Religious Watch

 2016

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  Nativity Naivete...

'Peace and goodwill to all men'...except of course those running a Spanish sex shop with a sex toy nativity scene window display


Link Here 13th December 2016
dildo nativityViolent threats have been made against a Spanish sex shop over its window display featuring a Christmas nativity scene made up of dildos.

The shop's website website reported that for three years ceramic dildos depicting Jesus, the Virgin Mary and Joseph have been put in the shop's window to great interest from local media.

However, this year the Toledo sex shop 203 reported an altogether more sinister response. A statement posted on the Non Sit Peccatum Facebook page claims people working at the sex shop have been the target of verbal aggression and the premises have been vandalized by people related to religious groups in recent weeks.

One letter sent to the shop's owner, Hector Valdivielso, asks if he thinks it is amusing to make to make fun of the beliefs of millions of people and threatens violence .

The shop removed the display far a while explaining that at no time did they mean to offend anyone. However an online poll found that about 80% of responders supported the display, and so the display was restored.

 

  Maybe best to not go there...

But surely a proposed new French law banning 'false information' on anti-abortion websites is incendiary stuff in what is essentially a religious debate


Link Here 7th December 2016
France flagLawmakers in France have voted to ban misleading anti-abortion web sites. After a heated debate, the French National Assembly passed a bill to outlaw websites spreading misinformation about abortion. Pro-abortion activists have accused Pro-Life campaigners of pretending to give neutral information while putting pressure on women not to have abortions.

The new law, which still has to pass the Senate, extends an existing law against physical intimidation over abortion to digital media and would extend the scope of a 1993 law, which criminalizes false information related abortions, to digital media.

Providing false information on abortion online would be punishable by up to two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, a stipulation that pro-life advocates were quick to ridicule.

In the current fad for blaming all society's ills on 'false' news and information this adds an interesting possibility of religious commandments being tested in court as false information. The underlying religious view is that abortion is bad simply ecause their god said so.  And surely opponents will understandably see this as false information.

Bruno Retailleau, who heads the Republicans party group in the Senate, says the bill is totally against freedom of expression. He claimed the bill went against the spirit of the 1975 law legalizing abortion, which called for women to be informed of alternatives.

 

  Censorship campaigners with a chipolata on their shoulder...

Moralists whinge about the French 12 rating for Seth Rogen's Sausage Party


Link Here 2nd December 2016  full story: Film Censorship in France...French age ratings are generally lower than most
Sausage Party DVD Greg Tiernan Sausage Party is a 2016 USA animation comedy adventure by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon.
Starring Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd. BBFC link IMDb

An animated fable about the delusion of religion. It is set in an American supermarket, its characters are horny and often blasphemous foodstuffs who at one point engage in a mass sex party.

Catholic and right-wing have whinged about a Seth Rogen cartoon featuring lots of strong language and a foodstuffs orgy scene.

France's film certification board,  (Centre National de la Cinematographie: Commission de Classification, CNC) has now come under renewed censorship pressure by conservative organisations angry at what they perceive as an overlenient rating given to a Hollywood cartoon.

In the US, the film was rated R for strong crude sexual content, pervasive language, and drug use. The film was cut in the US to avoid an NC-17 rating, with the censors asking for the deletion of the hairy scrotum of a pita bread. This cut version has been distributed worldwide. In the UK, it had 15 for very strong language, strong sex references . In France it has been given a 12 certificate.

Jean-Frédéric Poisson, president of France's Christian Democratic party whinged:

An orgy scene for 12-year-olds! Everything remains to be done to combat early exposure to pornography.

La Manif Pour Tours, which has campaigned against same-sex marriage fired of an angry tweet:

Hello CNC, explain how you can authorise the screening of a giant orgy for the whole family?

The Association of Catholic Families warned parents:

[The movie gives] the appearance of being intended for young people and children. its content is not only coarse, but also clearly pornographic, under cover of being 'politically incorrect'.

The French ratings board has traditionally been more lenient than its UK and US equivalents, but is not entirely out on a limb in Europe as Sweden awarded an even lower rating, 11A.

 

  The Dark Web...

French court jails man for the habitual visiting of websites promoting Islamic State


Link Here 2nd December 2016
France flagA man in France has been sentenced to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites, even though there is no indication that he planned to stage a terrorist attack. The man was convicted by a court iunder a new law that has drawn scorn from civil liberties groups. In addition to the two-year prison sentence, he will have to pay a ?30,000 fine.

Police discovered the man's browsing history after conducting a raid on his house. During the investigation, they found pro-ISIS images and execution videos on his phone, personal computer, and a USB stick. An ISIS flag was on the wallpaper of his computer desktop, and his computer's password was "13novembrehaha," a reference to the night gunmen killed 130 people in attacks across Paris. The man had been regularly consulting jihadist websites for two years, police said.

This week's conviction is the latest handed down under a controversial law that criminalizes the "habitual" consultation of websites that promote terrorism. The law makes exceptions for those who visit the sites "in good faith" -- for research, to inform the public, or for judicial purposes.

 

 Update: Minority censorship...

Pakistan's TV censor bans 11 christian channels


Link Here 23rd November 2016  full story: TV Censorship in Pakistan...TV under threat from morally minded courts
Pakistan flagTV censors of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) have banned at least 11 Christian TV channels being run across the country.

The channels which have been blocked are Isaac TV, Gawahi TV, God Bless TV, Barkat TV, Praise TV, Zindagi TV, Shine TV, Jesus TV (Jessi TV), Healing TV, Khushkhabari TV, and Catholic TV , sources said. All the channels relayed religious programmes for Christians living in the country.

Pemra claimed the censorship was because the banned channels were broadcasting without licences but that was probably down to christian channels not being allowed to have licenses.

These TV channels are banned in line with ongoing Pemra campaign to ban illegal channels, Sheikh Tahir, the regulator's general manager media, told The Express Tribune . He said the blocked TV channels did not have licences to continue their transmissions.

Pemra seeks ministry's help in enforcing Indian DTH ban

In response to a question that why only Christian TV channels were banned, Sheikh Tahir, the Pemra's general manager medias claimed there was no segregation in the name of religion.

Talking to The Express Tribune , Nadim Anthony, a Christian advocate and rights activist, termed it a blow to the Christian minority of the country. Anthony said the blocked channels had a huge viewership, through which community members took religious guidance. He added:

There are so many Islamic TV channels functioning in the country but no one can dare ban them, which is discrimination.

 

 Update: Anything but peace...

Ofcom fines islamic TV channel for bad mouthing jews


Link Here 12th November 2016  full story: Ofcom on Religion...ofcom keep religious extremism in check
  peace tv logoBritain's TV censor, Ofcom, has fined Peace TV Urdu £65,000 for discriminatory remarks about the jewish community.

Peace TV Urdu is part of  Zakir Naik's Peace TV group based in India. The group is currently under Indian government scrutiny and the process has been initiated to declare them terrorist entities under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The channel is also banned in Bangladesh after the Dhaka Terror Attack on advice of the internal security agencies.

Ofcom found the broadcast of the public lectures by an Islamic scholar highly critical and potentially offensive to the Jewish people. This was broadcast on September 12 and 13 on Peace TV Urdu.

Ofcom highlighted a number of discriminatory remarks made about the Jewish people as an ethnic group in the lectures delivered by Islamic scholar Israr Ahmed who died in April 2010. The role and actions of the Jewish people through history from c.1500 to the present day were examined in the lectures that had comments like this cursed people, this cursed race , found to be offensive under Ofcom's rules.

Ofcom observes that the breach of the code was serious as the content included numerous examples of overwhelmingly negative and stereotypical references to Jewish people which, in its view, were a form of hate speech.  The sanctions document notes:

Ofcom was concerned that the highly critical and negative statements made about Jewish people , uninterrupted by an individual likely to be held in high status by the viewers of Peace TV Urdu had the clear potential to cause harm by portraying Jewish people in highly negative terms.

Peace TV expressed its sincere regret and acknowledged that the programme should not have been broadcast.

 

  Historical wrongs righted...

France repeals regional blasphemy law


Link Here 2nd November 2016
France flagThe blasphemy law in force in the region of Alsace-Moselle, France, has been repealed by the national Senate! It means that France is now free of blasphemy laws as such!, although there are plenty of modern day equivalents claiming insults and mockery to be incitement to hatred.

