Monday, 24 May 2021


A good few years back, a UK daily newspapers (maybe a broadsheet, can't recall) published an extremely positive article about the religion of Islam.  It was clearly intended to portray Muslims in a good light, and there was really nothing much about it at which you'd think anyone of that persuasion could take offence.  Unfortunately, it published a small 16th or 18th century illustration of the prophet Mohammed, which is when the sh*t hit the fan.  Muslim leaders across the country got in touch with newsagents operated by adherents of their religion, instructing them to contact the newspaper and demand that, unless they published an apology and promised not to do it again, Muslim news vendors would no longer stock their newspaper or any other publication distributed by them.  Although the picture had been published in perfect innocence simply because it was relevant to the subject, I believe an apology soon followed.

Not long after (or perhaps it was before), around the time of a sporting event (the Olympics maybe), a dairy published verses from various countries' sacred religious texts on their milk cartons in an attempt to demonstrate inclusivity and diversity in matters of religion.  There was a verse from the Old Testament on some cartons, the New Testament on others, and among other world religions, also the Koran.  Sh*t hit the fan again.  Muslim leaders contacted Muslim shopkeepers and instructed them to demand an apology from the dairy involved, on the grounds that all those milk cartons would be disposed of in rubbish bins and this was disrespectful to their sacred scriptures and an insult to them.  And, of course, insisted that they promise not to do it again or their milk would not be stocked.

More recently there was the case of a teacher who showed his class a picture of the prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson.  This was no individual maverick act, but the approved manner in which this particular course was presented to students by all teachers in the school.  Sh*t hit the fan once again, with demonstrations outside the school by Muslims; death threats were made against the teacher from other Muslim sources, and the teacher is now in hiding with his family in fear of his life. It's unlikely that he'll be able to return to either the school or his house.  Only a very few Muslims were in support of the teacher, saying that they had no problem with him and didn't believe he was in any way anti-Islamic.  (Good on them.)

And then, of course, there was Salman Rushdie, who I'm sure you all know about.  One of the more alarming aspects of his case is that Muslims in Britain, family men, were asked by a TV reporter whether they'd be prepared to carry out the fatwa on Rushdie, and quite a few said yes.  Whether this was mere grandstanding for the cameras in order to impress fellow like-minded Muslims with their devoutness or was a statement of intent should the opportunity ever arise is open to question, but as far as I'm aware, none of these men were arrested for declaring that they were willing to commit murder because some old guy in a far-off country had decreed it.  Who'd ever have thought such a situation could happen in Britain?

Now I'm all for people believing what they want to believe and practising whatever religion they choose (within reason).  However, that doesn't mean that they should be allowed to insist that anyone else who isn't an adherent of their religion should be obliged to abide by its precepts and tenets.  (Or be sentenced to death because they don't.)  So if you're a follower of another religion or none at all, if you want to have a picture of Mohammed on your wall (or in your newspaper), you should be allowed to (why you'd want to is another matter) without any threats of physical injury or death, either from Muslims or anybody else.  Why?  Because you're not bound by their beliefs and shouldn't have to kowtow to them in case they threaten to kick-off.  More and more we're being bullied and intimidated into observing alien practices that are not part of our traditional way of life.

Respect for other cultures and religions is one thing, subservience another.  Most British people are prepared to live and let live, but that concept doesn't seem to be reciprocated by those who seek to impose their religious strictures on the rest of us.  If you don't believe in having images of the prophet Mohammed, then don't have them, but don't presume to tell the rest of us how we should think or behave.  It's simply not on!  There's one right that no one has in this country and that's the right not to be offended.

Got a view, or are you too scared to share it in case they come for you?  Grow a pair and let's hear what you think.  If you don't exercise your freedom of thought and speech there's a very real danger it'll be silently taken away from you as a result of the behaviour of those who don't want you to have it.  To paraphrase an old saying - The only thing that oppressive thinking needs to flourish is for reasonably-minded people to say nothing.

And perhaps I should add that I'm not accusing all Muslims of having this attitude, but the pronouncements in response to the newspaper and dairy incidents came from British Muslim leaders, who should surely be prepared to show non-Muslims the same tolerance that the rest of the country accords them?

The floor is open.    


Fantastic Four follower said...

Tolerance is the key word.Politics and religion are personal matters and that privacy should be respected by all. Trying to tell others how to live, what to believe in, who to vote for etc. leads to confrontation. To bring in a comics analogy, it's equivalent to Kid deciding which comics I should read and getting upset if I disagree. That's simplifying it too much but Stan preached(pun intended) equality for everyone and brotherhood and it certainly reverberated with me.I live in Northern Ireland and our dispute is between 2 factions of Christianity, protestants and Catholics. A wiser man than me said there is too much religion here and not enough Christianity. Tolerance is the name of the game. Respect for all. Keep up the good work Kid and 'may your God go with you' as the comedian Dave Allen used to say.

Kid said...

Dave Allen - fantastic comedian, sadly missed. No point me saying anything further here, Triple F, 'cos you've pretty much covered it all. And congratulations on being the first commenter brave enough to respond!

McSCOTTY said...

Not really an issue I'm comfortable discussing due to a distinct lack of I retest but very well out by FFF. Tolerance indeed

McSCOTTY said...

Sorry though I discarded that message I meant "..distinct lack of interest."

Kid said...

If only that tolerance worked both ways though, eh, McS? We tolerate them obeying their rituals and strictures, yet they (a lot of them at least) won't tolerate us not obeying them. I'm surprised at you saying you don't feel 'comfortable' discussing the issue due to a distinct lack of interest. Comfortable is an odd word in the context of interest. Why would lack of interest make you feel uncomfortable? And why would you be uninterested in teachers receiving death threats for doing their job? Fear of possible consequences if you upset anyone with your thoughts? Shouldn't let yourself be cowed into silence if such is the case. However, the choice is yours.

Mike Hood said...

I don't understand what's happened to Islam. If you go back to the Middle Ages, Islam was tolerant while Christianity was a religion that killed anyone who disagreed. Today it's the other way round.

Kid said...

Even back then though, MH, there would've been Christians that disagreed with the way other so-called Christians behaved in that regard, and I trust it's the same with Islam today. In fact, the teacher's Muslim neighbour and one or two others that were mentioned in the news reports had no problem with him, saying that they knew he wasn't 'Islamophobic'.

McSCOTTY said...

Hi apologies for the delay in replying Kid ( I am suffering from the effects of my second jab, first one was ok this one floored me) . Off course I’m interested in the issue of people being beheaded by evil fundamentalists but I don't associate fundamentalists like these (or those that have sympathies towards these acts) to the general religion of Islam and it’s Muslim adherents in the same way I don’t link the IRA terrorist in the 1970s/80s with the Catholic religion (or the UDA with Protestants etc) . I can only go by my own experiences of religious groups and that has been largely positive. In a previous life I worked with religious groups in Tanzania and in the UK on human rights issues and they also hated fundamentalists and are the biggest recipients of this type of evil/violence worldwide. I’m not daft I know there are issues in Islam like Sharia law , teaching anything that questions Islam , the Finsbury park Mosque, attitudes to women, gays etc and showing a picture of their Prophet but my knowledge of how much this is actually supported by the average western Muslim/western mosque and within the actual Islam religion is limited hence my comment that I have a “lack of “interest “ and I am not comfortable discussing religion as I simply don’t know the actual facts (and have no interest in what I consider a "fantasy") on a complex religion of 1.5 billion people and its adherents. I refuse to take my lead on this from individual evil acts from people like this or from the right wing and left wing UK press that both have their own (and in some ways disturbing) agendas.

Kid said...

I haven't been given an appointment for my second jab yet, but I'm hoping that, just like the first one, I'll have no ill-effects. And see what an interesting response you give with a little nudge, McS? This presents another point of view worth considering, and it's for reasons like this that I raise such questions on the blog to start with - to get people to think and discuss and bring the subject into the light, instead of it being swept under the carpet.

I don't know the full facts either when it comes to how many 'ordinary' Muslims believe that they'd be justified in harming or killing someone for publishing a picture (which would be an artist's interpretation of how he looked as nobody actually knows) of Mohammed, but I think we deserve to know. The fact remains though, even if their response is only to threaten an economic withdrawal (not stocking newspapers or milk, or whatever), it's still an attempt to intimidate non-adherents of their religion to observe certain tenets, and I think that's just not on.

In Scotland, as you know, we have all that bigotry between some Catholics and Protestants (especially when it comes to football) and I'd personally like to know what percentage of both sides subscribe to such sentiment, even if they don't personally participate in it. When it comes to Islam, I know a few Muslims, seemingly ordinary guys, but when 9/11 happened, although they said it was terrible (in the same bland tone as someone who says "Oh, that's a shame" when they're told about the death of someone they didn't even know), they then went on to enthuse about how well the terrorists planned it. Even to the point of denying my assertion that the hijackers were psychos.

My own experience therefore makes me wonder how many other Muslims feel the same way. If they stood up and condemned such acts, and also said that non-Muslims are not obliged to observe restrictions about the prophet Mohammed, then I think that would be a good thing. Even if most of them feel that way, the fact that they don't stand up and say it tends to suggest that they also operate under a blanket of fear in their own community.

Another thing. Boris is yet again under attack for his 'pillar box' comment about burkas, and this is trotted out as an example of racist Islamophobia. To me (and I'm pretty smart), it's in the same category as saying that nuns look like penguins, yet I don't recall that joke ever being used as proof that it represented anti-Catholic sentiment in anyone. We're been beaten down all the time by people with an agenda to silence any kind of criticism against them and I for one think that it's just not on.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comment. See what an interesting discussion such posts can generate? Yet most people give them a wide berth.

McSCOTTY said...

I'm no fan of Boris but agree that although it was a daft thing for a politician to say it was hardly newsworthy and for me certainly (on its own) not Islamophobia. Ah Rangers V Celtic the humiliation of Scotland, I used to support Rangers as a kid but gave up due to the ongoing obsession with some fans anti catholic rhetoric (same on the other side with Celtic) and fighting. It's pretty widespread with old firm fans although I doubt many actually hold those a opinions in l their day to day life.

Kid said...

I'd like to believe that the sectarian bigots are in the minority, McS, but I fear the worst. And when you consider that instances of domestic violence go up after Old Firm games, then you have to wonder about the mentality of some people. "I'll hit the wife 'cos my team lost." Sad.

Dave S said...

As an atheist, I find all religions and their zealots equally silly. None of them have the right to enforce their beliefs on others. The Dalai Lama once said that the first rule for any religious person should be that they respect the right of others not to believe. Hypocritical of me to quote the Dalai Lama when I claim to be an atheist? Maybe, but there are many people who would argue that Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion.

Despite being a non-believer (or "heathen" as I was once called), I have a deep interest in religion and am interested in reading about it (without subscribing to any). What I find arrogant and slightly annoying is how some bookshops arrange their books- alphabetically, but with Christianity moved to the beginning. It's a minor irritation though.

Another thing that I find disgraceful is the tendency of zealots to pick and choose what parts of their beliefs they propagate. For instance, Christians tend not to mention the section in (I think) Leviticus which describes in detail how much God likes the small of burning human flesh. Similarly, Islam teaches that you should hate sin, not sinners, but that message is often ignored by those who would twist something that brings comfort to many others to suit their own intolerant ends.

To touch on the recent disturbance in Glasgow too, I hope this doesn't come as cross as me making excuses, but I really think it's a society problem rather than being the fault of any particular football club. Off the top of my head, I can think of Rangers, Celtic, Liverpool, Manchester United, Hibs and Scotland fans behaving appallingly, not to mention public demonstrations, mobs attacking police officers, public property in the form of statues being destroyed... I feel as though society now (possibly fueled by social media encouraging people to share every pointless opinion) seems to think that their own preferences are more important than anyone else's, and opposition is only there to be shouted down or met with force.

For a society with so many people who think of themselves as left-wing, we often come across as selfish, entitled, intolerant and unforgiving.

Kid said...

You're an atheist, DS? I don't believe it! (Har har!)

If you can say it's not football clubs that are at fault, then surely the same thing can be said about religion? Y'Know, it's not religion per se, but people who distort it for their own ends.

One thing I feel I should point out is that Christians aren't really subject to the Old Testament (which is for the Jews), so Leviticus isn't really part of Christianity, but rather Judaism. The New Testament is the collection of writings on which Christians base their faith.

Jesus did refer to the OT of course, but only because he was supposed to be the fulfilment of it.

Thanks for the considered contribution, DS.

Mike Hood said...

Of course there are people in any religious group who swim against the stream. Nevertheless, there are general patterns in religious groups. Let me tell you a little from my own personal experiences.

From 2001 to 2015 I lived in Small Heath, an area in Birmingham that has a 90% Moslem population. In 2001 I lived opposite a large mosque. On 12th September 2001, the day after 9/11, I looked out of my window and saw an enormous banner draped across the building that said "Death to all Jews and Americans". I rang the police. They said they already knew about it, and they were gathering a group of Moslem police officers to visit the mosque so that there wouldn't be an escalation. A few hours later the banner was gone, and it wasn't even reported in local newspapers.

I had two Pakistani friends, brothers, who I considered to be "moderate" Moslems. They were confused by the 9/11 attack. Confused and ashamed. They didn't understand how Moslems could do such a thing. Then I met them a few weeks later, and one of them was enthusiastic, he couldn't wait to talk to me. "Mike, we've found out what really happened. They told us in the mosque that the press is lying. The 9/11 attackers were Jews. They attacked the World Trade Centre because most of the people who worked in the towers were Moslems".

How can you argue with something as stupid as that? I didn't even contradict them. But it highlights the root problem. My two young friends, who I considered to be reasonable people, believed the word of their mosque's leader because, well, he's a spiritual man and he has to be telling the truth, doesn't he? Fanatics and liars can influence the masses and turn anything into an excuse to hate Jews.

Kid said...

That's quite a scary scenario, and I'm glad you've mentioned it in your comment. Nowadays, people are too frightened of being thought of as racist bigots if they say anything slightly critical about negative behaviour by some members of ethnic minorities or certain religions, and that silence actually helps to empower those groups who are working to change the face of our society in their favour.

I hope those who are reading this post and its responses but not commenting themselves will consider what you said and take it to heart. There's something wrong with our society and it's time something was done about it. Pillar box jokes being attacked as Islamophobia. Strewth. We're giving in far too readily to those who despise us and who are the true racists.

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