Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Lost Tomb

The Discovery Channel now has a website up and running about the documentary The Lost Tomb of Jesus, which will premiere in the US and the UK, i think, at the beginning of March.

In the feature documentary a case is made that the 2,000-year-old “Tomb of the Ten Ossuaries” belonged to the family of Jesus of Nazareth. Since the 1970s, hundreds of tombs and thousands of ossuaries (limestone bone boxes) have been discovered in the Jerusalem area. These ossuaries served as coffins in first-century Jerusalem. One of these tombs was found to contain ten ossuaries. Six of the ossuaries in this tomb have inscriptions on them. As it turns out, every inscription in this particular tomb relates to the Gospels.

All leading epigraphers agree about the inscriptions. All archaeologists confirm the nature of the find. 'It comes down to a matter of statistics'. A statistical study commissioned by the broadcasters (Discovery Channel/Vision Canada/C4 UK) concludes that the probability factor is 600 to 1 in favour of this tomb being the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. The film also documents DNA extraction from human residue found in two of the ossuaries and reveals new evidence that throws light on Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. (How would they be able to do that?!). All sounds incredible to me but fascinating nonetheless.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Misogyny 6, women 0

A fanatical religious preacher shot a woman cabinet minister in Pakistan for not wearing a Muslim veil at a public meeting she was about to address. Zilla Huma Usman was Punjab's Minister for Social Welfare and a strong campaigner for women's rights,. She was shot in the face as she was being showered with rose petals by supporters on arrival at a public meeting. Her bearded attacker, Mohammad Sarwar, called out: "Why aren't you in Islamic dress?", her sin in his eyes was not wearing the traditional veil . "I have no regrets. I just obeyed Allah's commandment," he said. The country's minister for social welfare described her death as "an unbearable loss to the cause of women's rights and their empowerment". Meanwhile of course, back in Lancs: Mohammed Riaz made every conceivable attempt to prevent his wife and daughters enjoying their Westernised lifestyle. He destroyed their clothes...t[T]he labourer killed his wife and four daughters by throwing petrol over them as they slept and igniting it. (hat tip Butterflies and Wheels, yes, i feel sick too)

**update: Mysoginists 8, women O

It has a name: Raunch Culture

Something's been bugging me for ages and ive never been able to really put my finger on it - other than to say i am fed up with knickerless Britney, Paris Hilton and some dirty internet footage, Jordan and her boob jobs, Abbey Titmuss and Rebecca Loos celebrated as celebs for doing nothing more than shagging someone famous..... Im fed up with GQ, Maxim, Loaded and a variety of soft porn bullshit boys magazines that set girls up on the cover like a couple of grinning bimbos which the models themselves seem to buy into, unquestioningly, and would probably babble on about being 'empowering'.

On the back of a post at ATW on teenagers aspiring to have kids as fashion accessories (nothing new really 'i want a brown baby like all the other mothers on the estate') it got me thinking about role models and all this sort of stuff again. It has a massive influence. I was looking up figures and found this:

Which of these professions appeals the most to teenage girls?

Glamour model 63%
Lap dancer 25%
Teacher 3%
Doctor 4%
Lawyer 3%
Nurse 2%

In a poll conducted by mobile entertainment providers, over half of British teenagers between the ages 15-19 would rather take their clothes off for a living than enter the professional sector. The seemingly endless media coverage of celebrities such as Jordan, Abi Titmuss and Lucy Pinder has sparked a shift in the professional ambition of Britain's teenage girls as they see glamour modelling as more appealing than more traditional jobs such as doctors and lawyers.

Looking up the stats I also found this. A book that tries to pinpoint it all.

"Levy cleverly leads us to explore the role models women aspire to emulate. We are not pursuing the confident, self-determined, powerful, free ideal the women’s liberation movement would have dreamed for its daughters. Instead, our icons are porn stars and strippers and prostitutes. Paris Hilton and Jenna Jameson flaunt their successes in the pornography industry, and in doing so seem to earn our adulation", "that a number of female Olympic athletes saw fit to pose nude for Playboy before the 2004 games in Athens, for instance..." says it all really.

This comment struck a chord for a number of reasons:

"Every once and awhile, a book brings together cultural trends that until then were rattling around unconnected in the back of our minds. This is one of those books. When and how did porn suddenly become mainstream and cool? It wasn't that long ago that it was a back-room thing, and now it's sexy and desirable. Girls don't want to be pretty anymore -- they want to be "hot," which apparently means something that used to be called "slutty." Read this book, and a lot of contradictory cultural trends suddenly come into sharp focus. A great analysis of modern American trends".

Tom commented on the ATW post:

"I think teen magazines (both lads' and girls') play a part in all this too.You walk past the magazine racks and the covers of Zoo & Nuts are just porn in your face. What image of women do those mags create for the 13-20 year old lads who buy them?"

Very true. It does cut both ways and does create this vicious spiral. There's been a relentless media drive towards this sort of consumerist 'ideal' which then gets heaped back onto young men and women growing up as they grapple with it all. Some power struggle. It has really all gone off the deep end when women buy into all this crap and see it as 'empowering', when the media churn it out for a fast buck ad nauseum and when tacky models are known by name by some blokes and are seen as aspirational by some girls.

"Our popular culture, she argues, has embraced a model of female sexuality that comes straight from pornography and strip clubs, in which the woman's job is to excite and titillate - to perform for men. According to Levy, women have bought into this by altering their bodies surgically and cosmetically, and - more insidiously - by confusing sexual power with power, so that embracing this caricaturish form of sexuality becomes, in their minds, a perverse kind of feminism"

Apparently this book which is two years old, will 'create many aha! moments for readers who have been wondering how porn got to be pop and why feminism is such a dirty word'.

Having just used that word pop on that thread myself, Im inspired to read the book.


Friday, February 23, 2007

We all aspired to be British Once

"My secular creed is drawn from Rudyard Kipling, and is succinctly reviewed in his “If” poem, wherein the applicable text reads: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same.” It is a creed in which, plainly, wailing and gnashing of teeth is for savages.

As likewise, hysteria at funerals, chauvinist displays, and expressions of hatred in the public square. Ladies and gentlemen don’t do that sort of thing, and don’t even need a religion to know better. Unmanly behaviour is “not British”, if I might use an expression our Canadian ancestors understood, whether French, English, or whatever. For we all aspired to be “British” once, in the sense just given: it was something deeper than ethnicity"

I loved the story the Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling, concerning two British ex-soldiers who set off from 19th century British India in search of adventure and end up as Kings of Kafiristan (Afghanistan).

The story was inspired by the travels of American adventurer Josiah Harlan who claimed the title Prince of Ghor around the year 1840 thanks to the military force he led into Afghanistan.

The story goes (thx to Wiki for sumary) : On a hot summer night, Carnehan creeps into the journalist's office a broken man, a crippled beggar clad in rags. For the rest of the evening, he tells an amazing story. Dravot and Carnehan succeeded in making themselves kings, persuading the natives that Dravot was a god (the son of Alexander the Great). Their schemes were dashed when Dravot tried to take a native girl for his wife. Terrified of marrying a god, she resisted, biting him so he bled. At this point, he was seen to be "Not a God nor a Devil, but only a man!"

Led by the priesthood, the people turned against their would-be rulers, pursuing them to a gorge. Driving their quarry to ground, they forced Dravot, wearing his crown, to walk a rope bridge and sent him to his death by cutting down the long rope bridge with the bottom far below, and then crucified Carnehan between two pine trees. Seeing that Carnehan survived a day with wooden pegs driven through his hands and feet, the people concluded it was a miracle and released him. As proof of the veracity of his tale, Carnehan shows the journalist Dravot's head, still wearing his golden crown. He had climbed down that deep bottom and got the head and crown of his friend. He hobbles away in the morning. When the journalist searches for him two days later, he finds that Carnehan has died of exposure to the blistering mid-day sun. No belongings are found with him.

The film is great and starred Michael Cane and Sean Connery.


Gramsci the Dog

In honour of Pete at ATW who has been on about Gramsci and the Commies all week - not all wrong, it has to be said. I would post it at ATW, i cant figure out how. From tv series 'Spaced' starring Simon Pegg, a series c. 2000, about 'hapless happy go lucky twenty somethings' living in North London. Funny and Genius.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Window shopping


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Gloves are Off -from


Monday, February 19, 2007

Tom posted a poem (a slightly modified version) ...on his blog and since i love it ive stolen it from him and posted it here for posterity. It's wonderful.