The law was a bit of an anomaly in France as it had been inherited from a historic period of German rule in the region.

 

 Update: A test of democracy...

Popular Dutch far right politician on trial for insulting immigrants


Link Here 31st October 2016  full story: Geert Wilders...Geert Wilders winds up the muslim world
NetherlandsDutch anti-Islam opposition leader Geert Wilders has gone on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination, 18 months after he led a chant for fewer Moroccans in the country and called them scum during campaigning for local elections.

A verdict is due in December.  The trial raise issues of free speech in the Netherlands particularly as Wilders' comments are supported by strong showings in the opinion polls, suggesting that the party could actually be vying for government in next year's election

 

  Stupid and Backwards Malaysia...

Minister notes that decision to ban the phrase hot dog does nothing for Malaysia's credibility


Link Here 21st October 2016

auntie annes pretzel dogsThe Malaysian Islamic Development Department -- the Malay government's religious authority -- has become the object of ridicule after it ordered food outlets to drop the word dog from hot dogs.

Those who do not comply, according to this report , risk being refused halal certification as dogs are considered unclean in Islam and should not be linked to food.

However Nazri Aziz, the Minister for Malaysian Tourism and Culture, called the decision stupid and backward, telling reporters that as a Muslim he was not offended.

Hot dog is hot dog lah. Even in Malay it's called hot dog -- it's been around for so many years. It comes from the English language. Please do not make us seem stupid and backward.

US food chain Auntie Anne's, which has dozens of outlets across Malaysia, was given a no halal certification warning unless it renamed its Pretzel Dog line to Pretzel Sausage .

The company said the pretzel chain had no problem with changing the name, saying it was a minor issue .

 

  Somebody deserves a good kicking...

Churchmen and politicians whinge about an art exhibit at Estonia's new National Museum


Link Here 15th October 2016
estonia kick maryThe opening of Estonia's new National Museum has been overshadowed by protests from Church leaders and politicians over an exhibit they say mocks religion.

The exhibit is a virtual image of the Virgin Mary in a glass box. Visitors are invited to kick a spot on the plinth of the display, whereupon the image appears to fly into pieces and the word Reformation appears.

The Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Urmas Viilma, said the image offends the feelings of believers. He wrote on Facebook:

I very seriously doubt that this exhibit is suitable for the permanent collection of the National Museum of Estonia, even if it is interesting from a technical point of view or from the perspective of modern approach to the depiction of historical events.

The virgin Mary for a huge number of believers is not some historical figure or event, gone into oblivion, but a reality today. The ridicule was an insult to the feelings of believers.

The chairman of the opposition Conservative People's Party, Mart Helme added:

The image should be removed as soon as possible because the virtual destruction the authors offer insults the feelings of religious Russian-speaking residents and hinders their integration.

Update: Backed down

21stOctober 2016. See  article from christiantoday.com

The new National Museum in Estonia has backed down over a controversial display that allowed visitors to kick an exhibit which then showed an image of the Virgin Mary shattering, with the word Reformation appearing.

The holographic exhibit, which was criticised by church figures and politicians when it was unveiled earlier this month, will still appear to shatter at scheduled intervals but visitors will no longer be able to kick a spot on it.

 

 Update: No religious freedom in Pakistan...

TV censors block 11 christian channels from cable TV


Link Here 14th October 2016
Pakistan flagPakistan has banned 11 Christian television channels, after the country's TV censors declared them illegal in September presumably for religious reasons.

The move has left the country's 2.8 million christian residents with no public media presence, have called the move a blow to religious freedom. Local priests and various members of the local Christian community are calling the move an act of intimidation and an attack to religious freedom . They have appealed to the government to revoke the measure. Father Morris Jalal, founder of Catholic TV said:

As citizens, Christians have the right to practice their religion, but if they block you, it means not all citizens are equal. When someone bans the expression of faith, which is a fundamental right, there is persecution.

Saleem Iqbal, director of Isaac TV said:

We can only ask people to continue to watch us online. Many people are passionate about our channel, which is broadcast from Hong Kong. A ban on cable transmission will not stop us.

 

  Justice falls short...

Iran woman imprisoned for 5 years for writing an unpublished short storing abut stoning


Link Here 7th October 2016
Iran flagIranian judges have ordered a young female writer and activist to serve a six-year jail term for writing an unpublished fictional story about stoning to death in her country.

Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee received a phone call on Tuesday from judicial officials ordering her to Evin prison in Tehran, where her husband, Arash Sadeghi , a prominent student activist, is serving a 19-year sentence.

Ebrahimi Iraee told Voice of America's Persian network this week that she had been sentenced to five years in prison for insulting Islamic sanctities and one extra year for spreading propaganda against the ruling system.

Amnesty International said that Ebrahimi Iraee's plight was linked to a fictional story that the authorities discovered in September 2014 when they ransacked the couple's house in Tehran and confiscated their belongings. Philip Luther, Amnesty's research director for its Middle East and North Africa programme said:

The charges against Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee are ludicrous. She is facing years behind bars simply for writing a story, and one which was not even published -- she is effectively being punished for using her imagination.

Instead of imprisoning a young woman for peacefully exercising her human rights by expressing her opposition to stoning, the Iranian authorities should focus on abolishing this punishment, which amounts to torture.

It is appalling that Iran continues to allow the use of stoning, and justifies it in the name of protecting morality.

We are urging the authorities to immediately quash Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee's conviction and that of her husband Arash Sadeghi, who has been behind bars since June for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association.

 

 Update: Litigation Heaven...

Speculation that Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie has been banned in Ireland over fears about the country's blasphemy law


Link Here 28th September 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Ireland...Irish politicians enact blasphemy law
Scientology Movie DVD Louis Theroux My Scientology Movie is a 2015 UK / USA documentary by John Dower.
Starring Rob Alter, Tom Cruise and Paz de la Huerta. IMDb

Louis Theroux documents his investigation into what goes on behind the scenes of the infamous church of scientology.

Film distributors In Ireland have decided not to screen Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie. And the speculation is that the country's recently enacted blasphemy law could be used to stir up hassle for the distributors.

The law, part of the 2009 Defamation Act states that any person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding euro 25,000 . Blasphemous matter is defined as anything that is insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion , and that intends to cause outrage.

The law also states that blasphemy laws do not apply to an organisation or cult that prioritises making financial profit or manipulates followers and new recruits. Scientology isn't officially recognised as a church in Ireland, but it's unclear whether or not it counts as a religion under the acts definitions.

But even if  Scientology doesn't count as a religion, then they can still employ expensive lawyers to make the claim anyway, and that it would then take equally expensive lawyers to counter such a claim.

 

 Updated: Epic intolerance...

Ben-Hur censored in Malaysia


Link Here 24th September 2016  full story: Censored Films in Malaysia...Film censors and censorship
Ben Hur DVD Jack Huston Ben-Hur is a 2016 USA historical adventure drama by Timur Bekmambetov.
Starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Rodrigo Santoro. Youtube link IMDb

The epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

Malayisia's Film Censorship Board (LPF) said it was not to blame for the censorship of scenes involving Jesus Christ from the Hollywood remake of Ben-Hur .

LPF chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid further said he did not recall seeing such scenes from the movie submitted, adding that it was possible the Malaysian version is a different version from those shown elsewhere. He told Malay Mail Online:

Maybe, but not by us, probably by producers when they sent the film to Malaysia, they already cut the scenes, they know (there's) some sensitivities.

Halim said he was certain that the board did not remove the scenes that included Jesus, which were pivotal to the plot of the story.

Local viewers had taken to Facebook to complain of censorship of Ben-Hur, with scenes of Jesus forming key plot points allegedly taken out.

One Facebook user, Jasmine Sia, who watched the film on Friday night, said no scenes involving Jesus was shown at all. she told Malay Mail Online:

I felt cheated. The novel from which this movie is adapted is Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ . It means Jesus is central to the plot. It was censored so much the storyline made no sense! How did Judah's mother and sister get cured from leprosy?

No, they did not show anything with regards to healing. They just appeared at the end of the movie healed. That's why it made no sense.

The local distributor of the film, United International Pictures (UIP) Malaysia, acknowledged on its official Facebook page that the local edition was not identical to that shown elsewhere, after one user named Jerry Terry Derulo pointed out that the runtime here was 11 minutes shorter than listed on movie database IMDB.

