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Human Rights Watch – You are Disgusting! - Comments

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 1 by Schrodinger's Cat

many Arabs have come to see political Islam as the antithesis of autocratic rule

Once upon a time, there were three little piggies and a big bad wolf. Because the three little piggies did not like the big bad farmer, and the big bad wolf also didn't like the big bad farmer......the three little piggies made friends with the big bad wolf.

So the big bad wolf had no need to huff, and puff, and blow their house down.

And the big bad wolf did bacon flavoured belches happily ever after.

The end.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:08:27 UTC | #910823

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 2 by Neodarwinian

Not much in the name " Christian Democratic Party " is that religious anymore, if it ever was that religious. "The Islamic Brotherhood " on the other hand is all religion masquerading as politics and pure theocracy. People, generally, get the government they deserve and to deserve better you need people not so enslaved to religious dogma. In the US that is one of the greatest worries of the modern age, a theocratic uprising swamping Constitutional protections all, not just a chosen few, deserve.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:14:04 UTC | #910825

tlwinslow's Avatar Comment 3 by tlwinslow

The West is still sadly ignorant of the historical horrors and world domination goals of Islam, and continues to ostrich despite plenty of free information on the Internet. Well, like the ostrich, when the wolf is about to pounce it might be time to take your head out of the sand, n'est-ce pas?

If you're tired of ostriching, the place to start is the Historyscoper's Freakin' Powerful Muslimscope, which gives you the most concentrated intro. to the modern Muslim World after the Arab Spring, all free in your browser:

http://tinyurl.com/muslimscope

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:39:20 UTC | #910828

LaurieB's Avatar Comment 4 by LaurieB

Oh yes, Human Rights Watch. Remember them? They're the ones who gave France a load of criticism over the banning of religious symbols including Islamic headscarves in the public schools. Here's the story:

http://www.hrw.org/news/2004/02/26/france-headscarf-ban-violates-religious-freedom

With friends like HRW who needs enemies?

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:42:47 UTC | #910829

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Being generally ignorant of political history and political theory, I would be fascinated to know if there are established principles of human rights that could apply to a situation where the majority vote for an oppressive religious or dictatorial government? What happens when democracy conflicts with human rights? How do we define who is right, and who has rights in such a situation?

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 02:15:13 UTC | #910831

SoHelpMeReason's Avatar Comment 6 by SoHelpMeReason

I donated to HRW. I guess that's not happening again...

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 03:06:47 UTC | #910835

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert

There has to be a basic rethink about liberalism. I think people have lost touch with basic liberal values that not only underpin democracy but the entire enlightenment project.

I think new atheism has ignited these basic values, but they've become lost in the mainstream. I would even suggest that people have lost a sense about what freedom or liberty means.

I really do hope that my fellow atheists realize that much of our efforts are actually political or at least have an ethical basis that is political, and those ethics are largely liberal.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 03:14:31 UTC | #910836

sirmailbox's Avatar Comment 8 by sirmailbox

Oye. I've watched over the years as the users of this website have shifted further and further away from reasonableness. It used to be a forum. Now it's an echo chamber. I'm not trolling anyone. I'm seriously, seriously just disappointed. If you read what HRW said, they're telling western nations to pressure Islamist groups to grant basic rights, but respect the democratic process. And the reaction is what--outrage. Total outrage. HRW is called disgusting, and a user pledges to never make another donation.

I'm sure I'll just get insulted for saying this--but that's really the problem, isn't it? Remember that the core value that we're supposed to embrace is skepticism. But all I see is dismissive attitudes, quick judgment, easy partitions of people into categories of "with us" or "against us". Generalizations, oversimplifications.. it just sucks. I wish this forum were as it used to be.

Edit: There are some users to whom this definitely doesn't apply. Like Steve Zara for example. His post was excellent. I'm probably generalizing myself, but my overall impression remains the same.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 03:31:46 UTC | #910839

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 9 by susanlatimer

Comment 5 by Steve Zara

Being generally ignorant of political history and political theory

Me too.

