Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sudan: State Minister at the Interior Ministry, Mohamed Ahmed Haroun accuses Israel and Germany of arming the rebels and hosting the leaders respectively. UN: Kofi is not backing his son in saying that its a Republican witch hunt and also admits that the UN idiotic stance to deal with Darfur and Sudan is not working. "KOFI Annan yesterday called on the United Nations Security Council to reassess urgently its efforts to end the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, saying the current approach is not working. The call came a day after the British charity group Save the Children announced it was pulling out of the ravaged region after four of its workers were killed and two others raped in Darfur in the space of two months. Both Mr Annan, the UN secretary general, and the Security Council have expressed deep concern at the deteriorating security situation in the region, where rebels and government-backed forces have repeatedly broken pledges to stop fighting. Only 900 troops of a 4,000-strong African Union force have actually been deployed. " France: The release of the two French journalists has everyone asking questions, the biggest being was a ransom paid? "The Islamic Army of Iraq, the enigmatic organisation that kidnapped the journalists and their Syrian driver-fixer, Mr Joundi, said that the release was a tribute to France's "support for the Iraqi people and the Palestinian cause". If so, why did it take almost four months for the kidnappers to let them go? The newspaper Le Monde said yesterday that a "senior political figure" had indicated money exchanged hands for the release of the journalists. Several opposition politicians also hinted they believed there had been a deal with the kidnappers which was partly financial. That may have taken the form of a "deniable" payment - money handed over by an Arab government or money handed to an intermediary for fixing access to the kidnappers. Further details may, or may not, emerge in the next few days. " Yeah, they paid a ransom, maybe not directly, but you don't call in that many "favors" and suck up that much without paying a price. UK: A second theatre has cancelled putting on play that Sikhs have said is offensive to them after getting death threats and the play writer who is now in hiding asking him not to do it. Daily Telegraph points out that intolerance and violence is becoming the norm instead of an exception. Instead of government MPs denouncing it, they turning into cowards. "The Government, already running scared of the "Muslim vote", took this none-too-subtle hint from the Sikhs. Yesterday the Home Office minister for race equality, Fiona Mactaggart, refused to condemn the intimidation of the Birmingham Rep, insisting that Sikh protesters were merely exercising their right to freedom of speech "which is so much part of the British tradition… the free speech of the protesters is as important as the free speech of the artist". Later Ms Mactaggart condemned the violence, though only in the most mealy-mouthed manner. The arts minister, Estelle Morris, also said that she "fully supported" the decision to cancel, adding that "it is a cornerstone of our democracy that freedom of speech and artistic expression - within the law - should be defended at all times". Miss Morris's sophistry is not excused by the fact that she is a local MP. Both ministers are pandering to intolerance. The subject-matter of the play is intended to shock Sikhs; indeed, most others, too, would find it offensive. But its merits are irrelevant to the principle that is at stake. In Britain, the land that once brought the rule of law to the world, we have a minister responsible for law and order apparently reluctant to label mob rule as such, and a minister for the arts who justifies censorship. We have authorities so in awe of ethnic "community leaders" that they capitulate to violence, rather than protect the right of citizens of all races and faiths to go about their lawful business. And we have a government that seeks to criminalise "incitement to religious hatred", thereby denying us the right to discuss our beliefs without fear of prosecution. Instead of shoring up the legal ramparts of our hard-won liberties against a lethal new intolerance, the Establishment hoists the white flag. " Embrassing behavior by the Sikhs and the MPs, if you can't, there is no justification for it. You can't on one hand say you support freedom of expression and artistic expression and then meekly add "within the law". Who is going to make the decision? This is another example of rolling over when someone in authority in Britain should be screaming from the top of Big Ben, this sort of behavior is not tolerated in Western Civilization. Reuters with more. "...Bhatti was defiant in the face of a backlash by her own Sikh community, saying after the play was canceled that "perhaps those who are affronted by the menace of dialogue and discussion need to be offended." Sam Marlowe, theater critic for the Times newspaper described the closure as "an artistic tragedy." Some British media have drawn parallels between the violent Sikh protests in Birmingham and the murder last month of maverick Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who outraged Muslims with a film accusing Islam of promoting violence against women. Van Gogh's murder has further fueled hostilities toward immigrants in the Netherlands and sparked debate about freedom of speech. "That is not a path that Britain should follow," the Independent broadsheet wrote in an editorial. "All sections of society must subscribe to the principle of toleration ... We must not tolerate censorship, indirect or otherwise." "'

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