Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Storm Track Intimidation: Journalists on Trial for Insulting Muslims

Two Azerbaijani journalists accused of inciting religious hatred with an article that criticized Islam went on trial Monday, both accusing authorities of waging a politically motivated prosecution.

The case against reporter Rafiq Tagi and editor Samir Huseinov has touched a nerve in Azerbaijan, a mostly Muslim, ex-Soviet republic with a government that has little tolerance for independent media.

One downside to winning the Cold War was the freedom of radical Muslims to pursue the Islamist agenda in their countries. Azerbaijani is a prime example and shows that when Islamists take control of a country, it quickly devolves into a 13th century society.

Tagi's November article in the small newspaper Senet, edited by Huseinov, asserted that Islam has suffocated people, pulled them away from freedom and hindered humanity's development, and said the Prophet Muhammad created problems for Eastern countries.

That’s what you get for telling the truth in a Muslim country where freedom of speech is not tolerated and radical Islam is in control.

The article sparked angry protests - including calls for Tagi's death - in a village near Baku whose conservative Muslim community has clashed with the authoritarian government. The case has also deepened concerns about freedom of speech in the oil-rich country. Tagi, who was brought into the court in handcuffs, said he committed no crime.

"My article - this was purely artistic, a literary discussion and for words one must only answer with words. It is illegal to imprison someone for their convictions," he told the court. Huseinov told the court his constitutional rights had been violated and that authorities were trying to portray him as not being Muslim.


Right. If you’re a Muslim and criticize Muslims or Islam you are not really a Muslim and can be ignored, or worse yet, persecuted. This circular logic was used recently as a response to the secular Muslim conference in Florida.

The trial was expected to be closely watched in the West, which is interested in Azerbaijan because of its vast oil and gas wealth and its strategic position between Iran and Russia.

Of course human rights can be of no interest in the West unless the international human rights organizations can pin violations on only Western nations.

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