Coup d’oeil: surprise visit edition

Bit o’ this ‘n that:

Ms. Glasses’ interview on Malaysia and Egypt with the Council on Foreign Relations:

We live in a world where we cannot afford to ignore [the question of religious freedom] in our foreign policy. It affects our allies, our enemies, it affects our shores…. It has a major impact on state security and the ability of countries like Malaysia and Egypt and Pakistan to maintain stability in their societies. The idea that you can see sectarian violence flare up, watch it die down, [think] that it doesn’t have deeper roots, is a mistake. And the idea that you can have legal systems that do not actively protect religious minorities is a mistake because that legal environment, as technical as it is, ultimately does create a social norm that affects the way people behave. Read on.

Lincoln-Douglas revisited at xkcd. Sometimes, I get tired of being reasonable, and I just feel like doing this instead:


…but I persevere.

Ms. Glasses in a China symposium at NRO:

The Chinese people are going to define their state as people always have in every country. They are yearning for human dignity, to live with it openly, freely, prolifically.Instead of telling them, as Secretary Clinton did in February, that their dreams “can’t interfere” with economic, climate, or security interests, we have a duty to let them know that prosperity and human respect are not mutually exclusive. We have a duty to let them know the freedom they were born with won’t be sold out to the baser interests of any state. We should regard China the way we should regard the rest of the world and ourselves: with great hope, with high expectations, with the knowledge that sometimes the high ground is gained at a cost that we are willing to share. Read on.

Becket’s very own Asma Uddin was asked to be an expert panelist on WaPo/Newsweek’s On Faith blog.  Here she is writing on the Geert Wilders hate speech trial in the Netherlands:

While legal sanctions on non-violent speech are reprehensible because they give the state undue control over its citizens’ expression, some attention must be given to the sociological problem of the ways speech is used and manipulated. Read on.

and the Swiss minaret ban:

The Swiss vote is an expression of the Swiss majority’s fears — some rational, some not — on the role of Islam in their society. Unfortunately, it is a misguided expression that substitutes a symbolic issue for substantive ones, and sets a malign precedent for Swiss citizens of every faith. Islam in Western society poses real and meaningful challenges, for Muslims as much as Westerners. Resolving them demands the exact opposite of what Switzerland chose on Sunday: not less freedom for faith in public life, but more. Read on.


Chocolate bacon peanut bark
Chocolate bacon peanut bark

Bacon Gets Its Just Desserts at NPR: It’s not just for breakfast anymore: rich, savory bacon enhances chocolate chip cookies, cakes and other sweets. And why make ordinary fudge for the holidays? Make it extraordinary — with peanut butter and, of course, maple-smoked bacon.

Sir John Soanes Museum in London. soanesI adore formerly private collections, the intimacy, and there’s always something unexpected. This one of the famed architect has some really wacky stuff. Such as a retreat for his imaginary monk-in-residence in the basement!

And wow:

Meghan Duke’s run-in at the National Gallery on Friday — security guards made her remove a prolife button because it allegedly violated the museum’s policies regarding separation of church and state.  She wrote about it at FirstThings:

[T]he actions and arguments of the guards illustrate—besides complete confusion as to the purpose of the First Amendment—an all too common misconception of the role of religion in public life. “What if I were wearing a cross around my neck?” I asked the security guards, “Would I have to remove that?” “No, of course not,” one of the guards responded, “that’s entirely different.” But it’s actually entirely the same—assuming the guards were correct to call my pro-life pin a religious symbol. If wearing a religious symbol inside a federal building violates the First Amendment ban on the establishment of religion, than no one should be able to wear a cross, or a kippah, or a hijab inside the National Gallery. For that matter, the National Gallery would need to reconsider their display of thirteenth–sixteenth-century Italian art. In fact, they may need to shut down all but the modern and contemporary art exhibits.

Read on.


Gastropost London

Borough Market is a must in London.  Clockwise from top left: artisanal vinegars, strawberries with fresh Jersey cream, lemon-caramel-coconut bars, real raclette!

Clockwise from top left: artisanal vinegars, strawberries with fresh Jersey cream, lemon-caramel-coconut bars, real raclette!

© Ms. Glasses, October 2009

Hosting “Defamation of Religions” panel discussion parallel to UNGA

UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief cordially invites you to a panel discussion and luncheon

“Defamation of Religions”

The Relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion

Delegates’ Dining Room

United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

1-3 p.m.

For the first time since non-binding resolutions on “defamation of religions” were passed at the UN starting in 1999, a binding treaty citing “defamation of religions” is being considered by a UN body. This week, the Ad Hoc Committee on the elaboration of complementary international standards (established by the Durban Outcome Document) is debating an optional protocol to the ICERD incorporating “defamation of religions” in Geneva. The issue also promises to be a high-profile matter at the General Assembly this year.

