Thursday, 22 January 2015

On banning offensive racist publications

Many calls have been made in in recent times to ban publications for racist or offensive content. The highest profile target among  these is Charlie Hebdo. Such calls have been wrong for reasons not the least of which because Charlie Hebdo is has a pro-immigrant political position.

If we are to ban publications for racist or offensive content, then to be consistent, we must also ban The Bible and the Quran.  Woah! That's a big claim there!  And if you're offended, you're welcome, let us be united in our offence, because there is plenty to go around. Let's take a look at some of the worst ideas in human history.

Bible: Foreigners are chattel

The following passage shows that slaves are clearly property to be bought and sold like livestock, furniture or equipment.

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.  (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

Bible: human trafficking and sex slavery.

The following passage describes the sickening practice of sex slavery.  How can anyone think it is moral to sell your own daughter as a sex slave? Additionally, it is not really improved much by the restraint against slave trading with foreigners.

    When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are.  If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again.  But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her.  And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter.  If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife.  If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.  (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
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    Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp.  But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle.  "Why have you let all the women live?" he demanded.  "These are the very ones who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor.  They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD's people.  Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man.  Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.Source

Bible: Stone Women for extra marital sex

Sex is a natural and human act, fulfilling psycho-social needs and supporting healthy states of mind. yet this backwards text offers one of the most barbaric practices available to the human species in order to put an end to it.

    If any man take a wife, and go in unto her, and hate her ... and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid: Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: And the damsel's father shall say ... these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. ... But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel: Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.(Deuteronomy 22:13-21)

Bible: The mark of Cain

This meme referring to Genesis 4:16 points to black/brown people being excessively violent, or at least that annoying them could have severe consequences. A meme that today for some, associates ethnic minorities with a propensity to violence. It is basically nonsense, but if one powerful ethnic group puts enough energy into disempowering another ethnic group, there will be blow back in the midst of the genocide. This is a human response it has little to do with ethnicity, or religion, except for what the oppressor group chooses to make of it. Just as American Christian settlers liabled indigenous "red skins" and "savages" for "manifest destiny", or as the Nazis liabled the Jews for the "The Creator" and "father land", and now as the far right wing liable Muslims for "racial purity", "Sovereignty" or "cultural preservation".

Koran: Jews are pigs, Christians are monkeys:

In Chapter five the Koran discusses the relationship Muslims should have with Christians and Jews, and goes on to use pejoratively compare them to other species. Demonstrating a version of the arrogant "chosen people" meme which earlier appeared in Judaic texts.

    O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is (one) of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.  (5:51)
    Shall I tell thee of a worse (case) than theirs for retribution with Allah ? (Worse is the case of him) whom Allah hath cursed, him on whom His wrath hath fallen and of whose sort Allah hath turned some to apes and swine, and who serveth idols. Such are in worse plight and further astray from the plain road.  (5:60)
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Koran: Beat your wives

It does not matter that the associated haddiths say to beat her lightly, and to not leave a mark, the fact is, at the very least, this is psychological abuse, if we ignore the physical behaviour. This comes from the ideas like "Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will"(2:223) (ploughable land), chattel and to be managed and cajoled like children.

    "Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great." 
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These much venerated texts certainly contain content that is racially and religiously charged as well as misogynistic and the above is just a miniscule sample of the horrors available to the easily offended. So these texts must also be excised from the public square if we are to avoid hypocrisy as we seek to ban cartoons dealing with issues of race religion or even their relationship to women.  It is likely critics will moan "Oh, you're cherry picking verses" or "you are taking it out of context". Even if this is so, presenting certain Charlie Hebdo Cartoons like the four Boko Haram sex slaves chanting "hands off our allowances" without the context of Marine Le Pen's comments that immigrants were having babies to get welfare benefits is also "taking it out of context". If you want to live in a society where ideas can be censored simply by having them misrepresented, you can, if you will stride into a functionally illiterate society ruled by near total ignorance, resembling  the 7th Century.

