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  • 25th January, 2008

    Salman and Salman: the case of the two fatwas

    by Rumbold at 11:57 am    

    When many in the West hear the word fatwa, their minds immediately turn to the infamous one issued against Salman Rushdie. The very word conjures up dark images, but in fact a fatwa is simply a ruling by a mufti on a particular subject, which can range from the important (marriage), to the mundane (types of shoes). Thankfully, some fatwas come along to help put the word in a less scary light:

    “A Bollywood actor has had a fatwa issued against him for allowing Madame Tussaud’s in London to make his image in wax. Salman Khan, star of more than 50 movies, unveiled the statue himself last week and described it as an honour. Most Indians would agree, but Mufti Salim Ahmad Qasmi, a Muslim cleric in India, said the statue is illegal according to the Sharia, which forbids depictions of all living creatures, Mohammed in particular.

    Continue Reading...
    25th November, 2007

    New IVF rules: Demise of the Traditional Family?

    by SajiniW at 10:02 am    

    It’s rare to find I agree with Minette Marrin. Whilst I admire the way she writes without fear, I find the ‘doom-mongering’ can get a little heavy sometimes.

    Alas, she has made some interesting points regarding the new proposals for fertility treatment.

    The most contentious of the proposals is to remove the requirement to consider the “need for a father” when deciding whether to offer IVF. This is part of ministerial efforts to make it easier for homosexual couples to have test-tube babies.

    This has (unsurprisingly) caused outrage amongst religious and conservative circles, with Iain Duncan Smith saying it would “drive the last nail in the coffin of the traditional family”.

    Marrin has also considered the necessity of men in today’s society.

    There’s the “widespread use of the word testosterone as a term of blame and abuse”, in addition to women increasingly blaming their difficulties on men. She proposes the argument for a serious revaluation of men thanks to the numbers of women living capably without them, in addition to reprising traditional roles.

    She also argues the benefits to offering fertility treatment to lesbian couples.

    There is no reason for seeing lesbian couples and their children as the beginning of the end of family life. Nor is it a rejection of men. Anyone who knows any lesbian parents knows they are usually keen on family life, keen to be accepted into the normal world of parenthood and to welcome men into it, too. They just don’t welcome men into their beds.

    Lesbian women who go through the misery of IVF treatment to have a baby, and who make the commitment of marriage as well, are people who by definition want to start a family. They support family life and they want to be part of the ordinary family-friendly world. It may not be traditional family life, but it is closer to it than the behaviour of an irresponsible straight girl who gets pregnant the quick and easy way without thought of providing a companion to help her bring up her child and then relies on state handouts. It is those girls who are aggressively banging nails into the coffin of family life, not the tiny number of thoughtful lesbians.

    9th October, 2007

    Self-censorship over Israel

    by Sunny at 4:52 pm    

    I’ve always believed that fear of offending the “Muslim community” over something a bit controversial is a form of soft racism; the belief that they are likely to start rioting or blowing things up the minute some get annoyed. Unfortunately there have been far too many real examples (and plenty fake ones around Christmas) of organisations, especially local councils, changing things for “fear of causing offence”.

    Of course it’s not limited to them. On comment is free today there are two articles on self-censorship by groups on the basis that Jews are so sensitive that any criticisism of Israel is likely to invoke cries of anti-semitism (ok, Melanie Phillips is that crazy, but let’s ignore her for the moment). In both cases two sets of people complain: the organised lobbies/groups (Muslim Council of Britain, Hindu Forum, Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC etc) who make it their job, and their supporters who rarely come from the community that is supposed to be offended. It’s the modern way to show how right-on you are: put a ‘Support Israel or else…‘ or a Palestinian / Hamas button on your blog.

    David Golberg ends with:

    In the obsession to find anti-semites lurking under every stone, you can no longer differentiate between the important work of supporting Jewish students intimidated on campus by Muslim and far-left groups, resisting the pernicious proposal to boycott Israeli academics - or gratuitously insulting, in the name of Jewry, the brave, decent and morally upright Desmond Tutu.

    Richard Silverstein’s article is even better:

    When Israel lobby defenders respond to the censorship issue they point out that the victims of lobby pressure often benefit from controversy stirred up. But that misses the point. In a fair, reasonable and tolerant world none of these victims would have to expend the enormous energy needed to combat the campaigns against them.

    Liberal Jewish bloggers who report on these outrages understand that the Israel lobby retains enormous reach in its ability to pre-empt speech and manipulate the public debate. But our conviction is that the more these incidents see the light of day, the more the power of the lobby to stifle debate will wane.

    Now, play nice kids! I don’t want to ban more of you for being abusive.

    3rd October, 2007

    Sex and love; the secular and religious

    by Sunny at 1:56 am    

    I quite like this article by Alex Stein on CiF, in particular these paras:

    Religious people often lazily argue that the secular world is obsessed with sex, citing the soft porn that seems to have permeated every corner of popular culture. But the truth is the reverse. It is the religious world that is obsessed with sex. As a result, it dangerously misunderstands it. The secular world is actually quite comfortable with sex, although this comfort often manifests itself in unpleasant ways. Maybe that’s knowledge for you.

    Religion starts from the belief that sex is a fundamentally holy act, one that should be performed (if at all) only by a married heterosexual couple. This creates an extraordinarily high level of expectation regarding the sexual act, one that is often impossible to attain. In contrast, secular culture emphasises the carnality and banality of sex. It is able to reach heights that can sometimes only be described through the metaphor of spiritual language, but often it doesn’t. And that’s OK. Sex is great even when it doesn’t “transcend”.

    The problem is that religion encourages an unhealthy attitude to sex. By holding it just beyond the reach of the practitioner, it becomes an obsession, a dangerous weapon being sinfully flaunted by non-believers.

    I broadly agree with this although it’s a bit Abrahamic religions centric. Hinduism in contrast places huge emphasis in understanding and de-mystifying sex. It’s a shame the current generation has forgotten all that too.

    Filed under: Humour,Moral police
    26th September, 2007

    Fair and lovely…

    by Sunny at 8:36 am    

    Over across the pond, when the issue of skin lightening or anything inter-racial is discussed at Sepia Mutiny, it’s a guaranteed flame-fest of over 500 comments. Clearly, the Punjabi dominated British Asian nation does not get as worked up about the issue as the South Indian dominated American-Indian nation. Anyway, I thought I’d point you to this article on BBC magazine yesterday.

    One of Bollywood’s biggest film stars is being criticised by Asian campaigners for promoting a skin-lightening cream - a product that is now on the shelves of British shops.

    They’ve quoted me and, unsurprisingly, I’ve totally dissed Shahrukh Khan. That’s enough to get me killed in India (by his fans, not mullahs, dammit!). The story on SRK reminded me of this campaign we ran recently.

    And to our paler readers: no I’m not biased against white skin either and neither is this reverse racism, so let’s not go over that again please. Can you just let us brown people fight over this one? Thanks…

    Filed under: Humour,Moral police
    18th July, 2007

    The Sun’s gay witch-hunt

    by Sunny at 11:16 pm    

    I saw this story mentioned in another paper (just to make it clear I don’t read The Sun) and was incensed. The Scum today has a story titled PC’s Facebook ‘spanking’ in which it has branded a Police Constable a “security risk” because he has a Facebook page where “visitors to his page are invited to ‘bite, grope, lick or spank’ him.” Half of Fleet Street is on Facebook and anyone with half a brain could explain that most users have a common application installed allowing your friends to do all manner of actions in addition to poking. One can even throw a sheep at you or chest-bump you.

    Does this constitute as a legitimate story? No, it constitutes as a witch-hunt just because the PC is homosexual. It’s frightening the extent to which tabloids will go to misrepresent anyone using blogs or social networking sites just because they have a vendetta.

    Not long ago the Daily Mail did a hatchet job on blogger (and civil servant) Owen Barder and accused him of comparing Bush to Hitler and said the blog was “sexually explicit” because he had published details of his private sex life. In fact, as Unity and Tim Worstall pointed out, they attributed comments to Barder that had actually been quoted (from other blogs) or made by readers.

    It’s become all too typical these days. Is it any surprise bloggers are suspicious of the media?

    Filed under: Media,Moral police
    25th May, 2007

    Culpable for eternity…

    by Kulvinder at 5:19 am    

    Child pornography is one of the greatest taboos of our time. Infact its possibly the greatest. It may be vile but it is still legal to possess and distribute images or digital recordings of beheadings and war. I can’t think of a single politician who has called for possession of the Nick Berg execution to be made illegal. We may rightly be repulsed by the events that occurred, but we don’t accuse anyone in possession of that footage for being the executioner by proxy.

    On the other hand there seems to be an entrenched inability to be rational about images that contain child abuse. The main reasons given for banning child abuse images are that it desensitizes the viewer to the point they become an abuser, and it encourages further abuse as a result of which you are in essence abusing by proxy. Both those arguments are essentially about condoning thought crimes.

    It has been argued repeatedly that viewing violent computer games or movies encourages violent behaviour without there being conclusive evidence to support that. At the most you may become desensitized to what you see, but that doesn’t make you mimic what’s on the screen. If there was a simple casual link between viewing images and repeating behaviour the highest correlation between those who saw the images and abused children would be with the police officers who investigate the images. I don’t believe any such casual link exists and it is quite frankly absurd for anyone to suggest that viewing a naked image of a child is more likely to make me a rapist.

    Similarly I can’t extend that argument to suggest that if more people were to view abuse images more abuse would occur to ‘fill a demand’. As an analogy despite numerous ‘beheading videos’ being produced there hasn’t been a demonstrable increase in beheadings occurring in other parts of the world. There hasn’t been a greater desire for ‘snuff’ movies simply because someone logged onto liveleak. It is one of the ironies of our time that we can accuse someone of being an ‘abuser by proxy’ for possessing a picture depicting the rape of a child yet if that child had been decapitated by a bomb or beheaded by a terrorist we’d never think of inflicting the same ‘thought crime’. This is before we even consider the actions of photojournalists.

    One of the most laughable aspects of this hysteria is the fact it is illegal to possess an ‘indecent image’ of a 16 year old yet it is perfectly legal to have sex with them. Regardless of what justification you want to use to support these laws, I’ll leave you with this. There is no Statute of limitations on child pornography. Quite simply you are not only held responsible for something you did not do, you are held responsible even if it occurred before your birth. It is brutal and absurd to suggest anyone born today is responsible for the worst images that were apparently produced decades ago. I simply cannot justify that a person who is born 20 years from now could be held culpable for a rape that occurred 20 years ago.

    The rape or execution of any individual are grotesque acts that should be punished, but unless we start to question laws that hold us accountable for merely possessing documentary evidence of something we didn’t do we risk going down an ill-thought out road where horribly injust decisions are supported.

    27th September, 2006

    Community censorship plagues the house of Islam

    by Leon at 4:02 pm    

    Bashir Goth writes:

    “Freedom of the press in the Muslim world cannot be separated from freedom of expression in general. Journalists, due to their conspicuous public role, risk their lives everyday. They have been targeted and killed in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan and other countries. The Muslim world is not a friendly place for freedom of speech at all.”

    Continue Reading...
    18th July, 2006

    Blocked Lane

    by Rohin at 7:14 pm    

    Hey Picklers, I’m back in town. I hesitated posting up anything about the kerfuffle surrounding the shooting of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane until now, as I wanted to offer a slightly different slant to what has been reported in the media so far.

    Sunny has already thoroughly addressed the issue over at AiM and I advise you to have a read if this story is new to you. I have just watched an entirely Asian panel on the BBC News discuss the book and the plans to begin filming.

