Saudi Arabia

Saudi judge calls for murder of satellite channel owners

Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan, 79, chief of the Saudi Arabias highest tribunal, the supreme judiciary council, has issued a fatwa (via) authorising the murder of owners of satellite TV networks that broadcast bad programmes.

The judge was answering listeners questions during a radio programme in which he and other clerics make rulings on what is permissible under Islamic law. One caller asked about Islams view on satellite TV channels that broadcast bad programmes during Ramadan.

What does the owner of these networks think, when he provides seduction, obscenity and vulgarity? said Al-Lihedan. Those calling for corrupt beliefs, certainly its permissible to kill them. Those calling for sedition, those who are able to prevent it but dont, it is permissible to kill them.

Al-Lihedan did not specify particular channels in his judgment but one of the most viewed Arab satellite networks is Rotana, which broadcasts films and music videos. It is owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, a billionaire businessman and member of the Saudi royal family. Several other networks are owned by Saudi princes.

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.

Mo-Toon II: Still rumbling on

The attempt to organise a boycott (via) of Danish products in Saudi Arabia is still rumbling on and Hatim Misfir, a government official in the country, has trotted out the old canard about freedom of press and expression being okay as long as no-one uses it.

Last week, French cartoonist Plantu appeared to endorse this position, expressing concern over renewed tensions between the West and the Islamic world after the republication of the cartoons. Making the rather bizarre assertion that you can somehow kill people with cartoons, Plantu claimed to be advocating the right to nuance.

Nuance, of course, is the one thing that those making the threats seem to lack as is evidenced by the news (via) that several men who share the same name as the cartoonist whose life was threatened have also been threatened. There are 81 people in Denmark called Kurt Westergaard, several are now under police protection from stupid people taking offence.

Saudis rise to Dutch bait

Reuters (via) reports that Dutch populist politician, Geert Wilders has been baiting Muslims again. This time by saying that Muslims should tear out half the Koran if they wanted to live in his country and claiming that he would chase Mohammad out of the country if he were alive today.

Saudi Arabia has risen to the bait and are demanding that he withdraw his statements and apologise. Wilders, not surprisingly, has said that he wont be retracting any of his remarks.

Have they gone completely mad? It is scandalous that a country which does not have freedom of speech teaches me a lesson. They must learn that when you are a parliamentarian here, you may say what you want.

Personally, I think that Wilders is a prat with a bad haircut. But hes an elected prat and, even if he didnt have a parliamentary seat, he should be entitled to express his views.

Its not for the Saudis - or anyone else - to limit what can and cant be said.

Violence in the name of peace

Following the inflammatory remarks made by Saudi Arabian cleric, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, last week over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, the BBC is reporting that Denmark has advised citizens against travel to Saudi Arabia.

The Danish foreign ministry advised against non-essential travel to Saudi Arabia and urged Danes to be cautious in other Muslim countries.

Danes who choose to stay in Saudi Arabia should show extraordinarily high watchfulness, it said on its website.

As noted earlier, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Denmark and Libya has leapt on the bandwagon by closing its embassy in Copenhagen.

And, following Mondays raid on the EU office in Gaza, and a threat from the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Danish Red Cross has pulled two employees out of the area.

In related news, Reuters reports that a bomb threat against the Danish embassy in Damascus forced staff to evacuate the building on Wednesday while security personnel cordoned off streets and searched the complex.

Earlier this week the Syrian Foreign Ministry jumped on the bandwagon by condemning the cartoons and demanding that he Danish government punish Jyllands-Posten - which Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has repeatedly explained that he cannot do - even if he wanted to - because Denmark is a democracy.

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More Muhammed

Following Wednesdays completely out of proportion intervention by Saudi Arabia’s top cleric over the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, The Guardian reports that Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador to Denmark.

The Melon Farmers also note that, fearing a loss of business in the Muslim world, Denmarks main industry organisation - The Confederation of Danish Industries - has tried to distance itself from the paper.

Outraged out of all proportion

At the end of last week, it was starting to look like some sort of sanity might prevail in the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.

