January 2006

Quote of the Day: Freedom lost

These freedoms to speak and to argue, to criticise and indeed to ridicule, once lost, are very rarely got back

- Lib Dem human rights spokesman, Evan Harris

Stranger in a strange land

You scored 8 out of a possible 10
Pure heaven. You know as much about Malick as anyone has a right to know, and probably more than the man himself would be comfortable with. Congratulations!

How much do you know about Terrance Malick?

We dont need faith education

A lot has been said, in various places, about the conflict between religion and science. Something that is much less discussed is the conflict between religion and art.

Thankfully, Muriel Gray has picked up the baton:

Can we really therefore condone the fact that to be truly Islamic these children will be banned from drawing and painting, (no sweet little self-portraits pinned on the classroom wall), that there will be no appreciation of Rayburn, Wilkie, Walton, Howson or Hornel? No readings of Burns’s love poems, Lewis Grassic Gibbon or Sorley McLean? No Scottish country dancing, where little boys twirl their reluctant girl partners round by their hand? No music lessons, or visits to orchestral concerts? No acting for young talents or ballet for children longing to jump and twirl?

Surely denying this essential part of their heritage to these young Scots would be an unforgivable form of state condoned abuse? And if a proposed Islamic school promised to relax its religious doctrine and allow participation in those haram activities that The Prophet was so clear in forbidding, then what is the point of it being a religious school at all? Why not just send these children to a non-denominational school and keep such cherry-picked faith for home and hearth?

Read the whole thing, as they say.

The necessity of free speech - in principle and practice

Writer and broadcaster, Kenan Malik, investigates Islamaphobia and discovers that

What all this suggests is a huge gap between perception and reality. And its a gap thats exploited by both Muslim leaders and mainstream politicians. For Muslim leaders, inflating the threat of helps consolidate their power base, both within their own communities and within wider society. British Muslims have long looked with envy at the political power wielded by the Jewish community, and by the status accorded to the British Board of Deputies. One of the reasons for setting up the Muslim Council of Britain was to try to emulate the political success of the Board of Deputies. Muslim leaders talk about using Islamophobia in the same way that they perceive Jewish leaders have exploited fears about anti-Semitism.

Exaggerating anti-Muslim prejudice is also useful for mainstream politicians, and especially for a government that has faced such a political battering over the war on Iraq and its anti-terror laws. Being sensitive to Islamophobia allows them to reclaim some of the moral high ground. It also allows Labour politicians to pitch for the Muslim vote. Muslims may feel betrayed by the war on Iraq, trade minister Mike OBrien wrote recently in The Muslim Weekly. But the Labour government are trying to deliver an agenda that has shown consideration and respect for Muslims. According to OBrien Iqbal Sacranie, the General Secretary of the Muslim Council, asked Tony Blair to declare that the Government would introduce a new law banning religious discrimination. Two weeks later, in the middle of his speech to the Labour Party Conference, Tony Blair promised that the next Labour Government would ban religious discrimination. It was a major victory for the Muslim community in Britain.

Pretending that Muslims have never had it so bad might bolster community leaders and gain votes for politicians, but it does the rest of us, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, no favours at all. The more that the threat of Islamophobia is exaggerated, the more that ordinary Muslims come to accept that theirs is a community under constant attack. It helps create a siege mentality, stoking up anger and resentment, and making Muslim communities more inward looking and more open to religious extremism. Muslim leaders constantly warn that Islamophobia is alienating Muslims and pushing many into the hands of extremists. However, its not Islamophobia, but the perception that it blights lives, that is often the bigger problem. In making my Channel 4 documentary I asked dozens of ordinary Muslims across the country about their experience of Islamophobia. Everyone believed that police harassment was common though no one had been stopped and searched. Everyone insisted that physical attacks were rife, though few had been attacked or knew anyone who had.

And he concludes

These days it is becoming increasingly common for liberals to proclaim free speech is necessary in principle - but also to argue that in practice we should give up that right. Ruminating in the Guardian about the fallout from the Behzti affair, Ian Jack, editor of Granta magazine, suggested that whatever liberals believe in principle, in practice we need to appease religious sensibilities. The state has no law forbidding a pictorial representation of the Prophet, he pointed out, But I never expect to see such a picture. On the one hand, there is the individuals right to exhibit or publish one; on the other hand, the immeasurable insult and damage to life and property that the exercise of such a right would cause. He added that In this case, we understand that the price is too high - even though we, the faithless, dont understand the offence.

John Mortimor has described this as tiptoeing around doing our best not to irritate other people by disagreeing with their opinions. The irony of this approach is that it actually undermines what is valuable about living in a diverse society. Diversity is important, not in and of itself, but because it allows us to expand our horizons, to compare and contrast different values, beliefs and lifestyles, and make judgements upon them. In other words, because it allows us to engage in political dialogue and debate that can help create more universal values and beliefs, and a collective language of citizenship. But it is precisely such dialogue and debate, and the making of such judgements, that contemporary multiculturalism attempts to suppress in the name of tolerance and respect.

The article is a long one, but deserves to be read. So go read it.

Tolerant of intolerance?

At the end of 2004 the play, Behzti, was forced to close by a mob of violent Sikhs.

Madhav Sharma, one of the actors in the play, writes about his experiences in Catalyst magazine.

One of the central objections voiced by their representatives, all men, was that it was ‘unacceptable’ to set the play in a gurudwara. However, other (less publicised) complaints were also made that it was ‘unacceptable and insulting to all Sikhs to have a black man kissing a Sikh woman’ or ‘for a Sikh to be shown as a homosexual’.

He concludes by asking:

The playwright has since had to have police protection and I gather that her nearest and dearest have had to endure intolerable pressures. Should we now continue to be tolerant of intolerance, or should we call (as I now do) for more voices, from any race, gender, creed, sexual or political orientation, to speak out in support of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s right to create a play like Behzti , ironically a profoundly moral drama? Or will we be typically British about this and similar instances, sweep the facts under the proverbial carpet so as not to inflame sections of religious groups, and hope that any problem will simply go away?

Read the whole thing, as they say.

(via Pickled Politics)

And on the eighth day

God Heres an interesting page, that considers the implications of Intelligent Design:

Invoking Occamss razor together with our Creation hypothesis leaves us with only one reasonable explanation. The world was created as a habitat for the giant squid. Humans were put here to control the large predators that would otherwise bother the giant squid. Our habitat is on land, so that our interference with the squids lifestyle is minimal. We build boats that use only the upper surface of the oceans. We hunt and kill all but one of the large marine predators. We are programmed to ignore the giant squid, and to not take actions that would harm them.

Cthulu will return!

(via When Worlds Collide)

Oh! The Irony!

This Film is Not Yet Rated According to Cinematical, the anti-piracy crusaders at the MPAA have been accused of film piracy.

[F]ilmmaker Kirby Dick has accused the MPAA of illegally copying This Film is Not Yet Rated, his documentary about the ratings board which premieres here at Sundance tomorrow night. Dicks lawyer has contacted the MPAA demanding that they return all copies of the film in their posession, and explain who authorized the reproductions, and why. The MPAA in turn admits that they made the copies, but insist that their doing so doesnt qualify as illegal piracy.

Because piracy clearly isnt piracy when the MPAA does it.

Happy Lunar New Year

Chinese Fire Dog Heres wishing you all the best for the Year of the Dog.

Kevin Smith Lives

Kevin Smith, the director of Clerks, was - at one point - involved in the now defunct Superman Lives. Here, he talks about his experiences.

The clip is almost 20 minutes long, but is both funny and illuminating and well worth watching.

All I can add is that I am really, really glad that Jon Peters is not involved in Superman Returns.

(via FilmRot)

Googles flexible philosophy

Google sign Following Googles apparent decision that they are in favour of freedom for the free and oppression for the oppressed, Constantine von Hoffman has taken a look at the companys Ten things Google has found to be true, and suggested that some of these should be reworded to more accurately reflect Googles position.

Allow me to draw your attention to numbers 4, 6 and 8:

  • Democracy on the web works.
  • You can make money without doing evil.
  • The need for information crosses all borders.

Which, when actually applied to the real world, should be read as:

  • Democracy on the web works, but that’s about as far as we want to take it.
  • You can make money without doing evil, but why bother?
  • The need for information crosses all borders, however we’re going to do our best to make sure the information itself stays the hell out of China.