Tunisia: Salafis Run Amok over ‘Blasphemous’ Art Works

Ahmed Medien

Global Voices: June 21, 2012

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/06/21/tunisia-salafis-run-amok-over-blasphemous-art-works/

 Tunis Cous-cous-slama by Wassid Ghozlani

A group of Salafists attacked an art exhibition, Le Printemps des Arts, in La Marsa, (north suburb of Tunis) destroying some of the art works deemed blasphemous to Islam. The small, yet grave incident, soon grew in proportion when hundreds of Salafists – or thugs – attacked a police station in La Marsa, burnt a tribunal in Sidi Hussein (south of Tunis) and stopped police and firefighters from intervening. Clashes with police were reported in two neighborhoods throughout metropolitan Tunis and coastal city Sousse.

The aftermath led to a curfew, starting from Monday, June 12th, after the escalation of violence, in Metropolitan Tunis, Sousse, Monastir, Tabarka, and in other inland regions, including Gabes and Ben Guerdane.

An Interior Ministry official was quoted by the media as saying 162 people had been detained and 65 members of the security forces wounded in the incident.

Since a photography exhibition started such unprecedented hatred and upheaval in the country, the course of the events will be reported in photographs as well. Dozens of pictures were shared among Tunisian citizens who couldn’t hide their astonishment – or perhaps amusement – regarding this strange incident.

The controversial photos

Netizens shared the photographs, deemed both blasphemous and insulting to Muslims in Tunisia, on social networks. Their exhibition permitted some hardline Islamists to call for the murder of the young artists who created them. Another fatwa (religious edict) was also issued to murder prominent politicians.

The Aftermath

Tunisian blogger Lina Ben Mhenni captured the damages created by the Salafi riot on two police stations in La Marsa and Carthage Byrsa.

The government condoned the allegations against the artists, fueling more tension and division among the Tunisian society. The minister of culture reiterated that there were indeed art works, offensive to Islam, and criticized the artists “lack of knowledge” and “amateurishness”. He publicly undermined the meaningfulness and beauty of the photos at the exhibitions. Meanwhile, calls for more protests and violence did not stop.

Netizen Reaction

The government’s reaction triggered the outcry of Tunisian netizens who preferred to express themselves with caricatures and photos.

Willis Fromtunis, shared caricatures to stress the irony of the situation:

Cat n°1: What are the charges against the exposition? Cat n°2: Disturbing public order

The irony in these two lines is while artists – or writers – accused of blasphemy in the Muslim world are often tried under charges such as disturbing public order, it is usually other people who cause this trouble to the public order and who go unpunished.

Man Cat: I knew that there was a catch in 40 euros for Hotel + airfare + food for two persons!

Other citizens couldn’t hide their frustration with the government, the current situation, and the increasing Salafi phenomena.

Mehdi Mabrouk: Minster of non-Culture and Ignorance. [Caroline Law]

[Facebook page “United Pages for Gossip.”]

We wish a safe trip to he/she, that wishes for the Saudi/Afghan model. We are in Tunisia here.

Have you ever seen…? Wait, you’re Tunisian. You’ve seen it all. [Ghaith Jelassi]  The image is in reference to the French show, have you ever seen..?.

Salafi n°1: AAA, How ugly! This painting hurts my feelings! Destroy it now! Salafi n°2: Boss, it’s a mirror. [Facebook page Flask.]

[Facebook page VTV Villains TV]

Reconciliation. The tension escalated over a couple of days, until netizens spreadheaded a new message of reconciliation entitled “There aren’t two Tunisias.”

A new flash mob has reappeared in social media. The flash mob was originally made some months before by two Tunisian civil society associations, Engagement Citoyens and ACTIF.

Il n’y a pas “deux” Tunisie (flash mob)

وحدة – ثورة – انتصا

Il n’y a pas “deux” Tunisie (flash mob) by mirelle67

There are not two Tunisias; One for the rich and one for the poor.

There are no two Tunisias; One for the youth and the other for the elderly.

There are no two Tunisias; One for the university graduates and another for those who don’t have university degrees.

There aren’t two Tunisias; One of the coastal regions and another of the inland regions.

There aren’t two Tunisias; One for the liberals and another for the conservatives.

There aren’t two Tunisias; One for the employed and another for the unemployed.

One for those who live in Tunisia and another for those who live abroad.

One for the governors and another for the governed.

There aren’t two Tunisias; One for Men and one for women.

Women’s rights in Tunisia is a prerequisite.

Halt to division.

Today, we need to fight for the right of employment, freedom and dignity.

The video exists in both French and Arabic.

Other photos have appeared to reunite Tunisians, those who are religious and those who aren’t.

If you pray, good for you. If you don’t, then may God help you. However, don’t forget; Tunisia is for me and you.

The curfew was lifted on Friday, June 15th, and the situation is now under control.

Conservatives strike blow for freedom

Tories yank Section 13 of human rights act like noxious weed

Ezra Levant

QMI Agency: June 11, 2012

http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/06/11/conservatives-strike-blow-for-freedom

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH9v-jqWGwQ

 

To understand how Canada got an Internet censorship law, also known as Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, you must go back in time to 1913.

That’s when John Ross Taylor was born in Toronto.

Something about Taylor just wasn’t right. In his 20s, as the world lurched towards the Second World War, Taylor openly sided with the Nazis. He was interned during the war. After the war, despite the absolute repudiation of Nazism, Taylor didn’t give up hope. He continued to call for Canadians to throw off our liberal democracy in favour of dictatorship. And, of course, he seasoned that with a dose of anti-Semitism and anti-black racism, too.

It was pitiful: He’d print up some pamphlets, climb to the top of an office tower, and dump them off the roof, like confetti, hoping that would foment a revolution. What a deluded loser. But Taylor was never violent. If you turn the sound off when watching reels of him on the news, you’d mistake him for a banker — always dressed in a three-piece suit, the kind of thing you’d expect from the grandson of a Toronto alderman. But he just wanted an all-white Reich here in Canada.

Obviously this bothered right-minded people after the war, especially Jews in Canada, many of whom were survivors of the Holocaust. Canada’s Official Jews — the bosses of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress — pressed their friends in the Liberal Party for laws banning Taylor’s anti-Semitic rants. And in 1966, a committee appointed by the justice minister proposed new laws to ban hateful speech. The Cohen Commission specifically mentioned Taylor by name as a rationale.

Using this harmless buffoon as an excuse, they recommended infringing on freedom of speech for all Canadians. “There is an evident distinction between ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ public discussion, and the state has as great an obligation to discourage the latter as it has to maintain the former,” they wrote.

So in 1977, Parliament passed the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Section 13 made it illegal to publish anything “… likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt.”

Well, around that time, telephone answering machines were all the rage. And Taylor, now a senior citizen, saw this as his magic weapon for convincing Canadians to go fascist. He would stand around street corners in Toronto, handing out cards inviting people to get a racist message by calling his answering machine. Seriously.

Taylor was charged — and convicted — of having a mean answering machine message. He appealed it all the way to the Supreme Court — which heard the case in 1990, when he was 80. They ruled against him, four to three.

Gentle reader, do you think after such a stubborn life Taylor complied and unplugged his answering machine? He did not. And thus he served nine months in jail — more than most Canadian rapists do.

For more than 30 years, Section 13 had a 100% conviction rate for the thought crime of hurting someone’s feelings.

What an abusive law. What an un-Canadian law. What a ridiculous law in the age of the Internet.

Last week that law was pulled out, like a noxious weed. In 20 years time, I predict it will be regarded as one of the Conservatives’ greatest legacies: Freedom.

RedOrbit: June 10, 2012

http://www.redorbit.com/news/technology/1112551482/anonymous-india-censorship-protests-draw-hundreds/

[Rob Kints / Shutterstock.com]

Protesting regulations that they say are tantamount to online censorship, members of the hacking collective known as Anonymous gathered in more than a dozen cities throughout India Saturday — though according to some reports, the results of those assemblies were mixed.

According to Rajini Vaidyanathan of BBC News, members of the group organized their gatherings across 16 cities nationwide, including Mumbai, where an estimated 100 protesters donned their trademark Guy Fawkes masks in order to voice their disapproval of federal Internet laws.

“I’m here for internet freedom. There’s restrictions on speaking online. That’s why I’m here,” a 19-year-old student named Amisha, who attended the Mumbai event, told Vaidyanathan.

“India is following China and Iran. They don’t want the right information to reach people,” added a 20-year-old student Nishant, whose identity was obscured by sunglasses and a scarf. “There are some sites they’ve blocked for information which is relevant to us. Information which is useful to us as citizens of this country.”

Thousands had agreed to participate in the rallies, but far less actually turned out on Saturday, with members being “for the most part invisible” during the first hour, Abhimanyu Chandra of the weekly news magazine Tehelka reported. Furthermore, Chandra added that journalists, policemen, and tourists joined the actual protestors during the gathering, and that not everyone in attendance agreed with the group’s methods.

