Johann Hari has an excellent article explaining how Islamic dictatorships at the UN are chipping away at free speech: the UN’s Rapporteur of Human Rights, who is supposed to call out countries that suppress free speech, just had his job description changed so that he could criticise so-called ‘abuses of free expression’. Meaning that if you criticise, say, Islam, you’re open to being condemned by the UN. Or, as Hari puts it, ‘Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself’.

Of course, this has nothing to do with respecting religious faith, and everything to do with stopping condemnation of these very states for human rights abuses. Evidently, the UN has been hijacked by theocracies to undercut its own commitment to human rights. Will they condemn me for pointing out that Islam, along with most other religions, are silly, false, and serve little purpose other than brainwashing people?

The article is too good to pick out a single quote to summarise, but here a couple of incisive ones:

Anything which can be deemed “religious” is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN – and almost everything is deemed religious. Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has tried to raise topics like the stoning of women accused of adultery or child marriage. The Egyptian delegate stood up to announce discussion of shariah “will not happen” and “Islam will not be crucified in this council” – and Brown was ordered to be silent. Of course, the first victims of locking down free speech about Islam with the imprimatur of the UN are ordinary Muslims.

Here is a random smattering of events that have taken place in the past week in countries that demanded this change. In Nigeria, divorced women are routinely thrown out of their homes and left destitute, unable to see their children, so a large group of them wanted to stage a protest – but the Shariah police declared it was “un-Islamic” and the marchers would be beaten and whipped. In Saudi Arabia, the country’s most senior government-approved cleric said it was perfectly acceptable for old men to marry 10-year-old girls, and those who disagree should be silenced. In Egypt, a 27-year-old Muslim blogger Abdel Rahman was seized, jailed and tortured for arguing for a reformed Islam that does not enforce shariah.

To the people who demand respect for Muslim culture, I ask: which Muslim culture? Those women’s, those children’s, this blogger’s – or their oppressors’?

Underpinning these “reforms” is a notion seeping even into democratic societies – that atheism and doubt are akin to racism. Today, whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents immediately claim they are the victims of “prejudice” – and their outrage is increasingly being backed by laws.

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.

I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of “prejudice” or “ignorance”, but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

I can only hope this will spur more people, both in Western democracies and inside illiberal states, to defend free speech against this tide of religion being used to strangle it.

(Hat tip: Sullivan)


The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 barred preferential pricing in the railroad industry and formed the Interstate Commerce Commission. For much of the 20th century, however, the ICC actively discouraged railway competition and was closely aligned with the railroad industry it supposedly regulated. Could the same thing happen with net neutrality?

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Quote for the Day

Sullivan summarises how I subconsciously think of conservatism:

When you use the c-word among the next generation, they no longer associate it with small government, individual freedom, humble faith, balanced budgets, respect for tradition or a strong but prudent foreign policy. They think of religious fanaticism, big spending, massive debt, and social intolerance.

My emphasis. Sullivan’s assessment about my feelings on the c-word is bang on. I kind of like that first part (not the faith or tradition part, but you can’t have everything…). But conservatism hasn’t been about the first part for as long as I’ve been following politics (for about 15 years now, and I’m 28).

Memo to Sarah Palin

It’s pronounced ‘nook-lee-er’, not ‘nook-u-ler’. Also, it’s not debating when you’re reading from a prepared set of notes consisting of talking points that don’t actually answer the question.

At least Biden wasn’t as annoying and long -winded as he usually is.


Sullivan points to what is either an utterly deranged assessment of the Bush presidency, or an over-the-top satire of ‘conservative’ thinking about the past eight years, from a law professor at Northwestern:

This Administration deserves to be trusted because it has kept us safe from terrorist attack since 9/11, has fought and won two wars, has presided over eight years of economic growth, has appointed two stellar justices to the Supreme Court, and has even learned how to do Louisiana’s job of protecting that state from hurricanes. The day will come, and not before long, when Americans will wish that George Bush was still president.

I put the word ‘conservative’ in quotation marks because most of what the Bush administration has done for eight years is not at all conservative, in the real sense of the word. I’m glad I added Sullivan to my daily reading list – I’m slowly learning what it means to be a conservative. Which is good for a budding libertarian like myself, because I still can’t for the life of me figure out why we’re supposed to consider conservatives our natural allies.

Palin’s favourables swing negative by 21 points. Yes, it’s DailyKos but it’s definitely a trend. And good grief, she’s annoying to listen to.

Small Government?

Watching the Republican convention tonight, I noticed several speakers mentioning that the Republicans stood for small government. After the past eight years, during which the size of the federal government increased faster than at any time since the 1930s, these claims leave me incredulous. Doesn’t anyone at the convention understand how palpably ridiculous and insulting this sounds? Is anyone there not in denial about this? What right do Republicans have to claim that they’re for small government anymore? Sullivan thinks it’s a massive televised mental breakdown. After tonight I understand what he means: they’ve become blind to the difference between their rhetoric and their actions. They no longer understand the difference between campaigning and governing. And frankly, they need to be kicked out.