Saturday 7 December 2013

Faith, hope and charity

The BBC aired a programme that seems critical of Islam, then for balance, they aired  an episode of Health Check, a BBC World service programme fronted by Claudia Hammond  featuring a charity that was supposedly set up to comfort parents whose babies or children had died. All well and good, you’d think, a much-needed service, like the Samaritans, Childline or the NHS Direct.(I jest) A support group, then.

But this is not just any old support group. It’s an M for Muslim  Support group. Why was there a need for such a specialised service? 
It’s because “Muslims” (mustn’t tar them all with the same brush) tend to disapprove of expressing grief at the loss of a child, and the charity ‘Children of Jannah’ exists for an unusual purpose. Giving Muslims (careful of that brush) permission to do so. That’s it. It’s a charity for giving bereaved parents permission to grieve.

If, say, a Christian, a Buddhist or perhaps an Atheist strongly believed in the afterlife, not figuratively; literally, and say they sincerely believed that all deceased babies and children were actually residing in heaven, not just residing, but living and breathing in bodily physical reality up above - frolicking under the watchful eye of a prophet by the name of Abraham. (peace and blessings be upon him)  

Suppose, in spite of believing that death is transient and impermanent (because on the day of judgement we will all be reunited with our loved ones) your Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or indeed your Atheist had authored a self-help book, whose purpose was to give bereaved parents permission to ‘express’ grief, and to assure them that doing so is neither offensive nor disrespectful to Allah or any God of their choice. If a representative from any one of those groups said all that to you, would you give a pitying smile and sidle away as soon as possible? Or give them a spot or two on T.V.?

I mean if you happened to be a commissioning editor, or a producer or whoever gets to choose what to air and who to ignore. Would you offer them a platform on the BBC to proclaim what you must surely feel to be utter claptrap? Not on your Nellie, probably.  Not unless they were Muslim. Even so, I hope you’d point them in the direction of the Islam Channel and usher them gently off the premises. 

But you didn’t. Instead you featured this book and this charity on Health Check and you gave it a spot on BBC World news, with Claudia again and a presenter called Lucy Hockings. I put it to you that you did this because Hafizah Ismail was a headscarf-wearing devout Muslim who intersperses her conversation with blessings and smatterings of Arabic.  During both these items the presenters managed to treat the book, the charity and Hafizah Ismail, death-denial and all, with staggeringly incongruous reverence.

However, they studiously ignored the *afterlife* talk, which periodically broke through like an embarrassing smell in a lift. Each time Ms Ismail chipped in with ‘peace and blessings’  the presenters talked to each other right over the headscarf, frantically pretending Children of Jannah was a common or garden public service, like the Citizens Advice Bureau. Not once did either of them turn a hair at the brutality and inhumanity of a culture which suppresses grief in the name of hocus pocus. The bigger  the elephant in the room, the more Hammond and Hockings soldiered on. Next, they’re probably promoting the Mao Zedong handbook of self expression.

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