Archive for April, 2009

Feck! Ireland considers “blasphemous libel” law

The government of Ireland is to decide whether or not to step back a couple of centuries by putting a blasphemy law on its statute books.

The extraordinary move is proposed by the Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, who want to insert a blasphemy clause into the revised Defamation Bill, stating:

A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter

that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

“Any religion”? That would include Scientology, Satanism, Jedi, and the one I just made up? Even if it does, the law neglects an important fact: adults are responsible for their own outrage. All it would take to get a conviction under this law is for an unspecified “substantial number” to claim outrage against their undefined “religion”. Hey presto – deference guaranteed.

Blasphemy is already forbidden by the Irish constitution, but it remains harmless there as a 1999 court case ruled that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”. But a new law on the statute books could have a serious effect of freedom of expression.

The Irish Times clarifies what it means in practical terms:

Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them.

Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte is proposing that the fine be reduced to 1,000 euros and exclude matter of artistic merit. Not good enough.

Is Ireland applying for membership of the OIC?

OIC wags its finger and “Faith Fighter” is removed

The dreadful Organisation of the Islamic Conference – campaigners for an international blasphemy law – have released a statement about the “Faith Fighter” computer game which has led to its removal from the Molleindustria website.

When his attention was brought to an internet report posted by on an online game depicting holy figures such as Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) fighting each other to the death, a spokesman of the OIC Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah today expressed his concern stating that the computer game was incendiary in its content and offensive to Muslims and Christians.

He said that the game would serve no other purpose than to incite intolerance. He called on the Internet service providers who are hosting the game to take immediate action by withdrawing it from the web.

The anonymous spokesman was correct when he said it would incite intolerance – the intolerance of rabid Muslims, intolerant of anyone who doesn’t take them as seriously as they take themselves. But that’s probably not what he meant.

Fortunately, the game is still available to play here and here.

<b>It's a knockout</b>: God KO's Mohammed in Molleindustria's game, now taken offline by its creators

It's a knockout: God KO's Mohammed in Molleindustria's game, now taken offline by its creators

UPDATE: (22:40) A rather silly addendum to Molleindustria’s statement about the withdrawal:

In few hours this statement generated a way more heated reactions than the release of the game. We are not “bowing to the foundamentalists”, we have no sympathy for any religion but we are aware that muslims are victim of widespread racism in the western world. This islamofobia is functional to the imperial interests in Middle East and all over the world. We just want to make clear that the game was not intended to contribute to the media-assisted narrative “islamic world vs freedom of speech”.

Sigh. Islam is not a race. “Islamophobia” is an artificial construct designed to discourage criticism of Islam by equating such criticism with racism. And the “islamic world vs freedom of speech” narrative is assisted not so much by the media as by the Islamic world itself, which in the shape of the OIC is campaigning vigorously for an international law forbidding defamation of religion. That would make games such as this one illegal.

The makers of the game have confirmed to MWW that the withdrawal was a “media tactic” to encourage further discussion of the issue in the press. But withdrawing it immediately the OIC release a statement only gives that organisation encouragement, and confirms its already over-inflated sense of self-importance.

Bad move.

“Faith Fighter” game unites religions in outrage

<b>Round one:</b> Mohammed and God duke it out in Molleindustria's Faith Fighter

Round one: Mohammed and God duke it out in Molleindustria's Faith Fighter

Representatives of several major religions have called for a game by radical developers Molleindustria to be removed from the internet because it is “deeply provocative” and “disrespectful”.

Faith Fighter is a punch-up game for one or two players which involves bouts between Jesus, Mohammed, Ganesh, Buddha, Budai, and God Himself. According to its developers,

Faith Fighter is the ultimate fighting game for these dark times. Choose your belief and kick the shit out of your enemies. Give vent to your intolerance! Religious hate has never been so much fun.

Douglas Miller, pastor of the Link Church in Birmingham:

This game is going out of its way to upset people and I think it should be taken off the internet.

Playing violent video games will ultimately affect your behaviour and this game is deeply offensive and provocative.

A spokesman for the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations:

In the current climate, this game can only create fear about religion. Having images depicting Muhammad in this way is also very offensive to our faith.

And Brian Appleyard called it “an offensive, futile project”.

Has it occurred to any of them not to play it?

Molleindustria is the brainchild of Italian artist and game designer Paolo Pedercini. Other games in the stable include Oligarchy, Queer Power, and the previously-banned Operation: Pedopriest.

Hope you’re not busy today.

UPDATE: (April 28) The game has been removed from the Molleindustria site in response to a statement from the OIC. But you can still play it here.

Rosary bawlers silence euthanasia lecturer

A disturbing new breed of Catholic activists succeeded in stopping a lecture by Prof Len Doyal at Cork University Hospital.

The professor’s attempt to give a talk about euthanasia was called off soon after it had begun, when between 20 and 50 protestors jumped to their feet and began to loudly heckle the speaker. Some chanted the rosary while others accused him of being a “Nazi” and a “murderer”. One protestor shouted threateningly in Doyal’s face.

The emeritus professor of medical ethics at Queen Mary, University of London was escorted from the premises by security staff.

He has written a letter to the president of Ireland, complaining about his treatment:

I fear that this reflects badly on your country and on the officials that stood by and watched the blatant abuse of a Constitution that so many fought and died for.

Last Thursday evening in Cork was not tragic for me, but for Ireland.

Incredibly, there are some in the Seanad who think that the mere act of talking about the issue of euthanasia is “scandalous” and “deplorable”. Sen Jim Walsh, for example:

We have had tremendous disquiet about some of the goings-on in our nursing homes where there was a strong failure by the HSE to enforce proper standards and regulations,” he said.

I am sure it (the euthanasia debate) will scare every patient in nursing homes throughout the country. It is scandalous and deplorable.

And Ireland South MEP Kathy Sinnott expressed “outrage” that the Health Service Executive had facilitated the debate in the first place.

Won’t someone put them out of their misery?

“Turbomb” Motoon goes on sale – website gets attacked

A day after the mainstream media reported that the Denmark-based International Free Press Society was selling 1,000 signed prints of Kurt Westergaard’s iconic “Turbomb” cartoon, their website was hit by a DDoS attack and remains unavailable.
Two alternative sites have been set up at Wordpress and Blogspot, which are unlikely to collapse at the hands of zealous Turkish script-kiddies.

As is usual with such crude attempts at censorship, the actual effect is the opposite of the intended effect. Lars Hedegaard, President of the International Free Press Society said:

This was an attack against IFPS as an organization, and against our mission to support freedom of expression worldwide. Happily, it had the effect of increasing support for our activities as the word spread that we were being threatened. We encourage everyone to visit our temporary website at and soon the restored one at , and to help support artists like Kurt Westergaard by purchasing a signed copy of his cartoon.

Diana West, Vice President of the International Free Press Society, added:

In addition to increasing demand for the cartoon prints, this crude cyber-assault on free speech has boosted people’s awareness of the urgency of the IFPS mission.

And Westergaard himself:

The contemptible attempts to close us down will not succeed. The enemies of free speech will soon realize that their hacker attack on the IFPS website has only made us all the more determined to get our messages out. I take great comfort from the fact that so many people have already bought my cartoon. It’s good to know that freedom of expression has defenders all over the world.

If you want one, it will set you back US $250 (188 Euros), including postage.

Still no Motoon apology from NATO chief Rasmussen

When former Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen was nominated to be the new NATO Secretary General, Turkey threatened to use its veto to stop him, because Muslim feelings were still smarting from the Motoons. Only the diplomatic efforts of Obama persuaded the Turks to agree, by assuring them that one of Rasmussen’s deputies would be Turkish, and that the new chief would apologise to the Muslim world.

But the principled Mr Rasmussen again stopped short of an apology at a conference in Istanbul. Instead, he reiterated his original “sorry you were offended” stance.

I respect Islam as one of the world’s major religions as well as its religious symbols. […]

I was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark and insult or behave disrespectively toward Islam or the Prophet Mohammad. Nothing could be further from my mind.

He had earlier ruled out an apology, according to

Listen. In Denmark we do not apologise for having freedom of speech. […] You all know that a Danish Prime Minister cannot apologise on behalf of a newspaper

Meanwhile, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who created the iconic “turbomb” cartoon, has accused the BBC of “appeasement” because it has not broadcast a recent interview with him.

Westergaard told the Daily Mail,

I am disappointed on behalf of the freedom of speech. Every time you are afraid I think you make a step backwards. That is depressing me.

If you have an appeasement policy towards the radical Muslims then you are on a very wrong way and you have to start marching backwards.

A BBC spokesman said that no decision had yet been made regarding the broadcast.

Dancing Pope leaflet offends Poles, is banned

<b>Dancing Pole</b>: Maybe the late Pope didn't drink Fosters?

Dancing Pole: Maybe the late Pope didn't drink Fosters?

Poles and Catholic’s reacted angrily to a nightclub flier which shows the late pope John Paul II with a bottle of Fosters in his hand, dancing with a young lady.

Both the Advertising Standards Authority and the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality got involved after numerous complaints were made.

Sheila Soltysik, secretary of Ipswich Polish Club, said:

It was hugely offensive. The sheer volume of the reaction is what made us take the matter to ISCRE.

It is unfortunate that the thoughtless actions of a marketing idea has created dismay amongst the Polish community and Catholic religion by depicting figures of high moral standards amongst ideas of inappropriate behaviour and surroundings.

Perhaps to some it may have innocent connotations but to the majority of sensible people it is deeply upsetting.

They cannot be allowed to get away with doing things like this, it could have caused real problems, I think we caught it just in time.

Jane Basham, director of ISCRE, said:

The depiction of the deceased Polish Pope particularly was clearly offensive and ISCRE believes that discrimination based on religious grounds is as abhorrent as any other.

I hope this will send a strong and important message across Suffolk that our businesses have an important responsibility to all of Suffolk’s faith and wider communities.

I am disappointed that neither the publicity company nor the club has offered any apology directly to our Polish and Catholic community.

Every cloud…

AND ANOTHER THING: The above post was written in a hurry at the end of yesterday’s office time, and we neglected to mention the fact that it is an almost-perfect MWW story. It has nearly all the elements: the persecution complex, the petulant demand for respect, the conflation of race and religion (congrats to the ASA for not falling for that one), and the veiled threat of violence (“it could have caused real problems, I think we caught it just in time”).

The only thing missing is the “they wouldn’t treat religion X in this way” – but you can be sure that someone would have said that at some point in the affair.

Anyway, as a treat for all the Catholic complainers, we reprint a rare copy of one of the ASA’s most complained about adverts of all time. Yes, it’s John Paul II again: