Manchester And The World Standing Together

Shocking as the Manchester Arena attack last night was, targeting an Ariana Grande pop concert that many children were attending, it should not be surprising. We cannot afford for it to be so to understand what is happening globally. 

The terrorist jihadist mindset has no issue with massacring children in a school or explosives in a park. Nor boarding a schoolbus to put a bullet in the head of a girl that wants an education, and had blogged about how ridiculous Islamic extremists are about veiling women and children. That is just using Pakistan. More from across the world could be mentioned. 

22 are dead and 59 injured in the Manchester attack. Many are children. We might think standing together is a weak cliche response. Yet opening your doors to people left stranded after such an attack is standing together. Taxi’s giving free fares is standing together. Queuing to give blood so supplies do not run out is just that – standing together 

It is what makes the Mancunian heroes and the terrorists losers. They have to get attention for their ideas by killing weak and innocent children. They think they can intimidate and threaten us not to question their extremist Islamic fascist ideology, nor challenge them on the battle field. That the cost will be so much to bear, we will not show our solidarity with other mothers around the world who grieve for their children taken by jihadists. 

They have to be wrong that we will stand aside and let them take over how we think and act. They want to separate Muslims from non Muslims, to create enmity. Thinking of the grieving mothers of Pakistan, Nigeria and so many others, that is never going to happen. For in suffering and pain there is a bond that unites humanity in grief. 

Today is a time to grieve and give what support we can. Whilst the usual suspects will use this to further an agenda of hatred and division because it sells and gets publicity, we cannot ignore the need to tackle the indoctrination and hatred which fundamentalism fuels.

Our anger must be used to ensure the losers do not win, let alone get what they want. 

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Tom Holland on ISIS and others on the Yazidi 


Tom Holland’s “ISIS: The origins of violence” aired this week on channel 4. Through out the film Holland made clear how Muslims were outraged by the violence perpetuated by ISIS. That Koranic, Hadith and Sharia were interpretated in ways most would never dream as an ideal, let alone one to be envisaged in their lifetime. 

When it comes to ISIS, strategies to minimise their importance or any link between them and the Islamic faith are made. Mehdi Hasan described them as “a bunch of thugs” that must not be considered a state, Islamic or a military power in the region. This when they controlled territory the size of England. In the face of global terror attacks organised and inspired by ISIS, this was more than thugs that make you cross the road on a Saturday night. 

The beheadings and crucifixions of ISIS are designed to make us not only appalled and frightened by their savagery, but to remind us of a history closer to the lifetime of Mohammed. As Tom Holland mentions, ISIS justification is that what they do were either done by Mohammed or are justified by appeal to Islam. Whilst a theological context can be made to counter this modern interpretation, a far simpler one is that these were the tortures and punishment of the age when Islam originated. Hence the more shocking they are today.

A reminder of today: mobile video footage of the Paris attack, with people running for their lives as a pregnant woman hanged out of a window at the bataclan. The faces of Yazidi people in Lalish, facing a genocide because they are considered devil worshippers and thus ISIS intend to purge them from the land. For there is one God, and Mohammed is His Prophet. When fanaticism meets monotheism, horrors will terrorise the land as a howling wind blowing over the red soaked dunes. Such acts against a people must not be forgotten, and when being carried out the reasons for not ignored.

In a critique of Tom Holland’s documentary in the Middle East Monitor by Alastair Sloan, the Yazidi are missing. Holland is criticised as being a propagandist for ISIS. Yet I would describe people saying this more like ISIS propagandists:

“ISIS demanded jizya (tax for non-Muslims under an Islamic state) from the Yazidis, who refused to pay, and as a result, were forced to retreat to Mount Sinjar in western Mosul.”

The denial of genocide by Dilly Hussain in the Huffington Post above was called out by me at the time. Yet to ignore there is even an issue involving what ISIS want to do with the Yazidi – cultural genocide by forced conversion or genocide by mass extermination by ISIS – that needs telling and how such the Yazidi are looked at via Islam – as tax dodgers or devil worshippers? The silence is itself a propaganda coup for ISIS. When people refuse to call out genocide, there is a complicity in the actions of others that should make us nauseous. 

Where does Alastair Slogan views on the Yazidi place him? Twitter gives us a glimpse. 

No wonder the Yazidi are not mentioned in the review. It’s “Yazidi hyperbole … hugely exaggerated” used as a “ruse” by America. When you are downplaying the atrocities of ISIS, no wonder it’s Tom Holland you want to focus on.  

Mehdi Hasan though is mentioned in the above critical review, mentioning his view of how ISIS are not religiously observant nor theologically knowledgable. The thieves who have their hands cut off by ISIS would applaud such a sleight of hand if they could at missing the obvious. The reason for ISIS fighting is that they claim to have the right way of living the faith. Jihad comes first, after conquest comes their sharia and Islamic way of life. This you could hear them chanting in the documentary. 