I would be fascinated to know if there are established principles of human rights that could apply to a situation where the majority vote for an oppressive religious or dictatorial government? What happens when democracy conflicts with human rights? How do we define who is right, and who has rights in such a situation?

This is why forward-thinking and meticulously written constitutions are important. They prevent democracy from just being a case of mob rule. These aren't a given when a corrupt system has fallen or been toppled, leaving a vacuum of sorts.

And as Maryam Namazie said:

Also for elections to have meaning – even in the limited parliamentary sense – you need to have freedom of association, press, and expression and so on.

You can't build democracy on a swamp or it crumbles. It's fragile enough as it is.

Sadly, "democratic" societies have often violated human rights but in a healthy democracy, the means to correct that is available (the women's rights movement or the civil rights movement in the U.S.).

How do we define who is right, and who has rights in such a situation?

Do you mean morally or in terms of international law and if so, what we can do about it?

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 03:36:47 UTC | #910841

mmurray's Avatar Comment 10 by mmurray

Comment 8 by sirmailbox :

Oye. I've watched over the years as the users of this website have shifted further and further away from reasonableness. It used to be a forum.

No it used to be an unmoderated front page and a forum. They were quite distinct. It is not a lightly moderated front page and the forum was closed. But this is rather old news.

Now it's an echo chamber. I'm not trolling anyone. I'm seriously, seriously just disappointed. If you read what HRW said, they're telling western nations to pressure Islamist groups to grant basic rights, but respect the democratic process. And the reaction is what--outrage. Total outrage. HRW is called disgusting, and a user pledges to never make another donation.

I am not entirely sure what you mean by an echo chamber. News items are posted. Is that what you mean by echo ? Comments on the news items are not always in agreement if that is what you mean by echo. HRW was called disgusting by Maryann Namazie whose comment was being posted.

I'm sure I'll just get insulted for saying this--but that's really the problem, isn't it? Remember that the core value that we're supposed to embrace is skepticism. But all I see is dismissive attitudes, quick judgment, easy partitions of people into categories of "with us" or "against us". Generalizations, oversimplifications.. it just sucks. I wish this forum were as it used to be.

But it isn't. Are the off shoots of the old forum still around ? Maybe try this one if this place is not to your liking.

Returning to the topic at hand we are seeing a move to democracy in nations where:

(1) the only well organised opposition groups are Islamist

(2) the institutions of democracy, like a free press, are not well organised, and

(3) the electorate are unfamiliar with democracy

So don't you think there is a risk that the result might be the election of a government that institutes strongly Islamist and essentially anti-democratic policies ? Democracy does't always end well for example the Russians had some from of democracy in the early 1900s and even Hitler started out participating in the democratic process in the 1930s.

Michael

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 04:41:45 UTC | #910845

LaurieB's Avatar Comment 11 by LaurieB

Steve,

How do we define who is right? How do we define who has rights in this situation? I can't think of who else has rights except for the citizens of the country who voted the fundamentalists into office. With 47% majority in Egypt, the M.Brotherhood has been voted in. Reports here say that the Salafists have the 2nd place. What more is there to be said? They've made their bed and now they'll lie in it. I'm sorry to say that it is now assumed that the Islamic countries that can manage to throw off their dictators/kings will sink into a dark age of Islamic fundamentalism. Pity the women and girls who will bear the brunt of this religio-facist oppression.

Let's not forget what happened in Algeria through the 90's. The M.Brotherhood was on a course to win elections, the election was cancelled by the Government and all hell broke loose in that place for the next decade. It's still going on even now. According to many Algerians (Im married to one) this is why Algeria is not rising up in this Arab Spring. They can't take it anymore. They just want to live and not be afraid anymore. Demonstrations are increasing there in the past weeks but it's hard to tell how far they can go. We can be sure that the fundamentalists are poised to take action when they see their opportunity to do so.

