Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Freedom of expression - at what price?

Below is an interesting article which I read online from Chicago Tribune. The author eloquently writes about recent incidents and cases in Europe involving freedom of expression and the price it comes with.

He says that from the Danish cartoons to denying the Holocaust, mixed messages are being sent on free expression. The article is titled Freedom of speech garbled.

Here it goes. Enjoy reading it.

By Tom Hundley, the Tribune's chief European correspondent, based in LondonPublished February 27, 2006

LONDON -- These are fraught times for free speech and freedom of expression
in Europe.While newspaper editors debate the right or wrong of publishing a
dozen Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, a judge in Austria gave
Holocaust denier David Irving a 3-year prison sentence for a speech he made 17
years ago, though Irving now says he sees the error of his ways, sort of.

The same words and ideas that cost Irving his fortune and reputation in
London--he lost a libel suit against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt in
2000 and was ordered to pay $3.2 million for Lipstadt's legal fees--have cost
him his liberty in Vienna.

Meanwhile, Abu Hamza al-Masri, the former London nightclub bouncer turned
jihadist preacher, has been sentenced to 7 years in prison by a British judge
for inciting religious hatred and soliciting murder.

So, it seems that denying the Holocaust is not a crime in Britain, but
calling for jihad is; while in Austria--a country that spent decades denying its
own complicity in the Holocaust--Holocaust denial can land you in jail, but
calling for jihad might, at worst, get you deported.

Opinion polls indicate that most Britons think Abu Hamza got off too easy.
At the same time, Irving's jail sentence aroused little sympathy but a lot of

"However nauseating, these people should be confronted in debate rather
than chucked into jail and turned into martyrs," Anthony Beevor, the World War
II historian and author, told The Times newspaper.

"Just plain bonkers" is how Shami Chakrabarti, director of Britain's most
respected civil liberties organization, described Irving's jailing.

Lest anyone think that Britain turns a blind eye to anti-Semitism, London
Mayor Ken Livingstone, who is known for reaching out to his city's Muslim
community, was last week punished with a four-week suspension from his job after he accused a Jewish journalist of behaving like a concentration camp guard.

The remark, delivered in the heat of the moment, was dumb, but the mayor
refused to apologize. The Standards Board for England, which oversees the
conduct of local officials, ordered the highly unusual suspension after deciding
that Livingstone's gibe was "unnecessarily insensitive."

For Muslims, especially the 15 million living in Europe, these verdicts and
the public reaction to them suggest a confusing double standard.

Europe's free-speech waters were further muddied this month when a jury in
the English city of Leeds acquitted Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right
British National Party, of race-hate charges, and failed to reach a verdict on
several other related charges.

The BNP, which has miniscule support in Britain, adamantly opposes
immigration and multiculturalism. After the verdict, Griffin told supporters
that Britain had to decide whether it wanted to be an "Islamic republic" or
remain "a free, Western, democratic society."

Voicing similar sentiments earned Austrian far-right politician Joerg
Haider 27 percent of the vote in national elections seven years ago. Although
Haider's star has faded in recent years, France's Jean-Marie Le Pen did well
with the anti-immigration theme in France's 2002 election.

The BNP is cashing in on the cartoon controversy, using the most
inflammatory image--the one showing the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his
turban--in a new campaign leaflet.

"We owe it to our children to defend our Christian culture," the leaflet

European civil libertarians say free speech is a matter of context.
Countries such as Germany and Austria have good reason to restrict speech that
glorifies the Nazis or minimizes their crimes.

It is an acknowledgment of guilt and responsibility, and a legal mechanism
for preventing a recurrence.But some things that Germans view as tasteless,
dangerous and offensive, are for the English, especially English soccer fans,
absolutely hilarious.

Germany hosts this summer's World Cup, and German officials have made clear
they no longer will tolerate the long-standing habit of English fans who taunt
their German counterparts with stiff-armed salutes and comically exaggerated
Basil Fawlty goose-steps, silly stuff that English fans would describe as
"having a laugh."

Perhaps it was this spirit of fun that moved Irving to address his Austrian
judge as "Mein Fuhrer." Not a smart move.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Malaysian blogger under attack for whistleblowing

Jeff Ooi's Screenshots is a popular blog in Malaysia for its mudracking reports. He has managed to get under the nerves of some high profile people/politicians and the mainstream media with his revelations.

His most recent exposure has been about how New Straits Times had carried a cartoon strip ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad's cartoon debacle.

Arising from his blogs, NST came very close to face actions by the government for stirring up racial sentiments in the country. However the daily publicly apologised for its error and terminated the publication of Wiley Miller’s Non Sequitur syndicated cartoon.

This is not the first time Jeff Ooi has provoked NST with his blogs. He had previous run ins with the daily and its editors. However this time NST did not just keep quite. It lodged a police report against Jeff Ooi, for allegedly inciting racial disharmony over the cartoon strip published in the daily.

