Lovers and Other Strangers

Via Tim Worstall, this article needs a fisking:

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told the Observer that identity politics had been hugely important in advancing the civil rights of many groups. But he warned of a danger that “individual interests” were narrowing people’s views and diminishing their connection to wider society.

Assigning special protections and privileges to certain minority groups at the expense of the wider population has weakened the social fabric? Who would have thought?

Speaking amid an intensifying row in Birmingham, where a group of predominantly Muslim parents have staged protests outside schools accused of promoting same-sex relationships, he suggested the commission would be prepared to use its legal powers to protect the teaching of LGBT issues in the face of opposition from faith groups.

You might just as easily say the commission could use its legal powers to protect the right to practice one’s religion and peacefully oppose government policy in the face of LGBT activists.

“We are a strategic regulator,” Isaac said. “We can’t support absolutely everybody, but we will take cases where we thinks it moves the law forward to protect human rights.”

Let’s be honest, your only problem here is that one protected class is facing off against another. If it were anything else, you’d be “moving the law forward” to hound the majority population into cowed acquiescence. Human rights really doesn’t have much to do with it.

Recently the commission has become more vigorous in using its legal powers against groups it believes threaten equality.

Equality being where certain, select groups are given special consideration under the law.

“We are about to make a decision whether to investigate antisemitism in the Labour party, and that’s a good example of where, without fear or favour, we are saying in relation to political parties, whether it is Islamophobia in the Tory party or whatever, that if we find unlawful acts we are prepared to use our powers to do something about it,” Isaac said.

If members of political parties hold opinions which contravene our self-serving and deliberately vague laws defining which views may be held, we will use our powers to prosecute them. To protect human rights.

On Friday, Birmingham city council took the decision to close Anderton Park primary school, where parents have been protesting for seven weeks, early for the half term. The MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, has attacked the decision, which she said was down to “bullies and bigots” and contrary to the Equality Act.

Isn’t the right to protest a fundamental human right? Or is there a clause which makes protesting certain viewpoints a crime? I’m confused.

“Everything that is happening at the Anderton school in Birmingham is probably making some headteachers nervous about their commitment to teaching about minority [same- sex] families,” Isaac said.

Headteachers are “probably” nervous? Time to abandon party politics and form a unified, national government until this existential threat is eliminated, don’t you think?

“Part of our job is to remind people that the law is the bottom line.”

And thanks to the vagueness with which it is written and the subjectivity with which it is enforced, the law is whatever we decide it is.

Anderton, a number of other Birmingham schools, and several outside the West Midlands have been targeted by religious groups who say they have concerns about teaching materials shared with pupils, which they claim promote LGBT equality and conflict with the teachings of their faith.

So you have conservative authoritarians arguing with progressive authoritarians over how children are best indoctrinated. Meanwhile, those who think kids should simply be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic at school are unrepentant bigots who must be purged from society.

“As a gay man who’s been very involved in the LGBT movement, I think identity politics have been hugely important historically, and it would be very easy to say identity politics has gone too far,” Isaac said.

Just in case anyone thought the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission ought to be neutral on this issue. Is his deputy an Imam?

But he acknowledged that such politics could be corrosive. “We are living in a world that is more divided, there’s more individualist thinking in relation to what is happening and less empathy, less hope.”

Thanks in large part to that industry you head which goes around slapping labels on people and threatening them with criminal prosecution for wrongthink.

The challenge, he suggested, was to ensure “we don’t end up in the siloed world where everybody is hypersensitive about their own individual interests and less empathetic about how other people are treated.”

Rarely does the head of an organisation come out and state their biggest challenge is the result of their own efforts.

He added: “The key issue is how do we move beyond the ‘I’ to the ‘we’, how do we think of ourselves as citizens in a country or in the world who are not just focused on what works for me and my narrow group. How do we ensure that we think about people who are different to us?”

Ooh, I don’t know. Maybe we could try a version of politics which emphasises what makes us the same – language, culture, shared history, values – rather than what makes everyone different and thus deserving of special treatment.

One solution, he suggested, would be for schools to include citizenship classes in their curriculum, to help them become “citizens of the 21st century”.

Yes, because the one thing missing from the lives of the parents protesting outside the schools is an appreciation of when Britain got its first female MP.

“Teaching kids about not just same-sex relationships but what it is to be a good citizen would be a really important start,” he said.

So Soviet kindergartens only with Lenin in drag.

Finding common ground where all parties accepted that they were subject to the law that protected minority rights would help remove the “binary” nature that engulfed much of the debate swirling around identity politics, Isaac suggested.

It’s those laws protecting minority rights that are the root cause of this problem, you clot.

“People do see it as a zero-sum game,

That’s because it is. Modern rights always come at the expense of someone else.

and my view is that it’s completely possible to teach the tenets of your faith in school, but at the same time say ‘that child over there has two mothers’.

I find it amusing when people who clearly don’t know the first thing about a religion start talking about how its adherents ought to think. Like with the Israel Folau case they think everyone holds the same wishy-washy pick ‘n choose views as your average pencil-necked modern CoE vicar.

We are asking them to respect somebody else’s lifestyle choice or desire to love someone of the same sex.”

The irony here is that in the theocracies of the Middle East, respecting Islam often means endorsing Islam, particularly during Ramadan. What we’re seeing here is less about respect than forced endorsement.

Isaac drew comparisons between the battle to promote equality and human rights and that now being waged to arrest the climate crisis.

In the sense that it’s a privileged, middle-class angst fest driven by a hatred of the plebs and the phenomenal achievements of developed, western societies, he’s quite right.

“Some things are in crisis, particularly in relation to what is happening to disabled people. We’ve made progress in other areas, LGBT being the obvious one, but when I look at gender and race I think we’ve made less progress.”

As the Communists were always just a million more corpses from utopia, progressives think we’re always another few thousand laws from the population thinking as they should. Note that in among all this hand-wringing there wasn’t a single mention of the majority population and what they might want: it’s all about the minorities. Little wonder society is fragmenting.

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Pink or brown?

I’ve written before about the battle lines being drawn between LGBT campaigners who want laws granting them access to primary school children, and Muslim parents who don’t want their children learning this stuff (at any age). A reader sends me the link to this story, which suggests the front has widened somewhat:

Four more schools in Birmingham have stopped teaching about LGBT rights following complaints by parents.

Leigh Trust said it was suspending the No Outsiders programme until an agreement with parents was reached.

Earlier this month the city’s Parkfield Community School suspended the lessons after protests were held.

Campaigner Amir Ahmed said some Muslims felt “victimised” but an LGBT group leader said No Outsiders helped pupils understand it is OK to be different.

The LGBT campaigners claim all they’re doing is explaining to children that some boys and girls are different and they should not feel bad if they are one of them. I’d believe it were this innocent if the modern LGBT movement didn’t have a history of intolerance, compulsion, and threatening anyone who didn’t actively celebrate their way of life. Following the Twitter threads on this, even parents who meekly suggest maybe primary school children are a little bit young to be taught about homosexuality are denounced as homophobes. When some opine that perhaps this is best left to the parents, the response is that intolerant, bigoted people should not be permitted to deny their children the opportunity to hear correct, state-approved views. In its current form this is not about helping children but ensuring fanatical views are imposed on every child in the land, backed by the full weight of the government. Genuine conservatives should be denouncing this, but we don’t have many of them any more and those that are left have been cowed into silence. However, the Muslim community has no qualms about opposing these schemes as incompatible with their conservative values, because they’re playing the same game as the LGBT campaigners only better.

What we’ve got here is one bunch of intolerant campaigners with state-approved victim status going up against another bunch of intolerant campaigners with state-approved victim status. Given how ludicrously incompatible these various victim classes are this was inevitable, and given how obviously the victim hierarchy is arranged there is only going to be one winner. I have some sympathy with the moderate LGBT campaigners, but if their spokesman are going to smear every conservative parent as a bigot for not wanting political campaigners access to their young children, I’m happy to sit back and let them get a harsh lesson in what happens when you abandon principles in favour of identity politics.

For my part, I’ve always thought sex education should begin at the start of secondary school when children start to hit puberty in large numbers, and it should focus more on heterosexuality than homosexuality (but both get covered). If that makes me an intolerant bigot so be it, but don’t expect me to leap to your defence when some real prejudice comes knocking. As I’ve asked before, who will you run to? I’d like to think the majority of British parents as well as British gays are sensible about this, but they’re unable to make themselves heard. As usual, the fanatics are drowning out everyone else.

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Girlz an’ the ‘hood

This amused:

A madrassa that gave a lesson suggesting Muslim girls should have children rather than careers has been ousted from a secondary school amid safeguarding concerns.

Langley Academy has terminated its contract with the Al-Miftah Institute, which provided ‘IslamHood’ Sunday school classes from its campus in Slough.

It appears that feminism has scored a rare victory over the top-ranked protected class in a game of victimhood poker. But that’s not what I find so amusing. Rather, this is:

It followed complaints by a member of the public and the National Secular Society that IslamHood had hosted speakers with controversial views about homosexuality. Another speaker complained about women in hijabs making social media videos and described non-Muslims as “pigs”.

The folly of trusting a journalist to get the story right notwithstanding, it seems this was not enough to get Islamhood booted out of the school. But suggesting perhaps women might be happier raising families instead of clogging up a cubicle in a pointless department is enough to (temporarily) re-write the poker rules.

A recording also emerged of an IslamHood class showing a lesson by Shaykh Shams Ad-Duha Muhammad on why Muslim girls should have children instead of careers.

In the video, which was recently deleted from IslamHood’s You Tube page, showing girls in the audience, he said: “Smart career women give it up to have children.”

Quelle horreur! This is almost as bad as when they objected to a gay activist promoting homosexuality to primary school children.

A spokesperson for Langley Academy said: “We fully support the government’s Prevent Strategy. Therefore we take any allegations that extremist views or ideology might be being promoted on our premises extremely seriously.

It’s odd what gets considered extremist these days, isn’t it? I expect if this outfit was handing out ISIS flyers and subsidising one-way tickets to Syria, no-one would have batted an eyelid.

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Straight Flush

Regular readers will know I like to watch games of victimhood poker being played out in the wild. We already established that being homosexual beats being a black man. But what beats being gay? Ah:

Andrew Moffat MBE, assistant headteacher at Parkfield Community School in Saltley, has been criticised by parents for piloting No Outsiders – a programme run alongside sex and relationship education (SRE) lessons.

Its ethos promotes LGBT equality and challenges homophobia in primary schools.

Books now being read by pupils at Parkfield Community School include Mommy, Mama and Me and King & King – stories about same-sex relationships and marriages.

But Mr Moffat and the No Outsiders programme have come under fire from some Muslim parents who condemn such teachings, as homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam.

Mr Moffat, who is openly gay, and the school have defended the programme, which they said had been fully explained to parents. They added: “No Outsiders allows us to raise awareness of these differences so that children are able to tolerate and accept differences in our society.”

But outraged mum Fatima Shah, who has taken her 10-year-old daughter out of the school, told BirminghamLive: “It’s inappropriate, totally wrong.

“Children are being told it’s OK to be gay yet 98 per cent of children at this school are Muslim. It’s a Muslim community.

Personally I think the protesters have a point – primary school children should not be indoctrinated with sexual identity politics – but if anyone who wasn’t a member of a top-ranking protected class brought this complaint they’d be hounded from public life and likely facing criminal prosecution for hate crimes. As for Mr Moffat, he should have read the rulebook he himself helped write.

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Hierarchy Confirmed

Rather a lot of people were surprised by this article, which appeared over the weekend:

A Pakistani Christian woman’s appeal to Britain for asylum has been denied because her arrival in the country may stir civil unrest, HuffPost UK has been told.

Asia Bibi, a Christian farm labourer, was released from prison in Pakistan on Wednesday after being acquitted of blasphemy. She had spent eight years on death row after an argument with a group of Muslim women in June 2009.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan overturned Bibi’s 2010 conviction for “insulting the prophet Mohammed” last week, saying the case against her was based on flimsy evidence.

But her acquittal sparked violent protests led by Islamic religious hardliners, and the government has now agreed to try to stop her leaving the country.

On Saturday her lawyer, Saif Mulook, fled Pakistan, saying he feared for his life.  Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, has also released a video message saying he too fears for his family’s safety.

“I am requesting the Prime Minister of the UK help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” he said.

But campaigners working to secure Bibi’s move abroad said the UK government had not offered her asylum, citing security concerns.

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said two countries had made firm offers of asylum, but Britain was not one of them.

“I’ve been lead to believe that the UK government had concerns that her moving to the UK would cause security concerns and unrest among certain sections of the community and would also be a security threat to British embassies abroad which might be targeted by Islamist terrorists.”

I don’t know why anyone’s surprised. For starters, the government is quite correct that moving Asia Bibi to the UK would almost certainly result in violent protests and heightened security risks. In fact, I’d be surprised if she’d last a week if she moved to the UK. This is because Britain contains an alarming number of Muslims who both threaten and practice violence if their theocratic demands are not met, many of whom are of Pakistani origin. What do you reckon would be the result of a poll among British Muslims over Bibi’s fate? Regardless of the moral stance of the British government, it’s practically not a good idea to allow Bibi to settle in the UK unless she fancies spending the rest of her life in protective custody.

The Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.

Ah yes, of course. This is why they can’t answer any questions about returning jihadis and “child” refugees either. Let’s face it, this government and the preceding one has failed every single moral test it has had thrown at it. Whenever a case comes up which ought to be the most morally simple to answer the government has done the precise opposite. It’s tempting to suggest they have no principles, but one cannot operate with such consistency without them. Rather, their guiding principles seem to be drawn straight from university social studies departments which promote a hierarchy of protected classes atop which sit radical Muslims. Asia Bibi ought to be a cause célèbre among western feminists, but it doesn’t matter if you have three aces and two kings when your opponent has a royal flush. So they fall silent on the matter, and instead rail against middle class white men and campaign for new laws on upskirting.

The moral cowardice of the government in the face of violent Islam is consistent with their stance on the Salman Rushdie fatwa, and later the yes-butting over the Mohammed cartoons and the Charlie Hebdo massacre. All these should have been met with a firm response from western governments, and each time they were found wanting. It makes one wonder, not for the first time, what purpose the Conservative party serves, other than to keep a handful of people wallowing in gravy. It’s little wonder people are starting to think a Corbyn government mightn’t be so bad after all. True, he’d serve Asia Bibi’s head on a plate during a Hezbollah rally, but at least we’d know where he stood. It’s the cowardice that I can’t stand.

Hopefully Asia Bibi will be granted asylum in a country governed by people with courage who don’t allow foreign theocrats to dictate policy with threats of violence. Meanwhile, perhaps the British government could partly redeem itself by not hosing any more taxpayer cash at Pakistan. Some hope.

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Protected Class Confirmed

This story is generating plenty of comment on social media:

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled a woman convicted by an Austrian court of calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile did not have her freedom of speech rights infringed.

The woman, named only as Mrs. S, 47, from Vienna, was said to have held two seminars in which she discussed the marriage between the Prophet Mohammad and a six-year old girl, Aisha.

Mrs S. was later convicted in February 2011 by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court for disparaging religious doctrines and ordered her to pay a fine of 480 euros plus legal fees.

After having her case thrown out by both the Vienna Court of Appeal and Austria’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human rights backed the courts’ decision to convict Mrs S. on Thursday.

The ECHR found there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For those who doubt the Daily Mail story, the original ruling is here (pdf). A lot of people are saying this effectively outlaws blasphemy, but I’m not so sure. For my part, I think it merely re-affirms that Muslims are a protected class in Europe and the ruling classes will tolerate no criticism of them or their beliefs. Despite this decision you can be sure criticism and abuse of Christians and Jews will still be acceptable, and even encouraged in some instances. This is hardly a new development.

In a statement on Thursday the ECHR said: ‘The Court found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.’

You could write a whole dissertation on what’s wrong with the above statement, but what strikes me most is that there is even a danger of the “religious peace” in Austria being broken. The last time there was religious strife in Austria was when the Protestant Reformation swept the country in the mid 1500s, followed by the 30 Years War a century later. If there are now extremist religious elements in Austria threatening the peace, it is because the ruling classes, egged on by their counterparts in Germany and the EU, have invited them in from outside.

Now note the original conviction occurred in 2011. In 2017 Austria elected a new chancellor. Here’s how The Guardian reported his forming of a government:

At the weekend the new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, of the Austrian People’s party, struck a deal with the Freedom party, a nationalist group founded after the second world war by former members of the Nazi party and now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache.

The coalition deal makes Austria the only western European country with a far-right presence in government. At 31, Kurz is the youngest head of government in the world.

Kurz’s People’s party won 32% of the vote in October’s elections, securing 62 seats in the 183-seat national council. The Freedom party came third with 26% of the vote and 51 seats.

Which suggests the Austrian people had become fed up to the back teeth of the sort of ruling elites who prosecuted a woman for saying mean things about Mohammed, and were happy to elect anyone who pushed back.

The new interior minister, Herbert Kickl, a former speechwriter to the Freedom party’s ex-leader Jörg Haider, is the author of widely criticised campaign slogans such as “More courage for Viennese blood” and “Daham statt Islam” (“Home instead of Islam”).

Well, if you go around prosecuting ordinary people for blasphemy against Islam, you stand a strong chance they will elect a staunchly anti-Islamic government in future elections. Similarly, as we saw in the US, if the political classes suppress all discussion of immigration people will vote for the guy who talks about immigration, regardless of who he is. And how’s this for a tin-ear:

Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European council, said he looked forward to welcoming Kurz in Brussels. “I trust that the Austrian government will continue to play a constructive and pro-European role in the European Union,” he said.

One of the few critical reactions came from the United Nations, whose rights chief said that Austria’s rightward lurch marked a “dangerous development … in the political life of Europe”

That this “dangerous development” is a direct consequence of their own contempt for ordinary people didn’t seem to occur to Mr Tusk, and now another supranational European body has doubled-down on the mindset which brought it about. As I said yesterday, Brexit really is a sideshow.

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First Rohingyas, now Uighurs and Kazakhs

A year ago, after watching Sky News do a report on Rohingya muslims in Myanmar, I remarked:

The reporter appeared to be firmly in the pay of a professional lobby group hired to make their case.

Around the same time I also said:

I’ve noticed a concerted effort on the part of the mainstream media over the past few weeks to get everyone interested in the plight of the Rohingyas, a minority Muslim group in Myanmar who are being hounded by the majority ruling Buddists.

I have also noticed that nobody seems to give a shit. It might be tempting to put this down to the fact that westerners don’t generally care about brown people being killed in far-off lands with no oil underneath, but I suspect there is something else at work as well: people in the west are getting a little bit tired of hearing how Muslims are suffering.

I was reminded of the Rohingya advocacy campaign masquerading as news when I read this story, variations of which have been doing the rounds in the media for the past few weeks:

Chinese officials have pushed back against growing criticism of the detention of Muslim minorities in internment camps, claiming authorities are merely providing professional training and education.

Beijing is facing allegations of mass incarceration and repression of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang in China’s north-west. An estimated 1.1 million people have been placed in internment camps, including re-education camps where, according to former detainees and other witnesses, inmates are subjected to intense political indoctrination and abuse.

That the Chinese lock up and execute large numbers of their population is nothing new, nor is their suppression of ethnic minorities, especially those who might show loyalty to a deity other than the Communist Party of China. Ask the Tibetans how they’ve fared under Chinese rule, for example. So why the sudden fuss about Uighurs and Kazakhs?

Well, thanks to the system of zakat and Middle Eastern oil and gas revenues, there is a lot of money sloshing around the world earmarked for Islamic causes. A portion of this ends up funding terrorism, but it’s also used for things like Islamic schools, construction of mosques, charity work – and lobbying. There are countless Muslim bodies sitting in every western capital, advocating Islamic causes and interests, and some of these will be well funded. Thanks to most western governments having deep sympathies with Muslim minorities and assigning them the coveted Protected Class status, Islamic lobby groups have easy access to the propaganda organs of the ruling classes, i.e. the media. Provided they don’t go against the interests of the ruling class, e.g. by questioning why they destroyed Iraq, removed Gaddafi, and sell bombs which land on the heads of Yemenis, Muslim advocacy groups are pretty good at getting articles promoting Muslim practices and interests into the mainstream media, particularly the BBC.

So that explains why every now and then we’re suddenly bombarded with “news” reports regarding the suffering of some obscure group of Muslims on the other side of the world. But why Uighurs and Kazakhs? Well, I suspect the lobby groups are aware the British and American public are more than a little tired of hearing about problems in the Middle East or Africa, and just tune out as soon as they’re mentioned. But more likely it’s because this is a case of Muslims being oppressed by non-Muslims, and by a major power at that. Muslims generally don’t care if Muslims are oppressed by other Muslims – where is the concern for Kazakhs rotting in Kazakh jails, or Uzbeks who suffered under Islam Karimov’s rule? – but if non-Muslims are doing the oppressing they don’t like it at all (especially if there are Jews involved).

Now nobody thinks the Israelis are killing Rohingyas, but Britiain has ties to Myanmar and they were a useful lever with which to exert pro-Muslim influence over a weak and hapless May government. Get invited to Downing Street to discuss the terrible plight of the Rohingyas, and while you’re there casually mention the levels of Islamophobia hook-handed jihadists are subject to in the criminal justice system. Similarly, getting a pro-Muslim angle into any geopolitical opposition to China elevates their cause by an order of magnitude; look at the boost they received by turning the Cold War a little warmer in Afghanistan. If they can hitch themselves to a general strategy of containing China (of which criticism of human rights abuses is very much a part), money, power, and prestige beckon which can be used to exert greater influence in the west.

There’s clearly a well-funded and organised strategy being executed here, and I suspect the dullards in the media aren’t even aware they’re being played. Whether the general public are as gullible, and whether they care about Muslims in far-flung corners of the world, is another matter. What is certain is these campaigns will not have the slightest effect on the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, nor Muslims languishing behind barbed wire in the Gobi desert. This is a domestic campaign.

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When Cultures Clash

Take a look at this video of a Muslim athlete’s reaction to a scantily-clad woman:

This reminded me of something I witnessed back in 2005 when I was in Korea. I’d been sent out there with a Venezuelan colleague called Juan working with a Kuwaiti client and a Korean engineering team. The Kuwaiti delegation was made up of about 6 or 7 men, one of whom was a little Pakistani whose name I’ve forgotten so I’ll call Wasim. He had a long pointy beard, huge ears, a big nose, and sharp eyes which always seemed to be accusing you of something. He wore his trousers a few inches too short exposing the ankles, and after seeing this a few times around the Middle East someone told me that, when Muslims die, Allah will pick them up by the ankles and lift them to heaven; wearing your pants at half-mast makes his job a little easier.

Wasim was a pain in the arse to work with because he saw it as his job to contest every last point and extract every single concession possible from the Korean engineers. Not five minutes would go by without him raising a finger and with a thick Pakistani accent say: “Ah, wait a minute, my friend. What if…” and spend the next hour arguing over something utterly trivial. His colleagues, young Kuwaiti men, also thought he was a pain in the arse. They told me the Kuwaitis were quite relaxed about religion: those who wanted to be devout could be, and those who weren’t could do as much as they pleased without pressure to do more. But the Pakistani immigrant workers changed that: they turned up and, eager to ingratiate themselves with their new masters, started banging the Islam drum around the offices, demanding to know why Kuwaitis were not taking things as seriously as they were. Wasim was a leader in such rabble-rousing, meaning Kuwaitis could no longer eat at their desks during Ramadan without risking a bollocking from their hierarchy (who’d much rather have just let it slide). Muslim solidarity prevented them openly criticising him, but they’d roll their eyes whenever he went off on one.

As our first week together wore on, we soon realised the Koreans didn’t know much about Islam. We’d be taken to a restaurant in Seoul by our hosts and the Kuwaitis, in broken English, would ask the waiter if the dish contained pork. The waiter couldn’t understand a word that was being said but, in order to save face, would just say yes or no regardless. If the Korean engineers were able to intervene to help out they decided not to, but I suspect they were as confused as the waiters were. It wasn’t just a language problem: I don’t think the Koreans could understand for the life of them why anyone would ask such a question. As such, the Kuwaitis and Wasim found themselves eating pork dishes without knowing. Now this is not a problem from a religious point of view: if a Muslim inadvertently consumes pork he’s still going to be plucked by the ankles and lifted to heaven, assuming his trousers are short enough. But it did make me grin a little watching Wasim dribble a soup full of obvious pig parts into his beard. Actually, that’s a lie: I was laughing like a drain.

At the end of the second week the Koreans decided to bus us all out to some place across town and treat us to a spectacle. We entered into an enormous arena with restaurant-style seating looking down on a central stage. We were ushered to tables piled high with booze; obviously nobody had told the Koreans that Kuwaitis don’t drink either. There was much fuss when Wasim demanded a table which wasn’t littered with bottles of Johnny Walker, but eventually they did enough to make a space which wasn’t haram and all the Kuwaitis and Wasim sat down. Juan and I joined the Koreans and started drinking heavily. The food was served and after the usual pantomime of asking what was in it and the waiters looking confused, we all started eating. Oink oink!

Then the show began. First we had twenty minutes of traditional Korean dancing: lots of drums, ribbons, and colourful costumes. Good, wholesome stuff your granny would like. Then a pair of trapeze artists came out, a Russian man and woman, who did stuff which made me hold my breath. With no harness or safety net these two swung around five metres above tables laden with bottles, glasses, and crockery with supreme coolness. Occasionally the girl – a tiny thing in a spangly leotard – would pretend to slip, and the whole place would gasp. At one point the man – who was topless and looked to be carved from marble – was hanging with his legs out straight while his partner sat on his shins. I don’t think I’ve seen upper-body strength like it.

When they were done, the music got a bit more modern and fifteen or twenty women in loose-fitting costumes came on stage. The first thing I noticed was they were white, some sort of eastern European. They started dancing, showing lots of leg. The Koreans loved it, but poor old Wasim was getting agitated. I looked back to the stage, then at the Koreans, and nudged Juan.

“I think I know what’s gonna happen here,” I said.

As the music reached a crescendo the girls whipped off their tops to reveal a line of perfect young tits the sort of which Wasim only thought he’d see if he martyred himself. He let out a scream which was drowned out by the roars of approval from the Koreans and covered his eyes. Stumbling around in the dark with his hand over his face, he ran for the exit, tripping over feet, trolleys, and table legs. Two Kuwaitis followed close behind him, also covering their faces, and the others left more slowly, one copping a last look as he went through the door. I was laughing so hard I thought I’d die.

But one Kuwaiti stayed behind and, having made sure his colleagues were safely gone, he joined us at our table. He helped himself to a glass of whisky and settled in to join the rest of the show.

“The thing is,” he told us. “Most of the other guys aren’t bothered, but they can’t be seen to be drinking or watching this show, especially in front of Wasim. It’s not about what you do, but who sees you doing it.”

“Are you not worried about being seen?” I asked him.

“No, I don’t care,” he said, and grinned.

It was a good show.

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Modern Britain

There’s a lot going on in this story:

A community iftar meal traditionally held during Ramadan has this year been opened to members of the public.

Usually the only non-Muslims who flock to these events are politicians looking for a photo op. I’m curious as to who will show up to this one.

The free event has been organised by Qamar Abbas, president of UK Islamic Mission Solihull, and his team. He will also speak at the event, along with Idrees Sharif, vice president of UK Islamic Mission Midlands.

Taste Ramadan is an invitation to “share food and share friendship” and will take place at St Edburgha’s Church Hall in Church Road, Yardley, on Saturday, June 2.

Heh. This is either some serious high-level trolling, or Britain is being subject to a shit-test it’s failing miserably.

Confirmed attendees are councillors Babar Baz and Neil Eustace, West Midlands Police and representatives of several local churches including Stechford Baptist Church, All Saints Stechford and Corpus Christi RC Church.

I suppose this makes sense. Church attendances in Britain have been collapsing as proper Christians die off and the population switches to other forms of worship. Those running the Church of England and now even the Catholics seem little interested in taking religion seriously, so why not hand over the infrastructure to people who do? And how comforting to see Plod involved; we wouldn’t want them to miss out on free iftar food and not be on hand should anyone tweet something Islamophobic.

Mohammed Yasin, chairman of Stechford Mosque, some of whose congregation helped put together the event, said: “We have people from all religions and communities coming together to share an iftar meal and more.

“This is the first community iftar we have held in a church rather than a mosque and the first one we have opened up to the public. We hope to see people there from all walks of life.”

This all sounds rather positive. What’s not to like? Oh, wait:

He added: “This is a male-only event and the church has a capacity of 100 people.”

Over to you, feminists!

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Secular Muslims

This amused:

Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

Well, nobody could accuse the Turks of having a consistent understanding of the term “genocide”, so it’s unsurprising their president continues to struggle with it.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US. The announcement came as the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, inflaming protests on the Israeli border in Gaza.

