Archive for July, 2006

Brick Lane relocates as old squabbles rekindle

Film Four, the production company behind the adaptation of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, have decided to shoot to remainder of the movie in a different location, after threats of violent disruption from a small group of the area’s Sylheti Bangladeshi residents.

Last week English PEN had a letter in the Guardian protesting the protests. It was signed by Lisa Appignanesi (Deputy president, English PEN), Hanif Kureishi, Anthony Lester QC, Salman Rushdie and Gillian Slovo. They pointed out that the Muslim protestors were in a minority, and urged action from the authorities in the face of the threats:

Though legitimate protest and expression of views is just fine, English PEN trusts that this time should there be any concerted physical attempt to stop the production – as in the case of the play Behzti in Birmingham – the police, with the full backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will stand squarely behind the film, its author and the right to free imaginative expression.

Then Germane Greer wrote a rather silly article in the Guardian which appeared to support the protests, and attacked Monica Ali on the grounds of not being Asian enough to write about the community in Brick Lane. Greer did not condone violence, but somehow concluded that the residents had the “moral right” to prevent filming. However, she did make one highly pertinent point:

There is only one remedy available if your reality is being recycled through a writer or a movie-maker, and that is to write your own novel or make your own film – and accept ostracism as your just desert.

It is not known what proportion of ring-leader Abdus Salique’s little band of censors are able to read and write.

Greer’s article rekindled an old feud between herself and Salman Rushdie (Greer shamefully refused to support him during the Satanic Verses affair), and Rushdie fired off another angry letter to the Guardian, branding her “philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful”.

All in all, quite an entertaining week combining self-inflicted bad publicity for the Bangladeshi Muslim community, and good publicity for the upcoming movie.

When will they ever learn?

Toon rage in Norway

olmert sniper
This time it’s the Jewish community which is up in arms over an “offensive” cartoon. Actually “up in arms” may be putting it a bit strongly, as there has been no rioting, death-threats, or embassy-torching in response to the publication of the cartoon which depicts Israeli PM Ehud Olmert as the infamous SS Major Amon Goeth, who used to amuse himself by sniping at random Jews from his balcony in the Paszow death camp. Instead they have launched a ferocious letter-writing campaign.

The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet (isn’t that a Deputy Dawg cuss-word?) featured the caricature by Finn Graff on July 10. It echoes the scene from Schindler’s List.

According to the BBC, the editor of Dagbladet said the caricature was “within the bounds of freedom of expression”. Israel’s ambassador to Norway disagreed, saying it went beyond free speech, and would be open to prosecution in some countries.

Behzti protestor loses appeal

Pritpal Singh, who was arrested after failing to leave a protest at the Birmingham theatre staging the play Behzti has lost an appeal against a ruling that the actions of the police were lawful, the BBC reports.
Lady Justice Hallet said that Mr Singh’s argument gave “scant regard” to the rights of the people who wrote and staged the play, as well as those who saw it, saying:

They too had the right to freedom of expression, just as the adults and children who were at or near the theatre that day had the right to go about their business without being subjected to scenes which were unnecessarily frightening, intimidating and distressing.

The protests eventually led the theatre to cancel the run of the play, which depicts scenes of rape and violence in a Sikh temple, due to health and safety concerns.

Danish imam incites burning Danish flag, then is resuced by Denmark

Ahmed Akkari, an Danish Imam who is believed to have been one of the group behind the fake Mo-toons added to the original set to stir up hatred, has been rescued along with his family from the very embassy in Lebanon that was burned by Mo-Toon rioters. So he’s no longer burning or trampling the Danish flag, he’s now hiding behind it. Hypocrisy at large!

This story comes from the atheism section, where they also have some interesting background on this character. Click here for more.

More “faith crime” nonsense

From the National Secular Society, who report that Hampshire police have had an attack of religous over-sensitiveity after recently asking a woman to take down a sign on her gate. The sign, which reads “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses” was put up by the woman’s late husband after a rather unsocial call from said religous group on Christmas Day.

The police asked her to take it down as they were concerned that people might find the sign “distressing, offensive and inappropriate”. However, a spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hampshire said that he was not offended by the sign, describing it as stupid.

There’s a Jehovah’s Witness nutter who is often walking around my town centre shouting at the top of his voice, and he never gets arrested. It seems that the religous are allowed to cause offence, but no-one can offend the religous!

War is heck

Apologies to Reuters for stealing their headline from this article, but I like it.

The crackdown on media “indecency” since the Janet Jackson Superbowl incident over in the USA could lead to a World War Two documentary being censored, or shown late at night. The seven part series includes interviews with veterans where they discuss their experiences in the war. As one would expect from people who have been through the experiences they went through, their contributions feature expletives. This could lead to a fine of as much as $325,000 (approximately £175,000) from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) who have defined indecency as:

language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory organs or activities

Paula Kerger, the president of the PBS network that will be airing the series, has said that she does not want to bleep the words, as that would lessen the impact of the documentary, or air it late at night, which would reduce the available audience.