While the police are investigating Jeff Ooi over this matter, his blog has come under attack from unknown sources. The denial of service attacks began on Sunday and has continued overnight. Jeef Ooi has decided to bring down his blogsite to allow the experts to perform a thorough digital forensic investigation. He believes his site will be down for about 72 hours.

Now, who is the culprit attacking Jeff Ooi's site? Is it an individual or a group, working alone or a concentrated effort backed by someone?

While we can only speculate as to the identity of the culprit(s), the double pronged attack on Jeff Ooi - police probe and blog hacking - only proves that whistleblowers are not endeared in Malaysia.

On the police action against Jeff Ooi, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang suggests that if the police probe Jeff Ooi for his blog on the NST cartoon, then similar action must also be taken against others who also criticised NST over that publication. And this involves some very big names.

As Kit Siang said:

"... action should also be taken against those who appeared to be like-minded with Jeff Ooi that NST should be penalized for the cartoon, which would include former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at least two Cabinet Ministers namely Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin and UMNO Youth."
Will the police extent their probe to include all these parties? More importantly will they also dig into the blatant attacks on Jeff Ooi's blog by the unknown persons to see if these attacks are directly linked to his blogs on the NST cartoons?

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Drama at Malaysian media scene

Barely 24 hours after the New Straits Times came under fire from the government for publishing a controversial cartoon, the daily managed to evade any actions by dishing out its own preemptive strike - an open and unreserved apology.

Only yesterday the daily, after receiving a show cause letter from the Malaysian government, said that it would fight for press freedom and argued that sometimes it hurts when the truth are said.

Many, including those in the government and former PM Tun Mahathir, have asked for action to be taken against NST.

Their offence: the publication of a cartoon that ridiculed the on going Prophet Muhammad cartoon debacle.

Some even said the daily might face a short two-week suspension. As it is the goverment has previously indefinitely suspended the Sarawak Tribune for publishing the offending prophet cartoons and issued a two-week suspension to GuangMing Daily for indirectly publishing the same.

At the same time, some others were skeptical of any actions against NST. Why? After all it is the official mouth piece of the government, it is owned by Umno, its editors are all political appointees and its former editor-in-chief and present editorial adviser Kalimullah Hassan has the ears of PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

But still, there were some inklings that some form of punishment will come NST's way and before that could happen, NST came out with its apology.

In it, the paper said it misjudged how people will react to the cartoon and that it was guilty of human error. It stressed that there were no caricature of the prophet at all in the cartoon.

And added:

Perhaps, in more ordinary circumstances, such a cartoon would not have received more than a passing mention.Yet, these are different times. The Muslim world was outraged by the blasphemy of the Danish and European newspapers.

When the Sarawak Tribune and Guang Ming Daily reproduced pictures depicting the caricature of the Prophet, the Government acted firmly and suspended both newspapers. Their editors and publishers were held accountable.

In the case of Wiley Miller’s cartoon in the NST, there was no caricature of Prophet Muhammad at all. NONE.
And NST threw a stink bomb at state broadcaster RTM for broadcasting a short clip of some people reading a newspaper with the offending prophet cartoons. The daily however was gracious in saying that it was not calling for the resignaion of Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin or his deputies, but added that it had passed a recording of the broadcast to the Internal Security Ministry show how even a government station could commit human error.

And what was the PM's reaction to all this - just a day after saying he will study the NST matter and see what sort of action may be taken against them?

He is quoted in the media as saying:

"Since they have made an open apology, with no conditions and admitted what they did had evoked mixed reactions, I don’t think there is a need for any action."
And on the RTM accusation, he said:

"I have heard about this, let me get the full information."
My immediate thought about this whole affair is that it is good that the government has decided not to strample on press freedom. And I don't think it will take any action against RTM either.

However, what upsets me is the degree of double standards in practice here.

If I remember correctly, the Sarawak Tribune too apologised immediately and took action in sacking its duty editor for publishing the offending cartoons. For that, the daily was suspended indifinitely. GuangMing Daily too apologised but still its night edition was suspended for two weeks.

Of course, in the NST case, the PM said the matter published was different. If that is the case, why such a din in the first place? Why the police reports, demonstrations and condemnations from top people? And more importantly why the show cause letter?

I can only speculate, and it is a frightening thought as well, that this only shows how freely the government is beginning to issue show cause letters to the media.

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Malaysia presses down freedom of media

The oldest newspaper in Malaysia and government mouth piece, New Straits Times, is facing government punishment publishing a cartoon which satired the Prophet Muhammad cartoon debacle.

The government has slapped a show cause letter against the daily and has given it three days to explain itself.

A possible action against the NST now follows the indefinite suspension of two other dailies for publishing the offensive Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

NST though did not publish those cartoons, but had carried another piece - a Non Sequitur strip by Wiley Miller. It featured a street artist sitting on a chair next to a sign which read ‘Caricatures of Muhammad While You Wait’. A boxed caption read ‘Kevin finally achieves his goal to be the most feared man in the world’.

Although NST is quite confident that it was weather this storm, noises from strong places are gaining in strength.

For premier Dr M wants NST's editor to be suspended for "two to three months".

While NST itself, in an editorial, said:

"When the truth gets reported, some get hurt. The powerful ones will seek to
protect themselves with whatever means at their disposal."
In its front page report, it said:

"The ministry said the cartoon had breached the conditions of the newspaper's publishing permit. It added that the sketch was inappropriate and could invite negative reactions in the country, especially among Muslims."

We now await further developments. Surely the government will not suspend the ruling party's organ?

If NST has republished the offending Danish cartoons, then its reprehensible for actions to be taken against it.

In this case, its just another cartoon - there are many political/editorial cartoons being published all over the world on this matter.

And most of the time, these political cartoons are not just humurous, but also deliver the message succintly - that its time to get moving from the matter.

And for NST to reproduce one such political cartoon - from a reputable strip no less - is not a major offence that needs the government to come down hard on it.

Whay is the government so eager to play hard against the media on this matter then? Could it be that it wants to portray itself as the prominent voice of the Islamic world in its capacity as the chairperson of OIC?

Or is it because PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi wants to strength his position as an Islamic scholar in the country, brushing aside any political victories for opposition Islamic party PAS?

Whatever it is, the bottom line is that if the government is going to be sensitive about this matter, it will only succeed in pressing the Malaysian media further into a hole.

read more in Jeff Ooi's blog.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Nominal fine for Diana crash paparazzi

Three photographers were ordered to pay one euro in damages for breaching privacy laws when taking pictures of Princess Diana on the night of her fatal crash, a French court has ruled.

The single euro divided between the trio will be paid to Mohamed al Fayed, the Egyptian-born millionaire and father of Dodi al Fayed, Diana's companion who also died in the crash.

Diana, Dodi and chauffeur Henri Paul were killed on August 31, 1997 when their Mercedes car crashed in a tunnel as it sped away from the Ritz hotel in the French capital with paparazzi photographers in hot pursuit on motorbikes.

These photographers were found to have invaded the death couple's privacy twice - taking pictures near the Ritz hotel in Paris and by taking photos of the Princess after the accident in the Alma tunnel.

Although a French inquiry in 1999 ruled that the crash was caused by Paul being drunk and driving too fast, the circumstances of the crash still cause controversy.

Al Fayed maintains that the couple were murdered by British secret services because their relationship was embarrassing the royal household and Diana's brother Spencer blamed the paparazzi for killing the couple.

But this nominal fine today - for invasion of privacy - somehow takes away the blame from them.

I wonder how Al Fayed will feel about the one euro fine.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Who created us?

This is not a simple question. It goes beyond the usual, smart answer of our parents being our creators. My question is who actually created us as beings?

This burning question has pitted the evolutionists against the religionists in the US and now news reports are suggesting that the same dispute might be coming across the Atlantic to the UK.

For years scientists have been diligently adhering to Darwin’s theory of evolution which points that we human beings have undergone evolution in billions of years from being single-cells to what we are now – a complete being with sixth sense and thinking capacity.

Scientific evidence before us now suggests that the universe is 13 billions years old and humans are descended from ape-like creatures.

This scientific evidence is not accepted by religionists who believe in the doctrine of creationism, or intelligent design.

This doctrine holds that the origins of humanity and the earth are recent and divine.

Christians relate this to the book of Genesis while the Muslims believe that God created every animal from water.

Strict creationists believe Adam and Eve are the parents of humanity and that God created earth six days.

This doctrine has found strong support in the US, and proponents have the ears of their president as well. In fact a recent poll found that 45% Americans believed God created life some time in the past 10,000 years.

In the UK, such support has been lacking but a report in the Guardian today indicated that this was changing here too.

The report said that more students in the UK now believed Darwin got it wrong, and added that both Muslim and Christian students were now advocating creationism.

The report added:

“Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that
dismissed Darwin’s theories as false, Evangelical Christian students are also
increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution.”
A leading advocate of Darwinism, Prof Steve Jones of University College London said:

“This is an insidious and growing problem. It’s a step back from rationality.”
I agree with him. Although there are many mysteries of the world still unanswered by science, it nevertheless is making progress on a daily basis in discovering something new about our origins. As it stands, I think many rationally thinking person will not doubt the proof science has shown on the evolution of earth and humanity.

We don’t need religionists to now create a doctrine that will suit their religious needs and take away what science has put forward through years of research and studies, and replace these with their ideological beliefs.

Although I do wonder what other religions say about our beginnings, I do believe that it is a matter that should be left to be backed with scientific proof and not based on holy books.

read more:

Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
Evolution versus Creationism in the classroom

p/s: Read my other blog here

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cartoon reactions to the prophet's drawings

Above are some political cartoons on the continuing storm arising for the drawing of offensive Propeht Muhammad's cartoons.

These drawings come just after a Pakistani cleric offered rewards on Friday amounting to more than $1 million for killing one of the Danish cartoonists, who are under police protection.

