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25th March Christopher Tookey Film Recommendation

I found the film to be very effective and as nasty as I have seen for a mainstream film. The uncut UK version released at the cinema is the US NC-17 version.

Thanks to Dan and an unidentified blogger

Hostel DVD coverHave you read Christopher Tookey's review of Quentin Tarentino's new film Hostel. It's classic Tookey fair, full of moral uproar, and once again his arrogant view that the rest of the cinema going public aren't mature enough to watch such a film. His review has breed more nutter comment as this Daily Mail blogger shows...

Don't even think about seeing it Having read Christopher Tookey's review of the new film Hostel in today's Daily Mail, I heaved a huge sigh of relief knowing I had knocked back an offer to preview this film. I don't think I could have stomached it - and I've seen a lot of films in my time as Entertainment Editor.

The film has been a huge hit in America with the bulk of it packed with abhorrent scenes of torture, mutilation and pornographic violence. Why it is necessary to make, screen and watch such utterly unsuitable, nauseating and depressing rubbish leaves me deeply vexed.

I agree with Chris. It is little wonder we are raising a generation of 'desensitised yobs' when mainstream cinemas are showing this degrading material and passing it off as entertainment.

As Chris pointed out, the film is not even worthy of an 18 certificate, for it is not suitable for an audience over 48, let alone those aged 18.

Mainstream cinemas especially should display some sense of social responsibility by saying 'no' to screening films like Hostel. The results are damaging. My colleague went to the Vue cinema to see a film last week and when the trailer for Hostel was shown, his wife had to look away because the scenes were so brutal and disturbing.

Controversial I know, but I'm a strong believer that films like this strip away the moral fabric of our society. The more these types of violent films are screened, the more film-makers consider the themes they portray as normal and acceptable and lucrative. As does the audience, whom the film-makers capitalise on.

Films like this - and there are many others like it - and the cinemas prepared to screen them are simply encouraging and peddling and delighting in this culture of sleaze and degradation.

 

25th March
Updated 30th March
The Ultimate Intolerance

There seems to be a new definition of the word 'tolerance' that justifies the killing of one's fellow man because he does not believe in the prescribed brand of unbelievable nonsense.

From the BBC
From The Times

An Afghan man is being tried in a court in Kabul for his conversion from Islam to Christianity.

He could be sentenced to death for the act and his refusal to recant. The trial of Abdul Rahman reflects the struggle between religious hardliners and reformists over what shape Islam will take in Afghanistan.

Rahman is being prosecuted for an attack on Islam, the punishment for which, under the draft constitution established in 2004, is death.

The constitution says Islam is the religion of Afghanistan, yet it also mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 specifically forbids this kind of recourse, one human rights expert said in Kabul last night. It really highlights the problem the judiciary faces.

Rahman was arrested last month after his estranged family - with whom he was in dispute over the custody of his two children - denounced him as a convert. Rahman was found to be carrying a Bible and was charged with rejecting Islam.

He acknowledged during his trial that he did convert 16 years ago.

The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman would convert back to Islam, but he had refused to do so. Wasi said therefore that Rahman must get the death penalty.

The trial judge has also described Rahman's action as an attack on Islam. The Attorney-General is emphasising he should be hung, Judge Alhaj Ansarullah Mawlawy Zada, who will be trying his case said. In this country we have the perfect constitution, it is Islamic law and it is illegal to be a Christian and it should be punished.

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrats’ defence spokesman, said: This is a horrifying situation and it makes a mockery of the efforts we are making to bring Afghanistan back into the international community. We have committed many soldiers to the situation in Afghanistan, many of whom will be committed Christians; we have spent huge amounts of money and committed resources and so I think we can take a strong moral position on this and explain to the Afghan authorities that to prosecute or even kill someone for having a different faith is unacceptable.

If the judge imposes the death penalty, Rahman will still have two avenues of appeal under Afghan law — the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court. The death penalty has to be ratified by President Karzai.

 

24th March Update: Intolerance Proved by Incarceration

From Metro

The United States and three NATO allies with troops in Afghanistan urged the Kabul government to respect the religious freedom of an Afghan convert to Christianity who faces the death penalty there.

The United States, which counts Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a key ally in the region, raised the case with visiting Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, calling on Kabul to uphold Afghan citizens' constitutional right to choose their faith.

We hope that the Afghan constitution is going to be upheld and in our view, if it's upheld, then of course he'll be found to be innocent, said Nicholas Burns, the State Department's third-ranked diplomat.

An Afghan judge said on Sunday a man named Abdur Rahman had been jailed for converting from Islam to Christianity and could face the death penalty if he refused to become a Muslim again. Sharia, or Islamic law, stipulates death for apostasy.

While we understand the complexity of a case like this and we certainly will respect the sovereignty of the Afghan authorities and the Afghan system, from an American point of view, people should be free to choose their own religion, Burns told reporters, flanked by Abdullah.

Abdullah said his government had "nothing to do" with the judicial case, but added: I hope that through our constitutional process, there will be a satisfactory result.

Italy called in the Afghan ambassador in Rome, two Berlin cabinet ministers spoke out and Germany's top Catholic cardinal demanded his freedom. Canada said it was concerned and urged the Afghan government to meet its human rights obligations.

The protests present a dilemma for Karzai, who needs foreign troops to defend against al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. Some 23,000 U.S. troops are in the country. Germany has 2,700 soldiers in Afghanistan, Canada has 2,300 and Italy has 1,775.

Abdullah said the Afghan embassy in Washington had received "hundreds of messages" from Americans about the case: I know that it is a very sensitive issue and we know the concerns of the American people

Former Italian President Francesco Cossiga wrote to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, now campaigning for reelection, and urged him to withdraw Italian troops from Afghanistan unless he wins assurances from Kabul over Rahman's safety: It is not acceptable that our soldiers should put themselves at risk or even sacrifice their lives for a fundamentalist, illiberal regime.

German Development Minister Heide Wieczorek-Zeul said she would appeal to Karzai directly: We will do everything possible to save the life of Abdul Rahman, she told the daily Bild, which said Rahman had converted to Christianity while living in Germany for nine years.

Germany's top Catholic prelate, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, described the case against Rahman as "an alarming signal": German bishops will try to ensure Christians in Islamic countries enjoy the same rights as Muslims have in our country.
 

25th March Update: Tolerating Barbaric Justice

From the New York Times

So  called preachers used Friday prayers to call for the execution of an Afghan Muslim who converted to Christianity, despite growing protests in the West. The conversion of the man, Abdul Rahman, 15 years ago was brought to the attention of the authorities as part of a child custody dispute.

The Bush administration and European governments have strongly protested the case as a violation of religious freedom. But Rahman has drawn a strong reaction in Afghanistan, too, and for many hardline clerics, there is no greater offense than apostasy.

One speaker, Maulavi Habibullah, told more than a thousand clerics and young people gathered in Kabul: Afghanistan does not have any obligation under international laws. The prophet says, when somebody changes religion, he must be killed.

Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, told reporters on Friday that she had been assured by President Hamid Karzai in a telephone call that Rahman would not be executed, The Associated Press reported.

A senior government official said Rahman would be released from jail soon, Agence France-Presse reported. The agency did not identify the official, who added that there would be a top-level meeting on the case on Saturday.

 

26th March Update: Killer Court

From The Telegraph

The ultra-Conservative supreme court of Afghanistan is threatening to resist President Hamid Karzai's attempts to spare a man who faces execution for converting to Christianity. In a move that could scupper Karzai's efforts to resolve the crisis, the judge handling the case said he would brook neither presidential interference nor objections from Kabul's Western backers.

We [the judiciary] have nothing to do with diplomatic issues, Judge Ansarullah Mawlawizada told the Sunday Telegraph. We will do our job independently.

The judge's comments came after Karzai's officials hinted that Abdul Rahman, could be freed within the next two days in an effort to end the international outcry over his prosecution. Karzai has assured world leaders, who have telephoned to protest at the possible death penalty, that Rahman will be spared.

Rahman was prosecuted under anti-apostasy edicts enshrined in Afghanistan's sharia law, which makes it a crime punishable by death for any Muslim to renounce their faith. Despite the risk, however, up to 10,000 Afghans have secretly converted to Christianity in recent years, disillusioned with what they see as Islam's overzealous involvement in politics.

The case has highlighted tensions between the West's vision of Afghanistan as a liberal democracy and the orthodoxy of the country's powerful Islamic judiciary, whose outlook is shared by much of the population. Yesterday, Downing Street became caught up in the row, after criticism that no senior minister had joined the international condemnation of the case.

President George W Bush, said he was "deeply troubled" by it; the Australian prime minister, John Howard, said it as "appalling" and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke to Karzai personally.

In Britain it was left to a junior Foreign Office minister, Kim Howells, to echo President Bush's words. Critics contrast Straw's silence on the issue with his speedy condemnation of the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and accuse him of double standards.

Rahman is being held in a Kabul prison after a court appearance last week. The Afghan authorities say they suspect he is mentally ill, and so may be unfit to stand trial - which would allow the supreme court to dismiss the case without loss of face.

But in Kabul's mosques last week, talk about the Rahman case was uncompromising. Rejecting Islam is insulting God, said Mullah Abdul Raoulf at the large Herati mosque. Cut off his head!

 

27th March Update: Little Evidence of Belief in Democracy

From The Scotsman

An Afghan court yesterday dismissed the case against a man who faced the death penalty after converting from Islam to Christianity - because of a lack of evidence. A court official said Abdur Rahman would be released soon, but he added that the case had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation.

The court dismissed today the case against Abdur Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case, the official said. The decision about his release will be taken possibly tomorrow. They don't have to keep him in jail while the attorney general is looking into the case.

Abdul Wakil Omeri, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed that the case had been dismissed because of problems with the prosecutors' evidence.

A Western diplomat said on condition of anonymity that questions were now being raised as to whether Rahman would stay in Afghanistan or would go into exile in a foreign country.

Rahman faced execution by hanging if he had been found guilty of apostasy under Islam's Sharia law. His trial had been due to start in a few days.

In an interview conducted via a human rights worker who visited Rahman in jail, before news of his release, he said he was prepared for death. I don't want to die. But if God decides, I am ready to confront my choices, all the way, he said.

He added that he did not want to leave Afghanistan, a possible option if he is allowed to go free: If I flee that would mean my country hasn't changed. It would mean that they have won, our enemies. Without human rights, without respect for all religions, the Taleban have won.

 

28th March Update: From the Hangman to the Lynch Mob

From SacBee

The Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity will be freed from prison and has asked for asylum in another country, U.S. and U.N. officials said Monday.

Hundreds of Muslims marched against a court's decision Sunday to dismiss the case against Abdul Rahman after heavy international pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to drop the trial. Several Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.

A senior Afghan official closely involved with the case said that Rahman would be freed shortly, but the details of how it would be done were still being hammered out. Meanwhile he is still in his cell at Kabul's notorious high-security Policharki prison late Monday.

U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards made clear that Rahman was planning to leave the country once he is free: Mr.Rahman has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan. We expect this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case.

Asked whether the U.S. government was doing anything or has made any offers to secure Rahman's safety after he is released, McCormack said where he goes after he is freed is going to be up to Mr. Rahman.

He urged Afghans not to resort to violence even if they are unhappy with the resolution of the case.

While officials said the case against Rahman was dropped, prosecutors also said earlier Monday they were still examining whether he was mentally fit to stand trial. Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Eshak Aloko told The Associated Press that he may be sent overseas for psychological treatment if a medical examination that started Monday concludes that he is insane.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told a news conference in Kabul that he was optimistic the issue would soon be resolved.

Earlier Monday, hundreds of clerics and students chanting "Death to Christians!" and "Death to Bush!'" marched through the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to protest the court's decision to toss out the case. Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it, said senior Cleric Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. The Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion. He warned of possible riots if Rahman is released.

 

29th March Update: Asylum Seeker

No doubt the immigration authorities will be getting worried. Surely any Muslim in a country with extreme punishment for apostasy can now claim asylum in the West just by publicly announcing that they no longer believe in Islam.

Based on an article from The Independent

Italy is considering granting asylum to Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man who was released from jail yesterday in Kabul, where he had faced the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

He was staying in a safe house last night after prosecutors dropped the case against him under intense international pressure. But Rahman will have to flee the country for his own safety, after several leading Muslim clerics called on Afghans to tolerantly kill him.

Rahman appealed for help to leave Afghanistan, and he is thought most likely to go to Italy, where the Foreign Minister, Gianfranco Fini is to ask the cabinet today to grant him asylum.

Fini was one of the first foreign politicians to take up the case of Rahman, and Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for his release. Italy has close ties to Afghanistan, having provided a home for the former king Mohammed Zahir Shah during his 30 years in exile. There is a possibility that Rahman will go to Germany, where he has lived before, and the United Nations says it is trying to help find a country to take him.

 

30th March Update: Losing Faith in Tolerance

From CTV.ca

Afghanistan isn't the only government where Muslim converts to Christianity are threatened with execution.

Saudi Arabia neither permits conversion from Islam nor allows other religions in the kingdom. There are no churches and missionaries are barred. Regular criticism in U.S. State Department reports on religious freedom have had no effect on Saudi policy.

While Islam accepts Christianity as a fellow monotheistic religion, Islamic Shariah law considers conversion to any religion apostasy and most Muslim scholars agree the punishment is death. Saudi Arabia considers Shariah the law of the land, though there have been no reported cases of executions of converts from Islam in recent memory.

The only other country in the region which carries the death penalty for apostasy is Sudan. Though no executions have been reported recently, a Sudanese man who allegedly converted was arrested in 2004 and reportedly tortured in custody, according to the State Department.

In Kuwait, a court convicted a Shiite man who publicly proclaimed his conversion to Christianity, but didn't sentence him since the criminal code did not set a punishment.

Other countries in the region, such as Egypt, do not have laws criminalizing apostasy, but those who do convert can still face prosecution.

In May, an Egyptian man who converted to Christianity was arrested on suspicion of "contempt for religion,'' a charge that entails a prison sentence of up to five years, said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The man, who has not been identified, remains in custody without charge, Bahgat said.

Authorities in Egypt and most other Arab countries will not recognize a conversion from Islam in official documents, such as identity papers, which usually state a person's faith.

Even if a convert is not prosecuted, the issue is the pressure they are going to face from their families, the religious establishment, their friends and associates, said Fadi al-Qadi, a Middle East spokesman for York-based Human Rights Watch. It would be overwhelming. They would be really isolated.

Turkey is a democratic country and, according to law, you can choose whatever you want, said Soner Tufan, himself a convert from Islam, who runs a Christian radio station, Radio Shema, in the capital, Ankara. But, he said, if someone converts, they can suffer some problems from their friends, relatives and neighbours _ or face difficulties getting a job in the civil service.

Most often, the issue of conversion reaches the courts in the context of marriage. While Islam accepts a Muslim man marrying a Christian woman _ one of the Prophet Muhammad's wives was Christian _ it does not tolerate a Muslim woman marrying a Christian man.

The November 2004 case of a Jordanian man convicted of apostasy came after his wife _ who remained Muslim _ and her family reported he had converted. The man, whom the court records did not identify, appealed his conviction to a higher court but lost.

 

20th March Nutters of the World Unite

From the BBC

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, has called for the creation of a world body with representatives from the major religious groups.

Rabbi Metzger was addressing the International Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Seville, Spain. He called for the formation of a "United Nations of religious groups" which could "bring a bridge between religions to help the bridge of the diplomatic way".

That plan has broad support from key participants like Frederico Major, the co-president of the Alliance for Civilisations, the lobby group for international conflict resolution, supported by the United Nations and initiated by Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The speeches at this conference rather than using polite, diplomatic language have at times been brutally direct. When the Rabbi Metzger harangued mainstream Muslims for not standing up to Osama bin Laden, Islamic leaders nodded in agreement.

The religious leaders have three days to come up with a manifesto that aims to convert their words into actions.

 

18th March Reverse Evangelism

From The Guardian

An independent theatre festival in Toledo lost its government subsidies this week for refusing to cancel a show that satirises the Pope and advocates atheism.

It is the latest front in a battle that has raged since February around comedian Leo Bassi's act, Revelation, which has angered the Catholic church in Spain, sparked violent protests by the extreme right in Madrid and fuelled a nationwide debate on artistic freedom.

Bassi's show, which also pokes fun at Christian evangelists in America and the Old Testament, will be performed today at a makeshift venue. Donations will help compensate for the €7,000 (£4,857) in lost subsidies.

But the curtain will rise amid controversy. Last Sunday the archbishop of Toledo, Antonio Cañizares, said the show was "blasphemous", "anti-Christian" and an "insult to the church". Days later, the local and regional governments of Toledo threatened to withdraw festival subsidies if the show was not cancelled. It could offend Catholic sensibilities, a spokesman said.

At the end of the show the New York born comedian directs the audience to his website, where there is a form on which they can renounce their faith. He considers the work "reverse evangelism".

In February about 200 members of the extreme right asked the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to "apologise" for "the offence to Catholic principles". In March police defused a bomb near Bassi's dressing room at the Alfil Theatre in Madrid.

In June Bassi takes his show to a venue near the Vatican in Rome.

 

17th March Baying for Prison

John Beyer is continuing to advocate prison sentences for those privately viewing vanilla hardcore. I don't know what nutter belief inspires him to wish prison on his fellow man for private, harmless sexual entertainment, but in my own personal morality system, Beyer is amongst the dregs.

Anyway see www.mediawatchuk.org/publications/The%20Flag.htm for his interview with The Flag, where he trots out his usual brand of nastiness.

 

15th March
updated 24th March
Equality of Ridicule

Let it be known that the Melon Farmers support equality of ridicule for all nutters. Prejudice against one particular religion will simply not be tolerated.

From The Telegraph

Shameful Isaac Hayes, the deep-voiced soul singer, has quit his role as Chef in South Park, saying that the satirical cartoon television show has overstepped the mark with its ridiculing of religion. There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," said Hayes, an outspoken Scientologist who has voiced the character of the school cook in the series since 1997. Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honoured. As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.

