#RIP – Tribute to Hassam , Friend and Human Rights Activist from Pakistan


aisha

Life partner of my first friend  from  Pakistan is no more

As I opened the Facebook page of Aisha  Gazdar to share

Neela  Bhagwat’ s  classical rendition of Faiz poem, “Bol”

As her page slowly opened, I wondered why

She had  removed her Profile Pic

and then

I felt a bolt from blue , I was numb, with a blank stare

The news stared at me

Rights activist Hassam Qadir no more amongst us, He was just 44

My Eyes closed, fervently wishing  this to be a bad dream.

 

I went to a Flashback

My friendship with  Pakistan began with  Aisha in 2000

My  Myths about  Pakistan started crumbling ,

thanks to our friendship ,

which happened as we met at a neutral ground in London

We both were Chevening  Scholars studying Human Rights

 

Our friendship beyond borders ripened

She came to India to make a film on women rights and CEDAW

I was her coordinator in India   and loved every bit of it

Hassam  also came with her in 2005,

My first reaction was WOW

This is a Marc Zuber look- alike from Pakistan

Kumbh ke bichade bhai ke samaan

 

His first morning in Mumbai,

This is what we see

He is standing in the Kitchen making his own Tea

Broad shoulders and  a broader smile

Behind the Robust Masculine exterior

Lay a  Gender Sensitive Man,within

 

A human rights activist and Lawyer

Hassam

was a Passionate Fighter

 Aisha , the most soft spoken person I have evermet

is a carnation of ‘  Tameez and Tehzeeb.”

Hassam  was a  True Punjabi from Lahore   in every sense of word

His jokes and crackling laughter, still echoes

He  forgot his Black Sandals

Every time I talked with  Aisha and him

We laughed and said

‘Tuhade chittar taan aithe hi reg gaye, ki kariye “

( Your sandals are still here, what to do ? )

He once jokingly said- Sambhal ke rakhna  Amitabh Bachchan na lae jaye !!

( Please take care Amitabh Bachchan does not take them !!)

 

 Left behind Memories , Jokes,  Vaccum

and yes

A pair of large sandals

sitting in a drawer

with hopeless anticipation ……

A pair of large sandals

befitting a  towering personality

Remains…………………………………………………………waiting forever

2013-07-01 21.58.53

 

#India – Appeal to observe Anti Posco Black day on 22nd JUNE 2013


 

We remember people who sacrificed their self interests for the benefit our freedom in the 66th year of Indian Independence. Sadly, during the one and a half decades of the post-globalisation era in India, our leaders are sacrificing the very purpose of the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom. India’s land, rivers, hills, seas and forests are being sold to global corporates, displacing millions of farmers, dalits, adivasis and fisher folk today, devastating this country’s environment.

The project planned by the multinational giant POSCO represents the largest  Foreign Direct Investment of this country (FDI) during the post-globalised India. The project will destroy the lives of thousands of farmers, dalits, women, children, fisher people and indigenous people.

The people’s movement against POSCO started soon after the signing of the MOU between POSCO and Odisha Government. Since then over hundred bombs have been thrown at the resisting villagers by the pro-POSCO goons and around 100 villagers have been shot by the Odisha police. Our leaders like MR. Abhay Sahoo and four others are in the jail. More than 1500 villagers and activists are facing over 250 fabricated false charges. Many villagers can not come out of their villages even for their hospitalization, due to the threat of arrests. The struggle against POSCO led by POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti is still resisting this invasion by a global capitalist giant in partnership with the Central and State Governments.

 

We believe that if the anti-POSCO movement is suppressed due to the interests of the corporations, it will affect many similar struggles in Odisha as well as rest of India. Since this SEZ project is the largest FDI investment in this country, it has to be treated as a symbol of struggle against globalization and India’s freedom.

 

Therefore, we appeal to all freedom lovers in India and all over the world to mark your resistance by responding on the day of the completion of the 8th year of signing of the MOU between POSCO and the Government, on June 22, 2013. We appeal to all activists, organizations, people’s movements and concerned individuals against globalization to express their strong protest against this corporate invasion of our lands. We appeal to groups and people’s movements working on fisher people, dalits, women, children and indigenous people to organize solidarity actions on June 22nd, since it is the lives of these very forces which are at stake. On this historical event, PPSS calls for the following actions all over India and abroad to initiate the following actions:

 

1.     Protests in your region demanding the ouster of POSCO and removal of all fabricated false cases against activists and villagers.

 

2.     Public meetings in your region condemning the threat of displacement and environmental destruction by POSCO.

 

3.     Expressions through, songs, posters, paintings, theatre, print media and internet actions against POSCO.

 

4.     Mobilise concerned sections to be part of the event in Odisha.

 

5.     Write letters to the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Odisha.

 

6.     Document the events in Odisha and elsewhere through written media as well as video for future campaigns, or

 

7.     Any other symbolic or imaginative actions you may chose.

 

We welcome all those who wish to participate in the mass rally and demonstrations at Patnahat village of Jagatsighpur district  in Odisha  on 22nd June 2013 and express their support to this historic struggle.

In Solidarity,
Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail - prashantpaikary@gmail.com

 

 

A letter to Angelina Jolie by an Indian Transman #mustshare



Dear Angelina Jolie,

Thank you for coming out. I mean about your mastectomy. You have no
idea what this can mean for a transman like me who went through the
exact same procedure as yours; well almost!

You didn’t have to come out, but you did. Especially since during your
mastectomies you kept it private and carried on with your work. I know
how difficult it gets with film producer types. I am a filmmaker in
Mumbai and you won’t believe it, but once during an edit session, Mr.
Moneybags, finding me alone in the cutting room, asked if we could
compare our d*** sizes! He giggled and said he hadn’t ever seen one of
someone who has had a sex change operation.

Your piece in the New York Times ‘My Medical Choice’, undoubtedly must
have been that — a medical choice. You spent three months, since this
February, on a procedure called ‘Preventive Bilateral Mastectomy‘ ;
‘Preventive’ since you are the carrier of the BRCA1 gene that puts you
at 87% risk of breast cancer and 50% risk of ovarian cancer. I spent
several years trying to convince doctors that I needed a mastectomy
for preventive reasons too. Years of forced living in a gender
identity that wasn’t my own, began to immobilize me. In a society that
understands only two genders and in a medical system that sees
abnormality in everything outside of it, going on is eventually
impossible. But your risk of celebrity cancer turned out to be higher
than my risk of a commoner suicide. Still, I am happy for you. The
mere idea that someone can remove their breasts, at 87% risk or no
risk, is just good enough for me for now.

And of course you wrote this piece for women! And I am hoping that you
meant transwomen too, some of who I know would kill to have your new
breast implants. How atrocious is the idea being peddled that you
wrote it to benefit the Pink Lotus Breast Centre, where your procedure
was performed, or for the biotech company, Myriad Genetics, which owns
a patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes giving them exclusive right to
develop diagnostic tests for, at a current cost of more than $3000 in
the USA. The fact that m o s t breast cancer seems to be sporadic and
has nothing to do with a BRCA1 mutation, pales beautifully in front of
your sheer courage to talk about your own mastectomy in the media.

It is interesting though that all the media attention has been on your
courage in losing your breasts, and not equally on your desire to have
them reconstructed. Your doctors could have expected you to simply get
back to the business of life without them. After all they were lost to
a very high possibility of a most dreaded disease. But they didn’t. If
you were non accepting of your loss, they could have put you through
that monster of an American psychiatric-diagnostic-manual called
DSM-4 ‘ to prove your mental illness and therefore the need to cure
you through breast reconstruction. But they didn’t. On the contrary,
they became your facilitators. They saw you, as you saw yourself, a
women, one with those very definitive markers of femininity : breasts.
Why is it that cosmetic surgeries for women skip the pathologisation
that is mandatory for trans people all over the world? Why is it that
medicine cannot facilitate trans people in the same way and grant them
the same dignity of self identity?

Just like many of my trans brothers, sisters and lovers, I become
complicit. I agreed to patholozise my gender identity. I agreed to let
the psychiatrist issue me a certificate for Gender Identity Dysphoria
[GID]. If I was to lose my breasts, I needed those gatekeepers to let
me in. You had the BRCA1 to open the big wide doors of reconstructive
surgery for you. And I had my GID certificate. I let them say, I am
mentally ill. I let them say it on paper. I signed on an affidavit
stating this was my consent and that I was totally responsible for
whatever the surgeries would result in.

