One Law For All: ‘Sharia law: neither equal not free’

From an email from Miriam Namazie:

Update on Baroness Cox’s Equality Bill
One Law for All has been spending a lot of time recently working with Caroline Cox and her team in promoting the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equalities) Bill. The aim of the Bill, which was introduced to the House of Lords last year, is to make arbitration services in the UK subject to equality laws and to bar any arbitration where parties are of unequal standing; for example, it would disallow arbitration providers placing greater weight on the testimony of one party over another, as is the case with sharia law where a wife’s word is worth only half of her husband’s. The Bill will also create a criminal offence and make it illegal for arbitration bodies to pretend they have greater jurisdiction than they do – in other words, preventing them from misinforming people that they must obey their rulings. It will also place a duty on public bodies in the UK to inform women of their rights under British la w.
The Bill is due for a second reading in the House of Lords this October. Many Peers have already pledged support but we need your help in persuading them further. If you have time, please write to any members of the House of Lords and ask them to consider the seriousness of this Bill and its need in maintaining a society where all people are equal before a single secular and democratic law. In your letter, you could point out to Peers that the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal both openly acknowledge that the testimony of women is given less value than that of men, that custody of children is awarded to fathers regardless of the circumstances, and that sharia family law permits, and therefore encourages, domestic violence and the abuse of women and children.  You can find out how to write to Peers here: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-a-lord/lord/. You can read the bill here:  http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/arbitrationandmediationservicesequality.html.
‘Equal and Free?’, a book of evidence compiled in support of the Bill, can be found here: http://equalandfree.org/download-file/downloads/EqualandFree.pdf. It includes testimony from women who have been through the sharia family law system here in Britain, as well as charities and groups which work closely with these women. It also looks at other religious tribunals, such as the Beth Din, and the effect the Bill may have on arbitration more broadly.
Debates and Conferences
One of the issues of concern to those deciding whether to support the Bill is that it may represent an infringement on religious liberty. One Law for All maintains that the right to freedom of religion ends at the point where other people’s rights begin. Sharia family and criminal law represent a serious infringement upon the rights of women to receive a fair hearing and to live without violence or the threat of violence. We will be holding a debate on this issue in the coming months and will invite members of both Houses of Parliament to attend – further details will follow. For more information on other speaking engagements and events, visit: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/category/events/.
Child Protection
As has been mentioned, sharia family law awards custody of children to fathers from a pre-set age regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of whether the father is abusive or violent. Again, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal and the Islamic Sharia Council do not deny this fact.  It is also known that matters of child custody and contact are being increasingly heard by sharia bodies, increasing the isolation of Muslims in Britain and endangering the children of Muslim parents who may be excluded from the protections provided by British law – which places the wellbeing of the child as the paramount consideration in all questions of this kind. We have been pushing this message very strongly at the House of Lords; all Peers have now received a copy of ‘Equal and Free?’ which contains details of how sharia family law is flouting legal norms in matters of child protection, and the danger this represents &ndas h; it is creating a parallel legal system, based on religion, in the UK.
Support us!
December will mark four years since the establishment of the One Law for All campaign. A lot has changed in the public debate on Sharia law and equality as a result of our campaign. If you want to and can, please help us to continue our essential work. To donate to the work of One Law for All, you can either send a cheque made payable to One Law for All to BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK or pay via Paypal.  We also need regular support and for supporters to commit to giving at least £5-10 a month via direct debit. You can find out more about how to donate or join the 100 Club here: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/donate/.
Also, if you shop online, please do so via the Easy Fundraising’s website: http://www.easyfundraising.org.uk/register-supporter/?char=40474. It won’t cost you anything extra but can help raise much needed funds for One Law for All.
Finally, if you haven’t already signed up to the One Law for All campaign, please join the nearly 29,000 people and groups that have: http://onelawforallpetition.com/onelaw/onela300.php?nr=40155035.
Thanks again
Warmest wishes
Anne Marie Waters
One Law for All Spokesperson
NOTES
1. The One Law for All Campaign was launched on 10 December 2008, International Human Rights Day, to call on the UK Government to recognise that Sharia and religious courts are arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular and that citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable.
2. For further information contact:
Maryam Namazie
Anne Marie Waters
Spokespersons
One Law for All
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK

Banning ‘the veil’: the end does not justify the means

France is just one of a growing number of European countries which have been passing laws which forbid wearing veils that cover one’s face in public.

While I loath all forms of this apparel, I loath this law even more – and have said so often and loudly.

Here is my take on it:

OK – I’m not a fan…

For many reasons.

The origin of veiling women’s faces is in the practice of owning wives as a class of slaves.  This is the history.  Not good – and nothing rooted in this tradition will likely meet with my approval.