Last autumn, South Park targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called Trapped in the Closet.

Matt Stone, co-creator of South Park, said: This is 100 per cent having to do with his faith of Scientology. He has no problem - and he's cashed plenty of cheques - with our show making fun of Christians. We never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own and, to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin.

 

17th March Update: Cruising to New Heights of Censorship

From Hollywood Interrupted

Tom Cruise on South ParkSources from inside Paramount and South Park Studios report that parent company Viacom pulled last night's scheduled repeat of the high-rated Trapped in the Closet episode after the humorless Scientologist movie star Tom Cruise threatened to cancel all publicity for Mission Impossible:3 if Comedy Central aired the episode that satirizes Scientology and mocks his sexuality again.

Not only is this the first time that the South Park creators have been officially censored in their ten hit seasons with Comedy Central, Viacom officials also reportedly ordered Matt Stone and Trey Parker not to discuss the reason why their episode was cancelled.

The South Park boys are said to be angry, but will probably get revenge with the manner in which they deal with Scientologist Isaac Hayes' departure from the show.

 

24th March Update: Revenge is a Dish Served Cold

From the BBC

Chef turns badSources South Park has exacted revenge on its former star Isaac Hayes by turning his character Chef into a paedophile and seemingly killing him off.

The opening episode of the 10th series, screened in the US on Wednesday, appeared to be a satire on Scientology. Hayes, a Scientologist, quit the animated comedy after a different episode ridiculed the religion.

In the new show, Chef is brainwashed by the "Super Adventure Club" - thought to be a veiled reference to Scientology. The other characters are angry at "that fruity little club for scrambling his brains".

He eventually meets his comeuppance after falling off a bridge and being burned, stabbed and mauled by a lion and a grizzly bear.

At his funeral, one of the children says: A lot of us don't agree with the choices the Chef has made in the last few days. Some of us feel hurt and confused that he seemed to turn his back on us. But we can't let the events of the past few weeks take away the memories of how Chef made us smile...We shouldn’t be mad at Chef for leaving us. We should be mad at that fruity little club for scrambling his brains

Hayes did not participate in the episode but his lines were apparently patched together from previous recordings.

 

14th March A Return to Judeo-Christian Tradition

ie wars, bombs, persecution, intolerance and intimidation...

From Christian Today

The deputy leader of the Scottish Tories has called on his party to embrace ideals founded on the “Judeo-Christian tradition”.

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said he could not support proposals for same-sex adoption currently being pushed by the Scottish Executive.

Aware that liberal colleagues may feel alienated by his attack on the Scottish Executive proposals to legalise adoption by same-sex couples, Fraser affirmed that the Tories should not “impose” a religious agenda.

Speaking to the Scottish Sunday Herald about the Blue Book, a series of essays he had published recently on the future of conservatism, Fraser expressed the belief, however, that his party should base its philosophy on the “Judeo-Christian tradition”.

Osama Saeed, Scottish spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, urged Fraser to pause before using the “Judeo-Christian” reference again. It would be good if public figures like Murdo Fraser extended the hand of friendship to Islam.

Meanwhile a senior cathedral cleric has suggested that unless Christians begin to take their faith seriously, Britain could soon become a Muslim nation.

Canon Alan Nugent, the Subdean of Lincoln Cathedral last week distributed a Chapter Letter to members of the congregation in which he commented on the demonstrations by Muslims following the cartoon caricatures of their Prophet Muhammad published in some European newspapers.

Nugent pointed out the extreme “brutal and violent” posters carried by a number of the protestors in London protests, but also highlighted that many other posters were not commented on by the media, and that they were “significant”.

He revealed that the banners showed Islam’s goal in the UK: They warned that Britain would before long become Islamic. There is no doubt that Islam is a missionary faith and the conversion of unbelievers is a major factor in its spread. It is not surprising that many Muslims may well harbour the hope that this country could be converted to the faith of the Prophet — especially when so often they encounter a Christian faith which could well be characterised as uncertain and in decline.

He added, What is needed for Britain to remain a Christian nation is for Christian people to take their faith seriously and never assume that a Christian Britain is a given which will never change.”

 

12th March Nutter Brain Rot Caught from Clothing

...and it pandemic in the US

Based on an article from WKYT

A proposal banning full nudity and seminude lap dancing at strip clubs is headed for the Kentucky State Senate.

The measure, which would make nudity and seminude lap dancing in an adult establishment as sexual misconduct, a Class A misdemeanor, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday by a 9-1 vote.

The proposal, Senate Bill 250, would allow employees of adult businesses to be "seminude" if they remain 6 feet away from patrons and stay on a stage at least 18 inches above the ground.

This is designed to protect women, claimed the bill's sponsor, Senator Julie Denton, Republican

Louisville, Lexington and other cities already have ordinances imposing similar restrictions on adult businesses. The state law would prohibit cities from enacting weaker ordinances.

This is, if you will, a bare minimum, said Kent Ostrander, executive-director of the nutter Family Foundation of Kentucky.

The proposal defines seminude as the showing of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola and extending across the width of the breast at that point, or the showing of the male or female buttocks.

State Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, Democrat, said a statewide law may not be necessary. Scorsone, the lone legislator to vote against the bill in committee, also took issue with Ostrander's contention that patrons are catching sexually transmitted diseases by placing a tip in the waistband of a stripper's attire.

State Sen. Perry Clark, Democrat, said adult businesses wouldn't thrive if so many people didn't patronize them. I was told recently by the minister of a large church that if his members would stop going to these places, we wouldn't have to deal with this issue.

 

11th March Responsibly Fearing Intimidation

Such a shame, there would have been many opportunities for satire. How about a Mohammed figure wearing a "Buy Danish" t-shirt?

From The Telegraph

An annual festival of satire in Valencia has fallen foul of censorship after more than four centuries following the furore over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

In the Fallas festival, giant sculptures of the high and mighty are placed in the streets for the public to mock before being destroyed in an orgy of gunpowder and flames. It has survived attacks by the Roman Catholic church, various puritanical rulers and the Franco dictatorship.

This year's figures will include President George W Bush, several of the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, and the Prince of Wales dancing, in Highland dress, with the Duchess of Cornwall. But self-censorship has seen Muslim and Arab figures modified to avoid offence.

The Fallas season is now underway until March 19 but as it approached, Valencians watched global protests against newspaper cartoons of Mohammed with growing alarm. Last month, the mayor, Rita Barberá, urged artists to "temper freedom with a sense of responsibility" when referring to religious subjects.

At least one well known local Fallas artist admitted to removing elements from his display of comic sculptures. He had sculpted three life-size figures of illegal Arab immigrants storming the Spanish border, in a reference to last year's crisis in Ceuta and Melilla, Spain's enclaves in North Africa, involving thousands of migrants. The artist has now removed details that identified them as Arabs.

The artist asked not to be named, partly for fear of reprisals, partly because he did not feel proud of such "self-censorship". But this year was "different", he said. Radical Muslim leaders appeared to be looking for excuses to cause trouble.

Félix Crespo, the senior official in charge of the Central Fallas Council that runs the festival, urged the neighbourhood committees that raise funds to build the sculptures to avoid mixing humour with religion, "because that can be misunderstood". Everyone assumed these warnings referred to Islam because sculptures of Roman Catholic priests, nuns, even of God, are a central part of the Fallas.

There have been subtle changes this year, which no locals would discuss, the Spanish newspaper ABC recently reported. In Bocairent, villagers refrained from burning life-size mannequins of the "Mahoma", a traditional figure presumed to be based on Mohammed.

 

10th March Socially Unhealthy Society

Based on an article from New Ind Press

The next time you cosy up to your partner at a public place in Thane, India, ensure you stay ‘within limits’. Or you might just end up paying Rs 1,200 to the newly-formed Eagle Squad, a five-nutter Thane police team swooping down on “people acting against social norms”.

The brainchild of nutter Madhukar Pandey, the squad comprises two male and two female constables and is headed by Inspector Mamta D’Souza. It was formed on March 1 after the Thane police received frequent complaints about commercial sex workers soliciting customers at the railway station and near Talaopali Lake.

The basic idea behind this social policing is to check quasi-sexuality in public places and hidden prostitution, explains Pandey. It’s not merely about couples cosying up, it’s when there is demonstration of overt sexual behavior that we come in.

The squad has already begun its crackdown. It’s just four days since the squad has come into place, and we have caught at least three-four sex workers every day, says D’Souza, whose squad scouts the city in civvies.

D’Souza is quick to clarify that couples holding hands or holding each other — “or at times even kissing” — are not caught. Neither are married couples and those who can prove they are engagedwe call their houses and check.

But college students “having fun” will not be spared. “At Upvan Lake after 7 pm,” she explains, there are no lights and couples are found in compromising positions. This is not acceptable. D’Souza says they have already started getting responses from citizens.

This is just the beginning, says Pandey. Once public involvement increases, we will be able to help more people and try our best to make Thane a socially healthy society.

 

8th March I Disapprove of What You Say...But...

... I will defend the right to put you to death for saying it.

Based on an article from Daily India

Muslims in France apparently weren't ready to defend the right for Voltaire's play on religious intolerance to be staged.

At a time when many Muslims are irate over the cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed they deemed offensive, some in France sought to stop the staged reading in December of Voltaire's Fanaticism or Mahomet the Prophet. The play uses Mohammed to satirize religious intolerance.

Voltaire, an 18th-century philosopher, famously said, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. But, in a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, four Islamic activists demanded the play not be read, saying it was an "insult to the entire Muslim community."

The reading went on, and a "small riot" ensued.

Voltaire was always able to touch a nerve. When the play was first staged in 1741, Roman Catholic clergy forced it to be closed after three Paris performances because they deemed it anti-Christian.

 

5th March Wind Up Butt Plugs

Based on an article from AVN

Baby Jesus Butt PlugDivine Productions, a US web-based adult production company, has recently been winding up nutters by offering sex toys modeled after religious icons. The toys include a "baby Jesus butt plug," a "jackhammer Jesus," and a "diving nun."

In a recent conservative report, Gene McConnell, director of Authentic Relationships International, an organization that fights against what it calls “addictions to pornography,” said: it is clear that [porn] providers like this have to expose their customers to more destructive ideas to get their customers to come back for more. McConnell believes Divine Productions is using sex to communicate hate to the religious community.

James L. Lambert’s story in Agape Press, a Christian news media source, went on to explain that the distributor sells its products by using religious imagery and terminology to make fun of biblical characters, among them Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Judas, and Moses. Company advertising employs slogans such as: Let Judas make a martyr out of you; or find out what it means to be truly touched by God.

Ultra conservative Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University and senior pastor of a Baptist Church says ridicule of the Church is something that has happened since the time of Christ.

 

4th March Asbos for TV

I can't think of anything more anti-social than John 'Concentration Camp' Beyer's wish to imprison all those possessing R18 rated hardcore.

From Mediawatch-UK

The spring newsbrief has been published on the Mediawatch-UK website. John Beyer's idea of an 'ASBO for TV' to expunge anything considered anti social is nothing short of embarrassing. The responses from various regulators are a massive put down to his puerile ideas and he seems too thick skinned to realise that he is being politely patronised.

Still he did extract an interesting reply from David Cameron, the new leader of the opposition who said Exploitative pornography is clearly distasteful.  I believe, however, that adults must be allowed to make decisions for themselves.  Our attention should be focused on ensuring that effective action is taken to prevent child pornography and to reduce the chance of pornography falling into the hands of children.

Beyer must be will disappointed that even the Conservatives don't support concentration camps for R18 porn viewers.

Another item from Mediawatch-UK. Beyer must again be well disappointed by the general lack of shock horror tabloid interest for old hat blame opportunities. He should keep up with the Jones', video horrors are passé and he should now be looking to blame computer games instead.

A schizophrenic who murdered four people to fulfil his ambition of becoming a serial killer was said to be obsessed with horror films and wanted to be Freddy Krueger, a jury was told yesterday. Daniel Gonzalez, 25, told police that he wanted to spend a day in the life of the violent stare of Nightmare on Elm Street films. In the movies the character wears a glove fitted with knives and terrorises people in their dreams. When the unemployed loner’s home in Woking, Surrey, was searched a magazine called Freddy Krueger’s Nightmares was found. Gonzalez late told police that voices were telling him to be the horror movie character. The prosecution said that Gonzalez, who stabbed three pensioners and a pub landlord to death and seriously wounded two other strangers, had written a rambling note to himself after beginning his three day killing spree in September 2004.

 

1st March Half Baked

A new town in Florida is being planned by Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan. His intention is that it should be governed by strict Catholic principles, particularly when it comes to sex.

The pizza boss is financing the town called Ave Maria and is calling its construction "God's will." Stores won't sell pornographic magazines, pharmacies won't carry condoms or birth control pills, and cable television will carry no X-rated channels, he said in a speech last year to the first annual Boston Catholic Men's Conference.

The town will encircle a massive church and what planners call the largest crucifix in the nation, standing nearly 65 feet tall.

I believe all of history is just one big battle between good and evil. I don't want to be on the sidelines, Monaghan said in a recent Newsweek interview.

Civil libertarians say the plan is unconstitutional and promise lawsuits. However, Simon points to a 1946 Supreme Court opinion that "ownership does not always mean absolute dominion."

 

25th February Swinging Between Repression and Inanity

Based on an article from the Sydney Morning Herald

Pink SwingRocking in a pink swing fashioned from the cab of a pedal-driven rickshaw, Agus Suwage felt at peace. He had just installed his Pinkswing Park exhibit at Jakarta's international biennale and was surrounded by massive panels with multiple pictures of a near-naked man and woman frolicking in a utopian park - a world away from thoughts of religious furore, public condemnation and possible imprisonment.

Within days of November's exhibition launch, Islamic fundamentalists had shoved Suwage to the forefront of their struggle to redefine Indonesia by descending on the biennale, forcing its closure and demanding prosecutions. At first police claimed his work blasphemed the story of Adam and Eve, then last week they told Suwage he faced five years in jail for producing pornography.

The same groups staging violent demonstrations against the West over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad are targeting pornography in their battle to transform Indonesia into a strict Islamic nation. And they are winning: parliament is set to introduce a sweeping anti-pornography law. Expected to be passed by June, the law imposes a rigid social template; couples who kiss in public will face up to five years' jail, as would anyone flaunting a "sensual body part" - including their navel - and tight clothing will be outlawed.

Most women's groups are horrified, entertainment industries believe it could destroy them and Bali's embattled tourism authorities are alarmed at the prospect of sunbathing tourists being arrested.

Plans to introduce Playboy's soft porn to the Indonesian market next month have become another focus of rowdy demonstrations, with protesters portraying the magazine as a symbol of the decadent West's attack on Islam. Playboy's publishers are proposing a bizarre compromise, no naked women will be featured - Indonesians, at least, will be able to say they only buy it for the articles.

In Jakarta, police have seized hundreds of thousands of "erotic" magazines - including FHM and Rolling Stone - and DVDs, after an edict from police chief Sutanto to "eradicate pornography".

Adam & Eve backgroundThe Islamic Defenders Front spearheads the anti-porn protests. Its leader, is Habib Riziek. Porn, including artworks such as Suwage's, contributes to moral delinquency, Riziek claims. We don't care about the technicality of the picture. What we care is that the picture is publicly exhibited and it is pornography and it would damage morals. Riziek remains emphatic the bill is essential to "guard the nation's morality" against pornography, which extends past explicit photographs to "anything that could arouse sexual desire".

Suwage is increasingly bitter about the gallery's curator, Supangkat's, reaction to the protest. After hundreds of demonstrators arrived at the exhibition, a panicked Supangkat ordered the offending panels to be covered with white cloth. Other artists draped their own works in solidarity and Supangkat closed the biennale, permanently. Suwage believes his prosecution is linked to pressure to pass the anti-porn law and the desire of fundamentalists to impose Islamic rule on Indonesia. Suwage, who is afraid of prison, says he is determined to fight.

In Bali, the head of the government's tourism authority, Gede Nurjaya is concerned prohibitions against kissing and revealing bodies could be imposed against foreigners, destroying Bali's faltering tourism industry.

Arriva says most women's groups oppose the bill. Most of it restricts women, what they wear, how they act. It even creates a board that would go around monitoring women's behaviour. She sees the anti-porn movement as part of an agenda to reshape Indonesia, with pornography a symbol of Western culture to the many Muslims who believe globalisation aims to destroy their culture.

Adrian Vickers, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Wollongong, agrees the debate is part of whipping up a moral panic about Western decadence eroding Indonesian culture and morality, with the potential to push Indonesia towards an Islamic state.

 

23rd February Uncomfortable about Religion

The world's religions are doing a fine job in demonstrating their intolerance and their affinity for intimidation. It seems also that the threats of violence will surely lead to some restrictions on criticism via humour or insult.

Maybe those critical of religious intolerance should lay off the funny stuff and take a more 'fundamentally' serious approach.

Rather than respect other people's ludicrous beliefs, why not be a little more pro-active in asking for proof,  justification or even a vaguely logic explanation. Lets be quicker to point out the sheer inanity of dogma. Lets teach our kids to be proud that they can think for themselves and not to believe everything that teachers and peers tell them.

Maybe the next time your mum/dad/friend trundles off to church, rather than saying: that's nice, why not try instead: it's nice that you are doing your bit to further the causes of intolerance and intimidation. And by the way, what is the probability that your belief is the correct one?

Based on articles from South Manchester Reporter & India West

Southern Comfort ad with Durga holding multiple bottlesOne of Manchester's Hindu leaders has slammed an advertisement depicting Goddess Durga clasping eight bottles of Southern Comfort.

The image, used in adverts in bars throughout Europe, has predictably outraged both moderate and strict Hindus. They have accused the licensing trade of ridiculing one of their most revered gods and of hijacking their religion to boost profits.

Ashit Sinha, a community worker and former journalist, says the advert should be banned. And he is calling on the media to institute an international regulatory body that would stop newspapers, magazines and advertisers lampooning religions and gods.

Sinha  continued: This is not just a Muslim problem. I don't know whether it's a lack of awareness and knowledge or complete lack of morality in the whole community. I think there needs to be an international regulatory body to monitor and where necessary, censor, the publication of religious images to stop this kind of thing happening.

Brown-Forman is the company which owns Southern Comfort. Phil Lynch, vice president of corporate communications, said We made a terrible mistake. We didn't realize it was the image of a Hindu goddess. Lynch asserted it was only a day earlier that his company found out about the anger the display had triggered in Hindu communities in Europe and India.

According to Bimal Krishna das, general secretary of the National Council of Hindu Temples (United Kingdom), which had been in the forefront of the protests said that while the beverage makers were to be lauded for removing the offending display after being pressurized by the Greek government, it was unfortunate that they did not listen to the requests made earlier by Hindus and Sikhs.

Krishna das noted that he was disappointed that the Indian Embassy in Athens had ignored his organization's requests over the last three months to take steps to have the window display removed. We request the Indian embassies to be much more forthcoming in providing assistance to the Indian communities settled outside India. We also request the world-wide Hindu community to formulate a concerted strategy to make sure that no further abuse of Hinduism takes place anywhere in the world.

 

22nd February Modest Death Threats

Based on an article from The Independent

A Muslim pop singer has been forced to hire bodyguards to protect her during a visit to Britain next month after she received a string of death threats from religious extremists.

US-based Deeyah is due in London next month to promote a new single and video, released tomorrow. But the track "What Will It Be?" has already outraged hardline Islamists here as it promotes women's
rights.

Her performances with a clutch of male dancers and revealing outfits have also deeply offended many Muslims. In one scene in her latest video, the singer drops a burqa covering her body to reveal a bikini.

That has attracted vitriol from some quarters. The singer claims that in the past she has been spat upon in the street and told that her family would be in danger if she did not tone down her work. The situation is now so bad that Deeyah feels she cannot visit Britain without protection. I can no longer walk around without specially assigned bodyguards. I would be lying if I said abuse from religious fanatics didn't upset or scare me.

Deeyah was originally a singer of classical Indian music and lived in the UK until just over a year ago. But she claims to have been shocked by the reaction to her shift to pop music accompanied by raunchy videos: I had no plan to court controversy or anger people in my community. I wanted to make people think and confront my own fears as a Muslim woman, Soon, though, she was dubbed "the Muslim Madonna". And then came hate mail and abuse from extremists. I have  had people phone me and tell me they were going to cut me up into pieces. I became this figure of hate simply because of what I do and wear.

 

22nd February
Updated 20th March
Boycotting Advertisers Rather than Firebombing Embassies

Based on an article from Stuff

Bloody Mary stillsThe  controversial Bloody Mary episode of South Park that shows a statue of the Virgin Mary menstruating blood has kicked up a fuss in New Zealand.

C4 owner Canwest said the transmission is being brought forward as a matter of "democratic choice" to better inform the debate. The episode was originally scheduled for a screening in May, but will now be shown on 22 February.

The episode depicts a statue of Mary, mother of Jesus, bleeding, with Pope Benedict XVI putting it down to menstruation, rather than a miracle. The Pope's face and other church leaders are also sprayed with blood and a priest uses the blood to draw a cross on a woman's head.

The country's prime minister, Helen Clark, said she had not seen the show but that it sounded "revolting".  She added the company was free to screen the programme, but should weigh that freedom against a potential backlash of viewers.

Palmerston North Catholic Bishop Peter Cullinane said Catholics can choose to take a stand against what he calls crass insults by boycotting advertisers linked with the cartoon. He said many are bored with using official complaint channels that go nowhere. Boycotting advertisers is something different that others will notice: I don't think Catholics have any problems about laughing at themselves. Some people have said Catholics should grin and bear it. Ninety-nine percent of the time we actually do.

But he said ridiculing the people and things held dear by Christians is the same as ridiculing the prophet Muhammad. Media are selective about who they offend, he said: They wouldn't do it for Maori, for example - it would be out of bounds.

Bishop Cullinane said there are minor differences between the Muhammad and Mary controversies: With the prophet Muhammad the media could claim they were merely reporting, (but South Park) is not reporting anything. They're just using that kind of lewdness for entertainment.

Catholic Church in New Zealand spokeswoman Lindsay Freer calls the Canwest move an arrogant, cynical and unethical effort to capitalise on the debate and boost ratings: I can't use the words I'd like to use as they would be unprintable. I think there will be many people in New Zealand who will be deeply offended by using toilet, menstrual humour involving Mary to illustrate a plot.

CanWest TVWorks chief operating officer Rick Friesen said once viewers see the scenes in the context of the entire episode, he believes many New Zealanders will wonder what all the fuss was about.

Broadcasting Standards Authority chief executive Jane Wrightson said any attempt to stop the cartoon being aired is state censorship. No action can be taken until a complaint is made, and that can't happen until after it screens, she said: We have no power to operate before the event. That would be censorship by a state organisation and that's not what we do.

 

20th March Update: Miraculous Ratings

From CBC

An appeal from the Catholic Church for New Zealanders to boycott an episode of South Park has resulted in a record audience there for the controversial cartoon.

The Bloody Mary episode of South Park drew more than six times the normal audience, New Zealand broadcaster TV Works announced.

The episode was seen by 210,000 viewers, according to Rick Friesen, the broadcaster's chief operating officer. In the past month, he said, an average South Park episode typically draws about 32,500 viewers to the network's C4 youth channel.

During the broadcast, however, more than 350 people protested outside the TV Works headquarters in Auckland.

The protest centred on a statue of the Virgin Mary, with participants — clutching Bibles and religious icons — singing hymns, reciting the rosary and offering other prayers. A Catholic priest who led the protesters in prayer asked God to enlighten those responsible for the cartoon and strengthen them to see how much harm they can do.

Last weekend, New Zealand's Roman Catholic bishops issued a letter urging parishioners to boycott the channel and its sponsors. The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand also protested the episode and said it was deeply offensive.

 

20th February Students Choose Egg Throwing over Enjoying Life

From The Jakarta Post

Dozens of students from the Jakarta Muslim Students Association and the Committee of Students for Reform and Democracy protested Wednesday against the airing of the TV show Fenomena. The programme is promoted as an "insight into the capital's sex industry"

The students said the program, broadcast at midnight from Monday to Friday by TransTV. taught viewers about pornography, prostitution and how and where to enjoy them.

The program is making society stupider and encouraging immorality at the same time, said one of the protesters, Tony Akbar Hasibuan.

The protesters burned a tire and hurled eggs at TransTV's building in South Jakarta, vowing to take legal action.

 

19th February 50 Cents Worth Nutters

Based on an article from Refused Classification

A censored version of the game 50 Cent: Bulletproof has been passed with an MA15+ (Strong Violence, Strong Coarse Language) rating. It is due for release on April 6th. The fuller version was banned in Australia.

Not content with seeing his game 50 Cent: Bulletproof banned, and censored in Australia, nutter groups are now calling for the man himself to be rated.

From NineMSN

Tonight 50 Cent will perform at the Sydney Superdome to a sold-out crowd including children, sparking calls by the Australian Family Association to apply age restrictions in the same way cinemas restrict viewers of movies with an MA+ rating.

Other family groups are also complaining of the double standard, which allows artists to perform on stage in front of children but keeps them banned from movies with similar subject material.

Sharryn Brownlee from the Parents and Citizens Council warned that trying to prevent young people from attending concerts may actually make them more appealing. She said it was up to parents to decide what music is appropriate for children to listen to.

From News.Com.Au

The Australian Family Association called for live shows and concerts to be classified.
Very young children go into these concerts, they're 10 and up, national secretary Gabrielle Walsh said. I think age limits would help and 18-plus would be good.

 

18th February

 

Moral Reality

Probably didn't espouse the required morality of intolerance and violent intimidation.

From The Telegraph

Algeria has banned as "immoral" a reality television show that has become so popular in the Arab world that restaurants in the region are empty during its broadcasts.

Star Academy, a version of Fame Academy, is keeping the Middle East on the edge of its seat with the rare sight of male and female contestants competing for the prize of money, fame and a record deal.

The show has weathered protests that it is "un-Islamic" and a toxic import from the West but this week Algerian national television stopped showing the programme after protests by the main Islamist party.

Aboudjerra Soltani, the leader of the Movement for a Society of Peace, said the show was a provocation against society and attacked its moral values. It can still be watched on satellite television.

Launched by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation and filmed in Lebanon, Star Academy starts with the pan-Arab recruitment of thousands of hopefuls, who audition to become one of the 16 finalists. The finalists live and train together in Adma, Lebanon, taking lessons in music, dancing, singing, fashion, hair-styling and make-up.

Star Academy is one of the few places in the Arab world where personal advancement depends on talent rather than connections, where men and women can mix freely, and where expressing individualism is something to be celebrated. Such values have made the show both controversial and hugely popular.

Star Academy has also attracted more than its share of militant Islamic critics, who maintain that the show transgresses the most basic Islamic principles, either because men and women live together in an "un-Islamic" way, or because they see reality television as an alien concept imposed by the West.

The Dean of the School of Islamic Law and Shari'a at Kuwait University passed a fatwa condemning the show; the Kuwaiti parliament has discussed legislation to "protect public morality" from Star Academy, and articles in the Saudi press have called the building where the contestants live "a whorehouse".

 

17th February Sex Workers Screwed by Hype

From PSP World

The oft-attacked Grand Theft Auto franchise is now facing scrutiny from an unlikely source: the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. Even more unlikely is the groups’ call to parents for help. The Sex Workers Outreach Project USA promotes the rights of sex workers, and is therefore opposed to the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes, both of which are possible — if not explicitly depicted — within the GTA universe.

Throughout the course of the PSP’s Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, players can solicit “services” from prostitutes, although no rape is possible during normal play or alluded to in the storyline.

 

13th February Mustafa Shag

From the Chicago Sun Times

Mustafa Shag ppackagingFrom the Sun: Furious Muslims have blasted adult shop [i.e., sex shop] Ann Summers for selling a blow up male doll called Mustafa Shag.

Not literally "blasted" in the Danish Embassy sense, or at least not yet. The Muslim Association's complaint, needless to say, is that the sex toy insults the Prophet Muhammad -- who also has the title al-Mustapha.

In a world in which Danish cartoons insult the prophet and Disney Piglet mugs insult the prophet and Burger King chocolate ice-cream swirl designs insult the prophet, maybe it would just be easier to make a list of things that don't insult him. Nonetheless, the Muslim Association wrote to the Ann Summers sex-shop chain, We are asking you to have our Most Revered Prophet's name 'Mustafa' and the afflicted word 'shag' removed.

When Samuel Huntington formulated his famous "clash of civilizations" thesis, I'm sure he hoped it would play out as something nobler than shaggers vs. nutters. But in a sense that's the core British value these days. If it's inherent in Muslim culture to take umbrage at everything, it's inherent in English culture to turn everything into a lame sex gag. The "Mustafa" template is one of the most revered in the English music-hall tradition: I've been reading the latest scholarly monograph -- 'Sexual Practices of the Middle East by Mustapha Camel.

The European Union's Justice and Security Commissioner, Franco Frattini, said on Thursday that the EU would set up a "media code" to encourage "prudence" in the way they cover, ah, certain sensitive subjects. As Signor Frattini explained it to the Daily Telegraph, The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression. . . . We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right.
 

25th March Update: Mustafa Name Change

From The Asia News

A Manchester mosque has persuaded the UK's leading sex shop chain to abandon a product they claimed was an insult to the Prophet Mohammed.

The imam and elders at the Manchester Central Mosque were furious over a blow-up sex doll marketed by the Ann Summer's chain called 'Mustafa shag'. They complained to Summer's executives that Mustafa was one of the names of the Prophet Mohammed. Members of the mosque and Islamic cultural centre on Upton Road, Hulme, said the sex toy caused Muslims "hurt and anguish".

After protests the sex shop chain revealed to Asian News that it was dropping the model, which has an Arabic-style face with a moustache, and bringing out a re-named version. Ann Summers chief executive, Jacqueline Gold said: Considering the current climate we have decided to change the name. The new name will be revealed at the end of April. The use of the name Mustafa was simply a play on words. We did not mean any offence by it. It was not particularly aimed at Asian or Arabian women but all women. When there was some publicity about the doll in London we were inundated by e-mails and calls from women wanting to buy it.

 

9th February Grow Up Mediawatch

It is not clear to me why earlier puberty should be considered an occurrence to worry about anyway.

Thanks to Dan: Mediawatch UK picked up on this. Presumably to back their agenda for wishing to deny adults the freedom to watch sexual material.

From Mediawatch-UK originally from the Daily Mail

Part of the reason for our mounting epidemic of obesity is the all-pervasive influence of television on the lives of children. In modern Britain, the TV is far more that just a piece of furniture or a piece of entertainment. It is a huge force in almost every family, dominating the domestic environment, acting as an electronic babysitter and shaping behaviour. More than half of three-year-olds have TV sets in their bedrooms, while by the age of six the average child will have spent a full year of 24-hour days in front of the screen.

Apart from giving rise to obesity, this helps to promote early puberty in other ways. One is through the relentless exposure to sexual imagery. Scientific research has shown that when adults watch sexual material on the screen, hormones are released into the body. There is no reason to believe the same is not true of children and that these hormones help hasten the onset of adolescence …

In other words, TV is not just a medium for negative images; it can also have direct biological consequences. Along with pop videos and magazines, television is also part of an arsenal of media influences that have encouraged a loss of innocence in children. Publications aimed at preteen girls now talk openly about sexual positions and oral sex, while the pop scene is filled with gyrating exhibitionist stars and explicit lyrics.

 

6th February The Society for the Promotion of Community Vendettas

From GayNZ.com

A fringe Christian nutter group’s vendetta against New Zealand’s gay chief censor and his deputy has been renewed this week, with pressure being put on the government to replace them both.

The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards says Deputy Chief Censor Nicola McCully’s term expired in September and no moves have been made to replace her. It wants her out, along with Chief Censor Bill Hastings, whose term expires later this year.

However, a spokesman for Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker says this situation is not unusual as last year was an election year, and a “period of restraint” is placed on ministers, preventing them from significant appointments during that time. When this happens, the incumbent continues in their job. With the formation of a new government coming almost right on top of Christmas, the delay in reviewing McCully’s position has been compounded.

The SPCS says the Office of Film and Literature Classification under Hastings and McCully has failed to protect the public from the pandemic of obscene and sexually degrading publications that are being regularly cleared by the Office for adult 'entertainment’.

The two examples they cite are the art-house films Baise-Moi and Irreversible, both festival films which received nationwide cinema releases and exposure to a wide audience only after the publicity generated by the SPCS attempts to ban them both.

The largely ineffective lobby group has nevertheless become notorious enough to warrant its own entry on web-based encyclopedia Wikipedia. Described as a “Christian fundamentalist anti-gay group”, the entry says the SPCS appears largely concerned with criticising the decisions of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (New Zealand) and the current Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, seemingly on the basis that he is gay.

 

5th February Venice: the Bordello of Europe

Based on an article from The Telegraph

A museum of erotic art due to open this week yards from St Mark's Basilica in Venice has predictably provoked outrage from the Catholic Church and local officials.

The display of paintings, photographs and sculpture, which opens to the public on Friday at the start of the annual Venice Carnival, has been accused by critics of being no more than a "sex shop" and "a shameful embarrassment" to the city, which welcomes millions of tourists every year.

The exhibition is housed over four floors in the 250-year-old Palazzo Rota, overlooking the lagoon and less than a minute's walk from the recently-restored basilica.

Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Catholic patriarch of Venice, has condemned it:The location of this museum is scandalous but, more importantly, why does Venice have a need for a museum of erotica? It is just a commercial venture. I'm not shocked by Lucien Freud's paintings, but I really don't see the logic in having these sort of exhibits on public display.

Maurizio Costa, the museum's artistic director, said Venice was synonymous with erotica, having been the birthplace of Giacomo Casanova, the world's most famous seducer: I can't see what all this fuss is about. They should take a look at the history of Venice. The city has a history of eroticism. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Venice was known as the bordello of Europe.

 

5th February Would You Adam & Eve it

From Religioscope

An Indonesian obscenity and blasphemy case has been registered against six people for putting up a pictorial exhibition on Adam and Eve in which the actors in the photograph were in a state of nudity. Police named three artists, a photographer, a prominent art curator and a sixth person as suspects in the case, local news reports said Friday.

The exhibit at the Bank Indonesia Museum in Central Jakarta raised a furore with Islamic hardliners who said the photograph depiction of Adam and Eve, who were played by an actor and actress with fig leaves covering their private parts, was an insult to Islam.

Authorities refused to release the names of the six suspects, but lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who will defend three of them, named the five suspects as model-actor Anjasmara, model Isabel Yahya, artist Agus Suwage, photographer Davy Linggar and art critic Jim Supangkat.

The hardline Indonesian Islamic group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) was at the forefront of the criticism of the CP Biennale 2005 Urban/Culture exhibit held last October.

Leaders claimed the artwork violated criminal laws against insulting a religion in Indonesia and publicly displaying pornography, crimes punishable by up to five years and 18 months in prison respectively.

Anjasmara defended himself by saying that he was not completely nude during the photo shoot of Adam, who is considered a prophet by Muslims, but was wearing underwear. He also apologised to anyone whom the photograph offended, and explained that he was only trying to create art.

FPI, which is known for its violent attacks against nightclubs and other establishments seen as "un-Islamic", has stepped up legal attacks on perceived cultural offences to Islam.

 

27th January

Updated 28th January

Mother Nutters

From The Sun

A violent new British movie about “happy slapping” was facing calls to be banned last night. Nutters fear Kidulthood which features two scenes where yobs film attacks glamorises teenage violence. The movie came under fire days after a teenager was jailed for filming pals kicking a man to death. Lucy Cope, who founded Mothers Against Guns after her son was shot dead in 2002, last night led calls for the film to be banned. The movie set in west London has been compared by some critics to youth classics like Trainspotting and Quadrophenia.

A teenager said to be obsessed with a killer video game was yesterday found guilty of murdering his sister by torching his home in a twisted bid to slaughter his entire family.  The 16-year-old – who modelled himself on a half-human/half-demon PlayStation 2 character – also hit his brother with an axe leaving him brain damaged.  The lad always wore black Goth clothes and called himself Dante after the killer character in the 15-rated game Devil May Cry, the Old Bailey heard. 

Last night the pressure group mediawatch-uk accused the games industry of “living in denial” of the consequences of their products.

 

28th January Opinion: The Playstation Made me Do It

From Dan

Dear Melon Farmers,

It seems Keith Vaz has made it a personal crusade to get violent games banned. He is backed up by high profile anti violence campaigners who seem to prefer blaming the entertainments industry for violence in society rather than holding individuals to account. Most worryingly the campaign against violent games has mothers who's children have been murdered at the hands of killers who had some sort of addiction to such games.

They have made the video games industry a scapegoat for their lose and now have a personal crusade to make them pay for their pain! The morals campaigners, such as mediawatch-uk, who have them on their side say "You cant aruge with them because to do so is to belittle the pain they have been through!"

Sympathy for these mothers must be put aside on this issue, and whilst we anti-censorship campaigners sympathise with what they have been through (although nobody can truly understand how losing a child to a murderous killer can feel unless you experience it yourself) we must respectfully say we do not agree with their efforts to veto the video games industry over what type of games they produce and tell gamers what games should and should not be avaliable.

Mediawatch-uk have said the games industry is in denial over the consequences of their products, but their is no denial as their is no proof that the consequences of their products is to turn NORMAL law abiding people into violent killers.

I think the government would do well to tell the mothers against almost everything lobby that they understand their anger at losing their children to murderers but they will not make the video games industry a convenient scapegoat and a video game a get out chance for any murdering teenager who says "it wern't me it was the Playstation that made me do it!"

 

26th January
Updated 22nd March
Nutters Spring into Action

Based on an article from Christian Today

Jerry Springer: The opera DVD coverThis week the nutter bait stage show, Jerry Springer – The Opera, begins with theatres across the country now bracing themselves for protests during the nationwide tour.

Local organisation Action Group has already planned a protest outside the Plymouth Theatre Royal and up to 50 nutters are expected to turn out to voice their concerns.

The 20-city, five-month tour will begin in Plymouth, Devon on Friday after a turbulent period where it was questionable whether the tour would go ahead.

A spokesperson for the Plymouth theatre said there is planned to be extra security on the opening night of the tour. The BBC reported her as saying, We are aware that there are people out there who aren't particularly happy with the fact that we have Jerry Springer. We have got more people who will be present front-of-house to ensure that there are no problems with people who want to come in and see the production and make sure they can gain access.

Previously, one third of the venues had backed down on plans to show the musical after receiving threats of protests by religious pressure group Christian Voice, according to Manchester Online.

The Independent newspaper reported that Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, has announced the organisation's intention to prosecute any venue that shows the Jerry Springer show.

But theatres have joined forces and a deal was agreed upon with the producers, Avalon despite threats of protests. The Independent newspaper has reported that Stuart Griffiths, the chief executive of the Birmingham Hippodrome, said that the tour venues were "absolutely keen" it should go ahead.

But the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, who described the TV broadcast of the musical as “gratuitously offensive” said he has no problem with the show coming to the city.

He said there was a “big difference” of issues because people could choose whether to buy a ticket, according to Manchester Online. "This production has been on stage before and there is a big difference between something on the television and the stage.

Bishop McCulloch said people had a right to “peaceful protest” but warned that violence or threats of violence are not acceptable: I want to distance myself completely from the kind of thing that happened after the televised performance when the lives of people were threatened. That is reprehensible and has nothing to do with any Christian concern.

 

28th January Update: Southport Nutters Bay for Repression

From the Southport Visitor

Southport nutters have joined in the call against Jerry Springer: The Opera. Around 600 members of Southport churches have signed a petition calling on the Liverpool Empire and the Manchester Opera House to drop performances of the production.

Dave Allen of Elim Pentecostal Church organised the petition.

 

2nd February Update: Only 35 Protesting Brethren

Based on an article from The Guardian

The archdeacon of Plymouth and two of the city's former lord mayors have attacked the staging of Jerry Springer: the Opera, as the controversial show begins its national tour. Archdeacon Tony Wilds branded the award-winning musical "unfair and unacceptable", and called for its tour to be abandoned. But the opening performance of Jerry Springer went ahead as scheduled last Friday, and continues in Plymouth until the end of the week.

In a statement entitled Freedom, Not Hate in Plymouth, Wilds was backed by former mayors Tom Savery and David Stark, plus ministers of five other Christian denominations. According to the statement: The local production of the controversial Jerry Springer the Opera is ... a serious and damaging misjudgment.

The shameful archdeacon said that he was in favour of the principle of free speech... BUT... he  argues that Springer takes undue liberties according to this standard. The abusive portrayal of figures held by Christians to be [dear] should be recognised by all people of goodwill as unfair and unacceptable ...

Organising this tour has been the most difficult thing we've ever done, said producer Jon Thoday. It's been on and off about three times, to the point when we thought we were fighting a losing battle. Further protests against the show are planned across Britain as the tour progresses.

But Thoday is heartened by the events of last Friday, when only a handful of protesters attended the opening night of the show. If they can only muster 35 people praying on the first date of the tour, my hope is that it will be the show that prevails and not the protests.

 

16th February Update: Christian Voice & Dog Shit

From Yahoo News
From MediawatchWatch

Arts Council England has given £30,000 to the national tour of Jerry Springer: The Opera, six months after turning down an application for funding.

In August the organisation threw the future of the production into doubt when it decided against subsidising the tour. On that occasion the application was from the producers Avalon and the Arts Council claimed it could not justify the use of public money for a commercial tour.

But it has now made the £30,000 award in response to a separate application from a consortium of theatres. The musical is in the middle of a nationwide regional tour. The funding will enable the production to reach new audiences across the country.

Sir Christopher Frayling, chair of Arts Council England, said: "We are committed to continuing our association with Jerry Springer: The Opera. The original production provoked an important debate and attracted new audiences during its time on the London stage. Our award will allow the production to reach out to new audiences across England allowing them too to take part in the debate."

Stephen Green of Christian Voice, the organisation which is currently picketing venues around the country, is predictably furious: It would not be possible for this show to be any more blasphemous and insulting to Christians if it tried. I cannot believe it has qualified for public money. It needs the money to keep it going. As far as I am concerned, Jerry Springer: The Opera appeals to people who like treading in dog shit. Taxpayers have no business supporting it.

So full of love and the grace of his lord Jesus Christ, isn’t he?

 

24th February Update: Diapers vs Turban Bombs

By my calculations the Jerry Springer version of Christ is just as likely to be the truth as the multitude of church versions. Which in turn is equally likely to be the truth as a prophet from God wearing a turban bomb and indeed, equally likely as a prophet from God wearing any other sort of headwear.

From Christian Today

Protestors gathered in Yorkshire earlier this week, regarding the controversial stage show Jerry Springer – The Opera. As part of a national tour, the show is at the York Grand Opera House every night this week, and will visit the Bradford Alhambra in May as its only other Yorkshire date.

Major Paul Westlake, of York Branch of the Salvation Army, said: We are here to put across to people that they should not formulate any ideas about Jesus Christ from this production they are going to see. In the production, he is portrayed as a ridiculous figure who says he may be a little bit gay. The issue is that there is a lot in the show that is offensive to Christians. In this country we seem to be able to poke fun at Christianity but not other minority faiths.

Lizzie Richards, general manager of the Grand Opera House, said: It's up to them if they want to protest. They are perfectly entitled to say how they feel. We are trying to offer a balanced programme. We think it is a great show from great producers written by two very talented people in Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas, which is why we wanted it to come to York.

 

3rd March Comic Pictures and Comic Opera

I think the Springer protestors must be feeling a little bit overshadowed by the cartoon protests. They simply cannot support their own beliefs with the same level of intimidation that Islam can command.

Perhaps they can achieve some feeling of fairness in knowing that both beliefs are equally absurd and equally unlikely to be the truth. 

From MediawatchWatch

Jerry Springer: The Opera opened at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester recently accompanied not only by the usual gaggle of Springer protestors, but also by a counter-demo by the active Leicester Secular Society in support of free speech. As far as we can gather, this is the first time the anti-Springer brigade have encountered organised opposition.

If the show is coming to a theatre near you, and you want to know what the Christian demonstrators are up to (if anything), Stephen Green of Christian Voice has helpfully set up a web page (Stopspringer.com) with contact details for would-be activists

From Christian Today

Christians are planning to come out to protest against Jerry Springer: The Opera when it opens in Glasgow next week.

The protest will kick off on the opening night of the show next Monday night and will be attended by numerous prominent Christians, including Rev. George Hargreaves, leader of the Scottish Christian Party, reports the Scottish Herald.

The Glasgow campaign will be spearheaded by Bob Handyside, a local Christian, who criticised the play for its biased disregard of the Christian faith: Christianity is a whipping boy, and obscenities like this, which are absolutely shocking, just seem to be expected. You would never get away with this if you were ranting about Islam. Glasgow City Council would be attacked and there would be Muslims complaining to everyone.

A website for the anti-Springer opera campaign, www.stopspringer.com, is calling for Christians to write to Prince Edward, patron of the Glasgow theatre, voicing their concerns for the musical. The website states, “It’s time for Prince Edward to stand up for Jesus Christ.”

The protest organisers are hoping that many local churches will get involved with the campaign by encouraging their congregation to express their concerns over the play.

The tour is due to continue to Aberdeen’s His Majesty’s Theatre after the Glasgow week-long run. The Aberdeen theatre is also facing criticism for going ahead with the run of the show.

 

13th March Update: Spot the Difference

Shamelessy lifted from one of my favourite sites: MediawatchWatch. The observation surely deserves wide distribution.

Jerry Springer protestors

Has the BNP taken over the anti-Jerry Springer: The Opera protests? Above left is a photo from the Leicester Mercury showing a group of protestors outside the de Montfort Hall. On the right is a group of BNP supporters outside Leeds Crown Court in January, during the trial of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett.

The “Defend Christian Values” banners they are holding are from the self-styled Christian Council of Britain, one of several new BNP offshoots.

From Lancaster Unite Against Fascism blog:

The Christian Council of Britain, replete with one or two hundred rabid members of the BNP (who also happen to be Christians), was set up by the BNP as a so-called balance to the Muslim Council of Britain. They claim to represent the Christians of Britain, which of course, they don’t. They actually represent a racist though supposedly Christian offshoot of the BNP formed solely so that the party could almost-legitimately jump on the back of the anti-’Jerry Springer - The Opera’ campaign. The real Christian group who actually are organising the campaign have stated clearly that the BNP is unwelcome.

Stephen Green did indeed come out and speak against the BNP involvement in the anti-Springer campaign, eventually. But if the Leicester Mercury photo is representative, the very least we can deduce is that they are good at distributing their banners.

 

21st March Update: Dirty Minded

Certainly an illuminating quote: We do not think any decent-minded person would want to watch this show.

Based on an article from ic Liverpool

Jerry Springer: The opera DVD coverMore than 500 Christians descended on St George's Plateau to make their feelings about Jerry Springer: The Opera coming to the city very clear.

Nutters in the region were protesting in the hope of deterring people from buying tickets. The show is part of the Empire Theatre's summer season and campaigners plan to stage a series of demonstrations over the next two months and throughout its run.

Dave Allen, from Merseyside Christians Against Jerry Springer, said: We regard this production as disgraceful, disgusting and dirty. We do not think any decent-minded person would want to watch this show.

It very clearly demeans our Lord Jesus Christ by depicting him as a baby in a nappy and makes God out to be a bumbling fool. There is no doubt about it, we will be raising our voice very strongly over the next few weeks to show our disgust.

 

22nd March Update: Comic Relief

From Manchester Online

The staging of controversial musical Jerry Springer The Opera brought protesters to the streets of Manchester last night - but placard-waving supporters of the show outnumbered Christian protesters.

Placard: Stop being so bloody sillyBut on the streets outside the Opera House last night, a small group of around 10 protesters opposed to the show were out-numbered by a group of noisy Manchester comedians, who carried placards reading "Don't Gag the Gagsters".

Organiser Mike Landers, who heads the Manchester Comedy Forum, said: We are concerned about freedom of speech. There seem to be a lot of things conspiring against this freedom because of the protest against the Prophet cartoons and the religious hatred bill. We think it is the job of comedians to be able to say what we think, even if it offends people.

From the excellent MediawatchWatch

Mike Landers reports:

We gathered in the Sports Cafe on time, hurriedly finishing off placards and so on. A nice little turn out, and then we found out that the tables around us were occupied by people going to see the show and were laughing themselves silly at some of the slogans.

The original plan was to wander up to the Opera House around 6.30pm (7.30pm show start) but a distinct lack of Christian “opposition” meant we kept putting it back and putting it back. As the queues of audience members grew and still no sign, we finally made the Executive Decision to head up at about 6.50pm.

As we gathered opposite the Opera House, there were a lot of curious looks from the Springer audience, but as soon as the placards were unveiled, there was a big cheer and a lot of laughter.

A round of interviews (TV and radio) with myself and John Cooper, more laughter and chanting and some grateful thanks from some of the backstage crew, who left with their own stickers.

Eventually some of the Christians turned up at about 7.15pm. We serenaded them with “You’re late! And you know you are!” as they took station right outside the doors. A quick countup of protesters versus anti-protesters led to the football style chant of “16-3! 16-3!”.

At 7.30pm, showtime so time to retire to the pub. I wandered past the Opera House at about 8.45, and one of the protestors was still there. Earlier she had given out a huge number of handwritten cards about spreading the word of God. As my good friend Geoff said, quite frankly, with dedication and determination like that, she’s wasted doing what she is doing.

I’ll write more, set up a webpage to show the pictures, but from memory the slogans were:

“Down with protests”
“Don’t gag the gagsters”
“Jerry Springer stole my other cheek”
“Free Speech! I’m a believer!”
“Its digusting. Its a musical, not an opera”
“It was either this or the hoovering”
“I don’t care about blasphemy, I just hate opera.”
“For one night only: Much Ado About Nothing”
“Stop being so bloody silly.”
“Golf Sale”.

Very tired, but happy.

 

19th January Self Censorship in Bed

From The Guardian

A curious religious debate is raging in Egypt. The question is: should you keep your clothes on when having sex?
It began when Dr Rashad Khalil, an expert on Islamic law from al-Azhar university in Cairo warned that being completely naked during intercourse invalidates a marriage. His ruling was promptly dismissed by other scholars, including one who argued that "anything that can bring spouses closer to each other" should be permitted.

Another religious scholar suggested it was OK for married couples to see each other naked as long as they don't look at the genitals. To avoid problems in that area, he recommended having sex under a blanket.

Unlike Christianity, which tends to be squeamish about sex, Islam has a long tradition of talking about it openly. Up to a point, this is much more healthy. While Catholic priests are enjoined to remain celibate, Muslim clerics are expected to marry and indulge heartily with their wives in the pleasures of the flesh. In many parts of the Muslim world, especially where folk are poor and uneducated, the local imam is the person many turn to for guidance on matters relating to sex and marriage.

Over the last few years, hundreds of Islamic "fatwa" websites have also sprung up on which clerics - often with uncertain qualifications - answer all manner of questions that have been sent to them by email, including questions about sex. While some of the advice is sensible, a lot of it is completely daft, so readers may wish to get a second opinion before putting it into practice.

Actually, it had never occurred to me that Muslims might be required to keep their clothes on during their most intimate moments until a few months ago when I was browsing through IslamOnline, the website supervised by the prominent (and controversial) Qatar-based cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Delivering a fatwa on oral sex, 79-year-old Dr Qaradawi describes it as a disgusting western practice, resulting from westerners' habit of stripping naked during sexual intercourse. But he continues: Muslim jurists are of the opinion that it is lawful for the husband to perform cunnilingus on his wife, or a wife to perform the similar act for her husband (fellatio) and there is no wrong in doing so. But if sucking leads to releasing semen, then it is makruh (blameworthy), but there is no decisive evidence (to forbid it) ... especially if the wife agrees with it or achieves orgasm by practising it.

On this issue, Dr Qaradawi's views are more permissive than those of several other clerics on the internet. One states that oral sex is definitely forbidden, adding that this hideous practice will draw the anger of Allah.

Masturbation is generally frowned upon by Islamic scholars, though they disagree about how sinful it is. The Inter-Islam website describes it as an indecent practice that has crept into the youngsters of today. Masturbation has become prevalent, the website says, because of the modern tendency for young people to marry later (contrary to the advice of the Prophet). As a result, they feel a need to fulfil their carnal desires but ... cannot do so in the normal way, ie sexual intercourse. Islamic Voice describes masturbation as an "abominable and wicked act" which is forbidden in Islam. Its harms are great and it has disastrous consequences as established by doctors.

The "proven" medical effects of masturbation - which, of course, include damage to the eyesight - were once listed by Abd al-Aziz bin Baz, the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and his list is reproduced on numerous Islamic websites. According to bin Baz, masturbation causes disruption of the digestive system, inflammation of the testicles, damage to the spine, and "trembling and instability in some parts of the body like the feet". In addition, there is a weakening of the "cerebral glands" leading to decreased intellect and even "mental disorders and insanity". Furthermore, "due to constant ejaculation, the sperm no more remains thick and dense as it normally occurs in males". This results in sperm which is not "mighty enough" to make a woman pregnant or produces children who are "more prone to disease and illness".

