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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Human Rights Watch apologises to Tatchell

Human Rights Watch has been having a go at the gay human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, it seems. Now the group has issued an apology. Here is Tatchell’s press release in full:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has made a full and unreserved apology to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The apology has been made by HRW’s Executive Director, Kenneth Roth, in New York.

It says sorry for a series of untrue and personal attacks on Mr Tatchell, made by the head of HRW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) programme, Scott Long.

The apology by Human Rights Watch acknowledges that Mr Long made a series of “inappropriate . . . disparaging . . . inaccurate . . . condemnatory . . . intemperate personal attacks” on Peter Tatchell.

“I thank Kenneth Roth and HRW for their gracious and fulsome [sic]* apology. Their readiness to acknowledge the wrong done and say sorry is commendable. My appreciation also to Scott Long for conceding his false allegations and apologising. It can’t have been easy for him. He has shown dignity and humility. I appreciate that,” said Mr Tatchell.

“I accept the apologies. It is time to forgive and move on. For me, this closes the matter. The attacks on me are in the past. I look forward to working with HRW and Scott Long in the future.

“Despite this unfortunate episode, my admiration for HRW’s inspiring, effective work is undiminished. It is documenting tyranny and oppression all across the world; exposing human rights abusers and defending the victims. I urge people to support its humanitarian endeavours,” said Mr Tatchell.

Referring to the nature of the attacks on him by Scott Long, Peter Tatchell added:

“I defend the right of people to criticise me. But Mr Long’s attacks went beyond criticism. He made false allegations, which misrepresented my human rights campaigns. It is these untrue claims that are the focus of my objections.

“Mr Long’s falsehoods and personal attacks were many and varied. They included a highly libellous and defamatory essay written by him, which appeared in the March 2009 issue of the journal Contemporary Politics, published by Routledge, which is part of the Taylor and Francis publishing group:

“This essay made inaccurate allegations. It grossly misrepresented and denigrated my campaigns in defence of gay people persecuted by Iran and in opposition to Islamist fundamentalism.

“I acted in good faith when I opposed the execution of Iranians accused of homosexuality and when I campaigned against fundamentalist Islam in Britain and worldwide.

“Contrary to Mr Long’s claims, I never accused the 13-year-old victim of an alleged rape in Iran of ‘wanting the rape.’ Nor am I guilty of ‘belittling violent sexual assault, and blaming the victim.’ These are outright fabrications.

“In addition, Mr Long accused me of me ‘going after’ British Muslims and adopting a ‘bullying tone’ towards the Muslim community in Britain. This is also untrue. I have always made a clear distinction between Muslim people in general and the Islamist extremists who oppose human rights, including the human rights of fellow Muslims. Indeed, I have often defended Muslim communities, in Britain and worldwide, against prejudice and persecution. I will continue to do so.

“Sectarian smears against human rights defenders are wrong and counter-productive. We should support each other in our shared commitment to universal human rights,” concluded Mr Tatchell.

He then goes on to quote the apology in full, as having been issued today and signed by Kenneth Roth:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) apologizes to Peter Tatchell for a number of inappropriate and disparaging comments made about him in recent years by Scott Long, director of HRW’s LGBT program. We recognise that personal attacks have no place in the human rights movement.

Mr Long said: “Although we have our different viewpoints, I respect Peter Tatchell’s contribution to human rights and apologize for any condemnatory and intemperate allegations made in haste and for any inaccurate statements made in my personal capacity.”

Mr Tatchell said: “Despite the unfortunate personal attacks on me by Mr Long, I acknowledge his otherwise important contribution to LGBT human rights and I continue to value the vital work of Human Rights Watch worldwide.”

Following Mr Long’s apology and subsequent discussions, Human Rights Watch is pleased to announce that both Mr Long and Mr Tatchell agree that the movement to protect human rights, including the rights of LGBT persons, is best served when activists focus their criticism on those who abuse rights rather than those who seek to defend those rights.

