The jailing of fundamentalists for a planned arson attack on the publisher of a book about Aisha, Muhamed’s child bride, is as good as any excuse to look at nutters worldwide who censor the discussion of religion.
Handily, Article 19 sum up the situation rather well in their June Artist Alert bulletin.
In 2005, for example, they published a report (Art, Religion and Hatred; Religious Intolerance in Russia and its Effects on Art ) on the way that the Russian state has sided with religious extremists, often using vague interpretations of law meant to prevent nationalist extremism – which is a sick joke when you watch Russian Orthodox beardy weirdies ‘helping’ the police to bash anyone in sight at Pride events.
Article 19 say, “Police and security services can use vague legislation such as the 2002 law, as well as legal loopholes to instantaneously arrest and detain artists and close down exhibitions.”
The inevitable effect has been that artists now tend to self-censor rather than take risks.
Meanwhile the trial of Yury Samodurov and Andrey Erofeev over their Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition at the Andrei Sakharov Museum has resumed again. It kicked off two years ago because a nationalist religious organisation, Narodnyj Sobor, submitted a formal complaint. Samodurov and Erofeev face five years inside on charges of inciting religious and ethnic hatred under Article 282 of the Russian Penal Code for exhibiting works including a crucified Lenin and Mickey Mouse as Jesus.
If you need an easy comparison, Manx sculptor Michael Sandle exhibited a massive Micky Mouse with a machine gun at the Imperial War Museum at the time of the first Gulf War. He did that with the aid of a substantial grant, at the invitation of the museum management and (if I recall rightly) without even one rabid Tory asking questions in the House.
Elsewhere this year it is also religious conservatism hand in hand with bad government creating legal nonsense.
A Turkish court has allowed a case to be brought against author Nedim Gursel for “insulting religion” and “inciting hatred”. Gursel is on trial for his book The Daughters of Allah against which a case was brought earlier in 2009 on the above charges. Turkey is already infamous for charging many authors, including a Nobel Laureate, under laws that prevent “insulting Turkishness”, but Gursel says that the religious establishment has become the bigger threat against freedom of expression.
But even these cases pale beside the Iranian situation. Here (as if anyone needed it) is reason number one million and, oh, say 99 for not moving to Iran.
Article 19 reports solemnly:
“According to an International Publishers Association investigation, since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, censorship within the Iranian publishing industry is clearly on the rise, with decisions about what gets published becoming more unpredictable, uncertain and arbitrary.
”Although the number of titles is slowly rising, the average print run is now only 3,000 compared to an average of 10,000 in the 1970s. This is entirely due to censorship. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (MCIG) never officially bans books. Rather, if an author does not hear within two years, they understand that their manuscript has been rejected.
”In Iran, an author must obtain permission to print from the MCIG and a licensed publisher must obtain separate permission to distribute. In some cases the author gains permission to print, but the publisher does not gain permission to distribute.”
3 years ago