Archive for March, 2009

Dutch court acquits Islam insulter

In a decision which could have positive consequences for Geert Wilders’ upcoming prosecution , a supporter of the Dutch extreme right National Alliance has had his conviction for ‘insulting Islam’ overturned by the High Court.

The man from Valkenswaard had displayed a poster in his window after the murder of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh. It read:

“Stop the tumour that is Islam. Theo has died for us. Who will be next? Resist now! National Alliance, we will not bow down to Allah. Join now.”

Originally given a suspended sentence, he was acquitted yesterday by the High Court. The judged concluded that it was not an offence to express insults towards religion

Not even if that happens in such a way that the devotees feel their religious feelings are hurt.

As Wilders is up against charges of insulting the religious feelings of Muslims, this case sets a promising precedent.

Turkish government accused of censoring science mag

<b>Now you see him</b>: How a magazine cover was unintelligently redesigned to placate Turkey's creationists

Now you see him: How a magazine cover was unintelligently redesigned to placate Turkey's creationists

The editor of a popular Turkish science magazine has been sacked, and her cover-story about Charles Darwin spiked at the last minute, at the order of the vice-president of the country’s “science management” organisation, TÃœBITAK.

Çigdem Atakuman confirmed that she had been removed from her post as a result of her article celebrating Darwin’s 200th birthday, but would not comment further as she is still employed by TÃœBITAK.

The Turkish Association of University Councils has called for the TÜBITAK vice-president, Ömer Cebeci, to resign over the affair. Interestingly, Cebeci is an engineer, giving more anecdotal confirmation in support of the Salem Hypothesis, which posits that when a creationist claims to have a scientific qualification, it nearly always turns out to be a degree in engineering.

(Hat tip The New Humanist)

Zagreb bans the atheist trams

According to the Googlish version of the Croatian report, ads on Zagreb trams reading “Without God, without a master” (Brez boga, brez gospodarja) were taken down after only one day.

This in spite of the fact that the Women’s Network of Croatia had paid for a month’s worth of publicity in advance. A statement from the tram company stated that ads were not allowed

that can be interpreted as an attack on the moral, religious or political beliefs of their someš?anov

Your guess is as good as mine.

Scientology recognition could open floodgates

The Mail on Sunday reports that the Crown Prosecution Service has agreed that the zany UFO cult known as the Church of Scientology comes under the protection of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

The Act, although watered down by a free-speech amendment before being passed, still has serious implications for anti-religion campaigners. The amendment ensured that behaviour had to be “threatening”, rather than merely “insulting” or “abusive”, to be prosecutable. This may explain why it has not yet been put to the test.

However, now that the ultra-litigious Scientologists have been given the nod by the CPS, how long will it be before we see a test case against Anonymous come up in the UK courts?

Beyer out of his depth at The Guardian


This debate between John Beyer of Mediawatch-UK and Julian Petley from Index on Censorship on what to do with the obscenity laws was always going to be a one-sided affair. It says a lot about Beyer that he felt capable of taking on the challenge. Petley is very patient in the face Beyer’s incoherent non-arguments, and it is not until the end that he realises where the smut-campaigner is coming from:

In our exchanges, I’ve sensed your desire to broach the “effects” debate, and equally you may have sensed my desire to avoid it!
In my view, there are two major difficulties with drawing direct causal links between media images and forms of social behaviour. The first is that they’re unprovable (which results in people falling back on unhelpful appeals to “common sense”, and ignoring that correlation is not the same thing as causality). The second is that making such links draws attention away from the real causal factors of the behaviour in question, factors whose roots lie deep in the socialisation process (or lack of it) and which raise uncomfortable questions about the kind of society in which we live.

Yes, it’s Beyer’s perpetual, and apparently incurable, confusion of correlation and cause which informs his every word on the matter. It is the fallacy upon which he has built his life’s work.

We don’t pay much attention to Mediawatch-UK these days, even though this blog was named after them. Beyer is a censorious minnow in a big pond increasingly full of sharks. It is mildly annoying but ultimately irrelevant that he is the go-to rent-a-quote for Daily Mail journalists looking for a “decency” angle from Middle England. But reading that Guardian debate did remind us what a contemptible fool he is. That a man of such limited intellect, morally retarded by religiosity and a deeply ingrained priggishness, should claim for himself the authority to decide what an adult may or may not view private speaks of an arrogance that is quite breathtaking.

Beyer’s tragic flaw is unjustified self-confidence. We hope against hope that this helps.

US pulls out of Durban II

A so-called “racism conference” due to take place in Geneva in April has been boycotted by the USA because the “outcome document” upon which it is based includes a call to ban “defamation of religion” and focuses on human-rights abuses by Israel while ignoring those of other countries.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference has been lobbying for years to get an anti-defamation of religion motion passed, largely as a means to outlaw criticism of the human-rights abusing Islamic governments which support it.

Israel and Canada have already announced that they would boycott Duban II. The withdrawal of the USA could lead some European nations to follow suit, most notably the UK, Holland, and Denmark.

See Lou Dobbs and Christopher Hitchens talk about this on CNN:

UPDATE: (3 March) More Hitchens on the subject. Read it all. He is right:

See where the language of Paragraph 10 of the resolution is taking us. Having briefly offered lip service to the rights of free expression, it goes on to say that “the exercise of these rights carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may therefore be subject to limitations as are provided for by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs.” The thought buried in this awful, wooden prose is as ugly as the language in which it is expressed: Watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalize opinions that differ with the one true faith. Let nobody say that they have not been warned.