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30th January   

No Holy Cows...

Religious broadcaster somehow deffed out as Poland upgrades to digital TV
Link Here

radio maryja logoTadeusz Rydzyk is one of Poland's most controversial and at the same time most influential priests, building up a media empire over the past 20 years. The conservative Catholic is the moving spirit behind Radio Maryja, the newspaper Nasz Dziennik and the television station Trwam.

While Rydzyk is adored by his adherents, he faces sharp criticism from many others, including the Vatican and many Polish bishops, for what they see as a narrow-minded and intolerant attitude out of tune with the times and Polish society.

But now Rydzyk's media empire is under threat. The Polish Broadcasting Council failed to include Trwam when it issued broadcast licences for the new digital network that is to cover Poland from next year onwards.

The Broadcasting Council doubted whether Rydzyk's Trwam had the necessary financial means to make the leap into the digital era. If an applicant fails to meet the requirements, no licence is awarded. There are no holy cows. We live under the rule of law not under the rule of Father Rydzyk,Dariusz Jonski, spokesman for the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), said in defending the decision.

Rydzyk immediately named those he held responsible for the decision, accusing them of a conspiracy. The Broadcasting Council was dominated by Poland's liberal and left-wing parties, he said. We have the feeling that this has been manipulated. Somebody is behind this,said the conservative priest, who stands accused of being overtly political in his broadcasts.

Poland's conservative nationalist opposition is up in arms at what it sees as a disgraceful decision by the Broadcasting Council. Rydzyk's audience has also mobilized. According to Radio Maryja, they have sent around 100,000 protest letters to the Broadcasting Council. The letters were not in every case models of Christian charity, with some anonymous messages making open threats against members of the council.How dare you serve Satan and foreign interests? You will suffer! one of the letters said, according to Polish media reports.

 

30th January   

Are You a Moralist?...

Pakistani TV presenter sacked for acting like the religious police
Link Here

samaa tvA Pakistani TV host has been sacked after an episode of her morning TV programme showed her ambushing young couples and demanding to know whether they were involved in immoral behavior.

Samaa TV host Maya Khan was filmed charging around a park in Lahore, Pakistan, asking youngsters what they were up to, whether they were married or engaged and if their parents knew where they were.

In one particularly cringeworthy scene the 31-year-old host - who has been dubbed the vigil-auntie - demanded to see a couple's wedding certificate after they told her they were married.

The show sparked outrage with viewers branded it - a witch hunt and taking to the internet in their thousands to register their disgust. Within hours of the broadcast on January 17th, several online petitions had sprung up demanding that Khan be sacked. Samaa TV said Khan had been sacked after she refused to give an unconditional apology

 

30th January   

Offsite: Dangerous Books...

Salman Rushdie has found peace, but the Satanic Verses affair won't go away
Link Here  full story: Satanic Verses...Salman Rushdie irritation of the muslim world

Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie The terror of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa has faded but the challenge it posed to artistic freedom has not, as a brush with the Indian authorities has shown

...Read the full article

 

30th January   

Update: From One Dictator to Another...

Tunisians protests against increasing prominence of islamists
Link Here

Tunisia flagThousands of Tunisians angered by the increasing prominence of ultra-conservative Islamists in a country only recently freed from dictatorial rule took to the streets in protest on Saturday.

An AFP correspondent estimated several thousand activists, professors, artists and other demonstrators flooded the streets of the nation's capital, including along Bourguiba Avenue, a well-known thoroughfare that became a centre for dissent during protests that led to the ouster of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali a year ago.

 

30th January   

Raising a Few Heckles...

Dutch satirist has fun with his burkha song
Link Here

doe de boerka videoDutch satirist Johan Vlemmix has decided not to perform his latest hitDoe De Boerka (Do the Burqa) onstage following death threats.

The song, a carnival parody to the music of Van McCoy's Do the Hustle , is a huge success on YouTube. However the video provider has switched off the comments facility as too many people were posting angry reactions saying that they had been insulted.

The images show a woman wearing a T-shirt which can be instantly lifted and converted into a burqa.

Vlemmix said he had expected some commotion over his song: I'm not exactly dumb. But he had failed to anticipate the virulence of the reactions: I really meant it as a joke. Because the burqa is banned in the Netherlands I thought it was fun to offer a carnival alternative for it: the burqa shirt.

Carnival, a colourful, musical and noisy feast celebrated annually in the southern half of the Netherlands, is often used to mock authorities and make fun of social issues by people dressed up or disguised in humorous creations.

 

29th January   

Updated: Easy Offence of the Day...

TV presenters pick up some trivial flak
Link Here

sky news logoColin Brazier, who presents The Live Desk and writes on the Sky News website, blogged that it would save the taxpayer money to send 'problem' families to the Sandwich Islands.

Under the blog post entitled Radical Solution For Troubled Families? , Brazier wrote:

These families -- the word is used pejoratively in many instances to describe a collection of biologically related children and a lone parent -- cost the taxpayer an estimated 75,000 EACH YEAR.

But Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, took easy offence and told the Evening Standard:

There is a world of difference in the state intervening to improve troubled communities and the state intervening to deport our citizens to far-flung corners of the globe.

That's a Bit Rich

See  article from  bbc.co.uk

golden temple amritsarIndia has condemned a comment by US comedian Jay Leno on the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple of Amritsar. A Leno skit showed the temple as the summer home of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney has faced taxation questions over his huge wealth and many Sikhs are angry the temple has been depicted as a place for the rich.

The Sikh community has launched an online petition and an Indian minister called the comments objectionable . Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters:

It is quite unfortunate and quite objectionable that such a comment has been made after showing the Golden Temple.

The Golden Temple is the Sikh community's most sacred place... The American government should also look at this kind of thing.

Freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others... This is not acceptable to us and we take a very strong objection for such a display.

Ravi said the Indian embassy would take up the matter with the US state department, the Press Trust of India reported.

Update: Sued

26th January 2012. See  article from  artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com , thanks to Nick

Just when it seemed that the world was ready to move on from a poorly received Tonight Show joke that supposedly offended Sikhs a man has filed a suit against Jay Leno, the Tonight Show host, for what he says are racist remarks.

The BBC News reports that Randeep Dhillon, an Indian-American, has filed a lawsuit against Leno in Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying that the routine hurt the sentiments of all Sikh people in addition to the plaintiff. The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says the jokeclearly exposes plaintiff, other Sikhs and their religion to hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy because it falsely portrays the holiest place in the Sikh religion as a vacation resort owned by a non-Sikh.

Update: Early Day Motion

29th January 2012. See  article from  parliament.uk

House of Commons logoOh dear, even the Houses of Parliament have got involved in this most tenuous of whinges. An MP Virendra Sharma has written an Early Day Motion that has yet to pick up much interest:

That this House notes with concern the sketch on the NBC Jay Leno Show where the most sacred Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, was disrespected by Jay Leno when it was referred to as GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's summer home;

expresses concern and regret that this depiction of the Golden Temple as a home of the rich shows a complete misunderstanding of the Sikh faith and is derogatory to Sikhs across the world; believes that these comments are not acceptable to all those who believe in respect for all religions;

calls on Jay Leno and NBC to apologise to all Sikhs for this disrespectful depiction of the Golden Temple;

and further calls on the Government to make representations to the US government that while recognising principles of freedom of speech there should be more understanding and respect shown to the Sikh faith.

 

29th January   

Beyond Offensive...

Newspaper concentration camp cartoon proves a wind up in Argentina
Link Here

david gueto cartoonThe Jewish group B'nai B'rith, Simon Wiesenthal Center has claimed 'outrage' at a comic strip in an Argentine local daily portraying Hitler at concentration camp dance party.

Jewish groups have condemned an anti-Semitic cartoon strip, FieSSta by Gustavo Sala published in Argentine paper Pagina/12 and called on the country's government to denounce the daily newspaper under Argentina's anti-discrimination law.

Following the protests, the Argentine daily issued an apology on its website.

The cartoon strip's main character, DJ David Gueto (a caricature of the French DJ David Guetta) plays music in a concentration camp. At first, the prisoners don't want to dance because they feel there's nothing to celebrate, saying: Do you know that they kill us in gas chambers and make soap with us?Hitler then appears and convinces them to dance because life is short. Hitler then thanks the DJ, saying: If they are relaxed, the soap will be better.

B'nai B'rith International expressed its deep outrage and revulsion toward the cartoon, its creator and the newspaper that chose to publish it. B'nai B'rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said:

This cartoon strip is beyond offensive---it is frightening. It epitomizes the blatant, ongoing anti-Semitism that still exists, in 2012, throughout the world. We hope the Argentine government will quickly speak out against this unbridled anti-Semitism.

 

28th January   

Prohibitionists Take a Few Days Off...

Swiss Canton relaxes ban on dancing on religious days
Link Here

switzerland neuenburg logoSwiss canton (state) of Neuchatel has decided to relax its ban on dancehalls and nightclubs opening on religious holidays.

Dancing is still banned on Good Friday and Christmas Day, but nightclubs can now open on five other religious days.

In a statement released this week, Neuchatel authorities said that dancing on religious holidays can no longer be considered disrespectful .

A total of seven cantons still ban dancing on religious days. Aside from Neuchatel, dancing on selected days is also frowned upon in cantons Uri, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Basel-Landschaft, Solothurn and Appenzell Innerrhoden. These are generally Catholic cantons in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, with French speaking Neuchatel being one of the exceptions.

 

28th January   

Tourist Preachers...

Sri Lanka expels 161 extremist foreign preachers
Link Here

Sri LankaSri Lanka has reportedly ordered 161 foreign Muslim preachers to leave the country for flouting visa regulations.

A senior immigration official was quoted as saying that the clerics had no right to preach in mosques because they had arrived on tourist visas. He also said that some local Muslims had complained that the visitors were not teaching a moderate form of Islam.

The preachers - from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Maldives and Arab nations - must now leave by 31 January. 'Laughable idea'

Perera said the group belonged to Tablighi Jamaat - an international Islamic movement popular in Sri Lanka and the region.

 

27th January   

Update: Extreme Repression...

Russian book censors continue their campaign to ban Hindu holy book as extremist
Link Here  full story: Religious Book Censorship in Russia...Russia prosecutes holy books over supposed extremism

Bhagavad gita As It Is ebook Prosecutors in Russia's Siberian city of Tomsk have insisted that a Russian translation of the book on a Hindu scripture called Bhagavad-Gita As It Is should be banned as extremist literature, filing an appeal against an earlier court ruling not to ban the book, a court spokeswoman said.

In late December 2011, a Siberian district court rejected a petition by prosecutors seeking a ban on the book. The petition was originally filed in June that year and the trial has prompted a flurry of criticism in international media.

Bhagavad Gita As It Is , a translation and commentary of the original Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture, was written by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Prosecutors have claimed the book promotes extremism andsocial discord .

India has expressed concerns over the prospect of Russia banning the book, urging the Russian government to quickly resolve the issue.

 

27th January   

Just Gentle Persuasion...