This is also to be expected. As support for the Palestinians has waned in the Arab world, particularly among those countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Erdogan has stepped in to fill the void. In parallel, he seems keen to turn the once-secular Turkey into an authoritarian, low-level Islamist state along the lines of contemporary Iran. He may not go as far as the Mullahs but his reforms have seen Islam being shoved to forefront in areas such as education where it was previously absent, and I suspect it is a matter of time before women are unable to walk the streets in some areas without a headscarf. I note that Erdogan is in London at the moment on an official visit; strangely absent are protests over his jailing of journalists, persecution of political opponents, gutting of the judiciary, assault on civil liberties, and erosion of women’s rights. Let’s bear this in mind when Trump comes to visit. Personally, I’m disappointed that nobody from the British government has brought any of this up with Erdogan and the press don’t seem interested in doing so either, but between the current government and media it’s a toss-up between which is the more useless.

I was watching France 24 this morning and it showed a protest march through the streets of Istanbul in opposition to the opening of the new US embassy. They interviewed a woman decked out in a headscarf and carrying a plastic model of a mosque, who I suspect was Syrian rather than Turkish (a lot of refugees have crossed the border). She screamed that “Jerusalem was Muslim”, and if she had anything to say in addition, France 24 neglected to share it with us. However, before that they interviewed a man in his 50s who began with:

“As a Muslim, I…”

Us westerners are – correctly- encouraged not to lump all Muslims together as one homogeneous group, but these efforts are somewhat hampered by Muslims themselves.

A year or so back I met a Turkish lady here in Paris who was as westernised as it’s possible to get in terms of education, lifestyle, social relations, and political outlook. She ate pork, drank alcohol, and claimed she was totally secular. Having got to know her quite well, I believed her. And then Trump signed Executive Order 13769 prohibiting entry to the US for people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. My friend bought wholesale into the notion that this was a “Muslim ban” and she was incensed, because she believed it a result of blatant Islamaphobia on the part of Trump and, sooner or later, these policies were going to effect her. I had several lengthy, heated arguments with her during which I pointed out the seven countries were not selected because they have Muslim majorities but because the civil infrastructure has collapsed in each to the point they cannot verify who is coming and going from their end (Iran being the exception). She was having none of it, and believed she had a right to be concerned and angry at what she saw as a blatantly Islamaphobic policy.

I went away and thought about this. What has someone from Turkey got in common with someone from Libya, Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia? Absolutely nothing whatsoever, and the Turks would be first to insist upon it, but with one exception: Islam. The one and only reason a Turk would oppose US visa restrictions on someone from Sudan is out of Muslim solidarity; there is absolutely no other reason which could apply. So my next thought was why somebody claiming to be secular would be loudly championing the rights of people from collapsed nations in a state of civil war on the grounds of Muslim solidarity?

When I tell people I’m secular, I don’t follow that up by denouncing Trump’s border wall on the grounds that Mexicans are Christian. Nor do I back the Philippines in their territorial disputes with China out of religious solidarity. When I say I’m secular, it means my nominal Christianity does not influence my political or social opinions in any way. But to my friend it seemed to mean something else, so I confronted her. Her first reaction was one of utter shock; she didn’t seem to have realised there was any contradiction in claiming to be secular one minute and raving about Trump’s “Muslim ban” the next. When it dawned on her, she got quite upset.

I realised then what I’d probably known since I lived in the Middle East all those years ago: a secular Muslim is quite different from a secular anything else, and often not very secular at all. I’d noticed back then how often I’d meet a very modern, westernised Lebanese, Egyptian, or Arab who would for all outward appearances be very secular. Then without warning they’d start raving about the Jews, or swearing the Koran represents the word of God. And I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of western or Russian women getting involved with modern, secular Muslim men only to find they’re nothing of the sort.

But the experience with my Turkish friend was perhaps the most interesting. Here was the most secular Muslim you could ever hope to meet, and one would have thought she would have recognised the elected US government’s right to set visa policy and understood their security concerns. Yet when push came to shove, her being Muslim mattered and that came before anything else. It’s worth bearing this in mind over the coming years as Ataturk’s secular republic slowly gets replaced with something else. It’s also worth remembering when we’re told not to treat Muslims as a homogeneous bloc.

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