Critics of “defamation of religions” say that the concept undermines the foundations of human rights law by protecting ideas instead of people, and empowering states instead of their citizens. Does the concept foster understanding and accomplish what its proponents say it does, or does it destabilize rights that international instruments currently protect?

This roundtable discussion will seek to foster philosophical, sociological, and legal understanding of a timely and important issue.

Panelists include:

Professor Cole Durham
Brigham Young University Law School
OSCE Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief

Dr. Peter Petkoff
Oxford University

Nasser Weddady
American Islamic Congress

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Suhail Khan
The Institute for Global Engagement

Elizabeth Cassidy
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

PLEASE RSVP: Caitlin Seery • • +1 (404) 312 8824

For security clearance, please specify if you do not have an UN badge.

Co-sponsored by:
UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief
The BYU Center for Law and Religion Studies
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

Defamation of Religions redux

So…since my last post, I’ve been in Mexico City, Warsaw, Krakow, and London, mostly, but not entirely, for work.  I don’t know why I bother pretending to blog anymore.  I’ll post pictures soon, but in the meantime, here is a snippet of why Warsaw, and below are two places you can hear me blabber this Wednesday, October 21, if you’re interested: Congressional Human Rights Commission at 11am and a Georgetown University symposium at 1:30pm. Details below.

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC)
Hearing Announcement: Implications of the Promotion of “Defamation of Religions”

Wednesday, October 21
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Rayburn B-318

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a timely hearing to discuss the implications of the concept of “defamation of religions.” For the past several years, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have adopted resolutions promoting the concept of “defamation of religions.”

Panel I
U.S. Department of State
Leonard Leo, chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Panel II
[–], international law director, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Tad Stanke, director of policy and programs, Human Rights First
Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director, American Islamic Congress

***Witness list subject to change.

If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Hoffman (Rep. Wolf) or Hans Hogrefe (Rep. McGovern) at 202-225-3599.

Frank R. Wolf, M.C. James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC Co-Chairman, TLHRC

Georgetown University
Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs

Human Rights and the Defamation of Religions
October 21, 2009 | 01:30PM
Hotung International Law Building, Dining Room

rsvp required

For several years, various UN bodies have enacted resolutions condemning the “defamation of religions,” arising from the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. This raises complex issues at the intersection of domestic and international law and policy. How do states conceptualize the relationship between freedom of speech, censorship, blasphemy laws, and the prohibition on defamation or hate speech? Can theological debate and criticism of religion be disentangled from defamatory and violence-inciting speech? In what way is “defamation of religion” a human rights issue? How has this debate played out at the international level–what actors and states support or oppose these resolutions and why? What is the future prospect for enacting stricter condemnations of the defamation of religion?

This event is held at the Georgetown University Law Center campus at 550 First St. NW, Washington DC 20001. A map of campus, with the Hotung Building marked in red, is available here.

1:30-1:40: Welcome Remarks

Alex Aleinikoff, Dean, Georgetown Law

1:40-2:00: Introduction to the Issues

Abdullahi An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor, Emory Law School and Senior Visiting Fellow, Berkley Center

2:00-2:55: Panel 1: Defamation of Religions at the State Level

Moderator: [–], International Law Director, Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Knox Thames, Acting Executive Director, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn, Senior Program Manager, Human Rights and Religious Freedom, Freedom House

3:00-3:55: Panel 2: International Human Rights in Tension

Moderator: Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution
Abdullahi An-Na’im, Charles Howard Candler Professor, Emory Law School and Senior Visiting Fellow, Berkley Center
José Casanova, Professor, Department of Sociology, Georgetown University; Senior Fellow, Berkley Center
Tad Stahnke, Director of Policy and Programs, Human Rights First

4:00-5:00: Keynote Address

Frank LaRue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

5:00-6:00: Reception, Alumni Lounge, Hotung International Law Building

New Delhi, Take 2

My adventure begins, as usual, with my own haplessness. It turns out I left behind my cash card but happily I had some US money on me, which I exchanged at the airport. It’s a good thing I got in unusually early and the exchange desk was still open. Of course, anticipating I would have a cash card, I didn’t bring a lot of USD. I’ll figure something out. I know people….

Vishal was planning to come get me but my plane landed a whole hour early. (Who ever heard of that?! Of course there was that plane in Bangladesh that took off an hour earlier than scheduled departure.) And of course I had no checked bags so I was out immediately, easier just to take a taxi than make him trek out to get me.

Then my taxi driver claimed there’s no #[–] Gulmohar Park, which is where I am staying. As David says, they will claim the non-existence of a place is veryvery much and you just have to insist it is veryveryless. “Persistence is key.”

Vishal helpfully emailed me tips for how to get there, like that the numbers at Gulmohar Park make no sense. The driver called the mobile number they have listed but this guy was just yelling (in Hindi presumably) — and then the driver passed the phone to me, as though I could figure it out! So I start saying in English, “Is this [the place where I am staying]?” But the guy just keeps talking loudly in some language I don’t understand. He was so loud we could both hear and the driver and I both started laughing. He found it eventually, but not before stopping at least (no exaggeration) a dozen times asking for #[–]. I admired his persistence, especially because I had paid a (very cheap) flat rate at the airport pre-pay taxi counter.

And then there was this gem of a conversation!

Taxi driver: “What is your country?”

Me: “America.”

Driver: “Oh.”

Me: “Where are you from?”

Driver: “I am Indian.”

We both ended up laughing again. I meant what state in India, but he realised it was pretty funny immediately. I like this guy.

Also I bought a bottle of water at the airport because I knew I would be dehydrated on the road and I was so paying attention to paying for it that I carefully took my change, and then left the water at the counter. Of course, the taxis here are either enclosed and unbearably hot or “open air” and it’s like a death sentence with the pollution.

Oh, and I was just informed that the area of India that I need to go to next week is beset by rampaging elephants, who have trampled 3 to death so far, so villagers felled a giant tree to block the only road into the district, which is going to make getting there rather more challenging than anticipated. Also, there is apparently “lashing monsoon rain” in the region. No kidding.

I have to say I am veryvery happy to be back in India. I think I genuinely missed it!

I’m looking forward to seeing the —–s tomorrow. Vishal says that by now little Zaira has mastered the art of repeating everything you say. Persistently, I’m sure. Here is how insanely cute she is:




P.S. This is “New Delhi, Take 2” because I was supposed to take this trip in April. The usual brand of haplessness befell me, however, and I was delayed until now.

Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar

Last night was the best meal I’ve had in a year at least. Jack’s is nestled in the East Village, maybe 8 tables and a bar, relaxed and slightly lush, warm and sophisticated, all at once. We wandered in without a reservation at 7pm on a Thursday night.

The dishes are small plates with surprising, perfectly balanced flavours, all inventive but easy to access. We didn’t have a single disappointment. We ordered the tasting menu, and added a couple of additions. It came in the following progression and pairings, pitch perfect for 2:

  • East Coast Oysters, Bloody Mary foam, celery and
  • Crudo of Dayboat Fluke, grapes, buttermilk, basil, chili-salt;
  • Potato-fried Octopus, avocado puree, adobo, lime and
  • Confit Arctic Char, crisp root vegetables, yogurt, shishito peppers;
  • Pan-fried Gnocchi, crisp soppressata, sheep’s milk cheese, parsley puree, lemon balm and
  • Fresh Lunguini, beef tendon, cashews, dried ossau-iraty;
  • Slow Cooked Striped Bass, smoked creamed corn, potato-dill puree, snap peas;
  • Ricotta Beignet, lavender soaked strawberries, salted vanilla yogurt, basil

And then we went to Momofuko Milk Bar a few blocks up for soft serve (cereal milk and peaches and cream) and strawberry cake!

The practical traveler: 30 days in a carry-on

People ask me all the time how I pack as lightly as I do when I travel.  My rule is never to check anything in for any trip two weeks or less.  That goes for winter or summer.

It’s horribly inconvenient to have to check your luggage in, and then have the airline lose it, only to wear dirty clothes while they’re looking for it, or be improperly dressed to meet a government official, or have to scramble shopping, or waste money on clothes you don’t need and don’t want.

The keys are really simple:

  • Pick a base neutral and coordinate all your clothes around it: black, brown, or navy, which will also dictate your shoe choice.
  • Include no more than two pairs of shoes, including the ones on your feet, and make sure they are comfortable, and can be dressed up or down.
  • Multifunctional is great.  Shawls and scarves, for example, serve variously as bed sheets, extra insulation, cover-ups in conservative countries, and if you’ve got it in a pretty colour, a pick-me-up. I also heart wrinkle-free material, like jersey knits, which come in all sorts of weights. And I prefer non-descript suiting so I can rotate colourful shirts underneath.

I also always pack one equivalent of a little black dress that can be dressed up or down, no matter the nature of the trip (fact-finding in a refugee camp can lead to an unexpected meeting with an Ambassador, or hiking a mountain can make you new friends who invite you to a dinner party).

I always carry the essentials for a stranded night on me even if they make me check my bag in. Airline weight limits have put a real cramp in my packing style.  Some airlines cap your carry-on at 7kg!  In the event they make me check my baggage, or take it away from me at the gate (that’s the worst), I always have on my person the things I need to survive comfortably for a couple of days in case my luggage gets lost:

  • my toiletry bag, or at least toothbrush, toothpaste, facial soap, and moisturiser in a little pouch
  • nightshirt
  • 1 change of clothing
  • blackberry charger

A month with a carry-on is pretty extreme, but I’ve done it before.  In order to pack a month into a carry-on, it has to be not winter, all my clothes have to match one another, I can’t bring more than one pair of shoes that I wear on my person (plus flip-flops for gross showers), and when I can’t get laundry done, I have to be willing to be dirty some days (which isn’t hard on a some trips — I could live without another cold shower in brown water for the rest of my life).  I also cheat by carrying a backpack for briefing materials and other reading, but the backpack also doubles as an overnight bag for short trips where I can leave main luggage with a colleague, friend, or real hotel.

Items that never leave my suitcase, even between trips:

  • all-in-one electrical adapter and blackberry charger
  • cheap shawl ($5 from a street vendor)
  • silk sleep sleeve (super compact, light, warm, and indispensable for cleanliness in questionable sleeping situations)

Other useful items:

  • a nice, patterned silk shawl or scarf (my travel wardrobe tends to be pretty neutral but I’ve found a fancy shawl in a nice material will punch up a boring outfit, and make it more formal in a pinch)
  • small combination lock for luggage left behind on trips within trips (TSA accessible in case you put it on checked-in luggage)
  • micro-fiber towel
  • facial cleansing wipes (Johnson’s and Ponds are both good, and indispensable when you just can’t bear the thought of splashing dirty water on your face; I don’t like Dove as much and can’t explain why)
  • in place of a laptop, USB memory stick and netbook
  • a foldable nylon bag large enough for paperwork –  Longchamp’s Le Pliage series is lightweight, perfectly compact, and the open tote model is just professional enough to substitute for a traditional briefcase:


  • first aid kit: aspirin, anti-biotics, lavender oil, bandages and antiseptic wipes, allergy medication, anti-inflammatory (like Benadryl)
  • retractable headlamp (Petzl makes a great lightweight LED one, available from REI and other gear shops, and all I have to say is you never know when you need to feel your way around an outhouse at night and trust me you’ll want to be able to see)
  • noise canceling headphones (I have the Bose, which I found to be the most compact, and have a comfortable on-the-ear design; they’re an investment, but I’ve gotten so many hours of relative quite on noisy plane and train trips, which translates to more sleep and less exhaustion, they were worth every penny)
  • in non-summer months, a belted trench is my coat of choice (can be dressed up, perfect weight over suits for really cold weather but not too heavy to carry round, durable; Burberry is classic and will last forever if you can afford it)
  • Camper Pelotas (insanely comfortable, and I can somehow get away with them in black with a pantsuit if I don’t feel like wearing real shoes)

The greatest piece of luggage I’ve come across is the Eagle Creek Switchback 22.  I tramped with it through three months in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand:

The road from Kenepuru Saddle, Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, New Zealand
85 km around the Queen Charlotte Track, Marlborough, NZ
Doubtful Sound, New Zealand
Doubtful Sound, NZ. I swam in these waters, brisk and beautiful.

The Switchback is a wheeled carry-on with a detachable daypack.  It’s like the SUV of luggage.  It’s made with rip-stop nylon, and the wheeling mechanism is so well-designed, wheeling it feels like a cloud, even when it’s full and heavy, or on rough terrain.  The entire thing also converts very easily into a backpack.  It’s not designed to be carried on your back all the time like some packs, but it’s still pretty comfortable, and great for stairs, or wet or muddy terrain.

The detachable daypack is great, it fits a ton of stuff, and it’s perfect for trips-within-trips when I don’t want to carry everything I have with me.  When getting on a plane, I usually have the wheeled luggage as my carry-on and detach the daypack as my “personal item” in place of a purse or laptop case.  On layovers, I strap the daypack back onto the main wheeled piece and don’t have to tramp through airports and lines with anything on my already weary back between flights.

Another piece I really like is the Briggs and Riley expandable carry-on.  I like the clean lines of the black one, and it has a suiter, but the best thing is the One-touch rigid expansion system — no more expanding with zippers and having the sides of the suitcase collapse.  I also like that I can carry it on the plane with me, and it fits books or shopping on my way back when I don’t care as much about checking my luggage in and possibly losing it.

That’s all, folks.

P.S.  I’m back from Jakarta and leaving for India in a week!