Tuesday 8 October 2013

What I was half thinking

You know when you have a thought that goes against the prevailing zeitgeist? The slightly uncomfortable feeling you have when you find you’re privately thinking the unthinkable? Well, I  had such a thought, but I’m no longer feeling guilty because I’ve found out I’m not alone. Also, my bad thought wasn’t entirely private because I did test it out on Craig in an e-mail to see if he recoiled in disgust. Yesterday we were musing by e-mail over Mishal Husain’s debut on the Today programme. We agreed that she may be considered good looking (by some) but she definitely has a harsh radio voice. Then I said something about Malala.
“they've Mother Theresa-ized her. He opinion on "talking to the Taliban" is ironic, since she was on the receiving end of their willingness to "talk." She's a teenage campaigner for education for girls, not some spiritually enlightened clairvoyant.”

I don’t know what Craig thinks because he changed the subject to Rageh Omar. I missed the first edition of the Ottoman thing and unfortunately fell asleep soon after I accidentally stumbled upon the repeat. I found the bit I did see confusing and soporific. I have very little appetite for Islam-related material on the BBC, but Craig has, and he’ll deal with it in his usual even-handed manner.
Anyway, I urge you to have a look at this  by Mary Jackson.
“He’s thinking what I was half thinking.” 

I’ll quote from the article she cites:
“Malala Yousafzai’s only qualification for the praises demanded from us lies in her being shot by the Taliban. Their reasoning for doing this – I concede – was certainly vile. She was one of numerous young girls in the Swat Valley to defend their right to attend school. To this (naturally), the Taliban are resolutely opposed and – in manner befitting their cowardice – chose to silence Ms Yousafzai by bullet, shooting her on a crowded bus.”

“I am frankly sick of seeing her pinched little face grinning inside every newspaper I open. Her vacuous and unhelpful words (her latest suggestion is for us to negotiate with the Taliban) are also something we could do without. And why on earth is she living in Birmingham?”
Ha! Pertinent and bitchy. My kinda guy! I must admit I did think that, and a bit more, when I heard the interview with Malala, and not only because of my self-declared bias against Mishal Husain.

Ms Yousafzai has another value, alongside her chocolate-box ‘heroism’ story, for our political elites. She is the ‘Moderate Muslim’ par excellence. A visionary reformer of a culture unable to be reformed. She will doubtlessly also be held up as a ‘unifying’ figure, around which we can gather to bang tambourines and forget our differences, despite those ‘differences’ being the reason Yousefzai’s family scurried on a plane to Britain in the first place…
Then there was  Mona  Siddiqui’s carefully enunciated observations about the transformative effect of education on this morning’s TFTD.
“To help us to escape from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time…“A year ago no-one had heard of Malala. And now she has become a symbol of so many hopes. Yet her life points to a bigger cause than her own struggle. The need to educate girls. that she repeats the tenets of the Muslim faith itself. there are no boundaries to this sacred duty when we read that seeking knowledge is an act of worship itself, or the prophetic words ‘the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr. Malala’s voice is one among thousands who dream of picking up a pen and making a difference. and despite the spotlight in which she finds herself, the reality of her vision for pakistan is fraught with obstacles. When Islam is used to attack education by equating it with Westernisation, the battle of ideas becomes fatal. Tragically and inevitably many will still die in this battle of ideas, but if the society  is to turn itself round it requires enormous political and intellectual courage. One young girl may be nurtured and developed as an iconic and global spokesperson, but her vision for change is in a society where your voice could cost you your life, and yet ironically it is precisely more voices, not martyrs, that Pakistan needs."
So even Mona gets it. Sort of. But she too is a ‘Moderate Muslim par excellence’ and the crux of the matter is that if her wish came true and ‘education’ were to magically confer enlightenment upon the Islamic world, would the Islamic world still exist? 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I shouldn't have changed the subject.

    I really don't have many opinions about Malala. The nearest I've come to having a half thought on the subject is that she seems to be the new Aung San Suu Kyi (or Dalai Lama) for a certain kind of person.

    I take your point about her being the right kinda Muslim for such people, and Mona being very much the right kinda Muslim for 'Thought For The Day'.

    Presumably the BBC feels a certain responsibility for her as a result of her blogging for the BBC's Urdu service at the age of 11. That launched her activist career and ultimately resulted in the Taliban's murder attempt on her.

    I will admit to a bit of a recoil at that writer's description of her "pinched" face, given that the Taliban shot her in the face - an act that resulted in some disfigurement and for which she's had to have restorative surgery. He also seems annoyed at her for selling her life story for £2 million - to which I say, 'And why not?'

    As for Mishal's debut on 'Today', I only heard the first few minutes of the programme. She came across as professional and humourless. The 'Today' presenters like a bit of banter, but I don't think she's the bantering type.

    Humph also seemed rather cool towards her. She said "the time is now 12 minutes past six" and he immediately, and without making a joke of it, said "the time is now 13 minutes past six". Ouch.

    Rageh's Ottoman history is a curious mixture of 'Wish You Were Here, with Rageh Omaar' and 'In Our Time' [in its use of academics], but it's not a patch on 'In Our Time' (or Simon Schama's 'A History of the Jews', or 'Wish You Were Here'). It gave too little to people who didn't know much about the subject in advance, and too little to those who did know a bit about the subject in advance. So, I bet you were far from alone in finding it confusing, and I was far from alone in finding it far too sketchy. Maybe a proper historian rather than a trendy journalist should have presented it. Not, I suspect, that Rageh had a huge amount to do with it beyond the presentation.

    1. I know the “pinched face” thing was a bit ambiguous, but I took the word pinched to mean something besides her disfigurement - more to do with religiosity and sanctimony. A bit near the knuckle there though I agree.
      I couldn’t help wondering about the other girl/girls who were injured, too, and one does have to question wisdom of talking to the Taliban in the light of their renewed vow to do it again given half a chance.

  3. Agree entirely. It seems that being a victim is all you need to be these days, and then you`re free to pronounce all manner of platitudes as if it`s Holy Writ.
    The girl is being used-that she can only talk like this from Birmingham, shows that "talking to the taliban" is not an option...and she needs some adults around her to prevent another attack. As she says things like this, she is doing no favours to herself..but making the BBC/liberal elite feel better about themselves...which is all she`d doing at the moment.
    Heard Mona Siddiqui the week before on TFTD...basically she was grateful that her sons university had police guards to protect him.
    And this Muslim mother isn`t brave enough to spell out why exactly we NEED this level of security in Londons Universities...for that would put HER at risk too, no doubt.
    " The ink of the scholars quote is not in the Koran "is it?...Mona needs to be a bit more honest about her Ta`awa doctrines of Suras 8/9...the murderers of Lee Rigby were...but the media seemed to cut all that out-why so?


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