Monday, 26 June 2017

"They Would Never Say That About Islam"?


Here are a few quotations.

"We have known in our own religion people doing things which are deeply offensive to some of us. We feel it very much. And that is what is happening to Islam."

"The British Government, the British people have no affection for this book. It compares Britain with Hitler's Germany. We do not like that any more than people of the Muslim faith like the attacks on their faith."

"How many societies, having been so treated by a foreigner accepted in their midst [a foreigner whom the speaker also called an "outstanding villain"], could go so far as to protect him from the consequences of his egotistical and self-opinionated attack on the religion into which he was born?"

"The Embassy wishes to emphasise that the US Government in no way associates itself with any activity that is any way offensive to Islam or any other religion."

The first quotation is from the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The second is from the then Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe. The third is from Thatcher's closest political ally, Norman Tebbit. And the fourth was issued by the first Bush Administration's State Department in response to riots in Islamabad.

The target of all of these was also excoriated by the Old Right grandees of Hugh Trevor-Roper, John le Carré and Roald Dahl, as well as by the emerging neoconservative movement.

All the way up to September 2001, that latter was saying how much it admired the robustness of Sharia.

It was also thoroughly keen, like the Thatcher Government, on Pakistan in general and on the Islamist regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in particular, as well as on arming what became the Taliban and al-Qaeda (and on arming Saddam Hussein).

Of course, the "outstanding villain" under discussion was Salman Rushdie, and the book was The Satanic Verses, which can now be bought off the shelf of any Waterstones without the slightest raising of an eyebrow.

The Daily Mail, which never went as neocon as the Daily Telegraph did, has never quite come to terms with Rushdie, even to this day. They both hated him, really and truly hated him, at the time.

If you think that Islam, or at least the South Asian among its attendant cultures, is treated as beyond criticism, humorous and otherwise, then you cannot be watching Coronation Street, you cannot be watching Ackley Bridge, and you cannot have been watching EastEnders in the last 10 years.

If you feel like being sniffy about the suggestion that you might have such viewing habits, then one should add that you cannot have been visiting Waterstones, either.

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