Monday, April 30, 2007

Socially Responsible Surrender

Once again, I am indebted to Annoyed Librarian for bringing yet another bit of "progressive" silliness to my attention. This time, it's ALA Councilor and (big surprise) SRRT member Al Kagan offering his take on the Danish Mohammed Cartoons:

The first couple paragraphs consist of the usual SRRT boilerplate on the evils of political neutrality and the importance of "social responsibility", as defined exclusively by the radical left. I think I've said enough on those issues, so I'll skip to the fun part. Now, normal people would think that opposing a global totalitarian movement that loathes the very principle of intellectual freedom and practices censorship by murder would be a no brainer as far as "social responsibility" goes. Unfortunately, most normal people aren't acquainted with the SRRT:

Coming back to the Danish cartoons, one should ask why they were published at this time, what the publisher hoped to gain, and why there was such a strong reaction. The answers to these questions are political. The Middle East is in flames because the current U.S. Administration is crusading to remake those countries into nominally democratic client states while grabbing control of the oil. Given that the US Government has overthrown the secular government of Iraq, the religious extremists have filled a power vacuum. All Muslims have been demonized in the West for the brutal actions of the groups that have used horrific tactics against the US Occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. The backlash against the large number of immigrant Muslim workers in Europe is part of this picture. The Danish newspaper that published these cartoons has been drawn into this nightmare political situation. Whether or not the editors of Jyllands Posten understood the likely reaction to their publication of the cartoons, the seeds of this reaction were firmly in place.

(Emphasis added-DD)

My God, where do I begin. The part about America "grabbing control of the oil" is, of course, mandatory whenever an anti-American leftist discusses the Middle East. Also, it was Saddam's "secular" regime that paved the way for the "religious extremists" through its "return to faith" campaign of the 1990s. By the year 2000, the "secular government of Iraq" (good job not mentioning the name Saddam Hussein, BTW) had banned the public consumption of alcohol and beheaded women accused of prostitution. Thus, when Zarqawi and his foreign jihadists launched their war against the creation of a pluralist, democratic Iraq, they found a sizable support base of Iraqi Islamists willing to help.

Anyway, on to Mr. Kagan's main point, which is that the demonstrations and riots over the Danish Mohammed Cartoons were caused by the actions of America and the West, in particular the Iraq war. This thesis raises some interesting questions.

For example, if the Iraq War caused the reaction to the Danish Cartoons, then what caused radical Muslims to murder Iranian intellectual Ahmad Kasravi in 1947? Why did Islamists publicly burn a copy of The Satanic Verses in Bradford, England in January 1989? What caused the Ayatollah Khomeini to issue his infamous fatwa calling for the murder of author Salman Rushdie one month later? What inspired an Egyptian Islamist to kill writer Farag Foda in 1992? Why did an estimated 300,000 people rally in Bangladesh in 1994 to call for the death of feminist author Taslima Nasreen? Why did Islamists in Nigeria in 2002 respond to a column about the Prophet Mohammed and a beauty pageant by launching riots that killed 200 people and demanding the death of the author, Ms. Isioma Daniel?

Again, if the Iraq War caused the reaction to the Mohammed Cartoons, then what inspired these other radical Islamist efforts at violent censorship, all of which preceded that conflict? The answer, of course, is that Iraq had nothing to do with any of these incidents, including the Danish Cartoon controversy. Rather, they are all part and parcel of radical Islam's decades-long war on intellectual freedom, a phenomenon that Mr. Kagan and his "socially responsible" comrades choose to ignore. In particular, as with other such incidents, the cartoons became controversial because radical Muslim clerics waged a systematic campaign to make them so.

As to why the editors of Jyllands Posten decided to publish the cartoons, I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Islamists had successfully exported their campaign against free expression to Europe, including the November 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. As Van Gogh's collaborator, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, told Der Spiegel during the height of the Danish Cartoon crisis:

We could see the same thing happening that has happened in the Netherlands, where writers, journalists and artists have felt intimidated ever since the van Gogh murder. Everyone is afraid to criticize Islam. Significantly, "Submission" still isn't being shown in theaters.

(Emphasis added-DD)

In fact, the idea of commissioning cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed came about because the author of a Danish children's book on the Prophet had trouble finding someone willing to draw illustrations. Apparently, cartoonists feared the possible violent repercussions associated with drawing pictures of Mohammed. Eventually, the book was published, but as of last year, Danish school librarians were afraid to purchase it for their collections.

Anyway, back to the rest of Mr. Kagan's comments:

We need to address the collection development and access issues around this affair, but we also need to reflect on what else we might do as actors in civil society. The American Library Association Council has passed resolutions to lobby against torture and for withdrawing troops from Iraq. If we take our social responsibility seriously, we must act in civil society to try to counter the situations that give rise to events such as the Danish cartoons affair. Our commitment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has little meaning for the people who have been killed, maimed, or exiled by the US war against Iraq. I would like to challenge IFLA to follow ALA in taking a stand. Furthermore other national library associations can act in the same way as ALA to lobby for peace in their respective countries. The UK is the United States’ junior partner in the occupation of Iraq. It would therefore be most appropriate and helpful for CILIP3 to get involved.

The access and collection issues around the Danish cartoons are only part of the story. We need to lobby for peace as the basic foundation for all the rest of our work.

(Emphasis added-DD)

So, in other words, the best way to counter Islamist censorship isn't by standing steadfast in defense of free expression, but rather by getting America and its allies to abandon Iraq. Yes, we will curb the growth of radical Islamism by handing it a victory that will sustain it for a generation. That should work. As they say in the Guinness commercials, "Brilliant!!!".

You know, it seems to me that before American and British librarians advocate condemning Iraqis to a lifetime of Islamist despotism, they might want to see what Iraqi librarians think. That seems like the "socially responsible" thing to do, doesn't it? Here's what the director of the Iraqi National Library, Dr. Saad Eskander, says about a possible coalition withdrawal from Iraq:

"If the U.S. and British withdraw their forces from Iraq, the extremists - Shiite extremists and Sunni extremists - will prevail ... Iraq will be a fundamentalist state and will be a world threat and will affect the interests of all countries, especially Western countries."

In short, Mr. Kagan's response to radical Islam's war on intellectual freedom is to advocate self-censorship and abandoning the Middle East to the forces of jihadism. If this is "social responsibility", I'd hate to see what social irresponsibility looks like.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sad News

This weekend brings a bit of sad news, as Stephen Denney is suspending work on his Banned Books blog in order to focus on his blog discussing human rights in Vietnam. Stephen's censorship blog is an excellent resource, and he has been incredibly supportive of my efforts here. I wish him full success with his Vietnam blog, and encourage all of you to give it a look.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"Progressive" Librarian Tolerance Watch

Unfortunately, Greg McClay seems to be making little headway in his justified attempt to bring the ridiculous election antics of SRRT to ALA's attention. What he has gotten are responses such as this:

These people are whackos and should be treated as such. They make a mockery out of conservatism. If they want a war, I say let’s give it to them. I have no reservations about punching these [bleeped] in the face. Remember that these are the kind of people who still suport Bush, who support his wars, who listen to Limbaugh and watch Fox News, and who otherwise give the human species a bad name.

Neo-fascists should have no free speech. They deserve the business end of a baseball bat.

Greg says that he might need to invest in a baseball helmet for ALA Annual. Believe it or not, I'm going there as well (as a non-member of course). Sounds like my Army combatives training might come in handy after all.

BTW, the next time John Berry wants to complain about why some people in this profession choose pseudonymity when expressing conservative views, he need only look at the message quoted above.

The Perils of "Writing Against Islam"

In an April 25th column for FrontPage Magazine, Robert Spencer addresses recent assaults on Muslim reformers in Norway and Canada. He notes that such incidents are part of a long and tragic pattern:

Of course, “writing against Islam,” or being perceived as having done so, has always been dangerous, as Salman Rushdie and many others can attest. The New York Times reported in 2002 that a professor at the University of Nablus in the West Bank, Suliman Bashear, who “argued that Islam developed as a religion gradually rather than emerging fully formed from the mouth of the Prophet,” was for this novel and, from the point of view of traditional Islam, heretical teaching, thrown out of a second-story window by his students. In 1947, the Iranian lawyer Ahmad Kasravi was murdered in court by Islamic radicals; Kasravi was there to defend himself against charges that he had attacked Islam. Four years later, members of the same radical Muslim group, Fadayan-e Islam, assassinated Iranian Prime Minister Haji-Ali Razmara after a group of Muslim clerics issued a fatwa calling for his death. In 1992, the Egyptian writer Faraj Foda was murdered by Muslims enraged at his “apostasy” from Islam — another offense for which traditional Islamic law prescribes the death penalty. Foda’s countryman, the Nobel Prizewinning novelist Naguib Mahfouz, was stabbed in 1994 after accusations of blasphemy. Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, many non-Muslims have been arrested, tortured, and sentenced to die on the slimmest of evidence.

While I find Mr. Spencer's vision of Islam, as expressed at his blog and in his books, to be too negative and reductionist, he does a superb job of documenting the widespread use of violence and intimidation as tools of censorship in the Islamic world. He concludes this essay with a well founded warning of the dangers posed by the export of Islamist censorship to the West:

The attacks on Kadra and Faizi show that there are many others in the West today who believe that they must likewise act upon Allah’s commands and victimize those whom they deem to have offended Islam.

This is a challenge to all Western governments, for it is a challenge to the freedom of speech that is rooted in the constitutions and laws of Western states, and ultimately is intimately connected with the freedom of conscience and the Judeo-Christian view of the dignity of the human being before God. Western leaders should move now to make it abundantly clear that attacks on “blasphemers” and “heretics” will not be tolerated; that those who believe that Sharia should be the highest law of the land are not welcome here; and that the West will defend our Judeo-Christian culture and heritage.

Otherwise, only one thing is certain: there will be many, many more such attacks.

Chavez Silences Independent Media

At the end of last year, the regime of Hugo Chavez announced that it would not renew the license of one of Venezuela's leading independent television stations, RCTV. The station has been outspoken in its criticism of Chavez and his government. A recent poll shows that 70% of Venezuelans oppose this move as an infringement of their freedom of choice. It also has disturbing implications for free expression, a fear confirmed by a new report from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Founded in 1953, RCTV has long been known for its strident opposition views, but it disputes the government's assertions of illegality and says the Chávez administration is engaging in political retaliation and suppression of critical news coverage. RCTV said it was never penalized for any violation, only warned. By contrast, RCTV said, the government left intact the licenses of other stations that have been penalized.

This record, CPJ found, reflects an arbitrary and opaque decision-making process that sets an alarming precedent and casts doubt on Venezuela's commitment to freedom of expression. The threat of losing access to the airwaves hangs over dozens of other television and radio stations whose concessions have also come up for renewal, prompting some news outlets to pull back on critical programming. The RCTV case also comes as the Chávez administration is moving aggressively to expand state media and amplify its voice. The government says it will take over RCTV's frequency with plans to make it a public broadcasting channel.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The report does an excellent job providing the context of the struggle between the government and independent media, with special focus on the April 2002 attempted coup against Chavez. It also points out how other media outlets have engaged in self-censorship in order to avoid trouble with the Chavez government. The following passage is particularly disturbing:

Coup or not, it's had a lasting effect on the news media. Venevisión, RCTV's main competitor as Venezuela's top-rated TV channel, appears to have escaped the government's ire for the time being. Once among the Chávez administration's favorite targets, Venevisión, led by media mogul Gustavo Cisneros, had opposed the government and championed the opposition's cause. Officials had previously alleged that Cisneros was a leading figure in the events surrounding the coup. But in June 2004, a private meeting between Chávez and Cisneros, mediated by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, produced a ceasefire of sorts. "There was a mutual commitment to honor constitutional processes and to support further discussions between the government of Venezuela and the country's news media to ensure the most appropriate climate for this constitutional process," the Carter Center said in a statement. Venevisión subsequently removed opinion and news shows that were highly critical of Chávez, and it now focuses almost exclusively on entertainment programming. Today, government officials cite Venevisión as a model of behavior. Venevisión executives did not return messages from CPJ seeking comment on programming.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Yes, Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president, helped persuade the head of Venevision to censor anti-Chavez content from his network. I think I'll be holding off on any more Carter Center contributions.

Returning to the RCTV situation, CPJ reaches a grim conclusion:

Without ensuring due process in the RCTV case, the government reinforces that viewpoint. The record shows that, first, a decision was announced, and then a flurry of public allegations made. But thus far, there has been no fair and transparent process whereby evidence could be scrutinized and the station could present its case. Instead, the record reflects the actions of a government motivated by political considerations to suppress critical coverage.

Because the broadcast concessions of many radio and television stations are due to expire this year, the RCTV case is forcing other outlets to soften their coverage and rid their programs of critical voices. The Chávez administration appears to be replacing what it considers to be corporate domination of the airwaves with state domination.

In January, the chairman of RCTY, Marcel Granier, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about the license issue. I'll give him the last word:

The actions against RCTV of President Chávez and his subordinates are in violation of the Venezuelan constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. They are a clear example of abuse of power, and violate the right to work of all those in the media industry, not to mention a violation of the freedom of thought and expression of millions of citizens who seek information and ideas of their own free choice.

We are faced, in effect, with an aggressive campaign to extinguish all thought that differs from that which is officially dubbed "revolutionary."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Open Letter to ALA

Greg McClay has posted an open letter to ALA on his blog regarding the recent SRRT nonsense. It's definitely worth reading, and I hope it gets a credible response from the organization.

Jihadist Internet Filtering Spreads

The radical Islamist custom of responding to objectionable web content by threatening Internet cafes has now spread from the Gaza Strip to the Indian region of Kashmir. According to Agence France Presse:

A hardline Islamic rebel group in Indian Kashmir ordered Internet cafes to demolish closed-door cabins where users surf, claiming that they are being used for "licentious" purposes.

The Badr Mujahideen group, which has claimed responsibilities for many deadly attacks on Indian troops in the revolt-hit state, issued no deadline and did not say what action it would take if its order was disobeyed.

"The cabins in the Internet cafes facilitate licentious activities. These cabins should be abolished," the group said in a telephone statement to Current News Service, a local media agency.

There are hundreds of Internet cafes throughout the Himalayan state and many have cabins with doors and room for two people to sit and surf.

Police said that they had received complaints in the past that couples were viewing pornographic sites and behaving in an "intimate fashion" in the Internet cabins.

Last year, Kashmir's leading woman separatist group Dukhtaran-e-Milat or Daughters of Faith raided some Internet cafes, destroying equipment, to prevent what it said were "immoral activities" in the outlets.

The militants, who are seeking to implement a stricter form of Islam, have banned cinema halls and liquor shops in the region.

Wherever radical Islamist groups are active, one sees the same brutal efforts to suppress any thoughts or behavior that offend their totalitarian vision.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

China's Internet Purge

CNN reports on China's latest effort to purge the Internet:

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday launched a campaign to rid the country's sprawling Internet of "unhealthy" content and make it a springboard for Communist Party doctrine, state television reported.

With Hu presiding, the Communist Party Politburo -- its 24-member inner council -- discussed cleaning up the Internet, state television reported. The meeting promised to place the often unruly medium more firmly under propaganda controls.

"Development and administration of Internet culture must stick to the direction of socialist advanced culture, adhere to correct propaganda guidance," said a summary of the meeting read on the news broadcast.

"Internet cultural units must conscientiously take on the responsibility of encouraging development of a system of core socialist values."

The meeting was far from the first time China has sought to rein in the Internet. In January, Hu made a similar call to "purify" it, and there have been many such calls before.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Socially Responsible?

Greg McClay is currently on the ballot for ALA Council. He is also a member of ALA's Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT). Considering that SRRT is the political plaything of the radical left, let's just say that Greg's views are not exactly the norm within that body. Still, when SRRT sent out a list of all its members running for ALA council, Greg's name was left off. When he inquired as to why, Elaine Harger replied as follows:

Your name is not included because I could not in good conscience play any role in votes being cast for you by anyone who is unaware of your hostility toward everything that SRRT stands for. The other name left off the list was my own, because I also could not in good conscience accrue any possible votes myself while depriving someone else (even you) of the same.

(Emphasis added-DD)

You can see the actual leaflet here, along with some classic "progressive" reactions. Keep in mind that this was an informational list, paid for with ALA funds, and not an endorsement of those candidates listed. Yet because Greg refuses to conform to the radical left interpretation of "social responsibility", Ms. Harger decided to leave his name off the list.

Stuff like this, as silly and petty as it is, helps explain why I'll be saving another $155 in ALA membership fees this year.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Defamation and Death Threats

A Muslim cleric has called for the death of author, former Muslim, and outspoken critic of Islam Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Sadly, this is neither new nor surprising. After all, Ms. Ali's collaborator, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, was murdered in November 2004 by an Islamist fanatic. A note was pinned to Van Gogh's body threatening Ms. Ali's life.

So where did this latest death threat come from? Tehran? Islamabad? Riyadh? Cairo? Sorry, none of the above. What makes this story more disturbing than usual is that this call for Ms. Ali's death comes from that noted jihadist hotbed, Johnstown, PA. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the details:

Imam Fouad ElBayly, president of the Johnstown Islamic Center, was among those who objected to Hirsi Ali's appearance.

"She has been identified as one who has defamed the faith. If you come into the faith, you must abide by the laws, and when you decide to defame it deliberately, the sentence is death," said ElBayly, who came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1976.

Hirsi Ali, an atheist, has been critical of many Muslim beliefs, particularly on subjects of sexual morality, the treatment of women and female genital mutilation. In her essay "The Caged Virgin," she also wrote of punishment, noting that "a Muslim's relationship with God is one of fear."

"Our God demands total submission. He rewards you if you follow His rules meticulously. He punishes you cruelly if you break His rules, both on earth, with illness and natural disasters, and in the hereafter, with hellfire," she wrote.

In some Muslim countries, such as Iran, apostasy -- abandoning one's religious belief -- and blasphemy are considered punishable by death under sharia, a system of laws and customs that treats both public and private life as governable by God's law.

(Emphasis added-DD)

To be fair, Imam ElBayly doesn't think Ms. Ali should actually be killed on American soil:

Although ElBayly believes a death sentence is warranted for Hirsi Ali, he stressed that America is not the jurisdiction where such a crime should be punished. Instead, Hirsi Ali should be judged in a Muslim country after being given a trial, he added.

"If it is found that a person is mentally unstable, or a child or disabled, there should be no punishment," he said. "It's a very merciful religion if you try to understand it."

Okay, thanks for clearing that one up.

(Emphasis added-DD)

One of the reasons Ms. Ali moved to America last year from the Netherlands was so she could live without being under constant armed guard. Unfortunately, according to a report published last month, she's already had to adopt a comparable level of security as she had in Holland. I think it's now abundantly clear why this is necessary.

Again, this was not some anonymous threat made via phone or e-mail. This was a Muslim cleric living in the United States stating for the record that Ms. Ali deserves to be murdered for her views. Islamist threats and violence against reformers and freethinkers are not something that can only be found in places like Iran or Pakistan. They are occurring even here in America.

(Link via Jihad Watch)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

School Attacked in Gaza

The Jerusalem Post reports on the latest attack on intellectual freedom in the Gaza Strip:

Masked gunmen on Saturday morning blew up large parts of the American International School in the Gaza Strip after stealing equipment and furniture.


No group claimed responsibility for the predawn attack on the school, but Palestinian Authority security sources said they did not rule out the possibility that it was carried out by a local al-Qaida-linked group.

"The same people who have been attacking Internet cafes and music shops are also behind this despicable attack," the sources told The Jerusalem Post. "This is the only international school in the Gaza Strip and it's one of the most important academic institutions."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Guarded Only by Geese

From the April 17th Christian Science Monitor, a fascinating look at a fearless newspaper editor in the African nation of Niger:

"I have geese!" Maman Abou tells me when I ask if he sleeps with a gun under his pillow or takes any other security measures.

"Geese?" I ask Mr. Abou, one of the most successful and influential businessmen in this, one of the world's poorest countries.

"Geese!" he insists.

It's only upon approaching his modest three-bedroom home here in Niger's capital city that I see what he means: Three plump geese honk deafeningly from a pen in his yard. They make a great alarm, if poor security personnel.

Abou – who owns Niger's biggest publishing house – has ample reason to be concerned about his safety. He's a free-speech crusader in a young African democracy where freedom of the press is not a guaranteed right.

Death threats are not uncommon for him, and visits to jail frequent. Government thugs once shaved his head after he questioned election results. And his press – which prints a dozen opposition publications in addition to his anticorruption-crusading Le Républicain newspaper – was set afire in 1998. Abou's latest jailing was last year when he was held for four months on charges that he defamed the government and spread false information by suggesting that Niger had turned away from the West and toward Iran. But it's generally believed that his arrest – along with Le Républicain's editor in chief – was because of an exposé of the theft of $8 million in European aid for education. Reporters uncovered details of how the minister of basic education and literacy stole the money by using counterfeit receipts for school supplies "purchased" but not delivered. The minister admitted he'd done it on orders from superiors, and he's now serving prison time for the crime.

"Many Nigerien leaders feel perfectly justified when they throw a journalist or human rights activist in jail for criticizing them or their regime," explains Thomas Kelley, an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and recent Fulbright fellow in Niger. In an e-mail interview he questioned whether true freedom of the press is possible in a country where 85 percent of the population cannot read, and many government leaders are illiterate. "The government's not accustomed to stinging criticism and will continue to lash out when it can, limited only ... by fear of international condemnation."

Please read the rest:

A crusading publisher pushes Niger's limits

Bahraini Blogger Charged with Libel

The Persian Gulf Island city-state of Bahrain is an oasis of relative liberalism amidst the dictatorships and autocracies of the Middle East. Even there, however, free expression has its limits. In addition to the efforts of Islamists, Bahrain's government continues to circumscribe free speech.

Last week, a Bahraini blogger named Mahmood Al Yousif went on trial for libel, due to critical comments he posted about a minister in the Bahraini government. The case was adjourned until May 8th. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Yousif discussed the circumstances surrounding his trial:

"Bahrain is a very politicized society, maybe the most in the Gulf," Yousif told the Post via e-mail. "Indications over the last few months suggest that there is a concerted effort by the government to stifle freedoms of expression, even though its own constitution defends them."

He said 13 cases had been brought against Bahraini journalists in the past two years, and that the charges against him indicated that the government had now turned its attention to the Internet.

"Now that the government has cowed print and other media outlets, they are trying the same technique to silence criticism on the Internet," Yousif said. "However, they fail to realize that there is no 'big red switch' which can be pressed to 'stop the presses' of the Internet."

"They can take me to court," he said, "they can continue to harass us, but for every one they do imprison or harass, tens of others naturally appear!"

"We are treated like animals, not humans"

I recently linked to two arguably silly examples of Islamist intolerance in Malaysia. Courtesy of Middle East Times, here's an undeniably tragic manifestation of radical Islam's culture war in that nation:

Two Malaysian Hindu men Thursday said that they were battling Islamic authorities after being forcibly separated from their Muslim wives in cases highlighting growing religious tensions here.

Suresh Veerapan issued a plea for help after his wife Revathi Masoosai and their baby were forcibly removed from their home and she was put in an Islamic rehabilitation camp.

He said that Revathi, an ethnic Indian and practicing Hindu born to Muslim parents, was sent to the camp for 100 days in January by Islamic authorities in western Malacca state.

Her detention was extended Wednesday by a Sharia court by 80 days, Suresh said, adding that Islamic authorities in March had also taken the 16-month-old baby from him and given the child to his Muslim in-laws.

"We are treated like animals, not humans, the way they have separated me from my wife and baby," said a weeping Suresh, adding that Islamic officials were now keeping him from visiting Revathi. "When I asked them why the extension, they told me she did not cooperate with the authorities there," Suresh said.

Revathi's detention is the latest in a string of religious conflicts involving Muslims and non-Muslims that have sparked outrage in multi-ethnic Malaysia.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As the article points out, this is not the only such incident to have taken place in Malaysia. Part II, Article 11 of Malaysia's constitution guarantees that "(e)very person has the right to profess and practice his religion", and non-Muslims make up 40% of Malaysia's population. In spite of this, Islamists have begun to successfully enforce Islamic Sharia law not only on Malaysian Muslims, but on non-Muslims as well.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Journalist Beaten in Canada

A journalist for a Canadian-Pakistani newspaper was recently assaulted after criticizing a Pakistani religious leader. This statement from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression provides the details:

CJFE is appalled and shocked by the news that journalist Jawaad Faizi was attacked in Mississauga, Ontario on the evening of April 17. Faizi works for the Mississauga-based newspaper, The Pakistan Post.

Jawaad Faizi describes being attacked by two men in his car outside the home of his Editor, Amir Arain. Two men, one armed with a cricket bat, smashed the car windows and hit Faizi inside the car. When they saw Faizi call 911 on his cell phone, they fled the scene. Paramedics and police, and his editor arrived soon afterwards.

According to Jawaad Faizi, the two men threatened him and said that he should cease writing against Islam, and against the Pakistan-based religious organisation, Idara Minhaj-ul-Quran, and its leader, Cleric Allama Tahir-Ul-Qadri. Allama Tahir-Ul-Qadri is a frequent visitor to Canada.

Both Arain and Faizi have received telephoned threats previous to this attack, and, in fact, on Monday, April 16, they filed a complaint with the police, and had also informed police about other threats they received in January. Police say that they cannot comment on the status of the investigation, but because of the nature of the attack this will probably be sent to the Criminal Investigation Unit and the Diversity Relations Unit.

"That this attack happened here in Canada is of great concern to us," said CJFE Executive Director Anne Game. "We call on the police to treat this matter extremely seriously and ensure that a full investigation into the attack is initiated immediately."

(Emphasis added-DD)

This is not the first instance of Islamists in Canada using violence and intimidation to silence moderates and reformers in their community. If Islamists can threaten free expression in Canada, one can only imagine the situation in other parts of the world.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Murder in Malatya

The Associated Press has an update on Wednesday's horrific murder of three employees of a Christian publishing house in Turkey:

Police detained five more suspects Thursday in the deaths of three men who were found with their throats slit in a publishing house that prints Bibles, the latest in a string of attacks targeting Christians in the mostly Muslim country.

The arrests brought to 10 the number of suspects in custody, all people in their late teens or early 20s, said Halil Ibrahim Dasoz, governor of Malatya, the city in central Turkey where the killings took place.

Malatya is known as hotbed of Turkish nationalism and as the hometown of Mehmet Ali Agca, the gunman who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.

Local media said five suspects detained Wednesday were college students who were living at a residence that belongs to an Islamic foundation. Some of those suspects told investigators they carried out the killings to protect Islam, a Turkish newspaper reported.

"We didn't do this for ourselves, but for our religion," Hurriyet newspaper quoted one suspect as saying. "Our religion is being destroyed. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Murdering people for printing Bibles; this is how radical Islamists "protect" their totalitarian version of Islam.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Censorship by Bomb Continues in Gaza

Radical Islamists in the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip are continuing their efforts at censorship by bomb. This time, they went after a new target:

A library of a Christian association and three Internet cafes were extensively damaged in pre-dawn bomb attacks Sunday in Gaza City, witnesses and security sources said.

No one was wounded in the attacks, they said.

The blast at the library, property of a Baptist church association, blew off the entry doors and caused extensive damage inside, a security source said.


Separately, three Internet cafes in Gaza city were also bombed, the latest of dozens that have been attacked during the past several months.

Most of the attacks have been claimed by an extremist group called "The Swords of Truth" that says that the cafes offer young Palestinians access to pornographic Internet sites.

Christian Publishing House Attacked in Turkey

The Associated Press has the details, via the International Herald Tribune:

Three employees of a publishing house that distributes Bibles were slain Wednesday in the latest attack apparently targeting Turkey's Christian minority.

The attack added to concerns in Europe about whether this predominantly Muslim country — which is bidding for EU membership — could protect its religious minorities. It also underlined concerns about rising Turkish nationalism and hostility toward non-Muslims.

The three victims — a German and two Turkish citizens — were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the Zirve publishing house in the central city of Malatya.

Police detained four youths, aged 19-20, and also suspect a fifth, who underwent surgery for head injuries sustained apparently in trying to escape by jumping from a window at Zirve, authorities said.

The five suspects had each had been carrying copies of a letter that read "We five are brothers. "We are going to our deaths. We may not return," according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.

The AP notes that this atrocity is part of a pattern:

It was the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey's Christian community — which comprises less than 1 percent of the 70-million population.

In February 2006, a Turkish teenager shot a Catholic priest dead as he prayed in his church, and two other Catholic priests were attacked later that year. A November visit by Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by several nonviolent protests. Earlier this year, a suspected nationalist killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.

Authorities had vowed to deal with extremist attacks after Dink's murder, but Wednesday's assault showed the violence was not slowing down.

(Link courtesy of the Counterrorism Blog)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Man Behind The Kite Runner

Reuters, via CNN, tells the story of the real star of the upcoming film version of The Kite Runner:

A man living in a graveyard in a rubbish-strewn, rundown Kabul district is the unlikely hero behind the scenes of one of Hollywood's most eagerly anticipated movies this year.

Noor Agha is widely acknowledged as the best kite-maker in Afghanistan, where flying and duelling with kites is the closest thing the war-torn country has to a national sport. He is also a champion kite-flyer.

"The Kite-Runner", based on the bestselling novel by an Afghan immigrant living in the United States, hits the screens in November, featuring hundreds of kites painstakingly made by Agha in his shack in a graveyard in Kabul's Ashiqan Arifan area.

He also spent weeks training the movie's teenage protagonists in kite flying and duelling, skills they used on camera when the movie was shot in China last year.

"I got $30 a day for 45 days, teaching them all I knew. Sometimes I had to smack them when they didn't do well," Agha says, smiling and revealing a missing upper tooth.

As the article points out, kite flying was banned by the Taliban, and Agha was forced to flee to Pakistan. Now, it's the Taliban who are (mostly) in Pakistan, while Agha's kites are heavily in demand.

Recommended Viewing

Tonight, PBS kicks off a series of documentaries called America at a Crossroads with a two hour look at the origins and ideology of Al Qaeda and the global jihadist movement. There is a recent controversy about this series that I'll address later, but overall it looks like it should be well worth watching. I'm especially looking forward to Irshad Manji's contribution on the plight of Muslim reformers. There's also an episode discussing the Patriot Act and the 2005 Connecticut case. A full broadcast schedule is available here.

The Ft. Huachuca Library

Thanks to a coworker for alerting me to the news that the main library at Ft. Huachuca is to be closed. In a letter to Acting Secretary of the Army Preston Geren (PDF), ALA President Leslie Burger called for the library to be kept open. Dan Cornwall also criticizes the closure at the Free Government Information blog. Having spent 4 months at Huachuca just last year, I feel I can add a little bit of perspective on this issue.

-To be honest, I never actually used the main library at Huachuca, due to its limited hours and distance. Like most students at the US Army Intelligence School (USAIS), I used the Military Intelligence Library, which is nestled right in the middle of the Intel School complex. It is open till 8:00 PM on weeknights, is within reasonable walking distance of the AIT student barracks (15 minutes), and is easily accessible when on break from class. To address one of Dan Cornwall's concerns, the MI Library has almost all of the books on the various Army reading lists, and is designed specifically to meet the information needs of students at the USAIS.

-As far as access to electronic resources, all Army personnel have access to Academic Search Premier, MasterFile Premier, and EBSCO's Military and Government Collection via something called Army Knowledge Online (AKO). Soldiers can login to AKO from any computer with Internet access.

-I also visited the Sierra Vista Public Library on several occasions, admittedly just for the free wireless. It is an excellent facility, and is only a 10-15 minute drive from Ft. Huachuca. As far as getting off and on the base, this is not a major issue. Vehicles leaving the base are not checked, and the longest wait I ever had to get on base was 5 minutes. The only time that entering Ft. Huachuca might be an issue, other than emergencies, is during the morning when people are coming in to work. Besides, many military personnel live in Sierra Vista, as opposed to on post. Considering that Sierra Vista starts about 200 yards past the main gate, proximity is not a concern.

-There is a broader issue at Ft. Huachuca regarding spending on morale and recreation facilities. A lot of them have been forced to limit their hours and/or are somewhat run down. The PX, for example, is not on the same level as those at Ft. Bragg or Ft. Leonard Wood. Huachuca is a smaller facility that has to fight for funding.

