All posts filed under: Human Rights

Why Charlie Hebdo Was Right to Address the Brussels Attacks

Once again, satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo has received significant opprobrium – much of it unjustified — for its recent editorial on the Brussels attacks. Posing the question “How did we end up here?” the editorial was a paean to secularism. It bemoaned the average French citizen’s inability to challenge religious fundamentalism in their day-to-day lives, an inability attributed to fear and political correctness. It described the Brussels attacks as “merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed,” the invisible part being widespread hesitance to ask hard questions about Islamic apologism, veiling, a refusal to sell ham sandwiches in a bakery, or why so many young terrorists go through a phase of being ostensibly irreligious. One would hope the publication would be lauded for asking serious questions about fundamentalism, free speech and the place of religion in society. Generally speaking, this has not been the case. Brookings Institute fellow Shadi Hamid tweeted that the editorial was “remarkably bigoted.” On Facebook, Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer, drew comparisons with the treatment of Jews in Europe …

Female Genital Cutting: Harm, Human Rights and the Possibility of a Sex-Neutral Approach

Two very different views on female genital cutting (FGC) have been aired in recent weeks. Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, a pair of American obstetricians, Kavita Arora and Allan Jacobs, recently suggested that Western societies should tolerate – and doctors should perform – what they regard as “mild” forms of ritual genital cutting on female infants and girls if their parents ask for it. Unsurprisingly, backlash in the media has been swift, with hastily-written expressions of astonishment and even outrage being published on a daily basis. In contrast, Ms. Meiwita Budiharsana, a lecturer in public health in Indonesia – where such forms of FGC are actually common and are increasingly being carried out in hospitals or clinics – argues in The Conversation that the authorities should discourage these kinds of practices and that medical personnel should not perform them. The situation is rich in paradox. Two doctors from a society that has traditionally abhorred (and in fact criminalised) any form of non-therapeutic FGC believe that certain “mild” forms should be permitted. At the …

‘Pinkwashing’ and Traitors to the Human Mind

Last week, the neologism ‘pinkwashing’ made an unwelcome return to news headlines. On Friday January 22, protesters bearing placards denouncing Israel disrupted an event organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force as part of its Creating Change conference in Chicago. The protesters, it seems, were upset by the involvement of an Israeli LGBT organisation called Jerusalem Open House and a Jewish LGBT organization called A Wider Bridge that, the JTA reported, “seeks to build ties between gay communities in North America and Israel”. Over at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, law professor David Bernstein was flabbergasted. “Many participants,” he wrote, “describe the demonstration as both anti-Semitic and physically threatening (and the hotel felt obliged to call the police), but we can limit ourselves to the sheer craziness of radical LGBT activists shouting “free Palestine” and anti-Israel slogans to shut down an event involving an Israeli LGBT organization when Israel is a gay rights haven and the Palestinian territories, to say the least, are not.” This was, as I hope to explain, to miss the …

Springtime for Demagogues

I. Rochdale, Rotherham and Cologne Western culture is successful because it recognises individuals and treats them equally under the law. People brave seas in rickety boats because they want a piece of that. After the Rochdale and Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) scandals there was some push back, always from people on the Left, against the idea that there was a ‘conspiracy of silence’ rather than mere inefficiency. The abnormally slow dissemination of information following the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne, and other events which have subsequently come to light, have helped confirm the reality of this. People are refusing to treat certain criminal events like they would others. Such a ‘conspiracy of silence’ not only betrays the principle of equal treatment, it is ultimately counter-productive. This problem shares the same root with some of the notions of ‘diversity’ with which I have increasing difficulty accepting. Simply put, discrimination is discrimination and regardless of the quality of your motivations it poisons what it touches. In the case of the sexual assaults, I’m not sure …

Original Sin: the Sexual Motivation of Religious Extremists

I. In late October of 2014, Iraqi News reported, as ISIS forces rampaged through Diyala province, one of their soldiers found a thirty-year-old woman resting at her home and attempted to rape her. She fought back, wresting away his gun and killing him. This incredibly brave woman was brought before ISIS’s Sharia Court, which promptly condemned her to death and had her publicly beheaded for this defense of her honor, thus laying bare the utter hypocrisy of all claims that draconian laws regarding sex are intended for the protection of women. The gory spectacle of radical Islamism at work that began in the Middle East and has spread its crimson tendrils abroad from there is terrifying to behold. To the eyes of those lucky enough to enjoy a secure place in one of the prosperous modern democracies, the violence unfolding on our television and computer screens has an almost hallucinatory quality. Surely, our brains say, this cannot be real. This sort of thing cannot be happening in this day and age! Recently have I felt …

The Shame and the Disgrace of the Pro-Islamist Left

By supporting fundamentalists, the Left simply chooses one camp in a political struggle without acknowledging it. Maryam Namazie, a trenchant campaigner against religious fundamentalism, made this observation last week during a fraught lecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. It would turn out to be pertinent. Namazie’s appearance at Goldsmiths was causing trouble before the event had even begun. The day before the event, the university’s Islamic Society (ISOC) let it be known that they considered Namazie to be a “renowned Islamophobe” whose presence on campus would cause ISOC members to feel “extremely uncomfortable,” and constitute a violation of their “safe space.” Such a reaction was tiresome but unsurprising. Goldsmiths’ ISOC is, after all, an Islamist-led organization, dominated by people who hold precisely the kind of beliefs Namazie spends her days attacking. When expressions of Islamist self-pity failed to get her disinvited, ISOC members resorted to childish disruption of the talk itself, giggling, talking, heckling, and interfering with her power-point as she tried to speak. The video of the event (which can be seen here) makes …

To Defeat Jihadism, the Battle Over Sacred Values Must Be Won

The war against Islamic terror will not be won in the trenches. Political Islam’s most insidious weapon is its ideology. In this respect, defeating it will take more than just guns or bombs. This is not to say that there will be no use for guns, bombs, or drones, but if democracy and human rights are to prevail, these espoused values must stand for something. As attested by history, enmeshing values with politics is usually disastrous. Nevertheless, it is often the case that the only way to defeat a toxic ideology is with an alternative one. An example that comes to mind is the American civil rights movement of the 1960s. Inspired by Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence, black Americans and their allies defeated racist bigotry by wielding values such as tolerance and equal rights. Similarly, the war against ISIS must be waged on the battlefield of values, ideas, and beliefs. Although it is possible for ISIS to smuggle its fighters overseas among the outpouring of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, the larger threat is homegrown terror. …

Western Leaders Can No Longer Ignore Saudi Atrocities

“I believe men and women should be treated equally,” said David Cameron in 2013. “If that’s what being a feminist is, then yes I’m a feminist”. It is ironic that Cameron uttered these words in 2013, as it was the same year in which the UK made a secret pact to elevate the most misogynistic regime in the world to the UN Human Rights Council. Saudi Arabia has an abominable record of oppressing women. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index in 2012 ranks Saudi Arabia 131 out of 135 countries. Yet cables obtained by Wikileaks show that the UK and Saudi Arabia traded votes in order for each country to secure a position on the Human Rights council as recently as 2013. The House of Saud’s scandalous position within the Council was again brought to the media’s attention by the recent election of Faisal bin Hassad Trad – the Saudi Ambassador to the UN – to the chair of a panel of independent experts on human rights. UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer has …