What the west needs to understand and accept is that there is a widespread support for Muslim fundamentalists by the common people. Shouldn't we assume that there is a reason for this that is very important to these people? There is an elephant in the room here that is uniting Muslims everywhere. Islamic fundamentalists are just the catalyst in this equation. The Muslims who are voting for the fundamentalist political parties don't appreciate the restrictive lifestyles that they are probably facing but they are willing to hold their noses to support the political goals that the fundamentalists are promising. The correction of a terrible humiliation that was done to their fellow Muslims by the west. The elephant in the room.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 04:46:22 UTC | #910847

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 12 by aroundtown

Ignorance and religious fervor are great bedfellows. Islamic tradition seals the players fate and time will be required for them to slog through this mess and that is exactly what it will be, messy. Out of the fire and into the frying pan I'm afraid. Keep your heads down.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 06:58:19 UTC | #910855

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 13 by Enlightenme..

I fear the 1990 Cairo declaration (effectively an abnegation, or renunciation, of the UDHR) spells out decades of misery for all the countries that signed it.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 07:03:27 UTC | #910856

Rational Ape's Avatar Comment 14 by Rational Ape

Comment 5 by Steve Zara :

Being generally ignorant of political history and political theory, I would be fascinated to know if there are established principles of human rights that could apply to a situation where the majority vote for an oppressive religious or dictatorial government? What happens when democracy conflicts with human rights? How do we define who is right, and who has rights in such a situation?

Then as far as I am concerned, Democracy loses.

It is evil to vote away peoples rights for any reason, and it doesn't matter if it's declared to be the result of democratic vote. Government exists to protect rights, not trample them because they aren't popular. That's why one puts restrictions on government into constitutions, and that's just as important a consideration in a democracy as it is in a dictatorship. The only advantage the democracy has in this regard is that, unlike the typical thugocratic dictatorial "republic," it might actually have such safeguards written into its constitution and it might actually abide by them. (Clearly any democracy with such limitations isn't a pure democracy any more.)

The new government of Egypt will violate rights en masse and will be illegitimate, for all its democratic trappings. And it will have plenty of company.

Holding "democracy" as the ideal of what a government should be is a gigantic mistake.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:05:49 UTC | #910871

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 15 by Carl Sai Baba

It is disgusting how often you see that moral relativism in all political segments. Even on skeptical/atheist websites, I have run into people who express it in regards to islam and think that chanting for populism and democracy is a complete moral position. There are even people who have described themselves as "feminists" who have thrown a few hints of it.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:07:34 UTC | #910872

imokyrok's Avatar Comment 16 by imokyrok

You might not like the direction a country takes with regard to expressing their democracy but to date the West reactions to cultures it disapproves of only serves to deepen the antagonism to Western mores and to reinforce clinging to familiar traditions.

Instead of spy satellites and bombs why not try communication satellites and ipads. The free exchange of information and ideas may well achieve what oppression and violence impedes. Instead of financial sanctions offer financial reinforcement of positive behaviour - for example financial support for womens educational facilities.

In the short term however people should be aware and prepared for the fact that it is the very rare country that doesn't experience violent upheaval and struggles between factions in the move from dictatorship to democracy.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:54:19 UTC | #910877

Metamag's Avatar Comment 17 by Metamag

Comment 7 by AtheistEgbert :

I really do hope that my fellow atheists realize that much of our efforts are actually political or at least have an ethical basis that is political, and those ethics are largely liberal.

I've been saying that for years but all I've seen so far is that atheists are more inclined to defend islamists than most other mainstream groups. You can clearly see this on more popular blogs like Pharyngula, they are just completely divorced from the real meaning of liberalism.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:54:54 UTC | #910878

foundationist's Avatar Comment 18 by foundationist

Comment 5 by Steve Zara :

Being generally ignorant of political history and political theory, I would be fascinated to know if there are established principles of human rights that could apply to a situation where the majority vote for an oppressive religious or dictatorial government? What happens when democracy conflicts with human rights? How do we define who is right, and who has rights in such a situation?

Excellent question. In terms of fundamental human rights, the UDHR, article 30 states it quite clearly:

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

I'm not an expert myself, but I think that some form of this law is required for any country to be truly considered a modern democracy: A law that saveguards the fundamental human rights even against the will of the people. A far more interesting question is of course, what is the political course to take when this rule is violated, when the majority or the democratically elected officials really want to remove fundamental human rights?

Maryam is of course right that the elections in Egypt were in many ways heavily biased in favor of the islamist parties, and that for that very reason it is not correct to just say: "Oh well, there the democratically elected government, that´s that." But I don´t share her optimism that given some more time the democratic forces in the region would have gained majority support. It really looks as if in most countries of "the Muslim world" - I, know that´s a terrible, patronizing, and cowardly expression in itself - fundamentalist and extremist positions really have majority support. And the question how to deal with it politically is very difficult to answer. It's all fine and well to yell "No compromise!" and in fact I'm pretty much of that opinion too, but what do we do next? Sanctions against pretty much all Arab nations? And then?

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 11:25:31 UTC | #910880

danconquer's Avatar Comment 19 by danconquer

I usually enjoy reading Maryam Namazie, but don't feel she can warrant her critique here. She claims Roth is saying that because the Islamists have fought the dictatorial autocrats they are therefore "good". It's an unreasonable assertion based on Roth's words. If Namazie wants to find people - including on the left - who are uncritical of Islamists then she can, unfortunately, find them. But simply saying the west should deal with Islamists "when it represents a majority preference" and pointing out that Islamists "are genuinely popular" in some countries is not saying they are therefore "good"! Not by a long way! These are uncomfortable, unfortunate facts, and there is no immediately obvious path as to how best to respond to the challenge of democratically-mandated theocracy. Wishing them away is not going to make it happen!

On this occasion Namazie is failing to recognise any nuance. Go to HRW homepage. There are LOADS of articles and reports highlighting the plight of victims of rights abuses across the Arab world by Islamists. The idea that HRW are some kind of allies of Islamism who think it is "good"(?!) is not only unjustifiable but even a little absurd.

I understand that Namazie is trying to produce a punchy, polemical blog which grabs attention and gets peoples juices going. Broad brush strokes achieve this better than delicate reasoning. People who either defend or are silent about rights-abusing Islamists (which includes most western governments and many leftists) are conceivably disgusting... But organisations that have been consistently critical of all Islamically-inspired rights violations are not.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 11:52:13 UTC | #910884

foundationist's Avatar Comment 20 by foundationist

Comment 9 by susanlatimer :

You can't build democracy on a swamp or it crumbles. It's fragile enough as it is.

Strangely enough, that doesn't really seem to be the case. At the risk of godwyning: Look at my native country of Germany. After being ruled by what is generally agreed to be the worst form of totalitarianism and fascism in human history by a movement that enjoyed overwhelming support in the population they started a democracy by a series of shady deals and keeping all the second-row criminals in office. Our first parliament consisted to 2/3 of former members of the NSDAP, all the leaders of the economy - like the Quandt family kept their money and power, the secret service consisted almost entirely of former SS-members and was heavily involved in assistinng the escape of the worst mass murderers of history.

And yet, somehow, in virtually no time at all, something that is in many respects an excemplary democracy arose out of all this muck. It has of course many flaws, and many of them are directly linked to the fact that the country was built largely on the myth that in between 1933 and 1945 a small band of devious criminals somehow oppressed a reluctant - or at worst seduced and lied to - population. But it is a working democracy nontheless, and back in 1945 nobody suggested that the germans would "need time to form a civil society" and "learn the values of democracy" as it is always patronizingly said about the Arabs, or even the posty-Soviet Russians.

What do we learn from this for the future? I'm blowed if I know.

Sadly, "democratic" societies have often violated human rights but in a healthy democracy, the means to correct that is available (the women's rights movement or the civil rights movement in the U.S.).

Yes but to this day nobody has renounced the Military Commisions act that basically removed pretty much all fundamental human rights from any person the executive branch of the government labeled 'Terrorist'. To the contrary, Obama just signed a law that specifically included US citizend into this category.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 11:53:54 UTC | #910885

danconquer's Avatar Comment 21 by danconquer

Furthermore, upon inspection of Namazie's blog I am struck by the fact that when referencing Kenneth Roth's essay, the link she provides takes us to a short Reuters news story rather than directly to Roth's essay itself. That is pretty bad form isn't it? If I wanted to write a polemic criticising somebody elses essay, then I would provide a link to the essay I was criticising! Not to a second-hand recycling by a news agency. Why is Namazie reluctant to send readers in the direction of the essay?

I wonder how many of those who have already joined the criticism on this thread have actually read Roth's essay before jumping in? Now might be a good time to do so:

(Warning: May trigger a distinctly disappointing lack of disgust or outrage. Reader discretion advised.) http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/time-abandon-autocrats-and-embrace-rights

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 12:12:39 UTC | #910890

sycorax's Avatar Comment 22 by sycorax

Watch these 'Arab springs' turn into oppressive theocracies. Juat like Iran

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 12:51:01 UTC | #910894

Metamag's Avatar Comment 23 by Metamag

Comment 22 by sycorax :

Watch these 'Arab springs' turn into oppressive theocracies. Juat like Iran

It certainly looks like Fox News will be right on this one. Such "democracies" will be completely meaningless.

Although this was entirely predictable since even Turkey struggles to be a meaningful democracy.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:19:40 UTC | #910897

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 24 by Vorlund

What shall we have this time Arab autocrat or islamist autocrat? What about democracy? No bugger that its foreign and western let's encourage some theocratic autocracy instead, we might be able to get them to rethink.............. Er no, perhaps not. Once upon a time..........

Its a bit like protestants wanting to be told what to do by puritans because they can't stand being told what to do under catholicism.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:35:47 UTC | #910898

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 25 by drumdaddy

Religion poisons everything.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:43:47 UTC | #910899

foundationist's Avatar Comment 26 by foundationist

After having read Roth's essay, I must say I partly agree with danconquer. The part that Maryam objects to, the paragraph called "The proper role of the international community" also says

Looking forward, to promote democratic, rights-respecting governments, the international community should adopt a more principled approach to the region than in the past. That would involve, foremost, clearly siding with democratic reformers even at the expense of abandoning autocratic friends. There is no excuse for any government to tolerate Assad’s lethal repression, to close its eyes to Bahrain’s systematic crackdown, or to exempt other monarchs from pressure to reform. All autocrats should be dissuaded from using repression to defend their power and privileges.

Such principled support for protesters can also positively influence the outlook of the new governments they seek to form. Revolution can be a heady experience, opening previously unthought-of possibilities for the majority to take control of its fate. But the revolutionaries must also accept the constraints on majoritarian rule that rights require, especially when it comes to the rights of minorities, whether political, religious, ethnic or social.

Revolutionary zeal can lead to summary revenge or a new imposed orthodoxy. Continuing economic hardship can lead to scapegoating and intolerance. International affirmation of the importance of respecting the rights of all citizens can help to ensure the emergence of genuine democracies. Conditioning economic assistance on respect for those rights, just as the EU conditioned accession for Eastern European states, can help to steer new governments in rights-respecting directions.

And the call to 'encouraging, and if need be pressuring them to respect basic rights' is by no means an expression of the 'racism of lower expectations' as Maryam calls it. On the contrary, it is precisely what human rights organisations always call for in any country and in all situations. The term 'basic human rights' does not imply "Well, they're just Arabs, we are content if they at least get the basics, while in the West, we expect of course respect for the surplus human rights". The adjective 'basic' just underlies the importance, universality, and, well, basicness of all human rights.

