A simple graphic makes the point.

Human rights trump human rites.

76% of Swiss in Favor of Burqa Ban

Sing it.

Seventy-six percent want the burqa banned,
With a hundred and ten percent close at hand.
They are followed by rows and rows
Of tut-tutting intellos
Led by Mr Tariq Ramadan.

The highest courts; petitioners; democracy!
Thundering, thundering all along the way.
The music that you’re hearing over dale and hill
Is the people’s will
Having its big fat say.

What a pleasure to see out the year with a true heroine.

Anna Muzychuk, chess champion, boycotts vile Saudi Arabia, at great cost to herself.

In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles – one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia. Not to play by someone’s rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature. Exactly one year ago I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad. I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined. All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares. That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles.

She stands to lose a couple of million dollars.

She once played in Iran, where she was forced to cover her head, and you know what? She didn’t like it. So she’s not doing it again.


And oh yes – SA is becoming ever so much more free for women… For instance, if Muzychuk follows new, slightly less repressive orders on what she can put on her body, she’ll be allowed to play.

Yes sir! Right away sir. Thank you sir.

But no. Muzychuk is one of those women you can never satisfy… One of those loose Western types who fail to see themselves as secondary.

It will be fun to watch SA’s amazement as it liberalizes this and liberalizes that to no avail. Franchement, SA could become Paris entre deux guerres and UD – and, she suspects, millions of other women – wouldn’t darken its door. The big one at Yellowstone will blow before Saudi Arabia begins to look like any sort of destination for a self-respecting woman.

Something’s happening here, and you know what it is, don’t you, Mr. Jones?

Lawdy. Finally some amazingly good news. UD has already begun planning her vacation to Alabama this summer. My way of saying THANK YOU.

“Brutal.” “Mutilation.”

Excellent to see that National Public Radio is covering FGM in the United States without any bullshit about “cutting” instead of “mutilation.”

Even nicer: The pro-FGM word “nick” – as in It’s just a little clitoral nick; nothing to see here! – appears nowhere in the report.

Apologists for FGM are everywhere in the United States, led that by all ’round great guy, Alan Dershowitz. Give it your all, Al.

Daily Life in a Theocracy

Zion! Zion! Look away!
Do not let your eyes betray!
Would God that this Shekel
Bore on it a schmeckle
Than a Jew a shiksa led astray.


And if you have any doubts that Israelis live in close-to-theocratic conditions, with fatwas routinely issued by idiots who have state backing, review the history of Beit Shemesh’s WOMEN OUT! signs. A long, long saga of the pointlessness of Israel’s Supreme Court, it presents itself today as having been resolved

“The order to remove the signs with a police escort and a constant police presence will send a strong message that the rights of the women of Beit Shemesh are important,” said [one attorney]. “The ruling is a victory for the rule of law over the rule of lawlessness, a victory for the rights of women for respect and equality. We will continue to monitor and combat all instances of exclusion of women in Israel.”

— except that the police won’t show up, or after a little time they’ll give up, or their presence will generate riots after which the government will let them put up the signs again. Read a similar saga involving Women of the Wall.

None of it means UD gives up. She’s a fervent WOW supporter. But that Israel is currently basically a theocracy is hard to deny.







Idiots! You were supposed to have HIDDEN them.

The high court judgement also condemned some books found by Ofsted inspectors in the library [of a Muslim school in Birmingham], despite a previous inspection and ruling that the books should be removed.

The judges opined, the books were “derogatory towards women,” nonetheless “clearly some members of staff were in agreement with the teachings of the book – hence why they remained.”

Haroon Rashid, a parent at the meeting said that the … books should have been placed away, out of sight from the inspectors.

This, he believed, was incompetence on behalf of the teachers. Additionally, “inspectors did not understand the context in which the rules [about beating and imprisoning your wives and daughters] were allowed in Islam.”

From Two Reviews of the Film “The Square”

An attack on rich smug postmodern people whose moral vacuity is matched only by their moral preening, the film has drawn rebukes from the New York Times and the New Yorker reviewers. The NYT is the milder of the two:

The condition it depicts will be familiar to just about anyone who buys a ticket, and its insights might have been generated by a Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism smartphone app.

Nicely written. But the New Yorker reviewer is more than dismissive; he is hopping mad. He argues that mindlessly toxic films like The Square, and many like it, which unfairly accuse a class of educated and not entirely depraved people of brutal, clueless, narcissism, destroy liberal culture and make the world safe for reactionaries:

[Films like this one work to] feed the maw of populist resentment, to exacerbate hostility toward liberal society, to propose no change or improvement, to lament no tragic conflicts, but, rather, to reject liberal society with a muffled, derisive frivolity, to despise institutions, norms, mores, and—above all—the educated urban bourgeoisie and the professional competences and administrative order that it sustains. Lacking artistic originality to propose or effect a shift in consciousness or a new mode of experience, they offer a constipated realism that rubs others in their filth while keeping their own hands rigorously pristine. Theirs is a cinema of reactionary snobbery, a righteous snort of contempt of exactly the sort that feeds far-right rejectionism all the way around to where it meets far-left rejectionism—in haughty, self-righteous, and humanly challenged cynicism.

The artwork that comes to mind reading this is Wallace Shawn’s performance piece, The Fever, where he attempts precisely to take seriously – in emotional, intellectual, and ethical ways – the costs of what the New Yorker’s critic calls “bourgeois comfort and sophistication”:

[Hyper-realist films like The Square display] the conspicuous restraint of aesthetic nonintervention, of falsely bland repudiation of visual expression, as if to let the facts onscreen speak for themselves. But the actual artistic point of these satires on bourgeois comfort and sophistication is a visual simplicity that matches the dramas’ repudiations of technological, intellectual, and bureaucratic modernity… The bureaucracies [these films] despise are, so to speak, the bureaucracies of others; their films aren’t shot through with the discourse or the intricacies on which they depend—as many of the best films of the time are, often in surprising ways. (Such a varied films as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Get Out,” “The Future” and “Let the Sunshine In” grapple with the increasingly abstract complexities of modern life in styles that reflect those complexities.) In short, cinematic invention goes together with societal investigation; for Haneke and the Hanekets, the social cinema is a sneer under glass.

And now what comes to mind is Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, in which he distinguishes between what he calls the cultural left (post-structuralist theorists, mainly) and the progressive left (politically pragmatic, not terribly theoretical people who write within a basic acceptance of liberal democracy that Richard Brody sees missing in these films). Rorty writes about a “spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left,” which seems, in regard to The Square and its ilk, apt.

Washington! It may not be the most visually compelling city…

… but UD‘s hometown abundantly – maybe even uniquely – caters to your every political whim. So UD has for awhile been taken up with the issue of global female genital mutilation (half a million women in the United States have been cut, or are at risk of cutting, 50,000 of them in the Washington region; Maryland, where UD lives, is one of eight states with the highest rates), and a couple of nights ago she had merely to walk a few hundred yards from her university office in order to take part in a spectacular global forum about it.

She was able to ask one of the lead DOJ attorneys on the Jumana Nagarwala case in Detroit if we’re actually going to be able to put this Johns Hopkins University med school graduate in prison for a long time.

“We do not,” she replied, “take cases we are not confident we can win.” (Applause broke out at this.)

UD looks forward to Johns Hopkins University publicly rescinding Nagarwala’s degree, on the grounds that medical schools in the United States are not butcheries.

Linda Weil-Curiel, a heroic French attorney with a heroic family history, described her years of successful prosecution against cutters. “My most rewarding moment? I was sitting in a courthouse, looking over some notes, when three large and menacing men surrounded me. ‘You’re the reason our women no longer obey us,’ they said.”

Here she talks about the central, overwhelming importance of a secular state with a commitment to universal human rights. Lately she’s been trying to get all of this across to hapless England, which has a scandalously huge FGM problem, about which it seems unable to do anything. But of course French laïcité gives them an advantage, in this as in so many other matters.


Speaking of visually compelling, Pierre Foldès, the surgeon who pioneered reconstructive surgery for those who’ve been cut, was also there, and he treated us to many large graphic images of the whole shebang: mutilation, rehabilitation. Ol’ UD wasn’t expecting this, and she doesn’t mind telling you she underwent a certain interval of heebie-jeebies until she settled in to the whole clinical observation thing.

Now it’s the turn of North America.

Quebec follows many European nations and regions in banning the burqa and niqab in public places.

Opponents always say the same two dumb things.

They say only a few women wear it. So? It ain’t about numbers, baby.

They say it’s all about the cynical politics of the moment.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the new law and that it “boils down to ugly identity politics” ahead of the 2018 provincial election.

Opposition to fully covered women, in country after country, is profound, and transcends politics.


As for ugly identity politics – hey. Better ugly identities than no identity at all.

IOW: For sure this is about identity politics. It’s about having an identity. End the blotting out of women.

‘Beyond the face-covering ban, the bill also sets out broad limits for all requests for religious accommodation. It states a request has to be “serious,” respect the right to equality between men and women and “the right of every person to be treated without discrimination.”‘

Quebec is well on its way, not only toward a significant burqa ban, but just as importantly toward an effort to discriminate between “serious” and non-serious religious accommodation requests. The intellectual laziness and social irresponsibility of beliefs like Katha Pollitt’s – “[R]eligion is what people make of it.” – make the world safe for crushing restrictions against girls and women in otherwise advanced countries.

You don’t get to say that your religion mandates that your eleven year old daughter have her clitoris cut off and her vagina sewn up and her head and body covered in veils. You don’t get to say that your religion mandates your wife can’t leave the house – ever – or if she is allowed out, it’s only under guard and under total veiling. You don’t get to say that “due to my firm religious beliefs … it will not be possible for me to meet in public with a group of women.” It’s perfectly okay for you to run your own cult in which you ban yourself from contact with the female race, but you don’t get to call this a religion, and you don’t get accommodations based on it.

You’re free to sue your daughter’s school because it won’t let you be on its grounds fully veiled. You will lose the suit, and it will cost you a lot of money and the court system a lot of time to get to that foreseeable outcome, but you’re free to do it.

But no state, and no institution within a state, is compelled to accommodate every demand made upon it simply because someone somewhere presents some behavior or other as religious.

‘The Audacity of Blaming Sex Addiction’…

… is an article in The Atlantic about Harvey Weinstein.

These are … problems of power and status that manifest as a violent disregard for others — a failure to acknowledge the autonomy of women or a problem accepting it and a compulsion to revoke it by force. So it feels especially jarring to hear that same person professing a lack of agency in these acts.

Whether you refuse to let women out of the house unless they cover every inch of their body with a black sheet, or refuse to let women transact business with you unless they take off their clothes and go down on you — whether it’s All clothes off! or King-sized sheet on! — it’s quite the same thing: The violent revocation of women’s autonomy.

The only thing that differentiates American from French culture in these matters is that when Dominique Strauss-Kahn (an uncannily identical twin to Harvey Weinstein) was himself finally outed, bigshot philosophers defended him.

[Bernard-Henri] Lévy says … that the man he calls a friend of 20 years, “bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.”

BHL is a smart guy, but he seems unable to grasp that you can be an articulate, enlightened economist, or a sensitive maker of art films, and a primate.

‘[I]f the average college campus is not quite the Maoist re-education camp of right-wing fantasy, there are enough embarrassing incidents like the one at William and Mary to suggest that parts of the left disdain the First Amendment.’

The problem is that we have no agreement about which ideas are beyond the pale, and the people least willing to draw necessary distinctions are the most strident. Student activists are naturally going to test boundaries and make maximalist demands. Yet while I’m under no illusion that they’re interested in the opinions of Gen X liberals like myself, someone should tell them that if the principle of free speech is curtailed, those with the least power are most likely to feel the chill.

Michelle Goldberg tries to bring reason to the latest group of campus activists who successfully shut down free speech – this time at William and Mary. The target: A speaker from the nefarious ACLU.

I understand that for a lot of young leftists, it doesn’t make sense to equate what they see as hate speech with the speech of the oppressed. It’s harder for me to understand why they think that if First Amendment protections are weakened, the left — and not, say, the Trump administration — will be allowed to define what is hateful and what is not. After all, it is extremely common to hear people on the right describe Black Lives Matter as a hate group. A Louisiana police officer injured in a protest against police brutality recently tried to sue the movement and one of its most prominent members for incitement.

It’s certainly true that it’s easier to enjoy free speech when you’re privileged. It doesn’t follow from that, however, that eroding free speech protections helps the vulnerable. When disputes about free speech are adjudicated not according to broad principles but according to who has power, the left will mostly lose. If the students at William and Mary aren’t frightened off activism by their experience with national notoriety, they’ll probably learn that soon enough. Luckily, if they ever do come face to face with forces determined to shut them up, the A.C.L.U. will be there.

Or you could read this, by Conor Friedersdorf.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE