Banner
    Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Words Will Really Put You In Trouble
    By Tommaso Dorigo | February 11th 2012 04:40 PM | 49 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

    View Tommaso's Profile
    That is what Hamza Kashgari, a 23 years old reporter and poet from Saudi Arabia, is realizing the hard way. He used twitter to write a poetic "dialogue" with prophet Muhammad, and this was enough to get him condemned to death by the salafi sheikhs. Hamza tried to escape, but was arrested in Malaysia. He now risks beheading for his words.

    I am both disgusted by the fact that still, in the 21st century, somebody can decide on your life or death because of what you say and write, and relieved that I was born in a place where these things do not happen. And I am brought to smile at my own occasional troubles with the things I write in this blog - which is not read by salafits, but by colleagues who still may be unhappy about my self-given freedom of speech (I should add that in some cases they are right and I am wrong, but let's abandon the topic).

    I guess the memo is that we should always cherish and hold dear our freedom of speech, because it is not god-given (as Kashgari's case shows). Should he have self-censored his tweets  ? In retrospect, he would have certainly been well advised to do so. But that means one has already lost the fight.

    Comments

    Hank
    Religion may not have anything to do with it, that is just the excuse they are using.  75% of the countries in the world are as oppressive or worse.  Freedom is the exception, not despotism.
    vongehr
    "somebody can decide on your life or death because of what you say and write, and relieved that I was born in a place where these things do not happen."
    Ah - the naivety of this just makes me smile like a father may do watching his teenage son dating for the first time. Just because your perception is selective enough and you agree with the system you happen to be well in, that does not mean that equivalent things do not happen all the time here. All it means is, you do not (want to) see it and you interpret it away as the proper response, the Hamzas as obviously deranged and dangerous. I don't mean to tell you that the salafis of the West's dear friends the Saudis and Malaysia should go ahead, but "I was born in a place where these things do not happen" helps to perpetuate the very atrocities you are disgusted about.

    It is so convenient to be righteously outraged about the other ones, especially if they are far and brown and speak some strange language. I am waiting for you to dare criticizing for example mass incarceration in first world countries, the effective psycho-torture that is going on in those places, all against mostly innocent people. Start at home or your critique is mere cultural imperialism.
    Hank
    Ignoring your need to be completely over-the-top once again (though you do have a flair for insult) you make a good point; geologists in Italy could go to jail for not being able to predict earthquakes. They won't be killed, obviously, but it isn't just rich Arabs using culture as a weapon. 
    vongehr
    "completely over-the-top once again"
    Thats what I meant by "obviously deranged"; thanks for proving my point. ;-)
    They won't be killed, obviously
    The focus on killing is due to being soaked in Judeo-Christian culture, too, rather than the objective metric that you may think it is, especially considering that many are put into such a bad situation, they attempt suicide, which can be interpreted as killing being at times a more humane option. If death is so bad and prison so humane, why have so much suicide watch in modern jails?
    What I did not know was that the rate of suicide in U.S. jails is about six to eight times higher than in U.S. prisons. Also, the highest suicide rate among the general population is found in Luthuania(W.H.O), but it's not because of their dentists. Their dentists report the highest job satisfaction among professionals. If you're still reading, the South Korean and Japanese have the highest suicide rates among women. ...and finally Thailand has the biggest TV watchers, though I'm not sure if they mean they have the most overweight viewers or that they sit in front of television for the most hours....I'm sorry if I failed to defuse the tension in the comments section with my corny sense of humor. If not, here's a headline from the Onion:

    Sources confirmed Friday that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had been cleared by doctors to resume his career of being chased, clubbed, and thrown to the ground by 300-pound men, often with the 300-pound men falling on top of him. "So far as I can tell, Peyton has no reason to be concerned about returning to the most violent game that exists in our culture," Colts neurosurgeon Dr. Hank Feuer said of Manning, who had bones fused together in his spinal column in order to protect the nerves that provide him with basic motor function in all his extremities. "After a thorough medical evaluation, we can safely say that Manning is cleared to engage in an activity that could very feasibly result in his head being pulled backward by one of the world's strongest physical specimens, then subsequently slammed into a cold, unyielding surface." When asked Wednesday whether he had any trepidations about jeopardizing his future with his family for a few games in the twilight of an already Hall of Fame–worthy career, Manning said he was "just trying to focus on returning to football."
    rholley
    the rate of suicide in U.S. jails is about six to eight times higher than in U.S. prisons.
    Che cosa significa questo?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Jails and detention facilities, under city or county jurisdiction, typically hold offenders awaiting trial or serving short sentences. Correctional facilities and prisons are more often run by the state or federal governments and house offenders serving long-term sentences.