    Obviously any threats of violence or actual violence are inexcusable - but do the protestors have a valid reason to be unhappy? It seems like a familiar theme here PP, an Asian author is attacked for their ‘unrealistic’ portrayal of community X because they are not from community X. True to form, Bangladeshi residents in and around Brick Lane are unhappy with how they are depicted in a work of fiction. Monica Ali is mixed race, middle class and not from Brick Lane - hence this book must be rubbish.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Culture,Moral police
    30th June, 2006

    Porn to be wild

    by Rohin at 4:08 pm    

    Good afternoon, Dr Rohin Rohan here, PORN FIEND. Well clearly that’s what the BBC Asian Network thought. For yesterday I got a ring ‘pon me celly from them telling me that they were planning a show about pornography. I asked “so you called me?”

    They wanted someone to stand up for porn, so - let’s not beat around the bush - I said yeah what the hell and rose to the occasion. This is what it has cum to. Apparently Sunny was at the bottom of this. I didn’t want to sound too in-your-face; I was worried my argument might suck, or that the show might blow…

    Continue Reading...
    23rd May, 2006

    Exhibition stopped after Hindu “threats”

    by Sunny at 2:21 pm    

    London based Asia House has cancelled an exhibition by the Indian artist MF Husain after “threats” from Hindu groups.

    An official at Asia House, London, said the decision was taken because of threats to the paintings. The move followed demonstrations against the exhibition by several Hindu groups in Britain.

    A local advocate Rajkumar Pande had filed a petition on March 3 alleging that an ‘objectionable’ painting had hurt the sentiments of Indians.

    Yeah right. Hurt the sentiments of a bunch of pansies more like. Guess who is involved. National press here has not yet caught up with the story.
    [thanks to David for the picture]

    23rd March, 2006

    Shabina Begum’s ruling means more segregation

    by Kulvinder at 2:35 pm    

    This ruling gives schools nothing less than a quasi-license to discriminate if they so wish. You can argue that a school will take into account whatever needs exist, but it doesn’t matter, because that decision making process is unchallengeable.

    Instead of dealing with a patriarchal and deeply insular family head on and doing everything to keep a child in heterogeneous environment the school will find it far far easier to get rid of and exclude the problem child.

    Shabina Begum’s case is not about religion but the right of the school to discriminate.

    Continue Reading...
    21st March, 2006

    Chinese blogger and filmmaker detained

    by Rohin at 4:04 am    

    Free Hao WuThe Beijing or Bust blog, maintained by Hao Wu, eerily remains stuck on February 22nd. For this was the day that Hao was detained by the Beijing division of China’s State Security Bureau.

    Chinese bloggers sat on this news for several days scared that the same fate might await them if they said something they were not supposed to to make sure something was wrong before raising an alarm. Hao Wu was also North East Asia editor for a blog mentioned many times on PP, Global Voices Online, where he contributed under the name Tian Yi.

    Ethan Zuckerman, also of GVO, has created a blog where you can learn more about Hao and find out what you can do. His blogging is probably not the reason for his detention, although it is not known for sure. Most think his filmmaking career is what angered the Chinese authorities.

    Hao gave up a US-based job to move to Beijing in order to make the film after which his blog was named, Beijing or Bust. Some believe he has been detained so that film he has shot about China’s underground churches may be used to secure prosecutions.

    Update: Mentioned on Comment is Free and Harry’s Place too.

    13th March, 2006

    Doubles trouble for Sania Mirza

    by Shariq at 4:54 pm    

    Sania MirzaIndian tennis player Sania Mirza sure lives an interesting life. After controversies over her clothes and remarks over the Khushboo scandal, another flare-up is brewing - this time over her choice of doubles partner.

    Ms Mirza is good friends with the Israeli player Shahar Peer and would like to resume their doubles partnership. Unfortunately the last time they played it upset the usual suspects and, with her profile continuing to rise, this will come up sooner or later. In fact they had intended to play together at a match in recently Bangalore before Mirza thought it would be best that they didn’t.

