Polish police have arrested 12 people who tried to block the entrance to a theater performance they claimed to be pornographic.
Scuffles broke out late Saturday in Wroclaw when members of a Catholic organization tried to stop theater-goers from seeing Death and the Maiden , based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning writer Elfriede Jelinek.
The protesters objected to the presence on the stage of porn stars.
The government's new culture minister, Piotr Glinski, had previously called for the show to be canceled, noting the theater is sponsored by the state budget.
Organizers of an art fair in India say right-wing Hindu extremists have vandalised an exhibit of a Styrofoam cow that was suspended in midair using a balloon. The activists claimed that the installation was offensive.
R.B. Gauttam, an organizer of the Jaipur Art Summit, said that the exhibit was meant to highlight how cows suffer after ingesting plastic waste at India's many garbage dumps.
Posters for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, featuring the film's female lead Jennifer Lawrence in the role of Katniss Everdeen, have been hung prominently throughout Israel.
Except for in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak There, the posters only display the fiery crow that forms the background of the poster. The foreground of Jennifer Lawrence with a bow and arrow has been excluded.
The movie's Israeli PR firm acknowledged that the poster had been sanitized for the ultra-Orthodox audience. A spokesman said:
We discovered that public posters with the image of a female are often torn down in Jerusalem, while Bnei Brak does not allow posters with female images.
The Bnei Brak municipality said in a statement that a municipal regulation prevents the hanging of posters of women that might incite the feelings of the city's residents.
The Jerusalem municipality said that it does not limit the appearance of female images in posters, but Liron Suissa, VP marketing of the company responsible for the posters, Nur Star Media, said:
Unfortunately we are subject to unofficial coercion that forces us to be more careful, Suissa said. We have had endless vandalization, and clients prefer not to take the chance. We allow everything, but we recommend hanging another visual when
necessary. The decision is the client's.
A Change.org petition is urging Mark Zuckerberg to support freedom of expression in India by unblocking an atheist Facebook group with over 13,000 members titled Indian Atheists Debate Corner.
Facebook, the petition said, had not given any reason for the blockade. One day users in India who tried to visit the site were simply hit with a message that the content was unavailable. This was not the first time a Facebook page for
atheists had been censored.
As usual, when shoddy Facebook censorship obtains sufficient publicity then Facebook hold up their hands, claim it was all ghastly mistake, and restore the site. Of course victims unable to raise the required publicity stay censored.
Presumably the atheist groups were flagged by Facebook users who disagree with the website. According to Facebook's transparency report released earlier this week, it censored the postings of thousands of Indian Facebook users because they were
anti-religious or was deemed to be hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India.
Facebook would only say that the Indian Atheists Debate Corner was blocked after a reviewer found it violated Facebook rules. After examining the page again as a result of an inquiry, Facebook decided the page did not violate its rules.
It's a reminder that Facebook censors, as The Economist wrote last year, operate under a cloak of anonymity, with no accountability to users. It is often unclear why one piece of content is removed, while another is not. But in failing to
better scrutinize take-down requests and their legal underpinnings, Facebook has unwittingly contributed to a long-standing culture of religious persecution and censorship in India.
Russia's vague laws, which see actions deemed insulting to religious beliefs punishable by up to three years in jail, have led to more censorship and self-censorship in all forms of journalism. By Ekaterina Buchneva
The co-founder of an Australian brewery is accused of insulting Indians and Hindus with a ginger beer label depicting two Hindu gods.
Jaron Mitchell, co-founder of Four Pines Brewing Company, spoke to TV station SBS following the launch of an online petition calling for his company to change the label on its Brookvale Union Ginger Beer.
The label features a figure with what appears to be the body of the goddess Lakshmi and the head of the god Ganesha.
The 200 signature petition, launched by Melbourne man Amit Singh, said the label was insulting to Indians and Hindus and called for the company to withdraw it. Rather ambiguously Singh told SBS:
There are a lot of people who worship these gods and this is just not acceptable.
Mitchell said the company had been engaged in community consultation for the past two years and redesigned the label once already. He claimed a recent offer to redesign the label for a second time with members of the Hindu community had not been
Mitchell said the company first received complaints about the label in 2013 when the professionally easily offended Rajan Zed pointed out the same issue. He said the company was still eager to engage in consultation and urged community members
who would like to contribute to a redesign to come forward.
On December of 2009, and with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture as part of Beirut Book Capital of the World , Samandal put out its 7th anthology in collaboration with the Belgian publishing house, L'employe du Moi,
with further support from the French Cultural Center (CCF) in Beirut and the Belgian Ministry of Culture in Brussels. This publication was the fruit of a year-long collaboration between comic artists in Lebanon and their partners in Belgium,
spanning several lectures and workshops, and launched at an exhibition at the CCF with the help of the UNESCO fund.
Four months later, three of the four Samandal editors that worked on that book were charged by the public attorney with a) inciting sectarian strife b) denigrating religion c) publishing false news and d) defamation and slander.
After five years of legal proceedings, we were found guilty on the basis of article 25 of the publications law, and on April 28, 2015 we were fined 10,000,000 LL each ($20,000 in total), equal to two years and nine months in jail on failure of
payment. This incrimination, instigated by religious institutions and sustained by the state, has crippled Samandal and threatens to bring our decade-long career in comics to an end.
We began Samandal as a volunteer-based, non-profit organization in 2007 because we felt that comics were an underrepresented medium in our part of the world. We wanted to create a platform to tell stories from Lebanon and the Middle East, as well
as to bring independent comics from around the world to a local audience. Alongside publishing comics, we also organized countless workshops, comics jams, international artist exchanges, and lectures, opening up the dialogue to include artists
from different disciplines, and along with Metropolis Art Cinema have co-founded Beirut Animated, the biennial animation festival in Beirut.
It thus came as a surprise when we found out that the state had charged us with inciting sectarian strife. Our case began with a letter sent by the minister of information to the minister of justice requesting litigation against Samandal on
account of Christian personalities finding two panels in two separate comics offensive to religion. The minister of justice in turn referred the case to the public prosecutor at the court of cassation.
The comics themselves address religion only tangentially and deal satirically with completely different subjects. However, a handful of panels were selectively taken out of context as proof of blasphemy (akin to indicting a publisher for having a
character in a book use the name of the lord in vain.) We want to present these comics to you in their entirety ( Lebanese Recipes for Revenge by Lena Merhej & Ecce Homo by Valfret) so that you may judge their disruptive natures
for yourselves, however we cannot link to them directly for fear of a recurrence of the whole legal debacle. Instead we direct you to our co-publisher's website grandpapier.com
Despite our lawyers' airtight legal defense against these claims, the court fell back on the vagaries of an elastic censorship law and a cohort of complacent public servants to criminalize and punish us, in the process committing several legal
violations to wit:
The three editors currently have warrants of subjugation issued against them. These illegal warrants, issued by General Security (despite being annulled by the decision of the council of ministers no. 10 dated 24/7/2014), give it the
power to delay official transactions, hold passports, and harass subjects at will. Warrants of subjugation are regularly issued against human rights activists, lawyers and authors/artists as a method of intimidation.
The publication law in Lebanon places the legal responsibility for such cases primarily on the authors of the offending story, in this case, Ms. Merhej (also one of the editors of Samandal) and Valfret, and then on the publisher, Samandal
Association in this case. Instead, the legal proceedings ignored these laws and targeted three of the four editors personally, incurring triple the charges and triple the fines.
The editors were never allowed to testify at the cassation court, even after repeated official requests were made. The same court rejected our request to summon the authors as witnesses.
The assumption that we built a platform such as Samandal to take cheap shots at religious institutions is absurd, and the richness of our publications speaks for themselves. We respect all religions equally and have no interest in targeting any
single one for ridicule. However, we have no respect, and in fact much contempt, for those who use religion as a way of exercising their power and tightly policing public discourse.
The assertion that Samandal is insulting the Christian faith is an attempt to pit Samandal against Christianity and religion as a whole, when in fact it is a few individuals in power who are purposefully misreading the work in order to monopolize
the conversation and deflect from their own incompetence at state legislation and their own incitement of sectarian strife when it suits them to do so. It is an unfortunate irony that a non-profit publishing platform for comics was prosecuted for
crimes that continue to be committed daily by various politicians and their respective news outlets. Religion has been wrested from the hands of worshippers and into the chokehold of state institutions, stifling conversation and reducing all
debate to a reductive binary of with us or against us. We refuse to be a part of that exchange. In fact, Samandal was created precisely to provide an alternative space for a different kind of dialogue, one much richer in language and
nuanced in its discussions of the subtleties of the world around us.
