Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Religion

Mejiri, in Tunisian Prison for Images of the ‘Prophet’ pardoned but remains in Prison.

leave a comment »

Not Yet Free.

President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.

- See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/02/19/presidency-announces-pardon-for-jabeur-mejri-but-supporters-say-hes-still-in-jail/#sthash.ai2XIpLq.dpuf

President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.

- See more at: http://www.tunisia-live.net/2014/02/19/presidency-announces-pardon-for-jabeur-mejri-but-supporters-say-hes-still-in-jail/#sthash.ai2XIpLq.dpuf

Background.

Ghazi Beji  and Jabeur Mejri are Tunisian citizens sentenced on 28 March 2012 to 7.5 years’ imprisonment for “transgressing morality, defamation and disrupting public order” after posting naked caricatures of Mohammad to Facebook.Mejri faced trial in court, while his friend Beji was convicted in absentia, having fled to Europe to escape prosecution. Mejri’s appeal of his sentence was denied on 25 June 2012. Mejri’s lawyer objected to his client being denied medical evaluation, describing him as “mentally unstable” and unemployed for the past six year.  Wikipedia.

Today Libération reports that Jabeur Mejri has  received a Presidential pardon.

But he remains in Prison on a (critics allege, fabricated) charge of having operated a fraud as an emploeye of the Tunisian railway services.  While unemployed when arrested for “blasphemeny” he had in the past worked in the ticket office of Mahadia.

Ghazi Beji has been granted political asylum in France.

This story is also on Tunisia Live.

“President Moncef Marzouki has signed a pardon for Jabeur Mejri, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed online, according to his office.

Mejri’s supporters, however, have criticized the lack of details in the announcement and say he is still imprisoned.

Presidency spokesperson Chaker Bouajila confirmed to Tunisia Live that a pardon has been signed. He referred all further questions to a legal advisor, who could not be reached for comment.

.Adnene Mansar, another spokesperson for the presidency, announced the decision in an interview on radio station Shems FM Wednesday.

“A few days ago, President Moncef Marzouki signed an pardon decision on Jabeur Mejri’s case, ” Adnene Mansar told Shems FM

“In October, Jabeur Mejri wrote a handwritten apology letter saying: I declare that I apologize to the Tunisian people and other Islamic people for what I released of my writings and drawings offending the Prophet Mohammed and Islam,” Mansar added.

He added that there was another case against Mejri involving “financial misconduct,” but the details of this are unclear.

Henda Chennaoui of Mejri’s support committee is not satisfied with the announcement.

“We demand more transparency on the release of prisoner of conscience Jabeur Mejri. We condemn the Presidency’s tricky statements announcing the pardon without speaking about liberation. Jabeur is still in prison,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Previously, the presidency said Mejri could be released in a deal involving asylum in Sweden. It is unclear if this option has been taken.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Tunisia’s New Constitution: A Great Step Forward but Some Doubts Remain.

with one comment

Tunisian Women Protesting for Fundamental Rights in New Constitution.

This week, Tunisia passed a truly historic constitution widely heralded as a progressive and monumental document.

Here’s just some of what these brave elected representatives agreed upon in the face of strong pressure from the more extreme factions of their parties:

  • Guaranteed equality between men and women
  • A constitutional mandate for environmental protection, only the third country in the world to do so
  • A declaration that health care is a human right, with preventative care and treatment for every citizen
  • democracy with civil laws that respects freedom of religion
  • An established right to due process and protection from torture

In one stroke, Tunisia’s become more democratic than many Western countries have been for years. 

This is a revolution of democracy and a great victory for human rights — and the more we recognize that, the more Tunisia can shine as an example for the Western and the Arab world!

MESSAGE FOR TUNISIAN LEGISLATORS: We , the citizens of the world, applaud your bravery in making a strong commitment to universal human values in your constitution. People deprived of democracy around the world look to you to set the example of human rights and democratic principle — hold true to the promises made in this revolutionary document!

From Watchdog.

Last Friday, largely unnoticed in the Anglophone press, invited by Tunisia’s provisional President,Mohamed Moncef Marzouki,a whole range of Heads of State, from Africa, Arab countries, and Europe ( France’s President – the sole Western leader to attend) took part in  a ceremony in Tunis to celebrate this step forward.

The French Gauche anticapitaliste (part of the Front de gauche), has called the Constitution a “Phare” (a Beacon) of democratic social  principle,  though not necessarily a model that others can follow.

Some doubts about the new Constitution  remain,

On Human Rights Watch Amna Guellali (Director of the Human Rights Watch office for Tunisia and Algeria) observes,

Article 6 attempts the impossible task of reconciling two radically different visions of society. On the one hand, it caters to a hyper-religious audience that sees the government as a watchdog and protector of all things sacred. At the same time, the article describes a society that leaves each person the freedom of religious choice, without intrusion or interference. The two irreconcilable visions are forced together in a complicated and wordy fashion.

The article, as adopted, reads:

“The State is the guardian of religion. It guarantees liberty of conscience and of belief, the free exercise of religious worship and the neutrality of the mosques and of the places of worship from all partisan instrumentalisation.

The State commits itself to the dissemination of the values of moderation and tolerance and to the protection of the sacred and the prohibition of any offense thereto. It commits itself, equally, to the prohibition of, and the fight against, appeals to Takfir [charges of apostasy] and incitement to violence and hatred.”

These paragraphs, overloaded with meaning and references, are filled with contradictions. More disturbing, however, is how vague they are. The clauses allow for the most repressive of interpretations in the name of offence against the sacred. Citing the constitution, lawyers, judges and politicians could interpret Article 6 however they see fit. This ambivalence could hold grave consequences for the country.

This problem, the ” the criminalization of actions that could be considered “offence(s) to the sacred” remains a potential mine-field.

It is unlikely to disappear.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

French Primary Schools Boycott Over ‘Gender Theory’.

with 7 comments

The French government is fighting to break a school boycott by parents convinced that their children are being taught masturbation and a non-existent “gender theory” as part of an effort to promote equality between the sexes.

RFI continues,

The boycott, which started on Monday and is reported to have affected about 100 schools, was in response to a call by Farida Belghoul, a film-maker and novelist who started a political life as an anti-racist activist but is now close to far-right ideologue Alain Soral, who in turn is an ally of controversial comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala.

She and her supporters claimed that the ABCD of Equality, an effort to combat gender inequality in education and employment being tried out in several areas of the country since last autumn, teaches pupils that sexual differences are socially constructed, leading to little boys be told to wear dresses and children being invited to choose their sexuality.

“Under the pretext of the struggle for equality and against homophobic discrimination” gay rights activists are discussing ‘homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality” in class, the organisers’ website declares.

About 100 schools have been affected so far.

The government has reacted.

“French Education Minister Vincent Peillon ordered principals across the country to summon any parent keeping their child from school in order to dispel the rumour and remind the adults that school is compulsory.

“The national school system is in no way teaching gender theory. It teaches equality from all points of view, and in particular, equality between women and men,” Peillon said.”

France 24.

Amongst the lies spread are these (le Monde):

  • “gender ideology” will be imposed by impose to create a “a society based on sexual orientation that become the foundation of law and equality”
  •  Teaching “gender theory” will  become mandatory
  • A document has been distributed in primary schools  teaching “gender theory”
  • Masturbation would be promoted from kindergarten
  •  The government will  ban home schooling

According to Rue 69 those spreading these rumours take their ‘evidence’ from German and Swiss sex-eduction material.

Such as this,

They claim that this leaflet will be given to children,

Most of those promoting this hysteria are from the Catholic, anti-Gay, far right.

But according to a spokesperson for the North African feminist group, Ni Putes Ni Soumises, on France-Inter this morning, some Imams in Mosques have also been promoting the calls for boycotts.

The Collectif Mussulmans pour l’enfance is one of the forces involved in this campaign.

Farida Belghoul, who is at the head of this wave of bigotry, is from an Algerian family,.

She played a role in the 1983  Marche pour l’égalité, the anti-racist demonstration that gave birth to SOS Racisme.

En 2013, Farida Belghoul became close to Alain Soral, the extreme right ideologue, and his  association Égalité et Réconciliation.

Her activity against the so-called  ‘théorie du genre‘ has brought her to public attention again.

On the  13th of December she launched a call for a « Journée de retrait de l’école » – a day boycott of schools.

The protest is to demand that “gender theory” is banned in schools

She has also announced that 2004 will be the  « l’année de la robe »,  (the year of the dress), calling for women to wear dresses and leave trousers to men.

Wikipedia (French).

More on how this panic has been spread: Conspiracy Watch.

And a dosssier on France-Culture.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

The Nun (La Religieuse): the Book, the Film and Diderot.

leave a comment »

http://static1.purepeople.com/articles/5/11/47/95/@/1041794-image-du-film-la-religieuse-de-620x0-1.jpg

The Nun. La Religieuse, the Book, the Film and Diderot.

“On objecte que la soumission à une authorité législative dispense de raissoner. Mais, où est la religion, sur la surface de la terre, sans une pareille authorité?”

It’s objected that submitting to a legislative authority does away with individual judgements. But, where would religion be, anywhere on the Earth, without such authority?

Diderot. Pensées Philosophiques. XXXll.

Denis Diderot (1713 – 84) was the director the Encylopédie, and hence, known to all as one of the founding figures of the Enlightenment. As such he remains a name familiar to those ready to expound on the faults of the French Lumières. Did a philosophy that holds the world to be, “a machine, with its cords, its pulleys, its springs, its weights” have lasting social consequences? The Enlightenment has been blamed for the illusions of progress that George Sorel animated the, once, rising bourgeoisie and its functionaries, to Imperialism, the mechanical ordering and surveillance of modern society, to the ‘Orientalist’ attack on the authority of the Qur’an.

Diderot, the writer, genial conversationalist and political activist, is anything but an easy figure to put down by such second-hand criticisms. Straight away we should recognise that he explicitly opposed the most famous ‘Enlightened” Prince, Frederick the Great, by observing that, “le governement arbitaire d’un prince juste et éclaire est toujours mauvais.” (Arbitrary government by a just and enlightened Prince is always bad). That, the “droit d’opposition, tout ensensé qui est, est sacré” (the right to opposition, however insane this might be, is sacred). Rosa Luxemburg could not have put it better. (1)

The Encyclopaedist was then far from a Master Thinker who wished to impose his views on society. Perhaps the best way to approach the Nun, film and book, is to bear in mind this citation from Diderot in the Victorian rationalist, John Morley’s biography, “I have ever been the apologies of strong passions; they alone move me. Whether they inspire me with admiration or horror, I feel vehemently. If atrocious deeds that dishonour our nature are due to them, it is by them also that we are borne to the marvellous endeavour that elevates it.” (2)

In this vein Morley observed that, Diderot, while not making the (much later) claims for women’s social emancipation, had deep sympathy for their oppressed position in 18th century society. Again he cites the author, “They have been treated like weak-minded children. There is no sort of vexation, which, among civilised peoples, man cannot inflict upon women with impunity. (3)

 A Serious Message not Shocks from the Convent.

The Nun, la Religieuse, was written in 1760 and was published in 1796, after Diderot’s death. It was originally a mystification (as my reference calls it) played on a certain M. de Croismare. It was a series of letters that claimed to be from a young woman forced to take the veil, and imprisoned in a convent. It asked for Croismare’s help.

The novel itself is the tale of a superfluous daughter of the gentry, forced by her parents into a nunnery. She has no vocation and no desire to submit to the religious order. She suffers.

La Religieuse’s reputation, to the large numbers who have never read it, as a salacious drama of sadistic nuns, religious frenzy, and lesbian affairs.

It is far from that. The novel is a serious effort to describe the effects of authority, patriarchal(the family), and sacred, on power-holders, and those under their command. The inability of the Catholic hierarchy, for all the existence of people of transparent good will, to deal with those with who refuse their legitimacy, is the binding thread. The weight of Canon law (which had much greater power in 18th century France than in, say, Britain) is underlined. The frustrations of the celibate life – for women – loom large.

The Nun is written in the style of English novels of the same period – Diderot was a great admirer and reader of such authors as Richardson Sterne. Comparing the book with these, reminds one, however, that The Nun is rightly considered no more than a minor work.

The present film, directed by Guillaume Nicloux,  is excellent. I have a vague memory of Rivette’s 1966 version of the same title, which indeed skirts close to pornography. This, dignified, if a little bloodless production, is marked by institutional cruelty and not entertainment.

The process forcing Suzanne Simonin (played byPauline Étienne)  to enter a convent is drawn out by her hostility to the very idea. Despite the young woman’s devout belief this is not the life for her eventually the dutiful daughter goes along. After finding a sympathetic figure in authority, she is half-cajoled into accepting things. This process comes to a halt when a new Mother Superior forces the nuns to follow a stricter rule. They have to wear the cilice, (hair-shirt,). Suzanne burns it, and thereafter her life is made a living hell.

The unwilling Suzanne manages to get transferred to a new convent. The picture is really brought to life by Isabelle Huppert as the Abbess of Ste-Eutrope who takes a more than shine to her charge. Her sufferings are rightly put on a par with Suzanne’s. The conclusion, and they reasons for her living burial in convents, are revealed in a less than conclusive finish.

Inevitably we would think of Philomena. The Nun pales when set beside that film’s warmth. Yet the institutional injustices remain tangled in a not too different set of knots. There are many more of these bonds around in the world waiting to be unravelled. Diderot’s social and political message, in this respect, lends to support to fights against religious and sexual injustice, from those against those who would impose their ideas of gender segregation today, to all laws based on divine doctrine.

Anybody interested in finding more about Diderot could not do better than begin with reading Rameau’s Nephew. A satire of success, of selling oneself to the world, it has been compared to an 18th century Society of the Spectacle. Many would consider it a lot more enduring.

  1. Pages 619, 620. Oeuvres Philosphiques. Diderot. Garnier. 1964.

  2. Page 51 Diderot. Vol. 1. John Morley. Macmillan. 1891.

  3. Page 79. Morley Op cit. Morley also noted that The Nun was “strictly a private performance” (that is, never published by Diderot), and “an expression of the strong feeling of the Encyclopaedic school about celibacy, renunciation of the world, and the burial of men and women alive in the cloister” Page 32. Diderot Vol. ll.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Protests Against Religious Gender Segregation: the Issues at Stake.

with 12 comments

View image on Twitter

Students in the UK are demonstrating against university guidelines allegedly backing gender segregation. Channel 4 News looks at what sparked the debate in the UK’s biggest universities. Channel Four.

The report explains,

Campaigners are targeting Universities UK (UUK) offices in Tavistock Square, London, after the organisation published a report last month saying universities could segregate by gender during talks from external speakers.

In the report, UUK claimed that universities faced a complex balance of promoting freedom of speech without breaking equality and discrimination laws.

The report presented some hypothetical case studies which come up on campuses, including whether a speaker from an ultra-orthodox religious group requests an audience is segregated by gender.

It explains,

Maryam Namazie, spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah, Movement for Women’s Liberation, said: “Today, International Human Rights Day, we rally outside of the office of Universities UK to condemn their endorsement of segregation of the sexes.

“Their new guidance to universities on external speakers states that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as both men and women are segregated side by side rather than women being made to sit in the back.

“Would racial apartheid have been non-discriminatory if white and black people had been segregated in the same manner? In fact that is the very argument the apartheid regime of South Africa used when faced with criticism: separate but equal.”

In an extraordinary defence of segregation, Camillia Kahn, Head of Communications, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, argues  that religious, that is Islamist practice, is fair because women are “separate but equal”.

It  begins with this gobbledegook,

Firstly, the term segregation itself is highly problematic and acts to conflate the reality further. As Saussure theorised on syntagmatic relations, ‘within speech, words are subject to a kind of relation that is independent of the first and based on their linkage,’ and segregation connotes various forms of separation and oppression – it is a word loaded with modern history, drawing  back to the belligerent injustices of the slave trade, apartheid, and the Holocaust. It blows the discussion out of proportion and acts to politicise it further. Segregation implies a hierarchy a form of discrimination which asserts the dominance of one group over another- which is a very different reality to a voluntary seating arrangement which impacts both males and females equally. Thus, the current discourse is creating new imagined problems rather than solving existing ones.

In other words, speech, critical ‘discourse’ about this practice, tries to create a reality.

The discourse surrounding this issue must change if our campuses are to continue placing student interests at the forefront, broadening their view to a more diverse perspective.

Kahn continues, by reference to the Qur’an’s recipe for gaining, “the pleasure of God” “ultimately in salvation through good deeds.”

It would be interesting to know how a “discourse” can indicate the truth of this claim about something called ‘God’.

Islam acknowledges that we form different groups who occupy various intellectual and social spaces. Diversity is celebrated with spirituality at the forefront, forming a broad frame of reference which is not always easily comprehensible to those outside of it. The men and women’s rows in the Prophet’s mosque were separate, yet it formed the basis for a social model which empowered women to become scholars, businesswomen, military personnel and doctors.

So equal in fact that women can take as many husbands as men can take wives….

Her conclusion?

The term ‘segregation’ denotes discrimination and isolation – and this couldn’t be further from the general reality. There needs to be a linguistic shift in the discourse – but more importantly, the shift must be an ideological one which accepts that there exist differences based on sound spirituality, and these need to be embraced, led by brave and nuanced organisations such as Universities UK.

Guy Deutscher  in Through the Looking Glass. Why The World Looks Different in Other Languages (2005) accepted that things may indeed take on distinct aspects in different languages. This appears to happen through the way time and space are organised in verbal morphology but in fact any language can still make the same distinctions by adding information not indicated by the conjugations of verbs.

He founds however that  colour terms, spatial co-ordinates (our internal cognitive compass),and even (more debatably) grammatical gender may be part of a stratum that indeed shapes our fundamental thought by dint of the language we use.

But these are minor aspects. If some languages code information in distinct ways, and their grammar obliges people (they must) express things in such a way, all languages may refer to the same reality.

Deutscher has fun taking apart  strong linguistic relativism.

One case he cites is George Orwell’s Newspeak. This aimed to make certain thoughts impossible. Deutscher comments that eliminating words might then be seen to eliminate the things.

If be banish the word poverty, hey presto, poverty is abolished!

Now what is the reality of gender segregation as practised by Islamists?

In Tunisia the attention of the Salisfists is focused precisely on this area.

Tunisia’s fight against fundamentalism: an interview with Amel Grami

AMEL GRAMI and KARIMA BENNOUNE 2 December 2013

KBCould you describe the current situation and the biggest challenges for women activists and secularists now?

AG: The main subject is civil liberties and how to survive the current wave of violence against women. There is tension vis-à-vis women in terms of their clothes, their life-style, etc.  For example, swimming in Ramadan causes problems now for some women.  It is a new phenomenon in Tunisia – this new relationship with the body and the feeling that in the public sphere you are not free. There are others who are using violence in order to “correct” the behavior of women. It is not possible any more for women activists to travel around the country on their own at night or to go to rural areas, especially to some areas where fundamentalists impose their rule, such as rural areas near Bizerte where there is reported to be Salafist controlled territory or “Imara Salafya”.  Tunisia is not the same as it was two years ago. We do not have the same freedom of movement

Perhaps   would care to comment on these “syntagmatic relations”.

Yasmin Alibhai Brown, fighting for democracy, and equality,  restores the reputation of the liberal Islam that Khan besmirches.

Glory to those fighting Religious Segregation!

More background from Shiraz Socialist.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm