Tag Archives: human-rights

Getting really cross

“Sell everything you own and buy yellow precious metal, fashioned in the form of one vertical long stick crossed with a horizontal shorter stick. And wear it publicly at all times, as a sign of your devotion to me. Blessed are the jewellery wearers for they shall inherit media attention” Book of Ratner ch19.v4

(As Jesus directed his followers in a previously little-known apocryphal bible book covering the Jewellery Company Years)

Determined cross wearers Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida (a former nurse and a former British Airways worker) have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights

Shirley Chaplin and Nadia Eweida take cross fight to Europe.
Shirley Chaplin said “hiding” her cross was akin to denying her faith
(headlines on the BBC report)

I can’t see that it matters what styles of jewellery people wear. I think that their employers have behaved insanely (although I bet they were a real trial to employ). Although, if you know that a job has a uniform and you refuse to stick to the uniform rules, you shouldn’t really take that job.

The problem is that the cross ladies picked this fight on purpose. To bolster the picture of the UK’s imaginary condition of “discrimination against Christians”.

Christian Concern website (find it yourself, if you want, I’m not keen to post a link) is always willing to place itself at the centre of any case that it can use to promote the fantasy that we live in a parallel universe in which European Christians are beingpersecuted.

Increasing numbers of Christians have been penalised for their faith in the public sphere, often due to equalities legislation and the promotion of homosexual rights. Some Christians have been threatened with disciplinary action, suspended, and even sacked for refusing to act against their consciences. At Christian Concern we vigorously resist any restrictions on freedom of speech and expression for Christians.(from Christian Concern)

What? Equalities legislation and homosexual rights are a threat to Christians?

Passing blithely over the irony that people who feel threatened by human rights legislation are resorting to the European Court of Human Rights for redress, do they claim that they are being compelled to become homosexual in order to get human rights? No, I think I get it, maybe they claim the right to persecute gay people is the human right that they are in danger of losing?

Christians have been sacked for refusing to act against their consciences? I would have much sympathy – nay, admiration – if their consciences were telling them they had to resist the government’s ongoing programme to attack the poor and the NHS or if they were campaigning against wars or using their resources to feed the hungry and house the homeless…

But their Christian consciences aren’t stirred by such insignificant social issues. Their moral sense is roused by rules about wearing jewellery in work.

And their consciences can only be accommodated by following the Book of Ratner and wearing jewellery with malice aforethought.

Oh, and spending vast resources on getting their own way through the courts. What would Jesus Do? Well, the same, obviously. I believe he was working on his latest designer jewellery collection for Argos when he was crucified. He thought the cross shape would be really great for the brand.

Told you so..

Today’s Guardian has a piece looking at the effects of the French burqa ban. In a nutshell:

France’s burqa ban: women are ‘effectively under house arrest’
Since France introduced its burqa ban in April there have been violent attacks on women wearing the niqab and, this week, the first fines could be handed down. But a legal challenge to this hard line may yet expose the French state as a laughing stock.

I have to show off about my predictive skills here, although anyone with at a week’s experience of living on this planet could have predicted the outcome.

But still, in June 2009, I said…

Some members of the public will demand police action against women wearing burqas. At the very least, insulting women as they go about their daily lives will become more, not less, common. Burqa-wearers will be afraid to appear in the street.

…Exactly the consequences that today’s Guardian report talks about…

There’s some shame for atheists in this story

Secular France has a complicated relationship with the veil. In 2004, all religious symbols including the headscarf were banned in schools. Even among Sarkozy’s opponents there are very few feminists or socialist politicians who would defend the right to wear niqab in a country where secularism is one of the few issues that still unites a fragmented left. Barely a handful of people came to Notre Dame cathedral to protest against the law in April. (from the Guardian)

I refuse to see how interfering with women’s chosen modes of dress “for their own good” can be in any way feminist.

It makes me really uncomfortable to see secularism used as a smokescreen for racism.

I thought I was at least in favour of the French banning all religious symbols in schools but I’ve started to even reconsider that, when I look at it logically. I hardly think it’s a battle worth fighting. It’s basically unenforceable without causing religious believers to become even more entrenched in their sense of having a beleaguered cultural identity.

How do you define a religious symbol in order to ban it? What are the boundaries of religion?

What about an innocent wearing a piece of jewelry with a Chinese Buddhist symbol? The English youths tattooed with Maori warrior symbols for gods they’ve never heard of and couldn’t pronounce even for real money?

Does it only count if you know what the symbols mean? In that case, most wearers of religious insignia would be OK.

What if you know what the symbols mean but just don’t believe in them? (I’m looking at you, all you people with silver rings carrying Egyptian ankhs.) You might have bought a tourist T-shirt printed with a scene from the Sistine Chapel. You might be wearing a reversed cross as a fashion item. You might even be wearing a religious item ironically (like the plastic rosaries incomprehensibly fashionable a couple of years ago)

More seriously, what about dreadlocks? They can be read in dozens of different ways. Locks have religious significance for some rastas. They also have several forms of cultural resonance for many people wearing them who wouldn’t subscribe to the religion – from people who see them as symbols of African heritage to eco-warriors. Some people wear them for purely aesthetic and fashion reasons. Are they banned in French schools? Would they be acceptable for people who could prove they didn’t follow the religion?

However you follow through these ideas, they become nonsense.

If secularist are to subscribe to the idea of banning religious artefacts worn on the body, how can we be sure that any given object doesn’t have religious significance?

By the way, this might be the time to mention that I have recently joined a religion which venerates the holy lounge suit. We are a small religion but utterly fanatical. All men in our faith are required to wear a lounge suit, with the tie of the Eternal Cosmos wrapped around the neck in a complicated knot that represents the interconnectedness of all life.

I sincerely trust that this doesn’t cause more than minor inconvenience in the French parliament.

Dale Farm (not the yoghurt)

Tomorrow there will probably be a mass eviction of 86 traveller families at Dale Farm, Basildon, despite the opposition of bodies like Amnesty International and the UN’s expert on minority rights.
This eviction will apparently cost £18 million. Not a misprint. £209,302 plus change for every family evicted. About ten year’s wages at £20k, which is well above minimum wage. Financial crisis, my bum. There seems to plenty of spare public money for racial harassment. (Which, as far as I understand it, makes Basildon Council an international rogue council and potentially fair game for some sort of international invasion task force.)
If the historical parallels of where the new Euroracism seems to be heading aren’t clear enough, look at jewify.com. They’ve had the brilliant idea of rewriting newspaper pages and headlines by replacing words like “gypsy” and “traveller” with the word “Jew”.
Just look at the headline examples on the home page. I hope your blood runs cold.

Xtreme bingo

Get your playing card for the great new game of “Domestic Extremist Bingo” from the Guardian Online.

Not sure how to claim your prize, sorry, but there seems to be a £9 million jackpot up for grabs.

So get marking those cards.

No prizes for spotting comedian Mark Thomas in there, either. But you can have him as your starter, so you don’t have to actually see him at a protest to cross him off your scorecard.

Breaking news:
Sorry kids, it looks as if the Information Commissioner has finally tried to spoil your fun. By actually spotting the outrageous nature of the information in this Guardian story .

European court 1 UK Home Office 0

The European Court of Human Rights (made up of 17 senior judges – 17, count them- from all over Europe) has ruled that the UK’s determination to keep hold of any DNA it can get its hands on is a breach of human rights.

The whole judgement is magisterially sweet, as reported by the BBC. It’s not on the EC Court of Human Rights’ site yet but you can see some of the details of the case there.

Otimo. Bravo. Wunderbar. Bellissimo. (I’ve run out of pan-European superlatives and have already stretched linguistic capacity too far for these to be exactly right. You get the idea anyway)

It’s a bit embarrassing that the UK has to rely on the House of Lords to throw out 42 detention plans or the European human rights court to challenge creeping authoritarian. But, as a country, we have become so pathetic that we need any help we can get.

An Olympic Sized Lesson

Some sad news today, with a bit of a reflection on the current fear-based legislative ideas that grips the west.

From the BBC:

Sixteen Chinese policemen have been killed in an attack on a border post near Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang, state media say.
Two men drove a lorry into a group of jogging policemen before attacking them with explosives and knives, according to the Xinhua news agency.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is sad news and my condolences to the families of all those involved (on the massive off-chance Chinese people can even read this blog).

