Saturday, June 10, 2006

Party politics and populism

“Een duivelse klus voor Mark Rutte” [A devilish job for Mark Rutte]
Marcel ten Hooven, 19-22 Vrij Nederland, 10 juni 2006

The effects of the rise and fall of Pim Fortuyn on Dutch politics cannot be overstated. His straight-talking (despite the fact he was gay), no-nonsense and confrontation style spoke to voters. But what was the real secret to his success, and why does it seem like the ‘liberal’ VVD party has been trying to recover, or at least take over, his legacy?

Part of the reason is appealing to the people’s disgust of politics and ‘dilly-dallying in The Hague’ [Haagse gedoe]:

From time immmorial the VVD also attracts support among voters who are susceptible to that populistic story that ‘Den Haag’ only bothers them with high taxes, unnecessary rules and a submissive attitude toward parasites. The VVD viewed the seats [in Parliament] that List-Pim Fortuyn gained in 2002 also as its [the VVD’s] seats.”

And again we come back to the very embodiment in the VVD, Ms Rita Verdonk, who displayed cunning leadership and die-hard determination which proved to be fatal in her attempt to become party leader:

“Above all, she used, just as Fortuyn did then, the distrust of the voters against the incumbent power for [her] own political gain, by setting herself against the ‘party-establishment’ as ‘candidate of the members [of the Party]”

It seems trying to distance yourself from the image of the lazy bureaucratic politician in Den Haag is a popular/populist tactic employed by aspiring leaders, including Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party, and Lousewies van der Laan, who recently put herself in the campaign for control of the D66 party (Democrats). But how effective is it?

“Political research has shown that citizens see [political] parties first and foremost as representatives of the state than of themselves. Against this background populism is an education form of criticism of democracy, against parties that identify themselves more with the government than with the citizens.

One of the explanations for the distrust is that the environment of modern, individualised voters collides against a established order that took form in the previous century as all sorts of collectivities, of which political parties was one of them. In this explanation Fortuyn has his individualism to thank for his unprecedented success. From his own personality he made his political weapon and projected himself averse to the organised party.”

And how do you become a populist? How do you attract voters? Simple: by appealing to their most urgent needs and playing on their immediate fears. Verdonk does this, if nothing else, well:

“Another explanation starts from the premise that politics [is unable] to place itself in the daily experiences and concerns of the citizens. Verdonk wanted to answer [that call] with a nationalistic integration policy, well-guraded borders, and linearity in the maintenance of rules.”

UPDATE 10 juni 2006

And politics got more interesting after it was revealed that a member of the cabinet, who is of the same party as Minister Verdonk, called Verdonk a “kutwijf(lit.: cunt-woman, ie. bitch)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

At the beach

Watched the sun set today, at 10pm.

fishing boat, with seagulls trailing behind. Look how round the sun is.

sun set already Posted by Picasa

‘It is ridiculous to keep the borders closed’

“ ‘Het is belachelijk de grenzen dicht te houden’ ” [‘It is ridiculous to keep the borders closed’]

Thijs Broer en Marcel ten Hooven, 17-18 Vrij Nederland, 10 juni 2006

In an interview with Bernard Wientjes, the chairman of the employers organization VNO-NCW (Verbond van Nederlandse Ondernemingen (VNO) en Nederlands Christelijk Werkgeversverbond, The Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers), expressed concern at the current Dutch administration’s reluctance towards immigration. It is hurting business, and thereby also the traditional Dutch character of being an open and international trade partner.

“Openness has always been the strength of the Netherlands. That runs in our blood, already since the 17th Century. That is the reason why Dutch entrepreneurs are often very successful abroad: they have a feel for other cultures. That is the strength of this country, that makes us unique. For foreign companies is that openness one of the most important reasons to establish [themselves] here. That image is beginning to change now, and I am very concerned about that.”

He mentions how on a recent trade delegation to India many potential investors were stunned by the bureaucracy their employers have to undergo to come to the Netherlands. And even the fact that many further measures are being taken to restrict East Europeans from entering the job market after the current temporary freeze on freedom of movement of labour [one of the core foundations of the European Union] is lifted in 2007. What is the rationale behind this recalcitrance and fear of open borders?

“[the Cabinet] has forgotten that the future of the Netherlands is dependent on exactly our ability to think beyond the borders. In the meantime the integrationprobelm has long not been solved. There is still a big group of Netherlanders who let themselves be lead by the ‘underbelly feeling’ of [Pim] Fortuyn. Ik trust that Verdonk did not willingly and knowingly want to mobilise these forces. But these forces can easiliy be summoned."

He mentions that there is a lot of fear at the moment in the country, related to the obvious terrorist threats, watching the attacks in the US, London and Madrid, and the series of threatened and actual assassinations of prominent public figures. And this fear has been dealt with by turning against all things and ideas foreign, as manifested in nationalistic attempts to integrate and comb over all segments of population with a universal set of values, norms and culture, grounded on equality. Such intolerance is unacceptable:

“In a democracy you must in principle treat everyone equally. But with that idea of equally sometimes the individual comes under suppression. In the interest of the country, of culture, sometimes you must be able to make an exception.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s case is an obvious one in which an exception should be made. But there are many other cases, of isolated communities of immigrants or even asylum seekers, for which no exceptions are being considered. And how do you deal with the situation?

”We must rid ourselves of [withdrawnness] and the provincialism that is now dominating debate. Because that is especially damaging for the image of the Netherlands in the world. If we want to improve our social-economic position, we necessarily must restore our old tradition of openness, tolerance and international orientation.”

That’s all? Anything else?

“Participation is the key word […] A large part of the Netherlands is now of foreign origin. You can like it or not, but it is a fact. If you want to help this country progress, you must ensure that these people also get good chances, that they must also seize. In this also businesses have a responsibility, for example by organising internship positions and in-job training for school drop-outs”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"A girl for the tigers"

A good article about the Netherlands’ loss of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Mario Vargas Llosa appeared in the liberal NRC Handelsblad yesterday.


With the same clarity with which on other occasions I have applauded Holland for the reforms it has pioneered – euthanasia, de-criminalization drugs, gay marriage – I now declare my disappointment at this shameful surrender on the part of government and public opinion in a democratic country against the blackmail of terrorist fanaticism. In recent times, moral courage and civic integrity seem to be sharply on the wane in the land of tulips.

The winners?

In any case, the affair is a great victory for the Muslim fundamentalists who, like Mohamed Bouyeri about Theo Van Gogh, dream of driving knives into a woman who, with a courage as great as her lucidity and her democratic convictions, has relentlessly fought them, denouncing their anachronism and the infinite sufferings and atrocities that their fanaticism inflicts on their most defenceless victims: Muslim women.

And the loser?

The loser is Holland. It has put up a depressing, deplorable show of moral pettiness and political hypocrisy, dishonesty and cowardice. It seems hard to believe that, in the country where Anne Frank suffered her martyrdom, it is still not clear to everyone that you cannot appease a tiger by throwing fresh, innocent flesh to it and blowing kisses to it – this only tends to whet its appetite and sharpen its fangs and claws.

Wow! Sharp criticism! And what grahpic imagery. Perhaps time for self reflection...

This morning I woke up to the radio playing a song that was popular a few years back, called
"15 miljoen mensen" (15 million people), by Fluitsma and van Tijn. It's about the everything that the Netherlands stands for, with its (then) "15 million people" "on that small piece of land"

Land van duizend meningen
Het land van nuchterheid

[Land of thousand opinions
The land of objectivity

Het land wars van betutteling
Geen uniform is heilig

[The land averse to condescension
No uniform is sacred

15 Miljoen mensen
Op dat hele kleine stukje aarde
Die schrijf je niet de wetten voor
Die laat je in hun waarde
15 Miljoen mensen
Op dat hele kleine stukje aarde
Die moeten niet 't keurslijf in
Die laat je in hun waarde

[15 million people
On that very little piece of land
Who you don't prescribe laws for
Who you leave alone in their value
15 million people
On that very little piece of land
Who mustn't go in a straightjacket
Who you leave alone in their value]

Het land vol groepen van protest
Geen chef die echt de baas is
Gordijnen altijd open zijn
Lunch een broodje kaas is
Het land vol van verdraagzaamheid
Alleen niet voor de buurman

[The land full of groups of protest
No superior who is really the boss
Curtains that are always open
Where lunch is a cheese sandwhich
The land full of tolerance
Only not for the neighbour]

Listening to the text again, and you realise how much the Netherlands and people's attitudes have really changed.

