Two women travel: abortion

Modern travel isn’t always clear cut and simple.  Huge media publicity was given to two  


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women recently who travelled to the UK to have an abortion, in the light of Ireland’s quite conservative legislation which means abortion is illegal under most circumstances, apart from when the mother’s life is at risk.

Whether the eighth amendment of the Irish constitution (which states the rights of the unborn) should be repealed is and will be the issue of the coming year.  Finally some of the law experts are speaking out about whether repealing the eighth would result in abortion on demand, or whether it would likely just allow for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality and rape.  That is simply one of the questions – what would replace it, if anything?

what would replace [the 8th amendment], if anything?

Other questions that strike me as wise in asking, regardless of what side you stand on, or what your experiences have been in life are:

  • When does life start?  At conception?  At the beating of the heart or formation of particular organs?  At the age where a foetus/baby can survive alone outside the womb?  At the age of supposed independence?
  • Why do you think that?
  • How would your criteria for what is life, look compared to a baby outside the womb at 18 months of age?
  • If there is any uncertainty over when life begins, would it really be that bad to watch who you have sex with, or to use contraception?  Given contraception sometimes fails, even when there’s nothing we could have done to control it, shouldn’t that be part of the risk and responsibility we take, abortionwhen we have sex?

I’ll be looking at some of these topics as the weeks go on and as the university campuses I work on, hopefully allow for there to be diversity of opinion on this topic and allow everyone to express some opinions on this.

Tonight, it was a great presentation from UCC final year medic, Lucy Vernon on the topic, with a super chance for discussion throughout.

Thankfully for now, in my opinion, the journey to the UK that virtually anyone could afford, is enough of a deterrent to make people think more logically about their ethics.

Muslim Immigration in Europe: masculinity, politics and law

Working in a university has its advantages, and Friday night was one of them.  Public lectures on relevant topics, by those with suitable qualifications.  UCC had me excited with this one.  And so too were many of the university staff, with most in attendance being from the related fields of study within UCC (those lecturers chatting behind me were lecturers in middle eastern art history, and history of gender studies).  But sadly I was left walking out of the majestic Aula Maxima into the darkness, even more confused than I had been before.  Where did it all go wrong?

The UCC president (Dr Murphy) opened on a fascinating note islam-migration-msaulinity-politics-and-lawby telling us of the huge changes in Irish society and in UCC.  in 1990 there was only 4% of Ireland who were non-native (not born in Ireland).  By about 2011 there was 12-14% non-native living within the shores.  Nods were taken from the professor who specialised in Irish migration.  You couldn’t say anything wrong here, given those specialists attending.  Or could you?

What followed was two fairly unrelated speeches from high profile speakers, both women who came from a Muslim background.  One, Tasmina, who is MP for Ochil and South Perthshire seemed keener to tell us about her achievements in life and her passions as an SNP politician.  And much as a woman who had achieved so much was fascinating to listen to, I did wonder whether I’d come to listen to an inspiring SNP politician (the inspiring part need not be linked to the SNP part) or someone speaking on the topic in hand.  Brief reference was made to how SNP policy endorsed more open borders than others would.

Following on was Dr Samia Bano, from SOAS London who started by trying to tell us that she would be very academic (I’m not sure why she thought this would be a problem), and then proceeded to speak on a range of issues, some of which tried to separate Islamic culture from religion, some which tried to persuade us that we could contextualise and re-interpret the Qu’ran, and some which tried to persuade us of the forward leaning nature of many of the Muslims within Islamic communities in the UK.

But I couldn’t help but think what the Islamic Society (or the local mosque for that matter) would have thought about such attempts to separate culture and religion, to re-interpret the Qu’ran (or even reinterpret a copy of the translation of the Qu’ran, as I’m not sure what levels of Arabic were actually read by either panellist), or to persuade us that the Islam could be up-to-date with the latest gender theories and feminist issues.  Or to even what extent they’d want to do that.  For the religion that completely bows to the theories of the day, and whatever direction the wind is blowing, ultimately gives up its right to objective truth.

Liberal academics may try and persuade us that Islam says one thing or another.  But in reality, the only questions on people’s lips were:

  • what is the essence of Islam (if there is one)?
  • how can change be brought about?

And if one thing were fairly obvious, it was that the panellists were trying to make the Qu’ran say what they wanted to hear.  And that because of that, change will only occur in the outer echelons of liberal or nominal Islamic communities.

To know what is actually believed in Islam, or to bring about change, I would suggest one may need to be side-by-side at the heart of such communities.  And so I find myself in a local mosque again tomorrow, as well as reading some academic works.  The disconnect is huge.

The main point I took away from the evening?  How much travel is impacting Irish society, both in immigration and otherwise.  Thanks Dr Murphy!

Great minds don’t think alike…

I want everyone to be united.

Imagine a world where everyone was united!  United for equality.  United for freedom.  United for justice.  Just plain and simple united.

Well, as long as they unite round what I want.

Because that’s right, isn’t it?  I mean, everyone else is looking through their cultural lenses and past experiences.  We’re the only tolerant ones who aren’t backward looking and who can see above the reasoning and rationale of everyone else.

Or perhaps not…
…unless we want a dictatorial ruler Peter.  Rather I wonder whether what we want is unity despite diversity.  Or unity in diversity.  Sound catchy?  Perhaps I should name some learning institutions around such a concept….uni(ty-di)versity…ah wait!

What worldview would achieve such a thing, is a different question.  Is there any worldview that is equipped to help humanity, in all its diversity, thrive?

As the University College Cork motto beautifully says

“Great minds don’t think alike”.

Sadly, I’m not sure they’ve figured out how to live that one out…yet.  It’s often also one of the claims of those who travel: “travelling makes me more rounded in seeing other points of view”.  But in my limited experience of travel, cynical me wonders more whether it just gives me the arrogance to claim that I’ve seen someone else’s point of view.  I mean, a few weeks in a country probably tells me enough to give me a false impression.  A few days with a local similarly.  It’s the equivalent of reading a wiki/blog post on a topic and thinking we know something about it!

A little greek is a dangerous thing?  Or am I just cynical…