Arab satellite broadcastings that can be received in Belgium may convey messages of anti-Semitism and terrorism themes, and many in Belgium’s Jewish community have written complaints. Flemish minister Geert Bourgeois is taking the complaints seriously, and stated though a spokesperson that in our own media law it clearly says that broadcasters may not broadcast programs that incite to hate. The challenge is that these are not regular broadcasters from within the country, but satellite broadcasters; taking them off the air and the technical maneuverings are much more difficult.
Brussels’ mayor has forbidden a demonstration that several anti-Muslim associations wanted to organize on September 11th. These associations called their sympathizers to come anyway. They plan to stand in the 2009 European elections. The reasons invoked to forbid this gathering – it was considered as a threat to public order, and an incitement to discrimination and hatred – raised a heated debate, that recalled the debate that surrounded the publication of Mahomet’s cartoons in a Danish daily two years ago.
A father who tried to hire a hitman to carry out the “honour killing” of his son-in-law has lost a bid to have his prison term cut. Mohammed Arshad, 51, was jailed for seven years after being found guilty in 2003 of incitement to murder. The devout Muslim from Dundee took the action after his daughter married without his permission. Appeal judges said they were not convinced that the former justice of the peace received an unfair sentence. A local Islamic group had asked the court to impose community service. Arshad, a highly respected member of the Muslim community in Dundee, had an appeal against his conviction refused in March this year, but he has continued to challenge the length of the sentence. He put a price of _1,000 on son-in-law Abdullah Yasin’s head shortly after he married his daughter Insha in 2001. ‘Previous good character‘ Arshad objected to the marriage and had not given his permission for it to go ahead. However, he was caught after the “hitman” he approached turned out to be a Tayside Police detective. Arshad argued that his seven-year sentence was excessive and failed to take into account his previous good character and his state of health when he carried out the crime. A petition submitted to the court by the Tayside Islamic and Cultural Education Society, signed by more than 150 people, claimed Arshad was an honoured member of their community and asked judges to consider allowing him to serve his sentence in the community. Lawyers claimed Arshad was affected by ongoing depression, which was a “significant factor” in prompting him to act as he did. ‘Grave offence’ However, the judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh rejected the arguments, ruling that previous good character and the fact that he was unlikely to repeat the offence were not key mitigating factors. Lord Macfadyen and Lord Penrose stated in a written judgement: “We find nothing that persuades us that the sentencing judge erred in selecting a period of seven years’ imprisonment as the appropriate punishment for the appellant’s crimes. “What is of the greatest significance is that, when circumstances arose in which the appellant felt that his religious and cultural attitudes had been offended, he was prepared on that account to commit the extremely grave offence of incitement to murder. “We would add that we do not consider it appropriate in the circumstances to accord material weight to the views expressed in the petition which was laid before us.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking on the Al Jazeera television channel yesterday evening, delivered a strongly worded message regarding what the caricature crisis coming out of Denmark may have in store for certain freedoms. “Freedoms are not without some limitations, these first must be recognized,” said Erdogan, who also noted that he was thinking about starting a process within Turkey of defining what the limitations are to certain freedoms, and ensuring that people and organizations respected them. “I am of the mind to start this process in my country. There are limits to every area, and these must first be defined, they must be recognized, and people must stay within them,” said Erdogan. On other fronts, Erdogan noted that while anti-semitism was counted as a human rights crime, “Islamaphobia” should also be counted as such, and that he wanted to work with the United Nations on this question. Erdogan also underscored the importance of calm at this time throughout the Middle East, delivering a “Friday warning” to Al Jazeera audiences about how critical it was that Friday mosque prayers not be exploited for the purposes of crowd incitement.
LONDON, England (AP) — British prosecutors say they are considering treason charges against any Islamic extremists who express support for terrorism. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s office said the Crown Prosecution Service’s head of anti-terrorism would meet with senior Metropolitan Police officers to discuss possible charges against three prominent clerics as part of a crackdown on those the government believes are inciting terrorism. Clerics Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Izzaden and Abu Uzair, have appeared on British television in recent days. Goldsmith’s office said prosecutors and police would look at remarks made by the three and consider whether they could face charges of treason, incitement to treason, solicitation of murder, or incitement to withhold information known to be of use to police. Bakri Mohammed has reportedly said since the July 7 attacks that he would not inform police if he knew Muslims were planning another attack and he supports insurgents who attack troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. “No decision on charges has been made yet,” the attorney general’s office spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously because British civil servants cannot be named. The spokeswoman said prosecutors may also seek access to taped recordings made by an undercover Sunday Times reporter who reportedly recorded members of a radical group praising the suicide bombers as “The Fantastic Four.” The newspaper’s story said its reporter spent two months as a “recruit” of the group, the Savior Sect, and described the organization as inciting young British Muslims to become terrorists.
By Hasan Suroor LONDON: Ignoring protests from secular groups and Opposition parties, the British Government has decided to go ahead with plans to make incitement to religious hatred an offence. A bill to this effect was introduced in the Commons amid fears among writers, satirists and rights activists that it would stifle free speech, but leaders of Hindu and Muslim groups welcomed it saying they needed protection against attacks on temples and mosques. Currently, the law protects ethnic groups against racial hatred but there is no protection against incitement on religious grounds. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill seeks to ban “hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.” A breach of the proposed law would be punishable by fine or a prison term. Novelists Hanif Kureishi and Monica Ali joined the chorus of criticism against the bill calling it a recipe for self-censorship. “What I’m certain of is the damage to freedom of speech that will come about as a result of self-censorship – it already exists and will be dramatically increased,” said Ms. Ali, the Bangladeshi-born author of Brick Lane. “Invitation To Censorship” Mr. Kureishi, who is of Pakistani origin, feared that the bill would “stifle” even legitimate criticism of religion. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said despite its “good intentions, the move was an invitation to “censorship”. But spokesmen for the Hindu Council and the Muslim Council of Britain said such a law was needed in a climate where religious groups were often targets of attack. ? The Home Office Minister Paul Goggins sought to allay fears that it would curb freedom of expression saying it would not stop debate on religion or prevent people from “poking fun” at religion as feared by satirists and comedians.