Some good news from Bangladesh on the plight of the “Atheist Bloggers” who were associated with Shahbag movement and were subsequently detained without trial for allegedly “defaming Islam”.
Dhaka Senior Special Judge Mohammad Zahurul Haque granted bail to Shuvo and Rasel after taking into cognisance the charges against the three bloggers arrested.
The court’s Additional Public Prosecutor Tapash Paul told bdnews24.com that the other blogger – Mashiur Rahman Biplab – had submitted no bail petition. “That is why the court granted bail to the two.”
These bloggers were accused of ‘inciting religious passions’ through their postings on the Internet. These bloggers were arrested from Dhaka on Apr 1 following persistent demands by Hifazat-e Islam to punish ‘atheists’.
Shuvo, Biplab and Pervez were sent on remand under article 54 as suspects.
Two weeks ago, on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon, I made my way to the Old Palace Yard in Westminster to support the Freedom of Expression rally organised by One Law For All.
The rally followed several incidents in London recently where freedom of expression was curtailed in favour of fear of causing offence. In one incident, a talk on sharia law by One Law for All’s Anne Marie Waters was cancelled following threats of violence. Rhys Morgan was told by his school to remove a picture of Jesus and Mo from his Facebook page – a picture he had used in solidarity with the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society who had been asked by their student union to remove the same image. Both UCL and the London School of Economics have since passed draconian motions which will further restrict religious criticism or satire at their schools.
Salman Rushdie was banned from attending the Jaipur Literary Festival. After even his video address to the Festival was cancelled, here is in an exclusive interview to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt. Rushdie says he is coming to India and the politicians will just have to learn to deal with it.
HOLD THIS DATE – 11 February 2012
A Day to Defend Free Expression
One Law for All is calling for a rally in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion on 11 February 2012 in central London from 2-4pm.
We are also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on 11 February in countries world-wide.
The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokespersonAnne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. Saying ‘Who gave these kuffar the right to speak?’, anIslamist website called for the disruption of the meeting. Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims.
I was so saddened to learn about the trial in Tunisia over the broadcasting of the animated movie, Persepolis. The Tunisian revolution which was supposed to be about the overthrow of a dictator will soon descend into a religious dictatorship, if the secular Tunisians remain silent about this sort of thing. Once again, my favourite quote by Edmund Burke “Evil Only Prevails, When the Good Remain Silent” manifests itself in our own times.
The animated movie, Persepolis, is not about attacking sacred values at all. Only a religious zealot moron could come to such a conclusion. It is in fact a brilliant depiction of how a revolution against dictatorship is hijacked by such extremists. It is a movie that pre-warns ordinary people what will happen if they remain silent and allow the extremists to take over.
Officials from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) have demanded that mobile operators ban text messages which contain ‘offensive’ words. The PTA have drafted a list of some 1500 words and phrases in English and another of 1000 words in Urdu. The list has become an international talking point online while the words on the list have trended on Twitter.
After serious deliberation and consultation, officials from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have come up with more than 50 phrases using the word “fuck” and 17 involving “butt”.
The list includes several apparently innocuous words and phrases, including “flatulence”, “deposit” and “fondle”. Others would likely only make sense to frustrated teenagers.
Among the more printable terms are “strap-on”, “beat your meat”, “crotch rot”, “love pistol”, “pocket pool” and “quickie”.
By and large the reaction has been ridicule and all of it directed at the PTA. Not least from Pakistanis themselves:
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi has an important and well-argued piece on the Charlie Hebdo firebombing and the failure of the liberal-left to stand up for it’s own liberal traditions. Last time it was the Guardian which capitulated to religious obscurantism in reaction to the Mo Toons. This time round it’s Time magazine (yes, that esteemed current affairs journal) which propped up a disgusting and cowardly justification of the incident by Bruce Crumley, on the basis that Muslims should not be expected to tolerate any form of offence to their prophet or their religious politics; not so much because Charlie Hebdo crossed the line of offence but because Muslims are incapable of rational self-critique. Disrespect Muslims at your peril. They might be inarticulate by ‘our’ standards, implies Crumley, but violence is the lingo of the offence takers.
When this article was published this morning, the subs at the Indpendent gave it the title ‘Why we have to get over our fear of Islamophobia‘. Twelve hours later, they’ve renamed it to ‘Islamophobia: Why we have to get over our fears‘. Whatever they choose to call it, this is an amazing article. The author of the piece is Rania Hafez, a teacher educator and academic and founder and director of ‘Muslim Women in Education’.
‘Islamophobia is the new racism’ is now a seeming truism, or so Baroness Warsi and many others would have us believe. She claims that Islamophobia has ‘passed the dinner table test’ and that anti-Muslim prejudice is now normal and uncontroversial in respectable society. Warsi’s views are echoed by many British Muslims, who claim to experience such prejudice daily.
i came upon this notice in synagogue this morning. it makes interesting reading – as a piece of satire, of course, which i hoped and prayed it is, but unfortunately, on investigation, it isn’t, although it was, due to its over-the-topness, taken as such by the regulars, which was a relief. i know there are synagogues where it would not occur to anyone to think it might be satire – there is at least one commentator who sympathises, but nevertheless thinks it’s “overstated”!
the state of "yiddishkeit" yesterday
anyway, it appears to be (you can download it from here) from one of the increasingly odd sub-groups of the breslover sect of hasidim, who you may have seen in the recent tv documentary partying at their annual jamboree at the sect founder’s tomb in the town of uman in the ukraine. they are regarded as somewhat odd even by other hasidim (in a kind of sufi high-on-G!D hippy kind of way) but they are rather obsessed with the kabbalistic aspects of correct sexual activity, the piece itself being extremely revealing of the attitudes that filter through in much of the discourse from the haredi world, particularly the hasidic bits, so i thought i’d share it, with some translation and commentary: