Posts Tagged ‘human rights’
The freedom to write about atheism and to be critical about religion is one I try not to take for granted. News from Bangladesh is a wake up call not just to the privileges I have but the universal rights all should enjoy:
DHAKA — Bangladesh police have arrested three atheist bloggers for allegedly defaming Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, police said Tuesday, amid calls from religious fundamentalists for an Internet crackdown.
The arrest of the three, who were paraded in handcuffs at a news conference, followed pressure from Islamists who have organised a march from all over the country to the capital to demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers.
“They have hurt the religious feelings of the people by writing against different religions and their prophets and founders including the Prophet Mohammed,” said deputy commissioner of Dhaka police, Molla Nazrul Islam.
The three could face 10 years in jail if convicted under the country’s cyber laws which outlaw “defaming” a religion, Islam said. Source
Bloggers have been demonstrating and showing solidarity with those targeted in what is a running tit for tat regarding war crimes committed during independence. A result has been Islamists targeting atheists and secularists for blasphemy. The authorities are claiming that blogging about atheism is propaganda that requires repentance while violence has flared by those wanting the death penalty imposed.
The death penalty for printing words about atheism, paragraphs in cyberspace rejecting religion as knowing who God is let alone anyone knowing what this being wants from us? We cannot allow these bloggers to be victimised to reduce the anger Islamists feel about the trial of their leaders, that has by accounts fallen short of international standards. (The Economist)
If ever there was a reason for the OUT Campaign to encourage atheists to stand up and show solidarity now is the time. To that end I encourage fellow bloggers to share this story and fly the updated Scarlet A below in support of the bloggers and secularism is Bangladesh (as recommended here).
Follow Up Blog: solidarity protest
Latest Blog: Time to stand together
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
I am aware that my pseudo name “Homo economicus” does confuse some people who do not understand the term, cannot use google or bother to read the About Me section. It is based on my love of economics and rationality (it is a concept about people as an economic agent). However when I write about gay rights this confusion multiplies. Frankly, that does not bother me.
What does bother me is human rights – and when people are denied them because they are considered not just less human but less worthy. The last Pope Benedict described homosexuality as a “defection of human nature”. The new Pope Francis gives little optimism the church will be less hostile from the top to bottoms of others:
However he strongly opposed same-sex marriage legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine government, calling it a ‘destructive attack on God’s plan’.
In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: ‘Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God.
‘We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.’
In the past, he has also called the adoption of gay couples child abuse, saying it was discrimination against children. [Source]
If we are going to use the term child abuse so loosely (the pope making more of a mockery of the term then Dawkins saying calling a child a religious child is abuse) lets consider the alternatives of state orphanages and being brought up in the care system. Where real child abuse and significantly reduced life chances as an adult beckon. A loving couple, with legal recognition of their union is infinitely preferable.
Yet again though the pope shows that the catholic church’s mission does go beyond saving souls, and bringing the truth of the gospel to the world. Seeing politics it disagrees with as the devil’s work even in the 21st century, and will do what it can as part of God’s mission.
Remember, Pope Francis has mentioned spreading the gospel (and sadly St Paul’s views) should be the image for the church rather than a “compassionate NGO”. To the point of scrutinising legislation that meeting scriptural authority. Mercifully, majority of Catholics seem inclined to ignore the church, making the new pope out of step. One hopes secular leaders will ignore too and look at the welfare of citizens and not supposed dictates from Iron Age gods.
Breaking news right now is the pope has called for a “poor church for the poor”. Generously compensating victims of child abuse conducted by church officials, and in church premises, is my suggestion to help in this goal. I am sure Francis of Assisi would agree.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
This charge will usually rear it’s head at some point as you think about God all the time in not believing him. That sadly ignores the reality of what belief means when in a cult.
Imagine that you had to prepare each week for four meetings learning and worshipping about God and a field trip over the weekend to tell people about it at their front door. That every conversation anywhere was to reflect glory upon God, and reflect well for the faith you stand for. To analyse every social interaction as whether a potential convert to be saved, or person avoided to save yourself. Sitting in front of the TV and thinking if Jesus walked into the lounge how would he feel about what you were watching. To monitor your thoughts in case demons tried to enter to cause doubts. To be trained to have a reflex, so if told you were brainwashed you would reply “we have to be the world tries to pollute our minds in so many ways doesn’t it?”
Such was life with the Jehovah’s Witnesses – and that is only by way of an introduction, for more do read the tabs on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the pages of the blog. To suggest that atheism is a religion or just as obsessive is nonsensical. As a freethinker, I am not tied to an ideology or to honour at all times a society or people. I can be critical of Richard Dawkins when the occasion arises (for example the claim that Obama was a secret atheist), without being disfellowshipped and considered a heretic. Try that in the Jehovah’s Witnesses about the Society and see what happens.
Debate, reasoning and learning with honest critical inquiry aid human reflective thought.
I have mentioned in the past how the debate between Vroomfondle and MagicThighs on the existence or none of God must end. Largely because we need to work on such things as religious freedom, pluralism and multicultural society working harmoniously, protecting human rights from religious privileges, and public policy that has the welfare of people at its core. Leave to people their conscience about God or no God, and work out how we actually can live beyond surviving.
That is not going to be easy. Some believe the way is to get everyone to covert to their way of thinking – then it will be. No, that will be counter productive. Rather, being free to talk, exchange ideas, and work on ways forward in resolving conflicts with justice and fairness are the best way to a better future.
History has shown that conflict is either resolved by dialogue or violence. Having once thought that genocide by Armageddon was the only way this would happen with God’s grace on the few to be saved, I am more optimistic that we will decide there is another way, but only if we are prepared to stand up for the enlightenment and not give in to a cynicism that has no basis in fact but only in attitude.
I am obsessed with the human, and how we can make this a better place for us all to live, without making us all part of some means to fulfil a paradigm set out by others. Let us be free, and use that freedom to help ourselves and others live. How we think matters, which is why the accusation about being obsessed with God is one myth to be put to rest.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
Female circumcision does not describe what is happening. Female genital mutilation may sound more hardcore, but even that cannot describe the full horror. To add insult to injury, the Malaysian health ministry is looking to reclassify this as a medical practise. What follows in this blog tells you and by diagram shows you what happens.
Azrul Mohd Khalib describes what is happening in Malaysia where religious pronouncements are being made into law increasingly.
Religion poisons everything, for as he says:
If there is no medical benefit, no religious obligation, or any benefit whatsoever to performing female circumcision, then why do it?
Rather than medicalising the practice, we should instead be prohibiting female circumcision to be done and protect our infant daughters and girls from harm.
He mentions the World Health Organisation classifications of female genital mutilation:
● Type I is clitoridectomy — partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very rare cases, only the prepuce or clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).
● Type II is excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora or “the lips” which surround the vagina.
● Type III is infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
● Type IV includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes. This includes the procedure of pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area.
Please contact your Malaysian Embassy so they know that the whole world is watching.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
The idea of the state being the end, and the people the means to which the state is, results in individuals and groups being suppressed if they do not deliver according to their masters wishes. Such tyranny confuses the well-being of the state with that of the people – or rather it claims that the victims are a necessary valediction of the glorious revolution that has delivered the people. Evil people know well how to cloud their cruelty with poetic justification. The demagogue makes them all the more effective.
So to China, where because a Tibetan monk burned himself alive in protest, the whole monastery of 300 monks is undergoing “patriotic re-education” to use the regime’s lingo. The sleepless nights will not be for studying to pass an exam – there will be torture, suffering which no amount of mediation can prepare you for.
It would be small comfort to imagine that the People’s Republic of China fears a middle east style uprising as was sparked by similar doused diesel in Tunisa. Self-immolation does not end the suffering of others, though it’s symbol can become, for want of a better analogy, a standard bearer for others that understand the grievances highlighted.
For like the matrix, China knows how to handle dissent having done so many times, and is not afraid to act to safeguard the politburo. The only hope is that a calculation goes wrong or the government weakens it’s resolve, or embraces political reform.
Ultimately it wil be up to the people of China to demand and seize what is rightly theirs. Individuals have rights. There is a solidarity of humankind when these rights are infringed – an instinct to strike back against the oppressor. It comes from a sense of justice. We can do more then just stand on the sidelines.
It is not only Hollywood celebrities that are accused of hurting people’s sensibilities when it comes to religion (Natalie Portman). Pat Condell, a comedian who has been featured on Richard Dawkins Website, had his video on Sharia Law flagged by users and complained about by Muslim Groups when posted on 30 September. YouTube have reinstated the video stating:
“YouTube is a platform for expression of all kinds. Our Community Guidelines prohibit speech that promotes or encourages hatred or violence towards certain groups or individuals, and the video was flagged by our community on that basis. Upon further review of the context of Pat Condell’s comments, we’ve reinstated it.”
Richard Dawkins welcomed the decision:
I congratulate YouTube on an excellent decision. Pat Condell is hard-hitting, but always quietly reasonable in tone. That some people say they are ‘offended’ by something is never a good reason for censoring it. Incitement to violence is. Pat Condell never incites violence against anybody. He always signs off with “Peace” and he means it.
Freedom of speech can not be limited based solely on people saying they are offended. There is a huge difference between not respecting ideas and inciting hatred and violence towards people. That distinction needs to be kept in mind and free citizens need to be vigilant against that distinction being eroded at the cost of all our civil liberties.
Here is the video:
[N.B. Only British Citizens can sign these petitions - the first one runs out today; the second one 1 January 2009 - thanks to Stephen Gash for comment]
The circular argument – the con artist (features Pat Condell video on atheism at bottom)
In a few hours the opening ceremony will start (if anyone else says anything about today being 08/08/08 I shall smile feebly). Amnesty International reported that some human rights improvements had occurred in the build up (for example senior rather than local courts deciding the death penalty) but there has been a deterioration – not least the forced eviction of people from their homes to make way for construction to cater for the event.
While the AI has also been pushing for less Internet censorship, it is worth noting that any WordPress bloggers going to China will not be able to blog directly – wordpress is one of many sites that are blocked. One blogger, Splendidelles, got around that by e mailing the blog she wanted to send from China to me. To console yourself you can now get access to Playboy.
Whether Chinese nationalism – that seems to be the new under pinning of state ideology rather than Marxism – will end up being a cause for concern in international relations time will tell. Meanwhile men in baseball caps roam around venues and if they spot any trouble it will be dealt with promptly. “Positive propaganda” is the order from on high to the media. Yet there are voices in authority calling for change:
After the Olympic party (a dour one if security officials do not relax), many in China are likely to wonder whether it was really all worth it. Wang Yang, a member of the ruling Politburo and one of the more outspoken leaders (a rare breed), has called for tolerance of public grievances. Attempting to suppress people’s views might create an “opinion quake lake”, he said recently, referring to the perilously unstable lakes that were formed by landslides during the Sichuan earthquake. China’s leaders would do well to take heed.
Quote from The Economist “Welcome to a (rather dour) party” July 31st 2008.
In Ecuador the constitution is being rewritten, and one of the people involved has suggested that sexual education should be included. This would cover the ability for a woman to be sexually satisfied – thus has it been termed the right to the female orgasm.
However there is a serious point in trying to break down the taboos that exist in the country about sex – not least because half of the country is under 19. The link here shows the positive impact of sex education in Ecuador.
Below is the initial BBC News report that first attracted me to the story. Considering the benefits of sex education in reducing unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases who would be against it in schools … (answer the usual suspects).
Sex on Ecuador’s political agenda
By Daniel Schweimler
South America correspondent, BBC News
Ms Soledad Vela wants laws covering life, health and sexual education
A woman from the governing party in Ecuador has proposed that a women’s right to enjoy sexual happiness should be enshrined in the country’s law.
Her suggestion has provoked a lively debate in conservative Ecuador.
Maria Soledad Vela, who is helping to rewrite the constitution, says women have traditionally been seen as mere sexual objects or child bearers.
Now, she says, women should have the right to make free, responsible and informed decisions about sex lives.
‘Orgasm by law’
Ms Soledad Vela is a member of the governing party on the Constituent Assembly that is rewriting the country’s constitution.
Its aim, among other things, is to ensure a better distribution of wealth and rights for indigenous communities and the poor.
Women, she believes, should not be left off that list.
But her comments have provoked a lively response – mostly, unsurprisingly, from men.
Opposition assembly member, Leonardo Viteri, accused her of trying to decree orgasm by law.
Another called the proposal “ridiculous” and said that such an intimate topic should stay intimate and not be enshrined in law.
Ms Soledad Vela responded to the criticism, saying she had never requested the right to an orgasm – merely the right to enjoy sex in a free, fair and more open society.
She explained that sex was a difficult subject to discuss in Ecuador and that what she wanted were clearer laws covering life, health and sexual education.
The Pope has announced that there will be a Catholic/Muslim summit between 24 scholars and religious leaders of each side. This will happen just over a year from when the Pope made his speech in Regensburg, Germany where he mentioned that Islam spread across the Arab world not so much by winning hearts and minds but through the sword.
This brings me to the question of whether it is worth having such inter faith dialogues, and in particular when humanists become involved. I have attended Christian atheist ones – I have to say that for some of the Christians that attended it was the first time not only that they had really examined what they personally believed, but had their faith scrutinized.
The issue for me is what the purpose of the meeting is meant to be. If it is just a public relations exercise then it seems pointless. If on the other hand real concerns are being debated, for example where religious hatred is manifesting itself in society and people are stirring up violence, such dialogue may help people to appreciate what is happening in their community.
The thing is in a pluralistic democracy, such meetings of civic groups can be a good thing. Citizens talking about differences, common accord and areas where they can work together for the benefit of society is one that can be endorsed.
However in a truly pluralistic society this is not about a cartel of groups making decisions – all interested citizens and groups have a level playing field inputting into the decision making process. That is where of course you get the issue of the political process acting as gate keepers to the policy making process. But the idea is a bedrock of democracy that you can make representations and the policy process is accountable.
Because the concept of what actually entails the public good does differ.
The joint statement promised that the Pope would be talking about critical issues facing humankind:
It said the Pope would address the meeting on the themes of “Love of God, Love of Neighbour”, “Theological and Spiritual Foundation” and “Human Dignity and Mutual Respect”.
Public relations and theological fencing exercises seem to be the order of the day. Will they talk about such issues as:
human rights for women
freedom of expression
freedom of choice
the right to disagree
stewardship of the planet (physical rather than spiritual)
Perhaps they could proclaim that those who use violence and intimidation, rather than try to win hearts and minds by rational argument, are the enemies of reason. Perhaps they could even condemn those that use faith as a means to condone such activity that brings rent-a-mob to the streets. Instead of indulgences for fragile sensibilities to excuse such behaviour.
I am sure they could find time for that. When we see the worst humanitarian crisis in Gaza since 1967, the need to understand that we need peace rather than division in the world, dialogue rather than discord is one that all those leaders – self proclaimed or otherwise – need to embrace if we are to wake up to the fact that it is not the planet that needs rescuing.
We need to save humanity from itself. Reason and science are there waiting to be heard and acted on. Are we going to heed the call or believe only what we want to believe?
Quote taken from BBC News report here.
In the USA there is I think something that may unite the Religious Right and the Secularist community – a fear that Europe is being swallowed up by Islam. The Archbishop’s comments that Sharia Law should have an accommodation in UK law, and other examples do seem to add to that perception – and it is one played on in Europe by anti immigration parties.
