Last weekend, estimates suggest that up to 5,000 people took to the streets in London for the latest ‘Slutwalk’.
The Slutwalk protest movement was inadvertantly started by a Canadian policeman who advised female students to “avoid dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being raped or victimised. So incensed were the students listening that they responded by dressing like “sluts” – a derogatory term that refers to women who are promiscuous -and taking their protest to the streets.
In this moment, the “Slutwalk” movement was born.
Why do we need an event that focuses on Islamophobia and religious discrimination when, as Alistair Campbell once famously remarked to Tony Blair, as a nation “We don’t do God”.
For a nation that doesn’t ‘do God’, reading or watching the news may suggest otherwise. A glance back at 2009 might remind you of a number of different stories that had a relevance to religion or belief:
The British National Party (BNP) run a European election campaign under the slogan “What would Jesus do?” culminating in them winning two seats in the European parliament after almost a decade of running openly anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim campaigns
Anjem Choudhury and his Islam4UK group campaigning against British troops returning from Afghanistan
Being from Bermondsey and having lived through the Labour Party’s implosion following the Bermondsey by-election debacle in 1983, Peter Tatchell continues to perplex and confuse me. What Tatchell was then and indeed is today seems to be something of a bitter contradiction: a man who tried to go ‘back in the closet’ during the Bermondsey by-election but who then went on to believe that his was his ‘right’ to publicly ‘out’ those in positions of power or authority.
This week, Tatchell writes on Comment is Free about how is he supporting the right of a ‘straight’ – read heterosexual – couple to have a civil partnership rather than a marriage. Why…?
Tatchell writes how Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle have had their request for a civil partnership turned down by Islington registry office having been handed a letter of refusal that informed them how Part One of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 states that they apply to same-sex couples only. Adding that this is the first ever challenge to the ban on heterosexual couples having a civil partnership, Freeman and Doyle will first have to go through the British courts and, if this fails, appeal to the court in Strasbourg.
For Tatchell, it is arguable that the ‘ban on straight couples’ breaches the European Convention on Human Rights under articles 8, 12 and 14 respectively, protecting the right to privacy, marriage and non-discrimination. From a man that completely disregarded the right to privacy of those he forcibly ‘outed’, such a claim is pretty rich.
The British Humanist Association (BHA) has today published a new report entitled, “The ‘Religion or Belief’ Equality Strand in Law and Policy: Current Implications for Equalities & Human Rights”.
The BHA commissioned BRAP to research the report. In my role as Director of Policy & Research at BRAP I wrote much of section 4.0 ‘Demography’. In relation to this section, the Executive Summary states:
The notion that census data, as currently collected, can accurately reveal the religious attitudes of contemporary Britain is highly problematic. The nature of the question used – ‘What is your religion?’ – gives an inaccurate picture of the religious or non-religious beliefs of census respondents. And yet the data is repeatedly used to underpin policy making. This makes it much more than simply an ‘academic’ issue. The direct use of census data to inform government policy has implications for the inclusiveness of policy on the ‘religion or belief’ strand as a whole. A debate regarding future questions on ‘religion or belief’ in the census to inform future policy is a pressing need.
The read the findings in their entirety, you can download a pdf version of the full report here.
Saturday 14th February 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against the British author Salman Rushdie and the publication of his novel, ‘The Satanic Verses’. Based upon stories about the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the novel caused controversy due to it being interpreted by some Muslims as blasphemous and offensive. Not only against the Prophet himself but also against some of the central tenets of Islam.
Following India’s lead in banning the book in January 1989, the Ayatollah took the matter into his own hands – and to an unprecedented level – by issuing a fatwa that called for the death of Rushdie, claiming that it was the duty of every Muslim worldwide to obey his pronouncement. Reports suggest that despite the fatwa, Khomeini hadn’t read the book.
In today’s Guardian newspaper, David Miliband suggested that the ‘war on terror’ was wrong. Better late than never.
Acknowledging that it had ‘defined the terrain’ since the attacks of 9/11, Miliband argued that it was wrong on several counts. That it:
…gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida…
…[and] implied that the correct response was primarily military.
He went on to conclude:
The call for a “war on terror” was a call to arms, an attempt to build solidarity for a fight against a single shared enemy. But the foundation for solidarity between peoples and nations should be based not on who we are against, but on the idea of who we are and the values we share. Terrorists succeed when they render countries fearful and vindictive; when they sow division and animosity; when they force countries to respond with violence and repression. The best response is to refuse to be cowed.