Episode 131 – 13th April 2012

Why at least some LibDems are opposed to the government’s snooping plans, open access science publishing, how to get around the ban on council prayers and much more!

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Government Snooping (2:20) by Dr Jenny Woods
Open Access Publishing (11:32) by Matt Kaiser
Brackley Council Prayers (20:20) by Alex Dutton
Protest Suicides (29:01) by Alex Fitch
Ban The Burka Response (35:56) by Clio Bellenis
Do Atheists Have It In For Christianity? (42:20) by Ed Bower
The Skeptic Song (50:10) by Blake Hutchings
The sketch at the end is by David Lovesy and Brian Two

Follow-Up Links

6 thoughts on “Episode 131 – 13th April 2012

  1. So I listened to Clio Bellenis ‘Ban the Burqa’ piece
    Twice as it happens, because I didnt want to Strawman…..

    I should start by saying that the quest for women’s equality is a fundamental challenge of our time; one which is ultimately beneficial to all of society (including us men); one with which we’v had varying degrees of success at, though certainly, some countries/cultures have more equality for women than others (without a doubt). But still I think its fair to say that Women unfortunately – as a whole – don’t enjoy the same level of equality as men do – and it would be an astonishing lack of curiosity about the world we inhabit, to deny that. Moreover, the burqa itself is definitely a symbol of that inequality, & frankly I find the idea of equating piety/modesty with invisibility a bit repulsive. Calling it a mobile prison is tad hysterical imo. Though I do understand the sentiment behind it and I dont really have a problem with that either.

    Ok so with that bit out of the way (partly cos I dont want to be strawmanned myself) I wanted to address some of the points Clio raised in her support for ‘banning the burqa’. And lets not fanny around about semantics here. Banning the burqa means, essentially to outlaw people’s right to put a piece of cloth over themselves. That is what is being proposed here and I think people should be clear and own up to that, instead than try to conflate with other things and issues/battles.

    She proceeded to pronounce that basically (paraphrasing) “all these burqa-clad women are coerced by these conservative Muslim menfolk to wear it. And if they claim otherwise… Well they are being COERCED/FORCED, so therefore must be overruled”. Rather like you would in the case of a child if he/she was being abused. The only evidence she cited were anecdotes from Maryam Namazie…. Which is fine… I suppose. But I would have liked to have seen a bit more skepticism on that point, rather than the blanket (& slightly gullable) acceptance of all of Namazie’s assertions on the matter. Though the individual testimonies that Namazie was pointing to may well be true (and definitely compelling in their own right, not to be dismissed lightly), it is problematic to proclaim that that is are representative experience of the every woman who dons the burqa.

    This matter is a bit more complicated than that. And I’m sure, the words “Cultural- Relativism” – “Apoligetics for Oppression” (as Clio mentioned in the report) are probably pinging in people’s brains right now. But for all intents and purposes , all I’m asking for is better evidence for this specific claim (really a pronouncement) that ‘all women who wear the burqa, wear it incontrovertibly because of the coercion from Men’

    I grew up in Pakistan, lived in Egypt, England (& now Canada), Througout my life, I’v had interactions with various people families where the women wore the burqa. And I accept that this is the experience of one person (though I’m not sure Maryam Namazie would be forthcoming in offering that caveat) But alot of the times, I found, that the primary enforcers of the burqa were the mother/mother-in-law/matriarchal figures.

    Now this doesnt in any way make the oppressive ‘symbol of the burqa’ any less oppressive. But it does confound the view held by middle-class people who never bother to interact with the people whose behaivourism they are making confident pronouncements on that ‘Men are coercing these women to do it’. I think these are details which are important, and it certainly makes the case for banning it harder, because, what of these conservative matriarchal figures who are enforcers of the burqa, Are we now saving them from themselves? Clio was right that it is a cultural phenomenon, but is normally a cue for people to explore or gather more evidence (or possibly look at confounders) beyond Maryam Namazie who gleefully provided the confirmation to her preconceptions – sadly she seemed to exonerate herself from that exercise

    And again, Im not saying coercion doesnt happen, but initiate a ban you have to say that every case is one of coercion, which is daft. At some point we have to take the word of these women themselves at face value. If they are saying that they want to wear it, than it should be good enough for the rest of us. (Ofcourse its a completely different story in places like Pakistan and Egypt, but we should conflate what happens there with what happens in the West)
    We should ofcourse provide them with support mechanisms/ councilling/legal/ psychological support. Make it easier for them to register their grievances, or to allow them to interact with the rest of society. Should they find the courage to speak out against it, we as a society should offer them ever support possible.
    But ultimately,. Banning the burqa as a response, comes out mostly, from a desire to pander to people who basically cant be bothered to talk/interact with these women, yet want to have decisive say in how the lives ought to be ru.. That is the very definition of their infantalization, and people should have convictions and fortitude to own up to the implication of what they are suggesting. It is after all about the welfare of these women – and that should be paramount. If posh, uni educated well off people want be self-congratulatory, judgemental and transgressive..fine, all Im asking for is critical appraisal of the arguments of your positions and more honest appreciation of confounding factors which don’t fit into you’r neat little narrative. It no wonder that this is such a popular idea among the bonkers anti-immigrant right wing of europe.


  2. correction
    in the penultimate paragraph I mean to say
    “Ofcourse its a completely different story in places like Pakistan and Egypt, but we should NOT conflate what happens there with what happens in the West)

  3. Presupposing some truth in the claims that the burqa is a tool for oppression of women, how is banning it a good idea? In the context of this discussion, the burqa is a symbol (or symptom) of an attitude which the UK has long since outgrown and moved forward from, the consequence of centuries of struggle for countless men and women fighting for equal rights. I don’t doubt there is universal agreement among all liberal thinkers that the alleged vulnerability to which some muslim women are exposed, including coercive ‘use’ of the burqa is abhorrent. If the garment were to be banned, one questions whether it would do anything but conceal the underlying rot.

    How would a ban work? If a woman wearing a burqa is stopped in the street, how is fault established and to whom is it attributed. What is the punishment? Would a ban not be harmful to such women?

    I suggest that what we are trying to get at is the misogynistic attitudes that we are widely told the burqa represents. A ban on the wearing of the burqa would go no little way to address these attitudes and may well be counter-productive. Perhaps a better approach would be to engage all our country’s children, inclusing those brought up in muslim culture, expose them to the broad range of cultural and philosophical ideas and provide an informed basis from which traditional ideas can be challenged. This is obviously a difficult and time-consuming process, requiring sustained and careful effort from those interested in furthering a liberal society.

    Let’s not lash out in frustration with a ban because it is an easy thing to do.

  4. Corrigendum to the above: … A ban on wearing the burqa would do little to address these attitudes and may well be …

  5. I made it quite clear I think, that I think the burqa/niqab is a symbol for oppression against women. I dont frankly buy that women ought to feel liberated/protected when they wear (as people are suggested). I think that’s patently nonsense. And I agree women in Muslim immigrant populations probably need a helping hand from society in order get the most out of their lives.

    But see, that doesnt give the state to take away people’s right to make daft choices. The unfortunate thing is that motivation for the ‘ban the burqa’ seems to be more about being ‘self righteous’ trangressive moral crusaders, rather than any willingness to actually gather some evidence on the ground. And in the process arguing for the ‘state infantalisation’ of these women – and VERY EXPLICITLY SO at that. You’r basically saying, that they cant be trusted to make their own decision like a child or mentally handicapped individual. The post you linked, does not even begin to attempt to address that.

    Part of being rational person is subjecting the ideas that we prefer, to the most scrutiny/criticism. And this something I never find with the ban the burqa crowd. Everytime someone raises concerns whether that is even practical, you get this reactionary sentimentality from ban the burqa crowd, which I find a bit offensive. The idea, that anybody who is not a fan of “banning the burqa” is basically too cowardly in the face of Clerical patriarchy. Its old rehashed and unoriginal.

    Demonstrate with good (not cherry-picked) evidence, that banning the burqa will have positive outcomes for women in Immigrant Muslim communities, (and there are myriad ways to evaluate that, performance in employment, university, health) and I will take it seriously. Appeals to emotion and sentimentality and self-righteousness do not impress me that much I’m afraid

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