Mr Long and Mr Tatchell undertake to work to ensure that any airing of disagreements on LGBT and other human rights issues takes place with honesty, civility and respect. They also agree to encourage their friends and colleagues to do likewise.

HRW hopes that this apology and agreement will enable us to move forward together to pursue our common goal: the defence of universal human rights.

* He means abundant, fulsome being reserved for something that is excessively flattering, often insincere – yeah, pedantic, but let’s all agree what we mean and not have two definitions when one will do.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Let us not pray

A mayor in Leicester, UK, has decided to do away with prayers before council meetings. Nothing to do with anything, he says.

Quite right.

But what gets me in that Daily Mail story linked to above is that the lazy journos reach for the usual suspects on their contact list under the heading “Angry Christians”. Up comes our old friend Stephen “Birdshit” Green of the Wales-based little outfit Christian Voice.

Then it’s the turn of Mike Judge from the narrow-minded, right-wing, homophobic Christian Institute.

Isn’t it time journos found someone else? Anyway, what have these self-appointed “Christian leaders” got to do with Leicester? Neither of them is from Leicester, which is one of Britain’s most multi-ethnic cities – and for that reason alone Christian prayers are inappropriate (however, it’s the mayor’s atheism that’s at the heart of his decision here, it seems).

Did it not occur to the journo, Andy Dolan, to leave it to the Christian organisation in Leicester that he does consult, the Diocese of the Church of England there – assuming such an organisation needs to be consulted? And does it? Is it really necessary? Isn’t it a matter between the mayor and his fellow councillors? If they all decided to stop wearing glasses, would Mr Dolan ask Specsavers for a comment?

Prayers are something between people and their imaginary friends. It just so happens that there’s an organisation called the church that prays and believes in imaginary friends. There’s no logical reason to link one organisation’s decision to stop saying them with another organisation – be it the Anglican diocese or one of these busybody little outfits with outspoken fanatics at their helm – that just happens to say them.
UPDATE: Since I posted the above this morning, I’ve heard that, George Broadhead, the secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust (this blog’s dear mama), has had a letter on the subject published in the Leicester Mercury. Here it is in full:

Congratulations to the new Mayor of Leicester, Colin Hall, on the stance he has taken on prayers said before council meetings. Congratulations also on appointing Humanist celebrant Eleanor Davidson as Lady Mayoress.

The British Social Survey is one of the largest and most prestigious polls of opinion in Britain and is commissioned by the National Centre for Social Research. The 2010 survey published last January revealed that 43% of the population have no religion (compared with 31% in 1983) and that atheists and agnostics amount to 37% – a sizeable minority exceeding all the non-Anglican faiths put together.

Given these statistics, which show quite clearly that Britain is becoming more and more secular, it is a absurd to continue having prayers in Council Houses and other public buildings, which take it for granted that all present have a faith of some sort and worship a deity.

The reaction of the Anglican Church to this development is equally absurd since it refuses to acknowledge the diversity that now exists in our society.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Tut-tut, Cherie!

The Independent:

The body which investigates complaints against judges has been accused of covering up the full extent of an investigation into Cherie Blair over her decision to hand down a lenient sentence to a convicted man because he was “a religious person”.

This investigation was launched earlier this year by the Office of Judicial Complaints (OJC) after a request came from the National Secular Society (NSS).

Cherie Booth (her maiden and professional name) was sitting as a recorder when this happened.

She was sentencing Shamso Miah, a 25-year-old from Redbridge, northeast London, who, says the Independent, “had fractured a man’s jaw in a fight outside a bank. In her summing up, Mrs Blair explained that she was giving Mr Miah a two-year suspended sentence, instead of a six-month jail term, because he was ‘a religious person’ who had not been in trouble before.”

Following the NSS’s complaint, the OJC released a two-paragraph statement on 10 June stating that an investigation by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice had concluded that Mrs Blair’s “observations did not constitute judicial misconduct” and that “no disciplinary action” was necessary.

But in a separate letter to the NSS, obtained by the Independent, a caseworker from the OJC admitted that the complaint had in fact been “partially substantiated” and that, while no disciplinary action was needed, Mrs Blair would receive “informal advice from a senior judge”.


And is Booth/Blair religious? Is the Pope a Catholic?

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Homophobic – er, ex-homophobic – rapper says gay marriage is OK

Eminem has come out in favour of gay marriage? Really? Is this the guy who rapped in the, er, rap called “Criminal”, “Hate fags? The answer’s ‘yes’”?

Oh well, we must be thankful, I suppose. Some people change, and that’s to be applauded.

For the record, he’s quoted as saying, “I think if two people love each other, then what the hell? I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want.”

So in favour of gay marriage, but not too hot on marriage per se.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The realities of self-censorship

So Rory Bremner, the excellent comedian and satirist, feels he can’t do Islam jokes. Surprise, surprise!

No doubt a whole host of others – comedians, artists, writers, musicians – feel the same.

And what an indictment on the state we find ourselves in when people who are doing genuinely creative work have to self-censor because of people who run their lives according to superstition and imaginary friends and sky fairies.

I don’t object if people feel they can organise their lives according to religious principles, but they shouldn’t expect the rest of us to believe in the same things.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The price of hypocrisy

I know we keep going over this, but it can’t be emphasised enough. We don’t want to have to pay millions of pounds for a monster to visit our shores.

But we’re going to have to. That monster is Joseph Ratzinger, a pope, aged 83, of Vatican City, Rome, who kills people and makes others’ lives a misery via his network of total evil.

The National Secular Society is reiterating – and quite rightly – that the British taxpayer should not have to pay for the red carpets and the posh scoff that will be required for what is to be a state, as opposed to a mere pastoral, visit.

(Incidentally, it looks as if he won’t be attending the banquet at Lancaster House – the London mansion managed by the Foreign Office – that’s being held in his honour. How ungrateful can you get? “Would you like to come for dinner?” “Love to, but I won’t actually be there.” Priceless!)

What gets up most people’s noses, I’m sure, is the sheer hypocrisy of it all. We can, as the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith did, bar that politician-filmmaker chap Geert Wilders – who, as far as we know, hasn’t denied people lifesaving terminations, or told people that they’ll burn for eternity in the fires of Hell if they’re actively gay, or denied possibly lifesaving condoms to believers in the developing world – but we find it hard to ban this utter fiend.

Because it’s religion, you see; therefore it’s a Good Thing.

Then there’s that other hypocrisy. It could cost about £20 million to bring this vile toad here. Various figures have been bandied about, but it’s going to be in that ballpark. And what will have been the good – the tangible good – of the visit when he’s gone home and all the faithful have returned to their quotidian existence?

If they’re the faithful to begin with, will any difference have been made, other than that they may feel warm inside for a while? If there are conversions, is that going to be a good thing – yet more people to preach the poison, to tout the toxicity?

What joy or hope could £20 million bring to the lives of people in our communities who are in desperate need of funds – funds for medical and/or educational facilities and a hundred and one other schemes that might improve life for those on the edge? Multiply that by the number of countries this oaf is visiting, and you have a lot of potential good that could be done with the money he’s consuming unashamedly.

It just makes caring people want to vomit.

Friday, 4 June 2010

How Catholics predict the future

Once again we get people criticising things before they’ve even seen them.

This time it’s notable nutjobs – sorry, Catholics – who are slamming Channel 4 for choosing Peter Tatchell, the gay human-rights campaigner, to present a documentary of Pope Ratzo’s visit to the UK in September.

It’s prompted Anne Widdecombe, the former Tory MP and Catholic convert, to say that it all goes to show just how anti-Catholic Britain is.

None of the critics of this programme have seen it, because it’s not been made yet.

What if it turns out to be entirely down-the-middle impartial? Will these people come out and say they were wrong? You can bet your sweet arse they won’t.