Friday, November 25, 2005


"Uncomfortable Truths"

"Very often those who raise uncomfortable truths are denounced." - Ken Livingstone on Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

As a reminder, here's a photo of Ken embracing the Good Doctor, who recommends the torture of children by FGM*; that gay people should be murdered by the state; and that women who are raped should be punished. (Tragically, these principles are not news to gay men and female victims of violence in Iran, where child prostitution is sanctioned by the law of temporary marriage, singhe, and the age of sexual maturity (not consent!) of 9.)

YaQ (through IslamOnline, which he controls) has been introducing more uncomfortable truths, this time regarding Dutch MP Hirsi Ayaan. She is once again threatening to speak publicly about Islam. You'll remember what happened to her co-writer last time she did this: Theo van Gogh was gunned down in the street, and a letter was pinned to his chest with a knife.

YaQ summarises thus:

"Van Gogh was shot and stabbed by a Muslim radical, Mohammed Bouyeri, as he cycled through Amsterdam in 2004, sparking a series of reprisal attacks mainly directed at the Muslim minority."

He also mentions that Hirsi Ayaan shocked Muslims "by branding Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with some abhorrent, repugnant descriptions, stirring up feelings of anger and antagonism towards her."

You'll notice that the main message, for YaQ, of the unprovoked savage murder is the negative consequences for 'the Muslim minority'. The consequences for Ayaan for stating her views about the historical Muhammed are quite openly expressed. An uncomfortable truth indeed.

*YaQ's view on FGM has of course been a matter of public controversy. YaQ has slightly changed his tone in response (his tone only). His 'fatwa bank' still says as follows:

"However, the most moderate opinion and the most likely one to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet's hadiths – even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic."

"Anyhow, it is not obligatory, whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world."

(Note that in an 'non-controversial' context, YaQ's colleague Idrees quite happy to list the perpetration of FGM as an acceptable job for women, with good authority: "women’s going out to work is not forbidden in Islam, for some women used to go out to work in the Prophet’s lifetime and he did not disapprove of them. Among those women was Umm `Attiyah, who used to perform circumcision for females, wash and enshroud the deceased females of Madinah, and nurse and treat the injured Muslim warriors in battlefields, in addition to preparing food for the other warriors.")

Friday, November 18, 2005


"Honor Killing on the Installment Plan"

What a phrase!

What an amazing summary of the attitude of the Christian right to sex education. The phrase is well known, although new to me. It was coined by Katha Pollitt, writing in the Nation.

Essential reading. Here's some quotes:

" "Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful," Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council told the British magazine New Scientist, "because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex." Raise your hand if you think that what is keeping girls virgins now is the threat of getting cervical cancer when they are 60 from a disease they've probably never heard of. "

"No matter what the consequences of sex--pregnancy, disease, death--abstinence for singles is the only answer. Just as it's better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it's better for a woman to get cancer than have sex before marriage. It's honor killing on the installment plan."

When the Christian Taleban arrive with their 'Silver Ring Thing', or however they package it, they inevitably claim their concerns are about health. (It's a massive part of the right's theocratic-business alliance against science.) But they're there to save your soul, not your life.

Pollitt's article is devastating (see also the article she links to about Bush's appointee to an FDA panel on reproductive drugs, W. David Hager. Be warned: it's disturbing reading and that's not a joke).

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Ruth Kelly on School Selection

Defending the indefensible

Education Minister Ruth Kelly has been desperately defending the new proposals for sectarian schools, published in the schools white paper. The Paper is fairly clear:

"We need a diversity of school providers and this in turn requires us to harness all the energy and talent that can benefit our school system, bringing in educational charities, faith groups, parents and community groups and other not-for-profit providers to run schools."

"Acquiring a Trust will be a straightforward process. The governing body would first consult with parents to ensure support for the idea and for the particular Trust it proposes to acquire. They would then publish formal proposals. Schools that acquire faith-based Trusts would not automatically become faith schools –that would require a separate statutory process."

