Friday, December 08, 2006

"This blasphemy ought to be punished."

I have written previously about the case of Rafiq Tagi, an Azeri journalist sentenced to death by several Iranian clerics. This November 30th article from IWPR describes how protests by Azeri Islamists instigated the controversy:

Nardaran, a village with strong Islamic traditions, has been leading the protests. On November 17, Haji Ali, one of the leaders of the local religious community, summoned crowds by striking a stone against a pillar in Imam Husein square in the centre of the village. Teenagers, who had climbed on a wall, joined him, banging iron rods against a gas pipe. This noisy call to action
reverberated through the village.

By three o’clock, the square was teeming with devout believers, who form an overwhelming majority in the village. “Last week we, the residents of Nardaran, condemned Rafik Taghi and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper”, said Haji Ali, beginning his speech. “Our religion knows only one punishment for such people, which is execution. This is not our decision, this is what our holy book prescribes. The authorities sentenced the journalists to two weeks in custody. But that is not enough!


The latest row began at the beginning of this month, when Senet (Trade), a Baku-based bimonthly with a circulation of 2000 copies, published an article by Taghi entitled “Europe and us”. The author criticised Azerbaijanis’ lifestyle and made some remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, which many of the country’s Muslims interpreted as insulting. Whether Nardaran’s residents had heard about Senet before, the controversy around the article found its way into the village, causing a storm of outrage that believers from surrounding villages were quick to support.

Protesters carried banners with religious inscriptions and placards saying “Death to Israel!” All speeches were met with a loud “Allahu Akbar!” Guests from other villages spoke out to express their support for Nardaran. American and Israel flags were brought to the square just to be tramped on and burnt.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The following quotes from one Nardaran leader amply display the xenophobia and intolerance that make Islamism such a threat to intellectual freedom:

Hajiaga Nuriev, one of the village’s elders and chairman of Azerbaijan’s Islamic Party, suggested Taghi was part of a wider conspiracy. “Both domestic and foreign forces have an interest in this,” he said. “We think that people such as Rafik Taghi are acting on behalf of international Zionism and Armenia, and they have deliberately damaged Azerbaijan’s credibility with its brothers-in-faith.

“In this situation, the residents of Nardaran could not have acted otherwise…to the enemies of Islam… who discredited Azerbaijan in the eyes of the world. This blasphemy ought to be punished.”

The article states that "Taghi and his editor Samir Sadagatoglu were arrested in mid-November and sentenced to two months in jail for kindling religious intolerance." I think it's abundantly clear that Taghi and Sadagatoglu aren't the ones "kindling religious intolerance", but have been victimized by it instead.


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