As I think these words, even before my fingers strike the keys, I feel like I’ve said this before. I feel like I’ve felt this same frustration before. How is it possible that in 2011, nearly 2012, we have countries with laws that jail a woman for infidelity? To add the most reprehensible insult to injury I’ve ever heard of in my whole life, the “infidelity” is a result of being a rape victim. Continue reading
A father accused of the “honour killings” of four family members – including his three teenage daughters – was recorded on police wiretaps saying he was “happy” they were dead and that he would “do the same again”, a Canadian court has heard.
Mohammad Shafia, 58, his second wife Tooba Mahommad Yahya, 41, and their son Hamed, 20, are on trial for the first-degree murder of Zainab Shafia, 19, Sahar Shafia, 17, Geeti Shafia, 13, and his first wife Rona Amir Mohammad, 50, in 2009.
Prosecutors told the Ontario court their deaths were “honour killings” committed to remove the perceived shame the women brought on their family, such as by having boyfriends.
Ok so normally I should write an introductory thought and lead into a quote that makes or reinforces a point I have made. Instead I am going to ask you to read that quote one more time. This time think very hard about what their father says, their Daddy. Then read the daughters names again. Think back to that age. What were you doing at those ages??? Were you running away? Were you appealing to your school or other officials to be removed from your home because you feared for your life??? Were you trying to find balance between being or dressing as the person you felt you were and trying not to enrage a hyper conservative father who you no doubt loved???
There have been 13 such killings in Canada since 2002, said Amin Muhammed, a psychiatry professor at Memorial University in Saint John’s, Newfoundland.
That is thirteen too many. Officials need to wake up and realize that we need new mechanisms in place to better react to and investigate complaints like this from females that come from traditionally hyper conservative cultural backgrounds. For my part I will be writing my MP.
My thoughts have been mixed over the recent brouhaha over the revelation that a Toronto public school is allowing Muslims to pray during lunch hour on school grounds (it also allowed an Imam to come in and segregate the students, especially those who were menstruating).
On the one hand, I really don’t like the thought of aligning with the usual suspects who simply oppose Islam out of bigotry. I further would rather see these kids in public school, getting a secular education than to have them either home-schooled or sent to private Islamic schools.
Perhaps I also have a slight anti-Toronto bias (as is Canadian, note to Torontonians: electing Rob Ford will not make the rest of Canada like you), and just glazed over the stories.
But in a discussion today (not at the BC Humanists meeting I attended, but at a political meeting for a civic party whose endorsement I’m seeking to run for Vancouver School Board) I realized that it’s really quite simple:
Prayer does not belong in public schools.
It’s a simple concept, and one we’re used to fighting over when the prayers are Christian. Swap the Christian for a minority faith, like Islam or Hinduism though, and something seems to change.
Perhaps I’ve gotten too soft and accomadationalisty lately, and for that, I’m sorry.
The rule is simple: Prayer does not belong in public schools. It does not matter whether that prayer is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or even aboriginal, the rule applies to all Canadians. Our public schools are secular places where people are included, which means that religion and its divisiveness are out.
A few days ago I wrote about Sam Harris’ take on the Norway tragedy. Naturally, it elicited some responses, the most interesting to me were the ones that focussed on the necessity to take on the apparent evils of Islam.
First, it’s always interesting to see atheists use such moralistic absolute phrases as “pure evil.” While I don’t believe atheism necessitates a nihilistic moral relativism, and that objective morality can exist (when words like morality are defined in meaningful ways), absolutist language is still discomforting to me. I’d even go as far as to say that I somewhat see absolutism as part of the root cause of this atrocity, and something we ought to be very wary of.
This absolutism also neglects the large diversity in Islamic theology. It is true that Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many other regimes are tremendously abhorrent, and I won’t for a second attempt to justify their actions. But what I will point to is the fact that not all Muslims are the same.
Case in point, this past Sunday, I marched in the Vancouver Pride Parade with the BC Humanists and CFI Vancouver. Directly behind our group was a queer Muslim group, including the (almost radically) liberal Ismaili Muslims. Perhaps the most famous Ismaili Muslim in Canada today is Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi who likely has more in common with Barack Obama then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
I believe that Humanism and the positive atheism espoused best by PZ Myers teaches us not to see the world in simple black and white terms. Islam, like all religions, is bad, but there are worse aspects and less bad aspects. All are religions are based on unsubstantiated myths and promote uncritical thinking, but some are far more harmful than others.
Focussing on any specific religion can easily turn from critical analysis and consciousness raising to racist xenophobia. At the very least, focussing on the irrationality of the minority can miss the far greater threats posed by the irrationality in the majority. Just by a purely statistical argument, we ought to fear the latter more.
You probably have far more to worry about from your racist neighbour (or even the cops) than your new Iranian co-worker.
And I don’t just say that because most Iranians that I’ve met are atheist physics/engineering graduate students happy to have escaped.
I won’t claim to be any sort of expert on Turkish politics, but I do know that Turkey is generally considered one of the most successful democratic-secular Arab states. But that secularism is under threat with the current Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, who sound like a hyper-Islamic version of the Republicans or our Conservatives.
The government has been pushing hard for more religious-based rulings and laws, while the liberal military (yeah, it apparently exists) is opposed and is attempting to defend secularism in the country. In the past the military has repeatedly staged coup d’etats to (ironically) calm increasing political violence (typically between left-wingers and Islamists).
Rather than overthrow the current government, though, the military commanders have now essentially gone on strike in protest.
On Friday, Chief of Staff General Isik Kosaner resigned, as did the heads of the Turkish army, navy and air force. Never before have so many top commanders of the Turkish military walked out together.
Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a coalition of conservatives, reformed Islamists and Islamists, came to power in Turkey in 2002, relations between the AKP and the military have been tense. But thus far, the military has played along. By staging a walkout at the leadership level, the Turkish army has finally told the AKP, “We are done playing with you. Set up your own team—if you can.”
It’s an interesting situation. Typically the military of a country is supposed to be sharply loyal to the government (elected or not), but in this case they seem to have the job of bringing a bit of rationalism back to the country whenever things get a bit too messy.
With all the unrest in the Middle East though, let’s hope that things calm down.
Sam Harris has a new post with some comments on the recent Norway terrorist attacks which left me scratching my head a bit.
I have no issue with the first half, and agree that perhaps “Christian Fundamentalist” is the wrong label to attach to Breivik, especially given his deluded rantings that he calls a manifesto.
But then Harris jumps into this:
One can only hope that the horror and outrage provoked by Breivik’s behavior will temper the growing enthusiasm for right-wing, racist nationalism in Europe. However, one now fears the swing of another pendulum: We are bound to hear a lot of deluded talk about the dangers of “Islamophobia” and about the need to address the threat of “terrorism” in purely generic terms.
The emergence of “Christian” terrorism in Europe does absolutely nothing to diminish or simplify the problem of Islam—its repression of women, its hostility toward free speech, and its all-too-facile and frequent resort to threats and violence. Islam remains the most retrograde and ill-behaved religion on earth. And the final irony of Breivik’s despicable life is that he has made that truth even more difficult to speak about.
Which, on its face, is true, yet seems to quickly focus on the wrong issues.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the terror attack on Oslo was not that the perpetrator was more likely a right-wing fascist than an Islamic fascist, but that it happened in what everyone thought of as such a peaceful country.
I mean, they hold peace conferences there. They even give out the Nobel Peace Prize there.
And yet a man can blow up a government building before opening fire on teenagers.
It’s worth remembering that such a thing could happen here to.
So, didja hear about the latest media personality to be fired in the US? Juan Williams, contributor to National Public Radio (the US’s equivalent to CBC) was fired over these comments he made on the O’Reilly Factor:
Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.
I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.
That same night, NPR severed its contract with Williams, saying: “His remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR” (link).
What do you think? Should he have been fired over such a statement? What kind of message does it send to have him fired? Will the rapid firings over media figures’ misstatements help or harm conversations around race and other touchy issues?
Maybe it’s due to all the godless conversations I’ve been a part of lately, but does this news story fit along the lines of the talk surrounding accomodationalism vs. confrontationalism? Is Williams being censured for being too confrontational? Is it better to dilute criticism of Islam and accommodate the culture by not calling attention to its extremists’ allegiance to the nastier bits of the religion? I don’t know.
And while I don’t agree with blaming an entire cultural group for terroristic activities, I also don’t think it does much good to underplay the fact that the events of 9/11 were primarily motivated by the religious ideology of Islam.
Not everyone agreed with Williams’ firing. In fact, a major Muslim group, The Muslim Public Affairs Council, decried the firing of Williams as a mistake:
“NPR’s decision to fire Williams was a poor decision with poor timing,” argues MPAC. “While Williams expressed his anxieties toward Muslim airline passengers, he then went on to stress that it is the responsibility of O’Reilly and other media commentators to be specific in identifying the threat as coming from extremists rather than any group as a whole and said America has ‘an obligation to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in the country.’”Seizing on that theme, MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati says” “We need to use this moment as a catalyst to open a national debate about the grievous misconceptions, fear and suspicion about Islam and Muslims. This discussion needs to be elevated to ethical discourse beyond biases and prejudices.”
What do you think?
You know what’s not a big deal but almost seems like it should be: today (or yesterday depending where/when you’re reading) was the first time Canadians elected a Muslim as mayor.
Even more shocking, it was in Calgary, Alberta.
I’ll even admit that I’ve been rooting for him as I’ve learned more about him.
He’s got a vision for my hometown, and has rallied young people in a city known for pathetic election turnouts.
While I would probably disagree with him about religion, no where in his platform does it say he wants to build mosques on every corner or force the women of Calgary to where Niqabs. He is exactly what we as atheists should want from a politician: he may have his faith, but it has little obvious influence on his politics.
Today I congratulate a Muslim for winning in the heart of Canada’s Redneck Bible-Belt.
And hey, since non-existent hell has apparently frozen over, maybe the conservative Rob Ford will win even in Toronto (sometimes feeding the trolls is too tempting).
In a recent Ontario court case a Muslim women charged her cousin and uncle with sexual assault and was ordered by the judge to remove her Niqab (the face-covering veil). She appealed on grounds of religious freedom, and the Ontario Court of Appeal has just agreed that she does not have to remove her veil in court.
The unanimous ruling is subtle though and leaves room for some special hypothetical case when the veil could need to be removed for whatever reason, however, when the courts weighed access to the system with the custom to see one’s accuser, it found access as the more important right.
And it’s a damn good thing.
While I object to forcing a women to wear a veil in public, I even more object to society forcing someone who believes they have to wear the veil to remove it or not appear in court.
I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it was for this woman to come forward and charge patriarchs from her family with these crimes, but were she also forced to violate something sacred to her, it is much more likely she would have suffered longer in silence.
Similarly, countless other Muslim women are likely in similar situations. With a culture that routinely subjugates women, it is ridiculous to subjugate them further and make the bar any more difficult then it ought to be for them to pursue justice.
As a basic of harm reduction, let them wear whatever makes them the least uncomfortable in what is already an overly traumatic experience.
And for those who think the face must be seen by a jury to judge the veracity of someone’s story: Do you really think juries are so infallible as to be able to accurately read the truth from someone’s face? I think the overwhelming evidence would suggest quite the contrary. Consider how routinely the average person is conned by emotional appeals.