Archive for December, 2009

Klausen speaks out against Index on Censorship

Jytte Klausen, the subject of the now notorious interview by Index on Censorship (see below), has spoken about her frustration at their decision not to illustrate her interview with the cartoons in question.

A reasonable risk assessment would take into consideration that (a) the silly things have been reprinted many more times with no consequences than the opposite, and (b) the bad guys cited as the reason for not printing them already are already in prison. The presumption that there is an endless supply of combustible Muslim terrorists ready to pounce on publishers is both false and malignant. […] [I am] flabbergasted that the board of Index on Censorship has convinced itself that our society is permeated by terrorism and we are compelled to sacrifice core values to an uncertain and ill-defined threshold of toleration set by the terrorist.

Censorship at Index on Censorship

We are used to getting our irony meters broken by religious types, but it comes as a shock when an organisation we might reasonably assume to be on our side blows one to smithereens.

Index on Censorship today carries an interview with Jytte Klausen, the author of The Cartoons That Shook The World. The theme of the interview is Yale’s cowardly act of pre-emptive self-censorship in deciding to publish the book without the Motoons which were its subject. Guess what? In a cowardly act of pre-emptive self-censorship, Index on Censorship decided to publish the interview without the Motoons which were its subject.

OK, have you picked the shrapnel out of your skin?

The decision, accepted by editor Jo Glanville, was made by the board, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby:

To summarise our common view: re-publication of the cartoons would put at risk the security of our staff and others which, on balance, could not be justified on “freedom of expression” grounds alone.[…]

[…] We have a greater vision and purpose, which is to reach out to those in the United Kingdom and elsewhere who are not yet aware of how vital freedom of expression is to an open society and how easily and rapidly it can be eroded.

Index on Censorship are apparently showing how easily and rapidly freedom of expression can be eroded by example. Are they sure that is really the best way to go about it?

One notable dissenter on the board is Kenan Malik, who is understandably furious at the decision. He makes clear that IoC’s position is untenable:

The question that now arises is this: what should Index do when the next Jewel of Medina comes along? After all, we cannot in good conscience criticise others for taking decisions that we ourselves have taken and for the same reasons. So, does Index now believe that it was right for Deutsche Oper, Random House, Yale University Press (and myriad others) to censor?

The board of IoC are lame ducks, and every one of them except Malik ought to have the grace stand down. Their stupid, craven decision only serves to make a bad situation worse.

<b>Censored by Index on Censorship</b>: The Motoons they were scared to print

Censored by Index on Censorship: The Motoons they were scared to print

Photo caption of the day

Taken directly from The Daily Mail

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has attacked the Government for treating religious believers as 'oddities'

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has attacked the Government for treating religious believers as 'oddities'

God toons outrage Austrian Catholics

An Austrian cartoonist’s blasphemous depictions of Jesus and Jehova have provoked the wrath of Catholic imams in Austria (Googlish translation here).
"We know what the Church looks like, but what about God?"
Manfred Deix published two cartoons in News magazine, commenting on the recent banning of crucifixes in classrooms. Outraged deacons in Vienna decided his depictions of god and a multi-cultural Jesus and the cross contravened an old National Socialist Prohibition act which outlawed the denigration of religious teachings.

"How the crucifix ban will be dealt with"
Deix is unrepentant.

Apparently some members of the Catholic church are following in the footsteps of radical Muslims.

It’s a well trodden path, and they’ve been down it many times before.

(Hat tip Pharyngula)

Case dismissed against Xian hotel owners (updated)

A case brought against two hoteliers by an offended Muslim convert has just been dismissed by Liverpool Magistrates Court.

Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested after a complaint by a 60-year-old Muslim convert. Ericka Tazi accused them of using “threatening, abusive or insulting words” that were “religiously aggravated”. Apparently this included calling Mohammed (the inventor of Islam) a warlord.

Tazi saw the opportunity to play the victim card, which in turn presented her hosts with exactly the same opportunity, and the whole thing descended into a more-persecuted-than-thou competition, with the hateful Christian Institute funding the hoteliers’ defence and milking the publicity for all it was worth.

The victory was necessary, but it still leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. The CI will crow and give praise to their god for defending their freedom of speech – oblivious to the fact that their campaign to shut down Jerry Springer: The Opera reveals them to be hypocrites of the first order.

UPDATE: (10 Dec) Liverpool News gives the magistrate’s reasons for dismissing the case:
1) It did not appear that Tazi was a particularly devout Muslim (She had told the hoteliers, “Would you have preferred it if I had had my tits out and you could see my backside and I was out getting rat arsed?”).
2) Some of the evidence was doubtful (One of the witnesses apparently spoke to angels)

If Tazi had been more devout, and the main witness less mental, would then the Volelenzangs have been prosecuted? We will never know, but that is what is implied.

So it was the right verdict, for terrible reasons. The judge should have made it clear that it cannot be against the law to have a theological discussion – even if someone ends up being offended.

UPDATE: (12:40) Harry’s Place reveals that Tazi’s case was funded by the execrable Islamic Human Rights Council (imaginary tagline: “Because Islamic Humans are Different”). They are “shocked at the acquittal” – so it’s not all bad.

Bishop slates ‘unrealistic’ carols

<b>Jesus wept</b>: Let's be realistic, snorts Bishop Baines

Jesus wept: Let's be realistic, snorts Bishop Baines

Bishops! They’re the gift that just keeps giving.

The latest Right Rev to enter the limelight is Bishop Nick Baines of Croydon. He has just released a pamphlet entitled Why Wish You a Merry Christmas?, in which he bemoans that some of the carols sung at during this festive season do not reflect the reality of the nativity.

Away in A Manger is singled out for special scorn because it contains the line “no crying he makes.”

The sceptical sky-pilot scoffs:

I always find it a slightly bizarre sight when I see parents and grandparents at a nativity play singing Away in a Manger as if it actually related to reality. I can understand the little children being quite taken with the sort of baby of whom it can be said ‘no crying he makes’, but how can any adult sing this without embarrassment? I think there are two problems here: first, it is normal for babies to cry and there is probably something wrong if they don’t; secondly, are we really to believe that a crying baby Jesus should be somehow theologically problematic?

Not only that:

If we sing nonsense, is it any surprise that children grow into adults and throw out the tearless baby Jesus with Father Christmas and other fantasy figures?

Imagine – a tearless baby Jesus. How silly.

We can happily believe that a winged angel personally visited a bunch of shepherds to deliver an invitation to a birth. There is absolutely no problem with three wise men compulsively following an astronomical anomaly across the desert. And who could doubt a virgin being impregnated by the creator of the universe so that it could give birth to itself, with a view to eventually getting itself tortured to death as a means to satisfy its own sense of justice? That’s all perfectly in line with reality.

But a sleeping baby? Yeah, right. Pull the other one, carol singers – it’s got bells on it!

Catholics cross again at misuse of symbols

krupaRanting Catholic loon Bill Dohohue has been complaining about the latest Christmas ad from PETA. It features a nude Joanna Krupa as an angel carrying a strategically placed cross, hovering over a pack of cute looking dogs in what appears to be a church.

The ad is part of the PETA campaign to encourage prospective pet owners to adopt homeless animals, rather than buy from a shop or a breeder.

The Catholic League are fuming. Donohue accuses PETA of exploiting Christian iconography and states,

Those who support this organization sorely need a reality check. They also need a course in Ethics 101.

Without a trace of irony!

Krupa fired back,

As a practicing Catholic, I am shocked that the Catholic League is speaking out against my PETA ads, which I am very proud of. I’m doing what the Catholic Church should be doing, working to stop senseless suffering of animals, the most defenseless of god’s creation.

(Hat tip The Freethinker)

Yale gets told off

Yesterday a letter was delivered to Yale university chastising it for not standing up for free speech in the face of imaginary threats of violence. The letter was signed by sixteen organisations:
American Association of University Professors
American Civil Liberties Union
American Federation of Teachers
American Society of Journalists and Authors
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for Inquiry
College Art Association
First Amendment Lawyers Association
First Amendment Project
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
International Publishers Association
Modern Language Association
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Council of Teachers of English
National Education Association
People For the American Way Foundation

In August this year Yale University Press made the decision to publish an academic work on the Motoons, The Cartoons That Shook the World, without the cartoons, citing “a substantial likelihood of violence that might take the lives of innocent victims” as their excuse.

The statement of principle was written by National Coalition against Censorship Executive Director Joan Bertin and president of the American Association of University Professors Cary Nelson. It concludes:

The incident at Yale provides an opportunity to re-examine our commitment to free expression. When an academic institution of such standing asserts the need to suppress scholarly work because of a theoretical possibility of violence “somewhere in the world,” it grants legitimacy to censorship and casts serious doubt on their, and our, commitment to freedom of expression in general, and academic freedom in particular.

The failure to stand up for free expression emboldens those who would attack and undermine it. It is time for colleges and universities in particular to exercise moral and intellectual leadership. It is incumbent on those responsible for the education of the next generation of leaders to stand up for certain basic principles: that the free exchange of ideas is essential to liberal democracy; that each person is entitled to hold and express his or her own views without fear of bodily harm; and that the suppression of ideas is a form of repression used by authoritarian regimes around the world to control and dehumanize their citizens and squelch opposition.

To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, will get neither liberty nor safety.