Other scholars argue that masturbation is basically forbidden but may be permitted if the person is unmarried or masturbates in order to avoid a more serious sin such as adultery, or if the masturbation is to release "sexual tension" rather than to fulfil "sexual desire". In a fatwa for IslamOnline, Sheikh Mustafa al-Zarqa says: I conclude that the general principles of sharia [Islamic law] go against this habit, because it is not the normal way of fulfilling sexual desire ... it is a deviation - and that is enough to condemn it, even though this act does not fall under the category of absolute prohibition.

There is generally more consensus among scholars on the question of kissing. Males and females should not kiss unless they are related by blood or marriage. Same-sex kissing, on the other hand, is allowed as long as it is done without "lust" and avoids the person's mouth. Hands and cheeks are the preferred places to kiss. The forehead is also good because the Prophet reportedly once gave a man a smacker between the eyes.

There is much disagreement on Islamic websites about anal sex between men and women. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the highest-ranking Shia cleric in Iraq, says it is "strongly undesirable", but permissible if the wife agrees. This seems to be quite a common view, though many Sunni clerics maintain that consent is irrelevant. Anal sex is a grave sin and is completely forbidden, regardless of whether the wife agrees to it or not, one says.

The most common religious objection to anal sex is that it frustrates the main purpose of marriage - to produce children - and the same objection is applied to masturbation. Islam strictly forbids the waste of seminal fluid, one website says.

It is precisely to avoid having too many children that some Muslims practice anal sex. One man, writing to the Islamic Q&A website, says that his wife doesn't have any problem with it. I think this is the best way of family planning instead of using condoms, the man writes, though he adds that many of his friends have told him otherwise.

Although Muslim scholars regard pregnancy as the primary goal of sex and marriage, they are generally more pragmatic than the Roman Catholic church about family planning. Contraception is allowed, though the rules can be rather complicated.

Shia clerics often seem to be more flexible in sexual matters than Sunnis. For example, "temporary marriage" is a Shia tradition which in effect legalises prostitution. Sunni clerics, especially those influenced by Saudi Wahhabism, like to assert their authority by forbidding anything that might be remotely pleasurable.

The current fashion for online fatwas has created an amazingly legalistic approach to Islam as scholars - some of whom have only a tenuous grip on reality - seek to regulate all aspects of life according to their own interpretation of the scriptures.

 

19th January More to Watch from MediaWatch

Note that the old format website is still running (and being updated) at Mediawatch-UK

Thanks to Dan

Mediawatch-uk have generated a new website in a new format:

www.mediawatch-uk.org.uk/portal

But their campaign hasn't changed. Seeking to hold broadcasters to account? More like seeking to stop
anyone viewing anything they disapprove of.

 

14th January The Re-Nutterisation of Scotland

The Definition of religion?: Preaching tolerance whilst practising intolerance.

From The Scotsman

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has caused controversy among non-Christian faiths by telling them that they needed to realise they live in a Christian country.

In comments described as "obnoxious", Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he "tolerated" people who lived differently, but added that he must take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country.

The Church said the cardinal was not meaning to diminish the stature of other faiths as he set forward his mission to "re-Christianise" Scotland.

However, a spokesman for the Hindu Temple in Glasgow condemned the remarks that people of other faiths should realise they live in a Christian country. I think they are obnoxious. If you go to India there are more Christians there than there are in Britain. They have total autonomy and total freedom to worship and do anything they want, even welcome people into their faith. There is no grudge against that.

He called the suggestion that Scotland should be re-Christianised as "quite offensive".

Inyat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Britain, said: Mr O'Brien should be addressing his comments to Christians. I think Muslims are surprised that many Christians don't take their faith so seriously. Mr O'Brien perhaps needs to look at his own flock and question why people are not following Christianity as he would like to, rather than showing impatience with other faiths.

Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar said those of other faiths accepted Scotland had a massive Christian majority. But he added: I have one reservation - when he says that people should learn to live in a Christian way. I don't know what that means. It's very ambiguous. I'm a very tolerant person and we live in a democracy. People should be allowed to practise religion the way they want to.

Cardinal O'Brien chose a forthcoming BBC radio interview to repeat his call for Scotland to be "re-Christianised". He said Christianity had been present in Scotland since St Ninian landed at Whithorn in AD397, but that the country no longer lived up to Christian standards: I feel I must take a stand when Christianity itself is questioned in this country. In a re-Christianised Scotland I would certainly respect the beliefs of people of other faiths, the great world faiths, and acknowledge when they are celebrating their feasts, just as they acknowledge when we celebrate the feast of Christmas and these sort of things. But I would also like them to realise that they are living in Scotland as a Christian country.

 

13th January
Updated 31st March
 
Tolerant Death Threats

From MediawatchWatch

Magazinet, an obscure Norwegian Christian magazine, has incurred the wrath of the Supreme Islamic Council for re-publishing the Mohammed cartoons originally printed by Jyllands-Posten in Denmark.

According to Islam Online, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council, Mohammed Hamdan, has condemned the magazine “in the strongest possible terms”. When informed that Magazinet printed the cartoons in the name of free expression, Hamdan revealingly replied: What on earth does freedom of expression mean?

He hopes that the government of Norway will condemn the publication, unlike the Danish government who steadfastly refused to take action: Editors should not take free speech as an excuse to insult a certain religion; otherwise they risk an extremist response from the offended, which carries grave consequences.

In other words, shut up or we’ll kill you.
 

17th January Update: Tolerantly Threatening Death in an atmosphere free of intimidation or bullying

Newspaper page of cartoon MohammedsWhen UK Muslim dignatories were challenged for the homophobic opinions (see Gay Cartoon Hypocrisy) then they said: All Britons, whether they are in favour of homosexuality or not, should be allowed to freely express their views in an atmosphere free of intimidation or bullying. We cannot claim to be a truly free and open society while we are trying to silence dissenting views.

From MediawatchWatch

According to the Brussels Journal, the Norwegian newspaper which published the Mohammed cartoons in support of Jylands-Posten has withdrawn them from its website in the face of death threats.

Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor of Magazinet, received threatening anonymous emails, including one containing a picture of a burnt body. The e-mail with the pictures of the burnt body is the most frightening. But I am not afraid. This is of course unpleasant, especially for a family man. But I cannot go around being afraid said Selbekk.

Another Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, has also published the cartoons as a gesture of support.

 

27th January Update: Saudi Depiction of Intolerance

From The Guardian

Saudi Arabia said yesterday it had recalled its ambassador to Denmark, saying the government had not taken enough action over newspaper cartoons seen as mocking Islam and the prophet Muhammad. The Saudi government recalled its ambassador ... in light of the Danish government's lack of attention to insulting the prophet Muhammad by its newspapers, a Saudi official said.

Denmark's biggest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, ran 12 cartoons last September including one in which Muhammad seemed to be carrying a bomb in his turban.

 

28th January Update: Morality Does not Apply to Business

Denmark's main industry organization, fearing a loss of business in the Muslim world, sought to distance itself Friday from a newspaper that published contentious drawings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

The Confederation of Danish Industries urged Jyllands-Posten to explain its decision to publish the cartoons on Sept. 30 last year: Time has come for Jyllands-Posten to use its freedom of speech to explain how it views the fact that the paper's Muhammad drawings have offended large groups of people, the group's head, Hans Skov Christensen, wrote in a letter to the daily.

The caricatures have sparked a wave of denunciations across the Islamic world and from Muslim leaders in Denmark. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet, even respectful ones, out of concern that such images could lead to idolatry.

In Iraq on Friday, thousands of people condemned the caricatures during weekly prayer services and demanded legal action be taken against the newspaper.

Skov Christensen said Danish companies faced repercussions this week from customers in the Middle East, including product boycotts, dropped orders, and cancelled business meetings. The confederation claims the Middle East accounts for annual sales of at least $816 million for Danish companies.

Danish-based Arla Foods, Europe's largest dairy group, said it had noted sales dropping in Saudi Arabia because of protests over the drawings.
 

30th January Update: Iraq Protests & Norwegian Apologies

From MediawatchWatch

Shiite and Sunni clerics in Iraq have joined the chorus of condemnation against the Mohammed cartoons published first by Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, and then by a couple of magazines in Norway.

Ranting in his mosque in a Shiite district in Baghdad, Sheikh Hazem al-Aaraji said: They want to disfigure Islam and this we cannot accept. These cartoons directly attack the personality of the messenger of God. We say to them: they cannot attack Mohammed, nor any of the prophets. Mohammed is the symbol of humanity. He is not dead, he lives always among us through his teachings and through the sacred book

After the sermon, a crowd of about 100 charged through the neighourhood chanting: there is no god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.

Meanwhile, an email memo to Norwegian embassies has been leaked which reveals that Norway’s government is trying to make amends by “apologising”: I am sorry that the publication of a few cartoons in the Norwegian paper Magazinet has caused unrest among Muslims. I fully understand that these drawings are seen to give offence by Muslims worldwide.

The cartoons in the Christian paper Magazinet are not constructive in building the
bridges which are necessary between people with different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Instead they contribute to suspicion and unnecessary conflict.

Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin. Norway has always supported the fight of the UN against religious intolerance and racism, and believes that this fight is important in order to avoid suspicion and conflict. Tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue are the basis values of Norwegian society and of our foreign policy.

Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of Norwegian society. This includes tolerance for opinions that not everyone shares. At the same time our laws and our international obligations enforce restrictions for incitement to hatred or hateful expressions.

 

31st January Update: Bacon Boycott Causes a Stink

From The Times

Denmark faced the full fury of the Muslim world yesterday as a long-simmering row over newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad finally erupted.

There were street demonstrations and flag-burnings in the Middle East. Libya joined Saudi Arabia in withdrawing its ambassador from Copenhagen. Islamic governments and organisations, including the Muslim Council of Britain, issued denunciations and a boycott of Danish goods took hold across the Muslim world.

The Danish Government warned its citizens about travelling to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and withdrew aid workers from the Gaza Strip.

Last night EU foreign ministers issued a statement in support of Denmark, and the European Commission threatened to report any government backing the boycott to the World Trade Organisation.

A spokesman for Peter Mandelson, the EU Trade Commissioner, said that if the Saudi Government had encouraged the boycott of Danish goods, Mandelson would take the matter to the WTO.

By yesterday governments across the Arab world were responding to public outrage. Libya closed its embassy in Denmark and the Egyptian parliament demanded that its Government follow suit. The Kuwaiti and Jordanian governments called for explanations from their Danish ambassadors. President Lahoud of Lebanon condemned the cartoons, saying his country “cannot accept any insult to any religion”. The Justice Minister of the United Arab Emirates said: “This is cultural terrorism, not freedom of expression.” In Gaza, gunmen briefly occupied the EU office in Gaza and warned Danes and Norwegians to stay away. Palestinians in the West Bank burnt Danish flags. The Islamic groups Hamas and Hezbollah and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood demanded an apology.

Supermarkets in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen all removed Danish produce from their shelves. Arla Foods, a Danish company with annual sales of about $430 million in the Middle East, said that the boycott was almost total and suspended production in Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim Council of Britain, whose leaders are to meet the Danish ambassador tomorrow, deplored the newspapers’ refusal to apologise for printing “sacrilegious cartoons vilifying the Prophet Muhammad”.

Per Stig Moeller, Denmark’s Foreign Minister, insisted in Brussels last night: We condemn blasphemy. We want respect for religions. But we cannot intervene. We have sent explanations but, as we have said before, freedom of expression is a matter for the courts, not for the Government

From al jazeerah

The publication of the Danish illustrations of the Prophet and their republication in Norway offers not one but two separate offenses to the Muslim world. The most obvious is that not only was the Prophet depicted in ten of the twelve cartoons, but also that one of the illustrations portrayed him as a terrorist. The second offense is that people in Denmark and Norway and no doubt in most of Europe and North America seem blissfully unaware of precisely how outrageous these images are to Islamic sensibilities.

What is so deeply disappointing is that the Danish and indeed Norwegian authorities have failed to adequately condemn the publication of the image or to directly apologize for the hurt it has caused to everyone in the Muslim world. Instead, we have heard the usual responses about freedom of speech and governments having no control over the press and media.

No one is talking about censorship... BUT... what Muslims are saying that with every freedom comes a responsibility. Something deeply painful to the entire Muslim world was published in a Danish newspaper. That in itself was an irresponsible use of the freedom of the press, which in no country anywhere is an unlimited freedom allowing journalists to vilify, libel or lie.
 

1st February Update: Danish Newspaper Threatened with Hat Bomb

From The Independent

A Danish newspaper suffered bomb scares a day after apologising for cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed which prompted protests from Muslims and a boycott of Danish products in a dozen nations. The offices of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and Arhus were evacuated for a short tim

Stunned by the scale of the reaction, the newspaper - which received 9,000 e-mails on the subject in one day - moved to defuse the row with an appeal published on its website. Carsten Juste, editor-in-chief, said in the open letter, which was also published in Arabic: In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologise.

Under the headline "Honourable Citizens of the Muslim World", the editor defended the publication, arguing: The initiative was taken as part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark. The apology, which has prompted a fierce debate over freedom of expression, was welcomed by the Danish premier, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He said: I'm extremely happy that Jyllands-Posten has decided to take this very difficult step. I would now like to appeal to Muslim groups in Denmark to speak out and defuse the situation after Jyllands-Posten's apology.

From FortWayne.com

A Danish Muslim group accepted an apology from a newspaper that published offensive cartoons of the prophet Muhammad but said later that it had decided the statement was ambiguous.

The group did not elaborate, and it was unclear whether there would be any effect on protests and boycotts of Danish goods in Muslim countries.

 

2nd February Update: European Stand Against the Bacon Boycott

From The Times

Diw Welt with picture of Mohammed with hat bombNewspapers across Europe yesterday republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have inflamed the Muslim world since they first appeared in Denmark.

Daily newspapers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands featured the 12 cartoons, which have caused a firestorm in the Islamic world.

Editors expressed a wish to show solidarity with the Editor of the Jyllands-Posten in Denmark, whose cartoons triggered violent protests in Gaza, a boycott of Danish goods across the Arab world and death threats against the newspaper’s senior staff. The paper’s offices had to be evacuated last night after the second bomb threat in two days.

Showing any depiction of Muhammad is deemed blasphemous and these were seen as particularly offensive, with one portraying the Prophet wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb. Under the headline Yes, we have the right to caricature God, France Soir covered its front with Buddha, the Christian and Jewish deities and the Prophet all sitting on a cloud. The Christian God says: Don’t complain Muhammad, all of us have been caricatured.

Shortly after the paper appeared, however, its managing editor, Jacques Lefranc, was sacked. Raymond Lakah, the paper’s owner, issued a public apology: We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication of the cartoons, he said.

French officials privately shuddered over the likely damage to relations with Muslims at home and abroad but ministers defended France Soir’s freedom to publish what it wanted. After a Cabinet meeting with President Chirac, Jean-François Copé, a minister and government spokesman, said: France is attached to the freedom of expression, but adding that respect should always be shown for the beliefs of others.

France Soir published all 12 Danish cartoons and deplored what it called the new inquisition by “backward bigots” in a Muslim world that knew little democracy.

In Berlin, Die Welt reprinted one cartoon on its front page and three others inside: The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical. When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were quiet. Roger Koeppel, Editor of Die Welt, told The Times: We owed it to our readers. They have to understand what the fuss is about.

In Italy some of the cartoons appeared in Corriere della Sera and La Stampa. Both newspapers said that the decision to publish had been taken on purely journalistic grounds.

Paolo Lepri, the acting foreign editor of Corriere della Sera, said that it was not a political decision. We simply felt that you could not explain to readers why the cartoons had caused such a furore without showing them some examples by way of illustration.

The Spanish daily El Periodico published a montage of the cartoons under the headline The Effects of Terrorism: A Test. Carlos-Enrique Bayo, foreign editor of El Periodico, said: We don’t normally shy away from things like this. Publish and be damned, as they say.

The Dutch daily De Telegraaf has also published the 12 cartoons which can also be seen on the  Dutch MP Groep Wilders who published them on his blog

 

4th February Update: Clash of Cultures

Protester with placard: Behead those who insult IslamWho can be the most offensive?

Perhaps if Islam allowed itself to be tempered by public criticism and debate it would not provide such a fertile breeding ground for violence, intimidation and intolerance

Based on an article from The Telegraph

Demonstrators in London gathered at Regent's Park mosque following Friday prayers and marched to the Danish embassy in Sloane Street.

The protesters held placards, one declaring: "Behead the one who insults the prophet." Another said: "Free speech go to hell."

Passers by stopped police officers to ask why the marchers were being allowed to carry banners threatening further suicide attacks in the city. One police officer replied: Don't worry. We are photographing them.

Media organisations - including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV - showed the controversial drawings, but British newspapers did not publish the images.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, today attacked media outlets who republished the cartoons.
There is freedom of speech, we all respect that, but there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory. I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.

America sided with tens of thousands of Muslims who protested worldwide yesterday about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in European newspapers.

In its first comment on the furore, the State Department said: These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims.

Answering a reporter's question, its spokesman, Kurtis Cooper, said: We all fully respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable.

On a somewhat different tack, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the French foreign minister, said: It is not normal to caricature a whole religion as an extremist or terrorist movement. But the extreme reaction to the cartoons would suggest the caricaturists were right.

Pakistan's parliament unanimously passed a resolution yesterday criticising the newspapers publishing the cartoons for conducting a vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was quoted in the Turkish press saying: Caricatures of prophet Muhammad are an attack against our spiritual values. There should be a limit of freedom of press.

By contrast, Wolfgang Schauble, the German home minister, defended the decision by four German newspapers to publish the cartoons:Why should the German government apologise? This is an expression of press freedom.

Today a New Zealand newspaper, the Dominion Post, became the first in that country to publish the cartoons. Its editor, Tim Pankhurst, said: We do not want to be deliberately provocative, but neither should we allow ourselves to be intimidated.

