Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

February 26 2014

Jamaican Dancehall Deported from Dominica

“You're not welcome here”. That's the message the Dominican government is sending to Jamaican dancehall artiste Tommy Lee (real name Leroy Russell), who has been prevented from entering the island, where he was scheduled to host a concert. Lee is known for his Gothic Dancehall style, which bases itself on dark subject matter. The move is the latest of several high profile immigration controversies in the Caribbean, several of which have involved Jamaican citizens. In this instance, the issues of censorship and free speech were also being widely debated on social media.

According to the Dominican authorities, Tommy Lee was considered a security threat:

‘Pursuant to advice received, government had concerns for public safety. The decision to deny entry was intended as a preemptive action and also to provide an opportunity to exhaust all efforts to clarify information received,’ the statement said.

Many religious leaders were opposed to Lee's performance, citing what they considered to be dangerous lyrics:

The Dominica Association of Evangelical Churches (DAEC) had been calling for a boycott of the concert here, featuring Sparta, whom it claims glorifies Satan during his performances.

A spokesman for the group, Bishop Michael Daniel, speaking on the state-owned DBS radio Monday, said he was pleased that the concert did not occur as had been planned.

He said while the churches played no role in the detention of Sparta, their prayers had been answered. 

On Instagram, Lee himself posted video of his supporters in Dominica outside the police station:

Some Dominicans tweeted to show that they did not support their government's actions:

Tyrone Christopher argued that Tommy Lee's rights must be protected, whether you like his music or not:

Some Twitter users referred to the controversial Shanique Myrie case and the Caribbean Court of Justice's involvement:

On the other hand, some netizens seemed glad that Tommy Lee was denied entry:

This Twitter user was amazed – and a tad amused – that the Dominican government was getting criticized for banning Tommy Lee…

…while these were bemused by the government's justification for their action:

Some argued that Tommy Lee was ultimately to blame for his deportation:

Others were confused as to how Tommy Lee was allowed to leave Jamaica in the first place – and why he would want to go to Dominica knowing that protests against his concert were already happening:

February 24 2014

10 Reasons Why I Do Not Want Shariah In Pakistan

One of the Taliban negotiators pulled out during a recent talk with the Pakistan government demanding that the agenda includes the strict imposition of Sharia law. Pakistani Blogger and Journalist Beena Sarwar highlights a protest note posted in Facebook titled '10 reasons why I do not want Shariah in Pakistan’ by communities The Traitors of Pakistan (Liberal/Secular Pakistanis against oppression, discrimination, extremism and intolerance) and Pakistan Votes (activist community). Here are some gems:

1. Religion and how I choose to practice it is my business and not that of the State.

2. Enforcing Shariah will not make me a better Muslim nor will it make Pakistan a welfare state. The world’s welfare states are all governed by secular governments.

3. I reject the idea that Shariah in any form can be enforced by those who have raped and plundered my country, blown up schools and mosques and beheaded soldiers. I will not give these criminals the right to dictate to me.

4. I will not give up my civil rights, including freedom of thought and expression, under the guise of Shariah.

Al Qaeda Calls for Jihad in Bangladesh

Screenshot of a video by Ayman al-Zawahiri

Screenshot of a video by Ayman al-Zawahiri

Global militant organization Al Qaeda has called for jihad in Bangladesh via a video released online. The audio message was circulated in a video featuring the leader of the organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, calling for followers to resist what he called anti-Islamic conspiracies and launch an “intifada” (uprising) in Bangladesh.

He invited Muslims in Bangladesh:

To confront this crusader onslaught against Islam, which is being orchestrated by the leading criminals in the subcontinent and the West against Islam, the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic creed, so that they may turn you into slaves of a despotic and disbelieving system.

Here is a transcription of the video message (PDF).

The entire clip lasting 28 minutes and 58 seconds, titled “Bangladesh: Massacre Behind a Wall of Silence”, features the message from al-Zawahiri along with his image as well as others, such as the Hifazat's rally in May last year. Aaron Y. Zelin, who runs the site Jihadology, reported in an interview to EuroBDNewsOnline.com that he is certain that this voice is of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) tracked the source of the message and arrested Rasel Bin Sattar Khan for circulating the controversial message from Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He is an admin of controversial Facebook page Basherkella and some other militant blogs [bn] believed to be run by extremist operatives. He confessed [bn] that he started spreading this video in Bangladesh, which was first uploaded in a Pakistani website.

Recently in Bangladesh, religious extremist organizations like Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam have engaged in a lot of violence. Some netizens have speculated that the call for jihad in Bangladesh is somehow related.

Diaspora legal practitioner Rayhan Rashid (@rayhanrashid) tweeted:

Jamaat, who once worked fought against the liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan, had always denied their involvement with militants. However, Mofaqkharul Taufique wrote that Jamaat can no longer deny the truth given this video:

এ বার ভিডিও-বার্তায় প্রকাশ্যেই জামাত-নেতাদের পাশে দাঁড়ালেন আল কায়েদার শীর্ষ নেতা আয়মান আল জাওয়াহিরি। এর পরেও কি কেউ বলবেন যে জমাত জঙ্গী সংগঠন নয় ?

In this video message, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has openly supported Jamaat. Can anyone deny that Jamaat is not a militant organization?

Jamaat and Hefazot both have officially denied any involvement with Al Qaeda.

Activists of Hefajat-e Islam march through as part of its Dhaka siege programme to press home its 13-point demand, near Buriganga Bridge-1. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (5/5/2013)

Activists of Hefajat-e Islam march as part of its Dhaka siege programme to press home its 13-point demand that includes the arrest of atheist bloggers. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (5/5/2013)

Dr. Imran H. Sarker, a blogger and the spokesperson for the Shahbag movement activists, a movement that supports the death penalty for liberation war criminals, wanted to hear reactions from other political parties:

এক ভিডিও বার্তায় জামাত- হেফাজতের আন্দোলনকে সমর্থন করে ধর্মের নামে মানুষ হত্যার কথিত জিহাদের ডাক দিয়েছে আল-কায়েদা প্রধান আয়মান আল জাওয়াহিরি।

জোটবদ্ধ রাজনৈতিক দলগুলোর প্রতিক্রিয়া কি? যুদ্ধাপরাধী, সন্ত্রাসী সংগঠন জামাত-শিবির, হেফাজত কে নিষিদ্ধ করতে আর কতো অপেক্ষা?

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for jihad (killing humans for religion) supporting the cause of Hefazot/Jamaat.

What are the reactions of different political parties and alliances? How long will it take to ban anti-liberation and militant organizations like Jamaat, Hefazot?

Abdullah Al Mamun, a reader on Bangla daily Prothom Alo, commented:

এটি বাংলাদেশ নামক রাষ্টের প্রতি সরাসরি হুমকি বা হস্তক্ষেপ। এসব হুমকি আমাদের সবাইকে ভাবিয়ে তুলছে।

This is a direct threat against Bangladesh as a country. This has worried all of us.

Journalist Anjan Roy, however, called for verifying this video:

বাংলাদেশে প্রতিরোধ গড়ে তোলার আহ্বান জাওয়াহিরি- এই ভিডিওটি এখন আলোচনায়, প্রথমত দরকার ভিডিওটির তথ্য সত্যতা যাচাই। সত্য হলেও বিন্দুমাত্র শংকার নাই- আমরা শত্রু এলে অস্ত্র হাতে লড়তে জানি। এটা আফগানিস্তান না, পাকিস্তান না। এটা বাংলাদেশ- আল কায়দাকে কায়দা করতে দেয়ার জন্য আমাদের পিতা আর ভাইয়েরা যুদ্ধ করেন নি। আমাদের মা আর বোনরাও জানেন কিভাবে অনুপ্রেরণা দিতে হয় প্রিয়জনকে যুদ্ধে যাবার।

Al-Zawahiri called for resistance in Bangladesh – this video is a source of a hot debate. First we need to determine whether the video is credible or genuine. We need not worry even if this is true. This is not Afghanistan or Pakistan. We Bengalis know how to fight. Our fathers and brothers did not fight the independence war to let Al Qaeda reign. Our loved ones know how to prepare ourselves for fight.

A K M Wahiduzzaman wrote that this video has another purpose – to spark debate in the political arena:

দেশে-বিদেশে যখন এই বিচার বহির্ভূত হত্যাকাণ্ডের তীব্র সমালোচনা হচ্ছে, এমন কী সভ্যদেশগুলো যখন এই হত্যাকারী বাহিনীর সদস্যদের প্রশিক্ষণ কর্মসূচি বাতিল করছে। তখন ‘বিডি নিউজ ২৪’ গত ১৪ জানুয়ারি আল শাহাব মিডিয়ার তৈরি এবং জিহাদোলজি ডট নেট সাইটে প্রকাশিত একটি ভিডিও বার্তা নিয়ে মাঠ গরম করে বিচার বহির্ভূত হত্যাকাণ্ডের বৈধতা দেবার পাশাপাশি জঙ্গী ইস্যু দিয়ে পশ্চিমাদের মন গলানোর চেষ্টা করছে।

আরে গর্ধবের দল, ওটা সত্যি হলে আরো একমাস আগেই পশ্চিমা মিডিয়া এবং আল জাজিরা লিড নিউজ করতো।

When there are talks in the country about extrajudicial killings of security forces, even some countries have cancelled training for these security forces amidst the controversy. At this very moment, a video released by the Jihadology.net site and made by Al Shahab media is being highlighted by BDNews24.net to harp on militancy issues.

If this was real, international media and Al Jazeera would have made it top news a month ago.

The government is investigating the threat by Al Qaeda, but State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal does not see it as a big threat. Security Analyst Major (Retired) Abdur Rashid said in an interview with BBC Bangla that Bangladesh should not take it lightly:

আল কায়েদার শক্তি কমে গেলেও ভাবাদর্শগতভাবে বাংলাদেশে তাদের অনুসারী আছে। তারা উজ্জীবিত হয়ে আল-কায়েদার সহায়তায় কোন নাশকতা করতে পারে। এ আশংকাকে আমি উড়িয়ে দিচ্ছি না।

Although Al Qaeda has been weakened, a number of dedicated followers of them exists in Bangladesh. We cannot rule out any violent activity by them after the support of Al Qaeda.

Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a retired air force official and a security analyst, commented in an op-ed in the Daily Star:

Those of us who dream of a democratic state, a multi-religious, multi-cultural society, an educated, healthy and prosperous nation, the Zawahiri message, even if it is a hoax, is a stark reminder that we have an enemy at the gate, and only together we can defeat it. We as a nation need to close ranks on the minimum agenda, and on the question of fighting religious extremism there is no other option but a national consensus.

Myanmar's Last Remaining Synagogue

Built 120 years ago, the Musmeah Yeshua synagogue in Yangon is the last remaining Jewish synagogue in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. Aside from being a tourist attraction, it is also listed as an archaeological heritage building in the city.

February 21 2014

Kyrgyz MPs Explain Themselves Over a Prayer Room in Parliament

The recent opening of an Islamic prayer room in the Kyrgyz parliament has triggered a heated online debate about the boundaries between the state and religion in the Central Asian country. Responding to criticisms, MPs designed and circulated among journalists and bloggers a six-page document suggesting that prayer houses in parliament or government buildings were common across countries.

Kloop.kg provides [tj] the full text of the document, claiming that it is the “first time” that the country's parliamentarians make such an effort to explain themselves publicly.

