Archive for June, 2007

Bologna art exhibit closed for blasphemy

Catholic World News carries a short and disappointingly uninformative story about an art exhibition in Bologna which was cancelled on orders from the city’s Mayor.

It apparently includes “unacceptable vulgarity that offends believers and non-believers”. A local right-wing politician has called for the exhibitors to be prosecuted under article 403 of Italy’s penal code which cover offences against religious faith. And a statement from the Archdiocese of Bologna called the event “abominable blasphemy”.

No more information is available. It sounds like it could be the work (scroll down for NSFW images) of José Antonio Moreno, who got in trouble in Spain earlier this year.

More reactions to Rushdie knighthood

The Guardian today reveals how the honours committee which recommended Salman Rushdie for a knighthood was “stunned” by the reactions from Iran and Pakistan.

The committee was chaired by Lord Rothschild, and included, Jenny Abramsky, Ben Okri, Andreas Whittam Smith, John Gross, and two permanent secretaries – one from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the other from the Scottish executive.

Jonathan Heawood of PEN international summed up quite nicely:

It seems a shame that a few lines in his fourth novel should have turned him into this hate figure. He has become a Guy Fawkes figure to be thrown on a bonfire whenever it suits a government to divert attention from what is happening in their own countries.

Other quotes picked up by The Guardian at the end of the article:

Hari Kunzru
“The idea that it is some kind of calculated insult is an absurdity. The real insult – to the intelligence and decency of ‘the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims’, for whom people such as Mohammed Ejaz ul-Haq presume to speak – comes from the ignorance and paranoia of leaders who feel so threatened by a novelist that they’ll call for him to be killed.”

Kathy Lette
“Being Australian, of course, I’m slightly allergic to royal anointing of any kind … but I am definitely in favour of celebrating the achievements of writers. Salman deserves to win every accolade imaginable for his creative gifts, but also for his immense bravery.”

Lisa Appignanesi
“For Iran’s foreign ministry to wade into our honours system and portray the decision to honour Rushdie as ‘an orchestrated act of aggression directed against Islamic societies’ is to repeat the mistake which began with Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa.”

Will Self
“Given the furore that The Satanic Verses occasioned, it does strike me that any responsible writer might ask himself whether the fallout from accepting such an honour was really worth the bauble … it is surely better that writers decline any form of honour.”

Ruth Dudley Edwards
“There is only one explanation why Rushdie has been singled out. It is that Tony Blair … wants to put two fingers up to Iran as well as to extremist Islam everywhere.”

Garlanding effigies now

Shahid Gilani, head of the youth wing of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami, who is leading protests in Lahore, is taking the art of effigy-based dissent to a new level. He said activists planned to

garland Hitler’s effigies to express our hatred toward those who garland blasphemers.


We want Rushdie to be handed over to Muslim country where he should be tried under Sharia law. The punishment for a blasphemer is death.

He also told a reporter:

We have also decided that we will from now on call every dog ‘Sir’

Presumably by “youth wing” they mean under-11s.

UPDATE: First Deputy Speaker of Iran’s parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar gives some amusing quote in this BBC report:

Salman Rushdie has turned into a hated corpse which cannot be resurrected by any action.

The action by the British Queen in knighting Salman Rushdie, the apostate, is an unwise one.

The British monarch lives under this illusion that Britain is still a 19th Century superpower and that bestowing titles is something still deemed important.

In actuality, it is extremely unimportant. Which is why I am raging about it now in parliament, and issuing veiled threats.

Pope-joking atheist QC in trouble

Scotland’s leading QC, Donald Findlay, faces a disciplinary hearing for making a Pope joke during an after-dinner speech.

The Faculty of Advocates received complaints about Findlay’s behaviour at a Glasgow Rangers social club, where he jokingly asked, while wafting away smoke, “Fucks sake, has another Pope died?”. He also made a joke about a nun and a turnip.

Retired headmaster Hugh Lynch was not at the gathering, but was so outraged by the remark as reported (inaccurately) in a newspaper that he complained to the Faculty, branding Findlay an “uncouth moron” and accusing him of inciting sectarianism.

He admits he tells these filthy jokes and uses foul and abusive language in speaking engagements… clearly he possesses a deep-rooted hatred of all things Catholic

Findlay is an atheist. He also made a joke about Rev Ian Paisley, who is not a Catholic.

UPDATE: (June 24) Senior Catholic QCs have written a letter in support of Findlay:

Whilst we are all confronted daily with the manifestations of prejudice and intolerance, we confirm, without reservation, that we have no doubt whatsoever that Donald is a man without prejudice towards anyone on the basis of race, colour, creed or class in his dealings both professionally and privately.

“To the contrary, he is a man who represents his clients properly and equally, not withstanding their background or beliefs, and who gives of his time privately on that same basis of equality

UPDATE: (July 3) He was cleared. The complaining Mr Lynch is “deeply disappointed”.

Council of ex-Muslims of Britain

Rights activist Maryam Namazie is to be the voice of the soon-to-be formed Council of ex-Muslims of Britain:

We are establishing the alternative to the likes of the Muslim Council of Britain because we don’t think people should be pigeonholed as Muslims or deemed to be represented by regressive organisations like the MCB. Those of us who have come forward with our names and photographs represent countless others who are unable or unwilling to do so because of the threats faced by those considered ‘apostates’ – punishable by death in countries under Islamic law. By doing so, we are breaking the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam but also taking a stand for reason, universal rights and values, and secularism. We are quite certain we represent a majority in Europe and a vast secular and humanist protest movement in countries like Iran.

The launch will be on Thursday 21 June.

There are already councils of ex-Muslims in Germany, Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. MWW wishes this one good luck!

More Muslim reactions to Rushdie knightnood

The Pakistan government became the latest to imagine that the bestowing of honours to British citizens was any of their business. Their religious affairs minister, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Ha, actively encouraged suicide bombing as a justified reaction to Sir Salman’s recent knighthood:

The west is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the ‘sir’ title.

Is he aware that the second sentences proves the first sentence’s point? It’s hard to tell.

Across Pakistan outraged Muslims reacted in the time-honoured fashion of burning effigies and calling for deaths.

The minister for parliamentary affairs, Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, proposed a resolution condemning the honour. It was passed unanimously by the parliament’s lower house. She told MPs:

The ‘sir’ title from Britain for blasphemer Salman Rushdie has hurt the sentiments of the Muslims across the world. Every religion should be respected. I demand the British government immediately withdraw the title as it is creating religious hatred.

It’s probably about time Muslims such as Niazi took responsibility for their own hatred, rather than blaming others for “creating” it.

Inevitably, Muhammad “Boo-hoo” Bari, the whiny secretary general of the increasingly-irrelevant Muslim Council of Britain, has a few words to say too:

Salman Rushdie earned notoriety amongst Muslims for the highly insulting and blasphemous manner in which he portrayed early Islamic figures.

The granting of a knighthood to him can only do harm to the image of our country in the eyes of hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world. Many will interpret the knighthood as a final contemptuous parting gift from Tony Blair to the Muslim world.

Funny how the “Muslim world” thinks everything is about them.

UPDATE: Forouz Raja’ee-Far, secretary general of the “Headquarters for Honoring the Martyrs of Islam World Movement”, has upped the bounty on Rushdie’s head to $150,000:

According to Imam Khomeini’s verdict, it is an obligation for all Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie even if he repents from the bottom of his heart and becomes the pious man of the time.

Also according to Imam’s verdict, if a non-Muslim person can find and execute Rushdie sooner than Muslims, it will be an obligation for Muslims to provide such a person with whatever he wants as his payment or prize

UPDATE (19 June) Apparently Ijaz-ul-Haq retracted his suicide-bomber comment:

If someone blows himself up, he will consider himself justified. How can we fight terrorism when those who commit blasphemy are rewarded by the West? We demand an apology by the British government. Their action has hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion Muslims

We have no problem with Muslim fanatics strapping on bombs and blowing themselves up. In fact, as long as they don’t hurt anybody else, it should be encouraged.

Sony to Church: sorry you’re offended

The Church of England have been thrown a rubber bone of an apology by Sony, and they are now chewing gratefully upon it under the kitchen table.

It was a classic “we’re sorry if we have offended any idiots” manoeuvre:

We do not accept that there is any connection between contemporary issues of 21st Century Manchester and a work of science fiction in which a fictitious 1950s Britain is under attack by aliens.

It is not our intention to cause offence by using a representation of Manchester Cathedral in chapter eight of the work. If we have done so we sincerely apologise.

Sony have not commented on the demand to remove the game from the shelves, nor apparently mentioned donations to anti-gun crime charities.

The Dean of the Cathedral responded:

We acknowledge the admission by Sony that the building in the game is Manchester Cathedral.

We thank Sony for the apology they have made.

However, we do not move from the position that we are against violence and especially the gun violence seen in this portrayal of the Cathedral.

Such moral fibre! They are still against violence.

Sir Salman

As Ian McEwan says, “this sends a firm message to the book-burners and their appeasers.”

All we need now is for Sir Idiot Sacranie to reject his undeserved knighthood in protest, and our joy would be complete.

UPDATE: (17 June) The Iranian government has reacted predictably. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini:

Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is… a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials.

The measure that has taken place for paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked.

Church faces “uphill battle” against Sony

Ekklesia reports that a game and copyright lawyer doesn’t give the CofE much chance in its fight against the Sony corporation.

Alex Chapman of Campbell Hooper Solicitors told The Escapist games magazine that buildings “permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public” are not subject to copyright.

Pubic buildings are generally fair game for inclusion in videogames, films, etc., and it is something that their owners just have to accept.

Simon Barrow of Ekkesia also thinks the Church is going about this the wrong way:

When Canterbury Cathedral complained about featuring in a war-game last year, we wrote to the Dean and chapter suggesting that they should use it as an opportunity to promote a positive message about peace-building and reconciliation, rather than getting into an unseemly and probably unwinnable legal case. Similar principles apply in this situation.

Another cathedral gets shoot-em-up treatment

The Church of England has demanded that Sony apologise and remove from sale a computer game which features Manchester Cathedral as a backdrop for a gunfight. They have threatened to sue if the company does not comply.

The church claims that Sony Playstations “Resistance: Fall of Man” used the nave of the cathedral without permission.

The BBC report contains lots of outraged quotes from the Bishop of Manchester and the Dean of the cathedral: “highly irresponsible”, “beyond belief”, “undermining”, “shocked” – you get the idea.

Sony has not returned the Church’s calls.

Last May a similar spat occurred when Canterbury Cathedral featured in Koch Media’s “War on Terror”. Nothing happened then, either.

UPDATE: (June 11) The BBC today reports that the Church is making 4 demands:
– An apology for using the cathedral
– Withdrawal of the game, or modification of the section of the game to remove the cathedral interior
– Sony to make a substantial donation from the games’ profits allowing the cathedral’s education department to target more effectively those aged 18 to 30
– Sony to support other groups in Manchester fighting against gun crime.