Today, some women are forced to veil their faces in public, either through physical or emotional coercion.  This, of course, is unacceptable.

In many instances, the facial veil is being used as a means of isolating a woman from the greater culture:  this form of isolation prevents her from forming social bonds of her own among the greater community – and prevents her from building a support mechanism which would help her escape from any potentially abusive situation.  I’m going to be repeating myself:  this, of course, is unacceptable.

Yes, many women today do wear the full facial veil of their own free will, as a symbol of their ‘identity’.   This, I find even more offensive!  Setting aside the whole psychoanalytical thing of women choosing to self-identify with cattle, this is an act of haughty contempt for everyone else individually and the society as a whole.  It is an aggressive assertion that they are better, worthier, more holy, than the rest of us… It is, in no uncertain terms, an outward expression of self-aggrandization and bigotry.

At the same time, it is often worn by some women as a not very subtle method of intimidation and aggression towards the greater society.  These women are themselves Islamists who understand perfectly well the fear many have of having Sharia forced upon them by the Islamits:  they wear the veil as an arrogant reminder of the threat they are posing to us all.

So, a woman wearing the ‘Islamic veil’ can either be a victim or an aggressor – either way, I don’t like it!  And that does not even touch on the whole ‘security’ issue, where criminals use the face-veil to disguise their identity…

In other words, I would be very happy never to see anyone hiding their true face!

BUT…

The ends never justify the means.

In fact, the means often undermine and invalidate the end.

I got into a somewhat heated discussion about this with Trupeers over in the comment section of BCF‘s post on this.  I think I was not very clear about it and confused the issue by poorly expressing what I mean.  Still, it helped me ‘distill’ the essence of what I mean better.

My ‘first law of human dynamics’ states that eventually, every law will be abused and stretched into unforeseen ridiculousness.  Therefore, whenever we pass laws, we must consider more than their immediate effect.  It is our responsibility to examine the not-so-obvious implications of any law and to really really foresee any potential ways in which the law could be abused.

THAT is my problem with a law that bans ‘wearing a face-covering veil in public’.

The larger implications:  we are permitting a government to legislate what people may or may not wear in public.  You know, like they do in Iran

It is always easier to give some power to a government than it is to take it back.   Once we legitimize the practice of governments  legislating and enforcing dress codes, that aspect of our existence will be at the mercy of some  future government’s whims!

What do Olympics and DRMs have in common?

Freedom of speech is so important, it is fundamental to freedom in a society.  The threats to freedom of speech come in many shapes – some from government (like the Canadian Human Rights’ Commissions and similar organizations), some from religious leaders, others from corporate interests.

After all – he who controls what and how ideas are communicated has a great amount of control of what and how people think.  And how they spend their money.  Power and money – it’s that crass.

John Perry Barlow wrote, in an article The Economy of Ideas which appeared in Wired in 1994:

The greatest constraint on your future liberties may come not from government but from corporate legal departments laboring to protect by force what can no longer be protected by practical efficiency or general social consent.

Barlow was speaking of things which we have all seen to happen.  From DRM laws, which are based on the idea of ‘every customer is guilty of being a potential pirate, don’t bother with a defence’, to some serious weight being thrown around by the Olympic committees, we are experiencing true and real erosion of our freedom of speech and expression with the sole aim to further corporate interests.

Don’t think so?

If someone from ‘the government’ tried to control what people wore to a sporting event, we would scream ‘censorship’.  Yet, Olympic organizers get away with it – if your T-shirt displays a logo of a non-sponsor, you are asked to remove it, wear it inside out, or – I know this happened at the Athens games – you are handed an official Olympic ‘logo cover’ thingy you have to stick over top of your ‘unapproved’ logo.

This is all in the name of ‘protecting their sponsors’!

Want to drink water from a non-sponsor’s bottle?  Not at the Olympics….

Is your hotel, near the Olympic venue – and visible from it, not a sponsor?  Well, then its name will have to be covered up during the games by the official Olympic ‘sign cover’.  (In Beijing, all logos, even on water taps and toilets, from non-sponsors were covered up by sticky tape.)

And we all know how much the IOC is intent on ‘protecting’ freedom of speech from the nice deal they struck with the Chinese about censoring all ‘non-sports relevant’ internet sites.  Their attitude is best exemplified by this answer, given by BOCOG speaker Sun Weide, when asked why access to all sites about Falun Gong religion….keep in mind, the question was why was the access censored:

“I would remind you that Falun Gong is an evil, fake religion which has been banned by the Chinese government.”

But all this is just a tip of the ice-berg.

The IOC – and its various local minions – have been busy little beavers indeed.  If you think the Beijing one (BOCOG) was in Communist country and therefore much more oppressive than most, think again.  Look at what is already happening in preparation for the Olympic Games in Vancouver (VANOC) in 2010!

