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.

Indonesia threatens YouTube

After banning broadcasts of Fitna, the Indonesian government has gone a step further by demanding (via) that YouTube takes down Geert Wilders Fitna or it will block access to the site.

YouTube dont have a great record when responding to demands such as these but, so far, are doing well:

In response to queries, a YouTube spokesperson said the site allows people to express themselves and to communicate with a global audience.

The diversity of the world in which we live spanning the vast dimensions of ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, political opinion, gender, and sexual orientation, to name a few means that some of the beliefs and views of some individuals may offend others, she said.

Elsewhere, Indonesian students set fire to the Dutch flag in Jakarta and about 70 Afghan women burned both Dutch and Danish flags during a demonstration on Wednesday in Kabul.

Fitna bandwagon update

The Fitna bandwagon just keeps on rolling. Indonesia are leading the pack at the moment, banning broadcasts of the film and barring Geert Wilders from entering the country.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged fellow Muslims in the country on Monday night not to use violence, vandalism or conduct a sweep against opponents in protests against the film, saying Islam and other religions never allow such a way.

But he also insisted that world leaders have a moral obligation to prevent religious or cultural defamation, which they dont.

In Malaysia, the countrys national religious council called the film an insult it Islam and called for a boycott of Dutch products.

And a group of 53 Jordanian MPs have delivered a petition to their government in Amman, demanding that it break all diplomatic ties with the Netherlands. They also want the Dutch ambassador expelled from the country.

Indonesians discover irony

Offended at Geert Wilders suggestion that there might be a connection between Islam and violence, a few dozen Indonesians demonstrated outside the Dutch embassy in Jakarta on Sunday.

The demonstrators, the Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front, held placards saying Kill Geert Wilders and Holland go to hell!

Indonesia introduces thought crime

Indonesias parliament has passed a bill making it a crime to access internet sites containing violent or pornographic material. Anyone found guilty faces up to three years in jail or a heavy fine.

Inevitably, those behind the bill – which passed with support from all ten of the parliamentary factions - claim to be “protecting children” from online images. Im not quite sure how this would work however since prosecuting minors who go looking for porn doesnt strike me as a very effective form of protection.

The intention is to start blocking sites that the government doesnt like from next month.

Long Road to Heaven banned in Bali

This is slightly old news, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Indonesias first film about the 2002 bombings that killed more than 200 people in Bali has been banned (via) on the island on the basis that it might reopen old wounds.

The Long Road to Heaven premièred in Jakarta in January and looks at the tragedy rom different points of view, including those of a Balinese taxi driver who lost a relative in the blast. Also portrayed are an American surfer searching for peace after the 9/11 attacks and Muslim militants who were blamed for the bombs.

According to I Gusti Ngurah Gde, head of Balis film board, the film was banned because: We fear people who do not understand it would trigger conflict and direct hatred at a certain group.

Seeking classification, not censorship

AsiaMedia (via) reports that a new generation of Indonesian filmmakers and actors are pushing for the law governing filmmaking in the country needs to be revisited. They argue that the 1992 Film Law is too rigid and hinders artists freedom of expression and creativity.

According to director Riri Riza, the law, drafted to serve the interests of the ruling government at that time, was irrelevant given the current dynamics of the industry.

Riri acknowledged the regulation had moral intentions, but said, When a regulation no longer supports the development of an industry, then maybe it is time to rescind it.

Under the law, film is designed to preserve and to develop the nations culture with the aim of supporting national development.

Those are all good intentions, but should we confine film, which is a work of art, merely to that definition? he asked.

Riri said his main objection to the law was the presence of a government censor.

There should be no censorship of films. However, there should be age classifications. People should be free to choose which films they want to watch, he said.

Dangerous documentaries

JiFFest logo The Scotsman (via) reports that Indonesian censors have barred a documentary on the 2002 Bali bombings from being shown at the Jakarta International Film Festival citing concerns that remarks made by one of the bombers in the film could encourage terrorist attacks.

Titie Said, the head of the national film censor board, said yesterday the 70-minute film had been banned after one of the bombers had suggested carrying out suicide bombings was a way to enter heaven.

Promised Paradise, directed by Dutchman Leonard Retel Helmrich, explores the roots of the Bali nightclub bombings.

It includes a statement from one of the convicted bombers, Imam Samudra, who is awaiting execution along with two others for the attack.

Lalu Roisamri, programme manager of the Jakarta International Film Festival, said he had not yet received an official letter banning the film.

Indecent TV

The International Herald Tribune (via, via) reports that Indonesian police are investigating eight private television channels for allegedly broadcasting indecent material and excessive violence.

The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission posted a statement on its Web site saying it lodged a complaint Thursday against the channels, after repeatedly warning that their programming violated government regulations.

It was the latest attempt by Indonesian government-funded agencies in recent months to ban content deemed immoral or violent.

Last month, the Film Censorship Institute (LSF) banned four films on East Timor and Aceh that were to be screened at the 8th Jakarta International Film Festival.

The LSF has also forced a broadcaster to pull U.S. wrestling shows off the air.

In the same country, the editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy (which contains no nudity) is facing legal proceedings which could result in a 36-month jail term.

Porn and pluralism

AsiaMedia (via) reports that an alliance of NGOs has filed a lawsuit with the Central Jakarta District Court against the House of Representatives over a bill they say endangers the multireligious and multicultural character of Indonesia.

The Alliance of Unity in Diversity Advocates demanded the House drop the highly controversial pornography bill, which they say is based on Islamic values and threatens pluralism in the country.

Its a big deal because its the first time that a civil group has filed a lawsuit against a state institution. We hope to teach the House a lesson from this case, lawyer Daniel Panjaitan said.

Daniel said the House had broken its internal rules in drafting the bill, which has met with strong opposition from some groups.

The bill should have dealt with the distribution of pornographic materials, not prescribe how citizens must behave according to the moral standards of a particular religion, he said.

The bill has received strong backing from some Muslim groups, notably hard-line groups that openly seek the adoption of sharia-based laws. But it has been opposed by pro-democracy, womens and human rights groups. The controversy moved lawmakers to delay discussion of the bill.

Daniel said lawmakers, in drafting the bill, failed to accommodate input from civil society.

According to the Alliance coordinator, Ratna Sarumpaet, the groups in the House promoting the bill are playing political games and people have become tired of them. We see a grand scenario behind the bill. Its an attempt to make Indonesia an Islamic state. It has to do with the issuance of sharia bylaws in certain regions. We raised this issue with the (Islamic-based) Prosperous Justice Party faction (in the House) but they were tight-lipped. For us their silence means yes, she said.

Ratna, also director of the Jakarta Institute of the Arts, reiterated that the alliance was against pornography, but opposed a bill that would allow the state to force citizens to behave according to the norms of a certain religion.

It is no longer necessary for the House to pass a pornography law because it is already covered in the Criminal Code and existing laws such as the broadcasting and press laws. Pluralism is the nations main characteristic and we have to accept local cultures and traditional customs, she said.