A bad week for the Mail and Muslims

The Daily Mail, that guardian of immigrant rights, pacifism and multiculturalism, made me laugh again last week. In the same week that the Sunday Times ran a story about the ultra-popular internet video site YouTube being bought by the politically-correct hippies that run Google, the Daily Mail ran a story describing the site as a hotbed of fascism and animal cruelty. Under the typically measured and impartial title: “One Click From Corruption on YouTube”, the paper described the site as one that disseminates “videoclips filled with hatred, violence and abuse.” I am a regular YouTube user and in my experience it is simply a source of amusing video clips to send to your mates in the office, rather than a source of nazi propaganda. I guess it depends what kind of office you work in. Nevertheless, in case it had recently replaced by www.adolphhitleratemyhamster.com I checked it out again. On the front page I found: a whimsical video where a computer spews out actual letters when the user clicks ‘mail’ (including an actual tin of spam) and a printer produces a slice of pizza; an amusing song consisting entirely of the names of the instruments; a bunch of metal disks dropping off a desk and flying into the air via a skateboard ramp; a young man ‘testing’ spices by eating them; an hilarious black and white music video for a song called “My Hands Are Bananas” and a man wearing 155 T-shirts at the same time. Clearly the Daily Mail are right. And their demand that software should be used to control offensive content (software that can understand spoken language and visual imagery while making cultural value judgments based on taste and specific laws) is as reasonable as it is technically possible.

Without wanting to victimize the Mail (too much), another of their stories last week made me chuckle. As every other news source carried the furore created by Jack Straw’s comments about Muslims wearing veils, many calling it insensitive, offensive and politically opportunistic (or arguing violently to the contrary), the Mail said: “All credit to him for raising the issue in a calm and measured way.” I am still smiling. But many Muslims are not. They found the comments offensive. In a week when a Muslim dairy was attacked by youths in Windsor, two Asian men were beaten by a white gang in Leicester, a Middlesbrough family had “Kill Muslims” painted on their home and a Muslim policeman became the target of national jeering and press outcry simply for making a request about an assignment, I do not blame them.

But why should we Christians care? Jack Straw called wearing the veil “a visible statement of separation and difference” between a religious community and the secular world. To me that sounds rather similar to our Christian desire to stand out, to be different, not of the world. While I reject pluralist claims that all religions are essentially equally true, I do believe we and the Muslims have something in common: when we take our religion too seriously, when we stand up and stand out, claiming that we’re different, non-religious people find it offensive. While we may not have Christian suicide bombers to answer for, we would be foolish to assume that those of us who put Jesus Christ above all else in our lives could not easily be called fanatics or extremists. If we do not speak out for the rights of Muslims to be different it could be our sermons on YouTube that the Mail feels are a danger. That would be less funny.


One Response

  1. Some comments then:

    Though I agree that a secular society being upset, or attempting to ban symbols of religious or social difference is not only dangerous, but also against the ideals of a free and open society, similarly societies, governments and religious movements which demand the use of such symbols by all its citizens are committing the same dangerous error, only in reverse.

    It is a complex issue, obviously.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: