Monday, October 16, 2006

Alif is for Allah ...

Right. I'll start with the conclusion - there is no simple answer.

There'll be no veiled threats - or indeed any more bad puns.

Britain has not been a monoculture since before Jesus - or Mohammed - walked the earth. The television and newpaper media, however, still insist on stirring up fear, uncertainty and doubt whenever our "culture" is under threat. So .. what culture is that, then? The idea of Britian devoid of influence from abroad conjours up images of red-haired faces painted blue and people asking "what have the Romans ever done for us?". Britian derives its strength and identity from being a cultural melting-pot. Get used to it and embrace it.

Now I would be the first to say that anyone choosing to live in our country should make some effort to fit in. I would personally feel somehow uncomfortable living in some other country and pretending I was living in England. I'm also not sure I see the point. There is also a need, however, for everyone to feel part of a community; to retain ther own identity. Look at the British abroad: we huddle together in ex-pat enclaves, drinking beer in Abu Dabi, eating chips in Spain and baring our flesh in Greece.

It is for this reason that there will always be - and have always been - subcultures within our society. This could be the difference between the gentry and the peasants; between the northerners and the southerners; British and Irish; and, in this case, Islamic followers and a mixture of Christians and Atheists.

On the specific topic du jour: veils, I admit that things get tricky. I can see how people may be threatened by a mode of dress they're not used to. Punks were chastised in the '70s for their torn jeans and piercings. Goths are victimised for their heavy eyeliner and oppressive garb. It is the unwillingness to accept this form of dress which is so destructive, however. Personally I find talking to someone in dark glasses very offputting (almost exactly the opposite of traditional Islamic women's dress) - but no-one is suggesting that that's culturally threatening.

I've worked alongside Iranians on a couple of occasions during my career. One particular individual gave me a couple of insights which openend my eyes. I always used to find it peculiar that the Catholic and Anglican churches are so divided when they share so much common ground. This pales into insignificance, however when you consider the divide between Christianity and Islam - though the Qur'an shares much of its text with the Old Testament of the Christian bible.

As with any conflict, the only way forward involves give and take on both sides. It is difficult to see, however, how the divide can be bridged quickly - and every day it is being widened.


P.S: Whilst writing this post, I did a little research .. to check a few facts on Islam, the Qur'an and Mohammed. What I found disturbed me greatly. The first entry from Google is a tirade against Islam in general, its believers and Mohammed himself in particular. Two of the top three hits - and three of the first page of ten hits on Google are anti-Islam to the point of hatred. Now, how is that helpful?

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