I watched “The Satanic Verses: 30 years on” t’other night.
Before sitting down to comment on the actual programme, I was curious to see what other reviewers had made of it. The Independent’s review by Sean O’Grady was a shocker, even for that publication, and it was a pleasant surprise to see several below the line comments that reflected that view.
The Telegraph’s review was better, but not a lot. Collective tiptoeing around Islam is safer than committing a hateful thought-crime these days.
Over on Harry’s Place, as we used to say quite a lot, Sarah AB has also tackled the tightrope of reviewing a programme-that-shows-Muslims-in-a-bad-light, and as she took an interest in Maryam Namazie at one time Sarah AB might have the measure of Mobeen Azhar.
Do look through some of our brilliant pieces on Mobeen Azhar to set the scene. I’m going to steal a chunk from Sarah's article.
“In last night’s programme The Satanic Verses: Thirty Years On, Mobeen Azhar reported on the novel’s legacy, and its role as a catalyst in the conflict between radical Islam and the West. Azhar had never read The Satanic Verses before and it was interesting to hear him articulate the discomfort it made him feel. He went on to make it clear that he does not question Rushdie’s right to write or publish the novel.
He began by reminding us of the context to this controversy – the racism and discrimination facing immigrants and the reasonable perception of unfairness in a blasphemy law (now of course thankfully abolished) which only protected one religion – Christianity.
Azhar went on to interview several of those caught in the events of 30 years ago. Some of these seemed disturbingly adamant that they still see nothing wrong in their actions. Chillingly, Mohammad Siddique said he thought the response to the novel had been useful in stopping others write similar books. (By contrast Shahid Butt said he’d no longer resort to violence – but he would call Rushdie a ‘fucking dickhead’.)”
That gives you an idea of what we watched. The next section of her review featured a contributor from Hope not Hate - a portly chap called
“Matthew Collins, formerly a NF activist, now with Hope Not Hate, gave an interesting account of his (largely ignorant) views at the time. However it was a little unsettling – though he may simply have phrased the point unfortunately – that he almost seemed to blame Salman Rushdie for writing the novel rather than simply noting that it could be exploited by the far right.”
There was the obligatory shot of “far-right” ex-EDL persona non grata formerly known as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a completely gratuitous and unhelpful inclusion, very BBC, in my objective opinion.
Having outlined the plot so to speak, Sarah AB drifted off to express her characteristically benign opinion of our presenter so I'll take up the narrative. Mobeen was dressed in a fetching, three-quarter length trench-coat, belted and cinched in at the waist, which made its full peplum-style skirt flap as he pursued the angry Muslim man who had snatched his precious copy of The Satanic Verses out of his hand.
Our presenter looked decidedly urbane and camp with his trademark quiff, which always makes him look like like a displaying cockatoo. Was it the gay look that triggered the incendiary Muslim Uncle and the man in the (Arab) dress and the baseball cap? Or was it simply the effrontery of anyone holding offensive literature in a “Muslim Public Area”?
Either way, it provided plenty of fuel for the likes of the far right - who are obviously not far wrong when they talk about ‘no-go areas”.
The urbane Mobeen was suitably taken aback by this unexpectedly dramatic and absurdly comical encounter, but he also confessed that he himself religiously made sure his own copy of the Koran remained in an elevated position (on a high shelf) in compliance with superstitious Islamic rules and regs.
The most significant moments for me, however, were conversations with some elderly British Muslims who had no intention of conforming in any way shape or form to British values and customs, and frankly didn’t see why anyone might expect them to.
Here’s a funny distillation by “Veedu Viz” (whatever that is.)