The Woman Saudi Arabia Tried to Shut Up: An Interview with Josephine Macintosh

Last month, I wrote about the remarkable events at the UN Human Rights Council, where Saudi Arabia attempted to shout down Josephine Macintosh, a representative of my employer the Center for Inquiry, as she delivered a forceful statement condemning Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, specifically the persecution and imprisonment of Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair (who just this week was sentenced to 15 years in prison).

The Saudi representative was desperate to quiet her, demanding that the council president “shut that woman up!”, but delegations from the U.S., Ireland, Canada, and France stood up for Josephine’s right to deliver her statement. (You can read my full writeup here.)

I finally managed to actually make contact with the hero of the whole story, Josephine herself, who’s been busy traveling and without regular Internet access. I took the opportunity to ask her about the whole episode and to learn a little about what motivates her, too. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation. I’ve emphasized some key portions.

[Read more...]

What Made Saudi Arabia Panic at the UN Human Rights Council?

[Note: This is an expansion on a previous post, meant to give full context and background to the story for those just learning about this issue.]

The human rights abuses of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are not secrets. A monarchy under Islamic Law, with only rare and arbitrary local elections, and almost total subjugation of women, the West looks on with disapproval, but impotence. They are, infamously, a U.S. “ally,” being a huge source of oil and perceived as a bulwark against Islamic terrorism in an unstable region of the world. We see the oppression, the medieval treatment of half its population, and the astounding opulence of its aristocracy, and we shrug. It’s their culture; what can we do?

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Saudi Arabia Tries to Shout Down Center for Inquiry at UN Human Rights Council

Yesterday, we got a rare glimpse of how sensitive Saudi Arabia is to its human rights abuses being exposed. At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, a representative of my organization, the Center for Inquiry, was repeatedly shouted down by the Saudi representative in an attempt to stop her from delivering our statement condemning its crackdown on free expression and belief, and its persecution of dissidents such as Raif Badawi and Waleed Abu al-Khair.

And lucky for us, there’s video. [Read more...]

Making #TwitterTheocracy about Pakistan and Blasphemy Laws

Secular organizations came together last week to support a campaign (going by “#TwitterTheocracy”) that addressed Twitter’s compliance with Pakistan’s request to censor “blasphemous” tweets and Twitter accounts. Or, that’s one way to phrase it. Another might be that secular organizations came together to address the fact that Pakistan was demanding that Twitter censor certain material and block certain users under the aegis of its blasphemy law.

See the difference? One version makes Twitter the campaign’s target. The other makes Pakistan the target. [Read more...]

Center For Inquiry Launches Campaign to “Keep Health Care Safe and Secular”

A new campaign launched by the Center For Inquiry aims to educate the public on the importance of keeping health care “safe and secular“:

I can’t stress how broad this campaign is — and it needs to be. Atheists and skeptics should be concerned with any number of health care-related issues.

[Read more...]


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