Category Archives: blogs

Blogger Washikur Rahman Murdered In Bangladesh

Bangladeshi blogger Washikur Rahman was not just killed. His head was cut wide open in several places. The madrassa students accused of murdering him were sending a message. That a brain thinking thoughts against theocracy, denouncing the use of politics to enforce Islam on others, would not be tolerated. They literally tried with meat cleavers to get at Rahman’s mind. To cut away the thoughts he held.

This was not just murder. This was butchery to silence a mind that was against the use of political power to enforce religion on others. Secularism cannot be tolerated by extremists because it defends all citizens to have the religious views they wish.

Some get very offended when their ideas are denounced. When those they love are belittled. To show off how important, some ideas get called religion, and those they love become the most beloved of God. Some popes say insulting their idea is like insulting their mother, so expect a punch. To love the prophet beyond your own children, beyond your own self, is the exaltation of the koran.

The madrassa students declared their love by killing an infidel. They are extremists. The moderate political islamists just want the state to hang atheists. You will recall how they rioted while demanding atheists could be hanged, while some bloggers were held for blasphemy, a few years back

Two students from a local madrassa took meat cleavers into their own hands to show how offended they were that anyone could think differently from them. It follows a few weeks from the brutal murder of blogger Avijit Roy. The fundamentalists are making it very clear.

A free inquiring mind will be hacked to pieces.

I would like to think the world would stand with the atheist bloggers of Bangladesh. We know that is not the case. Charlie Hebdo showed that, with articles denouncing how offensive, racist and bigoted they were. People that could not be bothered to learn the satirical lampooning nature of the magazine, or its left wing progressive and anti colonial stance, did not care they were pissing on the bloodied dead in their ignorance.

At the National Secular Society awards ceremony this Saturday gone in London, Charlie Hebdo won Secularist of The Year. No one from the magazine could be present because of the astronomical fees that security would entail. Even the nominations were kept a lid on. The fear in the world is having its impact.

Martin Rowson – the cartoonist who led a campaign for caricaturing Erdogan due to his attempts to imprison illustrators that insulted him – received the award on their behalf. He made a very offensive speech, one that Hitchens would have been proud of, in defence of free speech and the right of anyone to feel insulted.

For as he said, the greatest offence of all is the taking of another human life. The first person killed at Charlie Hebdo was the building maintenance guy. No one is safe from the rage of fundamentalists.

At the ceremony a very affable person approached me when I first arrived. That is as much of a description as I am prepared to give, because of the known lethal sensitivities in this world. They are the illustrator of the Jesus and Mo cartoon strip. One day I hope it will be safe for them to be personally recognised for their talented satirising and lampooning of religious pomposity.

When Rowson on stage mentioned their attendance, the biggest roar and cheer was heard of the night. The risks faced were brought home when the President of National Secular Society explained the prize money for Charlie Hebdo was going to a benefit fund helping the families of the dead.

It is not enough for us to mourn and be outraged for those killed. We have to be passionate supporting the rights of people to speak out against religion, against privileged Gods, clerics and leaders anywhere in the world. There is no limit to where an inquiring mind may go, and no offense that can demand it does not go there.

I find it very offensive seeing a man with his head cleaved into. I hope you do not need to see the photo I have to feel the same way. You better believe this feels personal. People I know are threatened, people I have spoken to have been shot at, people who think the same as me have had meat cleavers embedded in their skull.

I am not ok with this happening in the world. I am fed up with having to be told murderous passions must mean we should never give our opinions. That it is too dangerous to say this, draw that, or republish this. That theocracy is what others want over there, when the people saying they do not want it that live over there are being hacked to death. That this is too offensive to see the light of day.

I have restored the Scarlet B on twitter for this week. It is a small gesture. If enough of us show we will speak out against fundamentalists, we can show that some of us will promote a free inquiring mind against murderers that would deny our right to think freely.

A free thinking mind, is the idea to love. You celebrate it with discussion, inquiry, debate, argument, humor, art. Not only are people prepared to kill to stop this, even more are prepared to limit the celebration of what makes us truly human. It is the requirement that we die inside, so other’s views are not challenged.

That is why the argument must go on.

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My thanks to the National Secular Society for hosting the event, and to all participants that made the event very welcoming.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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The Case Of Raif Badawi – Do You Support Bloggers or Floggers?

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Outside the mosque they flogged Raif Badawi 50 times. They counted, carefully ensuring that each stroke was noted so that the number would be reached but not exceeded. It was the same mercy that also saw the next set day of flogging stopped for fear the wounds would reopen, that his body would not survive the ordeal again in its present condition. He must stay alive to know the pain of 1000 lashes, when 100 over two successive Fridays might have killed him.

This is what mercy means in Saudi Arabia. Yet here everyone is scrambling to defend the pope that there are limits to what people can tolerate as insults and blasphemy to their faith. Blogging is seen as a game, that it attempts to communicate far and wide ideas that offend certain people and their cherished beliefs. Push them and do not be surprised how far they go. The victim is the offended, the blogger is the provocateur that is a fool for daring to share their own disbelief. They will get what is coming to them. Which in Raif Badawi’s case is to say treated as a criminal deserving to be taken to the brink of death but not beyond.

For shame those that say we must bow down to mad mullahs, theocratic fascists and disillusioned youngsters wanting a purpose and the world to notice them for one brief murderous moment as they open fire. The double standard that sees the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo as inviting their deaths, as attacking muslims so what they did was self defence – while ignoring how a kosher store became a target on this terrorist rampage. The singling out of Jews to kill because they are Jews. Anti-Semitism needs no particular grievance to be committed by the person killed – they just have to be Jewish.

For Raif Badawi he just had to be a religious dissident that advocated liberal principles. Theocrats try to deter such things. As he said:

As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.

Do read The Guardian article that published extracts from his blog. Badawi pointed out the distortion from the koran that the Saudi government uses to promote illiberalism and authoritarian government. He did not just challenge the theocratic system from the outside, but at the heart of it’s thinking on the inside. He got under the skin of the theocrats, and they in turn were prepared to whip the skin off his back, and imprison him for ten years.

Wether diplomatic and public pressure might yet end the ordeal Raif and his family are going through remains to be seen. Yet it is not just silence to the treatment of Raif Badawi that should concern us. The very complicity in suggesting our speech drives people to do this, so we should be silent, needs shouting down.

For when you apologise for the violence done to silence the critics of religion, you also strangle the voice of those calling for freedom. You stand with the crowd watching the flogging thinking this man must have deserved it.

There is no middle ground here, no grey area where both sides are wrong. You either stand for the bloggers or the floggers. Chose carefully because regard for your immortal soul should not allow you to side with those that desecrate the body of freethinking mortal ones.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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New Theme For The Blog

Last night it dawned on me the journalist theme for the blog was rather out dated. The site needed a lick of paint, and the sidebar was overburdened with things.

So after much trial and error have chosen the Pilcrow theme you see here. Looks much better, allowing a header which matches my Twitter one. That is me in the middle opposite Christopher Hitchens having a glass of wine engaging in a conversation worth having, photo taken at the Atheist Alliance International Conference 2007. On the header you will find info about me, the blog, and a narrative of how I ended up from an indoctrinated home schooled child to a graduate freethinking activist helping out the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in the United States.

The side bar has moved to the left after having made a conscious decision to showcase my scribbles while at the same time sliming down what is there. At some point will link to other sites were I have been published such as The Commentator and Left Foot Forward (I’m not hard right or hard left – just an Adam Smith and John Rawls political liberal). The aim is instead of having a static blogroll of those I read regularly – but which hardly anyone clicks on – will be reblogging or linking to others whose works you may just appreciate if you are reading this blog.

Some people have asked if they could be regular contributors to the blog. No problems people tweeting me a link to their post with a view to me either retweeting or reblogging on here. Otherwise, this is a space to say what needs to be said without keeping it to myself. As always appreciate immensely that people are sharing my posts via social media and sharing articles with me on Twitter that can be used for the blog.

With over a thousand people regularly following the blog, and even more on certain posts, hope if you are new after a good look around you join in by following via email. If you come directly to the site hope it is more visually appealing.

Thank you for reading the blog – hope you like the new look.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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To the journalists out there – thanks from a blogger

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Engel said that just because someone knows how to use Twitter does not make them necessarily a journalist.

“We’re all bloggers and punks and rebels with cameras. There is absolutely no respect for career journalists anymore,” he said. [CBC News]

One distinction between a blogger and a journalist is the news gathering of the later over the opinion on the publicised news of the blogger. The journalist is a paid professional with training in media, the other usually unpaid with a particular interest or perhaps a qualification in the field they talk about but no training beyond getting to grips with formatting a blog.

Yet there is a cross over. Some journalists run a blog to promote their work in one place or talk more freely than perhaps published journalism would let them.

In some ways us bloggers are parasites feeding off the labours of others then giving our spin on it to suit either our opinions and those that may follow us – in under 800 words. How we do this is not governed by any particular media code of ethics. There is no “off the record” or established protocol in how a blogger goes about their scribbles. We have no editors or legal departments to advise us or improve our copy. Frankly we sometimes learn by trial and error – and the law does not necessarily give a blogger the same privileges a journalist can claim when covering a story.

We do filter the news. If you follow this blog there is a good chance that is because I cover secular, atheist and religious stories – other things too but those are my principle interests to comment on. What I try to do when covering a story is see if something is being left out in the mainstream media, or I have a genuine interest and something to say.

Bloggers should not compare themselves to the news gatherers – let alone those on the front line. In the article cited above over 600 journalists have been killed in the past decade. 90% of the journalists slain have yet to have the perpetrators brought to justice.

Which makes what I write very opinionated yet safe in comparison. I know that my mother worries that I do not hide behind a pseudo name when criticising religion. I assure her that free speech gives me the right to speak and that even those that disagree uphold that right in my experience.

I know others are not so fortunate. That they become targets either because of their background, or where they live. For example the atheist bloggers in Bangladesh still facing blasphemy charges. Or good friends at the Council of Ex Muslims Forum who have to use pseudo names in case they are outed as apostates for genuine fear of reprisals.

Hopefully us bloggers on sofas will be ever grateful for those that risk life and limb to get the news to us, and the liberties we have to write what we do.

The photo above comes from this post here which shows journalists in anything but a good light with members of the public.

    New published posts by John Sargeant:

Colin Brewer and talking freely about disabled human rights – Left Foot Forward

Twitter: Let’s not Indulge with the Pope The Huffington Post

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Now a Huffington Post Blogger

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My first piece for The Huffington Post can be read here “Assed Baig’s Skin Deep Analysis of the West and Malala.

Please follow the above link, become a fan, like if you like, leave a comment, and promote on social media. Your support will help this blog to reach a new audience – thanks in advance.

The feedback from readers, and in particular from twitter followers (you know who you are) has been really appreciated. Writing has been a way of communicating and blogging has shown this is not a lonely experience. Rather, it is joining a community of like minded people, and challenging and being challenged by those that disagree.

To that end reading Assed Baig’s post on Malala and “the west” made me respond with this post. The suggestion was made to see if Mehdi Hasan would consider as a counter piece on The Huffington Post. He asked me to rewrite without quoting Baig’s piece – which I did and sent to him. The result is it has just now been published (the date and time on piece is when I submitted yesterday).

In case you are coming to the blog from reading that piece, or from other sites that have started publishing my work, do have a look round the blog here.

Hope you enjoy and please support by sharing.

Thank you all for reading.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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