"The Last Hero"

The wind blew out from Bergen, from the dawning to the day
A wreck of trees, a fall of towers, a score of miles away
And drifted like a livid leaf I go before the tide,
Spewed out of house and stable, beggared of flag and bride.
The heavens are bowed about my head, raging like seraph wars,
With rains that might put out the sun and rid the sky of stars
Rains like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above,
The roaring of the rains of God, none but the lonely love.
Feast in my halls, O foemen! O eat and drink and drain!
-You never loved the sun in heaven as I have loved the rain.

The tide of battle changes - so may all battle be;
I stole my lady bride from them, they stole her back from me.
As I wrenched her from her red-roofed halls, I rode and saw arise
More lovely than the living flowers, the hatred in her eyes.
She never loved me, never wept, never was less divine;
And sunset never knew us, her world was never mine.
Was it all nothing that she stood, imperial in duresse?
Silence itself made softer with the sweeping of her dress.
O you who drain the cup of life! O you who wear the crown!
-You never loved a woman's smile as I have loved her frown.

The wind blew out from Bergen from the dawning to the day,
They ride and rage with fifty spears to break and bar my way,
I shall not die alone, alone, but kin to all the powers,
As merry as the ancient sun and fighting like the flowers.
How white their steel, how bright their eyes! I love each laughing knave,
Cry high and bid them welcome to the banquet of the brave.
Yea, I will bless them as they bend and love them where they lie,
When upon their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky.
That hour when death is like a light and blood is as a rose,
-You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes.

Know ye what you shall lose this night, what rich uncounted loans,
What heavy gold of tales untold you bury with my bones?
My loves in deep dim meadows, my ships that rode at ease,
Ruffling the purple plumage of strange and secret seas.
To see this fair earth as it stands, to me alone was given,
The blow that breaks my brow tonight shall break the dome of heaven.
The skies I saw, the trees I saw, after no eye shall see.
Tonight I die the death of God: the stars shall die with me!
One sound shall sunder all the spears and break the trumpet's breath:
-You never laughed in all your life as I shall laugh in death


Friday, February 16, 2007

Its Friday....

You Are Most Like Ronald Reagan

People tend to think you're a god - or that you almost ruined the country.
But even if people do disagree with you, they still fall victim to your charms!

Which Modern US President Are You Most Like?

Thing I remember most about Reagan as a kid was Nancy standing behind a tree on the ranch (or something) feeding him his lines to the press. Bless her!

I liked the presidential quotes best. They're all great:

"Don't try to take on a new personality; it doesn't work." (lol, who was that to?)
"Character is a journey, not a destination." (deep man...)
"People say I'm indecisive, but I don't know about that." (lol)
"Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." (lol)
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction"(sobering)
"I see this glass not half-empty, but half-full and more."(well dodgy)

In fact id be interested to know who said what...


Arguing about Religion

Who isnt? Some interesting ones:

William Rees Mogg on why its best not to act against a church or religion:

Society has no choice but to act against a church or religion that attacks social order, as some Muslim groups do. In the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I or King James I the English Government was justified in acting against Catholic plots, though many Catholics were unjustly punished and were pushed into extremism. British policy in Ireland has never been forgiven.

The Catholic Church believes that doctrine would be prejudiced if Catholic agencies arranged adoption for same-sex couples. After 2000 years, the Church is not going to change its mind because of a vote in the House of Commons. In matters of faith and morals, the Catholic Church sees itself as sovereign, because it is teaching the doctrine of Jesus. The Church may not break British law, but it will certainly not break its own law.

A prudent prime minister knows the limits of his own authority. He can pass laws, but he cannot enforce consent. The great religions command strong loyalties. It would be a great mistake if the British Government decided to take them on, and a pity if the Leader of the Opposition supported a policy of compelled uniformity.

David Vance on the influx of eastern europeans:

So, the reformation is now in reverse, with the decline of the Protestant faith accelerating as the Anglican Church totally fails to stand up for Christian principles, and the only real leadership is that being shown by the Roman Catholic church. I make no apologies for my fundamentalist Protestantism and I wonder about this massive influx of Roman Catholicism coinciding with the tenure of a Labour Government containing prominent Roman Catholics and whose historical inner city voting base is Roman Catholic.

James at Nourishing Obscurity on seperating Church and State

The separation of state and religion should be sacrosanct. There is no place for any religion to be aggressively and temporally enforced. Religion is a personal belief. That’s all. Better one person who truly believes than a billion who are coerced.......Christianity, having no secular basis, therefore cannot be a state religion. Thus, to compare adherents of different religions, as if numerical supremacy has anything to do with it, is illogical. On the other hand, the state can claim to nominally support a certain religion, e.g. Christianity but that’s as far as it goes. This was clearly demonstrated in the discussion with Pilate - JC was the first to argue for the separation of Church and State

Steve at Pub Philosopher on concessions, the road to Sharia', one of several posts: is likely that there will be increasing demands for Muslims to be allowed to live under Sharia. For this reason, any concessions to religious minorities, whoever they are, would be extremely unwise. You may not agree that adoption agencies should be compelled to help gay people adopt children, or that hotel owners should be forced to accept bookings from gay couples but if a law is passed there should be no exemptions. Allowing people to obey a different set of laws on the grounds that they have a strong religious belief would set a dangerous precedent.

Into a few of which ive put my oar as I try to work it all out.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Losing my Religion

Mr S has got a post up about Love, christianity and women at ATW. I imagine this as a more thoughtful approach to the challenges posited off the back of a string of grossly titled, uselessly heated debates on abortion.

The romantic notions of women and faith are ideals. Romance wasnt all about chivalry, the idea of some woman being whisked off into the sunset by a knight back then reflect the lucky ones i expect! Marriage was very much a trade with women as commodities. The realities are always a bit different.

The thing about being 'westernised' is that I can challenge my faiths absurdities. I havent had a view of an obstinate unmovable God since I realised that much like Islamic texts are stuck in the socio political context of the time but remain unchallenged, christian texts were also. I cant imagine Jesus building his church via St Peter, the first Pope, and being disingenius to think faith would not evolve with time. Thats just stupid. The rules of Islam apply and can be distorted by murdering nutjobs precisely because noone en masse thinks they can change much and the ones in charge dont want to. Critical masse has had effect in the West for christianity but at the top its still a bit murky. I'd wager from the number of christian couples with standard size families at mass when i get a chance to go along, they dont follow the rules. They dip in and out of what suits their lives in 2007.

I admire the devout but i dont feel bound in by them until they start ranting. However lets not kid ourselves about the timeline in all this.
The general secularizing trend gradually dissolved many of the barriers and made it easier for the faithful but it is still pretty vague. Catholics are divorced, use contraception, and have abortions at about the same rate as non-Catholics. (Recruitment of priests and nuns has ebbed to a very low level, while the average age of priests and nuns is very high). As recently as in 1968 Pope Paul VI, against the counsel of his own advisers, issued his infamous encyclical, Humanae Vitae, condemning contraception. The encyclical triggered a massive revolt among Catholics--lay and clerical--and was viewed widely as an attempt to turn back the clock, to restore medieval authoritarianism. Ive chucked abortion into that. Pretty obvious to me if someone wants to tell me my life is worth less than an unformed group of cells then I should. It is a constant challenge and in comparison to Islam and women, largely a question of degree and context. Insisting on no contraception (supported better because it affects guys too) or a pregnancy is a huge deal for anyone. The faithful in Islam truly believe they are doing women and the world a favour protecting them under that veil and keeping them inside. They truly believe it is in their best interests.

As i was growing up in the fall out of feminism i quickly recognised the crap applied to women in the form of fundamentalism - to which i added and still include the decrees on contraception and abortion. I argued about them when i was 16 and at a catholic school. Not a lot has changed. Looking further afield at Islam when i was in my early 20s before the jets hit the twin towers, fundamentalists of all religious sorts seemed pretty similar in what they were saying. Some of it made me very angry. Not Without My Daughter a film i watched in the early 90s about an American woman stuck with her nutjob husband in Iran - gentle and loving in America it didnt take long for the Ayatollah via his own family to work the loony magic and turn him into a fundi. He saw what he was doing as righteous - insisting she wore the veil for her own good and that his daughter stay in Iran. Saudi Princess the book followed, stories about the 'dirty women' who bleed and the rituals of Judaism...and then the following bit of advice from the pope - all made me question just how tenable a position you can have as a female in any of the great faiths without looking utterly foolish. The twenty-year papacy of John Paul II has confirmed this perception, while his selection of conservative bishops and cardinals may surely continue this trend well into the future in spite of Ratzinger. These events highlighted to me the disconnect between the Vatican's power structure on the one hand and most ordinary Catholic and non-Catholic opinion on the other, myself included.

