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George Galloway Predicts Armageddon as Russia Today (RT) Ban Looms.

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“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Channel could lose licence if Russia found to be responsible for Sergei Skripal poisoning

RT, the Kremlin-controlled news channel, faces being forced off air in the UK if the poisoning of Sergei Skripal is found to be an “unlawful use of force” by Russia against Britain.

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which has the power to close a TV channel if it decides it is not a “fit and proper” holder of a licence in the UK, said it had written to RT warning that a Russian act against the UK would trigger a fast-track investigation to potentially revoke its licence.

“We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation,” Ofcom said. “This letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK, we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.”

“Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence,” said the spokesman.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Atheists face prison in Egypt as Non-Belief may be made illegal.

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Charged in 2012 with “defamation of Islam and Christianity, insulting the divine and satirizing religious rituals and sanctities and the prophets under articles 98, 160 and 161 of the Egyptian Penal Code”

There are many countries where Atheism is a crime.

Atheists, and those accused of defection from the official religion, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, “unbelievers… in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment” Wikipedia.

Last year the Independent reported,

In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith

1.    Afghanistan

2.    Iran

3.    Malaysia

4.    Maldives

5.    Mauritania

6.    Nigeria

7.    Pakistan

8.    Qatar

9.    Saudi Arabia

10.    Somalia

11.    Sudan

12.    United Arab Emirates

13.    Yemen.

These regimes have laws that put people to death for ” blasphemy or apostasy”.

In Egypt, a state where the Sharia is one of the ‘sources’ of legislation, there has long been intolerance and the criminalisation of non-belief.

In January 2015 this happened:

A student has been sentenced to three years in prison for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist and thereby “insulting Islam”. Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, aged 21, was arrested in November 2014 with a group of other people at a cafe in Cairo.

Police then closed down the so-called “atheists cafe” in what is being viewed as a coordinated government crackdown on atheists. A local administrator told a news website that the coffee shop was “known as a place for satan worship, rituals and dances”.

Egyptian police shutdown ‘atheist cafe’ accused of harbouring ‘Satan worship’

#EgyptTurmoil

The café, on Falaky Street in the downtown neighbourhood of Abdeen, was “destroyed” after local residents reported customers as spreading “wrong thoughts regarding religions”, Arabic-language daily Sada al-Baladreported.

“We have destroyed the café of the devil worshippers in Falaki Street for being illegal and for having a number of atheists spreading their thoughts,” local police chief Gamal Mohi told the daily.

However, when speaking to independent outlet Mada Masr, Mohi denied the café had been demolished and said it was actually shutdown in November “following noise complaints from local residents”.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property,” he said. “This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures.”

The café owner was the only person arrested in the raid, according to Mohi, who said he was being held “as his coffee shop was unauthorised, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside”.

“There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance,” the police chief said.

No publicly available evidence has been produced to verify the police chief’s allegations of Satan worship at the café and he did not explain why atheists – who reject the existence of both God and Satan – would be engaging in such practices.

Egyptian rights activists denounced the café closure as being “the wrong and criminal action”, providing the business was operating legally.

“No one has the right to arrest someone for his thoughts,” Ali Atef, from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post. “And to be fair and honest, usually these incidents happen for arresting atheists, and later they explain that the café papers were illegal, which is usually wrong.”

In August 2017 there was this,

Egyptian TV presenter El-Beheiry was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy—a charge filed against him by Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni authority. El-Beheiry’s show had tackled controversial issues on Islam such as punishments for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith—the sayings and teachings of Mohamed.

According to article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, those found guilty of insulting the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) could face a fine or up to five years in prison. But the blasphemy law works mostly in favour of Muslims because they are the ones who bring this charge against people the most.

As can be seen, ‘insulting’ religion is punishable by law, but atheism is not as such, yet, a crime.

But now the Egyptian authorities are considering extending this persecution to make atheism itself a crime.

Lawmakers in Egypt are seriously considering passing a law that would make atheism illegal.

Blasphemy is already illegal in Egypt, and people are frequently arrested for insulting or defaming religion under the country’s strict laws. The newly proposed rule would make it illegal for people not to believe in God, even if they don’t talk about it.

“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.

“[Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” he wrote in the local daily paper Al-Shorouq.

As France Info points out in a new broadcast, you are obliged to declare your beliefs to the authorities., which will then appear on your identity card.

Already Christians and non-Muslims are second-class citizens.

Now, if the legislation is passed, you will not be a citizen at all, and a resident of a prison cell.

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ?

Background:

Egypt’s war on atheism

There have been waves of panic about atheism in the predominantly conservative Islamic country for some years, largely driven from the top-down by government officials, religious leaders, and some media. The ‘crackdown’ on atheism has included a campaign to ‘inoculate’ or ‘educate’ young people away from atheism. Some highly questionable regional polling data in 2014 determined that there were precisely 866 atheists in the country. The figure was used as a justification for the ‘war on atheists’, though ironically the figure (which would represent just 0.001% of the population) is undoubtedly a huge underestimate and was dismissed by atheists locally as “highly unrealistic”.

The former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, in September 2014, put the level of atheism at 12.5 percent of young people (which is more realistic but the origin of the figure is unclear). Figures from the Family Court state that 6,500 women filed for a divorce in 2015 due to their husbands’ atheism. (Under the Personal Status Law, Muslim women can apply for divorce if their husbands denounce religion.)

The Sisi government has been pushing a line that has been described as “militantly mainstream“, targeting some conservatives and extremist interpretations of Islam as well as atheists and liberals.

Police have raided internet cafes that were alleged to be meeting places for atheists, and while atheism has become a hot topic in the country’s media, those invited to advocate atheism in televised debates have faced death threats and harassment.

Last month, a 29-year-old computer science graduate Ibrahim Khalil was detained on the accusation of ‘contempt of religion’. He was accused of running a Facebook page called ‘Atheism’ on which he allegedly published “distortions of the Quran” and advocated atheism.

Another student, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist.

The media, religious leaders and politicians sometimes link atheism to homosexuality, which is similarly reviled, and promote the idea that atheism and homosexuality are mutually reinforcing “psychological imbalances”.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Morning Star and Galloway Back Tony (Owen Jones a”Janus Faced Whore” and all) Greenstein

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The Newshounds at Shiraz have a scoop.

Morning Star and Galloway back Greenstein – so victory is assured!

Greenstein posts with this, “The Morning Star 20.2.18. Editorial.”

This is not all.

Even former foes sent messages of solidarity.

For those with strong stomachs , used that is to Greenstein’s language, they can read Labour’s Constitutional Committee report into Monster Raving’s “abusive conduct”.

These include his use of terms such as “Racist whore” “Janus faced whore’” (Owen Jones) “Zio scum” ‘gay zionists want to make me puke” are perhaps no surprise to anybody who’s had dealings with Monster Raving, though the causal sexism of his verbal assault on the ‘girl’ Ms Rose, ‘monkeys’ and…well the list on item 105 is strong stuff indeed..

You can read the full account from the Labour Party here (something Greenstein is proud enough to post a link to).

There is a good case for questioning the sanity of Brighton Momentum who apparently responded to this pariah as follows, “..packed Brighton & Hove Momentum meeting at which Chris Williamson MP spoke – I was given a rapturous reception by those present”.

The Brighton Argus reports, “Despite being expelled from the Labour Party, Mr Greenstein remains a member of Brighton and Hove Momentum – the hard left grassroots side of the party.”

Momentum membership is conditional on being in the Labour Party.

More loony bins stuff from Grrr- Greenstein:  Reflections on my Expulsion from the Labour Party

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2018 at 1:19 pm

More Fake News from Fake Left Skwawkbox.

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BBC NEWS CHANNEL – NO MENTION OF MAY’S DOWNING ST MEETING WITH ‘RUSSIAN SPY’?

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 The BBC News channel, like most of the mainstream media, has given extensive coverage this morning to comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about cyber-threats to the UK from Russia.

It seems not, however, to have mentioned revelations that Theresa May conducted a meeting in Downing Street with her Ukrainian counterpart in the presence of a man who has just been arrested in Ukraine as a Russian spy.

Sky News is giving the matter prominence – but the nation’s state broadcaster, so far, appears conspicuously silent about it.

Steven Walker, Skwawky himself, tweeted on this rubbish.

As in here:

BBC 21st of December.

Ukraine accuses government interpreter of spying for Russia

Ukraine’s main security agency has arrested a senior government translator and accused him of being a Russian spy.

Stanislav Yezhov, who accompanied the country’s prime minister on numerous trips, was detained in Kiev on Wednesday.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Mr Yezhov had gathered information about government activities.

In July, he was part of a delegation that visited UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street.

Bob Pitt recently wrote another attack on the fake-news site that claims to be on the left,

Corbyn and the peace prize: Skwawkbox embarrasses the Left again

In this article comrade Pitt suggests that “Steve Walker has clearly lost all sense of proportion.”

The way Skwawky is going now we would say he has lost his marbles.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Skwawkbox – ‘left’ Fake News Site – Loses Appeal to Independent Press Standards Organisation over…..its own Fake News.

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Image result for skwawkbox fake news

A Byword for Fake News.

Skwawkbox is notorious, not just in the MSM but on the left, for spreading misleading stories.

One that stuck in the craw was this claim, in July this year,  “DISABLED CLAIMANTS TOLD: 2 YRS TO GET JOB OR BE SANCTIONED FOR A YEAR.” Another , in August, was that Venezuela was a horn of plenty,  UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS.

The Blog site with big pretensions did score a scoop not too long ago with an interview with Dennis Skinner….defending his House of Commons vote  with the Tories for a the government Brexit. Skinner defended his action in these words, “With all the treaties, Maastricht and the others, I don’t decide who’s in the lobby – some rag tag and bobtail of Tories plus a few unionists.”

But it was there lies over Grenfell Tower that really hit a nerve.

Former Ken Livingstone employee Bob Pitt and wrote this,

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

By contrast, BuzzFeed News took the trouble to contact the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee — which, as a quick google would reveal, is the actual body responsible for issuing D-Notices, not the Home Office. BuzzFeed was able to report that it had “confirmed with the DSMA secretariat that there are no advisories issued about the fire at Grenfell Tower, that notices would not be sent in relation to civilian disasters such as this one, and that so far as the DSMA secretariat is aware there is no national security element whatsoever to the tragedy”.

Faced with the collapse of its story, Skwawkbox was forced to back off and post a grudging retraction: “EDIT: the SKWAWKBOX is now satisfied that no D-notice was issued. No plain answer to this blog’s question of otherrestrictions on information about lives lost at Grenfell has yet been provided, but a ‘D-notice’ (or DSMA-notice as they are now termed) was not.”

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Skwawkbox — an embarrassment to the Left

We learn now that not only has Skwawky no regrets about its story but that its owner, a certain Steve Walker (cited below), had the cheek to take the Mail to the  Independent Press Standards Organisation because the right-wing rag dared to call his public  pissoir a conduit for fake news.

After examining this case, and another, in which the site alleged that the PM was under investigation for conflicts of interest over Brexit,  he has just been sent away with his long tail between his legs.

The judgement says:

  • The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”.
  • The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point.

This is how he responded to the judgement:

ATTACKS ON SKWAWKBOX INTENSIFYING AND DESPERATE. WONDER WHY..

Now the story brokejust before last week, and they have not replied beyond insulting the people they made an appeal to.

Hence we republish it for people to make their own minds up about the judgement.

But clearly Skwawkbox is unrepentant and feels free to continue spreading his version of reality on the Web.

Decision of the Complaints Committee 16690-17 Walker v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

