Systematic discrimination against women persists

Human Rights Watch sees Saudi Arabia rather differently from the way the people running the governments and sitting on the thrones do.

King Abdullah’s reign brought about marginal advances for women but failed to secure the fundamental rights of Saudi citizens to free expression, association, and assembly. Abdullah’s successor, King Salman, should halt persecution of peaceful dissidents and religious minorities, end pervasive discrimination against women, and ensure greater protections for migrant workers.

Over King Abdullah’s nine-and-a-half year rule, reform manifested itself chiefly in greater tolerance for a marginally expanded public role for women, but royal initiatives were largely symbolic and produced extremely modest concrete gains.

And that’s in a place where women are treated like disease-ridden vaginas – alluring and filthy, with no brain and no rights.

Early in his reign, King Abdullah promoted modernization of Saudi Arabia’s state apparatus, making it more efficient and transparent; encouraged a modest public re-evaluation of the enforced subservient status of women and religious minorities; allowed greater debate in the media; and promoted some degree of judicial fairness. After 2011, the authorities subordinated the king’s reform agenda to a campaign to silence peaceful dissidents and activists who called for religious tolerance and greater respect for human rights.

King Salman should take steps to prohibit discrimination against women and religious minorities and institute protections for free speech. A significant first step would be to repeal vague legislation used to prosecute Saudis for peaceful speech and create a written penal code that includes comprehensive human rights protections. He should also order the immediate release of Saudi citizens jailed solely for calling for political reform.

Nonsense. Look at all the tributes to Abdullah pouring in from the heads of state. Obviously there’s no need to improve anything, or they would have mentioned it.

The most concrete gains for women under King Abdullah included opening up new employment sectors for women. In February 2013, King Abdullah appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, a consultative body that produces recommendations for the cabinet.

Systematic discrimination against women persists, however. Authorities have not ended the discriminatory male guardianship system. Under this system, ministerial policies and practices forbid bar women from obtaining a passport, marrying, travelling, or accessing higher education without the approval of a male guardian, usually a husband, father, brother, or son. Employers can still require male guardians to approve the hiring of adult female relatives and some hospitals to require male guardian approval for certain medical procedures for women. Women remain forbidden barred from driving in Saudi Arabia, and authorities have arrested women who dared challenge the driving ban. [tweaks mine]

The place is a nightmare for women, and for men who think women are human beings. Abdullah’s death doesn’t change that, not even for a few days.

If that’s bland and reassuring, what would scary look like?

The Guardian also reports that the new Saudi monarch promises continuity with the previous monarch. What a surprise.

Salman’s first public remarks as monarch, even before Abdullah’s burial, were designed to send a bland and reassuring message of stability. “We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” he said in a speech on state TV.

“The Arab and Islamic nations are in dire need of solidarity and cohesion.” He used the phrase “the straight path” – language taken directly from the Qur’an.

[Read more…]

The palace told them to lower the flags

Wtf?

Why would flags in the UK be lowered in tribute to the king of Saudi Torturer Arabia?

Some MPs are wondering.

A decision to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by flying flags in Whitehall at half-mast has been criticised by MPs.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had asked government buildings to fly the union flag at half-mast for 12 hours in line with protocol that says this is appropriate following the death of a foreign monarch.

Any monarch, all monarchs? No matter what? Even when the country the monarch was monarch of just beat a man with 50 blows of a stick as punishment for having a website that advocated liberal values? Even then? [Read more…]

Measles then and now

You know those people who say measles is just a harmless little childhood disease? Epidemiologist Tara Smith has a few things to tell them.

Last year was the worst year for measles in two decades. While we’ve seen fewer than 100 cases of measles in most years since the turn of the century, that number spiked to 644 cases in 2014, from 23 separate outbreaks in 27 states.

Before the vaccine, the United States saw approximately 4 million cases of measles each year and 400 to 500 deaths. These are the stats that vaccine-deniers tend to emphasize—a relatively low number of deaths compared with the number of infections. However, those statistics alone leave out a big part of measles infections. Prevaccine, almost 48,000 people were also hospitalized each year because of measles and measles complications. One in 20 of those infected developed pneumonia. More rarely but more seriously, each year 1,000 became chronically disabled due to measles encephalitis. [Read more…]

Worldview Academy faculty speak and present

Uh huh. “Worldview Academy” appears to be mostly a website, along with a program of “camps” it offers around the country. Judging by the “camp” in my state, which lasts 5 days and charges $745, these camps are really just quick proselytizing jaunts.

We are drawn together by the conviction to live out a biblical worldview in heart, mind, and life. Each summer, we gather in camps across the country to pursue the Reason for living. Just as iron sharpens iron, our faculty and students dialogue and search the scriptures to deepen our knowledge of Christ and come together in following Him.

[Read more…]

Jack pulled out a piece of paper

Oh here we go – “they are persecuting me because of my faaaaaaaaith when I all I want to do is say God hates everyone I disapprove of.”

A Colorado bakery is under investigation for religious discrimination after a baker refused to write anti-gay words on a cake.

In March of 2014, a customer named Bill Jack requested several cakes in the shapes of Bibles from the Azucar Bakery in Denver, Colo., according to the bakery owner, Marjorie Silva.

Silva says Jack pulled out a piece of paper with phrases like “God hates gays” and requested her to write them on his cakes.

[Read more…]

Time for the UK to cut these ties

Sunny Hundal on the BBC blasts the UK government’s hugging of the Saudi regime.

Blogger Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticising Saudi Arabian clerics on his internet blog.

British blogger Sunny Hundal said this case, and others like it, mean the UK should stop “hugging” the Saudi regime.

In a personal film, he said it was time for the UK to cut these ties and “treat the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the contempt it deserves”.

We might as well be hugging IS.

Progressive Muslim voices are actually everywhere

Via Tehmina Kazi, a brilliant piece at Open Democracy by a friend of hers, Akmal Ahmed Safwat, an oncologist in Denmark.

Instead of verbally denouncing terror, many Muslims in the West are now challenging the radical, ultra conservative and violent Wahhabi/salafi version of Islam that gives religious justification for hideous crimes. They are doing so through a growing movement of progressive Muslims such as British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Muslims for Progressive Values (USA) and the Liberal Muslim Network (Norway).

We progressive Muslims do not distinguish between atrocities committed by radical movements like Al-Qaida or Boko Haram and those committed by despotic dictatorships that dare to call themselves “Islamic” governments; the ones that administer the death penalty for apostasy and homosexuality; that practice stoning and flagellation; that legitimize child marriage. Both justify their atrocious practices through selected, outdated interpretations of primary Islamic scripture and a so-called “irrefutable authority” of ancient scholars and books.

[Read more…]