One such Dutch politician is Wilders who has spoken about making a film that will depict him decimating the Koran. Which if he did it would be nothing new – youtube has plenty of films of people doing that. How analytical such a film about the Koran will be I am not sure, but the background of course is that four years ago the Dutch film “Submission” was shown on Dutch TV and the director of the film Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death with a letter between his dead body and blade stating that the screenplay writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be next.
Now I am concerned with how some people want to accommodate Islam. That women are given less human rights due to their cultural tradition (a German court ruled that a woman was correctly beaten according to cultural custom but thankfully that decision was overturned). If this is multiculturalism, then it needs to be defeated because it allows people to be treated differently, against the notion of justice as fairness, and leads to the treatment of people that would not be allowed by law on other citizens.
However there is a fight back – witness the condemnation that met the very surprised Bishop of Canterbury (as parts of the Anglican community may refer to him when the schism is complete). Then there is Ayaan herself who though her life is under threat while she lives in the USA, speaks out but with authority because she has has lived it. Sam Harris in “End of Faith” in a chapter talks about the concerns of a literalistic interpretation of Islam.
Tolerance is a wonderful thing, but it does not cover everything. Some things will be beyond a society to accept, the question is only if there is a moral basis. Ethical consideration would be to do with harm and suffering, and the welfare of people. As such, for example, decisions based on divorce and financial arrangements which did not consider genders to be equal parties would be a cause for concern.
However, the xenophobia that exists is out of proportion to the threat posed, which is more within their own community then to wider society. That of genital mutilation, less likely for women to be educated or fluent in the native tongue, and customs such as honour killings which do not deserve the adjective. 7/7 happened, but much of that is ignoring what was happening within a community until it was too late.
In a global communication network, it will be difficult to censor the message of hate that Islamic fundamentalists use. Yet we can perhaps counter their message of hate, with rational passionate discourse about the benefits of human rights and liberal democracy. Hate crimes that encourage harm and the breaking of the law require zero tolerance.
Because it seems the key opponents in politics of Islam are the xenophobic politicians. The other politicians in power seem keen to move public policy to an accommodation with “moderate” faith groups in an attempt to take the sting out of the tail of extremist belief – based on fear. Few of political standing seem able to create a vision of an open country that will stand up for liberal values with a veer and vigour. They seem prepared to sacrifice these values for a better nights sleep after an election, reducing liberties and allowing values out of step with a modern state.
If I am wrong, by all means link them here in the comments – I would like to hear such politicians who will stand up for such values. I doubt that it will be popular with the electorate though it may be correct. But the case has yet to be made in the manner like below:
We live but a brief existence on this earth. We want the best for ourselves and our children. It is part of the human identity to better ourselves. By education. By hard work. The will to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. Much do we owe to those that came before us and may we strive that the future generation will say the same of us.
When people overcome obstacles and hardship to come here to make such a better life for themselves, to become a productive member of society that they become as one with us – this is a cause of celebration that the liberty and opportunity that we have created attracts such people that add to both commercial wealth and spirit in the land.
This does not mean that the light of liberty, freedom and opportunity that attracts so many to our shores should be dimmed on the say so of those that would replace our ancestors hard won rights with customs and beliefs that go against enlightenment values. Nor should we let mistrust and hatred allow us equally to do away those same values that allow us the freedoms to be who we are. Let us not sleep walk into thinking these rights are everlasting; may we ever be watchful of the demagogue that will promise us something with one hand while taking away the rights that gave us everything we love and appreciate. Rights that make our country great.
All equal before the law, the right to be tried by your peers, the right to a fair trial, the freedom to religious belief and none, that your private life is yours, the freedom to speak your mind and be challenged in that opinion, that all have the liberty to make their own way in this life and that by doing so shall the greater good be best served within such laws that are in accordance to the common good.