    So people in prison have already survived the initial shock of being jailed, and are less likely to kill themselves?
    What laughably disgusting and spineless mewlings in the face of such obvious barbarity.

    Do you see ladies and gentlemen? Do you see how deeply the sniveling termites of obscurantist Abrahamic apologetics have burrowed? Because there you have it. There you have it in black and white. Mr. Vongehr, in a perverted sideshow act of weaselly, quisling postmodernism, bending over so far backward to accommodate the ghoulish homicidal whims of a backward superstition that he's willfully given up his spine in an effort to save his neck. What breathtaking stupidity. No wonder so much of Europe is so pathetically confused about what to do with fundamentalist religion in the 21st century with fatuous, false equivocation spewing bores like this constantly muddying the waters.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    vongehr
    Ha ha ha, LOL, Love it, thanks, you made my day.
    Hank
     a perverted sideshow act of weaselly, quisling postmodernism, bending over so far backward to accommodate the ghoulish homicidal whims of a backward superstition
    That is pretty good stuff. And he must be a fellow European.  I doubt most Americans would remember Quisling or use him as an insult today.
    I am an American in New England.

    Sascha Vongehr ignores the fact that two wrongs do not make a right. And misses the point of the memo:

    "I guess the memo is that we should always cherish and hold dear our freedom of speech, because it is not god-given (as Kashgari's case shows). "

    vongehr
    Sascha Vongehr ignores nothing but Arun needs to learn how to read and not construct straw men wherever his house of cards is threatened. Amazing how naive high IQ science people are. The point is, dear kids, that if you only criticize others while never caring about how much your own system kills and tortures, nobody will listen to you, as it is, whether it actually is (it actually is!) or not (that is what you believe), perceived as plain cultural imperialism.
    So, dear simpletons, go on and make yourself feel superior with your convenient outrage about stuff you all have no clue about. They will hang blasphemtweet-boy a little higher for it over there and torture Brad Manning a little more while you are distracted over here. Thanks.
    Your emotional reaction proves that the points of your post apply to you.

    Sascha,

    Back in the 1920s, in the times of British India, there was a war of pamphlets in Punjab. Muslims got seriously offended by a pamphlet on the Prophet titled "Rangila Rasul" (roughly "Playboy Prophet"), and threatened violence. There were two attempts on the life of the publisher. The British government tried prosecuting the publisher under existing law, but the publisher was acquitted. There was then a third and successful attempt on the life of the publisher, by an illiterate Muslim carpenter, Ilam Din. The British arrested Ilam Din, tried him and sentenced him to death. The (tuture) Founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, ran the death sentence appeal. The National Poet of (future) Pakistan, Muhammad Iqbal, had asked Jinnah to do so. There were two other such murders of blasphemers in other parts of India. Iqbal wrote a poem commemorating the three as heroes.

    Ilam Din was executed. His funeral procession was the largest crowd seen till then and for many years more in Lahore. There is commemorative mosque and his anniversary is still celebrated. Muhammad Taseer, Professor of English, and married to an Englishwoman, (he was the father of the Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, who was assassinated last year for speaking up for a Christian woman accused of blasphemy) was an organizer of Ilam Din's defense and his funeral procession.

    At the same time, the British Government decided that new laws were needed to deal with this situation. They introduced section 295A of the Indian penal code in the Central Legislature - which had Indian members. The law prescribed punishment for writing or saying anything that offends religious sentiment. The debates in the Legislature show three sides to the argument - most Muslims wanted the law. A few liberal Muslims and the Hindus, Christians, Parsees, etc., did not want the law. The nationalists were willing to live with the law as the price of "Hindu-Muslim unity". Section 295A was passed. In Pakistan, section 295A was elaborated on and with 295C is the current blasphemy law in Pakistan.

    Under the current blasphemy law in Pakistan, a person accused of blasphemy is arrested prior to any investigation. Since repeating what the person said is blasphemy, they cannot be told what precisely they said that was blasphemous, not can any one else. Basically, once you're accused of blasphemy, you are shi* out of luck. Saying that the application of this law needs to be amended (e.g, investigate before arrest) was blasphemous enough to get Salmaan Taseer killed. Once he said so much, the members of his political party essentially abandoned him. Taseer was gunned down by one of the elite police who were supposed to bodyguard him; the other guards did not even try to intervene; the killer was garlanded by the lawyers in the court. One of Salmaan Taseer's sons has been kidnapped and is held hostage against the possibility that the killer will be punished.

    The legacy of 295A in post-Independence India has also had a baleful effect. What has happened is essentially what the liberal opponents of the law feared - anyone who says "I'm offended, I threaten violence" and can credibly threaten violence gets the law exercised on their behalf, and the government suppresses the speech, the art, the book or whatever was the cause of the "offence".

    And yes, I'm a vociferous critic of this whole thing, though my voice hardly counts.

    In case you don't know, in Londonistan, Muslims have demanded a similar law. Every other year, the Organization of Islamic Countries, some 50+ nations, demands that the United Nations pass a resolution, akin to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that makes blasphemy an offence.

    So, Mr Sasch Vongehr, learn to treasure your freedom of speech, and don't stick your head in the sand.

    -Arun

    lumidek
    This is just amazing. The journalist just wrote that he would notice both good and bad things done by Mohammed and treat him as an equal.

    The reaction? This is a Saudi Sheikh's reaction:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9kAVlnGMTU



    Look how is crying, aside from insisting on death of the author of 3 totally innocent pro-democratic tweets. As far as I can see, this guy should be treated as a psychopath according to any sensible definition of the word. But they fail to do so. In reality, the whole Islamic anticivilization makes it impossible for a literate person who is an atheist to survive. As many people have said, there are no moderate Muslims in that region. There are only Muslims and non-Muslims and the former think that they have the right to kill the latter whenever they want because they're convinced that a screwed promiscuiotous paedophile and killer 1400 years ago commanded them to do so and they must listen to him.


    I have criticized the witch hunt against the Italian seismologist which is incredible but it's still fresh air of a decent modern society relatively what the Muslim loons are doing. The Sheikh above and billions of other brainwashed fanatical loons may want to try to notice that it's much less likely for an allah or a paedophile Mohammed to come to Earth than it is for Hamza Kashgari to be declared as a martyr by the civilized world, the world that will be invited to the Islamic anticivilization and thermonuke it so that nothing is left from the anticivilization and the space is available for the civilization.


    Sascha with his "anti-imperialist" rants comparing this medieval bigotry with some minor controversies in the West may serve as a mirror for Tommaso and others: Sascha looks insane, doesn't he? And that's how you still look to sensible people as well, Tommaso. This is the disease of the left-wing degradation of the human brain that prevents one from distinguishing democracy from a brutal theocratic police state, freedom from institutionalized terror.




    The Sheikh's reaction is one of genuine fear - if nothing is done, the region and its people will be punished. I would take the Shiek aside, put my hand on his shoulder and say: "dude, Allah is all powerful and certainly doesn't need us mere worms to patronize him by carrying out what we think he wants carrying out. He hasn't done anything with Hamza Kash, so it must be his will to let him speak freely - yeah?"

    Children shouldn't be bullied into giving up their belief in Santa Claus, and neither should adults that are still hooked on God/Allah. A little gentle reasoning is the way forward.

    Dear Carla, your attitude may look reasonable from our viewpoint but it would simply not work. It's exactly these words that are also considered blasphemy. They are used to patronize Allah for 1000+ years and obediently obey the commands of this Allah-slave. In reality, Allah is just a meaningless word that some people use to control others, and *this* is the core of their religion whose disappearance is what these Sheikhs are afraid of.

    While the belief in "Allah" may superficially look the same for the "leaders" and the "regular people", they still have a different motivation to sustain this belief. It's power vs fear.

    Their belief may be analogous to Santa Claus but children would never go to the killing mode if someone questioned Santa Claus.

    dorigo
    I think the words above by Lubos summarize rather precisely my own thought on the matter.

    Cheers,
    T.
    rholley
    I am not going to argue Christianity vis-à-vis Islam here.  However, on this thread I do see things from Christianity that are relevant here.

    I do not quite agree with Luboš’s analysis of fear.  The religious leaders in Jerusalem in the time of the Caesars both feared and exercised fear.
    So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? . . . the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47,48)
    However, Tommaso agreeing with Luboš over religion does remind me a little of
    And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. (Luke 23:12)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    lumidek
    Dear Robert, thanks for this lesson on history. I didn't know that Pilate and Herod were not friends at some point! My reading of the Bible was obviously sloppy and I may have absorbed more knowledge from Jesus Christ Superstar where Pilate and Herod are just smoothly co-operating colleagues.
    My emotional and spiritual proximity to Tommaso has some very thick boundaries and limitations ;-) but this attitude to worshiping of irrationally strengthened authorities is something that has put us on the same wagon for quite some time. Aside from Mr or Ms Allah, you could have observed the same synergy during the discussions about the authorities that insisted that the existence of Higgs remains totally unknown and unambiguous. There are probably other examples as well.

    If your example of fear that a land would be occupied by the Romans is meant to be an analogy to fear of Allah, I would kindly like to point out that there have been lots of empirical and historical evidence supporting fear that the Roman Empire may expand; but there has never been any scientific or otherwise rational evidence supporting fear of Allah as a divine entity independent of the people. In my opinion, it's pretty important to distinguish justifiable fear from the unjustifiable one. Am I wrong?
    rholley
    Dear Luboš,

    Concerning the Romans vis-à-vis Allah, you had better ask a Muslim.  I cannot speak for them.

    However, I do see that my selection of Bible verse would have given you the impression that I was comparing like with like.  However, in Judaeo-Christian thinking, they should be different, as in
    The fear of man lays a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)
    Now that I’m thinking at higher resolution, I can see that I also had in mind that the Pharisees certainly lived in fear of God.  Their lives were hidebound by all the rules they had made up thinking to keep on the right side of God, and somehow communicated that fear to the people at large.

    However, they weren’t the ruling party.  The ones that the people would have been most frightened of were the (chief) priests, who were Sadducees, and their belief, such as it was, may have been shallower.  For example, unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in the general resurrection (we would say ‘at the end of time’, or something like that.)  Paul once got himself out of a tight corner by playing the one lot against the other over this issue.

    Regarding your ‘am I wrong’ question, about empirical and historical evidence, I take it that you probably don’t believe the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ.  However, coming back to John 11:47,48 which I quoted previously, this time I will give them in full.
    So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
    Looking at it from a purely earthly point of view, there is a historical irony here.  The Jewish top dogs got the Romans to do away with Jesus, then about 40 years later the Romans came along, sacked Jerusalem, and effectively carried off the Jews as a nation.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    lumidek
    Dear Robert, well, I don't believe in resurrection of Christ because I am an atheist in all these local physics questions of Christianity. But even if one were open-minded about it, the resurrection still doesn't prove that one should be afraid of a new arrival. The most "solid" argument here is that the resurrection proves the validity of one bold claim in the Bible, and by mathematical induction, all other statements in the Bible have to be valid as well. Well, while I realize that many people are thinking in this way, I can't confirm that this way of thinking is particularly sensible. ;-)
    Otherwise there are many other similarities between Christianity and Islam, and Judaism and Islam. After all, Islam was based with the freedom to steal any concepts from the older religion, an opportunity it exploited massively. Nevertheless, there are also some differences between the religions and especially the ways how the religions began to be interpreted over the centuries. I just think that the Pope or Archbishops wouldn't demand the death of a tweeter who would write that he's able to see vices of Jesus aside from his virtues. Whether or not it's due to the pillars or evolution, Christianity has evolved to a different state than Islam, one that is vastly more compatible with the modern free and science-based civilization.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    According to some interpretations of the Quran women have no souls, though some 'scientists' here might also agree with that. The Quran also claims that :-
    Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand. 
    So it seems to me that the only way that this religion can survive in the modern world is by oppressing women, as well as freedom of speech. Yet another parallel with some 'scientists' behaviour here at Science20.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Helen,

    Are you sure Science 2.0 oppresses women? I haven't come across any misogynist statements. There is a 3:1 men to women ratio among featured writers, but that probably reflects the fact that most people signing up are men. Why that is, of course, is an interesting question.

    Even though half of chemistry BSc's are awarded to women, a disproportionate number of men choose to pursue graduate studies. 75% of chem PhD's are awarded to men.

    So there is something in the air of science culture that turns off women. My wife found her graduate school atmosphere far less cooperative than what she was used to as an undergraduate. At a faculty party I once innocently threw a question about manganese oxidation states simultaneously to 5 or 6 of her peers, and from their body language, they thought I was trying to spark a joust.

    BTW, none of the answers (all from males) made any sense.
    rholley
    I once innocently threw a question about manganese oxidation states
    Central to my career for over thirty years.

    We could have a jolly chat about that.  But alas, this grim business bids me silence for a while, especially my tendency to crazy humour.
     
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    You are wiser than I am, Robert!
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Are you sure Science 2.0 oppresses women? I haven't come across any misogynist statements. 
    Only specific scientists who will remain nameless, oppress this woman (me) at Science20 by deleting all of my comments on their blogs, past and present and threatening retribution if I don't behave. The administrator of this site also never replies to any of my emails but maybe these are just common procedures for the male bloggers they also dislike? 

    Anyway when I read the Quran's recommended treatment of women by superior men, I couldn't help feeling there were some parallels to how I also felt here at times. Sexism is hard to prove scientifically, without being able to get inside someone's head, so I realise that maybe I'm wrong. I'm probably just disliked intensely by these men for being myself or behaving in an unacceptable manner. Anyway i'm glad that I am not a muslim woman, I wouldn't be getting much sex and I would be black and blue and worse still I could be forcibly genitally mutiliated and minus my clitoris depending upon which country I was raised in. Hey, maybe that would have successfully shut me up and broken my spirit?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Only a small percentage of Muslims are genitally mutilated by a possibly genetically mutated minority who tarnish the entire culture. I teach many young Muslim women and men at our very multicultural school: they and their families are some of the nicest people you'll meet.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Only a small percentage of Muslims are genitally mutilated by a possibly genetically mutated minority who tarnish the entire culture. I teach many young Muslim women and men at our very multicultural school: they and their families are some of the nicest people you'll meet.
    Not sure where you get the 'only a small percentage of Muslims are genitally mutilated' from Enrico and also why you think it has anything to do with whether Muslims are 'nice' or not?