Far from being an isolated incident, the Samandal case is simply one iteration within a longstanding practice of arbitrary and unjust state censorship and silencing of artistic production. There is a pressing need to strike a balance between the
dangers of censorship on artistic freedom to that of the rights of the plaintiff and other religious sensitivities. This balance becomes even more imperative when the defendant is an artist, while the plaintiff is the public prosecution, or a
powerful economic or religious figure, who stands to lose little or nothing in return.
Today Samandal is threatened with imminent collapse because of the capricious and biased application of an antiquated censorship law. The upcoming release of Geographia will be the final issue we can publish as Samandal's finances have
been crippled by the damages of the lawsuit forcing our organization to shut down.
However, our love of comics and our ambitions to publish more have not been dampened by this incident and we hope to protest this ruling by continuing to publish, improve and expand Samandal with your continued solidarity. Samandal has survived
and thrived because of the involvement and support of its public, and we now call on you to help us relaunch the publication. We hope that a crowdfunding campaign will help us get back on our feet and furthermore publish two new anthologies of
Samandal comics. If you would like to help us in our push back, please donate at our online crowdfunding campaign.
A publisher of secular books has been hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital. In a separate attack in Dhaka, police said two other writers and a publisher were stabbed and shot at a publishing house.
Occurences of Islamist violence have been growing in Bangladesh after at least four atheist bloggers were murdered in the country this year. The attacks have been linked by police to domestic Islamist extremists, while Islamic State has claimed
responsibility for three other attacks.
The body of Faisal Abedin Deepan, of the Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, was found inside his office, said senior police officer Shibly Noman. Earlier in the day, publisher Ahmed Rahim Tutul was attacked in the office of the Shudhdhoswar
publishing house and seriously wounded. Two writers were also wounded in that attack. All three of the victims were hospitalised, and Tutul was in critical condition, police said.
Both Deepan and Tutal had published books by Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy , who was hacked to death in February . He was one of the four secular bloggers killed in Bangladesh this year.
A local Islamist group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, had claimed responsibility for the killings and recently threatened to kill more bloggers.
India's Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which seeks a ban on jokes about Sikhs. The petition claims that such jokes are a violation of sikh's right to equality with fellow citizens and an attack on the dignity of the community. The
petitioner said the court should order the government to ensure such online jokes are banned or blocked.
Filed by Sikh lawyer Harvinder Chowdhury, the petition also says offenders should be told to deposit a compensation in the National Legal Aid Fund. It adds that the Ministries of Telecom and Information and Broadcasting should either ban the
websites or direct them to remove such jokes since they tend to portray the sikh community as people of low intellect .
Chowdhury complained that she had to suffer humiliation because of such jokes even when she was abroad, and that her children insist on not having Singh or Kaur as surnames to avoid embarrassment.
But judges told her that there are many Sikhs who do not mind such jokes:
Many people we know take these jokes sportingly. It may not be an insult but only some casual comic statements for amusement. You want all such jokes to stop but Sikhs may themselves oppose this.
The City of Toronto is refusing to grant a Christian group a permit to use a prominent downtown square for its annual musical festival next year, because the city has decided that singing the name of Jesus in the public venue contravenes city
policy against proselytizing.
Voices of the Nations (VON) has been using city property since 2006 for an annual multi denominational christian event featuring live music and dance. It has been using the Yonge-Dundas Square without issue for the past five years. This
year's August 1 event attracted 19 different performance acts, including children's choirs and popular Christian bands, where well-known praise-and-worship songs such as Days Of Elijah are performed.
When VON's Events Coordinator Leye Oyelani contacted the Square's Manager of Events Natalie Belman last week by phone to apply for next year's permit, he was told that a permit would not be issued and to look for a venue elsewhere. Belman said:
I've already advised Peter [Paresh, Director of VON] that we're not going to be permitting you guys this year for next year because of the proselytizing on the square, and that's a big issue for us.
When Oyelani asked the city official exactly who proselytized at the event, Belman responded that the performers did:
If you're praising Jesus, 'praise the Lord,' and 'there's no God like Jehovah,' that type of thing, that's proselytizing.
Billboards insulting Christian communion wafers and asking if people can flush the Koran down the toilet have been rejected by a major Australian outdoor advertising company.
The ads were to be posted in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to promote atheist and American author Sam Harris, who is touring in January. Promoters had planned to run quotes from the top-selling author's books pasted on black billboards.
One of the four advertisements featured the symbolic communion wafer, saying:
Jesus Christ -- who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens -- can now be eaten in the form of a cracker.
We are now in the 21st century. All books, including the Qur'an, should be fair game for flushing down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.
Advertising giant APN Outdoor confirmed it rejected the ads because they did not comply with the Outdoor Media Association's code of ethics, which states ads cannot include material that vilifies religion.
Thailand's state film censors at the Ministry of Censorship Culture have banned a horror film centring on the life of a teenage monk after the movie caused a stir among Buddhist hardliners who claimed that the film insults Buddhism.
Producers said in a tweet that it has to postpone screening the film Abat ('offense' in the Pali language, the language of Theravada Buddhism). The movie company stated:
The movie has been banned by the Film and Media Screening Committee (the committee of the Department of Cultural Promotion under the Ministry of Culture).
The Ministry informed the movie's producer and distributor that the film needs to be cut before it could go on screen.
On 23 September 2015, five Buddhist organisations, namely the Association of Scholars for Buddhism, the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand, the Buddhist Women's Association, the Network to Protect the Nation, Religion, and Monarchy, and the
Buddhists Network, issued a joint statement to the Ministry of Culture against the film. The statement which was submitted to Veera Rojpojanarat, the Minister of Culture, urged him to review the content of the film. It was also sent to the film
producers asking them to rethink whether the film is appropriate for screening in the country. In the statement, the five religious organisations wrote that the content of the movie shows disrespect towards Buddhism and Buddhist monks in the
country and is valueless .
The film is about a delinquent teenager who was forced by his parents to ordain as a Buddhist monk, but continues with his usual layman lifestyle while developing a sexual relationship with a young female protagonist, which later leads him to
uncover the dark secrets in his monastery. One of the controversial scenes in the film which shows the leading protagonist in a Buddhist monk's robe touching a woman, an action which is prohibited in the Buddhist monks' code of conduct
Surapot Taweesak, a Buddhist and philosophy scholar, however, shared his thoughts on the matter through Matichon News that there is nothing wrong with the film. He said that the call to ban the film shows a lack of tolerance and disrespect
towards freedom of expression, which ironically goes against the principles of freedom of thought in Buddhism itself.
Arpat , the new name of the banned Thai film Arbat , passed the censorship board on Friday and was issued with an 18-plus rating after cuts. (Note, the actual name uses a Thai letter with no equivalence in English. It is half way
between b and p, hence there's a choice of which to use in transliteration to English)
Several 'sensitive' scenes have been cut from the original version, and a warning text appears at the start.
State censors who judged the film yesterday were different from those who banned the previous version of the film on Monday. The ban was imposed on the grounds that the movie would tarnish the image of Buddhism through telling a story of
misbehaving monks, (a sensitive issue in Thailand as there are plenty of misbehaving monks, many are just regular guys doing their duty of a short term stint as a monk, often under pressure from families).
The new version has been censored of a scene of a young monk kissing a girl, a monk drinking alcohol and a monk touching the head of a Buddha statue, among others.
A warning stressing the film is a work of fiction has been inserted at the start of the film.
Prachya admits that the title change, from Arbat to Arpat, may sound like a silly move , but he said it is a strategy to submit the new film for consideration while retaining the right to appeal for a new verdict of the original
We want to appeal for a permit of the original Arbat, but the process takes a long time, so we presented the re-edited version and called it Arpat instead.
The hullabaloo around the Thai film Arpat is the latest example of problems caused by what some people in the film industry perceive as flaws in the Film and Video Act 2008.
Some of the controversial aspects of the law, which was passed by the coup-appointed National Legislative Assembly, include the composition of the censor committees, and the measure that allows a film to be banned for national security reasons.
Also criticised were a conservative interpretation of the rules, and most importantly strict state control over film, compared to lighter regulation of other cheaper and more accessible media such as television and print.
Many filmmakers believe the law, which introduced the rating system, poses many problems. Manit Sriwanichpoom, whose film Shakespeare Must Die was banned in 2012., said:
The law says the rating committee consists of four government officials and three representatives from the private sector, but what happens is that these three 'private representatives' are often those who are close to the bureaucrats, and they
have to be approved by the bureaucrats first. That means the state still controls the thinking and the judgement.
The first film banned under the new film law was Insect in the Backyard in 2010. It tells the story of a transgender father and his two children, one of them a male prostitute.
According to Kajornsak Putthanupap, who chaired the committee that banned the film Arpat, there are six rotating committees taking turns to watch films and give a rating. He said Arpat was initially banned because it might create unnecessary
conflicts in society if the committee had let it pass .
But for filmmakers, such thinking is unfair treatment to film, given the fact that content in other media, such as magazines or television, does not require state approval before its release. Pantham Thongsang, a film producer who has campaigned
for a fairer film law for the past 10 years, said:
Some committees rely purely on their imagination that if a film has been released, such and such a bad thing would happen. It's like you forbid someone from leaving the house because you imagine he might go out and kill someone.
Saudi Arabia has summoned the Czech ambassador over a new translation of Sir Salman Rushdie's book Satanic Verses .
Saudi expressed its condemnation and disapproval of translating the book , which it claims is offensive to Islam, and hopes the Prague government will ban the publication of the work. It was reported that Saudi demanded that religion and cultures not be insulted in any way or form.
But Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told his country's CTK news agency:
We have no reason to interfere in any way because we have freedom of the press and expression.
Meanwhile Iran has announced that it is boycotting a Frankfurt book fair after organisers invited Rushdie as a guest speaker. The foreign ministry said the fair had:
Under the pretext of freedom of expression, invited a person who is hated in the Islamic world and create the opportunity for Salman Rushdie ... to make a speech.
The ministry also called on other Muslim nations to join its boycott. Deputy culture minister Abbas Salehi said:
Fair officials chose the theme of freedom of expression, but they invited someone who has insulted our beliefs.
The Frankfurt Book Fair has said that freedom of expression is non-negotiable , in response to the Iranian Ministry of Culture's confirmed boycott of this week's fair over the presence of keynote speaker Salman Rushdie. Juergen Boos,
director of the Frankfurt Book Fair, said:
We very much regret the Iranian Ministry of Culture's cancellation. Frankfurt Book Fair is a place of dialogue. At the same time, we hope that this year's cancellation is just a brief interruption in the existing conversations and that we can
continue to expand on the established relationships. Nevertheless, for us, freedom of expression is non-negotiable. We must not forget that Rushdie is still being threatened with death for his work.
The Frankfurt Book Fair has said it hopes for further dialogue with the Iranian Ministry of Censorship.
A new Campaign for Free Expression has been launched focussing on the issue of free expression being restricted by international blasphemy laws. The campaign is an offshoot from the secular campaign group Center for Inquiry , and
introduces itself as follows:
Since we at the Center for Inquiry first launched the Campaign for Free Expression website in 2012, a lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same.
Let me start with what has not changed: There remains a global crackdown on freedom of expression, blasphemy laws exist in more than 50 countries, and often times, in countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, these laws are still viciously
enforced. Governments are still too often in thrall to political pressure from extremist religious movements, rather than responding to the rights and needs of all people. Countries with dreadful human rights records still hold too much sway at
the United Nations, and organize to resist, and reverse, progress on freedom of thought.
And, unfortunately, many of the dissidents and victims of persecution we highlighted when this site was first launched remain either imprisoned or in legal or even mortal danger.
But things have also changed, some for better, some for worse. Alexander Aan of Indonesia, jailed for posting to Facebook about his atheism, was released from prison after 19 months, and now pursues his love of science, and works toward a degree
in physics. Raif Badawi, jailed in 2012 for insulting Islam in Saudi Arabia, was eventually sentenced to 10 years and an unthinkable 1000 lashes. But his story has elevated the cause of free expression, and the United States' problematic
relationship with Saudi Arabia, to international attention. The protest band Pussy Riot became globally known symbols of free speech, particularly the right to criticize one's government, and now, out of prison, continue to rally support to the
cause. And at the diplomatic level, the once-relentless efforts by certain countries to codify a kind of global blasphemy law at the United Nations have largely dissipated. For now.
Some things have gotten much worse. One need look no further than the crisis in Bangladesh, where four secularist bloggers have been murdered by Islamic radicals in 2015 alone, with many more on a hit list of names singled out for death
by extremist groups, some reportedly affiliated with Al Qaeda. One of the victims, Avijit Roy, was a naturalized U.S. citizen who assisted us with our worldwide protests against the jailing of atheist bloggers in 2013.
Violence in response to perceived blasphemy reached Paris at the end of 2014 with the massacre of journalists and cartoonists at the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. Sony Pictures, for a time, capitulated to the demands of what may or may not have
been the North Korean government, when violence was threatened over the screening of the film The Interview. And right here in the United States, the peaceful citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, protesting the killing of Michael Brown, had
their free expression rights curbed by a militarized police force.
The silver lining to these ongoing concerns is that free expression and the right to criticize and satirize religion, cultural traditions, and governments is now a topic of mainstream debate and discussion. Now, more than ever, the world
community is taking seriously the need to defend free speech, and wrestling with how to navigate the fundamental right to free religious belief (including the right not to believe) and the equally fundamental right of individuals to criticize
We are proud to have led so much of this conversation, to have been at the forefront of this great challenge, a challenge that tests our notions of a global civilization, and calls us to be our best, most humanistic selves.
With so much change, and with so much that still needs to change, we thought it was also time to rethink our campaign website, to refocus our online presence, and better respond to the rapid developments on this broad and explosive topic.
So take a look around the new site. See the updated case files of those persecuted for their dissent. Educate yourself on the issue with our various materials and media, including statements to the UN Human Rights Council. And most importantly,
check out the ways you can get involved.
The right to free expression is as big as the world, and as we've seen so often, responses and suppressions of free expression have reverberations far beyond any one country's borders. But you can help us get this important concept across those
borders, into the hearts and minds of government officials, diplomats, and the general public:
Ideas don't need rights. People do. Protect dissent.
Maryam Namazie of the One Law For All campaign was meant to speak at a Warwick University Atheist Society event on October 28 but the student union there has declined the request to have her speak. The Society is appealing. Here is Maryam
Namazie's statement on it:
I was invited to speak at Warwick University by the Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists' Society on 28 October 2015. The University Student Union has declined the request for me to speak saying the following:
This is because after researching both her and her organisation, a number of flags have been raised. We have a duty of care to conduct a risk assessment for each speaker who wishes to come to campus.
There a number of articles written both by the speaker and by others about the speaker that indicate that she is highly inflammatory, and could incite hatred on campus. This is in contravention of our external speaker policy:
The President (or equivalent) of the group organising any event is responsible for the activities that take place within their events. All speakers will be made aware of their responsibility to abide by the law, the University and the Union's
various policies, including that they:
must not incite hatred, violence or call for the breaking of the law are not permitted to encourage, glorify or promote any acts of terrorism including individuals, groups or organisations that support such acts must not spread hatred and
intolerance in the community and thus aid in disrupting social and community harmony must seek to avoid insulting other faiths or groups, within a framework of positive debate and challenge are not permitted to raise or gather funds for any
external organisation or cause without express permission of the trustees.
In addition to this, there are concerns that if we place conditions on her attendance (such as making it a member only event and having security in attendance, asking for a transcript of what she intends to say, recording the speech) she will
refuse to abide by these terms as she did for Trinity College Dublin.
The Atheist group is of course appealing their decision, however, it's important for me to comment briefly on the Student Union's position. I will be writing a more detailed letter to the university to formally complain about the Student Union
accusations against me after taking legal advice.
For now, though, suffice it to say that criticising religion and the religious-Right is not incitement of hatred against people. If anything, it's the religious-Right, namely Islamism in this case, which incites hatred against those of us who
dare to leave Islam and criticise it.
The Student Union seems to lack an understanding of the difference between criticising religion, an idea, or a far-Right political movement on the one hand and attacking and inciting hate against people on the other. Inciting hatred is what the
Islamists do; I and my organisation challenge them and defend the rights of ex-Muslims, Muslims and others to dissent.
The Student Union position is of course nothing new. It is the predominant post-modernist Left point of view that conflates Islam, Muslims and Islamists, homogenises the Muslim community , thinks believers are one and the same as
the religious-Right and sides with the Islamist narrative against its many dissenters.
A decision to ban a speaker from Warwick University , citing fears she may offend Muslim students, has been reversed.
A statement published on the Warwick University Student's Union website on Sunday evening offered an unequivocal apology to Ms Namazie. It read:
In the last few days we have all seen much debate, and considerable concern, expressed about an application to Warwick Students' Union made by the Warwick Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, that an SU society host the campaigner and
blogger Maryam Namazie as an external speaker.
Warwick SU has a process for assessing any potential risks or legal issues associated with any external speaker, and it is now very clear to us that in this case that process has not been followed. Speaker invitations that may involve such
issues are routinely considered by the SU President, who will also take advice from senior SU staff.
This did not happen on this occasion. Neither the SU President, nor senior SU staff, were consulted as they should have been. This is a significant error for which there can be no excuse.
We want to assure everyone of Warwick Students' Union's continued commitment to free speech.
We also want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone who has expressed concern, or disappointment, or who has been hurt by this significant error and, as we said above, we will be issuing a full and unequivocal apology to Maryam
Offsite Comment: If Islamists can speak on campus, why can't I?
On 8 October, the Acting Editor for Comment is Free wrote to say a "very light edit" had been done on my article including "a few tweaks for flow, house style, and to make the piece as accessible as possible for non-expert
Shockingly, the "light edits" included substantial changes, including the removal of references to Ali Shariatmadari and CAGE prisoners as well as all the relevant links, which would have helped "non-expert readers."
Satirical art using children's toy characters from the Sylvanian Families to mock Islamic State (ISIS) has been banned from a freedom of speech exhibition over fears of muslim violence.
The work was censored from the schedule at the Passion for Freedom exhibition at London's Mall Galleries after police raised serious concerns about the possibility of a terrorist atrocity against visitors. Police feared crazed
jihadis would take offence and launch a reprisal attack in response to the heavily mocking artwork.
Officers told exhibition organisers they would have to pay £36,000 to hire extra security if the piece was displayed, forcing the gallery to remove it from display.
The works mocked the Islamist fanatics by showing them lurking in the background of ordinary family scenes depicted as characters from the popular Sylvanian Families toy set. A description for the piece, called ISIS Threaten Sylvania, said:
Far away, in the land of Sylvania, rabbits, foxes, hedgehogs, mice and all woodland animals have overcome their differences to live in harmonious peace and tranquillity.
MICE-IS, a fundamentalist Islamic terror group, are threatening to dominate Sylvania, and annihilate every species that does not submit to their hard-line version of sharia law.
The decision provoked outrage from both the artist, Mimsy, and people online, who said the terrorist group should not be able to dictate what the British public can see. Mimsy said:
I love my freedom. I'm aware of the very real threat to that freedom from Islamic fascism and I'm not going to pander to them or justify it like many people on the left are doing.
Author Ben Goldacre tweeted:
Dear The British Police, I want you to protect free speech from violence, maybe spend less time on cannabis smokers?
Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg said:
Concerns over terror are being inflated to such an extent that perfectly legitimate, non-criminal expression, is being shut down across Britain: from university campuses, to theatre stages, to art galleries. The upcoming extremism bill could
worsen the situation further. In the case of the Sylvanian Families exhibit, we need to do more to ensure that police work with venues to promote freedom of expression, not stifle it.
The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has imposed a 3 day shutdown of the mobile internet because locals are using social media to criticise a state law banning beef on religious grounds. The state is predominantly muslim, and so residents are
unimpressed by the imposition of a law grounded in hinduism..
Inspector General of Police of Kashmir as well as Jammu region wrote a letter to all ISPs to extend the termination of data services to 3 days. He said:
In view of the apprehension of misuse of data services (GPRS/2G/3G) by anti-national elements, which is likely to cause deterioration in law and order situation, you are requested to completely snap down the data services through GPRS/2G/3G and
broadband till 2 PM of September 27.
The measure has been taken because of apprehension of communal tension in the backdrop of the High Court directive for implementation of an old law that bans slaughter and selling of beef. Some separatist groups have said they will defy the court
order, and proceeded to make their case by posting comments and videos on social media.
Students have been banned from accessing pornography at the University of Melbourne's largest residential college, sparking a fiery campus debate on sexual freedoms and censorship.
Ormond College has blocked access to adult sites on its Wi-Fi network, claiming that pornography does not allow people at a formative stage of life to develop a healthy sexuality .
But some students have reacted angrily to the censorship, arguing they pay $200 a semester for college Wi-Fi, and in the privacy of their own rooms they should be allowed to access legal adult sites.
Inevitably the college master in charge is a theologian who seeks to impose his religious nonsense on other people. Dr Rufus Black claimed in a student newsletter that pornography was exploitative and presents women primarily as sex objects
who are a means to the end of male pleasure . He preached that allowing the college's 400 students to access porn on its network would be condoning the objectification of women. He spouted:
Pornographic material overwhelmingly presents women in ways that are profoundly incompatible with our understanding of what it is to treat people with respect and dignity.
He maintained that even same-sex pornography was treating another person as a means to an end , and that porn was addictive.
Rachel Withers, president of the Melbourne University Student Union, said as long as students were accessing legal sites what they viewed in the privacy of their own rooms should be their decision:
I would personally prefer to see colleges tackling issues around respect for women's bodies and consent through educational programs and ensuring students receive comprehensive information on consent as part of their college orientation.
Offsite Comment: Rufus Black preaches about imposing his religious morality on others
In a free and plural society, our disposition is to prefer freedom with responsibility over restriction. ...However ... the priority we give to freedom does not relieve us of the task of deciding what we as a community are going to
Two members of the protest group Femen have been arrested after disrupting a controversial Muslim conference in Paris.
The topless women, with the words Nobody makes me submit , painted on their chests -- stormed the stage at the event in Pontoise.
The stunt saw the women, themselves of muslim origin, shout feminist slogans in Arabic and French as two Imams addressed the audience, before they were physically removed from the stage by a number of men, who were seen to be giving the girls a
The women burst onto the stage as two Imams addressed the audience. Femen leader Inna Shevchenko says the activists received death threats from the audience. Shevchenko told Huffington Post UK the protesters were from Muslim families and had
raised their voices in disgust at this public hate speech. She said:
The Imams were very careful in their speech this time as the public outrage by the event was loud. The Imam was addressing the question of whether women should be beaten or not and said that as Mohammed didn't beat women, the men shouldn't do it
Just a minute later, Femen activists were brutally beaten up by the organisers of the event on the same stage.
The conference, which reportedly addressed the role of women in Islam, was subject to a Change.org petition calling for it to be cancelled. The petition states guests included: Fundamentalist preachers such as Abu Anas Nader, known for having
legitimised marital rape and the wider submission of women.
According to the Telegraph the women were released after being questioned by prosecutors who will continue to investigate the incident. It reports the conference organisers say they will press charges against them. However there is no mention of
charges against the men who assaulted the girls.
Bahrain has become the latest Gulf state to propose a legal ban on critical discussion of religion. In a report of a cabinet meeting, the government news agency says:
A draft law on criminalising contempt of religions, such as insulting divinity, defaming divine books, prophets, Allah's Messengers, as well as their wives or companions, and any hate and sectarian discourse that undermines national unity,
differentiates between individuals or groups on the bases of religion, creed or sect and triggers conflict between individuals or groups, was also discussed.
The bill was presented in the memorandum submitted by the Interior Minister, and was referred to the Ministerial Committee for Legal Affairs for further study.
Both moves appear to be a response to an international conference in France, where a Saudi official from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs called for the worldwide introduction of blasphemy laws, as a matter of urgency.
On Sunday over a thousand Russians protested in Saint Petersburg after a one hundred year old relief sculpture of a mythical demon was destroyed by a group calling themselves The Cossacks of Saint Petersburg highlighting the increased
religious intolerance under President Vladimir Putin.
The figure of Mephistopheles, a bat-winged creature on Lakhtinskaya Street dated from 1910. It was said to depict the Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, famed for his role of Mephistopheles.
The sculpture was torn off the facade of an Art Nouveau period building in Saint Petersburg, in a religiously-motivated act of cultural vandalism. Police have now launched an investigation.
More than a thousand people including architecture conservationists gathered in front of the building in the city centre to express their shock over what this brazen act of vandalism. Hands off art, read one placard, while another
one said in English: Save our Saint Petersburg.
The Cossacks of Saint Petersburg group said in a statement:
Mephistopheles embodies evil in this world and this person decided to act, most likely, to kill Evil.
The figure encouraged "open worship of Satan" and was unacceptable because it was opposite a church.
Renowned Indian scholar and rationalist, M M Kalburgi, has been killed after being shot by unidentified men in the southern state of Karnataka, police have said. Police said on Sunday that two men came to Kalburgi's residence in the town of
Dharwad and shot him after he opened the door.
Dharwad City Police Commissioner Ravindra Prasad told Al Jazeera that police was considering it as a case of murder and a special squad has been formed to work on the case. He said the police did not suspect any particular group and that
the investigation was under way with an open mind.
Kalburgi, who was former vice chancellor of Kannada University in the southern town of Hampi, was mired in a controversy in June 2014 for his remarks against idol worship , which is an important aspect of Hindu belief.
Far-right groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishat and Bajrang Dal had filed cases against him and also demanded his arrest for allegedly offending religious sentiments. Kalburgi had recently asked the police to withdraw armed guards, who were
deployed at his house after he received a number of threats over his remarks on idol worship.
His murder comes months after a social activist Govind Pansare was killed while on a morning walk in the city of Kolhapur in the western Maharashtra state.
There's a debate in the Canadian province of Quebec over the future of free speech. The Quebec Parliament is currently debating whether to pass Bill 59, a bill that would grant the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC) the authority to
investigate so-called hate speech , even without a complaint being filed.
The Head of the QHRC, Jacques Frémont has already openly said that he plans to use such powers:
"To sue those critical of certain ideas, 'people who would write against ... the Islamic religion ... on a website or on a Facebook page'"
The legality of the QHRC asserting jurisdiction over the entire Canadian Internet-using public is under debate, but the consensus in Canada appears to be that this bill is a step backwards. In 2013, the Canadian parliament moved to end
scrutiny of Internet speech by its Human Right Commissions when it abolished the infamous Section 13 , of Canada's Human Rights Act. The elimination of the censorious clause followed a successful campaign given voice by Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant
after the two were targeted for writings and publications which reportedly "offending" Muslims.
But like a zombie rising from the grave, the idea of censoring "blasphemous" speech, continues to come back, no matter how dead it may have appeared.
Religious intolerants in Russia have attacked a major art exhibit in Moscow, claiming it offended their beliefs and was therefore somehow illegal.
Members of God's Will, a Christian extremist group led by self-proclaimed missionary Dmitry Enteo Tsorionov, vandalised the Sculptures We Don't See exhibit at the Manezh, a vast exhibition space next to Red Square.
During the attack activists shouted that the works on display were offensive to people of faith and violated legislation introduced to deter protests such as that carried out by Pussy Riot.
In a video of the incident one of the activists rips a linoleum engraving of a naked Christ made by Vadim Sidur, known as the Soviet Henry Moore , off its plinth. She then throws it on the floor and stamps on it.
The group's leader Enteo targeted a work by another artist, Megasoma Mars. This sculpture was titled Beheading of St John the Baptist #2 and comprised a series of heads displayed on plates. Enteo seized one of the heads and smashed the
plate it had been on.
As a result, four works by Sidur and one Mars were damaged, said a spokesperson for the gallery .
The legislation referred to by the religious vandals was a law making offending religious feelings a crime which was signed into law by Vladimir Putin in 2013.
New Zealand has imposed some of the world's strictest blasphemy laws by stealth, a humanist group says.
The new Harmful Digital Communications Act could have the effect of landing a person in jail for two years for committing blasphemy, the New Zealand Humanist Society president Mark Honeychurch:
This legislation not only flies in the face of human rights, but the introduction of yet another law that gives special privileges to religions is unfair, unpopular and unrepresentative of our society, where over 40 per cent of New Zealanders
identify as not religious, making this our country's largest single belief group.
The society said the act stated digital communications should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability .
Honeychurch said the law would effectively impose some of the world's strictest penalties - including fines of up to $50,000 - on people found guilty of blaspheming, or insulting religion. He added:
We want to increase social cohesion and understanding, and by awarding privileges and protecting groups from critique we are closing the door on free speech, free inquiry and public debate. New Zealand has to abolish its blasphemy laws before
they are used to censor, suppress, and silence public debate
Last month, lawyers cited in The Law Report said another possible unintended consequence of the law would be the establishment of a new legal avenue for recipients of defamatory digital content.
Justice Minister Amy Adams defended the censorship law claiming it would take a lot for someone to be charged under the act:
Not only must the perpetrator be responsible for posting the communication, they must intend to harm another person and that harm must actually occur. The offence is targeted at the very worst online behaviours, and will not censor, suppress or
silence public debate.
On Friday, August 7 at approximately 1:45pm, five assailants armed with machetes entered the flat of blogger Niloy Neel and killed him brutally . When his wife and sister attempted to save him, the attackers threatened to kill them too.
Niloy is the fourth blogger to be killed in Bangladesh over the last six months. All those killed were secular and critical of extremist muslim political movements in the country. Many more have been attacked, subjected to death threats and
ostracized by religious hardliners for their writing.
The blogger had written under the pen name Niloy Neel in Istishon (meaning station in Bengali) as a member of a Bengali group blog that covered political and social issues. Neel was vocal about secularism and wrote for the platform
Ganajagaran Mancha , demanding capital punishment for 1971 war criminals. Neel was also writing in support of women's rights, indigenous peoples, even for all other minorities. He was critic of religious extremism that provoked bombing in
mosque and killing thousands of civilians.
The names of these bloggers and others under threat appeared on a list of 84 people submitted to a special government committee by a group of extremist Muslim clerics who accused the bloggers of atheism and writing against Islam.
Government officials responded by blocking critical websites and making arrests of bloggers and leaders from the religious right.
Eleven of the bloggers on the list (including Niloy) have now been killed over the past two years.
Love is a 2015 France / Belgium drama by Gaspar Noé.
Starring Gaspar Noé, Aomi Muyock and Klara Kristin.
A sexual melodrama about a boy and a girl and another girl. It's a love story, which celebrates sex in a joyous way.
The film complete with extensive, non-simulated sex scenes in 3D, seems fated to become the cause célèbre for an alleged new wave of prudishness in France.
After a complaint by a right-wing pressure group, a panel of judges ruled this week that the movie should be given an 18 age restriction, a rating in France that is reserved for pornography.
The director and the producer of Love say that the decision reflects the increasing, censorious influence of the Catholic hard right in France. They have appealed to the state watchdog, the Conseil d'Etat .
After the Paris administrative court ruled that its over-16 classification should be withdrawn, the movie's producer, Vincent Maraval, tweeted: "In France it is now forbidden to love if you are under the age of 18." In an
interview with the newspaper Libération , he said:
We must now wait for the ruling of the Conseil d'Etat . We will then know what kind of country France has become.
The legal challenge was made by a right-wing pressure group Promouvoir, which works to "promote Judeo-Christian values in all areas of social life". A panel of judges decided this week that the "repetition" and
"prominence" of non-simulated sex scenes was "likely to disturb the sensibility of minors".
They ordered that the film's classification be raised to over 18.
Another French director, Jean-Paul Salomé, said that the ruling overturned France's traditionally liberal-minded system of film classification and left it open to "second guessing" by right-wing groups and the courts. He added:
The decision is absurd at a time when anyone, minor or not, can easily find on the internet images far more traumatic than anything in Gaspar Noé's film.
Documents released under freedom of information laws reveal that Australia's Classification Board found there was no reason to restrict sales of ZOO Weekly's Saint Mary Mac and Her Holy Rack edition in 2010.
The lads' mag caused 'outrage' with photographs of a model on all fours with the caption: She's begging for it ... so she can give it to the poor!
Mary MacKillop is a historical figure, born in 1842, who eventually became Australia's first and only Roman Catholic saint. The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney labelled the publication as:
Disgusting, an insult to her legacy and demeaning to all Australian women.
Although Government censors found the picture spread was in bad taste and could be offensive to some, it did not warrant ZOO to be deemed a submittable publication , which would restrict its sales to people aged 18 or over.
Classification Board director Donald McDonald found the classifiable elements of sex, nudity and themes did not have a high impact. He wrote that censors' role was based on community standards and the principle adults should be able to read, hear
and see what they want -- with appropriate exceptions.
Porn shops, cuirrently illegal in Malta, will soon be able to open on the strength of legal reforms that will allow pornographic material to be displayed so long as a clear warning is affixed outside the shop. The warning must read:
Warning. Persons passing beyond this notice will find material on display which they may consider indecent. No admittance to persons under 18 years of age.
It will still be illegal to distribute pornographic material in public places and to expose children or the unsuspecting public to pornographic material.
This is one of a series of legal reforms addressing morality and censorship. Another amendment decriminalises the vilification of religion.
Justice Minister Owen Bonnici said these reforms showed that government did not believe that the State ought to be the moral custodian of adults. He said:
Adults are to be treated as adults... These reforms aim to incentivise freedom of artistic expression while protecting the vulnerable,
Bonnici explained that the legal reforms -- that were in draft stage and would soon be presented in Parliament -- will include the complete removal of articles 163 and 164 of the Criminal Code. This will mean decriminalising the vilification of
the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion and other religions.
The two articles made it illegal to vilify religion by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means.)
Less than a week after Iceland's prime minister contended that his nation's fundamental values would be at risk should the insurgent Pirate Party ever come to power, the group has celebrated its first legislative success, the decriminalization of
Birgitta Jonsdottir , one of three Pirates in the Althing, Iceland's Parliament, was among party activists celebrating the vote in favor of their bill to repeal the prohibition on impious irreverence, which had been in force since 1940.
The measure to repeal the law , which made ridiculing or insulting the dogmas or worship of a lawfully existing religious community an offense punishable by a fine or up to three months in jail, was introduced in January , in the wake of
the murderous attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo.
While the vote was underway in the Althing, The Iceland Monitor reported , all three of the party's members took the floor to say, I am Charlie. After the bill was made law, the party said in a statement , The Icelandic Parliament has
issued the important message that freedom will not bow to bloody attacks.
Egyptian TV presenter Islam al-Beheiry has been sentenced to five years in prison with labour for contempt of religion. al-Beheiry presented With Islam , a religious talk show that debated such topics as punishment for apostasy,
early marriage and the teachings of the religious character Muhammad.
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's foremost religious institution, filed accusations against Beheiry that included propagating extremist ideology, insulting Islamic scholars, attempting to destabilize national peace and broadcasting ideas that affect the
fundamentals of religion .
On 30 May, an Egyptian misdemeanours court sentenced al-Beheiry in absentia to five years in jail with labour for contempt of religion .
Re stripping tourists offending Malaysia's mountain gods
15th June 2015
13th June 2015. Thanks to Alan
A fine kettle of fish! The women hadn't even undressed completely, and the only pic I've seen has the men strategically placing their hands like a rugby team in a "nude" charity calendar.
Two points about this. One is the schtick about the "sacredness" of the mountain, and comparisons with hypothetical similar behaviour at a Christian site. See this picture:
No sign of Italian ministers claiming that the tits have made Vesuvius and Etna go pop! (Note the canopy by the way: they seem to be getting ready for a papal ceremony.)
The other, more important point is that much of the world's press has been royally trolled. Emil Kaminski has managed to fool a lot of news outlets, including the Daily Mirror and Daily Telegraph, into believing that:
1) he was part of the group, and probably the instigator;
2) he was arrested. In fact he was certainly NOT present, NOT arrested and probably NOT in Malaysia. See his
YouTube video .
Can we rely on anything we read in the papers when seasoned journalists fail to smell a rat when Kaminski praises the wi-fi in Malaysian prison cells? Kaminski's certainly shown up a lot of people as idiots, though I think he should have waited
until the young people were safely out of Malaysia.
Update: The plot thickens
14th June 2015. Thanks to Alan
The press seems to be belatedly waking up to having been taken for a ride. The Telegraph pulled its story, leaving a blank web page, to the delight of Kaminski. Also possibly noteworthy is that no press outlet seems to have picked up the apparent
backing by Richard Dawkins - in a Facebook comment. I rather doubt that Prof. Dawkins was the real author.
Another nice little turn-up for the books is that the Sabah minister who was assiduously spouting bollox about the tits and bums having pissed off the mountain fairies doesn't - I hope! - actually believe this twaddle. His first name is Joseph,
and, as you would guess, he's a Christian: to be precise a Catholic. Kaminski is too kind in calling him a fucking idiot . When the heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone - in this case, a stonking great mountain - I
thought the duty of a Christian was to enlighten him. Instead this guy encourages him to form a lynch mob and go after kids on a gap year.
Update: Floods of ludicrous blame claims
15th June 2015. Thanks to Alan
Another bizarre case of blame for a natural disaster in today's papers. The Patriarch of All Georgia has blamed the flood which released all the animals in Tbilisi zoo on the use of money raised by melting down bells and crosses to built it in
1928. If you get squashed by a hippo or become a tasty snack for a stray lion, blame it on Uncle Joe Stalin.
At least, Ilia II has the right to spout garbage, as the head man of Georgian Orthodoxy, and I don't doubt that he sincerely believes it. No such excuse for the Christian minister in Sabah calling up a lynch mob on behalf of a religion in which
he doesn't believe.
A bit puzzled by Eleanor Hawkins' statement. I don't blame her for eating a generous serving of shit to get out of Malaysia, but I can't understand why she goes back for seconds once she's safely home in Derbyshire.
Tony Blair appointed to top role in organisation campaigning for a new Europe-wide blasphemy law disguised behind Orwellian doublespeak about tolerance
7th June 2015
The misleadingly named European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) is a campaign group backed by European Jewish leaders, and a gaggle of former EU heads of state and government. It calls for pan-European legislation outlawing
antisemitism and criticism of religion, coining a phrase, 'group libel' to mirror the muslim phrase 'defamation of religion'.
The group recently published a document proposing to outlaw antisemitism as well as criminalising a host of other activities of what the group deems to be violating fundamental rights on religious, cultural, ethnic and gender grounds. The group
cleverly heads the list with some justifiable prohibitions, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, polygamy, but then slip in extensive censorship and blasphemy items, eg criminalising xenophobia, and creating a new crime of group libel
, ie public defamation of ethnic, cultural or religious groups.
The proposed legislation would also curb freedom of expression on grounds of a bizarre definition of 'tolerance'. The document twists the meaning of tolerance to try and justify the end to the right of freedom of expression:
Tolerance is a two-way street. Members of a group who wish to benefit from tolerance must show it to society at large, as well as to members of other groups and to dissidents or other members of their own group.
There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.
But the document goes much further, calling for the criminalisation of overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia or antisemitism.
The group has now appointed Tony Blair as chairman.
Comment: Tony Blair's plans to tackle extremism will stifle free speech
Index on Censorship considers Tony Blair's proposals on hate speech to be dangerous and divisive. Blair has defended plans to lower the the barriers on what constitutes incitement to violence and make Holocaust denial illegal. Jodie
Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said:
These suggestions, far from protecting people, are likely to have the opposite effect, driving extremist views underground where they can fester and grow Instead, we should be protecting free expression, including speech that may be
considered offensive or hateful, in order to expose and challenge those views.
Individuals should always be protected from incitement to violence and that protection already exists in law, as do stringent laws on hate speech. Further legislation is not needed.
Comment: NSS criticises Tony Blair's plans to entrench religion in public life across Europe
The National Secular Society (NSS) has criticised Blair ahead of his appointment as chair of the ECTR as ill thought out and counter-productive .
The former Prime Minister has defended proposals lowering the barriers to what constitutes incitement to violence and pan-European plans to make Holocaust denial illegal and to entrench state funding for religious institutions
The NSS is adamant that measures such as 'group libel' would be counter-productive, have a massive chilling effect on free speech and would be likely to restrict the open debate necessary to resolve problems.
Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director, said:
Britain already has draconian legislation on religious insults -- a possible seven year jail term with a low prosecution threshold. Politicians have already called for the outlawing of Islamophobia, playing into the hands of those intent on
closing down honest debate about and within Islam.
There is no need for more laws, and the ones we already have fail to adequately protect freedom of expression. A robust civil society with a deep commitment to free expression is our best hope for challenging and countering bigoted narratives
and misguided views. Driving extremist views underground will only allow them to fester and allow their proponents to present themselves as martyrs.
Outlawing Holocaust denial completely undermines the West's defence of freedom of speech at home and abroad and removes our moral authority to propound freedom of expression abroad. No one has the right in a plural society not to be offended
and ideas should not be proscribed but people should be defended from incitement to violence.
A European-wide Holocaust denial law would be exhibit A in every response from dictators abroad - and Islamists at home - when we criticise their appalling human rights records or challenge their rhetoric and beliefs.
The NSS has also accused Blair of being confused over the role of religion .
For Mr Blair to dismiss those intent on justifying violence in the name of religion as abusing religion and using it as a mask reveals that his enthusiasm for religion has once more led him to misunderstand one of the roots of this problem.
While few would suggest that extremists' interpretations of their faith are mainstream in today's society, it is naive and counterproductive to deny the role that such interpretations play in their religio-political motivations.
Comment: BBC to be forced to report the news under a narrow set of acceptable values .
Tony Blair's new role as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) is in fact supporting an organisation that is a danger to free speech. Paul Nuttall, UKIP Deputy Leader and MEP for the North West, said the ECTR
wants public broadcasting companies like the BBC to be forced under legal statute to report the news under a narrow set of acceptable values . He explained:
Tony Blair is joining an organisation that explicitly wants to see legislative control of news output.
The ECTR sent a framework statute to members of the European Parliament with the intention of it becoming law that frankly caused great concern. It included dictatorial powers to demand that 'public broadcasting (television and radio) stations
will devote a prescribed percentage of their programmes to promoting a climate of tolerance'. It also called for private and public media to be controlled by a Media Complaints Commission driven by a narrow set of acceptable values.
The ECTR also called for certain new 'thought' crimes to be regarded as aggravated criminal offences, such as the 'overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia'. This is very dangerous stuff and is utterly against the great tradition of
free speech in this country. Do we really want our news reports to be dictated by a political organisation led by Blair?
Even worse is that Mr Blair's organisation also proposes re-education programmes, which brings to mind the 1930s. It proposes young people 'convicted of committing crimes listed will be required to undergo a rehabilitation programme designed to
instil in them a culture of tolerance'. It's very worrying that in championing the ECTR, Mr Blair appears to want to enforce an Orwellian-style 'Ministry of Information' regime upon the population without taking it to the ballot box.
Offsite Comment: Tony Blair has just joined the crew of reckless muzzlers
An atheist blogger has been hacked to death in north-eastern Bangladesh by religious intolerants, the third such deadly murderous this year. Police told AFP:
Attackers wearing masks hacked Ananta Bijoy Das with machetes in Sylhet city at around 8.30 this morning. We have learned that he was a writer
Imran Sarker, head of a Bangladeshi bloggers' association, told AFP Das was an atheist who wrote blogs for Mukto-Mona, a website formerly moderated by Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-born US citizen who was stabbed to death in the capital, Dhaka, in
Das's friend, Debasish Debu, said, referring to an alleged hitlist of atheist bloggers prepared by muslim intolerants:
In recent months he received threats from extremists for his writings. He was on their hitlist,
European Jewish leaders, backed by former EU heads of state and government, are calling for pan-European legislation outlawing antisemitism and criticism of religion.
A panel of four international jewish leaders backed by the misleadingly named European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) have spent three years drafting a 12-page document on 'tolerance' . They are lobbying to have it
converted into law in the 28 countries of the EU.
The proposal would outlaw antisemitism as well as criminalising a host of other activities of what the group deems to be violating fundamental rights on religious, cultural, ethnic and gender grounds.
The group head the list with some justifiable prohibitions, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, polygamy, but then slip in extensive censorship and blasphemy items, eg criminalising xenophobia, and creating a new crime of group libel
, ie public defamation of ethnic, cultural or religious groups. Then to try and generate a little support, the group extends the list to include women's and gay rights.
The proposed legislation would also curb freedom of expression on grounds of a bizarre definition of 'tolerance'. The document twists the meaning of tolerance to try and justify the end to the right of freedom of expression:
Tolerance is a two-way street. Members of a group who wish to benefit from tolerance must show it to society at large, as well as to members of other groups and to dissidents or other members of their own group.
There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.
But the document goes much further, calling for the criminalisation of overt approval of a totalitarian ideology, xenophobia or antisemitism.
Education in tolerance should be mandatory from primary school to university, and for the military and the police, while public broadcasting must devote a prescribed percentage of their programmes to promoting a climate of 'tolerance' .
The panel was chaired by Yoram Dinstein, a war crimes expert, professor and former president of Tel Aviv university.
The drafters are currently touring the parliaments of Europe trying to drum up support.
A religious activist group says it plans to complain to Australia's advertising watchdog about a brewer that is using images of Hindu gods on its ginger beer bottle labels.
Aussie firm Brookvale Union, which uses the slogan Quality nonsense , apologised to Hindus offended by the labelling after receiving complaints in 2013, but the Universal Society of Hinduism has issued a new public complaint that the
offending bottles are still on sale.
The bottles, which feature Hindu deities Ganesh and Lakshmi, carry the slogan Spicy yet mild, dry but wet, smooth yet sharp, tight but loose .
The group also says that the company has not removed the supposedly objectionable images from its website, which it had said it would when the issue was first raised two years ago.
The Universal Society of Hinduism's president Rajan Zed called on Brookvale Union to recall all the soft drink bottles carrying the images from the market, and show some responsibility, respect and maturity and understand the hurt feelings of
Hindu community by saying sorry again. The free speech hating Zed spouted:
Hindus are for free expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more ...BUT... faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it tormented the devotees.
Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda is not okay as it hurts the devotees. Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi are highly revered in Hinduism and they are meant to be worshipped in temples or
home shrines and not to be used in selling beer for mercantile greed.
At least five people died when rioters burned churches and cars and attacked French-linked businesses across Niger on Saturday, in violent protests against the publication of a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
President Mahamadou Issoufou said all five of the dead were civilians, with four of them killed inside burned churches or bars.
Ten people have died in two days of violence across the west African nation. Five died and 45 were injured in clashes on Friday in Niger's second largest city, Zinder, where a French cultural centre and cafe were also hit.
Numerous French media websites have been momentarily taken down by hackers.
The sites of Le Parisien, Marianne and 20 Minutes were among those affected, although most were soon restored. The French government said some 20,000 sites had been targeted.
On Thursday, the head of cyber security for the French military, Vice Admiral Arnaud Coustilliere, said that structured groups and well known Islamist hackers were behind the attacks against the 20,000 sites, but did not elaborate.
Russian Muslims rally against depiction's of Mohammad. Authorities say some 15 to 20 thousand people gathered at the rally in the city of Mahgas in the North Caucasus. The rally concluded peacefully but nevertheless it was still an implcit show
of support for murderers.
About 800 muslims rallied in Sydney to protest against the justifiably negative media coverage of Islam and French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's depictions of Mohammed.
Police said 14 people were told to move on from the rally for breaching the peace. But no one was charged and the event was calm with a huge group of demonstrators praying on the street.
Some of the 800-strong demonstrators in the Lakemba suburb -- which has a large population of Lebanese Australians -- held up placards with the slogan Je suis Muslim. Other protesters held up signs saying insult to one prophet is an
insult to all prophets.
Earlier Australia's prime minister, Tony Abbott, had told the protestors to lighten up . Abbott said on radio that he hoped there would be only a few protesters:
Frankly I don't think any of us really want to be in the business of insulting anyone, but on the other hand we all believe in free speech, and I have to say some people are a bit thin-skinned about free speech.
I just hope the organisers of this protest lighten up a bit, and accept that in our robust democracy, a lot of people say a lot of things, and sometimes it's right, sometimes it's wrong, and we just have to accept the rough and the smooth
Update: Palestine and Senegal
25th January 2015.
'Thousands' of Palestinians rallied in the occupied West Bankto protest against the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammad. Simultaneous demonstrations were held in the cities of Ramallah and Hebron.
Around 1,500 people including the prime minister marchedin Senegal against caricatures of Mohammed. Premier Mohammed Dionne was joined at the demonstration in Dakar by cabinet colleagues, civil society activists, lawmakers, religious leaders and
hundreds of members of the public. I'm not Charlie -- I am a Muslim , Freedom of expression is not the freedom to insult , Do not touch my prophet read placards brandished by demonstrators.
Tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets in Pakistan in anger at the Mohammed cartoons published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The largest rally was held in Karachi, where 25,000 people shouted slogans including death to France , death to the blasphemers and (We are) ready to sacrifice life for Prophet Mohammed .
Speaking at the Karachi protest, the chief of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's main Islamic Party, demanded Pakistan call a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of Muslim countries. He urged the United Nations to curb the
menace of blasphemy through changes to international law.
French President Francois Hollande has affirmed the French right to free speech, saying that anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters in other countries do not understand France's attachment to freedom of speech.
His remarks come a day after throngs of Muslims around the world held protests against the depiction of Muhammad by the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, with some of the demonstrations inevitably turning violent.
In Niger, at least four people were killed in the southern town of Zinder, where protesters set fire to a French cultural center and several churches and attacked Christian shops with clubs and Molotov cocktails, while police responded with tear
gas. Three civilians died, including two who were shot by police during an attack on their station. A police officer was run over and killed, while 45 other people were injured. It was reported that the chanting mob threatened in local Hausa
Charlie is Satan, let hell engulf those supporting Charlie.
Violent demonstrations also occurred in Karachi, Pakistan, where several hundred protesters clashed with police. A photographer with the French news agency AFP was reported to be among three people wounded. Around 300 people from a little known
Pakistani religious group rallied, carrying placards that read Down with Charlie Hebdo and a banner demanding that those drawing the caricatures be hanged. Protests also took place in other major Pakistani cities, including Islamabad and
A Charlie Hebdo poster was burned in the Philippines on Monday as 1,500 people staged a protest march against themagazine.
In Algiers, Algeria, police clashed with demonstrators who threw rocks and bottles around the waterfront area of the capital. Hundreds of people had earlier marched peacefully through the capital, waving placards saying: I am Muhammad. In
Sudan, protesters took to the streets of Khartoum to protest against France and Charlie Hebdo. Some carried large banners bearing such slogans as Death for French and Charlie Hebdo offends the Prophet.
Largely peaceful marches took place in the capitals of West African countries Mali, Senegal and Mauritania.
In Amman, Jordanians gathered to protest against satirical French cartoons, after Friday prayers. In Yemen, protesters gathered Saturday in front of the French Embassy in Sanaa, chanting slogans.
And in the UK a protest will be held in Bradford on Saturday evening. Bradford West MP George Galloway is scheduled to be among the speakers at the event.
...unless of course he insults your religion, then thump him
Pope Francis as said there are limits to freedom of expression, warning that anyone who hurls insults should expect retaliation. The Pope's provocative statement was in reference to last week's terror attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity ... in freedom of expression, there are limits.
If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.
However he got into a bit of moral tangle by adding
Each person not only has the freedom but also the obligation to say what he thinks in the name of the common good.
But what happens if he criticises religion in the name of the common good, and that the religion considers this criticism to be an insult. Then it seems that a punch is in order.
However the pope draws the line at a punch. He added:
No one can kill in the name of God. This is an aberration.
MSG: The Messenger of God is a 2015 India action comedy drama by Jeetu Arora and Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan.
Starring Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, Daniel Kaleb and Fllora Saini.
India's film censor board has refused to clear MSG: The Messenger of God featuring self-styled guru Ram Rahim Singh.
The Censor Board (CBFC) has decided to refer the decision to the Film Certification Apellate Tribunal (FCAT). Officials said a review committee of the Board took the decision unanimously. CBFC chairperson Leela Samson told PTI:
It has been unanimously decided to refer the film to the tribunal FCAT.
Whilst waiting for the results of the appeal the movie will miss its opening date previously set for 16th January 2015.
In the movie, Ram Rahim Singh depicts himself as a god. The censors apparently have objections to Ram Rahim being shown to be performing miracles and curing terminal diseases.
Singh is head of a spiritual orginsation called Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS). He said he was not averse to cutting some scenes if the censor board objected to them. He claimed that:
The only aim of the film is to spread messages against social evils like drug addiction, female foeticide. There is nothing wrong in it. If the board finds any portion of the film objectionable, I will happily get them removed.
I have not showed myself as God but as a human. I have not criticised any religion in the film.
The Home Ministry had sent an advisory to states where the movie is set to play which said:
Various Sikh organisations and individuals are opposing the movie on the ground that its release would disturb the communal harmony and law and order. They also opine that glorification of DSS chief, facing serious criminal cases, should not be
Meanwhile in the UK, the BBFC have passed the film 12A uncut for moderate violence, sex references, drug use, for its upcoming cinema release.
A Turkish court has ordered the telecommunications censor to ban access to websites showing Charlie Hebdo's front cover with the image of the religious character Muhammad, a state-run news agency said.
The Anadolu Agency said the ban, which would block access to the websites in Turkey, was ordered by a court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, according to the Dogan news agency. The decision came from the court, because a lawyer in
Diyarbakir filed a petition saying the websites were a danger to public order.
Charlie Hebdo plans to publish a journal des survivants next week, as pledges of money and other forms of support continue to pour in from media organisations in France and elsewhere.
About 20 surviving Charlie Hebdo staff gathered at the offices of French newspaper Liberation, for their first editorial meeting since the terrorist attack on its Paris headquarters in which 12 people, including eight of the title's journalists
and two policemen, were killed.
Those at the table included the cartoonist Luz, who escaped the carnage because he was late on Wednesday, reporter Laurent Leger, columnist Patrick Pelloux and the paper's lawyer, Richard Malka.
The journalists asked for their privacy to be respected while they work on next Wednesday's special survival edition, which will be limited to eight pages instead of the usual 16. A million copies are to be printed, a huge increase on its
usual 60,000 print run.
The Liberation building, located close to the Charlie Hebdo premises, is now under armed police guard. Visitors are only allowed in with a specific invitation from a staff member and have to leave via the adjacent car park.
Prime minister, Manuel Valls and culture minister, Fleur Pellerin have promised 1 million euro to the paper to guarantee its survival. The Guardian Media Group has pledged £100,000, while more funding has come from the TV station Canal+ and Le
Monde which has supplied the computers.
Asked about the irony of the French state propping up the deliberately provocative Charlie Hebdo, one Liberation staff member said: It's normal. This is a democracy.
Index on Censorship, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, freeDimensional, PEN America, FreeWord, Reporters Without Borders, Article 19 and English PEN call on all those who believe in the fundamental right to freedom of expression to join in
publishing the cartoons or covers of Charlie Hebdo on January 8 at 1400 GMT.
We believe that only through solidarity, in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely, can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech. We ask media organisations, individuals and everyone
who supports free speech to join together in this action.
Each publication will select a cartoon, a range of cartoons, or covers that they believe best reflect the right to free expression and publish at the same time globally. The idea is a moment of unity in which we show that together we stand up for
journalism and the right to free speech, no matter what, and to show our support and respect for those killed on January 7.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said:
The ability to express ourselves freely is fundamental to a free society. This includes the freedom to publish, to satirise, to joke, to criticise, even when that might cause offence to others. Those who wish to silence free speech must never be
allowed to prevail.
Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director, PEN American Center said:
Satire is both a privilege and a necessity in a free society. The freedom to question, to expose, to mock ultimately makes institutions, belief systems, and leaders stronger. The resort to murderous vengeance for the crime of drawing and
publishing cartoons represents a terrifying perversion of religious values and an assault on our shared values. No matter how offensive, speech is never a justification for violence.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein said:
The attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices is tragic, but it is also proof of just how powerful cartoons and cartoonists can be. Despite threats and prior attacks, the publishers, editors, and cartoonists of Charlie Hedbo never relented in using
satire to question the world around them. CBLDF stands with Charlie Hebdo and their dedication to free expression.
Lucie Morillon, Programme Director, Reporters Without Borders said:
This unspeakable act of violence has challenged and assailed the entire press Journalism as whole is in mourning. In the name of all those who have fallen in the defence of these fundamental values, we must continue Charlie Hebdo's fight for the
right to freedom of information.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:
This is a time for all writers, publishers, editors, artists and free speech groups to stand in solidarity. In the face in one of the most devastating attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression in Europe's recent history, we need to
reaffirm our commitment to speaking out and standing up for free speech. This action today is the first step.
Supporters of the call
Some of the publications and organisations joining us at this hour include:
Publishing Muhammad cartoons would have been too risky, says Amol Rajan Editor of Independent newspaper said he had to balance principle with pragmatism, despite wanting to publish Charlie Hebdo cartoons on the front page
After the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, Support those Fighting the Religious-Right
The persistent demand for the extension of blasphemy laws around the world is a real danger for all. France has a long, and now growingly endangered, tradition of secularism; which allows dissent from religions and the right to express
this dissent. It has had a rich tradition to mock and caricature powers that be, religious or otherwise. Let us keep this hard won right which cost so many lives in history, and, alas, still does, as Charlie Hebdo's twelve dead and numerous
7th February 2015, One day conference near London Kings Cross 9am registration; 10am-5:30pm
Speakers at the 7 February conference will include Activist Ahmed Idris, Campaigner for Secular Education Aliyah Saleem, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Amal Farah, Activist Atoosa Khatiri, Secular Activist Chris Moos,
Director of the Centre for Secular Space Gita Sahgal, Founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco Imad Iddine Habib, Spokesperson of One Law for All Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain Nahla Mahmoud, Human
Rights Campaigner Peter Tatchell, Southall Black Sisters Director Pragna Patel, Founder of Ex-Muslims of Scotland Ramin Forghani, Nari Diganta's Rumana Hashem, National Secular Society President Terry Sanderson and Women's Rights Campaigner
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Europe to show their solidarity with those killed by gunmen at the offices of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The scenes were replicated across France, in London and around the world with crowds holding placards bearing the slogan Je Suis Charlie. Others were seen carrying enlarged versions of the some of the newspaper's anti-Islamist cartoons.
Meanwhile the website of French newspaper Le Monde last night showed an interactive map of vigils being held across the world in Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, and as far afield as Tunis, Lima, Rio
de Janeiro and Madagascar.
In London, hundreds of people filled Trafalgar Square at a silent vigil for those killed when masked gunmen stormed the newspaper's headquarters. Many held pens, pencils and notebooks in the air to show their support for the journalists,
cartoonists and police officers who lost their lives.
The Heart is in defying censorship, but the mind says otherwise
Whilst there is a spirit of defying censorship, practicality, and fear of being killed, has rather dictated that self censorship has increased across the world.
Following a deadly terror attack Wednesday morning on the offices of Charlie Hebdo , a satirical French newspaper known for lampooning religion with caricature-based cartoons, many outlets have censored their coverage of the publication's
depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
And a bizarre response from Associated Press, the agency censored images of Christ over some politically correction notion of fairness after censoring images of Mohammed. An
article at Gawker.com explains:
Politico's Dylan Byers reports that the Associated Press removed an image of Andres Serrano's 1987 photo Piss Christ from its photo library in the wake of today's deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Removing images of the artwork seems preposterous. I searched AP's library for Piss Christ before this post went up found at least one photo of Serrano posing in front of his most well-known work , which depicts a crucifix submerged in the
artist's own urine. But a few minutes later, it was gone. What gives?
In fact the AP pulled the photos after the conservative Washington Examiner noted that it pixelated Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting Mohammad but left images of Piss Christ intact.
writing in the Spectator suggests that defiance will probably be short lived, and it won't be long before free speech gets re-relegated back to its proper place below the right to not be 'offended'.
Tonight everyone is defiant. I am just back from a Je suis Charlie vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won't last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow's papers and news programmes will prove their
commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to
The Financial Times was first out of the blocks:
Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.
The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.
Muslim terrorists have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo .
Four of the magazine's well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers. A major police operation is under way to find three gunmen who fled by car.
President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack of exceptional barbarity .
The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris, where they hijacked a second car.
Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad and God is Great in Arabic ( Allahu Akbar ).
French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, as well as Charlie Hebdo contributor and French economist Bernard Maris.
The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the religious character Muhammad.