Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Niqab in the UK

Two constrasting articles on the Muslim teacher in the UK who wanted to wear a Niqab while teaching.

A straight-up news article from the Times of India: Veil row: Muslim woman's niqab tests UK

Then there's this editorial from the Khaleej Times: What about their right to choose?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

From Iraq

There is talk that the hospitals are the same. Some Sunni patients have been yanked from their beds, dragged screaming through the corridors and executed in front of doctors, nurses, patients, families. It's even been written about in a few newspapers. But only a few people know for sure — and they are not saying if it's true or not, or how often it's happened. It's virtually impossible for journalists to find out. As one U.S. military officer put it, "Iraq’s entire health care system has been hijacked by the Mehdi Army militia, (belonging to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr), the Health Minister won’t even talk to us."

- Too Late For Baghdad?, CBS News

I was a reluctant supporter of the Iraq war.

There are no words.
Text of Bush's Comments on N. Korea Nuclear Test

Hopeful signs: he is emphasising multilateralism. Negotiations and the UN Security council are the first port of call:
Once again North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond.

This was confirmed this morning in conversations I had with leaders of China and South Korea, Russia and Japan. We reaffirmed our commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. And all of us agreed that the proclaimed actions taken by North Korea are unacceptable and deserve an immediate response by the United Nations Security Council.

Worrying signs: neoconservative ideas that showed up in Iraq rhetoric also showed up when talkingabout North Korea. There's the "WMDs could be given to terrorists" meme:
The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or nonstate entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States, and we would hold North Korea fully accountable the consequences of such action.

*sigh* Why does everything have to be about the US? Other countries are more directly in the line of fire right now. Shouldn't their interests be primary?

Disconcertingly, there was also the "ZOMG OPPRESSION" meme:
Today's claim by North Korea serves only to raise tensions, while depriving the North Korean people of the increased prosperity and better relations with the world offered by the implementation of the joint statement of the six-party talks.

The oppressed and impoverished people of North Korea deserve that brighter future.

I'm sure they do, but, uh, how? At least he's saying that it's diplomacy rather than regime change that would bring this increased prosperity and better relations about. Maybe I'm just jaded, but it was weird seeing the plight of the North Korean people brought up by El Presidente for what I think is the first time ever.

I get the impression that there was some give-and-take between neoconservatives and, um, not-neoconservative policymakers(what are they called?) in the drafting of that speech: emphasise the WMD-terrorist angle and the suffering of people under an Evil Dictator[tm], but also state a commitment to multilateral engagement and a willingness to use diplomacy rather than military action as a first resort.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Anti-gay sentiment

The specifics of current anti-queer rhetorical points include:

Homosexual=predator: This one goes waaaay back. There's a 1950's US government propaganda education film about it called Boys Beware warning kids that "you never know when the homosexual is about". It even survives today as seen in this op-ed on Mark Foley:
Where does post-modern American ethics place Mark Foley's homosexuality on a scale of 1 to 10--a 1 being just another gay guy and a 10 being a compulsive, predatory sex offender?
. That quote does make perfect sense to some people: since being homosexual is exactly equivalent to being a sexual predator, then accepting homosexuality is exactly equivalent to accepting sexual predation.

There's also the tendency for the Republican party flacks to claim that they took no action against Foley before the media hit shit the fan on the grounds that it would have come across as gay-bashing. Leaving aside the question why these ferocious culture warriors who've spent plenty of government time and money hating on "militant homosexual activists" suddenly had to run like timid gazelles from the Homosexual Agenda[tm] in this particular instance, it also shows the continuing tendency to conflate sexual predation with homosexuality: "Those damn homos wouldn't have liked us stopping a sexual predator, see? Because his sexual predation is what makes him one of them".

Attacks on transgender people: with homosexuality gaining increasing tolerance and acceptance in society, many of the old myths about homosexuality are losing ground in the face of visible reality (the Far Right's misrepresentation of Foley's actions as typical homosexual behaviour notwithstanding). The attacks on the "freakshow" aspect of GLBT people's lives now seems increasingly focused on the T: transgender. This includes the Daily Telegraph's attack articles on the childcare "scandal" which described transgender people as people who have the atttiude of gender as being something that they can "change as easily as a person change's socks". The op-ed above insinuates that accepting transgenderism as valid means being required to accept something as uncertain that is supposed to always be certain: "There is much in American life that doesn't seem "obvious" anymore. Call it the transgendering of reality." The message is that those transgender weirdos are trying to deny the "obvious" reality of "basic biology" when they claim not to be their "true" gender ie the one they were born as. It helps some gay and lesbian people may be less than comfortable with transgenderism as well. I know I have a certain amount of transphobia within myself. In my defense, it wasn't that long ago that I was homophobic as well. I'm working on it.

Then there's the more subtle conflation of transgenderism and homosexuality, to try and treat the two as exactly equivalent so that myths about transgender people can get tarred on to GLB people as well. The Traditional Values Coalition in the US recently released an anti-homosexual, anti-transgender polemic called Will Cross-Dressing Activists Come To Your School? which says this:
TVC has long warned that one of the next phases of the homosexual movement is to normalize cross-dressing and sex change operations. The ultimate goal is to blur all distinctions between male and female-and to destroy marriage as a God-ordained institution.

Transgenderism is all a homosexual plot, see?

Thankfully gay rights organisations haven't tried to distance themselves from transgender issues in the face of this shared smearing to my knowledge.