Free Raif Badawi! Stop the flogging!

June 8, 2015 at 6:38 pm (blogging, Civil liberties, Free Speech, good people, Human rights, Middle East, posted by JD)

Amnesty International:

URGENT: Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court has decided to uphold Raif Badawi’s sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison. Let’s remind them that blogging is NOT a crime! http://amn.st/6187hAbD

 

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

– See more at: http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/notes/#sthash.BaiNexdZ.dpuf

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Ananta Bijoy Das: yet another secular Bangladeshi blogger murdered by Islamists.

May 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm (Andrew Coates, Bangladesh, blogging, fascism, Free Speech, good people, humanism, islamism, murder, religion, secularism, terror)

Re-blogged from Tendance Coatesy (very slightly edited):

Ananta Bijoy Das, Beloved by Humanity, Hacked to Death by Islamists.

Loved by all Progressive Humanity: hacked to Death by Islamists.

Ananta Bijoy Das: Yet another Bangladeshi blogger hacked to death.

(CNN)Attacks on bloggers critical of Islam have taken on a disturbing regularity in Bangladesh, with yet another writer hacked to death Tuesday.

Ananta Bijoy Das, 32, was killed Tuesday morning as he left his home on his way to work at a bank, police in the northeastern Bangladeshi city of Sylhet said.

Four masked men attacked him, hacking him to death with cleavers and machetes, said Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kamrul Ahsan.

The men then ran away. Because of the time of the morning when the attack happened, there were few witnesses. But police say they are following up on interviewing the few people who saw the incident.

“It’s one after another after another,” said Imran Sarker, who heads the Blogger and Online Activists Network in Bangladesh. “It’s the same scenario again and again. It’s very troubling.”

Public killings

Das’ death was at least the third this year of someone who was killed for online posts critical of Islam. In each case, the attacks were carried out publicly on city streets.

In March, Washiqur Rahman, 27, was hacked to death by two men with knives and meat cleavers just outside his house as he headed to work at a travel agency in the capital, Dhaka.

The three victims are hardly the only ones who have paid a steep price for their views.

In the last two years, several bloggers have died, either murdered or under mysterious circumstances.

Championing science

Das was an atheist who contributed to Mukto Mona (“Free Thinkers”), the blog that Roy founded.

Mukto Mona contains sections titled “Science” and “Rationalism,” and most of the articles hold science up to religion as a litmus test, which it invariably fails.

While Das was critical of fundamentalism and the attacks on secular thinkers, he was mostly concerned with championing science, a fellow blogger said.

He was the editor of a local science magazine, Jukti (“Reason”), and wrote several books, including one work on Charles Darwin.

In 2006, the blog awarded Das its Rationalist Award for his “deep and courageous interest in spreading secular & humanist ideals and messages in a place which is not only remote, but doesn’t have even a handful of rationalists.”

“He was a voice of social resistance; he was an activist,” said Sarker. “And now, he too has been silenced.”

Taking to the streets

Soon after Das’ death, his Facebook wall was flooded with messages of shock and condolence. And hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Sylhet demanding that the government bring his killers to justice.

“We’ve heard from Ananta’s friends that some people threatened to kill him as he was critical of religion,” Das’ brother-in-law Somor Bijoy Shee Shekhor said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We are ashamed, brother Bijoy,” someone posted on Das’ Facebook page.

“Is a human life worth so little? Do we not have the right to live without fear?” wrote another.

The beloved comrade will be remembered by all humanity.

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Open Letter: Save and Free Raif Badawi!

March 9, 2015 at 6:41 pm (blogging, censorship, Civil liberties, Free Speech, good people, Human rights, Middle East, posted by JD, protest, secularism)

Here’s an open letter to Cameron, Miliband etc. on the case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who now again faces possible execution for apostasy.

The organisers are trying to move the campaign from petitioning and desperate pleas – amnesty style – to something a little more substantial. There is a translated letter being used in France and they are trying to get Charlie Hebdo survivors to sign.

We intend to send it end of Tuesday, sending to the press for Tuesday lunchtime. It would be good if we could get some signatures on it from trade unionists and socialists.

We are attaching the letter and signatures as of midday today (also below) but anyone thinking it would be useful to make contacts as well as get signatures please use it. Or obviously if you want to sign….. let us know in the comments below.

Open Letter to be sent to Cameron, Miliband and other Party leaders

Dear….

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi is currently imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian jail having received the first 50 of a threatened 1,000 lashes. If Raif survives these floggings he faces another 10 years in jail. His ‘crime’ was to have set up a website that called for peaceful change of the Saudi regime away from the repressive and religiously exclusive regime that it is.

In another shameful act his lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair, and other human rights activists were also later arrested. On February 20th this year Waleed had his sentence confirmed as 15 years in prison.

The European Parliament in its resolution of Feb 12th made clear its demands on Saudi Arabia to release Raif, as well as his lawyer Waleed and others imprisoned there for exercising their freedom of speech.

But to free Raif from this nightmare needs more than politicians saying that they disapprove of his punishment.

The total EU trade with the Saudi regime is currently close to €64 billion a year. The UK alone has approaching £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia whilst it continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK, particularly in the property market. Saudi investment in the UK is currently over £62.5 billion.

As the regime inflicts beheadings and floggings on its people, questions have to be asked about why more cannot be done to promote the human rights of citizens of a country with which there is such extensive business. Particularly questions have to be asked about the morality of providing such a regime with arms, particularly the weaponry and facilities they use in their brutal penal system.

We ask that you make publicly clear your complete opposition to the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and demand the immediate release of Raif and Waleed as the EU parliament has done. We also ask that you make publicly clear what measures you will take as a government to put any trading with this regime on an ethical basis and what conditions you will demand from the Saudi regime if all of that trade is to continue – particularly in relation to weapons that might be used in oppression or imprisonment.

If nothing is done to stop the brutality, beheadings and floggings that are committed there – then any moral stand taken against similar horrors committed elsewhere by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can only be compromised.

In the spirit of consistency, transparency and humanity we ask you to take action to Free Raif and promote human rights in Saudi Arabia

Yours

Signatories as at Sunday, 8th March, 12pm: Read the rest of this entry »

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In memory of our beloved comrade, Avijit Roy

February 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm (Andrew Coates, Bangladesh, blogging, Free Speech, good people, humanism, islamism, murder, posted by JD, religion, RIP, terror)

Reblogged from Tendance Coatesy:

Memorial Protest for a Beloved Fighter for Freedom.

Avijit Roy, who has been killed in an attack in Dhaka at the age of 42, was a Bangladeshi-American blogger, published author, and prominent defender of the free-thought movement in Bangladesh.

Mr Roy rose to prominence though his prolific writing on his self-founded site, Mukto-Mona – an internet gathering of mostly South Asia free-thinkers, ratio­nalists, sceptics and humanists founded in 2000.

He was a passionate atheist and an adherent of metaphys­ical naturalism – the school of thought that rejects the supernatural concepts and explanations that are part of many religions.

He was the author of numerous books, and had many articles published in magazines and journals.

In a conservative country like Bangladesh, his subject matter was often contentious, covering sensitive issues such as homosexuality – which he argued was inherent in nature – religious unbelief and cosmology.

Mr Roy’s followers argue that many of his secular ideas are in the tradition of the great Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941 and is often referred to as “Bengal’s Shakespeare”.

Some of the last books Mr Roy wrote, Obisshahser Dorshon (The Philosophy of Disbelief) and Biswasher Virus (The Virus of Faith), were critically well received around the world.

In the Virus of Faith he argues that “faith-based terrorism will wreak havoc on society in epidemic proportions”.

In one of his last published articles in the Free Inquiry magazine, Mr Roy wrote: “To me, religious extremism is like a highly contagious virus. My own recent experiences in this regard verify the horrific reality that such religious extremism is a virus of faith.”

He said in the article that a book he published last year “hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists” and led to him being targeted by militant Islamists and terrorists.

It also led, he said, to a man openly issuing death threats against him on Facebook.

“Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now,” Mr Roy quoted one threat against him as saying, “but he will be murdered when he gets back.”

BBC.

The Independent reports,

Avijit Roy and his wife were returning from a book fair at Dhaka University on Thursday evening when they were attacked.

Witnesses told local media their bicycle rickshaw was stopped by two men who dragged them on to the pavement but police chief Sirajul Islam said the couple were ambushed as they walked towards a roadside tea stall.

Both accounts said at least two men with machetes started hacking at the couple as they lay on the ground.

The attackers then ran away, disappearing into crowds.

Mr Roy, believed to be in his 40s, was pronounced dead during emergency surgery at the Dhaka Medical College hospital and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, lost a finger and is being treated for serious injuries.

Police found her severed finger alongside two machetes and a bag possibly belonging to the attackers at the scene

In Commemoration: Avijit Roy.

News From Bangladesh:

BD News 24.

Avijit’s killing stirs world media Mohammad Abu Bakar Siddique

The brutal killing of writer, blogger Avijit Roy in hand of machete-wielding assailants has created a shockwave in the global media.

The leading news organisations from around the world including BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, The New York Times, NDTV etc condemned the barbarous killing, bringing out detail of the attack.

BBC placed the news on the attack that left the Bangladesh-born US citizen dead and his wife also a blogger Rafida Ahmed Bonna, critically injured, as its lead on the following day, with the headline suggesting “US-Bangladesh blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death.”

The contributions of Avijit, a naturalised US citizen, particularly his activism for scientific knowledge and secularism through online and publications, his receiving threats from militants groups, the attack by the widespread protest against the killing and for arrest of the attackers, and the country’s context were mentioned in the BBC’s report.

The killing of the son of the country’s one of the most prominent professors Ajay Roy was covered Reuters, as “American blogger killed in Bangladesh machete attack,” the New York Times reported “Avijit Roy, Bangladeshi-American Writer, Is Killed by Machete-Wielding Assailants,” besides several other versions with updates.

Roy came to Dhaka for publication of his new books in the book fair around mid-February with his wife, and on the evening they fell under the attack in the TSC area in Dhaka University on the way back from the fair.

Avijit wrote a number of books on mainly philosophy, rationalism and science, in line with his activism, also in online, for secularism and freedom of expression, for which he had been receiving death threats since long, including the recent one when social media fanatics openly declared to kill him on coming home, family told media.

The UK-based the Guardian reported “American atheist blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh” mentioning the previously happened similar attacks on the free thinkers.

“American-Bangladeshi atheist blogger Avijit Roy hacked to death by suspected Islamist extremists,” wrote the UK based the Independent.

The Telegraph wrote: “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh,” while The Times headlined “Atheist US blogger hacked to death in Bangladesh”

CNN titled “Prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy killed” where it detailed with the facts related to the killing and the shocks emerged from it.

It reported on the very attack in two more stories with title “American writer hacked to death in Bangladesh spoke out against extremists”, and “Blogger’s brutal death for speaking his mind.”

From the murder to the UN condemnation, the media all around the world are coming up with the follow ups as well.

The attack was widely covered in the media of neighboring India and Pakistan.

India’s NDTV and Pakistan’s Dawn among the prominent news media covered the story, his contributions, threats were mentioned.

These news media are also following the developments in Bangladesh and the world, in response to the attack, protest and condemnation that began in Dhaka.

 

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Hari Redux

September 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm (blogging, Rosie B)

After being disgraced for plagiarism and sock puppetry Johann Hari has resurfaced again with a new book. A very good piece here by Jeremy Duns sets out how he has not changed his slipshod ways and that he is still being accepted at face value when he should be treated with caution.

Hari has now published audio extracts on his website of his interviews, to waylay fears he is still cutting corners. Sounds good!

 

But due diligence isn’t simply ‘Oh, there are loads of endnotes – it must be well-researched, then.’ Or ‘Oh, he has posted the audio clips of his interviews: he’s reformed. Phew.’ Sorry, but it isn’t. That is laziness of the kind that allowed Hari to get away with being a plagiarist for so long. You have to follow the endnotes and check that the sources say what is being claimed. You have to listen to the audio and check that the quotes accurately reflect them. Hari himself gave this as a reason for posting audio: ‘so that everyone can hear them and verify they were said directly to me.’ But in just a few minutes of listening to the audio he has posted, I found several alarming problems.

Some of the quotes aren’t even in the articles he claims they are in, which suggests a certain level of carelessness. Some present challenges in that he was interviewing people through a translator, but by and large he seems to have been reasonably fair with these, although I think he cleans up rather more infelicities than I would. ..
……

We don’t know the full extent of what Hari did in his journalism for ten years, because he refuses to say and nobody has bothered to look. But what about his new journalism? What about his book? Presumably, as per his promise, he will publish all the audio for his quotes for it on his website. Presumably, Bloomsbury has already checked them to make sure, despite not having any record of what he got up to for a decade, that he is now scrupulously honest and accurate in his work.

 

But I have my doubts. Hari lied in 2011, and he is still lying now. The reasons why nobody has bothered to do anything about it should depress you.

Read the whole piece – it’s good not only about Hari but about standards of journalism in general.

 

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Thinking of you, Norm

October 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm (anti-fascism, blogging, Euston Manifesto, good people, humanism, intellectuals, jazz, Jim D, Marxism, RIP, secularism, socialism)

RIP Norman Geras,
25 Aug 1942 – 18 Oct 2013

It shouldn’t have come as any surprise: after all, he’d warned us in so many words, that he was headin’ for the last round-up. But it was still a shock today, when the news came through – it felt like losing a a best friend or even a family member with an illness that you’d known all along could only have one ending. This despite the fact that we’d never properly met and only ever corresponded by email or via his occasional BTL comments here.

I will be writing more in days to come about this complex, inspiring human being. His pioneering blog, brim-full of gentle humour and searing honesty, remains as a permanent memorial. But for now, I’ll simply recommend Nick Cohen’s heartfelt tribute at the Spectator‘s website…

… and play some jazz (a shared enthusiasm, though Norm loved all sorts of music, including – to my horror – country ‘n’ western):

This version of ‘Ghost of A Chance’ recorded by tenorist Illinois Jacqet in 1968 was Norm’s gift to me, when I had the honour of being the subject of one of his many ‘profiles’ of fellow-bloggers. I’m playing it now, and thinking of him.

NB: http://normfest.org/ – well worth a visit, and you can leave a message there as well.

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Womanfree Zone

September 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm (blogging, bloggocks, Feminism, Guest post, jerk, misogyny, Pink Prosecco, publications, sexism, wankers, women)

Guest post Pink Prosecco.

On Socialist Unity I have just read what struck me as a sensible and sympathetic review by Phil B C of Laurie Penny’s new book Cybersexism.

Before long John Wight (above – note left hand), scourge of moralisers, is muscling in below the line:

“There is nothing wrong with a good filthy fuck. Men and women are primal animals and lust is both healthy and entirely natural.

What is unnatural is the demonisation of sex.

I think this latest moral panic over porn is exactly that: an artificially whipped up moral panic with a political objective at its heart.”

Actually, Wight has said many stupider things, and this made me laugh:

“I don’t [know] about you, but the last thing I think about while approaching orgasm are “workers’ rights”.”

Then I noticed that there were no (identifiable) women commenting on this lively thread. I had a look at all the other posts currently in play, ten in total, attracting (so far) 182 comments  and there were no identifiable women commenting there either.  Funny that.

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Michael Rosen on the SWP crisis

July 27, 2013 at 7:56 pm (blogging, celebrity, ex-SWP, Jim D, misogyny, SWP)

For many years the writer Michael Rosen has been a fairly uncritical fellow-traveller of the  SWP. Now, he’s broken with them over the ‘Comrade Delta’ affair, and has had this exchange with SWP loyalist John Rose and others:

Michael Rosen (above) writes

My old friend John Rose has asked me to put this letter up on my blog. Here it is:

.
Mike,
You and I have been good friends for years – more or less since that great year of ’68. You have not only been a trusted friend – but a trusted comrade as well, even if your disagreement with our ‘Leninist’ model of organising inhibited you from joining us. Your close and critical reading of all of the chapters before publication for my book The Myths of Zionism helped guarantee its success.We recently spoke together at the Bookmarks Holocaust Day event at Bookmarks, the Socialist Bookshop on the subject of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Bookmarks tell me that you have kindly offered to help promote the new 70th anniversary edition The Ghetto Fights by Marek Edelman which I/we launched at our Marxism Festival last week. Over the last few months you and I have had furious e mail and text exchanges about the swp’s internal developments. More recently in the light of important changes that are now underway in the organisation which address all the issues that you raise, I offered to meet you and discuss them. I pointed out to you that only a face to face discussion can clarify matters in a way that is simply not possible by relying on e mail and text exchanges, given the proper necessity of respecting principles of confidentiality. For reasons best known to yourself, you have felt unable to do so, but I be obliged if you would let readers of your blog know that that my offer remains open. Many thanks John

****
My reply: Hi John
Thanks for this.
The problem here is that I’ve become the story. I’m not the story. The story is a) the mishandling of a dispute b) the mishandling of the mishandling c) the lack of an open approach to your friends and allies in what we call the ‘movement’.
As you’ve asked for this letter to be made public, I can only think that you feel that some part of it makes a point to the outside world. I’m guessing that this is the part where you ask me, in effect, why I haven’t discussed this matter whilst ‘respecting principles of confidentiality’.  Aha – surely this shows that Rosen has not been totally honest in his open letters…he could have heard the whole truth…he would then have not needed to go public about all this…etc etc.
I can explain. It is precisely because you wanted to have a ‘confidential’ talk about this that I found myself resisting your suggestion.  I’ll be blunt, I don’t want to be the recipient or owner of any confidences in this matter.  That’s the last thing in the world I want.  The dispute has been played out in various kinds of public forums. The consequence is that many of us who’ve been involved in eg Marxism, LMHR, UAF, Respect, ANL, Stop the War etc etc feel that we are entitled to be told what’s going on  – but not in terms of confidences – only in terms of why a proper procedure wasn’t followed, why the SWP couldn’t have admitted that it should have followed a proper procedure, why it couldn’t have admitted that its committees were the inappropriate means by which this dispute was heard, why it hasn’t hurried to put a proper procedure in place and why the person we call Delta went on being involved in LMHR and UAF long after the dispute was underway. And, I hasten to add, this is not because I am prejudging him as guilty. I repeat: I am not prejudging him as guilty. It is because this would have been the right way to proceed – for the benefit of all parties: the accusers, the accused, the SWP and the rest of us on the outside. I repeat, the SWP has set out its stall in relation to sexual oppression, liberation and equality. It can hardly complain if people on the outside ask how this dispute matches the principles and analysis that the SWP has put before us.
You mention ‘The Ghetto Fights’.  In fact, my offer was more than the one you mention. I said to Bookmarks that if they wrote an appeal I would kick off some crowd-funding with a contribution.

Labels: , , , Read the rest of this entry »

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Anna Chen accuses John Rees of racism

July 18, 2013 at 12:05 am (blogging, ex-SWP, Guardian, history, Jim D, John Rees, Racism, SWP, workers)

Above: Rees has many faults, but seems an unlikely racist

Ex-SWP’er Anna Chen, who blogs at ‘Madam Miaow Says’ is a writer and performance artist of Chinese-British extraction. She recently wrote a piece, re-published and/or quoted on various blogs, criticising Ken Loach’s film The Spirit of  ’45 for ignoring black people. My personal view is that while she has a point, she possibly overstates her case, given the film’s concentration upon the 1930s and ’40s, before large-scale black immigration into the UK. But Loach’s dismissive response on Radio 4, “That’s how it was. That’s the record of the time” does him no credit.

Anna has a Comment piece in yesterday’s Guardian  (print edition) in which she again criticises Loach’s film for only showing white people, and she also makes some well-aimed criticism of Maurice Glasman and David Goodhart (both said to be influential in Labour Party thinking on race, immigration and “community”).

But Anna also makes an extraordinary allegation against ‘Counterfire’ and People’s Assembly big-wig John Rees:

“The blind spot that so irritated Orwell is alive and well on the left today: in one shocking example, John Rees – a former leading member of the SWP (and now the People’s Assembly leader) – argued that ‘it’s British workers who count, not Chinese’ soon after 58 dead Chinese migrants were found dead in a truck in 2000.”

Let’s be clear: Anna is accusing Rees of racism: there can be no other interpretation placed on her allegation. Anna does not provide the full context of Rees’s alleged words, but it’s difficult to conceive of any context that would make such words acceptable.

I have not always considered Anna an entirely reliable source of information in the past and, indeed, the Guardian piece contains at least one howler: since when has the Grunwick dispute been considered a “famous victory”?

The charge against Rees is about as serious as it gets, and presumably the Guardian‘s lawyers cleared it. But does anyone know when, where and in what context Rees is supposed to have made that comment? As regular readers will know, I don’t have much time for Rees and his degenerate ‘Counterfire’ outfit, but I have to say I find Anna’s allegation against him difficult to credit. And if she can’t back it up, she ought to withdraw it.

*********************

NB: I see that the online version of Anna’s article (linked to above) omits the alleged quote from Rees and carries the following disclaimer:

• This article was amended on 17 July 2013 following a complaint from John Rees, an organiser of the People’s Assembly and a former member of the SWP, to remove remarks which he denies making.

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One Sweet Comment from You

June 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm (AWL, blogging, jazz, Jim D)

I’ve just returned from a weekend in London, at the AWL’s Ideas For Freedom event. An excellent couple of days of vigorous debate and informed discussion. It meant, of course, that I wasn’t at the so-called ‘People’s Assembly’ but I’ll do my best to obtain a report on that in the very near future. In fact, anyone who was at it is welcome to send in a comment.

Talking of comments, old blogging (and drinking) chums Dave Osler and Ms Stroppy were both at IFF and we managed to have a bit of a chat. Dave complained that he’s tried to comment here on several occasions recently and has been unable to, due to being asked for a username and password. I understand that other would-be commenters have experienced the same problem. Rosie has promised to try to rectify this and various other technical glitches over the summer, but in the meanwhile there is a way round the problem, but I can only share it at the moment with people I know personally and trust.

Dave, of course, is a fellow jazz lover, though his tastes tend to be a bit more advanced than mine. I hope both he and Stroppy enjoy this 1939 Lionel Hampton recording, featuring  the saxes of Leon ‘Chu’ Berry, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Benny Carter plus Charlie Christian on guitar, and (just about audible right at the end) a promising 21-year-old trumpeter called Dizzy Gillespie:

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