All posts filed under: Human Rights

Why It’s Not OK to Hate Men

Is it okay to hate women? Obviously not. It’s not only stupid and immoral but impractical given how many of them there are and the marked differences between each and every one of them. Is it okay to hate men, then? Again, obviously not, for the same reasons. Except – it’s not so obvious. Because such sentiments are again entering the mainstream. I say ‘again’, since misandry – the unapologetic hatred of men as an undifferentiated group – is nothing new. Radical feminists like Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanis (founder of the Society for Cutting Up Men and shooter of Andy Warhol) were the most famous man-haters in the 1970s, but were pretty much disavowed at the time by many more mainstream feminists and later by third wave feminists. Misandry went out of fashion during the 1980s and the idea that feminists were all ‘lesbians and man haters’ was rightly ridiculed. Now it’s back – and much closer to the mainstream than it was 50 years ago. Despite all the remarkable advances we have made …

The Islamic Republic Must Fall

The breathtaking, unprecedented displays of dissent throughout Iran—most notably by the mostazafeen or the traditionally ‘downtrodden’ base of support for the regime—are important. They are important to the Iranian people who brave imprisonment and torture as they struggle for their livelihoods, their freedom, their dignity, and the futures of their children. But they are also important because they offer a glimpse of a more liberal, more peaceful, and more prosperous Middle East—a region at last open to the world, ready to move forwards not backwards, and to prosper rather than terrorize. Belief in such a prospect cannot be scorned as naïve, nor offered as an act of mere charity. Without such a future for Iran, the turmoil of the Middle East and the exodus of refugees to the shores of the free world will continue. Polarization of American politics and civic discourse has left the struggle for freedom in Iran almost exclusively within the purview of the political Right, where the threat posed by Islamist ideas and terrorism have always been taken more seriously. But …

The Enlightenment’s Cynical Critics

Tribalism and slavery are as old as humanity. The very first human records are records of human bondage. Reports estimate that today 60 million people are held as slaves. While each one of these lives represents an unacceptable tragedy, not one occurs with the approval of law. And that is revolutionary. For while slavery is as old as humanity, abolitionism is a relatively recent phenomenon that did not emerge until the ideas and ideals of the Enlightenment nurtured it into existence. In a June 5 article for Slate, Jamelle Bouie writes of the Enlightenment: “At its heart, the movement contained a paradox: Ideas of human freedom and individual rights took root in nations that held other human beings in bondage and were then in the process of exterminating native populations.” In the context of an article largely aimed at undermining a “handful of centrist and conservative writers” who have taken up the Enlightenment’s defence, this appears to be a damning indictment of hypocrisy. That is, of course, unless one considers that, until the Enlightenment, it …

Censorship and Stereotypes: China’s Hip-Hop Generation

Last year, China was hit by a phenomenon unprecedented in its history. Close to a billion of its citizens tuned in to watch ‘The Rap of China,’ a competition designed to introduce hip-hop to a broader public. It was so successful that several of the show’s participants, many of whom were relative unknowns from the underground, went on to sign lucrative record deals and become mainstream stars. The rising popularity of a genre known for its politically subversive content and heavy use of profanity clearly unnerved some of the more staid, rigid ideologues in the Communist Party who saw the art form’s potential to encourage youngsters to stray from collectivist values. Subsequently two high-profile rappers, GAI and PG One, both competitors in ‘The Rap of China,’ were reprimanded for their misogynistic content. The latter was singled out for particular disapproval by the Communist Youth League for his references to pornography and drug use. A nationwide government crackdown ensued and hip-hop culture was effectively banned from the heavily state-controlled mainstream media on the grounds that it …

A History of the Struggle for Gay Equality: Civil Rights or Counterculture Movement?

The history of the gay rights movement in the United States is fascinating, and its progress raises an interesting question about the nature of its activism. Has the struggle for gay equality been primarily a universalist drive for equity and civil rights, with the inter-related goals of individual liberty, respect, and freedom from persecution? Or is it a social justice movement driven by a countercultural constituency intent on separating itself from mainstream culture? The answer is that the gay rights movement in the United States is a complicated combination of both perspectives. To date, the successes of the gay rights movement in the United States have been laudable. The repeal of laws that criminalized homosexual sex was a significant gain. As a consequence, gay people can now live openly and are free to marry. It is true that elements of anti-gay prejudice linger, mainly among the ranks of the religious and the socially conservative. It also remains the case that only a patchwork of laws exist across the 50 states prohibiting discrimination in employment on …