“I am unsure about their means of seeking their ends. Systematic taking down of websites… I’m not sure how I feel about that,” a Mumbai-based college student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Tehelka. Likewise, another referred to the group as “hypocritical” and adding, “You cannot fight authoritarianism by yourself being authoritarian. Hacking is a sort of violence,” while others expressed doubt that the protests would change anything.

“The Saturday evening protest included the distribution and presentation of Anonymous paraphernalia. Leaflets were distributed and Guy Fawkes masks were also available,” Chandra said. “A banner read: ‘The Corrupt Fear Us. The Honest Support Us. The Heroic Join Us.’ Posters proclaimed: ‘You can censor the internet, but not my mind;’ and ‘If the government shuts down the internet, keep calm and shut down the government.;”

“While it teemed with activity and conversation, the event was marked with some disorganization and a low turnout,” the Tehelka writer added. “Initially scheduled to take place at the Gateway of India, it was eventually held at Azad Maidan [and] the Delhi protest too saw a low turnout at Jantar Mantar.”

In related news on Saturday, officials from India’s top agency for dealing with cybersecurity contingencies told the Times of India that their website had not been attacked or taken offline, despite claims made by hackers affiliated with Anonymous earlier in the day.

The cyberattackers had claimed to have brought down the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) homepage with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, but officials with the organization told the newspaper that those claims were “without any basis and at complete variance with the facts. The fact is that the website has been running continuously & uninterruptedly — including the whole of today.”

Despite those claims, reporters with the Times said that they were unable to access the CERT-IN website on Saturday morning for “a few hours,” and that “a check with http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com, a tool that can tell a web user if a website is down or not, revealed that CERT-IN was inaccessible.”

Last Wednesday, Anonymous also claimed that they had attacked the corporate website of state-owned telecommunications provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.

The hackers claiming responsibility for the attack, which took down the company’s homepage for a minimum of six hours, said that they were targeted because they censored online content by blocking several file sharing websites, the Associated Press (AP) reported on June 6.

 

[FACT comments: Here we are, in another place, back to the intermediary liability boondoggle. Only if ALL intermediaries refuse to cooperate with this bullying will any of us be safe on the ‘net. It’s about free speech.]

Oil Company Sues ISP, Kills Greenpeace Protest Site Against Them

Rick Falkvinge

Falkvinge on Infopolicy: June 20, 2012

http://falkvinge.net/2012/06/20/oil-company-sues-isp-kills-greenpeace-protest-site/

Greenpeace protests an oil company with a parody site. The oil company files a lawsuit against the ISP of Greenpeace, claiming copyright monopoly violation of the company’s look and feel. The ISP shuts down the Greenpeace protest site immediately, complying with the threat from the oil company, without fighting the lawsuit or waiting for the court. Yup: the abuse-friendly copyright monopoly is now abused by oil companies to suppress Greenpeace, too.

Greenpeace had launched nestespoil.com, a protest site against Finnish oil company Neste Oil, highlighting how their practices lead to deforestation and increased carbon emissions. Neste Oil were not amused, and launched a lawsuit. Not a lawsuit against Greenpeace, mind you, but against their Internet Service Provider, Loopia.

Screenshot of Greenpeace’s protest site

Neste Oil filed the lawsuit in the district court of Västmanland in Sweden, where Loopia is based. According to Greenpeace, the oil company has also filed a complaint with WIPO, demanding the transfer of the domain nestespoil.com from Greenpeace to the oil company Neste Oil.

Greenpeace are, predictably, furious. Neither Neste Oil nor Loopia want to comment on the case.

Greenpeace’s original protest site, NesteSpoil.com, still leads to the blocked-site placeholder closed.loopia.se. In the meantime, Loopia competitor Binero has approached Greenpeace and offered to put the site back up, asking Neste Oil in public to take a hike. Greenpeace has also put the site back online under nestespoilreturns.com, with a big banner telling the story of Neste Oil’s bullying of the protest site.

This is the exact result of intermediary liability for copyright monopoly violations. We’ve been talking about this all the time – it leads to extrajudicial suppression of speech that somebody doesn’t like. It’s more than time to declare the copyright monopoly inapplicable to nonprofits, like Greenpeace, and to private individuals.

Agence France-Presse: June 4, 2012

http://www.bangkokpost.com/tech/computer/296478/bangladesh-student-faces-sedition-charges-over-facebook-post

 

A Bangladeshi student faces sedition charges after he allegedly posted comments on Facebook linking the nation’s premier with the disappearance of an opposition leader, police said Sunday.

Facebook on a laptop in Dhaka in May 2012. A Bangladeshi student faces sedition charges after he allegedly posted comments on Facebook linking the nation’s premier with the disappearance of an opposition leader.

Sohel Molla, alias Sohel Rana, was arrested last month after being beaten up by supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University at Trishal, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Dhaka.

“Some students became angry after they saw his remarks on Facebook where he said opposition leader Ilias Ali had no chance for freedom because he was caught by Sheikh Hasina,” Trishal police chief Firoz Talukdar told AFP.

Ali, a regional head of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been missing since mid-April. The BNP has accused state security forces over the disappearance — a charge denied by the government and the forces.

“He wrote that Ali would have been freed had he been caught by a jungle tiger. But this jungle tiger is Sheikh Hasina,” Talukdar said, adding that if found guilty under sedition charges Molla could face a maximum life sentence.

Talukdar said police had sought the home ministry’s permission to charge the 21-year-old English literature student. “We’ve completed our investigation and found that his Facebook remarks are seditious,” he said.

Home minister Sahara Khatun told Bengali daily Prothom Alo the student would be charged with sedition.

“We have decided to press sedition charges against him. In future, whoever is found making such indecent and bad remarks against the prime minister will face sedition charges,” she said.

Molla is the second student to be arrested over alleged postings on Facebook this year. In January police detained Al Nayeem Jubaer, 19, from his village west of Dhaka, for posting obscene remarks about Hasina’s father on the social networking site.

Also that month a 29-year-old Bangladeshi was sentenced in absentia to six months in jail after posting a Facebook message that appeared to wish for the prime minister to die in a car accident.

Ruhul Khandaker, who has been studying in Australia since 2009, will also be prosecuted for sedition and the courts have asked the foreign ministry to bring him back to the country.

[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: We find this practice particularly vile and reprehensible. Though it is not being used against defenceless teenaged girls as in Manager, it is still incitement to violence. The laws against threats must be applied equally to those who threaten the King…or anyone else!]

2Bangkok: June 7, 2012

http://2bangkok.com/threatening-judges-who-defy-thaksin.html

 

From Voice of Taksin, February 15, 2010
The headline reads: The lists of the judges to give the verdict in the case involving the seizure of 7.6 billion baht
From left to right are the judges’ names: Thanit, Pairoj, Somsak, Prateep, Adisak, Riththep, Pithak
[The article is a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of each judge. This comes after articles on Oliver Cromwell, punishing judges at the Nuremberg trials, and assassination.]

The recent intimidation of judges by revealing their phone numbers is nothing new. In the buildup to the 2010 protests in Bangkok, Red Shirt publications listed personal contact details of judges involved in Thaksin’s assets seizure along with articles detailing historical assassinations of the unjust.

Traditionally, Thai governments have expected to be totally exempt from pressure from the public or other checks and balances once they are in power. The independent organizations and judiciary oversight enshrined in the 1997 constitution were an anathema to many in the Thai political world.

As was witnessed during the Thai Rak Thai government era, subverting or otherwise exerting control over any possible check and balance on the sitting government was a priority.

In subsequent years, the activities of the judiciary in disbanding the Thai Rak Thai and People Power Parties, confiscating Thaksin’s assets, and now halting the government from amending the constitution means the courts remain in the cross-hairs of the pro-Thaksin camp.

Independent checks and balances are still a new concept in Thailand and are often lumped into the same group as the shadowy and unnameable extra-political forces that continue to exert influence on the political world.

Thus, it may not be surprising that the Thai definition of democracy, in response to criticism over issues as diverse as the thinly veiled amnesty bills for Thaksin to the mass killings of suspected drug dealers, is simply “we have the most votes.” Similar thinking can be seen in the nascent democracies developing in Pakistan, Venezuela, and Russia.

I may have be called ‘tactless’ in the past for my own strong opinions but I shall attempt to mediate between FACT signer Pravit and FACT signer Andrew.

When I posted Pravit’s article about Andrew based on Twitter exchanges, Andrew instantly commented that my statement, “More censorship…for morons” was directed at him. So, if I may say so, Andrew is a little hypersensitive. Pravit regularly ignores some of my actions in extremis but we remain friends and colleagues.

FACT has always called for the use of existing laws within their precise legal definitions to deal with various offences rather than the present system which is to censor without regard to law.

Laws in any democratic rule of law exist by virtue of precise definitiion. The L-M law, Article 112 of the Criminal Code, is a perfect example. To be guilty of L-M, an accused must have threatened, insulted or defamed the monarch: nothing more, nothing less. And yet we see ludicrous trials resulting in long prison sentences when none of these conditions had been met.

