Saturday, July 7, 2007
An Islamic London: Part II, Present
One needs only to read the outcry over the idea of an Islamic London to realize that the evident harm of such a notion is not just crazed, right-wing radicalism. Authors such as Mark Steyn, Christopher Hitchens, Melanie Phillips, and Bobby Pathak (to name a few) have pointed out the already devouring nature of Islamic fundamentalist ideals on their city. Hitchens himself recently revisited the town of his ubringing, Finsbury Park, in Northern London and saw, first hand, the overwhelming consumption of a culture he was raised with by a culture, once, so far across the channel. Steyn (in his popular book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It) fortells a fate similar to that of Finsbury Park's for the entirety of the Western World. Phillips seconds that emotion for London. And Pathak, in a super-secret journalistic move, shows how an Islamic London would be a very, very bad thing.
Pathak went undercover for a recent documentary entitled Undercover Mosque (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peFQWuk4nuo&mode=related&search=) in an attempt to reveal the radical preachings of London's major mosques. The results were predictably unnerving. Ideas such as the deficiency of women, the evils of homosexuality, and subhuman nature of Jews and Indians seem to be commonplace teachings around London. However, people like Michael Hodges of Timeout London insist on passing these ideas off as twisted delusions of the "hysterical" right. The inspiration for visions such as the one accurately rendered by Hodges at the beginning of his article to illustrate a fanatical Western nightmare of an Islamic London (or West for that matter) are hardly concoctions of paranoid, conservative racists. The inspiration for such visions are planted there by the men of Islam who preach diligently about getting the ball rolling on said visions. We're not afraid of our own weird misunderstanding of an Islamic state; we're afraid of what the authors of an idyllic Islamic state tell us and their followers this will entail.
Mr. Hodges goes on, in detail, to theorize what exactly we could expect in an Islamic London. Point by point, he lays out all of the tenents of a properly functioning society and how, under Islam, these aspects of Western civilization would function far more advantageously. However, Hodges fails to realize how terribly wrong he is based on two counts that become pathetically clear when reading his proposal. First, that none of these ideals would actually occur for anyone wanting to adhere to democratic principals in the first place, that one would have to convert (or "revert" as it's known in the Muslim world) to Islam in order to survive comfortably in London. And second, that none of these would subsequently be good things in place of the currently standing free society of London. Hodges begins his outline of Islamified London with the following:
"But rather than fear the inevitable changes this will bring to London, or buy in to a racist representation of all Muslims as terrorists, we should recognise both what Islam has given this city already, and the advantages it would bring across a wide range of areas in the future."
True, not all Muslims are terrorists. But as Ann Coulter points out, "then why are all terrorists Muslims?" And I'm talking about the terrorists that matter. The ones that attempt to force their oppresive religious views on London with violence, destruction, and intimidation. The ones that wouldn't mind turning London into Londonistan. As Hitchens points out in his article 'Londonistan Calling', a Muslim activist named Anjem Choudary was asked if he might prefer to move to a country which practices Shari'a. His frightening response: "Who says you own Britain anyway?" Hitchens concludes, "A question that will have to be answered one way or another." The following is an attempt at answering each of Hodges step-by-step proposals for his dream of an Islamic state, and how such a dreams is, in actuality, a nightmare even for sympathetic apologists such as Hodges himself (though he may not realize it). He begins with:
Public Health: Hodges gives us a grim statistic that disturbs even him. That, based on a 2001 census, 24 per cent of Muslim women and 21 per cent of Muslim men suffered long-term illness and disability. Of course he points out that these are epidemics of society rather than religion. But isn't Hodges arguing that Islam would be better for Londoners as a whole? If the population that practices Islam is suffering more serious illness and disability than the population that doesn't recognize a central religion, shouldn't we avoid adopting the clearly less fortunate religion as our own? I'm not suggesting that everyone who worships Allah is automatically vulnerable to disease, but the statistics are difficult to escape. It goes along with what Hodges brought up earlier about the "racist" notion that all Muslims are terrorists. All I'm asking, in regards to public health, is why is an overwhelming demographic of disease prone Londoners Muslim? Hodges ponders this for a mere moment, shrugs off the stastic, and offers a very strange reason as to how being Muslim would benefit London. He, very matter-of-factly, reminds us that the physical act of Muslim prayer techniques couldn't hurt out of shape non-Muslims. So why not convert? (The five-a-day ab rolls are just what your beer gut needs). He makes the questionable assumption that the Muslim act of prayer is designed to keep worshippers fit. And whether or not this is what Muhammad had in mind, Hodges is still saying we should all convert to Islam because we're just not doing enough daily situps. Ignoring the fact that converting to a entirely foreign religion is a lot to ask of a person anyway, no matter how fat they are. He also brings up the Muslim act of hand and feet washing, and points out that obviously this sacred ritual "promotes public hygiene." Well, I take a shower every day and am rather diligent about washing my hands as well and I get it all done without having to praise Allah first.
His second point is that alcohol is haram (forbidden) to Muslims. And what with all the horrible things that go down as a result of alcohol, why not do what the Americans did that one time and just prohibit it...in the name of Allah. Hodges throws those statistics we've all heard a million times at us, in order to prove that we'd all be better off without the stuff (22,000 deaths a year, etc.). But his sentiment is inevitably that of a panderer, someone who isn't happy with the fact that the religion (he, himself, doesn't practice) forbids alcohol, but since he's on the subject of selling Islam to London, he might as well dig up some unavoidably nasty statistics in order to sell it. Interestingly enough, Hodges wrote an article for Time Out London a month prior to the article in question title 'The East End Art Scene', wherein he applauds art gallery expos for their abundance of free booze. Something tells me that in an Islamic London, Hodges won't be doing much else at East London art shows aside from looking at the art. And I've been to modern art expositions without the luxury of being adequetly intoxicated, and I can tell you that it's a dreadful fate.
Ecology: 'The world is green and beautiful.' So says the prophet Muhammad. Okay, who doesn't think so? I'm not sure I'm aware of a religion that thinks the world is 'off-color and ugly', or whatever the adverse may be. 'And Allah has appointed you his guardian over it.' Oh, there's the rest of it. And what if I don't believe in Allah? In Muhammad's farewell address (632AD), he states, "I was ordered to fight all men until they say `There is no God but Allah'". So, the world is green and beautiful, sure, only if you also happen to be Muslim (or maybe this just makes it more green and beautiful). What's curious is the fact that Hodges even brings up the issue of ecology to prove his point. As if Muslims have more license over the environment than any other group in London, therefore London should be Islamic. Muslim leaders and prophets are teaching their followers to respect and care for the environment, fine. So are a lot of other religious groups, political groups, nature groups, animal rights groups, etc. Weak point Hodges, what else have you got?
Education: Here, Hodges loses sight of even his own political doctrines. He both champions Muslim-based schools, and suggests that these religious schools should be state funded (tsk tsk, liberal). We begin with a grim portrait of the education situation relating to Muslims, by way of a few facts:
-Muslim students perform less well than non-Muslim students.
-37 per cent of 16 to 24-year-old Muslims have no qualifications.
-16 to 24-year-old Muslims are half as likely to have degree level or above qualification than other inner London young people.
Aside from none of this boading very well for an argument encouraging extending these statistics to the whole of London's education system, they simply don't come as very shocking to the discerning reader. Most Muslim sectors of any large Western city are impoverished and, as a rule of thumb, impoverished areas of any major city anywhere on Earth tend to have underprivelaged, poorly financed schools. Again, does this mean we do something about the education of London's Muslim school children? Or do we broaden this poor education to include all of London? The answer seems obvious; Hodges sees it, and his solution is where I question his left wing credibility. "While controversy rages over faith schools, there are 37 Muslim schools in London. As of 2004, only five were state schools." So we just want to be clear, that you (Mr. Hodges) support state funding for ALL faith schools. Be they Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Protestant, or Catholic. However, if we adhere to your thesis, that London should be Islamic, how well do you think the Muslim state would take it if they were required to fund Christianity? Be honest. This could be my insane, right wing nightmare taking hold but based on the relationship Muslims have with any other religion around the globe (we'll touch on inter-faith relations in a bit), I'm willing to bet the answer to that question is 'they wouldn't take it very well.' All Hodges' solution would produce would be underprivelaged, poorly funded Jewish, Hindu, and Christian schools. So the only group this solution benefits is (do I even have to say it) Muslims. On an anti-Semetic note, you'll recall this last Spring schools in London began dropping touchy subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades so as to avoid offending Muslim students who might be taught, at home, that the former never happened and the latter was a holocaust of 16th Century Muslims. "But Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, claims Muslim children do better in their own faith schools than in the mainstream state sector," Hodges complains. I'll bet they do. The history classes must be a breeze.
Food: This one relates to Hodges' argument about alcohol being haram. The argument being: if we're doing something that is harmful to our bodies (like drinking Heineken and eating donuts), why not just solve this by converting to Islam? The whole argument is so beyond stupid that I'll spare you Hodges' slip-shod notion of Islamic religious practices and move on to the next, much more interesting, point.
Inter-faith relations: I almost don't even have to say anything. What with the Jihadist killings of Jews and Christians in the Middle East, Hindus in India and Pakistan, and Buddhists in Southeast Asia: this category should essentially speak for itself. I'm not, of course, suggesting that all Muslims, everywhere, are violently murdering members of other faiths. But it is Hodges' complete lack of understanding on this subject that leads me to bring up the evidently enormous rift of violence between Islam and all other religions. Hodges states, "Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, so why not here?" Because Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, but not very comfortably. And they're somehow managing it a lot more naturally than the Muslims are alongside the Hindus and Sikhs. The math is simple: if the Hindus and Sikhs are coexisting with each other just fine, but the Hindus and Muslims aren't with each other, the Sikhs and Muslims aren't with each other, and the Hindus and Sikhs aren't with the Muslims, then there exists an obvious negative variable. In other words, "why not here" is less a realistic question than, "why not there?" When the British left India in 1947, the continent was violently split into present day Muslim Pakistan, and Hindu-majority India that cost the lives of around one million. Since then, three wars have taken place between the two countries leading to a current feeling of uneasiness not consistent with the idea of the peaceful inter-relationship Hodges describes. To use the India/Pakistan model as an example of how inter-faith relations in future Islamic London would be is not only blatantly ignorant, it's simply a bad example.
Arts: "Some of the finest art in London is already Islamic," Hodges proclaims. But most of the finest art is not. And the art that Hodges mentions (ceramics, textiles, carpets, metalwork, glass and woodwork) is artistic craftsmanship, not 'art' in the Western sense of the word. A Renoir painting and a beautifully crafted tile are two very different things. "Islamic influences have also flourished in other areas of the arts," Hodges states, "with novelists, comedians, and music." Well, good for them; but what's the point? No one ever implied that Muslims couldn't evolve with the times and both practice their religion and create art as well; and no one ever implied that they shouldn't either. Although, the artists he uses as examples are questionable if he's trying to convince us that their Islamic-inspired motives are more advantageous to London's art community than the current Western ones, and that those motives are pure. Hodges mentions Shazia Mirza, to make us aware that Muslim comics do exist. Shazia Mirza, however, is a little known London-based female comic, whose act is based around her faith. Who knows why she isn't as popular as her peers, but maybe it has to do with certain Islamic inspired jokes that are liable to make any comic controversial (particularly Muslim ones). Around the 9/11 attacks, Mirza incorporated a bit into her act where she came out in traditional hijab dress and began her set with the remark, "My name is Shazia Mirza. At least, that's what it says on my pilot's licence." What better way to isolate your religion from the rest of the world at a very crucial historical moment. Despite giving Islam a bad name, outright, one thing is evidently clear about her comedy: aesthetically, it just isn't funny. So if Shazia Mirza is what we have to go on as a representation of Islamic comedy on our future stages, then I suppose what we get is ambiguosly terrorist humor. The kind that incites nervous white people, not wanting to appear racist, to chuckle out the sides of their mouths and yank on their collars. Maybe I'm getting too political. If so, here's another Mirza joke: "I can't understand women who wear necklaces with 'Mum' written on them. I don't wear a necklace saying 'frigid'." I don't get it. By way of music, we have rappers Mecca2Medina (who?) and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).
“From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks and the use of musical instruments, as lawful. And there will be some people who will stay near the side of a mountain and in the evening their shepherd will come to them with their sheep and ask them for something, but they will say to him, ‘Return to us tomorrow.’ Allah will destroy them during the night and will let the mountain fall on them, and He will transform the rest of them into monkeys and pigs and they will remain so till the Day of Resurrection.” -The words of the Prophet Muhammad
Wait, so music isn't even allowed in Islam? Technically: yes. That's precisely why Yusuf turned in the guitar for a prayer mat. And as far as novelists go, I suppose it will be okay to write books in Islamic London, just as long as you're an Islamic writer. Yusuf Islam himself agreed with the violent fatwa placed on writer Salman Rushdie's head after writing The Satanic Verses. And we can forget about knighting the achievments of free-thinking writers expressing their art in Islamic London, because even in modern British London Rushdie's life was threatened when it was announced recently that he would be knighted for his literary career. It is unknown if Cat signed on to these proposed mob hits as well. On a humorous note, Hodges refers to Yusuf Islam as "less in-your-face", in his relation to Mecca2Medina. If calling for beheadings isn't "in-your-face", I shudder to think what is. Maybe he meant Yusuf is "less in-the-general-area-where-your-face-used-to-be."
Social Justice: The first term Hodges thinks up himself to sugar coat another term. What he means by "social justice" is just welfare, but with a catchy new liberal ring to it. As if the government forcing hard working individuals to give part of their earnings to the unemployed is "justice". That's like calling a food stamp a hard-earned dollar. In Islam, this is called zakat. It is a welfare tax of 2.5 per cent of annual income. With the current situation in London being that the most impoverished bracket of individuals, as a whole, are in the Muslim communities, who does Hodges propose we tax in order to help them? How about this, Hodges: tax the privelaged, well-to-do Londoners and give to the poor, needy Muslims so they can rise up in income and status to become the predominant religious and political force in London. I think Hodges would like that idea very much. Zakat! But only for non-Muslims.
Race Relations: For this, I'll let Hodges' creepy final statement prove my own point on this entire matter,
"Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim – it doesn’t matter what colour you are. End of story."
Submission to Allah. Amen, brother. I mean, Allahu Akbar...brother.