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31st January   

Updated: Islam is...

Google has no idea
Link Here

Christianity is, suggestions from GoogleTry it for yourself. Report on Arrakis has the story: search for Christianity is at Google and a host of negative recommendations pop up:

But when you search for Islam is , no negative recommendations come up -- indeed, no recommendations at all:

Go ahead, try it.

Will Google next delete pro-freedom, anti-Islamic supremacism websites?

Comment: Only islam is protected from negative suggestions

8th January 2010. Thanks to David

Hm, I tried a bunch of other religions - Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism etc - and got to Jainism before it wouldn't offer (mostly negative) recommendations. And I suspect that's because not enough netizens have heard of it.

Update: Bullshit just like christianity

31st January 2010. Based on article from myfoxphoenix.com

After nearly three weeks, Google has repaired the supposed glitch that hid negative search suggestions for the phrase "Islam is," which had led some to conclude that Google had been censoring its search results.

So now islam is bullshit is the first suggestion, just like christianity.

 

31st January   

Updated: Court Trumps Religious Censors...

Malaysian court unbans book bout challenges facing muslim women
Link Here  full story: Book Censorship in Malaysia...Malaysia bans islamic books

Muslim challenge Islamic fundamentalism extremism Free speech advocates have been rejoicing after a Malaysian court quashed a government ban on a book about the challenges facing Muslim women.

We were hoping, we were praying that this would mark a good day for all Malaysians, said Professor Norani Othman, the editor of the banned book, Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism , a collection of essays by international scholars. It's a good day for academic freedom.

In July 2008, the Ministry of Home Affairs banned the book, published in 2005 by Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian nongovernmental organization, on the grounds that it was prejudicial to public order and that it could confuse Muslims, particularly Muslim women.

Sisters in Islam filed a judicial review in the Kuala Lumpur High Court in December 2008 on the basis that the ban was unconstitutional because it infringed upon freedom of speech and religion and gender equality.

Justice Mohamad Ariff Yusof said that he had failed to find that the facts of the case supported the decision to ban the book on the grounds that it could disrupt public order: There are just seven pages of text which are objected to out of 215 pages in the book, he said. The book itself was in circulation for over two years in Malaysia before the minister decided to ban it.

He ordered the government to pay court costs incurred by Sisters in Islam.

Noor Hisham Ismail, the senior federal counsel who represented the ministry, said he could not yet say whether the government would appeal the decision.

Professor Norani, the book's editor and a sociologist at the National University of Malaysia, said she was overjoyed by the decision and hoped that it would encourage others to produce books that questioned the politicization of Islam.

Update: 'Obvious Errors'

31st January 2010. Based on article from malaysiakini.com

Muslims have been advised to stay away from book, Muslim Women and The Challenge of Islamic Extremism . It can create doubt and disharmony among the people in the country, according to the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM).

Its director general, Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz Wan Mohamad said the contents of the book contravened the Islamic Publication Materials Censorship Guidelines issued by Jakim in 1996.

Several obvious errors were found (in the book), he said in a statement today. He said among others, the book stated that Islamic family laws and Syariah criminal laws were promoting prejudice and discrimination against women.

The book also questioned the fatwa institution and the ban on non-Islamic scholars from discussing Islamic issues. It also promoted the re-interpretation of the verses in the Quran, especially those on gender bias, he said.

 

31st January   

Update: Nutters of Few Words...

Westboro Baptists picket Twitter office
Link Here

Twitter logoThe Westboro Baptist Church, home of the best known anti-gay protest organization in the US, led by Fred Phelps, has a new target for its public outcry. The organization were set to be picketing outside the San Francisco headquarters of Twitter.

NBC Bay Area reporter Jackson West unearthed the schedule for the group's trip to the Bay Area and writes that after a day of protesting outside Jewish organizations, the congregation will travel to Twitter's brand new office.

The organization says that they aren't protesting against Twitter, rather encouraging the organization to do its duty in serving God. Megan Phelps-Roper, granddaughter of Pastor Phelps, tweets: Don't be silly! We're not protesting Twitter as a platform; that's like picketing television! =) We're picketing the people who run @Twitter, who don't use their position & voice to warn a generation of rebels of the consequences of their rebellion.

 

30th January   

Update: Fitna Repeats...

Wilders to show Fitna in the House of Lords
Link Here

House of Lords logoDutch MP Geert Wilders will travel to London on March 5 to show his short video compilation Fitna at the invitation of two members of the British upper house of parliament, the House of Lords.

Last February Wilders was refused entry to Britain to screen his film because the government said his presence would be a threat to public order.

But in October, a British immigration tribunal ruled Wilders should not have been refused entry.

 

27th January   

Offsite: Kickabout with a Hot Potato...

Controversial adverts for the TV broadcast of the Super Bowl
Link Here

Super Bowl 2010 logoIt's the biggest day of the year for US advertising with companies spending between $2.5m and $2.8m to ensure their product is seen by the widest possible audience, but this year's Super Bowl Sunday threatens to be overshadowed by controversy over one of the 30-second slots.

The advert in question? A commercial on behalf of the evangelical Christian organisation Focus on the Family, featuring the University of Florida's star quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam, which is expected to focus on her decision to ignore medical advice to have an abortion.

The almost $3m advert, which Focus on the Family says was paid for by donations, contravenes a network policy regarding the type of ads shown during the Super Bowl. Several online petitions have called on CBS to pull the ad and 2,288 people joined a Facebook group pointing out the hypocrisy by saying: Tell CBS Reject The Focus On The Family Ad Or Accept The UCC's! UCC refers to the United Church of Christ.

...Read full article

 

27th January   

Updated: Burkha Ban Unveiled...

£700 fines proposed for face veils worn in public in France
Link Here

France flagWomen who wear Islamic veils in public in France face a £700 fine under new laws being proposed.

The amount could be doubled for Muslim men who force female members of their family to cover their faces.

Jean-Francois Cope, president of Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP Party, said the legislation was intended to protect the dignity and security of women.

He is set to file the draft law in the National Assembly after Sarkozy said veils were not welcome because they intimidated non-Muslims. We want a ban in public areas, said Cope, making it clear the veil would not be allowed in public buildings, or on the streets of France. He added: The wearing of the burka will be subject to a fine, probably of 750 euros . The fine would apply to all people on the public street whose face is entirely covered .

Sarkozy has called burkas a sign of subservience that imprison women , while immigration minister Eric Besson described them as an affront to national identity .

Update: Public Support

26th January 2010. Based on article from timesonline.co.uk

A report drawn up by French MPs will this week call for a ban on Afghan-style burqas and other garments that cover a woman's face.

The proposal has strong public support. According to an opinion poll by Ipsos for the magazine Le Point, 57% of voters favour a ban while 37% are opposed.

The recommendations of a parliamentary commission are expected to include a bar on wearing full veils on public transport and in schools, hospitals and public-sector offices including post offices. The commission is thought likely to call for a total ban after further consultation.

Spearheading the call for a complete ban is Jean-Francois Copé, head of the UMP faction in the lower house, who claims to have the backing of 200 MPs. Supporters of a total ban, who include Francois Fillon, the prime minister, argue that it would protect public safety and women's rights.

Update: Lawmakers Propose Ban

27th January 2010. Based on article from kippreport.com

French lawmakers have now called for a ban on the burqa in hospitals, schools and on public transport.

The ban on the veil would apply to anyone seeking public services, but it would not apply to people wearing the burqa on the street, according to a French parliamentary commission.

The commission was convened after French President Nicolas Sarkozy controversially told lawmakers last June that the traditional Muslim garment was not welcome in France.

Update: French Nationality Refused

6th February 2010. See article from thescotsman.scotsman.com

French prime minister François Fillon is to sign a decree denying French nationality to a man who acknowledged forcing his French wife to wear a burqa-style veil.

Fillon said French law allowed authorities to refuse nationality applications from those who did not respect the country's values.

 

26th January   

The Case of the Crescented Swastika...

Minnesota trial about free speech and insulting cartoons
Link Here

Minnesota state sealSetting the stage for a showdown over free speech rights, a Minnesota resident  plans to fight St. Cloud officials' decision to fine him for posting offensive anti-Muslim cartoons last month.

The city attorney's office last week cited Sidney Allen Elyea with violating a city ordinance that prohibits posting written materials on utility poles.

Elyea has admitted posting the cartoons, telling police he did so to 'educate' city residents about Islam, said his attorney, Ryan Garry. The cartoons depicted images such as Mohammed engaged in bestiality and sodomy, as well as an Islamic crescent with a swastika inside it. They were posted in front of a mosque and a Somali-owned store.

The city's complaint states that the cartoons were placed in high-pedestrian traffic areas and were placed to target local Muslim citizens. The posters were designed to harass, and they had that effect.

Although some local residents pushed for Elyea to face criminal charges, prosecutors in Stearns and Benton counties declined to do so, saying the cartoons had to be considered free speech.

Garry agreed with Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall's description of the case as classic First Amendment issue. Garry said the city's ordinance is overly broad, too vague and amounts to discriminatory enforcement.

In an e-mail, Garry wrote, the government is not punishing my client for posting a piece of paper to a telephone pole, but rather punishing him for offering an opinion on a religious and political issue that they disapprove of and find offensive. I am not defending the content of my client's political and religious speech. However, the government should know that I will vigorously fight this case to the end to defend his right to say it.

 

26th January   

Update: An Insult to Humanity...

Christian man sentenced to life in Pakistan for supposed blasphemy
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Pakistan...Blasphemy laws used for personal vendettas

Pakistan flagA young Christian man was behind bars after being sentenced to life imprisonment for having supposedly insulted and desecrated the Koran.

A court in the town of Faisalabad sentenced Imran Masih, under controversial blasphemy legislation which has been criticizedby international rights groups.

Judge, Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan, handed down the sentence under Article 295-Bof the Pakistan Penal Code because the 26 year old allegedly burnt verses from the Koran and a book in Arabic on purpose , to stir up religious hatred and offend the feelings of Muslims, trial observers said.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church,suggested that his organization would appeal against the verdict, saying it was important to battle to save his life.

Christians said Masih, a shopkeeper by profession, was brutally tortured by a group of Muslims in July last year before being detained by police on what they described as fabricated charges that he had burned pages of the Koran.

 

25th January   

Update: Jos Sticks...

Religious fighting in Nigeria leaves 400 dead
Link Here

Nigeria flagBodies were being pulled from wells and cesspits in a Nigerian village riven by four days of rioting between Christians and Muslims. As many as 400 people may have died in and around the town of Jos last week before Nigerian authorities deployed the military to contain violence.

Human Rights Watch said it believed Muslims in Jos and neighbouring villages had been targeted for a deliberate massacre.

Muhammad Tanko Shittu, a senior mosque official organising mass burials in Jos, said more than 200 bodies had been found in a nearby village called Kuru Karama: So many bodies were dumped into wells and were littered around, others were being evacuated by the federal authorities, he said.

Human Rights Watch said groups of armed men attacked the mostly Muslim population of Kuru Karama, burning some alive and killing others as they tried to flee. It urged Jonathan to order an investigation of credible reports of a massacre of at least 150 Muslim residents .

The Red Cross has estimated 17,000 people were displaced and took shelter in colleges, hospitals and schools.

 

24th January   

Updated: No Fun in Indonesia...

Exotic dancers arrested in Indonesia under the repressive anti-porn law
Link Here

Belair CafeIndonesian authorities will prosecute four exotic dancers arrested at clubs on New Year's Eve for allegedly violating a new anti-pornography law, a police spokesman has said.

The female dancers and two male club managers were detained in the city of Bandung said West Java provincial police spokesman Col. Dade Ahmad. They appeared to have been preparing for a striptease and were wearing sexy clothing, Ahmad said, when the police raided the Bellair Cafe and the Music Lounge after midnight.

Indonesia's 2008 anti-pornography law was pushed through parliament by conservative Muslim parties, but opposed by rights groups that argue it criminalizes traditional dance and art, particularly in far flung provinces where partial nudity is culturally accepted.

Ahmad said that they could be sentenced to prison terms of five to 10 years if convicted. Ahmad said the six will be the first people prosecuted under the law in Bandung.

Bandung Mayor Dada Rosada said he was also considering revoking the cafes' operating permits.

Update: Empty Tables at the Belair Cafe

24th January 2010. Based on article from scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com

The arrest of four women for sexy dancing during a Hogmanay party in Bandung has raised worries this may be the prelude to wider Islamist restrictions in Indonesia. The women, as well as a manager and event organiser, could become the first people charged under a one-year-old anti-pornography law banning public displays of naked flesh.

The law was brought in with the backing of the small but influential Islamist political parties in the country. Critics said the parties' real intention was to use the law to spread fundamentalist Islam to control artistic and cultural expression in a multicultural society. The law, they warned, threatens pre-Islamic cultures, which have long co-existed with moderate Islam.

Hafizh Utsman, leader of the West Java branch of the Indonesian Ulama Council, the leading clerical organisation, is pleased with Islam's growing influence in Bandung, and would like to see a more widespread crackdown: We are trying to eliminate the non-Islamic parts of West Java's traditional culture, to make it more Islamic, Utsman boasted. For example, he said that participants at weddings are urged to celebrate by reciting Koranic verses, not by dancing, as is the custom.

Though a couple of weeks have passed since the arrests, it was still not clear what happened at Belair, which showcased bikini-clad women dancing on a bar counter.

Arman Achdiat, the Bandung police chief of detectives, said the authorities had received complaints, via text messages, that the dancers had gone beyond bikini dancing and offered customers flashes of full nudity. This happened at private table dances, said Achdiat, declining to say whether investigators caught the dancers in the act.

Holding a copy of the anti-pornography law, Achdiat said more questioning of the dancers was needed to determine whether to charge them under the criminal law or the more severe anti-pornography law, which entails punishment of up to 10 years in prison for the dancers and 15 years for the manager and organiser.

Clubs such as Belair came to Saritem in Bandung more than a decade ago, and about 10 now offer what is known here as sexy dancing, often featuring some nudity, said Budi Rajab, a sociologist and expert on Bandung at the local Padjadjaran University.

The crackdown seems to be working and Saritem's business has yet to recover fully. On a recent evening there were few customers in the district's warren of narrow streets, where family-owned brothels employed young women from rural Java. A lot of people think Saritem is still closed, or they're afraid to come, said Rully, whose family has worked in Saritem for four generations.

 

24th January   

Update: Dangerous Romance...

YouTube video about love for Kurt Westergaard results in the usual islamic threats
Link Here  full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

FARLIG ROMANCE med kurt westergaard A teenage girl who made a fan video proclaiming her love and support for elderly cartoonist Kurt Westergaard has received a number of threats in recent days.

Nikoline Astrid Nielsen, 17, is studying media at high school and uploaded a video of herself singing her support for Westergaard to the tune of the Lady Gaga pop song, Bad Romance.

The song, Farlig Romance med Kurt Westergaard (Dangerous Romance with Kurt Westergaard), includes lines in Danish such as I want your belly it's so hot. You can draw, so draw a six pack. Nielsen also sings about how she's willing to share his fame, despite the Middle East not leaving him in peace.

The video is quickly reaching the heights of notoriety in Denmark, similar to that of the viral internet hit by Obama Girl during the US Presidential election.

Nielsen said she created the video in support of Westergaard after one of his watercolour paintings was banned from a charity auction in aid of Haitian earthquake victims. Lauritz.com auction house refused to accept the donation over safety fears for their staff.

Galleri Draupner stepped in and offered to auction the painting and has had more than 50,000 visitors to their auction website in just 24 hours. The highest bid stands so far at 45,000 kroner for the painting, which features dragons and fairy tale images.

The owner of the gallery is the stepfather of Nielsen's best friend, which inspired her to write her song of support for the cartoonist.

But following its rounds on the internet in the last few days, a hate group opposing Nielsen was set up on social networking site Facebook. Some had published photos of accident scenes, with Nielsen's face superimposed on that of the person being carried on a stretcher.

Nielsen has now forwarded the threatening emails and screen dumps of the offending messages and images to the police, who are investigating the case.

 

24th January   

Harassed by Nutters...

Pakistan religious parties oppose anti-sexual harassment law
Link Here

Pakistan flagThe Pakistan National Assembly has passed a bill to amend the existing law against sexual harassment of women at workplace.

The new amendment bill, which was moved in the Lower House by Law Minister Babar Awan, seeks to insert a new offence in the Pakistan Penal Code to provide for punishment over sexual harassment at workplaces.

The amendment, which has now been sent to the Upper House for approval, also seeks to make the offence punishable with imprisonment extending up to three years or a fine of up to 500,000 rupees, or both.

The amendment was supported by all political parties in the house apart from religious parties, The Daily Times reported.

Religious senators objected to the bill, saying that it was a violation of the fundamental norms of Islam and the constitution. They said that such a law would promote vulgarity among women , and proposed sending the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology for further review.

 

23rd January   

Update: Not Very Christian...

Christians get nasty about Glasgow culture chief
Link Here  full story: Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art...Art exhbits wind up the anti-gay nutters

Glasgow Gallery of Modern ArtThe letters and emails come in a daily tide. Filth! they cry. Shame on you ; You are a very sick person ; The soul that sinneth shall DIE . For the past six months, the head of Glasgow's museums and art has been under siege from Christian fundamentalists, who have vowed to oust her from her job.

Dr Bridget McConnell, head of Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG), the £100 million charity in charge of the city's culture, says she is alarmed by what she describes as a personal witch hunt against her.

It is almost like being physically abused, she said. You get knocked down by it every day and you pick yourself up, but then you come in the next morning and it happens all over again. It's attrition.

Since July, when a row broke out over an art exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) featuring homosexuality and religion in which comments were written on a Bible, Dr McConnell — whose organisation funded the exhibition — has been targeted by an organised group of protesters. Related Links

She has received up to 2,000 letters, e-mails and phone calls attacking her and objecting to the art show. There have been petitions and personal visits to her office. Her office has been routinely picketed by groups with a loud hailer, calling upon her to repent, and her staff have been harassed.

Police are known to be concerned at the targeting of Dr McConnell and on at least one occasion officers had to be called to demonstrations outside the art gallery when staff were seriously intimidated .

On a website linked to an English organisation called Christian Watch, www.csgwatch.com, the campaigners openly declare their intention is to have Dr McConnell removed from her post.

The controversy began last summer as a result of an exhibition called sh[OUT]!, which contained works by renowned artists such as David Hockney and Robert Mapplethorpe, and had as its theme the representation of gay people in art. The exhibition was part of a wider contemporary art programme on themes including violence against women and sectarianism. A secondary exhibition within sh[OUT], called Made in God's Image, invited visitors who felt excluded from the Bible, especially on the ground of sexual orientation, to record their names in its margins.

But some people recorded doodles and obscenities. The Bible was placed behind glass but the story reached the newspapers where, in Dr McConnell's view, it was distorted by parts of the media to suggest that people were being actively encouraged to deface the Bible. The story was picked up by the international media and stirred outrage around the world. The majority of people who are complaining didn't see the exhibition, but were responding to the Daily Mail story, she said.

On the website set up by Christian Watch, www.csgwatch.com, the protesters state their aim is to stop the city supporting events and programmes that insult Christ, the Bible, Christians and to have Bridget McConnell removed from her position .

 

23rd January   

Free to Disagree...

Government asked about their stance on the OIC Defamation of Religion UN motion
Link Here

House of Lords Questions
11th January 2010

Lord Patten asked the government what is their stance on the resolution promoted by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference before the United Nations General Assembly on the defamation of religion.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Government share the concern of the Organisation of Islamic Conference that individuals around the world are victimised because of their religion or belief. We all need to do more to eliminate religious intolerance and to ensure that those who incite hatred or violence against individuals because of their religious beliefs are dealt with by the law.

But the Government cannot agree with an approach that promotes the concept of defamation of religions as a response. This approach severely risks diminishing the right to freedom of expression. We believe that international human rights law already strikes the right balance between the individual's right to express themselves freely and the need for the state to limit this right in certain circumstances. International human rights law provides that only where advocacy of religious hatred constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence should it be prohibited by law.

We believe that the concept of defamation of religions puts in danger the very openness and tolerance that allows people of different faiths to co-exist and to practise their faith without fear. It risks changing the focus of international human rights law from examining how countries promote and protect the right to freedom of expression to censoring what individuals say. If this happened, people might feel unable to speak out against human rights abuses or hold their government to account. It is also inconsistent with the international human rights legal framework which exists to protect individuals and not concepts or specific belief systems.

For this reason the UK, along with our EU Partners and other like-minded countries, voted against the resolution put forward by the Organisation of Islamic Conference at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly on Combating Defamation of Religions.

 

23rd January   

Lashings of Injustice...

Rape victim to be flogged for illicit sex in Saudi
Link Here

' A caningA Filipino woman in Saudi Arabia is scheduled to be lashed 100 times by the government as punishment for being raped. To add to the tragedy, the Filipino has been held in prison since September 2009. In December 2009, the woman  miscarried.

Camille, 35-years-old, travelled to Saudi Arabia in spring of 2009 to work as a janitor in order to support three children. She was raped by a Bangladeshi co-worker in August. In Saudi Arabia, all sex outside of marriage — including rape and sexual assault — can result in prison and lashings under their extreme interpretation of Sharia.

The woman, fully aware of this, opted not to press charges and instead managed to arrange repatriation to the Philippines. All foreign workers returning home from Saudi Arabia are required to undergo a medical exam. That's where the trouble started:

In September, as part of the reparation process, the woman had to undergo a physical examination during which it was discovered that she's pregnant. Since September 11 the woman has been jailed at the Hafer Al Baten Central Jail for having an illicit affair .

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs reports that the sentence will be carried out this month.

 

22nd January   

Angelic Upstarts...

Supporting the hype for Legion
Link Here

Legion Blu ray Paul Bettany In Scott Stewart's supernatural action thriller, Legion , which opens in the US on January 22, actor Paul Bettany portrays a machine-gun toting Archangel Michael who cuts off his wings and proceeds to help protect the unborn child of actress Adrianne Palicki at a remote diner on the edge of the Mojave desert on Christmas Eve.

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) has described the film as blasphemous, saying that it mocks the faith.

According to TFP, in the film, Michael - a rebel angel - becomes the hero in a fight against Gabriel and his hosts who are bent on destroying humanity because of God's anger.

The film presents a complete inversion of roles: instead of defeating Satan and the rebel angels in the great heavenly battle, the movie presents Saint Michael as the fallen angel who revolts against God, said TFP: Saint Michael's downfall was caused by his wish to save humanity when God, finding the human race no longer worthy of Him, decides to end humanity's existence.

TFP has called for individuals to let Sony know that they are insulted by the film.

Actor Dennis Quaid said that he liked the script because it was twisted: I don't think it is going to be on the Vatican must-see list.

Legion puts a negative spin on Christianity, said the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in a press release. ... [it] promises to be an abortion of a movie.

 

22nd January   

Updated: Pull the Trigger and Pray...

US rifle sights inscribed with biblical passages
Link Here

Trijicon logoCoded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.

U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious Crusade in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents.

One of the citations on the gun sights, 2COR4:6, is an apparent reference to Second Corinthians 4:6 of the New Testament, which reads: For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Other references include citations from the books of Revelation, Matthew and John dealing with Jesus as the light of the world. John 8:12, referred to on the gun sights as JN8:12, reads, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Trijicon confirmed to ABCNews.com that it adds the biblical codes to the sights sold to the U.S. military. Tom Munson, director of sales and marketing for Trijicon, said the inscriptions have always been there and said there was nothing wrong or illegal with adding them. Munson said the issue was being raised by a group that is not Christian. The company has said the practice began under its founder, Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in a 2003 plane crash.

Spokespeople for the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps both said their services were unaware of the biblical markings. They said officials were discussing what steps, if any, to take in the wake of the ABCNews.com report. It is not known how many Trijicon sights are currently in use by the U.S. military.

Update: Critics Hit their Mark

22nd January 2010. Based on article from timesonline.co.uk

A defence contractor will voluntarily stop stamping references to Bible verses on combat rifle sights made for the US military.

In a statement released yesterday, Trijicon said that it is also providing free modification kits to remove the references from the telescopic sights already in use. The Marine Corps has purchased more than 200,000 Trijicon sights and the Army has bought about 100,000. The British Army is also using them in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for US Central Command said initially that the Trijicon sights did not violate the ban and compared the references on the sights to the In God We Trust inscription printed on US currency. Related Links

On Thursday, however, General David Petraeus, Central Command's chief officer, called the references disturbing . This is a serious concern to me and the other commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, he told an audience at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

 

22nd January   

Married to Mean Mindedness...

Indonesian clerics declare fatwa against beautiful brides
Link Here

Islamic wedding dressWearing elaborate hairdos and being photographed before one's wedding are haram, against the Islamic religion and morality. Two all-female educational institutions (pesantren) issued a fatwa to that effect.

The controversial ruling on women's hairdos comes from the All-Girl Islamic Educational Institutions Forum of East Java Province. Fussing over one's hair, getting a perm, having one's hair curled too much or coloured are deemed morally illicit and contrary to the principles of Islam.

Premarital photos are also condemned as haram because they favour extra-marital relations , and give photographs the opportunity to retouch female bodies to show them in storefronts in order to attract new customers .

The fatwa was issued during 12th Female Bahtsul Masail Forum held at the Lirboyo pesantren in Kediri (East Java). Its purpose, activists believe, is to preserve the purity of marriage between bride and groom by helping them avoid morally unacceptable behaviour.

Iswatun Hasanah, who chairs the forum, said that the ruling was to prevent extra-marital relations before the marriage, and applies to bride and groom, photographers, clothes designers and make-up artists. Physical contacts during photo shoots, kissing on the lips, walking hand in hand are unacceptable behaviours because the people involved are not yet married.

Indonesia's Ulema Council (MIU) has reacted to the fatwa by downplaying the whole matter. MUI leader Cholil Ridwan said that the fatwa against hairdos is exaggerated, especially since it is addressed to women who do not wear the jilbab or Islamic headscarf.

 

21st January   

Update: Trial On...

Geert Wilders calls muslim murderer of Theo Van Gogh as witness
Link Here

FitnaGeert Wilders, the Dutch far-Right MP, has demanded that his race hate trial should hear evidence from the fanatic who used the Koran to justify killing the director of an anti-Islamic film.

It marked an incendiary opening to the landmark case that has divided the Netherlands over the limits of freedom. Wilders who is accused of incitement and discrimination, asked for 18 witnesses to be called in his defence, including Mohammed Bouyeri, the man who stabbed and shot Theo Van Gogh in an Amsterdam street in 2004.

Wilders faces a 70-page charge sheet covering five counts of breaking Dutch law in more than 100 public statements — for example, by likening the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf and calling for an end to the Islamic invasion . He could be fined or jailed if convicted. The alleged offences include Wilders's film Fitna, which shows images of 9/11 and beheadings interspersed with verses from the Koran. It ends with a clip of the controversial Danish cartoon of Muhammad.

At the opening day of the trial the prosecution objected to the request to hear from Bouyeri, and the panel of four judges adjourned until February 3 to consider which witnesses to call. This case is about more than Mr Wilders, Bram Moszkowicz, his lawyer, told the court. It touches us all. It is such an important and principled question that could have far-reaching consequences.

Moszkowicz argued that the witnesses Mr Wilders wanted to call would prove that what he said was not simply inoffensive but true. He suggested that Bouyeri, a dual Moroccan-Dutch national, would be key to the case because he was a fervent Muslim who carried a Koran during his trial and defended his crime by claiming that Islam permitted violence against unbelievers.

 

21st January   

Update: Quaking with Fear...

Danish auctioneer refuses donation from Kurt Westergaard to raise money for Haiti
Link Here  full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

Kurt Westergaard A Danish art auctioneer has rejected a painting by Kurt Westergaard which was to be auctioned to fund the relief effort in Haiti.

Lauritz.com had called for submissions for various celebrities for their charity campaign, but Westergaard's innocuous painting was deemed too risky, simply because it was by him.

A spokesman said: We must recognise that the terror threat is still of such a character that we can't predict the consequences of a sale. We value the safety of our employees quite highly, which is why an eventual risk assessment was used in our consideration.

The decision was condemned by Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen who said: that people should not live their lives "in the shadow of fear."

Fortunately a more principled gallery has stepped in and accepted Westergaard's watercolour. Galleri Draupner , which has previously exhibited his work, are inviting bids on their website. The current high bid stands at $22,000.

 

21st January   

Update: Still Cross...

Freedom must apply to all faiths and none
Link Here

Liberty logoThe Christian's right to wear a cross must be defended as fiercely as any other religious liberty

Today Liberty returns to court. We go to the Court of Appeal to protect freedom of thought, conscience and religion from unjustified intrusion and prejudice.

You may remember the story of Nadia Eweida, the British Airways check-in worker who was banned from wearing a small cross on a chain. This modest manifestation of her faith was as important to her as a turban or hijab to other workers. Yet the airline accommodated these other items without, perhaps, embracing the underlying values that would have protected Ms Eweida and anyone else from the blundering assertion that rules is rules is rules .

After a public outcry that included secular, religious and political voices from across the spectrum, the airline modified its uniform policy. But not before Ms Eweida had been off work for months without pay, and crucially, without accepting the ethical and legal principle that would protect her and others of all faiths and none in the future. Worse still, BA instructed an international law firm strenuously to resist her claim of religious discrimination.

...Read full article

 

20th January   

Offsite: Registered as Repressive...

Kyrgyzstan keeps a tight grip on religion
Link Here

Kyrgyzstan flagBolot, a young evangelical preacher in Kyrgyzstan, says he already been arrested twice this year after setting up a new church.

He says he is the victim of a new law on religion, which critics say severely restricts religious freedoms and is forcing some groups underground.

Under the law, new religious groups have to have at least 200 members before they can register with the authorities and operate legally - previously the figure was 10.

Kyrgyzstan is just the latest Central Asian republic to have been accused of curtailing religious rights.

In our church we don't have official registration because we have only 25 people, and we are banned from trying to convert people. We have lots of problems with the government, Bolot says.

...Read full article

 

19th January   

Update: Narrow Sighted...

UKIP ponders a Burkha ban
Link Here

UKIP logoThe UK Independence Party is considering a call to ban the wearing of burka, it is reported, in an attempt to broaden its appeal. It would be the first national party to call for a total ban on the Islamic headgear; the far-right British National Party believes they should be banned from schools.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the leader of Ukip, wants to raise the issue of the influence of Sharia law in Britain, according to a report in The Times. He told the newspaper: We are taking expert advice on how we could do it. It makes sense to ban the burka — or anything which conceals a woman's face — in public buildings. But we want to make it possible to ban them in private buildings. It isn't right that you can't see someone's face in an airport.

The newspaper said Ukip would make an announcement on Sunday describing the burka as a threat to gender equality and claiming that it marginalises women and endangers public safety because terrorists could use them to hide their identity.

 

19th January   

A Rap on the Knuckles for Ed Balls...

As he refuses to ban smacking in islamic schools
Link Here

DCSF logoSchools Secretary Ed Balls has been accused of refusing to ban Islamic schools from smacking children for fear of upsetting Muslim sensitivities .

Balls was last week urged to close a legal loophole which gives teachers in Britain's estimated 1,600 schools associated with mosques the right to smack children - even though it is banned in other schools.

Smacking is banned in all State and private schools. However, it does not apply to madrasahs, where pupils usually study in the evenings or at weekends, because the ban exempts schools where children attend for less than 12.5 hours per week.

Lib Dem schools spokesman David Laws, who is spearheading the campaign to close the smacking loophole, said: The Government needs to legislate to protect children - not leave an opt-out simply because it fears some ethnic or religious backlash.

He was supported by Labour MP Ann Cryer, who said it would be bonkers if the Government did not act. She said: I suspect people are frightened of upsetting the sensitivities of certain members of the Muslim faith.

Cryer claimed some of the children being illtreated in Islamic schools were those with special needs: They don't seem to have any understanding of special needs children. If a kid isn't learning their Koranic verses terribly well, they think it's because they are being naughty, not because they have an incapacity. It isn't always a question of just beating. They have a particular punishment called the "chicken position" where a child must squat on the floor until they get very uncomfortable.

A report just over a year ago warned that madrasah students had been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted.

 

19th January   

Updated: Dangerous Police...

Egyptian police persecute christian youth to force 'reconciliation'
Link Here

Egypt flagMore than 100 Coptic Christian teens have been arrested by security forces in Egypt in what the Christian community considers as pressure from the government to play down the recent fatal church shooting that made international headlines.

Since late last week, Egyptian State Security members have knocked on the doors of Coptic Christian families mostly around dawn and arrested Christian youths, according to Assyrian International News Agency. To date, according to local sources, the number of Coptic youths rounded up without warrants has surpassed 100 people and is growing.

The Coptic community has long complained that State Security has used various tactics, including arrests, to force Christian victims to reconcile with their perpetrators. The reconciliation process, say Copts, is nothing more than a front for forcing the victims to forfeit their rights to press criminal charges.

Because of international attention given to the church shooting in Nag Hammadi, which killed six people, the government has placed heavy pressure on the church and Copts to accept reconciliation, say Coptic rights groups.

Melbourne protest supporting Egyptian copts

Based on article from theage.com.au

Melbourne's Coptic Orthodox Christians took to the streets in protest at violence against them in Egypt..

Deacons in white robes and carrying staffs with bronze crosses led the march, followed by protesters bearing six black coffins. Behind them were priests and the head of the church in Melbourne, Bishop Suriel.

Bloodshed is Not What I Wanted for Christmas read placards, referring to the drive-by shooting of six Coptics in southern Egypt on January 7 as they left church after celebrating Coptic Christmas Eve.

Other placards said Thousands slaughtered. No Convictions , Egyptian Government Take A Stance and Enough , referring to other deaths including 21 Coptics killed at El-Kosheh when muslims extremists went on a 2000 New Year's weekend rampage, looting and destroying 260 homes.

They were also highlighting their claim that the Egyptian Government has failed to prevent sectarian attacks by Muslim extremists.

Organisers put the march numbers at 6000. At one stage it stretched for 2.5 blocks.

Update: US protests supporting Egyptian copts

Based on article from christianpost.com

Since the deadly Christmas Eve shootings in the Egyptian town of Nagaa Hammadi, demonstrations have been held in cities across the world and more are on their way. Related

Hundreds of Coptic Christians took to the streets of Tampa, Florida, to protest what they described as 1,400 years of persecution of Copts in Egypt.

We're raising our voices for those in authority to stop what is happening in Egypt to Christians, said the Rev. Moussa Saleh, leader of Tampa's St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, according to Tampa Bay Online.

One day earlier, Copts in northern Texas rallied in front of the Federal Building in Dallas to draw the attention of the world to the sufferings of Christians in Egypt and to call upon Muslim extremists to end the violence against their brethren in hopes that Copts in Egypt can enjoy the right to religious freedom.

They are also hoping that the Egyptian government will take serious steps to deal fairly with all the issues and matters of this crime and other religious freedom subjects, according to rally organizers.

 

18th January   

Die Dog!...

Polish DJ suffers death threats for his attempt at a tribute to islam
Link Here

Poland flagIslamic fundamentalists posted death threats against a Polish disk jockey soon after he published a song that he says was supposed to be a tribute to the Muslim culture.

Jakub Kosik, a DJ from Poland, checked his Facebook page. Word of his newest composition, Mekka, was out. And it was ill-received.

You messed with Islam, the first message read. We'll never forgive what you did to our religion, read another. You played with us, now we'll play with you. We're everywhere. Forget your international career. By morning he had more than 300 such messages.

Fundamentalists reacted to the piece, placed on an internet music store website, because it included backing music of an Islamic prayer.

Kosik said: I had mixed feelings. My first thought was, great, publicity . Later I started thinking if I didn't in fact really hurt these people. But my composition was supposed to be a tribute to their culture. I'm atheist. But I was raised with respect to different religions and philosophical opinions.

The threats and negative comments, including one from an 8-year-old French boy: die dog , resulted in sleepless nights for the artist. He replied to the threats, each one individually, apologized and explained it was never his intention to offend anyone's religious sentiment. But it wasn't until he removed the piece from the sites that the taunts subsided.

 

18th January   

Update: Barbarism in Somalia...

Another death by stoning
Link Here  full story: Death by Stoning...International condemnation of barbaric execution

Somalia flagShabab muslim extremists in Somalia have stoned a young man to death in the southern coastal city of Barawe late on Sunday.

A regional court sentenced the Hussein Ibrahim Mohamed to be stoned to death for raping a girl mothered by his sister, according to an unidentified Islamist commander who was talking to a crowd of people as the 26 year old man was being stoned late on Sunday.

At least two hundred people in the city of Barawe gathered at open ground in the city center to watch how the execution was being carried out, but some residents say they were compelled to watch the killing.

It was not our intention to watch such very shocking incident, but we were ordered to do so and I am sorry that I have watched the killing of the young man whom I knew for more than ten years a resident who demanded anonymity said by telephone from the city.

 

18th January   

Updated: Hark the Herald Angels Sing...

Christians allowed to use the word 'Allah' in Malaysia
Link Here  full story: Oh My God...Only muslims can use the word Allah in Malaysia

Catholic HeraldA court in Malaysia has ruled that Christians have a constitutional right to use the word Allah to refer to God.

The High Court said a government ban on non-Muslims using the word was unconstitutional.

The court was ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Herald, a publication of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, in 2007. The Herald filed for a judicial review after it was ordered in 2007 to stop referring to Allah in its publication. The publication said it had been been using the word for decades, and had a constitutional right to do so.

The authorities had insisted that Allah in the Malay language refers only to the God in Islam, which could only be used by Muslims.

The BBC's Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur said some Muslim groups suspect the Catholic Church is seeking to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity - a move which is illegal in Malaysia.

The issue had become a symbol of a growing number of religious grievances among minority groups, in a political environment often divided along racial and religious lines, our correspondent adds.

Update: Appealing to Allah

4th January 2010. Based on article from thescotsman.scotsman.com

Malaysia's government is to challenge a court ruling that Christians have a constitutional right to use the word Allah to refer to God.

A High Court verdict on Thursday sparked peaceful protests by Muslims, raising fears of friction between the Malay Muslim majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, who mainly practice Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Update: Church Attacks

9th January 2010. Based on article from timesonline.co.uk

Churches in Malaysia were bracing themselves for further attacks by Muslim protesters  after two arson attacks, apparently provoked by a controversy over the use by Christians of the word Allah.

Police were increasing their patrols of areas around churches and Christian communities were hiring security guards, after a Protestant church in the capital Kuala Lumpur was set on fire by a petrol bomb in the early hours of the morning. Muslim organisations have promised street protests over a court decision which would allow use of the Allah as the Malaysian language term for the Christian God.

The early morning attack destroyed the first floor offices of the three storey Metro Tabernacle Church, although the worship hall itself was undamaged and there were no injuries. Petrol bombs were also thrown into the Assumption Catholic Church and the Life Chapel Protestant church in the adjacent town of Petaling Jaya, but neither caused damage.

On Thursday, the website of the Malaysian judiciary was vandalised by a hacker with the alias Brainwash who left threatening messages apparently related to the court ruling. Mess with the best, die like the rest, read one message. Allah only restricted to Muslim only.

Since the court ruling on New Year's Eve, the website of the Herald, the Catholic Church's largest newspaper in the country, has also been vandalised with profanities by hackers.

Update: More church Attacks

12th January 2010. Based on article from christiantoday.com

Three more churches in Malaysia were targets of arson Sunday and another was vandalised in the latest wave of attacks on the country's Christian minority.

A Molotov cocktail was thrown at the All Saints Church in Malaysia's central Perak state left only a mark on the wall.

The outer wall of the Malacca Baptist Church in southern Malacca state, meanwhile, was splashed with black paint.

One day earlier, two firebombs were thrown at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in the Petaling Jaya suburb, leaving marks but no damage.

On Friday, three churches in Malaysia were attacked with firebombs. To date, at least eight churches have been targeted by arsonists and vandals.

Prime Minister Najib Razak condemned the attacks and gave assurances that the government would take whatever steps it can to prevent such acts . In an effort to repair ties, six Muslim NGOs have offered to work to help protect churches from further attacks.

Update: Shattered Reputations

18th January 2010. See article from timesonline.co.uk

There are fears that the recent church attacks will scare off crucial foreign investors and tourists, as well as contribute to a growing sense of alienation among the country's non-Muslim minorities, including Chinese, Malays and indigenous tribespeople.

