Category Archives: Theocracy

Saudi woman makes a stand against feared religious police


As of Monday, the video was viewed more than 1,142,000 times Photo: YOUTUBE

A YouTube video of a Saudi woman defying orders by the notorious religious police to leave a shopping centre because she is wearing nail polish has gone viral, attracting more than a million hits in just five days but thousands of negative comments.

Telegraph | May 28, 2012

The three and a half minute video posted on May 23 shows members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice telling the women to “get out of here”

But she refuses to comply, saying: “I’m staying and I want to know what you’re going to do about.”

“It’s none of your business if I wear nail polish,” the unidentified woman, who is not seen on tape, is heard shouting at bearded men from the feared religious force.

“You are not in charge of me,” she defiantly shouts back, referring to new constraints imposed earlier this year on the religious police banning them from harassing Saudi women over their behaviour and attire.

“The government has banned you from coming after us,” she told the men, adding “you are only supposed to provide advice, and nothing more”.

Saudi Woman Defies Religious Police: It Is None of Your Business If I Wear Nail Polish

As of Monday, the video was viewed more than 1,142,000 times, with over 12,000 people posting comments online, most of them denouncing the woman’s behaviour.

One posting said she had “no shame” and accused her of “prostituting” herself. Another called her a “slut” and a “whore.”

The clip earned only about 1800 “likes”. The number of “dislikes” reached almost 7000.

In January, Saudi King Abdullah appointed a more moderate head of the religious police raising hopes that a more lenient force will ease draconian social constraints in the Islamic country.

Two weeks into his post, Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh banned volunteers from serving in the commission which enforces the kingdom’s strict Islamic rules.

And in April he went further prohibiting the religious police from “harassing people” and threatening “decisive measures against violators”.

The woman filmed the incident herself and posted it on YouTube. At one point during the video, she cautions the religious police that she has already posted the exchange online.

It is also not clear if the woman was eventually forced to leave the centre. The religious police prevent women from driving, require them to be covered from head to foot in black, ban public entertainment, and force all commerce, from supermarkets to petrol stations, to come to a halt at prayer times, five times a day.

Egyptian comedian going to jail for ‘offending Islam’


Imam was sentenced to three months in jail and fined around $170 for insulting Islam in roles he played in movies such as “The Terrorist”, in which he acted the role of a wanted terrorist who found refuge with a middle class, moderate family, and the film “Terrorism and Kabab. ”

A Cairo court upholds a three-month jail sentence and a fine against veteran comedian Adel Imam for defaming Islam in several roles he played on stage and screen.

AP | Apr 25, 2012

CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian court on Tuesday upheld a conviction against one of the Arab world’s most famous comedians, sentencing him to jail for offending Islam in some of his most popular films.

The case against Adel Imam and others like it have raised concerns among some Egyptians that ultraconservative Muslims who made gains in recent elections after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year are trying to foist their religious views on the entire country. Critics say the trend threatens to curb Egypt’s vibrant film industry and freedom of speech.

Imam was sentenced to three months in jail and fined around $170 for insulting Islam in roles he played in movies such as “The Terrorist”, in which he acted the role of a wanted terrorist who found refuge with a middle class, moderate family, and the film “Terrorism and Kabab. ”

The actor was also found guilty for his 2007 role in “Morgan Ahmed Morgan,” in which Imam played a corrupt businessman who tries to buy a university diploma. The film included a scene parodying bearded Muslim men wearing traditional Islamic clothing.

Author Alaa al-Aswany, whose best-seller “The Yacoubian Building” was turned into a film costarring Imam, said the court ruling sets Egypt back to the “darkness of the Middle Ages.”

“This is an unimaginable crime of principle in developed nations,” he said in remarks posted on his Twitter account Tuesday.

The case is one of many brought by conservative lawyers in recent months seeking to punish individuals they deem as having offended Islam. Earlier this year, two courts rejected blasphemy cases against Christian media mogul, Naguib Sawiris, after he relayed a cartoon online of Mickey Mouse with a beard and Minnie in a face veil.

The cases highlight the newfound sense of empowerment among followers of the ultraconservative Salafi trend of Islam in Egypt after Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising. Their newly formed Al-Nour party won 25 percent of seats in parliament, emerging as the second most powerful group in Egypt after the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

The mere filing of such blasphemy cases by Salafi lawyers has raised concern among rights groups and liberals about attempts to curb freedom of speech.

Egyptian entertainment reporter Tarek el-Shinnawi said the case against Imam is a setback for Cairo’s famed film industry, which has produced the region’s most popular films.

“It will make any writer, director or actor think before considering the role of a Muslim figure,” el-Shinnawi said.

Imam was initially found guilty in February in a case brought by an ultraconservative Islamist lawyer. He was given a retrial since he was first tried in absentia. He did not appear in court Tuesday but his lawyers did. Imam has the right to appeal.

Under Mubarak, government censors controlled what could be shown in theaters or filmed by major studios. The films Imam starred in were approved by the censors.

El-Shinnawi argued that a legally sound case would involve the writers and directors, and the censors who approved the movies, not just the star of the films.

Imam, 71, has acted in dozens of films in a career that spans nearly 50 years.

Long a beloved figured in Egypt, Imam lost popularity among Egyptian protesters for supporting Mubarak during last year’s 18-day revolt.

In one of his most popular roles, Imam played an Arab dictator in a 1998 satirical play called el-Zaeem. The play has since been aired on satellite television across the Arab world, bypassing state censors and gaining popularity through its comedic take of a tyrannical figure.

Tunisians jailed for Facebook cartoons of Prophet Mohammad

Reuters | Apr 5, 2012

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS | Two young Tunisians have been sentenced to seven years in prison for posting cartoons of the prophet Mohammad on Facebook, in a case that has fueled allegations the country’s new Islamist leaders are gagging free speech.

The two men had posted depictions of the prophet naked on the social networking site, the justice ministry said, inflaming sensitivities in a country where Muslim values have taken on a bigger role since a revolution last year.

“They were sentenced … to seven years in prison for violation of morality, and disturbing public order,” said Chokri Nefti, a justice ministry spokesman.

One of the two, Jabeur Mejri is in jail while the second, Ghazi Beji, is still being sought by police and was sentenced in absentia.

The sentence was handed down on March 28 but was not reported until Thursday, when bloggers started posting information about the case on the Internet.

“The sentences are very heavy and severe, even if these young people were at fault,” one Tunisian blogger, Nebil Zagdoud, told Reuters.

“This decision is aimed at silencing freedom of expression even on the Internet. Prosecutions for offending morals are a proxy for this government to gag everyone.”

Tunisia electrified the Arab world in January last year when protests forced its autocratic president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee the country. In their first democratic election, Tunisians elected a government led by moderate Islamists.

The revolution also brought tension between conservative Muslims who believe their faith should have a bigger role in public life, and secularists who say freedom of expression and women’s’ rights are now under attack.

The government says it has a duty to defend standards of public decency but its secularist opponents accuse it of using the justice system to crack down on anyone who does not fall into line with religious orthodoxy.

The head of a private television station, Nessma, is awaiting trial on blasphemy charges after his channel broadcast “Persepolis,” an award-winning animated film that includes a depiction of Allah.

In February, Nassredine Ben Saida, the publisher of a tabloid newspaper, was jailed for eight days and fined after he printed a picture of a German-Tunisian footballer and his naked girlfriend on the front page.

Senior judge of Scotland and Queen’s Counsel invested with Papal Knighthood into the Order of St Gregory the Great at the Red Mass


Sunday’s Mass was an extra special occasion for Lord Gill (left), the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, when Cardinal O’Brien (right), representing Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed upon him the Papal Knighthood.

Cardinal O’Brien presents Papal knighthood at Red Mass

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive a knighthood from this great Pope,” Lord Gill said.

sconews.co.uk | Sep 30, 2011  

BY Martin Dunlop

Cardinal Keith O’Brien was the main concelebrant at the annual Red Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, on Sunday, marking the opening of the new legal year in Scotland.

Sunday’s Mass was an extra special occasion for Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, when his outstanding service to public life in the country was recognised. Cardinal O’Brien, representing Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed upon him the Papal Knighthood.

