Conflict, Security and Peace

Johann Hari: Why should I respect these oppressive religions?

Posted in Conflict,security,peace and Islam by BLOGGER X on February 11, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-why-should-i-respect-these-oppressive-religions-1517789.html

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Johann Hari: Why should I respect these oppressive religions?

Whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents say they’re victims of ‘prejudice’

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we “respect” religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

More Johann Hari articles

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that “a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people”. It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it “Western”, Robert Mugabe calls it “colonialist”, and Dick Cheney calls it “outdated”. The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to “respect” the “unique sensitivities” of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within “the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community”.

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Incredibly, they are succeeding. The UN’s Rapporteur on Human Rights has always been tasked with exposing and shaming those who prevent free speech – including the religious. But the Pakistani delegate recently demanded that his job description be changed so he can seek out and condemn “abuses of free expression” including “defamation of religions and prophets”. The council agreed – so the job has been turned on its head. Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself.

Anything which can be deemed “religious” is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN – and almost everything is deemed religious. Roy Brown of the International Humanist and Ethical Union has tried to raise topics like the stoning of women accused of adultery or child marriage. The Egyptian delegate stood up to announce discussion of shariah “will not happen” and “Islam will not be crucified in this council” – and Brown was ordered to be silent. Of course, the first victims of locking down free speech about Islam with the imprimatur of the UN are ordinary Muslims.

Here is a random smattering of events that have taken place in the past week in countries that demanded this change. In Nigeria, divorced women are routinely thrown out of their homes and left destitute, unable to see their children, so a large group of them wanted to stage a protest – but the Shariah police declared it was “un-Islamic” and the marchers would be beaten and whipped. In Saudi Arabia, the country’s most senior government-approved cleric said it was perfectly acceptable for old men to marry 10-year-old girls, and those who disagree should be silenced. In Egypt, a 27-year-old Muslim blogger Abdel Rahman was seized, jailed and tortured for arguing for a reformed Islam that does not enforce shariah.

To the people who demand respect for Muslim culture, I ask: which Muslim culture? Those women’s, those children’s, this blogger’s – or their oppressors’?

As the secular campaigner Austin Darcy puts it: “The ultimate aim of this effort is not to protect the feelings of Muslims, but to protect illiberal Islamic states from charges of human rights abuse, and to silence the voices of internal dissidents calling for more secular government and freedom.”

Those of us who passionately support the UN should be the most outraged by this.

Underpinning these “reforms” is a notion seeping even into democratic societies – that atheism and doubt are akin to racism. Today, whenever a religious belief is criticised, its adherents immediately claim they are the victims of “prejudice” – and their outrage is increasingly being backed by laws.

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.

I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of “prejudice” or “ignorance”, but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

But why are religious sensitivities so much more likely to provoke demands for censorship than, say, political sensitivities? The answer lies in the nature of faith. If my views are challenged I can, in the end, check them against reality. If you deregulate markets, will they collapse? If you increase carbon dioxide emissions, does the climate become destabilised? If my views are wrong, I can correct them; if they are right, I am soothed.

But when the religious are challenged, there is no evidence for them to consult. By definition, if you have faith, you are choosing to believe in the absence of evidence. Nobody has “faith” that fire hurts, or Australia exists; they know it, based on proof. But it is psychologically painful to be confronted with the fact that your core beliefs are based on thin air, or on the empty shells of revelation or contorted parodies of reason. It’s easier to demand the source of the pesky doubt be silenced.

But a free society cannot be structured to soothe the hardcore faithful. It is based on a deal. You have an absolute right to voice your beliefs – but the price is that I too have a right to respond as I wish. Neither of us can set aside the rules and demand to be protected from offence.

Yet this idea – at the heart of the Universal Declaration – is being lost. To the right, it thwacks into apologists for religious censorship; to the left, it dissolves in multiculturalism. The hijacking of the UN Special Rapporteur by religious fanatics should jolt us into rescuing the simple, battered idea disintegrating in the middle: the equal, indivisible human right to speak freely.

If you want to get involved in fighting for secularism, join the National Secular Society here.

j.hari@independent.co.uk

 

 

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Pair held for ‘offending Islam’

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

 

Calcutta Muslims in a 2006 protest against Prophet Muhammad cartoons

The editor and publisher of a top English-language Indian daily have been arrested on charges of “hurting the religious feelings” of Muslims.

The Statesman’s editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha were detained in Calcutta after complaints.

Muslims said they were upset with the Statesman for reproducing an article from the UK’s Independent daily in its 5 February edition.

The article was entitled: “Why should I respect these oppressive religions?”

It concerns the erosion of the right to criticise religions.