    According to Wikipedia here and here the percentages are very high in many Muslim countries. The numbers, percentages and type of mutilation practiced are also unknown in many more countries where FGM is performed, simply because autocratic regimes tend to suppress the truth and there needs to be someone in place to conduct surveys, hence the many n/a's in the data below, missing coiuntries and probably the 'as of 1997'.The WHO has offered four classifications of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
    Type I, removal of the clitoral hood, almost invariably accompanied by removal of the clitoris itself (clitoridectomy); 
    Type II, removal of the clitoris and innerlabia;
    Type III (infibulation), removal of allor part of the inner and outerlabia, and usually the clitoris, and the fusion of the wound, leaving a small hole for the passage of urine and menstrual blood—the fused wound is opened for intercourse and childbirth.
    Type IV. These range from a symbolic pricking or piercing of the clitoris or labia, to cauterization of the clitoris, cutting into the vagina to widen it (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances to tighten it
    Number affected 135 million women and girls as of 1997, over 3 million at risk every year
    Prevalence of FGM  
    Country                         %women   Type
    Benin                              30–50        II
    Burkina Faso                    71.6          II
    Cameroon                        20            n/a
    Central AfricanRepublic      43            n/a
    Chad                               60            II, III
    Cote D'Ivoire                    44.5         II
    Congo                               5            n/a
    Djibouti                          90-98        II, III
    Egypt                              97            I, II
    Eritrea                             90            I, II, III
    Ethiopia                           72.7         I, II, III, IV
    Gambia                           60–90       I, II, III, IV
    Ghana                             n/a           I, II, III
    Guinea                            98.6          I, II, III, IV
    Guinea-Bissau                  50             n/a
    Indonesia                        n/a            I, IV
    Kenya                             37.6          I, II, III 
    Liberia                             50            II
    Mali                                 93.7         I, II, III
    Mauritania                        25            n/a
    Niger                                 5            n/a
    Nigeria                              25           1I, II, III
    Senegal                            5–20        II, III
    Sierra Leone                    80–90       II
    Somalia                           90–98       I, III
    Sudan                             50–90       I, II, III
    Tanzania                           18           n/a
    Togo                                12           II
    Uganda                              5           n/a
    Yemen                             23           II, III
    Sources: Wikipedia and Individual Country Reports U.S. Department of State, 1 June 2001.
    Momoh, Comfort. "Female Genital Mutilation", Radcliffe Publishing, 2005, p. 6 (figures from 1987–1999).
    Interestingly according to this website discussing gender equity in Islam :-
    there is a more authentic Hadeeth in which Prophet Muhammad is reported to have passed by a woman performing circumcision on a young girl. He instructed the woman by saying:"Cut off only the foreskin (outer fold of skin over the clitoris; the prepuce) but do not cut off deeply (i.e. the clitoris itself), for this is brighter for the face (of the girl) and more favorable with the husband.
    If this is true then the Prophet Muhammad did not appear to be in favour of the removal of the clitoris. According to the Middle East Quarterly :-
    As California State University anthropologist Ellen Gruenbaum has explained, "People have different and multiple reasons [for FGM] … For some it is a rite of passage. For others it is not. Some consider it aesthetically pleasing. For others, it is mostly related to morality or sexuality." Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an internationally known expert on FGM who spent years in Kenya, Egypt, and Sudan, explains that "it is believed in the Sudan that the clitoris will grow to the length of a goose's neck until it dangles between the legs, in rivalry with the male's penis, if it is not cut."
    It seems that science and education are definitely required to dispel many of these religious and superstitious myths surrounding FGM. According to Amnesty International :-
     ..in certain societies women who have not had the procedure are regarded as too unclean to handle food and water, and there is a belief that a woman's genitals might continue to grow without FGM, until they dangle between her legs. Some groups see the clitoris as dangerous, capable of killing a man if his penis touches it, or a baby if the head comes into contact with it during birth. 
    The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes how :-
    FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies. Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue. Long-term consequences can include:recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections; cysts; infertility; an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths; the need for later surgeries. For example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3 above) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing and repeated both immediate and long-term risks.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    While I realize that your argument is about FGM, it does raise the larger question regarding what's to be done when religious views or beliefs collide with society's values.