  1. Bits of the Canadain National Anthem are being TRADEMARKED by the Vancouver organizers.
  2. Other words, like ‘winter’, ‘2010’, ‘games’, ‘medal’, ‘gold’ and many more are also being trademarked by VANOC. 

Usually, these would be just too general to be registered – but that does not worry the Olympic committee.  While back, they got a law passed (I understand that there is a similar law in the USA), Bil C-47, which makes it OK…

You may think that it is really just meant to protect the sponsors, that the IOC would not abuse this to hassle legitimate businesses, right?  You might want to discuss that with the many businesses that have the word ‘Olympic’ in their name – even Greek restaurants, in Greece…or ones on ‘Olympic peninsula’ in North America.  They might be able to explain why they keep receiving letters from the IOC lawyers, telling them they are in violation of a trademark…

Freedom of speech indeed… 

From DRM laws which assume all of us are lawbreakers and must be handcuffed (digitally) lest we steal what we see, greedy corporate interests, to corrupt, money and power grubbing international organizations, we are increasingly finding our freedoms eroded, one little bit at a time.

And isn’t it a coincidence that both the ‘Olympic marks’ Bill C-47, which allows unprecendented powers of censorship to the Olympic Committee, and the ‘movie piracy’ Bill C-59 both received royal assent on the same day?

Death penalty for blogging!

The ‘blogosphere‘ may be be a virtual community, but the social connections it creates are very, very real.  These connections cross boundries:  political, cultural, linguistic, + + +…  In a very real sense, the blogosphere transends these boundries and makes them irrelevant.

This threatens all those who would control their populace, forcing them to adhere to only one ideology (regardless of what the particular ideology may be), limiting them to access only those opinions approved by these rulers.  Yet, like Pandora’s box, once the lid was opened and people realized the vast possibililties the blogosphere presented, closing the blogs down, or filtering them, was not enough to slam the lid back down.  Those who would control now had to ‘neutralize’ those who had peeked in…

Thus, many opressors are going after bloggers themselves.

Here, in Canada, we face only minor punishments:  monetary penalty, perhaps a lifelong gag order (!)against ever ‘expressiong oneself’ on or about a particular topic…  This is enough of a threat to our inherrent right to freedom of speech from our own bureaucratic opressors, but it is nothing comparing to what our counterparts in other parts of the world are facing!

Here is the unpleasant bit of news from ‘Global Voices’, and another from ‘Daily Tech’ (this one includes the original cartoon), Khaleej Times Online, thought many other sources have picked up on it, too.

Earlier this year, Iranian bloggers had been asked to register each and every blog on a specific government site.  Fearing this will be a tool to prosecute/persecute them, many bloggers refused to comply.  Predictably, bullies feel threatened by anyone that stands up to them.  This show of backbone by the bloggers could not go uncrushed by that opressive regime…

Last Wednesday, Iranian parlilament has agreed to discuss adding ‘disturbing mental security in society’ to such crimes as rape, kidnapping and armed robbery:  all capital crimes. 

Apparently, blogging could ‘disturb‘ this ‘mental security in society’ if it were to ‘promote prostitution, corruption or apostasy.  In the sense used here, the term ‘apostasy’ applies to anything that is not in full agreement with the views and policies of the ruling Ayatollahs. 

According to the strict interpretaions of Islam in Iran (and other Muslim countries), apostasy is punishable by death, as per Koran, chapter 4 (Al-Nisa), verse 90 (partial quote):

“If they turn away [from Islam], then sieze them and kill them wherever you find them…”

That is not such only quote in the Koran, just the one which is best known.  From its past behaviour, it is also clear that the current regime in Iran is using the very strictest possible interpretation of the Islamic scriptures and imposing death sentences on people it deems to be ‘apostates’.  Of course, the Iranian regime is abusing the scriptures in order to silence its political opposition and to stifle legitimate political debate among its populace. 

This is how that twisted reasoning goes:  

  1. The government is headed by the highest religious authority, the Ayatollahs.  
  2. Questioning the government’s policy is therefore questioning the Ayatollahs.
  3. Questioning  the Ayatollahs, the highest authority on Islam, is questioning Islam itself,
  4. Questioning Islam, by the Ayatollahs’ definition, is apostasy. 

… and apostasy is a capital crime.

Q.E.D.

But Iran is not the first country to make such a move!

Last April, Yemen passed a similar law.  Under this law, bloggers whose blogs are deemed to be ‘inciting hatred’ (does the wording sound familiar) could face death penalties. Here are some quotes from ‘Mideast Youth‘:

 Walid Al-Saqaf, the administrator of YemenPortal.net which has been blocked in Yemen since January of this year, has just sent this very alarming news to his friends and colleagues:

“This week, the government’s Minister of Information threatened to file lawsuits against news websites on the justification of ‘inciting hatred’ or ‘harming national interests’ and the other usual excused they often use to prosecute journalists. The threat is even more severe for websites because the government would use the penal code instead of the press law. This means that website owners could get up to death penalties.”

