Apr 16

MHA concern about compromises on vilification law removal

The following letter was sent to all members of parliament.

The Malta Humanist Association is concerned about the apparent direction being taken in the efforts to repeal Malta’s vilification of religion law, including compromises that are being contemplated.

Freedom of Expression is one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and while it is not without limitations, these limitations should be very few and included only when absolutely necessary. Examples include the requirement to say the truth on the witness stand, and the prohibition of filing false police reports. These are based on the principle of harm, as described by John Stuart Mill in his 1859 philosophical work “On Liberty”. People should be protected from harm, not ideas or beliefs.

The world was rightly shocked at the treatment of people like Raif Badawi, sentenced to ten years of jail, a thousand lashes and a large fine by Saudi Arabia for “insulting Islam”. Another case has just happened in Kuwait, where Professor of Philosophy Sheikha al-Jassem has been charged with the same crime after a  complainant said he had been psychologically damaged by her remarks that the constitution is above the Qu'ran.

The main difference between Malta’s situation and that of Saudi Arabia is the severity of the sentence and the frequency with which the law is applied, but the principle in both cases remains the same - that there is a set of beliefs that is shielded from criticism, or anything that can be arbitrarily declared to be “offensive”. In the past, in Malta, this law has been used to try to stifle literary expression and prosecute people dressing in costumes in carnival. Even when the accused were liberated, the threat of this law hanging over people’s heads serves to stifle freedom of expression.

In the ECHR case of Handyside vs the UK in 1972, the court delivered the famous declaration that “Freedom of expression… is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population”.

Some are recommending a compromise by opening up freedom of expression only to arts and artists. This creates several new problems, since it requires an authority on what is art, or who is an artist. Courts will have to decide whether an individual is an artist, or whether an expressed opinion qualifies as art, thus creating a new privileged class whose rights are greater than the rest of the population.

It has been mentioned that proposed changes would extend this anti-discrimination protection to atheism. Speaking on behalf of the Malta Humanist Association, we have never requested nor do we desire any similar protection for Humanism. Any belief system should be open to criticism as much as a political stance or ideology: If it stands up to criticism it does not need protection. If it cannot stand up to criticism, then it does not deserve it.

The Malta Humanist Association encourages our representatives to repeal articles 163 and 164 in their entirety. Their presence in our law provides no benefit and actually harms society.

Ramon Casha
Chairman, Malta Humanist Association

Feb 04

A Scout Meeting

Malta Scout Association

The Boy Scouts of America made the headlines over the past years due to their discrimination against atheists and LGBT people. Happily, the situation in Malta (and most of Europe) is very different.

The MHA had a chat with the Chief Commissioner (I wish we could say it was round a campfire, but it was round a table), where we were reassured that Scouting is for Everyone. The Scouts in Malta have been co-educational for decades, and are LGBT-friendly as well as accepting of people with different religious beliefs, or none. There are different versions of the Scout promise, which traditionally mentions God, to cater for different beliefs.

A number of Scout groups are linked to a specific school (closed sponsored groups), and these normally only accept students of that school and are influenced by the school's ethos. For the open groups found in most cities, a lot depends on their leaders and on the region - some places tend to be a bit more conservative than others - but if anyone is interested to send their kids to Scouts, they can contact the Chief Commissioner of the Scouts who will be happy to suggest groups that are a bit more progressive.

Scouting is open to boys or girls between the ages of 5 and 26.

Visit the Scout website to learn more about Scouting

Dec 30

Philosophy now

this is a journal discussing various topics available online wherein some of the writeups are free. https://philosophynow.org

Dec 29

The ethical chalanges of witholding treatment for low prognosis head and neck carcinoma patients

This is my thesis for an MA In biothics wherein i explore the non surgical issues which possibly effect the outcome of the deciion making process on whether to treat such patients or not. Please feel free to e mail me or message me if you want the text on hkborg@gmail.com

Dec 01

The making of europe

Written by Christopher Dawson in 1932, this scholarly tome discusses the philosophical, theological and political  issues form the end of the Roman empire to the rise of mediaeval unity. It is not a standard history book and assumes a solid knowledge of that period by the reader assisting the reader to better understand why the west drifted into its political and philosphical unity as the basis for the mediaeval era, highlighting the first attempts at the fruition of the renaissence and humanism of the furture.

Hermann Borg Xuerebimage

Nov 28

Dune (series)

Dune-Image-580x333The Dune series of books by Frank Herbert is a a science fiction / fantasy series that takes place far in the future, where humanity has spread throughout the galaxy and settled on a number of planets ruled by several noble houses, with an overall emperor. One notable feature of these stories is the cynical way in which religions are treated. Religion is widespread in this future - but it is designed and controlled by a number of groups and individuals for the purpose of control of the masses.

Oct 19

MHA supports pro-tolerance book campaign

The Family BookThe Malta Humanist Association is concerned about a stream of misinformation that is being disseminated about a collection of books donated by the Malta Gay Rights Movement to the Education Ministry by a newly set up social media group. This misinformation is causing concern among some parents who have been led to believe that these books contain explicit sexual information, or that they teach children about sex, although - revealingly - these claims never identify which of the books supposedly contain this material.
Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 17

A Sense of Perspective

8_cellSometimes it seems that the anti-IVF brigade in Malta doesn’t spare a thought for the people they hurt when they write. In their desire to convince people they lash out, and in so doing they strike adoptive parents, single parents and those people who married someone with children and care for these as if they were their own, not to mention their children.

In recent articles, we’ve had writers imply that adoptive parents and single parents are inhumane, women who offer to be surrogate mothers were compared to someone renting out a garage, and children born through IVF were described as commodities.

Can we take a step back, set aside the hyperbole and consider what it is that we’re talking about here? Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 20

Protect People, not Beliefs

Ramon CashaThe recent announcement that the government planned to do away with a number of articles in the law to bring it in line with modern standards gave rise to some criticism, but perhaps the most vociferous complaints were aimed at the removal of articles 163 and 164 from the criminal code.

These articles, broadly, threaten anyone who “vilifies” the Catholic religion, or any person or object related to it, with up to six months in jail, while a shorter sentence protects other “cults”, as the law derisively calls every other religion and church on the planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 29

MHA calls for mature discussion on abortion

The Malta Humanist Association backs the call for a mature and reasoned discussion on abortion. For too long, abortion has been the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, but issues are not resolved by ignoring them or sweeping them under the carpet.

Between the existing blanket ban on abortion, and unrestricted, unregulated abortion there are many grey areas that one should explore through dialogue and without prejudice.

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