  1. Steve Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Revealed: Far left blogger behind ‘fake news’ story that government is gagging media over true scale of Grenfell deaths is corporate boss who sells services to the NHS” published on 30 June 2017.
  2. The article reported that an “anonymous, left wing blogger” who published the “fake news story” that the government had gagged the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, was a “corporate CEO who sells private services to the NHS”. It said that the story that the government had issued a D-notice, an official request to editors not to publish sensitive information, had gone viral, but no such government D-notice had been issued. The article also said that the blog had falsely reported that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit. The article named the complainant as the blogger and included photographs of him. It said that his company had made money from the NHS by selling it a mailing system.
  3. The complainant said that the article had inaccurately reported that his company sold services to the NHS, and that it benefited from the privatisation of the NHS, implying that the articles published on his blog were hypocritical. He said that the company provided a free service: clients were given access to the mailing system for free, and the company made money from the traffic generated, at no cost to the client.
  4. The complainant also disputed that his blog had spread “fake news”. He said that his blog, which stated that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit, made clear that this was a claim being made elsewhere in the media. Similarly, the blog reporting on the D-notice made clear that these were claims being made by sources, and that the claims were unconfirmed. Contrary to the article, he had not published “false claims”; the report of the claims was true; and when the claims were proven to be unfounded, the blog was amended.
  5. The complainant said that the article had included images taken from his Facebook profile without consent, including an image of him posing with his family.  The complainant also raised concern that his interview with the journalist had been recorded, without his explicit consent.
  6. The publication said that the article was accurate. It said that the complainant had spoken on the record to the reporter, and the reporter had a recording of the conversation to ensure that the subsequent article was accurate. The reporter had interviewed the complainant and had asked him whether he made a profit out of his business, and the complainant had said that as a business, it had to make a profit. It noted that the complainant’s job title was Sales Director, and the company website included testimonials using phrases such as “excellent value for money”.
  7. The publication said that it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant’s blog had been accused of spreading “fake news”. Irrespective of whether the blog had made clear that it was reporting claims, the information it had distributed had been false.
  8. With regards to the D-notice story, the publication said that the complainant’s blog was the first outlet to publish it, and the complainant had since accepted that it was inaccurate. It said that the blog had been widely criticised for spreading “fake news” following this story, and it considered that it should have been immediately obvious to the complainant that the allegations were false as D-notices were only used for matters of national security. It also argued that the blog had asserted that the claims were likely to be true: it had stated “if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice – and every instinct is screaming that it is” and went on to state that if it were the case “then the government has placed a national security gag on mainstream news editors to prevent them from disclosing what’s already known about the number of lives lost at Grenfell Tower.”
  9. The publication also noted that its article had stated that the complainant’s blog had reported “claims” that Theresa May was under investigation by the Cabinet Office. It said that there was no evidence in this blog that the author had made any attempt to verify the claims.
  10. The publication accepted that the complainant’s company distributed mailing software to clients for free, but it said that the company charged its clients for the letters sent using the software. It did not consider it significantly misleading for it have asserted that the “system” was sold to the NHS, as it was a fact that the “service” was sold to it. The publication said that the article had not accused the complainant of hypocrisy; rather, it had juxtaposed his business activities against the views he had expressed on NHS privatisation.  Regardless, it offered to amend the assertion that the complainant’s company sold the mailing system to the NHS, to make clear that it “provided” the system to the NHS. During IPSO’s investigation, it made further amendments to the article to make clear that the blog had reported claims, and it offered to append the following footnote, with a similar wording to be published as a standalone correction:

A previous version of this article said that Foojit made money from the NHS “by selling its mailing system to the Levenshulme Health Clinic in Manchester”. Mr Walker has contacted us to point out that in fact Foojit’s mailing system software was provided to the Clinic for free. What the Health Clinic pays for is any letters it sends using Foojit’s services. In addition the article has been amended to say that the Skwawkbox blog posts published by Mr Walker reported on claims made by other sources. We are happy to make this clear.

  1. The publication said that the photographs were sourced from the complainant’s open Facebook site and could also be found on his wife’s Facebook site. They merely showed the complainant, his wife and adult child; the child’s face had been blurred at the complainant’s request. The remaining images were sourced from publicly available resources, such as social media postings relating to the complainant’s business. The publication did not consider that any private information had been disclosed by publishing any of the images.

