Archive for November, 2008

Victims of intimidation

The latest Centre for Social Cohesion report tells the stories of 27 European Muslims who have been intimidated by extremists. Their “crimes” range from the criticism or rejection of Islam, to behaviour deemed unacceptable by those who set themselves up as judges of such things.

The 107-page report consists mainly of the stories of these 27, who come from various backgrounds. They are:


  • Ahmed Aboutaleb
  • Mimount Bousakla
  • Ekin Deligöz
  • Ehsan Jami
  • Naser Khader
  • Samira Munir
  • Nyamko Sabuni
  • Manu Sareen


  • Magdi Allam
  • Reda Hassaine
  • Nosheen Ilyas
  • Mohamed Sifaoui


  • Mina Ahadi
  • Seyran Ates
  • Mansur Escudero
  • Maryam Namazie
  • Kadra Noor

Writers & Academics

  • Afshin Ellian
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Mohammad Anwar Shaikh
  • Ibn Warraq


  • Rachid Ben Ali
  • Sooreh Hera
  • Shabana Rehman
  • Omar Sharif
  • Deepika Thathaal

You can read their stories by downloading this PDF.

The report concludes,

A situation in which significant numbers of Europe’s ethnic minority citizens are unable to peacefully express themselves is clearly unac- ceptable. It is the duty of European governments to protect the rights of all their citizens regardless of their race or religion. European gov- ernments need to do more to actively promote and defend every indi- vidual’s right to freedom of speech and expression as well as raise the level of tolerance towards all those of immigrant backgrounds, many of whom have come to Europe to escape repressive and despotic regimes. Governments also need to pursue and prosecute those who actively seek to intimidate others through threats of violence. Through doing so, European governments will be able to promote greater religious and social harmony by demonstrating that they see Muslims and those of Muslim background as full and complete citizens, neither restricted in their freedoms nor unduly permitted to issue threats against others, being free instead to enjoy the right to peaceful self-expression, self- determination and existence: the birthright of all human beings.

The president elect says


Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

It’s Obama!


L’Express banned in north Africa

<b>Oh Mo:</b> It's another picture of Mohammed

Oh Mo: It's another picture of Mohammed

Governments in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco have banned this week’s issue of the French news magazine L’Express for offending Islam.

The edition is entitled “The Jesus-Mohamed Shock”. It discusses the relationship between Islam and Christianity in a way in which some officials in Algeria described as “pro-Bible” (the Koran plagiarises large chunks of the Bible, but most Muslims don’t like to be reminded of this fact).

The cover of the French edition is notable for showing an image of Mohammed, although the face was whited-out for the north African editions in deference to the superstitious sensibilities prevalent on those countries. However, another reason cited by Algerian officials for the ban was that there were more images of Mohammed inside the magazine.

A Tunisian official said the magazine was “offensive to Islam and faith or convictions of Muslims”.

Morocco’s Information Minister Khalid Naciri said that he would not hesitate to ban future publications “every time the media offends religion.”

Dutch blasphemy law – the bad news

It appears we were a little hasty in celebrating the demise of the Dutch blasphemy laws.

Danish journalist Flemming Rose has contacted MWW, relating the concerns of a Dutch colleague about this supposed repeal. All is not as it seems.

The intention is to introduce the concept of “indirect insult” and expand an existing law which protects people on the basis of race, age, disability, and sexual orientation to include protection on the basis of religion or “conviction”. This means that remarks directed at Islam, Christianity, Buddism or – depending on your interpretation of “conviction” – even homeopathy and astrology, could be interpreted as indirect insults to people, and prosecuted as such.

According to a commenter on the original story, this law carries a maximum sentence of 12 months, whereas the original defunct blasphemy law carried a maximum 3 month sentence.

Writes Rose:

This spring the Dutch minister of justice Hirsch Ballin wrote a note to parliament asking them to consider stiffening blasphemy laws. In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the arrest of Gregorius Nekschot parliament refused to go along, and this proposal is the compromise that the government came up with.

This whole scenario looks very similar to what we went through here in the UK with the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill – when we came very close to getting a universal blasphemy law imposed on us. We won that battle by a narrow margin, thanks to an alliance of convenience between artists, secularists and Christians.

Will the Dutch see the danger and mobilise in time to prevent a free speech disaster?

Crucified frog director is sacked

<b>Kippenberger's frog</b>: Apparently Christians have a copyright on this form of execution. Who knew?

Kippenberger's frog: Apparently Christians have a copyright on this form of execution. Who knew?

The director of an Italian museum which displayed an allegedly “blasphemous” sculpture has been sacked.

Board members, who had previously supported director Corinne Diserens in refusing to remove Kippenberg’s crucified frog, dismissed her last week for putting the museum in a “difficult financial situation”.

The four foot high sculpture upset Catholics, who appear to be under the impression that they have some kind of copyright over this ancient form of execution (tell that to the Saudis). A local politician, Franz Pahl, even went on an unsuccessful hunger strike to try to get it removed, saying

Surely this is not a work of art but a blasphemy and a disgusting piece of trash that upsets many people. This decision to keep the statue there is totally unacceptable. It is a grave offence to our biscuit-munching population.

(Or something along those lines)

Even Pope Benedict the Whatever put his oar in, saying the frog

injured the religious feeling of many people who see in the cross the symbol of the love of God and of our salvation which deserves recognition and religious devotion.

At the time, Museum curators maintained that frog was a self-portrait of the artist “in a state of profound crisis” and was not an attack on the Church – which misses the point entirely. So what if it was an attack on the Chuch?