Archive for March, 2010

Swedish papers reprint Modog in support of Vilks

Two Three of Sweden’s largest daily newspapers, Dagens Nyheter, Expressen and a local daily, today published one of Lars Vilks’ controversial Modog cartoons in the wake of the recent “Jihad Jane” assassination plot.

In its editorial, Dagens Nyheter said,

A threat against him is, in the end, a threat against all Swedish people.

Expressen made similar noises:

[…[ to defend freedom of expression which is more and more threatened”.

An open society must show that it will not give in to threats, that it is ready to fight for freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Vilks himself remains as composed as ever.

I’m not shaking with fear, exactly.

UPDATE: (12 March) A Vilks Modog has also been shown on Swedish TV channel STV.

Heavy metal Bible-ripper faces jail in Poland

The frontman of a Polish heavy metal band has been formally charged with destroying a copy of the Bible on stage over two years ago.

ADAM “Nergal” Darski, the frontman of Behemoth, has fallen victim to a Polish law which forbids the destruction of religious icons. At least two complaints must be made for a prosecution to proceed. The incident occurred in 2007, prompting one complaint. Now it seems that Nergal has been the subject of a recent campaign by the national Polish conservative party to prosecute him, and a second wave of complaints has resulted in a formal charge.

He could now face two years in prison.

Behometh bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wroblewski, explained:

The incident was by no means a spontaneous outburst, we’d been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland. A Behemoth show is a Behemoth show, so the fans are aware of what to expect

(Hat tip, The Freethinker)

7 arrested in plot to kill Modog artist

Here Proffit! One of Vilks' roundabout dogs

Four men and three women have been arrested in Ireland over a plot to kill Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who drew pictures of dogs with the head of Mohammed.

Vilks had a $100,000 bounty put on his head in 2007 by mythical al-Qaida leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. An extra 50% was offered if he was “slaughtered like a pig” by having his throat cut.

According to The Independent report, some of the seven are Muslim converts.

The BBC, with impeccable impartiality, points out that it is only media reports which state that the arrested are Muslims

though a police statement did not confirm this.

Well, it’s true – they could be Mormons. Or dog lovers.

UPDATE: (14 March) Four have been released.

Airport cartoon distributor was deliberately challenging law

A letter from NSS President Terry Sanderson, published the comments section of The Freethinker, reveals that Harry “Toon Leaver” Taylor deliberately set out to be prosecuted by leaving irreligious cartoons in the prayer room at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport.

Sanderson reveals that Taylor approached the NSS with the cartoons with a view to publicising his case. He is, apparently, a “difficult man to deal with.”

While we have every sympathy with him, we cannot say that he has innocently become ensnared by this law. He set out to deliberately challenge it. We would like to support him in some way, but, as I say, this doesn’t seem to be what he wants.

We will do our best to ensure that his case has the highest public profile we can manage, but our main energies have to be aimed at changing the law.

Hats off to Toon Leaver Taylor, a man willing to go to jail for his principles.

(Thanks to Stonyground in the comments)

Politiken journos reject apology to dodgy Saudi lawyer

38 journalists at Politiken, the newspaper that shamefully apologised for reprinting a Motoon, have raised their objections to the actions of their chief editor.

In a letter printed in Saturday’s paper, they say:

The settlement gives the impression that we regret our journalism, something for which there is no basis for whatsoever.

As it turns out, the Saudi law firm which claimed to be acting on behalf of 94,000 descendants of Mo are actually just a father and acting on their own. As Berlingske reports:

The lawyer wrote that he’s working for thousands of Mohmmad’s descendants, who feel insulted by the papers reprinting the cartoons, and that they asked him to turn to the papers and ask for an apology.

As it turns out, Faisal A Z Yamani and his wealthy father Zaki Yamani, took the initiative on their own. In April 2008 they wrote on an Arab chat-forum that they will sue for themselves, so that the editors will be punished.

The revelation that Faisal Yamani is a con artist prompted Conservative integration spokesperson Naser Khader to demand that Politiken’s chief editor make yet another apology:

The reality is that it’s this family’s own initiative to raise their profile. I actually think that Tøger Seidenfaden should officially apologize to the Danes for his naivety.

As well as lying about who he was representing, the tricky Mr Yamani has also put a dishonest spin on the nature of the apology in a press release, making it look like Politiken had conceded a lot more than they actually did:

We thank God for our success in reaching a settlement with the Danish Newspaper which has recognized its mistake, apologized, and indicated not to reoffend Muslims and their Prophet (peace be upon him).

In fact, Politiken were quite explicit in insisting that they retain the right to reprint the cartoon. So it is hard to figure out what Yamani means when he says they “indicated not to reoffend Muslims and their Prophet”.

To sum up: a Danish newspaper was conned into making a cringing non-apology by a dodgy law firm who subsequently misrepresented the apology as something much bigger than it actually was.

And all because of a cartoon:

(Hat tip Islam in Europe and The Comics Reporter)

Leeds Uni bans Fitna

In the wake of Geert Wilders’ visit to the House of Lords today, the New Humanist blog has a scoop about Leeds University Students Union cancelling an Atheist Society event which was due to screen Fitna prior to a debate about the film.

With classically Orwellian reasoning, the SU decided five days before the event that the show must not go on because it contravened the university’s “freedom of expression” policy.

The Atheist Soc are in talks with the Union in an attempt to make them see reason.

Good luck with that.

The Blasphemy law is back

The guilty verdict against cartoon leafleter Harry Taylor has prompted a strong response from the National Secular Society.

The offence of “Religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress” has now effectively taken the place of the abolished Blasphemy law and, with a maximum sentence of 7 years, is much worse.

NSS President, Terry Sanderson:

This is a disgraceful verdict, but an inevitable one under this pernicious law. It seems incredible in the 21st century that you might be sent to prison because someone is ‘offended’ by your views on their religion. The blasphemy law was abolished three years ago, but it lives on under the guise of religiously aggravated offences and is several times more dangerous.

Sanderson reveals that Taylor had shown the cartoons to the NSS:

The cuttings were all from publications that could be bought from any mainstream newsagent: cartoons from Private Eye and scraps of paper cut from various newspapers that were mildly anti-religious in nature. There was nothing obscene or threatening about them. I can see how a religious person could be offended, but not “alarmed”. Offending someone should not justify a prison sentence, far less one of seven years. The chaplain could simply have thrown the material in the bin.

But if Nicky Lees had simply thrown the material in the bin, she would have also thrown away the opportunity to display her religious sensitivity to the nation. Her success is an example to all others who feel their metaphysical sentiments have been hurt.

This verdict will open the floodgates for religious zealots to secure prosecutions over the most trivial matters. Expressing atheist views should be no more against the law than expressing Christian or Islamic views and freedom of expression should be cherished, not penalised harshly as this law does. The maximum sentence for religiously aggravated offences is draconian.
Mr Taylor struck me as slightly eccentric and he acted in a provocative way, challenging the necessity for the prayer room. He didn’t cause any damage and he didn’t harm anything, nor was he threatening or abusive. Yet he might still end up behind bars because some Christian has decided they are offended. In a multicultural society, none of us should have the legal right not to be offended. This law needs to be re-examined urgently.

No damage, no harm, no threats, no abuse – but a potential 7 years in prison because some pious sky-pilot claimed to be “alarmed” by a few drawings.

Gabriel blow that horn.

Atheist faces jail for leaving cartoons in prayer room

A 59-year-old philosophy tutor, whom the Liverpool Daily Post describes as a “militant atheist”, is currently on trial charged with three counts of religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act.

Stop Stop! We have run out of virgins: One of the cartoons left in the prayer room by Harry Taylor

Harry Taylor had left a series of cartoons in the multi-faith prayer room of Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport on three occasions in 2008. When the airport chaplain, Nicky Lees, found them she was so alarmed that she phoned the police.

I was insulted, deeply offended and I was alarmed. I was so concerned that I rang the duty manager and the airport police. I was alarmed other people could come in and see these items and also feel offended and affronted and I was responsible for the prayer room.

Taylor said he was just practising his own religion of reason and rationality.

The airport is named after John Lennon and his views on religion were pretty much the same as mine. I thought that it was an insult to his memory to have a prayer room in the airport.

The cartoons he left included Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue, drawing of the Pope with a condom on his finger, and a picture of a woman kneeling in front of a Catholic priest with the caption “No, no my child, blow is just a figure of speech”, A Dangerous Book For Boys with reference to the Qur’an, two Muslims holding a placard demanding equality with the caption “Not for women or gays, obviously”, a pig excreting sausages labelled “The Qu’ran”, and the Danish Motoon with the suicide bomber arriving in heaven (pictured).

The prosecutor had some weaselly freedom-of-speech-BUT words for the jury:

People have the right to insult people, it is a most important right in this country.

Freedom of speech is one of the most jealously-guarded rights, but it is not without prescription and the crown say he went beyond freedom of speech.

You as jurors are the conscience of our society. You must decide what you are prepared to put up with and what goes beyond reasonable bounds.

You are 12 tolerant British people and know what freedom of speech is all about.

I wouldn’t bet on it. Every one of the jurors swore on the Bible.

The fact that this case has gone to court is bad enough, but if Taylor gets prosecuted then it surely won’t be long before the Archangel Gabriel blows his horn and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come galloping down a street near you.

UPDATE: (4 March) He was found guilty by unanimous verdict. He will be sentenced on April 23rd.

Dio porco! Italian football coach banned for blasphemy

In the name of Jehova, stop bunching! Mimmo showed insufficient respect for The Lord God Almighty

The Italian Football Federation has decided that the Christian god needs to be protected from the blasphemous utterances of Italy’s footballers and coaches. Last weekend Chievo coach Domenico “Mimmo” Di Carlo was banned from the touchline for making a blasphemous expression.

The Federation’s President,Giancarlo Abete, declared last month that it would

intervene with official decisions to make clear that blasphemy is within the definition of ‘offensive, insulting or abusive language’ in the rules.

Repeat offenders will be burnt at the stake.