  • Thanks to Frits for the tip!

Terror alert! BERT

A report by the ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs concluded that radical Muslims are gaining sway over the more moderate Muslim population. Through the use of internet and preaching in Dutch, many more young Muslims are exposed to Salafism—a radical stream which aims to return to the pure Islam and is the basis of Al Qaeda.

Also the report concluded that the Netherlands is under “substantial threat” of a terrorist attack, because terrorist networks operating in the country are more internationally connected than before. The increasing controversies around the issue of integration and Islam’s position in modern society in the country is fuel for such a potential threat.

The National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (Nationaal Co√∂rdinator Terrorismebestrijding (NCTb) ) also has a ‘alert-o-meter’ and it is currently on orange.

Which means:

· New trends or phenomena that constitute a threat are discovered.

· There is a realistic possibility that an attack will occur in the Netherlands.

· Attacks are occurring in other countries that are comparable to the Netherlands.

· Radicalisation and recruitment are taking place on a significant scale.

· The Netherlands is frequently mentioned in statements issued by terrorist networks that pose a serious threat.

It makes you really wonder: Scare tactics, or for real?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Boat of prisoners

Boats take people to far away places, for leisure and pleasure. For centuries they have taken people away from desperation towards foreign lands in search of freedom and happiness. Not so if you happen to board the Bibby Stockholm.

A few weeks ago investigative magazine Vrij Nederland (VN) published two articles about the conditions of ‘prison boat’ (bajesboot). The boat is anchored in Rotterdam were supposed to provide a ‘temporary’ solution to the overcrowding of the detention service, and the majority of people held in these ‘temporary’ centres are illegal immigrants awaiting deportation. According to Minister Donner (Justice) three months is the maximum amount of time people would be detained there. However, VN discovered that many prisoners have been there for up to six months or even a year. The conditions are terrible, overcrowded, and prisoners don’t receive enough medical attention, while staff/guards at the centre are poorly trained to handle of physical and mental stresses and strains of the prisoners. Violence, intimidation, (sexual) abuse, attempts at suicide and self-mutilation are common. The articles caused public outrage, with lots of people unable to believe that such conditions can exit in a ‘civilised’ country like the Netherlands. And it prompted the Ministry of Justice and many parliamentarians to do some ‘damage control’.

A recent report by the Inspectie voor Sanctietoepassing (IST, Inspection for the Implementation of Sanctions) and Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming (RSJ, Council for Criminal Law Implementation and Youth Protection) confirmed some VN’s findings, however don’t believe that they are serious enough hit the panic alarm…yet.

The investigation found that privacy of prisoners were “very limited”, and that much of the furniture and utensils used by those detained are in sorry conditions. Prisoners are only given an hour a day to “air” themselves in an enclosed cage outside, and those under observation are given time to breathe in a cel without windows. There is also a severe lack of recreation and sports equipment, which can lead to frustration and boredom, and add to the overall environment which has been called “tense”.

Many of the detained are “apathetic, depressed, discouraged and/or tense’, and the medical care provided is deemed “unsatisfactory”. The psychiatrist is only present twice a week, and with that limited presence the care given is of an “ad-hoc character”. Regarding the time of detention, the investigation found that the average stay was 102 days (which is longer than the 3 months Minister Donner promised), but 56 people have been aboard for more than 6 months, and two people have been aboard for more than a year. A medic on board said that the average detention period is increasing and that at best 3-4 months is more accurate.

The quality of the staff on the detention boat leaves a lot to be desired. There was no mention in the report that staff only receive a few days of training (instead of seven weeks as required), and that they’re not even required to take a test at the end of the training. Many are not familiar with what to do in an emergency situation. The rate of leaving among the staff is also twice as high as in other detention centres, which means that the staff cannot be trained properly and be in the position long enough to develop any commitment or insight into what the job requires.

And worse, prisoners don’t seem to have any possibilities of complaint or recourse to legal action when they feel their rights have been infringed upon. Some complaints by the prisoners have also been withheld by the management of the boat, leaving the prisoners in a very dubious legal and uninformed positions, prone to exploitation and abuse.

Nothing was said about attempted suicides, or the fact that prisoners with a criminal record are often locked up with prisoners with no criminal background. Abuse of power, discrimination, sexual intimiation are of “no issue” aboard the boat.

If these problems are no serious enough, then it begs the question what needs to happen before they are taken seriously. Another fire, or some other catastrophe and maltreatment of asylum seekers, like at the detention centre in Schiphol? And this is happening in a state governed by the rule of law, that is party to various international agreements on the humane treatment of human beings and asylum seekers.

Reporting in “Voor Justitie zijn misstanden ‘verbeterpunten’” [For (the Ministry of) Justice atrocities are ‘points for improvement’], Robert van de Griend, 14-17 Vrij Nederland, 3 juni 2006

Here are pictures of a protest against the prison boat a few weeks ago.

Asylum policy of the Netherlands

Two weeks after the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair it seems like the media storm has finally died down. It was a revealing incident with stubborn politicians, mudslinging and late night parliamentarian debates. It revealed that law cannot be applied with a 'one-size-fits-all' attitude, and further exposed the hypocrisy of the immigration and asylum policy of the Netherlands.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a powerful woman, one of the most influential of our time, according to Time. So she can count on powerful friends and influence. She will, however and whatever it takes, get her citizenship back.

But that is not the case with tens of thousands of asylum seekers. Their fates are unknown and stories unheard. But like Ayaan they arrive in the Netherlands to escape form prosecution, poverty, or the worst excesses of human wrongs. They sought here, in the land of the free, the liberals, and the land of tolerance, the land where the likes of Descarte and Spinoza sheltered, a new life and new hope. Instead many have been treated like criminals, locked up in prison cells, forced into hidding, or live a life of uncertainty at deportation centres around the country as the immigration bureaucracy decide their destinies.

Thousands of asylum seekers have been sent home to places which are simply unsuitable or dangerous for their wellbeings. Tens of thousands more have been classified as 'processed out' (uitgeprocedeerde), and are waiting for the day when immigration officials come knock on their doors.

Today on the radio a twenty-five Chinese mother of two, who has been here for the last ten years, was interviewed. She was recently told that she can no longer stay in the country, even though her children were born here and are fully integrated in society. The Chinese government will not accept her, because she has no passport (frankly, also because she's of no benefit to China). Her story is like many others: depressing, and made worse by the treatment of the immigration service and government bureaucracy.

In the coming period I hope to focus some attention on this. Beginning first with the prison boat (bajesboot) Bibby Stockholm

  • Thanks to Frits for providing me with lots of useful information to make this possible!

Monday, June 05, 2006

China's attempts to pressure museum

This is a matter of serious concern.

China has applied pressure to a museum in the Netherlands which is about to put on an exhibition of the life of the Dalai Lama. The Wereldmuseum (World-Museum) in Rotterdam received a request from the Chinese delegation at the embassy to change part of the text in the exhibition. Tibet is supposed to be a ‘province’ of China, and the Dalai Lama did not flee Tibet, but left at his own free will, according to the Chinese government. They also emphasised that Rotterdam and Shanghai are sister-cities and that the economic ties are important (hint: THERE WILL BE CONSEUQNCES IF YOU DO NOT DO AS WE TELL YOU TO!)

The museum has rejected the request. The spokesperson for the museum said:

“We live in the Netherlands and not in China. We are a cultural institution and culture stands for freedom of expression.”

Rightly so!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Weekly Roundup: Week 22

  • Tibet better without independence”

China must have been furious last week, when Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama visited Brussels and met with key Belgian and European Union officials.

The Dalai Lama repeated his position that he is open for dialogue with the Chinese regime, which invaded and has occupied Tibet since 1959. In a meeting with Europarliamentarians he said that China is led by "a communist party without a communist ideology,” and that "in order to become a genuine superpower, China needs respect from the rest of the world, needs moral authority”. What he is seeking is not outright independence for Tibet, but an arrangement based on greater autonomy within China, like Scotland in the United Kingdom or Quebec in Canada. With China’s growing importance economically, Tibet can benefit from modernization, but only if the religious and cultural life of the territory and people are left intact, the Dalai Lama argues.

This may have raised eyebrows among more diehard independence activists, especially the younger generation. A few years ago I watched a documentary at uni about frustrated Tibetan youngsters who were born in exile outside of Tibet. Their strong desire to return to their homeland has started to turn to extremism, with several even warning of terrorist activities in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

And what do Tibet, Tintin, and Tutu have in common?

  • Opus Dei

Interesting opinion from an ‘insider’ of the religious demonsed by the Da Vinci Code.

“I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a deep communion with God, since that's what allows me to be truly happy. And I wanted to enjoy all the richness of the secular world. (All right, all except sex, which undoubtedly is one of the richest parts of living in the world.) This is where the adventure begins. Can one be totally focused on God, praying meditatively for hours a day, and also be totally focused on the world - making money, competing or collaborating with colleagues, going out with drinking buddies? The answer, for me, is yes.

My academic work has been in the area of consumer culture, specifically the fashion world and its impact on art. Can consumer culture be combined with contemplative prayer? For us in Opus Dei it can. Our ideal is the life Christ lived before his public life, his life of ordinary work in an ordinary family. God became a man and made human realities divine.”

Child labour: now also available in the UK

Shocking report in the Sunday Telegraph that hundreds of children from countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe end up in sweatshops or prostitution. Modern slavery in our midst.

China is no friend yet, but it shouldn’t become an enemy either.

Hollywood does it again with the dramatization of Flight 93

  • Football as the new war?

I was wondering about this a few years ago, and here is the answer. Sort of.

“What football really provides is a residual area of confrontation that allows for the controlled expression of animosity, leaving the most important areas of interaction between countries unaffected.”

  • AIDS Conference

It’s almost unbelievable, but believe it. Already more than 6 years into the 21st Century, and world leaders are unwilling or unable to mention the groups of people most vulnerable to the current AIDS crisis. Instead of drawing attention to the likes of prostitutes, homosexuals and drug users, these are lumped together under the term “vulnerable groups”—the same language used five years ago at the last AIDS conference.

Most opposition came from orthodox religious groups and conservatives who don’t want to involve interest from these “vulnerable groups”. Also the issue of sex and safe sex seemed to be sidelined at the conference, even though they were the main causes and preventions of the spread of AIDS.

As UK’s Secretary for International Development Hilary Benn put it:

“"I wish we could have been a bit more frank in our document about telling the truth [… Abstinence is fine for those who are able to abstain, but human beings like to have sex and they should not die because they do have sex,"

There were not concrete goals set, simply a non-binding declaration to continue the efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. Pretending there’s no problem and with silence and no discussion you cannot simply will the seriousness of a problem away!

Reporting by AP.

4 June 1989

It’s seventeen years after that eventful day on Tiananmen Square, Beijing. And the international media is surprisingly quiet about the anniversary. Have people begun to forget what happened then, and what is still happening in China? Even BBC Online, where every year there’d at least something about the events, is keeping quiet. All there is is a small link to “On this day”—symbolic of how Tiananmen has become just another date in history.

In China Tiananmen is still a taboo topic, and a term that cannot be found on internet web searches. Economic growth and improvements may have taken place in all those years, but political and individual freedoms continue to be suppressed. Just last year police opened fire on and killed villagers who were protesting about the meager compensation they received for their confiscated land. This is a regime that lies to its people and the rest of the world, and claims that ideas such as freedom and democracy are alien to the Chinese.

But the voices of dissidents are still there, if only you searched for them.

“The Chinese leaders are also well aware that their authority is anchored in fear, and they know they must maintain this fear if they are to keep their grip on power.”

But doesn’t liberal economic theory teach that with economic prosperity the middle class would rise and usher in democratisation with demands for greater political participation?

“The Tiananmen Square Massacre just goes to show that clinging to the idea that economic development will change things in China is little more than wishful thinking on the part of people with their heads firmly in the ground, ostrich style.”

There are plenty of other human rights violators in the world, so why is this important in the global context?

If the dictatorial regime in China reaches superpower status, it will certainly constitute a threat and bring disaster to the world. In this regard, China's human rights situation is an issue that concerns not only all Chinese, but the whole world. Only a few people around the world have realized this. It is of paramount importance that we make the whole world aware.”

Human Rights in China offers some touching first-hand accounts by people who were there on 4 June 1989. Meanwhile a group know as the ‘Tiananmen Mothers’ are still campaigning for compensation and an official public review and apology from the Chinese government, under the slogan: “Speak the truth; Never forget; Seek justice; and Call on conscience.”

Here (Tiananmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History) is a fascinating source of information on events behind the scenes.

