Archive for March, 2007

Charlie Hebdo cleared

First reports are filtering through from the net that Charlie Hebdo has been cleared of the charge of inciting hatred. As expected, the court accepted CH’s defence that the cartoons were attacking Islamic terrorism and not Muslims in general.

Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) – according to Philippe Val the more radical of the two bodies which filed the suit – has vowed to appeal the decision. They seem to have a taste for public humiliation, don’t they?

UPDATE: Abdurahman Jafar of the Muslim Council of Britain almost welcomed the decision, but displayed an all-too-common confusion about the nature of religion and race in his statement:

I don’t think it was ever a strong case. It’s about the right to publish and freedom of expression. It’s about respecting certain cultural, racial norms and sensitivities. Personally, I think it’s the right decision. It’s not a legal issue; it’s a moral one.

Respecting “racial norms”? In what way is getting upset about a drawing a “racial norm”?

French government encouraged Charlie Hebdo prosecution

Charlie Hebdo editor Philippe Val reveals in an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal that the recent suit against his satirical magazine was actively encouraged by the French government.

Before he published the offending issue Val was summoned to see the prime minister’s chief of staff at a Paris hotel. He refused to go, and went ahead with the issue in spite of an attempted block by Muslim organisations.

After the cartoons appeared, the Muslim groups attacked me by filing suit against me on racism charges. President Jacques Chirac, who campaigned for this just-completed trial, offered them the services of his own personal lawyer, Francis Szpiner. Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque, who always took orders from the Élysée, was apparently not convinced this case was necessary; he told me as much several times. But Mr. Boubakeur was under pressure from the fundamentalists at the UOIF (Union of Islamic Organizations of France), who had come to dominate the French Council of Muslim Worship, which he heads, and Mr. Chirac. Why? Only he knows. We can only guess. Probably to nurture his friendships in the Middle East and win arms contracts for France, while at home playing to Muslim public opinion that’s supposedly in thrall to fundamentalism.

The French government’s extraordinary behaviour contrasts starkly with the outspoken cross-party support the satirical magazine received during the trial last month.

The judgement is due this afternoon.

Popetown broadcaster fined in Lithuania

The Lithuanian TV watchdog has fined the director of MTV Networks Baltic for airing Popetown. Acting on a complaint from the Catholic church in January, members of the Radio and Television Commission voted unanimously to fine Marius Veselis 3000 litas ($1435). Apparently the cartoon portrayed the clergy as destructive and incited religious discrimination.

MTV Lietuva will appeal the decision. A spokesperson said:

We have aired the series in all the three Baltic states, but it caused such a reaction only in Lithuania

Veselis said last month that the case has revealed Lithuania as “sort of half-medieval, half-communist, sick culture”.

Tobago Church fears Elton will turn locals gay

Leaders of the Church in Tobago are campaigning to ban Elton John from the island. The big-spectacled songster is due to headline at the island’s Plymouth Jazz Festival in April, but the Archdeacon of Trinidad and Tobago has said:

His visit to the island can open the country to be tempted towards pursuing his lifestyle. The artist is one of god’s children and while his lifestyle is questionable he needs to be ministered unto.

There are no official figures indicating what proportion of the audience is turned gay at Elton John concerts, but unofficial estimates range from 5% to 25%.

The Clareification Motoon

Steve at the Pub Philosopher has got hold of the infamous Crucification page which caused all the uproar a few weeks ago.

Clare motoon

Steve has also found out that the disciplinary hearing at the college has taken place, and that the guest editor in question was forced to write an apology which appeared in the next issue of Clareification. Apparently, some of the college fellows wanted him sent down.

It is not known if the editor sent a separate apology to the Islamic Centre of Cambridge, the chairman of which, Hicham Kwieder, issued the whiny-threatening press release.

However, we are pleased to note that as a direct result of the fuss kicked up by the complainers, a disrespectful cartoon which would have been seen by only a few hundred students in Cambridge will now be seen by thousands all over the world.

Holy masturbating Christ!

nobless jesus
A Spanish official has filed a suit against a photographer, his publishers, and the Minister of Culture of the region of Extremadura for offending religious feelings.

Tomás Moro, president of the Legal Centre in Extremadura, Javier Perez-Roldán, president of the Centro Jurídico Tomás Moro, brought the charges because of a book of photographs depicting Christian religious figures in various states of undress and arousal (scroll down for more NSFW images). The photos include a masturbating Jesus, a depiction of the Annunciation with a naked Mary being approached by a visibly-excited Angel Gabriel, and, bizarrely, a turd hovering above a chalice.

The photographer, José Antonio Moreno, said they were meant to be critical of the church but denies they were pornographic. However, as he is being done for blasphemy, not pornography, his defence seems moot.

Perez-Roldán has cited the Spanish Constitution and the European Declaration of Human Rights in his prosecution. His argument relies on article 525.1 of the penal code which apparently states that religion is an integral part of being human and as such is protected by the Constitution. He also shows a talent for idiotic hyperbole:

Those responsible for these books demonstrate and intolerance which we all hoped had disappeared and which led Europe, between the years 1939-1945, to the worst atrocities in memory.

He mentioned the Nazis! That means he loses.

UPDATE (19 March): Richard of Bartholomew’s Notes corrects an embarrassing mistake: see strike-though above – the Centro Jurídico is named after Tomás Moro (Thomas More). He also points out the the current president Javier Perez-Roldán, who is filing the suit, has some previous censorship form. He tried to have a comedian named Leo Bassi imprisoned for an anti-religious play named “Revelation” last year. This guy does appear to be the Catholic equivalent of Stephen Green. Thanks Richard – my Spanish clearly isn’t as good as I thought it was!

Three Pigs

I hate reporting on stupid stories like this, but they crop up with depressing regularity. A school in Huddersfield has changed the name of the play they were due to perform from The Three Little Pigs to The Three Little Puppies for fear of offending Muslims.

The story has made the Telegraph and The Mail and is accompanied by all the usual “political correctness gone mad” commentary.

The fact is, the vast majority of Muslims aren’t in the least bit offended by pigs in children’s stories. And the tiny minority that are fully deserve to be.

What with this and the Leeds Uni story below, maybe it’s time someone did a chemical analysis of Yorkshire water. There must be something in it.

UPDATE: The pigs are back. Kirklees council education spokesman Jim Dodds told BBC Radio Five live:

There is something barmy going on here and it has happened on my watch.

I can tell you now that the three little pigs will be back into the school musical festival.

The decision (to ban the pigs) was made by well-meaning people – it was the wrong decision, so let’s stick with the traditions.

Let’s hope we never have to hear one of these little pig stories again.

Self-censorship at Leeds Uni

(From The Telegraph). Yesterday German political scientist Matthias Küntzel was due to address Leeds University on the topic “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Antisemitim in the Middle East”. The talk was cancelled hours before it was scheduled because of security fears.

Leeds Uni had received several protesting emails but, according to Küntzel, none of them actually threatened violence. They were just “very, very strongly worded”.

One of the emails sent to the Vice Chancellor from a student who describes himself as “of both Middle Eastern and Islamic background” complained that the title of the event was “profoundly offensive”:

To insinuate that there is a direct link between Islam and anti-semitism is not only a sweeping generalisation but also an erroneous statement that holds no essence of truth.

So why didn’t he go along to the meeting and make his point?

Leeds Uni are insisting that they are not bowing to threats or protests from interest groups. Instead they claim the meeting was cancelled “on safety concerns alone”. Safety from what?

Küntzel is understandably fuming:

I was told it was for security reasons – that they cannot shelter my person. But I don’t feel in any way threatened.

I know this is sometimes a controversial topic but I am accustomed to that and I have the ability to calm people down. It’s not a problem for me at all.

My impression was that they wanted to avoid the issue in order to keep the situation calm. My feeling is that this is a kind of censorship.

The German Department is none too pleased, either.

UPDATE: The Times reports that the president of the university’s Islamic Society confirmed that they had complained to the vice chancellor, but did not ask for the talk to be cancelled.

Hate speech and holy books

Christopher Hitchens debating at the University of Toronto, opposing a proposed amendment to criminalise “hate speech”:

I have to notice that the sort of people who ring me up and say that they know where my children go to school – and they certainly know what my home number is and where I live – and what they’re going to do to them and to my wife and to me, and who I have to take seriously because they have done it to people I know, are just the people who are going to seek the protection of the hate speech law if I say what I think about their religion. Which I am now going to do…

Watch the whole speech at One Good Move.

Gay-haters to target primary schools

A scheme to promote sexuality equality in UK primary schools has caused a hot-and-sweaty reaction among homophobic religious groups. The pro-equality group No Outsiders is to introduce children’s stories featuring same-sex love relationships into several primary schools around the country.

Predictably, The Christian Institute is in a lather:

The predictions of those who said the repeal of Section 28 would result in the active promotion of homosexuality in schools are coming true.

The books to be used no more promote homosexuality than other children’s books promote heterosexuality. They merely present it in a way that reflects reality.

But, as ever, reality is exactly what these religious groups have trouble coping with. As Tahir Alam of the Muslim Council of Britain demonstrates:

This is not consistent with Islamic teachings and from our point of view many parents would be concerned.


The Christian pressure group Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice) intends to play the most active role in opposing this scheme. Stephen “Dog Shit” Green said:

I am astonished at this project and we are trying to find out where these schools are to empower parents to put pressure on them to remove the books.

Well, he’s already threatened to picket a cancer charity, so primary schools certainly wouldn’t be beneath him.

The intention is to make homosexuality appear normal and these people have no business doing that to other people’s children. It is wicked and amounts to child abuse.

The more you normalise homosexuality, and the more kids see images of homosexual relationships from schoolbooks and authority figures the more kids think any crushes they have on children of the same sex – which is quite normal at 11 years old – are valid.

The three children’s books which will be introduced to selected primary schools are Spacegirl Pukes (Spacegirl is cared for by two women), King and King, and And Tango Makes Three which is based based on the true story of Roy and Silo, Central Park’s gay penguin couple.