    This irritated some other people, but I actually think it’s the type of principled pragmatism which those who challenge the status quo sometimes need to undertake. Make a principled point by playing in tournaments in other parts of the world but don’t unnecessarily create a big fuss which is then exploited by conservative elements in your country when you are already a highly controversial figure.

    As for Muslims and Jews playing tennis together, there is a precedent. Pakistani Aisam-ul-Haq and Israeli Amir Hadad won the ATP’s Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship Award for playing (well) together at Wimbledon in 2002. (I don’t think they played again, but I think that was more to do with Aisam foolishly thinking he could make it as a singles player, but don’t get me started on that).

    6th February, 2006

    Eisenhower’s Nemesis Meets Her Death

    by SajiniW at 2:27 am    

    Betty Friedan, US feminist extraordinaire passes away aged 85 - obituary, courtesy of Pickled Politics.

    Continue Reading...
    25th January, 2006

    Lads magazines ‘come’ to India

    by Sunny at 4:45 am    

    It promises Indian men “100 things you never knew about women”, and its sold 80,000 copies in ten days. I never knew Priyanka Chopra was that hot there. Anyway, the lads magazines have started arriving in India and no doubt a silly conversation will ensue about the growing degradation of culture.

    “Where are the VHP protesters burning copies in the streets?” asks Maxim editor Sunil Mehra of the BBC. That’s a point. Where is the bloody moral police? Or maybe they’ll come when Playboy does.
    I would have preferred Mallika Sherawat to be honest.

    18th January, 2006

    Muslims doing it behind closed doors

    by Sunny at 6:02 pm    

    Brian Whitaker wrote a hilarious piece in the Guardian yesterday on the Islam’s increasingly confused relationship with sex. As he notes, “Unlike Christianity, which tends to be squeamish about sex, Islam has a long tradition of talking about it openly.” What that means in practice, combined with the globalised nature of the internet, is that every next imam is issuing fatwas online with sometimes conflicting advice on sex. For example:

    Delivering a fatwa on oral sex, 79-year-old Dr Qaradawi describes it as a disgusting western practice, resulting from westerners’ habit of “stripping naked during sexual intercourse”. But he continues: “Muslim jurists are of the opinion that it is lawful for the husband to perform cunnilingus on his wife, or a wife to perform the similar act for her husband (fellatio) and there is no wrong in doing so. But if sucking leads to releasing semen, then it is makruh (blameworthy), but there is no decisive evidence (to forbid it) … especially if the wife agrees with it or achieves orgasm by practising it.”

    On this issue, Dr Qaradawi’s views are more permissive than those of several other clerics on the internet. One states that oral sex is definitely forbidden, adding that “this hideous practice will draw the anger of Allah”. Another, asked if oral sex is permitted, replies: “I don’t know what is oral sex, please define it.”

    All this is peanuts to Hindus of course, who wrote the definitive book on male-female sexual relations - i.e. the Kama Sutra. In fact Hindu mythology is so open about sex, as I’ve noted before, that the big poems of the Ramayana and Mahabharata openly use very sexual terms. Wish I had more time to research this properly, heh.

    Another point to note is that both Islam and Hinduism are very decentralised with regards to religious edicts, unlike Christianity and Sikhism, so you inevitably get a whole range of opinion on what is and isn’t acceptable. Personally I think that is better than just having one person legislate what is right or wrong.
    Thanks to Leon for the tip.

    22nd December, 2005

    Being a romeo is risky business in India

    by Sunny at 11:06 am    

    I have a short and slightly embarassing incident to relate. About ten years ago I was on holiday in India, enthusiastically exchanging saliva with my then girlfriend at a secluded area of a park. The ideal place of choice for a new generation.

    A bloody policeman spotted us and decided that arresting us was the best course of action under the pretence of ‘soliciting sex’. Wtf! I was persuaded by my gf that paying him off was a more sensible path of action than trying to use his stick to beat him. Anyway, we both escaped unscathed, though I was a bit poorer.

    So why I am I relating this silly story? Well it happens all over India, but now the young populace has decided to protest courtesy of a TV sting that caught some unsavoury action in practice…

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