February 20 2014

Tunisia: Jailed Facebook User Pardoned, Release Unconfirmed

After spending nearly two years in prison, Jabeur Mejri jailed for posting content deemed offensive to Islam, obtained presidential pardon, local media reported on Wednesday.

In March 2012, Mejri was sentenced to seven and half years imprisonment for posting Prophet Muhammad cartoons on his Facebook page. His friend, Ghazi Beji who published an ebook named “the illusion of Islam”, received the same sentence in absentia after fleeing the country. He now lives in France after obtaining asylum there.

They were found guilty of ‘publishing material liable to cause harm to public order or good morals', ‘insulting others through public communication networks’ and ‘assaulting public morals'.

Mejri was repeatedly denied pardon requests made by his defense team, despite multiple promises from interim President Moncef Marzouki to release him.

For instance, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) last September, Marzouki said that he is “waiting for the good political moment” to release Mejri.

“Now when you have this situation with the Salafists, extremely violent, releasing this guy right now could be dangerous for himself”, he added drawing criticism from human rights activists who considered his statement as an excuse to keep Mejri in prison.

On Facebook, the President's office confirmed the pardon[ar]:

الناطق الرسمي باسم رئاسة الجمهورية السيد عدنان منصر على موجات شمس إف إم :رئيس الجمهورية أمضى منذ أيام عفوا خاصا عن جابر الماجري في القضية الأصلية

The official spokesperson of the Presidency of the Republic Mr Adnan Mansar speaking on Radio Shems FM: Days ago, the President of the Republic signed a special pardon for Jabeur Mejri in the first case

Twitter reactions followed:

Ghassen Yahia referred [fr] to the country's new constitution which guarantees freedoms of speech, thought and conscience. The same charter, adopted last January bans “attacks on sanctities”, though.

Jabeur freed? Is this the first implementation of the new constitution?

Yamina Thabet, president of the Tunisian Association for Minorities, tweeted [fr]:

#freejabeur…it is too late, this is not a pardon but an attempt to repair a serious blow to human dignity

Cartoon in support of Jabeur Mejri, by Fey

Cartoon in support of Jabeur Mejri, by Fey


Martin Pradel called for caution [fr]:

The pardon was announced a while ago, it should have been signed. But, caution as long as Jabeur has not been effectively released

Though pardoned, Mejri's release remains unconfirmed. The privately owned radio Shems FM reported that he remains in prison over an old lawsuit against him.

In a statement published yesterday [Feb 19, 2014], his support committee said [fr]:

Nous ne pouvons confirmer ou infirmer, pour le moment, ce nouveau rebondissement dans le dossier de Jabeur Mejri

Right now, we can neither confirm nor deny this new development in the case of Jabeur Mejri

Last January, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) announced that Mejri would soon be released to travel to Sweden where he obtained political asylum.

Molka Chaari tweeted [fr]:

Pardoned, ok. But is he “obliged” to leave the country???

February 19 2014

Recensement hautement périlleux dans les Balkans

Dans les Balkans, compter les habitants d'un pays n'a rien d'une banale opération statistique. Puisque dénombrer les populations revient à mesurer des rapports de forces, les recensements sont au cœur de tous les conflits politiques. / Balkans, Citoyenneté, Démographie, Histoire, Identité culturelle, (...) / Balkans, Citoyenneté, Démographie, Histoire, Identité culturelle, Migrations, Nationalisme, Religion, Yougoslavie 1946-1992 - 2013/08

February 18 2014

L'œuf de plomb de Gutenberg

Et si, à force de considérer ces deux moyens de communication que sont le texte et l'image comme des rivaux, on en finissait par perdre de vue leurs natures jumelles et leur intimité première ? / Art, Christianisme, Cinéma, Culture, Histoire, Idées, Livre, Religion, Peinture - (...) / Art, Christianisme, Cinéma, Culture, Histoire, Idées, Livre, Religion, Peinture - 2013/08

“Bring All the Culprits of Ethnic Cleansing to Justice” Says a CAR Citizen of Muslim and Christian Descent

Here is Moussa Tanko–Tchaibou's take on the ethnic cleansing that is underway in his country, the Central African Republic and what should be done to stop it [fr]:

Je suis centrafricain de confession musulmane avec cette particularité illustrative de la cohésion sociale, celle d’avoir un père de confession musulmane et une mère d’origine chrétienne [..]  Alors que la maison commune est en train de bruler qu’apportent-ils comme contribution afin de mettre fin à cette situation? Rien à part se préparer pour les prochaines échéances électorales, à attiser à distance cette haine contre une certaine catégorie de population [..]  il faudrait que les choses avancent vite, car ne pas traduire les coupables de ces crimes horribles devant la cour pénale internationale laisse la porte ouverte à d’autres massacres.

I am a Central African Republic citizen who happens to be muslim. In what used to be an illustration of the social cohesion of the past in my country, my father is Muslim and my mother is Christian. [..] While the house of Central Africa is now burning, what did that they (political leaders) do to put an end to this situation? Nothing but prepare for the next elections and stir up hatred against a certain group of people [..] The world needs to move quickly (in identifying the culprits), because if we doe not bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to the International Criminal Court rapidly, we will leave the door open for other massacres to occur.

Hayes Brown unpacks why it is important to better understand the two-way atrocities in the region and whether the use of the term genocide in the media is appropriate. Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch states that without prompt action, the country will be emptied of its Muslim population [fr]. 

February 17 2014

Trinidad Lecture Ignites Fiery Discussion on Gay Rights & Religious Freedom

The Faculty of Law at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies recently hosted a public lecture on the topic “Lesbian and gay human rights in the Caribbean: Would decriminalization restrict religious freedom?”