Religious police established in Egypt armed with cattle prods
Link Here  full story: Sharia in Egypt...Threatening nightlife and tourism

Religious PoliceA religious police force was recently established in Egypt.

Dubbed The Authority for Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil, similarly to the Saudi religious police, it aims to enforce compliance with Islamic sharia.

However, unlike the Saudi religious police this force does not operate on behalf of the state. In fact, it is unclear precisely who is behind it. Its Facebook page states that its founders are members of the Salafi Al-Nour party, the closest party to Allah's sharia,but that they are not working on its behalf, or on behalf of any other political party.

The site claims that the religious police will not use violence or coercion, but rather dialogue and guidance, in performing its tasks. However the police will be armed with cattle prods.

The Facebook page featured an announcement about 1,000 available jobs in the religious police, intended for citizens aged 25-40, with preference for Al-Azhar graduates.

Another announcement details the functions of the religious police:

  • supervising proper behavior by citizens;
  • encouraging citizens to attend prayers, and merchants to close shop during prayer time;
  • ensuring that tourists respect the customs of Egyptian society and the commandments of the Islamic faith;
  • reporting sharia violators to the authorities; and
  • establishing popular committees to protect against theft and regulate traffic.

It was announced that members of the police force would wear a white robe with a religious police emblem and would carry electric prods, and that the police are considering employing females in places frequented by women.

 

27th January   

Acquitted...

Three men acquitted of attempting to murder roundabout dogs artist, Lars Vilks
Link Here

Sweden flagThree muslim men accused of plotting to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks were acquitted of the charges in Gothenburg, but were nevertheless convicted for weapons violations.

The prosecutor had sought to have the men sentenced to three years in prison, but the Gothenburg District Court ordered the three men released from custody following the conclusion of the trial in December.

Vilks has faced numerous death threats and was the target of another suspected assassination plot since his drawing of Mohammed as a dog was first published by a Swedish regional newspaper in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

The three suspects -- one Somali citizen and two Swedes in their mid-20s -- were all carrying knives when they were arrested and were, according to the prosecution, planning to stab Vilks to death.

 

27th January   

Update: Ongoing Oppression...

Muslims in Egypt Burn Christian Homes and Shops, Attack Church
Link Here  full story: Muslims attacking Copts...Minority christian Copts uder continuous attack

Egypt flagA Muslim mob attacked Copts in the Upper Egyptian village of Rahmaniya-Kebly, Nag Hammadi, Qena province, destroying and torching their homes, straw huts and shops, while chanting Allahu Akbar. No one was reported killed or injured. According to reports, security forces were present but did not intervene and the fire brigade arrived 90 minutes late.

An eye-witness said that a straw hut belonging to a Copt was torched to clear the area for a mosque. There are more than 300 mosques in the village and one church.

According to Coptic residents, the reason behind the violence was the parliamentary elections. The Salafists wanted to prevent Copts, who number more than 50% of the inhabitants (20,000), from voting because they intended to vote for two moderate Muslims and not the Salafi candidates.No Copt from Rahmaniya-Kebly was able to vote today, so the Salafists will win the elections, said a witness. Copts were forcefully prevented from voting.

In another incident, a large number of Salafis and members of the Muslim Brotherhood entered the Abu Makka church, in Bahteem, Shubra-el-Khayma, Qaliubia province, and informed the congregation that the church has no licence and no one should pray in it. One Muslim said the 1300 square meter church would be suitable for a mosque and a hospital.

Bishop Marcus of Shubra el Khayma was scheduled to inaugurate the incomplete church and celebrate the Epiphany mass in the evening. According to Coptic witnesses the Bishop cancelled the festivities, which angered the congregation, who were not informed of the reason.

 

26th January   

Update: Animated to Violence...

Violence outside trial of TV boss who aired Persepolis in Tunisia
Link Here  full story: Persepolis Banned...Iran tries for worldwide ban of movie Persepolis

Persepolis DVD Catherine Deneuve Violence broke out outside the Tunisian courthouse where TV executive Nabil Karoui was on trial for blasphemy.  Extremists attacked the people rallying in his support.

Karoui, the owner of a television station in Tunis, is charged with violating sacred values and disturbing public order for airing Persepolis , the award-winning animated film about the 1979 Iranian revolution that depicts God as a bearded old man.

The attackers believe that the film violates Islamic values forbidding the depiction of God.

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali has condemned the most recent violence and affirmed his commitment to freedom of expression. But as the trial is continuing then affirmation is not worth much.

The trial has been adjourned until April 19.

 

26th January   

Update: Religious Vandalism...

Maldives magistrate orders removal of conference monuments on claims of idolatry
Link Here  full story: Sharia in the Maldives...Tourist industry under duress

saarc monument from pakistanThe Maldives is currently removing monuments it was given by the South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation (SAARC) when the island hosted its 17th conference in November. This follows aDefend Islam protest against the monuments held on December 23, and calls for the implementation of sharia law.

A magistrate has ordered the removal of monuments gifted by the SAARC nations at the 2011 SAARC Summit Building Bridges held in Addu City.

This week, Addu City Council removed the monument given to the Maldives from Bhutan, which is described as a wooden sign, and which demonstrators have claimed is offensive to Islam.

According to the New Age, Out of the monuments from the SAARC countries, the one given by Pakistan installed in Seenu Atoll, Hithadhoo, which depicts the country's conversion to Islam, became the 'most controversial' as it shows several deities. Just on the eve of unveiling the monument from Pakistan, detailing the Indus valley civilization and a bust of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country, a group of protesters had knocked it down calling it idolatrous.

According to the Maldivian newspaper Minivan News, state Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Hussein Rasheed had previously said, The Pakistan monument showed how Pakistan became an Islamic country from its Buddhist origins, and that Although the monument does not contradict Islam, it should not be kept there if Maldivian citizens do not want it to be there.

The magistrate identified the monuments as idols of worship used by non-Muslims which could allow for the growth of other religions in the Maldives , according to Minivan News.

 

25th January   

Updated: Violent Threat Silences Debate...

Islamic group calls for Salman Rushdie to banned from travelling to Indian literature festival
Link Here  full story: Satanic Verses...Salman Rushdie irritation of the muslim world

Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie Sir Salman Rushdie faces the threat of reprisals from Indian Muslims after a leading Islamic institute demanded the government ban his scheduled appearance at the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The demand from the Islamic body revived divisions over The Satanic Verses , his 1988 novel that Muslim groups have condemned as blasphemous. The book provoked 'outrage' throughout the Muslim world over the narrator's claim that disputed verses in the Koran had been revealed by the Archangel Gabriel.

Fatwas from the Darul Uloom seminary in Deoband are observed throughout the world. Its vice chancellor said tens of millions of muslims remain hurt about the novel. Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the institute head, said:

I call upon the Muslim organisations of the country to mount pressure on the centre to withdraw the visa and prevent him visiting India where [tens of millions] community members still feel hurt owing to the anti-Islamic remarks in his writings The Muslims cannot pardon him at any cost,

His remarks were supported by party leaders in Uttar Pradesh, India's largest state which is home to the seminary. Rajesh Dixit, general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, the state's second largest party, said the author's visit must be prevented to avoid insult to India's Muslims.

Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai and holds Indian travel documents, remains committed to appearing at the festival, he said. The author posted a defiant response on Twitter. Re: my Indian visit, for the record, I don't need a visa.

Update: Violence Prevails

18th January 2012. See  article from  telegraph.co.uk

jaipur literary festival logoSir Salman Rushdie's name has been dropped from an Indian literature festival amid fears for his safety after threats of protests by the country's most influential Islamic seminary.

The author of Midnight's Children, voted the best Booker Prize winner of the last 40 years, was quietly deleted from the Jaipur Literature Festival programme after the government voiced security concerns and said the opinions of protesters could not be ignored

Rushdie said in a statement that he had decided to cancel his trip. He said he had been informed by intelligence sources that paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld may be on their way to Jaipur to "eliminate" me . While I have some doubts about the accuracy of this intelligence, it would be irresponsible of me to come to the festival in such circumstances..

Update: Even a video link up was cancelled

18th January 2012. See  article from  independent.co.uk

India's reputation for upholding free speech suffered a body blow yesterday after a scheduled video address by Salman Rushdie to a literary festival was cancelled just minutes before it was due to start amid protests and fears of violence.

The British novelist had been due to take part in an hour-long video interview after alleged death threats and protests from Muslim leaders linked to his 1988 book The Satanic Verses persuaded him not to attend the Jaipur festival in person. But, having earlier indicated the event would go ahead, organisers announced it was being called off at the request of the owner of the festival's venue, who had been told by police that planned protests could end in violence.

Last night, Rushdie described what had taken place as a black farce and recalled a letter he had written to Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister when India became the first country to ban the book more than two decades ago. What kind of India do you want to live in?he said in an interview on Indian television. I find an India in which religious extremists can prevent the freedom of expression at a literary festival, in which the politicians are, let's say, in bed with those groups.

See  article from  telegraphindia.com

Rushdie also had a few choice words about censorship by threat of violence:

It's astonishing to me that suddenly not only my physical presence, but even my image on a video screen is considered to be unacceptable. I think it's pretty shocking.

While I've been cast as this so called enemy of Islam, which seems ludicrous to anyone who knows how I have written and spoken over the years, the real enemies of Islam are the leaders, the Deobandis, the various extremist leaders and their followers, who behave like this, because what they do is to strengthen the extremely negative image of Islam as an intolerant, repressive, and violent culture, as an ideology masquerading as a gentle faith, whereas actually what happens every time it's crossed, or every time it dislikes something, is that it resorts to threats and violence. People like this, who behave like this, are the ones who feed that image and they are the ones responsible for the negative views of Islam in the world, and they should be called the enemies of the faith.

I would have said that the vast majority of Indian Muslims really, frankly, don't give a damn whether I come or go. They have many other pressing concerns of their own, to do with their own economic conditions, their own educational conditions, their own prospects in the country, and they are concerned with those. They are concerned with their personal lives and whether a writer comes to speak at a literary festival or not, I would suspect, is a non-issue for the vast majority of Muslims in the country

 

25th January   

Insulting Law...

NSS challenges the law: an insult should not be a criminal offence
Link Here

National Secular Society logoThe National Secular Society has submitted a response to the Police Powers Consultation, calling on the Government to removeinsulting from Section 5 of the Public Order Act. A change in the law would protect freedom of expression for both the religious and non-religious. It would also lay down clearer guidelines for the police and direct them to focus on more serious cases.

The submission calls on the Government to recognise that the word insulting sets the bar for criminal offence far too low. The risk of being arrested can in itself have a chilling effect, preventing people from expressing legitimate views. Section 5 would retain threatening and abusive conduct to cover serious offences and there are other existing laws to protect the individual.

Section 5 of the Public Order Act currently states that it is an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.

The NSS submission makes the case that insult is too subjective and nebulous a concept, and therefore open to abuse, partly because a subjective response is hard to challenge. It also identifies a growing trend to claim offence on behalf of a religion.

Other organisations such as Liberty, Justice, the Christian Institute and the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights are also calling for the removal of insulting . The law must recognise that groups like the Christian Institute have a right to freedom of expression but it must also ensure thatinsulting cannot be used by the religious to prevent debate, analysis or criticism.

Section 5 has been used against religious campaigners against homosexuality, a British National Party member who displayed anti-Islamic posters in his window and people who have sworn at the police. A teenage anti-Scientology protestor was arrested, as was a student for calling a police horsegay . Both were released without charge but changing the law would make guidance for the police clearer. At the moment, there is evidence that some officers are not clear about what does or does not constitute an insult.

The removal of the word insulting from section 5 would also bring English law into line with Scottish law, which works effectively without criminalising insulting . For example, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2011 explicitly excludesinsult from the list of banned behaviour.

 

24th January   

Diary: Blasphemy!...

Talk on how British law is being used as a de facto blasphemy law
Link Here

centre for inquiry logo Blasphemy!
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square Holborn, London
Saturday 28th January 2012

Presented by CFI UK and The Ethical Society.

This event focuses on the criminalization of religious hatred, defamation, and insult under European human rights, and how this functions as a de facto blasphemy law.

Introduced by Dr Stephen Law of Heythrop College, University of London and Editor of Think (Royal Institute Philosophy) Provost of Centre for Inquiry UK.

  • 10.30am Registration
  • 11.00 am Kenan Malik - Beyond the sacred
  • 12.00 Andrew Copson - Blasphemy laws by the back door
  • 1.30 Austin Dacey - The Future of Blasphemy
  • 2.30 Jacob Mchangama - How hate speech laws are being used to enforce blasphemy norms (to be confirmed)
  • 3.30 Maryam Nazazie - Blasphemy, Offence, and Islamophobia limiting Citizen Rights
  • 4.30 End

Tickets are 10

 

24th January   

Turkish Youth Threatened by Sexy Pop Videos...

Turkish TV censor imposes massive fine for sexy dancing in music videos
Link Here

teoman videoTurkey's TV censor RTUK has imposed massive fines and rebuked a television channel and six musical videos judging them to be obscene and a threat to the morals of the country's youth.

According to a report on Turkish website Bianet, the 160,000-euro fine was imposed on the channel Show TV for the mambo and cha-cha-cha dances it broadcast, which the judges found to be erotic , and performed by dancers wearing obscene costumes. The same epithet was applied in fining parts of a serial M.U.C.K. . As the supreme council for Turkish radio and television noted, these transmissions had gone on the air during protected times of day and without and warning about the nature of their contents, even though they coulddamage the physical, mental or moral development of children and young people.

The six pop videos, which are available for view on other channels, were reprimanded for similar reasons. The films have clear erotic references, as in the case of one made by singer Teoman, and they are very popular because of the podium dancers they feature in a 1920s brothel setting. The dances feature a great deal of gyration, but no full nudity.

The artists interviewed by the site criticised the reprimand. Do we have to play with the Smurfs in order to make it here? asked Murat Dalkilic, somewhat ironically.

Criticism of the intervention has also come from opposition newspaper Hurriyet, which opposes the Islamic government ruling under Turkey's secular constitution. The paper speaks of unfounded fines imposed because the honourable members of the RTUK panel have ruled that sexy dancing is an act of evil.

The fined videos are: Tek Basina Dans (dancing alone) by Teoman, Beni Seviyor (loves me) by Berkan, Geri Donus Olsa (if you should come back) by Murat Boz, Merhaba Merhaba (hi there) by Murat Dalkilic, Saat Uc(3 o'clock) by Bengu and Bize Yeter (enough for us) by Ziynet Sali.

 

24th January   

Update: Believe or Else!...

Indonesia considers blasphemy charge against atheist writing on Facebook
Link Here

Indonesia flagAn Indonesian civil servant who moderates a Facebook page for atheists says he has been beaten and could face dismissal and even jail for blasphemy.

The man named Aleander, told the Jakarta Globe a group of men waylaid him and beat him Wednesday when he reached his office at the Dharmasraya Development Planning Board.

Dharmasraya Police Chief Chairul Aziz said Alexander is in protective custody.

Alexander said he was an observant Muslim until 2008. But he came to the conclusion that there could not be a god because of the disaster in the world. He recently posted God does not exist on the Facebook page of the Minang Atheists.

The West Sumatra Coordinating Agency to Supervise Religion and Beliefs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs will recommend whether to prosecute Alexander, Chairul said. The maximum term for blasphemy is five years.

A Muslim intolerant in West Sumatra said that if Alexander does not repent and join one of Indonesia's six officially recognized religions he should be fired.

Update: Charged

28th January 2012. See  article from  abcnews.go.com

Police chief Colonel Chairul Azis, says Aan has now been charged because he used the social networking site to spread beliefs that violate the law. He says Aan also lied on his job application by claiming he was Muslim.

 

23rd January   

Extremely Stupid...

Norwegian arrested for posting an internet video calling for the death of Norwegian ministers and royals
Link Here

Norway flagA 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of having posted a hateful video to the internet calling on Allah to destroy members of the Norwegian government and royal family.

The man, a Norwegian citizen with a Central American family background, was arrested at his home by policemen from the Telemark police service and the domestic police intelligence agency, PTS. He faces preliminary charges of threatening state officials and incitement to terrorism.

The suspect's lawyer, John Christian Elden, said his client admitted to being behind the video but did not believe it contained any threats: He was not previously known to police, and he doesn't think he has done anything illegal, even though he admits that he's the one who posted the video.

A link to the video was posted in a Facebook group with 1,600 members called Demonstrasjon: Norske soldater ut av Afghanistan [Demonstration: Norwegian soldiers out of Afghanistan]. The group's aim is to gather protesters for a rally outside the Oslo parliament. The number of group members has dropped to below 1,300 since the video appeared there.

In the video, images of Crown Prince Haakon, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store are accompanied by a song in Arabic that contains the words: Oh Allah, destroy them, and let it be painful .

 

23rd January   

A Trojan Clothes Horse for Western Influence...

Iranian police shut down toy shops selling Barbie dolls
Link Here

Barbie Fashionistas Spotlight Cutie Doll Teheran police last week told toy shops that the Barbie doll can no longer be sold and as a result some of Tehran's large toy stores have started removing them from shelve.

The police wasted little time and shut down dozens of toy shops in Teheran offering Barbie dolls for selling manifestations of Western culture, the Mehr news agency reported.

The move comes as clerics and conservative quarters in Iran have stepped up their criticism of Western culture. The Gerdab website argued last week that playing with the impossibly busty and long-legged Barbie triggers a psychological change in children and increases the influence of values that go against the values of Iranian-Islamic culture.

In the mid 1990s, Iranian clerics called the full-figured, glamorous Barbie doll, not to mention her clingy gowns, skimpy swimsuits and her more lately acquired feminist pretentions, a Trojan clothes horse for Western influences into the Islamic republic.

In 2002, the influential Institute for the Development of Children and Young Adults institute attempted to offset the popularity of Barbie and her life partner Ken with an Iranian version called Dara and Sara. The modestly dressed brother and sister were aimed at promoting traditional Islamic values. But it soon became clear that the dumpy Iranian dolls could not capture the hearts of Iran's children.

Several months ago a conservative website criticized the Iranian authorities for not doing enough to stop the use of Barbie's image on such children's items as schoolbags, stationery, clothes and watches. The website claimed that the doll is taking over the souls of the youngsters and that the authorities need to collaborate with local manufacturers to encourage the use of Iranian and Islamic characters instead of Barbie.

 

23rd January   

Kicked Out...

Chief rabbi of Amsterdam suspended for signing up to the concept that gays can be 'cured'
Link Here

aryeh ralbagThe chief rabbi of Amsterdam, Aryeh Ralbag, was temporarily relieved from his post by the board of the Orthodox Jewish community, after he signed a document describing homosexuality as an inclination whichcan be modified and healed.

Ralbag had recently signed the document titled Declaration On The Torah Approach To Homosexuality, which called on authority figures to guide same-sex strugglers towards a path of healing and overcoming their inclinations.

The community group known as the NIHS said in a statement:

Rabbi Ralbag's signature may give the impression the Orthodox Jewish community of Amsterdam shares his view. This is absolutely untrue. Homosexuals are welcome at the Amsterdam Jewish community.

 

23rd January   

Offsite: New Muslim Suffragettes...

The dangers of trying to help
Link Here  full story: Sharia Law in the UK...Shariah tribunals operating in Britain

The IndependentAn increasing number of Muslim women activists are receiving death threats, fatwas and even hate-mail from extremist male and female Muslims. Their crime: Rescuing fellow Muslim women from violent and life threatening situations.

With heightened media sensitivity surrounding forced marriage, honour based violence and domestic violence we are all too aware of the suffering experienced by vulnerable and marginalised Muslim women. But we know little about the Muslim women activists who risk their lives to fight for the rights of oppressed Muslim women. These women are the New Muslim Suffragettes (NMS) of The United Kingdom.

As wives and mothers themselves, they stand alone in their communities and apart from other prominent Muslim organisations, in offering sanctuary and support for vulnerable and marginalised women. The NMS provide refuge, advocacy and access to the British legal and welfare system for women whose daily lives consist of beatings, imprisonment, torture and even marital rape, as well as the mental health ramifications that unfold over time.

In seeking justice for Muslim women whose human rights have been eroded through hyper-conservative interpretations of Islam, the NMS turn to British Law. But in affording marginalised Muslim women their rights the NMS are perceived by extremist Muslims asfeminists , a term loaded in the Muslim world with connotations of modernity, resistance and westernisation, and perhaps more importantly a term which challenges the patriarchal underpinning of Islam dictated by extremist Muslims.

So they face a backlash in the form of persecution, intimidation and death threats. Fearing for their lives the NMS are forced into hiding and prevented from undertaking the very work they set out to achieve -- to highlight and prevent the gross abuse of human rights many Muslim women suffer. Instead the NMS risk becoming the vulnerable and marginalised Muslim women that they originally set out to help and support. It's time for the public to be aware of the plight of the NMS in the United Kingdom.

...Read the full article

 

23rd January   

Update: One Sided Contempt...

Double standard in the application of Egyptian contempt of religion law
Link Here  full story: Muslims attacking Copts...Minority christian Copts uder continuous attack

Egypt flagAnger and frustration have risen among Egypt's Coptic Christians after the recent escalation of court cases against Copts charged with contempt of Islam. Copts accuse the authorities, including the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), of exercising double standards in the application of thecontempt of religion law.

In the last month three cases have been brought against Copts, based on accusations mostly from postings on Facebook or Twitter of cartoons or comments deemed by Islamists as insulting to Islam.

Copts have received a barrage of insults to their faith and their symbols and have had churches torched and destroyed, and no one has done anything about it, said Dr Naguib Gobrail, head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations. The law of contempt of religion is applied solely to punish the Copts.

The case against billionaire Naguib Sawiris, a Copt, for contempt of religion after tweeting cartoons, was heard on January 14 before a misdemeanor court in Cairo. The case was brought forth by Islamist lawyer Mamdouh Ismail and fourteen other lawyers, who filed a complaint accusing Sawiris of defamation of Islam and deliberatelymocking Islamic symbols and attire.

