Matgamna: take all religion out of schools!

June 12, 2014 at 10:56 pm (AWL, Brum, child abuse, children, Christianity, Education, Islam, islamism, misogyny, posted by JD, religion, religious right, secularism, Tory scum)

Above: Park View School hosted this ultra-reactionary bigot as a speaker to its pupils

By Sean Matgamna (re-blogged from Workers Liberty)

A group of three academies, one other academy, and one council-controlled school in Birmingham have been put into “special measures” by Ofsted government inspectors for allegedly acting like “faith schools”.

Ofsted complains that Park View school has weekly “Islamic-themed assemblies”, with invited speakers “not vetted”, and that from year 9 onwards religious education is almost all Islamic. Faith schools are explicitly allowed to have their assemblies, and their religious education, organised around their chosen religion, and to imbue other subjects with religious ideology.

Over 35 per cent of all state-funded schools in England are “faith schools”. They can freely do all or most of what Ofsted complained of in Birmingham.

The furore about an alleged “Muslim plot” to turn the Birmingham schools into indoctrination centres for “extremist” Islam rips the covering right off one of the great scandals in British life.

The scandal is not about Muslims, but goes right across the spectrum of the religious indoctrination of children in Britain. The huge majority of faith schools are Christian. Some of them are bland about their religion, and some of them militant.

It is not only about the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition administration. Faith schools increased under Labour from about a quarter to over 35% of schools.

The Government’s answer is that faith schools should continue, but they must be obliged to teach “British values”.

That is dangerous nonsense. The real answer is that all schools must be secular. Religious preaching of all sorts must be taken out of them.

The problem is in part the marshmallow language the Government uses — “extremists” and “moderates”. It is also that much of the Government’s talk about “British values” is “spin” rather than something that has or will have substance to it.

The government lists among those values “tolerance” and “respect” for those of different faiths.

When a school is run by vigorous, convinced, ardently religious people, mandating “moderate” values is either an infringement on religious freedom, or a nonsense, or both.

All serious religious people believe, and in the nature of religious belief must believe, that their own faith is the one true faith. All of them teach that. Explicitly or by implication, they believe that other religious beliefs and practices are wrong, pernicious, even the work of the Devil.

When a religion ceases to think it bears the only real truth, it is on the road to self-weakening and dissolution, at a quicker or faster pace. Anglicanism is an example. Serious belief in the truth and godly inspiration of one’s own religion implies intolerance and contempt for, and desire to subdue, the false religion.

Now the Government says that devout Muslims — often the most convinced and most militant of contemporary religious people — must be “moderate”, and must have “respect” and “tolerance” for those whom their religion tells them are mistaken and sinful.

No doubt the majority of British Muslims do not hold the “extreme” positions, but those who do have the moral high ground, appealing to precedent, age-old tradition, and sense of historical identity and affinity.

Governments should enforce the law against, for example, those who plot religiously-motivated bombing campaigns. And governments have a right and a duty to interfere with what religious people do when they break the social code — for instance, ill-treatment of children by Christian sects, such as the one Victoria Climbie’s murdering religion-crazed aunt belonged to, or mutilation of the genitals of young girls.

But there is no way a government can tell a religious community what to think and believe and pass on to young people. How can a government eradicate the belief of its devotees that a religion or a sect is the only right one, that its devotees are the only “saved” people? It cannot, not without enormous repression; and that would not succeed either. The opposite: it would drive adherents of the faith being targeted into the camp of the “extremists” and “martyrs”.

What follows? That we should “defend” those who might want to indoctrinate children with beliefs and practices that are foul and might point some of them towards jihadism? That we should focus on the demand for “extremist” Muslims to be treated not with suspicion but like bland school-running Anglicans?

That would be absurd.

In the name of religious freedom and the equality of all religions before the law and the state, it would be to “defend” vigorous religious education of all stripes, at whose heart is the systematic and long-term psychological abuse of children. Religious education implants intense emotions, fears, and beliefs in children who as yet have little power of reason and judgement. It is vicious child abuse.

No, the Government has been drawn onto the dangerous ground of threatening to impinge on the freedom of religious belief because its scheme makes no sense.

The real solution is to make all schools — including those now Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, etc. — into secular schools, places where religion is studied only in the cool comparison of different religions, their histories, the origins of their sacred books, the derivation and evolution of their core beliefs, etc.

That would give the children some secular space to retreat to in face of bullying, insistent parents or religious officials, and give them different values to counterpose to the religious values of homes which may be spiritually from a different age and very different societies.

The children of religious parents are entitled to the protection of society and the social institutions.

In some faith schools today small girls go about covered from top to toe in Islamic religious dress. A society that does not win children freedom from such impositions is obscene, and if it does not use the law to stop them will be convincing neither to itself nor to the serious religious people who have contempt for modern commercial society and for those who would regulate and “moderate” them.

The possible social consequences of the continued development of faith schools are dreadful to contemplate. Faith and ethnicity here often go together. Faith schools are also often race-segregated schools. Instead of schools being a force for integrating communities, they entrench social, ethnic, and religious antagonisms. Children are moulded and narrowed in one outlook.

Faith schools in Northern Ireland played an important part in maintaining, reinforcing, and perpetuating Protestant-Catholic sectarianism. It was the Catholic Church, the church of the most oppressed people in Northern Ireland, which insisted on faith schools — or rather, on its own right to indoctrinate children with its beliefs.

At the height of the Troubles, a small group of people started “mixed” schools, as a means of helping to destroy sectarianism. The movement has so far had little success. It would have been better to have had “mixed” schools before sectarian conflict had ripped the society apart.

What all this means for Britain now and for what sensible people should advocate for Britain now is plain: take religion out of our schools. Make education public and secular. Make religion a private matter.

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Ireland’s Honour Killings

June 8, 2014 at 1:15 am (Catholicism, child abuse, children, Christianity, crime, Ireland, murder, posted by JD, reblogged, religion, women)

By Stephanie Lord

No country for young women: Honour crimes and infanticide in Ireland

magdalene

When I was in first year in secondary school in 1997, a girl in the year above me was pregnant. She was 14. The only people who I ever heard say anything negative about her were a group of older girls who wore their tiny feet “pro-life” pins on their uniforms with pride. They slagged her behind her back, and said she would be a bad mother. They positioned themselves as the morally superior ones who cared for the baby, but not the unmarried mother. They are the remnants of an Ireland, a quasi-clerical fascist state, that we’d like to believe is in the past, but still lingers on.

The news broke last week of a septic tank filled with the remains of 796 children and babies in Galway. The remains were accumulated from the years 1925 to 1961 and a common cause of death was malnutrition and preventable disease. The Bon Secours “Home” had housed thousands of unmarried mothers and their children down through the years. These women had violated the honour of their communities, by bringing shame on their families through “illegitimate” pregnancy and therefore had to be hidden at all costs, and punished for their transgressions. The children died as they lived, discarded like the refuse of society that the Church considered them and the mothers that gave birth to them to be. Most of the children who survived were put to work in industrial schools under the supervision of perverts and sadists.

Thousands of the healthy ones were sold abroad – mostly to the US –  for “adoption.” For the ones who remained, the outlook was poor. Mortality rates of 50% or 60% were common in these homes.  In the case of  the ones that died, either the Church did not feel they were valuable enough to feed and care for, or they actively worked towards their death. The risk they posed to the social order by virtue of the circumstances of their conception and birth was too great to let go unchecked. These children certainly did not die for lack of money or resources on the Church’s part (they had an income from the children they sold), and the fewer children of this kind there were, the less threat there was to the church’s control over society.

If the Church had allowed them to grow up to be functioning adults in Irish society it would have ran the risk of demonstrating that the institution of marriage was not absolutely integral to the moral well-being of a person. Women were not allowed keep their babies because the shame that their existence brought upon the community would be far too great. They were imprisoned within Magdalene Laundries to atone for their sins of honour, and their babies were removed from them as part of their punishment – women who dishonoured the community were deemed to unfit to parent.

Contemporary Ireland feigned shock when stories of the Laundries and residential institutions emerged. Perhaps the shock of those who were too young to be threatened with being put in one for “acting up” was genuine, because the institutions started to close as the years went on. But people in their fifties and sixties now, will remember how the “Home Babies” sometimes came to schools, and were isolated by other (legitimate) children, and then sometimes never came back. While those school-children may not have comprehended fully the extent of what happened, their parents and teachers, and the community of adults surrounding them knew.

Ireland as a whole was complicit in the deaths of these children, and in the honour crimes against the women. They were the “illegitimate babies” born to the “fallen women” who literally disappeared from villages and towns across Ireland in to Magdalene Laundries. Everybody knew, but nobody said, “Honour must be restored. We must keep the family’s good name.”

The women themselves served a dual purpose in the Laundries. They were a warning to others what happened when you violated the rule of the Church, and they were financial assets engaged in hard labour on behalf of the Church. They were not waged workers; they did not receive payment. They could not leave of their own free will, and their families, for the most part, did not come for them; the shame on the family would be too great. Ireland had a structure it used to imprison women for being sexual beings, for being rape victims, for not being the pure idolised incubator for patriarchy, for not having enough feminine integrity, or for being simply too pretty for the local priest’s liking. Ireland has a long tradition of pathologising difference.

People did know what went on in those institutions. Their threat loomed large over the women of Ireland for decades. On rare occasions when people attempted to speak out, they were silenced, because the restoration of honour requires the complicity of the community. Fear of what other people will think of the family is embedded in Irish culture.

The concept of honour means different things in different cultures but a common thread is that it can be broken but restored through punishing those who break it. We are familiar with the hegemonic concepts of “honour killing” and “honour crimes” as a named form of violence against women in cultures other than ours. The papers tell us it is not something that people do in the West. Honour killings, and honour crimes are perpetually drawn along racialised lines and Irish and UK media happily present them within the context of a myth of moral superiority.

Honour crimes are acts of domestic violence, acts of punishment, by other individuals – sometimes family, sometimes authorities – for either real or perceived transgressions against the community code of honour. However, it is only when there is a woman wearing a hijaab or a the woman is a person of colour, or ethnicised, that “honour” is actually named as a motivation for the act of violence.  It is a term that has been exoticised, but it is not the act itself or the location it occurs, but the motivation behind it that is important in defining it.

Women of colour, and Muslim women, are constructed as the “other;” we are told these women are given in marriage at a young age by controlling fathers who pass on the responsibility for controlling them to husbands. “Protection” of women is maintained through a rigid sytem of controlling their sexuality in a framework of honour and shame. When these women transgress the boundaries of acceptable femininity they are abused and shunned by their community. Punishments range from lashing to death, but include physical beatings, kidnappings and imprisonment.

Imprisoning women in the Magdalene Laundries deserves to be named as an honour crime because of a cultural obsession that believed the family’s good name rested upon a woman’s (perceived) sexual activity that either her father or husband or oldest brother was the caretaker of. Her sentence to the Laundry was to restore the family honour. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bodies of 800 children found in Galway septic tank

June 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm (Catholicism, child abuse, children, Christianity, crime, Ireland, murder, posted by JD, religion)

From Waterford Whispers News

Bodies of 800 Children “Were Just Resting” In Mass Grave Claims Catholic Church

THE Catholic Church has responded to the grim discovery of the remains of up to 800 unidentified children buried in an unmarked plot beside a notorious “Mother and Baby Home” in Galway, claiming that the mass grave was a temporary solution and the infants remains are “just resting” there.

