cllr. Bamber wrote down on a bit of paper that he was sorry, but refused to sign it or write what he was sorry for. The court case went on for the most part without the plaintiffs involved. It was a matter of what the response should be to unprofessional behaviour in the workplace by a councillor.

Naturally all articles on this feature the joke concerned. If this was all about ordinary people being offended by jokes ripping into the Irish, that would be quite ludicrous. Naturally it's the context that matters here. Something Pat Condell isn't keen to spend much time on.

(Actually it was quite funny when the whole Danish cartoons fiasco started up, that while the controversy was over whether the cartoons should be printed, gaining a personal opinion on the matter seemed to require that the cartoons be printed. Bit of a Catch22.)

(Source one) (Source two)

Now this REALLY pisses off the Irish!

The article Pat Condell actually points out comes from a guy called Douglas Murray, who appears to be a hideous racist. I couldn't actually believe the video he posted in this entry on his blog where the host of The Politics Show starts grilling a Labour politician on her statement that "West Indian mums will go to the wall for their kids". Now naturally grilling politicians is a fine tradition, but when it takes the form of 'If West Indian mums are so great why are there so many dysfunctional West Indian families?' I find myself rather under-impressed. I'm sure the original comment wasn't intended to become a pissing contest of "which race features the best mums" and the interviewer's question seems to helpfully ignore the huge numbers of dysfunctional white families in Britain who make up the vast majority of our chav population.

Unsurprisingly, the comments on youtube for that video are utterly disgusting.

Richard Dawkins has pissed me off too... )
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The Destruction Of The Babri Mosque imagined as a short dialogue. Probably works best if you imagine both sides as having cockney accents. ;)
Under cut because making light of relatively recent religious atrocity.... )
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When searching in vain for the actual interview from the Radio Times, I found this very sensible comment. Saves me the bother of writing it myself. Needless to say, not all claims of Islamophobia are correct and sensible. It's important to consider each case properly.

Don’t let the burka stifle free speech

Tuesday 10 August 2010
I’ve been arguing for ages that the burka is a ridiculous garment, but that it shouldn’t be banned. Now Richard Dawkins is saying pretty much the same: in an interview with Radio Times he says he feels ‘visceral revulsion’ when he sees the ‘full bin-liner thing’.

Fair enough. He’s entitled to his opinion and he’s not calling for it to be outlawed, as several European countries are proposing. Inevitably, though, he’s been accused of ignorance – a curious charge when I have Muslim friends who are just as scathing about the burka; they call women who wear it ‘ninjas’ – and Islamophobia.

I’m not surprised. Dawkins describes the burka as ‘a symbol of the oppression of women’ but I’d go further than that. It’s a symbol of an authoritarian ideology which seeks not just to hide women but to silence critics of religion. Like me, Dawkins is an atheist, a rationalist and a supporter of human rights. One of the most important is free speech, and that includes our right to say what we like about absurd forms of religious dress.
(Article from "Political Blonde")
Richard Dawkins website oddly links to the Daily Fail, so I've picked another, slightly more reliable, news website:

Richard Dawkins causes outcry after likening the burka to a bin liner

The 69-year-old author and Oxford academic said he is filled with “visceral revulsion” when he sees women wearing the traditional Islamic covering.

But he held back from advocating a ban on the all-enveloping cloak, insisting that such legislation would fly in the face of Britain’s liberal tradition.
Read more... )

(Richard Dawkins Website)
(Telegraph Article) 

Like Richard Dawkins, I am not in favour of a ban and his description of the burkha is not Islamophobic. From his description it seems that he not referring to the nikab (which is more ninja-like) so the style of dress he refers to is the one from Afghanistan in particular which has a history of being used to oppress women. I think Political Blonde hits the nail on the head when they point out that we should be free to mock all religious clothing regardless of the religion. I've never been Dawkins' biggest fan, but his comments here are clearly not bigoted.

(cross-posted to atheism)
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Ah, the Tabloids, bless them!