Sawiris, who is also a top political figure and founder of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, had posted on his twitter account in June 2011 an illustration of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse wearing a niqab (full face veil); it was accompanied by the commentMickey and Minnie after. After the Islamist uproar, he apologized and if it was misunderstood and expressed his full respect for Islam and Muslims. He removed the cartoons, which he had originally copied from Saudi Arabian Internet websites. Islamist organized a boycott his mobile telecommunications network Mobinil, which lost over one million customers.

Three week ago Coptic student Gamal Masood (17), from the village of Bahig and Adr in Assuit province, was assaulted by his fellow students after the school social worker had printed and hung on a wall a web page from Facebook with the photo of Gamal and a drawing which Muslims regarded as that of their prophet. Although he denied the charge, violence and protests broke out in three villages. Muslims from the surrounding villages protested for two days. They torched his home, together with four other homes of friends and relatives. To calm them down, the head of security promised them that Gamal and his family would be evicted. It was decided that Gamal, also accused of causing sedition, would be handed over to prosecution, and he and his entire family would be expelled from the county. Moreover, it was decided that the priests in the area had to publish an official apology in all the media. The young student is still detained, and his trial is scheduled for February 7.

Coptic Romany Saeed Saad, from Marouf village, Edfu, in Aswan province, was condemned by Muslim villagers to be expelled from the village and forced to sell his home. He was accused of disrespecting Islam's prophet during a brawl with another Copt during which Romany allegedly cursed a prophet (it is not clear which prophet was referenced). The villagers sent a query to Al-Azhar Fatwa section on January 2, 2012 to seek their opinion. The Fatwa section answered that there was no blame as the quarrel was between two Copts and mentioning the wordprophet does not mean it was the Prophet Mohamed. The Salafists in the village rejected this opinion and sought a second one, all the while preventing the return of the Romany family to their village.

At the end of November 2011 a Cairo court sentenced 23-year-old Copt Ayman Youssef Mansour to three years in prison for expressing opinions on his Facebook page which were considered derogatory to Islam and a threat to national unity. The verdict did not disclose what he said. The authorities tracked him down through his Internet addressafter receiving a huge amount of complaints.

Medhat Kelada, head of the Union of Coptic European Organizations for Human Rights (UCEOHR), criticized the Egyptian government believing that the law on the defamation of religion in Egypt applies to Christians only. Muslims disrespect and demonize the Christian faith openly in the media while the authorities look the other way.

Why has the law of contempt of religion not been applied to Salafist Dr. Borhamy, says Kelada, who issued a Fatwa two weeks ago for Muslims 'not to extend Christmas greeting to Copts' on January 7, 2012 (Coptic Christmas), but was applied to the Copt Ayman Youssef Mansour, who is serving a three-year prison term for expressing anti-Islamic opinions on the web? Why bring a case against Sawiris while Borhamy is left unchecked and is still insulting Christianity and calling Copts non-believers who ought to be ostracized in the media?

 

22nd January   

Offsite: Don't You Believe It!...

Strong religious belief is no excuse for intimidation
Link Here  full story: Religion Trumps Free Speech...Religious intimdation cancels public debate about sharia

The IndependentIt's been a dreadful week for free speech. A meeting at a prestigious London college had to be abandoned on Monday evening when members of the audience were filmed and threatened by an Islamic extremist.

Then the president of a student society at another London college was forced to resign after a Muslim organisation called for a ban on a joky image of the Prophet Mohammed.

Finally, on Friday, the author Sir Salman Rushdie cancelled an appearance at India's largest literary festival, saying he feared an assassination attempt after protests by Muslim clerics.

Almost as sinister as this series of events has been the reaction to them.

 

22nd January   

Update: Increased Violence...

Boko Haram murders 150 people in coordinate attacks in the Nigerian city of Kano
Link Here  full story: Boko Haram...Nigeria's Taliban terrorise christians

Boko Haram logoCo-ordinated attacks by islamic extremists in the northern Nigerian city of Kano on Friday killed about 150 people, witnesses and reports say.

Hospitals are struggling to deal with the numbers of killed and injured.

A series of explosions ripped apart police buildings, passport offices and immigration centres around the city, which is now under a 24-hour curfew.

Boko Haram militants said they carried out the attacks, which would be their bloodiest assault to date.

The group has said it wants to overthrow the national government and install an Islamic state.

President Goodluck Jonathan promised that the perpetrators would face the full wrath of the law . As a responsible government, we will not fold our hands and watch enemies of democracy, for that is what these mindless killers are, perpetrate unprecedented evil in our land.

 

22nd January   

Update: Dark Days...

Private members bill to ban the Burkha in Britain runs out of time
Link Here

House of Commons logoA British proposed law to ban the burka from being worn in public was among legislation consigned to the private members bill dustbin.

Tory Philip Hollobone's Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill failed to get a second reading on the last day for consideration of backbench MPs' Bills this parliamentary session.

Hollobone has previously described the burka as offensive and against the British way of life .

Hollobone's Bill was one of 48 pieces of legislation for which there was no time for debate after the day was dominated by consideration of the Daylight Saving Bill.

 

21st January   

Diary: February 11th 2012...

A Day to Defend Free Expression
Link Here  full story: Religion Trumps Free Speech...Religious intimdation cancels public debate about sharia

one law for all logoOne Law for All is calling for a rally in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion on 11 February 2012 in central London from 2-4pm.

We are also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on 11 February in countries world-wide.

The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. SayingWho gave these kuffar the right to speak? , an Islamist website called for the disruption of the meeting. Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims.

Whilst none of this is new, recent events reveal an increased confidence of Islamists to censor free expression publicly, particularly given the support received from universities and other bodies in the name of false tolerance, cultural sensitivity and respect.

The right to criticise religion, however, is a fundamental right that is crucial to many, including Muslims.

Clearly, the time has come to take a firm and uncompromising stand for free expression and against all forms of threats and censorship.

11 February is our chance to take that stand.

You need to be there.

Enough is enough.

 

20th January   

Update: Zenne Dancer...

Film raises awareness of gay honour killings in Turkey
Link Here  full story: Honour Crime...International honour killings and family crime

zenne dancerThe suspected honour killing of a gay man in Turkey has provided the inspiration for a new film that aims to raise awareness about homophobia in the country.

The producer and co-director of Zenne Dancer , Mehmet Binay, has taken inspiration from the tragic death of 26-year-old Ahmet Yildiz, a close friend, who he claims was murdered in 2008 by his own father for being gay.

As reported by CNN, Yildiz's father is still at large, with court documents identifying him as the main suspect. A copy of the indictment suggests the father's motive to be that he did not accept the victim to be in a gay relationship .

Speaking to CNN, Binay said:

Death and murder is still on the agenda of our country. We can't get rid of this mentality. People need to tolerate each other. They need to understand that different identities can live next to each other without disturbing each other.

 

20th January   

Updated: The Psychological Disease Called the Religious Police...

Brave princess calls for reform in Saudi Arabia
Link Here  full story: Religious Police in Saudi...A law unto themselves

basma bint saud bin abdul azizHer Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdul Aziz is one of the more unlikely critics of the e'lite that runs Saudi Arabia. The oil state boasts a 15,000-strong royal family but it is rare for a voice from within its ranks to become part of the growing clamour for reform in the desert kingdom.

A 47-year-old divorcee and a successful businesswoman, she has spent the last five years in the country building a parallel career as a journalist and a blogger, confronting head on sensitive subjects from the abuse of women and poverty in the world's second biggest oil exporter to the chilling effect of the mutawa, the kingdom's draconian religious police.

...

This is the atmosphere you have now. It is such a non-tolerant atmosphere, even of other sects. Any other sect that doesn't actually belong to our community is thought to be - I'm not going to be sharp but very specific - not the true Islam.

It is an intolerance which she claims pervades Saudi society, fromented by the mutawa, otherwise known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices, ironically founded her father to act as a check on traders charging inflated prices.

The princess said: Our religious police has the most dangerous effect on society - the segregation of genders, putting the wrong ideas in the heads of men and women, producing psychological diseases that never existed in our country before, like fanatacism. The mutawa are everywhere, trying to lead society to a very virtuous life that doesn't exist. Everthing is now behind closed doors.

...Read the full article

Update: Religious police toned down a bit

20th January 2012. See  article from  digitaljournal.com

Saudi flagKing Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has now relieved the current head of the religious police, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Humayen, from his position.

He has been replaced by Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Asheikh, who is considered to be more moderate. According to the Arab News, new appointee Al-Asheikh has voiced support for a more moderate approach, including the opinion that enforced segregation by gender in public is unjustified. He also supports a ban on the marriage of minors.

Earlier this month Saudi Princess Basma, niece of King Abdullah, openly criticized the religious police who enforce sharia law on the populace. Islam Times reported that the princess said the police had the biggest effect on the Saudi society through separating the sexes and inducing wrong thoughts in the heads of men and women which result in psychological diseases that were unknown in Saudi Arabia like extremism.Other Saudis have also complained that the role of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has become too aggressive.

 

19th January   

Spanish Inferno...

Internet petition calls for the removal of a photo from a Madrid exhibition
Link Here

inferno sergio parraMore than 20,000 people have signed on to an internet petition demanding that the mayor of Madrid, Ana Botella, should immediately remove a supposedly offensive photograph now on display at the Teatro Espanol in the Spanish capital.

The photograph in question is an image of nude male model who cover his genitals with a print of a famous painting of Jesus Christ by Diego Velazquez. The photograph by Sergio Parra is called Inferno , something which detractors says is a further insult and incitement to Catholics in Madrid.

The internet petition campaign is led by HazteOir.org and MasLibres.org. In 2011, the two largely Catholic pressure groups were successful in getting the same image removed at last year's Theatre Festival in Merida.

The petition makes clear the views of the signatories that their taxes should not be spent on this type of exhibit, demanding that the photo should be removed immediately for offending the religious sentiments and assailing Christians' right to have their symbols respected.

 

19th January   

Update: Dangerous Websites...

Iran confirms death sentence for webmasters
Link Here

Iran flagAhmad Reza Hashempour was arrested in 2007. A lower court had sentenced him to death, and the Supreme Court this week upheld Hashempour's death sentence on charges ofmembership in anti-religion and blasphemous websites.

During his four-year detention, Ahmad Reza Hashemour spent a long time in solitary where he was physically and psychologically tortured to make television confessions against himself.

This is the latest injustice in the Mozelleen 3 case. Many of the suspects in this case were forced to make television confessions against themselves and to accept the charges leveled against them. Several individuals implicated in this case released open letters several months after their arrests, speaking up about unbearable torture during their detention period. Another suspect in this case, Vahid Asghari, was also sentenced to death this week, after four years in prison.

Update: Death sentence confirmed for Canadian website programmer

19th January 2012. See  article from  xbiz.com

Website programmer Saeed Malekpour's death sentence for developing and promoting porn sites has been upheld by Iran's supreme court. The Iranian-born Canadian resident now faces imminent execution despite a reprieve last June when the sentence was suspended and set for judicial review after his defense lawyers introduced expert evidence amidst an international outcry for justice.

He appeared on state television confessing to a series of crimes detailing his involvement with porn sites that led to his conviction. But in a letter from his prison cell, the programmer ultimately retracted his confessions and claimed he made the statements under duress that included physical and psychological torture and threats against his family.

Malekpour wrote:

Once, in October 2008, the interrogators stripped me while I was blindfolded and threatened to rape me with a bottle of water. While I remained blindfolded and handcuffed, several individuals armed with cables, batons, and their fists struck and punched me. At times, they would flog my head and neck.

Such mistreatment was aimed at forcing me to write what the interrogators were dictating, and to compel me to play a role in front of the camera based on their scenarios.

Saeed's lawyers were told that his death sentence will be issued this week.

 

19th January   

Updated: Religious Police in Indonesia...

Police harangue teenage girls for wearing shorts
Link Here

police bulliesTangerang Police are defending their actions after a photograph emerged of policewomen reprimanding teenage girls for wearing shorts.

Spokesman Comr Haru Manurun initially claimed that the picture from state news agency Antara simply showed female police searching and photographing two teenage girls for weapons prior to a football match in the city on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Questioned further about the photo, which Antara said show the policewomen scolding the girls for for wearing shorts, Haru admitted Tangerang Police had told inappropriately dressed girls and women to not wear shorts to avoid pornography.

We asked the policewomen to suggest and encourage [the girls] not to wear shorts because we wanted to avoid unwanted things.

When we saw women in shorts, we scolded them because, perhaps, it is unfavorable in the eyes of the public and does not conform to public [standards of decency].

He said it was strongly suggested that the females did not wear similar clothing to the next football match.

Asked about the apparent age of the girls, Haru said it was of no consequence: Ages doesn't matter, but appropriate clothes do matter.

 

18th January   

Brainless Censorship...

South African advert censor bans empty headed church jibe at atheists
Link Here

brainless advertA church advertising campaign that depicted atheists as empty headed has been banned by South Africa's advert censor.

South Africa's Advertising Standards Authority ruled that a billboard that suggested non-believers considered their existence to be accidental was likely to be found offensive.

The offending poster showed a picture of a man holding his hands against his temples in thought above the line An atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident , famously attributed to British poet Francis Thompson. It was erected last year in a prominent position on the property of the Rivers Church in Johannesburg.

However, the ASA noted that it was obliged to consider the advertisement's content after it received a complaint from a non-Christian member of the public. The ASA wrote:

The church submitted that the advertisement is based on Psalm 14v and Psalm 53v1, which say "only foolish say in their hearts there is no God".

It is apparent that the proverbial line is drawn when advertising propagates statements that undermine the dignity and constitutionally protected right to freedom of religious beliefs of any identifiable sector of society.

The visuals of a man holding the sides of his empty head suggest that atheists are 'empty-headed or lack intelligence, presumably as a result of the above belief communicated.

This is something that would likely offend all atheists in a manner that the Code seeks to prevent.

The church was ordered to pull down the advert immediately and was banned from using the material again.

 

18th January   

Violent Threat Silences Debate...

University debate about sharia cancelled after blatant threat of violence from a man who turned up at the event
Link Here  full story: Religion Trumps Free Speech...Religious intimdation cancels public debate about sharia

queen mary logoA talk on sharia and human rights by NSS Council Member Anne Marie Waters' at Queen Mary College, London was cancelled at the last moment because of an Islamist who made serious threats against everyone there.

The talk was due to take place on 16 January but before it started, a man entered the lecture theatre, stood at the front with a camera and filmed the audience. He then said that he knew who everyone was, where they lived and if he heard anything negative about the Prophet, he would track them down.

The man also filmed students in the foyer and threatened to murder them and their families. On leaving the building, he joined a large group of men, apparently there to support him. Students were told by security to stay in the lecture theatre for their own safety.

Jennifer Hardy, President of Queen Mary Atheism Society, who organised the event said:

This event was supposed to be an opportunity for people of different religions and perspectives to debate, at a university that is supposed to be a beacon of free speech and debate.

Only two complaints had been made to the Union prior to the event, and the majority of the Muslim students at the event were incredibly supportive of it going ahead. These threats were an aggressive assault on freedom of speech and the fact that they led to the cancellation of our talk was severely disappointing for all of the religious and non-religious students in the room who wanted to engage in debate.

The police were contacted about the incident.

Update: Pitiful Security

25th January 2012. See article from freethoughtblogs.com by Maryam Namazie

My One Law for All Co-Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to speak at a meeting on Sharia Law and Human Rights at the University of London last night.

It was cancelled by the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society organisers after police had to be called in due to Islamist threats. One Islamist filmed everyone at the meeting and announced he would hunt down those who said anything negative about Islam's prophet. Outside the hall, he threatened to kill anyone who defamed the prophet. Reference was made to the Jesus and Mo cartoon saga at UCL.

The University's security guard -- a real gem --arrived first only to blame the speaker and organisers rather than those issuing death threats. He said: If you will have these discussions, what do you expect? Err, to speak without being threatened with death maybe?

 

18th January   

Update: Dubai is Damned Dangerous...

British engineer sentenced to jail for saying 'damned mosques' in exasperation at slow building process
Link Here  full story: Dangerous Dubai...Westerners jailed for trivia

UAE flagA British engineer is facing a month in jail after he told colleagues in a meeting, When will we finish with the damn mosques?

The worker, who has not been named, told an appeals court that he did not mean to insult the Islamic religion.

The British engineer works at the parks and recreation section of Abu Dhabi Municipality, and is appealing against a one-month prison sentence imposed by the Court of Misdemeanours. The slow completion of a Mosque in Abu Dhabi caused the British engineer to make the statement that has landed him in court and facing jail.

The engineer told the court he lost his temper during a meeting because the project he was leading was progressing slowly.

He was then reported to the police by his work 'colleagues' for asking the offending question.

A decision on the appeal will be announced on 7th February

Update: Failed Appeal

8th February 2012.  See  article from  7days.ae  

A British engineer has lost his appeal for insulting Islam after he used a derogatory word to ask co-workers when they would be finished building mosques in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Appeal Court ruled that the one-month jail sentence would stand. The engineer, who was working for the parks and recreations section of Abu Dhabi Municipality, had said he merely made the comment during the meeting as he was keen to finish designing a mosque garden.

The court heard he loudly asked colleagues the question, inserting a blasphemous word before saying mosque . One of his colleagues then complained to police. The man had previously told the lower court that he did not intend to insult Muslims and was merely emphasising his words to show how keen he was to finish the project. He added that he respected the UAE and Islam and never intended to show disrespect to the mosque on which he was working.

He was appealing the one-month sentence imposed by the Abu Dhabi Court of Misdemeanours.

 

18th January   

Update: Violent Cocktail of Religious Fervour...

Protesters attack Indonesian ministry in support of banning alcohol
Link Here

Indonesia flagHundreds of extreme Muslims attacked the offices of Indonesia's home affairs ministry to demand the government maintain by-laws banning alcohol in certain districts, reports said.

Around 500 protesters, including members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), hurled rocks and eggs at the office complex in Jakarta to reject a proposal to revoke anti-alcohol rules in force in some areas, Kompas.com news website said.

Alcohol... has proven to be very harmful to people's health and peace. There is no good reason to revoke the bylaws, the group's secretary-general Muhammad al-Khaththath was quoted as saying.

FPI wants Indonesia to follow Islamic sharia law and has launched a series of violent vigilante attacks since 2000, with targets including the US embassy and nightclubs.

 

17th January   

Death of a Dictator...

Petition protesting religious intolerance in North Korea to be presented to their London Embassy
Link Here

North Korea flagA petition calling for religious freedom is to be presented to the North Korean embassy in London on January 20.

The Release International petition has amassed 48,000 signatures and is a response to the dire human rights situation in North Korea, where Christianity is banned and Christians face torture, imprisonment and even death for their faith.

Release chief executive Andy Dipper said:

Under this notoriously repressive regime Christians are among those held in prison camps, which have been likened to concentration camps. They are held there simply because of their religious beliefs.

Thousands more live out their faith in secret to avoid detection by the authorities.

Our hope is that the change in leadership following the death of Kim Jong-il will lead to greater freedom of religion and that the persecution of Christians will end.

A copy of the petition will also be presented to Downing Street in the hope that the British Government will press for religious freedom in the closed-off country.

 

16th January   

Swatsika Spin...

New York gets wound up by jewelry depicting the Buddhist swastika
Link Here

buddhist swastikaBejewelled, a jewelry store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn owned by Miss Young Sook Kim, had been selling Hindu/Buddhist swastika earrings for $5.99.

Despite clearly rotating in the opposite direction to the Nazi swastika, as most Buddhist, and even neo-Pagan swastikas do, pressure from one NY Councilman, as well as politicians, the Anti-Defamation League, and the media, has been brought down hard on Miss Kim.

New York City Councilman Steve Levin personally visited the store and demanded the Korean owner remove them from her shelves.

According to Fox News, A day earlier, politicians and advocates told FoxNews.com that the earrings were the latest example of anti-Semitism in New York and New Jersey. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer demanded that the store immediately stop selling them.

Ron Meier, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League's New York office says that he was instrumental in getting the earrings removed. Although he acknowledges that the owner understood them as Hindu/Buddhist, as far as he's concerned the fact that other people will wrongly interpret it as a sign of evil is reason enough to have it effectively banned.

It took a little while to really bridge the cultural divide, he says, because they really understood it in one way and New York understood it in very much a different way.

 

16th January   

Censorship by Thuggery...

Indian gay artist assaulted and accused of ruining islam
Link Here

krishan paintingA gay artist from India has been attacked for featuring gay-related work in his latest exhibition.

Balbir Krishan was assaulted by a disguised assailant who later defaced part of the collection in a brief vandalism spree.

The Times of India report that the attacker entered the exhibition space at New Delhi's Lalit Kala Akademi gallery with his face covered by a handkerchief. He pushed and kicked Krishan, a double amputee who has lost both his legs, while hurling insults.

The artist said the crime happened after he received a number of telephone threats regarding his exhibition, which centres around same-sex relationships. The unidentified caller accused the artist of spreading homosexuality in India and being determined toruin Islam .

Posters designed to promote the event were also burnt and ripped in the run-up to the opening night.

 

16th January   

Update: Banning Women...

Innovations in Israeli gynecology
Link Here  full story: Invisible Women in israel...Women removed from the media lest men get offended

puah institute logoThe controversial exclusion of women from various settings in Israel because of pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders reached a new level this week with a major conference on gynecological advances that is permitting only males to address the audience.

The conference on Innovations in Gynecology/Obstetrics and Halacha [Jewish law] is being held by the Puah Institute this in Jerusalem. There will be many qualified female professionals, but none will be permitted to speak from the podium. Women are allowed in the audience, in a section separate from men.