In it, the author, Johann Hari, writes: “I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a ‘Prophet’ who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.”

Mr Kumar and Mr Sinha appeared in court on Wednesday and were granted bail.

Apology

Angry Muslims have been demonstrating in front of the offices of the Statesman since its republication of the article.

Police have broken up the demonstrations using baton charges several times this week.

Some Muslims close to the Jamiat-e-Ulema e Hind (The Organisation of Indian Scholars, a leading Islamic group in India) later filed a complaint with police alleging that the publication had “outraged their religious feelings”, which is an offence under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.

Mr Kumar has said he has already issued a public apology for reproducing the article.

“I admit it was an editorial misjudgement but it was never intentional,” Mr Kumar told the BBC in an interview.

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India is a party of international covenant of human rights which clearly mention in Article 19 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights )  Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.  the right of freedom of expression.

 And Indian Constitution has in PART III —FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

19 Right to Freedom : Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.

 

 If any individual or group or any government force attack on news paper for its any expression of news / opinion its illegal and wrong. we condemn such attacks.

 

This is a crucial time the Indians are facing and passing. A series of terror attack by Islamic Fanatics, and by different form of terrorism. Attacking on freedom of expression using by opaque law and force is also a form of terrorism, It is abominable.

 

Our only duty is to keep vigil and fight the war of terrorism of any form. The Islam is used and carried by Taliban, al quida and LeT and muslims are covert help to spread their satanic force in India. I think Indian Government should keep alert in more stringent manner.  Every attempt should be nipped in the bud.

 

 

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BREAKING NEWS: Indians held for reprinting Independent article that “offends Islam”

by Jerome Taylor

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Breaking news coming out of India today.  http://community.livejournal.com/ti_mr/4531.html

The editor and publisher of The Statesman, a highly respected Kolkata based English daily, have been arrested on charges of “hurting the religious feelings” of Muslims because they printed a piece written last month by Independent columnist Johaan Hari.

Hari, a liberal athiest, penned the comment piece, “Why should I respect opppressive religions?”, at the end of January and it was later syndicated by The Statesman. In the article, Hari (somewhat prophetically) lamented how the right to criticise a religion is being steadily eroded around the world.

Muslim protestors in Kolkata, West Bengal, have been standing outside The Statesman’s offices since it ran the article and police have even used baton charges to disperse them.

In his piece Hari defends the right to criticise all religions, including Islam, Judaism and Christianity. But the Muslim protestors in Kolkata appear to have been particularly upset by a paragraph that talks about the sexual history of the prophet Muhammad.

Hari writes: “All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.”

Ravindra Kumar and Anand Sinha, The Statesman’s editor and publisher, appeared in court today and were granted bail.

As the world’s largest democracy freedom of speech is guaranteed in India’s constitution but “outraging religious feelings” is technically illegal under section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.

In a country where inter-communal tensions can often spill over into horrendous violence, 295 A is seen as a way of heading off tension between religious communities and stopping firebrands from inciting violence. But it is often also used by religious hardliners, including both Hindus and Muslims, to stifle open criticism and discourse of religious matters in a country where religion plays an incredibly vital role.

Mr Kumar has already issued a public apology for reprinting Hari’s article and The Statesman’s website have taken it down. There is also no mention on their site at the moment that their editor appeared in court today. I’ve left a message with them to see if he’ll get back to me. 

I’m also trying to contact Johaan and if he gets back to me I’ll update this blog. 

The fact that protests broke out in Kolkata will probably be surprising to many. Traditionally Kolkata has been one of India’s liberal heartlands. Bengalis are staunchly proud of the literary heritage and being the homeland of Tagore, India’s first Nobel prize winner for literature 

 

http://richarddawkins.net/article,3553,Why-should-I-respect-these-oppressive-religions,Johann-Hari

 

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“Why should I respect these oppressive religions?” by Johann Hari

Why indeed? Please read this excellent article by Johann Hari at the Independent, detailing the tragic hijacking of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights by religious bigots. Here’s a taste:

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to “respect” the “unique sensitivities” of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within “the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community”.

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Later:

All people deserve respect, but not all ideas do. I don’t respect the idea that a man was born of a virgin, walked on water and rose from the dead. I don’t respect the idea that we should follow a “Prophet” who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn’t follow him.

I don’t respect the idea that the West Bank was handed to Jews by God and the Palestinians should be bombed or bullied into surrendering it. I don’t respect the idea that we may have lived before as goats, and could live again as woodlice. This is not because of “prejudice” or “ignorance”, but because there is no evidence for these claims. They belong to the childhood of our species, and will in time look as preposterous as believing in Zeus or Thor or Baal.

When you demand “respect”, you are demanding we lie to you. I have too much real respect for you as a human being to engage in that charade.

This is a great article and should be read by all people concerned with human rights and freedom of speech, regardless of their attitudes toward religion.

These robed thugs are grotesque caricatures of humanity and must be stopped. I’m staggered that the UN is letting the bastards get away this.

 

http://dangerousintersection.org/2009/01/28/why-should-i-respect-these-oppressive-religions-by-johann-hari/

http://www.jihadwatch.org/

http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/024801.php#respond

 

http://dangerousintersection.org/author/hank/

http://rabble.ca/babble/international-news-and-politics/why-should-i-respect-these-oppressive-religions

 

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/01/28-12

 

https://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/17362/84/

 

http://www.newscred.com/article/show/title/pair-held-for-offending-islam-4993047030b44/1148659

 

http://islamicterrorism.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/the-excessive-kindness-of-islam-quotes-from-quran-and-hadiths/

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4837994.ece

 

From

September 28, 2008

Muslim gang firebombs publisher of Allah novel, Martin Rynja

Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorist command yesterday foiled an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to kill the publisher of a forthcoming novel featuring sexual encounters between the Prophet Muhammad and his child bride.

Early yesterday armed undercover officers arrested three men after a petrol bomb was pushed through the door of the north London home of the book’s publisher.

The Metropolitan police said the target of the assassination plot, the Dutch publisher Martin Rynja, had not been injured.

The suspected terror gang was being followed by undercover police and the fire was quickly put out after the fire brigade smashed down the front door.

 

 

Captors offer up British hostage body

Rushdie remains unrepentant

British hostages in Iraq to be ‘held for years’, captors warn

Captors say hostage committed suicide

 

 

The foiled terrorist attack recalled the death threats and uproar 20 years ago following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and the worldwide protests that followed the publication in a Danish newspaper in 2005 of cartoons deemed offensive to Islam, in which more than 100 people died.

Security officials believe Rynja was targeted for assassination because his firm, Gibson Square, is preparing to publish a romantic novel about Aisha, child bride of the Prophet Muhammad. The Jewel of Medina, by the first-time American author Sherry Jones, describes an imaginary sex scene between the prophet and his 14-year-old wife.

It was withdrawn from publication in America last month after its publisher there, Random House, said it feared a violent reaction by “a small radical segment” of Muslims. It said “credible and unrelated sources” had warned that the book could incite violence.

Random House reacted after Islamic scholars objected to its contents, saying it treated the wife of the Prophet as a sex object. One of them, Denise Spellberg, of the University of Texas at Austin, described the novel as “soft-core pornography”, referring to a scene in which Muhammad consummates his marriage to Aisha. She called it “a declaration of war” and a “national security issue”.

At the time, her warnings were dismissed by the author. “Anyone who reads the book will not be offended,” said Jones. “I wrote the book with the utmost respect for Islam.” However, Jones admitted receiving death threats after the book was withdrawn.

It was soon after this that the Met appears to have received a tip-off that the British publisher who had subsequently agreed to print it could be the target of an attack.

A Met spokesman said three men had been arrested in “a preplanned intelligence-led operation” at about 2.25am on Saturday.

Two of the suspects were arrested in the street outside Rynja’s four-storey townhouse in Lonsdale Square, Islington, while the third was stopped by officers in an armed vehicle near Angel Tube station.

They were being questioned yesterday on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, a spokesman said.

Rynja, 44, could not be contacted yesterday. He is believed to be under police guard.

Yesterday, Natasha Kern, Jones’s agent, said she was shocked to learn of the attack. She said the book had been misinterpreted by its critics and did not contain sex scenes, as had been alleged.

“I honestly believe that if people read the book they will see it is not disrespectful of Muhammad, and moderate Muslims will not be offended. I don’t want anyone to risk their lives but we could never imagine that there would be some madmen who would do something like this. I’m so sad about this act of terrorism. Moderate Muslims will suffer because of a few radicals.”

Kern said it was too early for her to comment on whether the book should be withdrawn. “That’s up to Martin, and I still need to absorb the fact that he was at risk. I’m just so glad he has not been hurt.”

Residents said they saw armed police break down the door of Rynja’s house, helped by firefighters.

Francesca Liebowitz, 16, a neighbour, said: “The police couldn’t get the door open so the fire brigade battered it down.”

Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said: “I was woken at about 3am and I looked out the window and I saw several unmarked cars with what I now think were police officers in them. These officers came out of the cars and there was huge screaming and shouting. Some of the police officers were carrying sub-machineguns.

“I then saw a small fire at the bottom of the door at the house. I heard the police officers shout and scream and try to get neighbours out of the house.”

 

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