Feature Editorials

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 19:00 Patrick Goodenough

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, in Washington on October 2, 2009. The 57-member OIC has spearheaded the campaign at the U.N. against the “defamation” of religion, particularly Islam.Seeking to break a longstanding impasse between Western and Islamic nations over freedom of expression, the United States has piloted a finely-balanced resolution through the U.N.’s Human Rights Council which the two sides are choosing to interpret differently.

The resolution was adopted unanimously on Friday, the last day of a month-long session of the Geneva-based council which saw the U.S. actively participating as a member for the first time.

Free speech advocacy groups gave the move a cautious welcome, saying it marked an improvement but still posed difficulties.

The clash between freedom of expression and religious sensibilities, fueled by the furor over the newspaper cartoons satirizing Mohammed, has been one of the most consistently divisive issues in the HRC in its first three years of operation.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009 19:00 Patrick Goodenough

In an encounter contrasting Western and Islamic styles of dress, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy greet Qatari Emir Hamed Bin Khalifa Al Thani and his wife Muza Bint Nasser Al Misnad on their arrival for a state dinner in Paris on Monday June 22, 2009.French President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a stinging attack against the burqa, just weeks after he fended off implied criticism by President Obama on the subject of France’s attitude towards traditional women’s attire in Islam.

“It is not a religious symbol,” Sarkozy said Monday in reference to the Muslim garb designed to conceal a woman’s head and body. “It is a symbol of servitude and humiliation.”

The burqa, he told a special session of the country’s National Assembly at the Palace of Versailles, would not be welcome on French soil.

Six years after Sarkozy’s predecessor outlawed the wearing of religious paraphernalia – a ban covering Muslim hijabs or headscarves – in public schools and government offices, calls for a total ban on burqas are on the political agenda.

The president said Monday that he supported proposals, backed by more than 80 cross-party lawmakers, for a parliamentary inquiry on the subject. But his own views on the matter were clear.


Monday, 06 April 2009 19:00 Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand

Imprisoned Iranian journalist Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand named International Journalist of the Year at British Press Awards 2009Imprisoned Iranian journalist Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand named International Journalist of the Year at British Press Awards 2009

The President of the Foreign Press Association in London Nazenin Ansari accepted the Award on behalf of her fellow countryman and journalist at the British Press Awards at London's Grosvenor Hotel last night. Sadegh is the former editor of Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan, a weekly closed by the authorities in Iran.

He is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for his writings, and is in poor health and in urgent need of medical care. Nazenin Ansari told the audience at the Awards dinner that we had received a statement from Sadegh, who was at that moment in Evin prison in Tehran, and she read out 3 paragraphs from it. The full statement translated into English from its original Farsi, is below. - The British Press Awards

Statement from Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand:

After saluting you with my warmest of greetings, I would like to start by offering my sincere thanks and gratitude to the ‘British Press Awards’ and everyone associated with it for making it their business to stand up and speak for all the suffering writers and journalists around the globe.

Monday, 22 December 2008 19:00 Jean-François Julliard and François Bugingo

ImageIt really was an extraordinary and ambitious idea, to ask all the countries in unison, the assembled nations of the world, to sign a founding text, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of its main architects, the French jurist René Cassin, had to fight in 1948 for the declaration to be "universal "and not just "international."

He was one of those who, like us, think that the suffering of victims is the same everywhere, and that an African or an Asian has as much right as a European not to be tortured.

But, 60 years later, this principle of universality is denied by many states. In Asia, for example, senior officials can often be heard extolling the merits of their "national" concept of human rights. They prefer, they say, to put the community's well-being first whereas as we, in Europe, just think of the individual. And if a journalist, government opponent or trade unionist is imprisoned or beaten? No, that is not a human rights violation. It is just a measure to safeguard public order and reassure decent citizens.

This way of thinking is hypocritical and unacceptable. Especially when you know that those who drafted the Universal Declaration included not only European jurists but also a Lebanese diplomat, a Chilean, and even a Chinese academic, Peng-chun Chang, the ambassador of a young nation embroiled in civil war.


Tuesday, 16 December 2008 19:00 Ben Shapiro

ImageIf you walk around Washington, D.C., on a regular basis, you’re likely to see some rather peculiar posters. But you won’t see anything more peculiar than the ads put out by the American Humanist Association. “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake,” say the signs, in Christmas-colored red and green.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Just be good for goodness’ sake. You don’t need some Big Man in the Sky telling you what to do. You can be a wonderful person simply by doing the right thing.

There’s only one problem: without God, there can be no moral choice. Without God, there is no capacity for free will.

That’s because a Godless world is a soulless world. Virtually all faiths hold that God endows human beings with the unique ability to choose their actions—the ability to transcend biology and environment in order to do good. Transcending biology and our environment requires a higher power—a spark of the supernatural. As philosopher Rene Descartes, put it, “Although … I possess a body with which I am very intimately conjoined … [my soul] is entirely and absolutely distinct from my body and can exist without it.”


Saturday, 22 November 2008 19:00 Brian Fitzpatrick

A wave of quasi-fascism has descended upon California and touched several other states. But instead of exposing the abuse, the media are ignoring it.

On November 4, California voters approved Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment declaring that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in the Golden State. Since then, militants have vandalized property, threatened individuals and mailed white powder to Mormon churches.

Most Americans probably are not aware of this fascistic behavior, because the media – the people who are supposed to be the first line of defense against domestic tyranny – are absent.

Fascism is a powerful word, but often used imprecisely, so let’s define our terms. The following definition comes from former Columbia historian Robert O. Paxton, author of The Anatomy of Fascism:


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