Schools Asked to Watch for Forced Marriage Signs

UK schools are being given guidance on signs that pupils may be getting forced into unwilling marriages, and are being asked to alert authorities. Now is a key time– as school holidays are approaching, and forced marriages often happen during the holidays. It’s clear from the way the guidance is written that schools are often reluctant to interfere in what they view as cultural or religious traditions. That’s why Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant explains:

“I should make it absolutely clear there is no culture and there is no religion in which forced marriage should be acceptable or indeed is acceptable,” he added.
“I know there are maybe some people who think this is an issue about Islam – it’s not. Islam does not recommend or accept forced marriage. Marriage in every religion has to be freely and openly consented to.”

Jasvinder Singh of Karma Nirvana, a national campaign group against forced marriages, emphasises a similar point:

“This is not something you must be culturally sensitive about,” she said. “This is a child abuse issue, and you must treat it in that way and follow your child protection procedures. Do not turn a blind eye”.

Interestingly, of course, one can agree with Singh and disagree with Bryant. Everything Singh says is true even if there *is* a religion that condones forced marriage. (Which matters, because surely there are at least some small religious sects that condone forced marriages. And there are many more where people, especially women, have few options other than obedience– which arguably counts as forcing.) thanks, Jender-Parents!

Fire service (UK) diversifies uniforms

Report here on how the fire service has recently introduced new uniforms. A good example of how small-  although crucial! – aspects of jobs can serve to make certain professions unappealing to those who don’t fit the ‘white male’  paradigm, and how this can be changed to move towards more inclusive workforces.

They will fit better, look more professional and, crucially, protect the wearer more efficiently from heat and flames, says the government. But the new firefighters‘ uniforms unveiled yesterday have another notable feature, being designed for the first time “for a modern, diverse workforce” – including hijab and turban versions, as well as maternity uniforms for pregnant female staff.

“We want the widest range of applicants to join the fire and rescue service,” the fire minister, Sadiq Khan, said yesterday. “It is important that all applicants know that the uniform and clothing they will be issued with will not only protect them, but will also fit properly and be comfortable.

Sounds a damn sight more practical (and protective) than this (a pretty fantastic photo though)!

Firefighter uniforms: 1926: A member of the Achille Serre Ladies Fire Brigade in London (From the Guardian pictures: a member of Achille Serra Ladies London Firebrigade in London)

When the Law’s an Ass but the court judges are not…

An eight-year old girl in Yemen, Nojoud Muhammed Nasser, is taking her father to court for forcing her to marry a thirty-year old man. She also wants a divorce from her husband who subjected her to domestic and sexual abuse. The law in Yemen used to prohibit the marriage of people under the age of fifteen, but was amended in 1998 to allow younger people to be married, although it states that a husband should not be ‘intimate’ with his wife until she is mature. Shatha Ali Nasser – a lawyer in the Supreme Court – points out that the amendment is ‘highly dangerous’ as it places young girls in situations where they likely to be raped and abused, which is what happened to Nojoud. The eight-year old arrived in court on her own in April 2008, asking for a judge to handle the case against her father. Yemeni law prevents those underage from prosecuting, but in spite of this, a judge ordered the arrest of her father and husband. Her father was later released when it transpired that he has mental problems, which he developed after losing his job and being forced to survive by begging. But her husband is still in jail. Nojoud will not be returned to her family, but will be placed under the care of an NGO that works with children. The Yemen Times article is here.

Irshad Manji

I can’t remember now how I came across this, but I’ve been meaning to suggest that you check out the blog of Irshad Manji, a Muslim feminist author and documentary maker.
She’s got fascinating discussions of, for example, misplaced reliance on ‘experts’ about Islam in deciding what books to publish or what’s OK put in a documentary, based in part on ‘expert’ reactions to her own documentary, Faith Without Fear (contrasted with the reactions the film actually received). Really good stuff to read if you’re interested in epistemology, multicuturalism, freedom of expression, etc etc… So if you’re wanting a break from the US Democratic convention, head on over and read Manji!

Some Muslim Blogs

I was looking for advice on how to be a good wife  – though not with the intention of following it, of course – and I came  across Ijtema and then the Indian Muslim Blog.  Since until about 2  hours ago I was totally unaware of these sites, I can’t really evaluate them.  I discovered the second by searching for discussions of the first, and I haven’t gotten any further.

So why mention them?  Well, because many of the views expressed are not ones white Western feminist encounter all that often and arguably we should be aware of them.  For example, we are all happy to combat rumors about Obama being a muslim.  Some members of the muslim community have, as we might imagine, a different take on what is going on.  The perspective motivating the first blog is surely itself important:

Ijtema is the Arabic word for “congregation” or “gathering”. The aim of the editors at IJTEMA is to gather together the best of the Muslim blogosphere in one place, as a showcase of what we truly believe to be, real Muslim voices, and real Muslim talent.

Why are you doing this?

Because we have no choice.

The mainstream media seems to have an agenda: to propagate the idea of a supposed ‘Clash of Civilisations’. The most vocal elements on both sides of the camp – those who are for or against this idea – are mainly non-Muslim; it seems that the Muslim community has lost its ability to reach out. In the meantime, a handful of media moguls gets to choose what the West (or, in fact, the rest of planet Earth) hears about Islam, and our Ummah. And sure enough, the likes of Bin-Laden (who, incidentally, are disliked by most of Muslim World) come across loud and clear.

