Archive for October, 2008

Dutch blasphemy law to be repealed

Good news from the Netherlands, where the Justice minister has finally agreed to repeal the country’s blasphemy laws. He had initially suggested expanding them to cover all religions, but reason prevailed in the end.

At a time when the Organisation of the Islamic Conference are lobbying hard at the UN for an international blasphemy law, this move by the Dutch government is a welcome step.

Vandals attack London art gallery

<b>Burka with badges</b>: one of Maple's paintings which is hurting the sentiments of some Muslims

Burka with badges: one of Maple's paintings which is hurting the sentiments of some Muslims

The Independent has more on this story about Sarah Maple’s exhibition at the SaLon gallery.

Windows and doors were smashed after a series of abusive phone calls and emails, prompted by Maple’s artwork. The show is entitled “This Artist Blows”, and it contains self-portraits of the England-born Muslim, as well as several burka-themed paintings including the one showing a woman carrying a pig, and another with the burka-wearer bearing a badge which reads “I love orgasms”.

Earlier this week staff had to call the police because what appeared to be an angry woman came in to complain:

“She was in a full burqa and was irate and upset. Her behaviour was quite threatening,”

said a staff member. Though how they knew it was a woman was not explained.

Mokhtar Badri, the vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain – the man who had tacitly encouraged such reactions (“she clearly wants to provoke a strong reaction from Muslims and that is what she will get”) – is now “doing an Ihsanoglu” and seeking to distance himself from the resultant violence:

I urged the gallery and the artist to respect the community in the area, but if Muslims see the work and dislike it, it is completely wrong to use any violent expression of that.

Bunglawala from the MCB, who did not have a hand in stirring up the thugs, sounds a little bit more credible:

People may well have strong views on the use of Islamic imagery in Sarah Maple’s exhibition. However, there can be no justification whatsoever for hooliganism of this sort or issuing threats.

UPDATE (31 Oct): What a surprise. She’s getting death threats.

Ofcom raps Revelation TV for Islam opinion

Ofcom’s latest Broadcast Bulletin (PDF download) reveals that a Christian TV channel has been reprimanded because a guest on one of its shows expressed the opinion that Islam was not a religion of peace.

Revelation TV, co-founded by a former drummer for the mighty Barron Knights, is as whacky as Christian broadcasting comes. But Ofcom judged them to have overstepped the mark when “theologian, teacher and author ” Dan Juster (clearly a loon even by Christian fundie standards) said on Visions for Israel that he believed,

Islam cannot be defined as a peaceful, loving religion…Islam enforces its own viewpoint through the power of the sword through death…


Islam believes that violence is a legitimate means to establish and extend Islam.

Whether or not you agree with either of these statements – and they are both arguable with reference only to history and Islamic sacred texts – surely Juster has a right to voice them, and any channel, Christian or not, has a right to broadcast them?

Not according to Ofcom, who deemed Revelation TV to be in breach of Rule 4.1 of the Code (Broadcasters must exercise the proper degree of responsibility with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes).

So it is now irresponsible to express an honest opinion about a religion?

In its judgement, Ofcom made all the usual noises about “the right to freedom of expression”, but concluded:

this Code Rule requires broadcasters to exercise the proper degree of responsibility when, for example, using hyperbole which may include more extreme views which could be
deemed offensive to people in the audience who hold different views and beliefs.

What is more saddening is that Revelation TV, far from being outraged at the accusation (which, incidentally, stemmed from ONE complaint), are themselves grovelling apologetically at the very idea that they caused offence. In its defence to Ofcom, it appealed,

having viewed the previous six editions of the series and found them to be compliant with the Code, it was lulled into a false sense of security with respect to this seventh episode and did not view it for compliance prior to transmission.


if it had been aware of the programme’s content it would either not have shown it, or would have arranged a discussion/debate on the issues raised, since it was aware that as a religious television channel it had many viewers who were sympathetic to the Muslim faith.

What an appalling display from regulator and broadcaster alike.

Centre For Inquiry London website launched

Not strictly MWW territory, but as we had hand in the construction of the Centre for Inquiry London website you will forgive this shameless plug for a fine and worthy organisation which deserves all the support you can give it.

Perhaps this could be its theme song:

Bad language used to condemn bad language

The Sunday Telegraph’s Roya Nikkhah reports on an “investigation” into swearing on post-watershed TV. The investigation appeared to consist of the Telegraph reporter sitting up with pencil and paper for five nights then phoning up a few of the usual suspects to comment on the “findings”. Hey presto! A Sunday Telegraph hell-in-a-handcart story.

Here are the findings:

In some cases, swearing began only minutes after the watershed, when young children could still have been watching. In all, f*** and its derivatives was used 88 times, s*** 26 times and p*** 13 times.

What, no c***? What is the world coming to?

Most amusingly, this reporter got the name of our favourite smut-campaigner wrong throughout the piece, referring to him as John “Meyer”.

And this is what the Massah had to say about language use:

The use of bad language on television is now completely out of control. The fact is the public is offended by bad language but broadcasters are doing nothing to respond to that concern – instead they are burying their heads in the sand and stretching the regulations to the very limit.

Masterly use of mixed metaphor there, conjuring an image of besuited broadcasters, heads buried in the desert sand with their arms stretched out sideways, like rows of upside-down Jesuses.

He goes on:

Obviously there are still plenty of young viewers tuning in after 9pm, so why do broadcasters think that so many obscenities after the watershed is OK? What is the point of the Government spending millions trying to improve our children’s language and literacy when broadcasters are seeking to undermine it?

Just in case you were forgetting just how loopy Beyer is, note that in this last sentence he is actually putting forward the theory that the broadcasters of this nation are involved in an active – but presumably clandestine – campaign to undermine children’s language and literacy, and that the method they are using to achieve their nefarious aim is to squeeze as many fucks shits and pisses into the post-watershed programming schedule as they possibly can.

And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for that pesky Mr Meyer!

Christians seek Hallowe’en ban in Banff

 <b>Gravely offensive</b>: Xians in Banff think this display disrespects their "faithful departed"

Gravely offensive: Xians in Banff think this display disrespects their faithful departed

A group of churches in the Scottish town of Banff is trying to get the hallowe’en window displays in two newsagents removed because they are “disrespectful” to the Christian faith.

The secretary of Banff Churches Together, Fiona Stewart, says:

We were alarmed by the nature of the Castlegate window display and the entrance to the Eastside Shopping Centre.

The displays relate to cemeteries and, as Christians, we take the view that they are disrespectful to our faithful departed.

We have no problem with children dressing up and having fun at Hallowe’en, but we are concerned that these displays are particularly morbid.

The word Hallowe’en derives from the term ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ and is the date before the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls, when Christians respectfully remember all the saints and martyrs and people who have died throughout the centuries.

We do not think the manner of these displays is in keeping with the respectful remembrance of the faithful departed.

Maybe that’s because Hallowe’en not really a Christian festival, but an ancient pagan one known as Samhain?

Amusingly, William Gatt, the owner of one of the shops, is having none of it:

I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. I had to read the letter three or four times before I could comprehend what they were saying.

I went to considerable expense to create the window, to do something that’s nice. There’s no way I’m giving in to these pressures. I’m not removing it.

Commenters on the newspaper’s website are also unanimously scornful at the pious attempts at censorship. One, going by the name of ‘Beelzebub’, makes an interesting point:

What next? Shops displaying books, pictures and ornaments of a man nailed to a piece of wood, blood pouring out of him, with a spear hole in his side and a crown of thorns? I hope not, as such obscenities should be banned.

Danish imams fail again

Seven Danish Muslim groups have failed in their third attempt to take the Jyllands-Posten to the Supreme Court for publishing the Motoons.

The justice ministry rejected their application without giving reasons. Maybe Denmark’s judges have given up trying to educate these imams, having realised that no matter how clearly the basic principles of satire and free speech are explained to them, they will not learn. After all, the judge at the previous ruling expressed himself with admirable clarity:

[…]terrorist acts have been committed in the name of Islam, and it is not illegal for these acts to be made the object of satirical representation.

And yet it still hasn’t sunk in. The seven groups say they will continue their action at the European Court of Human Rights.

Atheist bus ad draws Xian fire

The astonishingly successful Atheist bus ad campaign, which has already raised four times its target in less than a day, has drawn an equally astonishing – but for different reasons – quote from Stephen “Bird Shit” Green, head of the failed fundamentalist lobby group Stephen Green’s Voice (aka Christian Voice).

Commenting on the proposed ad, which will read “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, the irrepressible bible-thumper said:

Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.

I should be surprised if a quasi-religious advertising campaign like this did not attract graffiti.

People don’t like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don’t like it.

UPDATE: Brand Republic has another quote from Green:

How funny that Richard Dawkins is so scared of the threat which evangelical Christianity poses to atheism and his beloved Darwinism that he has to fund a campaign to attack God.

How old it he, eleven? Accusing someone of being “scared” and then pretending to be amused about it is primary playground stuff.

Read the full CV response here. (Thanks, Tim)

We wonder how this atheist fundraiser compares to he hapless Green’s “Please save me from bankruptcy” campaign?

Sony self-censors computer game

The release of a much-anticipated game from Sony has been put back a week so that they can remove potentially offensive parts of the soundtrack.

LittleBigPlanet’s background music contained a couple of expressions which could be found in the Koran.

Naturally, Sony has offered apologies in advance to any Muslim that might have been offended had it actually unleashed the game onto an unsuspecting public in its current uncensored form. It won’t do them any good, mind you. They are still unbelievers, and therefore destined to spend eternity in hell.

Or so it says in the Koran.

UPDATE: (22 Oct) Toumani Diabate, the musician who wrote the song in question, has defended his use of Koranic words:

“It’s quite normal to play music and be inspired by the words of the Prophet Mohammed. It’s my way to attract and inspire people towards Islam

Of course, the Muslim Council of Britain has something to say on the matter. Here’s Ibrahim Mogra:

Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the actual word of god and give it utmost respect. Therefore if it were to be used with the accompaniment of music or if it were to be used in a game or a commercial – that would upset and cause offence and hurt to many, many Muslims.

Wiser words come from M Zhudi Jasser of the Islamic Forum for Democracy, who told gaming magazine Edge:

Muslims cannot benefit from freedom of expression and religion and then turn around and ask that anytime their sensibilities are offended that the freedom of others be restricted. The free market allows for expression of disfavor by simply not purchasing a game that may be offensive. But to demand that it be withdrawn is predicated on a society which gives theocrats who wish to control speech far more value than the central principle of freedom of expression upon which the very practice and freedom of religion is based.

Please come over here and have a word with the clowns at the MCB, Mr Jasser.

Christians complain about BBC bias

The ridiculous homophobes at the Christian Institute have been complaining that a Christian character in the BBC’s Eastenders soap opera was recently portrayed as a ridiculous homophobe.

You’d have thought they’d be pleased.

Dot Cotton reacted to last week’s gay kiss in much the same way as one or two trolls on the BBC messageboards did.

please remember, the Lord ain’t the only one with eyes.

The elderly zombie-worshipper’s complaint was met with disrespectful sniggering by the two sodomites.

The Christian Institute’s persecution complex received another boost at the end of last week when Mastermind’s John Humphreys was rather splendidly disdainful about the gospels, which a contestant had chosen as a specialist subject.

Now, the Gospels, a tricky subject in a way because if you want to find out about the life of Jesus and you read all four gospels you’ll get different versions won’t you. Which are we meant to believe?

“All of them” was the predictable reply from the woman who was under the impression that the gospel of Matthew was an “eye-witness” account (as is the CI’s Mike Judge).

In the meantime, the claim that “they wouldn’t treat Muslims that way” was given some credence last night by the BBC’s director general Mark Thompson, who said:

My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC’s religion coverage and widely respected and followed.

What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.

There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.

However you interpret Thompson’s words, the Christian Institute’s logic does not stand up to scrutiny. Just because there are certain constraints on making fun of minority religions, it does not follow that those same constraints should apply to Christianity.

Christianity is much funnier than Islam in many ways. The central claims of both are equally untrue, but Christianity has the comic edge because, in addition to being false, it is also absurd.