I heard the interview. She was defending the Paper against charges that it increases selection, supposedly favouring the middle classes. The ability to discriminate in favour of 'children of faith' (see previous post) was taken for granted. It seems to me that she was saying

1a) that nothing about selection was changing. the rules would be the same as before.
1b) Religious schools would of course be allowed to continue to select.
2) City Academies had produced improved results without increased revenue
3) religious schools do not 'select' except to assess children's commitment to their faith

exactly as though we are all credulous oafs who won't consider that:

i) the rules may not change but the proportion of religious schools is set to jump.
ii) City Academies have had huge increases in CAPITAL funding (the interviewer's zinger).
iii) it is the parent's, erm.. 'faith' that is assessed. unless important advances in pedagogy (or heredity!) have been made since I last checked, 4 year-olds don't make considered judgements in favour of sectarianism.

Am I wrong?

The highest absurdity was when she was asked about a school Blair's children have attended, the London Oratory, which was given special permission to interview parents although a nearby school was not given the same permission. She emphasized that this was an exceptional case (this may have been the thrust of the question), and explained that this was so that the school could assess the child's commitment to their faith. (Notice that even the school referred to the PARENT's faith).

What does the Education Department know that we don't about children's ability to select between religions? We should be told (see my previous post).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Letter to Ayatollah Adonis

Silly I know. But here you go:

Lord Adonis
Schools Minister (Unelected)
Dept for Education & Skills

Dear Lord Adonis, Schools Minister,

You have talked much since your appointment about ‘pupils of faith’. For example, on 25 October in the House of Lords, you said:

“However, it is permissible—as the noble Lord knows—for faith schools to give preference to pupils of one faith. That is the basis on which a good proportion of faith schools operate at the moment. That same right would apply to new schools established that receive a designation of faith schools, but we are anxious, as are the schools themselves, that faith schools should be fully inclusive in their local communities and they do not have the right to refuse to admit pupils of other faiths.”

By the term ‘faith’, I understand that the you mean a state of adhering to one or other religion. By ‘pupils’ I understand that you are predominantly referring to schoolchildren. The majority of whom will vary in age from 4 to 18. These assumptions leave a question which troubles me greatly and I hope that you can answer:

Question One: How will those schools that are entitled (or required) to give special deference to children of one faith identify such children?

Analogous preferences, for example, for political parties, careers, or sexual preferences are generally not exercised until the upper portion of the age range with which we are concerned. In fact, preference in all of these cases is, to some degree or other, legally prohibited through most of the range. The matter is more pressing as we are concerned with policy on admission to schools, which usually occurs at the start of the 4yr; 11yr; and 16yr tiers.

You may be aware that there is actually an interrelated common rationale for each of the prohibitions mentioned above. It is that the human brain takes a great deal of time to develop and reach mature rational judgements about important matters. Connected with this is the desire we all share that children should be free of the undue influence of adults in each of these cases. (I am sure that you will understand the importance of delaying such decisions. Indeed, you did not exhibit a preference for the Labour Party until 1995, when you were 42 years old.)

It would be my contention that, far from being a simple matter to choose a ‘faith’, it is a startlingly and manifestly more complex one than any of these other decisions. It contains an array of metaphysical, ethical and political questions. There will also usually be some set speech or written material relating to invisible gods or monsters etc.. which must be read, ‘understood’ and/ or interpreted.

I am sure that you agree about the importance of decisions relating to religious adherence. Suffice to say that it varies widely, and is not uniform even within the boundaries of particular religions. However, it can be said that some religions require a high level of submission to particular politico-ethical systems as an elemental precept.

To expect any child under the age of 16 to have the sophistication required to comprehend all this seems to me an extraordinary assumption. This leads me to my second question which I hope your Lordship will be gracious to assist me with:

Question Two: What evidence; statistical, scientific or otherwise; does your Department have which indicates a capacity for judgement about religious matters at the earliest age at which state-funded or partially state-funded schools will be permitted or required to select on the basis of religion? (I assume this age to be 4yrs).

On 31 January 2005, Lord Filkin (from your Department) was asked a question in the House of Lords. I would like to know the answer to a related question, so I wonder whether you would answer it for me:

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the national curriculum will exclude the teaching of creationism in schools.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Filkin): My Lords, creationism is not part of the national curriculum for science. In the programme of study for 14 to 16 year-olds, pupils learn about evolution and how variation and selection may lead to evolution and extinction. They also consider different theories on the origin of the universe.”

Question Three: Will the National Curriculum EXCLUDE or PROHIBIT the teaching of creationism or ‘intelligent design’ as scientific concepts, and if not why not?

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Yours sincerely,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?