Stories for Thursday 6 March

Good morning, here are the top three stories on the BBC web site: Gaza’s humanitarian situation is at its worst since Israel occupied the territory in 1967, according to human rights groups; Kenyan power-sharing era starts today with the opening of parliament; and the International Whaling Commission aims to find common ground between pro- and anti-hunt factions at a meeting in London.

They match three of the top four headlines at Bush House – third for the World Service are accusations of Sri Lankan government involvement in widespread abductions and forced disappearances.

None of which grabs me particularly (but perhaps you can convince me…), so let’s move on. Perhaps more interesting on Kenya is the BBC report of allegations of state-sanctioned violence during the turmoil that followed last December’s disputed presidential poll. Sources told the BBC that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures. The government denied the allegations, calling them “preposterous”.

Following yesterday’s announcement by the Indian government that it will pay poor families nearly $3000 to bring up their girl children, Turkmenistan’s president has announced incentives to reward women who give birth to eight or more children. Should governments provide incentives to shape families? Or, given that many already do, how far should they go?

A suggestion from Steve: Several Muslim countries have followed the call of an international Islamic cultural bodyto boycott a book fair in Paris which honours Israel writers. Organisers argue that many of the Israeli writers involved support the idea of Palestinian statehood, but Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria have all pulled out. Without cultural exchange and dialogue, what hope for peace? That’s my question; Steve wonders if “being so hateful is ordinary in the Muslim world?” Certainly not among any of the Muslims I know, Steve.

And here’s a suggestion from Hisham in France. It’s something we have talked about in the morning meeting and we have talked about state suppression of citizens on the internet before, at least in a roundabout way.

Anyway, Hisham wants to talk about “Fouad Mourtada, the Moroccan engineer who got kidnapped then tortured and eventually sentenced to three years in prison + a heavy fine for a joke he made by creating a fake profile on facebook of the local king’s youngest brother… I guess that the plight of a young Moroccan is of less worth than the tribulations of the American primaries or some stories about celebrities getting drugs!”

Thanks for the suggestion, Hisham, but what is the debate around Fouad? We try to focus our stories with a question, so please include one in future (and it’s a big help to include a link to a news story as well). I’m not sure what debate there could be in this case, but if someone can come up with something we’ll consider it. But keep your ideas coming…

8 Responses to “Stories for Thursday 6 March”

  1. 1 Brett
    March 6, 2008 at 12:48

    Should governments provide incentives to shape families? Or, given that many already do, how far should they go?

    Yes, because that is just what the overpopulated world needs. More people… What a horrible idea.

    We have seen the effects of China’s ‘single child’ policy and how that affected the population make-up with many more males than females as the male children were often more desireable when having to choose. So why do just the same by providing incentives for a certain sex?

    But then again if you have a child that just happens to fit within the governments family-shaping program, then you get a nice little bonus check, and you didn’t even do anything out of the ordinary. I suppose if I were in that situation, I wouldn’t mind.


    Japan says it may leave the IWC unless it becomes a more effective forum.

    And by effective we mean, allowing Japan to continue to do what they want… All in the name of ‘science’.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  2. 2 VictorK
    March 6, 2008 at 12:55

    Eh, an Islamic cultural boycott of Israel?

    Really. Let’s try to put that in perspective with the help of some data about Nobel Prize winners.

    Approximately 9 Muslims have won the Nobel Prize, 5 of them for the intellectually undistinguished category of ‘Peace’. Jewish Nobel Prize winners, by contrast, cover every category – Literature, Peace, Chemistry, Economics, Physiology/Medicine, and Physics. The number of Jewish winners is in the hundreds.

    Muslims account for 20% of the world’s population and Jews for 0.2%. Culturally, Muslims are virtually non-existent on the world stage; Jews are a powerhouse of creativity and achievement in every sphere of intellectual endeavour. I’m afraid that the Paris book fair would not be noticeably poorer, culturally speaking, if every Muslim country chose to boycott it. It might even be better off.

    Virulent hatred of Jews has become the sixth pillar of Islam. And let’s not overlook the rank hypocrisy of Israel being accused of ‘crimes against humanity’ (for which read ‘refusing to submit to its enemies’) by many of the same Muslim countries that were silent when Saddam was committing genocide, had nothing to say when Assad of Syria slaughtered 20,000 in a single day, went about their business as cheerfully as ever while the Islamic fundamentalist government in Khartoum slaughtered 3 million Africans over three decades, and who are today prepared to defend the same Sudanese regime even as it commits real crimes against humanity in Darfur.

    Muslim and Arab hypocrisy is simply breathtaking.

  3. 3 steve
    March 6, 2008 at 13:35

    Hatred from the far left (and others):

    If you haven’t read about it, the US Air Force decided to buy air refueling tankers made by EADS (Airbus) a european company over tankers from Boeing. Labor unions and others have voiced their protest over this, but in very hateful ways. I heard just now on NPR officials going on, insulting France, insulting French products, insulting Airbus and basically throwing hissy fits. Normally you hear these people on the far left accusing others of being intolerant, but when they don’t get their way, they don’t seem to mind hating an entire nation because they offered a better product according to the Air Force. It sounds like the idiocy of the right when France objected to the Iraq war, and idiots in Congress decided to call french fries “freedom fries”. Now it looks like the far left can be just as hateful when their wallets get affected.

  4. March 6, 2008 at 14:16

    You asked about the question: Do you find it fair or justifiable to destroy the life of a young engineer for crime of lèse-majesté? Do you think people (and they are many) who have created fake profiles of celebrities and world figures like Sarkozy, Queen Elisabeth, Bush… on the same site, do you think they should be restricted?

    Thank you for posting my request.

  5. March 6, 2008 at 14:24

    Hi Hisham, you’re very welcome. Thanks for the question – the difficulty with it is who would say the punishment of Fouad is fair or justifiable? And if we can’t find anyone who does, how do we have a discussion about it?

  6. March 6, 2008 at 15:42

    Peter; I asked for the information to be published on the blog so that people would come up with the questions and answers and hopefully the debate could take hold. I personally find it scandalous the decision by the Moroccan justice to jail this guy and I thought some people would challenge me on my position or maybe support it. I thought that your blog worked that way!

  7. 7 Ros Atkins
    March 6, 2008 at 16:11

    dear ros,
    next week i hope a debate on transgression of sovereign rights of countries may be discussed ..eg equador transgressed by columbia,iraq,afghanizthan,somalia by us forces and allied forces etc ..
    lovingly devadas

    **UPDATE – Devadas – we’re doing this subject today. Thanks for the suggestion.***

  8. March 6, 2008 at 23:30

    It seems to me that Fouad Mourtada was brought to trial because he broke the rules of Facebook, which must surely have been used as evidence in his trial. Facebook’s term of use clearly states that for registration one shouldn’t “impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself, your age or your affiliation with any person or entity” https://register.facebook.com/terms.php . As an educated engineer, he should have taken care to read the terms of use carefully although the site is international and has no means for suing its users in case they break those rules. It seems, it is leaving this to the discretion of the judicial authorities and the parties concerned.

    On the second level, he seems to have gone too far by choosing to impersonate a Royal Prince. In Morocco, there are still red lines concerning how openly members of the royal family should be talked about in public, let alone be used for impersonification.

    Even in the free West, celebrities sue the media when portraying them in a damaging way, especially when there is a lack of proof about their reports. The latest was the case of Nichole Kidman who sued a photographer for chasing her to take photographs of her. In UK, popular papers are frequently at court for their “defamatory” publications. In Spain ,a Spanish newspaper was tried for making a sexually explicit cartoon of Spanish crown prince and his wife. The examples can’t be exhausted. The common point about this is that there was no imprisonment, just fines.

    All these facts can be used as hard proof to indict Fouad. His case got worldwide publicity. In Morocco, it has been the talk of local and national media. There were supports for him and criticism of the “harsh” sentence. Maybe he was used as an example for those daring to cross the red lines that are explicitly stated in the Moroccan Constitution, which talks about the sacredness of the King and by this all his family members:family members shouldn’t be used lightly. In relation to this, many people were tried in Morocco for faking connections with the royal family members as a means to deceive those seeking jobs and intercession in courts and administrations. Recently a gang of this sort was dismantled in which workers in the royal palaces were involved.

    For Fouad, his case can be seen by some as stifling free speech, by others as an ignorance of Moroccan law which still prohibits dealing with the royals lightly. Maybe he can get pardon as now his lawyers have appealed his three-year sentence. In the coming days, the end or the continuity of this “saga” will be known.

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