There is a precedent from the Republican controlled FCC, who allowed an uncut broadcast of “Saving Private Ryan” last year, but the FCC will not give a pre-airing clearance to the program. It does seem a little strange to MWW that people who apparantly fought for freedom, do not have the freedom of speech to express their views in the way that they wish to.

Christian Voice accused of hypocrisy

The Pink News today reports that the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) have accused Christian Voice of hypocrisy after Stephen Green recently claimed to be responsible for the Gay Police Association’s “bloody bible” advert.

A spokesman told the Pink News:

“A few weeks ago Christians were complaining about Iqbal Sacranie (former head of the Muslim Council of Britain) and Lynette Burrows (author) being questioned by the police for making anti-gay remarks. They claimed at the time that it infringed their freedom of speech. We agreed with them.

“But now they are celebrating because gays are being investigated over supposed ‘Christianophobic’ allegations. It seems the ultimate in hypocrisy, but this is the way it seems to be going. Christians must have the right to defame and insult gays, but we mustn’t answer back or its blasphemy and persecution. It heralds a new front on the war that religion has declared against gay people.”

Gay Christian organisations are also condemning Christian Voice. The Reverend Martin Renolyds of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said:

Of course Christian Voice are going to celebrate this , the basic premise of the GPA advert is true, unfortunately some Christians and other religious groups have and do advocate harm to gay people,.

“Religious fundamentalists represent a real threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, they cannot be ignored.”

GALHA secratary George Broadhead has written a letter to the GPA expressing support for their stance. He said:

It is outrageous that Christians should suggest that complaints about their homophobia amount to an attack on their ‘religious freedom’. It increasingly appears that ‘religious freedom’ amounts to a freedom to attack and insult gay people.

“The Government’s granting of exemptions from equality legislation to allow religious groups to go on discriminating against gay people is an example of this. Under the new Goods and Services Discrimination Regulations which come into effect in October, it will be illegal to discriminate against gay people in the provision of goods and services from that date, but religious groups are pressing for exemptions that would allow them, uniquely, to continue to do so. How religious people can claim that their faith is not homophobic is incomprehensible.”

That last point hits the nail on the head perfectly. These organisations say that their religion is not homophobic, and yet want to discriminate against gays. Some of these, such as the Christian Institute are even registered charities. How discriminatory organisations are allowed to be charities is beyond me. But with holy Tony wanting to have US-style “faith based” welfare (read Chrisitan/Islamic based welfare) it could become more common in future.

MWW of course joins GALHA in expressing support for the GPA’s stance. As we mentioned in the original post on this, if the complaint against them is succesful, it would be illegal to suggest that religious belief can lead to violence.

Edinburgh festival not scared by religous hatred laws

The religous hatred laws are not affecting the presence of religion realted comedy at the Edinburgh festival, the Sunday times reports today.

There are a record breaking 50 shows about religion or with religion as a theme this year, including the hilariously titled “We  Don’t Know Shi’te. Also included are a Danish Islamic comedian debating the Mo-toons, a show about Jesus being arrested at US immigration and shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, and plenty of spoof evangelists.

Disappointingly though, Stephen “Dogshit” Green will not be in attendance. When the writer of the Sunday Times piece phoned him, he said “We’re not a rent-a-demo”. And the Pope isn’t Catholic.

Green claims responsibility for bloody bible ad

Everyone’s favourite Christian fundamentalist Stephen “Dogshit” Green has chirped up on the controversy over the recent advertisment from the Gay Police Association.

According to him, it isn’t the Chrisitian Institute or the Chrisitan Police Association who are responsible for the furore. It’s him. He says:

Although the Gay Police Association cannot abide the Christian Police Association, it is the actions of Christian Voice which appear to have tipped them into the clutches of the men in white coats.

And also gloats over his poorly written spoof website “True Vision”.

God-muncher publishing co bans Church

We have already reported on Charlotte Church’s controversial new Channel 4 chat show. In the pilot, she called the current pope a Nazi, dressed up as a nun, and pretended to get high on Jesus-biscuits with smiley faces drawn on them.

According to the Daily Mail, the backlash has begun, with Ignatius Press (“the Catholic Amazon”) removing all of her work from its catalogue.

The Mail also has more on her alleged antics during the show, which included smashing open a statue of the Virgin Mary to reveal a can of cider inside, saying she worshipped St Fortified Wine, and sticking chewing gum on a statue of the child Jesus.

A spokesman for Ignatius said

It is with regret that we do this. Miss Church possesses a great gift from God, and in the past she has used her talents to offer praise and glory to our Lord.

But we cannot stand by a young woman who uses her stature in the media to mock the Eucharist, slander the Holy Father, and denigrate the vows of religious women.

Therefore, our catalogues and website will immediately withdraw all compact discs, cassette tapes, DVDs and VHS tapes that feature Miss Church. Please join us in praying for this troubled young woman.

But remember: always pick out any stray pieces of God-flesh from between your teeth before praying.

Actually, he didn’t say that last bit.