The lecture was coincidentally held a few days after Roman Catholic priest Fr. Stephen Geofroy made a controversial contribution to the national debate on constitutional reform, by suggesting that LGBT rights should be included in the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. The statement generated discussion throughout the country, including social media:

On the Trinidad Express Facebook page, a bevy of comments were posted on the issue.

Dale Orsoco registered his opinion about the lack of morality in the society: 

All these things would come to pass, Just as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot immorality will reign and mankind will reap the results of such practice those who are proud of this despicable practice of Homosexuality continue on defending that abomination you will be rewarded for your support of it just as those of us will be rewarded for our stance against it, you can brag on how backward we are but the Old way is the Moral way….

Ria Ragoonanan quoted scripture in her comments on the issue:

All this does not surprise me. It is the times, read the book of Revelation. Jesus spoke everything in that book for the CHURCHES and how people will be blinded by the unholy trinity (the Devil, the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet). He warns us of what is to come and asks us to repent. Do some research into who today is the Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet in Revelation 16:13. I am not surprised at all. All I will say is God loves each and everyone of us but not the sin. Repent before it is too late. God bless you all.

Others supported Fr. Geofroy's statements. Gerard Pinard had this to say:

Equal rights ought to be afforded to ALL citizens of our country, full stop. And, for all those quoting the Bible, remember that it also says ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged'.

Meanwhile, Dwane Salandy was more forceful in his comments:

I am appalled however not remotely surprised by the insanely ignorant, closeminded and uneducated comments on here. All of you preaching and quoting the bible… what about all the other ‘teachings’ in there? If one were to live by the literal example of the bible none of us would have tongues, hands or feet (and that's just one example). So many hypocrites on here. Smh

With a high level of public interest in the issue of LGBT rights and its impact on the society, the lecture at the Faculty of Law attracted a full house. Dean of the Faculty, Professor Rose-Marie Belle Antoine spoke of the role of the law as a tool to shape society, and the commitment of international law to protect against discrimination in all societies:

The feature address was delivered by Professor Robert Wintemute of King's College. The lecture focused on the human, legal and religious aspects of the debate on LGBT rights and religious freedom:

Attendees to the lecture were given an opportunity to ask questions and ventilate their concerns on the topic. The comments were fiery, with both sides of the debate well represented:

Professor Wintemute earlier presented the same topic at the Cave Hill (Barbados) and Mona (Jamaica) campuses of the University of the West Indies. Some netizens who attended the lecture posted their thoughts on Twitter:

Others posted their views on Facebook. Mike Eskada pointed out:

Religious freedom? They mean oppression ? Discrimination ..funny how these godly people act more like the devil.

The debate on equality and discrimination will no doubt continue to engage the attention of the region.

On the 11 Wives of Convicted Zimbabwean Preacher

Following the conviction of End Time Message church leader Martin Gumbura on multiple charges of rape, Sibusisiwe Bhebhe asks whether his 11 wives are victims, villains or victors:

In past weeks, Zimbabwean gossip – from the mainstream media to social media to bars and public transport – has been dominated by talk of the conviction, on multiple charges of rape, of End Time Message church leader Martin Gumbura’s, and the accompanying fate of his eleven wives.

“Who will now have his women?” asked one online publication.

An interesting question, and one which suggests these women are in need of rescuing – and salvation from (sexual) solitude – after their husband has been sentenced to 40 years in prison on four counts of rape and one for possession of pornographic material. It is also quite interesting that while such questioning suggests that these women are “his” (Gumbura’s), it is concurrently implied that these women are now public and charitable goods that someone must take over ownership of.

February 16 2014

Tourists Killed in Terrorist Attack in Sinai, Egypt

A bomb blast ripped through a bus carrying 30 tourists in Sinai, Egypt, today, killing at least two South Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver. According to reports, the tourists had completed touring St Catherine's Monastery and were on their way to Israel, when the bomb exploded.

Netizens were left scrambling for information.

According to journalist Kristen McTighe:

She adds:

Firas Al-Atraqchi says:

ABC News Middle East Correspondent Alexander Marquardt has other information:

And Hamdy Kassem concludes [ar]:

Those of us who are not journalists will not know what happened in the Taba bus blast because of the contradicting information and casualty figures. It is a struggle for journalists to get information in a country which denies all information

And if this is not enough, The Big Pharaoh claims the Muslim Brotherhood Twitter account is spreading more mis-information:

Soon enough, photographs surfaced online.

Fatima Said shares this photograph of the remains of a charred bus:

Egyptian blogger and journalist Muhamed Sabry remarks on the photograph saying:

And Amro Ali shares the photograph of the Egyptian bus driver, said to be killed in the blast:

Zeinobia, on Egyptian Chronicles, is alarmed tourists are being targeted. She blogs:

We are back to the days of the 1990s where tourists were a main target. Actually we are back to the 2000s where South Sinai had its share from several terrorist attacks.
Now the attacks moved to South where tourism industry began to catch up.
I am concerned that after targeting the tourists in Taba in 2000s , the security forces unleashed hell abusing locals there affecting their relationship with the state till this day in addition to whatever happening in the North now from military campaign against the terrorist groups things will go from bad to worse to worst.

Meanwhile, Egyptian netizens are kissing their tourism industry goodbye.

Nasry Esmat bitterly tweets [ar]:

We as a nation are not effected with a number of people killed … all we care about is tourism for economic reasons

Mohamed El Dahshan notes:

Ashraf Khalil adds:

And Mona Eltahawy fumes:

February 14 2014

Despite Bans, Central Asians Observe Valentine's Day

Central Asian countries have a special relationship with Valentine's Day. While some nations in the region embrace the holiday that has become popular in recent years, other countries ban or try to replace it with more “authentic” local celebrations.

Global Voices has reported about social media debates related to Valentine's Day in Tajikistan, where one third of people celebrate the holiday according to a recent survey. Below is a brief overview of how Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan have observed February 14 this year.

Kazakhstan

The authorities in Kazakhstan are generally much more tolerant towards new holidays and traditions than their neighbors in the region. Kazakhs are free to celebrate Valentine's Day as they wish. As in many other countries, however, social media users argue about whether the holiday should be celebrated. Responding to frequent portrayals of Valentine's Day as a holiday that contradicts Islam, blogger Ainura Rai asserts [ru] that the holiday has a “secular character” and, therefore, does not run against any religious conviction. Another blogger, Kuanushbek Zhakparov, agrees that “the day of love” is a secular holiday but contends [ru] that Valentine's Day is an “evil” capitalist phenomenon promoted by companies that make money by selling cards, flowers, and other love-themed products. Other bloggers discuss [ru] inexpensive gifts that people could give their loved ones on February 14.

Meanwhile, in the northern Kazakh city of Kostanai, traffic police has used the holiday as an opportunity to improve its image among drivers:

In Kostanai, police officers presented drivers with Valentine's Day Cards.

An unusual group of police officers was on duty at the Abay Avenue, near TSUM, today. Drivers did not expect such a surprise from police officers.

On the Day of Love, [police officers] gave drivers Valentine's Day Cards and gifts from insurance companies.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has joined the list of “enemies of Valentine's Day” this year. Tursunbai Bakir uulu, a member of Kyrgyz parliament (who has been calling for a ban on Valentine's Day for several years now) recently called February 14 a “holiday from the devil”. The authorities in the southern city of Osh have banned the observance of Valentine's Day in schools, arguing that the “holiday of love is a bad influence on children’s morality.” Education officials have suggested that schoolchildren should instead observe the Family Day on February 15.

This has not stopped young Kyrgyzstanis from celebrating, however. Blogger Bektour Iskender reports [ru] that students in several school in Osh did organize Valentine's Day events. Similar events were held in many schools and universities across the country. On kloop.kg, blogger Darya Solovyova shares [ru] gift ideas for Valentine's Day.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has been more aggressive than its neighbors in trying to root out celebrations of Valentine's Day. For several years now, the country's authorities have been trying to convince people to celebrate February 14 as the birthday of Mohammed Zahiriddin Babur, the Uzbek people's “great ancestor”. 

The birthday of Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur is celebrated today.

This year, the authorities have stepped up their campaign against Valentine's Day. Officials at a number of universities in the country have forced students to sign contracts affirming that they will not observe “the day of love”. A traditional February 14 concert by a popular Uzbek pop singer has been cancelled. In many mosques throughout Uzbekistan, mullahs have denounced Valentine's Day during Friday sermons as a “harmful holiday that contradicts both Islam and local traditions”.

Despite these restrictions, however, some people in Uzbekistan have celebrated Valentine's Day. On Facebook and Odnoklassniki, many Uzbekistani users congratulated their followers or shared love-themed images and electronic cards. 

Online Campaign to Restore Lebanon's Second Largest Library a Success

Screenshot of the Zoomaal petition site

When unknown assailants torched his library on January 3, Father Ibrahim Sarrouj responded by forgiving them. The assailants, supposedly Muslim fundamentalists, accused Father Sarrouj of attacking Islam by publishing a pamphlet claiming that Abu Bakr, Islam's first caliph, once beat Muhammad's wife Aisha with a newspaper.

The library in question is Tripoli's famed Al-Saeh Library, Lebanon's second largest and home to over 80,000 books of all kind. Despite security forces being notified that Father Ibrahim Sarrouj had been threatened by religious extremists, the library was still badly damaged. No one knows exactly how many books were destroyed, but it is estimated that the number may be as high as two thirds.

The irony is that not only did Father Sarrouj never write such a pamphlet – his library contained and still contains numerous priceless Islamic books – but the supposed event couldn't have taken place as it predates the invention of the printing press by 800 years. The supposed ‘accusation’ could not have therefore been made by someone who knows anything about history. But then again, historical accuracy isn't a usual feature of religious fundamentalism.

This crime didn't seem to be about anything. Father Ibrahim Sarrouj is known for his humanist principles in calling for Tripoli's unity. Muslims and Christians alike view him as one of them. He greeted everyone with As-salamu ‘aleikum (Peace be upon you). There was simply no ‘reason’ whatsoever, not even by fundamentalist standards, to attack the library.

How should we interpret this ridiculous and heinous crime? Should we read it as yet another victim of Lebanon's sectarian reality? Or should we just dismiss it as the product of a few marginalized individuals who don't have much to do other than attack knowledge?

The latter seems to be how the Lebanese decided to respond. Indeed, Lebanon as a whole condemned the burning. All major sectarian representatives issued condemnations and called for the criminals to face justice. Lebanon's netizens, Muslims and Christians, Druze and Atheists, sent their support to Father Ibrahim Sarrouj by the thousands. Everyone said “No.” But “No” wasn't enough. Something had to be done to restore the library. Enter “Kafana Samtan”.

Kafana Samtan, or “Enough Silence”, was launched on Zoomaal, an online Arab crowd-funding platform, just a few days after the attack. It was immediately backed with overwhelming support from both companies and average citizens. In just a month, it succeeded in getting US $35,000, thanks to 298 donors. How will the money be used? New bookshelves, a new front door, new wall painting, as well as buying back rare books and installing security equipment.

But that's not the end of the story. The Al-Saeh library distinguished itself in succeeding in getting Lebanese of all stripes together. Irrespective of religion or sect, the campaign gathered everyone in coming together for an obviously non-sectarian cause. This wasn't a Christian vs Muslim vs other Christian vs other Muslim scenario specifically because Father Sarrouj isn't one.

Having given up on trying to change things politically due to excessive nation-wide sectarian corruption, Lebanon's independent minds have taken to social media to gather funds, sign petitions, exchange ideas and influence their surroundings.

Will the “Kafana Samta” success story contribute to Lebanon's growing activist scene? One thing's certain, it has certainly allowed many to soften their negative perceptions and to essentially give hope in a country where hope isn't easy to maintain.

“Celebrating Valentine's Day Is a Direct Way to Hell” in Tajikistan

According to a recent survey [tj], one out of three residents of Tajikistan are celebrating Valentine's Day today. Although these findings seem a little bit exaggerated for the country as a whole, they do appear to be accurate for the country's main cities. Over the last two decades, many young Tajikistanis have embraced the tradition of giving their loved ones cards, red roses, and other love-themed presents.

However, similarly to some other holidays such as Halloween or New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day struggles to gain broader acceptance in Tajikistan. During the week before February 14, social media users in the country argued about whether or not “the day of love” should be celebrated.

Many Facebooka nd Odnoklassniki users in Tajikistan have shared this image today. The text reads:

Many Facebook and Odnoklassniki users in Tajikistan have shared this image today. The text reads: “Comprade! Don't give in to the bourgeois crap! February 14 is an ordinary day!”. The image originates in Russian-language social media.

Some netizens contend that the holiday has no place in a Muslim society. For instance, on blogiston.tj, Vatandust writes [tj]:

Бародарону хоҳарони тоҷик. Нодониста намонед ки ҷашн гирифтани валентин роҳи рост ба ҷаҳаннам. Боре дар бораи кӯдакотон фикр кунед. Имруз шумо валентин ҷашн мегиред – фардо онҳо бо хайвонот алоқаи ҷинсӣ мегиран.

Tajik brothers and sisters, you should know that celebrating Valentine's Day is a direct way to hell. Think about your children. Today you celebrate Valentine's Day – and tomorrow they will have sex with animals.

Siyovush adds [tj]:

Иди занону валентину ва гайра хамаш як сафсата каме нест!!! Чаро лубой иди гарбиву русиро чашн мегиред??? Идхои точики исломи дорем бас нест??? Агар форадатон брен ба Москва ё Амрико ва унчо чашн гирен чизе ки хохен. Диндорои точик бояд ба мардум фахмонан таърихи валентин чиву маънош чи. Хукумат бошад бояд фуруши валентинкахову хар як бозичахои дилдорро манъ кунад.

Women's Day, Valentine's Day – these are all nothing but nonsense!!! Why do you have to celebrate every western or Russian holiday??? We have Tajik and Islamic holidays. Aren't they enough? If you want, go to Moscow or [United States] and celebrate whatever you like there. Tajik religious leaders should explain the history and meaning of Valentine's Day to people. The government should ban the selling of love-themed cards and toys.

Under an article on ozodi.org, Muhammadi claims [tj]:

Вокеъан, агар ҷавонони тоҷик ки будани Валентинро медонистанд, аз тачлили ин рӯз даст мекашиданд.

Indeed, if Tajik young people only knew who [Saint] Valentine was, they would not mark this day.

While Sham asks [tj]:

Магар хамон кавми Валентину Иванову балову бадтар идхои моро чашн мегиранд, ки шумо ба онхо пайрави мекунед??? Боре дидаед,ки онхо иди рамазону курбон чашн гиранд???

Why do you imitate Valentine and Ivanov [common Russian surname] folks when they don't celebrate our holidays??? Have you ever seen them celebrating Idi Ramazon [Eid al-Fitr] or Idi Qurbon [Eid al-Adha]???

On Twitter, @onlytajikistan mentions some stereotypes associated with the holiday:

However, many people in Tajikistan do not see a problem in celebrating Valentine's Day. Khusrav sees [tj] the holiday as part of a global culture:

Мо хохем ё нахохем дар ин дунёи глобали одату маданияти гарб ба расму одатхои мо таъсири худро мерасонанд. Хозир давраи озодии фикру рафтор шудааст ва на мулло ва на вазири фархангу маърифат пеши ин корхо шуда наметавонад.

Whether we want it or not, western culture and traditions have an impact on our cultural practices in this globalized world. We live in the time of freedom of thought and freedom of behavior, and neither mullahs nor Minister of Culture can prevent this.

Mila writes [tj]:

Charo ki in ruzro jash nagirem? Kase oshiqu mashuq hast marhamat metawonand jakdigarro dar in ruzi oshiqon khursand namoyand, wa mekhostam dinro ba in mawzu omekhta nakuned!

Why shouldn't we celebrate this holiday? Those who are in love can make each other happy on this day. I would also like to [ask everyone] not to link this topic to religion.

Meanwhile, on blogiston.tj, netizens put together [ru] lists of best romantic movies to watch on Valentine's Day and discuss [ru] different ways of celebrating the day. Tomiris congratulates the readers of her blog, writing [ru]:

Всех с этим замечательным праздником! Любите и будьте любимыми! Любовь делает этот мир прекраснее!

I would like to congratulate everyone on this wonderful day! Love and be loved! Love makes this world a better place!

Tajikistan is not the only country where debates about the appropriateness of celebrating Valentine's Day have occurred. Some countries have banned the holiday. In the neighboring country of Uzbekistan, the authorities force students to sign contracts affirming that they will not celebrate the holiday. In Kyrgyzstan, officials in the southern city of Osh have banned the celebration of the holiday in schools. A Kyrgyz MP has even called [ru] Valentine's Day a “Devil's Holiday”.

A Love Story With No Kissing? That's Cinema in Iran

A Separation

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi in “A Separation.” Credit: Habib Madjidi/Sony Pictures Classics

This article and a radio report by Shirin Jaafari for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on February 13, 2014 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

For any film to be shown in Iran, directors have to follow the strict Islamic laws.