The church attacks shattered notions of Malaysia as a model secular Muslim nation in the eyes of the international community, an opposition member of parliament, Charles Santiago, said: Although the firebombing of churches alarmed Malaysians, it underscored the magnitude of the real problem. It showed that after 52 years of living together, nation-building and national unity is in tatters.

The office of a law firm representing a Roman Catholic newspaper was ransacked on in a professional and well-organised break-in.

Update: Arsonists jailed

15th August 2010. Based on article from bbc.co.uk

Two Malaysian men have been found guilty of setting fire to a church in January in a row over non-Muslim use of the word Allah .

The two had claimed their burn injuries were sustained at a barbecue. But a judge in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, said this was a fabrication and jailed them for five years.

The attack on the Metro Tabernacle Church in Kuala Lumpur was the first of a series of attacks on houses of worship following the Allah row.

 

18th January   

Updated: Divisive...

British Social Attitudes Survey finds negative attitudes towards islam
Link Here

British Social Attitudes Report Survey More than half the population believe Britain is deeply divided along religious lines, according to an official survey.

A majority would also strongly oppose the development of a mosque in their neighbourhood, the research into social attitudes found.

Almost half (45%) say they do not believe that diversity has brought benefits to the country and that religious diversity has had a negative impact.

The government-backed inquiry revealed that only one in four people in Britain feel positively about Islam.

The warnings on the extent of the divide between Muslims and much of the rest of the country come in the annual British Social Attitudes survey, produced with funding from Whitehall.

It found that 55% of people would be 'bothered if a large mosque was built in their locality. Only 15% said they would have similar qualms about a church. Some 52% think Britain is deeply divided along religious lines.

Offsite: Official figures show that Britain is rapidly secularising

 See article from secularism.org.uk

National Secular Society logo We have repeatedly objected to the claims by Prime Minister Gordon Brown that that religion is central to the lives of people in this country on the grounds that they are false. This research, conducted in 2008, shows the claims are also counter-productive; more and more people are turning away from organised religion and are increasingly suspicious of politicians who parade their faith as part of their politics. People particularly do not want their private lives to be dictated by religious teachings.

When asked whether they believed in God, 18% said that they definitely don't; 19% said they didn't know whether there was a God and there was no way to find out; 14% said they didn't believe in a personal God, but did believe in some higher power; 13% said they sometimes believed in God and sometimes didn't; 18% said they had doubts but overall believed in God; 17% said they had absolutely no doubt that God exists.

When asked to assess their own religiosity, 7% said they were very or extremely religious; 30% said they were somewhat religious; 22% said they were neither religious or non-religious whereas 26% said they were very or extremely non-religious .

On the question of intolerance, 73% of Britons maintain that people with very strong religious beliefs are often too intolerant of others. 52% of respondents agreed with the opinion Britain is deeply divided along religious lines with only 16% disagreeing.

The question that was probably regarded as most uncomfortable was about attitudes to particular religious groups. Respondents were asked to rate their feelings about particular groups on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 to 49 being regarded as cool and 51 to 100 being regarded as warm and 50 being neutral. Protestants were regarded the most positively, with 47% marking them warmly; Catholics had a 45% warm score. Non-religious people were also reasonably well thought of, with 40% giving them a warm score and only 8% giving them a cool one.

Only 23% regarded Muslims warmly, and 34 per cent gave them a cool score. Similarly, 55% of respondents said they would be bothered by the building of a large mosque in their area, while only 15% said they would be bothered by the building of a large church.

...Read full article

 

17th January   

Old Religious Wounds...

BBC programme about 1984 battle at Sikh temple generates personal abuse aimed at presenter
Link Here

1984: A Sikh Story A BBC News presenter has been subjected to a deluge of personal abuse after fronting a documentary about one of the most controversial events in recent Indian history.

Sonia Deol was forced to delete her page on the Facebook website amid a barrage of criticism from fellow Sikhs over her film about the Indian army storming the Golden Temple in Amritsar, one of the faith's most holy shrines, in 1984.

Now protesters are planning a mass boycott of the licence fee in disgust at what they see as a slur on the controversial religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who was killed in the raid.

Many Sikhs consider him a saint and are furious that in Ms Deol's documentary, 1984: A Sikh Story, he was described as a militant. They also claim he was depicted in the film in a similar way to Osama Bin Laden.

Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered the assault on June 4, 1984, after Bhindranwale and up to 500 armed supporters took refuge in the holy site, apparently fearing arrest amid rising Sikh-Hindu tensions. Around 500 people died in the ensuing battle, which some Sikhs now refer to as our 9/11 . As troops moved in, Bhindranwale's followers fired missiles at Indian tanks.

The BBC has received 52 complaints about the documentary, which attracted 1.3 million viewers and was billed as Ms Deol's emotional journey back to India in a bid to discover how such an attack could ever have taken place .

However, community TV station The Sikh Channel says it received more than 8,000 calls to a phone-in about the film. Channel owner Davinder Singh Bal said: The documentary contained many sweeping statements and didn't attempt to uncover the truth of what happened. Our viewers were not happy. BT said that our exchange was going into overdrive. The BBC is not responding to the Sikh community and we are thinking about organising a campaign to invoke the non-payment of licence fees by the 700,000 Sikhs in Britain.

Dr Sadhu Singh, chairman of the Council of Sikh Temples, said many viewers were angered that the BBC showed him [Bhindranwale] looking like Bin Laden . He said: They used pictures of him wearing a turban and holding a gun. To someone who doesn't know what Sikhism is about, it would be very misleading.

A BBC source said Ms Deol's documentary was never intended to be an investigation, saying: It was her personal journey, a look at her reaction to rediscovering her faith as a Sikh. It was for a mainstream channel, BBC1 and there's only so much you can say in an hour. A lot of the attacks on Sonia have been because people think that the documentary reflected her views on Bhindranwale, but she did not give her opinions about him at all.

 

17th January   

Update: From Turban Bombs to Truck Bombs...

Details of truck bombs emerge in plot to attack Jyllands-Posten building
Link Here  full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

Details of trucks filled with explosives and European terror networks emerge in Jyllands-Posten newspaper plot case.

US citizen David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Canadian citizen and native of Pakistan, are already in police custody for their alleged roles in the plot against the newspaper in retribution for its printing of the Mohammed cartoons.

Additional conspiracy charges were recently filed against Ilyas Kashmiri, who has been identified as a leader of terrorist organisation Harakat-ul Jihad Islami (HUJI) in Pakistan and Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a retired major in the Pakistani military. Neither man is in police custody.

According to documents released by US authorities, Headley met Rehman and members of the Lashkar terrorist group in Pakistan. Rehman is said to have introduced Headley to Kashmiri who allegedly came up with the idea of the truck bomb. Kashmiri is also reported to have put Headley in contact with various associates in a number of European countries who could provide Headley with money, weapons and manpower for the newspaper attack .

 

16th January   

Murderous Critics...

Playwright attacked for play said to be unflattering about muslim men
Link Here

A mon age...Police have launched a terrorism investigation in Paris after two men tried to set fire to an Algerian feminist playwright and actress, who stars in a play said to portray Muslim men in an unflattering light.

The attackers are reported to have sprayed Rayhana, known only by her first name, with petrol and threw a lit cigarette in her face. The petrol did not ignite, possibly because of the extreme cold.

Rayhana is appearing in and directing her own play about the oppression of women in Algeria. She was walking to a theatre in a north-eastern suburb of the city when she was insulted in Arabic and attacked. A fortnight ago, she was approached in the same area by two men who said: We know who you are, you miscreant whore. This is a warning.

Detectives are examining the 'possibility' that she was attacked by a radical Islamist group, although her play is equally critical of the treatment of women by radical Islam and secular authorities in Algeria.

A pressure group for the rights of women of North African origin, Ni Putes, Ni Soumises ( neither whores, nor submisssives ), has called for a demonstration of solidarity with Rayhana outside the theatre.

Following the attack, the playwright staggered into an upmarket restaurant but was refused help. She carried on to the theatre, La Maison des Metallos, and took part in that night's performance. Her sell-out play A Mon Age Je Me Cache Encore pour Fumer , (At My Age, I Still Hide To Have A Smoke), is about a group of women who chat about their lives during a visit to a spa.

 

16th January   

Update: Trial On...

Geert Wilders fails to get court to dismiss criminal charges against him
Link Here

FitnaA Dutch court has ordered politician Geert Wilders to be tried for his video and printed statements against the Quran and Islam, dismissing a motion to drop or reduce the criminal charges.

The trial court denied Wilder's counsel's argument that he could not be prosecuted according to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, which held that insulting a religion, as opposed to its followers, was not punishishable under hate-speech laws. Wilders has been charged by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) with five counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement.

In September, the OM announced that they would prosecute Wilders following a January 2009 court order by the Amsterdam Court of Appeals. This decision came after the OM announced in June 2008 that it would not prosecute Wilders.

In February 2008 a district court in the Netherlands rejected a bid by the Dutch Islamic Federation to block Wilders' anti-Quran statements, saying that his comments are protected by the right of free expression and do not constitute speech that incites hate or violence.

 

16th January   

Update: Dangerous Police...

Indonesian religious police detained for the gang rape of their suspect
Link Here  full story: Sharia in Aceh...Inhuman sharia punishments in Aceh

Religious PoliceA serious blow to the credibility and morality of Sharia police in Aceh province, has occurred after several members were detained for an alleged gang rape in Langsa regency.

Police in the regency said that they had arrested two Sharia police officers, or Wilayatul Hisbah, for reportedly raping a female detainee at the Langsa Sharia Police Station. The Langsa Police are also hunting down another suspect who is currently on the run.

Langsa Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Yosi Muhammartha said the three suspects were accused of jointly raping a university student when she was held in a cell at the station.

Yosi said the issue began when Sharia police officers were conducting patrol on the night of Jan. 8, and found a couple on the side of the Langsa ring road. The police brought the pair to the Sharia police office in Langsa. The suspects then questioned the couple in relation to violating the 2003 Sharia Public Indecency Bylaw

 

16th January   

Update: Pits of Humanity...

Iranian inhumanity continues with more stoning sentences
Link Here  full story: Death by Stoning...International condemnation of barbaric execution

Iran flagA court in Iran's West Azarbaijan Province has upheld the sentence of death by stoning for two Azeri Iranians, the Human Rights Activists News Agency has reported.

The two defendants, identified as Sarimeh Ebadi and Booali Janfeshani were convicted of adultery, the report said. Both are said to be currently behind bars in the northwestern city of Orumieyh.

According to the report, an appeals court upheld the sentence on 6 January.

Despite a 2002 directive by then-Judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, imposing a moratorium on the punishment, at least five people in Iran have been stoned to death, as the directive has no legal weight and judges are free to ignore it, according to Amnesty International.

 

15th January   

Hate Censorship...

Home Office considers block on Hamas website for children
Link Here

image from Al FatehThe Home Office is considering blocking a childrens' website run by the Palestinian group Hamas following suggestions it incites hatred of Jews.

Liverpool MP Louise Ellman, chair of the Labour Jewish Movement, has called on ministers to block access to al-Fateh.net, a webzine launched by Hamas in 2002. Alongside baking recipes and exam advice, the fortnightly publication features tributes to suicide attackers and encourages love of jihad .

Ellman told The Register: It's nasty stuff. It incites hatred of Israel and Jews - the government should remove it.

An extract from April 2008, translated by IMPACT-SE, a Jewish education lobby group that has campaigned against al-Fateh.net across Europe, reads: Jerusalem will remain as a trust in our hands and the hands of all Muslims, and they are to unite and gather for its liberation and the liberation of the land of Palestine from the impurity of the Zionists, the descendents of apes and pigs.

In response to Ellman's parliamentary question on al-Fateh.net, policing minister David Hanson said: We are currently assessing whether there is sufficient evidence to include the al-Fateh website in the list of material provided on a voluntary basis to filtering companies for inclusion in their parental control software.

There remains nothing the government can do to prevent access where filtering software is not installed. Suggestions by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that an ISP-level filtering system similar to the Internet Watch Foundation child pornography blacklist might be created for extremist material appear to have been abandoned.

Tim Stevens, an expert on internet radicalisation at King's College London, said Ellman's call showed how powerless the government is online: Unpleasant as this site may be, it is not up to single-interest groups to determine what is and is not illegal, he said.

 

14th January   

Hell Bent on Controversy...

Muslim group asks for the removal of priceless fresco in Bologna
Link Here

Bologna FrescoMuslim leaders in Italy are demanding the removal or destruction of a priceless 15th century fresco in Bologna that they say offends Islam by showing Muhammad being cast into the flames of Hell.

The row over The Last Judgment by Giovanni da Modena, in Bologna Cathedral, could threaten the already strained relations between the Roman Catholic Church and members of Italy's Muslim community.

The recently established Union of Italian Muslims has written to the Pope and Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the outspoken conservative Archbishop of Bologna, complaining that the fresco shows clearly Muhammad, the founder of Islam, among those condemned to burn in eternal flames.

The protesters said that Giovanni da Modena had shown Muhammad being thrown into hell, completely naked, with a snake wrapped around his body and a demon next to him about to torture him . They said that Muslims had never depicted Jesus or the Virgin Mary on the walls of a mosque.

In the letter they called for the barbarous fresco to be removed from the wall of the Bolognini chapel, inside the 14th-century cathedral of San Petronio.

Adel Smith, the head of the Union of Italian Muslims, appealed to the many thousands of Italian Muslim residents of Bologna to attend a rally outside the main mosque in Rome.

A spokesman for the cardinal said that it was absurd to suddenly discover after 600 years that our most famous treasure is offensive to the Islamic religion .

Don Oreste Leonardi, prefect of the sacristy of Bologna Cathedral, said that the identification of the figure in the fresco in tiny Gothic writing was so small that it is almost invisible .

He said that the fresco, painted in 1415, was one of Bologna's greatest treasures, and the artist had merely reproduced the popular medieval vision of Hell.

The Union of Italian Muslims says that it has a large following and that the painting is unacceptable to Muslims throughout the world. In its letter to the Pope it said: It constitutes an even graver offence to the religion than that caused by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses.

Signor Smith said that the problem had started in the Middle Ages with Dante, Italy's national poet, who had placed Muhammad in the ninth circle of Hell in his Inferno. He demanded that the teaching of Dante be suspended in Italian schools in immigrant areas.

 

14th January   

Offsite: Balls of Brass...

Learning to laugh at terror
Link Here  full story: Four Lions...Chris Morris satire re religious extremists

Four Lions stillSatire is an effective weapon in the fight against extremism, and Chris Morris's new film Four Lions and revamped show Jihad! The Musical are the latest examples.

The biggest British comedy event of the month, maybe even the year, is about to take place – thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic. On January 23, the Sundance Film Festival in Utah is poised to premiere Four Lions .

This is the long-awaited debut feature film by Chris Morris, the interview-shy maverick who shot to fame in the Nineties with the groundbreaking Radio 4 news satire On the Hour, and its TV spin-off, The Day Today – and cemented his reputation for high-end pranksterism with his solo Channel 4 vehicle Brass Eye.

...Read the full article

 

12th January   

Art Censors...

Metropolitan Museum of Art removes Mohammed images
Link Here

Metropolitan MuseumThe Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said several images of the Prophet Mohammed were removed from a collection .

The New York Post said that the removal of the images from the museum's Islamic collection comes after a number of conservative Muslims opposed the inclusion of the Mohammed images based on their religious beliefs.

The critics reportedly wanted the images removed because images of the Prophet Mohammed are not acceptable in their religion.

A source with inside knowledge of the museum told the Post the Metropolitan's decision to pull the controversial images reflects the museum's apparent policy to avoid criticism.

 

12th January   

Unhealthy Beliefs...

Northern Ireland politician believes gays can by 'cured' by psychiatry
Link Here

Iris RobinsonA gay rights campaigner has rejected a Northern Ireland assembly member's call for homosexuals to seek psychiatric counselling.

David McCartney from the Rainbow Project was responding to comments from Iris Robinson, who is the chair of the Stormont health committee.

Robinson said with help, gay people could be turned around .

McCartney said there was no body of evidence to support this and asked to meet the MP.

Robinson made her comments on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show. She said she would defend her right to express religious beliefs, while also condemning violence against the gay community: I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals - trying to turn away from what they are engaged in. I'm happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals.

Sinn Féin's Education Minister Catríona Ruane said politicians should be guided by equality legislation: There are equality laws in the north of Ireland. I think it is really important that politicians play a leadership role and that leadership role should be not to say anything that could possibly inflame the situation or cause further distress.

 

12th January   

Glorious Censorship...

Islam4UK banned
Link Here

Home Offie logoMembership of Islamist group Islam4UK and al-Muhajiroun is set to become a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years' jail

Radical Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad founded al-Muhajiroun, which is to be banned, along with its offshoot Islam4UK, under a new terrorism law.

The Islamist group Islam4UK, which planned a march through Wootton Bassett, and its parent organisation, al-Muhajiroun, will be banned under new legislation outlawing the glorification of terrorism, Alan Johnson announced.

The order, which will come into effect on Thursday , will make it a criminal offence to be a member, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

I have laid an order which will proscribe al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by . It is already proscribed under two other names – al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect or the Saviour Sect.

Johnson said that proscription was a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism, adding that it was not a course we take lightly: The decision, based on months of monitoring the output of websites and comments by senior figures, will have to be endorsed by parliament. Al-Muhajiroun was founded by Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjem Choudary, and has been operating in Britain since the mid-1980s.

The group became notorious for praising the September 11 attacks in 2001. Bakri was banned from Britain by the former home secretary Charles Clarke in August 2005, on the grounds that his presence in the country was not conducive to the public good.

 

10th January   

Update: Iranian Deviance from Human Rights...

Iran publishes long lists of websites that are illegal to access
Link Here

Iran flagThe Iranian judicial authorities have published a long list of banned Internet websites in a new crackdown on online networks, including those deemed immoral.

They said the list, drawn up by a committee of experts, bans any site that contains pornography, prostitution, sexual deviation or anything considered to be contrary to the morals of society in the Islamic republic.

Websites containing material contrary to security and social peace as well as those seen by the authorities as hostile to government officials and institutions bound to lead to crimes are also banned.

According to the list published in several Tehran newspapers, anyone found guilty of using such websites could be jailed for several years in line with a law on Internet offences passed in parliament more than a year ago.

Internet users are also prohibited from posting articles that violate religious values, that insult Islam and other recognised world religions, saints and prophets, the reports said.

Any articles that insult Imam Khomeini and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are banned, the reports added in reference to the founder of the Islamic republic and his successor. Articles contrary to the constitution, that support hostile political groups or are used as propaganda against the regime of the Islamic republic are also banned.

The sale of software that can bypass bypass filter systems used by the authorities is also forbidden, the reports said.

 

10th January   

Year of the Pig Headed...

McDonald's opts to not sell toy pig in Malaysia
Link Here

toy pig The Fast-food giant McDonald's has stirred up a controversy in Singapore by omitting pig characters from its latest toy promotions.

The pig soft toy was expected to have been part of a 12-character Doraemon set depicting the animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar.

But McDonald's decided not to include the pig toy to avoid offending Muslim customers, and had a Doraemon Cupid toy in its place instead.

The move has upset Chinese customers keen on collecting all 12 toys in the series.

Various online forums are also abuzz with discussions on whether the fast-food chain has overreacted.

When contacted, McDonald's Restaurants communications director Linda Ming said the chain excluded the pig toy out of sensitivity for its Muslim customers. It chose Cupid instead to commemorate Valentine's Day, which coincides with the first day of the Chinese New Year this year, on Feb 14.

 

10th January   

Updated: Assault on Humanity...

Rape victim in Dubai arrested for 'illegal' sex
Link Here

UAE flagA 23-year-old British woman on holiday in Dubai told police she had been raped, only to be arrested herself for having illegal sexual intercourse.

The woman, a Muslim of Pakistani descent, was celebrating her engagement to her 44-year-old boyfriend, and was allegedly attacked when she passed out in a hotel lavatory.

Despite approaching police about the attack, she was arrested after admitting to illegal drinking outside licensed premises as well as having sexual intercourse outside marriage. Her fiancé was also charged with the same offences.

The couple from London are now reportedly on bail and understood to be awaiting trial after having their passports confiscated. Should they be found guilty, they could face up to six years in jail.

The woman, who is said to have accepted her boyfriend's marriage proposal during a three-day break, admitted drinking too much alcohol as they celebrated at Dubai Marina's Address Hotel. The waiter, believed to be Syrian, is then said to have followed her into the toilets and raped her while she was in a state of semi-consciousness.

After her fiancé found out about the attack, they contacted police, but they were questioned about breaking the country's strict rules, based on Sharia law.

She was then made to give a blood test to prove she had been drinking, and only was given access to proper medical checks following an appeal from the British embassy, it is claimed.

Her attacker is believed to have denied rape, claiming she consented, but he has also been charged with illegal sex .

Update: Shotgun Wedding

10th January 2010. Based on article from zopag.com, thanks to Alan

The British woman, who was raped by a waiter in Dubai and later arrested for illegal drinking and illegal sex , has been told to drop her allegations, admit she was drunk and marry her fiance immediately if she wants to go free.

The 23-year-old Londoner - a Muslim with a Pakistani background - had been raped by a waiter at a New Year's Eve party where she was celebrating her engagement to her boyfriend.

And when they went to Bur Dubai police station the next day to report the incident, they were instead arrested for drinking outside licensed premises and unmarried sex.

The woman told pals she must stay in Dubai until her trial unless she agrees to the prosecutors' suggestions: I always dreamed of a big family wedding in Britain, but now I just want to get married so I can get out of here, she said.

Update: Released

6th February 2010. See article from nytimes.com

A British couple who escaped trial in Dubai for having sex out of wedlock by producing a marriage certificate have returned to Britain, the British embassy in the Gulf Arab emirate said Wednesday.

Last week, Dubai's public prosecutor dismissed the charge, along with a rape charge brought by the British woman against an Indian waiter at a Dubai hotel, but said they would be tried for an alcohol-related offence.

We can confirm that legal proceedings concerning to British nationals have been completed and that they have returned to the United Kingdom, said embassy spokesman Simon Goldsmith.

Last month, Dubai police said they had arrested the British woman, 23, and the man, 44, who were visiting Dubai as tourists, for having sex outside marriage, which is illegal in the Muslim emirate.

The couple were detained after they reported to police on January 1 that the woman had been raped by a waiter in the bathroom of a hotel bar. During questioning, police learned the pair had been sharing a hotel room and had had sex.

Dubai Attorney General Essam al-Humaidan said the couple would stand trial for consuming alcohol without permission.

 

10th January   

Update: Bristling with Police...

Somali religious police jail unshaven men
Link Here

Somalia flagReligious police from Somalia's al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabab group arrested and jailed dozens of men in the southern city of Kismayo for shaving their beards, officials said.

The clean-shaven men, mostly students in their twenties, were picked up during a raid on Thursday evening for violating a decree made by the Shabab administration in December ordering all men to grow a beard.

Our units in charge of enforcing good religious practice arrested dozens of residents for shaving their beards, which is banned by the regional Islamic state, local police commander Sheikh Abu Hureyra Abdurahman told reporters: They will remain in jail for three days as a punishment for violating Islamic culture, they will be released after that .

 

9th January   

Updated: Cartoon Assassin...

Police shoot knife wielding islamic terrorist in Kurt Westergaard's home
Link Here  full story: Mohammed Cartoons...Cartoons outrage the muslim world

Kurt Westergaard Danish police have shot and wounded a man at the home of Kurt Westergaard, whose cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad sparked an international row.

Westergaard was at home in Aarhus when a man broke in armed with a knife. Police arrived and shot the man after Westergaard pressed a panic alarm.

Police said he was shot in the knee and the shoulder after threatening officers who tried to arrest him. Preben Nielsen of Aarhus police, said the man was seriously hurt but his life was not in danger.

Danish officials said the intruder was a 28-year-old Somali linked to the radical Islamist al-Shabab militia.

Police said the man had entered Westergaard's house armed with a knife and had shouted in broken English that he wanted to kill him.

Westergaard said he had grabbed his five-year-old granddaughter and run to a specially designed panic room where he raised the alarm.

He has now been taken to a safe location, but said defiantly that he would be back, the newspaper reported.

Update: Charged

3rd January 2010. See article from news.bbc.co.uk

A Somali man has been charged with trying to kill a Danish artist whose drawing of the Prophet Mohammed sparked riots around the world.

The suspect, who was shot by police outside cartoonist Kurt Westergaard's home in the city of Aarhus on Friday, was carried into court on a stretcher.

Police say he broke into the house armed with an axe and a knife.

The suspect, who denies the charge, was remanded in custody. Police say he has links with Somali Islamist militants.

The radical al-Shabab group in Somalia hailed the attack.

Kurt Westergaard Sept 2006 I locked myself in our safe room and alerted the police. He tried to smash the entrance door with an axe, but he didn't manage Kurt Westergaard

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Muhamud Rage told AFP news agency: We appreciate the incident in which a Muslim Somali boy attacked the devil who abused our prophet Mohammed and we call upon all Muslims around the world to target the people like him.

Update: Mohammed Cartoons Reprinted

9th January 2010. Based on article from theaustralian.com.au

Norway flagThe Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten has published reproductions of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Kurt Westergaard, the victim of attempted murder last week.

In an article on Westergaard, the daily printed small versions of six out of the 12 drawings by the Danish cartoonist that had infuriated Muslims around the world when Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published them in 2005.

Several of the drawings were seen as linking Islam and the Prophet Mohammed to terrorism and suicide bombings, including the turban bomb cartoon.

Update: Cartoon Apologist

1st February 2010.  Based on article from mediawatchwatch.org.uk

Pakistan flagPakistan's Daily Mail carries a story claiming that the Norwegian ambassador to Pakistan has strongly regretted the re-publication of the Turbomb Motoon in the pages of Aftenposten.

Robert Kvile allegedly is of the view that the Norwegian government would strive to reform understandings and to devise a strategy to stop such practices in future .

Kvile had been summoned to the office of the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Hamid Saeed Kazmi.

 

9th January   

Update: Drive By Shooting...

Christians attending Christmas service murdered by muslim gunmen
Link Here

Egypt flagIt was Christmas Day according to Egypt's Coptic Calendar, but instead of celebrating, the country's Christian population spent the day mourning seven people killed in a drive-by shooting as they left midnight mass.

Thousands of Copts clashed with police in the southern town of Nag Hamad. They pelted cars with stones and smashed ambulances after gathering for the funeral of six Christians and a Muslim policemen shot dead outside a church.

Witnesses said three men sprayed automatic gunfire into a crowd leaving the midnight service.

Bishop Kiroloss said he decided to end the Christmas service at St John's Church an hour earlier than normal because of threats against Christians. He said many of his faithful had been abused in the street and that he had received a text message warning him that, It is your turn.

Six Christians and a security guard were killed. Nine Copts were injured, two of them seriously.

About 5,000 people attended the funeral. Some began attacking ambulances in frustration at delays in turning over the bodies for burial. The demonstrators chanted: With our spirit and blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for the cross. Protesters also smashed the windows of two shops owned by Muslims before police, using teargas, herded the crowd into the church grounds.

 

8th January   

Update: Modest measures...

Move to ban headscarves from schools defeated
Link Here

Switzerland flagThe cantonal parliament of Zurich has rejected a proposal by the far right Swiss People's Party (SVP) – Switzerland's largest party - to ban headscarves for female Muslim students in Swiss schools. The proposal was aimed at instilling respect of Swiss values in schools , the party's leadership says, and that people who settled in Switzerland needed to realise they could not turn up to work in a headscarf .

Adrian Amstutz, parliamentarian and senior member of the SVP is one of the strongest supporters of those bans: Muslims must be spurred to integrate into society , he said to Swiss News Worldwide. The more moderate, centre right Christian Democratic Party, has been advocating the ban on burqas, a body covering including a face veil, in a bid to defend women's rights.

 

7th January   

Five Husbands...

Egyptian TV drama winds up the usual nutters
Link Here

Egypt flagConservative figures in Egypt are furious over an Egyptian moviemaker's plan to produce a drama series about a woman with several husbands.

Filmmaker Mustafa Mahram told Al-Arabiyya that there was no reason he should not go ahead with the series, Hajja Zahra and her Five Husbands , because it happens in real life.

Egyptian lawyer Nabil Al-Wahsh is submitting a complaint to the public prosecutor to prevent the filming of the series on the grounds that it is an affront to Islam.

These are poisonous ideas that people are calling for and we must fight them, he told Al-Arabiyya. How can this be in accord with the law and the religion? When this matter is turned into a drama, we cannot remain silent.

The issue is feeding off religious sensitivities which were already enflamed by an Egyptian newspaper's recent publication of a Saudi writer's opinion piece regarding polyandry in Al-Masri Al-Yawm. In her article, My Four Husbands and I, author Nadine Al-Budeir asked why Muslim men were allowed to marry several wives but Muslim women could not do the same.

The series is planned to be screened during the month of Ramadan. Viewer ratings soar during this month, and it has, in recent years, become the main season for launching new Arabic television series.

Mahram said the series had nothing to do with religion and dealt with a new concept prompting discussion about the dangers involved rather than promoting it.

 

5th January   

Roundabout Threats...

Islamic thugs threaten Lars Vilks
Link Here

Lars Vilks drawingSwedish artist Lars Vilks is the latest cartoonist to receive a threat from jihad group al-Shabaab.

The phlegmatic creator of the Mohammed roundabout dogs series of cartoons got a couple phone calls from someone claiming to represent the Somalian Islamothugs.

Vilks told his local newspaper:

The man, who spoke accented Swedish, asked me if I knew about what happened in Denmark and to the artist Kurt Westergaard. I said I certainly did.

The man then explained that they were out after more and that they would soon come for me. I told them they were welcome.

 

5th January   

Happy New Year...

But not for the victims of Malaysia's religious police
Link Here

Malaysia flagFifty-two unmarried Muslim couples face charges of sexual misconduct and possible jail after being caught in hotel rooms by Malaysia's Islamic morality police.

Scores of religious police fanned out across budget hotels in central Selangor state before dawn on January 1, knocking on doors and detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms.

They are expected to be charged with khalwat , or close proximity , which under Malaysia's Islamic Sharia law is described as couples not married to each other being alone together in a private place.

 

4th January   

Lines of Repression...

Request for segregated bus queues in another Israeli town
Link Here

Israel flagA prominent ultra-Orthodox rabbi has asked a Tiberias bus company to launch a line similar to the ones in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak that segregate women from men.

Rabbi Asher Idan from Jerusalem, a ruler on religious matters pertaining to modesty, contacted the company Veolia Transportation last month, saying that ultra-Orthodox Jews from Tiberias wanted a segregated line.

The requests came after an increase in the number of Haredim in and around Tiberias, Idan told Haaretz. He said the request was for segregated buses in certain neighborhoods in certain hours - when schools and religious seminaries close for the day. He added that it is important to us that the Haredi public receives services that it is entitled to and that its needs are met.

A veteran woman resident of Tiberias who spoke on condition of anonymity said the request was an enraging attempt to take over the city. She said that despite her advanced age she will wear a miniskirt and sit in the front of the segregated bus to make a statement.

An ultra-Orthodox resident, who also requested anonymity, said the line was unnecessary and can only serve to alienate people from the Haredi minority.

But Idan says the segregated line will change people's minds once it is launched. The secular people of this city will see and learn how good this modesty is, he said. We don't want to coerce anything - coercion goes against the Torah. We are simply begging that this thing be allowed to happen and that the secular public see how the holy Torah looks.

Idan said the line could be problematic in Tiberias because unlike in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, the Tiberias line would pass through secular neighborhoods as well as Haredi ones. For this reason, Idan said, the people promoting the new line are being careful and are looking to check how this thing works out.

The Transportation Ministry said the issue of segregated lines is pending a court ruling. For this reason, the ministry does not process requests of this kind until a ruling is made, it said. The ministry is expected this month to give answers about the segregated lines to the Supreme Court, which is reviewing the legal basis for their operation following a petition on the matter.

 

3rd January   

Good Idea...

Nigerian methodist leader suggests a ban on religious preaching
Link Here  full story: Preaching in Nigeria...The Islamic Preachers Bill licenses preachers

Sunday MakindeThe prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Sunday Makinde, has urged the federal government to censor religious preaching as part of measures to end religious crisis in the country.

Makinde was reacting to the recent outbreak of religious crisis in the Zango area of Bauchi. Religious fundamentalists unleashed terror on the residents of that area, killing about eight people, including two soldiers. The cleric stressed the need to evolve lasting measures that would end incessant religious crises, adding that the development was giving Nigeria a bad image.

I tell you, any kind of religious crisis is anti-progressive and because it claims human lives and presents Nigeria in bad light, it should be fought relentlessly . Government has to censor what is preached in all religious organisations because the time has come for us to put an end to all these problems.

Makinde described the latest Bauchi religious crisis as more worrisome because it happened at the time Nigeria had been disgraced internationally.

 

2nd January   

Update: The Greatest Bullshit Story Ever Told...

Atheist Ireland challenge blasphemy as it comes into force on 1st January 2010
Link Here  full story: Blasphemy in Ireland...Irish politicians enact blasphemy law

http://blasphemy.ie/2010/01/01/atheist-ireland-publishes-25-blasphemous-quotes/ Atheist Ireland write:

From 1 January 2010 the new Irish blasphemy law becomes operational, and we begin our campaign to have it repealed. Blasphemy is now a crime punishable by a €25,000 fine. The new law defines blasphemy as publishing or uttering matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion, with some defences permitted.

This new law is both silly and dangerous. It is silly because medieval religious laws have no place in a modern secular republic, where the criminal law should protect people and not ideas. And it is dangerous because it incentives religious outrage, and because Islamic States led by Pakistan are already using the wording of this Irish law to promote new blasphemy laws at UN level.

We believe in the golden rule: that we have a right to be treated justly, and that we have a responsibility to treat other people justly. Blasphemy laws are unjust: they silence people in order to protect ideas. In a civilised society, people have a right to to express and to hear ideas about religion even if other people find those ideas to be outrageous.

In this context we now publish a list of 25 blasphemous quotes, which have previously been published by or uttered by or attributed to Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Mark Twain, Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, James Kirkup, Monty Python, Rev Ian Paisley, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Frank Zappa, Salman Rushdie, Bjork, Amanda Donohoe, George Carlin, Paul Woodfull, Jerry Springer the Opera, Tim Minchin, Richard Dawkins, Pope Benedict XVI, Christopher Hitchens, PZ Myers, Ian O'Doherty, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Dermot Ahern.

Despite these quotes being abusive and insulting in relation to matters held sacred by various religions, we unreservedly support the right of these people to have published or uttered them, and we unreservedly support the right of any Irish citizen to make comparable statements about matters held sacred by any religion without fear of being criminalised, and without having to prove to a court that a reasonable person would find any particular value in the statement.

We ask Fianna Fail and the Green Party to repeal their anachronistic blasphemy law, as part of the revision of the Defamation Act that is included within the Act. We ask them to hold a referendum to remove the reference to blasphemy from the Irish Constitution.

We also ask all TDs and Senators to support a referendum to remove references to God from the Irish Constitution, including the clauses that prevent atheists from being appointed as President of Ireland or as a Judge without swearing a religious oath asking God to direct them in their work.

If you run a website, blog or other media publication, please feel free to republish this statement and the list of quotes yourself, in order to show your support for the campaign to repeal the Irish blasphemy law and to promote a rational, ethical, secular Ireland.

A few of my favourites

Tom Lehrer, The Vatican Rag, 1963: Get in line in that processional, step into that small confessional. There, the guy who's got religion'll tell you if your sin's original. If it is, try playing it safer, drink the wine and chew the wafer. Two, four, six, eight, time to transubstantiate!

James Kirkup, The Love That Dares to Speak its Name, 1976: While they prepared the tomb I kept guard over him. His mother and the Magdalen had gone to fetch clean linen to shroud his nakedness. I was alone with him… I laid my lips around the tip of that great cock, the instrument of our salvation, our eternal joy. The shaft, still throbbed, anointed with death's final ejaculation. This extract is from a poem that led to the last successful blasphemy prosecution in Britain, when Denis Lemon was given a suspended prison sentence after he published it in the now-defunct magazine Gay News. In 2002, a public reading of the poem, on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields church in Trafalgar Square, failed to lead to any prosecution. In 2008, the British Parliament abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

Conor Cruise O'Brien, 1989: In the last century the Arab thinker Jamal al-Afghani wrote: 'Every Muslim is sick and his only remedy is in the Koran.' Unfortunately the sickness gets worse the more the remedy is taken.

Frank Zappa, 1989: If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine - but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you've been bad or good - and cares about any of it - to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.

Salman Rushdie, 1990: The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses.

Amanda Donohoe on her role in the Ken Russell movie Lair of the White Worm, 1995: Spitting on Christ was a great deal of fun. I can't embrace a male god who has persecuted female sexuality throughout the ages, and that persecution still goes on today all over the world.

George Carlin , 1999: Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

Jesus Christ, in Jerry Springer The Opera , 2003: Actually, I'm a bit gay. In 2005, the Christian Institute tried to bring a prosecution against the BBC for screening Jerry Springer the Opera, but the UK courts refused to issue a summons.

Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, 2006: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. In 2007 Turkish publisher Erol Karaaslan was charged with the crime of insulting believers for publishing a Turkish translation of The God Delusion. He was acquitted in 2008, but another charge was brought in 2009. Karaaslan told the court that it is a right to criticise religions and beliefs as part of the freedom of thought and expression.

Pope Benedict XVI quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor, 2006: Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. This statement has already led to both outrage and condemnation of the outrage. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim body, said it was a character assassination of the prophet Muhammad . The Malaysian Prime Minister said that the Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created. Pakistan's foreign Ministry spokesperson said that anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence . The European Commission said that reactions which are disproportionate and which are tantamount to rejecting freedom of speech are unacceptable.

Finally, as a bonus, Micheal Martin, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, opposing attempts by Islamic States to make defamation of religion a crime at UN level, 2009: We believe that the concept of defamation of religion is not consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. It can be used to justify arbitrary limitations on, or the denial of, freedom of expression. Indeed, Ireland considers that freedom of expression is a key and inherent element in the manifestation of freedom of thought and conscience and as such is complementary to freedom of religion or belief. Just months after Minister Martin made this comment, his colleague Dermot Ahern introduced Ireland's new blasphemy law.

 

2nd January   

Update: Rash of Child Neglect...

Zimbabwe children should immunised against religion
Link Here

Zimbabwe flagAt least 30 children have died in eastern Zimbabwe where members of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Faith church have refused to allow their children to be vaccinated against the deadly communicable disease.

World Health Organization Country Representative Custodia Mandhlate said it is tragic that children are dying of a preventable disease. The outbreak is also affecting other provinces with 340 cases of measles reported.

Health Minister Henry Madzorera told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira his ministry has been frustrated by the denial of access to children for vaccination by members of the Apostolic Faith Church and other religious sects.

Dr. Madzorera said health officials will be moving into these areas to persuade parents to allow their children to be vaccinated to avoid more deaths.

 

1st January   

Good Question...

Newspaper sued over article questioning unfairness of polygamy
Link Here

Egypt flagA member of the Egyptian parliament has filed a lawsuit over an article questioning why polygamy is allowed for men in Islam but not for women.

The article in the newspaper Al Masry Al Youm was written by a female Saudi journalist, Nadine al-Bedair.

It has been denounced by some Muslim clerics as inflammatory and anti-Islamic.

But others have said it serves the purpose of highlighting how badly some husbands treat their wives.

The article was clearly meant to cause a big stir and it has.

Published in the independent newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, the article by Nadine al-Bedair suggests that polygamy should either be allowed for both men and women - or else there should be a new concept of marriage where men are not allowed to take a new wife just because they are bored with the old one.

The article has drawn predictably strong criticism from some Muslim authorities in Egypt, with one saying the author had no right to attack Islamic traditions and had to be stopped.

An Egyptian MP has taken up that gauntlet, filing a legal complaint against the paper, accusing it of promoting vice.

Other clerics have said male polygamy serves a social purpose, allowing widows, divorcees and unmarried women to find a partner.