Dear Paparazzi of the world,

Most of civilisation ordinarily would not consider addressing you, as you are mostly considered to be ranked somewhere between pond scum and sewer rats on the list of Things of Value to the World. However, something rather miraculous has happened and I feel it’s only fair to let you know that an opportunity has arisen which may allow you to move upwards in the world to be ranked just above dog turds although not nearly has highly as the clumps of hair that accumulate in shower drains.

This week The Mirror published photos of Nigella Lawson being physically abused by her husband Charles Saatchi. At first blush these images could be viewed as yet another tawdry way of enabling the slope-browed public’s voyeurism that feeds their envy and hatred of people who are better looking, richer, or important than they are, but that isn’t what happened this time. No, this time one of you actually managed to expose the horrible reality of what spousal abuse looks like. In perfect clarity you captured what a smug, self-entitled bastard does to control a woman he regards as his property. And for once the voyeurism of the public was utilised for good.

Paparazzi: there is a calling for you. Please stop badgering people simply trying to go about their lives. Stop photographing women who are guilty of nothing more than being nude whilst on private property with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Leave the widows of drug-overdosed actors to mourn in peace, and for goodness’ sake stop photographing children, no matter how famous their parents are.

Instead, you are hereby invited on behalf of the human race to stalk, photograph, and expose perpetrators of violence against women. Violence against anybody, for that matter. Turn your lenses away from people who aren’t doing anything wrong and instead become camera-wielding vigilantes able to put abusers on notice. It won’t even be hard to start building a new list of celebrities to stalk. Just start with Charlie Sheen and you’ll do brilliantly from there.

Your kind consideration in this matter is greatly appreciated.



Beat Your Wife and Children Properly

Not a good day for Islamic political figures today. The newest black sheep in the Saudi Royal family was convicted in London of murdering his servant after a lengthy history of abusing him. Islamists held in prison with Prince Saud Abdulawhatever have also been making threats at him because the prince has now been outed as not only a sadistic psychopath, but also a party boy who loved to carouse with alcohol and rentboys. Solitary confinement in a British prison never looked so good; if he ever gets back to Saudi Arabia, I doubt even his family connections will keep him from being executed for the capital crime of being very, very gay.

The real story boiling my blood is the case of two battered women in the United Arab Emirates, where after a man brutally attacked his wife and daughter he was told it’s just fine to beat them, but he went a bit too far by leaving physical marks.

The Koran does specify proper procedure for wife beating. I consulted a recovering Muslim friend, Fatima (not her real name), and she agreed that it is impossible to read those verses in a way that does not give tacit approval to a man being violent toward his wife, both psychologically and physically. Keep in mind that Muslims are obligated to accept the Koran as the pure unadulterated actual words of god. At least other faiths acknowledge human beings as intermediaries. For Islam, the Koran is much less negotiable than other forms of scripture. The only way around the teaching is to move into a reformed or post-Muslim mindset and ignore these verses, the way many modern Christian sects view the unsavoury parts of the Old Testament, but to openly advocate this would be viewed as apostasy by most Muslims. Essentially, all non-new-age schools of Islamic thought agree that a Muslim man has the right to humiliate his wife. What they argue over is how hard she should be hit. It’s astonishing to see people miss the point that any form of humiliation, even symbolic, is still harmful to the woman and her abuser.

Problem one with this so-called word of god: It ignores the lasting damage done by psychological abuse. Mental scars take longer to heal than physical damage. Even if a man taps a woman under his power lightly, the purpose is still to humiliate, control, and demean. It tells a woman, “I may not be really hurting you now, and you owe me gratitude for that. Just remember that if you really displease me I’ve got the right to put you in your place, you stupid cow.”

My second problem is the almost laughable conclusion that the daughter in the case was “too old” at the age of 23 to receive physical discipline from her father. Clearly her mother wasn’t too old, so the issue is that really the daughter should have had her own protector and maintainer husband to do the beatings himself.

This kind of story needs intense scrutiny in the news. It’s disturbing to see papers like The Guardian pulling the story “for legal reasons.” I expect more backbone from a British news source. Religion does not deserve immunity from criticism. Beliefs that are barbaric should not be tolerated in any way, shape or form. Islam is such a hot-button issue that many people instantly shy away from any legitimate criticism of the system, lest they be painted “Islamophobic.” As Fatima pointed out to me: “All religions have serious problems: violence, magical thinking, misogyny, superstition, or truth denial. Islam has all of the following. We need to stop lying to ourselves. When Islam is in the wrong, it is an imperative to say so.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thou Shalt Not Kill

I was extremely saddened to hear the news that an LDS Bishop, husband and father of six was shot to death in a chapel yesterday. Initial reports are indicating that the killer did not know the victim personally. The crime appears to have been committed by a mentally ill former Mormon who was angry over being “shunned to hell.” Reports have not yet stated if the killer left the Church voluntarily or was excommunicated.

This is an extremely shocking but thankfully isolated incident in LDS/Ex-Mormon dealings. I refuse to draw any comparison between this incident and any other exit narrative by a former Mormon. The damage Mormons and Ex-Mormons do to one another is largely psychological and ideological, and the stakes of apostasy are far lower than they are for religious groups where death or ritual shunning is mandated. Nothing — not personal offence, not disagreement, not excommunication, not any amount of psychological violence — justifies murder. Behaviours like excommunication can lead people into desperate circumstances if they believe they have been cut off from the only path to God, but nobody in their right mind would ever think killing someone would be the correct way to address the problem.

I learned about this from an e-mail sent by a relative who used this incident as a way to further stigmatise “apostates,” using this incident as an inappropriate cautionary tale to scare people away from “losing the light of Christ.” No rebuke was in order, as I’m chalking this up to pure shock and anger. I doubt many LDS people will really think this way. Conversely, I hope that disaffected Mormons do not say that this was bound to happen sooner or later, because the Church causes so much distress to those who leave. Neither of these statements are helpful or valid. This incident should be recognised for what it is: a horrible, senseless tragedy. For those who are so inclined, a donation fund has been set up to aid the victim’s widow with funeral and living expenses. (Caveat: no official endorsement has been made of this pledge fund yet.) I think we can all agree that ideological wars aside, violence is never the answer.

While we’re at it . . .

Let’s have the prison system humanely execute women when their families wish to kill them for besmirching the family honour.

Let’s have the police perform ritual beatings of disrespectful wives.

Let’s have surgeons perform gentle amputations of the limbs of thieves.

And why? Because The American Association of Paediatrics wants the United States to create laws that allow doctors to perform ritual female genital cutting to accommodate the cultural values of those who cling to this barbaric cultural artefact, despite living in a country that alleges to respect human rights. If the US is going to legalise cutting children, then we might as well make “humane” accommodations for other customs that are out of step with the twenty-first century.

Let the American Association of Paediatrics know that you don’t believe physicians should be given a pass on the Hippocratic Oath. The vow to Do No Harm supersedes any cultural custom. Parents and physicians who cut their baby girls deserve gaol time, not protection under the law.

Equality Now has provided the contact information of the dozy doctors responsible for betraying their profession:

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Phone: +1 847 434 7500
Fax: +1 847 434 8385

Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH
President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties
222 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: +1 312 436 2600
Fax: +1 312 436 2700

Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics
111 Silver Cedar Court
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Phone: +1 919 929 0461
Fax: +1 919 913 2070