Male and female characters can't touch. Women have to cover their hair at all times.

“Can you imagine how many stories you’re unable to tell as a filmmaker if you cannot show the slightest physical touch between members of the opposite sex?” asks Jamsheed Akrami, an Iranian director based in the US.

Akrami spent five years interviewing a dozen Iranian filmmakers, actors and actresses. The result is his latest documentary: “Cinema of discontent.”

They all lament the hardship they face in telling a story in film when they have to follow all the Islamic codes they have to follow.

“I’m not only alluding to the romantic subjects, you know, we’re talking about situations where you can’t even show parental affection or a male physician for example, cannot be shown examining a female patient,” he adds.

One of the directors Akrami interviews in his documentary is Bahman Farmanara. He explains how he got around one challenging scene in his movie “A Little Kiss.”

“There is a sequence in ‘A Little Kiss’ where the father, after 38 years of being in Switzerland, has returned suddenly because his son has committed suicide and he comes to visit his daughter,” he says. “Well, obviously according to the laws that we have to obey, a man and a woman cannot embrace each other. Even though in this particular instance they are father and daughter.”

Here’s how director Farmanara got around it.

“So what I did … when the daughter takes a few steps towards him, he takes his hat off,” Farmanara says. “So, he makes a move to stop her from coming close…”

Farmanara added that Iran is a “nation that in our films we don’t kiss, we don’t touch, we don’t hug but somehow miraculously from 37 million we’ve gone to 70 million.”

There are so many similar cases in Iranian films that if you watch enough of them, you would actually be surprised if the characters do touch or dance for example.

Yet filmmakers and actors constantly challenge the red lines.

In one film called “Gilaneh,” a mother who is taking care of her paralyzed son bathes him, moves him around and even at one point starts dancing to cheer him up.

In Akrami's documentary, the director, Rakhshan Bani Etemad says that she worried about the sensors, but felt the story had to be told to break the taboo.

Akrami says as an Iranian filmmaker “your most prized skill is the ability to work around the censorship codes. The artistic gift is actually a secondary requirement when it comes to making films in Iran.”

But with all the restrictions, Iranian films have been part of festivals around the world. And they have received recognition.

In 2012, for example, Asghar Farhadi made history when he won an Oscar for his film “A Separation.”

Many others film have won international awards.

Meanwhile Mahdi Kouhian, a documentary filmmaker in Iran, says since the election of Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, there is a more positive atmosphere.

For example, he said he attended the Fajr Film Festival for the first time in four years.

The festival is held every year to mark the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

But filmmaker Akrami isn't as optimistic. That's because he says he doesn't see any fundamental changes.

“The election of Mr. Rouhani, to me, is just a cosmetic change. It's like putting make up on a monster, which basically wouldn’t change the nature of that monster. You still have a monster,” he says.

For him, the saddest part about Iranian cinema is that its best movies never got to be made.

February 09 2014

Iran: Five Soldiers Abducted near Iran-Pakistan Border

Five Iranian soldiers were kidnapped on Friday, near Iran-Pakistan border by Sunni extremists. Iranians launched a tweet campaign to support abducted soldiers.Amin Sabeti tweeted

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

February 07 2014

A Riot Within Pussy Riot?

boohoo

Since their release from jail late last year Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, have gone on a worldwide publicity tour, visiting countries in Asia and Europe. At the time of their release they had announced that their new goal is the fight for human rights, specifically the rights of Russian prisoners — political or otherwise. Last night, Feb 5, as part of this tour they appeared at an Amnesty International-organized concert in New York.

According to [ru] journalist Anton Krasovsky (who himself was at once point persecuted for his sexual orientation) the concert wouldn't have been possible without the help of Russian billionaire and erstwhile presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov and his sister Irina. During their segment the Pussy Riot girls spoke about human rights abuses in Russia, and educated the audience about the Bolotnaya Square case, which many view as political in nature:

We are in New York, and there are 15,000 more people who know about the #BolotnoeCase. Starting today. And yes, we believe in caring

While in New York they also met US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, who called them “brave troublemakers” in a tweet, and appeared on the Colbert Report. (The founder of the nationalist online publication Sputnik & Pogrom pointed out [ru] that they were probably the first guest Colbert interviewed through an interpreter.)

Unfortunately, all of this publicity may have ruffled a few feathers back home. The day after the concert, other, anonymous members of Pussy Riot (the reader will remember that although 3 persons were arrested, at least 5 women were involved in the punk performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior) made a statement on their LiveJournal page, pussy-riot.livejournal.com [ru]. In this statement [ru] they proclaimed that Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are no longer members of Pussy Riot, because their human-rights activism is necessarily in opposition to the violent disruption at the heart of of the Pussy Riot method:

Мы очень рады освобождению Маши и Нади. [...] К сожалению для нас, они настолько увлеклись проблемами в российских тюрьмах, что начисто забыли о стремлениях и идеалах нашей группы: феминизм, сепаратистское сопротивление, борьба против авторитаризма и культа личности [...] Правозащитная деятельность не может позволить себе критику норм и правил, лежащих в основе устройства современного патриархального общества, потому что она является институциональной частью этого общества [...]

We are very happy Masha and Nadya were released. [...] Unfortunately for us, they are so concentrated on the problem of Russian prisons, that they forgot about the goals and ideals of our group: feminism, separatist insurgence, struggle against authoritarianism and the cult of personality [...] Human rights activism can't criticize norms and rules that are at the base of the modern patriarchal society, because it is an institutionalized part of this society [...]

They also criticized the Amnesty International concert, which billed Tolokonnikova and Alekhina's involvement as the first legal performance of Pussy Riot. “Pussy Riot doesn't do legal performances” — say the anonymous members. In fact, the whole idea is inimical to the concept of punk protest. They also stressed anonymity as an integral part of the Pussy Riot image, so it is unclear if Ekaterina Samutsevich, who previously had a falling out with Tolokonnikova and Alekhina when she took a plea bargain [Global Voices report] for early release, is still part of the collective.

Is this an attempt to hijack a worldwide, popular brand? Or, perhaps, Pussy Riot is indeed larger than its two most famous members. In any case, the group behind the statement is unequivocal:

Раз уж теперь мы оказались с Надей и Машей по разные стороны баррикад, разъедините нас. Запомните, мы больше не Надя и Маша, они – больше не Pussy Riot.

Since we are now on opposite sides of the barricades with Nadya and Masha, separate us. Remember, we are no longer Nadya and Masha, they are no longer Pussy Riot.

February 06 2014

A Call for More Religious Tolerance in Mauritania

Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed, a 28 year old blacksmith in Nouadhibou (a town 465 km north of Nouakchott, Mauritania), was charged with  apostasy by the penal court for questionning on online forum some of the decisions of the Prophet Muhammad regarding Djihad. Following the charges, Professor Mustapha Ely, author of a dozen books and an international consultant, came to the defense of the blacksmith on the blog kassataya [fr]:

Jusqu’où ira-t-on pour brandir l’Islam en toute occasion et détruire des vies. Sommes-nous devenus moins clément que le prophète Mohamed lui-même ? Pourquoi cet acharnement contre un individu qui veut dénoncer sa vile condition sociale ?
Une société qui entretient des castes et considère une partie de ses enfants comme des sous-hommes, a-t-elle d’ailleurs le droit de s’en offusquer ? Et si cela était ne devrait-elle pas prendre exemple sur son Prophète pour pardonner et conseiller pour remettre celui qui faute dans le droit chemin ?

How far do are we willing to go to wield Islam on any occasions and hence destroy lives of the common men. Have we become less tolerant than Prophet Muhammad himself? Why all this rage against an individual who just wants to denounce his harsh social condition ?
Can a society that maintains the cast system and considers some of its children as sub-human even take offense at such words? And if this society were indeed rightful offended, should it not follow the example of the Prophet and forgive the man, and guide him in order to not stray anymore ?

February 05 2014

Pakistani Journalists on Taliban Hit-List

Journalists of Hyderabad held a protest against the killing of 3 Media organization workers in Karachi. The Tehrik Taliban accepted responsibility for the killings. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copyright Demotix (18/1/2014)

Journalists of Hyderabad held a protest against the killing of 3 Media organization workers in Karachi. The Tehrik Taliban accepted responsibility for the killings. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copyright Demotix (18/1/2014)

Violent militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has officially declared the country’s media as fair game in their war against the Pakistani state. The TTP issued a religious decree or fatwa against some Pakistani media houses and prepared a hit list with names of two dozen journalists and publishers.

This comes as the Pakistani government has decided to pursue ‘peace talks’ instead of a ‘military operation’ against the banned outfit.

The 29-page fatwa accuses the media of continuously lying about the TTP and their objectives and attributing terrorist attacks to them that they had nothing to do with. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan explained to Pakistani daily Dawn:

For a long time, we have been asking the media to be impartial. We are not forcing it to change beliefs. We are simply asking the media to be fair in coverage …Despite the tall claims of truth and nothing but the truth, the media has been acting as propagandists.

Three people associated with the TV channel Express News were killed when their company car came under attack in Karachi on January 17, 2014. Following the attack, Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed that the TTP was responsible:

The reason of the attack is that in the war of ideologies all media channels… are acting as propagandist and as rival party.. We will attack all the media houses that are involved in carrying out propaganda against us.

Media caught in the line of fire

Dawn columnist Cyril Almeida shared the views of a popular Urdu language current affairs show host Mushtaq Minhas in this piece:

“If the focus was on news before, now it’s on views,” Mushtaq Minhas, co-anchor of Bolta Pakistan on Aaj News, said. “(The Taliban) want to dilute the growing state and society narrative against them and want to impose their own narrative.”Minhas claimed that the growing sophistication of the Taliban’s media operations – both in terms of putting out their own message and closely monitoring the electronic and print media in Urdu, English and regional languages – has meant that the Taliban are alert to growing public and media criticism of the TTP and the possibility of an impending military response by the state against the TTP. 

Malik Siraj Akbar, Washington DC-based editor of the banned news site The Baloch Hal, which reports on Pakistan's restive Balochistan region, worried that such attacks can lead to paralysis of the media. He wrote in Huffington Post:

The Taliban do not only justify their attacks but they also demand equal air time for propagation of their extremist ideology in the news media. This is a bizarre expectation but completely snubbing their demand is likely to endanger the lives of several other journalists in the future. If one media group concedes to the Taliban wishes out of fear of being attacked, the free media will ultimately end up compromising its integrity and reliability among the masses.

Ayesha Siddiqa, author of ‘Military Inc: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy', explained the divided state of the country after attacks of this nature in an opinion piece for Al Jazeera:

Such statements, followed by attacks, tend to divide the country and society into two camps. While there are those who are frustrated by the government's inaction against the Taliban, others have a similar feeling but for a different reason. A number of young men and women I spoke with in urban centers of South Punjab sympathise with the TTP rather than their own soldiers. Their reason, as one young woman stated: “What's wrong with the Taliban asking for implementation of Sharia? If fighting is the only way they force the government to do what people want, then so be it.”

According to the official Twitter account of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), (@PTIofficial), a political party in Pakistan that advocates peace talks with the Taliban: 

Ever since media liberalization legislation passed in 2002, the Pakistani media, especially the broadcast industry, has become a powerful and independent institution. According to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the number of private television channels has grown to 89, dozens of which are news channels. 

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl