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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tsunami's rumors on "divine punishment" in Islamic and Asian media

Rumors are interesting to follow. This is not an exhaustive research, but I have found two news providers in Southern Asia that have followed a Moroccan claim - from an Islamist newspaper - saying that Asia's tsunami disaster amounted to godly retribution for the region's sex tourism industry. at the beginning, it's just an AP wire - something informative and not ideological - but then it becomes more worrying. First, here is the wire's excerpt selected by Brunei online: "Hundreds of people, many of them Islamic militants, demonstrated in support of a newspaper that caused a stir in Morocco... The Arabic-language Attajdid, which has ties to the leading opposition party - for the Editors Weblog, an Islamist party more than an Islamic party -, PJD, wrote in an editorial earlier this month that the Dec. 26 catastrophe was "divine punishment" for the region. Several hundred people, many supporters of the PJD, marched Saturday through the streets of the capital, Rabat, to show backing for the publication. The newspaper said Morocco, which has a vibrant tourism industry, is becoming "the next destination in the industry of debauchery" - and could risk similar punishment...

"We must all - government and the people - stop and think long about such an event in relation to sexual tourism, homosexuality, the trafficking of children, and official silence on these issues," wrote the newspaper Jan. 6 under the headline "Sex tourism and the Tsunami."

Human rights groups, centrist politicians and rival newspapers condemned the column. Dozens of protesters from left-leaning parties or human rights groups staged a separate sit-in in front of the newspaper's offices on Saturday 29 January, to show their anger at the editorial.

A brief scuffle ensued when the two groups crossed paths, but no one was injured and they went their separate ways peaceably. The comments have provoked outrage among human rights groups and rival political parties. But the protesters defended the newspaper's right to express its views."

Finally, this article is relatevely balanced even if the reason to report on the Maroccan events is not clear.

Here is the second article I have found on Keralanext.com: "Thousands of people have demonstrated in support of a Moroccan newspaper which claimed that the tsunami was an act of divine retribution. The newspaper of Morocco's Islamic party, PJD, said the disaster showed God's displeasure with South-East Asia's sex tourism industry.

The Attajdid newspaper said that Morocco could face a similar disaster to the devastating tidal wave if it did not stamp out immorality.

The articles have been condemned on Moroccan television and have prompted calls for censorship of the press. The PJD said that 5,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Rabat, in support of the party. A counter-demonstration called by human rights groups failed to materialise."

This article appears a bit more biased. AFP, for instance, reported that there were a maximum of 2,000 protesters on 29 January 2005 in Rabat !

What is interesting in both cases is the dissemination of this ideas of "divine punishment" and "God's displeasure" even if the news provided don't give any real comment or approval or condemnation.

Sources: Borneo Bulletin / Brunei online and Keralanext.com.See also a French coverage of the news by Courrier International

Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on February 1, 2005 at 11:38 AM in m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, o. Ethics and Press Freedom | Permalink

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