Some weeks ago I tried to explain to an American blogger the hierarchy of the British press in terms of political leaning, bias and reliability. I don't particularly have a problem with political bias, after all there is more than one perspective on party politics and so, armed with the knowledge of the editorial stance of these papers, I would have no problem reading The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian or the Independent and their Sunday editions. I would join many people in describing these papers as the "quality" press.

It is below these - often well below these - that the problems start and I often berate my students for their lamentable knowledge of current affairs.

Do you read a newspaper?

All too often the answer is in the negative. Those whose parents do regularly buy a national daily or Sunday edition tend to go largely, it seems, for the tabloids. They express amazement when I tell them that I can predict what party their parents vote for and what stance they will take on a variety of current issues based on their newspaper of choice. I have always been right. Too often in the classroom I can hear their parents talking and talking through the headlines and editorial position of their newspapers.

My response to my American friend arose out of trying to make a comparison between British and American news outlets. The same rule that I apply to my pupils can be applied to American bloggers in their choice of which British papers they cite in support of their position. If I see a Daily Mail article used as evidence against global warming, for instance, or The Star cited in a diatribe against Islam as another example I can safely assume I am dealing with a Republican.

Read more... )

(Article From Here)

Their Sources
("News" Source For Daily Star Article)
("News" Source For Daily Star Article)
(News Source For BBC Article Which Refutes The Above Sources)
(Local News Source)

I get very annoyed when I get told that criticising Islamophobia and criticising right-wing Christians is being biased against one religion over another. The fact is that the two criticisms are actually very closely tied right now. To me, atheists who start jumping on the "Islamification of Europe" bandwagon need to recognise that this movement is, in the main, a right-wing Christian movement.

Naturally my priority when deciding whether to support someone is to consider whether they actually talk sense and "Doorman Priest", who wrote the article above, is most certainly an example of that. He sums up very nicely the way that reactionary UK tabloids appeal to their more conservative readers, often without any interest in checking their facts.

(Cross-posted to atheism)
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Businessman Rachid Nekkaz hopes to render new law useless by paying fines for women caught wearing veil in street

A French property tycoon enraged at his government's plans to
ban women from wearing the full veil in public has promised a fund of €1m (£830,000) to help any Muslim who is fined for wearing the niqab in the street.

Rachid Nekkaz, a businessman of Algerian origin who launched a short-lived campaign in the 2007 presidential elections, has already put €200,000 into a bank account aimed at bailing out women who find themselves on the wrong side of the new law.

He insists that the ban, which was approved by the lower house of parliament on Tuesday and is set to be ratified by the senate in September, is "anti-constitutional" and a move that could put France on a slippery slope towards greater intolerance.

While he has no problem – like most of the French population – with an idea initially mooted by MPs of banning the full veil in state areas such as town halls and post offices, he is vehemently against a law that applies to women simply walking down the street.

"I am very, very sensitive to when people start playing around with institutions and the constitution. I was not shocked by the idea of a ban in public services; I am a [French] republican. But when I saw the president – the guarantor of the constitution – announcing a ban in the street I said to myself, 'this is serious'".

Nekkaz, who says his fund received €36,000 in donations in the 24 hours following its announcement and hopes it will reach €1m by September, is selling properties in the Parisian suburbs to keep the money coming in.

Under the planned law, any woman found wearing a face-covering veil anywhere in public faces a possible fine of €150 as well, potentially, as a course in "citizenship". However, if she has been fined for wearing the garment in the street, she will be able to pay the charge from Nekkaz's fund. The law, he hopes, will be made "inapplicable".

"I think this would never happen in the United States or the United Kingdom … France is a country which is not scared to compromise its principles," he said.

Nekkaz, a Muslim, is not the only one to have raised concerns about the viability of the law, due to come into full effect by spring next year. France's constitutional watchdog has twice warned that it could be found to infringe personal freedoms.