Life as a Kuffar: My Seven Lost Years in Kuwait

It’s December, 2017, and I’m awash in late-afternoon sunshine, sitting outside around a table with old friends and former colleagues. The setting is a farm in the agricultural sector of Kuwait. We’re drinking tea and maybe bootleg date rum, reminiscing. Some of us are smoking shisha. There are dogs at our feet. At night, the courtyard lights can be programmed to flash and glow in different colors. If you stand on the roof, you can see the oil fires burning at Burgan, the largest oil field in Kuwait. This is my first time back since I lived in Kuwait between 2006 and 2013, when I was in my thirties. It was a period during which I became uglier, angrier—and, finally, broken. I returned last year to see familiar faces and revisit old haunts. But I also came to figure out why I broke. Was it me? Or was it Kuwait? I find that some things have changed and many have not. That’s true of me. And it’s true of this country. It’s big things like …

Speaking Out About Islam – Lubna Ahmed, Rebel With a Cause

Her voice broke with anguish and remembered fear at times as she told me her story. She is only twenty-six years old, yet the courage and conviction she has shown befit a war hero with years of battlefield experience. She has, in fact, found her life threatened, and on a battlefield of sorts – an ideological one on which she has been defending her rights, and specifically, her rights as a woman. In 2015, she decided that she could remain silent no longer, and came out internationally as an atheist on The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin’s popular Internet talk show) in a deeply Islamic society, knowing the mortal risks awaiting her, and had to flee her homeland. But even in her new life in California, she has to live concerned for her safety, as do all those ex-Muslims – and especially women – who publicly denounce Islam. Yet she remains undaunted. Her name is Lubna Ahmed and she hails originally from Baghdad. She is an engineer by education, a truth-telling rebel by character and vocation. I …

False Hopes and Invisible Enemies

People are pattern-seekers. When we observe patterns in the natural world we often seek a deeper explanation for them. An example of a pattern that has captured the attention of academics is the disparity between men and women in fields like mechanical engineering and pediatrics. Culture is an obvious explanation for some disparities: if a wave of Irish immigrants to Boston joins fire departments, and Italians start restaurants, then we might expect that the next generation of Bostonians will contain a disproportionate number of Irish firefighters and Italian restaurant owners. Similarly, if low-skilled immigrants tend to work in jobs like construction and agriculture, we might expect to find a lot of low-skilled workers who move from Central America to the United States to work on construction sites and strawberry farms. Another obvious way to explain divergent outcomes between groups is that some groups – ranging from races and sexes, to religions and political partisans – have been discriminated against or persecuted by others. In other words, members of some groups throughout history were not given …

Femen’s Inna Shevchenko: Fear of Causing Offense Has Cost Too Many Innocent Lives

Editor’s note: As we enter 2018, brave women are protesting Islamic modesty culture and laws in Iran. Jeffrey Tayler has documented women’s protests against modesty culture in Europe for years. What follows is an interview conducted by Tayler with Femen’s leader, Inna Shevchenko, in 2017. A female activist has just sawed down a giant Christian cross on the central square of the capital city of Ukraine, in protest against the prison sentence meted out to Pussy Riot band members for the “punk prayer” they had performed in a Moscow cathedral earlier that year. What fate awaits her when she flees, personally threatened by her country’s president for her audacious deed, to France, the self-proclaimed “homeland of human rights?” Upon her arrival in Paris, do orchestras greet her with rousing renditions of La Marseillaise? Do accolades of support pour in from the French media? Does she settle, finally, into secure environs, certain, for the first time in her young but politically active life, that she can pursue unhindered her feminist struggle for human rights and the propagation of …

Making a Stand for Cultural Universalism

Earlier this year, I spoke at a panel discussion in New York City to mark the unveiling of Quebec—an enormous 9’ by 10’ painting that aspires to capture the full sweep of French Canadian history on one canvas, from Samuel de Champlain to the modern age of indigenous activism. The American artist, Adam Miller, grew up in the Pacific northwest, and studied the great masters in Florence. The evening’s featured speaker was Donald Kuspit, an eminent Jewish art critic who briefly lived in Quebec, but otherwise has little connection to the largely Catholic society of French Canada. He described Quebec as a luminous postmodern take on the Baroque—a style that took definitive expression in the works of Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens—and praised Miller for channelling influences adapted from the book of Genesis, imagery of the dead Christ, and Sandro Botticelli’s 15th century masterpiece, Adoration of the Magi. Which is to say, Quebec is very much part of that great cultural mash-up we call Western culture. And if Miller—who does not speak French—had engaged in …