Right so let’s start with a disclaimer:
I am not in any way condoning racism, anti-Muslim hatred, or any other form of discrimination. There is no room in our society for the insidious form of hatred currently taking root in society – a hatred that we have seen in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and just twenty-one years ago in Bosnia. And we know only too well where this can ultimately lead.
But earlier this week I watched the clip of Louis Smith MBE and simply thought ‘what an idiot’. If you are one of the lucky ones that have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, give yourself a pat on the back. To get you up to speed, Louis Smith and his fellow Olympic gymnast were filmed taking a rug off the wall at a wedding reception; they then pretended to pray and shout ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ (God is Great). OK so they were some what inebriated at the time. But let’s give credit where credit is due, in this case to their RE teachers. There knowledge of Islam clearly extended to them appreciating that in order to pray they needed a mat that was clean and to begin by proclaiming the greatness of God. They were clearly paying attention in their RE lessons. Was I offended – no. Did I find it funny? Actually I did. Unfortunately, despite his sincere apology, Louis Smith is now getting death threats and the Gymnastics association are ‘investigating’ the incident.
I can remember watching Dave Allan at Large on a Saturday night many years ago and his closing greeting,” Good night thank you and may your God go with you” is one that is now iconic. His short clips are just as iconic, particularly the ones involving Catholic priests and particularly the Pope. I remember the one about ‘the fart’ or perhaps you remember the one with the Pope doing a striptease? They were funny right? Saturday evenings were made for comedy acts like Dave Allen – a Catholic making mockery of his own faith whilst the rest of us watched and laughed on. I didn’t find anything remotely offensive about that. Indeed I found it hilarious. But then – I’m not a Catholic. There were those who did – Mary Whitehouse was always writing to the BBC and complaining about the blasphemy (his own mother called him a blasphemer). He was banned from Irish TV and had death threats from the IRA. He mocked and offended the Catholic church to a degree that is quite unimaginable. And I would say he got away with it too.
Every religion has at some point found itself at the sharp end of a comedy act – whether Dave Allen or Jim Carrie in the Wrath of Ganesh. The depiction of Prophet Noah in the recent film left many from the Abrahamic faiths uncomfortable and who wasn’t upset by Bruce Almighty, right?
But what it is about Muslims that makes us belief that we should not ever be mocked or our beliefs made fun of? What makes us think that above all other faiths and beliefs there should be a moratorium on being offensive towards Islam and Muslims. Folk like Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss make there living out of being funny Muslims (‘how come Muslims speed everywhere but are still late for everything?’) In fact, what makes us believe that Islam requires us to defend it to the point we become so angry that we lose sight of something more important – perspective. When are we going to stop being offended by bacon sandwiches in a buffet, or our children taking part in an Easter egg hunt, or being sent a Christmas card (‘honestly don’t they know we’re Muslims?’).
Our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said “The powerful man is not the one who can wrestle, but the powerful man is the one who can control himself at the time of anger.” But this takes strength, especially when we see something so important and special to us being abused or ridiculed. But surely our faith is big enough to defend itself. Shouldn’t we be channelling our energies and our anger to rectifying the bigger wrongs in the world? If we must get angry, let’s get angry about the REAL physical and verbal abuse being hurled at Muslims going about their daily lives. Let’s get angry about the 7 million tonnes of food and drink being thrown away annually that could have been used to feed the hungry (we are the worst offenders in Europe). Get angry about the hundreds of thousands of Britons being forced to go to food banks. Get angry because of the housing shortages, the cuts to benefits that leave 185,000 people sleeping on our streets. Get angry about the 22,000 children who die in one day across the world because of the abject poverty they are living in. And if you’re really brave, speak out about the persecution of minority faiths in Muslim lands where even the slightest objection can result in individuals being accused of blasphemy and finding themselves under the threat of execution. Or women who have faced years of domestic abuse, some from very tender ages, being tried for murder when they could take no more and took matters into their own hands.
The world is full of injustices – a couple of blokes making fun of my religion isn’t one of them.