The Tuam workhouse for unmarried mothers and their babies was run by the Sisters of Bon Secours (French for “safe harbour”) between the years 1925 and 1961, during which time the bodies of at least 796 children aged from 2 days to 9 years were placed one by one in an unused septic tank, following deaths from TB, malnourishment, pneumonia, and good old-fashioned neglect.

Meanwhile the entire nation has reacted with shock and an unquantifiable disgust at the discovery made by Catherine Corless, a local historian and private citizen, as she carried out research about a church run institution known locally as ‘The Home’. The events that transpired there are a lesson in abject misery and unending sorrow that would even make a Nazi war criminal blush and this was reflected in the word on the street from many Irish people.

“Well, I’m 55 so a bit before my time but when we used to visit my aunt up in Donegal, she would tell us to stay away from the fields down the road because there were babies buried there but if only someone knew about it,” John Drummond, a Dublin native explained, “It’s all changed now though in fairness,” John said of a country that saw 196 children in state care die between the years 2000 and 2010.

“I can’t believe it. What vile creatures must have worked there?” shared a visibly upset Ciaran Giles, from Tipperary,”like there was a Magdalene laundry down the road from my house or so my father tells me but like no one knew, well they knew but they didn’t, you know?”

Others on the streets tried to find some solace at the discovery of the mass grave. “Well, obviously those in the laundries have been compensated, Ireland’s moved on,” shared student Lauren Greene of a country that has yet to pay compensation in full to Magdalene laundry survivors.

“It was a different time, so arguments and the like create a false dichotomy,” shared 24-year-old Sean Cullen, who was told as a child to avoid to walking home by the priest’s house for some reason, “ha yeah, that’s weird isn’t it? Because obviously my parents didn’t know the priest raped children or else they would have done something about it,” he added.

The Catholic church, who were limited to just €128 million in compensation to sexual abuse victims in a 2002 deal, meanwhile sought to explain their stance on the mass grave in Tuam.

“There’s a lot of speculation as to what went on in The Home following these recent revelations” said Monsignor Sean Green, spokesperson for the Irish branch of the Catholic Church Scandal Containment Unit, “people seem to believe that because these children were born to unmarried mothers the church at the time considered them sinful and unworthy of a decent Catholic burial, so basically threw their little remains into the nearest hole they could find”.

“But trust me, that wasn’t the case; I assure you, those bodies are just resting in that mass grave. Cover up the mistreatment of children? Not at all. We’ve always planned to exhume them and bury them properly, and we’re going to get right on it really soon”.

When WWN asked the Government for comment absolutely no one was available for comment.

To donate to the memorial fund which will see a plaque erected with all 796 names written on it contact catherinecorless@hotmail.com To see a list of the people who can demand justice and bring about accountability in this case please consult the nearest phone book or the latest census.

 
 

 

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Boko Haram, ‘my enemy’s enemy’ and ‘left’ isolationism

May 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm (africa, apologists and collaborators, child abuse, ex-SWP, fascism, Human rights, internationalism, islamism, Jim D, John Rees, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, solidarity, Stop The War)

“As Lenin put it, those who wish to see a pure revolution without nationalist revolts in oppressed countries, will never live to see a revolution. Such revolts can manifest all sorts of religious and nationalist prejudices. But Lenin argued the political complexion of the leaders of small nations–be they nationalist, fundamentalist, dictators or democrats–should not determine whether socialists in the major imperialist countries support them against imperialism. It is enough that a victory for imperialism would set back the cause of oppressed nations everywhere for socialists to commit themselves to the side of national liberation. Whether the leaders of such nations are despots, or merely murderous “democrats” in the George Bush mould, it is the task of the working class of these nations to settle accounts with them. Any interference by the imperialist powers would only be to secure profits and strategic interests.”-

As well as (I would contend) misrepresenting Lenin with an out-of-context quote, Rees fails to acknowledge that, if taken seriously, his formula would amount to “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”; put much more crudely and honestly here. It also exposes the truth that many of us have known all along, that the likes of Rees are not really anti-war at all, but invariably support the anti western side, even if that means Saddam, Putin or the Taliban – or, presumably, in the event of a western intervention - Boko Haram.

Us Shirazers are not always fans of Nick Cohen, but he nails Rees and the latter-day “left” isolationists and pro-whoever’s-anti-western “leftists” of the War Coalition variety, good and proper:

220 schoolgirls haven’t been ‘abducted’ by Boko Haram, they have been enslaved

Boko Haram is a vile manifestation, yet the liberal press stays silent, fearful of ‘demonising the other’

Terrorists from a religious cult so reactionary you don’t have to stretch the language too far to describe it as fascistic attack a school. The assault on a civilian target, filled with non-combatant children, has a grotesque logic behind it. They call themselves “Boko Haram“, which translates as “western education is forbidden”. The sect regards learning as oppression. They will stop all teaching that conflicts with a holy book from the 7th century and accounts of doubtful provenance on the life and sayings of their prophet written hundreds of years after he died.

A desire for sexual supremacy accompanies their loathing of knowledge. They take 220 schoolgirls as slaves and force them to convert to their version of Islam. They either rape them or sell them on for £10 or so to new masters. The girls are the victims of slavery, child abuse and forced marriage. Their captors are by extension slavers and rapists.

As you can see, English does not lack plain words to describe the foulness of the crimes in Nigeria, and no doubt they would be used in the highly improbable event of western soldiers seizing and selling women.

Yet read parts of the press and you enter a world of euphemism. They have not been enslaved but “abducted” or “kidnapped”, as if they will be released unharmed when the parties have negotiated a mutually acceptable ransom. Writers are typing with one eye over their shoulder: watching their backs to make sure that no one can accuse them of “demonising the other”.

Turn from today’s papers to the theoretical pages of leftwing journals and you find that the grounds for understanding Boko Haram more and condemning it less were prepared last year.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Mail and Sun’s “paedophile” campaign

March 1, 2014 at 1:37 am (child abuse, children, Daily Mail, Jim D, labour party, Murdoch, relativism, truth)

Now The Sun (which, like the Mail, has a record of publishing pictures of young girls with little clothing on) joins in:

'Labour chiefs: It’s OK to have sex with 10-yr-olds' - The Sun exposes full horror of paedophile plan: http://bit.ly/1cZTtNa

Look, the truth is that back in the seventies, the left (reformist and revolutionary) was all over the shop on this issue. I’m pleased to say that my comrades and I (in what’s now the AWL) took a firm line on the question of under-aged sex and supported the principle of an age of consent (gay and straight) of around 15 or 16 – but there were some on the left who didn’t. Even a candidate for leadership of the Labour Party (in 1992), Bryan Gould, expressed sympathy with PIE, in a letter politely declining their invitation to him to sponsor their campaign.

The fact that some now-respectable figures in the Labour Party didn’t regard this as a  particularly worrying issue, and didn’t protest about the PIE’s affiliation to the NCCL at the time, is symptomatic of the way things were then. That doesn’t make it OK, but it’s how it was, as the left struggled to come to terms with sexual politics, and sophisticated paedophiles cynically utilised the gay rights/sexual liberation agenda to legitimise their cause in the eyes of naïve idiots on sections of the left at the time.

It’s significant that amongst the loudest voices raising the alarm about the PIE at the time were gay activists, who didn’t want to be associated with paedophilia.

The far left, with one or two exceptions (the IMG and the pre-fusion WSL, neither of which now exist) was hostile to the PIE.

I know it’s what old gropers and their apologists always say, but on this matter it’s true: the past is another country. That doesn’t excuse those who were negligent and/or indifferent at the time, but it is the context.

And, certainly, the Sun and the Mail have no right to witch-hunt anyone over this .

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Respect to Fahma Mohamed!

February 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm (child abuse, children, Education, Guardian, Human rights, misogyny, posted by JD, women)

For once, the Guardian is on the right side

Glyn Harries (via Facebook) writes:

Respect due to Fahma Mohamed  (above)

She started this petition and got nearly 250,000 supporters and forced Michael Gove to take action. Ok that will not stop the abuse of FGM but it is a start …

“You wouldn’t think school girls in the UK have to worry about female genital mutilation (FGM), but we do. Although it is illegal in the UK, it is still happening – 24,000 girls in the UK are currently at risk of FGM. People just don’t talk about it, doctors don’t check for it and teachers don’t teach (about) it

FGM is child abuse. It forces girls into a future of pain from the moment they are cut. They face the risk of infertility, pain during urination, menstruation, childbirth and sexual intercourse. The pain doesn’t go. It’s a traumatic experience they have to live with every single day, physically and emotionally.

That’s why I’ve started this campaign with The Guardian.

I know of people who have been cut – anyone who knows girls from FGM affected communities will know girls who have been cut. We were told Ofsted would be asking schools what they are doing to protect these girls from FGM, but it never happened.

Me and my classmates campaigned for our school to do more on FGM. Now all the girls at school know the risks of FGM and feel able to talk about it. But this is one school. We need this to happen at every school in the country – so that no girl is missed.

We need to act now. Many girls are sent away to be cut over the summer holidays. Some are cut at home. They call it the ‘cutting season’. If every headteacher was given the information they need to talk about FGM to students and parents we could reach every girl who is at risk before the holidays. We could convince families not to send their daughters to be cut and we can help girls who are at risk. We could break the cycle so the next generation is safe.

That’s why I’m calling for Michael Gove to get schools to teach about FGM before the summer holidays.

 Michael Gove — we’re serious, we’re not going to back down and we won’t go away.” 

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/educationgovuk-tell-schools-to-teach-risks-of-female-genital-mutilation-before-the-summer-endfgm

Latest: “We did it! We met Education Secretary Michael Gove and he agreed to write to all primary and secondary headteachers in England about female genital mutilation” says Fahma.

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UN denounces Vatican over child abuse

February 5, 2014 at 11:08 pm (Catholicism, child abuse, Christianity, posted by JD, religion, UN)

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From the Stop Abuse Campaign:
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Above: “slavery-like conditions” at Magdalene laundries

Vatican ‘must immediately remove’ child abusers – UN

The UN has demanded that the Vatican “immediately remove” all clergy who are known or suspected child abusers.

The UN watchdog for children’s rights denounced the Holy See for adopting policies allowing priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

In a report, it criticised Vatican attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception and abortion.

The Vatican responded by saying it would examine the report – but also accused its authors of interference.

“The Holy See takes note of the concluding observations on its reports… [but] does, however, regret to see… an attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching on the dignity of the human person… [and] reiterates its commitment to defending and protecting the rights of the child,” it said in a statement.

And a Vatican official, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said the statements on homosexuality, contraception and abortion were outside the committee’s remit and “heavily agenda-driven and smacking of acute political correctness”.

The Vatican has set up a commission to fight child abuse in the Church.

The UN committee’s recommendations are non-binding and there is no enforcement mechanism.

‘Offenders’ mobility’

In its report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said the Holy See should open its files on members of the clergy who had “concealed their crimes” so that they could be held accountable.

The committee said it was gravely concerned that the Holy See had not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed.

In the report, the committee expressed its “deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide”.

It also lambasted the “practice of offenders’ mobility”, referring to the transfer of child abusers from parish to parish within countries, and sometimes abroad.

The committee said this practice placed “children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children”.

The UN report called on a commission created by Pope Francis in December to investigate all cases of child sexual abuse “as well as the conduct of the Catholic hierarchy in dealing with them”.

Magdalene laundries

Ireland’s Magdalene laundries scandal was singled out by the report as an example of how the Vatican had failed to provide justice despite “slavery-like” conditions, including degrading treatment, violence and sexual abuse.

