23 May 2015
These are grim days for liberalism.
In much of our world religious zealots seek to enchain believer and nonbeliever alike, to smash the creations of the past, and to kill fellow believers and murder dissenters. In Bangladesh recently Muslim extremists have brutally killed on the street several atheist writers and bloggers.
In Britain we are largely protected from the violence that seeks to silence by an alert intelligence service.
Alas, increasingly on our university campuses there are peaceful calls for an end to both the free exchange of ideas and the exploration of challenging thoughts, what universities are for. There are peaceful attempts, some successful, to silence the debating of ideas which might discomfort some students.
A few of the people who spoke out against the Charlie Hebdo murders actually said, I’m appalled but…and with that but in effect, I think, blamed the cartoonists.
Today into this illiberal gloom Ireland dances.
The people of Ireland have voted in favour of same-sex marriage. Over recent years Ireland has abandoned the grip of reaction and legalised homosexuality, divorce, and contraception, all outlawed by the Catholic church.
In Britain the Tory Libdem government made same sex marriage legal, a remarkably civilised and brave move by David Cameron.
Today love has won, equality has won. Liberalism and civilisation have won.
Ireland referendum result: Yes to same-sex marriage 1 201 607 votes (62.1 percent of the votes), No 734 300 votes (37.9 percent of the votes)
Bangladesh murders: 2013 Rajib Haider murdered, February 2015 Avijit Roy hacked to death in Dhaka, April 2015 Washiqur Rahman hacked to death, May 2015 Ananta Bijoy Das murdered on the way to work
2013 Raif Badawi, free speech blogger, jailed in Saudi Arabia,later flogged
2 August 2014
I have come across this excellent article by Peter Tatchell which discusses an interesting and often forgotten aspect of World War I. It makes me want to know more.
The hidden story of soldiers’ mutinies, strikes, and riots, Peter Tatchell 1 August 2014.
10 October 2007
Months ago I wrote about Kareem Amer, a blogger of Egypt who was jailed for four years. I explained then why he was jailed:
Why? Officially, for insulting Islam and the president of Egypt. What exactly did he do? He has a blog and on it he criticised the president of Egypt and what he sees as the sectarianism and sexism of the state-financed Azhar University, and criticised the attack by some Muslims on a Christian church in Alexandria. He has criticised violence and dictatorship.
He is still in jail.
We should not let this go. We should not weary of this. The Egyptian regime is hoping we tire and forget. Send an email to the Egyptian ambassador in London protesting against Kareem’s continuing imprisonment. The email address is email@example.com. The address for letters is Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt, 26 South Street, London, W1k 1DW.
Everyone who writes a blog or reads one should stand up for Kareem and free speech.
18 March 2007
…but today let me look farther away.
First, Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years imprisonment in Egypt last month. Why? Officially, for insulting Islam and the president of Egypt. What exactly did he do? He has a blog and on it he criticised the president of Egypt and what he sees as the sectarianism and sexism of the state-financed Azhar University, and criticised the attack by some Muslims on a Christian church in Alexandria. He has criticised violence and dictatorship.
Four years for free speech. Everyone who blogs or reads them should think about this. Here is a young man who is exercising freedom of thought and expression and is putting forward views that are routine in the democratic west. In any case it does not matter whether one agrees with his views or not, the issue is free speech. It is gratifying that several Muslims have bravely supported him though they disagree with his views.
And westward, on 12 March 2007 Pete Stark, a Democrat member for California in of the house of representatives in the USA, has said he does not believe in a supreme being. He is the first American congressman to say he is a nontheist. Since religious belief, or profession of it, is commonly held to be necessary to get elected to government in America, Stark’s declaration is courageous. It will be fascinating to see whether the other rationalists in Congress come out and what happens to them.