Please note that opposition to the burkha ban is not the same as approval of the burkha. A ban on the burkha targets a tiny minority amongst Muslim women, but entirely fails to engage with the patriarchy which forces women to wear it. As such, it serves to prevent this minority group of women from leaving their home and bars practically all possible access to education, employment and other means of personal independence. Not only that, but a large proportion of Muslims in France are of Algerian descent and thus there is also quite a complex long-running race-related issue at play here.

I also notice that while the ban is apparently on wearing the burkha, the article seems to suggest that the nikab is also included.

I'm not sure why he supports a ban in the town hall or in post offices, but I'm nevertheless pleased to see him setting up a fund to contest this ridiculous ban.
philosoraptor42: (Default)
"Get back to Russia!"

That's the phrase used by Eddie Izzard in his stand-up show "Unrepeatable". It's a jokey way of characterising the sort of attitude whereby people presume those who are different ought to be living somewhere else. (In his particular stand up show, he's imagining the comment being made against transvestites. No, that doesn't make any sense. That's the whole point.)

Essentially I don't think there's ever any excuse for pointing to a long-established group of people and telling them to "get back to Russia". Of course, in the case of black people the common phrase has long been "go back to Africa" (though a friend was amused to find herself being told to "go back to London" which was an odd variation for her, not least since she's never lived in London). The case of Helen Thomas recently involved her telling Jewish inhabitants of Israel to go back to Germany or Poland.

Looking at the actual video she begins by saying, with her face nice and close to camera: "Get the hell out of Palestine". Now she laughs after this which suggests that she knows she's said something controversial. In the clip I saw it wasn't obvious what had proceeded this, so at that point I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. She's using hyperbole perhaps?

However, having this comment followed up with a very serious-sounding response of "where should they go?"Helen Thomas' response is to suggest Poland or Germany and then finally America or anywhere else..... It's "Get Back To Russia" all over again...

Helen Thomas has put an "apology" on her website, but the apology is as follows (and this is the complete statement, not simply an extract):
“I deeply regret my comments I made last week regarding the Israelis and the Palestinians. They do not reflect my heart-felt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance. May that day come soon.”
Now I presume I'm not the only person who considers this apology to be far too vague in regards to her actual comments.

This has led to a recent discussion on ontd_p about whether her sacking from her current job was an unfair reaction to this. The rather interesting end of the Guardian article in the OP is this:
It is one of those rare occasions in which one can see clearly how people in America who are willing to express anti-establishment opinions are demonised, marginalised and finally excluded from public debate.

Did I say "people"? I mean, of course, those who are identified as liberals. Right-wing TV and radio hosts can say what they like, however outrageous. Some iconoclasts are obviously freer than others.
Okay, good point that right-wing goons seem to be able to say what they like without repurcussions, but on the other hand I'm not sure you've thought through the reasons for this properly. When you think about it, this isn't actually much of a criticism of the decision to sack Helen Thomas at all.

Okay think about it. Why are teabaggers able to say obnoxious things? Because they belong to a group where such attitudes are viewed as acceptable. (Though even then, a Nazi-supporter was viewed as having opinions which crossed the line and was actually accused of being there to intentionally discredit the tea party movement. So you see there is a limit.) Other right-wing figures spout their viscious views on Fox News, but while Glenn Beck can happily accuse the President of being a communist, there is also a limit on this news network as to what you can say with the Westboro Baptist Church, for example, being thoroughly condemned. Now, the difference for more liberal sources of information is that they have higher standards for what they are prepared to decry. So essentially what Roy Greenslade at the Guardian and those cheering his comments at ontd_p are doing here is criticising the Hearst newspapers for having high standards.

Naturally there will still be room for Helen Thomas to tout her now rather less liberal viewpoint in places where it is more suited. The question is, are these the places where she will feel comfortable?

Denouncing the liberals for not being bigoted enough reminds me of Pat Condell...
philosoraptor42: (Default)
All you Americans who’ve been following the rants of Pat Condell on youtube with glee. If any of you are still nursing the cosy illusion that he’s not a raging xenophobe, it’s time to wake up and open your goddamn eyes.