In a world with greater understanding, removing my breasts should have
been seen as my ‘aesthetic choice’ ; a choice exercised in the
severely limited societal understanding of gender, as being either
only male or only female. But you’d agree that medicine being
organized on the central idea of disease or, as you now have made so
public, the possibility of it, is ill equipped at the moment, for such
fine abstractions as mine. I knew success when I saw my psychiatrist
scribble on his over qualified letterhead: “Diagnosis: G.I.D.’ Just
like you, I too finally, made a ‘medical choice’. That I was as smart
in 1997, as you are in 2013, makes me feel rather pleased with myself!
Perhaps, this is a sign? Perhaps I will be a celebrity soon! Perhaps I
will meet you at the next Cannes film festival and we can rule the
world together?! Two Celebrity Bilateral Mastectomy Survivors, with
reconstructed breasts on one, is better than none?! No?!

Satya is the founder & facilitator of the Indian Trans Group, Sampoorna

 

Landmark win for dalits as UK bans caste bias


Kounteya Sinha, TNN Apr 26, 2013,
(Jo Swinson, the equalities…)

LONDONDalits in the United Kingdom have recorded a landmark victory after the British parliament finally agreed to outlaw caste discrimination.

In a major U-turn, the House of Commons, which had earlier trashed an amendment to include caste among other forms of discrimination, on Tuesday voted for legal protection for the four lakh dalits living in the UK.

This makes the UK the first country outside South Asia to legislate against caste discrimination. On Wednesday business secretary Vince Cables said “caste is to be outlawed in the UK”.

Jo Swinson, the equalities minister, told the House of Commons the government recognized that caste discrimination existed in the United Kingdom and it was “unacceptable”. She said “very strong views have been expressed in the Lords on this matter and we have reconsidered our position and agreed to introduce caste-related legislation”. “We hope that this decision will serve as an example to other countries,” said Rikke Nohrlind, coordinator of the International Dalit Solidarity Network. “Caste discrimination is a global issue, affecting hundreds of millions of people in many parts of the world.”

The House of Lords had voted twice in support of the amendment, but the House of Commons had had reservations against it. MPs on Tuesday overturned their earlier decision and decided that caste would in future be treated as “an aspect of race”.

The amendment is part of the Equality Act 2010. Till now, the Act prohibited race discrimination, harassment and victimisation in the workplace. The definition of “race” within the Act includes colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin but does not specifically refer to caste.

Conservative MP Richard Fuller said “caste discrimination in the workplace is wrong and the people who suffer from it deserve legal protection”. The issue has divided the Indian diaspora in the UK. While groups like Caste Watch UK had been rallying to urge MPs to introduce legal protection for those from traditionally lower-caste backgrounds, the Hindu Alliance has called for a boycott of the

 

Indian woman raped, enslaved in Britain for years #Vaw


Indo-Asian News Service | Updated: April 20, 2013

Indian woman raped, enslaved in Britain for years: report

London: A 40-year-old woman, said to be an “illiterate” Indian, was beaten, raped and given out-of-date food and passed between three middle-class families as a domestic worker for many years in Britain, a daily reported.The woman made desperate pleas for help to Hertfordshire police as well as charities and other state agencies. But when police officers spoke to her, one of her “powerful and well-connected abusers” was used as an interpreter, the paper Independent said.

The woman was handed back to the man, and she was again attacked and threatened that she would be buried in the back garden of the man’s luxury home for ruining his family name.

Three people – an optician, a butcher and a secretary – were convicted of her abuse that spanned more than three years.

The woman was passed between the families, kept like a prisoner, given virtually no money and had her passport confiscated, the report said.

However, when she fled, her pleas went ignored by police and other organisations on at least 12 occasions, according to court documents.

The woman’s ordeal ended only after she was taken in by a migrant workers’ charity and human rights’ group Liberty took up her case.

“Various state agencies failed her, ignoring her repeated pleas for help, not adhering to their own investigative practice and it could be said ignoring the obvious,” Caroline Haughey, counsel for the prosecution, told the Croydon crown court.

The woman came to Britain in 2005 to try to make a better life and to send money to her family in India’s Hyderabad city.

When she sought help, she was threatened by her keepers. In one case, a professional interpreter told police that the woman was “telling a lot of lies – it’s common in her country”, the court heard.

She was first taken to hospital in 2006 with a gashed foot after her “employer” named Shamina Yousuf, 33, hurled a cup at her.

However, no action was taken after she was bullied her into not pursuing matters, the report said.

The woman fled after more than two years but returned to work for other relatives of the family to try to secure the return of her passport.

The court heard that the woman stayed in a one-room flat in St John’s Wood, and was raped by a butcher, Enkarta Balapovi, on several occasions.

The woman finally moved to the home of an acquaintance, Shashi Obhrai and her IT consultant husband Balram, who lived in Middlesex. She was forced to work seven days a week, 17-hours-a-day, cooking and cleaning for eight family members.

She escaped and her case was passed to Scotland Yard’s trafficking unit.

Obhrai, 54, of Moor Park, Middlesex and Yousuf, 33, of Edgware, north London, have been convicted of assault. Obhrai, an optician, was additionally convicted of threats to kill.

Balapovi, 54, of St John’s Wood, northwest London, was convicted of rape.

They will be sentenced next month. Two other defendants were acquitted.

The victim, who was not named for legal reasons, has been left in a wheelchair in part because of the injuries sustained at the hands of her abusers.

 

#India- National Green Tribunal says panel will inspect Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant


The members of the committee to inspect Sterlite’s copper smelter will be decided on 18 April
S. Bridget Leena, Livemint.com
First Published: Fri, Apr 12 2013. 09 32 PM IST
http://www.livemint.com/rf/Image-621×414/LiveMint/Period1/2013/04/13/Photos/sterlite–621×414.jpg” />
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the Tuticorin plant, which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year, on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions. Photo:
Chennai: The national green tribunal on Friday said it will constitute a committee to inspect the country’s largest copper smelter, run bySterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
The members of the committee will be decided on 18 April, said judicial member M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendranof the national green tribunal.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the plant—which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year—on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions.
Sterlite, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources Plc., has said the plant’s emissions are within permissible limits.
On 1 April, Sterlite filed a petition with the national green tribunal challenging the order of the state pollution control board.
The committee will inspect and assess the state of the copper plant. It will give its report on or before 29 April. Only after the findings of committee are presented will the tribunal decide on the re-opening of the plant, Chockalingam said.
The unit should be open for monitoring but it can’t start resume commercial production, the tribunal said.
During the proceedings on Friday, the judicial member asked why the pollution control board waited for more than a week to shut the plant if it found toxic amounts of sulphur dioxide were released between 2am and 11am on 23 March.
The Supreme Court last week fined Sterlite Rs.100 crore for polluting the environment but set aside a 2010 directive of the Madras high court to permanently close the Tuticorin smelter on grounds of environmental concerns.
The apex court said its judgement would not stand in the way of the matter regarding the emissions.
Vaiko, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu-based political party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is one of three entities supporting the state pollution watchdog’s order to shut the Sterlite plant.
Sterlite shares ended unchanged at Rs.88.50 on BSE on Friday, while the benchmark Sensex fell 1.62% to 18,242.56 points.

 

#India- Clinical Trials offer no security to clinical trial participants


 


Trial and error

Author(s):
Kundan Pandey
Issue Date:
2013-4-15

Recent notifications offer no security to clinical trial participants

Trial and errorVICTORIn the past eight years, 2,868 deaths have occurred during clinical drug trials across India. But only 89 have been attributed to such trials and compensation has been paid in 45 cases, said the Union health minister on March 5 in Parliament. Considering the Supreme Court’s recent observation that uncontrolled clinical trials “are causing havoc to human life”, Ghulam Nabi Azad’s speech only highlights the poor state of regulations for clinical drug trials.

To tighten guidelines for conducting these trials, the health minstry had amended the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules by passing three not ifications between January and Febr uary. The notifications specify procedures for compensation and functioning of the ethics committee, which is constituted by an institution conducting the trial.

Health activists say the notifications are rife with loopholes. The first one deals with compensation in case of injury or death during clinical trial but the onus of deciding the injury continues to be with those carrying out the trial. S Srinivasan of All India Drug Action Network says, “The notification does not define injury. How does one  prove that an injury is related to the trial? Who is the appellate body in case the compensation is not satisfactory?” Amar Jesani, editor of Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, says it is important that arbitration boards are created at local and regional levels to arbitrate on the quantum of compensation a provision that was present in the draft but is missing in the notification.

