Archive for February, 2008

“Six Muslim youths” close Berlin gallery

A Berlin gallery was forced to close an exhibition satirical works because six Muslim youths threatened violence unless one of the posters was taken down.

The exhibition, by the Danish art group Surrend, was called “Zionist Occupied Government”. It contained 21 posters ridiculing neo-Nazis, the state of Israel, and radical Jews. But there was also one which showed the Kaaba (a large black cube in Mecca with a meteorite embedded in one corner, which Muslims point the tops of their heads towards when they pray) and gave a “bitingly satirical commentary against radicalism”.

The six youths insisted this one be removed, and threatened to throw stones if it was not.

Fortunately the gallery is not rolling over in the face of this superstition-motivated thuggery, and the closure is only temporary. The gallery’s artistic director Ralf Hartmann told Reuters he was working with the authorities to improve security before reopening the exhibition:

It would be unacceptable if individual social groups were in a position to exercise censorship over art and the freedom of expression.

Indeed it would.

UPDATE: (3rd March) The poster in question was called “Dummer Stein” (Stupid Stone). It was displayed next the poster of a Jewish man which bore the caption “Stupid Hat”. We finally tracked an image down to Snaphanen. So now it’s time to wheel out the naughty step:
stupid stone

And another, digitally enhanced version:

Motoons 2.0 update – Sudan

President Omar al-Bashir, head of the genocidal regime is Sudan, vowed to ban Danes from the country and urged the Muslim world boycott of Danish goods.

He did not say whether or not he intended to return the 18 million Euros in aid Sudan received from Denmark in 2006, or if he was going to cancel the 67 million Euros earmarked for his nation through to 2009.

The Danish foreign aid minister Ulla Toernaes is, however, giving the matter some thought.

Vatican condemns Motoons

The Vatican and the Al-Azhar university in Cairo made a joint statement yesterday condemning the republication of Westergaard’s Turbomb Motoon in Danish papers:

Both sides vehemently denounce the reprinting of the offensive cartoon and the attack on Islam and its prophet.

We call for the respect of faiths, religious holy books and religious symbols.

Freedom of expression should not become a pretext to insult religions and defaming religious sanctities.

No mention was made of the foiled murder plot against the 72-year-old cartoonist which prompted the republications.

As Flemming Rose points out, al-Azhar university does not permit Jews or Copts to enroll for their courses in theology, medicine, economics, or agriculture. So much for their “respect of faiths”.

Flemming Rose also brings news that the kindergarden where Kurt Westergaard’s wife Gitte works has asked her not to turn up after several parents expressed concern for the safety of their children.

Meanwhile Germany’s interior minister gave a welcome expression of support to the Danish editors. Wolfgang Schaeuble told Die Zeit:

I have respect for the fact that Danish newspapers have now all printed the Muhammad caricatures … on the basis (that) we will not let ourselves be divided.

Actually, all European newspapers should now print these caricatures, with the explanation: ‘We also find them lousy, but the exercise of press freedom is no reason to practice violence.’

Predictably, a spokesman was later wheeled out to do a bit of backpedalling:

Schaeuble spoke out clearly for press freedom — in Germany, in Europe and generally. In no way did he call for all European newspapers to print Muhammad caricatures.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the editors too:

It’s important to explain that the media did not publish these drawings to hurt people’s religious feelings, but because in a democratic regime with a free press, it’s normal to be able to illustrate your story. […] it was necessary for the newspapers to print the drawing that was the cause of the terrorists’ attempt to take the life of the cartoonist.

Just in case you have forgotten, this was the cartoon:

Undercover Mosque makers to sue West Midlands Police

The Guardian reports the excellent news that Channel 4’s Dispatches editor Kevin Sutcliffe and Hardcash Productions, makers of Undercover Mosque, have issued libel proceedings against the West Midlands Police.

The documentary exposed extremist preachers in the West Midlands calling for homosexuals to be killed, preaching jihad, and generally spouting their own peculiar brand of demented medieval bullshit. The police, having determined that no crime had been committed by the preachers (something which the documentary makers did not allege), decided instead to try to prosecute the broadcasters, accusing them of distortion and misrepresentation.

The West Midlands Police appeared be trying to ingratiate itself with the local Muslim community, the result being this most egregious example of gesture policing.

Ofcom investigated the police complaints, and completely exonerated the broadcasters on all charges.

Channel 4 is supporting the libel suit:

The statements made by both the West Midlands Police and the CPS were completely unfounded and seriously damaging to the reputation of the programme makers.

We fully support this libel action as we feel that it is the only way to vindicate their reputations and to prove this was a responsible piece of public interest journalism. These unfounded allegations brought into question Channel 4’s standards of investigative journalism and a vindication for the programme team will be a vindication for Dispatches

The broadcaster also released a statement on behalf of co-claimants, David Henshaw, Andrew Smith and John Moratiel, from Hardcash Production:

The statements made by both the West Midlands Police and the CPS were completely unfounded and seriously damaging to our reputation. We feel the only way to set the record straight once and for all is to pursue this matter through a libel action.

It’s good to get these things out in the open.

Here’s a 20-second clip from the doc, featuring Abu Usama preaching the lurve:

“How do I get to God?” – English dowload available

“How do I get to God?” asked the little piglet, the book the German Family Ministry wants to ban, has been made available in translation as a free download (PDF file). The accompanying images are also available to view online.

The final spread has a particular charm:

naked apes
Just in case someone might follow:
“Who knows not God, must be quite hollow!”
A secret I will break to you
(And you may tell others about it, too)
The faith in God around our globe
Is just bad magic, just a joke.
Rabbis, priests and muftis, too
Are “naked apes” like me and you
Only, they see floating “ghosts”
And wear quite funny caps and clothes
They couldn’t fool our Piglet, when:
It laughed and laughed at all of them…

Pakistan lifts YouTube ban

Pakistan has lifted restrictions on YouTube access. Let us hope they are more sheepish about their censorious blunder than this article reveals.

UPDATE: (10 mins later) If the article is correct, access to the site was restored only after YouTube had removed what government officials had deemed a “blasphemous” clip. We do not know what clip that was.

UPDATE: (27 Feb) The BBC has the latest report on this, bit it is still unclear what, if anything, YouTube has agreed to remove. Geert Wilders’ Koran movie trailer is still up there.

Motoons 2.0 update

The Comics Reporter brings us a useful roundup of Motoons news.

First, the good news that Belarus’s Supreme Court freed Alexander Sdvizhkov, who was jailed for publishing the Motoons in the independent newspaper Zgoda. He had been sentenced to 3 years last month, but was released on Friday after having his sentence reduced to 3 months “on health and humanitarian considerations”.

The rest is the usual roundup of outrage and sit-ins: the sane and civilised Sudanese president “has directed that all Danish officials and diplomats should not be received by Sudanese officials and that all Danish organizations operating in the country should be expelled and all Danish goods boycotted”.

The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) denounced the republication, saying that they “challenged the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims”.

The media in Jordan are launching a campaign of articles and editorials (hey, it’s an improvement on rioting at least). Zakaria Sheikh, editor of Fact International said

We will stand united and firm to fight Christian Zionists who seek to harm the image of Islam under the pretext of defending the freedom of expression.

They are in fact violating this freedom. They use the media to implement their scheme, and we will use the same means to counter them.

Well done, Sheikh – you get the idea!

The campaign will also demand laws that criminalise and ban blaspheming Islam and the prophet.

Oh, now you’ve gone and spoiled it all.

More than 1,000 Danish websites were hacked by a Saudi script-kiddy calling himself United Arab Hackers. The sites were mostly small local affairs.

Finally, The Freethinker brings the ominous news that Hamas have put their infamous bunny, Assud, on the case.

If they do it again, Saraa [Saraa Barhoum, who hosts the show], we will kill them, right? … I will bite them and eat them up.


Qaradawi calls for Danish boycott

The Times of India reports on Sunni scholar Sheik Youssef e-Qaradawi, who is calling for a worldwide Muslim boycott of Danish goods in response to the republishing of one of the Motoons in nearly all the Danish newspapers.

Regrettably, Muslims start potently with these issues, then they relax gradually as the strong (supporters) get weaker and the enthusiastic (supporters) get lazy.

Our duty is to go on (with the boycott).

He seems to think that the world will view Muslims as “weak” if they don’t react strongly. Not weak, Qaradawi, just a bit more grown up.

Pakistan blunder shuts down YouTube

Over-zealous censors in Pakistan are being blamed for YouTube being inaccessible for two hours yesterday.

The Pakistan government, anxious to protect the fragile sensitivities of the Muslim populace, issued an order to the country’s ISPs to block access to the video sharing site because it contained content deemed offensive to Islam and its inventor Mohammed. Pakistan Telecom promptly hijacked YouTube’s webserver address, and as a result the site was inadvertently blocked by ISPs the world over.

A technical explanation is available here:

It is exactly like the “game of telephone” that kids play. For example, Pakistan Telecom says “I am responsible for (some IP address)” and then they tell PCCW. PCCW tells Verizon Business and NTT and others. NTT tells us and so when my customers ask “Where is Youtube, we’re just answering based on what we’ve heard…” But all we know is that we heard it from NTT who heard it from PCCW who heard it from Pakistan Telecom. If Pakistan Telecom was lying (or made a mistake), we’d have no way to verify it.

As yet there has been no apology from the Pakistan government. We expect ambassadors to be summoned and carpetted, demonstrations outside their embassies, and, if no words of remorse are expressed, effigies to be burnt and bounties put on the heads of the government agents responsible for this outrageous offence against freedom of expression.

Quack closes Quackometer

professor obiNetcetra, webhost to the Andy Lewis’s excellent Quackometer, has folded at the merest whiff of a lawsuit from a notorious “alternative medicine” practitioner.

“Professor” Joseph Chikelue Obi, self-proclaimed “Alternative Medicine Strongman and Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM) Boss”, didn’t like being exposed on Quackometer so he got someone called “Suessenbach”, his legal representative, to scare Netcetera into shutting down the site.

It wasn’t too difficult.

Thankfully, Positive Internet have agreed to take on the website. Not that Obi will be deterred. According to his blog:

if the Quackometer’s current ISP (Positive Internet Ltd) decisively fails to tackle the legitimate concerns of the Alternative Medicine Fraternity , then we will have no other option but exert appropriate fiscal leverage through the commercial invoices of it’s major client base, many of whom are (thankfully) exceedingly well known to us.

For each errant ISP (or Media Outfit), we will use a totally different strategy altogether ; as it is firmly against the law of Natural Justice for any one of them to be greedily making an outrageously easy living out of intensely amplifying our very own indelible pain and suffering.

So , all of those Tuppeny Defamers who are gleefully expecting us to use the very same modus operandi more than once, should please kindly think again.

My fundamentally humble message to all Skeptic Internet Service Providers (out there) today is therefore extremely loud and exceedingly clear : Stop condoning the ruthless harassment of Alternative Medicine Practitioners – or be fully prepared to face the dire financial consequences of your actions!”.

Anyone got some stale breadcrumbs to chuck him? That might keep him occupied for a while.

This isn’t the first time someone has tried to silence Quackometer. As we reported last year, the Society of Homeoquacks successfully cowed his ISP to pull an article critical of them. He’s well shot of Netcetera.

UPDATE: (25th Feb) Quackometer is back.