SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – With nothing to declare but his wit, Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef’s fight for free speech has been buoyed on Monday by top U.S. satirist Jon Stewart, who Youssef has been internationally likened to.
Continuing Youssef’s theme of poking fun at the Egyptian president, Stewart did the same.
“I know Bassem pretty well,” Stewart said on his Monday night episode of The Daily Show, “so you can imagine I was shocked that this whole time I was consorting with a criminal!”
“If insulting the presidency and Islam here were illegal [in the U.S.], Fox News would go bye-bye!”
“Sounds like Egypt’s Mohammed Mursi’s got his hands full,” adds Stewart after a brief rundown of crises in Egypt which have peaked since the revolution, including diving tourism revenues, economic drawbacks, aging infrastructure and a spike in sexual harassment.
“Can’t wait to see how President Mursi tackles these complex and urgent issues,” he satirically says before beginning to chew over the arrest of Youssef for insulting the presidency, which included mocking Mursi for his English skills and for the hat he wore in Pakistan while being awarded an honorary degree.
“Making fun of the president’s hat and his less-than-fluent English, that was my entire career for eight years!” Stewart said, bringing up an image of a previous George Bush sketch, in which he wore a hat identical to that one worn by the former U.S. president.
“Has he [Youssef] been sabotaging Egypt’s infrastructure? Harassing Egyptian women on the streets, or unemploying the Egyptian people? What did he do?” Stewart asks mockingly.
Stewart then proceeded to show clips of Mursi insulting Jews and Zionism, with one clip showing Mursi labeling them the “descendants of apes and pigs.”
International eyes on Youssef
Turning up at the prosecutor’s office after an arrest warrant was issued from him, then placed on bail last week, Youssef has attracted support from a host of international observers, slapping him on the back for his comedic free speech.
Youssef “isn’t scared of anybody,” CNN presenter Christiane Amanpour previously said of the satirist.
“With so much political turmoil in the country, Youssef’s mission is to make Egyptians laugh, while informing them at the same time,” Amanpour added, before an interview with the comedian in December 2012.
Back then, Youssef had said the “president has been accepting [his sketches] well,” and that he even invited Mursi to the show.
“This is the best time to have a politically satire program in Egypt. We are the drama queen of the world with everything that’s happening …. Comic satire is the best way to comment on everything,” he told Amanpour.
But the presidency’s targeting of Bassem Youssef was described as a “political witch hunt” by UK-based newspaper The Independent this week after his arrest.
In an article questioning whether the comedian’s jokes “went too far,” the newspaper tied in Youssef’s arrest with another set of arrests of Mursi’s prominent opponents.
“Last week, following a series of clashes between anti-government protesters and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s general prosecutor issued arrest warrants for five prominent opponents of Mr. Mursi’s. They included the high-profile blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who was arrested in 2011 and also back in 2006 during the time of Hosni Mubarak.”
Youssef’s arrest has also raised questions over the possibility of a wider censorship of the media, a report from the UK-based newspaper The Guardian noted.
“For several months, the prosecutor-general has summoned journalists for questioning on charges of criminal defamation. But no related legal proceedings have yet been set in motion, which is why this week's developments have so alarmed the opposition,” the report stated.
With the news reaching across Europe and the rest of the world, comments from France24 on Youssef’s 15,000 Egyptian pound bail release, included a mention of his “irreverent humor” when he arrived wearing an oversized version of the hat Mursi wore in Pakistan.
“Bassem Youssef was even cracking jokes via Twitter even when he was in the prosecutor’s office,” a Cairo correspondent from France24 noted.
Youssef’s tweets via his verified Twitter account included: "Police officers and lawyers at the prosecutor-general's office want to be photographed with me, maybe this is why they ordered my arrest?"
"Then they asked me: What is the color of your eyes Bassem?" tweeted the green-eyed former physician turned satirist.
Local Egyptian press has generally sided with Youssef, as seen in daily online English-language newspaper Egypt Independent and even state-owned outlets, such as Ahram Online. News reports on comedian’s arrest have been fast and frequent, with protests from Youssef’s supporters also dominating the headlines.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A recent attack on a Danish writer known for his anti-Islam views has invited a storm of condemnations from the Muslim community in Denmark, an approach seen by many in the Scandinavian country as a shift in the Muslim reaction to freedom of speech.
“We Muslims have to find a new way of reacting,” Qaiser Najeeb, a 38-year-old second-generation Dane, told The New York Times on Thursday, February 28.
“Instead of focusing on the real point, we always get aggressive and emotional. This should change,” said Najeeb, of Afghan origin.
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“We don’t defend Hedegaard’s views but do defend his right to speak. He can say what he wants.”
Lars Hedegaard, who is known for his anti-Islam views, survived an attempt on his life earlier this month.
The identity of the attacker on the writer, who is a major figure in a British group, Hope Not Hate, identified as a global movement of “Islamophobic” writers, bloggers and activists, was not known.
But the attack has triggered widespread condemnations from Muslim groups in Denmark.
The Islamic Society, which runs Denmark’s biggest mosque, swiftly condemned the attack on Hedegaard.
The Minhaj ul Quran International, another Muslim group, also denounced the attack and organized a demonstration outside Copenhagen’s city hall to defend free speech.
Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country's 5.4 million population.
The Scandinavian country was the focus of Muslim anger in 2005 after a newspaper published cartoons lampooning Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
Following the cartoons crisis, Muslims worldwide took many initiatives to remove widely circulated stereotypes about Islam in the West.
Danish Muslims established the European Committee for Honoring the Prophet, a grouping of 27 Danish Muslim organizations, to raise awareness about the merits and characteristics of the Prophet.
Many see the Muslim condemnations of the attack as a major shift in their reaction to free speech.
“They have changed their approach,” Karen Haekkerup, Denmark’s minister of social affairs and integration, told The New York Times.
“It is a good sign that the Muslim community is now active in the debate.”
Muslims opine that their position would help show to the Danish public that Islam does not sanction violence.
“We knew that this was something people would try to blame on us,” said Imran Shah of Copenhagen’s Islamic Society.
“We knew we had to be in the forefront and make clear that political and religious violence is totally unacceptable.”
Asmat Ullah Mojadeedi, a medical doctor, believes that the anti-Islam writer mirrors reckless Muslims who shoot off their mouths heedless of the consequences.
“There are stupid people everywhere,” Dr. Mojadeddi, the chairman of the Muslim Council of Denmark, said.
“Mr. Hedegaard is an extremist, and there are definitely extremist Muslims.”
Native Danes themselves have the belief that the Islamophobic writer seeks to provoke violence by his anti-Islam views.
“I think that Hedegaard wanted this conflict,” said Mikael Rothstein, a religious history scholar at the University of Copenhagen, said during a discussion on Danish television.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The 71-year-old described Islam as "one of the great evils of the world" in his lecture, The God Delusion, as part of a rare visit to the Western Isles.
The talk delivered on Lewis during the Hebrides Book Festival proved a major hit among the 220-strong crowd. There was a waiting list of 60 people for tickets, after the event sold out within 40 minutes.
Members of the audience cheered loudly as Prof Dawkins used the appearance to attack Islam, while stressing that the "vast majority of Muslims" were not evil, only their religion was.
Prof Dawkins said: "We are terrified of being called 'Islamophobic'. It is a disgrace a religion prescribes death for leaving it. The vast majority of Muslims would not dream of doing that, but they are taught it in their madrassas… and it only takes a minority to put that into practice. And, as we have seen, terrible things happen."— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The wave of protests against an anti-Muhammad movie made in America is said to prove, yet again, the unbridgeable gap between the West and the world of Islam.
Don’t we laugh off insults to Jesus? Haven’t even the Mormons taken the satirical Broadway musical The Book of Mormonin their stride? But Muslims, they are different. They get all worked up — into paroxysms of violence, as seen after the Danish cartoons, the inadvertent burning of the Qur’an in Afghanistan, the deliberate burning of the book in the U.S., and now over the Muhammad movie and 30 Muhammad cartoons in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
But the divide over free speech is far less clear-cut than it is made out to be, as recent events show.
The BBC apologized to the Queen after one of its reporters revealed that she once told him how “pretty upset” she was about a radical Muslim cleric in London, whom the government wanted to deport. The secrecy demanded by palace protocol trumped the public’s right to know their subsidized monarch’s thinking on an important issue.
A French court ruled against a magazine for publishing pictures of a bare-breastedKate Middleton, and imposed a fine of $12,700 a day if it didn’t remove them from its website.
The British tabloid Sun was criticized for printing a photo of a nude Prince Harry in New York.
The royal private bits are off limits, even if they give much enjoyment to many. But it’s fine to show the Prophet Muhammad as a sex fiend, as the film does, or portray him in crude, lewd and nude poses, as does Charlie Hebdo, even if that upset tens of millions.
These different approaches reflect the differences in jurisdictions, sure. Still, in Europe and North America, both legal strictures and social pressures work disproportionately against Muslims and Islam.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Muslim Times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — JUST as diplomatic relations, based on mutual trust, are crucial to a sound global dialogue of cultures, so are interfaith relations, based on open-mindedness, equally crucial to a peaceful world.
So where does the issue of free speech come into the equation? How far do Americans need to go in order to protect their First Amendment privileges? And where do Muslims, in the Arab world and beyond, draw the line when that right appears to represent an assault on their most sacred values?
Search no farther than the forum of the General Assembly of the United Nations, where American President Barack Obama and Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, both addressed the issue earlier this week, respectively on Tuesday and Wednesday. I quote in detail (and bear with me here) from both, the leader of the most influential nation in the world, and from the leader of the most populous country in the Arab world.
President Obama was bluntly assertive in making the American point of view clear in the wake of violent anti-American protests that followed the release of a crude online video denigrating Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). “(E)fforts to restrict speech can become a tool to silence critics,” he said. “We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect... (Americans) have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views.”
President Mursi, who condemned recent outbursts of anti-American violence, nevertheless disagreed — or seemed to, at first blush — with Obama’s broad analysis of the role of free speech in a free society. He said: “Egypt respects freedom of expression, freedom of expression that is not used to incite hatred against anyone. We expect from others, as they expect from us, that they respect our cultural specifics and religious references, and not seek to impose concepts or cultures that are unacceptable to us. Insults against the Prophet of Islam are not acceptable. We will not allow anyone to do this by word or deed.”
So does that mean we have two irreconcilable views here, two colliding cultrual paradigms? Far from it. Both the American and the Egyptian presidents, I say, were simply climbing the same mountain from two different sides.
In Western culture, freedom of expression is considered both a sacrosanct right and a necessary function of a robust public debate. It is also recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the individual the prerogative to hold, seek and impart opinions without interference from anyone or fear of retribution from the state. All well and good. But that does not include the right, say, to slander and libel. Above all, it does not include the right to incite violence or the right to disseminate “hate speech.”
This is encoded in the laws of both the United States and several countries in the European Union. In Germany, for example, “volksverhetzung” (inciting the people) is a criminal law that bans provocative statements whose aim is to incite hatred against a segment of the population, including holocaust denial, a law very much akin in the US to “hate speech,” that vilifies a person or a community based on race, religion and ethnicity. Certainly if the federal authorities in Washington were to determine that that a buffoon in California with a cheap video camera, who shot a crudely made Islamophobe film, had intentionally released it in order to “persuade, encourage, instigate or pressure” others to commit violence, the buffoon would have been arrested by now.
The laws are there on the books, and these laws penalize that category of speech aimed at inciting discrimination against a community because of its members’ racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds. In America free speech, contrary to how Arabs and other Muslims have read President Obama’s speech at the UN on Tuesday, is not a free for all. Not only hate crimes, and hate speech intended to incite, are against the law, but in American culture — in its everyday manners of social exchange in the public debate — Americans are enjoined, at penalty of social ostracism, against being “politically incorrect.” Political incorrectness, the tendency to be offensive to, or dismissive of, the sensibility of minorities, is not a crime, but it comes at a price, at times a heavy price indeed.
And when you consider the case in 1999 of David Howard (a case I was peripherally involved in), then we are looking at an extreme price, exacted by a kind of semantic police. Howard, an aide to the then new mayor of Washington, was made to resign (read, fired) because he was quoted in the media as having said, haplessly, that he would use his budget “in a niggardly manner.” Niggardly, of course, is a perfectly legitimate word in the lexicon with etymological roots in old Swedish, meaning “to be frugal.” Unfortunately for the mayoral aide, who just happened to be white, niggardly sounded too much like the racial slur associated with the N-word.
Trust me on this one: The overwhelming majority of Americans do not condone bigotry, of which Islamophobia is but one expression. But they do value free speech, and the thought of restricting it is anathema to the very ethos of their political culture.
That’s what President Obama was talking about at the UN. And President Mursi did not, at a seminal level, disagree with his American counterpart’s speech so much as with its modalities — a simple case of how two different societies see, read and interpret the meaning of freedom of expression in the public domain. So let’s all get a grip and move on.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Shia killing spree in Pakistan has gathered pace within 24 hours after President Barrack Obama’s speech at United Nations General Assembly in which he condemned the Shia and Sufi Sunni killings. Ten more Shias have been killed around Pakistan in the last 36 hours, underscoring the systematic genocide that Pakistan’s intelligentsia and human rights groups try to obfuscate and hide.
27 Sep- Karachi: Shabbir-ul-Hasan of Gilgit, killed in North Karachi
27 Sep- Quetta: Ghuklam Sakhi (Denter-Painter), Syed Gulab Shah killed in Quetta
26 Sep- Karachi: Bilal Ali, 25, killed in Lee Market area
26 Sep- Quetta: Saryab Road firing, Deputy Director Geological Survey of Pakistan, Mohsin Ali, killed. (a non-Hazara Shia).
26 Sep- Karachi: Zahid Hussain and Nisar Ali killed in Karachi
26 Sep- Karachi: Zaheer Abbas, 28, killed in Gulberg area
25 Sep- Karachi: 3 Shia Muslims killed when Takfiri Doebandi-Salafi terrorists of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Sipah-e-Sahaba) entered a house of Shia Muslims in Karachi, killing Abbas Raza 35, Kumail Raza 35 and Muhammad Raza 50.
25 Sep- Karachi: Shia lawyer Frhat Naqvi attacked. His brother-in-law Nasir Naqvi injured.
These killings come in the wake of important speech that President Barack Obama delivered. Representing the United States, and speaking at world’s most influential forum, Obama recognized for the first time that Shias and moderate Sunnis are faced with persecution at the hands of Takfiri Salafist-Deobandi terrorists. Just when Pakistan’s media is quiet or continues obfuscating the real cause of these killings, Obama’s reference to Shia genocide at the hands of Takfiri terrorists is a wake-up call for everyone.
Takfiri ideology whose financers and supporters sit in Riyadh and other Arab countries has spread far and wide now. Pakistan has borne its brunt with the Takfiris operating in and outside Pakistan, with more than 40,000 killed so far.
When Obama spoke of Shias and moderate Sufi Sunnis, he was accepting for the first time that there exists a grave issue stemming from this Takfiri ideology. It does not of course absolve Obama of America’s complicity in violence and repression in Bahrain and Syria. But his acceptance of the fact that Shias and moderate Sunnis are subject to killings by Takfiris is recognition that Saudi exported Takfirism threatens the world peace.
The genocide of Shias in Pakistan and killing moderate Sunnis must concern everyone since Takfiri ideology does not distinguish between good or bad Muslims. For Takifirs, everyone who does not accept their ideology is an infidel and therefore liable to punishment.
Obama’s call for ending the killing of Shias and moderate Sunnis must also instill some honesty in Pakistani intelligentsia and human right activists who never get tired of obfuscating Shia genocide as Sunni-Shia sectarian or ethnic violence. It must also translate into America’s firm stance against Takfirism, and must force America to act against Takfiri ideologues, financers and supporters in Saudi Arab and other Arab states. LUBP— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The authors of the video invective titled Innocence of Muslims could not have anticipated, when they uploaded it to the internet, how spectacularly effective their propaganda exercise would be.
Fairly quickly, it provoked outrage in the Muslim world, which regards any depiction of Muhammad as blasphemous. By Tuesday of this week, it was being used as the pretext for violent attacks on American embassies in Egypt and Libya, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
By Wednesday, it was dominating headlines, posing ethical dilemmas for the Western media and, best of all for the “filmmakers,” the Republican presidential candidate was holding their work up as an example of an American value that must be defended, and which never merits an apology.
What more could an anti-Muslim extremist ask?
Possibly to live a little longer, given the events of this week. One of the creators of this film is now in hiding, probably not wishing to share the fate of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker assassinated in 2004 by an Islamic radical who didn’t like his depiction of Muslim women.
But another fellow who worked to promote Innocence of Muslims, California insurance agent Steve Klein, is proudly declaring it a serious political statement. Klein, the founder of Courageous Christians United, sees himself as an exposer of truths.
It’s truly amazing, at least to me, how something as utterly buffoonish as Innocence of Muslims could provoke anything other than amused derision.
Only “trailers” are available on YouTube. They are easy enough to find. There is no evidence a longer film actually exists.
And what’s on the internet resembles the Three Stooges as much as anything. A bearded, bland-looking Caucasian dressed up to resemble the producers’ notion of Islam’s dark-skinned prophet lurches from scene to scene, naming a donkey the first animal of Islam, ordering around two assistants who could pass for Larry and Curly Joe and looking fiercely at the camera, backed by flames, slashing a sword around like Zorro.
At one point, the actor playing Muhammad is chased around and around his tentpole by a woman he’s scorned. You almost expect him to yell “Why, I oughta. . . !” and poke somebody in the eyes, flapping his other hand up and down in the air.
In general, though, religious Muslims have never shown much of a sense of humour where their religion is concerned. Quite the opposite. Steve Klein’s Islamic counterparts in the Middle East, who are often grim professionals, understand how to harness popular anger much more effectively than the anti-Muslim loudmouths here.
Clerics and Islamist activists in Egypt quickly seized on the trailers, translated them to Arabic and set about the deadly serious work of using them against America.
The Egyptian media, which loves stoking hatred of Christians or Jews, enthusiastically joined in. This went on for days, and finally, on Sept. 11, an angry crowd gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
What happened next must have filled the creators of Innocence of Muslims with satisfaction.
The embassy, no doubt fearing what was developing outside its walls, put out a statement: "The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” it said.
“Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
The statement was seized immediately by right-wingers in the U.S., who denounced it as “disgusting.” More evidence that this administration caves to terrorism, declared the pundits of Fox News.
It also fit neatly into the time-worn Republican attack line that Barack Obama has been running around the world for years, “apologizing for America” to its Muslim enemies.
Mitt Romney was in front of cameras quickly. He called the embassy statement “disgraceful,” and pinned the blame on Obama. The embassy, he said, speaks for the president.
Even as conservatives fumed, though, the protests turned into something a lot more serious.
Gunmen soon arrived at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, reportedly using military tactics to “defend the prophet.” Within hours, four diplomats lay murdered and an international crisis had erupted.
Romney, facing mounting blowback for politicizing the crisis, stuck to his line Wednesday. The anti-Muslim video, he said, is speech, and free speech is a constitutionally protected American value, and under no circumstances should the American government ever apologize for it.
You can debate that position all you like, but Romney is correct about the status of Innocence of Muslims as protected speech.
Its quality is irrelevant. The “filmmakers” themselves are about as significant as cockroaches, as are its supporters, like the Muslim-baiting Florida pastor Terry Jones, who is just delighted with their internet effort. (And for whom the U.S. government has also found itself apologizing in the past.)
Speech is protected in the U.S., and at the risk of repeating a hackneyed aphorism, free speech is worthless unless it applies to offensive speech. It is an American value, and one well worth protecting.
The trouble is, the framers of the U.S. Constitution didn’t anticipate the internet, which gives any idiot the ability to trigger an international crisis.
They didn’t anticipate a world would develop in which a Danish cartoonist’s mocking caricatures of Muhammad would trigger riots and murder thousands of miles from Denmark. Or a world in which any fool who decides to burn a Koran outside a strip mall in Florida can actually endanger Americans abroad.
Journalists are just as flummoxed as governments by this phenomenon. News managers will without a thought show images of sacrileges such as the “Piss Christ” photograph, the Taliban’s decision to blow up ancient statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, the whistling crucifixion scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, the 1999 painting of the Virgin Mary stained with elephant feces or the musical The Book of Mormon, now playing on Broadway.
Christins, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, after all, rarely react with lethal riots and executions.
But mob violence by angry Muslims has filled news organizations with justifiable fear that showing the cause of the violence could actually exacerbate it.
A lot of them, CBC-TV’s English-language network included, decided not to broadcast or display any part of Innocence of Muslims. Some news websites provided links to the video, a routine practice, others did not.
In other words, the fact that a particular religious group is more likely to react with extreme violence to images helped shape editorial decisions on whether to run those images once they become a major news event. As is often the case in the Middle East, violence works.
The fact is, the anti-Islamic extremists who produced that dull-witted video found objective allies among the Muslims they hate so much. Both groups, for entirely different reasons, had an interest in ensuring as many Muslims as possible saw the video.
Frankly, had I been inside that embassy in Cairo when the mob started to gather, I’d have apologized pretty quickly for its existence, and loudly. Mitt Romney might have, too. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya probably never got the chance.
But speech is sacred in this country, even speech that can be weaponized. And there is a price to be paid.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Syria condemned on Thursday calls by Egypt's president for change in the country, which is battling a 17-month-old uprising against Bashar al-Assad, saying they amounted to blatant interference in its internal affairs.
The foreign ministry said President Mohamed Mursi's comments to a meeting of Arab ministers in Cairo were a "clear attack on the right of the Syrian people to choose their future by themselves, without foreign interference".
"What Mursi said is media incitement which aims to fuel the violence in Syria. This is no different from other governments who support the armed terrorist groups with money and weapons and training and shelter, making them partners in Syria's bloodshed," the foreign ministry statement said.
Egypt's new Islamist president said on Wednesday the time had come in Syria "for change and not wasting time speaking of reform". In a speech which also touched on the revolt in Egypt, he said Syrian authorities "must take into account the lessons of recent and ancient history".
Mursi, who was the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood's candidate in the election which followed the overthrow last year of Hosni Mubarak, formally resigned from the group when he won the presidency in June. Syria's Brotherhood has been a major element in the revolt against President Assad.
The Syrian statement said Mursi's comments reflected "the views of a group that has no grasp of the history shared by the Egyptian and Syrian people".—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Julian Assange makes his first public appearance in two months, ever since he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The WikiLeaks founder was granted political asylum on Thursday -- a decision that ignited a wave of international responses, with the UK and Sweden opposing the verdict and Latin American countries strongly supporting Ecuador's move.—www.shafaqna.com/english