But I must agree with Maryam that the idea of Islamists respecting fundamental human rights seems rather naive and that the comparison with the so-called christian parties in Europe is inappropriate. Roth also uses the time-and-again discredited term "oppression in the name of Islam". I'm no expert on political Islam, but Maryam is. Political Islam is opposed to the very idea of human rights and the different fractions only differ in the extent of their opposition. The so-called "moderates" seem roughly equivalent with the American Christian Right, and I wouldn't want them in power.

But in terms of practical politics I think Roth has it right when he proposes for the time being to just insist on following international law and respecting fundamental human rights and not to fight political Islam itself just because of the principle of the thing. I know that this is a dangerous position to take and I fear what will happen if Roth and I were wrong on this, but I also dread what would happen if the "Clash of Civilizations"-fractions have it their way. It's a tough call and there are no easy answers.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 13:48:46 UTC | #910901

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 27 by Alan4discussion

Two very old sayings come to mind:-

Look before you leap!

&

Jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!

Western governments, out of control clandestine operators, and the military are very slow learners! - and well versed in cover-up! (Remember the Iran contra affair! - Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government.)

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 14:04:24 UTC | #910904

GPWC's Avatar Comment 28 by GPWC

We all know democracy has its limitations when the electorate, for want of choices or understanding of issues, vote for a party which,once legitimately in power, passes laws against those it dislikes and effectively suspends democracy . It doesn't have to be this way if those elected act in good faith. Sadly we have not seen this except perhaps in Turkey (where Ataturk virtually banned religiosity especially at state level).

Constitutional monarchies, which is a variation favoured by us Brits after WW1 and WW2 also failed because the constitutional monarchs did not have sufficient legitimacy - indeed in the eyes of many, because they were "put up" by the western powers, they were distinctly illegitimate. This made them easy targets for the proliferation of socialist parties in Egypt (Nasser), Iraq and Syria (Baathist) etc. Again, they drew up the ladder behing them.

It is very difficult to see how our friends in the middle east can get out of this. My view is that we must let them vote for whoever and then recognise their governments and set up trade and diplomatic missions with all the good will we can muster.

But our weapon of choice to defend the people in Egypt, Iran, etc must be The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a short, easy read and still relevant today. The United Nations is the route to a secure, democratic and friendly future.

It's not going to be easy, the West has been here before (1918 and 1945) and the efforts of many who had the best of intentions ultimately led to disappointment and dictatorship. What will happen this time?

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 14:33:07 UTC | #910906

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 29 by Carl Sai Baba

Well I guess it doesn't matter if the HRW article was misrepresent. We've got exactly the kind of person we were talking about right here...

Comment 16 by imokyrok :

You might not like the direction a country takes with regard to expressing their democracy

"Expressing their democracy" is a hell of a euphemism for burying people up to their necks and beating them to death with rocks.

Instead of spy satellites and bombs why not try communication satellites and ipads. The free exchange of information and ideas may well achieve what oppression and violence impedes. Instead of financial sanctions offer financial reinforcement of positive behaviour - for example financial support for womens educational facilities.

Great ideas, except for places where those happy activities are illegal. Or places where the information is available, but the majority still elects theocrats.

But I do agree that financial sanctions are pointless and harm the wrong people. A physical assault against the government would be better.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 16:20:06 UTC | #910920

hellosnackbar's Avatar Comment 30 by hellosnackbar

That's what made me think that they of Mohammedan faith are so bran damaged by their cult that they have voted for another totalitarian autocracy to replace the one they've just lost lives to expunge. What sort of insanity is that when someone freely votes for a Salafist cretin? Faith in Mohammedanism is a cultural meme that invites only backwardness.

Mon, 23 Jan 2012 16:30:32 UTC | #910922