-Having said all this, it would be far better to have Ft. Huachuca's main library open than closed. I think President Berger has a point when she says that the library offers services and expertise on soldier and military dependent issues not possessed by the Sierra Vista Public Library. Hopefully, a reasonable solution, and appropriate funding, can be found.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Fatwa Frenzy in Malaysia

If today's Middle East Times is any indication, it must be fatwa season in Malaysia:

-First, a museum exhibit on ghosts and the supernatural was canceled after a fatwa was issued against it:

The National Fatwa Council Thursday reportedly ruled that exhibitions on ghosts, ghouls, and supernatural beings were forbidden, as they could undermine the faith of Muslims.

"Supernatural beings are beyond the comprehension of the human mind. We don't want to expose Muslims to supernatural and superstitious beliefs," council chair Abdul Shukor Husin was quoted as saying in the Malay-language daily Berita Harian Friday.

Abdul Shukor said that the council's decision would be presented to all of Malaysia's state governments for gazetting as religious law.

"Only state governments have the power to take action, especially concerning the ghostly exhibitions," he said.

So, if I read this correctly, the National Fatwa Council (NFC) wants Malaysia's state governments to ban any future exhibits on the supernatural. If they succeed, I wonder what other types of exhibits would fail to pass muster as well.

But that's only half the fatwa fun, for the NFC also found time to decry Internet trading:

National Fatwa Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin said that non-Muslim investment schemes accessed through the Internet pay interest and guarantee a steady profit, which is banned under Islamic or Sharia law.

"We advise those making investments via the Internet to stop immediately," Abdul Shukor was quoted as saying in Malay-language daily Berita Harian.

"There are many alternative investment schemes based on Islamic principles initiated by the government which Muslims can participate in," he said.

Islamic funds ban the earning of interest and cannot invest in companies associated with tobacco, alcohol, or gambling, which are considered taboo by Muslims.

Yes, these are relatively minor and even silly instances of Islamist censorship and intolerance. What makes them important is that they are symptoms of a broader culture war within most Islamic societies. For the last several decades, Islamist extremism exported from the Middle East has encroached on traditionally tolerant customs and practices throughout the Muslim world. The rise of jihadist terror organizations such as Al Qaeda is merely a reflection of this process. If radical Islamists succeed in remaking the Muslim world in their image, the consequences for intellectual freedom worldwide would be disastrous.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Discussion Curtailed in Saudi Arabia

Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor has an excellent article on Saudi Arabia's private discussion groups. Mostly ignored by the authorities, these groups are one of the few avenues for free expression in the kingdom. Unfortunately, it appears that the Saudi regime has decided to rectify this oversight:

For 14 years she has been gathering with some 150 other female Saudi academics for monthly diwaniyas, or salons. At the home of one of the group's members in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, they talked about the issues of the day: the plight of Saudi women, elections, civil society, and domestic violence.

But now the professor worries that the government is beginning to stifle her salon and others, further backing away from making substantial reforms.

These discussion groups, which have been growing in number in recent years, are among the only outlets for collective expression in a country where public gatherings and political parties are banned.

She says she received a troubling call from a government official a few weeks ago asking her to register the group with the Ministry of Interior or face police action against her group. "The official kept calling me, but I said I would not believe what he was saying unless he could send me something in writing," recalls the academic, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution.

"My husband was finally called in to have a meeting with a Riyadh Governorate official who told him that a new law was going into effect that would force all discussion groups in private homes who have guest speakers to be registered with the Ministry of Interior," she says.

Not only will these discussion groups apparently have to be registered with the government, but each may have to apply for permission from the appropriate ministry depending on the topic being discussed, according to this academic.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The fact that this measure appears to have been haphazardly applied so far provides some hope. Still, this does not bode well for the possibility of a "Saudi Spring".

No Blogger Registration in Malaysia

The Times of London reports that Malaysia's prime minister has ruled out requiring his country's bloggers to register with the government. Unfortunately, it's not all good news:

Announcing his decision, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned bloggers not to publish rumours or offensive remarks, adding that laws to penalise them “will be invoked when the need arises,” the national news agency Bernama reported.

Mr Abdullah’s statement follows suggestions made last week by two government ministers that bloggers whose sites are hosted on local servers should be forced to register with the government.

“Existing laws are sufficient,” Mr Abdullah said. “Even if they are ordered to register, some of them may not comply and resort to using other channels through foreign servers.”

In other words, PM Abdullah is not opposed to the concept of censoring bloggers, he just thinks that registration is an inefficient way of going about it. Sadly, it seems that online free expression in Malaysia isn't quite out of the woods yet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

They Hate Buddhists, Too

According to a report last week, a Pakistani jihadist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda recently tried to murder that noted paragon of imperialist neocon Islamophobia, the Dalai Lama.

At first glance, it is hard to understand why radical Islamists would want to kill the Dalai Lama. After all, as Dave Kopel points out, none of the usual grievances apply in this case:

What is clear that the Dalai Lama has never sold arms to Israel, stationed troops in Saudi Arabia, sent military forces to fight for freedom in Afghanistan or Iraq, reconquered Spain from Islamic invasion, drawn cartoons mocking Islamic terrorists, dismantled the Ottoman Empire, or performed any of the other acts which the apologists for terrorism claim have “provoked” al Qaeda. Yet al Qaeda is still trying to kill him — as it trying to kill everyone who does not submit to it hideous totalitarian “religion.”

Upon reflection, the fact that radical Islamists hate the Dalai Lama should not come as a surprise. Their attitude is typified by Osama bin Laden himself, who referred contemptuously to "pagan Buddhism" in his most recent audio statement, released in April 2006.

Islamist insurgents operating in southern Thailand have worked hard over the last several years putting bin Laden's hatred of Buddhism into practice. A February 25th article from the International Herald Tribune provides the details:

"Buddhist monks have been hacked to death, clubbed to death, bombed and burned to death," said Sunai Phasuk, a political analyst with the Human Rights Watch monitoring group. "This has never happened before. This is a new aspect of violence in the south."


In a report published last month, Zachary Abuza, the author of "Militant Islam in Southeast Asia," said that entire Buddhist communities have fled in a "de facto ethnic cleansing."

"The social fabric of the south has been irreparably damaged," he said.


The Muslims have complained of discrimination and attempts at forced assimilation since Thailand annexed the former Sultanate of Pattani a century ago. Armed insurgencies have risen and subsided over the past four decades, but the government may now be facing its most dangerous challenge.

"What is new about the current conflict is the level and degree of violence, the Islamist agenda of the insurgents, and their unprecedented degree of cooperation and coordination," Abuza said.

"The level of violence in Thailand's south has never been higher," he said. "Nor has it been more brutal."

He said there had been more than 24 beheadings in the past three years and as many as 60 attempted beheadings.

(Emphasis added-DD)

There are no political, social or economic grievances that explain why radical Islamists would want to murder an exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, or gleefully slaughter Buddhist monks. Rather, such acts are symptomatic of jihadists' literally murderous hatred of anyone not sharing their fanatical ideology.

Legislating Cyber-Censorship in Turkey

Turkey has already enshrined censorship as part of its legal code, courtesy of Article 301. Now, the Turkish parliament is considering extending this writ to cyberspace:

A parliamentary commission approved a proposal Thursday allowing Turkey to block Web sites that are deemed insulting to the founder of modern Turkey, weeks after a Turkish court temporarily barred access to YouTube.

Parliament plans to vote on the proposal, though a date was not announced. The proposal indicates the discomfort that many Turks feel about Western-style freedom of expression, even though Turkey has been implementing widespread reforms in its bid to join the European Union.

On Thursday, lawmakers in the commission also debated whether the proposal should be widened to allow the Turkish Telecommunications Board to block access to any sites that question the principles of the Turkish secular system or the unity of the Turkish state -- a reference to Web sites with information on Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

It is illegal in Turkey to talk of breaking up the state or to insult Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey whose image graces every denomination of currency and whose portrait hangs in nearly all government offices.

With Turkey already under pressure to drop Article 301 as a condition of EU membership, adopting this measure would send exactly the wrong signal.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Outrageous News of the Day

Courtesy of Greg McClay, Michael McGrorty writes that the County of Los Angeles has refused to hire him as a librarian, almost certainly due to his status as a veteran. Yes, apparently, they won't hire him because he is a veteran. This is utterly appalling, and I wish Mr. McGrorty full success with his suit.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bias on Campus

The Weekly Standard has an interesting piece by Mary Eberstadt on the leftward tilt of most American university campuses. Eberstadt's article is not a statistical survey, but rather based on the personal experiences of current or former conservative academics. Let's just say that, based on my own experiences in both academia and librarianship, I could relate as I read:

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that bias on campus not only influenced this generation of conservative journalists, authors, and think-tankers; it is actually part of what catapulted many out of the university and into the ranks of the right. Those who would prefer not to acknowledge the problem, such as the author and consumers of the AFT report, do themselves no favor by pretending it does not exist. Ironically, by encouraging ideological blowback, they may actually be creating another generation of academic refugees.

To give just a few examples from what could be a longer list: "I watched with horror as the multicultural yahoos took over the humanities" (the Manhattan Institute's Heather Mac Donald). "I'd been preaching freedom of speech, but I had to leave the academy for the world of policy think tanks before I'd ever get a chance to practice it" (Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz, formerly of Berkeley, Chicago, and Harvard). "Of course the vast majority of the faculty [at Harvard] were on the left" (Hoover Institution senior fellow and former Harvard professor Peter Berkowitz). And perhaps most tellingly: "Because I studied neither economics nor Straussian philosophy [at the University of Chicago], I never met a conservative professor, and I knew only one conservative student" (David Brooks)--this, about the one and only top-twenty campus in America that is supposed to be at all friendly to conservative ideas.

Do Campuses Tilt Left?

Blogger Registration in Malaysia

According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, Malaysia plans to force bloggers to register with the government:

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about a statement by the deputy minister of energy, water and communications, Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor, on 4 April that, in order to prevent the spread of “negative or malicious content,” bloggers will soon have to register with the government.

While claiming they do not intend to censor bloggers, they have warned that bloggers are not above the law when they “disturb peace and harmony” in Malaysia.

“This measure could jeopardise online free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It could push many bloggers to opt for anonymity or censor themselves out of fear of reprisals. The deputy minister’s statement once again demonstrates the government’s desire to exercise improper control over the online flow of information inside Malaysia. The obligatory registering of blogs is a measure that so far has only been adopted by countries such as China that violate Internet users’ rights.”

The political parties and the government control most of the media in Malaysia. The most popular blogs serve as a counter-weight, offering political comment that is often critical of the government. Science and technology minister Kong Cho Ha said on 4 December that he wanted to “create strict laws to control abuses on the Internet” and to dissuade “bloggers from advocating disorder and chaos in society.”

Zimbabwe Watch: 4-8-07

As the crisis in Zimbabwe brought about by Robert Mugabe's despotic rule continues to deepen, the regime has intensified its war on that country's few remaining sources of free expression:

-In late March, the Mugabe government threatened that it "may be forced to act against" foreign journalists and media outlets guilty of "biased" reporting. The regime has already banned the BBC and CNN from the country, among other news organizations.

-On March 31st, freelance cameraman Edward Chikomba was found beaten to death, several days after he was abducted from his house in Harare. According to Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), his murderers are "suspected of being members of the intelligence services".

-On April 1st, journalist Gift Phiri was arrested. He was released four days later, after having been beaten so badly that he went straight from jail to the hospital.

Sadly, these incidents are merely reflections of a broader climate of terror created by the Mugabe regime. These efforts have been so successful that, in the words of independent newspaper editor Wilf Mbanga, "freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is dead":

This week, death lists are circulating with names of journalists on them (myself and Gift Phiri among them), purportedly on the letterheads of the Central Intelligence Organisation and mentioning the president’s office. Whether genuine or an elaborate hoax, the message is the same – freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is dead, any attempt at freedom of the press is punishable by death.

Iraqi National Library Update

Saturday's Washington Post has a lengthy feature on Dr. Saad Eskander and the state of Iraq's National Library:

After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, looters pillaged and burned the library. Now, on the brink of the fourth anniversary of Saddam Hussein's fall, and several weeks into a new security offensive, Eskander and his staff are struggling to preserve the fragments of Iraq's ancient heritage at a place he calls the "historical memory of the country."

"What makes a Kurd or a Sunni or a Shia have something in common is a national library," he said. "It is where the national identity of a country begins."

The library today is humming with young employees. Religion and politics are checked at the door. But the same forces fracturing Iraq are slowing the library's progress: violence, bureaucracy, sectarianism, political rivalries and a lack of basic services.

The piece, which also includes a number of quotes from Dr. Eskander's online diary, is well worth reading, as is this recent interview with PBS (link courtesy of Jack Stephens).

It is amazing that Dr Eskander and his staff are able to carry on in the face of the violence and corruption he describes. Words cannot do justice to their courage.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Defending Free Expression in Bahrain

According to the Middle East Times, Bahrain's crown prince has spoken out against the refusal of government ministers to defend a recent cultural festival condemned by Islamists:

"Nobody has said anything. The ministers' irresponsible attitude is regrettable. I'm very disappointed," Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said in an interview with the Al Ayyam daily.

Sunni and Shiite Islamists who control three-quarters of the 40 seats in parliament voted last month in favor of a motion to set up a commission of inquiry into the "Spring of Culture" festival, which runs in the small Gulf kingdom until mid-April.

Twenty-nine MPs backed the motion, charging that the festival, a joint venture between the government and private firms, violates Islamic morals.

They singled out a musical on a love story written by Bahraini poet Qassem Haddad.

"We all defend religion. We are all Muslim and we respect the opinions of others. But this outcry is not in the interests of the country or its citizens," the crown prince said, denouncing "intrigues that threaten civil liberties" in Bahrain.

The article notes that this is just one example of how Islamists are trying to change the island kingdom's traditional atmosphere of moderation:

Three years ago, they forced the Saudi-owned MBC satellite television channel to suspend production of an Arabic version of the reality TV show "Big Brother" being filmed in Bahrain, charging that it flouted Islamic traditions.

It's a safe bet that Bahraini Islamists will continue their campaign against free expression.

Trouble at the Tehran Book Fair

Stephen Denney has the story of how the Tehran book fair has become yet another victim of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assault on intellectual freedom.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Islamist Internet Filtering: Part Two

Khaled Abu Toameh of the Jerusalem Post has an update on the wave of attacks against Internet cafes in the Gaza Strip:

Owners of Internet cafes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday appealed to Palestinian Authority security forces to take tough measures to stop recurring attacks on their businesses.

The appeal was made after unidentified assailants detonated explosive charges inside an Internet cafe in the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. No one was hurt in the pre-dawn attack, but the place was completely damaged, witnesses told The Jerusalem Post.

Wednesday's attack was the third of its kind in less than a week and the 48th in the past five months. In addition, a number of shops selling cassettes, DVDs and CDs have been targeted.

PA security sources said the attacks were the work of a radical Islamic group that began operating in the Gaza Strip last year. The group, which calls itself Swords of Islamic Righteousness, is believed to be an offshoot of al-Qaida.

Its members have also claimed responsibility for assaults on women whom they accused of being dressed immodestly.

A local source explains the motivation behind the attacks:

"The word on the street is that they belong to al-Qaida," he said. "They are trying to impose strict Islamic teachings; they want a Taliban-style regime in the Gaza Strip. For them, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are too moderate in their views."

As I noted in my first post on this topic, the bombings are part of an effort to deny Palestinians access to "immoral" music and web content. They reveal the totalitarian impulse and hatred of intellectual freedom that lie at the heart of the Islamist project.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Listener Feedback: The Islamist Version

This past Monday, Islamists in Nigeria vented their displeasure at a radio station that broadcast opinions they disagreed with by attacking the station. Middle East Times provides the details:

The protestors, armed with batons and knives, hurled stones at Freedom Radio for broadcasting at the weekend what they considered as conflicting views on the Eid Al Maloud, the Islamic festival marking the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, the radio production manager, Abdulrahman Nuraini, said.

"Policemen stationed within the premises of the radio prevented the protestors from gaining entry. But they made for the transmitter and set it ablaze," he said at the scene, littered with stones.

The radio allegedly gave airtime Saturday to an Islamic cleric whose views on Eid Al Maloud were believed by a group of Muslims to have cast doubt on whether it was right to mark the festival.

"We can read a political meaning into this action. The group came Sunday on a peaceful protest. We pacified them after they presented their letter of protest. Suddenly today [Monday] they came in their hundreds to destroy our radio station," he stated.

There was an attempt by unidentified persons two months ago to burn down the radio station, established in December 2003.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The BBC on Web Censorship

The growth of online censorship is one of the most ominous trends of the last decade. The BBC recently took a look at this disturbing development:

Over a decade after the internet really began to take off, most countries' leaders recognise the desirability of being online, says Daniel Whitener of the World Wide Web consortium.

"They recognise it, if nothing else, as a critical avenue for commerce," he explains.

"What comes along with that commercial avenue though is access to quite a bit of information that can be quite threatening to authoritarian regimes."

And the ways that different countries have attempted to combat this threat are numerous.

Read the rest here.

A Muslim Reflects on the Danish Cartoons

Courtesy of MEMRI, some recent thoughts by a Saudi columnist named Thuraya Al-Shihri on the Muslim reaction to the Danish Mohammed cartoons:

"When the offensive cartoons of the Prophet [were published], we responded by damaging buildings and campaigning to boycott products. Most [Muslims] continued to purchase these products in secret, or [went on buying them] because they were not aware of their origin. The whole affair [produced nothing more than] slogans which were meant to support [Islam], but which in practice only damaged its reputation.

"When we wanted to explain the value of our faith, [why didn't we launch] social initiatives... or harness our economic resources to inform the world about the noble nature of Islam and shari'a? Nothing [of this sort] was done, except for a few conferences organized by Muslim preachers - and even this came only after the situation had deteriorated.

"These conferences did not have as much impact as the actions of the rabble... the bombing of buildings, the abduction of innocent people, and the murder of peaceful individuals. These spread more quickly and made a greater impression than lectures aimed at changing [the Western perception of Islam]...

"Our insistence [on reacting] by chopping off heads is a paradigm no less dangerous to humanity than paradigms like Nazism and Fascism. Why isn't there a single Muslim who has not heard about the [offensive] cartoons [of the Prophet Mohammad] - but when [a Belgian paper] plans to print and distribute translations of our Holy book [the Koran], this is taken for granted?..."

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Some Final Perspective

One last bit of perspective on the Berry nonsense before I return to more important topics (yes, I really mean it this time).

Somehow, my one comment about not wanting to be a mirror image of Mark Rosenzweig has been taken as some sort of horrible ad hominem uttered from the depths of my "netherworld echo chamber". Readers wanting to know what ad hominem attacks really look like are invited to browse some of the comments (link in PDF, use the rotate button to get a normal view) made in response to my September 2005 essay for the Chronicle. Mark Rosenzweig's post makes for especially entertaining reading (pgs.17-18).

Of course, I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to write the piece, so no big deal.

Finally, it seems fitting to give a pseudonymous blogger the final say, so I refer you to Tomeboy's thoughts on this whole pseudo-controversy.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Discussion That Will Not Die

Imagine my surprise when I followed Jack Stephens' link and discovered that over 80 comments have now been added to John Berry's original post.

Many thanks to Stephen Denney, Robert Lanxon, and others for being voices of reason and common sense in the comments. In particular, I appreciate Stephen's kind words about me and this blog, and his repeated yet futile efforts to explain to one John Buschman that I am not a pseudonymous blogger, and have not been since this blog's earliest days.

Actually, though, I think I may owe Mr. Buschman a debt of gratitude. I have long tried to think of a name for this blog that doesn't make me sound like a complete ubergeek. At long last, a viable alternative is at hand. I think "netherworld echo chamber" might be just the new blog name I'm looking for...