Blasphemy, Islam and Free Speech: A Twittersation

This afternoon, I had a very interesting conversation with Shabbir R Hassanally on Twitter about events of the last week in Libya and Egypt.

This raging mess in American relations with the Islamic nations, which has, as Michelle Obama might say, “revealed” more about both candidates’ character and abilities in foreign policy than either may have wished for, was alleged to have begun when a trailer for an intentionally inflammatory anti-Islamic film called “Innocence of the Muslims” made in California in July was translated into Arabic and posted on YoutTube. Thus, it became known to Egyptian Islamists who consequently rioted at the American embassy, starting a chain reaction of anti-American protests around the Middle East and beyond. According to the New York Times, the fatal attack on Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi was the premeditated work of a Libyan paramilitary group with links to al-Qaeda that took advantage of the chaos over the riots against the film to execute a planned attack in retaliation for the drone-strike killing of a Libyan-born Qaeda official.

Huffington Post reports that the auteur behind the offensive film is one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Egyptian-born Coptic Christian with a background that includes bank fraud and possibly meth manufacturing among  other enterprises. Though the story is weird and complicated, it seems Nakoula, in cahoots with a group of radical right-wing Christian Islamophobes, hired a bunch of actors to shoot a script they were told was about a fictional character. After the cheapie was shot, Nakoula dubbed in the offending dialogue denigrating Mohammed as a clueless sex maniac, pedophile and with various other Nakoula-like interests. When the story broke on the afternoon of September 11, Nakoula’s identity was not yet known. He was hiding behind the pseudonym “Sam Bacile” and claiming to be an Israeli-born American who was working with contributions from a hundred Israelis. In the Muslim world, word spread quickly that Israel and the US had colluded on the film, that it reflected not just the opinions of a nutty director but official US policy, as dictated to it by Zionist Israel. Why Nakoula tried to implicate Israel in his offense is not known (as far as I know). (Was he trying to give the Apocalypse a little boost? If so, maybe he succeeded better than he expected.) Continue reading

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The Bishops and Their Pawns

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, spreading smoke at his day job.

I’ve been focusing on monied interests in the past few weeks, but if you want a striking example of how American democracy has evolved to favor the interests of the powerful over the people, consider this article on Huffington Post by Laura Basset about another form of ungodly influence over the body politic:

A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent. Continue reading