Weekly Link Roundup

Here are a few edifying, inspiring, or (alas) infuriating stories that are making the rounds this week:• First up, this truly outstanding piece from Wired on the anti-vaccination movement, An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All. This is what journalism is supposed to do: listen to the experts, survey the facts and adjudicate the truth, without the false-equivalency tactics that are the breath of life to kooks and advocates of pseudoscience. Here are a … [Read more...]

Feminism's Freedom Fighter? On Feminism, Atheism and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

By Sikivu HutchinsonIn mainstream media, public conversation about the intersection between atheism and what I will loosely term third world feminism is as rare as Halley's Comet. In the corporate media universe, the groundbreaking work of feminists of African descent like bell hooks, Angela Davis and Patricia Hill Collins remains largely unknown, relegated to academe. Feminism, when invoked at all in mainstream media, is framed as the province of white women, a vestige of a less "enlightened" … [Read more...]

On the Front Lines of Islamism

While we in the West work to defend secularism against creationists, pro-lifers and other would-be theocrats, it's worth remembering from time to time how good we have it. Our church-state wall may be an embattled boundary, but in most of the world, it's nonexistent. This is especially true in most of the world's Muslim-majority countries, where a few heroes of secularism are fighting against nearly impossible odds. Take Kuwait, where two courageous female MPs are refusing to wear headscarves in … [Read more...]

Freedom to Dress

It's a sad day when you read stories like this from the city where the renowned Library of Alexandria once stood:Along the miles of crowded beachfront in Egypt's second city, women in bathing suits are nowhere in sight.On Alexandria's breeze-blown shores, they all wear long-sleeve shirts and ankle-length black caftans topped by head scarves. Awkwardly afloat in the rough seas, the bathers look like wads of kelp loosened from the sandy bottom.In Alexandria, a city once renowned for its … [Read more...]

Too High a Price to Pay for Comfort

Religion inspires billions of people around the world today to live honest, decent, law-abiding lives. Faith-based charities of every religious tradition have brought comfort, hope, and healing to millions of people who would otherwise starve, lay homeless, and be left to fend for themselves. Religion gives comfort and consolation to so many who have faced adversity in their lives, whether it be suffering from illness, natural disaster, or the loss of someone whom they … [Read more...]

What We're Up Against

This past week, the Times ran a story about the extent of the gains made by the reconstituted Taliban, not just in Afghanistan or in the semi-autonomous tribal regions on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but well within Pakistan itself:Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed "un-Islamic" activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and … [Read more...]

No Holy Ground

The world's attention has been riveted these past few days by Israel's assault on Gaza, in an attempt to oust the Hamas-run government and put a stop to rocket attacks on southern Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians were reported killed in a wave of airstrikes, over a thousand wounded, and as of this writing, a ground invasion looms as a continuing possibility. Although the conflict began after a six-month ceasefire expired and Hamas refused to renew it, it's now Israel that's rejecting calls for a … [Read more...]

Speak Boldly

This weekend, I came across an outstanding editorial by the British journalist Johann Hari, "We should never pulp books out of fear of fanatics". It opens by describing "the story of a novel you cannot read":The Jewel of Medina was written by a journalist called Sherry Jones. It recounts the life of Aisha, a girl who really was married off at the age of six to a 50-year-old man called Mohammed ibn Abdallah. On her wedding day, Aisha was playing on a see-saw outside her home. Inside, she was … [Read more...]

On Desecration

I've resisted commenting on this until now, but I have to give in. I'm sure you've all heard the story of Webster Cook, an unsuspecting college student who got himself into a great deal of trouble because he took a consecrated communion wafer home with him from church rather than eating it. On cue, professional victim Bill Donohue of the Catholic League and his legions of squalling bigots descended on Cook's school, some demanding he be punished or expelled, others threatening his life.The … [Read more...]

The Child Brides of Islam

The New York Times published an article last week, Tiny Voices Defy Child Marriage in Yemen, about a stunning act of courage and feminism: in the nation of Yemen, a 9-year-old girl named Arwa Abdu Muhammad Ali, on her own initiative, sought and obtained a divorce from the abusive, violent 35-year-old man she had been forcibly married to. Her success echoes that of a 10-year-old girl, Nujood Ali, who escaped a similar arranged marriage a month earlier.Having just finished Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi … [Read more...]


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