Thursday, December 06, 2007

Well, blass my soul

A-well-a bless-a my soul
What's a-wrong with me?
I'm-a itching like a man on a fuzzy tree

Elvis Presley**

(Image from the Weatherguys at USAToday)

An Italian company that is sending virtual prayer cards to the mobile phones of the faithful was accused of blasphemy yesterday by the Roman Catholic Church.

"I don't think it is scandalous or blasphemous at all. We have had saint and prayer cards for more than 600 years and we will always continue to have them.

"What we are doing is moving with the times,"

The High Court has ruled that a Christian activist may not prosecute a BBC executive under British blasphemy laws over the corporation's screening of Jerry Springer - The Opera.
Based on US television host Jerry Springer's brash talk show, the musical depicts Jesus being referred to as "a little bit gay" and features Eve attempting to fondle his genitals.

That the British teacher Gillian Gibbons required a presidential pardon to avoid 15 days' imprisonment in Sudan for blasphemy over the naming of a teddy bear surely represents the high watermark of absurdity in relations between the Muslim and Western worlds.
The story begins normally enough. Gibbons introduced her seven-year-old students to a teddy bear they would each take home throughout the year, in the manner of a class pet. Asked to name it, the children chose "Muhammad". Gibbons wrote to parents to inform them of the activity. Of course, none objected. Then one day, the police came to call, arresting Gibbons for "insulting religion".

my personal issue, above everything else, is that because of this laughable event, real blasphemous incidents, where someone will try and speak ill of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), not a teddy bear who is called Mohammed (big difference), will not be taken seriously or considered with the respect it deserves.

'Blasphemous' feminist writer hounded out of home by violent Muslim protests
On Thursday, Nasrin was forced to flee from the city of Kolkata where she has been living for the past two years, a day after Muslim activists led protests against her which resulted 50 people being injured and the imposition of a curfew. The All India Minorities Forum, a Muslim group, has demanded she be deported not just from Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, but from India.

Having fled from Bangladesh in 1994,[where she was charged with blasphemy,] Nasrin has long been confronted by people who do not like what she has to say. Three local politicians attacked her with tables and flower-pots. For all of this Nasrin remains adamant that her work is not blasphemous but that it campaigns for the rights of women. "As for my works, never have I written anything against the Islamic religion," he said. "They are all about the sad plight of women in our society."

As Christians around the country are met with violence and marginalization, Dr. Gary Cass, has founded the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) a new organization that aims to counter threats to millions of Christians' First Amendment rights.
According to Christian Bashing, some of the recent egregious examples of religious bigotry include:
# Bill Maher, who regularly belittles Christians, began his HBO program on May 18 with a vicious, blasphemous attack on the Christian faith, making lurid remarks associating Holy Communion with homosexuality.

Ten years ago I was investigated for committing a blasphemous libel.
The reason? A conservative Christian campaign group, Reform, had made a complaint against the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM). Under the blasphemy laws the police were obliged to investigate.

Indonesian human rights lawyers are again questioning the country’s commitment to religious freedom after the recent arrests of several unorthodox Islamic leaders and the banning of their organizations.
On Nov. 9, the Indonesian Supreme Court sentenced Abdul Rachman, who claims to be the reincarnation of the Prophet Muhammad and is the No. 2 leader of a religious group known as Lia Eden, to three years in prison for blasphemy.

Although Indonesia’s Constitution explicitly guarantees freedom of religion, the government extends this protection to only six officially recognized faiths: Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.

Various laws and edicts prohibit blasphemy, heresy, proselytizing and apostasy. In practice, they are applied primarily to perceived offenses against mainstream Islam. Nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims.

Mr. Moshaddeq, whose house was burned down this year by a mob, had said that he was the next Muslim prophet and did not require his followers to pray five times a day or toward Mecca. A central tenet of Islam is that Muhammad was the final prophet

Italian Muslims have swiftly acted to stop the sale in local stores of toilet seat covers that feature verses of the Noble Qur'an in an unprecedented blasphemous act
They feature verses from the Noble Qur'an printed on the double face of the cover seats and intersected by colorful flowers and Latin words.

Following Muslim complaints, police raided the four braches of the company in the town of Latina, 60km south of Rome, and seized 2,000 such pieces on sale.

Interior minister Giuliano Amato met Friday with Italian Muslim leaders at the main Rome Mosque to reassure them that Italy would not tolerate such outrageous acts.

"This is an insult to the Muslim faith," The imam of the Lazio town of Latina's mosque, Sheikh Yusuf, told Amato.

"This is not about art and beauty as the company claims; this is a crime,"

India needs Blasphemy Act
there is no consensus on the contentious subject of freedom of creative expression versus maintenance of social harmony. Time and again the Government has been forced to intervene, usually bowing to sectional protest, over alleged hurt to religious sensibilities.

The growing militancy against various such depictions is not confined to Muslims alone. Release of The Da Vinci Code was held up in many States (actually banned in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh) due to Christian unrest. Punjab was on the boil till recently over the allegedly blasphemous actions of the breakaway Sacha Sauda sect. And Hindus are sensitive to Hussain's frequent nude depictions, including a recent painting of Bharat Mata.

Only a codified Blasphemy Act can prevent people from stretching the limits of creative expression to a point where violent reaction is inevitable.

Lord Carey of Clifton, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has publicly agreed with the Christian think-tank Ekklesia that it is time for Britain's archaic blasphemy law to be abolished.
The ex-Archbishop protested against what he said was an increase in "offensive" material about Christianity in the public domain, including 'Jerry Springer - The Opera', over which Stephen Green of Christian Voice is trying to arraign the BBC in a private prosecution.

But Lord Carey said that Christ told his followers to put away their swords and did not seek to defend faith by force.

Bartley said that a blasphemy law was itself blasphemous from a theological viewpoint, because it suggested that the transcendent God somehow needed human laws for protection.

Ekklesia has also pointed out that Christ faced an accusation of blasphemy at the trial that led to his death, and a Christian dramatist on the show said that many of Jesus' stories and comments caused great offence in his day.

Blasphemy as a legal offence was backed by Tory MP Anne Widdecombe, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, "so long as there is an Established Church in this country".

Other supporters of blasphemy couched it in terms of a Christendom (church-state alliance) or theocratic approach. Ekklesia has argued that such views undermine a gospel of radical equality and humility rooted in the life of Christ.

What all these incidents underline is the failure of the Indian state to protect artistic freedom and even academics unless they follow the censorship norms prescribed by bigots. And the reason for this failure is the reluctance of politicians to take on the fundamentalists, masquerading as patriots intent on preventing any denigration of religious and cultural sentiments, or deviation from ‘politically correct’ notions about historical figures.
Unfortunately, this pusillanimity of the political class cuts across party lines as well as the secular-communal divide.

Evidently, just as the ‘communal’ BJP likes to whip up religious fervour to woo its vote bank of xenophobic Hindus, the ‘secular’ comrades too do not mind appeasing their own vote bank of Muslims even if this means pandering to the retrogressive elements in their ranks.

Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, which premiered in London last night, has angered the Catholic Church, which regards it as a pernicious attack by a militant atheist.
the American Catholic Church ... has turned its wrath on the production for promoting what it deems a viciously sacrilegious message that boils down to nothing less than "atheism for kids".

In recent years, the Church has looked to Hollywood with renewed interest as a string of films seen as portraying Christianity in a favourable light were embraced as useful recruiting weapons among a younger, trendier demographic. No less a figure than the late Pope John Paul II approved Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, prompting church groups to embark on a sophisticated new marketing strategy in which free tickets were distributed, entire cinemas booked out, and blogs crammed full of positive reviews exhorting the public to follow suit.

So too with the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for which Catholic publishing companies brought out companion guides and Church representatives arrived in their busloads for specially arranged advanced screenings.

Now, though, the Church is mobilising those resources against The Golden Compass with the same vigour. Catholic organisations have called on followers to boycott the film, which they accuse of denigrating their faith and of pursuing an unambiguously anti-Catholic agenda.

Father Marco Damanti, from Sicily, wrote to the makers of the caffeinated energy drink denouncing their commercial as "a blasphemous act" and said on Monday he had received a prompt reply promising to remove it from Italian television.
The advert depicted four wise men, instead of three, visiting Mary and the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The fourth wise man bore a can of the soft drink.

"The image of the sacred family has been represented in a sacrilegious way," Father Damanti told Corriere della Sera. "Whatever the ironic intentions of Red Bull, the advert pokes fun at the nativity, and at Christian sensitivity".

The priest also objected to the company's slogan, "Red Bull gives you wings", said by angels in the animated advert.

The commercial is by no means the first to fall foul of Italian religious sensibilities. Sony, fashion house Marithe et Francois Girbaud, and pop singer Madonna are among those whose adverts have been banned on the grounds of religion.


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