Coming out, for a 20-year-old Muslim girl in the UK:
"I tried to introduce it to them, because I knew it was a thing you don't talk about. It's forbidden. But once you mention 'homosexual' the discussion is over. You can't go into detail about it."
Far from accepting the situation, Reviva's parents set up weekly meetings with eligible bachelors - and reacted with violence when their teenage daughter refused to play along.
"The worst thing they tried was burning my hand on the stove. Anything they could grab, they'd hit you until you'd sort of pass out.
"They always tried to hit me where it couldn't be seen, to hide the scars. Because don't forget I was meant to get married, so I was meant to have skin that isn't damaged."...
In a desperate attempt to force the situation, her father even signed her away in an Islamic marriage to a man in another country, who she had never met.
Reviva, who was still at school, used her impending exams as a delaying tactic to ensure the relationship was never consummated and it was ultimately annulled....
Far from ending, her ordeal intensified. The troubled teenager was taken to her grandmother's house in the Middle East where, as she recalls with a chilling lack of emotion, her parents tried persuading her to take her own life.
"I was damaging the family honour. I was making the family looking like a modernised, westernised, filthy family. So what they wanted to do is get rid of what is damaging the honour.
"They put you in a room on your own, I don't get any food, or any water, and I have to just sit there and wait to die or kill myself."
To aid the process, a gun, a knife, and pills were left in the room, along with a can of petrol and a box of matches. In her view, Reviva says it would have amounted to murder, not suicide, should she have decided to kill herself....
"They tried a few exorcisms" she deadpans, as if having evil spirits cast out was nothing more extreme than a routine dental check up.
This intense young woman briefly lightens up and punctures her solemn tale with a vivacious smile:
"It isn't like The Omen, it isn't as dramatic. You lay on a prayer mat, and somebody who is very religious, will read several verses from the Koran.
"It's very frightening because everyone is scared of being possessed by something, and then you think 'maybe I am?' because I have desires and thoughts that my parents think are wrong."...
She contacted the Albert Kennedy Trust - a charity which helps vulnerable LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] teenagers seek refuge...
The Albert Kennedy Trust contacted the police and put them in touch with Reviva. Fearing for her safety, they gave her 15 minutes to gather her belongings and flee the family home.
Even then, there was a final dramatic twist as the young woman was taken hostage by her mother and brother, leaving the police to force their way in.
"They had to break the door and come in, because nobody was opening the door for them. And they went in, and my mother and my brother cornered me in the kitchen.
"My brother broke a glass to make sure I didn't leave the house alive. And they had to wrestle my mother and my brother, and… I was gone."
Hitchens on, amongst other things, those who pray for him, and those looking for a death-bed repentance:
"I wrote back to some of the people — some of them in holy orders who are running registered organizations: 'When you say, "Oh pray for me," do you mind if I ask, "What for?" ' A lot of them said, quite honestly, 'Not really for your recovery, but that you see the error of your ways.' Now I find that not as easy to be graceful about, because though it's put in a nice way, it's part of a phenomenon that I've always thought of as very disgusting, which is the belief of the religious — which they keep expressing — that surely now you're dying, your fears will overcome your reason. I hope I don't have to underline what's horrible about that. There's an element of blackmail to it. And an element of tremendous insecurity on their part; I mean they don't seem to feel they'd win the argument so easily with someone who's mentally and physically strong. By the way, I think they're right."
"You are swine," the unwitting couple were told. "The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine. Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel and, we have reason to believe, an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion."
That Swiss couple who were roundly abused when they believed they were renewing their marriage vows in the Maldives? Well, the article that we knew was coming has now appeared at the Guardian's CiF, courtesy of William Sutcliffe - The exploited Maldives 'celebrants' are the victims here, not the Swiss couple. Oh yes:
Thirty-two years after Edward Said published Orientalism, the debate he started, about the west's patronising and glib pseudo-appreciation of "eastern mysticism", has acquired a delicious 21st-century twist. This eight-minute video says it all. Jaded atheist westerners who want something "spiritual" in their lives think they can find it by hopping on a charter plane eastwards. A renewal of the marriage vows – a ceremony whose avowed purpose is to inject a spark of interest into a flagging project – can be spiced up with a sprinkle of spirituality, in much the same way that a dull meal can be livened up with a pinch or two of Tesco curry powder.
"The east" can provide this, in a way that South America or Africa can't. One of Said's key points is that this reverence for the east contains within it a toxic element. It is a modern equivalent of the noble savage idea in which easterners are revered for being somehow more simple and pure than their western counterparts.
The Asian tourist industry knows exactly how to tap into and exploit these Orientalist attitudes....
It seems likely that the source of the bile directed towards the Swiss couple is as much economic as religious. But then perhaps the question shouldn't be "why do they hate this couple?", but "how could they not?". Can any of us honestly say that if we had to do their job on their salary we would feel any different? Despite the grovelling apology issued by the Maldivian authorities, the victims in this story are not the Swiss couple but the "celebrants" who have now been arrested....
There's also a kind of orientalism which can only see brown-skinned people as victims, unable like the rest of us to rise to the level of being fully functional moral agents, capable of wicked as well as good behaviour. And which can ignore the clearly expressed religious and xenophobic contempt and pretend that, no, it's all about economics, really.
A year after Hackney council nearly painted over a Banksy on Stoke Newington Church Street, they're at it again. This time it's a big rabbit done by Belgian street artist ROA, outside a recording studio in Hackney Road.
The building's owners had granted the artist permission to create the piece, but they have been served with a removal notice by Hackney council, warning that unless they "remove or obliterate the graffiti" within 14 days, a council contractor will paint over the wall and charge them for the service....
Hackney council said in a statement: "The graffiti ... is clearly visible from the road and, whilst it is not the council's position to make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean.
A task which, sadly, they're not too good at - so they waste their time on this kind of nonsense instead.
The gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge in a 1942 "soundie":
The song was written for the Abbott and Costello film Ride 'Em Cowboy - a city-boys-out-on-the-range tale decades before City Slickers, featuring black cowboys long before Blazing Saddles. For anyone used to categorising American music on race lines, this is a tricky one: Harlem comes to the barn-dance, with shades of Western Swing, Boogie-Woogie, and whatever else came to hand.
Singin' his cowboy song
He's just too much
He's got a knocked out western accent with a Harlem touch
He was raised on local weed
He's what you call a swing half breed
Singin' his Cow Cow Booogie in the strangest way
Comma ti yi yi yeah
Comma ti yippity yi yeah
Here's Ella Mae Morse doing her rather more sedate version, with Freddie Slack and his Orchestra.
Another Dorothy Dandridge soundie, with Paul White in Zoot Suit - again 1942.
In 1954 she made the big-time with Carmen Jones, though her voice in the film was dubbed by opera singer Marilyn Horne. But the good times were short-lived: in 1965 she was living alone and out of work in LA. Plans for a comeback ended when she was found dead in her apartment from an overdose of antidepressants. She was 42.
In an interview posted on the liberal Arab website Aafaq on October 4, 2010, Palestinian reformist Zainab Rashid said that the Arab dictatorial regimes exploit the Palestinian cause in order to divert attention from their own domestic problems and suppress initiatives of democratization and reform. She also opposed the Islamization of the Palestinian cause, saying the Palestinian issue will never be resolved as long as it is construed as a religious struggle destined to continue until Judgment Day.
She argued that violence and extremism in the Arab and Islamic world stem from Islam's religious and legal texts, and called upon Arab intellectuals to renounce such texts, and to struggle for one supreme goal: "the secularization of the state and of society – which is to say, complete separation of religion and state."
Some translated extracts from the interview follow. For instance:
"There is a general tendency, which most Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are still promoting successfully, [to see] Palestine as the central cause of the Arabs and Muslims, and as the greatest humanitarian tragedy of all times. Notwithstanding my appreciation of this great tragedy and its terrible consequences for the Palestinians, it is not the greatest tragedy. The tragedy of Iraq and the Iraqi people under Saddam's regime... and then under the army of Muslim suicide [bombers] has been immeasurably greater than that of our people. The tragedy of Sudan and the Sudanese people, especially the inhabitants of Darfur under Omar Hassan Al-Bashir's criminal regime, is an infinitely greater tragedy than ours. There are many topics which I view as my moral and humanistic obligation to address and bring into the limelight...
"As for my writing about Islam and its struggle, not only with modernity but with anything that differs [from it] – whether in the realm of thought, faith, or culture – this is due to Islam's importance and the significant place it occupies in our society. Everything has been Islamized – politics, culture, economy. It is as if we are living in some encampment of the Quraysh [tribe] in Mecca more than 1,400 years ago. The main battle of the educated sector today is against the religious texts and those who [exploit] them. This battle must not cease until one supreme result is achieved, namely the secularization of the state and of society – which is to say, complete separation of religion and state..."
The piece is worth reading in full.