There’s freedom of expression and then there’s real life. Threats of murder, rape, beheading (or incitement to the same) are illegal in any rule of law—they are criminal acts. They relate to the sense of personal safety which civilisation allows us to feel and considers some ‘lone gunman’ might actually follow through on these threats.

Such statements are not protected speech nor do they fall under anyone’s definition of freedom of expression. To think otherwise would mean our society would degenerate into chaos and likely become an armed camp as a means of ensuring our personal protection.

Equally unprotected speech, in FACT’s opinion, are campaigns of vilification (I could use the term “hate speech” but that’s such a loaded concept) which result in the loss of one’s good reputation (Amphon, Chiranuch), livelihood (Jitra) or education (Kanthoop).

Manager is absolutely guilty of all of these against these folks and many, many others. However, the ordinary Thais Manager attacks are hardly in any position of time and finances to take Manager to court for defamation. Frankly, I’m certain there must have been such instances from the Red side but none leap to mind perhaps because of the decentralisation of the Reds with none of the power or money of Manager’s Sondhi.

At root of all of these is the basic concept of tolerance for the views of others. Censorship of genuine freedom of expression of viewpoints and opinions (not used for attacking anyone) has resulted in a kind of hypersensitivity where commentary is considered insult. For example, Pravit calling Andrew a foreigner (undeniable) seems to have made Andrew crazy. Then Andrew calls Pravit privileged. So effing what? These are not insults, boys, simmer down.

We’re not burn victims here! Grow a skin. Suck it up and shut up! So what?

Photos of Redshirt corpses with incendiary comments of Facebook obviously violate Facebook’s terms of service. So complain to Facebook don’t try to get MICT to block the offensive page.

I have read and re-read Pravit’s article to see if I’d missed something. I simply can’t see how he’s defending Manager identifying this young woman; surely it can be easily construed as an invitation to violence against her as evidenced in the comments to this article. (It remains to be seen who will be charged with L-M for posting Orm’s picture with her sign!)

However, journalist Pravit thinks it would be wrong to shut down Manager on the basis of ‘hate speech’. FACT concurs—censorship is not the answer. How many Red magazines, TV stations, community radio stations were shut down? Somyot is a political prisoner exactly because of censorship of his magazine. The actions we take against others are the actions can be used against us.

Pravit sensibily suggests warning and censure of Manager from governing organisations and also that the young woman should consider filing a complaint. (I can’t imagine she’d get much legal satisfaction and might well earn herself a L-M charge.) I strongly disagree with Pravit, however, that the young woman is guilty of anything other than her Constitutionally-protected freedom of expression. Certainly the views on her sign are in no way extreme. So she doesn’t love the King…so what?

I get the sense Pravit is mentioning canine pedigree as humour; there is no indication he felt insulted. More than once I myself have felt pity for those who insult me because…well, because they’re so damned stupid!

Thinking people need to take care of one another, not sow needless divisions between us. I think Andrew may not have carefully considered what Pravit was saying before he tweeted. He may be have blinded to open-mindedness for what exactly Pravit was saying/  Andrew, this is also evidenced in your follow-up article in which you question Pravit’s background and connections. It’s quite simply amazing the conservative Nation didn’t sack him long ago! (Maybe he has their secrets!)

I have no such respect or connections despite long residence and obvious passion for Thailand. I express my opinions without fear. I have certainly been insulted and threatened from time to time. So what? (Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke!)

When we founded FACT in 2006, the int’l freedom of expression NGO, Article XIX, refused to join our initiative because our position was, and is, NO CENSORSHIP! NO COMPROMISE! They wanted our position changed to advocate censoring hate speech. There’s a line between freedom of expression and incitement to violence. Holocaust-denial is crazy, for sure, but it’s protected speech.

Andrew quite correctly states that the UK protects public debate “free from threat and intimidation” by broadcast and press regulations which sanctions include fines and the recension of broadcasting licences. This method starts out by a warning shot across the bows of media getting too aggressive not by outright censorship. I think Pravit would agree this is a sensible and egalitarian approach.

I intend to read The Media and the Rwanda Genocide for further insights; it is available for free on Google Books. But we’re not Rwanda here (machetes and rape hardly fit anyone’s definition of free speech) but we’d better mitigate censorship in Thailand if we don’t want to be the next Burma.

We should be mature enough to use laws not censorship. Existing laws are in place to combat defamation, threats and intimidation. Should we need broadcasting and press laws as in the UK, then the NBTC is the proper forum for advocacy.

We have posted both Andrew and Pravit frequently to FACTsite. The only reason I’m writing here is because I respect both of them. We need more of their thoughtful opinions. We need solidarity not division among the few progressives not silenced by fear. So…make it up, boys, and play nice!

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

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