Sunday 17 February 2013

Afghan forgers cross swords with the Taleban

Ah the great British weekend, time for many British families to clear out the fridge and freezer to remove all traces of horse burger, ready made 'beef' lasagne and all other traces of donkey and pony, whilst sniggering teenagers try to locate the kitchen to put the obligatory ASDA or Tesco 'ding' meal in the microwave to sample the real 'Grand National' experience. If that makes no sense to non-European readers,  over here in the Eurozone, we have only recently discovered the folly of allowing the food industry to convince us that it should be self regulated, with some fairly shocking results for meat eaters. 100% horse and kidney pie anyone? But as a smug home cooker, I am 'ding' meal free, so I perused the Times this weekend and a rather interesting (albeit shocking) story caught my eye which mentioned the concept of copyright infringement and Sharia law.

I have to profess to know next to nothing about the Sharia code - nor anything about copyright and Buddism (see more on copyright infringement and vinaya here) nor indeed on copyright law provisions in many other religious code:  I do remember being taught about the ancient Irish dispute between Saint Columba and Saint Finian in the sixth century which resulted in a  royal judgment by King Diarmait mac Cerbhiall . Despite St Columba's protestations that without copying (by hand it should be added), books would perish, that copying books cost the owner nothing and that it was right to spread knowledge and the holy word to the 'tribes' (and indeed that the owners of books should be obligated to spread knowledge), the King held that St Columba had been wrong to copy a book of psalms belonging to St Finian saying "to every cow belongs it's calf, to every book its copy". Buddism takes a different approach (and one St Columba would have appreciated somewhat more) and suggests that 'stealing'information is simply an illusion - only physical property can be stolen, not words and designs cannot - a DVD or CD can be stolen - the information on them cannot - although infringement may be a lesser offence to theft. But not all creeds are so benign. 

It seems the Taleban are taking a look at copyright infringement under Sharia law: Letters stamped with the crossed sword emblem of the Taleban and carrying the name of Mullah Mohammed Omar are being sent to thousands of Afghans who are perceived to be on the brink of fleeing the war torn country. The letter demands that the recipient surrender to the insurgents within twenty four hours or "we will bring you out of your house and and kill you and you will not have the right to complain". Harsh - but we are, after all, just humans and perversely the letters have now acquired a real value: with thousands of Afghans trying to escape to Europe,  Australia and North America, a death threat from the Taleban can be taken as clear evidence of a pressing need for asylum.  With a value of up to $1,200 for each letter, some local Taleban commanders, and professional forgers, have now entered the market to produce letters on demand, prompting an investigation by Taleban leadership: "I want them to stop" the Times reports Taleban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid saying "they are misusing our name and that of the Mujahideen". It seems Taleban leaders will apply brutal punishments to counterfeiters found guilty of 'copyright infringement' - warning that any Taleban insurgent providing fraudulent copies would face the harshest punishment.

Last year an estimated 50,000 Afghans left the country according to the State Ministry for Refugees, with more Afghans expected to try leave in the next twelve months as foreign forces depart. 

The Times  16 February 2013  page 51

More on horse racing here  hohoho

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