On Friday, MediaWatchWatch reported that moderate Muslims in Denmark have started organising and speaking out against the extremist Imams. Councillor Bünyamin Simsek, one of the organisers of the moderate network, which is based in the city of Århus, which saw serous rioting in the wake of Jyllands-Posten publication of the cartoons observed:

There is a large group of Muslims in this city who want to live in a secular society and adhere to the principle that religion is an issue between them and God and not something that should involve society

And, on Sunday, The Brussels Journal reported that the Danish imams who originally protested about the cartoons have announced that they want to bring an end to the dispute.

They also mention that moderate Muslims in Denmark are now speaking out and quote Hadi Kahn, an IT consultant and the chairman of the Organization of Pakistani Students in Denmark, who says that he does not feel hes being represented by the more conservative Muslim groups and that “We have no need for imams in Denmark. They do not do anything for us.”

However, there is always someone who wants to throw oil on the fire.

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabias top cleric has called on Denmark to punish the Jyllands-Posten over the cartoons.

I call on officials in the Danish government to call to account the paper that published these cartoons and force it to apologise for its ugly crime, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh said in a statement published on Wednesday.

It should impose a penalty as a deterrent on those who took part in provoking this subject. Thats the least Muslims demand, it said.

Although it looked like Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, had started to diffuse the row with a New Year address that defended free speech but urged Danes to exercise the right without inciting hatred, some people saw this as a retreat and there have been a spate of mobile phone text messages circulating in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks calling on Saudis to boycott Danish products.

And Reporters Without Borders have voiced concern at the news that the Jordanian Parliament has called for the punishment of the cartoonist who drew the twelve cartoons, apparently not realising that twelve cartoonists were involved.

“Islam forbids any representation of the Prophet and we realize that these cartoons may upset some people, but it is not acceptable for the parliament of a supposedly democratic country to call for the cartoonists to be punished,” the press freedom organisation said.

“Those who so desire may bring a complaint against the newspaper, but politicians should under no circumstances should call for direct reprisals against journalists,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “The cartoonists have already received death threats and these new statements put them in further danger.”

They do note, however, that an agreement was reached between Denmark and the Arab League on 5 January not to pursue the controversy any further.

And finally, can I point you all in the direction of this article in the Lebanese Daily Star:

Here are a few facts we should remember. However offensive any of the 12 cartoons were, they did not incite violence against Muslims. For an example of incitement, though, one must go back a few weeks before the cartoons were published. In August, the Danish authorities withdrew for three months the broadcasting license of a Copenhagen radio station after it called for the extermination of Muslims. Those were real threats and the government protected Muslims - the same government later condemned for not punishing the newspaper that published the cartoons.

Second, the cartoon incident belongs at the very center of the kind of debate that Muslims must have in the European countries where they live - particularly after the Madrid train bombings of 2003 and the London subway bombings of 2005. While right-wing anti-immigration groups whip up Islamophobia in Denmark, Muslim communities wallow in denial over the increasing role of their own extremists.

As just one example, last August Fadi Abdullatif, the spokesman for the Danish branch of the militant Hizb-ut-Tahrir organization, was charged with calling for the killing of members of the Danish government. He distributed leaflets calling on Muslims in Denmark to go to Fallujah in Iraq and fight the Americans, and to kill their own leaders if they obstructed them. Police in Denmark have been on alert since the London bombings, after which at least three extremist Web sites warned that Denmark could be the next target. There are 500 Danish troops working alongside American and British troops in Iraq.

Not only does Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization banned in many Muslim countries, have a branch in Denmark, but Abdullatif has a history of calling for violence that he then justifies by referring to freedom of speech - the very notion the Danish newspaper made use of to publish the cartoons. In October 2002, Abdullatif was found guilty of distributing racist propaganda after Hizb-ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets that made threats against Jews by citing verses from the Koran. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Abdullatif used the Koran to justify incitement to violence! And we still wonder why people associate Islam with violence?

Muslims must honestly examine why there is such a huge gap between the way we imagine Islam and our prophet, and the way both are seen by others. Our offended sensibilities must not be limited to the Danish newspaper or the cartoonist, but to those like Fadi Abdullatif whose actions should be regarded as just as offensive to Islam and to our reverence for the prophet. Otherwise, we are all responsible for those Danish cartoons.