Here is a comprehensive (but gruelsome) picture gallery of the days after the ‘incident’.

UPDATE 8 juni 2006 blocked by China.

I said already when Google and other companies launched their cooperation with the Chinese government: give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. China-based search engines set up by the likes of Google and Yahoo are simply a way to “sideline” other search engines that contain what the Chinese government labels as “sensitive material”.

What a great way to “celebrate” the anniversary of the Tiananmen ‘Incident’!

Click here for a list of “Press Predators” compiled by Reporters Without Border:

There are instigators and powerful people behind press freedom violations whose responsibility is not always apparent. Whether presidents, ministers, chiefs of staff, religious leaders or the heads of armed groups, these predators of press freedom have the power to censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and, in the worst cases, murder journalists

“1 in 10 Netherlanders are racist”

Further evidence that this country is becoming more and more intolerant.

Worrying report by an independent public opinion research (Motivaction) reveals that a quarter of the population has a negative opinion of allochtones (‘foreigners’ in the broad sense of different origin, skin colour, religion and/or race). Those who are ‘racist’ (10%) believe that Netherlanders are more intelleigent than allochtones and that different nationalities should not mix.

Another 17% admit to being racist ‘now and then’. They think allochtones are “criminal, impolite, lazy and intolerant”. Regarding people’s opinion of Islam, half of Netherlands are very negative, with 43% believing that it is not a peaceful religion, whereas 63% believe that Islam is incompatible with modern life.

The so-called ‘multi-cultural society’ also is not so popular among the majority of the population, since 80% believe that current situation between different cultures is ‘tense’. Most people are least at ease with Moroccans.

Reporting by BNR, Algemeen Dagblad, NRC Handelsblad

Jihad-blogger sentenced

A nut case. ErTaN, a Muslim blogger also known as the ‘jihad-blogger’, has just been sentenced by the Public Prosecutor to 180hours of community service for inciting hatred and violence.

The funny part:

Part of the reason was because ErTan published an open letter to Verdonk, in which he attacks Minister Verdonk’s policy of forced integration. Such a policy will not work with Muslims, because that is the equivalent to giving up being a Muslim. In his opinion

“[The] yardstick for integration of Muslims is not the language or the [degree of] education, but the extent to which [one has] forfeited [one’s own] Muslim identity in exchange for the secular, Dutch identity.

He closes the letter with an anecdote, describing a scene with his son and him at the children’s farm.

-He dad, what kind strange animal is that?
That, my boy is a fat sow, but we call it a ‘Verdonk-je’

[‘little Verdonk’, insulting the Minister’s name]

-It is a very dirty animal, right dad?

Yes boy, Verdonk-jes are always very unclean.

-He dad, there’s a stone, can I through it at her head?

Uhh, no, you cannot. Who did you learn that from? You cannot treat animals like this.

-Please! Please!

Oh, go on then, for this one time only.

-He! He!

Aim on her forehead. Come on boy, you can do it. Stone her!

The main issue here is the advocating the ‘stoning’ of ‘Verdonkje’ and the “threatening and insulting language” ErTaN used.

The not-so-funny part:

The other reason for his sentence was his incitement of hatred and violence towards homosexuals, and a pro-gay rights politician. In one he wrote:

”As soon as the Islamic law is effective in the Netherlands I shall be the first to push every protesting gay, with head down, off of the Westertoren [church in Amsterdam, close to the Homo-monument]. The Parliamentarian Borris D.[Dietrich] of D66 makes thereby a good chance to be allowed first. The stoning thereafter I shall gladly leave to others, because I shall have to concentrate on the suitable conclusion of this festive event, namely the blowing up of the Homo-monument, completely just like the Buddha-statutes in Afghanistan.”

In another about the Gay Pride of 2005, he called upon other Muslims to make it “an explosive party”.

This, in ErTaN’s defence, is supposed to be “humour” and part of his freedom of expression.

Down time

Still trying to recover from the shock of my computer crashing and erasing all (ALL, ALL, ALL!) the documents on my drive...

Was 'disabled' for a couple of days, but now have computer and internet running again.

It's in situations like this you realise how dependent you are on the computer and internet.
Before people took water and electricity for granted, and a shortage or sudden power cut would cause lots of misery (I remember my experience in Burma clearly...)

Now that has been replaced by the computer and internet! How times change!