Posts Tagged ‘Blasphemy’

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Denmark flagDenmark’s blasphemy ban was recently revived when a man was charged for burning the Quran. Signatories argue that an expression grossly offensive to religious believers merits protection as peaceful ‘free speech’.

We the undersigned respectfully urge the Danish Parliament to vote in favour of bill L 170 repealing the blasphemy ban in section 140 of the Danish criminal code, punishing “Any person who, in public, ridicules or insults the dogmas or worship of any lawfully existing religious community”.

Denmark is recognized as a global leader when it comes to the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. However, Denmark’s blasphemy ban is manifestly inconsistent with the Danish tradition for frank and open debate, and puts Denmark in the same category as illiberal states where blasphemy laws are being used to silence dissent and persecute minorities. The recent decision to charge a man — who had burned the Quran — for violating section 140 for the first time since 1971, demonstrates that the blasphemy ban is not merely of symbolic value. It represents a significant retrograde step in the protection of freedom of expression in Denmark.

The Danish blasphemy ban is incompatible with both freedom of expression and equality before the law. There is no compelling reason why the feelings of religious believers should receive special protection against offense. In a vibrant and pluralistic democracy, all issues must be open to even harsh and scathing debate, criticism and satire. While the burning of holy books may be grossly offensive to religious believers it is nonetheless a peaceful form of symbolic expression that must be protected by free speech.

Numerous Danes have offended the religious feelings of both Christians and Muslims without being charged under section 140. This includes a film detailing the supposed erotic life of Jesus Christ, the burning of the Bible on national TV and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed. The Cartoon affair landed Denmark in a storm of controversy and years of ongoing terrorist threats against journalists, editors and cartoonists. When terror struck in February 2015 the venue was a public debate on blasphemy and free speech.

In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended. In this environment Denmark must maintain that in a liberal democracy laws protect those who offend from threats, not those who threaten from being offended.Retaining the blasphemy ban is also incompatible with Denmark’s human rights obligations. In April 2017 Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagtland emphasized that “blasphemy should not be deemed a criminal offence as the freedom of conscience forms part of freedom of expression”. This position is shared by the UN’s Human Rights Committee and the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression and Religion.

Since 2014,The Netherlands, Norway, Iceland and Malta have all abolished blasphemy bans. By going against this trend Denmark will undermine the crucial European and international efforts to repeal blasphemy bans globally.

This has real consequences for human beings, religious and secular, around the globe. In countries like Pakistan, Mauritania, Iran, Indonesia and Russia blasphemy bans are being used against minorities and political and religious dissenters. Denmark’s blasphemy ban can be used to legitimize such laws. In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief pointed out that “During a conference held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) [in 2015], the Danish blasphemy provision was cited by one presenter as an example allegedly indicating an emerging international customary law on “combating defamation of religions”.

Blasphemy laws often serve to legitimize violence and terror. In Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh free thinkers, members of religious minorities and atheists have been killed by extremists. In a world where freedom of expression is in retreat and extremism on the rise, democracies like Denmark must forcefully demonstrate that inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant societies are built on the right to think, believe and speak freely. By voting to repeal the blasphemy ban Denmark will send a clear signal that it stands in solidarity with the victims and not the enforcers of blasphemy laws.

Jacob Mchangama, Executive director, Justitia
Steven Pinker, Professor Harvard University
Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, Exiled editor of Shuddhashar, 2016 winner International Writer of Courage Award
Pascal Bruckner, Author
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Human Rights Activist Founder of AHA Foundation,
Dr. Elham Manea, academic and human rights advocate (Switzerland)
Sultana Kamal, Chairperson, Centre for Social Activism Bangladesh
Deeyah Khan, CEO @Fuuse & founder @sister_hood_mag.
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
William Nygaard, Publisher
Flemming Rose, Author and journalist
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO, Index on Censorship
Kenan Malik, Author of From Fatwa to Jihad
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director Article 19
Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America
Pragna Patel – Director of Southall Black Sisters
Leena Krohn, Finnish writer
Jeanne Favret-Saada, Honorary Professor of Anthropology, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes,
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Fariborz Pooya, Host of Bread and Roses TV
Frederik Stjernfelt, Professor, University of Aalborg in Copenhagen
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
Michael De Dora, Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry
Robyn Blumner, President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Nina Sankari, Kazimierz Lyszczynski Foundation (Poland).
Sonja Biserko, Founder and president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
James Lindsay, Author
Mahal Mali, Publisher and editor, Areo Magazine
Julie Lenarz – Executive Director, Human Security Centre, London
Terry Sanderson President, National Secular Society
Greg Lukianoff, CEO and President, FIRE
Thomas Cushman, Professor Wellesley College
Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law, New York Law School
Simon Cottee, the Freedom Project, Wellesley College
Paul Cliteur, professor of Jurisprudence at Leiden University
Lino Veljak, University of Zagreb, Croatia
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universals Rights , WICUR
Lepa Mladjenovic, LC, Belgrade
Elsa Antonioni, Casa per non subire violenza, Bologna
Bobana Macanovic, Autonomos Women’s Center, Director, Belgrade
Harsh Kapoor, Editor, South Asia Citizens Web
Mehdi Mozaffari, Professor Em., Aarhus University, Denmark
Øystein Rian, Historian, Professor Emeritus University of Oslo
Kjetil Jakobsen, Professor Nord University
Scott Griffen, Director of Press Freedom Programmes International Press Institute (IPI)
Henryk Broder, Journalist
David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées, Atheist freethinkers Tom Herrenberg, Lecturer University of Leiden
Simone Castagno, Coordinamento Liguria Rainbow
Laura Caille, Secretary General Libres Mariannes General
Andy Heintz, writer
Bernice Dubois, Conseil Européen des Fédérations WIZO

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stephen fry gay byrne video Police in Ireland are investigating a complaint of blasphemy regarding comments made by Stephen Fry on a television programme shown on Ireland’s state broadcaster, RTE in 2015?.Under Ireland’s Defamation Act 2009 a person who publishes or utters blasphemous material shall be guilty of an offence .

While being interviewed on The Meaning of Life TV programme, Fry was asked what he would say to God if he had a chance. Fry replied:

I’d say ‘Bone cancer in children, what’s that about?’ How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It’s not right. It’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?

Fry’s humerous and powerful reply on YouTube has been viewed more than seven million times.

A member of the public, who asked not to be identified, said he made the complaint against Fry more than two years ago at Ennis garda station in County Clare. After hearing nothing for 18 months, the complainant wrote to the head of the Irish police, Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan. The man was then contacted by a detective from Donnybrook garda station in Dublin to say they were looking into the blasphemy claim.

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Ofcom logo Ofcom have issued the following announcement in the latest complaints bulletin

On 4 May 2016 Ofcom published changes to the rules in Section Three of the Broadcasting Code, and accompanying guidance, to ensure they are as clear as possible for broadcasters.

We publicly consulted on our proposals to revise Section Three of the Code in January 2016.

Section Three relates to crime. It prohibits the broadcast of material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime, or to lead to disorder. It also helps to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in services of harmful and/or offensive material. Ofcom has updated the title of the Section from Crime to Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and introduced two additional rules which apply to content containing hate speech and abusive or derogatory treatment.

Presumably the new rules are:

Section Three: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse

Hatred and Abuse

3.2 Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context.

3.3 Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services except where it is justified by the context. (See also Rule 4.2).

I bet some religious people will be celebrating, not quite realising that it will be themselves who will get caught out by the new rules when they inevitably insult other religions.

Any by way of examples, the latest Complaints Bulletin chastises:

  • the islamic channel Noor TV for spreading hatred of jews.
  • the christian channel SonLife Broadcasting Network for insulting muslims
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HM Courts Service Street preacher Michael Overd has been found guilty of using threatening or abusive words after making homophobic remarks during a sermon delivered in Taunton High Street.Overd was ordered to pay £250 to a passer-by who had been ‘offended’ by the preacher’s comments, and he initially refused, at which point judge Shamim Qureshi threatened the preacher with a prison sentence. He has been ordered to pay total costs of £1200.

Overd intends to appeal his conviction and said I follow my Lord and leader, so I won’t tone down.

The street preacher was charged with a public order offence, after complaints were made by members of the public that he had made homophobic and Islamophobic remarks. In particular he quoted Leviticus 20:13 :

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (English Standard Bible)

The BBC reports that the judge told the preacher he seemed to enjoy testing the laws on free speech to their limits . Overd was also told that he should not have quoted from Leviticus 20:13 when speaking about homosexuality , according to Christian Today, who also report that the judge suggested that there were other verses he could have chosen if he wanted to talk about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Judge Qureshi also works as a judge for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, which aims to help Muslims resolve disputes in accordance with Islamic Sacred Law.

Overd was found not guilty on two other charges, which included causing racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress after he made critical remarks about the Muslim religious character Mohammed.

The National Secular Society has previously raised concerns about the trial’s implications for free speech. Terry Sanderson, NSS president, said the ruling appeared to make the quoting of certain passages of the Bible illegal:

Whilst we all want to encourage public civility, there is a higher principle at stake. As long as there is no incitement to violence, then people should be allowed to speak freely without fearing legal repercussions.

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See article from maltatoday.com.mt

EU flagOn 13 June, MEPs voted in favour of 2 resolutions to set the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief, which explicitly mention the need to protect the rights of both believers and non-believers and oppose any attempt to criminalise freedom of expression on religious grounds.

The first resolution ( 2011/2081(INI) ), focusing on press freedom: Recognizes that governments have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing and protecting freedom of the press and media. The resolution also points out that governments also have the primary responsibility for hampering freedom of the press and media and, in the worst cases, are increasingly resorting to legal pressures in order to restrict that freedom, e.g. through the abuse of anti-terrorism or anti-extremism legislation and laws on national security, treason or subversion. The EP endorses a balance between the concerns of national security and press freedom. The resolution goes further to deplore the fact that journalists are frequently wounded or murdered or are being subjected to serious abuses throughout the world, often with impunity, and stresses the importance of combating impunity.

The second resolution ( 2013/2082(INI) ), centering on religious freedom, endorses the firm opposition of any attempt to criminalise freedom of speech in relation to religious issues, such as blasphemy laws. The EP predictably condemns all forms of violence and discrimination, but goes further to emphasize that particular attention should be paid to the situation of those who change their religion or belief, as in practice they are subject in a number of countries to social pressure, intimidation or outright violence.

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See Detailed Cuts: Blasphemy at the BBFC

Visions of Ecstasy DVDThankfully religion doesn’t feature very often in British film censorship decisions. However the few instances that have been spotted to date have been gathered together onto this page.

Cuts and bans for blasphemy have been recorded for the following films:

  • Belladonna: My Ass is Haunted. 2004 US adult video by Belladonna.
  • The Big Bang. 1987 France/Belgium animated comedy Sci-Fi by Picha
  • Catacombs. 1988 Italy/US horror by David Schmoeller.
  • The Devils. 1971 UK drama by Ken Russell
  • The Last Temptation of Christ. 1988 US/Canada drama by Martin Scorsese.
  • Multiple Maniacs. 1970 US comedy crime film by John Waters.
  • Visions of Ecstasy. 1989 UK erotic short by Nigel Wingrove.

See Detailed Cuts: Blasphemy at the BBFC

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Thanks to Jon
See more at Melon Farmers cuts details: Visions of Ecstasy

Visions of Ecstasy DVDVisions of Ecstasy is a 1989 UK erotic short by Nigel Wingrove. With Louise Downie, Elisha Scott and Dan Fox. See IMDb

Passed 18 uncut for nudity and sex involving religious images for:

  • UK 2012 4Digital/Redemption R2 DVD at UK Amazon for release 26th March 2012

Previously Banned

Previously banned by the BBFC for:

  • UK 1989 Axel VHS

The BBFC decision was subsequently appealed to the Video Appeals Committee who upheld the ban.

DVD Features

Included with this historic film is a 40 page, booklet written by the films director, Nigel Wingrove, in which he explains how the film came to be made, the effect its banning had on his life and future work, and how his continuing battles against film censorship led eventually to the resignation of the BBFC’s then director, JamesFerman, the legalisation of pornography and a general relaxations of film classification overall.

Also included on this DVD are the director s first erotic short film, Axel (1986) and his nunsploitation feature, Sacred Flesh (2000), in which a Mother Superior struggles with her sexual desires in a series of imagined dialogues with Mary Magdalene will her mind torments her with images of sexual perversion, lesbianism and sadomasochism. Sacred Flesh was cut by 25s by the BBFC when it was submitted in 2000.

Additional extras include extensive stills, press gallery and interviews.