British TV Channel 4 accused of pro-Muslim bias
The television channel, whose head of religious broadcasting is a Muslim, is said by several Roman Catholic priests to be unfair in its treatment of different faiths. They claim it recently showed a whole season of broadly positive programmes on Islam while a "Da Vinci Code-style" documentary on Christianity cast doubt on the validity of the Pope. In addition, they say the Channel 4 website treats the history and beliefs of Islam more reverently than it does Christianity.
It comes just days after the BBC was accused of pandering to Muslims by Hindu and Sikh leaders, who claimed the corporation makes a disproportionately large number of programmes about Islam.
Fr Ray Blake, a leading Catholic blogger who is a parish priest in Brighton, said: "I don't think it's fair towards Christianity. There seems to be a rather supine attitude to Islam and a trivialising attitude to Catholicism. I find it worrying. "Channel 4 has shown quite serious discussions about Islam but nothing that treats Christianity in the same way." Over the summer, Channel 4 broadcast a week of special programmes on Islam including a feature-length documentary on its holy book, the Qu'ran, and a series of interviews with Muslims around the world talking about their beliefs.
However last week it repeated a controversial documentary first shown at Easter, called The Secrets of the 12 Disciples, which claimed St Peter died in Palestine, not in Rome as the church has always taught. Academics quoted in the documentary say this means that he was not the first Pope and so other pontiffs have not been his true successors, with the Vatican accused of "fabricating" a connection with the apostle to justify its power.
The Catholic blog Clerical Whispers quoted one commentator as calling the arguments in the programme "intellectually-challenged" and added: "They are on a par with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code and are unsubstantiated. It shows undisguised disdain for the Catholic Church." Another blogging priest, Fr Tim Finigan, said the Channel 4 website highlights the torture and persecution carried out by the Roman Catholic church during the Inquisition, which he said is in contrast to its positive description of Muslims. He wrote: "My point in posting all this is not to denigrate Islam but rather to draw attention to the kind of treatment that can be given to religion, and how far it is from the customary treatment given to beliefs and practices that are sacred to Christians."
One commenter on Fr Blake's blog wrote: "The Commissioning Editor for religious broadcasting at Channel 4 is Aaqil Ahmed, a Muslim. I have long noticed that the only coverage Christianity gets on Channel 4 is in the form of programmes that seeks to undermine the authority of the Church, our traditions and our scripture."
A spokesman for Channel 4 denied it favoured Islam over other religions, however. He said: "Channel 4's Commissioning Editor for Religion, Aaqil Ahmed, commissions programmes on the basis of their merit, and our output reflect a wide range of beliefs and faiths."
Consider Norway, by far the least plausible candidate for the role of perpetrators of genocide, physical or cultural. This remote Scandinavian polity has repeatedly won every conceivable prize for upholding and cherishing human rights. Yet, it, too, has a dark chapter that ended only recently.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, many Finns - destitute farmers and fishermen - emigrated from their homeland and from Sweden and settled in the inhospitable northern reaches of Norway. They joined the original inhabitants of that area, Finns known as Sami. The new arrivals came to be known as Kvener (in Norwegian), Kvenee (in their own Finnish dialect), or simply Kven, by everyone else.
Fully one quarter of the population in the north identified themselves as Kven in the census of 1875 - yet, it took their adopted country two centuries (and a parliamentary investigative committee) to recognize them a minority (in 1996) and to accept their right to use their language (in 2005) within the framework of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Still, this may have been too little, too late. In the intervening period, the word "Kven" has been used as a pejorative by the Kvens' upstanding "ethnically pure Norwegian" compatriots. Kven and Sami culture and languages were considered backward and inferior (with racist undertones). Across the border, in Sweden, Samis were compulsorily sterilized.
In Norway, the Kven and Sami were re-labeled "The Foreign Nations" (non-Nordic, of Mongol roots) and "The Original Immigrants" (a falsification of history, as the Norwegians were the immigrants, not the Sami).
The mandate of the "Finn Fund", established in the 19th century by the Norwegian National Assembly, called on it to "civilize" the Kven and the Sami. Even after World War II, as Norway sought to "modernize" itself, Kven and Sami civilizations were cast as outdated and primitive.
Consequently, many Kvens now claim counterfactually to be Norwegians (or merely Norwegian Finns) and consider the Kven language to be a dialect of Finnish.
Inevitably, in a nationalistic backlash, some Kven now insist that they are the aborigines of northern Europe and that once, in the 11th century, they ran an empire that covered most of northern Scandinavia. Groups of opportunistic Swedish Finns support these theories in an attempt to leverage the ILO 169 Convention about the Rights of Indigenous People and apply it to Sweden's Kvens.
Be that as it may, the truth is that Norway had made it exceedingly difficult for Kvens (and other Finns, such as the Sami people) to obtain citizenship or maintain it and literally impossible to buy real estate - unless they agreed to change their names, give up their language and culture and, later, move away from sensitive border areas (they were considered pro-Russian, then pro-German and, therefore, a security risk). Additionally, lands in the public domain (in truth, owned by the Sami and Kven) were declared to be state property and confiscated without compensation.
This discriminatory policy was known as fornorskningspolitikken (Norwegianization).
Thus, for instance, well into the 1950s, it was forbidden to teach the Sami language in schools (with a few exceptions in the 1930s and 1940s). The very existence of the Sami nation (as a minority) was acknowledged only in 1989, after massive demonstrations in 1979 (ostensibly against the construction of an environmentally-disruptive dam, but actually to air Sami grievances).
Only in the 1990s were some of the wrongs righted: the Sami language was declared a "national treasure" (and a second official language in Norway), a Sami parliament was established, and lands appropriated by the state were returned to the Sami people.
The Kven are envious of the Samis' achievements. Well into the 1990s, they were still being labeled "immigrants" (and not a minority) by the Norwegian state.
In 1987, they established The Norwegian Kven Organization. Its aims are both political and cultural: the ultimate compilation of a government report about the Kven population; liaising with the Norwegian media; to push for the establishment of a State Secretary for Kven issues; to further the knowledge of the Kven language, from the kindergarten level onwards, using the proceeds of a Kven culture fund and income from museums and culture centers. The Kven also demand bilingual signage and place names.
Yet, only after Norway ratified, in 1999, the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, did it reluctantly alter the Kvens' status and accept that they are a "national minority": a collective with a historical presence (longer than 100 years) in a given territory.
Seoul's Notable Prize
North Korean human-rights abuses often go unnoticed, especially by South Korea, where past governments have preferred to ignore the brutal nature of the Pyongyang regime to the north. The awarding of the Seoul Peace Prize to American Suzanne Scholte last week therefore marks a welcome change. Mrs. Scholte, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Defense Forum Foundation, has been publicizing North Korea's rights abuses for over a decade. She brought North Korean defectors to Washington, D.C. in 1999 to testify at the first-ever Congressional hearing on North Korea's political-prisoner camps. Her efforts also led to the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act in 2004, which increased U.S. support for North Korean defectors and for radio broadcasting targeting North Korea.
Her work stands in contrast to the positions of past South Korean administrations over the same period. Former President Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" put human rights permanently on the back burner and tried to improve inter-Korean relations by showering the North with unconditional aid. His successor, former President Roh Moo-hyun, only entrenched those policies.
Current President Lee Myung-bak has started to reverse this dismal track record. Shortly after he took office in March, Mr. Lee's government expressed support for the United Nations special rapporteur monitoring rights in North Korea. He tried to disassemble the Reunification Ministry, which generally favors greater accommodation for the North, although those efforts have so far stalled. Mr. Lee has also said that South Korea will no longer give unconditional, unrequested food aid to the North -- although that resolve is being tested as reports of famine in the North multiply.
Mr. Lee's courage is starting to have an impact. The number of North Korean refugees arriving safely in South Korea was up 42% in the first half of this year, compared to the previous year.
Mrs. Scholte's receipt of the Seoul Peace Prize testifies to the importance of this cause. As the prize committee noted, "At a time when countries are purposely neglecting the human rights conditions in North Korea for their political interests, Ms. Scholte has taken the lead in raising awareness of the miserable plight of North Korean refugees and encouraged the refugees who are seeking freedom." Here's hoping that this award will inspire others to follow her example.
Lethal Politics: Antisemitism as Human Rights
Human rights have become a weapon. A potent force for denunciation and defeat - not in the hands of the abused, but in the hands of the abusers. Those powerful few who know little - and want even less - of freedom or equality. In little over half a century since the horrors that nearly vanquished an entire people, humankind has come almost full circle. The victims of the Nazis - and the Jewish homeland which is their refuge and their strength - are cast as the neo-Nazis of the 21st century. Human rights are now human wrongs.
The saga of the hijacking and corruption of universal rights and freedoms is one of profound betrayal. It is a betrayal of the victims of the Holocaust, the United Nations - the promised international beacon that rose from their ashes, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights envisioned by Eleanor Roosevelt and Ren‚ Cassin as the gold standard for never again.
This plight is not a result of a sole cataclysmic event but the consequence of individual abominations, gone unnoticed or unchallenged. Ironically, the setting for this treachery has been the UN itself. An individual resolution of the UN General Assembly, a report of a UN special investigator, a decision of the UN Human Rights Commission - year after year after year. International norms are said to be nurtured through a constructive process in which the accumulation of state practice crystallizes beliefs that mirror the collective wisdom of nations. What has emerged instead - powered by a global, 20 billion-a-year megaphone - is the collective depravity of an immoral majority.
This story begins with discrimination against the Jewish state. Discrimination is the building block of hate and the UN has already erected a fortress. Since the late 1940's until it was abolished in 2006, the lead UN human rights body was the Human Rights Commission. Over its lifetime it passed more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth. It adopted nothing, ever, on serial abusers such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe. In 2006 the Commission was replaced by the Human Rights Council. In its short life the Council has directed almost 60% of its decisions condemning specific states at Israel alone. And nothing at all on 187 of the UN's other 191 members.
The Council has had eight regular sessions which cover human rights in all countries - and four special sessions devoted only to human rights violations by Israel. The Council - as the Commission before it - has a limited agenda of less than a dozen subjects. One is reserved only for condemning Israel. And one is called "human rights issues of concern" for all other countries.
The Commission and the Council have created only one UN human rights investigator with a job description which has no term limit - the investigator on Israel. The few other country investigators must be renewed frequently - or not. In the past 15 months, the Council has refused to renew or continue investigations on four states with some of the worst records on the planet - Belarus, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran and Uzbekistan.
The mandate of the Council investigator on Israel denies any possibility of finding human rights violations by any actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but Israel. Its only purpose is "to investigate Israel's violations of the principles and bases of international law."
The UN has only one standing human rights committee which has no generic theme, like civil and political rights or children's rights. The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights is now in its 40th year of operation.
In 1975 the UN created a committee to implement its notorious Zionism is racism resolution. The resolution was rescinded in 1991. But the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People continues to sponsor events worldwide and year round. There is only one whole UN secretariat Division devoted to a single group of people - the UN Division for Palestinian Rights. Created in 1977 it has a full-time staff of 16, while the number of UN staff for the entire Asia and Pacific Division is 22. There is one refugee agency for Palestinian refugees. And one refugee agency assisting 26 million in the rest of the world. The UN General Assembly has six subsidiary bodies which focus only on Palestinians. And none focusing on any other people anywhere. There is only one UN online service dedicated to the claims of a single people - the enormous United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. It transmits reports, resolutions, speeches, publications and press releases on a daily basis around the world.
Member states of the UN are divided into five regional groups - key vehicles for negotiating resolutions, obtaining important positions, and sharing information. Only one UN member is not permitted to become a full member of any regional group - Israel.
There have been ten emergency sessions of the UN General Assembly in its history - six have been about Israel - and the last and tenth one is effectively in permanent session having been "reconvened" fifteen times since 1987. A million dead in Rwanda and two million dead over two decades in Sudan never prompted one emergency session.
In 2007 the UN General Assembly - as is routine - adopted 20 resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations, while adopting just a single resolution each on only six other countries. And nothing, for instance, on the egregious violation of the most basic civil and political rights of more than a billion Chinese.
The only condemnation of a country-specific violation of women's rights anywhere made by the Commission on the Status of Women is its annual resolution on Palestinian women. Nothing, for example, directed at Iran despite its practice of burying women naked to the waist and stoning them to death for alleged adultery.
Taken together, the country subject to more human rights criticism across the UN system every year is Israel. Last year, it was condemned twice as often as Sudan - where millions are displaced, hundreds of thousands are dead in Darfur, and unfettered genocide and rape are the daily norm.
The meetings are webcast - the documents are translated into six languages - and the reports are accessible globally via the internet for free. In UN circles, it is called protecting human rights. In reality, it is discrimination - antisemitism - in which the Jewish state is subjected to different treatment and held to different standards than all other nations. Given its reach and impact, the UN is therefore the largest global purveyor of antisemitism in the world today. Israel emerges from this so-called human rights campaign demonized - a country engaged in heinous acts with the worst of intentions.
June 20th, 2008 at UN Headquarters in New York. The occasion is a day-long event entitled "Special meeting to mark sixty years of dispossession of Palestine refugees." A film - shown also at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris a few weeks earlier - is screened before a public audience in the main Economic and Social Council Chamber. Produced by a Palestinian, the film was designed to draw parallels between the Nazis final solution and the Zionists design for Palestinians. It is commonly billed with these words: ".the late-19th century Zionists.drew up plans, put them into practice, then.used. force, often brutal."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.