Archive for February, 2008

Bomb in Copenhagen, Ban Ki-Moon says respect religion

A tannning centre is Copenhagen was destroyed by a bomb on Wednesday, and another was torched yesterday. The Jyllands-Posten reports that the incidents are not thought to be acts of terrorism, but Jakob Illeborg at the Guardian thinks otherwise.

Meanwhile UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced that he

strongly believes that freedom of expression should be exercised responsibly and in a way that respects all religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, he did not explain why.

Motoon rerun backlash grows apace

Egypt bans 4 Western newspapers, including Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt, the Observer and the Wall Street Journal.

Any newspaper or magazine which publishes anything offensive to the prophet…and reprints the offensive caricatures of the prophet or anything offensive to the three heavenly religions will be banned [Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi]

Neither the WSJ nor the Observer printed the cartoon. (UPDATE: Feb 21 – the WSJ actually showed a picture of the front pages of the Danish papers which contained the drawing)

The government also summoned the Danish ambassador for a telling off:

The insistence of the Danish media to insult Islam again is unfortunate since the incident of publishing the cartoons has undoubtedly confirmed that such shameful acts only lead to more tension. [Foreign ministry statement]

Students protested in Cairo, and a couple of youth internationals football matches were cancelled.

Yemen has suspended friendship with Denmark’s parliament, and in Jordan the lower house condemned the reprints and urged the Danish government to stop it happening:

The House of Representatives has been surprised over the reprinting of the blasphemous pictures by Danish newspapers and considers the step an irresponsible behaviour indicative of extreme recklessness and absence of values.

Not the absence of values, you dunces. The presence of different, arguably much better, values.

(Hat tip: The Comics Reporter)

UPDATE: (21 Feb) The ever-vigilant Comics Reporter informs us that Pakistan has carpeted the Danish charge d’affaires, issuing this statement:

The additional secretary underlined that the publication of the cartoons was counter to the efforts of countries and people who wished to build bridges amongst civilizations. Since hurting sentiments of other religions was not responsible behavior, the Danish Government, as a responsible government, was obliged to stop the publication of the cartoons.

There have also been demonstrations in Jakarta.

Also, rather distressingly, Kurt Westergaard has been asked to leave the hotel he and his wife were staying at. The management cited fears for the safety of other guests.

Countdown of defiance

Stephen “Dog Shit” Green, national director of Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice), has set up a digital counter on the CV website which keeps track of the length of time an art collector continues to defy the will of Stephen Green.

Anita Zabludowicz is the billionaire owner of a statue by Terence Koh which depicts Jesus (the semi-mythical figurehead upon whom the religion of Christianity is based) with an erection. It was displayed earlier this year at Gateshead’s Baltic art gallery.

As we reported in January, Stephen Green was “hurt and disappointed” that the Jewish collector should show such insensitivity, especially as “only last year [Stephen Green] drove 250 miles to deliver clothing for Jewish relief charities.”

The web timer indicates:

Time which billionaire Jewish art collector (and friend of the Chief Rabbi) Anita Zabludowicz has had to destroy her blasphemous, pornographic statue of Jesus Christ with a phallus attached, since getting it back from the Baltic Centre in Gateshead at 6.00pm on Saturday 20th January 2008.

It is accurate to the second.

MWW enlisted the help of Terence Koh to track down an image of the statue in question. The artist is slightly frustrated that the piece has been removed from its context of a much larger installation, but believes that the giggles it has given him since outweigh the annoyance.

So, applying the principle of the “naughty step”, whereby the object of the religionist’s offence is given wider exposure than it would have had if the offended had not kicked up a fuss and made unreasonable demands, sit on this, Stephen Green, and think about what you have done:
jesus’ erection and stephen green

“Can’t. Won’t.” Danes stand firm on apology demands

A group of ten Danish lawmakers, have cancelled a trip to Tehran because the Iranian ambassador asked them to condemn the recent republication of drawings of Mohammed.

17 Danish newspapers reprinted the Turbomb Motoon in their reports of a foiled murder plot against its creator, Kurt Westergaard.

Mette Vestergaard, a member of the parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee, said:

The Iranian ambassador asked the Foreign Policy Committee to condemn the drawings. They can’t and they won’t.

Danish papers reprint Turbomb in solidarity with Westergaard

The Jyllands-Posten reports the good news that “all the country’s major dailies” have reprinted Kurt Westergaard’s iconic “Turbomb” Motoon in their reports of the arrest of three Muslim men alleged to have been plotting the 73-year-old cartoonist’s murder.

