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March 29th, 2006 Erika-leigh Goodwin | News Stories
 

Blog Blasphemy

Portland couple's Web postings get them in death-defying trouble in Pakistan.

     
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PORTLANDER TRACY TWYMAN'S WEBSITE makes her persona non grata in Pakistan.
Local bloggers Tracy Twyman and Brian Albert should probably cross Pakistan off their list of travel plans.

The Portland couple's website (www.plusultrablog.com) appears to have made a "dirty dozen" list facing heavy fire in Pakistan for spreading blasphemy in the predominantly Muslim nation.

According to a Pakistani news service, that country's Supreme Court is considering a petition by lawyers to charge Pakistanis who visit any of 12 websites with blasphemy, and to seek extradition of webmasters responsible for the offending sites.

Among the possible punishments in Pakistan for blasphemy: death.

The offense committed by Twyman and Albert that's ginned up such outrage: Their blog republished cartoons originally printed in a Danish newspaper that showed caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

Muslims worldwide considered those images so odious to their religious beliefs that they rioted and/or protested in at least 15 countries.

"Muslim extremists are being tolerated, and they shouldn't be," Albert says when asked why he and Twyman published the cartoons.

The story of a local website angering a far-flung part of the globe esembles that of a local painter, Teresa Bergen, whose work depicting cats in poses inspired by traditional representations of Hindu gods ticked off Hindus around the world (see "Cat Fight," WW, March 8, 2006).

In this case, Twyman and Albert started their site in September after Hurricane Katrina to offer an alternative angle on the news coverage. They averaged about 100 hits a day.

But when they republished the cartoons about Mohammed on their blog in late February, they say the number of hits went as high as 1,000 a day.

Twyman, a 27-year-old occult historian and co-publisher with Albert of Dragon Key Press, says their website was hacked and inaccessible for almost two days.

The couple discovered constant visits from computers originating in Turkey that looked to have followed links posted on discussion forums to 12 websites that posted the cartoons.

The list appeared to be copied from www.DrawMohammed.com, a site originating in Norway that claims the world's biggest online collection of user-submitted pictures and drawings of Mohammed.

Then Albert read an article on the BBC's Urdu website that mentioned 12 sites being blocked by the government of Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told the Pak Tribune, an online news service, earlier this month that Pakistan took the step to stop sacrilegious acts such as blasphemy.

In case you're not up on Pakistani blasphemy laws, they state, "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."

A fine on top of death? Harsh. But while Pakistan and the United States have a bilateral extradition treaty, blasphemy is not one of the included offenses.

"It's kind of amusing," says 28-year-old Albert. "We're not afraid of extradition, but we're not anonymous anymore. It's possible some lone nut could try to do something."

 
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