This reward prompted immediate rebuke from Denmark and Norway who condemned as it as an incitement to murder.

"It's murder and murder is also forbidden by the Koran," Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller told a news conference with his colleague Jonas Gahr Stoere from Norway, which has been dragged into the row after a paper there published the cartoons.

"Islam is also a religion of peace, mercy and forgiveness. That is why it is my opinion, but also the opinion of many Muslims, this is un-Islamic," said the Danish minister.

See more such political cartoons and comments at this cartoon web log.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

US$1 million and a Toyota for killing cartoonists

That's right. Finally after all the protests - which is becoming increasingly violent - a cleric in Pakistan has put an offer on the heads of all the cartoonists who drew the offensive Prophet Muhammad's cartoons.

Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, a Peshawar-based cleric is offering US$1 million to anyone who can kill the Danish cartoonists.

He said:

"This is a unanimous decision by all imams that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed, and whoever will take this insulting man to his end will get this prize.This killing will enhance respect for Islam and for the Muslims. Next time nobody will dare to commit blasphemy against our prophet."
Another Pakistani cleric Qari Saeed Ullah had this to say:

"Oh God, please punish those who dared to publish these sacrilegious cartoons
... give enough power to the Muslim countries and enable them to take revenge."
The Guardian today reports that the reward also includes a Toyota car.

This is a worrying trend. We are now seeing the involvement of clerics on this matter. And even more serious is that they are now narrowing their anger towards the cartoonists after weeks of targetting the Danish newspaper and government, and other European media and governments.

As I mentioned earlier, even the global protests are getting dangerous. Not only are the protesters shouting threatenting slogans, they are also now burning all things they identify with the west. Thus, the burning down of few KFC outlets in Pakistan.

And in Libya, a mob set fire to the Italian consulate. A follow-up clash with the local police resulted in nine protesters being killed.

The protesters, about 1,000 of them, set upon the mission, setting cars alight and breaking windows, apparently angered by a minister in Silvio Berlusconi's government who has said he intends to wear T-shirts bearing some of the cartoons.

It looks like more blood will be shed and more protesters killed and more anger boiling over. What we don't need is a group of Muslim clerics getting together to issue a fatwa against the cartoonists.

Even with this bounty, I dread to think what some radical followers might do. The last thing we need now is for a group of people tracking down the cartoonists and trying to kill them.

Isn't it time to let this matter rest?

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Why will China back Iran?

Simple! Its economy.

China is involved in various major economy deals with the islamic republic. The latest in this line of partnership is the plans to develop Iran's Yadavaran oil field.

The deal alone is worth about US$100 billion. Media reports are saying that the deal could be signed in March - just before any potential sanctions are imposed on Iran by the UN for its nuclear ambitions.

For its part, in exchange for developing Yadavaran, one of Iran's largest onshore oil fields, China would agree to buy 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year for 25 years beginning in 2009.

China needs this oil field to feed its fuel-hunger consumers. This Iran venture is just part of China's global effort in owning its own fuel production line. It has been snapping up energy resources in places as far flung as Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Australia.

This being China's problem, why should it be part of the UN Security Council to propose an economic sanction against Iran? Or worse still, why should it back a military action?

With China and Russia being in its side, its not hard to see why Iran is not shivering with fear with US and the European threat of sanctions.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

What Russia sees but the Americans can’t

Next Monday the world’s superpowers will be holding talks with Iran in Russia. The matter on the agenda is to pust for a Russian compromise on the nuclear dispute.

Russia has offered to enrich Iranian uranium on its soil and return it to Iran for use in atomic reactors, thereby easing international concerns Iran could produce bomb-grade uranium.

Iran on its part is maintaining that it needs nuclear power to generate electricity. Its energy minister is saying that despite huge oil and gas reserves the country needs nuclear power to meet booming demand.

The minister Parviz Fattah said:

"We will face problems producing electricity in the next four years without
nuclear energy."
However the western powers, led by the US, do not believe this.

Today France accused Iran of pursuing a secret military nuclear programme.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Iran's nuclear work could not possibly be designed for civilian uses alone.

He said:

"No civilian nuclear programme can explain the Iranian nuclear programme. So it
is a clandestine Iranian military nuclear programme."
But at least he, and others like the UK, are asking Iran to settle this issue amicably.

The US however has not ruled out military action if it can get the UN Security Council to give a green light.

For that to happen, two council permanent members – Russia and China – must agree to a military action.

As matters stand, they both seem to be supporting Iran. Even today, China once again said a diplomatic solution was the best. But at the moment, Iran’s strongest ally is surely Russia.

Russia's top military chief Gen Yuri Baluyevsky today warned the United States against launching a military strike against Iran.

He said:

"A military scenario can't be ruled out … it is hard to predict how the Muslim world will respond to the use of force against Iran. This may stir the whole world, and it is crucial to prevent anything like that.”
He has hit the nail right on the spot.

The US will not have it easy if it attacks Iran.

Not after Iraq, Afghanistan and the open support for Israel and generally what the Muslim world sees as the war against Islam in what the Americans call the war against terrorism.

Russia understands that Iran will have the backing of the Muslim world in the event of a military conflict. The Americans don’t.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

New Abu Ghraib images - How will the Muslims react

These are the previously unpublished images from the US-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq that have emerged now.

These tortures are said to have taken place in 2003 - the same time as the previous images appeared and caused such an uproar.

The images, shown by an Australian television station, could not have come at a more wrong time. The Muslim world is already raged with the publication of offensive Prophet Muhammad cartoons. And now with these images to show how the western powers (mainly the US) are torturing fellow Muslims, it can be safely assumed that another round of global protests are bound to take place.

The images reproduced above are from the BBC.

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Bird flu is 600 miles from the UK

600 miles from the UK - that's the distance of bird flu from this island.

The deadly H5N1 virus has been confirmed to have infected two swans in Germany. Germany's federal agricultural ministry announced the results of initial tests last night several hours after Austria also confirmed that swans found dead near the city of Graz were victims of the disease.

The H5N1 strain of the virus, which can kill humans through contact with infected animals, has recently been found in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria.

A spokeswoman for the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told the BBC News website it was probable the birds had shifted further westwards than normal in search for food following particularly cold weather in countries like Ukraine

Late last week, Africa too confirmed that it has the bird flu virus in its shores.

In the UK, the government is steadily stockpiling the vaccine Tamiflu - the only known shield against the virus.

However unfortunately the makers of the vaccine are simply too hardpressed to produce enough supply for the British public, let alone the world.

Maybe its time for governments to take a serious stand and force the producers to grant licences for the production of generic drugs.

Looking at the speed of the bird flu spread, this is surely not the time to be looking at profits.

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An Iranian nuclear bomb isn't far away

Iran has announce that it has started small-scale enrichment of uranium.

What does this mean?

The Christian Science Monitor says that this step will eventually lead to Iran becoming a nuclear capable nation.

The newspaper says:

To begin enriching raw uranium into fissile material, as Iran now may have
done, is to take a fateful step down the path of nuclear capability.

That's because it is perhaps the most difficult aspect of developing a
nuclear power - or weapons - program. Centrifuge enrichment is a sort of
technological ballet, requiring thousands of thin tubes to spin at outrageous
speeds, each feeding a thin stream of uranium gas along to a neighboring tube,
until the gas reaches the end of the cascade line.

And once a nation has mastered the art of enriching uranium for a power
plant, it does not take much more effort to increase the concentration of
fissile elements to the level required for bombs. Thus, Iran may already have
collected almost everything it requires, if it wants to become a member of the
nuclear weapons club.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is meant only to produce fuel for reactors. Never mind the fact that Iran is the fourth largest oil producer in the world.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is to visit Iran's Natanz facility today and prepare a report on the Islamic republic's nuclear capabilities.

The UN Security Council will base this report to decide what to do next.

As things stand, Iran is steadfast in continuing its nuclear research - which could still include a Russian offer of uranium enrichment in Russia - while the Americans, along with its allies in the Europe, are more than willing to take whatever actions - including military - to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

At the same time Iran is enlisting the help of OIC to discuss issues pertaining to this matter.

Maybe their plan is to have the entire Muslim world behind them in the event of a military attack from the west.

Somehow the cartoon protests around the Muslim world against the concept of western press freedom looks like a teaser to bigger things now.

We shall await further development.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who are the gay footballers?

Yesterday the News of the World rocked its readers in an exclusive about two Premier League players being involved in gay activities.

Apparently the tabloid has seen mobile phone recording of these two players - with another man - having fun and being engaged in kinky stuff.

And today, UK tabloids, blogs and football fansites are speculating as to the indentity of the two players.

From the report yesterday we know that:

Player A is described as a household name with a reputation as a rebel
on and off the pitch.

Player B is said to be a goal-scoring midfielder.

In the recording Player A puts a mobile phone in his boxer shorts, then the
other star rings it so the phone vibrates. The third man is pictured
caressing and kissing the stars. Player B is also reported to have performed
oral sex on Player A.

News of the World said the orgy took place at a flat belonging to one of
the stars. Both footballers have had girlfriends and one is said to be still in
a relationship.

While it is accepted everywhere else in the society, including in politics, in the UK, homosexuality is still a major taboo in football.

Football is more akin as the last vestige of male macho world. No one talks about homosexuality in this sports and if there are gay players, they dont flaunt it at all.

The last openly gay player was Justin Fashanu. He committed suicide in 1988 after the unbearable pressure of being gay.

Just recently the English media gave a hint as to the nature of Sol Campbell's personal problem. Some overtly indicated that his sexuality was about to be revealed by a Sunday tabloid, and thus his poor performance on the field for Arsenal against West Ham.

However that remains a speculation and the papers are still writing about Sol's liaison with three different women - at the same time.

I am sure there are many gay players in this sports. Some even performing at the highest level. However it is not going to be easy for them to openly proclaim their sexual preferences.

Going back to the present exclusive, I guess everyone will be searching high and low for more details as to who these two players are.

I am just waiting for the tabloids to give us readers more clues. With that we can piece together their identities.

p/s: I am not suggesting the players in the photo are gays. On this instant, I think they were overwhelmed with emotions after winning a game.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blunkett in Sheffield

Former Cabinet member David Blunkett was at the University of Sheffield today to give a lecture on terrorism.

And he admitted that Muslim cleric Abu Hamza was not arrested and charged much earlier as the government feared a backlash from the Muslim community.

Blunkett was the home secretary when the police started getting information about the cleric’s race-hate talks and other activities. And when the radical cleric was arrested seven years ago, the police found that he had used a passport in another name to travel to Bosnia.

And again, when his mosque was raided in 2003, the police found blank-firing guns, knives and hundreds of forged and stolen documents but Abu Hamza was allowed to preach for another year until he was arrested on a US warrant.

Earlier this week, the cleric was jailed seven years for inciting murder and stirring up racial hatred.

Following that, the question in many people’s mind was what took the government so long to arrest and charge Abu Hamza.

Today Blunkett gave some answers to that.

He said:

“Intelligence and security services said that any action against Abu Hamza by a
premature entry into his mosque will trigger action in the community.”
When asked if it was possible that the delay in any action was due to the fact that the security services were relying on Abu Hamza to tip them on other terrorists, Blunkett said:

“If that’s the case, it was a very poor relationship. Nothing came out from that
relationship (laughter). Nothing like that happened.”
During his trial, Abu Hamza testified and alluded that actions weren’t taken against him as MI5 was working with him.

The former minister today denied any such relationship and squarely blames any delay in any action on the government’s fear that the Muslim community will not take it kindly if Abu Hamza was arrested.

On the issue of Prophet Muhammad’s offensive cartoons, Blunkett said the republication of the cartoons provoked the Muslims worldwide to protest.

“Free speech must be protected but balanced from persecution and
He also said that if the government’s Race Hatred Bill had been passed into law, problems such as the volatile and threatening demonstration by Muslims in London last week could have been evaded.

At the end of the hour-long talk, Blunkett emerged saying nothing more than he should in protecting his government.

p/s: My apologies for the blurred mobile photo.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reds suffering mid-season blues?

Another defeat last night. This time away to Charlton. With three strikers in the starting 11, no goals were scored and the strong defence of the past month has been letting in goals.

This is a string of bad results for Liverpool. It started with that last-minute defeat at Old Trafford (0-1), then the stupid draw with Birmingham (1-1) and defeats at Chelsea (2-0) and now Charlton (2-0).

The immediate future doesn't look promising too - Wigan on Saturday, then Arsenal in the mid-week before Man Utd comes calling for the FA Cup on the next Saturday.

The strikers need to start scoring and the defenders need to become tight once again.

We still have a slight chance of overcoming Man Utd for the second spot. With the team getting its act together, I think it is still possible.

Kewell is right, players should pull their weight together to put in another good run.

I am hoping for Fowler to start at Wigan and score.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Addiction to oil - Sweden leads the way

In the next 15 years, Sweden hopes to be free from oil energy and it won't be relying on nuclear as well. Is that possible?

Coming in the heels of President Bush's addicted to oil remarks in his state of union address, Sweden thinks it can replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.

The result: the world's first oil-free economy by 2020.

A Swedish government official says:
"We want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without oil.
The plan is a response to global climate change, rising petroleum prices and
warnings by some experts that the world may soon be running out of oil."
Last week George Bush surprised analysts by saying that the US was addicted to oil and should greatly reduce imports from the Middle East. The US now plans a large increase in nuclear power.

And in the UK, the government is committed to generating 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2012, and last month launched an energy review which has a specific remit to consider a large increase in nuclear power.

The big guns are realising that oil wells around the world are drying up. They are also aware of the potential surge in demand for oil from China in the near future. Thus the smartest thing to do is to switch to other renewable energy.

This is just the beginning. In time, world powers will have made further development of biofuels derived from massive forests, and by expanding other renewable energies such as wind and wave power. And there is always nuclear energy.

But the Swedes are miles ahead from the rest of us:

  • They are working with carmakers Saab and Volvo to develop cars and lorries that burn ethanol and other biofuels.

  • Last year the Swedish energy agency said it planned to get the public sector to move out of oil.

  • Its health and library services are being given grants to convert from oil use and homeowners are being encouraged with green taxes.

  • The paper and pulp industries use bark to produce energy.

  • Sawmills burn wood chips and sawdust to generate power.

One small step is in place to make the earth a cleaner and healthier place too. How refreshing.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Handless cleric guilty of inciting murder

Cleric Abu Hamza has been found guilty of inciting his fellow Muslim followers to kill non-Muslims and Jews following the Sept 11 attacks.

