Archive for February, 2007

Clareification editors questioned by police

Index on Censorship reports the shocking news that both the editor and guest editor of the controversial Crucification publication were questioned under caution by Cambridgeshire police last Friday. They were interrogated under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, and a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution service, which will decide whether or not charges are to be pressed.

We would have thought it unlikely that such a travesty will occur, but then again – what are Cambridgeshire police doing questioning these students in the first place?

Index carries the front cover of the issue in question:

crucification cover

(Thanks once again to David T for keeping his eye on this ball)

UPDATE: (10 minutes later) A full description of the contents Crucification is now up at Harry’s Place. The majority of the religious content of the issue was devoted to criticism of the Gospel of Mark.




Dons divided

There appears to be some division among Cambridge dons about what to do about the guest editor of Clareification who published the satirical edition of the paper which included one of the Danish Motoons. The picture caption suggested Mohammed was a “violent paedophile”. Some are condemning the anonymous student, while others, such as the admirable philosophy lecturer Arif Ahmed, are sticking up for him.

This is his letter to The Cambridge Student, published on Feb 22:

Dear Madam

The fact that mocking somebody’s beliefs is liable to cause him offence is no reason to refrain from it if the beliefs in questions are nothing but a tissue of superstition and prejudice. But that is exactly what Islam is. I do not know the guest editor of Clareification. But I hope that he and other Cambridge students are aware that some senior members of this University (including me) regard the satirizing of religion as commendable, indeed in the present atmosphere I think it is practically obligatory. He has done nothing wrong, and I am ashamed of those of my colleagues who have chosen to condemn his actions.

Best wishes,
Arif Ahmed
(Fellow of Girton and Lecturer in Philosophy)

Give that don a cigar.

(Hat tip David T at Harry’s Place)




Motoons news

The BBC reports that yet another Motoons protestor has gone on trial at the Old Bailey. 24-year-old Abdul Muhid is accused of leading last February’s demo outside the Danish embassy, and of encouraging people to commit “terrorist killing”. Like the other three, who were all convicted, Muhid is pleading “not guilty”.

It is unlikely he will be met with the same leniency afforded to Haji Yaqoob Qureshi, the Muslim cleric and minister of Uttar Pradesh who offered 1.5m rupees and a car to anyone who beheaded “the cartoonist” who drew the Motoons. He received a “clean chit” on Monday, when a court ruled that his threat did not violate “the principles of collective responsibility of the cabinet” because it was an “individual assertion”. So that’s okay, then.

(Hat tip, The Comics Reporter)




London shootings – media blamed

Always ready to exploit real-life human tragedy in order to promote his calls to censor fiction, John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK has issued a press release about the recent spate of shootings in South London. The culprits, as ever, are the “broadcasters and film makers” who insist on portraying the use of firearms in their “productions”.

Research carried out over many years by mediawatch-uk shows that the depiction of firearms being used in criminal ways is by far the most commonly portrayed violence on TV.

Somebody please tell Mr Beyer that sitting in front of a TV with a pen and noting down every incidence of swearing and violence as it occurs does not constitute “research” in any meaningful sense of the word.

We believe that this level of fictional violence shown on television, which is consistent with our findings for the last 12 years, is unacceptable and irresponsible.

There lies the crux of his argument: “we believe”. In the absence of any conclusive research linking fictional violence with real-life violence, Beyer and his mediawatch-UK cronies have nothing but their “belief” to go on. Is that an acceptable or responsible hook upon which to hang your life’s work? Wouldn’t it be more responsible to try to find out the answers to the relevant questions before campaigning as if you already know them?

We wonder if, like Mary Whitehouse before him, Beyer’s misapprehension that he knows what he’s doing stems from an imagined communication with “God” at some point in the past? Wouldn’t be surprised.

(Thanks to Dan Factor)




Free Kareem

A bit outside MWW’s Euro-centric remit, this one, but it needs to be mentioned. An Egyptian blogger, Abdel Kareem Nabil, has been sentenced to a total of 4 years in prison – 3 for “insulting Islam”, and 1 for insulting the president.

Egyptian Islamists want him executed, and even his parents have disowned him. Keep an eye on the latest on the campaign for his release at FreeKareem.org.

Here is a transcript of one of the articles which got him in trouble:

The Naked Truth of Islam As I Saw It In Maharam Bey Riots
The Muslims have taken the mask off to show their true hateful face, and they have shown the world that they are at the top of their brutality, inhumanity, and thievery.
They have clearly shown their worst features and have shown that in dealing with others they are not governed by any moral codes.

From what I have seen yesterday of the events at Maharram Beh, which were quite shameful, and have shown me more facts that they have tried to cover over the centuries.

They have indicated that Islam is a religion of peace and forgiveness, but their true face has been uncovered to show barbarism and thievery and fanaticism and not acknowledging others, and attempting to remove them from existence.

Some may think that the actions of the Moslems does not represent Islam and has no relationship with the teachings of Islam that was brought by Mohamed 14 centuries ago, but the truth is that their actions is not different from the Islamic teachings in its original form when it has urged people to deny others and hate them and kill them and take their property, things that they know well but they try to deceive people by falsely defending the teachings of Islam by extremists and they are hiding from the truth and they prefer living a lie.

I have seen with my own eyes the thugs as they break into our Christian brothers’ stores after the whole area of Maharram Beh was completely out of control of the government authorities, and I saw them as they ransack the contents of the store right and left, amidst cheering and shouting extremist Islamic slogans, and I saw them stealing the money from inside the drawers of the cash registers and splitting it among themselves as if it is justified by being owned by what they call the infidels and the worshippers of the cross.

I saw them break into a liquor store owned by a Coptic merchant Labib Lotfy and I saw them smash everything they can get their dirty hands on, including the refrigerator and the scale and the boxes and liquor bottles. I saw some of them stealing liquor bottles so they can get drunk after a hard day’s work against the Coptic infidels.

It is worth mentioning that although some people may think that this Christian-owned liquor store was particularly targeted because the owner is selling the forbidden alcoholic beverages that is forbidden in Islam, but another liquor store in front of the Christian-owned store happens to be owned by a Moslem merchant, and none of the thugs dared to attack, as they did with the Christian-owned store. Now you can see the hateful sectarian actions.

What the Moslems did yesterday in a very vulgar and criminal and horrible way proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that they don’t acknowledge others or their rights of existence or their rights to live with the freedom of expression and also consider them less than them, and these actions should be fought and exterminated for is it right to leave these horrible human beings to do what they want and kill, destroy, steal, and burn??!!

The Islamic teachings that was brought by Mohammed 14 centuries ago should be faced with courage and boldness, we should expose and show its faults and warn humanity of its dangers. We should, even though we are different -look with reason to these teachings that urges people, human beings, to become monsters that don’t know anything in life except killing and looting and plundering and raping and pillaging.

We should stand courageously and boldly against these teachings that became a plague on humanity and is not supported except by extremists like bin Laden and al Zarqawi and al Zawaheeri and the thugs that assaulted our Coptic brothers and burned their homes and stole their properties, and tried to assault their religious men and destroy their churches.

We should take off the religious and sectarian gown and look at matters in a more humane way. We should hold trials to all the acts of terrorism and extremism, that our Islamic history have kept their names and their criminal actions starting with Mohamed ibn Abdullah and his company of murderers like Khalid ibn el Waled and Omar ibn el Khattab and Saad ibn Abbi Waqqas and Moiizah Bin Shaabah and Samra bin Gandab and the kings of Beni Ummaya and Beni al Abbass and al Osman, and ending with the Moslem criminals of the modern day that became more famous than movie stars and singers.
We should show the world the truth of these criminals that unfortunately have become role models for our youth and our children and our women. We should expose their false teachings and show the world that they are a big danger that should be exterminated and removed from its roots.

Before you put on trial the people that are responsible for the crimes that occurred on Black Friday in Maharram Beh, you should first put on trial the dirty teachings that caused them to go on a rampage of stealing and plundering and looting.. put Islam on trial and sentence it and its symbols with a figurative execution so that you can be sure that what happened yesterday will never be repeated again.

For as long as Islam exists on this planet all your efforts to end wars and disputes and upheavals will fail because Islam’s dirty finger will be found behind every catastrophic event to humanity.

(Via HP, and Pub Philosopher)

UPDATE: (Feb 28) Kareem’s lawyers have appealed for a reduction in his sentence.




Clareification editor out of hiding

Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper, reports that the guest editor responsible for last week’s “Crucification” edition is back in Cambridge.

The magazine in question included “critiques of various religious passages and offered editorial opinion on the Koran and the Christian Gospels amongst other religious issues.” It was the inclusion of a Motoon along with a caption suggesting Mohammed was a “violent paedophile” which prompted reaction among Cambridge’s Muslim leaders.

Hicham Kwieder, chairman on the Mosque Committee of the Abu Bakr Siddiq Islamic Centre, wrote the the college expressing “sorrow and anger” at the material which “deliberately insults the honour of the Blessed Prophet Mohammed”. The Islamic Centre also issued a press release:

PRESS RELEASE

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful

The Cambridge Muslim Welfare Society, the controlling authority of the Cambridge Mosque, has made the following statement on behalf of the Mosque Committee and congregation:

With sorrow and anger the Mosque notes the publication, in the student newsletter Clareification, of material which deliberately insults the honour of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s.w.s.). Mindful of its duty before Almighty Allah and before humanity to defend the honour and good name of the Final Prophet, the Mosque condemns this provocation in the strongest terms.

We note with satisfaction the statement by Clare College in condemnation of the students’ actions. We accept that the College and University in no way bear responsibility for this publication and the views which it contains.

We hope and trust that the College’s view of the matter will be reflected in a statement from the students concerned, and that the students will offer a full and unconditional apology for their irresponsible action.

The University’s record of freedom of expression is a matter of record and of pride. However it is clear that incitement to religious and ethnic hatred is at all times immoral, and that its consequences for harmony between communities and nations can be grave. It is particularly important that the boundary between fair comment and hate speech be respected and understood at the present time, when misunderstanding and sometimes hatred directed against ethnic minorities of Muslim faith living in the West is on the rise, a process often exploited by far-right and racist groups whose political and social vision is abhorrent to all decent people.

As David T at Harry’s Place notes, Kwieder is guilty of “transparent and self-serving sleight of hand” here when he conflates insulting a dead religious leader with “incitement to religious and ethnic hatred”. We would also note the veiled threat behind the comment that “consequences for harmony between communities and nations can be grave”.

Kwieder is due no apology, and let’s hope that he doesn’t get one. He is clearly upset that his Medieval hero has been “insulted” – but no figure, historical or mythical, can be afforded special protection from criticism. The fact is, using Islam’s core texts as evidence, a reasonable case can be made for calling Mohammed a “violent paedophile”. If someone disagrees with that assessment, they should present evidence to the contrary. What they cannot do is demand apologies and punishments, or threaten “grave consequences” to anyone who dares suggest such a thing. Indeed, if that’s all they can do, it would indicate that their case for the defence is a rather weak one.

The guest editor may still face disciplinary proceedings.




Angry Saudis demanding apologies again

The right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders is in trouble for saying nasty things about Islam. The leader of the Freedom Party said that if Muslims want to stay in the Netherlands they should “throw away half of the Koran”. He also said of Mohammed (the inventor of Islam)

If Mohammed lived here today, I would propose he be tarred and feathered as an extremist and driven out of the country

Saudi diplomats in the Hague have called for the Dutch “put an end” to such statements, and have demanded that Wilders withdraw the remark and apologise to Muslims.

Whatever you think of Wilders’ political views, you have to give him credit for telling the Saudis where to get off:

I would not dream of taking any of it back.

Have they gone completely mad? It is scandalous that a country which does not have freedom of speech teaches me a lesson. They must learn that when you are a parliamentarian here, you may say what you want.




Islam mockery back on Carnival menu

Good news from Germany, where last year’s Motoons furore put a dampener on the carnival season. Several floats were cancelled in 2006 because they were deemed insensitive at a time of heightened Muslim sensitivity. This year, however, mockery and ridicule are not being restricted to non-Islamic religions, making the whole affair much more inclusive.

One of the most provocative float designers of the Dusseldörf Carnival is Jacques Tilly, whose Muslim women piece below was cancelled last year:

burka float

Tilly says one of today’s floats will be “right on the edge”, but refuses to give details to avoid censorship.

In 2005 Tilly offended Catholics with his depiction of the conservative Cardinal Joachim Meisner burning a woman at the stake. The puppet of the woman featured the words “I’ve had an abortion”.

The wonderful thing about offending the religious is the self-calibrating nature of the activity: the degree of offence taken is directly proportional to how much the offended person deserves it. Hooray for Jacques Tilly and the Dusseldörf Carnival!

UPDATE: (20 Feb)
burka float
The “right on the edge” float proved a bit disappointing. It carried two identical figures of a raging murderous mullah, the first labelled “cliche” and the second “reality”. The general secretary of the National Council of Muslims in Germany was quite offended but, encouragingly, not too offended.

This hasn’t got anything to do with humour [...] The message it gives me is: ‘We love our prejudices, we’ll stand up for them, even if they are flagrantly untrue.’
As a born-and-bred Rhinelander, I wouldn’t get too upset about it. I’m sure most of the revellers don’t want to spread anti-Islam cynicism.

He almost gets it, which is progress, of sorts. The constant drip-drip of ridicule may be having a positive effect. Keep it up!




Life of Brian: The musical

This morning I read news that Eric Idle was planning on following up the award-winning Spamalot musical with a “comic oratorio” based on the Life of Brian called “Not The Messiah (He’s A Very Naughty Boy)”. When I read it I wondered aloud to myself how long it would take Stephen “Dogshit” Green of Stephen Green’s Voice (formerly Christian Voice) to rustle up a suitably outraged quote on the news.

It took less than twelve hours. The Western Mail of Wales (where Swansea banned the film until 1997) obviously needed to flesh out their article so gave the Carmarthenshire fundamentalist (emphasis firmly on the mental) a call. He did not disappoint with this:

We would certainly be opposing such a blasphemous and scurrilous piece of work. With it being loosely hung around Handel’s masterwork, it has got to be offensive to anyone who values music as means of expressing great ideas.

If he brings that to Britain or Wales he can expect protests. He might not even get it off the ground here because we’ve been forearmed.

We’ll ignore Green’s failure to recognise that Wales is in Britain and concentrate on his new found skill. Not only does he have a personal line to some bearded bloke in the sky, he now has added fortune telling to his abilities. He can already tell that the work will be blasphemous before seeing it. Remarkable!

Of course as the films most popular song (Always Look on the Bright Side of Life) has already been used in the aforementioned Spamalot so it gives this a slight sense of flogging a dead horse, but it should be worth a look, and the protests outside the theatre will be almost as funny as the action inside.

The article linked to has a poll going on regarding this. At time of writing, “Yes, it’s a blasphemous and scurrilous piece of work” is in the lead with 46% of the vote, but “Frankly, the outraged need to acquire a sense of humour” is pulling up on the inside just 6% behind.




Getting in a hoohaa

Stage play The Vagina Monolouges has been renamed in Florida after a single complaint over the title.

It will now be known as the “Hoohaa Monolouges” after a woman complained that she was “offended” when her niece asked her what a vagina was. Hoohaa is a child slang word for vagina. The BBC article does not mention how old the niece was.

The play is being staged by a group of law students who plan to donate all proceeds to charity. The play’s director is reported to be very unhappy about the name change.

MWW wonders how the woman in question would have reacted had she heard the “Reclaiming cunt” section of the play!