Archive for September, 2007

Swedish Muslim group to sue newspaper

In a move apparently designed to exacerbate an already acute persecution complex, the Swedish Muslim Federation have set themselves up for further humiliation by attempting to sue the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper.

Mahmoud Aldebe, the chairman, claimed that the publication of the MoDog cartoon incided hatred against ethnic groups:

It ridicules our religion. This is discriminating and insulting for us. They want to see just how far they are able to go by pushing the boundaries of press freedom.

The group needs to file a complaint with the Chancellor of Justice – the only institution in Sweden permitted to prosecute such cases.

UPDATE: The Angel Gabriel has just visited MWW and informed us that prosecution will be dismissed, allowing a certain segment of the Muslim population to enjoy a good wallow in self-righteous rage for a while.

Mammon trumps God in Oz

Censorship by caterwauling seems to be the name of the game in Oz at the moment, where Catholics gathered this week for a vigil after a terriby naughty programme was aired on the country’s Channel 10. It’s called Californication, and it has a nude scene. Horrors! And it even features a dream sequence at the beginning in which a nun performs a sex act. A sex act? By a nun? In a dream sequence? Have they no shame?

Despite the expected uproar from those of a religious bent, advertisers have backed the airing of the programme (let’s face it, if it’s going to gain them customers, they would, wouldn’t they?), which stars X Files actor David Duchovny as a “sex-addicted novelist and father suffering a mid-life crisis”.

A Catholic priest, Father John Fongemie, led a vigil outside the Sydney studios of Channel 10 last night, complete (judging by the photo) with singing and candles.

An earlier version of the Telegraph story linked to above – now no longer there – talks of how sex was being depicted in a church. And you wouldn’t find that sort of thing in a mosque, would you? asked someone quoted there. Well, no, because those who might just be a tad inclined to object would probably not stop at a candlelit singsong.

Out with the old, in with the, er, old

Our old friends at Mediawatch-UK – who kindly lent their name to this blog, sort of – have a nice, spanking-new, colourful website, just in case their fifteen and a half followers were getting tired of the old one. The first image that greets you, though, is that of a handgun whose barrel points like the finger of Lord Kitchener. But, instead of the mustachioed figure behind it, there’s a menacing blur of a face, hair covered with a dark woollen hat. Surprisingly striking image for John “Massa” (“I love the Black and White Minstrels”) Beyer and co.

What isn’t new, though, is the tired old rhetoric: violence on television equals violence in the streets, using the recent stabbings and shootings – regrettable and sad though they are – to “prove” the equation. And there’s the amazing claim that Mediawatch-UK alone – or so they’d like you to believe – were responsible for “having achieved effective legislation in 1978 which made all child pornography illegal” (back in the days when it had the more cumbersome title of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, headed by the far more entertaining Mary Whitehouse – or “the late great Mary Whitehouse”, as the website calls her; gosh, sizzling, original phraseology, that!). Nice that they’ve given a free plug to what they would no doubt see as gratuitous violence, wrestling, with a reference to the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment group). Oh, that’s a typo. Oh, look, it’s not the only one: “and wwe [sic] publish regular reports on a variety od [sic] media issues”. Couple that with willy-nilly mixing of quoting styles and inconsistent capitalisation conventions, and you have a website that’s bright and new, and tickety-boo, and just the thing to teach impressionable youngsters how to present good English.

No apologies from Sweden in MoDog toon controversy

Swedish Muslims demonstrated on Friday against a small local paper which published a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed.

On August 18 Nerikes Allehanda printed the cartoon by Lars Vilks as part of an editorial piece protesting the lack of art galleries willing to show such work. The image is based on the odd Swedish phenomenon known as “roundabout dogs“.

Iran was the first Muslim government to officially protest to the Swedish government. Predictably, president Ahmadinejad claimed that it was all a Zionist conspiracy:

They do not want the Swedish government to be a friend of other nations. I strongly believe they are behind it (the cartoon). They thrive on conflict and war.

The Pakistan government was next, summoning the Swedish ambassador to condemn the publication “in the strongest terms”. The official statement said:

Regrettably, the tendency among some Europeans to mix the freedom of expression with an outright and deliberate insult to 1.3 billion Muslims in the world is on the rise. In the past also sketches and caricatures of this nature have been published in Europe in the name of the ‘freedom of expression’. Such acts deeply undermine the efforts of those who seek to promote respect and understanding among religions and civilizations.

The statement also claimed that the Swedish Charge d’Affaires “fully shared the views of the Muslim community” – a claim denied by the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

Indeed the Swedish government, media, and the newspaper in question have been very clear that no apology will be forthcoming. On the day of the protest Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt spoke out on the issue:

I think it’s important to say two things. First, we are eager to ensure that Sweden remains a country in which Muslims and Christians, people who believe in God and people who don’t believe in God, can live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect.[…]
We are also eager to stand up for freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the constitution and comes naturally to us, and which ensures that we do not make political decisions about what gets published in the newspapers. I want to make sure we keep things that way.

The editor of Nerikes Allehanda, Ulf Johansson, has steadfastly refused to apologise or promise never to publish a similar image. His editorial writer, Lars Ströman, wrote a robust defence of his boss’s decision:

A liberal society must be able to do two things at the same time. On the one hand, it must be able to defend Muslims’ right to freedom of religion and their right to build mosques. However, on the other hand, it is also permissible to ridicule Islam’s most foremost symbols – just like all other religions’ symbols. There is no opposition between these two goals. In fact, it is even the case that they presuppose each other.

Unfortunately, this basic message does not seem to be getting through. Today, the leader of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, displayed his total lack of comprehension when he urged the Swedish government to apologise immediately:

The caricatures in question do not bode well for freedom of expression. […] It has become a habit to insult our sacred values now. It is impossible to tolerate what has been done and what has been done cannot be considered a simple incident. […]

Those who are responsible cannot hide behind the principle of freedom of press. Those who remain silent in the face of attacks against Islam may not find anyone by their side when it comes to their sacred values.

Now Egypt and Jordan have joined Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in voicing their protest. The Egyptian ministry said the publication was “irresponsible and offensive” and “not conducive to friendly ties between the Islamic world and the west”. And a Jordanian government spokesman said:

The publication of this cartoon, which seeks to attack the character of the Prophet Muhammad, is unacceptable, rejected and condemned.

Such cartoons do not serve inter-faith dialogue and co-existence, in which Jordan believes.

And, of course, the artist has been getting death threats.

UPDATE: (Sept 4) Turkey’s Felicity Party demonstrated outside the Swedish embassy in Ankara today, demanding “immediate action”.

Vicar in “no to religous censorship” shock.

The image to the right is a holographic image of Jesus that morphs into Osama bin Laden. It was designed by Australian artist Priscilla Bracks for the Blake Prize, an Australian religious art competition that also features a statue of the “Virgin” Mary in a burqa.

The artist said that she had not set out to be offensive:

Absolutely not, no, no. I am not interested in being offensive. I am interested in having a discussion and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept and what we don’t accept.

Shockingly, a local vicar, Reverend Rod Pattenden, said that he did not expect any controversy, and that he was looking to spark debate about spirituality in a world that was “cynical, degraded and in crisis”. He added that he didn’t expect controversy “because the Christian community doesn’t look at art a great deal”.

Slightly more here, where they point out that there have been no threats of legal action, no violence and none of the other things that erupt whenever an image of Mohammed is presented in an irreverent (or indeed any) way.