Pope John Paul the II. A man I greatly admired for his devout ways in a fierce consumerist environment made some dreadful and probably predictable errors. The following didnt take place two centuries ago. It took place a few decades ago in Kosovo. The Pope forbade raped women in Kosovo to use the "morning after pill". He condemned them to bear the children -of another faith- and caused many of them, born into a country where religious and social tolerance were non existent to be shunned by their communities for the sin of being raped. Without meaning to undermine Mr Smiths post of good intentions re reverence to women - so 'revered' were catholic women that inspite of the hideousness of their situations they were to make the ultimate sacrifice. Apparently though in contrast the Vatican's distribution of contraceptives to nuns in the Congo in the 1960s, was what senior Vatican official Monsignor Ello Sgreccia called "a legitimate defense" against the possibility of rape. Catholics for a Free Choice even launched an effort to get Useless Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to review the special Non-Member State Permanent Observer status that the Holy See (the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church) enjoys at the U.N. I understand, though i need to look into this properly, that The Holy See is the only religious body so privileged and has used that status to exert pressure on the U.N. to down-play efforts to deal with the problem of overpopulation and the reproductive health and rights of women. Somehow though it really doesnt surprise me. On the one hand i support women kicking out of the socio political chains of Islam. Id be an enormous hypocrite if i didnt recognise the issues the Holy See's direction compounded not so very long ago and continues to compound today in the third world.

No one knows how many Kosovan Albanian women were raped. There were unconfirmed Nato reports of 'rape camps' operated by Serb soldiers. Groups working with refugee women shipped forbidden morning after pills to camps in Kukes, Vlora, Lezja and Tirana in Albania. The Popes removed dispassionate advice amounted to turning their rape into an act of love by accepting the enemy within and carrying their pregnancies to term. How thoughtful. This blatant misinformation was in some understandable views 'intended to further a political agenda to prevent access to contraceptives in general and specifically to emergency contraceptives, which enables the prevention of unwanted or enforced pregnancy, clearly an urgent need of some women in a war situation such as Kosovo.'

UNFPA executive director Nafis Sadik said: 'It shows an insensitivity to the suffering of the women of Kosovo. The women of Kukes need our support and care, not condemnation.' Why would anyone argue with that?

A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes International said women in the camps were suicidal at the prospect of bearing their Serb rapists' babies and would opt for this rather than giving birth. I bet they bloody well were!

Outside of hideous scenarios such as these. The church still says that marriage is ordained for the procreation of children. Therefore it is a woman's duty to have children with her husband. Thwarting God's intention must be just as heinous as abortion. The first bit it is obvious - but we arent bound by duty to this. We are bound by hormones. Imposing a duty makes it banal.

Thanks to living in the UK, where a more liberal western set of values came about through mounting enormous challenge and criticism of the Church, I can actually ignore all of it. Im very lucky to live here. But their chipping away at issues is a reminder that where sometimes I feel they are hard done by and the government needs to work on some basis of give and take... they ARE there- and given half a chance would insist every bit as much as the next religion. Problem is the way government gets all muddled and tackles it. In Islams case, frightened of it. This flopping around on Islam, after keeping christianity at arms length quite fiercely, makes the whole approach so antagonising.

There is a clear difference in degree between religions and attitudes towards women. The clear difference in socio political dogma where the religion is meshed into the fabric of society. There is something rather creepy sounding, though, in the similarities between parotting the reverence for women in christianity which sets specific female gender based roles and the worship of Perfection ...and the men in Islam who do the same (and the women who go along with it in both). There are plenty of references within Islam that gave women a much better social status than women ever found in christianity. And the burqa is not advocated in the Koran but seen as protcetion. Of course how it all then becomes interpreted is at the crux of the issue really. And just how much it gets applied in the West is down to the society that keeps it at arms length and mounts a critical challenge rather than imposing. Third world backward ratholes having, of course, a much much harder time. But really - did anyone give a shit about womens rights under Islam before 9/11?

The catholic view on contraception and abortion is a clear parallel to all this given it operates in the third world but little reminders come about when in the west people parrot the Old Testament to justify no abortion rulings with religious zeal. That is religion dictating to me how to make a decision and then condemning me for it without compassion and without the first clue what leads to such a decision. Zygotes trump a fully formed human. Bollocks.

What it boils down to is something you cannot shirk. Religious dogma, controlling sexuality and ultimately controlling men and women. Its just the latter are easier to control for some.

It is pretty accurate to recognize that toward one side are gathered conservative, even reactionary, Catholics, evangelicals, and Jews, while toward the opposite side are diverse groupings of moderate and progressive Catholics, Protestants, Jews, humanists, and others. I prefer the gentle aspects and voices of my faith wherever I can find them and opt for the latter - but i do not discount the former. A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist, a literalist by degree. It hasnt altered for me personally because 9/11 changed the goalposts. Islam has adopted a far fiercer dogmatic vicious and violent method overall and therefore becomes the number one priority. Wound more tightly into communities untouched by reason and progress, the attempt is to keep a much tighter grip on the faithful using the progress in the West as an example of how not to proceed. Of course here in the UK governments compound what might have been better progress by making a religion an ethnicity. Im not ethnically catholic.

I respect and hugely admire the women who are fighting off the bigotted mysoginist assholes in Islam whilst maintaining their own degree of faith as only they can - given the limitations and laws applied to women. You cannot as a christian 'use' Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a brave example when she wants women to reject their faith altogether and at the same time then raise an eyebrow at gobby women who challenge christian rules. If you want to be a really verbose 'God botherer' then take up the flack.

Ratzinger has a new approach to the role of women. Whilst facsinating and seemingly progressive it falls back upon the virtues eschewed around Mary the mother of God. Who remains the paragon of womanhood as the Perfect Virgin, that ideal not so very different from the other faiths. Beautiful but flawed, odd and extra unatainable concept into the bargain. Tough eh. Bear in mind the year this Pope came to extol his progressive ideas and reexamine these texts though: 2004.

Faiths have huge values. What weve gained and lost as a society makes a tremendous impact socially and extracting all of it has left a massive vacuum filled by worship of rubbish.

Long post. Yeah,
Im thinking it all through and constantly having to work it all out as I go along in the current climate. But Ill take the contraception, the option to divorce, abortion, commit all these sins if i face them and seek my peace with God, thanks. Whatever judgement falls upon me is through God and not the lectures judgments and views of others.

Some briefer thoughts on the Harley Street abortion decision later.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Girl with a one track mind

At the moment this blog has been concentrating mostly on one subject. I didnt set out with that in mind - but learning about Nazanin's case and thinking that the outcome would be different to what it was, is pretty inspiring. I dont feel there is enough of a spotlight on some issues.

And of course the blogosphere is certainly inspiring for its macho knock-about style for which i mostly love it. The good the bad are fascinating, the ugly is motivating!

In getting linked here as the mystery blogger (thank you James!) i've discovered some new reads to possibly give some yin to the yan, or yan to the yin, never sure which way round that is.

To add to this list id also recommend the no nonsense Grizzly Mama, and the thought provoking Tu S Tin.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Not Whores or Submissives"

Young Muslim women in the working class suburbs of France have two choices: slut or servant. Fadela Amara is trying to offer them a third option: respect

Fadela Amara has a mission. One sees it in the intensity of her eyes and feels it in the passion of her speech. A good two years ago, the daughter of an Algerian immigrant family in Paris, she founded the organisation "Ni putes ni soumises". This is also the title of her book, which won the "Prix du Livre Politique" of the French national assembly last year. In the book, Fadela Amara tells in a simple and direct style the story of her fight against the growing violence and social disintegration in France's suburbs.

Reading Amara's book, one understands quickly the gravity of the situation. On October 4, 2002 in Vitry-sur-Seine, a satellite town of Paris, 18 year old Sohane Benziane, the daughter of Kabyle immigrants, was burned alive. The perpetrators were two men her age of North African descent. They lured the girl, who refused to submit to the "norms of the neighbourhood", into a cellar. While one kept watch outside, the other poured gas over Sohane and set her on fire with a lighter.

This horrible deed was a catalyst for Fadela Amara. A few days later, she along with 2000 other men and women took part in a silent march. Then she organised gatherings at which girls and women could speak openly about violence in their districts. In February 2003 she initiated a "March of Women from the Suburbs". It went through a total of 23 cities and drew the nation's attention to the particular repression of the "girls of the city". Today "Ni putes ni soumises" has more than 6000 members and 60 local committees. The organisation encourages young women
and men in the suburbs to act against ghettoisation and the suppression of women, and to support equal opportunity and rights. Fadela Amara wants to break the law of silence which has masked the violence of the suburbs, mafia-style.

Bellil's book and Amara's activites have woken up politicians. In various cities, emergency
hotlines and hostels have been set up for women and girls forced to flee their neighbourhoods. In police stations, specialised workers are being trained to deal with "migrants' problems". But
Fadela Amara believes that these measures address only the symptoms of the grievances; to eliminate the roots of the problem, steps have to be taken against mass unemployment and
the ghettoising of the suburbs. But the author does not hold political forces responsible. In her
book, she is very critical of the way many immigrants bring up their children."In Muslim immigrant families, the sons are treated like kings. They are not just preferred over the girls,
they are spoilt and coddled." The crux is that when these young men encounter resistance beyond the family for the first time - when they don't get into university or college, for example - they react helplessly and destructively. They compensate for their fury and inferiority complexes with machismo and violence against those who are socially and physically weaker – girls in particular."In the suburbs, sexual education takes place through porn videos
– how can these boys not have a twisted image of women?"

Her colleagues discuss with students their notions of marriage, virginity, forced marriage, circumcision, tenderness and love.

Amara emphasises that this is the difference between those who talk about cultural relativism and her organisation, which is aimed at achieving universal human rights. "An exaggerated tolerance of supposed cultural differences which results in the maintenance of archaic traditions - that's just not acceptable."

The movement fights against violence targeting women and it focuses on these areas:
Pressure to wear the hijab
Pressure to drop out of school
Pressure to marry early without being able to choose the husband.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007


To those of you who know London...Please have a look at the following... And maybe sign the petition.

Borough market is London's oldest market. It was established on the south bank of the Thames when the Romans build the first London Bridge and people have been trading on this site for over 2000 years. It's a beautiful undercover food market and a truly wonderful part of London's history. Some bright spark has decided to expand the railway line running through the roof of the market, which will involve knocking down 23 of the beautiful listed and unlisted buildings in the closely surrounding area. They already have planning permission, but are waiting funding. There is a strong local campaign to put a stop to it. If you know and love the market in its present state, please sign the petition to prevent this from happening. The plans, photographs and the petition are on the following site. Unfortunately not a lot of people are aware of it so please sign it and pass it on to anyone else you know who loves this great bit of London heritage.


One Drop of Water

Two of a handful of books im trying (!) to read at the moment and which are relevant to blogging are ‘Whats Left? How Liberals Lost their Way’ and ‘Mukhtar Mai: In the Name of Honour’.

In the Name of Honour is an account of an illiterate peasant from Pakistan who has made headlines over the last few years by succeeding in an unprecedented legal battle. In 2002 she was gang raped on the orders of the village elders who ruled on a punishment for the offence committed by her younger brother (of contact with a woman in the village). The punishment was carried out at gunpoint. It was assumed, as is custom, that she would then take her own life. Instead, encouraged by a local imam, she resolved to get justice and took her rapists to court.

Mukhtar’s story and the international interest that followed have caused embarrassment to President Musharraf who initially condemned the rape as a ‘heinous crime’ but seems to think latterly she is out to bathe in her own glory as some sort of self publicist bad mouthing Pakistan.

Mukhtar eventually succeeded in prosecuting her rapists and won compensation money which she used to start two schools. The sentences for the men involved (sentenced to death) were not nearly as swift as the one meted out on her - and are in appeal (the appeal court in Lahore overturned their convictions, amid an outcry from human rights groups). She still lives in the same village yards from the families of the rapists who have vowed to kill her.

The book was written by a French translator who sat with Mukhtar and noted down her story as she narrated it, commenting that she felt like she was in the presence of ‘greatness’ and when you read what she says you can sense why.

Mukhtar says she is unafraid and that the cause of women’s rights is more important than one life. Unbowed by the Presidents remarks and anger she warned him:

“He is a great leader and I am peasant. But when he talks of me shaming the country he should be careful, as he is also the son of a woman”. She went on: “I am just the first drop of water in the village. I believe it will rain after me”

Mukhtar also mentions that without the support of the world she might not have succeeded.

Another woman living under the threat of death and championing women’s rights (but at the opposite end of the spectrum), is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, currently promoting her book ‘Infidel’. I was pleased to see her take on a local utterly cringeworthy British ‘feminist’ for the Islamic cause on Sky last Friday night. Directly accused of being ‘a self publicist’ in the interview it was Hirsi Ali who reminded her adversary (whose name I have forgotten) that there are issues beyond merely the polarising ‘right’ to wear a veil in the UK. There are issues which affect millions of women in the name of Islam and third world patriarchy and both she, Hirsi Ali, and this woman were privileged to hold the position they do to raise awareness of it. They have gained a status afforded them by Holland and the UK that is unique in this sense. It was really terrific to hear Hirsi Ali acknowledge this.

Hirsi Ali has elected to reject her faith altogether and has been criticised for it – it certainly makes her position as a critic that much tougher - but the points she makes are no less valid.

Without highlighting issues and continuing to generate international interest in this sense, women (such as Mukhtar Mai) would never get the support they need. This attention is needed in the hidden corners of the West aswell.

Ultimately, the more opinions and debate on the real everyday issues the better.


Nazanin has finally been released from prison. (For details of the case followed please click on the Save Nazanin link on the right).

Thanks to 42,000 USD in donations advanced to Iran, along with $1,000 USD collected in Iran, the total amount of bail requested by the courts in Iran were paid. Nazanin’s lawyer Mr. Mostafaei completed all of the paper work necessary for Nazanin’s release. A small congratulatory reception was organised by her lawyers to celebrate her freedom. Nazanin's attorney Mr. Mostafei thanked everyone for their "Hearts filled with so much love".

Nazanin - In an interview after her release: While in prison I received some news of the activities for my freedom. If it wasn't for all the efforts on my behalf, I would not have been released. I thank Nazanin Afshin-Jam and Mina Ahadi for their efforts as well as everyone who worked so hard to gain my freedom.

I also thank everyone who made donations to make the payment of the bail possible. I wish I could do something in return but there is not much that I am capable of doing at this time. There are so many innocent inmates in prison but there is nothing that they can do.

Many innocent people have been in prison for few years and still unsure of their cases outcome. Shahla Jaahed, Zahra and many others there were sentenced to death.

I am hopeful that they all be freed with the efforts from outside. They also are hopeful that their innocence be also proven so they too can be free. I want me and my sisters to study and finish school. Thank you so much."


Friday, February 02, 2007

"The Debate is Ghettoised"

I wanted to link to the article but can't. So if you want to you can click and try to read the jpg.
This is the first time ive read a male perspective like this. He makes some great points and it's pretty balanced. He doesn't excuse binge drinking but acknowledges the social implications on both sides.
One of the things you notice about blogging is that when issues such as rape come up and various discussions ensue there is an immediate decrying of the way women behave first, especially on the Right. I've been gobsmacked by the entrenched attitudes. On the level, over time this has made me feel like shedding few tears when laws are discussed that might mean some rutting stag gets banged up.
As it stands the law doesnt make it easy for women and so far the legal status quo doesn't seem to have worried men all that much.
The liars, the sensational football star allegations are awful but they are a tiny minority. They make great press too. Whenever rape and the issues are discussed and opinions are sought on-line (or in discussions with friends and colleagues) you invariably get women commenting about some hideous situations. Few of these make every day headlines.
The outdated militant feminist agenda is frustrating for all of us. But I find it depressing that quite a few men are dismissive of issues because of the latter. Yes women need to take care of themselves, of each other when they are drinking (or not), only a fool would think differently. But a change in attitude needs to take place on both sides.