The simplicity of calling Tom Holland an anti-Islamic ideologue for pointing this out does not bare scrutiny. If you are to call anyone who does not believe Mohammed is a prophet, or for believing that the Koran is a text composed by human mammals rather than the whisperingings of an angel, as being anti-Islam, then take a closer look at ISIS. For there is the divide that they wish all Muslims to make between themselves and non-Muslims. If you as a  Muslim do not feel about Islam as they do, you are an apostate. As the destroyed Shia mosque Holland visited bore out, and the graffiti marking where Sunni, Shia and Yazidi had once lived together in peace. 

The Battle for Ideas

Western colonialism was mentioned in the documentary via Napoleon and the bloody French Revolution. How an uprising against monarchy unleashed an imperialism to bring the enlightenment not just to Europe by force, but to Muslims via the invasion of Egypt to plunder its riches as Alexander the Great once did. Religion was meant to be the past, reason the future. Instead what we have seen played out over generations is a battle of ideas, which once had gullitones on the ground and now drones in the air, making their deadly point. Potentially we are all in the cross hairs thanks to the past and how it is reimagined today by all sides. 

Stature in history is measured by some as the height of a statue on a plinth, the western idea of a great man of history by how quickly people will defend what can only be described as savage. One day perhaps, instead of heroes standing on a pile of corpses to deliver their version of a better world, we might look to others as a model to follow. Yet too many are tied  to the idea of an apocalypse to solve humanities woes. One which some pray for, some kill for. 

We need something more than religion or the enlightenment. The drones in the sky and the crosses of ISIS on the ground, are not going to deliver that brave new world. Rather being sick at the destruction humanity is capable of delivering in the name of their vision, is what we need.  

The world is worth fighting for, and so the fight for what makes it a better world goes on. If history shows us anything, it really does matter who wins. 

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Doctor Who and The March for Science

“Sadly, vaccination, climate change and research budgets are political issues.” I have to agree with Robin Ince. Those that have a special interest to go against science are heavily political. They need push back. It will take scientific personalities that can engage the public; that kind of politics is in the public interest. Sometimes to advance science you need to get out of the labs, and in to the streets.

Robinince's Blog

It appears that there is a condition of “Doctor Who fanboy by proxy”. Arriving at the Science museum to take part in the London Science March, there was Peter Capaldi.
It was the beat that my heart skipped.
Not for me, for my son.
He was at home.
He had done his march for the year.
Halfway around on the Women’s March, he had been told to try to be less bored.
‘I am 9 years old, you’d have been bored on a march when you were 9,” he told my wife.
You couldn’t fault his logic.
My son didn’t spot any noticeable or notable Timelords on the Women’s March (though some were there I am told), just a Gandalf, and he hasn’t got into Middle Earth as yet.
I was embarrassed, but there was no choice.
I felt I had to get a photo and an autograph for my…

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TEDxExeter 2017

The lunch interval may have been by default vegetarian, but we have had plenty of meat to get stuck into in the first half of the day at the TEDx 2017. Christina Lamb talking about the bomb attack targeting Bhutto’s motorcade when she returned to Pakistan, and what drives her to tell the stories of defiance and life in the darkest places. The chance to talk to speakers is a big part of TED, and watching the interest and excitement of schoolgirls ask her questions about journalism a reminder of the theme of this TEDx. 

Hope. 

If there is to be any, children having hope that they can write, report and be activists to bring about the promise of hope. To live their lives with hope. Andrew Solomon spoke about how travel had the social function to give you a window and a mirror as you engaged the world. That there was a need to challenge Theresa May’s assertion that there was no such thing as a citizen of the world. We have multiple identities, and they interconnect us with the rest of humanity. 

Nujeen Mustafa spoke about being more than a number as a refugee from Syria. If the name is unfamiliar to you, she is the girl in a wheel chair that left that bloody civil war. Her heartfelt plea for acceptance, an understanding of what makes her different was based on a hope that we all could understand one another. If only we were prepared to do so. 

Videos of the talks will be uploaded on the web – will try and update this blog post when they are. We are only halfway through the sessions for this one day event. 

My thanks to Claire Kennedy, the curator and licensee of TEDxExter, for inviting me to attend. It is one thing watching a TED talk. But being there, just makes it more human. 

Being more in touch with our humanity, is to have more hope. 

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Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses 

It is bad enough Jehovah’s Witnesses brand us apostates. The state branding us as criminals will not help either. 

As I feared would happen the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been banned in Russia. A religion that would always put its God before the secular ruler, was anti-imperialism, anti-nationalism, and originated in US would fall foul of Putin’s agenda for a new Russia. That they wanted to have nothing to do with this world would not have been enough. With Putin you are either with him or against him. 

I have read some blog posts by those that though living in the west would welcome such a ban happening here. To be spared the heartache of an indoctrination that left them friendless, isolated and at the mercy of the machinations of elders and ministerial servants. That if no one else other than their abuser saw their abuse, it could be dismissed by those in charge of their spiritual welfare because it needed two witnesses to be valid according to scripture. That when they left the faith other family members never speaking to them again. Denied an education as the end of the world was coming. To spare any child going through that again, this is seen as a protection from religion as child abuse. 

On sexual abuse I would agree if Jehovah’s Witnesses are not prepared to report allegations to the appropriate authorities, nor do adequate background checks on those with access to children nor ensure those abused or raped do not meet with the abuser for a congregational inquiry, then sanctions which could ultimately lead to banning would be warranted. As it should be any organisation whether religious or secular. 

When dealing with cults it might be easy to say just ban. The problem, as I mentioned in a previous post, is it makes it that much harder for people inside the organisation to leave. Most of us kids do leave. According to Pew a child of Jehovah’s Witness parents is most likely to end up an atheist compared to other faith groups – even beating the odds of that for atheist parents. 

If you genuinely want to help, then ensure there is life long learning for those that for whatever reason miss out on a full education. Make sure there is a strong tolerant and pluralistic society that can embrace multiple ideas, discussing them freely and openly. An active civil society that welcomes everyone no matter what their background is. 

Such a thing is an anathema in Putin’s Russia. Where criticism of Putin makes you a marked man. Where being gay could lead to being tortured and killed

First they killed political opponets and journalists. And I said nothing. Then they came for the gays and I said nothing. Then they came for the JWs and I said nothing. 



Do not wait till that list gets any bigger before you do say something. Putin is not an ally against fundementalism whether Islamic or Christian. He is against the very freedoms that those of us that grew up in fundamentalist faiths yearn for. 

Rather than helping such kids you will force the faith underground. The dangers are even worse compared with ensuring that good practice and safeguards are in place to protect children’s welfare, education and health. 

Freedom of religion and freedom from religion – being against this ban is to stand up for both. The state has no business saying what you should believe. 

That is up to you. 

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Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses Panel Discussion Monday 24 April, King’s College London


This coming Monday 24 April I will take part in a panel discussion at King’s College, on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tickets and more information available via this link

If you are less familiar with my childhood, when as a family we started to study with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and as a teenager I was ready to be baptised before deciding to leave, you can read that story printed in The New Humanist here. Naturally there is plenty more on here to read. 

Thanks to all of you that have supported the blog by reading and sharing posts. That encouragement meant everything. 

Grateful to Faith to Faithless for creating the platform and space for those considered apostates to come together and share experiences. 

Also, I will be attending the TEDx conference in Exeter tomorrow. So if you see me feel free to say hi! 

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May Calls For An Early Election

Referendums do not resolve anything the way a General Election does. With the SNP clambering for a second independence referendum, and what sort of Brexit we are going to end up with being about as clear as mud from the government since UK voted to leave the EU, Prime Minister May is right to go to Parliament tomorrow and seek a two thirds majority vote for an early election. 

It does mean we might expect to have an actual detailed plan, not the sort of fuzzy “we want a red, white and blue Brexit.” It gives the lie to the PM claims we have been coming together – the exact opposite is why we need this election. The lack of certainty is due to a lack of vision and detail from the Conservative Government about Brexit, and May suggesting it is the fault of an opposition, that could not fight its way out of a paper bag much less an election, is laughable.  As I write this post Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democratshas welcomed the early election. Corbyn, like his leadership, was absent. 

Corbyn does not have the support of his own MPs, how can he be expected to run a government or demand the public give him that trust? For his style is opposition to his own MPs, as it was to his own party when in the political wilderness. The idea that a platform should be given to the fringes of politics finds its ultimate irony when Labour MPs that did not want him to win as leader nominated him to stand for a “discussion”. Give a platform, and be prepared to be swept away on a train of thought you never wanted to get on in the first place. If the country gets taken for a ride in the process, let that be on your conscience. 

If the Conservatives come back with a stronger majority than the 17 they currently have, the fault will be on a man that the Labour membership wanted but the British electorate rejected. Labour have not advanced any vision, in what has been a hostile media climate, to change opinion polls. 

I suspect Lib Dems hopes of winning back the  south west will be short lived. There is no love for the political idea of the EU, English immigration to Cornish lands and housing is a sore point, let alone European immigration. If the Conservatives can guarantee there will be no lack of funding in these regions when leaving the EU and constraints on free movement, it will remain blue. 

As I wrote last October, an early election would be the only way out of this whole mess of a government that did not want Brexit having to implement it. That there is a political opportunity for May to increase her majority and have an election before anyone sees what a dog’s dinner Brexit might turn out to be. The right play just happens to be the right democratic one too, to get a personal mandate from the people to govern. One she has not yet shown she deserves. 

My mood right now is one of playing the violin upon the Titanic. Fitting, given the foreign secretary once said we would make a Titanic success of Brexit. Just don’t ask me where the lifeboats are. 

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