Archive for June, 2008

UNHRC descends further into farce

The President of the UN Human Rights Council, Doru-Romulus Costea, has ruled that Islam and sharia law may not be mentioned during debates because there are no “scholars” on the council qualified to discuss them.

The decision was made on Monday after pressure from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran. Delegates from those nations reacted angrily to a three-minute speech on behalf of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Association for World Education (AWE) calling on Muslim countries to take firmer action against honour killings and female genital mutilation.

The Egyptian delegate repeatedly interrupted the speaker, accusing him of criticising Islam, and insisting that discussion of sharia “will not happen”.

As a result, mention of religion at the UNHRC is now officially taboo.

Even the Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights – previously a somewhat half-hearted proponent of the right to free expression – is beginning to baulk at the monster the UNHRC has become:

It is very concerning in a Council which should be… the guardian of freedom of expression, to see constraints or taboos, or subjects that become taboo for discussion. […] It is difficult for me to accept that a Council that is the guardian of legality, prevents the presentation of serious analysis or discussion on questions of the evolution of the concept of non-discrimination.

Dan Brown upsetting Catholics again

A new film from the author of the Da Vinci Code is rubbing the Vatican up the wrong way again. The producers of Angels and Demons have been banned from filming in every Church in Rome.

According to Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, head of the Vatican’s Prefecture for Economic Affairs, the film is “an offence against God” and – you’ll never guess – “wounds common religious feelings”. The Da Vinci Code, he said,

turned the Gospels upside down to poison the faith. It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into mendacious films in the name of business.

You may remember the furore surrounding that particular blockbuster. Religious groups around the world united in their condemnation, and the Catholic church even tried to sue.

This new film doesn’t promise to be any better than the last, but the spectacle of the Catholic hierarchy stomping about in a rage could be very entertaining indeed.

Springer in Cincinnati

Our old friend Jerry Springer: The Opera is still causing controversy, this time in Jerry’s hometown of Cincinnati.

The New Stage Collective, which is running the show from June 26 to Aug 3, has already received 14,000 letters from protesters.

The report does not say whether the people protesting are Christians or Jerry Springer Fans.

Lesbians v lesbians in Athens

A Greek court will decide whether or not to ban the use of the word “lesbian” to describe gay women.

Three residents of the Aegean island of Lesbos brought the case, claiming that the use of the term insulted their identity. One of the islanders wore a badge reading “I am Paul, and I am a Lesbian” and later unfurled a banner which said “If you are not from Lesbos, you are not a Lesbian”.

The court did not say how it would implement a ban if it decided in favour of the islanders. The evolution of language is a force of nature, unsusceptible to legislation. It is ironic that while most of the island’s inhabitants are quite happy to go with the linguistic flow, it is the Lesbian bigots who are trying to put a finger in the dyke.

UPDATE: The Lesbians lost.

Islamic nations call for blasphemy laws

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, has called for Western governments to do more to stop people saying nasty things about his belief system:

Mere condemnation or distancing from the acts of the perpetrators of Islamophobia will not resolve the issue, as long as they remain free to carry on with their campaign of incitement and provocation on the plea of freedom of expression

He backed up this apparent call for custodial sentences against Islam’s critics with the customary veiled threats:

It requires a strong and determined collective political will to address the challenge. […] It is now high time for concrete actions to stem the rot before it aggravates (the situation) any further.

A delegation of Pakistani officials to the EU is to make similar demands, although their threats are rather more explicit:

The delegation, headed by an additional secretary of the Interior Ministry, will meet the leaders of the EU countries in a bid to convince them that the recent attack on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan could be a reaction against the blasphemous campaign, sources said.

They said that the delegation would also tell the EU that if such acts against Islam are not controlled, more attacks on the EU diplomatic missions abroad could not be ruled out.

Nice embassy you have here. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

(HT David Thompson)

UPDATE: (12.25) More hilarious arrogance, this time from a group in Jordan who are demanding that Geert Wilders appear in court and face charges for his film Fitna. The group, which calls itself “Campaign for the Prophet”, says the charge is

based on the (film’s) violation of publishing laws which ban insults against religions and attacks against Islam and the prophets

There are no such laws in Holland.

UPDATE: (13th June) An unperturbed Wilders states the obvious:

It’s ridiculous. Let them do whatever they like. I don’t have to adhere to Jordanian law, but to Dutch law.

This cartoon is an act of terrorism

Mohammed has a small penis
Does Pakistan have a policy of appointing its stupidest people as ambassadors in Scandinavia?

Last week the Norwegian newspaper Adresseavisen printed the above cartoon. This weekend, Pakistan’s ambassador to Norway, Rab Nawaz Khan, told TV2:

What is terrorism? Terrorism you commit an act, and thereby invite a strong reaction. And that reaction when it gets into spin it is uncontrollable. Similarly this hurts the feelings of the Muslim community all around the world, and therefore I think in a way it is an act of terrorism.

Nice logic there, Rab. You hurt my feelings, therefore you are a terrorist. Somebody give this fool a dictionary, please.

This preposterous cry-baby goes on to make threatening noises about the possible repercussions:

It also puts he lives of the Norwegian citizens in danger around the world. You must not forget that there are number of Norwegian companies working in Pakistan

Listen Rab – one of the things that happens when you reach adulthood is that you become responsible for your own actions. That is why children are not subject to criminal law. Does Islam really have such a retarding effect that it keeps so many of its adherents in a perpetual state of immaturity? It would appear so.

Maybe it is time to grow up and snap out of it.

(The commentary is in Norwegian, but the idiot speaks English)

(Hat tip Islam in Europe)

Pakistan ambassador: “Are you satisfied?”

Fauzia Mufti Abbas is Pakistan’s ambassador to Denmark. She suspects that the recent bombing of the Danish embassy, in which six people were killed, was indeed linked to the publication of a cartoon.

It isn’t just the people of Pakistan that feel they have been harassed by what your newspaper has begun, I’d like to know if your newspaper is satisfied with what it has done and what it has unleashed? Danes know that they have insulted people around the world by printing and reprinting the Mohammed cartoons, which were done in poor taste.

Jørn Mikkelsen, Jyllands-Posten’s editor-in-chief, makes the obvious response to such outrageous drivel:

The decision to do so was in full accordance with Danish law, Danish press ethics and Danish press traditions. That the facts have been twisted in the rest of the world and misused for purposes that are no concern of Jyllands-Posten is something we can and will not take responsibility for.

Christian Voice to challenge Muslim “no-go areas”

The story of the two Christian preachers told by police to leave the predominantly Muslim area of Alum Rock in Birmingham has been reported widely on the internet.

Muslim police community support officer named Naeem Naguthney reacted to a couple of evangelising Christians by doing a bit of evangelising of his own, eventually warning them that they could be “beat up” if they continued to commit the “hate crime” of trying to convert Muslims. He was aided in his efforts by two other officers, one of them a full constable, who told the preachers not to return to the area. The West Midlands Police, who have not apologised to the preachers, say Naguthney “has been offered guidance about what constitutes a hate crime and advice on communication style”.

While it is important to note that this story is being used scurrilously by those seeking to push the idea that there are such things as “Muslim no-go areas”, that should not detract from the fact that there is an alarming trend among police forces – particularly, it has to be said, the West Midlands Police – to try to silence religious or anti-religious speech.

So it will be interesting to see the reactions to Stephen “Bird Shit” Green, director of Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice), and his cronies when they go to Alum Rock on a “Gospel outreach” at 10am on Saturday 14th June. They have, of course, every right to be there. Will the WMP recognise that right?

Danish embassy bombed

A car bomb exploded near the Danish embassy in Islamabad yesterday, killing at least six and injuring 30. Nobody is yet sure who is responsible, but al-Qaida is the main suspect, and anger at this little cartoon seems likely to be the cause:
Oh dear. There we go printing offensive doodles again. They do seem determined to keep this image in the spotlight, don’t they?

Incidentally, Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the above portrait, won the Danish Free Press Society’ Sappho Award a couple of weeks ago. The $4,200 prize was presented by a Muslim actor called Farshad Kholghi, who said he was proud of Westergaard.

Kholghi does a decent Elvis.

More $cientology cult trouble

The Strathclyde police, apparently oblivious to the bad publicity their City of London counterparts recently brought upon themselves, ordered anti-Scientology protesters to take down banners accusing the sinister sci-fi organisation of being a cult.

They had received a complaint, you see. A spokeswoman said:

The word is not a breach of the peace in itself. However, in this case it was exacerbating the situation and our stance was that we had to remove that.

From a policing point of view, a balance has to be struck between the right to assemble and hold a meeting and other persons’ rights to go about their business or demonstrate without being obstructed or hindered.

Meanwhile, civil liberties campaign group Liberty are calling for a judicial review into the City of London police, who did almost exactly the same thing two weeks ago.

UPDATE: (12:16) It gets worse. Anti-scientology demonstrators in Birmingham have also been suppressed by the police. Four members of Birmingham Anonymous Rapid Reaction Force (BARRF) were issued with £50 fixed-penalty notices for handing out leaflets. According to Birmingham Anonymous they were also told that if they use the word cult on any of their signs they may be arrested.

What is going on here? The CPS specifically stated that the word “cult” was not abusive or insulting. Yet Strathclyde and West Midlands Police are again threatening to arrest people for using it. Where are they getting their orders from?

(Hat tip New Humanist Blog)

UPDATE: (June 3) James Hammerton raises an interesting point in the comments.

An interesting aspect of the incidents in London, Glasgow and Birmingham is that different laws have been applied in each case. In London it was the Public Order Act 1986, in Glasgow it was the Scots common-law offence of “breach of the peace” (a similar offence exists in English law too) and in Birmingham it’s the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (in relation to leafleting) and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (in relation to the threat of arrest for using the word “cult”).

It looks very much like they are trying every legal means at their disposal to silence criticism, particularly regarding the “cult” label. This raises the question of what tactics they will resort to when all the legal ones have have failed.