At least two male Israeli doctors have withdrawn from making presentations at this week's Puah event once they were made aware of the exclusion of women, or at least once public outrage over the exclusion became apparent.

Several Israeli human rights groups have protested the men-only nature of the conference. While it is considered a private rather than a public forum, and therefore not subject to Israeli policies against discrimination, Puah receives considerable funding from the Health Ministry, these complainants point out. However this funding is unlikely to be under threat as the most senior health minister is in fact Ultra-Orthodox himself.

 

14th January   

Update: High Priests of PC...

Advert censor explains why ASA is so easily offended by minor joviality about religion
Link Here  full story: Antonio Federici Ice Cream...Ice cream adverts wind up the nutters

SalivationThe Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed a complaint from the National Secular Society which had accused the ASA of unreasonably restricting freedom of expression by banning advertisements too readily if they risk offending even a few believers.

In a long justification of its enforcement of the Code of Advertising Practice, the wording of which the NSS also attacked, James Best, chairman of the CAP, refused to accept any of the NSS's points about its banning of ads that poke even mild fun at religion.

The complaint arose from the banning of a series of advertisements from the ice cream company Antonio Federici, which, in the ASA's word were offensive, because they believed they mocked Catholicism .

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said:

When the adverts were banned, the NSS said that the ASA was introducing a new sort of blasphemy law through the back door. This response from the ASA gives us no reason to change that opinion. When did it become illegal to satirise Catholicism?

We have become increasingly concerned about an unreasonable deference to religion by the ASA. We were particularly irked by the banning of the ice cream ads, one of which (in the ASA's own words) showed two priests in full robes who looked as though they were about to kiss. One of the men also wore rosary beads and held a spoon in his hand; the other held a tub of ice cream. The ad included text that stated We Believe in Salivation.

The advertisements were ruled by the Authority to have breached the Code of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the number of complainants is often pitifully small, just six in the case of the priests and ice cream ad.

The Code of Advertising Practice includes the ruling that ads:

should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability.

The NSS complained last year to the ASA, and a high level meeting was arranged between the ASA's chair, Lord Smith of Finsbury (supported by senior executives), and Keith Porteous Wood and NSS senior campaigns officer, Tessa Kendall.

Wood said:

We emphasised the importance of freedom of expression and pointed out that one of their adjudications had recently been overruled by the courts on grounds of freedom of expression. Ironically, the case had been brought by a fundamentalist church, in respect of the banning of its advert criticising Gay Pride parade inBelfast. The ad was headlined 'The word of God against sodomy' and invited those who opposed the parade to meet peacefully.

The NSS is now considering its next step.

 

14th January   

Ghostly Hype...

India's film censor cuts Ghost, hyped as the country's most violent film ever
Link Here

ghost crucifictionThe major Bollywood film, Ghost , has received the full censorial treatment. Supposedly excessive gore-content offended India's film censor who made severe cuts.

Director Puja Jatinder Bedi says that some of the cuts have been unjustified. The censor board cut one of the most important scenes in my film. It's a scene where the ghost gets crucified like Jesus Christ. The scene was very pivotal for the screenplay,said Bedi.

The censor board felt that the crucifixion would hurt religious sentiments of the Christian community. Also, the brutality was being perpetrated on a woman. The blood and gore content is high enough for Ghost to be rated as the most violent film ever. So, the censors have toned down all the murder sequences,she added.

However, when contacted, J.P. Singh, the censor board's regional officer at Mumbai, said that the crucifixion sequence had only been reduced, not removed.

That scene is still there in the film. Only its length has been shortened to reduce the impact of the extreme brutality shown on a girl. The examining committee has given five-six cuts. All of them were extremely brutal. There was a scene showing a dead body's legs being cut. Another excessively violent scene showed a girl being beaten for a very long time by many people,said Singh.

 

14th January   

Updated: Religious Debate Over a Beer...

Jesus and Mo cartoon winds up the University College London Students' Union
Link Here

Jesus and Mo cartoonThe University College London Union (UCLU) has ordered the Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society to stop using a Jesus & Mo cartoon on its Facebook page.

The group uses the cartoon to publicise its weekly pub social in London, but was told to remove it because it may cause offence to Muslim students.

The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies immediately launched a petition (now with 3697 signatures) against this brazen censorship by the UCLU. The petition reads:

We the undersigned urge the University College London Union to immediately halt their attempts to censor the UCLU Atheist, Secularist & Humanist Society and uphold its members' right to freedom of expression.

The Alex Gabriel blog expalined that the group had been sent a message by a student union official which stated that a number of complaints had been made about the use of the image -- partly because, contrary to Islamic teachings, it depicts theProphet Mohammed, and partly because it depicts him around alcohol.

The union then told the atheist society to remove the image immediately and inform them once this had been done.

Secularists including Richard Dawkins have rallied to support  the atheist group.

Responding to the petition Dawkins said:

Jesus and Mo cartoons are wonderfully funny and true. They could offend only those actively seeking to be offended -- which says it all.

The Jesus & Mo creator said

The student atheist society at UCL have my complete support. I am full of admiration for the firm and principled stance they are taking against religious censorship. My primary reason for drawing the cartoons is to make atheists laugh.

Meanwhile S M Tahir Nasser of UCLU Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association (AMSA), was not so impressed and said:

It is not for Mr. Dawkins or anyone else to decide what views are and are not to be found offensive to others. Once a particular act is deemed to be offensive to another, it is only good manners to refrain from, at the very least, repeating that act.

In this particular case, when at first the cartoon was uploaded, it could have been mistaken as unintentional offense. When certain Muslims voiced their offense over the issue, for any civil, well-mannered individual or group of individuals, it should then be a question as to the feelings of others and the cartoons should then have been removed ...

Freedom to insult is the very worst aspect of freedom of expression. It may be argued that such cartoons are in the manner of satire and that satire is a key element in freedom of expression. When examined however, it is clear that these cartoons are not satirical in the least. Satire is characterised by the bringing to light of vices for the purpose of initiating reform within the individual or group of individuals who are satirised.

Was this the purpose of cartoons with Jesus and Mohammed (peace be upon them both) lying in bed together, or comparing the number of Twitter followers they have? It is clear that the purpose of the cartoon panels is not to initiate serious discussion regarding the holy founders of either religion. The cartoons only have one purpose -- to mock and deride and poke fun. If Christians or Muslims take offense at this, it is not for atheists to rejoinder withthey could offend only those actively seeking to be offended.

It is not for Atheists to decide what will or will not offend believers of different religions.

Nasser went on to complain that the debacle had unleashed a great many Jesus & Mo cartoon strips on Facebook and on other sites.

Update: Sort of compromise reached

14th January 2012. See  article from  guardian.co.uk

A spokesman for University College London's student union said the request to remove the cartoon remained in place, but that decisions regarding advertising for events remained at the discretion of individual societies:

Society presidents take responsibility for their own publicity, and it is not vetted by UCLU prior to distribution. They are provided with equality training prior to running a society, to help them understand the balance between freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity.

But the atheist society took the move as a climbdown and thanked the thousands of secularists who signed a petition in its support.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the society's president, Robbie Yellon said:

University College London Union has recognised that mistakes were made and that the initial correspondence with our society was flawed. The union is to review its stance on such matters and has said that this will not happen again. They can no longer call on us to withdraw the image. We welcome these developments, which set an important precedent for other universities. We also feel it appropriate to recognise the swift response of the union, which certainly helped us reach this positive conclusion.

A spokesman for the students union said that the atheist society had agreed to show more consideration about how it advertised social events, but because of the union's procedure the society could still face disciplinary action.

Update: Resigned

20th January 2012.  See  article from  dailymail.co.uk

The president of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society at the prestigious University College London (UCL), Robbie Yellon, has stepped down over the controversy.

Secretary for the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, Michael Paynter,said:

Robbie stepped aside because he signed up as president to organise events and run a student society.

He did not appreciate the stress he would be under when dealing with a controversy like this, so he wanted to make way for someone else.

Offsite: Intolerant Islam

25th January 2012.  See article from rhysmorgan.co by Rhys Morgan

In order to show solidarity for their cause, I uploaded the image to Facebook and set it as my profile picture for about a week. I then changed back to another photo and went on my usual life.

Until today. Someone who is a Muslim discovered the picture and found it offensive. He politely requested I remove the image -

...just a kind request to either hide it or completely delete the picture...

- a request I declined because I do not follow Islamic scripture or rules. This quickly descended into a bit of a debate as to whether I should remove the photo or not before he reposted the picture onto his Facebook wall with the comment

Then comments took a turn for the nastier...

Read the full article

Update: Intolerant School

27th January 2012. See  article from  freethinker.co.uk

Rhys Morgan, 17, who received the James Randi Award for Grassroots Skepticism for outing a scam drug, got himself into hot water after he posted the J&M cartoon in solidarity with the University College London's Atheist, Secular, and Humanist Society.

Because that image from the comic Jesus and Mo was his Facebook photo for a week, he has been harassed and threatened at school by his classmates. The sixth-former was then summoned by his head of year and told to remove the cartoon. When he said no, he was threatened with expulsion.

 

13th January   

Giving Sweden a Piece of my Mind...

Nutters wound up by cartoon that's supposedly offensive to cannibals
Link Here

cannibal cartoonThe Swedish newspaper Metro published a comic strip by Norwegian artist Frode Overli, playing on a literal interpretationof cannibalsasking for someone's hand [in marriage].

The paper received a barrage of complaints from readers who perceived the cartoon as somehow racist.

Swedish artist Jason Timbuktu Diakite said:

Frode Overli's comic strip...was the most insensitive and degrading thing I have ever read in your newspaper. It is a crystal clear case of ignorance and lack of insight in what it feels like to be subjected to racism. I feel deeply offended and very sad, Diakite.

The comic strip features a cannibal chief, his daughter, and a prospective suitor.

According to Metro, some 60 readers contacted the paper saying that they felt that the image was racist. The paper has therefore chosen to print an apology, saying that it never meant to offend anyone.

 

13th January   

Update: Religious Debate Over a Kiss...

A Turkish photo exhibition winds up the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality
Link Here

aykiri photo Three photographs have proven controversial at an art exhibition in Izmir, Turkey.

One of the three shows two headscarfed women kissing each other. Another has two men kissing each other and the third features a headscarfed woman wearing a bikini.

IFOD members recently called for its members to contribute to an exhibition titled Aykir (Contrary) . Photographs were submitted by 48 artists, with 33 images eventually selected and put on display at the Izmir Art Center on 3rd January.

But a national news agency reported that three photographs in the exhibition contradicted religious and social values. Two national newspapers then ran similar stories 8th January, with one article saying a photography exhibition that insults religious values has alarmed the country.

The next day, officials from the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality removed the three photos in question from the exhibition.

Members of IFOD gathered in front of the gallery 11th January and demonstrated their disapproval by removing the other photos from the exhibit. IFOD Chairman Beynan Ozdemir said: We cannot accept this censorship.

 

11th January   

Stereotypically Complaining...

Australian Jewish group complains about stereotypes in TV show The Promise
Link Here

Promise DVD Claire Foy The Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) has complained with the Australian broadcaster SBS about the British-made television series The Promise, which it says conveys anti-Jewish stereotypes.

In a letter to SBS, the Jewish organisation alleges that the series

promotes, endorses and reinforces demeaning stereotypes about Jews as a group. All of the principal Jewish characters (and thus by implication Jews generally) are portrayed negatively and, ultimately, without any redeeming virtues. They are cast as variously cruel, violent, hateful, ruthless, unfeeling, amoral, treacherous, racist and/or hypocritical.

The ancient libel that holds all Jews throughout history to be collectively guilty of killing Jesus has been segued into the equally ludicrous proposition that all Jews are collectively guilty of the wanton shedding of innocent blood, a staple of contemporary Palestinian propaganda. The series also panders to stereotypes about Jews being immoderately wealthy and having acquired their wealth unfairly. The cumulative effect of these consistently negative portrayals of all of the principal Jewish characters and of the series' numerous misrepresentations of the relevant historical background in a way that consistently casts Jews in a negative light is to demean Jews as a group.

The relevant historical events (and their misrepresentation) and the principal Jewish characters are vehicles for attributing negative traits to Jews generally across time and space. 'The Promise' utilizes and reinforces racist tropes about Jews that, but for a brief post-WWII respite, have been embedded in western civilization since pre-Christian times and are not in any way comparable to negative portrayals of other groups.

The four-part series The Promise, written and directed by British filmmaker Peter Kosminsky, tells a fictional story about Erin (played by actress Claire Foy), an 18-year-old British girl who visits her Israeli friend Eliza in Israel in 2005. Erin carries and progressively reads through the diary of her grandfather, Len, which describes Len's experiences while serving as a sergeant in the British army in the 1940s.

First screened in the UK in February 2011 and in France in March 2011, critics and Jewish organizations in both countries condemned the series. The Board of Deputies of British Jews also complained, but Ofcom, the UK's TV censor, said the program was not in breach of any of its guidelines.

 

10th January   

Update: Dangerous Cartoons...

Claims of a trial for Egyptian telecoms boss who warned that even cartoon characters would have to wear burkhas if islamists came to power
Link Here
minnie mouse burqa

  Minnie Mouse images
knocking around on the internet

Egyptian telecom boss Naguib Sawiris faces trial for insulting religion after tweeting a caricature of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb, an Islamist lawyer who filed a legal complaint against him.

The court will hear the case against Sawiris, a billionaire Coptic Christian who founded the liberal Free Egyptians party, on January 14, said the lawyer Mamduh Ismail, a member of the ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group.

However the prosecution, which refers such cases to courts, could not confirm that Sawiris would go on trial.

In June last year Sawiris sparked a firestorm of criticism after tweeting a cartoon of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie Mouse in a face veil, joking that the cartoon characters would be forced to dress conservatively if Islamists took power. He apologised for the caricature after Islamists called for a boycott of his cell phone service provider Mobinil.

 

10th January   

Doubly Intolerant...

Increasing religious intolerance in Indonesia
Link Here

Indonesia flagActs of violence and intolerance against Christians in Indonesia almost doubled in 2011, with an Islamic campaign to close down churches symbolizing the plight of the religious minority.

The Indonesian Protestant Church Union counted 54 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in 2011, up from 30 in 2010. The number of such incidents against religious minorities in general also grew, from 198 in 2010 to 276 in 2011. At least 36 regulations to ban religious practices deemed deviant from Islam were drafted or implemented in the country in 2011.

A Jakarta-based civil rights group, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, noted that both the government and groups in society were responsible for the incidents, with the main violators including religious extremist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

 

9th January   

A Disturbed Relationship with Democratic Rule...

Germany set to place anti-islamic websites under surveillance
Link Here

Germany flagGerman authorities have announced a plan to place anti-Islamic websites under surveillance because of growing concern that they are becoming more radical and fomenting right-wing violence.

The domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said last week it had set up a working group to assess whether German-language sites such as Politically Incorrect and Nurnberg 2.0 , whose stated aim is to oppose the Islamisation of Europe are in breach of the constitution.

The attack by Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in July and posted a manifesto on the internet, threw a spotlight on the role played by websites as a forum for spreading hatred of Muslims in Europe. Calls for greater scrutiny of the far-right intensified after the revelation in November that a neo-Nazi terrorist cell murdered at least 10 people, eight of them Muslim immigrants of Turkish origin, in a killing spree spanning more than a decade.

The head of the Hamburg branch of the intelligence agency, Manfred Murck, said there were clear signs that the operators of many anti-Muslim sites had a disturbed relationship with the democratic rule of law and often espoused infringements of human rights protected under our constitution.

A member of parliament for the opposition Left Party, Ulla Jelpke, said closer supervision of such sites was long overdue. Blogs and websites such as Politically Incorrect or Nurnberg 2.0 clearly promote a racism that extends deep into society, said Ms Jelpke:

They call into question the dignity and the rights of a whole group of people solely because of their origin or their faith. They thereby clearly run counter to core values of the constitution.

Prejudice against Muslims isn't a problem of the periphery but of the heart of society. That's why it's so dangerous.

 

9th January   

Update: Egyptian Scourge...

Women fight off thugs and bullies self appointed as religious police
Link Here  full story: Sharia in Egypt...Threatening nightlife and tourism

Religious PoliceEgypt's self-appointed morality police have been chased off by a group of women. Modelled after Saudi-Arabia's morality police, and reportedly financed by the Nour Salafi Party, theCommittee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was established in Egypt in December 2011 with the intention of imposing Islamic law (sharia) on Egypt's women in particular.

According to Egyptian media, the vigilante group has been harassing shoppers and shop owners. Barbers were ordered not to cut men's beards and shop owners were ordered not to sell indecent clothing, and threatened with punishment. The vigilantes also said they would be making regular checks in the area.

According to the Al Masry Al Youm newspaper the religious thugs and bullies would monitor people's behavior in the street and assess whether they contradicted God's laws. Volunteers would wear white cloaks and hold bamboo canes to beat violators and later would be provided with electric tasers.

However things didn't go quite as planned last week, when they burst into a beauty parlor in the Nile delta town of Benha, and ordered the women inside to leave or face physical punishment. The women hit back, literally. The women in the parlor grabbed the vigilantes' canes and began thrashing them, and chased them off.

 

8th January   

Fatwa on Facebook...

Senior Iranian cleric pronounces that using Facebook is a sin
Link Here

Facebook logoAn Iranian ayatollah has said that the social networking website Facebook was un-Islamic and being a member of it is a sin, the ISNA news agency reported.

ISNA broadcast coverage of the response of Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpaygani, a senior cleric, to the question about Facebook and Iranian membership in the social networking service. The ayatollah explained:

Basically, going to any website which propagates immoralities and could weaken the religious belief is un-Islamic and not allowed, and membership in it is therefore haram (a sin).

Only the use of websites propagating religious criteria and not leading to any kind of ethical immoralities is of no problem.

 

7th January   

Human Sacrifice in India...

Two farmers arrested after murdering a young girl and offering her liver to their gods
Link Here

Human Sacrifice Shocking Killing Worldwide Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a ritual sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said.

Lalita Tati disappeared in October and her dismembered remains were found a week later. Police arrested two men, both poor farmers, last week and they told police they killed the girl to appease their gods and get a better harvest. The two men confessed to cutting her open and removing her liver as an offering.

Police said they had gathered enough evidence, apart from the confessions, to charge the two with murder. They would face life in prison or even the death sentence if convicted.

The men were described as tribals, a term referring to the region's indigenous people.

 

7th January   

Christmas Lynch Mob...

Tajikistan Santa stabbed to death
Link Here

ded morozIn what Tajikistani police believe to be a religiously-motivated attack, a young man dressed as Ded Moroz (Father Frost), the local equivalent of Santa Claus was stabbed to death.

Parviz Davlatbekov, 24, fell victim to a mob as he visited relatives in the early hours of Monday dressed as Ded Moroz, who traditionally brings children presents at New Year.

One police source told Reuters: We have witness statements that say the crowd beat Parviz and stabbed him with a knife, shouting You infidel!

A second source said religious hatred was being investigated as the motive for the crime, which occurred in the capital Dushanbe.

 

6th January   

Update: The Bishop of Sydney Recommends...

Human Centipede 2
Link Here

human centipede 2 uncut Sensible Decision

The Human Centipede II (full sequence) has recently been sent back to the Film Classification Review Board after its original R18+ classification was disputed. In this case it seems that technical skill (I'm not sure acting comes into it) has not just been squandered, but misdirected into something that brings no light to anyone, only darkness.

A good film can be a source of wonder, and not just because of the special effects. When a good director and team bring the technical marvels together with the essential elements of good acting and a good script, some very special films can result. The talents of many people are needed to bring this about, as ever-lengthening lists of credits show.

Not every film can be special and the relentless demand for product in our consumer society inevitably effects quality. All the same, it is sometimes a cause of regret when I think of the talent that is squandered in making a mediocre film, to say nothing of a really bad one, like The Human Centipede II.

The film was initially banned in Britain, a rare occurrence, but was subsequently released after cuts were made. These featured what the British Board of Film Classification described as scenes of sexual and sexualised violence, sadistic violence and humiliation, as well as a scene of a child presented in an abusive and violent context .

The description of the deleted scenes does not make easy reading. They included graphic sight of a man's teeth being removed with a hammer; graphic sight of lips being stapled to naked buttocks; graphic sight of forced defecation into and around other people's mouths, a woman being raped with barbed wire; and a newborn baby being killed.

The plot, such as it is, focuses strongly on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure . Not the sort of film you'd hope your neighbour watches.

The review of its classification in Australia came after an application from the federal Minister for Justice, Brendan O'Connor. On 28 November the review board announced a unanimous decision to refuse the film classification, meaning it cannot be sold or shown in Australia.

Congratulations to the board and the minister on this outcome. Predictably, a few on the margins are bleating about censorship . But most Australians will see the decision as a win for common decency and common sense.

 

6th January   

Shame in Bangladesh...

Headteacher arrested as banned book is found in college library
Link Here

Lajja Shame T Nasrin A book by Taslima Nasreen, which is banned in her native Bangladesh on grounds of blasphemy , has led to the arrest of a headteacher.

Yunus Ali was arrested from the KC Technical and Business Management College in Bangladesh this week after police discovered a copy of Nasreen's novel Lajja (Shame) in the college library.

Taslima Nasreen is an honorary associate of the National Secular Society and her book is regarded by Islamic extremists to be blasphemous. She was forced to flee Bangladesh in 1994 after radical Muslims objected to the novel, which depicts the life of a Hindu family persecuted by Muslims in Bangladesh.

Police have said that Ali faced prosecution and could be jailed up to three years if found guilty.

 

6th January   

Celebrating New Year with Tear Gas and Water Cannon...

Chinese authorities demolish refurbished mosque by force
Link Here

China flagResidents of a Taoshan village in north-western China were left shocked after a violent clash with armed police who came with water cannon and tear gas then demolished a newly refurbished mosque before arresting scores of people last week.

Hundreds of police arrived in the village in the Hexi region of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the day before the demolition took place. Power and communication links were cut at 11pm that night, according to one villager. Police raided several homes.

Villagers had refurbished the mosque and there were plans for a grand opening on 1 January. But more than 50 people, mostly members of the Muslim Hui minority, were injured and 100 detained after they tried to stop the demolition. The police used water cannon and tear gas and then beat people.

Separatist activity by the Uighurs in Xinjiang province has meant that Muslim communities across China have been subject to special scrutiny.

 

5th January   

Update: Pandering to the Mob...

Maldives President re-opens spas and admits to a knee jerk response to religious extremists
Link Here  full story: Sharia in the Maldives...Tourist industry under duress

kurumba maldives spaThe Maldives president has lifted a ban on spas in the upmarket tourist destination after establishing they were not being used for prostitution, as alleged by muslim protesters.

The tourism ministry ordered all massage and beauty treatment centres to close six days ago in response to public demonstrations in the capital against spas organised by the hardline islamic opposition Adhaalath party.

There was a huge demonstration in Male against spas, saying they were brothels, President Mohamed Nasheed said. We had to respect the crowd so we ordered a quality control regarding their use.

Update: Coup

14th February 2012. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed has said that he was forced to resign at gunpoint by police and army officers in a coup.

 

4th January   

Update: Star Shame...

Religious bullies and thugs claim persecution after being criticised by Israeli newspapers and politicians
Link Here  full story: Invisible Women in israel...Women removed from the media lest men get offended

men only marketHundreds of extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews, some ludicrously claiming persecution by wearing yellow stars or the uniforms of Holocaust death camp inmates, demonstrated against what they called media attacks against them over their intimidatory efforts to segregate the sexes in public.

Israeli TV channels have screened images from the town of Beit Shemesh, where hardline residents are waging a sometimes violent gender segregation campaign, which showed an ultra-Orthodox man in Beit Shemesh spitting at a woman and others hurling verbal abuse at an eight-year-old schoolgirl.

The scenes have prompted outraged newspaper editorials and vows from politicians to get tough with troublemakers. The phenomenon of the exclusion of women from ultra-Orthodox streets is an act of intolerable barbarism, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview:It is inconceivable for the state to continue financing those who defy it and for the ultra-Orthodox to continue receiving subsidies, such as free (religious) schooling for their children.

For Example

1st January 2012. See  article from  freethinker.co.uk

Shlomo Fuchs is a puzzled man. The ultra-Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem cannot understand why he was taken into custody earlier this week for exercising his right to freedom of expression . After all, all he did was to abuse a female soldier, calling her aslut, slut, slut! for not taking a back seat on a bus.

Fuchs, a father of 12, was arrested by the Jerusalem police for bad-mouthing Doron Matalon when she refused to sit at the back of an Egged bus.

Fuchs' attorney claimed his client's behaviour did not constitute a criminal offense. We live in a free country. We're allowed to curse, it's part of the freedom of expression.

A day later Fuchs was indicted for unruly behaviour and sexual harassment. Jerusalem Magistrate's Court released Fuchs under limiting conditions, forbidding him from using public transportation until the next hearing in his case, set for early January.

 

3rd January   

Offsite: Revelations...

Religious Sex-Toy Sites Vow to Save Marriages
Link Here

Sex Bible Complete Guide Sexual Enter the religious sex-toy industry, which carefully markets and sells a range of sexual-pleasure products to the faithful. With the voice and disposition of a summer-camp director, Joy Wilson founded Book 22 a decade ago, when she had trouble getting her body to respond to her husband after their second child, and her online search for remedies yielded scandalous imagery that offended more than it helped. The pioneering site, named after the Biblical book also known as the Song of Solomon, now faces growing competition from rival vendors including Hooking Up Holy, Intimacy of Eden, and Covenant Spice.

And the industry grew exponentially this fall with the launch of the Orthodox Jewish shop Kosher Sex Toys, and last year with the Muslim vendor El Asira. The sites even enjoy the support of many community leaders. Religious people do it like everybody else,said David Ribner, a rabbi and sex therapist based in Israel, who works as a consultant for Kosher Sex Toys. Why shouldn't they have access to toys that make their lives more satisfying?

The burgeoning niche, part of the roughly $15 billion sex-toy industry, reports that business has been steadily growing, with most sites shipping a few hundred orders per month. Clients usually find them through Google, say the owners, or a thoughtful religious leader or astute sex therapist. The vendors use many of the same distributors as secular shops, with most products made in China. Gavriel, a 25-year-old furniture salesman who owns Kosher Sex Toys (and asked that we use only his middle name) stressed in an interview,There's nothing wrong with having all the sex you want.

...Read the full article

 

3rd January   

Update: Cleanse and Segregate...

Nigeria's Taliban tells christians to move out or be killed
Link Here  full story: Boko Haram...Nigeria's Taliban terrorise christians

boko haram logoBoko Haram, has issued a chilling warning to all Christians in northern Nigeria, giving them three days to leave or face further extensive attacks.

The violence in Nigeria by Boko Haram has led to a nasty ultimatum by the group, which has warned that it is ready to confront soldiers sent to engage them under a state of emergency declared by Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan.

We will confront them squarely to protect our brothers, said Abul Qaqa, spokesperson of Boko Haram, according to CNN.

He also called for Muslims living in southern Nigeria to come back to the north, citing evidence that they could be attacked.

Update: Further Murders

10th January 2012. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

Gunmen have attacked a church in north-east Nigeria killing at least six people, the church's pastor says. Johnson Jauro said the killings took place when gunmen burst into his Deeper Life Church in Gombe, capital of Gombe state. He said his wife was among those killed. Ten other people were injured.

 Jauro told Reuters news agency:

The attackers started shooting sporadically. They shot through the window of the church, and many people were killed including my wife. Many members who attended the church service were also injured.

No group said it carried out the attack, but the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram recently carried out a string of bombings on Christmas Day, including against a church in the capital Abuja which killed dozens of people.

 

2nd January    

Unchristian Christians...

Zambia protest marchers call for continued intolerance of gays
Link Here
sermon on the mount

And above all else, love your neighbour...
Unless he is gay of course!

Christians in Zambia have organised a march in the capital city to pressure the government to clearly state that homosexuality is not tolerated in the country and should not be protected by the new Zambian constitution.

The march, organized by Christian NGO Zambia Rainbow Coalition which has called for a new clause in the constitution that would explicitly define marriage as a union between a man and a women, which would presumably exclude the possibility of introducing same-sex marriage at any time, reported Zambia Watchdog.

This [homosexuality] is a new concept to our culture which Zambians will not entertain as in Zambia we do not even have local terminology for homosexuality, Rainbow Coalition director of programs Malekano Mwanza told Zambia Watchdog.

 

2nd January    

Update: No Fun in the Maldives...

Tourist industry set to dry up
Link Here  full story: Sharia in the Maldives...Tourist industry under duress

saac monumentThe President's Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told journalists that the government is considering imposing a nationwide ban on alcohol and pork in response to the recent demands made by religious protestors.

Five demands were put forward at the protest organised by the civil society coalition and opposition partiesy.

The demands include removing the SAARC monuments in Addu, condemning UN human rights chief Navi Pillay's comments about Islamic Sharia, not allowing Israeli airlines to operate flights, closing down the spas in Male.

The Government has already made plans to close down health spas on grounds of supposed prostitution.

Zuhair noted that the government will not obstruct any decision made by Addu City Council to remove the SAARC monuments set up in Addu.

 

1st January   

Offsite: Could You Be A Criminal?...

So does drawing a cartoon of Mohammed count as inciting violence?
Link Here  full story: Defamation of Religion...OIC pushes for global blasphemy laws at UN

UN logoThe US government has been quietly wrapping up a Christmas gift of its own: adoption of UN resolution 16/18. An initiative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly Organization of Islamic Conferences), the confederacy of 56 Islamic states, Resolution 16/18 seeks to limit speech that is viewed asdiscriminatory or which involves the defamation of religion -- specifically that which can be viewed asincitement to imminent violence.

Whatever that means.

...Read the full article

 

1st January   

Update: Dangerous Facebook...

Student lampoonery on Facebook 'incites' Egyptian lynch mob
Link Here  full story: Muslims attacking Copts...Minority christian Copts uder continuous attack

Facebook logoEgyptian prosecutors ordered a Christian student be kept in custody for four days for posting images lampooning the Prophet Mohammed on his Facebook page, reported state television.

Jamal Masoud, a secondary school student in the southern Egyptian province of Assiut, faces charges of contempt for Islam, the report said.

Security and military troops have been deployed across Masoud's village and neighbouring areas after angry Muslims torched houses belonging to Christians, said the broadcaster.

 

1st January   

Update: Worshiping a Miserable Life...

Churches join the propaganda war against alcohol
Link Here
Puritans

  The pious and the miserable

Churches are calling for end to the easy availability of cheap alcohol as a first step to tackling Britain's supposed problem with excessive drinking.

The call has been made by the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), the United Reformed Church (URC) and the Methodist Church after an unscientific YouGov survey they commissioned found widespread 'concern' over the impact of drinking in local communities.

The survey asked people to judge the effects of alcohol on the area within walking distance from their home or where they use local facilities. 61% of respondents said they 'felt' excessive drinking was a problem in their neighbourhood.

The Churches believe the problem is being exacerbated by the availability of cheap alcohol and could be redressed by the introduction of a minimum price per unit. But then again it comes with the territory that churches believe in any old nonsense that's thrown at them. Reason, proof and science count for little in religious thinking.

We know that it's people in local communities that bear the brunt of the easy availability of cheap alcohol, spouted Ruth Pickles, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and a former alcohol misuse counsellor:

It affects their health services, their streets, their families and friends. As Christians, we want to work within communities to help find solutions that really work and protect those most vulnerable.

The Rev Jonathan Edwards, BUGB General Secretary, spouted that removing cheap alcohol was a vital first step .

The crucial need is to get to grips with the reason for excessive drinking.

For some it is a form of protest against society, for others it is a personal cry for help.

We need to listen harder and find ways in which we can encourage a sense of purpose and self-worth which makes excessive drinking unnecessary.

Why do religions think that believing in nonsense gives them the right to interfere in other people's lives. Can't they just tell their own adherents not to drink and leave it at that.

 

1st January   

Forced Conversions...

France forces men who want to marry girls from north Africa to convert to islam
Link Here

France flagFrench weekly VSD reports that French citizens who want to get married to foreign women from North Africa find themselves in a bizarre situation.

According to French law, the latter need to provide a document from their embassy that they're free to marry. But the embassies only provide this document if the French spouse converts to Islam. This mean that, by proxy, the French authorities are imposing Muslim conversion on French citizens.

Malika Sorel, a member of the High Council of Integration, claimed that the French authorities have to verify that the foreigner wishing to marry is not already married.If the French authorities forgo the required legal documents, you'll have exposes about the increase in polygamous marriages. [As if the embassies actually checked the records anyway!]