In case you haven’t heard, criticism of Islam in Europe is most loudly voiced by right-wing figures who are terrified of brown people. There’s Geert Wilders who wants to break the kneecaps of football hooligans (though only if they’re Moors – Oops, I mean Moroccans). There’s also a full-blown ban on minarets in Switzerland, despite the fact that the country only had two mosques with minarets, neither of which had the privilege of calling Muslims to prayer (though I’m sure the Church bells across Switzerland are freely allowed to ring). Meanwhile the well-known French misogynist pig Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to take cues from Belgium and certain areas of Germany and ban the burkha in France. While he is working his way through trophy wives and forcing his justice minister to cut her maternity leave short, apparently when it comes the burkha he’s suddenly hugely interested in female equality (as if a ban on the burkha would aid such as cause).

In Pat Condell’s recent video he’s decided that it isn’t enough for this hysteria over Islam to be spread across the continent and he wants to export it to the United States as well. The recent plans to build a large mosque in New York had already caused a bit of a stir, but since very few people are accusing the New York Muslims of trying to destroy the American way of life, he thinks they’re being too complacent.

The idea that a mosque might be built by a group of Muslims interested in showing good faith between people of all faiths in New York is incomprehensible to poor old Pat. The fact that many of the thousands to lose their lives on 9/11 were actually New York Muslims themselves does not seem to have entered his racist little head. He also apparently thinks that Muslims are dictating what is broadcast on Fox News. Is he losing his mind?

Y’know I’m not a right-wing nutter myself, but I can actually see why someone might be concerned about the creation of a mosque near Ground Zero. However, I also have the good sense to realise that the politicians in New York have thought about that too. The organisation behind this scheme is called the Cordoba Initiative and the building is to be called Cordoba House. And this is because Cordoba is the city in southern Spain where Muslims built their first great mosque when Spain was part of their empire. The mosque was so beautiful that, even when the Christians drove them out, they decided to convert the mosque into a Church rather than destroy it. Perhaps this organisation has an overly romanticised view of this period of history (though it’s hard not to share such a view if you are ever lucky enough to visit the Alhambra in Granada), but their principle is undoubtedly laudable. They wish to set up a centre for New York Muslims specifically acknowledging the horror of 9/11 and their opposition to that horror. Right-wingers like Pat Condell will often ask why they don’t see any moderate Muslims opposing Islamist extremism. Well Pat, you clearly aren’t paying attention!

Pat Condell’s rantings are thoroughly unenlightened and inconsistent. How obvious does that have to be? Pat, a whole-hearted opponent of religion, claims that Islam does not deserve that mantle. Is that a compliment? Unsurprisingly he sees Islam as less of a threat than fascism since, as a borderline BNP-supporter he fits right in with fascists. That’s why the idea of politicians encouraging tolerance and diversity rubs him the wrong way. Pat is thoroughly opposed to tolerance, rejects diversity, recoils in horror at the thought of “multiculturalism” and has little concern for the rights of Muslim women. And if he denies this, he’s a liar.

Here in London we’ve been fortunate enough to keep out Islamophobic nonsense for the most part. Public opinion recently sided against the building of a extra-large mosque to coincide with the Olympic games and cater for the increased number of Muslims in the country during that event. This actually made good sense since there are already a fair number of mosques in London to cater for the current population and so the mega-mosque would have had little use after the Olympics were over (though what we are going to do with the Olympic stadium after the Olympics are over is an issue which has yet to be dealt with). Cordoba House in New York is very different because it is intended to cope with specifically New York Muslims. It is ensuring that Muslims in New York feel part of a community and that the aftermath of 9/11 doesn’t leave them feeling isolated from their society and disillusioned with the American dream.

The last thing Americans need is hate-filled Islamophobic rants from Pat Condell. I’d like to tell Pat Condell and the bloggers who support him that enough is enough. And that this is one insult too far. And that his obnoxious fear mongering and slander against good and decent Muslims are getting boring.

Peace off yourself…

(X-Posted to Atheism)

Transcript for the Pat Condell video I'm responding to is under the cut:

Read more... )


philosoraptor42: (Default)

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