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Things you may have missed on youtube

July 5, 2010

I really hate it when I’m in an online discussion or thread and want to post a link to something I remember watching on youtube, but can’t find the video. So I’m going to start posting some here, partially for my own indexing convenience, and partially so anyone else can watch/find them as well.

Enjoy.

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This is a hilarious montage of popular French television host and producer Thierry Ardisson and his waffling position on freedom of expression. It’s a wonderfully  succinct depiction of the emptiness behind arguments promoting (*certain*) hateful speech on the grounds of ‘freedom of expression’. One of the guests featured in the clip makes a great point: “For me, freedom of expression and respecting the other go hand in hand. I am for freedom of expression. But why exercise it only to hurt another?”

(there is another, possibly longer version of this video that ends with a play on the French Republican slogan Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité… can’t find it at the moment but let me know if you do and I’ll update the post.)

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This is a revealing clip from an interview with veteran Israeli politician and activist Shulamit Aloni, where Aloni quite matter-of-factly explains how critics of Israeli policy are summarily smeared as anti-Semites.

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ta ta for now

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Afshan Azad, ‘Honor’ Killings and Religion

July 3, 2010

So I just read about Afshan Azad (famous for playing the role of “Padma Patil” in the Harry Potter films) being attacked by her father and brother in their home:

The father and brother of a Harry Potter actress will appear in court later this month in Manchester, England, on charges of threatening to kill the young star, prosecutors said Friday.

Abdul Azad, 54, and his son Ashraf, 28, are accused of attacking actress Afshan Azad earlier this month because of her relationship with a Hindu man, a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said. The family is Muslim.

As was to be expected, a chorus of condemnations rose in response to this, with many citing Islam or religion in general as the root cause of the attack. There’s something curious about the way people are discussing this… Read more…

I am still alive

June 13, 2010

Ok, so as you may have noticed, I have procrastination issues.

I feel bad that I haven’t posted anything in a good while.. Part of the reason has been that it is simply depressing to write about various shades of ignorance all the time. It’s obviously important to address common misconceptions, lies and nonsense, but it can be a seriously draining exercise that turns you into a cynic and a pessimist if you’re not careful. Read more…

Malaysia’s “Allah” Fiasco: What does the Qur’an say?

February 1, 2010

AND [on that Day] the Apostle will say: “O my Sustainer! Behold, [some of] my people have come to regard this Qur’an as something [that ought to be] discarded!” (25:30)

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Comedian Chris Rock once asked, “Who is more racist – black people or white people?” His answer: “Black people. You know why? ‘Cause we hate black people too.” “Everything white people don’t like about black people, black people really don’t like about black people,” he explained as the audience laughed. Rock then proceeded to go on a truly epic, profanity-laced rant about the differences between black people and “niggas” – at one point saying, “I love black people, but I hate niggas. … Boy, I wish they let me join the Ku Klux Klan!

Thanks to some Muslims in Malaysia, I feel like going on a similar rant of my own.

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There’s been a lot of controversy during the last few months in Malaysia, where the use of the word “Allah” by certain Christian groups (particularly a Catholic newspaper called The Herald) has angered many Muslims – including the current government – and resulted in a series of attacks on churches. Read more…

What Alan Dershowitz and Osama bin Laden agree on

January 27, 2010

Yesterday I read two apparently unrelated things: a report that Osama bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a U.S. airliner this past Christmas, and an editorial by Alan Dershowitz about Israel’s medical aid to Haiti titled “For Bigots, Israel Can Do No Right”.

There are some very interesting things going on in Mr. Dershowitz’s piece. It begins:

As most objective observers throughout the world marvel at Israel’s efficiency and generosity in leading the medical aid efforts in Haiti, some bigots insist on using these efforts as an occasion to continue their attack on the Jewish state. Both the neo-Nazi hard right and the neo-Stalinist hard left cannot help but to demonize Israel, regardless of what Israel does.

[operative words emphasized]

The problem for Dershowitz is that some people have noticed and commented on the impressive irony that Israel is going out of its way to provide medical assistance to Haitians while denying it to Palestinians in Gaza (see, for example, this Ha’aretz article from Jan. 18th titled “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza”). In his mind, perhaps such criticism can be dismissed as the work of “bigots” from the “neo-Nazi hard right” or the “neo-Stalinist hard left” who “cannot help” but “demonize” the “Jewish state”.

In reality, though, “most objective observers” can see that something is quite amiss when Israel is proudly shipping medical relief halfway around the world, all the while:

The health of 1.4 million people is being put at risk by the ongoing Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza, a report by more than 80 humanitarian organisations warned today.

The aid groups, including the World Health Organisation and UN agencies, said more than one-fifth of sick Palestinians who needed to leave the territory for treatment in Israel had either been refused or had their applications delayed. The groups called on Israel and Egypt to open the border crossings with Gaza.

Max Gaylard, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for the Palestinian territories, said the blockade undermined the local healthcare system and put lives at risk.

“It is causing ongoing deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health,” he said.

“It is hampering the provision of medical supplies and the training of health staff, and it is preventing patients with serious medical conditions from getting timely specialised treatment.”

(from Gaza blockade threatens health of 1.4 million, aid agencies warn in the Guardian; also see Amnesty International’s new report Suffocating: The Gaza Strip under Israeli Blockade, the joint report Failing Gaza: no rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses by over 15 organizations including Amnesty International & Oxfam International, and Gaza Health Fact Sheet by the World Health Organization)

Mahmoud, 4, is held by his mother at Al Nasser Hospital in the Rimal area of Gaza City. The room is cold due to the fuel blockade. Mahmoud is receiving oxygen at the hospital for an immune disorder, but his health is deteriorating, as the sanctions have prevented his getting essential medicines and milk. (from UNICEF)

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In the remainder of his article, Dershowitz explains to us why Haitians deserve sympathy and Gazans do not. Here is the crux of his argument:

Even the New York Times, in an otherwise thoughtful analysis of the controversiality of the aid among some Israelis, failed to note the difference between Israel sending its limited resources to faraway Haiti and to nearby Gaza. Haiti is not at war with Israel. Haiti has not pledged itself to Israel’s destruction. Haiti has not fired 8,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. Gaza, on the other hand, has a popularly elected government that has done and continues to do all of the above. Moreover, there is no comparison between the tens of thousands of Haitians who have died from a natural disaster, and the people of Gaza who suffer far less from what is, essentially, a self-inflicted wound.

Isn’t it at least possible that the millennia-long Jewish tradition of tzadakah — that is, charity based on justice — is at least part of the explanation for Israel’s generosity?

The fact that so many Israelis are advocating medical and other assistance to Gaza certainly supports this latter theory. Has any other country in the history of the world ever provided medical and other assistance to a people with whom it is at war — to people who continue to support rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism against its own civilians? Again, a double standard. The reality is that Israel will be extremely generous to the people of Gaza if and when they stop supporting attacks on Israeli civilians, stop making martyrs of their suicide murderers, and stop encouraging their children to don suicide vests.

It was when I read this that I knew there was something remarkably uncanny about Dershowitz’s rhetoric. But what was it?

Later I noticed this quote from the news report about bin Laden:

… bin Laden added: “America will never dream of security unless we will have it in reality in Palestine.”

And then it hit me: Alan Dershowitz and al-Qaeda are using the same talking points.

Let me explain what I mean by this. Read more…

Update: Huffington Post disappears my comments

January 25, 2010

This is hilarious.

Two days ago I wrote about a rather rich piece of truthiness published by the Telegraph and re-posted on the Huffington Post. Today I went back to the latter site to check for any replies to some comments I had posted (that link to this blog), and – poof! – it turns out they exist no more.

Three comments were deleted, all of which contained or referred to a link to my original post on this issue.

This is not very important, and I don’t really care. I mention it, though, because it illustrates an interesting point about the way our media works. Read more…

Making it all up as we go along: The Huffington Post, the Telegraph, and Indonesian fatwas

January 23, 2010

I read the Huffington Post a lot, partially to keep up with political news in the US, and partially because I find myself entertained by its ridiculous coverage of Muslim issues. Today, in the World section, there is this headline, prominently displayed along with a picture: Muslim Clerics Seek Ban on ‘Funky Hairstyles‘.

Somebody misplaced this story; it should have been filed under HuffPo's "LOL @ Muslims" section.

When you navigate to the story, here is what is written:

Telegraph:

An Islamic body which has issued fatwas on inappropriate behaviour from practising yoga to failing to vote in elections said it is now considering a request to tackle the craze among pupils in religious boarding schools.

Read the whole story: Telegraph

As it turns out, the Telegraph story, which is not much longer than the write-up given at the Huffington Post, is about a group of clerics in East Java, Indonesia.

Now why is this trivial factoid included as a prominent piece of world news?

Answer: because anytime Muslims – anywhere on earth – do something unseemly, it is newsworthy.

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Read more…