Hamza, 47, was also convicted of stirring up racial hatred and possessing a terror "manual", the Encyclopaedia Of The Afghani Jihad.

Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri, 47, was the leader of the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, and now faces faces life in prison.

The 11 counts, out of 15 he faced, comprised six of soliciting to murder, three of threatening behaviour, one of possessing tapes that could stir up racial hatred and one of possessing a terrorist handbook.

The same incitement charge and the charge of stirring racial hatred are what the police could use to bring to book some of the Muslims protesters in London last weekend.

Although they were protesting against the offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, their actions and their threatening placards clearly carried a very serious incitement to kill and to spur racial hatred.

Some of their placards were very clear of their intentions. I am sure the words were meant to instil fear on all non-Muslims and at the same time give encouragement to the Muslims that what they are doing was right.

And as for the cartoon controversy, an Iran newspaper has decided that it will run a competition for cartoons that ridicule holocaust.

As it is, the Iranian president has been calling for Israel to be wiped out of the earth and telling that the holocaust was a myth. Now with this added to the equation, I am sure the Muhammad cartoon issue is just getting bigger by the day.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Time for cool heads to prevail

The protests over Prophet Muhammad’s cartoons do not seem to be abating at all. In fact fresh protests erupted across Asia and the Middle East today.

And over the weekend three people died in violent protests in Afghanistan and a child was killed in Somalia.

Protests have been taking place from Gaza to India, Indonesia, Thailand and Iran.

These follow attacks and torching on Danish embassies in Syria and Lebanon.

Nothing seems to be able to placate the anger felt by these Muslims, only to be aggravated by newspapers continuing to publish the offending cartoons.

In Malaysia, an editor of a Sarawak-based newspaper resigned over the weekend after printing one of the cartoons. Printed on page 12 of the paper, the cartoon illustrated an article about the lack of impact of the controversy in Malaysia, a country with a majority Muslim population.

The newspaper apologised and expressed "profound regret over the unauthorised publication", in a front page statement on Sunday.

The editor, who has not been named, regretted his mistake, apologised and tendered his resignation, according to the statement.

And it now faces the prospect of its printing permit being either suspended or revoked.

However, The Philadelphia Inquirer in the US defended its rights to publish the cartoons, saying that its readers should be the judge if the images are offensive or not.

Its editor Amanda Bennet said:
"This is the kind of work that newspapers are in business to do. The
Inquirer intends no disrespect to the religious beliefs of any of its readers.
But when a use of religious imagery that many find offensive becomes a major
news story, we believe it is important for readers to be able to judge the
content of the image for themselves."

And in London, the protests themselves have become a controversy for their offensive and threatening placards.

The police are under pressure from politicians and Muslim leaders to explain why no one was arrested at two demonstrations outside the Danish Embassy in London.

Crowds held banners calling for the beheading of the authors of the cartoons and one demonstrator provoked hundreds of complaints from the public after being photographed dressed as a suicide bomber.

read more of this: 'Police must bear down on extremist protesters' (via independent)

Downing Street also got into action today by stating that the actions of these London protesters were “completely unacceptable”.

Despite criticisms, some Muslims in the UK believe their actions in carrying such placards were reasonable.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, an extremist cleric who fled Britain to Lebanon this summer told the BBC that whoever was responsible for the cartoons should be killed.
"In Islam, God said, and the messenger Mohammed said, whoever insults a prophet,
he must be punished and executed. This man should be put on trial and if it is
proven to be executed."

p/s: cartoon found here

I am worried that the situation is just going to escalate rather than ease away. The religious division is becoming more apparent by the day and government leaders are NOT making themselves heard in trying to solve the situation. Have we heard anything from the OIC on this? Or for that matter the EU?

Left unchecked, such global protests will only encourage tit-for-tat behaviour from the other side. Do we want the western population to start their own protests in the name of freedom of expression?

Why can't the Muslim clerics worldwide talk to their flocks about having already made a point, and just let the matter rest. And how about the world media not playing fire by publishing more of the offensive cartoons?

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Clash between Western free speech and Islamic taboos

Muslims worldwide are continuing to protest in the escalating war against the western newspapers for publishing a series of cartoons that mock Prophet Muhammad.

Islam prohibits any form of illustration of the prophet but these cartoons depict him in a nasty manner – among others as the root course of terrorism and as the provider of virgins for terrorists.

The cartoons were first published in a Denmark newspaper, then the Norwegians followed suit. Even as the controversy erupted, the French media and the BBC and Channel 4 News in the UK showed the cartoons, just to aggravate the insult to the Muslims.

The results: protest everywhere, sometimes very violent ones too.

As today is Friday, a holy day for Muslims, millions of Muslims have gathered after their afternoon prayer to make a point of their anger against the cartoons.
  • In Malaysia, oppositions Islamic party PAS has submitted a memo to the Danish embassy, calling for an unreserved apology.
  • In Indonesia, protesters broke into the lobby of the building housing the Danish embassy and pelted the coat-of-arms outside with eggs.
  • Gunmen surrounded the EU office in Gaza demanding an apology, and Norway closed its West Bank mission after threats.
  • Western journalists and aid workers are reportedly leaving the Palestinian territories, fearing attack.
  • Hundreds of students demonstrate in the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Multan.
  • Editors of Jordanian and French newspapers who chose to republish the cartoons were dismissed on Thursday.
  • Demonstrations were slated to be held Friday outside the Danish Embassy in London.

I don’t think the issue will just die away without some form of action from the western leaders.

The matter has evolved into something which even an apology from the western media will not pacify the protesting crowd, especially when some of the Muslim governments themselves are engrossed in the furore.

I guess that only apologetic remarks by state leaders and maybe the EU now could mollify the situation.

What started as an issue of press freedom has turned into a matter of insulting cultural taboos.

Someone, somewhere in the west need to take a stand and apologise for what the Muslim world deems to be an insult to their religion.

When will the west learn the nuances of the hearts and minds of the Muslims? No wonder their war against terrorism is heading nowhere.

My previous entry on this matter

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Oxford students contracted to study

This is a new development in university education in the UK.

The prestigious Oxford University wants to legally bind its students in attending lecture and at the same time prevent the students from suing the instituion for lack of proper education.

The fear is that students who will be compelled to pay fees of 3,ooo pounds later this year, will ask for value for money education. Any failure could lead to the students suing the university for not giving proper education for the amount paid!

Thus the contract will state:

  • that the college will make such teaching provision for undergraduate students as it reasonably decides is necessary for their course of study,
  • a college would also agree to provide library facilities and residential accommodation as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner, and,
  • in return, students would promise to pay their fees and abide by the regulations in their college handbook.
This contact could make attendance at tutorials, classes and lectures compulsory and force them to subscribe to accommodation agreements and other financial clauses.

Oxford University Students' Union is not happy with this development

Union president Emma Norris says:

the contract in its draft form left students vulnerable because the promises on
the university's side were too vague and complained of a lack of consultation
among students.
For more details of the contract see here (via The Oxford Student)

Other universities are bound to follow Oxford's lead in this area.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Culture terrorism vs press freedom

The images, as published in a Denmark newspaper Jyllands-Posten, of Prophet Muhammad are surely sacrilege in the Muslim world. Islam prohibits the illustration of the prophet in any form or manner.

I remember a few years ago back home in Malaysia when an international magazine was temporarily banned from distribution when one of its articles (on Islam) contained an illustration of the prophet. The ban was only lifted after the publishers/distributors tore off the offending page.

Images such as these would have landed the magazine in court for sedition.

So it is not surprising that the Muslim world today is united in condemning Denmark. The newspaper is defending the cartoons as its right of expression and the Denmark government says that while they could be offending, it would not do anything against the newspaper as it would infringe the freedom of the press in the country.

In the meantime, Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador in Denmark while Libya closed its embassy. Street protests with gun fires are taking place in Palestine. The next step in the Middle East is for a boycott of Denmark goods. More Muslim nations are expected to send a protest note.

The images were first published last September and reprinted earlier this month by a Norwegian Christian magazine. The 12 cartoons were the result of a competition, asking Danish cartoonists to draw Muhammad as they imagined him. One of the offending drawings shows Muhammad's turban as bomb with a lit fuse. In another he turns suicide bombers away from heaven because "We have run out of virgins".

Looking at the images, I think they are not only offensive to the Muslims. The Danish newspaper should not have ridiculed another religion’s prophet and hide under the shield of press freedom.

What was their motive to publish these cartoons? Was it just to ridicule the religion or to educate the public? I can’t see any form of education in these offensive cartoons.

Carsten Juste, the editor of Jyllands-Posten, issued a statement through a Jordanian news agency to try and dampen the controversy but he refused to apologise unreservedly.

"The drawings are not against the law but have indisputably insulted many
Muslims, for which we shall apologise," the statement said.
In another publication he is quoted as saying:

“We live in a democracy. That’s why we can use all the journalistic methods we
want to. Satire is accepted in this country, and you can make caricatures.
Religion shouldn’t set any barriers on that sort of expression. This doesn’t
mean that we wish to insult any Muslims.”
The paper’s cultural editor Flemming Rose had this to say:

“Religious feelings cannot demand special treatment in a secular society. In a
democracy one must from time to time accept criticism or becoming a

So there we have it – the cartoons were meant to be a satire and meant to make the Muslims a laughingstock.

And where is the responsible press freedom in these? All I see is an attempt to ridicule and offend the Muslims. Maybe the western powers still need education on being sensitive and accommodating on other’s religions too, not just to show them how to be democratic and free.

p/s the image is taken from a Norwegian website.

read more:

Danish imams urge calm over Muhammad cartoons (via the Times)
Thou Shalt Not Draw (via Frontpage magazine)
Danish goods boycott begins over Prophet caricature (via newswire)

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