The campaign against Paradise. Now.

As mentioned earlier, Palestinian film Paradise Now has attracted a campaign to have its Oscar nomination withdrawn. Yesterday, the three men leading the campaigns sent a 32,000 name petition to Hollywood to demand the film be dropped.

Paradise Now tells the story of two suicide bombers, so its not surprising that there is some controversy around the film. And its probably inevitable that some people will take offence at it. But the reaction of Yossi Mendellevich seems to go a little further that that.

Paradise Now is artistic terror. Instead of giving a judgment on such an act, the film contributes to the death industry and the myth of the suicide bombers. By promoting and praising the film as an Oscar nominee, Im sure the queue to become suicide killers will be much longer. What they call Paradise Now is Hell Now for us.

According to one of the films producers, Amir Harel, an Israeli, the film promotes dialogue rather than terrorism by encouraging audiences to reflect on what motivates a suicide bomber. He denied it was wrong not to show the consequences of the bombing.

Everyone knows perfectly well what happens [after a bomb], but we felt at that point theres no need to tell the story any more. Our purpose as film makers is to tell the story focused on the protagonists point of view. I believe it doesnt undermine in any way the victims. It just doesnt deal directly with them.

Whenever theres a film depicting the Israeli side, no one ever says we should present the Palestinian side. I think balance is totally unimportant to art.

Moderation in the Middle East

I mentioned earlier that moderate European Muslims are starting to organise to make themselves heard over the shouting of the radicals.

So let me now point you in the direction of this site.

Misery loves company

The Independent reports that in the West Bank city of Nablus, a German citizen was seized - and later released - by armed militants who have been roaming hotels looking for someone to have a go at over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons controversy.

Yesterdays incidents prompted the EU to review the security of its representatives in the occupied Palestinian territories, where armed militants warned the staff at its Technical Assistance Office in Gaza City that they were demanding that all French citizens leave Gaza.

The papaer also reports that a gunman in a Fatah-linked armed unit has threatened any citizen of these countries [that printed the cartoon] who are present in Gaza, although Mahmoud Zahar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, has unequivocally condemned the threats against foreign nationals.

We are not accepting any aggression against foreign institutions whether EU or American, or against any other group, foreign or Palestinian, Dr Zahar said. He said some Palestinians had already boycotted Danish goods and Hamas wanted them to continue protesting by legal means.

Ahmed Qureia, the outgoing Palestinian Prime Minister and a leading figure in Fatah, and Khadr Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza, have both claimed that their groups are not targeting Europeans, but are equivocating in the subject of violence.

The BBC also reports that Iraqi, Egyptian and Palestinian Islamic groups have all jumped on the bandwagon, calling for demonstrations as Muslims attend Friday prayers. And, in Indonesia, protesters broke into the lobby of the building housing the Danish embassy and pelted the coat-of-arms outside with eggs.

Not wanting to be left out, the Muslim Council of Britain has organised demonstrations outside the Danish embassy in London and the BBCs Television Centre, after the corporation aired glimpses of the images.

According to another BBC report, Denmark has made a new bid to calm the situation as yet more Muslims stage angrey protests.

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen called in Muslim ambassadors to explain his position over the images publication.

He said he could never apologise for a newspapers actions but said he was distressed at offence caused.

Rasmussen met the ambassadors in Copenhagen on Friday but stuck to his position that neither the Danish government nor the Danish nation as such can be held responsible for drawings published in a Danish newspaper.

A Danish government can never apologise on behalf of a free and independent newspaper. This is basically a dispute between some Muslims and a newspaper.

He also said that the issue of the cartoons has gone beyond Denmark to become a clash between Western free speech and Islamic taboos.

In other developments:

  • Iraqs top Shia Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani condemned the publication, but said militant Islamists were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam
  • Palestinians protested in Ramallah on the West Bank, shouting: The assault on the Prophet is an assault on Islam
  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for Muslims to be forgiving, saying the cartoons should not cause a dispute between cultures

  • The Pakistani upper house of parliament passed a resolution condemning the cartoons
  • Vatican cardinal Achille Silvestrini condemned the cartoons, saying Western culture had to know its limits.

Freedom founders in France

Muhammed The Independent reports that French Muslim leaders are kicking up a stink after the France-Soir newspaper yesterday asserted that no religious dogma should be imposed on a democratic and secular society by reprinting the cartoons at the centre of the Jylands-Posten controversy.

Jean-Baptiste Mattei, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, distanced the government from the printing of the cartoons but defended France-Soirs right to publish them.

The decision to print the drawings was the newspapers responsibility alone. France upheld the principle of press freedom but M. Mattei said this should be exercised in a spirit of tolerance and respect for religious beliefs.

The BBC, however, reports that the owner of France Soir, Raymond Lakah, disagrees and has reponded to editor, Jacques Lefrancs support of freedom of speech by sacking him.

Journalists at the paper are standing by their editor and have printed a front page picture and editorial in which they strongly defended the right to free speech.

Religious freedom gives people the right to practise their faith or not, the editorial says, but should not become a means to impose the rules of a single religion on society as a whole.

French MP Herve Mariton condemned the sacking as in total contradiction of the tradition of press freedom.

Speaking to the BBC, he said Mr Lefranc had, by printing the cartoons, at least given people the chance to see what the debate was about.

In other news, Norway has closed its West Bank mission to the public in response to threats from two militant groups against Danes, French and Norwegians in the Palestinian territories.

In a seperate report, the BBC also notes that gunmen from Islamic Jihad and the Yasser Arafat Brigades briefly surrounded the EUs offices in Gaza. After firing into the air and trying to climb the compounds walls for 45 minutes, they left. There were no injuries.

Gaza gunmen join the the artificial outrage while the EU starts standing up for its citizens

The BBC reports that maksed gunmen in Gaza stormed the local office of the EU, demanding an apology from Denmark and Norway over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

One of the gunmen said citizens of both countries should not enter Gaza until the apology is made.

The Danish government has expressed regret over the furore over the cartoons, but refused to get involved, citing freedom of expression and ponting out that the government can in no way influence the media.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said they carried out the raid.

In related news, AFP (via MediaWatchWatch) reports that

With fiery sermons and raucous demonstrations, Iraqis called for an investigation into Danish and Norwegian publications carrying cartoons deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed.

Ranting from the pulpit of his mosque in the Shiite Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad, Sheikh Hazem al-Aaraji - a follower of Moqtada al-Sadr - claimed:

They want to disfigure Islam and this we cannot accept. These cartoons directly attack the personality of the messenger of God. We say to them: they cannot attack Mohammed, nor any of the prophets.

Another preacher - Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi - in the Sadr City district of Baghdad, on friday, called for the editors of the magazines to be put on trial.

Meanwhile, the Brussels Journal, has gotten hold of the email written by Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, to the Norwegian embassies in response to the publication of the cartoons on Norway.

I am sorry that the publication of a few cartoons in the Norwegian paper Magazinet has caused unrest among Muslims. I fully understand that these drawings are seen to give offence by Muslims worldwide. Islam is a spiritual reference point for a large part of the world. Your faith has the right to be respected by us.

The cartoons in the Christian paper Magazinet are not constructive in building the
bridges which are necessary between people with different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Instead they contribute to suspicion and unnecessary conflict.

Let it be clear that the Norwegian government condemns every expression or act which expresses contempt for people on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin. Norway has always supported the fight of the UN against religious intolerance and racism, and believes that this fight is important in order to avoid suspicion and conflict. Tolerance, mutual respect and dialogue are the basis values of Norwegian society and of our foreign policy.

Freedom of expression is one of the pillars of Norwegian society. This includes tolerance for opinions that not everyone shares. At the same time our laws and our international obligations enforce restrictions for incitement to hatred or hateful expressions.

So much for defending a free society, then.

However, and more positively, the EU Observer reports that

Austrian foreign minister Ursula Plassnik said after the foreign ministers gathering in Brussels, that the EU strongly rejects these threats.

We have expressed a spirit of solidarity with our northern colleagues, as well as our belief and attachment to the freedom of press and the freedom of expression as part of our fundamental values, and the freedom of religious beliefs, she said, adding that she hoped that the matter would be solved through dialogue between the involved parties.

The Danish foreign minister Per Stig Moller said he is satisfied with the reaction from colleagues as expressed by Ms Plassnik.

His Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet, told Danish media, that the case had become a European case.

This is no longer a Danish case. It can hit us all, and may have far-going consequences for the relationship between Europe and the Muslim world. Therefore, we must seek to prevent it from escalating.

French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy announced that You can never put question marks around the freedom of speech in any European country, and therefore we have all declared our solidarity with the Danes.

And Peter Mandelson, the EU trade comissioner has warned governments who deliberately create a situation where EU goods are faced with unfair treatment that:

Any boycott of Danish goods would be seen as a boycott of European goods.

He also added that if any government was proven to have supported a boycott of EU goods, he would be forced to bring the case up before the WTO.

Way to go, Mandy!