Another fact is that  these seem to me good examples of the diversity of viewpoints that are excluded from much in our media.  A somewhat startling example of this is the Christian Biblical basis for pacificism that Jeremiah Wright expresses:

The press declared him totally unacceptable before anyone might have this important discussion, one that challenges the ‘Christian’ president’s justification for war.

OK, now it is true that the first blog contains a link to an attack on white Western feminism that none of us will judge accurate.  And what I’ve noticed most about the second are the links to poetry in a tradition I know little about.  But clearly it also has many discussions of global politics, and I expect some of it is  quite different from our daily fare.

So see what you think!

CFP: ‘Transformation and the Dynamics of (Radical) Change’


Dear colleagues,the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy at Queen’s
University Belfast is seeking paper proposals for a two-day conference
(28th-29th November 2008) on the subject of ‘Transformation and the
Dynamics of (Radical) Change Insights from Political Theory and

Transformation is a seemingly ubiquitous concept within the field of
political theory and philosophy. Whilst some idealize transformation as a
source for progress and the improvement of the human condition, others
frame it as a disruptive and unsettling process which can damage the
social, political and natural elements of our world.

Paper proposals should include a tentative title, an abstract (200-300
words) and details of the author’s institutional affiliation and contact

Proposals should address any of the following issues/topics: Factors and
actors in transformation: Pluralism, nationalism, individualism,
collectivism, recognition, complexity.

Forces of transformation: Globalization, economic change, social change,
processes, transformation of conflict.

Objects and subjects of transformation: ideas; norms; values; ideology; the
concept of transformation itself; state and sovereignty; government;
governance; social structures and processes; environment and nature; human
beings, including the self.

Evaluations of transformation: theories, approaches, critiques and the
possibility of a broader discourse on transformation.

All papers should make an explicit contribution to the establishment of a
broader discourse on transformation and the dynamics of (radical) change.
The organizing committee welcomes papers from scholars in all fields and
also encourages submission from early-stage academics, as well as from
postgraduate students.

The deadline for submissions is JUNE 15th 2008. Please send your submission
to: transformations(at)

For further information, please visit:

Fabian Schuppert
School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy
Queen’s University Belfast


Silencing and Forced Marriage

A deeply depressing story.  12 year old Ruksana complained to UK police when her parents said they were going to force her into an unwanted marriage. They came to her house to discuss it with the whole family, and told her not to worry– thus alerting her parents that she had talked to the police, whereupon they moved her elsewhere. She complained again, with a similar response, and eventually was forced into a marriage, forced out of education, and raped. As she says:

“White kids can call Childline and they get listened to – but for Asian children it’s thought of as wrong to complain.” 

Ruksana is, however, hopeful (let’s hope she’s right):

Because of the publicity about forced marriages I think they would take you a bit more seriously now. 

For the nerds among you, there’s arguably both locutionary and perlocutionary silencing going on indicated in Ruksana’s first quote. Asians don’t think they should complain (locutionary), and they aren’t taken seriously when they do (perlocutionary). Depending your views on felicity conditions for complaining, there may also be illocutionary silencing going on. For a quick intro to these silencing issues, see here. (Thanks, Jender-Parents!)

UNESCO’s International Network of Women Philosophers

This organization, you’ll see at the site  linked to below,  is concerned with some problems that are dear to the hearts of many readers here, such as the fact that women have little presence at philosophy meetings.

I’m not at all sure that it is at present a resource for our  readers, but it might represent an  exciting opportunity.  If  you have more knowledge of what is going on with the Network, please let us know.

(Many thanks to Calypso, who passed this on.)


International Network of Women Philosophers sponsored by UNESCO

UNESCO has the pleasure to announce the creation of the Website of the International Network of Women Philosophers, an information portal available to women philosophers throughout the world and to other friends of philosophy.

Dear Women Philosophers,
Dear All,
On the occasion of 8 March, International Women’s Day, it is our pleasure to welcome you to the website of the International Network of Women Philosophers sponsored by UNESCO is now available online at the following address: new information portal has been designed for the members of the Network, for women philosophers themselves, as well as for their friends, independent of gender or discipline.Its aim is to be useful and informative, but, above all, to create genuine links within the philosophical community at national, regional and international levels. It ails to provide you with full information regarding the Network, its founding members, its objectives, its structure. It also contains a directory of women philosophers working in different countries throughout the world and who now number more than 1200. We are very happy that they are the first users of this website.It is now then up to you to takes possession of this website, to enrich it, to share it, and to make it your own, with the constant objective of working in favour of the practice of philosophy by women.

The International Network of Women Philosophers sponsored by UNESCO is your own network. It belongs to you just as the future of philosophy belongs to youx.

We invite ou to use this new website to help make the primary mission that UNESCO’s Constitution exhorts us to engage in, that of intellectual and moral solidarity, into a tangible reality!

Have a nice visit!

Pierre Sané
Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences

Moufida Goucha
Chief of the Human Security, Democracy and Philosophy Section