Archive for November, 2006

Shut up for freedom

Videos of the main speeches from last week’s “Freedom of Religion, Conscience, and Thought Rally” are now available on YouTube. To save you the agony of listening to them, here is a summary:

We believe in freedom of religion, conscience, and thought. So SHUT UP ABOUT ISLAM.

The British Muslim Initiative, joint organisers of the rally with Liberty (an organisation which seems to have lost its way somewhere along the line), sum up the event as the first step towards tackling

the problem of Islamaphobia , unanimously condemned last night as the new face of racism in our midst.

This conveniently highlights the central fallacy in the thinking of the BMI – and of every speaker that evening. It is a fallacy of association or, more colourfully, the latest expression of reductio ad Hitlerum.

It goes something like this:
– the BNP and other racists criticise Islam (as an intellectually and legally acceptable expression of their underlying racism)
– therefore if you criticise Islam, you are a racist

It’s a pretty simple mistake. But plenty of people have made it.

(Hat tip Harry’s Place)

Sex toy ad creates a buzz

penis ring
The Daily Mail reports that Durex have been given permission to screen UK terrestrial TV’s first sex toy commercial. The disposable vibrating penis ring will be promoted after 11pm on Channels 4 and 5.

The commerical shows a man offering a woman what appears to be an engagement-ring box over dinner. The woman opens the box, smiles, and says “I do”.

The managing director of Durex wants to be able to show the advert earlier in the evening, after the 9pm watershed.

There is nothing rude or crude about the advert, which is tastefully shot, and we feel this restriction is hypocritical, given the images of a sexual nature you quite regularly see on TV at this time of night.

Norman Wells of the pressure group Family and Youth Concern (anti-abortion, anti gay rights, pro hitting children) sees it as yet more evidence that the country is going to hell in a handbasket. In a quote not shown online, he says:

Yet again we have the sex industry seeking to push back the boundaries of what is acceptable on television. The promotion of sex as a purely recreational activity devoid of any lifelong commitment has contributed to the human misery that results from family breakdown, and the massive increase in sexually transmitted infections.

Durex make condoms.

Don’t mock the Pope

gorgeous george
The Pope’s private secretary, “Gorgeous” Georg Genswein, has called for Italian satirists to stop making fun of him and his boss. The daily newspaper of the Vatican was critical of a recent spate of satirical sketches about the pair of them, broadcast on Italian TV and radio.

I am aware of the controversy and I hope that broadcasts of this kind stop. […] Satire is fine. But these things do not have any intellectual quality and offend men of the church. They are not acceptable

The satire seems pretty tame. Comedian Luciana Littizzetto joked that she wanted to set aside some of her taxes to pay for a private meeting with the sexy papal secretary. There is an impressionist, Maurizio Crozza, on Channel La 7 who does a number on the Pope, and a two comedians on RAI Radio do a double act about the Catholic couple.

Here is an example of one of their jokes: “They’ve opened a restaurant in the Vatican – the Last Supper. Not bad. You order fish for one and get enough for 20.”

No wonder the Vatican are saying “enough is enough”!

Britain, Ofcom stand up against net censorship

In a stance set to upset all the right people, Ofcom and culture secretary Tessa Jowell have successfully argued against EU proposals that would make the government responsible for overseeing “taste and decency” issues on internet sites.

TV Without Frontiers, the European media regulation directive, had wanted national governments to be responsible for regulating such sites as YouTube and MySpace. Ofcom, backed by the government, argues that this plan was unworkable, and believes that internet users should be left to police themselves. Ofcom will regulate “TV-like” services, but not video clip and social networking sites.

Today’s outcome is testament to the substantial progress we have made in persuading our European partners to take our arguments on board

said creative industries minister, Shaun Woodward.

Motoon imam quits Denmark

Raed Hlayhel, one of the Danish imams who toured the Middle East stirring up trouble over the Jyllands-Posten Motoons, has vowed to quit Denmark forever. His decision was prompted by the refusal of a Danish court to prosecute the editor and culture editor of that newspaper.

I have always said that if the Danish courts do not punish the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. I will leave this country. And I will never come back.


At the time of the crisis, Hlayhel said:

This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims […] Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world. We demand an apology

(Via the somewhat demented but occasionally useful Brussels Journal)

BNP acquittal provokes menacing mutterings from Brown

BNP leader Nick Griffin and his young sidekick Mark Collett were cleared of inciting race hatred at a Leeds court yesterday. A BBC documentary, The Secret Agent, had recorded a BNP meeting where Griffin described Islam as a “wicked and vicious faith” and that Muslims were turning Britain into a “multi-racial hell hole”. Collett had addressed the audience, saying “Let’s show these ethnics the door in 2004”.

While the BNP are ignorant scumballs, the court’s decision was entirely correct. Religion and race are not synonymous, and if anyone thinks the Islam is a wicked and vicious faith they are perfectly within their rights to say so. Griffen and Collett’s triumphalist cries of “freedom” are hollow and hypocritical, however, as the BNP were vocal in calling for the “blasphemous” musical Jerry Springer: The Opera to be banned.

The most disturbing outcome of this case is the fact that Gordon Brown, the likely next leader of the Labour Party, was prompted to think out loud about changing the law on race hate.

Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country.

We have got to do whatever we can to root it out from whatever quarter it comes.

And if that means we have got to look at the laws again, we will have to do so.

There is nothing morally wrong with offending mainstream opinion, and to legislate against such a thing is madness.

The sole voice of reason was Lib Dem MP Dr Evan Harris:

Although I am disappointed these members of a racist party were not successfully prosecuted for race hate given their attacks on Asians and asylum seekers, Parliament must resist the temptation for more restrictions on freedom of expression […]
There must be room in a free society to allow even offensive criticism of religions and their followers

Quite. We’ve already been through this whole thing once this year. Let’s not do it again.

Motoon protestor convicted of race hate

Mizanur Rahman, the website designer who joined in with the al Ghurabaa Motoons protestors outside the Danish embassy in February this year, has been convicted of inciting racial hatred. The jury could not decide whether carrying a placard reading “BEHEAD THOSE WHO INSULT ISLAM” constituted incitement to murder, so there is likely to be a retrial.

Rahman had earlier confessed that he was “almost ashamed” of what he had said during the protest. (The BBC reported that he had apologised, but gave no evidence to back up its headline.)

Oh Allah, we want to see another 9/11 in Iraq, another 9/11 in Denmark, another 9/11 in Spain, in France, all over Europe.

Bomb, bomb France. Bomb, bomb France. Nuke, nuke France. Nuke, nuke France.

As Rahman explained in his defence, “the majority of this was a prayer”.

He has been remanded in custody while the prosecution decide whether there will be a retrial.

UPDATE: The CPS has decided to retry Rahman on the incitement to murder charge. The retrial will probably take place in January.

Stamp rage strikes again

The Royal Mail has a policy of alternating between religious and non-religious designs for its festive stamps. This year is a non-religious year, but that hasn’t stopped the Daily Express screaming that “Christ is dumped from Christmas stamps”, and phoning round the usual suspects for outraged “political correctness gone mad” quotes.

Here is a selection from yesterday’s paper:

A Church of England Spokesman:

Last year they came up with some very innovative designs which reminded people of the true meaning of Christmas, so we welcomed it.

We regret that they haven’t carried on. I am sure lots of Christians will regret that they haven’t carried on in the same way as well.

The True Meaning of Christmas? That’s not really what you want, Rev.

Tory MP David Burrowes:

It is a great shame that they are treating it as just another secular festival, because we have enough of those throughout the year.

Such as? Easter, Ramadan, Diwali…

Stephen Crabb, another Tory MP:

Removing faith from Christmas is to neuter it as a festival.

It simply becomes a festival of materialism and that is not what it was meant to be about. I am dismayed and disappointed by the decision of the Royal Mail.


Dr Christina Baxter, from the Archibshop’s Council of the General Synod:

I am deeply disappointed and I think a large majority of people in this country will also regret the Royal Mail’s decision.


And Stephen “Dog Shit” Green, of Christian Voice:

They probably did it to avoid causing offence to some – but I for one am deeply offended by this.

Every cloud…

Last year it was a group of Hindus who indulged in a bit of stamp rage, and forced the Royal Mail to withdraw a stamp featuring a Hindu couple “worshipping” the Baby Jesus.

Next year the Royal Mail should give Muslims the opportunity to display some pious outrage. It’s only fair.

Springer in Chicago

It seems there’s life in the old opera yet. Anti-Jerry Springer: The Opera campaigners won’t be too happy at the news that the lively musical is set to make its US debut next spring in Chicago. The Bailiwick Repertory Theatre will put on the show from May to July.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction it will get in the US.

Enemies of the internet

Reporters Sans Frontieres has published a blacklist of 13 countries with the worst records of internet censorship. They are running a campaign where you can register your opposition to this by clicking on this map within the next 24 hours.

Read about the campaign here.

The 13 “Internet black holes” are:

North Korea
Saudi Arabia