Wednesday, November 21, 2007

British Police Attack Free Speech

In biased Britain hate speech by Muslims is OK but reporting it is not:

"MPs have accused West Midlands Police of seeking to undermine freedom of speech by making a "perverse" complaint about a Channel 4 programme that exposed extremism in a British mosque.

Police claimed that the Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque misrepresented the views of Muslim preachers and clerics through misleading editing. The programme featured undercover recordings from speakers alleged to be homophobic, antiSemitic, sexist and condemnatory of nonMuslims.

West Midlands Police rejected calls to take action against the preachers for stirring up racial hatred. Instead, they pursued a complaint against the film-makers, accusing them of undermining community relations.

But Ofcom, the media watchdog, threw out the police complaints. It found that the programme had "accurately represented the material it had gathered and dealt with the subject matter responsibly and in context".


I guess the British police will now have to stick to executing innocent Brazilian electricians and prosecuting people who defend themselves against home-invaders.

BBC bias again

A British Jewish community leader is demanding that BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen be replaced following contentious remarks about Israel made in a BBC memo. Andrew Balcombe, chairman of the Zionist Federation of Britain and Ireland, has written to the chair of the BBC Trust, Dr Chitra Bharucha, following a leaked e-mail Bowen sent last month that questions Bowen's impartiality as he appears to put the onus of blame for the violence in the region on Israel. The Middle East editor blames the "fragmentation of Palestinian society" on the "death of hope" citing Israel as the reason for this.

The e-mail, with the subject title, Mini briefing on the Israeli and Palestinians, was sent to senior BBC staff including BBC Director-General Mark Byford, head of the BBC's Jerusalem bureau, Simon Wilson, the BBC Editorial Board and the editors of the BBC's world bureaus. "What is new in the last year, and will be one of the big stories in the coming 12 months, is the way that Palestinian society, which used to draw strength from resistance to the occupation, is now fragmenting," the e-mail read. "The reason is the death of hope, caused by a cocktail of Israel's military activities, land expropriation and settlement building - and the financial sanctions imposed on the Hamas-led government which are destroying Palestinian institutions that were anyway flawed and fragile.

"The result is that internecine violence between Hamas and Fatah is getting worse. On Thursday six people were killed in clashes between them in Gaza. The death of a major figure on either side would spark something much more serious." He continues, "Israel's major military incursion into Ramallah on Thursday, killing four Palestinians after a botched arrest operation, was a reminder of the non stop pressures of the Israeli occupation."

In his letter to the BBC, Balcombe cited the press briefing released by the BBC when Bowen was appointed as Middle East editor in June 2005. "The new role is designed to enhance our audience's understanding of the Middle East; and to provide extra commentary, focus and analysis to an increasingly complex area of the world," the briefing said. "Recent events indicate that Bowen is unable to perform this role to the standard required," Balcombe insisted. "This simply does not represent balanced reporting and does not contribute to BBC viewers' understanding of the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this way Bowen is doing a disservice to the BBC's customers." ....

"Israeli policies towards the Palestinians create hardship and tough, critical reporting is legitimate, though it may make uncomfortable viewing for Israel supporters," said Gavin Gross, campaigns director of the ZF. "However, equal time and emphasis must also be given to presenting Israel's viewpoint and the threats it faces, or else it is bad journalism. Sadly, the BBC's coverage does not meet this test, which is why we are calling for Jeremy Bowen to be replaced as Middle East editor," he said.

More here

British artists too frightened to tackle radical Islam

Britain's contemporary artists are feted around the world for their willingness to shock but fear is preventing them from tackling Islamic fundamentalism. Grayson Perry, the cross-dressing potter, Turner Prize winner and former Times columnist, said that he had consciously avoided commenting on radical Islam in his otherwise highly provocative body of work because of the threat of reprisals.

Perry also believes that many of his fellow visual artists have also ducked the issue, and one leading British gallery director told The Times that few major venues would be prepared to show potentially inflammatory works. "I've censored myself," Perry said at a discussion on art and politics organised by the Art Fund. "The reason I haven't gone all out attacking Islamism in my art is because I feel real fear that someone will slit my throat."

Perry's highly decorated pots can sell for more than 50,000 pounds and often feature sex, violence and childhood motifs. One work depicted a teddy bear being born from a penis as the Virgin Mary. "I'm interested in religion and I've made a lot of pieces about it," he said. "With other targets you've got a better idea of who they are but Islamism is very amorphous. You don't know what the threshold is. Even what seems an innocuous image might trigger off a really violent reaction so I just play safe all the time."

The fate of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker who was murdered by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after he made a film portraying violence against women in Islamic societies, is the most chilling example of what can happen to an artist who is perceived to have offended Islam. Perry said that he had also been scared by the reaction across the Islamic world to Danish cartoons deemed anti-Muslim in 2006 and by the protests against Salman Rushdie's knighthood this year.

Across Europe there is growing evidence that freedom of expression has been curtailed by fear of religious fundamentalism. Robert Redeker, a French philosophy teacher, is in hiding after calling the Koran a "book of extraordinary violence" in Le Figaro in 2006; Spanish villages near Valencia have abandoned a centuries-old tradition of burning effigies of Muhammad to mark the reconquest of Spain, against the Moors; and an opera house in Berlin banned a production of Mozart's Idomeneo because it depicted the beheading of Muhammad (as well as Jesus and other spiritual leaders).

In Britain the most high-profile examples have also been seen in the theatre, with the campaign by Christian fundamentalists against Jerry Springer: the Opera and the protests in Birmingham that forced the closure of Bezhti, a play about rape and murder in a Sikh temple.

Tim Marlow, director of exhibitions at White Cube, the London gallery, welcomed Perry's admission. "It's something that's there but very few people have explicitly admitted. Institutions, museums and galleries are probably doing most of the censorship. I would be lying if I said of course we would show something like the Danish cartoons. I think there are genuine reasons for concern. Fundamentalism is a really complex issue and one of the things artists can do is to help us through that complexity. Whether or not it's their responsibility to do that I'm not sure though."



Much safer to spend the money on a metastasizing bureaucracy

British astronomers were last night shocked by a sudden funding cut that will prevent them having access to two of the world's most advanced telescopes. A Government funding council yesterday announced it would pull out of the Gemini Observatory - twin 26ft telescopes in Hawaii and Chile which together can be used to observe the entire sky. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) said it was pulling out of the observatory, in which Britain has a 23 per cent stake, despite the Government having invested 35 million pounds in building it.

Prof Michael Rowan-Robinson, President of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), said: "This decision is a serious mistake and a shock to all of us. "If it goes ahead it will deny UK scientists access to large telescopes in the northern hemisphere and hinder their ability to study almost half the sky. I call on the STFC to rethink this proposal."



The Independent, the `compact' UK newspaper known as the Indie (the Independent on Sunday being the Sindie), which is infamous for its doom-laden front pages on `global warming' (and many other PC topics), is clearly in trouble. I have just been trawling through a few interesting reports and facts:

Writing in The Observer (November 11), Peter Preston comments that "the relaunched, more anorexic Independent on Sunday is 8.37 per cent off October 2006 (with only 132,000 UK readers prepared to stump up 1.80 pounds)" and that, at the newsstand, the "Independent, with not much of a net presence at all, is down 6.72 per cent in a year." The circulation of the Indie in August, 2007 was a mere 240,116 [according to the UK ABC (Audited Bureau of Circulations)], a 5.37% drop from November 2006, and way, way below The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times.

Moreover, unlike The Guardian (c. 18 million unique users), the poor Indie is unlikely to be saved by its website, which must be one of the dullest in the world. The word `anorexic' again crosses one's mind.

And now, today, the `Financial Section' of The Times reveals that "Denis O'Brien, the Irish telecoms billionaire, has called on Sir Anthony O'Reilly to sell The Independent newspaper and resign as the chief executive of the company behind the loss-making London-based title. `The Independent has to go, as do other vanity projects,' Mr O'Brien told The Times in an uncompromising interview."

Well, I never like the loss of media and debating outlets, but I have to say that the demise, if that were ever to happen, of the Indie would bring fewer tears to my eyes than most. As a purveyor of gloom and doom, it has been second to none. Even one environmentalist confided to me that, when on the tube or the bus, she felt she had to read it hidden between less lurid covers.

Still, it would be a pity. Over the years, the Indie has proved a rich seam for bloggers and commentators alike - even beats the old Guardian, and that is saying something these days. Clearly doom and gloom on a daily basis doesn't in the end sell. After all, why bother to read a newspaper when the triffids are lurking behind every page?


Inbred British Muslims: "Marriages between cousins should be banned after research showed alarming rates in defective births among Asian communities in Britain, a Labour MP said last night. The report, commissioned by Ann Cryer, revealed that the Pakistani community accounted for 30 per cent of all births with recessive disorders, despite representing 3.4 per cent of the birth rate nationwide.... "I think this should be applied to the Asian community. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people." It is estimated that more than 55 per cent of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins, resulting in an increasing rate of genetic defects and high rates of infant mortality"

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