Joining the cardinal and Lord Gill at Sunday’s Mass, were various members of the legal profession in Scotland and their families, including Lord Gill’s fellow judges, Lord Hardie, Lord Drummond Young, Lord Matthews and Lord Doherty.

Also present were Frank Mulholland QC, the Lord Advocate, Richard Keen QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and Austin Lafferty, vice president of the Law Society of Scotland.

In his homily at Sunday’s Mass, Cardinal O’Brien urged Catholic lawyers in Scotland to remain strong and true to their religious beliefs.

“There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges facing Catholic lawyers in Scotland today is a challenge which has faced many people and different groups in society down the ages: how do you live and act out your professional lives while at the same time remaining true to the teachings and doctrine of the Church?” Cardinal O’Brien said. “Specifically for lawyers the challenge must be how can you represent your clients’ interests to the best of your abilities while applying the law of the land, when at times these two pressures may be in conflict with your own Catholic Faith.”

The cardinal said that, in so doing, he was ‘echoing the words’ of Pope Benedict XVI during his address at Westminster Hall during his visit to the UK last September.

“The Pope called upon the lay Faithful, ‘within their respective spheres of influence,’ to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between Faith and reason at every level of national life,” the cardinal said, while encouraging those present to consider the message of the day’s readings and take confidence from the Word of God.

Prior to bestowing upon Lord Gill—who was attending his 44th consecutive Red Mass—the Papal Knighthood, the cardinal spoke about Lord Gill’s life and some of his many achievements.

Following on primary and secondary schooling at St Thomas’ Primary School and St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow, Lord Gill attended Glasgow University, gaining the degrees of MA and LLB before being called to the Scottish Bar as an Advocate in 1967.  From 1964 to 1977 he lectured in the Faculty of Law at the University of Edinburgh.

Lord Gill went on to become an Advocate Depute; then, as an Advocate. He was also appointed as Standing Junior Counsel to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office and the Scottish Education Department; and in 1981, he was appointed a Queen’s Counsel.

Appointed a judge in 1994—at that time the only serving Catholic judge in Scotland—Lord Gill went on to become chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, a post he held until 2001 when he was appointed Lord Justice Clerk.

“Lord Gill is at present Scotland’s longest serving judge—undertaking a review of the Scottish Civil Courts on behalf of the Scottish Government and fulfilling various other roles on behalf of the UK and Scottish Governments,” the cardinal said. “He has enjoyed the support of his wife, Kate, and family, having been married for 42 years and having five sons and one daughter along with 14 grandchildren.  He is a loyal and active parishioner in St Columba’s Parish, Edinburgh and at national level has assisted the Bishops of Scotland.

“It is then I am sure you will agree, entirely appropriate that the Holy Father has seen fit to recognise Lord Gill’s exceptional contribution to public life in Scotland and to graciously bestow on him the honour of a Knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

“It is an award that I am sure will be warmly welcomed by both the Catholic Community and the whole legal profession.”

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive a knighthood from this great Pope,” Lord Gill said. “I was touched by the gracious words of the cardinal at the Red Mass.”

Seymour Hersh targeted: Matthew Phelan writes on the fallout from his exposure of the Knights of Malta conspiracy


James Jesus Angleton (L), chief of the CIA’s counter-intelligence staff from 1954-1975, and Reagan-era CIA Director William Casey (R) were both members of the Knights of Malta.

Pulitzer Prize Winner Seymour Hersh And The Men Who Want Him Committed

By Matthew Phelan on

whowhatwhy.com | Feb 23, 2011

*Excerpts*

It seems unusual for a staid, respected publication (one that has received three National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) to start treating a celebrated journalist (who himself has won two National Magazine Awards in just this past decade) as if he were nothing more than a paranoid crank.

It seems unusual, but it’s exactly what the staff of Foreign Policy has done to Seymour Hersh, following a lecture the venerated reporter gave at Georgetown University’s campus in Doha, Qatar.

Hersh “delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe here Monday,” Blake Hounshell reported on the magazine’s Passport blog. His delusional fantasia: The existence of ties between the U.S. Military’s Joint Special Operations Command and a secretive Catholic order called the Knights of Malta.

Let’s do the same.

Just how “off-base and conspiratorial” are Hersh’s claims? Who are the Knights of Malta, exactly, and what has been previously reported of their ‘special operations’ and government ties?

Known formally as the “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta,” the Knights of Malta is a Roman Catholic order founded in roughly 1048. Though the Knights operated as a military order during the First Crusade, today their approximately 12,500 members, 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 medical professionals work “in the field of medical and social care and humanitarian aid.”

So far, so good. In fact, Foreign Policy’s description of the Knights cribs heavily from the Order’s own benevolent self-description. Josh Keating’s ‘explainer’ piece accounts for the litany of paranoid theories surrounding them as merely a by-product of the Knights’ “secretive proceedings, unique political status, and association with the Crusades.” Former CIA Directors William Casey and John McCone, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca, and GOP fixture Pat Buchanan have all been “alleged members,” he claims, “though none have ever acknowledged membership.”

Keating’s use of ‘alleged’ here is curious, given that the membership of Reagan-era CIA Director Bill Casey in the Knights of Malta has been a fact widely reported in the press and never denied by Casey himself. Historian Joseph E. Persico, a former Republican speechwriter for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and the co-author of Colin Powell’s autobiography, includes Casey’s membership in a routine list of charitable accomplishments, in his sympathetic biography Casey: from the OSS to the CIA (Penguin 1990). (Casey’s membership is asserted on page 105 of the paperback.)

Years earlier, Casey was listed publicly as a member in both Mother Jones (07/1983) and The Washington Post (12/27/1984). The implications of Casey’s membership are even alluded to in Bob Woodward’s Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, in which Casey’s deep Catholicism and the Catholic Church’s opposition to Nicaragua’s left-leaning Sandinista government are both recurring topics. In short: Casey’s membership has been undisputed for so long and across such a broad cross-section of the political spectrum that it raises serious questions about Foreign Policy’s standards for ‘facts’ and ‘allegations.’

In addition to Casey and McCone, the Knights of Malta also counted among their members former CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton—a fortuitous alliance as Angleton led the postwar intelligence efforts to subvert Italy’s 1948 elections. His success partnering with organized crime, right-leaning former fascists and the Vatican not only marginalized Italy’s homegrown Communist Party, it also encouraged Congress in the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.

…with their unusual status as a recognized sovereign state without territory, the Knights of Malta enjoy full diplomatic rights in many countries—including the ability to bypass customs inspectors by secreting items across borders via ‘diplomatic pouch.’

Conservative luminary and National Review founder William F. Buckley—who spent two years after college as a CIA ‘political action specialist’ in Mexico City—was also a Knight, as was none other than William “Wild Bill” Donovan, the head of the CIA’s precursor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). From 1970 to 1981, France’s intelligence agency was also headed by a member of the Order, Alexandre de Marenches. De Marenches would go on to be a co-founder of the Saudi-funded private intelligence group the Safari Club—one of  George H. W. Bush’s many end-runs around congressional oversight of the American intelligence establishment and the locus of many of the worst features of the mammoth BCCI scandal.

So, while crackpot speculations about this particular Catholic order are legion, its ties to intelligence organizations in the U.S. and Western Europe are well-documented. It’s also perfectly understandable: with their unusual status as a recognized sovereign state without territory, the Knights of Malta enjoy full diplomatic rights in many countries—including the ability to bypass customs inspectors by secreting items across borders via “diplomatic pouch.”

With “medical missions in more than 120 countries,” as Keating points out, a teeming network of government spooks operating under the diplomatic protection afforded the Knights of Malta would certainly have plenty of breathing room to operate unnoticed. And yet, Keating instead positions the Order’s charitable work as evidence that the Knights have left their old military function behind—pointedly ignoring years of charitable work tied to U.S. strategic goals and covert activities during the heady days of the Reagan/Bush era.

AmeriCares In Its Own Way

Beginning in 1982, The Knights of Malta began an intensely collaborative partnership with the international aid organization AmeriCares—a charity group unique in its selective disaster relief to countries friendly to both U.S. business investment and foreign policy objectives. Literally billing itself as “The humanitarian arm of corporate America,” AmeriCares was founded and headed until 2002 by Robert Macauley: a college roommate of George H. W. Bush, a paper mill millionaire and a self-described (then self-denied) agent in the CIA’s WWII-era precursor, the OSS. Macauley was also the first non-Catholic to receive the coveted Cross of the Commander of the Order of Malta.

AmeriCares and the Order held off on relief to an economically crippled Panama in 1989 for six whole months, shuttling $2.5 million worth of medical supplies only after the conclusion of Bush Sr.’s lightning war against (former ally) Manuel Noriega.

In Guatemala, AmeriCares and Knights of Malta joint activities were handled by the wealthy, right-wing paramilitary figure, Roberto Alejos Arzu, whose plantation had served as a training ground for the CIA’s bungled “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba.

Seymour Hersh and the Silent Crusade

Seymour Hersh is in the middle of researching and writing a lengthy book on America’s wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has something of a history of playing looser with his facts in speeches than in print—partially to preserve his scoops pre-publication—and his speech in Doha hewed close to that tradition. In addition to the Knights, for example, he also made claims regarding Opus Dei, another secretive far right Catholic group steeped in just as much rumor and conspiracy theory. However, Hersh is a five-time Polk winner and recipient of the 2004 George Orwell Award—a reporter with a record that is well-burnished and nearly sterling.

Given the late 20th Century history of the “Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta,” how strange would it really be to find members of the Order, in and out of the military, collaborating on a new silent crusade with their old Cold War allies?

Until Hersh’s book-length treatment of the subject is published, at least we can all agree with Foreign Policy’s Joshua Keating that the Knights of Malta have been “an anomalous presence in international politics and have provoked their share of conspiracy theories.”

This time around, they’ve practically goaded us into it.

Full Article

Rome police arrest 4 US church abuse victims who showed photos of pope at news conference

John Pilmaier from Milwaukee, left, and Peter Isely of the SNAP bureau (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) show pictures of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI, left, and of father Lawrence Murphy, as they stage a press conference in front of The Vatican Thursday, March 25, 2010. SNAP members denounce Benedict’s handling of the case that involved father Murphy, who died in 1998, accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys as he worked at the former St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis from 1950 to 1975. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ruled that the alleged molestation had occurred too long ago and that the accused priest, Rev. Lawrence Murphy, should instead repent and be restricted from celebrating Mass outside of his home diocese. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito) (Pier Paolo Cito – AP)

Associated Press | Mar 25, 2010

ROME — Four American victims of clergy sexual abuse say they were detained and questioned by Italian police in Rome after showing photos of the pope during a news conference outside St. Peter’s Square.

Barbara Blaine, one of the victims, said Thursday after emerging from a police station near the Vatican that officers told them a judge will decide if they will be charged. She says they were detained because they didn’t have a permit for the outdoor news conference.

Blaine said police seemed most concerned because they displayed photos of Pope Benedict XVI and his top aide, Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. She says police also confiscated posters with slogans like “Stop the secrecy.”

According to church documents, the Vatican ordered a stop to a church trial of a priest who abused 200 deaf children in Wisconsin.

Iranian swingers face stoning to death

AFP | Nov 24, 2009

IRAN’S moral police have arrested a dozen couples for engaging in illicit sexual acts, including swapping partners, the conservative Jomhuri Eslami reported on Monday.

The report said the couples and another individual were running a website, Iran Multiplication, which was aimed at promoting illicit sexual relations.

The couples were said to have carried out sexual acts in the presence of each other and several times with multiple partners, the report added.

Those arrested held university degrees, while some were government employees and had children.

The paper gave no further details about their identities or when or where they were arrested.

Extra-marital sex is illegal in Iran where Islamic sharia law is the principal source of legislation. If found guilty of adultery, those arrested in the crackdown face being stoned to death.

Reports of partner-swapping are a rarity in conservative Iran, but in March the elite Revolutionary Guards said it had launched a crackdown on several groups who had set up anti-Islamic and pornographic internet sites.

The Guards, set up to defend the ideals of the Islamic republic, said they had “dismantled several networks that had set up anti-religious, anti-revolution and obscene internet sites”.

Among those also targeted are people deemed to be Satan worshippers, while moral police often also carry out raids on concerts and parties as part of their tough crackdown on “un-Islamic” attire and behaviour.