April 2008

Be afraid, be very afraid

The British government is currently legislating to criminalise the possession of images - even if the pictures are of consenting fun and no-one was harmed. The Registers John Ozimek has a good analysis of what the legislation would mean for the rest of us.

The short version is: If you use the internet for any purpose that might be construed as other than respectable – be afraid. Be very afraid. As the Bill stands, someone could be charged for owning images of acts that are lawful, but which could be construed as extreme pornography and also raises the spectre of police unable to prosecute someone on another unrelated matter taking a peek at their hard drive to see if they can get them for possession of porn.

Backlash has been campaigning against this legislation since it was proposed points out that there is only until 30th April left to fight this Bill and is urging everyone to write to a Lord.

Lords who support amendments are listed under Contents in Hansard here. More of them are needed to turn up on the 30th.

Lords whipped into supporting the present Bill are listed under non contents, whose minds might yet be changed by sensible arguments.

The Tories abstained. Persuading them to exercise their vote and preserve freedom of expression would also make a difference. Do it now.

Mayoral candidate censored by BBC, ITV

Alan Craig is the Christian Choice candidate for Mayor of London so its probably no surprise to learn that his Party Election Broadcast is as dull as dishwater. What is surprising is that it wasnt dull enough for either the BBC or ITV (via).

Alan Craig, a long-standing campaigner against the Mega Mosque, due to be built in Newham close to the site of the Olympic Games, originally described the organisation behind it, Tablighi Jamaat, as separatist. However, BBC and ITV officials responsible for supervising the Broadcasts instructed him to moderate his language and change this factual description of the Islamic organisation if he wanted it aired. Alan Craig claims not only political interference by the broadcasters, but says such action breeches his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects freedom of speech.

The original text read:

You may know about plans by a separatist Islamic group to build Europes biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think its a bad idea that will bring division and Im glad moderate Muslims support my stance in opposing it.

The BBC edited text read:

You may know about plans by a controversial Islamic group to build Europes biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think its a bad idea that will bring division and Im glad Muslim leaders support my stance in opposing it.

And, after ITV got their hands on it, it read:

You may know about controversial plans by an Islamic group to build Europes biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think its a bad idea that will bring division and Im glad some Muslims leaders support my stance in opposing it.

It does sound like Craig has a genuine case here. His original statement doesnt break any laws and I hope he does establish that neither the BBC nor ITV should be able to place restrictions on what election candidates do and dont say.

I also hope that both Alan Craig and the Christian Legal Centre remember why freedom of speech is important when the next controversy comes around.

Denmark evacuates embassies

Denmark has evacuated (via) staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan to secret safe locations because of an imminent threat. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service are concerned about an aggravated terror threat level against Danish interests following the reprinting earlier this year of Kurt Westergaards Mo-Toon as a protest over a plot to murder the cartoonist.

Jemima Khan supports tolerance, faces threats

Jemima Khan, the former wife of Imran Khan, who previously captained Pakistan’s cricket team, has found herself of the receiving end of death threats after becoming a patron of the Quilliam Foundation, a Muslim group which preaches tolerance of other religions.

The group was was recently set up by two reformed members of the extremist organisation Hizb ut Tahrir and has received death threats by phone and email. These threats have been aimed at all members involved in the organisation and it has been reported that one even referred to Mrs Khan by name.

At the groups launch on Tuesday, Mrs Khan admitted she had been nervous about voicing her support for the group but went on to point out that “if there was no response from the dark side, then we would be failing.”

The organisation is named after William Quilliam, a 19th century convert to Islam who founded England’s first mosque and Islamic centre.

It was set up by Maajid Nawaz, 30, a former extremist who spent four years as a political prisoner in Egypt.

Both Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, and Tory MP Michael Gove are supporters of the organisation which says it aims to reflect mainstream, moderate and British Muslim opinion.

Uncensored and online

As part of their continuing battle to free the Internet, The Pirate Bay has now launched (via) an uncensored blogging service, called Baywords. The service is intended to be a safe haven for bloggers who want to be able to write whatever they want, without being afraid to get shut down by their blog host.

Muslim countries abandon reality, demand censorship

Demonstrating a disconnection from reality that only the religious can achieve, several Islamic countries - including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia - are demanding (via) that the Dutch government prosecute Geert Wilders on the basis that his film, Fitna, on the basis that it somehow violates their human rights.

According to Omar Shalaby, the delegate from Egypt (last election, political prisoners), the decision by The Hague District Court last week, which said the lawmakers right to free speech and role as a politician allow him to freely voice his criticisms of radical Islam and the Koran:

This ruling may suggest that the judiciary is out of touch with the relevant international and regional obligations and jurisprudence in the field of human rights.

It is probably a lot more accurate to say that Shalaby, and the rest of these Islamic delegates who have done so much to undermine the U.N. Human Rights Council, are out of touch with the meaning of the phrase human rights.

Iran, whose president recently attempted to cast doubt on whether the September 11th attacks actually happened, claimed that the film is vivid example of Islamophobia and incitement to religious hatred, and demanded that the Netherlands change their laws to give special protection to Islam.

Back in the real world, the Dutch embassy in Pakistan has been temporarily relocated because of security worries. Officials are looking at how to tighten security around the vacated embassy building so that staff can return.

Pakistan parliament calls for Fitna censorship

The Pakistan parliament on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the internet release of Fitna, and the reprinting of the Muhammed cartoons which followed the plot to murder the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

Calling both the film and the cartoons acts of defamations, the country’s information minister Sheri Rehman, claimed that not only do they hurt the sentiments of Muslims but also threaten the stability of many societies.

She didn’t elaborate on how a film, or a cartoon, can threaten the stability of a society.

She also called on the UN to take legal and political steps to curb this trend for free speech and guarantee a free pass for religious ideas.

Non sequitur alert!

MediaWatchWatch has picked up a particularly idiotic quote from Hans-Gert Pottering, the President of the European Parliament who is:

against any cartoons that could instigate violence.

Pottering goes on to say:

We are committed to the freedom of the press but I am against publishing cartoons that hurt the feelings of others. As a Catholic, I would feel insulted if someone derides the Pope.

Does this mean that the President of the European Parliament is likely to issue death threats if he decides that someone has offended his religion? I think we should be told.

Biblical buggery offends archbishop

Austrian Christians, determined to show that no religious group has a monopoly when it comes to irrational threats, have whipped themselves into a frenzy of outrage over a black and white etching by Alfred Hrdlicka which was displayed at an Archdiocese of Vienna museum.

Hrdlickas rendition of the Last Supper shows Jesus and his disciples engaged in sex acts on the table where the Bible says they shared a final meal before Christs crucifixion.

The exhibitions curator, Michael Kaufmann, said today: Ive even seen web postings from extremists who have threatened to come to Vienna and blow up its museums with Molotov cocktails.

The 80-year-old artist drew the picture in 1984 as a tribute to Pier Paolo Pasolini whose treatment of religious themes in his films put him at odds with the Catholic church.

According to Bernhard Boehler, the director of the museum: The protests came primarily out of fundamentalist Christian circles in the USA and Germany. There is a long dialogue between art and the church. For the church, the quality is decisive - not the piety of the artwork.

Not any more, it appears. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, ordered the offending artwork to be removed. It has now been moved to the private Ernst Hilger gallery.

Japanese nationalists threaten cinemas over film

Yasukuni is a documentary by Chinese film-maker Li Ying about Japans Yasukuni shrine. The shrine, where Japan honours its war dead – including a number or war criminals – has seen its share of controversy in the past and, inevitably, some of that has affected reactions to the film.

Japanese MPs have called the film anti-Japanese and right-wing activists have threatened violence against cinemas planning to screen the film this weekend.

Five cinemas have cancelled screenings because of this.