Archive for January, 2008

Coca-cola withdraws blasphemous ads in Russia

According to the Moscow Times group of Russian Orthodox believers has forced Coca-Cola to withdraw a series of ads which they considered “blasphemous”.

The sugary drink giant placed pictures of religious sites together with its logo on fridges in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s third-biggest city. In some of the pictures the sites were upside down, including the cross.

Mikhail Prokopenko, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, said

Large corporations have to take into account the local context, particularly the Christian context. [Coca-Cola] didn’t recognize the boundaries.

He had originally thought that the company ought to be prosecuted for “inciting religious hatred”, but backed down when Coca-Cola proved responsive to Orthodox concerns.




Vatican blasts Potter again

The Telegraph reports on an article in the Vatican newspaper condemning the Harry Potter books.

In L’Osservatore Romano Edoardo Rialti called the teenage wizard “the wrong kind of hero”, and concludes,

The violent manipulation of things and people comes thanks to knowledge of the occult.

The ends justify the means because the knowledgeable, the chosen ones, the intellectuals know how to control the dark powers and turn them into good.

This a grave and deep lie, because it is the old Gnostic temptation of confusing salvation and truth with a secret knowledge.

The characterisation of common men who do not know magic as ‘muggles’ who know nothing other than bad and wicked things is a truly diabolical attitude.




Citroen pulls Mao ad

maoIf the BBC is to be believed, French car maker Citroen has been forced to withdraw a car ad after pressure from Chinese chatroom users.

The ad, which shows a new Citroen passing before a portrait of the late tyrant and reads “It’s true we are leaders, but at Citroen the revolution never stops”, provoked outrage on the internet.

“This is no small thing

It has an influence on the whole country. It damages the whole Chinese people.”

“…our traditions and customs must nonetheless be respected.”

As a result, Citroen apologised and ordered the ad to be pulled immediately.

We repeat our good feelings towards the Chinese people, and confirm that we respect the representatives and symbols of the country




Angry editor makes his Motoons case

Watch Ezra Levant, editor of the Canadian Western Standard, put up a robust defence of his right to publish the Motoons.

He was scandalously called to account for himself by the Alberta Human Rights Commission. See him tell them off:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzVJTHIvqw8[/youtube]

More video footage available at his website and on YouTube.
Here’s a transcript from his opening statement:

For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights. This commission is applying Saudi values, not Canadian values. It is also deeply procedurally one-sided and unjust. The complainant – in this case, a radical Muslim imam, who was trained at an officially anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, and who has called for sharia law to govern Canada – doesn’t have to pay a penny; Alberta taxpayers pay for the prosecution of the complaint against me. The victims of the complaints, like the Western Standard, have to pay for their own lawyers from their own pockets. Even if we win, we lose – the process has become the punishment.

(Hat tip David Thompson)




Jesus’ erection offends the usual suspects

The London Paper reports that Stephen Green’s Voice is calling for a foot high statue to be destroyed.

The figurine of Christ with an erection forms part of an exhibition at The Baltic in Gateshead of the Zabludowicz collection. It is by Chinese artist Terence Koh.

In a press release last week, Green says Koh “badly needs the saving and healing grace of Jesus Christ”. The LP reports that he is also claiming that it has already raised a “storm” of protest.

But a spokeswoman for the Baltic says she has received only 3 letters of complaint:

Contemporary Art by its very nature is often challenging and controversial; reflecting and responding to some very serious personal and social issues in modern life.

Baltic does not shy away from presenting such works.

We do endeavour to provide advance warnings to our visitors when the artworks presented may be distressing to them to enable a choice to be made, and we shall continuously seek to improve our advance information in this way.

Well said, that spokeswoman.

UPDATE: (14th Jan) The press release on Green’s website contains this psychologically revealing passage:

… I am hurt and disappointed that it is a Jewish art collector who has not only bought such an indecent, blasphemous and offensive statue of the Lord Jesus Christ from Koh, but has allowed it to go on show. Only last year I drove 250 miles to deliver clothing for Jewish relief charities.

This is all about Stephen Green and his feelings. Stephen Green drove 250 miles to deliver clothing to Jewish relief charities, and how does this Jewish art collector repay him? She displays a statuette of Jesus with a hard on! What a shoddy, ungrateful way to treat Stephen Green.




Bye bye blasphemy law!

