Saturday 29 June 2019

I've seen it all now

Will Gompertz

14 January 1989 was one of the darkest days of recent British history. It saw book-burning on the streets of Yorkshire as a result of a murderous religious edict from Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini against a British-Indian author. That edict (fatwa) resulted in the author being targeted for assassination, going into hiding and receiving round-the-clock police protection. People associated with publishing the book were attacked and even killed. People died in riots around the world. And latent extremism within the UK's Muslim population became overt, with consequences that have echoed down the subsequent decades.

Astonishingly, last night's BBC One News at Ten reported the anniversary without mentioning the fatwa or the deaths that followed it.

And, even more astonishingly, Will Gompertz's piece proved to be nothing less than a celebration of the event, marking the wonderful moment when British Muslims got their voice.

Here's a transcript of this truly jaw-dropping, appalling BBC report:

Newsreader: It's 30 years since the publication of the book The Satanic Verses sparked protests right around the world. Some Muslims believed its author, Salman Rushdie, blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad. The controversy prompted a vigorous debate about freedom of speech and respect for religious sensitivities that resonates today. They are themes that will be explored at the Bradford Literature Festival, which opened tonight - in a city where a copy of The Satanic Verses was burned in public in 1989. Our arts editor, Will Gompertz, has more:
Syima Aslam, Director, Bradford Literary Festival: This is the centre of Bradford, the heart of Bradford. 30 years ago, this was also where some rather momentous events took place. This is where The Satanic Verses was burnt. It's the image that became seared in the national consciousness and became associated with this city. For Muslims collectively, it was a moment of crystallisation of identity. Prior to that, you know, everybody was Asian, there wasn't really the religious nuance. What you see at that moment is people saying, actually I live here, this is my country, I belong here, I'm going to spend the rest of my life here and my children are going to grow up here, so if I don't like something I'm going to raise my voice.
Will Gompertz: The festival is hosting a series of events, with contemporary authors reflecting on the politics of writing three decades on from Salman Rushdie's controversial novel.
Will Gompertz (to Ayisha Malik): Would your books - which are about Muslims dating and putting a mosque in a British village - would those have been published, 30 years ago, and would they have created a reaction if they were? Ayisha Malik, author: No, I don't think they would have been published and certainly not a book about a mosque in a village, because that conversation wasn't even happening and I don't think we were part of things in that way. I think a writer should be allowed to write whatever they want to write about, that is just categorical. What I do think, though, is that you have a responsibility. I don't believe in censorship when it comes to writing, but I do think that you have to bear the consequences of what you write. 
A new play, Imam Imran, which is part of the festival programme. It explores issues of identity, perception, protest and faith.
Will Gompertz (to Iqbal Khan): So if you go back 30 years to the burning of The Satanic Verses and that moment and everything that happened since, where does this play bring us to? Iqbal Khan, director: OK, so I think it brings us to a place where I think the confidence to protest is more present now I think than it was then. I think the protest now is more articulate, more subtle and more nuanced. I think also particularly in the way the play deals with these issues, there's the confidence to use satire, to use humour, to use other ways of addressing the issues other than naked anger and frustration.     
The subject of protest is extended to the festival itself. Some authors have pulled out of events after discovering a government counter-extremism scheme had provided funding, proving once again that art and politics are not strange bedfellows, but are intimately connected. Will Gompertz, BBC News, Bradford. 


  1. Will Gomphertz never reviews the artistic content of any piece of work - only the political background to it, and how it can be positioned within the BBC PC narrative. ...'proving once again that art and politics are not strange bedfellows' ... is the be-all and end-all to his contribution.

    1. And that is how a stale, pale male with untelegenic features stays in his job these days. Cf Rory Cellan-Jones

  2. This Gompertz creature was probably told what questions he would be allowed to ask of the Muslims at the festival. Or else, being a BBC hack, he knew precisely which questions were safe to ask and which to avoid.

    This is quite a polished performance from a representative of a 'news' organization. He interviews a couple of people and spouts some commentary while being careful to say nothing at all about anything relevant, important and newsworthy in case it might reflect negatively on Muslims.

    An actual journalist would want to know if Muslims are less or more inclined these days to burn books they don't like and agree or disagree with a death fatwa on the author. He would have asked Malik what was meant by having "to bear the consequences of what you write." Does that mean Rushdie and his ilk should be killed? And how can attitudes like these he held by people living in a civilized society?

    This is just another PR exercise for Muslims by the 'British' Broadcasting Corporation. There is no news in it, just a repetition of the well-known fact that the BBC bows under the yoke of Islam.

    1. Too true, True Too!

      The BBC is careful never to question Islamic artists about the consequences of what they say and promote.

      I wonder who else is going to at this "festival" (nothing festive about it that I can see - just of grievance mongering and axe grinding) ?

  3. How far we have fallen! Or were we pushed?

    I had a friend involved in the Satanic Verses' promotion - he and other staff were briefed by Special Branch about the threat to their person resulting from the Fatwas (it wasn't just the Ayatollah) which was enthusiastically supported by large sections of the British Muslim community. Why should my friend's life be threatened just so a "community" in the UK can "find their voice"?

    The idea that people's lives can be threatened over the contents of a book is wholly unacceptable in a civilised society. Most sensible people in the country recognise that. But the BBC does not. It covers for those who want to end free speech in the UK. Free speech is already in a parlous state but Baroness Warsi, Stella Creasy, Anna Soubry, Ash Sakar, Jeremy Corbyn, David Lammy and Sajid Javid, to name a few, are all working assiduously to see that it is put out of its misery at the earliest opportunity.

    1. Meanwhile the institutional cowardice has crossed the Channel: FR3 tv reported at lunchtime that, on Thursday night, a police station in Val-de-Reuil, Normandy, was attacked by a gang of masked & hooded youths throwing 'pétards' (bangers, but more powerful than anything sold in England, probably since before WW2) they were also using 'mortiers' - a 'mortar' fired from a tube, which most closely resembles a thunderflash when it goes off; several windows were broken. The police spokesman said that the youths were "shouting things of, let's say, a religious nature." Several online sources say they were, in fact, shouting 'Allahu Akbar'.

    2. Interesting! I think that's called an insurrection. Shape of things to come.

      Sounds like something out of Houellebecq's novel, Submission:

  4. I am repeating myself from a previous post but Will Gompertz is an ignoramus. He has no formal qualifications or any background in the arts other than being a public relations man at the Tate. He also had very little experience in journalism. He did however have friends like Alan Yentob and Mark Thompson…

    The very fact that he is the BBC’s arts editor is in itself unbelievable. Of course his comments on the arts are loaded with political dogma. That is as far as his knowledge extends. I remember reading his asinine review of the recent Picasso exhibition and thinking the average A level student could have done a better job - but then Gompertz doesn’t have any A levels.

    But if Gompertz was merely a simpleton in the wrong job that would be bad enough. But as Craig’s post reveals he is a very dangerous simpleton. This is an absolute disgrace.

    1. Well worth repeating. How many others - Ben Chu, Nick Watt, Debbie Whatstername - have become BBC staffers on the old boys and girls' BBC-Guardian network? Gompertz seems to have no interest in art except in as much as it illuminates politics.

  5. ...but no doubt arts reviews loaded with political dogma is exactly what the BBC requires.


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