Newspapers which at the height of the crisis criticised the Jyllands-Posten for publishing the Motoons today decided to reprint the most controversial of the twelve as an “act of solidarity”. Presumably the fact that it was an essential part of the news story was also a factor.

Pity the UK press did not think so.

Lisbeth Knudsen, editor of Berlisgske Tidende, said:

We can’t accept that freedom of speech be taken hostage by religious fanaticism. Freedom of speech can be respectful and tolerant, but it should never be intimidated into silence.

Tøger Seidenfaden, Politiken‘s editor-in-chief:

In a free society, we can discuss how public discussions should be conducted, but not if they should be conducted.

These cartoons have become the equivalent of a naughty step for violent Muslim toonophobes. Like tantrum-prone toddlers, their behaviour is unacceptable, and if they continue to misbehave the cartoons will continue to be published far and wide. They do not like it, but they must sit on that naughty step and think about their actions until they understand the rules.

Meanwhile, The Local reports that a map of Lars Vilks’ house and documents on night-vision binoculars were seized during the arrest of two terror suspects in Sweden.

As you may remember, Mr Vilks has bounty on his head for drawing this:

mo dog

UPDATE: (15th Feb) The Iranian government, that fine example of civilisation and human respect,
has summoned the Danish ambassador for a telling off.

UPDATE: David Thompson has some good commentary on a disgusting piece in Comment is Free by Faisal al Yafai, who managed to excrete 500 sneering, smart-arsey words without once mentioning why the cartoon was reprinted.

Motoon murder plotters arrested in Denmark

The AP reports that Danish police have arrested several Muslims in Aarhus, western Denmark, who were plotting to murder one of the Danish Mo-toonists.

Although the police did not say which cartoonist was being targetted, the Jyllands-Posten believes it is the 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, creator of the iconic “Turbomb” image. He is pretty pissed off:

Of course I fear for my life when the police intelligence service say that some people have concrete plans to kill me. But I have turned fear into anger and resentment.

The AFP has a quote from Carsten Juste, editor of the JP, who is also angry:

It is shameful that a man who is doing his job well and in accordance with Danish law and press ethics is rewarded with demonisation and concrete murder threats.

By contrast, the idiotic Kasem Said Ahmad, a spokesman for the Islamic Community in Denmark, rather than condemning the would-be murderers, took an “I told you so” line:

We have warned that the situation could get out of control. […] We urge Muslims to take it calmly.

Great. A group of Muslims take offence at the suggestion that Islam can inspire violence and decide that the best way to protest about this is to murder an old man. They are foiled in their attempt, so now Kasem Ahmad feels it necessary to urge other Muslims to be calm – not about the fact that there are murderers in their midst, but because they were arrested before they could carry out their plan.

As ever, the best reaction to such events is to republish the “offending” images. Eventually the message might get through that the more they make a fuss, the greater the offence will be amplified, so that any unlawful reaction will be counter-productive.

It is thanks to the Danish imams, who touted the Motoons around the Middle East in a successful attempt to stir up trouble, that Westergaard’s “Turbomb” has come to rival the crescent moon as an internationally recognised symbol of Islam.

Nice work boys.

Monologues’ dialogue upsets men in frocks

It’s funny how things come in twos. First we had the Bishop of South Sydney complaining about Terence McNally’s Corpus Christi (see 9 February story); now it’s The Vagina Monologues in the good ol’ US of A.

There was going to be a theological seminar at the university of Notre Dame, Indiana, this week, but it will now be moved off campus.

The Catholic bishops just can’t stand the fact that this play, a play about, you know, girl stuff, will be held at the university a month and a half after the seminar would have been held. This logic-defying move suggests the men in frocks will never use the university again, since it will for ever be contaminated. Or perhaps only in a February that’s followed by a March or has an r in its name.

“Because of the likelihood of the presentation of the play The Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame this year, the bishops made a collective decision to move the seminar off campus,” the “Most Reverend” John M D’Arcy, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne, South Bend, Indiana, said in a written statement, refusing to give an interview.

Notre Dame students are planning a production of The Vagina Monologues in a campus classroom from 26 to 28 March. It’s by the playwright Eve Ensler, and deals with women’s views of their bodies and their sexuality.

Bodies and sexuality are things Catholic priests don’t get involved with. Er . . .

While the Catholic university has refused to ban the performances outright, those who put art above religious sensitivities have not exactly won the day: performances must be in a classroom setting (not a theatre); the production can’t be used to raise money for community groups; and each show much include an academic panel discussion.

More froth over McNally play

Corpus Christi, the play once described by our old friend, the rent-a-quote Stephen Green of Christian Voice, as “a massive homosexual propaganda vehicle”, is now exercising would-be censors in Oz, with an Anglican bishop getting his cassock in a twist over its showing in Sydney.

Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney, “questioned the integrity of Corpus Christi and expressed his outrage at the ‘unhistorical and untrue’ depiction of the son of God and some of his disciples as homosexual”, according to the Velvet Hammer blog.

“It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they’re obviously having a laugh about it,” says the bish. “It’s historical nonsense and I wouldn’t want to go and see it. Life’s too short.”

Then by all means stay away, My Lord Bishop, and leave the seat free for someone who will appreciate Terrence McNally’s updated passion play, which depicts Jesus and his mates as all gay and living in modern Texas (and opened in the New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney, two days ago). But you might like to prove to us the historicity of your big Christian handbook before you criticise art for not sticking to the facts.

Goodness, but if art stuck literally to facts it wouldn’t be art. It’s meant to go beyond, and present concepts in ways that challenge us and make us think about things in fresh and unusual ways. What McNally does here is to draw parallels between the rejection he faced as a young gay man growing up in Texas and Christ’s persecution.

Historical and mythical situations are used all the time to shed light on modern problems. Who hasn’t seen Julius Caesar performed in the context of, say, Mussolini’s Italy (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, 1970s), Macbeth in modern Scotland (a BBC drama in the nineties) or Romeo and Juliet set in the streets of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with stunning music and set-piece dance routines (West Side Story)?

But use Christian (or, for that matter, Muslim) imagery and iconography and, hey, you’re blaspheming. Off with their heads!

As you would expect, there’s an organisation with the word “family” in it in the mix, too. The Australian Family Association’s spokeswoman, Angela Conway, said the play’s “creators had committed ‘a big enough crime’ by neglecting to treat Christianity and Christian believers with more sensitivity”, says the blog story, going on to quote her as saying that the play is “completely fanciful”. Er . . .

When the play opened in the USA there were bomb threats. Christians were out in force when it did the Fringe in Edinburgh in 2005, with a Christian Voice spokesman, Bruce McNally (presumably no relation to the author), saying, “I am quite surprised that this kind of material is being brought to the Fringe, especially with the new religious hatred Bill going through Parliament, as it is deeply offensive to many people.”

(Christian Voice has more than one member? We’re impressed!)

Go back to 1999 and there was even an Islamic death fatwa issued against the playwright when his work was shown in London, because Muslims regard Jesus as a messenger of God. It was signed by one Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, “judge” of something called the Shari’ah Court of the UK, who said at the time, “The fatwa is to express the Islamic point of view that those who are insulting to Allah and the messengers of God, they must understand it is a crime.”

Yeah, right. Ho, hum.

Wikipedia to Mo-image petitioners: “No”

The Wikipedia article on Mohammed (the inventor of Islam (a Middle Eastern religion)) contains several ancient depictions of the soi-disant prophet. As the New York Times reports, this upsets a certain type of Muslim – the type that writes angry emails, sets fire to effigies and embassies, and starts on-line petitions that say,

In Islam picture of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and other Humans are not allowed. But Wikipedia editors are showing illustrations with face illustrated and face is veiled or white washed. But still they are offensive to Muslims. I request all brothers and sisters to sign this petitions so we can tell Wikipedia to respect the religion and remove the illustrations.

The petition currently has over 100,000 “signatures”, although many are anonymous and quite a few are obviously bogus. Like this one from “Mohamed Khant”, for example:

My sense of self-worth depends on my ability to force others to respect my religious taboos. I insist that you remove the images of Mohammed (PBUH) as soon as possible.

To their credit, Wikipedia are standing firm. They have locked down the entry, and put this notice up on the discussions page:

Important notice: Prior discussion has determined that pictures of Muhammad will not be removed from this article, and removal of pictures without discussion at Talk:Muhammad/images will be reverted. If you find these images offensive, it is possible to configure your browser not to display them; for instructions, see the FAQ.

Say what you will about Wikipedia. In this case they are showing more guts and principle than 99.9% of the mainstream media.

CCTV aim: Make Christians Look Stupid

cctv ad
The last time the Christian Congress for Traditional Values made the pages of this website it was at the height of their homophobic ad campaign against the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Well, now those Christian chickens are coming home to roost, with the ASA ruling that one of their posters was in breach of the advertising code on two counts:
1) it wasn’t an accurate representation of the views of gay people, and
2) it was likely to cause widespread offence

In their defence, the CCTV said that gay people did indeed want to destroy the family, and cited as proof a document written in 1971 by the Gay Liberation Front – a radical fringe group which disbanded thirty years ago.

1971? These Christians do set a lot of store by ancient literature, don’t they? We wonder if the document was dated AD71 would they be even more frightened than they are now?