    It is usually presumed that religious beliefs should be honored and that a society has an obligation to avoid passing any laws that conflict with such religious beliefs wherever possible.  However, we already have such a direct problem in the U.S. with the issue of polygamy in some Mormon groups.

    More specifically it is exacerbated by local law enforcement and others that are members of such groups, in ignoring the laws and continuing with practices that are contrary to the laws of the nation.

    So, without getting too far afield, it raises fundamental questions about what should be done when a religion condones and attempts to act based on its traditions/beliefs and these are in stark contrast to the laws of the society.  It is easy to answer when one doesn't share the religious belief, but not so simple otherwise. 

    After all, people engage in all manner of name-calling and challenges over relatively simple issues like abortion and stem cell research.  How far would they go to challenge other traditions like FGM, honor killings, and the "freedom of speech" outlined in the original post?

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    While I realize that your argument is about FGM, it does raise the larger question regarding what's to be done when religious views or beliefs collide with society's values. 
    Do you mean the collision between what the religious Prophet Muhammud apparently advised here which was "Cut off only the foreskin (outer fold of skin over the clitoris; the prepuce) but do not cut off deeply (i.e. the clitoris itself), for this is brighter for the face (of the girl) and more favorable with the husband." and what is actually being done to hundreds of thousands of Muslim little girls in predominantly Muslim countries, which is genital mutilation and removal of the clitoris, simply because of societal values? 

    I must admit I am also amazed that many practising Muslim women and some doctors are allowed to defy Muhammud's advice so blatantly. If WHO's and Amnesty International's claims that there are at least 135 million living genitally mutilated women in the world right now and probably many more who haven't been surveyed and counted, then that means that over the last couple of centuries probably over a billion little girls have been savagely attacked and mutilated by misguided women with jagged glass and filthy razors and needles. Over a billion women's faces that were not able to shine brighter for their husbands or even for themselves, dulled with misery, pain and post traumatic stress disorder.

    When I was a child I would have rather been raped by a paedophile than have my genitals forcibly removed and mutilated without anaesthetic, destroying any possible hope of future sexual satisfaction, uncomplicated childbirth and physical and mental happiness.
    It is usually presumed that religious beliefs should be honored and that a society has an obligation to avoid passing any laws that conflict with such religious beliefs wherever possible.  
    Yes Gerhard, but this doesn't explain why laws haven't been passed to ban female genital mutilation and punish the perpetrators does it? Female genital mutilation is not being done in the name of religion it is being done because of these predominantly Muslim societies superstitious beliefs in the lack of cleanliness and dangers of women with healthy genitals somehow not being good wives and mothers if they enjoy sex and are not mutilated and traumatised. Completely unscientific and unreligious reasons.
    So, without getting too far afield, it raises fundamental questions about what should be done when a religion condones and attempts to act based on its traditions/beliefs and these are in stark contrast to the laws of the society.  It is easy to answer when one doesn't share the religious belief, but not so simple otherwise.  
    Don't know what you're talking about here, where is there any evidence that Islam condones female genital mutilation? I can't find any.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Do you mean the collision between what the religious Prophet Muhammud apparently advised here
    No, I don't particularly care what Muhammud or anyone else says on the matter.  My point is how a society that doesn't support it, reconcile itself to individuals within it that may still wish to continue the practice.  The essential point is that such a "collision" will invariably result when a religious belief seriously conflicts with what would be a societal "right" or law.
    Yes Gerhard, but this doesn't explain why laws haven't been passed to ban female genital mutilation and punish the perpetrators does it?
    That's the crux of the argument and the problem.  These people don't follow this practice because they're mean-spirited, malicious individuals.  In addition, there's too much focus on whether Islam condones or supports this practice.  That is all irrelevant.

    What matters is that these people, through whatever rationalization process they follow, have determined that it is an important practice to maintain.  We already know that we all disagree with it, so that's not up for debate.  What is more problematic, is to consider what exactly can be done about it?  Obviously if it occurs within your own country's borders then there might be more immediate legal remedies.  If not, then what?
    Don't know what you're talking about here, where is there any evidence that Islam condones female genital mutilation? I can't find any.
    I'm talking about the fact that most "free" societies make it a point to not infringe on a group's religious beliefs or practices.  Whether you want to argue about Islam isn't particularly relevant.  What is relevant is whether these people believe that it represents a religious obligation.   That's what makes it a religious belief. 

    That's why I used the example of polygamy among the Mormons.  The Mormon church doesn't condone it, the U.S. legal code says it's illegal.  Yet, it still occurs and persists.  So how does a society set about enforcing a law against such a fundamental set of beliefs, when all the local people support the belief over the law?  Do you really think it would be different if this were a group that believed in "female circumcision"? 

    This becomes a much bigger question, because it raises the point that "the freedom of various religious beliefs" may not be tolerable in the long term.  Basically it comes down to whether society has an obligation to support a belief or practice, regardless of how primitive or barbaric, simply because it's dressed up in the language of "religious practice"?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hi again Helen, ok my "small percent" may have been off a bit, but you're missing data for most of the countries that have the largest Muslim populations!!
    1. Indonesia (205 million Muslims),
    2. Pakistan 178 million
    3. India 177 million
    4. Bangladesh 148 million
    8.  Iran 75 million
    9. Turkey 75 million
    10. Europe 44 million
    11. Algeria 35  million
    12. Morocco 32 million

    And the above are 2010 stats.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    my "small percent" may have been off a bit, but you're missing data for most of the countries that have the largest Muslim populations! 
    Exactly true Enrico, the female genital mutilation data for these large Muslim population countries you have listed is missing! As I said earlier just because this additional data doesn't exist in the Wikipedia article and the WHO officially surveyed data doesn't mean that female genital mutilations are not being performed large scale in these other countries too. 

    This survey in Indonesia in 2003 found that even though female genital mutilation is banned by law over 86% of the 2,660 of the girl children surveyed aged between 15 and 18 years of age had been genitally mutilated since the law had been passed. My quick Google search showed that FGM is still being performed in all of these countries, so the real figure of mutilated girls and women in the world, who's faces won't shine brighter for their husbands or themselves is probably many times more than 135 million.

    This testimonial from an Indian Muslim woman also describes how the FGM continues on a large scale in the Dawoodi Bohra community of India. I imagine that if i spent more time I could find large scale evidence for many of the countries you have listed. Unfortunately I can't spend any more time researching this now but maybe you can Enrico?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Indonesia: 
    http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=90366

    Pakistan:
    http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/12/low-awareness-of-hidden-fgmc-practices/

    However, rather than go through the entire list, it is more telling to examine this one exerpt:
    http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-t.htm

    This brings back the point I made a bit later, about how a society resolves this issue between religious and cultural beliefs versus the standards of the society they are living in.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well done Gerhard, great links! Again my reply is where is the evidence that religion or Islam is condoning clitoridectomy by female genital mutilation when according to this 'Gender Equity in Islam' article the Prophet Muhammad advised against it? Please stop saying this without any evidence. This is NOT a religious issue, it is a societal issue caused by superstition, custom and lack of education, unless you can provide evidence to the contrary?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    It doesn't matter what Islam condones or Muhammud said.  Just as it doesn't matter that some Christians will believe in the Rapture, despite the fact that it is never mentioned in Revelations. 

    Just as the majority of conflicts between religious and secular views are always couched in "religious" terms despite having no official sanction by the church.  Do creationists care that the Catholic church supports evolution? 

    Therefore, it doesn't matter what represents "official" belief.  It is only what people themselves choose to believe.  Whether it is part of the official religion, or whether it is something that has been propagated through a combination of culture, ritual, superstition, and religion.
    The move to ban FGM had been supported by Dr. Mohammed Syed Tantawi, the Mufti of Egypt, but had been fiercely opposed by the Sheikh of Al Azhar University, the largest Sunni theological college. Even a gynecologist fromCairoUniversity, Dr. Munir Fawzi, stated: "Female circumcision is entrenched in Islamic life and teaching." However, FGM was banned in general inEgypt in 1996, but was allowed in some circumstances if carried out by a doctor.
    http://www.islam-watch.org/AdrianMorgan/Women-Under-Islam4.htm
    And in Arab states such as Egypt, where perhaps 97 percent of girls suffer genital mutilation,[3] both Christian Copts and Muslims are complicit.

    But at the village level, those who commit the practice believe it to be religiously mandated. Religion is not only theology but also practice. And the practice is widespread throughout the Middle East. Many diplomats, international organization workers, and Arabists argue that the problem is localized to North Africa or sub-Saharan Africa,[4] but they are wrong.
    http://www.meforum.org/1629/is-female-genital-mutilation-an-islamic-problem
    If the Islamic law does not mandate female genital mutilation and tolerates only the most mild form of circumcision (and that only ifit produces no adverse effects in the child), then how does it come about that so many people from certain countries with large Muslim populations insist that savage acts which exceed these limits are not only permitted, but required by Islamic law? The answer becomes obvious when one realizes that Christians from many of these countries also insist that the tradition is mandated by their religion as well. People often confuse traditions rooted in local culture with religious requirements.
    http://www.minaret.org/fgm-pamphlet.htm
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    So what's the solution Gerhard? Science and education are the only avenues of hope I suppose? The Internet provides access to these, so let's hope it filters through and sense and equality eventually prevail. Let's hope it also prevails here at Science20 Sorry, couldn't resist that! :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    The solution is what it's always been.  People have to change their minds which can only occur through science and education.  However, I also wouldn't hold my breath and assume that these changes are coming any time soon.  There are far too many people that live in extreme ignorance and poverty, so their cultural beliefs are what they cling to to provide meaning to their lives.  Hopefully, many of those attitudes will die out as the older generations die.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    But Gerhard, didn't you read the testimonial from the Indian Muslim lady who had been genitally mutilated as a child along with her sister and who said the practice was still happening large scale in India? She was not living in poverty, her family were educated and she was a university graduate now living in America. 

    Extreme poverty and ignorance are always a problem for the people directly affected but when these female genital mutilations are being perpetrated by affluent, educated Muslims on their own children the solution is not so straightforward. I must admit I am still amazed by my discovery at the Gender Equality in Islam site that the Prophet Muhammud was apparently opposed to clitoridectomy, maybe that is the way forward? Publishing this information far and wide. 

    I feel a blog coming on, maybe 'The Facts and the Fiction About Female Genital Mutilation'? It could be bigger than Ben Hur if Enrico's predominantly Muslim country population sizes are correct and FGM is still rife throughout them all. What do you think? 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm sure it is big, but I also don't think it's going to change any time soon.  The problem is still primarily with the women themselves.  For every woman that suffers through FGM, the question remains why so many still insist on perpetuating it onto future, young generations.

    My understanding is that it is unlawful in India, but I suspect little is done to enforce it.

    As I said, it's nearly impossible to enforce if local communities support the practice.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Judging from your idiotic and childish statements, it sounds like they were right in banning you.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    No one has banned me yet Anonymous, just ignored me and deleted my comments. Are you anonymous by choice? Somehow I doubt it.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    I think the oppression of women by religions is sincere in that the people responsible really believed what they were doing was morally correct. Were women sent to wars to be killed like men? Nope. Who had priority in bringing up children? Women. Masculinity and femininity were polarized in the past because it was advantageous to do so then. Nowadays there's more a sharing of roles because modern society is stable enough to handle it.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, to round out the discussion, this somehow seemed appropriate:

    http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthread.php?t=11465

    http://www.landoverbaptist.net/showthread.php?p=847232#post847232

    http://www.landoverbaptist.org/


    DISCLAIMER:  For those of you that don't have a skeptical bone in your bodies, you should note that this is a parody site and does not express actual religious views.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Chris Austin
    When an Afghan citizen was facing the death penalty for exercising his human right to change his beliefs, he was eventually allowed to take up residence in Italy, where he was offered political asylum. Perhaps something similar could provide a way forward in the present situation.
    rholley
    we should always cherish and hold dear our freedom of speech
    Here’s a nice paradox:

    Looking at British history.  G.K.Chesterton, writing on Christmas:

    Of course, all this secrecy about Christmas is merely sentimental and ceremonial; if you do not like what is sentimental and ceremonial, do not celebrate Christmas at all. You will not be punished if you don’t; also, since we are no longer ruled by those sturdy Puritans who won for us civil and religious liberty, you will not even be punished if you do. But I cannot understand why any one should bother about a ceremonial except ceremonially. If a thing only exists in order to be graceful, do it gracefully or do not do it. If a thing only exists as something professing to be solemn, do it solemnly or do not do it.

    The Puritans were very strong about imposing their way of things, though somewhat less dire in their punishments than the Roman Catholic Church or the Tudor monarchs.  However, in fighting for their own way, they demolished the power structures that had imposed orthodoxy with such severity.

    Now for someone who fought directly for freedom of speech.  I do not think any sane person can deny that honour to Václav Havel.  But I read an article recently asking something like “Is the progression from Václav Havel to Piers Morgan inevitable?”  The latter being a prominent representative of today’s “celebrity scandal” journalism.  Of course, there always was that kind of journalism, but today the limits to what one get away with are redshifted almost beyond detectability.  (Note: said article is untraceable by Google, or I would have linked it for you.  Is somebody afraid of libel action?  This is the UK, you know.)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    That the Christian countries eventually developed tolerance for differing opinions may be due to appreciating the value of self-doubt, and of criticizing one's own culture before the others'

    Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: 'God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted

    Thus, when Tommaso congratulates himself on living in enlightened country, predictably eliciting agreement from the avowed bigot Motl, his speech may be closer in spirit to the Saudi salafits he rightly condemns. And vice versa, people like Sascha Vongehr, who are attuned to limitations of own coulture, are likely the ones who ensure the continuing existence of individual liberties.