The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue

Austria has been considering closing down an “interfaith” dialogue center it has thanks to the backing of none other than those ardent fans of pluralism, Saudi Arabia.

The Austrian government has threatened to close a controversial Saudi-sponsored religious dialogue center because of the latter’s failure to condemn the flogging of a Saudi human rights activist and blogger.

Saudi Arabia has responded to the threat by issuing a counter-threat to move the permanent headquarters of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC] out of the Austrian capital of Vienna. [Read more…]

The juvenile put his hand in her and pulled out something

Yvonne Roberts writes in The Observer on Leslee Udwin’s documentary India’s Daughter.

Warning: some of this is grim.

India’s Daughter is broadcast on BBC4 next Sunday, International Women’s Day, and simultaneously shown in seven other countries including India, Switzerland, Norway and Canada. On Monday 9 March, actresses Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep will attend a screening in New York, launching a worldwide India’s Daughter campaign against gender inequality and sexual violence against women and girls. It begins by 20 million pupils viewing the film and taking part in workshops in Maharashtra, a state that includes Mumbai.

…What is writ very large in India’s Daughter, but camouflaged in other countries where equality is more strongly embedded in law, is the low value placed on females and the determination of some men, educated as well as the impoverished, to keep women padlocked to the past. [Read more…]

“In our culture, there is no place for a woman.”

Leslee Udwin gives more details from her interview with one of the men who raped and murdered Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012.

Mukesh Singh, the driver of the bus, described to me every detail of what happened during and after the incident. While prosecutors say the men took turns to drive the bus, and all took part in the rape, Singh says he stayed at the wheel throughout.

Along with three of the other attackers, Singh is now appealing against his death sentence. In 16 hours of interviews, Singh showed no remorse and kept expressing bewilderment that such a fuss was being made about this rape, when everyone was at it. [Read more…]

To be found superficial and contemptible

John Gray has a characteristic piece in the Guardian rehearsing the familiar old saws about how naïve and delusional atheists and liberals are, how it’s all just Christianity turned inside out, yadda yadda…but despite the staleness it’s not all wrong.

The conviction that tyranny and persecution are aberrations in human affairs is at the heart of the liberal philosophy that prevails today. But this conviction is supported by faith more than evidence. Throughout history there have been large numbers who have been happy to relinquish their freedom as long as those they hate – gay people, Jews, immigrants and other minorities, for example – are deprived of freedom as well. Many have been ready to support tyranny and oppression. Billions of human beings have been hostile to liberal values, and there is no reason for thinking matters will be any different in future.

[Read more…]

She should just be silent and allow the rape

Taslima alerts us to an interview with one of the Delhi rapists reported in the Telegraph.

In an interview from jail, Mukesh Singh said that women who went out at night had only themselves to blame if they attracted the attention of gangs of male molesters. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy,” he said.

His victim, Jyoti Singh, 23, was returning from an evening at the cinema with a male friend when the six-strong gang offered them a lift in a mini-bus they were driving. She was raped and frenziedly beaten with iron bars, prompting widespread demonstrations for Indian women to have greater protection from sexual violence.

In an interview for a BBC documentary, Singh also claimed that had Jyoti and her friend not tried to fight back, the gang would not have not have inflicted the savage beating, which led her to die from her injuries two weeks later. [Read more…]

Guest post: Prevention is better than punishment

Originally a comment by Ben Finney on Maajid Nawaz takes this moment to salute Gita Sahgal.

zubanel, #4:

I’m saying disregard the religious element as essential and focus on murderers.

So, we focus on those who have already killed? We are to direct our attention away from the ideas that strongly compel them to premeditated murder of strangers?

That doesn’t do it for me. I want to detect potential murderers before they do murder, and obligate them to not murder. [Read more…]

This judge is biased against Raif

Ensaf Haidar yesterday:

Urgent: A Statement from the Family of ‪#‎RaifBadawi‬

We have received information from reliable sources that there are attempts within the Penal Court to retry #Raifbadawi on apostasy charges again. Apostasy charge is punishable under Saudi law with the death penalty by beheading.

We also received confirmed information that the Supreme Court has referred Raif case to the same judge, who sentenced Raif with flogging and 10 years imprisonment.

This judge is biased against Raif. He has twice requested that Raif be charged with ‘apostasy’. [Read more…]

But he was such a kind, gentle, beautiful young man

Amnesty UK is probably going to cut ties with Cage, the Standard reports.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International is likely to cut ties with controversial advocacy group Cage because of “Jihadi John”, its deputy director said today.

Cage has come under fire after suggesting that MI5 “harassment” was responsible for turning Londoner Mohammed Emwazi into a bloodthirsty terrorist seen beheading civilians in horrific Islamic State propaganda videos.

But if Amnesty had listened to Gita Sahgal instead of firing her…they would have avoided this appalling mistake. [Read more…]

Never a reason to stop fighting to make it better

Alom Shaha nudges everyone to notice and remember Avijit Roy.

He was a hero to many Bangladeshis, but few if any in the west will be declaring that they are Avijit in the way so many of us announced we were Charlie after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. But there are lots of Avijits outside the west, genuinely brave individuals who put their lives on the line to uphold values and freedoms that we take for granted: Ahmed Rajib Haider, another Bangladeshi atheist who was killed because of what he wrote; Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been flogged in public and is in prison for “insulting Islam”; Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, jailed for three years in Egypt, again for “insulting Islam” by simply declaring he is an atheist; Kacem El Ghazzali, who lives in exile after death threats in his home country of Morocco – the list is long and depressing.

The list includes also Taslima Nasreen, Zineb el-Rhazoui, Deeyah Khan, Maryam Namazie. [Read more…]