Update: Export Version

24th September 2016.  See  article from themalaymailonline.com

Universal has confirmed that there is a special export version of Ben-Hur for intolerant countries that ban the depiction of other religions to their own. The latest Hollywood remake of Ben-Hur has an export version that has been edited to remove scenes featuring Jesus Christ. A Universal spokesman explained:

We submitted into the Censor board a Studio pre-edited version which was available for countries that do not allow the depiction of prophets on film whether by law or due to local sensitivities.

We learned from past titles submitted to the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF) that no Prophets are allowed to be depicted on film. In Malaysia, previous films such as Noah and Exodus which depicted prophets were banned by LPF.

UIP Malaysia said the Malaysian version which was pre-cut to a total running time of 114 minutes is also available for other countries.

LPF chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid confirmed that LPF adopts the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia's (Jakim) guidelines for films, adding that the body tasked with overseeing religious matters and even the police are sometimes invited to view films together. He added:

But we also have some guidelines from Jakim that any films cannot portray all the prophets or the angels, even the Satan in the context of Islam. Anything mentioned in Quran cannot be visually portrayed in the form of character, figure or drawing.

 

 Update: Epic intolerance...

Ben-Hur censored in Malaysia


Link Here 18th September 2016  full story: Censored Films in Malaysia...Film censors and censorship
Ben Hur DVD Jack Huston Ben-Hur is a 2016 USA historical adventure drama by Timur Bekmambetov.
Starring Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Rodrigo Santoro. Youtube link IMDb

The epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption.

Malayisia's Film Censorship Board (LPF) said it was not to blame for the censorship of scenes involving Jesus Christ from the Hollywood remake of Ben-Hur .

LPF chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid further said he did not recall seeing such scenes from the movie submitted, adding that it was possible the Malaysian version is a different version from those shown elsewhere. He told Malay Mail Online:

Maybe, but not by us, probably by producers when they sent the film to Malaysia, they already cut the scenes, they know (there's) some sensitivities.

Halim said he was certain that the board did not remove the scenes that included Jesus, which were pivotal to the plot of the story.

Local viewers had taken to Facebook to complain of censorship of Ben-Hur, with scenes of Jesus forming key plot points allegedly taken out.

One Facebook user, Jasmine Sia, who watched the film on Friday night, said no scenes involving Jesus was shown at all. she told Malay Mail Online:

I felt cheated. The novel from which this movie is adapted is Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ . It means Jesus is central to the plot. It was censored so much the storyline made no sense! How did Judah's mother and sister get cured from leprosy?

No, they did not show anything with regards to healing. They just appeared at the end of the movie healed. That's why it made no sense.

The local distributor of the film, United International Pictures (UIP) Malaysia, acknowledged on its official Facebook page that the local edition was not identical to that shown elsewhere, after one user named Jerry Terry Derulo pointed out that the runtime here was 11 minutes shorter than listed on movie database IMDB.

 

  When news is more about politically correct propaganda than the facts...

French news outlets decide to censor names, images and motivations of terrorists


Link Here 28th July 2016

le monde logoLeading French media outlets pledged on Wednesday to stop publishing the names and images of attackers linked to Islamic State group to supposedly prevent individuals from being inadvertently glorified, following a spate of attacks by muslim terrorists.

The decisions, part of a wider French debate about how the news media might be contributing to the extremist threat, come as the French parliament debates whether to enshrine in law restrictions on the way the news media can cover terrorist acts.

The director of Le Monde, Jerome Fenoglio, said in an editorial that his newspaper would stop publishing photographs of attackers in a bid to prevent the possible posthumous glorifying effects and called for news media to exercise more responsibility. The newspaper already has a ban on publishing extracts of Islamic State propaganda or claims of responsibility emitted from its media wing.

Television station BFM-TV also said it will no longer broadcast images of attackers' faces.

 

  No peace for the wicked...

India and Bangladesh ban Peace TV


Link Here 23rd July 2016
peace tv logoFollowing recent Islamic terror attacks in Bangladesh, India has banned Zakir Naik's Peace TV . Its neighbour, Bangladesh, then imposed a similar ban.

Peace TV is a 24-hours Islamic International TV Channel that broadcasts Naik's inflammatory and rather extreme viewpoint.

The Islamic proselytizer, rising to fame for his pedantic knowledge of the world's religion, can and has been described as everything ranging from 'an authority on comparative religion to a radical Islamic televangelist, perhaps an equivalent of the US's Ted Haggard.

The Dhaka terror attacks were said to have been inspired by Naik's teachings, leading to an analysis of his programme and and an evaluation of its place in Indian television. The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe to be conducted into his sermons, the contents of which officials have described as a security hazard .

The government has indicated its intention to check the contents of Naik's teachings, from his TV programme to his writings, and and also the sources of the funds for his channels.

 

 Update: Thank Christ for that!...

Malta's parliament passes bill at 3rd reading that repeals blasphemy laws and decriminalises adult consensual porn (except 'extreme' porn)


Link Here 13th July 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Malta...Malta prosecutes many for villifying the chruch
Malta flagThe Maltese parliament has approved, at the third reading stage, amendments to the Criminal Act that repeal legislation that censured the vilification of religion, decriminalises pornography and criminalises revenge porn.

The law punishing the vilification of the Roman Catholic religion had been in place since 1933 and was used by the authorities to censor works of art, theatre productions and prevent films from being screened.

When he originally presented the proposed amendments in February, justice minister Owen Bonnici sought to allay fears that the law would not allow people to incite religious hatred, noting that the incitement of hatred based on religion, gender, race, sexuality, gender identity or political belief was already illegal as per a more recent law and would remain so. He said:

In a democratic country, people should be free to make fun of religions, while not inciting hatred.

The Nationalist opposition had been opposed to the proposed amendments and had accused the government of political atheism , and of adopting policies of forced secularisation .

On his part, Archbishop Charles Scicluna tweeted his dismay at news that MPs had, as expected, successfully passed Bill 133:

Demeaning God and man indeed go hand in hand. A sad day for Malta. Lord forgive them: they do not know what they do.

 

  If music be the food of love, snuff it...

Most populace region of Saudi Arabia makes music illegal in public places


Link Here 9th July 2016
makkah saudiSaudi Emir, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, of the eastern region of Makkah has banned the playing and carrying of musical instruments, headphones and speakers in public places within all governorates in the region.

The directive included strong instructions to carry it out strictly and to firmly punish violators, and came after reports were issued concerning inappropriate behaviours and activities in the Jeddah Corniche, a Red Sea coastal area in the city of Jeddah. Makkah is Saudi Arabia's most populous region, whose capital is Mecca.

The ban covers public places, such as public parks, jogging areas, walkways, and sports facilities, and also includes the banning of obscene behaviour, wearing indecent clothes, walking pet animals, the smoking of tobacco and shisha, and the lighting of firewood or charcoal.

 

  Ban it or else the horse will get it!...

Delhi High Court petitioners call for the banning of Godfather beer


Link Here 3rd July 2016
godfather beerA legal case has been registered at the Delhi High Court seeking to restrain manufacture, supply and sale of Godfather beer in the city, claiming it hurts religious sentiments.

The plea by a civic organisation claims that sentiments and emotions of the public at large of every religion would be affected as the word God is used by everyone to refer to the almighty power . Devinder Singh, president of Jan Chetna Manch, whinged:.

The Godfather (beer) manufacturers are against humanity and the principle of natural justice as they are intentionally harassing and damaging religious emotions.

The petition is likely to come up for hearing next week.

 

  Escorted by aggression...

Religious extremist hacks a series of escort websites


Link Here 28th June 2016
eisurveillanceA hacker calling himself ElSurveillance has targeted at least 26 websites in June for defacement, most of which promote escort services.

According to an interview with website Data Breaches in December of last year, the hacker is citing religious reasons. He spouted:

I have been running an operation under the hashtag #EscortsOffline against the escorts website and agencies, because I strongly believe that our bodies are gifted from Allah to us to look after and not to destroy, and I always hated the idea of people selling their bodies for money.

His campaign has attacked nearly 200 websites since January 2015.

 

  United in criticism...

UN calls upon Iran to free musicians jailed for insulting islamic sanctities


Link Here 27th June 2016

mehdi-rajabian hossein-rajabian ousef-emadi share The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and on freedom of expression, David Kaye, have called on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to release musicians Mehdi Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, who were imprisoned and heavily fined earlier this month. Ms. Bennoune said.

These three artists were sentenced for exercising their right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity, which in turn results in unjustifiable restrictions on the right of all persons in Iran to have access to and enjoy the artsArtistic expression is simply not a crime.

The human rights experts contacted the Iranian authorities on these cases earlier this year, including on the use of torture against Mr. Rajabian, musician and founder of Barg Music, an alternative music distributor in Iran.

Barg Music was the main medium broadcasting alternative music in the country and had introduced more than 100 music albums and thousands of single records by Iranian alternative musicians, as well as female singers, to Iranian audiences, before being shut down by Revolutionary Guards in 2013.

In May 2015, and, according to the Government's answer to the UN experts, the three artists were sentenced to six years in prison and a fine of 50 million Rials each (some 1,658 USD) for insulting Islamic sanctities , propaganda against the State and conducing illegal activities in the audiovisual affaires including through producing prohibited audiovisual material and performing an illegal and underground music site . On appeal, the prison sentence was reduced to three years. Mr. Kaye said:

We take note that the sentence of the artists was reduced by the appeal court However, this verdict is still unacceptable: detaining someone on the grounds of 'insulting the sacred' and 'propaganda against the state' is incompatible with international human rights standards.

Ms. Bennoune added:.

I am particularly dismayed that Mehdi Rajabian, Yousef Emadi and Hossein Rajabian were allegedly forced to make self-incriminating televised 'confessions' to the charges of having produced prohibited audiovisual materials, to express regret for their work and to apologize for broadcasting the voice of female singers, This amounts to an extraordinary attack against these artists, and one which has serious repercussions for others in Iran.

The arrest, conviction and sentencing of artists is entirely unacceptable and in complete violation of international human rights law binding on Iran. The three artists should be released immediately and all charges dropped.

The expert's call has also been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan E. Mendez.

 

  Searching for censorship...

Religious conservatives in Indonesia protest against pornography on Google and YouTube


Link Here 15th June 2016
muhammadiyah logoHundreds of people from the Indonesian Islamic Organization, Muhammadiyah, demonstrated in Surabaya, East Java province to urge Google and YouTube to remove pornographic content.

A demonstration coordinator, M Arif An, said that the protest was the first step taken by Muhammadiyah and its affiliated organizations to act decisively in combating pornography.

Arif claimed porn content has destroyed younger generations and was causing immoral behavior:

A lot of crimes involved influence of pornographic content.

Any content considered propagating radical Islam is very quickly blocked by the ministry. We urge that porn content must also be removed immediately.

For some reason he did not mention the infinitely greater amount of misery and violence around the world directly attributable to religion.

Muhammadiyah is an influential and conservative islamic organisation with about 29 million members.

 

 Update: Symbolic of our struggle against oppression...

German conviction for screening Life of Brian upheld on appeal, so now the conviction will be challenged in the Constitutional Court


Link Here 7th June 2016  full story: Monty Python...Monty Python winds up the nutters
Monty Pythons Life Brian DVD Three years ago Martin Budich, the organizer of a group called Religious Freedom in the Ruhr , decided to put on a public viewing of the comedy classic Monty Python's Life of Brian on Good Friday in the western city of Bochum.

But three years later Budich is preparing to face the highest court in the land for the simple act of showing a film which is rated suitable for children in most countries. Budich explained to The Local.

Showing the film was a deliberate act of rebellion against the holiday laws which every German state has, and which prevent people from partying - or showing films that are not approved by the state - on religious holidays.

On Thursday the final obstacle to taking this law to the constitutional court was removed, after the High Court in North Rhine-Westphalia upheld a ruling from a lower court that ordered Budich to pay a 100 euro fine.

He can now appeal the decision in Federal Constitutional Court which will have to consider whether the prohibition of showing the movie was in breach of Budich's constitutional rights.

 

  On a repressive note...

Religious censors in Turkey issue a fatwa banning sexual music


Link Here 22nd May 2016

Istanbul Sokaklari Kramp Artists are facing severe difficulties under Erdogan's rule in Turkey. On 15 February 2016, The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, issued a fatwa -- a religious ban -- on sexual music.

The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs is a governmental institution responsible for managing the religious affairs in Turkey. It is infamous for its scandalous fatwas.

On 15 February 2016, a new fatwa hit the news. The Directorate distributed a 2016 calendar, in which they included a Q&A for each day. On the page for the day 24 August, the question was What is the place of music in religion? Which types of music are halal (acceptable for Islam)? The answer started with some general information:

According to Quran, there is no proof which shows that making or listening to music is a sin. In this sense, the types of music which do not contradict with the fundamental beliefs of our religion and with the general moral values are unobjectionable.

Then came the but :

BUT... making or listening to music which includes expressions or depictions that arouse sexual desires or which show haram things as beautiful is a sin.

The fatwas by the Directorate, whose members are all appointed by the government, are not legally binding or cannot be used as legal opinions or precedents, but they have practical effect. They form public opinion. They direct the central and local governments about what type of art and which artists to support. They encourage public prosecutors to start cases against Islamically unacceptable art works and artists. They present legitimacy for the government's change of legislature. They are influential.

An imam, previously with the rockband Kramp , who now runs the band Firock , is opposing the Directorate's fatwa from a religious perspective.

 

  'Have mercy on us and leave us alone'...

Lebanon's government censor bans song for asking god to leave us alone


Link Here 22nd May 2016
Ya Balad Bachar Mar Khalife   The censorship bureau of Lebanon's General Security Directorate has banned Bachar Mar-Khalife's song Kyrie Eleison because it supposedly contains offenses to God as the singer talked to God in the song saying, 'have mercy on us and leave us alone' .

The authorities further stated that if Bashar Mar-Khalife wants to promote his album in the country then he must delete the song from the album. Authorities also cllaimed in their statement that the song included words that could be interpreted as sexual innuendo.

 

  Munich: A Palestinian Story...

Jewish group protests about the Cannes showing of an excerpt from a Palestinian documentary


Link Here 17th May 2016
munich a palestinian storyMunich: A Palestinian Story is a 2016 Palestine documentary by Nasri Hajjaj

A French Jewish group is protesting against the planned screening of the documentary Munich: A Palestinian Story at Cannes, claiming the film blames German security forces for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics rather than the terrorist attackers of the Black September group.

An excerpt from the documentary is due to be screened as part of a partnership between the Cannes Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival. The film, directed by journalist-turned-director Nasri Hajjaj, is still reportedly in production.

Roger Cukierman, president of the Council of Jewish Organisations in France (CRIF), expressed anxiety and deep concern over the planned viewing in a letter to Cannes Film Festival President Pierre Lescure and French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay. He said:

The film depicts the terrorists as 'freedom fighters' and says that 'everything came to an end when German security forces intervened, killing 5 Palestinians and 11 Israeli athletes.' It's a scandalous misinterpretation of historic facts.

 

 Update: Offensive against Facebook...

French jewish groups set to launch legal action against Facebook for not censoring enough posts


Link Here 17th May 2016  full story: Internet Censorship in France...Web blocking in the name of child protection
Facebook logoThree jewsih organisations in France say they are planning legal action against Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for failing to remove posts that the gorups consider to be hate speech

The French Jewish Students Union (UEJF), SOS Racisme and SOS Homophobie say they found 586 posts between 31 March and 10 May that they claim to be offensive. But they claim only a small percentage was taken down.

French law states that racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic content must be removed from websites.

YouTube's side of the argument can be inferred from deciding that the posts did not break their rule:

But from YouTube's side of the argument, they decided not to remove the content when tested against their rules that YouTube does not support content which:

Promotes or condones violence against individuals or groups based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status or sexual orientation/gender identity, or whose primary purpose is inciting hatred on the basis of these core characteristics.

Facebook also decided that the posts did not break their rules and added also that it does allow:

Clear attempts at humour or satire that might otherwise be considered a possible threat or attack.

Twitter' also decided that complained about posts did not transgress their rules.

 

 Offsite Article: Controversy lingers on...


Link Here 6th May 2016
award winning cartoon eBay removes award-winning Mohammed cartoon listing

See article from freethinker.co.uk

 

  Not yet time to sing a new song...

Turkish art about women's voices in the public space censored by police for insulting religious views


Link Here 5th May 2016
time to sing a new songThe artist Isil Egrikavuk, who was commissioned to create a new work for YAMA, a public art installation series screened on top of the Marmara Pera hotel in Istanbul, says in a statement on Facebook that her animation about women's voices in public spaces was first removed for "insulting religious views," and later that the work was a source of "visual pollution".

Egrikavuk's work is titled Time to Sing a New Song and consists of a short animation of a woman's emoji face slowly turning into an apple.

It was supposed to be on display from sunset to sunrise everyday between April 23 to June 30 of this year, however three days after the opening on April 26 officers from Beyoglu Municipality apparently came to the hotel and put a stop to the exhibition.

The artist learned that there had been a complaint about the video, for insulting religious views, and subsequently also was told that the video was causing visual pollution and had to be shut off.

 

 Update: Unfree Speech...

Turkish journalists jailed for republishing Charlie Hebdo cartoons as a mark of solidarity with the cartoonists murdered in Paris


Link Here 29th April 2016  full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
cumhuriyet charlie hebdoTurkey has sentenced two columnists to prison for two years for illustrating articles with cartoons from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo .

A court in Istanbul convicted Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan with fomenting hatred and enmity in the people via means of the press.

Bulent Utku, the journalists' lawyer, said they would be appealing the sentence.

Sections of Turkish society were 'outraged' by the cartoons in Cumhuriyet , an opposition newspaper when they were published in January last year as a gesture of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

Turkish police had stopped and searched Cumhuriyet trucks as they left the printing press and protesters in Istanbul later burned copies of the newspaper.

The case was pressed by lawyers linked to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and several members of his family.

 

 Update: Ultimate censorship of gay magazine...

More murderous censorship by religious extremists in Bangladesh


Link Here 27th April 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Bangladesh...Penalising disbelief
roopbaan magazineXulhaz Mannan, a top gay rights activist and editor of Roopbaan, the country's only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death together with another man associated with the publication, Tanay Mojumdar.

The two men were killed two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility -- but the Bangladeshi government claimed there is no IS presence in the country.

BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan , a magazine and activist group for the LGBT community that had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.

Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.

Meanwhile Bangladesh's best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday. Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed very soon .

 

  Mumbai Sikhs recommend...

The Indian movie Santa Banta Pvt Ltd


Link Here 24th April 2016
Poster Santa Banta Pvt Ltd 2016 Akashdeep Santa Banta Pvt Ltd is a 2016 India comedy by Akashdeep.
Starring Tinnu Anand, Vir Das and Neha Dhupia. IMDb

Two friends and their sweet and endearing misadventures and one of these misadventures sees them land in the middle of a kidnapping investigation.

The Punjabi Cultural Heritage Board (PCHB) and the Maharshtra Sikh Association have launched protests against the release of the movie Santa Banta Pvt Ltd. , the two organisations successfully disrupted the screening of the movie in various cinema theatres around Mumbai.

Charan Singh Sapra, president, PCHB, claimed:

The movie hurts the religious and cultural sentiments of the Sikh community. The movie has also depicted a negative image of our community, with some dialogues also evoking aggression in people from our community. The chairman of the censor board should not be biased and we have appealed to the people to file a case under section 295(A) (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings by insulting a religion) of the Indian Penal Code.

We have successfully stopped the screening of the movie at Chembur, Pune,Wadala, Sion, Dadar, Kurla, Vashi, Thane, Jabalpur, Nanded, Belapur and many more places across Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai. We have also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court to stop the screening altogether, and the next hearing for the same is on April 27.

 

  A dangerous opinion...

Kuwait academic arrested for blasphemy after debating on TV that islam should not be above the law


Link Here 15th April 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Kuwait...Baying for blood
Kuwait flagA prominent female academic and human rights activist in Kuwait has been charged with blasphemy. Sheikha al-Jassem was summoned to the public prosecutor's office after legal complaints were filed against her over a recent interview she gave on TV.

She asserted that the constitution of Kuwait should be above the Quran and Islamic law in governing the country. The interview was broadcast on Kuwaiti Al-Shahed TV on 8 March. Its theme was the rise of Islamic extremism.

During the interview, Jassem was asked about radical Islamists who said that religion was more important than the Kuwaiti constitution. She responded by saying that this was dangerous and that, in her opinion, politics and religion should be kept apart.  Jassem made reference to the violence across the Middle East and divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims. She said that if you just went back to holy books and relied on them, society could not move forward.

Her remarks provoked a storm of attacks against her, spearheaded by Islamist members of Kuwait's parliament.

The public prosecutor still has the discretion to decide whether or not Ms Jassem will be put on trial.

 

 Offsite Article: Why Ireland must get rid of its disgraceful blasphemy law...


Link Here 13th April 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Ireland...Irish politicians enact blasphemy law
Ireland Ireland is the only country in the developed western world to have introduced a blasphemy law in the 21st century. By Roy Greenslade

See article from theguardian.com

 

 Update: Extreme censorship...

Another secular blogger murdered by muslim extremists in Bangladesh


Link Here 8th April 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Bangladesh...Penalising disbelief
Bangladesh flagNazimuddin Samad, whose family live in London, was hacked to death by at least four assailants after posting on Facebook. He had been on a hit list of 84 bloggers drawn up by murderous muslim extrmists in Bangladesh. He was hacked to death and then shot.

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Dhaka to demand the capture and punishment of those responsible for the murder of a law student who criticised Islamism on his Facebook page.

About 350 activists from the secular campaigning network Ganajagaran Mancha took part in the demonstration on Thursday after the killing of Nazimuddin Samad in the Bangladeshi capital on Wednesday night.

Samad, 28, had been on a hit list of 84 atheist bloggers that a group of radical Islamists drew up and sent to the Bangladesh interior ministry. His murder was the latest in a series of killings of secular activists and bloggers in the country.

 

 Commented: Beyond criticism...

Commentators are 'outraged' by Charlie Hebdo editiorial suggesting that the wider muslim community indirectly support terrorism by shutting down criticism of islam


Link Here 7th April 2016  full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
hebdo editorial Commentators have taken offence at an editorial in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The leader suggests that ordinary Muslims contribute to putting islam beyond criticism and hence contributing to a climate in which the Brussels bombings took place.

The magazine published the editorial, How Did We End Up Here? , eight days after bombs at Brussels' airport and metro. It said a fear of being seen as Islamophobic had inhibited the public from questioning or objecting to facets of Islam. The editorial began by listing several mooted explanations for the Brussels attacks , including police incompetence, youth unemployment, immigration and growing Islamism. But, it went on:

In reality, the attacks ... are the last phase of a process of cowing and silencing long in motion and on the widest possible scale.

Charlie Hebdo concluded:

From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. And that is where and when fear has started its sapping, undermining work. And the way is marked for all that will follow.

Several commentators took offence at the article. Shadi Hamid, writer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted:

Never thought I'd see the day when a magazine ppl I know respect would argue that basically all conservative Muslims are complicit in terror

Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American writer and photographer, wrote:

Reading this extraordinary editorial by Charlie, it's hard not to recall the vicious development of 'the Jewish question' in Europe and the horrifying persecution it resulted in. Charlie's logic is frighteningly similar: that there are no innocent Muslims, that 'something must be done' about these people, regardless of their likability, their peacefulness, or their personal repudiation of violence. Such categorisation of an entire community as an insidious poison is a move we have seen before.

But some on Twitter said the editorial was thoughtful and even brilliant. Toby Young, the journalist and writer, described it as powerful .

Julia Ebner responded in the Independent:

Whether one agrees with the latest editorial or not, drawing this historical parallel is far-fetched. The difference is threefold: first, Charlie Hebdo's mockery is targeting abstract concepts, ideologies and powerful elites rather than vulnerable individuals. Second, the goal of the journalists is to incite laughter, not hatred or fear. Third -- and most importantly -- the satirists are not abusing freedom of expression for the sake of politics; they are abusing politics for the sake of free expression.

Spiked logoOffsite Comment: No, Charlie Hebdo' s editorial is not racist

7th April 2016. See  article from spiked-online.com

Turns out the Charlie haters are even dimmer than we thought.

 

 Update: Iconic censorship...

Rajan Zed calls on European art galleries to censor the artwork, Barbie Kali


Link Here 20th March 2016  full story: Rajan Zed...Taking easy offence at hindu imagery
barbie kali 2014 Perennial hindu whinger Rajan Zed is calling on Rome and Paris museums to censor an iconic Barbie doll as goddess Kali in their Barbie exhibitions, claiming it to be highly inappropriate. Zed said it trivialized the highly revered deity of Hinduism.

Barbie The Icon exhibition at Museo delle Culture in Milan, which reportedly carried an Argentinean artists' created Barbie portrayed as goddess Kali with a dagger and plate carrying a severed head, is ending on March 13. It was said to be moving to Complesso del Vittoriano gallery in Il Vittoriano monument in Rome (April 15 to October 30) and Musee des Arts decoratifs in Paris (till September 18).

Zed claimed that reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the feelings of devotees. Goddess Kali and other Hindu deities were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not meant to be reduced to a Barbie character.

Rajan Zed repeated his ludicrous claim that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more ...BUT... faith was something sacred and attempts at belittling it hurt the devotees. Artists should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, Zed added.

 

 Updated: Homophobic Censorship...

Italian catholics ban the gay film Weekend from much of Italy


Link Here 16th March 2016
Weekend DVD Tom Cullen Weekend is a 2011 UK gay romance by Andrew Haigh.
Starring Tom Cullen, Chris New and Jonathan Race. BBFC link IMDb

On a Friday night after a drunken house party with his straight mates, Russell heads out to a gay club, alone and on the pull. Just before closing time he picks up Glen but what's expected to be just a one-night stand becomes something else, something special. That weekend, in bars and in bedrooms, getting drunk and taking drugs, telling stories and having sex, the two men get to know each other. It is a brief encounter that will resonate throughout their lives. Weekend is both an honest and unapologetic love story between two guys and a film about the universal struggle for an authentic life in all its forms. It is about the search for identity and the importance of making a passionate commitment to your life.

The Catholic Church in Italy has effectively banned Weekend , a movie by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh, by declaring it unfit to be shown in any of the theaters owned by the church.

In an unusual move that prompted accusations of homophobic censorship, the Italian Conference of Bishops' Film Evaluation Commission classified the film as not advised, unusable and scabrous (indecent or salacious). The Commission listed the film's principal themes as drugs and homosexuality.

The result, according to its distributor Teodora Film, was that the film was shunned by the more than 1,100 cinemas which are owned by the Church and make up the bulk of Italy's network of independent/arthouse theatres.

The country's official film board approved Haigh's Nottingham-set drama for audiences over 14, compared with an 18 rating in the UK.

The large number of Italian cinemas owned by the Church are a legacy of the days when every parish had its own cinema and local priests controlled projections, regularly cutting sections of films they deemed unsuitable for parishioners. Most of these cinemas are now rented out to operators who do not have to be religious but do have to sign a contract which includes a clause agreeing to go along with the guidance issued by the bishops.

Only very rarely does the guidance make it clear the Church does not want a film shown at all with the only other recent example being Chilean director Pablo Larrain's El Club , in which the main characters are all Catholic priests, including one with a history of sexually abusing children.

Update: Weekend triumph

16th March 2016. See  article from theguardian.com

Weekend has now become a surprise box office smash in Italy, despite the attempt by the Catholic church to paralyse its release. The film achieved the highest per-screen average in the country this weekend, according to Variety . One screening at Rome's famous Quattro Fontane art house cinema pulled in receipts of more than 16,000 euro, the cityl's top haul.

Weekend, which was brought to Italy by distributor Teodora Film following the 2015-16 awards season success of Haigh's Oscar-nominated film 45 Years.

Variety reports 11 more Italian cinemas are now said to be interested in screening Weekend in the upcoming frame.

 

 Update: Iran bumps bounty on Salman Rushdie's head...

Iranian fatwa inciting the murder of Salman Rushdie continues 27 years on


Link Here 26th February 2016  full story: Satanic Verses...Salman Rushdie irritation of the muslim world
Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie 40 Iranian state-run media organisations have raised a further $600,000 (£420,000) to the bounty on Salman Rushdie's head. This backs the fatwa that has been running for the 27 years since Iran's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, called for Rushdie's murder following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

The fatwa provoked an international outcry and caused the UK to sever diplomatic relations with Iran for nearly a decade. In 1998, Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami said the fatwa was finished , but it was never officially lifted and has been reiterated several times, occasionally on the anniversary, by Iran's current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and other religious officials. Iran's deputy culture minister Seyed Abbas Salehi told Fars:

Imam Khomeini's fatwa is a religious decree and it will never lose its power or fade out,

Prominent campaigners have protested the re-awakened fatwa in a letter to the Guardian:

We are outraged to learn that 40 state-run media outlets in Iran have raised $600,000 (£420,000) to add as bounty to Ayatollah Khomeini's death fatwa on the writer Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses. We condemn the Iranian regime, its fatwa and the added bounty. We stand with Rushdie and the many Iranian freethinkers and writers languishing in prison, or facing the death penalty, for exercising their right to free expression and thought.

The Iranian regime must face global condemnation for its incitement to murder. Democratic and secular governments should unequivocally condemn the regime's fatwa and bounty, demand their immediate cancellation, prioritise human rights and free expression, and side with freethinkers rather than appeasing a theocratic regime.

AC Grayling Philosopher , Adil Hussain Activist , Afsaneh Vahdat Women's rights campaigner , Ali A. Rizvi Author of The Atheist Muslim , Ali al Razi CEMB Activist and writer , Aliaa Magda Elmahdy Activist , Alice Carr President of Progressive Atheists of Australia , Annie Sugier President of Ligue du Droit International des Femmes , Anthony McIntyre Writer and historian , Ariane Brunet Centre for Secular Space , Asra Q. Nomani Author, journalist, critical thinker and co-founder of Muslim Reform Movement , Ateizm Dernegi in Turkey , Author Jesus & Mo , Awat Farokhi Political activist , Becky Lavelle President Hull University, Secularist Atheist and Humanist Society , Behzad Varpushty Human rights activist , Benjamin David President of Warwick Atheists Secularists and Humanists , Boris van der Ham Humanistisch Verbond (Dutch Humanist Society) , Caroline Fourest Author , Chris Moos Secularist activist , Christine M. Shellska President of Atheist Alliance International , Claire Kennedy Curator of TEDxExeter , Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor Co-presidents of Freedom From Religion Foundation , David Silverman President of American Atheists , Deeyah Khan Filmmaker and human rights activist , Derek Lennard Human rights campaigner , Dilip Simeon Labour historian and chairperson of the Aman Trust , Djemila Benhabib Journalist and writer , Elham Manea Academic and human rights advocate , Erin Dopp Activist , Faisal Saeed Al Mutar Iraqi-born writer and activist , Faramarz Ghorbani Political activist , Fariborz Pooya Host of Bread and Roses TV , Farzana Hassan Author , Fateh Bahrami Political activist , Fauzia Ilyas Founder of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan , Gita Sahgal Director of Centre for Secular Space , Halima Begum Ex-Muslim researcher and blogger , Harsh Kapoor South Asia Citizens Web , Hasan Salehim Political activist , Hassan Radwan Founder of the Agnostic Muslims & Friends Facebook Group , Ibn Warraq Writer , Ibrahim Abdallah Muslimish NYC organiser , Inna Shevchenko FEMEN Leader , Jane Donnelly Atheist Ireland , Joan Smith Author , Johann Hari Writer , John Perkins Secular Party of Australia , Julie Bindel Justice for Women and the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize , Karrar Al Asfoor Arab Atheists and Forum for Humanitarian Dialogue , Kate Smurthwaite Comedian and activist , Keyvan Javid Director of New Channel TV , Khalil Keyvan Political activist atheist and ex-political prisoner , Kiran Opal Feminist writer and activist , Kojin Mirizayi President of the Kurdish Society at the University of Kent , Lalia Ducos Women's Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights , Laura Guidetti Marea Magazine , Lisa-Marie Taylor Chair of Feminism in London , Lloyd Newson OBE , Maajid Nawaz Author and counter-extremism activist , Madhu Mehra Lawyer and executive director of Partners for Law in Development , Magdulien Abaida Libyan women's rights campaigner , Marieme Helie Lucas Algerian sociologist and founder of Secularism is a Woman's Issue , Maryam Namazie Spokesperson for Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain One Law for All and Fitnah - Movement for Women's Liberation and Bread and Roses TV Producer , Masoud Azarnoush Activist , Mersedeh Ghaedi London Spokesperson for Iran Tribunal , Michael Nugent Atheist Ireland , Mina Ahadi Coordinator of Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany and International Committee against Stoning , Mohamed Mahmoud Director of Centre for Critical Studies of Religion , Monica Lanfranco Marea Review , Mostafa Saber Marxist activist , Nahla Mahmoud Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain , Naser Kashkooli Activist of the Worker-communist Party of Iran , Nina Sankari Polish secularist and feminist , Peter Flack Leicester Social Forum , Peter Tatchell Human rights campaigner , Polly Toynbee Journalist , Pragna Patel Director of Southall Black Sisters , Ramin Forghani Founder of Ex-Muslims of Scotland , Richard Dawkins Scientist , Roberto Malini Poet, writer and human rights defender, EveryOne Group , Ronald Lindsay President of Center for Inquiry , Rumana Hashem Founder of Community Women's blog and adviser to Nari Diganta , Safia Lebdi President of Insoumis-es and founder of Free Arab Woman , Safwan Mason on behalf of the Council of ex-Muslims of New Zealand , Sam Harris Neuroscientist and author , Samir Noory Chairperson of Committee for Abolishing Death Penalty in Iraq member of group "No to violence against women in Kirkuk" , Sanal Edamaruku President of Rationalist International , Sarah Peace Fireproof Library , Shelley Segal Singer/Songwriter , AC Grayling Philosopher , Sikivu Hutchinson Author Moral Combat: Black Atheists Gender Politics and the Values Wars , Soad Baba Aissa Association pour la Mixité l'Égalité et la Laïcité , Stephen Evans Campaigns manager of National Secular Society , Stephen Law Philosopher , Sultana Kamal Bangladeshi lawyer and human rights activist , Terry Sanderson President of the National Secular Society , Tom Holland Author and historian , Waleed El Husseini Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France , Yasmin Rehman Centre for Secular Space , Zari Asli Friends of Women in the Middle East Society

 

  The wrong sort of nonsense...

Indian catholic group calls for the ban of a book claiming that christianity originated as a sect of hunduism


Link Here 26th February 2016
christ parichay by  ganesh savarkarThe Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), a Mumbai-based religious campaign group is calling for the banning of the book Christ Parichay (introduction to Christ) claiming it somehow hurts religious sentiments of Christians.

The book by Ganesh Savarkar claims that Jesus Christ was a Tamil Hindu and that Christianity was a sect of Hinduism and that the Essence cult rescued Jesus Christ after he got crucified and revived him using herbs from the Himalayas.

 

 Petition: Satanic Justice...

Members of an Iranian heavy metal band are being held on blasphemy charges


Link Here 25th February 2016  full story: Blasphemy in Iran...Repression of free speech
confess petition Two members of the Iranian heavy metal band Confess are being held for blasphemy after they were arrested by the state's religious guard and accused of writing satanic music.

Nikan Siyanor Khosravi and Khosravi Arash Ilkhani are believed to have been arrested and jailed on November 10. Held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison by the Revolutionary Guards until February 5, the pair wrote and released their own heavy metal albums and ran a record label. Extreme punishments are available for the prosecuting authorities

Their latest album, released in October, included tracks named Teh-Hell-Ran and I'm Your God Now , both of which would likely rankle with the state's hardline Islamic leadership.

Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told MailOnline the pair likely faced up to five years in prison. She said it was likely they would be facing insulting sacred beliefs charges, as other musicians had been in the past, rather than insulting the prophet , which is punishable by death. She added:

Iranian musicians, especially the ones who play non-classical western music, are navigating a minefield. Due to severe censorship, most of these groups are performing underground.

Anything from the content of their lyrics to the style of the music they play might violate unwritten regulations that musicians are expected to adhere to by various authorities.

Social media accounts of those close to the band expressed concern about the pair's plight, and included messages of support and the sharing of the #freeconfess hashtag.

Sign the petition from change.org :

Help Free CONFESS they were arrested by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and are facing charges of blasphemy, advertising against the system, running an illegal and underground band and record label promoting music considered to be Satanic writing anti-religious lyrics and granting interviews to forbidden foreign radio stations.

 

 Updated: Rabid Censorship...

Madonna banned from singing Holy Water at Singapore gig


Link Here 24th February 2016
madonna rebel heartMadonna has been banned from performing the track Holy Water , taken from last year's album Rebel Heart , at her live show at Singapore's National Stadium on 28 February. The show has also been labelled with an adults only R18 rating.

A spokesperson for the music censors at the Media Development Authority stated:

In determining the rating, MDA had carefully reviewed the proposed setlist and consulted the Arts Consultative Panel. Religiously sensitive content which breached our guidelines, such as the song 'Holy Water', will thus not be performed in Singapore.

Update: Recommended by the Archbishop of Singapore

24th February 2016.  See  article from telegraph.co.uk

In a missive to his flock, Archbishop of Singapore, William Goh denounced Madonna's music and stage props as blasphemous and warned believers not to support those who denigrate and insult religions .

The monsignor met government officials to express the Church's concerns about the Singapore stop of Madonna's global Rebel Heart tour .

 

 Updated: An offence against free speech...

Georgia debates and then rejects a new blasphemy law


Link Here 20th February 2016
Georgia flagThe central Asian state of Georgia is planning to introduce a blasphemy law criminalising insults to religion.

The bill would mean a 300 lari fine, around £84, or a week's average salary, for insults to religious feelings . The desecration of a religious building or symbol would result in a fine of 500 lari, equivalent to about £140. In each case, a second offence would attract double the fine.

However there has also been criticism of the bill. Rusudan Gotsiridze, an Evangelical Baptist, and the first female bishop in Georgia has spoken out against the bill, describing it as terrible and warning:

This law is not going to protect anyone; at least not the minorities, and will be a powerful tool against freedom of speech.

Republican Party MP and member of the coalition, Tamar Kordzaia, has also criticised the measure:

A perceived insult to religious feelings should be disputed by an individual. The state can never know if some particular action is offensive to a particular individual.

The ruling coalition endorsed the plans at a meeting of the misleadingly named human rights committee.

Update: Rejected

20th February 2016. See  article from eurasianet.org

Georgia has dropped a proposed anti-blasphemy bill ardently opposed by freedom-of-speech activists. The draft appeared to be causing a split in the ruling Georgian Dream coalition -- never desirable in a parliamentary election year. Saying that the bill needs more work, parliamentarian Soso Jachvliani on February 15 withdrew his own proposal, which already had been conditionally approved by parliament's human rights committee. Parliamentary Speaker Davit Usupashvili announced that the legislature has stopped discussion of the legislation.

Amongst the critics, One Georgian Orthodox priest, Deacon Tamaz Lomidze, described it as absurd:

Who can define religious feelings? What judge can rule on whether a certain action is insulting to someone's religion?

Amnesty International said that the bill threatened to:

Outlaw criticism of religious leaders and institutions, and suppress free speech on topical political and social issues, including the rights of women, of lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people, and of religious minorities.

 

  Speaking of scourges, which has caused the most death and suffering, porn or religion?...

Philippines bishops whinge about porn complete with death wishes for pornographers


Link Here 20th February 2016
catholic bishops conference of the philippines logo

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has issued a message on pornography:

To those who have been exploited and victimized by the pornography industry, nothing that you have done to you can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus! ...

To those who make and distribute pornography, you should heed the stark warning of the Lord Jesus: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matt. 18:6) ...

To those who struggle with pornography, do not allow shame, fear, or pride, to prevent you from returning to God, the Father of Mercies, who loves you beyond all your other loves ... Have recourse to the sacraments regularly, especially the sacrament of confession, to receive the strength and courage from God to help you in your trials. Entrust yourself to the patronage of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary, who have long been linked to the pursuit of holy chastity.

 

 Updated: Antichrist Banned in France...

Religious censors get court to revoke 16 rating for Lars Von Trier's film. Then they turn their attention to The Hateful Eight


Link Here 7th February 2016  full story: Extreme Cuts...Lars Von Trier sexual violence causes a stir
Antichrist DVD Willem Dafoe Antichrist is a 2009 Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Italy/Poland drama by Lars Von Trier.
With Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm. YouTube icon BBFC link IMDb

The film was banned in France in February 2016

Promouvoir, an extremist Catholic pressure group initiated a court case some time ago claiming that the films local 16 rating was incorrect and that the film should be restricted to adults only. The moralists won the case and the court agreed that the film is unsuitable for under 18 and revoked the film's 16 certificate.

Until the film can be re-rated, it is banned from cinema and TV.

The BBFC explained some of the censorship issues when issuing an uncut 18 rating:

At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear.

The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship. Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically.

The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9 SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.

Update: Hateful moralists

7th February 2016. See  article from news.yahoo.com

Hateful Eight DVD Samuel Jackson Buoyed by their success in getting the 16 age rating for Antichrist overturned, religious extremists at Promouvoir (Promote) are now setting their sights on Quentin Tarantino's 12 rated The Hateful Eight .

The Catholic group is now threatening to have Quentin Tarantino's new film pulled from cinemas. They claim that the film  had been granted its certificate illegally .

It also threatened to take action against the French teen film Bang Gang , one of the hits of this year's Toronto film festival.

The French 12 rating for Blue is the Warmest Colour was withdrawn in December 2016 over its extended lesbian scenes. This was the result of court case issued by the religious campaign group Promouvoir (Promote). Abdellatif Kechiche's film is currently banned from cinema and TV and as the film has not yet received a revised certificate.

 

 

  Salafistes...

France film censors award rare 18 rating to film about religious extremism


Link Here 27th January 2016  full story: Salafistes...Courts overrule French film censors
france interdit-18-ansThe French ministry of culture will allow cinemas to show the controversial film Salafistes , which features interviews with North African jihadists, but have banned it for anyone under 18 in a rare move for a documentary in France.

The over-18 rating is normally only given to pornographic films, although it has featured for mainstream films when politicians have got themselves involved in the process.

According to the filmmakers, the 18 rating will kill the film , as it effectively bans it from being aired on public TV and means cinemas will be reluctant to show it.

Salafistes, whose title refers to the ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam that drives movements such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group, drew accusations of promoting terrorism by showing frank interviews with jihadists bent on attacking Western, and in particular French, targets.

It was also accused of being an attack on human dignity in that it shows the murder of French policeman Ahmed Merabet during the January 2015 attacks on the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Merabet was shot at point blank range on the street outside the magazine's offices.

Filmmakers François Margolin and Lemime Ould Salem said they had removed the offending scene, but insist that the film should be given as wide an audience as possible. According to the filmmakers, the violence itself serves as the best counterpoint to the interviewees' Salafist philosophy. Margolin said:

We are reporters. We tell people what is happening and what people are saying, we want viewers to hear the [jihadists'] arguments from their own mouths Reporting on what they say is not the same thing as promoting their ideas. When making the film, we worked on the principle that our audience is intelligent.

 

 Update: Hurt sentiments...

TV comedian briefly jailed for blasphemy against a cult leader


Link Here 14th January 2016  full story: Blasphemy in India...Hurting religious sentiments
kiku shardaA day after he was arrested and forced to spend a few hours in an Indian jail for mocking a self-styled religious sect leader, popular comedian Kiku Sharda called the experience traumatic, sad and sudden.

The comedian was arrested for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in an episode on December 27.

Amid nationwide outrage, Sharda was also sent to custody for 14 days but released after a few hours in jail, soon after the Dera chief said he forgave him. But around 10 pm, he was detained again and then released this morning.

Thankfully I didn't spend 14 days in jail, Sharda remarked, joking, however, that he did feel more secure in jail than outside because of the crowd of Baba Ram Rahim's followers in court. There was uproar when I came. It was scary.

The comedian, booked for hurting religious sentiment, said he had faced this sort of trouble for the first time in 13 years.

The Dera Sacha Sauda, a sect that has a strong presence in Punjab and Haryana, describes itself as a social welfare and spiritual organisation with millions of followers in India and abroad. It doesn't sound a very noce group though, with police investigating claims that 400 followers were forced to undergo castrations so that they could get closer to God .

 

 Offsite Article: Let's blame porn for everything...


Link Here 8th January 2016
deutsche welle logo Ludicrous academic sees porn as a possible cause of Cologne New Year assaults but totally rejects any connection to the ethnicity of the perpetrators

See article from dw.com

 

 Offsite Article: Religious Correctness...


Link Here 7th January 2016
Reporters without Borders logo A year after Charlie, RSF cautions against the insidious imposition of a 'religious correctness' that poses a major threat to the journalistic freedom to inform others (and make them laugh).

See article from en.rsf.org

 

 Offsite Article: The truth about Charlie...


Link Here 7th January 2016  full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
open democracy logo Oe year after the 7 January attacks. By Karima Bennoune

See article from opendemocracy.net

 

 Offsite Article: Our sacred right to blaspheme...


Link Here 6th January 2016  full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
charlie hebdo logo Charlie Hebdo has been attacked, threatened, misunderstood and maligned, but it sticks to its core values. By Caroline Fourest

See article from politico.eu

 

 Update: One year on and the assassin is still amongst us...

Charlie Hebdo releases a special edition to note the anniversary of the terrorist attack


Link Here 4th January 2016  full story: Charlie Hebdo...Censored by terrorists
hebdo sepecial A special edition of Charlie Hebdo will mark a year since brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi burst into Charlie Hebdo's offices in eastern Paris and killed 12 people, including eight of the magazine's staff.  Included in the special edition will be a collection of cartoons by the five Charlie Hebdo artists killed in the 2015 attack as well as several external contributors.

Cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, who took over the management of the weekly after the attack, also wrote an angry editorial in defence of secularism. It denounces:

Fanatics brutalised by the Koran as well as those from other religions who hoped for the death of the magazine for daring to laugh at the religious.

7.5 million people bought the first post-attack issue and 200,000 people signed up for a subscription. However, the magazine's staff feel unsupported in their struggle, said financial director Eric Portheault, who escaped death by hiding behind his desk when the gunmen stormed in, said:

We feel terribly alone. We hoped that others would do satire too. No one wants to join us in this fight because it's dangerous. You can die doing it.

Commemorative plaques will be unveiled at the sites of the January attacks, including at the weekly's former offices, in modest ceremonies attended by families and government officials, a City of Paris spokesman said.

On 10 January, a more public ceremony will take place on the Place de la Republique, the square in eastern Paris which became an informal memorial. President Francois Hollande will preside over the ceremony.

Update: Protests

6th January 2016. See  article from theguardian.com
See  article from theguardian.com

A Turkish state-run news agency said a court ordered the telecommunications authority to ban access to websites showing the cover. Anadolu Agency said the ban was ordered by a court in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir. A lawyer in Diyarbakir filed a petition saying the websites were a danger to public order .

In the Philippines, police said about 1,500 people protested in the Muslim-majority city of Marawi, with local politicians and teenage students packing the main square and some raising their fists in the air as a Charlie Hebdo poster was burned. T he organisers said in a statement:

What happened in France, the Charlie Hebdo killing, is a moral lesson for the world to respect any kind of religion, especially the religion of Islam. Freedom of expression does not extend to insulting the noble and the greatest prophet of Allah.

The Muslim Council of Great Britain advised Muslims to react with dignified nobility . Its advice sheet says:

Our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the prophet (peace be upon him). Enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy as was the character of our beloved prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is the best and immediate way to respond.

The Vatican's newspaper has criticised French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo for a front cover portraying God as a gun-wielding terrorist. In a commentary, the Vatican daily Osservatore Romano said treatment of this kind towards religion is not new -- and stressed that religious figures have repeatedly condemned violence in the name of God. The newspaper said:

Behind the deceptive flag of uncompromising secularism, the weekly is forgetting once more what religious leaders of every faith unceasingly repeat to reject violence in the name of religion -- using God to justify hatred is a genuine blasphemy, as pope Francis has said several times

In Charlie Hebdo's choice, there is the sad paradox of a world which is more and more sensitive about being politically correct, almost to the point of ridicule, yet does not wish to acknowledge or to respect believers' faith in God, regardless of the religion.

 

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