An affront to principles of human rights

Al Jazeera reports on Baltasar Garzón defending his investigation of Franco-era crimes.

“The amnesty law refers to crimes of a political nature, in no way can it be said that crimes against humanity of the kind that were alleged could have any political nature,” the 56-year-old judge said.

“As such it was not even necessary to make a reference to the amnesty law,” he said on the opening day of his testimony in Madrid. [Read more…]

There’s an explanation

Tarek Fatah posted a photo on Facebook with the comment

Inside Islam’s holiest place of worship, The Kaabah in Mecca. For some a romantic stroll in the park, without the fear of Maya Khan.

Six comments in a guy said, in all seriousness –

Have a close careful look!
This man has only one leg, and is being helped by his wife.
Please think carefully a few times prior to commenting on religious locations and issues.


“Unwise and untimely”

Frederick Sparks has an incisive post on Be Scofield on “new atheists” and racism.

In referring to Dr King and the civil rights movement, Scofield also falls into the trap of “the Civil Rights Movement, Brought To You By Black Church”…a bit of historical revisionism that ignores, as professor Anthony Pinn points out, the secular philosophical influences, and that King himself complained that most the black churches were not involved and were not supportive.

Didn’t he just. In the much-quoted Letter from Birmingham Jail for instance –

My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”… [Read more…]

Not acceptable to all those who believe in respect for all religions

Via Padraig Reidy at Index on Censorship, a new depth of absurdity.

An Early day motion (query: wozzat?) in Parliament a week ago:

That this House notes with concern the sketch on the NBC Jay Leno Show where the most sacred Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, was disrespected by Jay Leno when it was referred to as GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s summer home; expresses concern and regret that this depiction of the Golden Temple as a home of the rich shows a complete misunderstanding of the Sikh faith and is derogatory to Sikhs across the world; believes that these comments are not acceptable to all those who believe in respect for all religions; calls on Jay Leno and NBC to apologise to all Sikhs for this disrespectful depiction of the Golden Temple; and further calls on the Government to make representations to the US government that while recognising principles of freedom of speech there should be more understanding and respect shown to the Sikh faith. [Read more…]

Some women have a hell of a nerve

Just in case you missed this – Afghan woman is killed ‘for giving birth to a girl’:

A woman in north-eastern Afghanistan has been arrested for allegedly strangling her daughter-in-law for giving birth to a third daughter.

The murdered woman’s husband, a member of a local militia, is also suspected of involvement but he has since fled.

Senior officials told the BBC that the mother-in-law, known as Wali Hazrata, tied the feet of the 22-year old woman, who was known as Stori, while Stori’s husband strangled her.

He is thought to be a fighter with an illegal armed militia which is is believed to have some political support. Local villagers say that Stori often urged her husband to lay down his arms.

“She lived in a hell not a house. But then she also asked her husband to stay home and avoid going out with these thugs,” one neighbour who wished to remain anonymous told the BBC.

Those three girls are in for a nice life.

Too Westernized, secular and progressive to be authentic

This is an outstanding observation from Kenan Malik’s talk at Conway Hall:

In recent decades, faith has, in other words, transformed itself into the religious wing of identity politics.  Religion has, ironically, become secularised, driven less by a search for piety and holiness than for identity and belongingness.  The rise of identity politics has transformed the meaning not just of religion but of blasphemy too. Blasphemy used to be regarded as a sin against God. These days it is felt as a sin against the individual believer, an offence against the self and one’s identity. That is why for Sardar, ‘Every word [of The Satanic Verses] was directed at me and I took everything personally’, why he imagined that Rushdie had ‘despoiled the inner sanctum of my identity’. This is also why many laws these days that ostensibly protect faith – such as Britain’s Racial and Religious Hatred Act – are framed primarily in terms of protecting the culture and identity of individuals or communities. In today’s world, identity is God, in more ways than one. [Read more…]

Trots fight back

This just in, from LSE ASH at Facebook – a poster from the Socialist Workers Student Society advertising an event on Thursday. It reads:

Religious discrimination is irrefutably on the rise at LSE. Both the Atheist Society’s efforts to publish inflammatory “satirical” cartoons in a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims, and the ‘Nazi themed’ drinking games serve to highlight a festering undercurrent of racism.

What does really lie behind the claim that religious communities cannot be the target of racists?

Is atheism the road to social progress?

Why do Marxists defend religion?

Great god almighty. A Nazi-themed drinking game is religious discrimination?! And then, if it is, why the “festering undercurrent of racism”? They don’t seem to be able to remember what they’re trying to talk about for the length of a paragraph. Lev Davidovitch would be so embarrassed.

And as for the rest of the dishonest censorious bullshit…The cartoon was and is not remotely “inflammatory” (and what are Trotskyists doing freaking out about things that are “inflammatory” anyway??!) and that stupid babyish tattle-taleish “a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims” is beneath contempt. I feel like composing a cartoon in a deliberate attempt to offend SWP-ers. What a stupidity-magnet.

The believer’s inner needs


I’m reading Kenan Malik’s talk at the Conway Hall conference on blasphemy, and it corroborates what I was just saying about contemporary religion (that it’s contemporary religion that is seen as “fulfilling people’s needs” and that it’s reading backward to think religion has always been seen that way).

This intensely personal, deeply emotional response marks a shift in the way that believers understood their relationship to belief. Faith has always had an emotional components and for some faiths such emotional spirituality has been  central to their outlook. Nevertheless there has been a fundamental shift in the character of religious belief in recent decades. Sociologists talk of  the rise of the ‘therapy culture’ to describe the growing emotionalism of our age.  Scholars such as the philosopher Charles Taylor and the sociologist Olivier Roy have described how such emotionalism has become central to new forms of ‘expressive’ faiths.  Faith, as Charles Taylor observes in his book A Secular Age, has become disembedded from its historical culture, and reconstituted instead as part of the culture of ‘expressive individualism’, forms of spirituality grounded in the primacy of individual experience and rooted in the social values of what the writer Tom Wolfe has called the ‘me generation’…

In Spiritual Revolution, their study of religious practices in a small town in northern England, the sociologists Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead show that while traditional religious congregations are on the decline, ‘New Age’ forms of spirituality are beginning to fill the gap. But more than this, many once-traditional believers are beginning to adopt New Age attitudes and rituals, developing new forms of faith that celebrate the emotional aspects of spirituality and seek to fulfil the believer’s inner needs.


It wasn’t like that

A couple of “Really? Is that actually true? Do you really know what you just asserted?” items from a review of three books on god, meaning, what to do without god, emotional needs, and the intersections between them all.

In the aftermath of the French Revolution…

The fundamental tension, however, remained unresolved: between, on the one hand,  the views of an expanding educated class who saw the many holes in Christian  doctrine, and on the other, the people’s need for guidance and meaning that the  Church had long fulfilled.

It had? Really? [Read more…]