Relevant Code provisions

  1. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
  2. i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
  3. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

  1. iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (Privacy)

  1. i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
  2. ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

  1. The complainant’s business provided mailing software to its clients for free, and the business had charged the NHS for mail sent using the system. As such, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have described this model as the complainant selling a “mailing system”, “mailing solutions” and “private services” to the NHS, and to claim that his company benefited from the privatisation of the NHS. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. While this point did not raise a breach of the Code, the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to publish a clarification to address it.
  2. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the publication had accused him of spreading the “fake news” story that the government had “gagged” the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, when his blog had made clear that he was reporting claims that a D-notice had been issued.
  3. The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  4. The article under complaint had not made clear that the complainant’s blog had repeated claims made by third parties about the D-notice: it had said that he was “behind the ‘fake news’ story”, and that he had “reported that officials had placed a D-notice”. However, the Committee also noted that the complainant had given significant weight to this claim in his blog. Indeed, the blog had strongly suggested that it was true: it had said “every instinct is screaming that [the claims are true]”. Given that the complainant had endorsed the credibility of the claims and had effectively adopted them, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “reported” that the government had issued a D-notice. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  5. The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point. There was no breach of Clause 1.
  6. The publication had published images that had been taken from the complainant’s Facebook profile and from social media sites relating to the complainant’s business. The images showed the complainant’s face and did not disclose information about which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  7. Where the complainant was aware that he was speaking to a journalist, the journalist was not required to obtain his permission to record the conversation for note-taking purposes. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusions: The complaint was not upheld.

20.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Declaration of the International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century.

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International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression in the 21st Century

This is important and we extend our solidarity to those standing up for freedom of thought against religious bigotry.

See this email online.

The International Conference on Freedom of Conscience and Expression, the largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history, was held during 22-24 July 2017 in London.

Over 70 notable speakers from 30 countries or the Diaspora gathered in what was dubbed “The Glastonbury of Freethinkers” and “a Conference of Heroes” to honour dissenters and defend apostasy, blasphemy, and secularism.

The sold-out conference highlighted the voices of those on the frontlines of resistance – many of them persecuted and exiled – and included the first London film screening of Deeyah Khan’s film, Islam’s Non Believers, a public art protest of 99 balloons representing those killed or imprisoned for blasphemy and apostasy, a body-painting action, and crucial discussions and debates on Islamophobia and its use by Islamists to impose de facto blasphemy laws, the relation between Islam and Islamism as well as communalism’s threat to universal rights, art as resistance and Laicite as a human rights. The conference hashtag, #IWant2BFree, trended on Twitter during the two days.

At the conference, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) honoured ten individuals to mark its tenth anniversary, namely Bangladeshi freethinker Bonya Ahmed, Saudi freethinkers Ensaf Haidar and Raif Badawi, Moroccan atheist Zineb El Rhazoui, Philosopher AC Grayling, Centre for Secular Space’s Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Algerian Sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas, Jordanian Atheists’ Founder Mohammad AlKhadra, Egyptian Atheist Founder of The Black Ducks Ismail Mohamed and Author and Scientist Richard Dawkins.

The conference issued resolutions against the no-platforming of Richard Dawkins by KPFA radio station, in defence of Ismail Mohamed who was prevented from leaving Egypt to speak at the conference by the Egyptian government, and on CEMB’s presence in Pride in London as well as a Declaration of Freethinkers (see below).

The event was live-streamed, which can be seen here. Professional video footage will be made available soon as well photos and more details of the event.

Report from Sedaa,  London conference sees ‘largest gathering of ex-Muslims in history’.

Sedaa founder Iram Ramzan, who was co-hosting the event, said: “The conference reminded us all that there are people in the UK and around the world who are ostracised or persecuted simply for deciding to think for themselves.

“It was also noted that one does not necessarily have to be an atheist in order to be a champion of secularism. In fact, a lot of religious people at the event recognised that secularism allows them to worship in the way they want to, just as it would protect non-religious people. A secular state would remain neutral in religious affairs.”

And this:

No apologies.  Maryam Namazie

This is my letter to you.

Not you, the Islamist, who wants me silent or dead whilst dreaming of your vile caliphate, nor you, the racist, who wants my Muslim and migrant family out whilst dreaming of your contemptible white, Christian Europe. To me, you are two sides of the same coin.

This is my letter to you who I should consider a friend, an ally, but who refuses to make a stand with me. You: the progressive, the anti-racist, the supposed defender of human rights.

How come your defence of freedom of conscience and expression never includes my right to reject and criticise Islam?

You exclude, bar, ban, blame and shame me – or at the very least – remain silent, simply because of who I am: an ex-Muslim, an atheist, a critic of Islam.