The laundries were Catholic-run workhouses where some 10,000 women and girls were required to do unpaid manual labour between 1922 and 1996.

The report’s findings come after Vatican officials were questioned in public last month over why they would not release data and what they were doing to prevent future abuse.

The Vatican has denied any official cover-up. However, in December, it refused a UN request for data on abuse on the grounds that it only released such information if requested to do so by another country as part of legal proceedings.

In January, the Vatican confirmed that almost 400 priests had been defrocked in a two-year periode by the former Pope Benedict XVI over claims of child abuse.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says the Vatican has set up new guidelines to protect children from predatory priests.

But, he adds, bishops in many parts of the world have tended to concentrate on protecting and defending the reputation of priests rather than listening to the complaints of victims of paedophile priests.

 Read more at BBC News Europe

Click to sign our petition demanding Pope Francis stop recycling pedophile priests.

Many campaigners feel the Vatican should open its files on priests known to be child abusers

Many campaigners feel the Vatican should open its files on priests known to be child abusers

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The Cruel Cut: the barbarism of FGM

November 7, 2013 at 11:58 pm (child abuse, Guardian, Human rights, internationalism, Jim D, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, secularism, television, women)

I missed Wednesday night’s Channel 4 documentary by Leyla Hussein on FMG (female genital mutilation). Fortunately, there are several excerpts available on YouTube, of which this is one:

We also have a helpful review by Zoe Williams in the Graun, which includes the following:

Another caper saw Hussein demonstrate the perils of political correctness by asking people on a high street to sign a petition in favour of FGM, on the basis that it “keeps us clean, it keeps me pure” (19 people did and only one refused). She was terrifically upset at the end of it, in tears, saying: “I can’t believe people would sign this petition.” And that makes a sound point about the relativism in gender politics now, where all the people who should naturally be defending women against the barbarism committed in the name of purity are instead looking the other way, fearful of an accidental alliance with Richard “When did you last see a poppy on a burqa?” Littlejohn. Hussein is right; what a shocking waste of “cultural sensitivity”, for it to be used as a cover for avoidance, the genuine disregard for the suffering of other cultures

When even the Graun attacks relativism, and calls barbarism by its right name,  you know that humanity and universal enlightenment values are winning the day.

* End FGM: Amnesty’s European campaign against this barbarity: http://www.endfgm.eu/en/
* Stop FGM in the UK: https://twitter.com/intent/user?screen_name=stopFGM&original_referer=http://inagist.com/all/398383442590564352/?utm_source=inagist&utm_medium=rss

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Asian Network’s Nihal on grooming

June 29, 2013 at 1:18 am (BBC, child abuse, conspiracy theories, drugs, Human rights, Islam, Jim D, men, misogyny, Pakistan, Racism, religion, sexism, thuggery)

Don’t even think about commenting on this issue without having listened to this!

Starts at 11.57

The BBC Asian Network bills the programme as follows:

Debate about grooming cases, live from Oxford

Nihal’s phone-in [in fact the phone-in is preceded by an hour's debate from Oxford, which is the crucial part of the programme -JD] is coming live from the Cowley Road in Oxford where seven men groomed and sexually abused girls as young as eleven over a period of eight years. He will be getting reaction to the sentences given to the men and asking what lessons can be learnt from what has happened.

The issues up for debate are extremely sensitive – so much so that a lot of people from the area did not want to talk to us. Five of the seven men found guilty were of Pakistani origin and most of the people who BBC Asian Network has spoken to in the area either knew them – or knew someone who knew them.

Nihal asks – who is to blame for this terrible abuse, apart from the men themselves? Why were they able to get away with the abuse over an eight year period?

If the men were so well known in the community, why were their crimes not reported sooner? Is the fact that many of them came from the Pakistani community a relevant one? 

The main debate lasts for one hour and forty minutes, but it’s well worth putting the time aside for.  If you can’t do that, at least listen to the wise words of Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain, at about 30.20. This is only available for the next four days:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02yj2tb

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The shameful complacency and breathtaking hypocrisy of the Catholic hierarchy

March 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm (AWL, BBC, Catholicism, child abuse, Christianity, From the archives, gay, Human rights, Jim D, LGBT, misogyny, religion, secularism, women)

 “As the church develops it faces new challenges and new questions but to say you have to change everything – I don’t agree … I prefer the word ‘repentence’ to [the word] ‘reform’” – Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on Radio 4′s ‘Today’ Programme,  4 Mar 2013 08:25 

O’Connor and C of E chum: ecumenical bigotry

Anyone who heard O’Connor’s semi-coherent, stumbling but strangely confident and supremely complacent performance on the ‘Today’ programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning, will realise that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, of which he is Britain’s leading representative, is quite simply incapable of reform when it comes to matters of sexuality. This is only of concern to atheists like myself insofar as it will perpetuate the misery being inflicted by the Church upon people round the world, and dash the hopes of many decent Catholics who are presently in despair. The immediate issue behind the interview was the de facto admission of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, an outspoken opponent of gay relationships, that he had himself engaged in gay sexual conduct.

But the hypocrisy and self-delusion of this sad man is really the least of it. The Catholic Church’s record on paedophilia, AIDS, womens’ rights and (of course) gay rights are the real issue: as interviewer John Humphrys put it to the wretched O’Connor this morning, “If the abuse that went on in the Catholic Church had gone on in a lay organisation, it would be shut down.”

The AWL’s Sean Matgamna (as ‘John O’Mahony’) wrote this open letter to O’Connor back in 2007, when O’Connor together with the C of E’s Rowan Williams, was trying to interfere in the implementation of Britiain’s sexual orientation equality legislation in order to exempt religious believers:

Dear Mr Murphy O’Connor,

Courage in “Defence of the Faith” is, I suppose, a requirement of your office. Even so, I find it hard not to admire your courage — or bare-faced cheek — in attempting to “lay down the law” to the British government and the people it governs on what legal rights gay people in the UK should have and what legal rights granted to others should be denied them.

You are joined in this by your “brothers in Christ” Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, Archbishops of Canterbury and York respectively.

What you and your Anglican brethren demand here is that in the way it treats gay people, Britain should be ruled by the laws and prejudices of your churches and by men like yourself, who are, to put things plainly, either lifelong celibates or thoroughgoing hypocrites.

You want the state to back you in forcing those who reject your religion, including gay Catholics who reject your teaching on this point, to live by your religious rules. You claim it as a right of conscience for Catholics to be legally empowered to act punitively against those who reject your rules.

In what way is what you demand anything other than a demand for Catholic religious tyranny over gay people, including gay Catholics?

In what way is it not a demand to be given the right to impose your views on others who reject them?

In what way is your demand anything other than an assertion that the rights of gay citizens are less important than the “conscientious” right of Catholics’ to deny them those rights?

The blunt truth is that here you are demanding the right to inflict on others ethical concerns and rules of behaviour which are not theirs but yours! The rights of your religious consciences must, you insist, be elevated above other people’s civil rights!

You attempt to use blackmail, threatening to close down Catholic orphanages if you don’t get your way. That, Mr. Murphy O’Connor, shows how much you really care about the children you present yourself as being so keen to protect from the contamination of love and care by gay foster parents. Doesn’t it?  If you are not allowed to  inflict  your own narrow mindedness on others, then, as far as you are concerned, the orphan children can, so to speak, go to Hell !

It does take courage – or a well-founded brass neck! – for a leader of a minority church to claim in the name of his religious conscience the right of his own co-religionists to determine how society treats others, here gay people. You want the religious tail to wag the large, de-facto secularist dog, Mr Murphy O’Connor!

Your “courage” here is, however, not the courage I have in mind.

For a couple of decades now, your church has repeatedly been shaken by the revelations that in Catholic care homes and schools all across the Western world, children have been subjected to systematic sexual abuse by clerics.

Such scandals have broken out all across the world, from the USA to our own Pope’s Green Ireland.

In Ireland, behind the façade of a bourgeois democracy, your church ruled for most of the 20th century over what was in effect a theocracy. So much so that Ireland was — as a 1950s writer could truly say in the Maynooth seminary’s magazine — like one great monastery, where people’s lives were in every respect governed by religion. That is by priests and bishops!

There, Mr Murphy O’Connor, where people like you ruled over a country to a degree unequalled, probably, since the Middle Ages, you made life a hell for children in the schools which, with minimal “interference” from governments, you ran, and in the orphanages and reformatories where children were at the mercy of priests and nuns.

Former child victims of such sexual mistreatment by Catholic priests and nuns, in Ireland and in many other countries, have brought a vast number of court cases and won large amounts of compensation from your church for its treatment of them when they were helpless small defenceless children.

These victims of sexual abuse have had serious psychological damage done to them. They  have gone and still go through adult life blighted by their mistreatment by your priests and, typically by way of saavage violence, nuns.

By priests and nuns who themselves were victims, most of them from early childhood, of religious indoctrination, which induced them to accept a way of religious living built on the repression and condemnation of some of their own most-powerful, and most volcanic, instincts.

One does not have to think their abuse of children anything other than damnable — in your sense and mine! — to feel some sympathy for such people.

The children in that vast, world-wide archipelago of Catholic orphanages and schools had their childhoods and, many of them, their entire lives, blighted by priests and nuns whose own lives were blighted by trying to live within a rule of    life-long celebacy, that was both inhuman and, for large numbers of them, untenable. The children were the victims of that system.

And you Mr Murphy O’Connor, in the name of an international organisation which, in the 20th century, functioned as a sort of International Paedophiles Anonymous — in which priests sought not cure, but licence and abundant supplies of victims – you, instead of questioning in the light of such experience your own beliefs, and the fitness of your church, and of men like yourself, to lay down rules for anyone, you claim the right to penalise gay people for not accepting the rules imposed by the clergy — the rules which so many, so very many, of your clerical brethren honoured in the breach rather than in the compliance!

As Jesus said: First remove the mote from your own eye!

Mr Murphy O’Connor, you cloak your religious prejudices in hypocritical concern for the children. What exactly is it that you fear?

Of course, any properly run adoption or fostering agency will check out the suitability of all potential foster parents, be they hetero or homosexual. It will be on guard, watching for possibilities of abuse, for predatory paedophiles, for potential violence, and so on.

For sure, the record of non-Catholic as well as Catholic foster homes, in Britain and elsewhere, as places where vast number of children were abused in various ways over many decades, does not suggest complacency about such things.

Nor do such terrible incidents as social service workers in deference to “cultural pluralism”, allowing little Victoria Climbie to be murdered by a religious maniac Christian aunt. Decent people can not be satisfied with the state of things in these institutions.

But that is an entirely different issue to the one we are discussing: whether Catholics should be allowed to discriminate against gay would-be foster parents.

Apply your approach to adoption by gay people to other matters of conscience Mr Murphy O’Connor and you will get very strange results.

After all there are still people who think witches with Diabolical power exist, and that they work their malign practices on good Christian people. There are people who believe that Jews, or some Jews, do similar things and that they drink the blood of “Christian children”.

Isn’t it a violation of their religious rights and of their conscience to deny them the right to persecute and kill witches and Jews by burning them alive or by driving stakes into their hearts? The right to act in relation to such obnoxious and sinful people according to their own morals and consciences?

The religion-crazed Christian aunt of the little girl Victoria Climbie did just that with a child her religious beliefs and state of mind led her to brand as a witch possessed by demons. There are, apparently, many small, Africa-rooted Christian churches whose members commonly hold beliefs like this. Why don’t they have the right to act according to their consciences? Why are the consciences of such people less important than the consciences of Catholics like yourself?

Shouldn’t you campaign for Marie Therese Kouao (Victoria’s aunt) to be released from jail?

Why is it right to treat sinful gay people as you want and not right to treat witches in the good old witch-burning time-honoured way? Who decides where the line is drawn?

Vast numbers of women were burned as witches in Europe some hundreds of years ago. Witch-burning was, as I understand it, much more a phenomenon in early Reformation Protestant states than of Catholic Europe. (After all, episcopal urbanity has to be of some use!) But it did happen in Catholic countries too.

And, of course, notoriously, the Catholic Church burned heretics, whenever and wherever it was strong enough to do it. The Catholic church backed or helped initiate the systematic coercion by Louis XIV, after 1685, of French Protestants  that almost wiped out Protestantism in France.

Rowan Williams’ and John Sentamu’s church inspired, backed and administered the savage coercion of Irish Catholics, under which your ancestors and mine were condemned to social and legal outlawry for over two hundred years.

For a certainty there are individual lunatics lurking in your Church and in that of Rowan Williams whose consciences would dictate to them that they should now do things like that. Quite apart from the fact that Rowan Williams and yourself would not agree on exactly who should be persecuted, you would not, would you, advocate as a matter of conscientious right, that Catholic (or Protestant) lunatics should be allowed to burn those they thought were witches, kill obnoxious Jews, persecute Protestant, Catholic or Jew or Muslim? Why not? Because you know better?

Because you live in more enlightened times — times in which the desire to continue behaving as your’s and Rowan William’s churches behaved in the past would brand such “traditionalists” as out and out lunatics?

Because you accept that the law that forbids, and would punish severely, such behaviour towards “witches”, Jews, “heretics”, Papists, etc, is a more enlightened law than the laws under which such things were done in the past?

The point, Mr Murphy O’Connor, is that so, too, is the law that now — since very recently, and very belatedly — forbids and would punish violence and discrimination again gay people.

It is a law to regulate citizens’ behaviour according to  standards that are, I submit, greatly superior to your own prejudiced, Dark-Ages-rooted, mind and conscience on the rights of gay people.

Nor is your own Catholic morality immutable, as the things of the past which I have mentioned demonstrate.

Older Catholics and ex-Catholics will know very well that articles of faith in which they were educated, and trained to obey, on pain of the threat of damnation, ceased in the 60s and 70s to be Catholic law. Your attitude to gays is part of a complex of teachings on sexuality and procreation of which your attitude to contraception is also part. Such things as your churchs prohibition of contraception will, almost certainly, eventually be jettisoned, like so much in the past.

There are, perhaps, signs of that already.

You make the point, Mr Murphy O’Connor, obviously with Ruth Kelly in mind:

“It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free that members of the government are not free to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation.”

The point here, though, is that no one has the right to be a minister, and impose their own faith-derived beliefs on those who reject them.

Let us, indeed, take the case of Ruth Kelly.

One could make a strong case in favour of Ruth Kelly. In contrast to most of the Blair Government’s ministers, Kelly, Minister for Women and Equality, and former Education Secretary, comes across as a proper and possibly likeable human being, a bright young woman who has managed to combine having a sizeable brood of kids, still young, with a high flying political career.

On one level, even Kelly’s Catholicism might be taken to recommend her. In contrast with most ministers and most MPs, her affiliations suggest that she believes in something other than her career and getting on in the world. She is a fervent, old-fashioned, practicising Catholic.

Though she approaches things differently, she probably believes, more than most Labour ministers, in some of the values socialists believe in. Catholic Popes have sometimes criticised capitalism for its predatory, cancerous cultural commercialism and its idolatry of the market.

Here too Ruth Kelly stands in favourable contrast with most of her government colleagues and New Labour MPs, whose capacity for belief and care is exhausted by their over-fervent belief in and care for their own careers.

But Ruth Kelly is a member of the militant Catholic cult, Opus Dei (the Work of God) — or as near to membership as a miserable, weak, sinful, inferior woman can get with this organisation. A member of an ultra-Catholic, semi-secret cult that originated in fascist Spain (and the dictatorship of Generalissimo Franco was very much a Catholic dictatorship, just as the civil war through which that dictatorship was established, was on that side very much a Catholic crusade).

Therefore, despite all the things one might say for Ruth Kelly, it is nothing less than an outrage that Kelly should have been Minister for Education, and is now, Minister for Women and Equality, in charge of deciding how the rights accorded to gay people by the British Parliament will be implemented in particular cases such as adoption policy.

Her support for the proposal that Catholic orphanages arranging adoptions and fosterings should be exempt from the legal obligation to treat gay the same as heterosexual couples, is evidence that Kelly is unfitted by her faith to hold such positions.

And of course it isn’t just a question of Kelly’s views. The Prime Minister is a crypto-Catholic, who, like Charles the Second, will formally convert to Catholicism at the end of his career. He, most likely, shares Kelly’s doctrinal guidelines on matters like this. He, after all, appointed her.

Kelly’s successor as Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, is not a member of Opus Dei or even a Catholic. Yet Johnson bowed to Catholic objections to imposing on Catholic and other religious schools an obligation to take in a percentage of non-believers as pupils.

Under pressure, Johnson buckled and settled for vague assurances from yourself, Mr Murphy O’Connor, and others who run the big network of Catholic schools in England.

Believing Muslims do not, as far as I know, dominate the present British government. Yet this wretched government has legislated to outlaw “incitement to religious hatred” — the freedom to criticise, denounce and mock religion — in a desire to placate Muslim leaders, for whom any sharp criticism of Islam is an insult and an outrage. (You, of course, also wanted such legislation. )

Blair and his colleagues thereby showed themselves to be as far from serious liberal thought in their approach to these matters as you yourself are.

Ruth Kelly is important not only because she is a member of Opus Dei in charge of ministries in which her own strong religious beliefs come into conflict with the liberal norms of the society presided over by the New Labour government, but because she dramatises the conflict between liberal social arrangements and serious, believing, Christians, Muslims and others.

She demonstrates how preposterous it is to have Ruth Kelly, or Tony Blair the crypto-Catholic, in government positions where conflict arises between the personal beliefs of the minister and the norms and expectations (and, here, laws!) of an advanced liberal bourgeois democracy such as that in which you and I, Mr Murphy O’Conno, live.

Yet the root problem is not the religious beliefs of individual ministers, or even the Prime Minister. The root problem is the framework of institutions, laws, norms and expectations within which British governments work.

You, Mr Murphy O’Connor, and Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair, can only play the role you are playing in this discussion because British institutions so far lag behind those of France and, even, the USA, in putting organised religion in its proper, subordinate, place — in constitutionally ruling out attempts by the religious to decree how non-believers will live in a common society with them.

Both France and the USA have experienced radical bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Britain, whose bourgeois revolution was made much earlier, in the 17th century, when social and class interests were cloaked in religious garb and expressed in terms of religious dogmas and disputations, is here, simply backward.

Ignorant, bigoted, backwards religion — which is often very anti-Catholic, to be sure — is a great force in the USA. It has given to the world the Magi gift of President George W Bush. They are busily attacking the secularist political traditions of US public life. Even so, the separation of church and state, established in America at the end of the 18th century, remains a great force for public good, despite such antics as Donald Rumsfeld, when he was secretary for defence, holding daily prayer meetings in his office.

By contrast, Britain has a State Church, the Anglican Church, whose titular head is the monarch, the British head of state.

Arguably the worst thing which the Blair government has done in its decade in office has been to encourage the growth of “faith schools”. A later generation, and maybe the present one, will be faced with the consequences of the religious segregation of children — religious segregation which in some cases coincides heavily with ethnic segregation. A terrible price may have to be paid for that.

Even so, put the case against Blair at its strongest, and it is still true that Blair has only built on and expanded existing traditions. Blair has sowed his poisoning crop in a garden that was laid out long before his time.

It is now almost forgotten — you won’t have forgotten it! —  what an uproar greeted the proposal at the beginning of the 20th century for the British state to endow Catholic schools. Catholic schools which mainly catered for the children of immigrant (Irish) workers, much as Muslim schools do now.

Paradoxically, then as now, the argument for faith schools, for an intrinsically-divisive, religious-run system of education, for extending support to Catholic, and now to Muslim, schools, rested on the high ground of egalitarianism: the right of Catholics, as now of Muslims, to equal treatment.

Anglican schools were then already endowed, as now, when we discuss Muslim faith schools, thousands of Anglican, Catholic and Jewish state-funded schools already exist. For you, Mr Murphy O’Connor, that is how it should be.

It is a terrible judgement on the backwardness of Britain in such matters – a backwardness which your own involvement in this discussion loudly proclaims – that the separation of church and state was realised in the USA over two hundred years ago and is still unrealised in the UK!

For those of us who reject the idea that the obscurantist doctrines of archaic religions should have any influence in shaping the social laws through which we regulate our lives, a different conclusion follows.

The whole framework needs to be changed!

• The very possibility of any sort of privileging of the viewpoint or the representatives of any religion, the privilege you are now demanding for Catholics when you demand that they should have the right to discriminate against gay people — that possibility should, as far as possible, be eliminated.

• Religion must be made into a private matter in relation to society.

• Religious men and women like yourself must be, in your capacity of religious leaders, excluded from any role in the state system of education greater than that to which you are entitled as an individual citizen having a citizen’s rights.

• Catholic and other religious-run orphanages must become the property of society, rather than what they are now, receptacles in which young and vulnerable children are held at the mercy of religious indoctrinatiors.

• In every area of society, I repeat, the church should be separated from the state.

• The Anglican church should be disestablished, and disendowed, its property must be made public property.

• As part of the separation of church and state, all faith schools should be taken over and turned into secular state schools — schools in which no religion is taught and religion is studied only as comparative religion.

Paradoxically, this would have as one of its effects the strengthening of freedom of religion, which is and must be an inalienable right of the citizen.

Right now, the sniping and speculation about Ruth Kelly’s religion and its possible relationship to her judgements as a minister, is inevitably intrusive. It probes and prods at her and her religion. That is because, under the existing system, her private believes are a legitimate concern of people who know that Kelly’s religion – and yours, and Tony Blair’s — will play a part in the resolution of the current crisis.

Kelly does not have to have a placard around her neck proclaiming that homosexuals are evil and deservedly damned, etc, for people to know very plainly that she has such views and that her views cannot but influence her attitudes.

There will always be some areas in which the practices associated with or forbidden by some religion will, in the interests of others, place some limitations on the practitioner’s role in society.

The idea that a woman with her face veiled should teach was absurd, and the woman concerned was rightly sacked. Even though she had the right as a citizen to wear the veil, she had no right to teach while veiled.

You too, Mr Murphy O’Connor. You have and should retain the right to believe any absurdity you like. And the right to lay down any absurd rules you like for people who voluntarily accept what you, or your Pope, decree, as rules for themselves. You have no right to inflict your own opinions, to cramp and curtail the lives of others by the bigoted imposition on them of rules of living which they reject.

The absurdity of a compulsorily celibate man, part of a large world wide caste of compulsorily celibate men and women, championing the “traditional family”, and demanding sanctions against those who take a different view, is not only a crying, but also a vicious, absurdity!

So too is the whole British system of relationships between the state and the churches.

To adapt a slogan from the women’s movement:

Keep your hands off our bodies, Mr Murphy O’Connor! And our minds!

John O’Mahony

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