It shows that the evil of terrorism is truly a global problem. Oddly, China is on record as having an astoundingly appaling human-rights record. It has laws that would make almost anyone in the “free” west blink twice. It has oppressive laws controling how its citizens can (and can’t) behave, forced ID controls and monitors the activities (on and off-line) of its population.

In short, China has the anti-terrorist powers that most western governments would die for.

Did it prevent this attack? Obviously not. Is there any reason to think that people in China are safer from [terrorists|murders|paedophiles|insert bugbear of choice] than any western nation? Well, no.

If anything, history shows that the more oppressed a population becomes, the greater the “revolutionary” response — oddly the US is both an example of this and the figure-head of the New World Order. Terrorists (revolutionaries) find fertile breeding ground where one segment of society feels it is being treated unjustly and no amount of monitoring, surveillance, torture (etc) will prevent this. The current War on Terror is especially ironic as the “terrorists” hate the west because of our freedoms. In our goal to prevent them turning us into oppressive nations we are becoming an oppressive nation.

Well done us.

Is there a solution? If there is, I don’t have it. In the UK terrorism is outlawed by criminal law. Terrorism is a crime. Can a 100% crime-free utopia exist?

For me, the only reasonable solution is to accept the fact there will always be some level of crime (murder, terrorism, burglary etc) and find a situation where we can minimise its impact without destroying the freedoms we once considered universal and self-evident.

Is that difficult?

Welcome to Babylon

It’s pretty insulting to tell a musician that their music is an instrument of torture. Not that many musicians seem to care. Metallica (crappy band, of old-Napster-destroying memory) are quite unconcerned that their music was a Gitmo standby.

Unfortunately, some artists are not offended by their work being used to torture. “If the Iraqis aren’t used to freedom, then I’m glad to be part of their exposure,” James Hetfield, co-founder of Metallica, has said. As for his music being torture, he laughed: “We’ve been punishing our parents, our wives, our loved ones with this music for ever. Why should the Iraqis be any different?”(from Clive Clifford Smith in the Guardian 19th June 2008)

So respect is due to David Gray for speaking out about the use of his “Babylon” track. He, at least, doesn’t find what the US call “torture lite” particularly amusing:

“That is torture,” the singer-songwriter told Radio Four’s World Tonight programme……
..”No-one wants to even think about it or discuss the fact that we’ve gone above and beyond all legal process and we’re torturing people,” he added.

The Guardian piece had a few words from someone on the receiving end of torture-lite. (Is that almost the most chilling phrase you’ve ever heard)

Despite this, to date, the Pentagon’s semanticists have achieved their purpose, and many people think that torture by music is little more than a rather irritating enforced encounter with someone else’s iPod. Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who is still held in Guantánamo Bay, knows a bit about such torture. The CIA rendered him to Morocco, where his torturers repeatedly took a razor blade to his penis throughout an 18-month ordeal.
When I later sat across from him in the cell, he described how psyops methods were worse than this. He could anticipate physical pain, he said, and know that it would eventually end. But the experience of slipping into madness as a result of torture by music was something quite different.
“Imagine you are given a choice,” he said. “Lose your sight or lose your mind.”

David Gray pointed out that there might be legal implications in using music tracks without permission:

The singer wonders whether governments who use music as a torture technique without asking permission from the artists involved could face legal action. “In order to play something publicly, you have to have legal permission and you have to apply for that.(Guardian)

Just saying… VirginMedia have responded to pressure from the BPI by sending out threatening letters to customers suspected of sharing music illegally. Shouldn’t these copyright protection agencies be suing the US government, instead, if it turns out that they haven’t applied for permission, or paid for the rights, to broadcast music in their Gitmo free concerts?

Also on the endlessly enraging topic of torture, immense respect is also due to Christopher Hitchens for undergoing the euphemistically named “waterboarding” and reporting on how bad it was, even for a volunteer who knew he wouldn’t die and could go home at the end of the experience. (Hat tip to Quintessential Rambling for the link to this story.)

“Waterboarding” sounds so much like a fun new extreme sport, whereas those old-fashioned words like torture sound so cold and depressing. “Torture-lite” sounds so ironic and post modern, as if it’s not really torture at all. Something like being stuck in traffic on a really hot day. It seems that Newspeak can change anything from “morally abhorrent” to “familiar and acceptable.”

(There’s a good thought-provoking video of Stephen Pinker’s talk at the RSA, about how we use language – including the uses of euphemism.)