Of course, you have a right to your silence.

You are not responsible for my persecution. Only those who threaten, kill and harm freethinkers in countries and communities under Islamist control are directly responsible; justice, after all, can never be about placing collective blame.

But I do accuse.

I accuse you of blaming me and never the perpetrators.

They always seem to have some ‘legitimate’ grievance or ‘hurt’ sensibility that justifies their incitement to violence or mass murder.

I, on the other hand, am always at fault:

If only I had not offended’ Your religion offends me but I am still able to stand with you and defend your right to religion.

‘If only I had not provoked’ Islamists kill, maim, silence and I am the one provoking them by saying what I think? Is that you speaking or them?

‘If only I had respected Islam’ You don’t respect my atheism; why must I respect your religion? In any case, one is not required to respect beliefs but the right to belief.

‘If only I had kept my opinion about Islam to myself’… You do not keep your opinions to yourself. Every day, from every corner I hear how ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ and that ‘Islamists are not practising real Islam’. Religion is shoved down my throat until I suffocate; yet I must keep my opinions to myself? Do I not also have the right to speak and think as I choose? Until Islamists stop threatening me, I will shout my atheism from every rooftop.

‘I am aiding racism because I criticise Islam’ Are you promoting terrorism because you defend Islam? I do not blame you for terrorism; stop blaming me for racism – which, by the way, affects me too.

Dear ‘friend’,

Is it really so hard to grasp that freedom of conscience is not just for the believer? That it includes the right not to believe, the right to reject Islam – publicly or otherwise. That freedom of expression is not just for those who defend and promote Islam. It is also my and our freedom to criticise Islam, mock it, and even see it as the regressive ideology of the Islamist movement.

And to do so publicly without fear.

Frankly, when I hear the Quran recited, it feels like a kick to my stomach.  It reminds me of executions in Iran and the totalitarian nightmare from which I have fled and sought refuge.

Nonetheless, I can still make a distinction between beliefs and human beings. I can still defend the right to religion; I can still stand with you against fascists of all stripes.

Why can you not defend my right to reject religion?

Why can you not stand with me?

Can you not see that freedom of religion is meaningless without freedom from religion? These are corresponding freedoms. They cannot exist fully without the other.

Maybe you can afford your silence. After all, religion and its defenders have always been privileged and freethinkers have always been persecuted throughout the ages. But I and we cannot.

Because we have no choice.

Because we have a right to think and live freely – even if it offends you.

Because if we don’t speak for ourselves, who will speak for us? You certainly won’t.

Because we must speak for ourselves, our loved ones, for those who cannot speak, for those who are beaten into submission in homes in London, imprisoned in Riyadh or are facing the gallows in Tehran and Karachi.

For Raif Badawi, for Sina Dehghan, Sahar Ilyasi, Ayaz Nizami, Ahmad Al-Shamri, Taimoor Raza, Avijit Roy…

Because we are the tsunami that is coming…

Yes, I don’t blame you for my persecution, but I do often wonder how much of a role your victim blaming and silence play – even if unwittingly – in normalising the open season on Islam’s atheists and freethinkers.

I wonder. If you were not so tolerant of the culture of offence and so intolerant of my criticism, would the world not be a different place?

I accuse.

#IWant2BFree

“Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness, and kept him in ignorance of his real duties and true interests. It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of Religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason, and Morality. Religion diverts us from the causes of evils, and from the remedies which nature prescribes; far from curing, it only aggravates, multiplies, and perpetuates them.”  ― Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach

Orwell, Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt- Left and…. Skwawkbox.

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Orwell and Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Right.

George Orwell never ceases being cited. These days he more often appears for good reasons than for bad ones.

Recently people have had recourse to Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes in Salvador Dali (1944) in order to defend his ability as a “ good draftsman” while being, “a disgusting human being”. That qualified support highlighted, few share the judgement that the Surrealist’s “Mannequin rooting in a taxicab’ as “diseased and disgusting”. The important idea, one, which Orwell repeats about Dickens as Bechhofer Roberts published an early version of what much later developed in the account of the Other Woman, Ellen Ternan, is the distinction between public work and “private life”. In this instance Dali’s alleged infidelity, and the search for his DNA to prove paternity, is irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of his products.

A more weighty issue is taken up in yesterday’s le Monde (Relire « 1984 » à l’ère de la post-vérité). Stéphane Foucart discusses Orwell as a reference in the era of “post-truth” (post-verité). He quotes Looking Back on the Spanish War (1942), “..for the first, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary life.” Life in Republican Spain was portrayed as “one long massacre” by the pro-Franco British press. Orwell went on to imagine a future in which “the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only he future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event “it never happened” – well it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five.”

English speaking readers are more familiar with this passage, a premonition of the theme of 1984, than French, who, to Foucart, only began to register that dystopia in the 1980s, with intellectuals such as Michael Gauchet dismissing it. More recently there are those who have taken Orwell to their hearts, for his “common decency”. The idea that the over boiled cabbage and Thought Police of Ingsoc, and a planet divided into three rival Party-Oligarchies, has relevance today may seem to stretch a point.

That we know that the past is both so obviously not there, yet is worthy of objective inquiry in ways that other ‘not theres’ are not, is an old metaphysical difficulty. That the standard of objectivity was weakened by what used to be fashionable in the old days of ‘post-modernism’ is well known. But that there are different ‘truths’, a liberal, in the American sense, rather than a conservative principle has become less about controlling history than the present. Was the telly screen a rudimentary form of the Internet asks Foucart? Are Trump’s efforts to purge the Presidential archives of documents challenging his view on climate change? ‘Alternative facts’, reports that bear no relation to truth, have, with the sacking of the White House’s Sean Spicer is now a topic which has made the news.

The Media and State Power.

Orwell was concerned not just with Red Atrocity reports in the Daily Mail. He also wrote of the potential totalitarian effects of government control of the media, in his time the Radio. He defended freedom of expression against all forms of censorship, including the suppression of critical reports about the USSR which he believed was taking place post-war in favour of “uncritical admiration of the Soviet Union” (The freedom of the press – Animal Farm. 1945). As Orwell later wrote, “If you do not like the Communism you are a red-baiter, a believer in Bolshevik atrocities, the nationalism of women, Moscow Gold and so on.” (In Defence of Comrade Zilliacus. 1947. Intended for Tribune, not published…)

The Trump administration has power. But there is nothing resembling an effective state broadcasting monopoly outside of North Korea, despite accusations against the People’s Republic. Trump supporters have their networks, their web sites, the loud media outlets. The British right has the dailies, the internationally influential Mail, the declining Sun, the poor old Telegraph, the ageing Express and the Star, which few get beyond the front page to read. Its media imitations of the American alt-right, languish in obscurity. In Britain if these forces are capable of manufacturing truths, from the endless drip drip against migrant workers and Europe to scare-stories about left-wingers, and have an effect on opinion, they took a jolt at the last election. As the laughable Election Day front page of the Sun demonstrated so well.

The Alt-Left and Alternative Facts. 

Come the arrival of the ‘alt-left’. In Britain this means enthusiastic pro-Jeremy Corbyn people. Sites such as The Canary may not be to everyone’s taste but have a readership. But the debate over alternative facts has spread inside the left. Is it justified for Skwawkbox to engage in its own war of attrition with the arms of sensational, scaremongering, stories. The best known at the moment is their recent ‘scoop’ that claimed that everybody on disability benefit transferred to Universal Credit , who did not find a job in two years would be subject to sanctions? That is that they risk losing a large part (if not all) of their income?

This story has been demolished by Disabled People Against Cuts. (1)

Is their mealy-mouthed justification for running the tale acceptable?

They continue to publish wild stories.

That the Daily Mail has attacked the site with its own falsehoods does not give the author a free-pass when it comes to truth and accuracy. 

The writer of 1984 did not live in the age of click-bait. Nor of self-publishing on an industrial scale. But some things have not changed. It would not be to misuse Orwell to cite this, “the controversy over freedom of speech and of the Press is at bottom the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully. Or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.” (The Prevention of Literature. 1947)

***
(1) The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Disabled People Against Cuts.

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together.

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

All Orwell references in Essays. George Orwell. Everyman’s Library. 2002.