I HAPPENED to pick up a copy of the Evening Standard on the train home from London the other night and was appalled. As of course I was meant to be.
The Standard is one of those papers (you can no doubt think of others) whose readers clearly like nothing better than to shake their heads and tut-tut a lot. If the editors themselves aren’t hooked on raised blood-pressure, then they know at least that’s what keeps their readers happy.
For such papers there’s nothing better these days to rouse the blood than a good Muslim. Or rather, a bad Muslim.
Someone, for example, like Anjem Choudary. Or Andy, as he apparently used to be known in his allegedly wild-living student days.
A couple of quotes should be enough to give you an idea of Choudary’s world-view.
He wants "to fly the flag of Allah above 10 Downing Street" and bring about "a pure Islamic state with Sharia law in Britain".
This would mean "every woman, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, would have to wear a traditional burkha and cover everything apart from her face and hands in public".
Oh, and "people who commit adultery would be stoned to death."
I’m appalled of course by Choudary’s barking-mad views, but also by the fact that a self-styled "quality newspaper" should choose to trumpet them as its main story.
If I spent enough time in the pubs of Ipswich, or maybe hung around the Cornhill, I could find people with a wide range of weird, maybe offensive opinions.
It wouldn’t take me long, I’m sure, to find someone to spout vile gibberish about some or all of the following: black people, white people, old people, young people, gay people, straight people, working people, non-working people, rich people, poor people, foreigners of any kind you can think of, atheists, Christians, Jews – and, yes, Muslims.
I could find all manner of mad viewpoints (and not just in Ipswich, of course – any town would do). I could get quotes reflecting all kinds of idiocy.
But I wouldn’t expect the Evening Star – or the Evening Standard – to put them on the front page.
By picking on one particular nutter and giving his ravings the big treatment, the Standard (and lots of other papers too) have given him exactly what he wanted. A big platform to rave from.
At the same time, it implies that his nasty, twisted outlook is shared by most British Muslims. Which it isn’t.
Now I’m not a Muslim, and neither are any of my close friends, so I can’t pretend to know exactly how they do all think and feel. But I can be pretty sure that like the rest of us, what most want most is a peaceful and secure life.
The one Muslim I’ve spoken to about it told me: "People like Anjem Choudary and the Luton protesters aren’t even proper Muslims. They betray the faith and they betray all of us by making our lives more difficult."
And this I do know: Choudary got his 15 minutes of fame by inviting many thousands of Muslims to join a "protest" at Luton Airport. A grand total of 20 individuals turned up. Presumably those who like a bit of a rumble.
Whatever he might like to think, and however some of the press may brand him, Choudary isn’t a leader. He’s a pathetic, mean-minded saddo – and should be treated as such.
AN EVENING Star reader branded me last week in the Letters page as a "bleeding heart left wing liberal". Some of which may be true, but the clearly insulting intention is strange because I agree with much of the letter.
I certainly couldn’t argue with the headline: "We don’t need religious nonsense." And I agree with the implication that all religion is to some extent nonsense.
The Bible, Koran etc are indeed "made up of myths" and "legends" – though I think I’d draw the line at "lies". Let’s say "stories" and accept that it’s not the writers’ fault if some deluded readers choose to take fiction literally.