The plain fact of the matter is that in the centuries since these texts were written, many have learned to protect people and not ideas, but not everyone has caught up. Even the Pope has talked about giving his good friend a beat down for talking smack about his mother. It may be hard for anyone to hear "your mother is a whore", but if she is getting paid to entertain customers in a bordello, it is a fair call, and it doesn't necessarily mean there is anything wrong with her chosen profession, and if the person hearing these words is a borderline geriatric virgin in a frock, it about time they grew up and their mother is an impressive woman.  The debate over "offensive" cartoons is a distraction, one that extremist groups would perhaps like to paint as a clash of civilizations, whether this is wholly true is debatable, yes there is a clash of values, and of ideas, but censorship is no way to address these, such calls for censorship are like the calls of the child who says "shut up, stop saying Darth Vader is Luke father, it can't be true." (I knew that child a long time ago, he grew up and wrote this blog). I was recently asked about the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Nazi era. The answer I gave at the was not the best answer to be offered, I spoke out of my preference, which is to not have lies, liable, fabrications publish for the generation of hysteria, however my considered position is essentially "publish and be damned", and damned the Nazis would have been by an incredulous, more sceptical populace such that we see in France today. The Nazi regime was seeking to control it population by emotional manipulation. This is something a sceptic culture would be more immune to, when we examine issues of free expression, we cannot ignore freethought they go hand in hand. Credulity, as we say, is not a virtue and this is where the Nazis "lost it" so enthusiastic were they in anti-Semitic dogma of the church and their "Aryan" pseudo-science that failed to understand the real enemy was fascism and bigotry - left over from WW I and codified in the war reparations.

Let us entertain the notion of perspective. No one is saying satirical cartoons represent truth, meanwhile billions claims these holy books represent truth on a daily basis, with some willing to kill and die for that "truthiness"(sic). Satire is merely a tool to expose truth behind comments and opinions of the day, with many such comment frequently lies in service to ignominious agendas, such exposure serves a vital function. This function is of course despised by authoritarians. Regardless of the historicity of the Bible and the Quran, about which there are some serious questions to be asked, or even of their relative truth value, there are things of greater concern to humanity as a whole. How do we learn to live side by side in a globally connected world? How do we stop neoliberal fascism from extracting the wealth of the many only to be concentrated in the hands of the few(as Oxfam tells us this week, by next year, to world's wealthiest 1% own over half of all wealth). How do we stop poverty acting a recruiting tool for violent extremist ideologies? Not just that followed by Al Qaeda or ISIS, but also Stormfront, US patriot militias, KKK.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Author Karima Bennoune: Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here (Secular Conferen...

Legal professor, Karima Bennoune, Spoke The International Conference Religious right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London on October 11th-12th.

Friday, 9 January 2015

For Charlie

While some blame the victims, calling them arrogant and saying they had to know there would be consequences and their deaths are their own fault. Such comment ignore the arrogance of those who defend or employ the use of violence in response to offence taken from the ideas or critiques of those the disagree with.  Such sentiment violate the human right to freedoms from fear and violence.

They did know and they accepted that there may be consonances, and they accepted those consequence because the freedom to "speak your mind" was more important to them than the tyranny of unquestionable ideas. Europe had unquestionable ideas for which it considered "the right thing to do" to murder and torture in the defence of those ideas. Elements of French culture, have not forgotten this. and the can proud of the fact they have grabbed on to the value of free expression and held on like a bulldog.

Needless to say, conversations around the beer volcano will be filled with even more raucous laughter for now into the future.  Blasphemy is not only a human right, it is a moral obligation. Je Suis Charlie. The talent of the staff of Charlie Hebdo will surely be missed, I wish for those injured in the attack strong and speedy recoveries. Thanks indeed go to the medical professionals who skill and dedication give the victims the best chance at a return to health.