Monday 24 June 2013

"Yeah, what are you saying? Are you saying about fighting?..the Arabs he said..Who are the Arabs? Are they Muslim?"

Last night's Down The Line (BBC Radio 4, 7.15) was an absolute treat. The subject of the phone-in, hosted as ever by the award-winning Gary Bellamy, was the UK's Olympics legacy. Here's a sample of the discussion:
Lord Declan: My main point is that since the Olympics the whole country has been enthused. Now there are young lads in the east end of London and the inner city parts of Birmingham, stout Geordie chaps, and they want to be out rowing and sailing and doing equestrianism and all that. And it's up to me to enable them to do that, to really bring dressage into the inner city ghettos.
Gary: Yes, it's a very expensive sport, isn't it, you know? How do you get horses into schools, for example?
Lord Declan: In the lasagne.

Caller: It's Sadiq from Bradford.
Gary: Hello Sadiq.
Sadiq: You know this thing about the Olympics, right, it's un-Islamic man, you gotta ban it. You know, swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, even archery because sometimes, bro, you can see their armpits and all that, doyouknowwhatimean. All that exposing the flesh. It's very un-Islamic. The Saudis are right, doyouknowwhatimean. Just ban it.
Gary: What if they did all these sports covered up?
Sadiq: All I'm getting is funny thoughts, doyouknowwhatimean, about Jessica Ennis and all that, Rebecca Addlington's thighs, doyouknowwhatimean.
Gary: Yeah.
Sadiq: When I go to watch beach volleyball I don't want to see all these naked bums and stuff, doyouknowwhatimean. You want to see a proper game.
Gary: Then don't watch it!
Sadiq: You've got to watch it though, haven't you!
Gary: Yeah, they do look great in those skimpy outfits, don't they? Yeah but, no, the answer isn't just to ban everything, is it? Banning will just sent it underground and there'll be underground illegal volleyball playing, underground illegal gymnastics or underground illegal swimming. 
Gary: Hello, next caller, who's there?
Caller: Hello, Gary, it's Khalid.
Gary: (Deep sigh). Well, hello Khalid.
Khalid: What is point Down Line? What is point Down Line?
Gary: (Sigh)
Khalid: What is point Down Line?
Gary: Well, I'll tell you what the point of Down the Line is. We allow people to make points, to talk about topics, discussions. We give people a voice.
Khalid (loudly): What is point give public voice?
Gary: Where else do they have a voice?
Khalid (loudly): Don't care about giving the public voice! What is point give stupid people voice? [Hangs up]
Gary: I sometimes wonder myself, Khalid, but I persevere.
Curiously enough Down the Line came to mind while I was listening to a fascinating discussion programme on the BBC Asian Network, which I heard via Nota Sheep. You really must listen to it.

The topic under discussion was whether the UK government should ban Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer and AtlasShrugs's Pamela Geller from entering the country. It was hosted by the doubtless-award-winning Nihal. Nihal's guests were Robert Spencer himself and, arguing against him, Imam Yunus Dudhwala and Nick Lowles of 'Hope Not Hate'. As Nota Sheep says, Nihal did a fair job of fairly interviewing them all. (That's the 'BBC bias' bit, folks).

Though the topic is, of course, a deeply serious one and there was a hostile tone at times, I found myself laughing out loud many times. I'll let Nota Sheep describe one such moment, as this obviously tickled his funny bone too:
I found especially interesting the part from around 12 minutes in when Nihal asked Robert Spencer to give him some passages from the Koran and Hadith that he found objectionable and then asked the Imam to counter these claims. From around 17:20 listen to the Imam complain that the Qur'an was more Robert Spencer's field than his. I did enjoy Nihal responding incredulously "But you're an imam!" 
That could have come straight out of a Down the Line-like spoof. 

The funniest part of the show though came when the phone lines were opened and the calls begin coming in. I really could have sworn I was actually listening to Down the Line at times - an impression helped by Nihal's uncannily Gary Bellamy-like way of hosting the discussion. (They even sound a little alike).

It had everything - from the host's habit of giving his personal opinion (such as "unfortunately we are seeing Sikhs and Hindus getting involved on certain EDL timelines") and his rather aggrieved-sounding 'so there!'-style slapping down of a critical e-mailer (over what the word 'jihad' means. "'re wrong", he said - with feeling), plus his obvious complete astonishment at the sheer dumbness of one of his callers (Cameron), right through to the inevitable angry caller, the caller who admitted she didn't know much about the EDL yet still wanted to speak her brains on the subject (as they used to say on The Day Today), the not-very-bright academic...

....and, above all, the final caller, Cameron from Birmingham, whose bizarre line of questioning to Robert Spencer has to be heard to be believed. (I'm still not entirely convinced that Cameron wasn't actually Paul Whitehouse in disguise). Go to 38:33 and enjoy! 

Now, I'll freely admit that the whole Cameron bit had me laughing so much that I may have missed the substance behind it. (I'm sure you won't miss it though!) Plus, once you've heard such a brilliant spoof as Down the Line it can become hard to hear other topical phone-in shows in quite the same way again.

Maybe that's not unlike what happened to me after watching Leslie Nielson & Co. in Airplane. I only saw Airport, the disaster movie it spoofed so hilariously, after seeing Airplane and, as a result, when I first watched Airport I found myself creasing up with laughter as po-faced disaster after po-faced disaster befell its characters.

The upshot of all this is...please listen to Down the Line and enjoy, and please listen to Nihal's show and enjoy!

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