The Irish Daily Star in Dublin was the latest to publish the drawings yesterday.

 

5th February Update: Cartoon Terrorists Animated

From the BBC

Lebanese demonstrators have set the Danish embassy in Beirut on fire in protest at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Thousands of people attended a rally and clashes broke out with security forces sent to protect the building.

Denmark urged its citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.

The violence came a day after mobs in neighbouring Syria torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus in anger at the pictures.

Huge crowds attended Sunday's protest in Beirut. It turned violent after Islamic extremists tried to break though security barriers protecting the Danish embassy building.

Some 2,000 riot police and army troops fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd and fired their weapons into the air. But smoke was later seen rising from the building after demonstrators broke into it. Some protesters threw stones at the security forces and burned Danish flags.

The embassy building, which also houses commercial offices, was believed to be unoccupied.

Denmark and Norway condemned Syria for failing to stop Saturday's attacks in Damascus and urged their citizens to leave the country.

The principle of diplomatic relations is that diplomats can work safely and the fact that this has been broken is extremely serious, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference in Oslo.

 

6th February Update: No Tolerance

From The Telegraph

Police were under pressure last night to adopt "a no tolerance" approach to Muslim demonstrators threatening violence in Britain after a third embassy was set on fire in the Middle East.

The Conservatives called for firm action against any further militant demonstrations as police faced growing criticism over their failure on Friday to arrest protesters in London who chanted and carried placards glorifying the July 7 London bombings and threatening beheadings.

Scotland Yard said it was studying film of the protests but refused to say if any prosecutions would go ahead.

Television pictures broadcast that evening showed the majority of placards in similar handwriting. One of three veiled women - or at least people who appeared to be women - was seen writing placards and distributing them. Most were held by men who had also hidden their identity.

Among the slogans were "Europe, your 9/11 will come" and, in an apparent reference to the four July 7 suicide bombers, "Europe you will pay, fantastic 4 are on their way". One protester was dressed as a suicide bomber.

The only arrests were of two counter-demonstrators, who police said were held after apparently attempting to hand out caricatures of Mohammed. Both were released without charge after a few hours.

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain umbrella group, said last night:The placards were quite disgraceful and seemed to constitute a clear incitement to violence, even murder. I think the police were right to take footage of the event and identify the ringleaders, because although several hundred people were there the placards were being held by a tiny group of extremists. I think people will understand that the police did not step in to make matters worse and were waiting for a more propitious time to charge these people. Most Muslims feel enormous distress and anguish at what has occurred. There will be no sympathy for [the extremists] when they are charged by the police.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, led Government appeals for calm but stopped short of endorsing Tory calls for the police to arrest militant protesters in future.

Hain called on all sides to "cool it" and said that politicians must not try to "second guess" police: If people are on our streets inciting terrorism or promoting suicide bombings, they should be dealt with and dealt with toughly and firmly - and they will be. But that is the police's responsibility and they will discharge that.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said that slogans such as "Massacre those who insult Islam" amounted to incitement to murder and that police should take "a no tolerance" approach to them. He told the Sunday Telegraph:"Clearly, some of these placards are incitement to violence and indeed incitement to murder." Dominic Grieve, the Conservative legal affairs spokesman, expressed concern that it could prove impossible to identify those responsible because arrests had not been made at the time.

Scotland Yard, which has received at least 100 complaints from members of the public so far, defended the decision not to make arrests. It said the officer in charge at such scenes had to weigh the need to make arrests against the likelihood of provoking more serious unrest.

 

9th February Update: UK Muslims Back the Bacon Boycott

From The Guardian

British imams have demanded changes in the law and a strengthening of the Press Complaints Commission code to outlaw any possible publication of the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in the UK. They also wanted the Race Relations Act modified to give Muslims the same protection as Sikhs or Jews.

Amid escalating tensions provoked by the controversy throughout Europe and the Middle East, more than 300 religious leaders and scholars met yesterday to highlight the distress of British communities and to plan a way forward.

They have scheduled a march through London next weekend and say at least 20,000 people are likely to attend.

Yesterday's event, which involved imams and grassroots figures from throughout England and Scotland, marked the foundation of the Muslim Action Committee (MAC), whose leaders plan a continuous campaign to confront the alleged disparagement of Muslim communities and to call for "global civility".

They say they are determined to show how deeply Muslims have been hurt, without allowing the issue to be hijacked by extremists. Families on the MAC-sponsored march on February 18 from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park will only be allowed to carry approved banners.

Faiz Siddiqi, the MAC's national convenor, said: What is being called for is a change of culture. In any civilised society, if someone says, 'don't insult me', you do not, out of respect for them.

He said committee members would seek to meet editors and the PCC. Newspapers have so far declined to publish the offending cartoons. Siddiqi called for that approach to be formalised: The PCC's code is voluntary. It is a benchmark of civility. It is a social contract. Why could it not be extended to cover Muslims?

The meeting also agreed to back a boycott of Danish goods already imposed by Muslims in other European countries.

 

10th February Update: Police Censors

From the BBC

A student newspaper has recalled 8,000 copies and suspended its editor after publishing a cartoon satirising the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. It is thought Cardiff University's student union paper Gair Rhydd is the first UK publication to use the image which has caused global protests. The paper has been withdrawn and said it regretted any upset caused.

Gair Rhydd which means Free Word in English was published and pulled on the same day, but the university said it was likely that about 200 copies remained in circulation.

A statement by Cardiff University Students' Union read: The opinions expressed in Gair Rhydd are those of the editorial team independently of the Students' Union or University. The Students' Union very much regrets any upset caused or disrespect shown by the publication of the controversial cartoon and has taken immediate action by promptly withdrawing all copies of this week's edition of Gair Rhydd.

From the Daily Mail

There were fears of a backlash from extremists last night as a British magazine published one of the controversial cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed.

The Liberal magazine placed one of the Danish caricatures on its website despite warnings from police about the likely reaction.

Several newspapers across Europe have already published the cartoons but The Liberal is the first to show them directly in Britain.

Scotland Yard chiefs last night called an emergency meeting to discuss the development. Anti-Terrorist Branch detectives believe the British magazine's decision to publish one of the original cartoons will increase tensions "significantly".

Staff at The Liberal decided against publishing one of the cartoons in the magazine itself after warnings from police. Editor Ben Ramm said detectives had told him it would inflame an already tense situation. They also hinted they only had finite resources to protect him and his publication.

After last night's meeting of Scotland Yard commanders, security is expected to be stepped up at The Liberal's North London offices and staff may be given advice about their own protection.

Ramm said he was not afraid of being targeted by extremists. "I realise it is a very sensitive issue but I believe that Muslims will see our reasoning for doing this. We had a long and heated debate before deciding to go ahead with it. We have chosen the least offensive of the cartoons. We do not want to cause offence unnecessarily but in the end we decided it was about artistic freedom of expression.

The magazine is in its seventh issue and has a print run of 25,000. The image shows a cartoonist bent over a drawing of a conventionally depicted Arab. Drops of sweat fly from the cartoonist's forehead, and it is not clear whether they come from the heat of the lamp above the drawing or from the tension of drawing the Prophet of Islam.

Inayat Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said he was "saddened and disappointed" by the decision to publish the cartoon: The cartoons are gratuitously offensive to Muslims and will cause great hurt. I would appeal to the editor of The Liberal to think again. The mainstream media in Britain have shown great restraint but we always feared a smaller publication would print the cartoons."

A senior police source said: It appears the people running this magazine have underestimated the likely reaction to this decision.

 

12th February Update: Peacefully Intolerant

From The Guardian

Thousands of British Muslims went into Trafalgar Square yesterday to express their anger at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. But they also voiced their rejection of the wave of violent protest that has swept the Muslim world during the past two weeks over the cartoons, first published in a small Danish newspaper.

This is the Muslim community, said the rally chairman, Anaf Altikriti, of the Muslim Association of Britain. Not a handful of people claiming vile things like those last Friday. He was referring to protesters who took to the streets of London with placards embracing al-Qaeda and calling for the beheading of non-believers.

5000 people gathered in the square to listen to an array of speakers. The organisers had carefully chosen calm, co-ordinated banners that were lifted in the air to create a sea of white and blue. The messages simply read: United against Islamophobia, united against incitement, mercy to mankind and Muhammad, symbol of freedom and honour.

Sumayah Razzak, said they had come there to defend the honour of Muhammad: But we are against all violence and hatred and also condemn those evil reactions. We are hear to show Muslims are peaceful.

Pakistan's ruling party and hardline Islamic groups yesterday issued a joint call to hold a nationwide strike there on 3 March. The Muslim League party and a six-party coalition of religious groups also urged people to boycott the products of those countries where the Danish cartoons have been printed.

 

17th Feb Update: Ethicists, Politically Correct Term for Censors

From the Chicago Tribune

The student newspaper at Northern Illinois University this week ran the controversial Danish political cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The student paper at the University of Illinois is still reeling from the consequences of running them.

Harvard's conservative alternative paper has run them. On Wednesday, so did the alternative student paper at Illinois State University.

We weighed the potential backlash, the potential fallout and decided being afraid of backlash should not keep us from running a story, because where do you draw the line? said Northern Star editor-in-chief Derek Wright, as letters—many incensed, some supportive—began to arrive at the Star's offices at Northern Illinois. We felt it was something that was our responsibility.

As violent reactions to the cartoons simmer in the Muslim world—at least three more people were killed in riots in Pakistan on Wednesday—the controversial cartoons are trickling into student newspapers here.

Faculty advisers and journalism ethicists have rushed to frame the discussions with students over handling the images in their own campus papers.

For the most part, news organizations—including the Chicago Tribune—have decided it is enough to write about the cartoons and their aftermath without publishing them. Only two major U.S. newspapers have run the cartoons, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the American-Statesman in Austin, Texas.

The nature of the offensiveness alone creates a significant barrier to publishing or republishing the image, even if you can justify the original publication, which I think is not easy to do, said ethicist Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute for journalism.

Meanwhile, the Daily Illini's suspended editor, Acton Gorton, on Wednesday hired a Chicago-based Muslim-American civil rights attorney, Junaid Afeef. Gorton said he was defamed by the Illini's retraction editorial, which blamed the decision to publish the cartoons on a "renegade editor."

I just want to make sure I have good representation for whatever happens now, Gorton said. My career is in jeopardy.

The Daily Illini backlash was fresh in the minds of editors at NIU, where the Star's editorial board decided to publish the political cartoons last Thursday, but postponed doing so until Monday. Officials said they delayed to look into copyright questions about re-publication. But it was just as well they waited, Wright said. The reaction in Champaign prompted them to rethink how to present the material.

The 12 cartoons were run inside on Page 3 of the tabloid paper, with an editorial headlined "More Than Cartoons" on the front page. Alongside the cartoons, an article explained the controversy and student opinions. On Page 8, the Star ran an opinion column from a student Muslim group explaining objections to the images.

Feedback on the decision has been split, said Wright and Jim Killam, the paper's adviser. Some people, including Muslims, said they objected to the cartoons but appreciated the newspaper's muted presentation.

 

18th February Update: Tolerating Italian Fashion

From The Guardian

At least nine people were reported dead in the Libyan city of Benghazi after a mob set fire to the Italian consulate.

More than 1,000 protesters set upon the mission, setting cars alight and breaking windows, apparently angered by a minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government who has said he intends to wear T-shirts bearing some of the cartoons.

An Italian consular official said nine protesters had been killed and several more had been wounded as armed police clashed with the crowd. State television showed part of the consulate on fire.

Italian state-owned RAI television said six members of the consular staff were trapped inside, but unhurt. RAI said anger mounted at the actions of Roberto Calderoli, the minister for constitutional reform, and a leading member of the xenophobic Northern League. Earlier this week, he announced that he planned to wear T-shirts featuring the cartoons that were published in European newspapers and have sparked violent protests around the world.

Last night Berlusconi asked for Calderoli to resign.
 

18th February Update: Deeply Respecting a Million Dollar Bounty

From The Scotsman

A million dollar bounty for the killing of a cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad was yesterday offered by a radical cleric in Pakistan, as thousands joined in street protests.

In the north-western city of Peshawar, the prayer leader Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi announced the bounty to a crowd of about 1,000 people. Qureshi said the mosque and his religious school would give $25,000 (£14,300) and a car, while a local jewellers' association would give another $1 million (£570,000).

Qureshi continued: This is a unanimous decision by all imams of Islam that whoever insults the Prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end will get this prize.

The security forces were out in strength, particularly around government offices and Western businesses, as Muslims streamed on to the streets after Friday prayers. More than 200 people were detained, but most gatherings were peaceful.
 
Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Journalists' Union and spokesman for the cartoonists, condemned the bounty said the cartoonists - who have been living under police protection since last year - are aware of the reward and were "feeling bad about the whole situation".

In Islamabad, the former US president Bill Clinton criticised the cartoons but said violent protests by Muslims had wasted an opportunity to build better ties with the West: Most people in the United States deeply respect Islam ... and most people in Europe do.

Denmark announced it had temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan. It also advised against travel to Pakistan and urged Danes still in the country to leave.

Pakistan, meanwhile, recalled its ambassador to Denmark for "consultations" about the cartoons, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

 

19th February Update: Dial 666 for the Religious Police

From The Telegraph

Four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced into parts of the country, a survey reveals today.

The results of the poll, conducted for the Sunday Telegraph, came as thousands of Muslims staged a fresh protest in London yesterday against the publication of cartoons of Mohammed.

Last night, Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP involved with the official task force set up after the July attacks, said the findings were "alarming". He added: Vast numbers of Muslims feel disengaged and alienated from mainstream British society.

The most startling finding is the high level of support for applying sharia law in "predominantly Muslim" areas of Britain. Islamic law is used in large parts of the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, and is enforced by religious police. Special courts can hand down harsh punishments which can include stoning and amputation.

40% of the British Muslims surveyed said they backed introducing sharia in parts of Britain, while 41% opposed it.

Based on an article from the BBC

Meanwhile 16 people have been killed/murdered in Northen Nigeria where Sharia law has already been established. Most of the deaths occurred in rioting in Maiduguri over the cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

Witnesses said most of the dead were from Maiduguri's minority Christians. Eleven churches were also torched.

The BBC's Alex Last in northern Nigeria says the protest had begun peacefully in Maiduguri, and it was not clear what started the violence. The city's residents described demonstrators running wild after police tried to disperse the protest with teargas. Crowds of protesters carried machetes, sticks and iron rods through the city centre, the Associated Press news agency reported. One group threw a tyre around one man, poured gas on him and set him ablaze, it said.

Christian leader Joseph Hayab told the agency most of those who died were Christians: The Muslim group came out to protest and the security forces tried to ensure it was peaceful, but there were some hoodlums in the crowd and somehow the security forces shot one or two of them, They went on the rampage, burning shops and churches of the Christians. The protesters killed the others. Some were even killed in the churches.

 

21st February Update: Cartoon Negotiation for a Cartoon Truce

...Apologise or my mates will kick your head in...

From Christian Today

Danish church officials met with Egypt's top Muslim cleric in an effort to resolve the conflict caused by the Muhammad cartoons.

According to the Associated Press, however, no significant advancements were made during the meeting.

During the meeting, Grand Imam Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi of al-Azhar University, the world’s highest Sunni Muslim seat of learning, said the Danish prime minister must apologise for the drawings and further demanded that the world’s religious leaders, including him and Pope Benedict XVI, meet to write a law that “condemns insulting any religion, including the Holy Scriptures and the prophets.”

He said the United Nation should impose the law on all countries.

In response, Bishop Karsten Nissen of Denmark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, did not address the issue of a global law but said that it was impossible for Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmusen to apologise for what a newspaper had published: I have brought to his excellency (Tantawi) the apology of the newspaper, but our prime minister did not draw these cartoons. Our prime minister is not the editor of this newspaper. He cannot apologise for something he did not do, Nissen said

Saturday's meeting was part of a four-day visit to Egypt by the Danish church delegation to open up a dialogue after the events following the publication of the Muhammad cartoons.

 

24th February Update: Restoring Sanity

Thanks to David:e_s4I3T1

Everyone should read this:

www.kenanmalik.com/essays/islamophobia_prospect.html

It's a Muslim investigative journalist's essay about how politicians on all sides manipulate perceptions of cultural differences, and where the real problems lie. There's some good warnings about censorship too. It's simultaneously reassuring and disturbing stuff.

Most of the stuff relevant to Melon farmers is down in the latter third, or thereabouts

 

26th February Update: Calling for World Wide Blasphemy Laws to Protect the Kings Clothes

The religions of the world have come up with an impossibly contradictory tangle of myths intended to unify communities into controllable and socially powerful groups. When the myths simply become too far divorced from any evidence of reality whatsoever, then they have to be enforced by intimidation and punishment. Perhaps though there is one myth that unifies all of mankind's religions, and that's the story of the King's Clothes.

From the National Secular Society

Belgian Islamists staged a march through Brussels on Tuesday, demanding that the European Commission institute a Europe-wide blasphemy law. The marchers delivered a letter of protest about the cartoons to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Danish Embassy. The president of the Union of Brussels and Neighbourhood Mosques said: We oppose the widening chasm between the Muslim community and other European citizens that has incited hatred and fear of Islam, due to these irresponsible acts [the publication of the satirical cartoons].

In their letter to the European Commission and the European Parliament, the Islamists warn that the wave of irresponsible humiliation caused by the cartoons may be dangerous:This attitude can only exacerbate conflict, fuel hatred and reinforce the logic of the clash of civilisations

The letter asks for the European Union’s top decision-makers to act determinedly to prepare a draft law that forbids every kind of blasphemy, so that all groups in society can leave in peace and harmony. Such a law would:  be completely consistent with the EU’s protection of freedom, human rights and sacredness, and the elimination of all acts that lead to racism and xenophobia

EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana signalled this week that the EU might be supportive of this idea, stating: We are working on some ideas. I cannot be very precise, but we are working on some ideas that maybe it is possible to get through, according to Reuters. Deutsche Welle quotes Solana’s spokeswoman Cristina Gallach as saying They want mechanisms to guarantee this is not repeated and we should be able to find it in UN conventions on human rights.

Meanwhile, an Iranian government minister has demanded that the European Union ban the publication of caricatures that satirise “holy figures” of any religion, including the allegedly offensive Prophet Muhammad cartoons, Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki told a news conference in Yerevan on Tuesday: Today I will hold negotiations over the phone with the foreign minister of Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency. During the conversation, I will suggest including the issue of respect for all prophets of any religions in the EU agenda.

East Asian Muslim and Christian leaders wrapped up their two-day meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta by urging the UN to make a “universal declaration” strictly banning blasphemy. Din Syamsuddin, leader of Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation, the Muhammadiyah, said I personally agree that the UN should issue a universal declaration of human responsibility, apart from the universal declaration of human rights, Because having the freedom without responsibility could lead our civilisation to absolute liberalism.

Extremist cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi has added his influential voice to the pressure on the United Nations to adopt a resolution banning blasphemy to head off similar incidents in the future. He also urged the European Union to criminalise blasphemy against any religion, including pagan religions.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is pressing for a ban on religious intolerance to be part of the “bedrock” of a planned new United Nations human rights body. According to the text of an OIC proposal, the new UN body should state clearly that the defamation of religions and prophets is inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression and that states, organizations and the media have a responsibility in promoting tolerance and respect for religious and cultural values.

 

27th February Update: Free Speech Equality

From the BBC

Muslims must accept that freedom of speech is central to Britishness and should be preserved even if it offends people, says Sir Trevor Phillips.

The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said we should allow people to offend each other.  And he suggested that Muslims who wanted a system of Islamic Shariah law should leave the UK.

His comments follow angry protests against cartoons satirising the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Phillips told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme: What some minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other. That we have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting not by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don't like.

And that commitment to freedom of expression should also allow Muslim preachers to make comments about homosexuality that are offensive to broad segments of the British population, he said: One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is.

He also rejected the idea of Shariah law in Muslim communities in the UK. We have one set of laws. They are decided on by one group of people, members of Parliament, and that's the end of the story. Anybody who lives here has to accept that's the way we do it. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.

 

2nd March Update: Child Hatred

From the Daily Times

About 5,000 Pakistani children chanting “Hang those who insulted the prophet” rallied against caricatures of Prophet Muhammad on Tuesday, with some torching an effigy of the Danish premier and coffins representing Denmark, Israel and the United States.

At least 5,000 demonstrators, mostly aged between five and 12 years and wearing school uniforms, marched through Karachi chanting “God is Great”, police and witnesses said.

The entire nation, from men and women to children, are now on the streets to protest against the caricatures, Jamaat-i-Islami President Merajul Hude, told the protesting children.

Accompanied by their teachers, the children were bussed in from local schools, including madrassas, witnesses and officials said. Some waved placards with the slogans ‘Down with Denmark’ and ‘Boycott Danish products’ as they marched for about half a kilometre from the National Stadium.

One group then set ablaze a cloth figure representing Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark, and burned plywood coffins emblazoned with the US, Danish and Israeli flags, an AFP photographer said.

The police said Tuesday’s rally remained peaceful, like all the other rallies so far held in Karachi.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Liaquat Baloch welcomed the European Union’s first statement on the controversy. EU foreign ministers said Monday they regretted the cartoons were “considered offensive” by Muslims around the world after first appearing in a Danish newspaper in September. But Baloch demanded an apology from Denmark, saying it “has not so far acknowledged its mistake.”

Baloch also said a “line should be drawn” between the freedom of expression - the justification newspapers gave for reproducing the drawings, which Muslims consider blasphemous - and actions that offend cultural sensitivities. A freedom of expression that destroys world peace is against basic human rights.

 

5th March Update: Liberal Tolerance

From the BBC

Muslims should have "broader shoulders" when it comes to issues of free speech such as the Danish cartoons, a Lib Dem home affairs spokesman has said.

Kishwer Falkner, who is a Muslim, said her community must be "tolerant" and "learn the art of peaceful dissent". She said freedom of speech was not just a Western concept but it was necessary in any pluralistic society.

Falkner said there was "no doubt" the cartoons had offended Muslims and no doubt their publication in Britain was an error of judgement. But she said self-censorship was always better than state censorship and freedom of speech was a "necessary condition" of living in a pluralistic society.

The Lib Dems last month helped defeat the government over plans to ban incitement to religious hatred, which had been called for by Muslim groups who want the same protection from offence as Christians. Falkner, who speaks for the Lib Dems on home affairs in the Lords, said the blasphemy laws protecting Christians should now be repealed to ensure consistency. But she added: If we demand equality, we cannot demand respect - that has to be earned.

She said laws in Austria and Germany banning denial of the holocaust should also be scrapped, arguing they were now out of place in the "mature and confident democracies" the two countries had become: They should repeal it and let Holocaust deniers express their hateful and warped versions of history.

Her views were echoed by Lib Dem human rights spokesman Evan Harris, who told delegates said that with extremists - and even our own prime minister in a mild way - increasingly hiding behind religious beliefs it had never been more important to stand up for free speech. He urged the party to say no to blasphemy laws, holocaust denial laws and, in a reference to London Mayor Ken Livingstone's suspension over remarks he made to a Jewish reporter, "no to standards board speech police".

He warned that unless people stood up against state censorship people easily offended will be able to get protection for their views but people less easily offended will not be able to get protection for their views. He told delegates: If you don't want to read The Satanic Verses don't buy the book. If you don't want to watch Jerry Springer the Opera on the BBC switch channels. If you don't want to read cartoons in a Danish newspaper, don't go to Denmark and buy those newspapers.

Sajj Karim MEP said Muslims in the European Union had "by and large" responded to the publication of the cartoons democratically, even though they had been offended by them. He said the globalised nature of modern media meant extra care had to be taken - but the final judgement on whether to publish should be left to the press and not the censors. We as a party must defend the editors' right to make that judgement call at all costs, he told delegates.

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael also backed calls for greater freedom of speech, telling delegates: There is no such thing as freedom not be offended.

 

6th March Update: Satanic Visions

From the BBC

Salman Rushdie is among a dozen writers to have put their names to a statement in a French weekly paper warning against Islamic "totalitarianism". The writers say the violence sparked by the publication of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad shows the need to fight for secular values and freedom.

The statement is published in Charlie Hebdo, one of several European papers to reprint the caricatures.

Almost all of those who have signed the statement have experienced difficulties with Islamic militancy first-hand, says the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris. They include Dutch MP and filmmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali and exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global threat: Islamism, the manifesto says. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.

The clashes over the cartoons revealed the necessity of the struggle for these universal values, the statement continues: It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

They also said they would not give up their critical spirit out of fear of being accused of Islamophobia. Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present, the writers added, saying it is nurtured by fears and frustrations

Signatories:

Salman Rushdie - Indian-born British writer with fatwa issued ordering his execution for The Satanic Verses
Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Somali-born Dutch MP
Taslima Nasreen - exiled Bangladeshi writer, with fatwa issued ordering her execution
Bernard-Henri Levy - French philosopher
Chahla Chafiq - Iranian writer exiled in France
Caroline Fourest - French writer
Irshad Manji - Ugandan refugee and writer living in Canada
Mehdi Mozaffari - Iranian academic exiled in Denmark
Maryam Namazie - Iranian writer living in Britain
Antoine Sfeir - director of French review examining Middle East
Ibn Warraq - US academic of Indian/Pakistani origin
Philippe Val - director of Charlie Hebdo

9th March Update: Special Edition

As spotted by MediawatchWatch

The March issue of the UK’s secular-humanist monthly, The Freethinker, is a “religious cartoons special edition”, featuring several Mo-toon fever inspired cartoons, a couple of Jesus-on-the-cross funnies, Jesus and Mo, one of the original “Danish twelve” (the “ran out of virgins” one - “turban bomb” and “horn head” were reprinted in the November 2005 issue, to a noticeable absence of outrage), and articles by Irshad Manji and Ibn Warraq, among other things.

 

10th March Update: Cartoon Depiction of Yemenese Intimidation

From Bloomberg

A newspaper editor in Yemen who republished Danish cartoons depicting prophet Muhammad said Yemeni prosecutors are calling for his execution.

I am afraid but I am also hopeful, Muhammad al-Asadi of the Yemen Observer said in a telephone interview today from the capital, Sana'a: We were against the cartoons and we wanted only to explain about Islam. I hope the judge will see that.

Al-Asadi was arrested in February and charged under a press law that bans publication of anything that prejudices the Islamic faith and its lofty principles, or belittles monotheistic religions or humanitarian creeds.

The editor spent 12 days in a prison run by the Prosecutor for the Press, before being released on bail. Three other Yemeni journalists also have been jailed for reprinting the cartoons, which angered Muslims worldwide and led to violent demonstrations in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

As many as 21 Yemeni prosecution lawyers asked for the death penalty in yesterday's proceedings, arguing a precedent was set during Muhammad's lifetime, according to al-Asadi. He said the lawyers recounted a story in which the prophet praised one of his companions for killing a woman who had insulted him.

The prosecution, commissioned by the head of a legislative committee, also called for the confiscation of the newspaper's property and assets, and for compensation, al-Asadi said. The case opened on Feb. 15 and was adjourned until March 22, he said.

The Yemenis are among 11 journalists in five countries being prosecuted for printing the cartoons. Six journalists have been jailed and 13 publications have been closed in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based organization that promotes freedom of the press and works to end censorship.

The Yemen Observer's license to print newspapers was revoked in a temporary action that the government is trying to make permanent. The staff has continued to publish on the Internet.

The Washington-based Committee to Protect Journalists on Jan. 26 said it was alarmed by the deterioration of press freedom in Yemen over the last several months, according to a statement in its Web site. Journalists who have covered protests, reported on official corruption, or criticized the president or government policies, have all been targeted, the group said.

Al-Asadi said he was very careful in the way he chose to reprint the cartoons, and didn't think he would cause offense: We selected three of the 12 images, reduced them to all fit in a 7-by-9 centimeter (2.75-by-3.5 inch) box, and printed a thick black X over them to show we disproved of them. Accompanying articles denounced the cartoons, called for calm and explained that the prophet should be honored: We wrote in an editorial that the cartoons were terrible but we should accept the apologies of the newspaper that published them and move on, al-Asadi said. That's what angered really the hard-liners.

 

10th March Update: Defending the European Right to Enforce Ludicrous Beliefs by Intimidation

From Bloomberg

The European Court of Human Rights said that it had received a request by a French Muslim body to condemn the publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in French newspapers.

The Regional Council for the Muslim Religion (CRCM) in the Champagne Ardenne region said in a statement that the publication of the controversial cartoons in French newspapers constituted a discrimination between Muslims and non-Muslims contrary to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Muslims from Champagne Ardenne are touched like the rest of Muslims in the world, injured in their faith and their dignity, said the CRCM, that filed the complaint on February 13.

The Muslim body said it hoped that the European court would accept the case, even though it had not yet exhausted possibilities for a trial in France.

The European Court of Human Rights has now to decide whether it will accept the case.

 

13th March Update: Blasphemy: Maintaining Belief in the Unbelievable via threat and Intimidation

From The Telegraph

Turkey's foreign minister asks the EU for blasphemy laws to protect Islam.

Deep divisions have appeared among European Union governments over suggestions that they should alter their blasphemy laws to protect Islam, and not just Christianity.

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, sparked disagreement among his EU counterparts at a weekend meeting in Austria, when he called for European nations to review existing laws, to ensure they outlawed the "defamation" of all religions.

Gul told a meeting of EU and Balkan foreign ministers in Salzburg that many Muslims believed that European laws amounted to a double-standard, protecting established Christian religions, and banning anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, while doing nothing to defend Muslims who felt offended.

He said several European nations already maintained laws against religious defamation. However, these restraints sometimes only apply to the established religions of the concerned countries. I would like to call on you here to start a process of re-examination of your legislations to ensure that these restraints apply to all religions equally.

However, Bernard Bot, the Dutch foreign minister, told reporters: We have freedom of speech. That means that Mr Gul can say what he wants and I can say what I want. And I think that this [Gul's idea] is superfluous.
 

16th March Update: Protestors Charged with Hatred, Danish Newspaper Not

From The Times

Denmark’s chief prosecutor says that he will not press charges against the newspaper that first published the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that angered Muslims worldwide.

The Foreign Ministry warned that the decision could cause "negative reactions" against Danes, and warned citizens to be cautious when traveling in Muslim countries.

Henning Fode, the Director of Public Prosecutions, upheld the decision of a regional prosecutor who ruled that the drawings published in Jyllands-Posten on September 30 did not violate Danish law. Fode’s decision cannot be appealed. His ruling said that the 12 cartoons, one of which shows the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, did not violate bans on racist and blasphemous speech.

Meanwhile five men were arrested in Britain today over their alleged role in protests outside the Danish Embassy in London last month against the cartoons. Four of the five were held on suspicion of incitement to murder and all five are suspected of "using threatening words or written material to stir up racial hatred".

During the demonstrations on February 3 and 4, protesters held placards threatening a repeat of the September 11 or July 7 terror attacks. Among the slogans were "Massacre those who insult Islam" and "Europe you will pay, your 9/11 will come".

The demonstration attracted widespread political condemnation. Among those calling for prosecutions was the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Metropolitan Police said today: A number of specialist evidence-gathering officers were deployed, who collected video, audio and stills of those within the crowd. A dedicated investigation team, Operation Laverda, was set up that day. After carefully reviewing all of the evidence and witness complaints a file was passed to the Crown Prosecution. Their advice was returned to us on March 7.

 

19th March Update: Blanket Cartoon Coverage

From The Guardian

The Blanket will be the first media outlet in the British Isles to reproduce the cartoons since their publication provoked violent disturbances, boycotts and death threats.  The website has posted one of the cartoons today.

Last night British Muslims warned the website's editors that they were 'fanning the flames of anger'. With 22 million hits since it was founded five years ago, The Blanket is read around the world. Usually it posts debates about the future of Irish Republicanism, and many of its writers are highly critical of the Sinn Fein leadership. However, The Blanket's co-founder and former H-Block prisoner Anthony McIntyre said the site had decided to publish one cartoon of Muhammad per week for the next three months 'in protest against totalitarianism'.

McIntyre said: The spur for us was a manifesto against totalitarianism that writers such as Salman Rushdie signed up to in response to the violent reaction over the cartoons. We wanted to show solidarity with those writers who were prepared to stick their necks out in defence of free speech. We chose 12 weeks for each and every one of the writers who signed the anti-totalitarian declaration. 'We also decided to publish because the liberal media in Britain and Ireland are guilty of total cowardice. None of them let the public see these images and make up their own minds about the debate. They [the mainstream media] buckled under fear and threats.

22nd March Update: Censor Resigns

From Islam Online

Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds resigned on Tuesday, March 21, over a row triggered by her closure of a far-right website for publishing a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad.

I believe that the current situation is impossible for me…and that is why I have chosen to resign, Freivalds told a news conference.

The politician has been under stinging criticism over her decision to shut down the website of the far-right Sweden Democrats for launching a competition for Prophet cartoons.

The criticism has increased after it was revealed that the foreign ministry had pressured the Internet host Levonlines to shut down the website. Freivalds had previously denied having known anything about pressures by her ministry on the Internet provider. But it was revealed this week that she had advance knowledge of the pressures, seen as violating constitutional guarantees of free speech.

The far-right website launched the competition on January 10 and one of the 40 contributions it had received had already been published on the site.

The drawing, considered blasphemous by some Muslims, depicted the Prophet from the back holding up a mirror. The reflection of his face has the eyes barred over and the caption reads "Mohammedan self-censorship."
 

22nd March Update: Don't complain ... we've all been caricatured here

From Yahoo News 

The Anglican Church in Wales has apologised to Muslims after a cartoon satirising the Prophet Muhammad was printed in its Welsh-language magazine. The Church in Wales has issued an immediate recall of all copies of the latest edition of Y Llan - meaning Church - following the reproduction of the cartoon.

The drawing - reprinted from the French magazine France Soir - satirises the Prophet Muhammad by depicting him sitting on a heavenly cloud with Buddha and Christian and Muslim deities.  He is being told: "Don't complain ... we've all been caricatured here."

The cartoon was used to illustrate an article about the shared ancestry of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The Prophet's depiction is banned in Islam.

Sion Brynach, spokesman for the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: The Church in Wales is thoroughly investigating how this cartoon came to be reproduced in Y Llan. Despite the publication's small circulation, we are concerned about the possibility of causing any offence to the Muslim community in Wales - with whom the Church in Wales has an excellent relationship - as a result of the reproduction of this cartoon.

A letter from the Archbishop has been sent to all subscribers to the magazine requesting that they return all the estimated 400 or so copies. Dr Morgan has also apologised to the Muslim Council of Wales for any offence caused.

A statement issued by the Church in Wales said the bishops had already "made it clear" that they regretted the publication of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in various

 

31st March Update: Faith In the Law

Thinking of damaged reputations, I haven't spotted a single claim that Islam is a tolerant religion since the protests started. There must be millions that are partially responsible for this particular loss of reputation. Perhaps they can be sued too.

From MSNBC

A group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations have filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper that first published the caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, their lawyer said Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, two weeks after Denmark’s top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings that sparked a firestorm in the Muslim world did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

Michael Christiani Havemann, a lawyer representing the Muslim groups, said lawsuit sought $16,100 in damages from Jyllands-Posten Editor in Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.

We’re seeking judgment for both the text and the drawings which were gratuitously defamatory and injurious, Havemann said. The lawsuit was filed in the western city of Aarhus, where Jyllands-Posten is based.

 

12th January With All Due Respect: Beyer Talks Absolute Bollox

Thanks to Dan

From Mediawatch-UK

Many people will welcome the new proposals by the Government emphasising family life, through a National Parenting Academy, aimed at dealing with the anti-social behaviour that so disfigures our communities.

Speaking today, John Beyer, director of mediawatch-uk, expressed astonishment that anti-social behaviour depicted in film and on television has again been overlooked in the Government’s plans. He said: Almost every household in the land has a television and viewing is an integral part of the home environment. Entertainment violence has been a part of media culture for many years and it should be no surprise that young and impressionable people emulate the bad behaviour of their TV role-models and heroes. Our monitoring of films, over the last fifteen years, shows that depiction of violence involving firearms remains the most common, followed by violent assaults and use of offensive weapons, including knives.

The Home Secretary has called for the ‘whole’ of society to be involved in this initiative to restore respect but the absence of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order for film and television, to curb the damaging influence, is a very serious omission. We are writing today to the Chairman of the BBC, the Chairman of ITV and the Chairman of the BBFC asking what positive contribution, from their perspective, they will be making to the Government’s plans to restore respect.

Beyer's letter to the Chairman of the BBC:

Dear Mr Grade,

As you will know the Government has launched today a new initiative aimed at curbing the problem of anti-social behaviour.

The Home Secretary has said that the "whole" of society must be involved in tackling this problem and we believe that this should involve the broadcasting industry as well as a range of other agencies.

Our detailed monitoring of a number of films shown on television over the last fifteen years shows that depiction of violence involving firearms is by far the most common followed by depictions of violent assaults and the use of offensive weapons including knives. The latest British Crime Survey statistics show that it is precisely these types of crime that are on the increase.

Television is an integral part of our society and plays a significant role in shaping and forming our society and culture by portraying models of behaviour. Of course there are many good and praiseworthy programmes but in the realm of human behaviour portrayed on television, crime, violence, disorder and aggression command a disproportionate amount of time, particularly in the evening TV schedules.

We are writing to you today to ask, respectfully, what positive contribution the BBC will be making to assist and cooperate with the Government's initiative announced today.

From Dan

Some prize quotes from Beyer: It is not unusual for the story lines, which are about small communities and very far from normality, to include stabbings, shootings, robbery, arson, drug dealing and other criminal activity. As well as this marital infidelity and conflict is commonplace.

Would Mr Beyer prefer that soap operas wash crime, marital infidelity and conflict under the carpet and pretend it does not go on. Does he blame TV soaps for families breaking up and married couples cheating on each other? Obviously he does because he believes the public to be so stupid that they will be brainwashed into doing anything by Television. Marital infidelity and conflict happens because people cheat on each other, have arguments and generally don't always get along. Yet Mr Beyer believes TV is to blame for all that! He's a bigger nutcase then we thought!

 

11th January More On Intolerance

Thanks to Dan

A cinema in Utah has pulled a scheduled screening of gay Western movie Brokeback Mountain at the last minute.

The Jordan Commons Megaplex in Salt Lake City is owned by Larry Miller, a prominent member of the Mormon church, which is against homosexuality.

Distributor Focus Features said the cinema "reneged on their licensing agreement" hours before it was to open.

Mike Thompson of gay rights group Equality Utah said it was disappointing people were barred from seeing it. It's just a shame that such a beautiful and award-winning film with so much buzz about it is not being made available to a broad Utah audience because of personal bias, he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

The manager of the cinema declined to comment on the cancellation of the screening.

The adult-rated film focuses on the enduring romantic relationship between two cowboys, played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. It has already gained a string of award nominations and is highly tipped as an Oscar contender.

Gayle Ruzicka, president of the conservative Utah Eagle Forum, was in favour of the film being cancelled.: I just think (pulling the show) tells the young people especially that maybe there is something wrong with this show

 

10th January Banging their Head Against the Wall...Cartoon Style

From Press Of Atlantic City

A regional prosecutor said he would not file charges against a newspaper that published contentious caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, and Danish Muslim groups said Monday they would appeal.

We cannot understand the decision, said Ahmad Akkari, a spokesman for a coalition of 11 community groups, adding that they would take their complaints to Denmark's top prosecutor. He said the 12 caricatures, published Sept. 30 in the Jyllands-Posten daily, were a clear offense to Islam.

State prosecutor Peter Broendt Joergensen said Saturday the drawings were protected by Denmark's freedom of speech laws and did not violate bans on racism and blasphemy.

Egypt has been spearheading foreign criticism of Denmark over the cartoons. While Egypt respects freedom of opinion and expression, BUT we also realize the borders which must never be crossed, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said after he was informed of the prosecutor's decision by his Danish counterpart.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen rejected calls that he intervene after the caricatures sparked harsh criticism from some Muslim leaders at home and overseas, saying the government has no say over media. But in a New Year's speech widely seen as an attempt to calm emotions over the issue, Rasmussen condemned any expression, action or indication that attempts to demonize groups of people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background.

The dispute has created a backlash against Danish Muslim groups, who critics say blew the matter out of proportion by asking Muslim countries to pressure the Danish government to act against the paper.

Abdul Wahid Petersen, a leading imam in Denmark, defended the decision to request help from abroad. When someone offends the prophet, it is not only just a local problem but affects Muslims worldwide, he said Monday on Danish public radio.

 

9th January Scottish Reverend in Partnership with Sir Iqbal of Intolerance

From Christian Today

A Scottish reverend has called on local registrars in the Galloway area of Scotland to follow in the footsteps of the Western Isles and refuse to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

The call from Rev. Darryl Abernethy of Stranraer Free Presbyterian Church follows the first two civil partnership ceremonies in the Galloway area of two same sex couples on Wednesday. Abernethy responded to the recent civil ceremonies by praising the decision by the Western Isles to refuse to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and called on local registrars to follow suit: God as the creator, judge and king of all men instituted marriage between men and women at the beginning of time for the betterment and multiplication of mankind. We call upon all right thinking registrars to adopt the same position as those in the Western Isles and refuse to participate in these nefarious ceremonies.

Councillors in the Western Isles of Scotland voted to officially outlaw civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples which begin in Scotland on 21st December 2005. The Western Isles, where Presbyterianism remains the bedrock of values, will become the only part of the country where gay couples will not be able to take part in civil partnership ceremonies.

The decision means that homosexual couples wishing to take part in a civil partnership ceremony will either have to travel to the mainland or make do with legal registration.

All registry offices will be legally obliged to perform basic registrations, at which gay couples will sign an official civil partnership document before two witnesses, under the Civil Partnerships Act, passed last year at Westminster. Councils across the country are also offering to conduct ceremonies similar to heterosexual civil weddings.

 

5th January Educating Children About Tolerance

From The Telegraph

Taliban militants beheaded a headmaster in southern Afghanistan in the latest fatal attacks targeted at teachers and schools. The killers forced his wife and children to watch the murder.

Malim Abdul Habib was killed at his home near Qalat, capital of Zabul province. He had been headmaster of the Shaikh Mata Baba High School for two months.

Four armed Taliban came to my uncle's house at 1am, said his nephew Abdullah Hakim, 25. They told him he had to go with them. When he refused they stabbed him in the stomach in the yard and then cut off his head.

The killing follows other recent attacks on schools and teachers, particularly those educating girls, in the insurgency-afflicted south of the country. Under the Taliban interpretation of Sharia law female education is banned.

Since the fall of the Taliban the Afghan government claims that more than five million Afghans, many of them women, have returned to education. But Kabul's education director, Mohammed Nabi Khushal, said only 70 of the province's 170 schools are currently open because of repeated arson attacks and threats against teachers by the insurgents.

 

4th January

Updated 12th Jan

Updated 16th Jan

Sir Iqbal of Intolerance

See www.religioustolerance.org/hom_isla1.htm for the basis of the intolerance shown to homosexuality

From the Daily Mail

Interviewed on BBC, in which he called for "tolerance" of Muslim values, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, shameful head of the Muslim Council of Britain,  was asked whether he was tolerant of civil partnerships and homosexuality. He said same-sex relationships risked damaging the very foundations of society. He said that homosexuality spread disease and was immoral. Sir Iqbal said civil partnerships were "harmful" and not acceptable: This is harmful. It does not augur well in building the very foundations of society - stability, family relationships. And it is something we would certainly not in any form encourage the community to be involved in.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four's PM programme, Sir Iqbal underlined the importance of tolerance... BUT... asked if homosexuality itself was harmful to society he said: What is not acceptable, there is a good reason for it. Each of our faiths tell us that it is harmful and I think, if you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the forms of various other illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that where homosexuality is practised there is a greater concern in that area.

But Sir Iqbal said everyone should be tolerant. We tolerate each other. We may not be happy with the views being expressed by others. But the difficulty comes in that at the end of the day we are human beings.

 

12th January Update: Sir Iqbal of Intolerance Investigated by Police

From The Telegraph

A British Muslim leader is being investigated by the police for allegedly homophobic remarks made during a radio interview. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that homosexual practices were "harmful" and civil partnerships "not acceptable" last week.

Interviewed on BBC Radio Four's PM programme on Jan 3, Sir Iqbal said: If you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the various forms of other illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that, where homosexuality is practised, there is a greater concern in that area.

Asked if homosexuality was harmful to society, he said: Certainly it is a practice that doesn't, in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in a society - it is. It is not acceptable.

Peter Rippon, the programme's editor, was telephoned by an officer at West End Central police station in London yesterday, who said that he was investigating a homophobic incident under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986.

This makes it an offence for a person to use "threatening, abusive or insulting words" within the hearing of "a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress" as a result. The prosecution must also establish that the defendant intended his words to be threatening, abusive or insulting or that he was aware that they may be. It is a defence for the accused to prove that his conduct was reasonable. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000.

There is no suggestion that the BBC is facing prosecution and it rebroadcast Sir Iqbal's remarks in full on yesterday's PM programme.

Sir Iqbal declined to comment further, saying he had not yet been contacted by the police. Sir Iqbal defended his comments in a statement on his website last week. What I said was only to reiterate the well-known Islamic position that the practice of homosexuality is not acceptable, he wrote. It is a sin. This view is shared in other scriptures, such as those of Christianity and Judaism.

The investigation follows a letter in The Daily Telegraph on Jan 6, pointing out that Christians who expressed negative views of homosexuality had previously been contacted by the police and warned against their behaviour.

 

16th Jan Update: Gay Cartoon Hypocrisy

Maybe good progress, the letter states: We cannot claim to be a truly free and open society while we are trying to silence dissenting views.

Presumably these dignitaries will now drop their support of the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill and will support the right of the Danish Newspaper to publish their Mohammed cartoons. Perhaps even time to forgive Salman Rushdie and recognise his right to air dissenting views,

From MediawatchWatch

In response to to the police investigation of Sir Iqbal of Intolerance, a cross-section of Muslim representatives wrote a letter to The Times:

Sir, In light of the bizarre news that the Metropolitan Police is to “investigate” comments about homosexuality made by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, (report, Jan 12) we, the undersigned, Imams and representatives of various British Muslim organisations, affirm that Sir Iqbal’s views faithfully reflected mainstream Islamic teachings.

The Koran and, we believe, the Bible, together with all the Prophets of God, up to and including Muhammad (peace be upon them all), taught that marriage should be between man and woman, not between people of the same sex. The practice of homosexuality is regarded as being sinful in Islam.

We are deeply concerned about the breakdown of basic family values and the undermining of the key institution of marriage in Britain today. All Britons, whether they are in favour of homosexuality or not, should be allowed to freely express their views in an atmosphere free of intimidation or bullying. We cannot claim to be a truly free and open society while we are trying to silence dissenting views.


HABIBUR RAHMAN President, Islamic Forum Europe ABDUL HAMEED QURESHI Lancashire Council of Mosques MAWLANA ABDUL HADI UMRI, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, Birmingham MAWLANA RASHID RABBANI, Jamiat-e-Ulama, Bradford MAWLANA MUHAMMAD ADAM, Bolton Council of Mosques ABDUL KARIM GHEEWALA Federation of Muslim Organisations, Leicestershire MAWLANA BOSTAN QADRI, Confederation of Sunni Mosques, Birmingham IMA ABDUL QADIR BARKATULLAH North Finchley Mosque, London DR SUHAIB HASAN, Islamic Shariah Council MR ZAHIR BIRAWI, Grand Mosque, Leeds IMAM DR ABDUL JALIL SAJID, Council of Mosques, London and Southern Counties DR MUNIR AHMED, Islamic Society of Britain MR AHMED SHEIKH, Muslim Association of Britain MR IDRIS MEARS, Association of Muslim Schools DR ABDUL FATTAH SAEED, Al Muntada al Islami, London DR YUNES TEINAZ, Regent’s Park Mosque, London DR HAFIZ AL-KARMI, Mayfair Islamic Centre, London MR ISMAIL PATEL, Friends of al-Aqsa DR MANAZIR AHSAN, Islamic Foundation, Leicester DR AHMAD HASAN, World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithnasheri Muslim Community MR MUNAWWAR RATTANSI, Council of European Jamaats MR YOUSUF BHAILOK, Former Secretary-General, The Muslim Council of Britain

 

4th January PC PCs

From the BBC

An anti-violence comic by a Christian police group has been banned by the Metropolitan Police after being accused of ignoring other faiths. The comic book, Cops and Robbers, has first-hand stories from criminals who have embraced Christianity.

But Scotland Yard said it will not distribute the comic without wider consultation with faith groups. Commander Alf Hitchcock, of the Metropolitan Police, said: I welcome the involvement of the Christian Police Association - the Cops and Robbers publication is an innovative and positive concept. However, it is important that effective consultation takes place, in relation to the material, and that the needs of other faith groups are also considered as part of the ongoing work being undertaken by the Custody Directorate.

Pc David Turtle, deputy chairman of the CPA, said: We would express our disappointment to the commissioner and the Metropolitan Police Authority. We would be seeking ways in which this can be reversed.

The CPA is believed to have around 1,000 members within London's police force. The comic was designed to be given out to youths being held in custody cells.

Des Brown, a convicted killer who now works in a Christian youth group, says he wants criminals to become Christians. The purpose of this comic is to put forward a story that people's lives can be changed by the power of Jesus Christ. That's the point of the comic.

 

2nd January

Updated 12th January

Miraculously Censored at Comedy Central

From Daze Reader

Bloody Mary stillsThe 2005 season finale of South Park, entitled Bloody Mary, involved a local statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding out its ass. The faithful come from miles around to be healed by the miraculous blood. Pope Benedict XVI shows up to inspect the statue, rules that the statue is actually bleeding from its vagina, and declares: A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights predictably expressed outrage and called on Comedy Central to ban further showings of the episode. (The president of this alleged civil rights organization recently claimed, Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.) South Park offends some group or other nearly every episode, and the network has consistently backed the show's creators against complainants.

Follow up: Bloody Mary did not air. Bastards.

 

12th January Update: Ha ha to the Catholic League.

From MediawatchWatch

In the US recently, The Catholic League have been crowing about their success in getting an episode of South Park pulled. But it looks like they’re going to have to recork those champagne bottles.

The offending episode was entitle Bloody Mary. It featured a statue of the Blessed Virgin miraculously “bleeding from her ass” inspiring pilgrimages from far and wide. Pope Benedict visits to inspect and determines that the statue is actually bleeding from its vagina. He states: A chick bleeding out her vagina is no miracle. Chicks bleed out their vaginas all the time.

The ultra-sensitive Catholic League declared the show “one of the most vile TV shows ever to appear” and wrote to Comedy Central urging them not to repeat it and undertake never to release it on DVD. They received a reply which suggested their wish had been granted, and indeed Bloody Mary was not repeated on Dec 7.

However, in a response to complaints from South Park fans and free-speech campaigners, Comedy Central has revealed that the episode was indeed repeated as scheduled and that it will not be excluded from DVD releases:

As satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right. Our goal is to make people laugh, and perhaps if we’re lucky, even make them think in the process.

Despite misleading claims from those who would like to claim victory, we have not permanently shelved the Bloody Mary episode from future airings due to outside pressure nor will we exclude it from future DVD releases.


Yay to Comedy Central. Ha ha to the Catholic League.

 

1st January £29500 to Buy An Indonesian Bride

From the Jakarta Post

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) are to forward a draft bill to parliament aiming to prevent Indonesian Muslim women from being divorced too easily by foreigners.

If passed into law, it would prevent foreigners from marrying Indonesian Muslim women unless they put up what looks like "collateral" of Rp 500 million (£29500), so that if their husbands ever divorce the woman they would "win" that amount of money to live on.

Many observers have difficulty understanding the motivation behind this draft bill, and indeed there are many questions to be asked regarding this particular legislative endeavor.

If it is a matter of providing some kind of financial security to Indonesian divorcees, why do we require only foreign men to take such a degree of responsibility, while ignoring the fact that there are a far greater number of Indonesians who have divorced their wives?

Second, setting that kind of "price tag" suggests that we are selling our women to foreigners as if they were commodities in need of foreign buyers. The collateral to be paid before tying the knot would turn marriage into a business contract rather than a holy institution. And nobody believes that a foreign man in his right mind would waste half a billion rupiah on a contract of this kind.

Third, if the real aim is to provide financial security to divorced women, why start with women who marry foreigners? This category of women are mainly from the middle- and upper-classes including celebrities who do not desperately need financial support.

Divorced women who do desperately need financial security are from the lower economic classes, some of whom have been forced into prostitution to support themselves. They have been neglected, but the (Indonesian) men who divorced them are not being required to pay huge sums of money like that being required of foreigners in this new draft bill!

Fourth, if it is a law, then it must apply to all citizens and residents alike and must not apply only to believers of a certain religion. But even so, why has the draft bill originated from the MUI and not the Indonesian Inter-Religious Dialog Forum?

Also, what about Indonesian women who marry foreigners abroad and bring them home? Likewise, would this attempt not encourage Indonesian women and foreign men to get married abroad instead of at home? And again, would this law apply retroactively -- for the sake of fairness?