Report in Arabic:

وحذر مصدر مسؤول في المركز من خطورة مثل التصريحات التي توحي بتوجه رسمي لزج الصحافيين والمخالفين بالرأي إلى السجون وتشديد الخناق عليهم بتطبيق قانون العقوبات الذي يحتوي على عقوبات قد تصل حد الإعدام

(Source)

Death penalty for blogging! 

I am speechles…

Of Cellphones and Hijabs

OK, these two do not seem too closely related. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been ‘Of Passing Laws Which Ban The Use of Cellphones While Driving And Of Passing Laws That Force The Wearing of Hijabs‘, but, somehow, that seemed a little long…

Every now and then, another spot on Earth passes a law banning the use of cellphones while driving – or flirts with passing such a law. A flurry of debates and discussions follows, weighing the pros and cons of such a law…often mistaking appeals to emotions for objective reasons, confusing symptoms with causes.

Typically, the pro-ban side (or, as I affectionately call them, the ‘bannies’) cites reams of accident statistics (real or imagined) which occurred while the driver was indeed using the cell phone. They usually present one or another variation of the following argument:

1. Talking on a cellphone can be distracting to drivers.

2. Distracted drivers do have more accidents.

Therefore, cellphones cause accidents and laws banning drivers from using them must be passed, in the interest of preventing those horrible car accidents. After all, anything less would be irresponsible!

Q.E.D.

Those opposed to the alarming increase in behaviour-engineering legislation usually put forth some silly nonsense like: “If a car is being driven badly, cops already have the right to ticket the driver, so a law specifically prohibiting cellphones is not only superfluous, it is redundant. Why pass two laws to cover one misdeed? If cops don’t apply one law they have, why give them a second one that does the same thing?”

These little arguments fall on deaf ears of the ‘bannies’. Usually, they counter with more statistics (but not those that show that even after cellphones were banned, the overall accident rates are pretty much unchanged in the long run). And if one begins to worry about the intrusiveness of the law, they invariably point out that drunk-driving is already banned, so why not cell-driving?

Perhaps it is commendable that the ‘bannies’ are looking out for us all – by banning all that is, or could potentially be, a source of harm to us. But what is not commendable is their basic mindset of attempting to legislate ‘common sense’, while they themselves fail to display an iota of it. So, I suppose it would be legislating ‘common nonsense’, n’est-ce pas? Having been in a debate with a vociferous ‘bannie’, I was unable to make her comprehend the difference between a chemically impaired judgment and a ‘distraction’…

Yet, that is not the only failure to apply logic in the ‘cellphone debate’. The real fallacy is in completely misunderstanding the nature of ‘distraction’: it is the driver’s responsibility not to become distracted by anything while driving. The cellphone is a symptom, not the cause of a driver’s distraction….only one of the many possible ways of abdicating responsibility to focus on driving. And as history has taught us, banning the symptoms never alleviates the underlying problem, it only masks it.

Which brings me to the hijab part… Please, consider this unfortunately real ‘reasoning’:

1. The sight of a beautiful woman arouses men.

2. An aroused man will want to have sex.

Therefore, the sight of a beautiful woman causes rapes and laws banning display of feminine beauty must be passed, in the interest of protecting women from those horrible rapes. After all, anything less would be irresponsible!

Q.E.D.

Yes, this is real! These are some of the reasons put forth in support of laws that require women to wear a hijab, a burka, or similarly concealing ‘modest dress’. Don’t believe it? The Mufti of Copenhagen Sahid Mehdi said in 2004 that women who do not wear the hijab are ‘asking to be raped‘. Australia’s Mufti in October 2006 was much the same thing, but in much cruder terms – comparing unveiled women to ‘uncovered meat‘….and how could you blame cats who came to eat it? And unless I am much mistaken, an Egyptian Imam said much the same thing in England (though I could not find a very good original article on this…happened too long ago).

But rape is not the only threat to women who do not don the veil: Palestinian broadcasters live under a death threat for wearing makeup and not covering their faces while on camera – I guess it is not so easy to rape a TV image, so the islamofascist ‘bannies’ content themselves with threatening to kill them a firebomb their houses instead.

The ‘reasoning’ in both cases – cellphones and hijabs – is eerily similar.

It may seem a chasm from banning the use of cellphones while driving to forcing the hijab on women, but bigger gulfs have been bridged, one little step at a time….each one facilitated by complacency and happy little ‘bannies’!