Claiming compensation continues to be difficult. As per the first notification, the Drugs Controller Gen eral of India (DCGI) will be the final authority to determine cause of injury and compensation amo unt. There is a provision that the victim, if not satisfied with the compensation decision, can approach the Centre. How ever, it is not clear which Central body should be approached. In the abs ence of an appellate body, the final auth ority should have been a neutral body, say activists.

The first notification ensures that compensation is received within six months. But what if the pharma company does not agree with DCGI’s decision? If it approaches a lower court, the decision could get prolonged indefinitely.

sordid<br />
tale” src=”<a href=http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/20130415_21-table.jpg&#8221; width=”237″ height=”257″ align=”left” border=”1″ hspace=”5″ vspace=”5″ />Activists say since the majority of the participants in clinical trials are poor, there should be provision that the aggrieved party can promptly approach the resp ective high court. This will fast track the case.

In view of the complications in obtaining compensation, activists have long been demanding that in case a participant starts showing signs of an adverse effect he or she be immediately paid half of the compensation. Although the draft had met this demand, the final version makes no such mention. Srinivasan says the compensation model needs clarity (see http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/clinical-trialsillogical-compensat… [1]).

Another sphere where government efforts have fallen short is in defining the role of ethics and expert committees in the third notification. Jesani, who has participated in many ethics committees, informs, “The notification on ethics committees is in response to the criticism that they are not registered with public authorities and there is no supervision over them.” The notification, however, does not satisfy on two counts. First, there is no information on how the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation, which oversees pharma companies and clinical trials, will manage since it is short of staff and low on funds, says Jesani. Secondly, he says, unless all ethics committees adopt a uniform procedure for monitoring trials, their decisions would become arbitrary. “They also need to be independent of their institution’s interests.” Similarly, the third notification does not define the constitution of the expert committee, which is tasked to recommend quantum of compensation to DCGI in case of death. “On what basis will the expert committee recommend has also not been defined,” says Jesani.

 


 

Margaret Thatcher dead: 10 key quotes from Glenda Jackson’s speech on the former PM #Video


10 Apr 2013 19:18

 The Labour MP ripped in to Margaret Thatcher’s record as Prime Minister during today’s Commons debate

 1. “Thatcherism wreaked the most heinous, social, economic and spiritual damage upon this country”

2. “It’s a pity she did not start building more and more social houses after she entered into the right to buy, so perhaps there would have been fewer homeless people than there were”

3. “During her era London became a city Hogarth would have recognised”

4. “We were told it was going to be called Care in the Community. What in effect it was was no care at all in the community”

5. “Everything I had been taught to regard as a vice – and I still regard them as vices – under Thatcherism was in fact a virtue”

6. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

7. “People knowing under those (Thatcher) years the price of everything and the value of nothing”

8. “I’m beginning to see possibly the re-emergence of that total traducing of what I regard as being the basis of the spiritual nature of this country, where we do care about society, where we do believe in communities, where we do not leave people to walk by on the other side”

9. “If we go back to the heyday of that era I think we will see replicated again the extraordinary human damage that we as a nation have suffered from”

10. “A woman (Thatcher) not on my terms”

 

Check out all the latest News, Sport & Celeb gossip at Mirror.co.uk http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/margaret-thatcher-dead-10-key-1823133#ixzz2Q8SoKyE8
Follow us: @DailyMirror on Twitter | DailyMirror on Facebook

 

Setback to Irish anti-abortion plans #reproductiverights


LONDON, April 6, 2013

HASAN SUROOR, The Hindu

The Irish government’s move to relax the strict anti-abortion laws in the wake of the uproar over the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in October last year after being refused abortion, suffered a setback on Saturday as the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) rejected a series of proposals to review the ban.

IMO’s annual conference in Killarney voted down a motion calling for abortionto be allowed in cases where there was a substantial risk to the life of the mother. It also rejected motions on allowing abortion in cases of rape or incest and certain other special circumstances.

This is likely to put the main professional medical body on a collision course with the government which has promised to bring in legislation to make abortion legal in case where the mother’s life may be at risk.

