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The last three weeks have seen the worldwide distribution of photographs of a naked prince, yet more photographs of a part naked duchess, riots on the streets over a tawdry film perceived by many Muslims to be insulting to the Prophet Mohammad, a challenge to one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith and many questions arising about freedom of expression, the right to privacy, religious tolerance and much else besides.

So, should we cry for God, Prince Harry, or freedom (with many apologies to Shakespeare!)?


The third in line to the British throne, Prince Harry, youngest son of the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles (the current heir to the throne) was photographed cavorting in a Las Vegas Jacuzzi with his best friend and a bevy of bikini-clad beauties.

Nothing too much wrong with that, just a raucous poolside party but a few days later a ‘friend’ took some saucy snaps of the young Prince playing billiards in his birthday suit whilst in his hotel suite with a young lady who was similarly attired.

So was there anything wrong with that? Well yes and no says the Kenya Forum.

The Prince is unmarried, we understand the young lady is likewise unattached, they are both over the age of 18 so we cannot quite see what all the fuss was about except that someone else in the room who was presumed to be a ‘friend’ decided to take the clandestine photographs and sell them to the press.


No doubt there are some people out there who have been waiting for photographs of naked royals to come along. They wait years and then suddenly two lots come along at once.

Last week the Duchess of Cambridge, also known as Kate Middleton (ah… “An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel” – sorry again Shakespeare, couldn’t resist it) and wife to Prince William, the second in line to the British throne and Prince Harry’s elder brother, woke up to find photographs of herself topless spread across magazines and newspapers in France, Italy, Ireland and Sweden.

So was there anything wrong in that? Yes, says the Kenya Forum.

Kate Middleton was doing what many young women of her generation feel perfectly comfortable doing, namely taking in some sun without a top on, in this case whilst laying in what was supposed to be the privacy of a terrace of a ‘secluded’ French chateau.

Along comes some sleazy photographer with a long lens and snaps the Duchess topless before legging it to a magazine owned by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (who you would have thought has more than enough photographs of topless young women in his album) which in turn published them on “a right to know” basis, i.e. they would help sell the magazine.

Both the taking of the photographs and their publication were wrong. They reveal nothing that the public have a right to know and the photographs were taken without permission.


If a photographer in Kenya was to sneak up to Lucy Kibaki’s bathroom window, or stick a Leica round Ida Odinga’s shower curtain, we would hope he or she hauled off by the police and that the NationStar or Standard would refuse to publish even if they given the resultant photographs for free.


Is there much of a difference, you may argue, between publishing such photographs of a prince or a duchess from displaying a painting of the President of South Africa, depicted with his genitalia sticking out, or a painting of the Canadian Prime Minister in the nude, subjects that the Kenya Forum have commented on before (May 30 and July 9)? We think there is although we fully accept that it is a fine line to tread.

The artwork by a South African artist entitled ‘The Spear’ did not invade President Zuma’s privacy although it did, without question, offend his dignity. Whether we agree with the message conveyed by the painting or not, it was in its way part of a debate about a controversial public figure and politician.

The painting depicting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen laying naked on a couch surrounded by fawning colleagues likewise made a statement, even if rather a silly one, about a political figure, and again only his dignity was at stake, not his privacy.

Here again, the balancing of right to freedom of expression set against the infringement of another’s right to be left in peace or do what they do, is difficult to achieve.


In Russia members of the feminist punk-rock band ‘Pussy Riot’, invaded the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow and staged a demonstration as much against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as it was anything to do with religion. As a result, three of the band’s members have been sentenced to prison for hooliganism and others have fled Mother Russia.

Were the women from Pussy Riot within their rights? What about the rights of worshippers in the cathedral? And what of the reaction of the Russian state?

The Kenya Forum would have wished that Pussy Riot had staged their demonstration in a more appropriate place and in a more appropriate manner. We would prefer people at prayer to be allowed to be so without interference or disruption. But we would not have delivered a custodial sentence on the women concerned.


So finally to the film made in the USA that has offended so many Muslims across the world and led to riots and demonstrations on the streets from Cairo to Karachi.

The Kenya Forum has not seen the film in question that is deemed by many Muslims to be insulting to the Prophet Mohammad and we will not put a link to it here.

By all accounts the film was made by a private individual with little more than a hand held video camera, it was an amateur production not made and released by a commercial film studio.

There the film may have remained in obscurity until it was taken up by a notorious evangelical preacher who seems not to heed to true meaning of his own avowed religion. Even then the film would have remained unknown until months later it was publicized on Al Jazeera.


The Kenya Forum has no doubt that many Muslims are genuinely offended by the film. Some Christians have likewise been offended by the suggestion by a Harvard academic that Jesus Christ had a wife called Mary (see yesterday’s posting on the Forum).

Some government leaders from Muslim countries have called for the US to arrest the film makers. The government in Pakistan has declared today a public holiday for a day of “Loving the Prophet” and called for peaceful protests. The US authorities in turn have broadcast advertisements on Pakistan TV channels condemning the film. There will be more riots.

The Kenya Forum wishes the film had not been made. Having been made we would have wished that it had not been publicised. Having been publicised we would have wished that there had been no riots or violence that in one instance led to the death of a US Ambassador. But equally we hope that the United States and other freedom-loving countries do not react by restricting the right to expression.

Tolerance and patience are required together with respect for other people’s views, beliefs and privacy.


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