How did we end up here?

From Charlie Hedbo:  https://charliehebdo.fr/en/edito/how-did-we-end-up-here/

Par Charlie Hebdo
30/03/2016

For a week now, experts of all kinds have been trying to understand the reasons for the attacks in Brussels. An incompetent police force? Unbridled multiculturalism? Youth unemployment? Uninhibited Islamism? The causes are numerous beyond counting and everyone will naturally choose the one that suits best their own convictions. Law and Order fans will denounce the haplessness of the police. Xenophobes will blame immigration. Sociologists will rehash the evils of colonialism. Urban-planners will point to the evils of ghettoisation. Take your pick.

In reality, the attacks are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed. They are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale. Our noses are endlessly rubbed in the rubble of Brussels airport and in the flickering candles amongst the bouquets of flowers on the pavements. All the while, no one notices what’s going on in Saint-German-en-Laye. Last week, Sciences-Po* welcomed Tariq Ramadan. He’s a teacher, so it’s not inappropriate. He came to speak of his specialist subject, Islam, which is also his religion. Rather like lecture by a Professor of Pies who is also a pie-maker. Thus judge and contestant both.

No matter, Tariq Ramadan has done nothing wrong. He will never do anything wrong. He lectures about Islam, he writes about Islam, he broadcasts about Islam. He puts himself forward as a man of dialogue, someone open to a debate. A debate about secularism which, according to him, needs to adapt itself to the new place taken by religion in Western democracy. A secularism and a democracy which must also accept those traditions imported by minority communities. Nothing bad in that. Tariq Ramadan is never going to grab a Kalashnikov with which to shoot journalists at an editorial meeting. Nor will he ever cook up a bomb to be used in an airport concourse. Others will be doing all that kind of stuff. It will not be his role. His task, under cover of debate, is to dissuade people from criticising his religion in any way. The political science students who listened to him last week will, once they have become journalists or local officials, not even dare to write nor say anything negative about Islam. The little dent in their secularism made that day will bear fruit in a fear of criticising lest they appear Islamophobic. That is Tariq Ramadan’s task.

Take this veiled woman. She is an admirable woman. She is courageous and dignified, devoted to her family and her children. Why bother her? She harms no one. Even those women who wear the total, all-encompassing veil do not generally use their clothing to hide bombs (as certain people were claiming when the law to ban the burqa was being discussed). They too will do nothing wrong. So why go on whining about the wearing of the veil and pointing the finger of blame at these women? We should shut up, look elsewhere and move past all the street-insults and rumpus. The role of these women, even if they are unaware of it, does not go beyond this.

The visible part of a very big iceberg.

Take the local baker, who has just bought the nearby bakery and replaced the old, recently-retired guy, he makes good croissants. He’s likeable and always has a ready smile for all his customers. He’s completely integrated into the neighbourhood already. Neither his long beard nor the little prayer-bruise on his forehead (indicative of his great piety) bother his clientele. They are too busy lapping up his lunchtime sandwiches. Those he sells are fabulous, though from now on there’s no more ham nor bacon. Which is no big deal because there are plenty of other options on offer – tuna, chicken and all the trimmings. So, it would be silly to grumble or kick up a fuss in that much-loved boulangerie. We’ll get used to it easily enough. As Tariq Ramadan helpfully instructs us, we’ll adapt. And thus the baker’s role is done.

Take this young delinquent. H has never looked at the Quran in his life, he knows little of the history of religion, of colonialism, nor a great deal about the proud country of his Maghreb forefathers. This lad and a couple of his buddies order a taxi. They are not erudite like Tariq Ramadan, they don’t pray as often as the local baker and are not as observant as the redoubtable veiled mothers on the street. The taxi heads for Brussels airport. And still, in this precise moment, no one has done anything wrong. Not Tariq Ramadan, nor the ladies in burqas, not the baker and not even these idle young scamps.

And yet, none of what is about to happen in the airport or metro of Brussels can really happen without everyone’s contribution. Because the incidence of all of it is informed by some version of the same dread or fear. The fear of contradiction or objection. The aversion to causing controversy. The dread of being treated as an Islamophobe or being called racist. Really, a kind of terror. And that thing which is just about to happen when the taxi-ride ends is but a last step in a journey of rising anxiety. It’s not easy to get some proper terrorism going without a preceding atmosphere of mute and general apprehension.

These young terrorists have no need to amass the talents of others, to be erudite, dignified or hard-working. Their role is simply to provide the end of a philosophical line already begun. A line which tells us “Hold your tongues, living or dead. Give up discussing, debating, contradicting or contesting”.

This is not to victimise Islam particularly. For it has no opponent. It is not Christianity, Hinduism nor Judaism that is balked by the imposition of this silence. It is the opponent (and protector) of them all. It is the very notion of the secular. It is secularism which is being forced into retreat.

Above all, in a sense, this stops us asking perhaps the world’s oldest and most important question – “How the hell did I end up here?”. “How the hell did I end up having to wander the streets all day with a big veil on my head?” “How the hell did I end up having to say prayers five times a day?” ” How the hell did I end up in the back of a taxi with three rucksacks packed with explosives?” Perhaps, very sadly, the only people who are still asking themselves that most important of questions are the unlucky victims. “How the hell did I end up here, six yards away from that big bomb?”

The first task of the guilty is to blame the innocent. It’s an almost perfect inversion of culpability. From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. And that is where and when fear has started its sapping, undermining work. And the way is marked for all that will follow.

* Sciences Po is an elite French public research and higher education institution.

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Global warming may be far worse than thought, cloud analysis suggests

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/07/clouds-climate-change-analysis-liquid-ice-global-warming

Researchers find clouds contain more liquid – as opposed to ice – than was previously believed, threatening greater increase in temperatures


Thursday 7 April 2016

Climate change projections have vastly underestimated the role that clouds play, meaning future warming could be far worse than is currently projected, according to new research.

Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict.

The analysis of satellite data, led by Yale University, found that clouds have much more liquid in them, rather than ice, than has been assumed until now. Clouds with ice crystals reflect more solar light than those with liquid in them, stopping it reaching and heating the Earth’s surface.

The underestimation of the current level of liquid droplets in clouds means that models showing future warming are misguided, says the paper, published in Science. It also found that fewer clouds will change to a heat-reflecting state in the future – due to CO2 increases – than previously thought, meaning that warming estimates will have to be raised.

Such higher levels of warming would make it much more difficult for countries to keep the global temperature rise to below 2C, as they agreed to do at the landmark Paris climate summit last year, to avoid dangerous extreme weather and negative effects on food security. The world has already warmed by 1C since the advent of heavy industry, driven by CO2 concentrations soaring by more than 40%.

A lack of data and continuing uncertainty over the role of clouds is to blame for the confusion about warming estimates, said Ivy Tan, a graduate student at Yale who worked on the research with academics from Yale and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/07/clouds-climate-change-analysis-liquid-ice-global-warming

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France passes law making it illegal to pay for sex

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/06/france-passes-law-illegal-to-pay-for-sex-criminalise-customers

in Paris
Wednesday 6 April 2016

France is to make it illegal to pay for sex after MPs finally approved new legislation on prostitution following more than two years of rows and opposition by senators.

Under the new law, anyone caught purchasing an act from a sex worker will be fined and required to attend classes on the harms of prostitution.

There would be a €1,500 (£1,200) fine for a first offence, rising to €3,750 for a second, which would also be put on the person’s criminal record. The offender would be forced to attend classes highlighting the harms of prostitution.

The law was passed by 64 votes to 12 with many MPs absent.

The French parliament started debating the bill in 2013, but the final vote was delayed after several hearings owing to sharp divisions between the lower parliamentary chamber and the senate.

The move makes France one of only a handful of European countries to follow the Nordic model of criminalising consumers rather than sex workers. These include Norway and Iceland. Last year, Northern Ireland introduced legislation to make it the only part of the UK where people can be convicted of paying for sex.

The Socialist MP Maud Olivier, who championed the bill in France, said the aim was to “reduce [prostitution], protect prostitutes who want to leave it and to change mentalities”.

Complete article at:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/06/france-passes-law-illegal-to-pay-for-sex-criminalise-customers

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Does climate change make it immoral to have kids?

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/02/does-climate-change-make-it-immoral-to-have-kids

Bringing children into a disintegrating environment used to be a theoretical fear. Now it’s a very real one


Saturday 2 April 2016

The decision whether or not to have a child is one of the bigger ones a person will make in life – often the biggest.

I needed some strong convincing from my wife when it came time for us to make it. Most of my reluctance was self-interested: I liked my life well enough, and I didn’t want to change it. My wife talked about feeling a biological imperative, which I had no answer for. Who was I to stand in the way of something like that? I signed on.

But there is a whole other potential person to consider, too – the new life that you are bringing into the world without asking first.

It’s not really fair. For while the world is a wonderful place, one we humans have made nicer for ourselves with wonderful inventions like books and record players, penicillin and pizza, it’s also a really awful place, one we’ve ravaged with deforestation and smog, nuclear weapons and mountains of pizza delivery boxes and other garbage.

The awfulness seems to be getting worse, especially now that climate change has sped up – sea level rise that was supposed to take centuries has recently been projected as taking just decades. This complicates the already difficult decision of whether to have a kid.

We’re living through what scientists call the “Sixth Extinction”, an era of precipitous decline in the number of species able to live on the planet. The last mass extinction, the fifth, happened 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid crashed into Earth and 76% of all the species on the planet perished.

This time, we’re doing it to ourselves.

“Climate scientists agree that humanity is about to cause a sea level rise of 20 or 30ft, but they have tended to assume that such a large increase would take centuries, at least,” the New York Times’s Justin Gillis reported. But a recent study led by retired Nasa climate scientist James E Hansen, published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, indicates that the negative effects are happening a lot faster than we’d thought, perhaps feet of rise within the next 50 years.

“That would mean loss of all coastal cities, most of the world’s large cities and all their history,” Hansen told Gillis, adding, “We’re in danger of handing young people a situation that’s out of their control.”

Imagine that: New York, Tokyo, Mumbai, Shanghai, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Miami would go first. Think about the implications. Global economic collapse, famine, border disputes, wars. Jesus, just the inland traffic.

Thinking about the horrific future scientists predict hurts a very specific part of me, a part of me that I only first learned was there when I met my newborn son, 11 years ago, as he lay on the tray of the scale where the doctors had just weighed him and counted his fingers and toes.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/02/does-climate-change-make-it-immoral-to-have-kids

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Saudi TV Host Nadine Al-Budair: The Terrorists Emerged from Our Schools and Universities

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Has It Become Racist to Condemn FGM?

From The Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sarah-peace/fgm-has-it-become-racist-to-condemn-it_b_9577946.html


31/03/2016

Veiling and female circumcision are long-standing practices that predate all the Abrahamic religions but remain dominant throughout society today.

The former is a broad tradition practiced by women and girls across the world, that varies from the sartorial cloth over the hair as an extension of the dress or sari, to the more steadfast hijab, which neatly tucks away all hair, covering the ears and neck but revealing the face. Then there are variations that proceed towards the complete coverage of the body including fingers and ankles, where even the wearer’s eyes are hidden, confining their vision to a view mediated by a mesh screen.

The latter is a ritual with a specific intention to control female sexuality varying from removal of the clitoris to the entire genitalia, sewing the vaginal opening shut, leaving a hole just big enough for urine and menstrual blood to drip out. This ensures that a woman can be identified as a virgin before marriage and her husband is the one to execute the gallant act of deflowering. This is precisely why female circumcision for non-medical reasons is more aptly described as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Effects of FGM include infections, painful intercourse, infertility, difficulty in childbirth and other long-term consequences, which are still being discovered.

Regardless of how imposing the most extreme form of the veil can be, it is impermanent, unlike FGM which stings more destructively, so is it right to conjoin the two in the postmodern context of rethinking women’s agency? I was to find out that my brazen anti-FGM stance is ‘regurgitating the hideous colonial project that imposed itself on the rest of the world on a civilizing mission to rescue the women of the third world from its savage men’. The rationale I am told, is that even as a Nigerian born woman, I cannot speak for other less privileged Nigerian women, how much less, a white woman on behalf of ethnic minorities.

It was at Goldsmiths University that I came to witness this betrayal first hand, which ascribes brutality onto people from other places as part of culture but fashions itself so self-righteously. Like John the Baptist at the feet of Jesus crying; ‘Who am I to say that female circumcision is barbaric, lest I judge thee through my western colonial gaze?’

In the seminar that alerted me to the pervasiveness of this sinister trend, my lecturer failed to make a distinction between veiling and FGM, simply conflating the two as cultural modes of being that are parallel to western secular thought. The argument for veiling can certainly be made: Muslim women choosing modesty, piety and privatisation of their own bodies in order to maintain power – in what they deem a patriarchal world in which women’s bodies are objectified, sexualised and commodified.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sarah-peace/fgm-has-it-become-racist-to-condemn-it_b_9577946.html

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali with Bill Maher Antitheist atheist

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