Apparently fearing a defeat at he hands of backbench revolters, the government has all but agreed to abolish the blasphemy law. As a result of Justice Minister Maria Eagle’s speech at the end of today’s debate, Evan Harris withdrew his proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Eagle said the government had “every sympathy” for the case for abolition. Subject to a consultation with the Church of England, which she said would be “short and sharp”, they would bring forward their own amendment to abolish the offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel.

By all means crack open that bottle of bubbles to celebrate this great result. Drink a toast to Evan Harris, Lord Carey, the NSS and the rest. But please do not forget to raise a glass in honour of the man who played a catalytic role in the whole affair, whose nuisance prosecution of the BBC brought the stupidity of this law back into the public arena so recently: thank you, Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice!

His god really does work in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

UPDATE: (Jan 10) The Telegraph – Church ‘accepts end of blasphemy law’
The Guardian – Ministerial compromise averts backbench revolt, Leader
The Independent – Leader

Here are the actual words spoken to the House on this subject:

Maria Eagle: I welcome the opportunity to make the Government’s position clear on the two issues that we have dealt with in the debate on this group of amendments. In speaking to new clause 1, the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) set out in some detail the case for getting rid of the blasphemy laws, helped by interventions from Members of all parties. The issue has been around for many years. As he said, as long ago as 1985 the Law Commission recommended that the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel be abolished. The hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) has given quotations from eminent lawyers and others that go even further back, which shows that the issue was around even before then. We can therefore agree that the issue has been debated at great length.

I agree with the many hon. Members who put their names to new clause 1 that it is high time that Parliament reached a settled conclusion on the issue. We accept that the offences have largely fallen into desuetude. The last prosecution for blasphemy was in 1977, in the case of Whitehouse and Gay News Ltd, as Members will recall. It follows that there have been no cases since the Human Rights Act 1998. The idea that the offences appear to be moribund was reinforced by the High Court’s decision on 5 December 2007 that the Theatres Act 1968 and the Broadcasting Act 1990
9 Jan 2008 : Column 454
prevent the prosecution of a theatre, the BBC or another broadcaster for blasphemous libel. That was the result of a case brought by Christian Voice in response to the play “Jerry Springer: The Opera”. I understand that it is seeking leave to appeal.

Against that background, I can say that we have every sympathy for the case for formal abolition. However, we believe it necessary to consult the Anglican Church before bringing forward a provision that particularly affects it. That is what we are now doing urgently. Subject to that consultation, which I can assure hon. Members will be short and sharp, the Government intend to bring forward amendments in another place to achieve the aims of new clause 1.

Dr. Harris: I welcome what the Minister says, and in the light of her comments, I will not press new clause 1 to a Division.

UPDATE: (12th Jan) The church “will not resist”, says Archbishop.




Stephen Green stands with the mullahs

Stephen Green, the director of Stephen Green’s Voice (less accurately known as Christian Voice), has written a confused and self-contradictory letter to The Telegraph in support of retaining the UK’s archaic, discriminatory blasphemy law.

Here are two sentences extracted for you to compare and contrast:

Your correspondents are wrong to say the blasphemy law “purports to protect beliefs”.
[...]
That being said, the existence of the blasphemy law should engender a proper respect for the sacred and so provide an umbrella of protection for the deeply held religious beliefs of others.

This is your brain on fundamentalist Christianity.

His argument, what there is of it, is that the UK is a “Christian country” therefore the blasphemy law should exist in order to respect and protect Christian beliefs. From that can we infer that Green was in agreement with the Sudanese authorities when they prosecuted a teacher for naming a teddy bear Mohammed? They were only trying to engender a bit of respect for the dominant religion of their country, after all.




Mediawatch-UK: 0.2% as relevant as they think they are

million sigs

At the beginning of November last year “Massah” John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK set up a petition “to initiate urgent action to require the Office of Communication (Ofcom), using its regulatory powers, to substantially reduce the portrayal of fictional violence and the use of obscene language on television”.

As the picture above shows, the doughty smut-campaigner was aiming to get 1,000,000 signatures by today. The current figure stands at 2,087.

Ever hopeful, Beyer has extended the deadline to Jan 10th. You never know…

(Thanks to Chris at Clapham.org)

UPDATE: (11th Jan) The final tally was 2,109 – well worth the extension.




ACTION: Kill the UK blasphemy law

An urgent letter from the National Secular Society:

—-

We have been working closely with our Honorary Associate Dr Evan Harris MP, who has identified an opportunity to challenge the blasphemy law in the House of Commons.

On Wednesday, 9 January, Dr Harris will table as an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill. Below is a letter we have been working on with him which will appear in the Daily Telegraph signed by a large number of other Honorary Associates and prominent supporters of the NSS as well as some other worthy names from a religious and other spheres.

The letter itself makes the case forcibly:

In the light of the widespread outrage at the conviction of the British teacher for blasphemy in Sudan over the name of a teddy bear we believe it is now time to repeal our own blasphemy law.

The ancient common law of blasphemous libel purports to protect beliefs rather than people or communities. Most religious commentators are of the view that the Almighty does not need the “protection” of such a law. We are representatives of religious, secular, legal and artistic opinion in this country and share the view that the blasphemy offence serves no useful purpose. Yet it allows small partisan organisations or well-funded individuals to try to censor broadcasters like the BBC and to intimidate small theatres, the printed media and book publishers.

Far from protecting public order — for which other laws are more suited — it actually damages social cohesion. It is discriminatory in that it only covers attacks on Christianity and Church of England tenets and thus engenders an expectation among other religions that their sensibilities should be also protected by the criminal law (as with the attempt to charge Salman Rushdie) and a sense of grievance among minority religions that they do not benefit from their own version of such a law.

As the Law Commission acknowledged as far back as 1985, when they recommended repeal, it is uncertain in scope, lack of intention is no defence and yet it is unlimited in penalty. This, together with its chilling effect on free expression and its discriminatory impact, leaves it in clear breach of human rights law and in the end no one is ever likely to be convicted under it.

The Church of England no longer opposes its abolition and the Government has given no principled reason to defend its retention. We call upon MPs to support the amendment proposed by Dr Evan Harris, Frank Dobson and David Wilshire tomorrow during the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill Report stage proceedings and for the Government — which rightly criticises countries like Sudan for their blasphemy laws — to give it a fair wind.

If you support the abolition of blasphemy laws, we urge you please to write immediately to your MP, preferably by email, explaining you would like them to support Dr Harris’s amendment on Wednesday and add in your own words why you think this is important. You could perhaps use some of the ideas in the above letter, but please do not reproduce them all.

It is best if you can to contact your MP by email – you can find out details if you don’t know them from this website: They work for you. This allows you to write to the correct MP by putting in your postcode. Whatever method you use to contact your MP, it is essential to include your name and full address.

If for any reason you would prefer to write by letter, you can send it by fax by phoning 020 7219 3000 and asking for the MPs office and requesting a fax number. Alternatively you could write to them at House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA, but in view of the urgency we would urge you to use email or fax if possible.

The NSS has been fighting for the abolition of blasphemy for the whole of its 140 year history. We have been working with Dr Harris on this important issue for some weeks including over the seasonal break assisting with research and soliciting the support of many influential individuals. We know you will want to add your support.

Please act straight away, there is very little time.

The fruits of our efforts will not be clear for some considerable time as the Bill has to go through several readings in both Houses of Parliament, but we will keep you informed of its progress through Newsline. We are most grateful for your support.

Terry Sanderson
President

—-
UPDATE:(8 Jan) The above letter appears in today’s Telegraph, with these signatories:
Philip Pullman, Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Ricky Gervais, Nicholas Hytner, Shami Chakrabarti, Professor Richard Dawkins, Rt Rev Lord Carey of Clifton, Professor A.C. Grayling, Sir Jonathan Miller, David Starkey, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, Stewart Lee, Michael Cashman, Joan Smith, Lady D’Souza, Peter Tatchell, Lisa Appignanesi, Hanif Kureishi, Lord Desai, Roger Smith and Hari Kunzru




Photographer gets death threats

In December we reported on the self-censorship involved when a Dutch gallery refused to display the work of Iranian born photographer Sooreh Hera. Her photos deal with themes of homosexuality and religion, and some of them showed gay men wearing masks of Mohammed and his son-in-law Ali.

Now it seems the censorship is coming from an external source – The Times reports Sooreh is receiving death threats:

They said to me, ‘We’re going to burn you naked or put a bullet in your mouth’,” she said, referring to menacing e-mails.

“They say, ‘Now you are locked in your home and you cannot go out any more’.

Here is one of the photos in question:

gay mo

You can see more at Sooreh’s website.

She has also produced a video called Allah ho gaybar, which may have upset some sensitive souls.