IMO’s move came two days after an inquiry into Savita’s death found that she could have been saved had doctors not focused all their attention on saving the foetus. Doctors refused her repeated requests for abortion even when her life seemed in danger.

“The investigating team considers there was an apparent overemphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart stopped, together with an under-emphasis on the need to focus an appropriate attention on monitoring for and managing the risk of infection and sepsis in the mother,” the inquiry said

Savita, (31) was 17 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to Galway University Hospital on October 21 last year and was found to be miscarrying.

The God Argument- Case against Religion and For Humanism


March 30, 2013

 

 

An Interview with A.C. Grayling

A.C. Grayling is Master of the New College of the Humanities (London). He
is the author of the acclaimed Among the Dead Cities: The History and
Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan,
Descartes: The Life and Times of a Genius, Toward the Light of Liberty:
The Struggles for Freedom and Rights That Made the Modern Western World,
and, most recently, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible. A former fellow of
the World Economic Forum at Davos and past chairman of the human rights
organization June Fourth, he contributes frequently to the Times,
Financial Times, Economist, New Statesman, and Prospect. Grayling´s play
“Grace,” co-written with Mick Gordon, was acclaimed in London and New
York. He is also an advisor to my nonprofit foundation, Project Reason.

Anthony´s new book is The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for
Humanism.

What is your religious background?

I was brought up in a non-religious household and was first presented with
religious ideas in school; they did not persuade me but on the contrary
seemed non-rational and misleading. In the study of history I became aware
of the effects of religious divisions and sectarianism on individuals and
societies, and came to think that freedom from religious influence is a
human rights issue. I am an atheist, a secularist and a humanist.

Perhaps you should clarify the differences between atheism, secularism,
and humanism.

The first is a metaphysical view about what the universe contains (about
what exists), the second is a commitment to separation of religious
organizations from state organizations, and the third is the ethical
outlook of any reflective person who does not have any religious beliefs
or commitments.

What are the roots of humanism, in your view?

The tradition of ethical thought stemming from classical antiquity is the
foundation of humanism (and is a thousand years older than
Christianity)-the study of these ideas suggests their living applicability
to life, and I have been keen to alert people to this fact. Often people
ask “what is the alternative to religion as a philosophy of life,” and the
emphatic answer is: humanism.

Humanism is a philosophical starting point for reflection on how one
should live, according to one´s own talents and interests and under the
government of respecting others and not doing them harm, allowing them
their own quest for an individual good life.

Do you think a person can be both a humanist and a person of faith?

No, religion and humanism are not consistent-unless you mean `humanism´ in
the Renaissance sense, where it denoted the study of classical literature.
But this study soon showed people that the ideas and outlook of classical
thought is at odds with religion, which is why humanism is now a secular
philosophy.

Do you have any advice on how to raise children as humanists in a world
where most people are religious?

Easy-make children conscious of their responsibilities to others, help
them to be clear-eyed and to think, question, always ask for the evidence
and arguments in support of any proposition-and explain how the legacy of
mankind´s ignorant past survives in religious beliefs and practices, and
what role these have in social life as a result of their historical
embedding.

What would you say to someone who argues that we need religion, whether or
not any religious doctrine is true, because religion gives us
spirituality, rituals, etc.?

I say that such pleasures and relaxations as a country walk, dinner with
friends, an afternoon in an art gallery, attending a concert or the
theatre, intimacy with a loved one, lying on a beach in the sun, reading
and learning, making things, are all “spiritual exercises” in their
refreshment, strengthening and promotion of connections with others and
the world-these are the only “rituals” and observances required for an
intelligent appreciation of what is good and possible in human life.

There´s one meme I find especially galling these days-it´s the claim that
atheists (or the “new atheists”) are just as dogmatic as religious
fundamentalists are. This is one of those zombie ideas that, no matter how
many times you kill it, it comes shambling back at you. I´m wondering what
your response to it is.

There are two components to the answer: One needs to explain what “dogma”
means, viz. a teaching to be accepted on authority not enquiry, and one
needs to explain that robust opposition to religion in its too-common
forms of bigotry, anti-science, anti-LGBT, anti-women, to say nothing of
terrorism (and to `moderate´ religion as the burka for all this, as you
point out), is justified, and cannot be effected by compromise and
soft-speaking. Slavery would never have been abolished by such means.

source-http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-god-argument