The art exhibition in question was unveiled in January 2004 and stayed open for only 96 hours.
Titled "Caution, Religion," it featured 42 works by 42 artists. The show's curators said the works shared a common aim -- to provoke discussion about the role of religion in modern society.
In the end, the exhibition provoked a lot more than discussion. Within days of its opening, activists from the self-described Movement for the Renewal of the Fatherland vandalized many of the exhibits, calling them blasphemous.
The offending artwork included a painting of Jesus' face imposed on a Coca-Cola logo next to the words "This is My Blood."
The vandals were charged with hooliganism but cleared after intervention by the Orthodox Church and several State Duma deputies.
Instead, it was Sakharov Museum director Yuri Samodurov, his deputy Lyudmila Vasilovskaya, and exhibiting artist Anna Mikhalchuk who faced trial, for inciting ethnic and religious hatred under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code.
Mikhalchuk was acquitted. But yesterday's guilty verdict for Samodurov and Vasilovskaya has shaken the Russian art world and infuriated human rights activists.
The court ruled the two had instigated religious hatred by insulting Orthodox believers. It also ruled that they had fanned ethnic hatred as well, because most Russian Orthodox believers are ethnic Russians. Both were ordered to pay a fine of 100,000 rubles ($3,600) each.
Father Vsevolod Chaplin, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, welcomed the verdict, saying it would prevent future attempts to insult believers.
Yelena Bonner, widow of human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, could not disagree more. She tells RFE/RL that, in her view, yesterday's verdict confirms freedom's limitations in Russia.
"This case proves that in Russia, there is no freedom of conscience as such," she says. "There is the Orthodox Church's freedom to act in an uncontrolled manner, the freedom to somewhat denigrate other religions, and a ban on atheism and agnosticism."
Yuri Schmidt, defense lawyer for the convicted curators, goes even further, accusing the Russian Orthodox Church of pursuing its own political agenda.
"Our right to freely express our opinions and convictions is something they want to suppress in order to make Orthodoxy the state religion and turn Russia into a theocracy," he says.
That is a view shared by Nikolai Khramov, of the Russian Radical Party, which also protested the verdict.
"We are extremely worried by this court case," he says, "and we do not see it as an isolated episode but as a stage in the attempt to turn the Russian Federation from a secular, law-based state into a de facto clerical state where Orthodoxy, as interpreted by the Moscow Patriarchate, becomes the de facto state religion, where the Patriarchate assumes the position once held by the ideology department of the [former] Central Committee [of the Communist Party.]"
Activists say the verdict is a consequence of Russia's postcommunist law on freedom of conscience and religious associations, which they believe is flawed and contradictory. While the law defines Russia as a secular state, it also recognizes what it calls the "special contribution of Orthodoxy to the establishment of the state system in Russia."
The law also makes a distinction between Orthodoxy and other faiths. Activists believe this lays the groundwork for court rulings that favor Orthodox views over others.
For his part, curator Yuri Samodurov says the fact that a court has become the arbiter of what is proper art -- and what is not -- should worry all artists and those concerned about the freedom of creative expression and censorship.
"For the first time, a court, in the name of the state, has formulated the idea -- through its guilty verdict -- that there exists art that is close to the Western consciousness but alien to Russia," he says. "In essence, in my formulation, the court has said there is one type of art that is degenerate and another type of art that is 'normal.' "
Samodurov and Vasilovskaya have 10 days to appeal their conviction. They say they are ready to pursue their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
A new novel telling the tongue-in-cheek tale of how a group of Turkish nationalists -- and some extra-terrestrial friends -- invade the United States is targeting best-seller lists in Turkey, in the midst of a boom in anti-US books.
"America Is Ours" hits the bookshelves this weekend with its cover depicting the Statue of Liberty sporting a handlebar mustache -- the Turkish macho symbol par excellence -- and the US flag's stars replaced by the triple-crescent symbol of the Turkish far-right.
The parody in political-fiction starts off with an alien suddenly showing up as a young Turkish nationalist says his prayers.
The spaceman grants the wish of the young Turk, exasperated by US interventionism in the Middle East and furious at the (fictional) secret crossing of the Istanbul Bosphorus by two US warships, and helps him invade America thanks to a machine that controls people's minds.
The occupiers immediately bring things Turkish to their new land, organising "cig kofte" (a spicy Turkish delicacy made of raw hamburger) parties at the White House, proclaiming Turkish the official language and transforming Madonna into a belly dancer.
"There is some anti-US sentiment at the bottom of the book, but it's really not a war story because no one gets killed," Erdogan Ekmekci, one of the two co-authors of the book, told AFP.
It is the first novel by Ekmekci, a 27-year-old Istanbul resident and a former sales representative.
"The circumstances are right for anti-US books," he acknowledged, but stressed that "America Is Ours" is more a work of "self-criticism" of Turkey's 70 million mainly Muslim citizens and their way of life than it is an anti-US tract.
"The way we (the Turks) run the United States means the end of the country, because we bring along all our troubles and woes," he said, explaining his book.
Among them: a bevy of social problems, such as huge queues of patients waiting outside hospitals and an economy crippled by mismanagement, where a loaf of bread sells for 250 dollars.
"What we're doing is blaming the devil for our sins," commented Ekmekci of his book, which comes hot on the heels of another anti-US best-seller in Turkey, the just as futuristic but more sobering "Metal Storm", which relates the 2007 invasion of Turkey by US forces.
"Metal Storm" is a confirmed best-seller, with more than 110,000 sales since its December release, riding a wave of strong anti-US sentiment in Turkey sparked by the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The invasion created real tensions between the staunch NATO allies and anti-Americanism suddenly became a saleable commodity in a country undergoing an unprecedented surge of patriotism.
"The circumstances are right," echoed Adem Ozbay, not concealing that his Akis publishing house, which will release "America Is Ours" with a first run of 50,000, is hoping to get on the bandwagon.
But Ozbay told AFP he regretted that the current display of flag-waving patriotism sparked by a couple of Kurdish teen-agers trying to burn the Turkish flag has "gone out of control" and been transformed into "a show of jingoism".
"We tried to have a little fun by trying to imagine what would happen in the United States if the mistakes we make here were repeated there," he explained.
It all ends badly in the book, to the point that the hero has to once again resort to his extra-terrestrial friends' powers to go back in time and pretend none of it ever happened.
Dr Marc Sageman of the University of Pennsylvania has conducted an exhaustive study of al-Qa’eda’s people. He collected the life histories of 400 individuals either in al-Qa’eda or closely linked to it, and found that traditional theories of what motivates a terrorist — poverty, desperation, ignorance — did not apply in al-Qa’eda’s case. Indeed, some of them turned their backs on cushy lives to sign up for bin Laden’s fanciful war against the West.
A majority of Sageman’s sample were well-to-do: 17.6 per cent were upper class, 54.9 per cent were middle class and 27.5 per cent were lower class. For those individuals whose educational records were available, 16.7 per cent had been educated to a level less than high school; 12.1 per cent had at least a high school education; 28.8 per cent had some college education; 33.3 per cent had a college degree; and 9 per cent had a postgraduate degree. Only 9.4 per cent had a religious education and 90.6 per cent had a secular education.
This good schooling is reflected in their career paths: 42.5 per cent were professionally employed (as doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc.), 32.8 per cent had a semi-skilled job, and 24.6 per cent were unskilled. The average age was 25.69 years; the ‘Central Staff’ — the leading figures close to bin Laden — had an average age of 27.9. For those subjects whose marital status was known, 73 per cent were hitched and most had children. And while al-Qa’eda clearly has a perverse and twisted view of the world, its associates are not bonkers: there were only four cases of a ‘possible thought disorder’ and one subject had ‘mild mental retardation’.
Strikingly, 70 per cent joined the jihad while away from home. Sageman describes them as the ‘elite of their country’ sent abroad to study because the schools in Germany, France, England and the US are better. Egyptian-born Mohammed Atta, who crashed the jet into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, became a violent-minded extremist while studying architecture in Hamburg. Ahmed Omar Sheikh, the Briton convicted of murdering American journalist Daniel Pearl, attended the London School of Economics. Al-Qa’eda’s ‘breeding ground’, it seems, is as much in fragmented cities in the West as in hotbeds of Islamism in the East.
A GROUP of 7,000 Indians who believe that they belong to a fabled “lost tribe" expect to emigrate to Israel after being recognised as descendants of the ancient Israelites.Read the whole thing after the jump and give a glass of red wine to Annie who suffered through registration so you won't have to.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has acknowledged the status of the Bnei Menashe people and will send a team of rabbinical judges to a remote corner of northeast India, next to Burma, to convert them to Judaism.
The conversions will ensure that the group who claim to be “children of the tribe of Manasseh, a son of Joseph" will be able to emigrate to Israel under the Jewish Law of Return. It will allow them to circumvent an Interior Ministry ban imposed on the Bnei Menashe Indians two years ago.
It has been five years since Zimbabwe embarked on a road to lawlessness and economic disaster. Having stolen the 2000 parliamentary election and the 2002 presidential poll, Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party proceeded to stack the courts with government sympathisers, drastically curtailed freedom of expression and assembly, and silenced independent media and non-governmental organizations. Members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have been persecuted and, in some cases, murdered. Countless Zimbabweans have been jailed, raped and tortured by Mugabe's secret police and youth militias, but the culprits were never brought to justice.TCS: Tech Central Station - The Incredible Shrinking Country
Florida's Department of Children and Families had received nearly 90 allegations that Michael Schiavo had abused his wife in recent years - but a Florida judge ruled yesterday that DCF summaries of those allegations must remain secret.Here's my question: these 89 allegations of abuse, why weren't they filed earlier? Did they all come from the same person? If they came from different people, again, why did these people wait so long to come forward? And did DCF conduct an investigation?
During a hearing Thursday, just hours after Terri Schiavo died, DCF attorney Jennifer Lima-Smith asked Greer to keep its records sealed, saying, "It's time to end this case."
Just a few weeks ago, however, the agency was pressing for a full blown abuse probe.
In the petition filed with Greer's court in early March, the DCF asked him not to remove Schiavo's feeding tube until the agency could investigate 34 pages of materials documenting allegations of abuse, the Orlando Sentinel reported at the time.
The DCF petition said the materials were sent to its abuse hotline on Feb. 18 and Feb. 21, and by law, the agency had to conduct an investigation.
1. Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the wooded glen. And sit up straight. You’ll never meet the Buddha with such round shoulders.Go read the whole thing and wish militarybrat a happy birthday :-)
2. There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?