Volume III Fire

So then. The third decade of the twenty first century has begun with fires raging all over the world, both real and metaphorical. At the very start of the year Australia was actually on fire, with many asking how long will it be before humans can no longer live there. Trump, ever the showman, wanted to go one better, so he tried to set the whole world on fire by starting World War III. He ordered the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, one of the most powerful men in Iran, in an internationally condemned airstrike. Luckily the fallout (political and otherwise) has so far been minimal.

Back home Trump survived being fired from the White House, after being only the third president to be impeached. He was unsurprisingly acquitted by a Republican led Senate, who complained they had to sit for hours, hard to do when you have no spine to support you. I guess you could say what better way for many Americans to start Black History Month than to be failed by their own justice system once again.

Britain finally Brexited, to the sound of pre-recorded bongs. Not to be outdone, the British Royal family experienced their own version in the form of Meghxit.

In other news, the rapidly spreading Coronavirus began its world tour, having now reached the shores of Britain. Am I the only one who finds it deeply ironic that the Chinese authorities, having detained over a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps for months on end, are now having to quarantine millions of their own citizens?

We don’t know what else 2020 will bring and right now it’s looking pretty bleak. I will not be surprised if, come November, I am sat at home under strict quarantine orders due to us all being Corona’d, watching Trump win a resounding second term. Before then, let us all take our minds off such unpleasantries and enjoy a selection of quotes from the one and only Frankie Boyle, one of my favourite comedians of all time. If you are not familiar with the ingenious workings of Boyle, here is a quick sampler. In his recent BBC TV series Frankie Boyle’s Tour Of Scotland, he described the current American president thusly:

Trump looks like God twisted some haemorrhoids into a balloon animal. – Frankie Boyle

If you liked than then you will love the quotes below, which are taken from his 2018 stand-up show Prometheus Volume III, which the Telegraph reviewed as “a very tight hour of expertly written, laconically delivered, often completely unprintable jokes.” The same review described Boyle as “a scorpion on a moral crusade…a defiantly feral voice.”

I have presented quotes from the equally hilarious Prometheus Volume I before, which you can check out here. Please be warned, some of the language you may find a little offensive (it is Frankie Boyle after all). Anyways, enjoy for a short while before returning back to the depressing comprehension of the reality that surrounds us all.

Volume III

It’s been quite an eventful year. At one point this year I even talked a guy down off a window ledge…simply by shouting “Jump.”

Swearing is different in Scotland. In Glasgow the word “Fucking” is just a warning that a noun is on its way.

I had quite a rough childhood. I thought I needed alcohol to complete me. That’s what an addict thinks, they think the substance they’re addicted to completes them in some way.

Trump angered the people of Haiti. That’s dangerous for Trump because you can make a voodoo doll of him just by rolling a doughnut around in a Labradors basket.

Trump has so much compacted meat in his colon that when he takes a shit it is technically an abortion.

Britain supports the Syrian rebels, a great bunch of lads. Apart from that time they cut out a guy’s heart and ate it on camera, although to be fair they had beheaded him first, so technically it was halal. I just try and have one joke for the Muslims every show. Welcome aboard lads.

British foreign policy is a moral sewer. The stuff we do. We obfuscate it with language, we talk about ‘precision bombings’ and ‘surgical strikes’. You can’t be precise with something that you’re dropping from 40,000 feet. There’s a reason you don’t get keyhole surgery from a guy who’s fucking bungee jumping.

We practice hypocrisy. We sell the weapons to Saudi Arabia that they use to bomb Yemen, to create a famine in Yemen. We’re also the number two provider of aid to Yemen. And why not? Life gives you Yemen, you give Yemen aid.

We gloss over the crimes of our official allies. Benjamin Netanyahu with his wee fucking comb over. I always think his hair is a kind of living metaphor, occupying territory where it doesn’t really belong.

The Israelis this year shot dead over a hundred Palestinians at a protest, although to be fair, there were injuries on both sides. One of the Israeli snipers got an erection for so long that his foot went to sleep.

It must be mad training in the Israeli army. You know when you do the wee assault course where the cardboard cut outs pop up? You get your results back. “Got your results here lads. It’s bad news I’m afraid. You shot 50 civilians, that’s 10 less than your target. But the cut out of the woman holding the baby, you killed them both with one bullet. So double points!”

The British media is largely pro-Israeli. Even The Guardian. What is the Guardian doing backing colonial violence? To me the Guardian is like one of those vegetarians who drinks three pints and then eats a chicken burger.

There is stuff the British media just doesn’t care about, like refugees drowning. I think that’s because refugees are largely biodegradable. If they want to make the broadsheets they’re going to have to drown clutching a fucking Sprite bottle.

The Queen has a charity where Britain plants trees in Africa, which for Africa must be like receiving flowers from your rapist.

You’ve got to hand it to the Royal family in a way. They spend their whole life shagging and skiing, then they turn up on a balcony once every 10 years and go “Thanks for the money, you fucking idiots!” They must know that if Netflix goes down for a week they’re probably going to get executed.

I know it’s very popular at the minute to say that everybody who voted for Brexit is stupid. I really don’t think that they are all stupid. I just think there are people who voted to put an end to emigration from Europe because they don’t like Pakistanis.

Seriously though, if you’re my age then get yourself checked out because cancer doesn’t discriminate, making it morally superior to Katie Hopkins. Katie Hopkins! Imagine getting thrown out of South Africa for being too racist.

Boris Johnson is a cross between a head injury and an unmade bed, a malevolent Baked Alaska. Do you know how you can tell which mobile phone is Boris Johnson’s? It’s the one that has written on it “Not a biscuit.”

David Davis is a guy who seems to suffer from the same lack of imagination as his parents. It’s like they hadn’t anticipated anything! It’s like they hadn’t looked into the future at all. They’re the sort of people who’d let their child join a church choir without checking the prayer books for teeth marks. One joke for the Muslims, one for the Catholics, every show.

When we grew up in Glasgow there was a lot of anti-Irish racism about, which had two parts to it. One part was that Irish people are stealing Scottish people’s work, and the other part was that Irish people are really stupid. Which is an incredible self own, if you stop to think about it for a minute. “If they import anymore idiots I’m gonna be out of a fucking job here.”

I don’t like culture that’s aimed at everybody. “Oh it’s great! Granny can watch it with the grandkids. Every fucker can watch it.” I think the job of culture is to make old people relieved that they’re dying. “Hang on in for another day dad.” “It’s okay son. I watched Fast And The Furious 8 last night. Get the fucking pillow.”

Technology can be dangerous. Only last year my Facebook account got taken over by a malicious sex predator…when I suddenly remembered my password.

Twitter is the one I get all the hatred on. It’s always men aged between 50 and 60. They can be left wing, they can be right wing. 90% of them say the same thing, “When did you stop being funny?” And the answer is almost always “When your fucking wife left you.”

I don’t get some technology, like selfie sticks. Who are you sharing that photo with if you don’t even have a friend to hold the fucking camera?

I thought #MeToo was a really good thing, I thought it was a positive thing. Some of those people should have gone to jail. Kevin Spacey turned out to be such a sex predator that at this point in history he’s not fit to play the US president.

Harvey Weinstein went to live on a ranch. Remember this? His rehab ranch. The last thing this world needs is Harvey Weinstein learning how to use a lasso.

I genuinely think misogyny is an ideology, it’s a thing that people cling on to because they can’t accept reality. I’ve got friends who say “My ex, she was crazy. The one before that, she was fucking mental as well.” All you’re saying there is “The defining characteristic of women who find me attractive is insanity.” You don’t meet women who talk about their crazy exes…because women with crazy exes are dead. That joke would get a bigger laugh but a lot of the people who would have found it funniest…

I’m gonna tell you honestly what I think about feminism, and I know that Scottish people think there’s a time and a place for honesty, and it’s when one of us is drunk and the other one is on their deathbed. I genuinely think if you’re a young guy at the moment, feminism is the only thing that has a plan for you. Capitalism doesn’t give a fuck about you. Materialism doesn’t really care if you live or die. Feminism includes you. When I see guys, particularly young guys, attacking feminism, do you know what it looks like to me? It looks like when the fire brigade go to a really rough housing estate and they get stoned. That’s what you’re doing, your stoning the fucking rescue services.

I think there’s a difference between taste and morality, and people have started to get those things confused. Is the thing that you’re offended by immoral or is it just something that you don’t like, that isn’t to your taste? Because those are two different things.

There’s nothing wrong with necrophilia. It’s a victimless crime.

I decided to get a dog. I think getting a dog says something about you. It says “I’m so lonely that I could pick up shit.” I don’t mean people are getting a dog because they’re lonely. It’s when they get a second dog, because the Spaniel has seen through them. “Let’s hope this Labrador’s a bit less judgmental.” People are going like that to me at the moment “Why don’t you get a rescue dog?” Yeah!? Why don’t you marry someone who’s been in fucking prison!? BECAUSE IT’S FUCKED IN THE HEAD! I think ironically that’s probably the joke I’ll get the most shit for on this album. That’ll really fucking bring them out of the wood work.

I think the spirit of our age is quite dangerous. It’s quite a dangerous zeitgeist. It’s a bit like the end of the 19th century. You’ve got a lot of concentration of wealth, you’ve got technological innovation, and you’ve got people becoming famous just for how rich they are. And where all those things intersect, that’s where people like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson and Elon Musk, start trying to blast themselves into space, as part of their life long story arc, to find a planet where everyone doesn’t think that they’re all cunts. What has Branson done that he needs to get off the earth? Even Gary Glitter only had to leave Britain.

This is why we have a Tory government as well. That’s what they’re about, facilitating the concentration of wealth. And I think people vote for the Tories because they know that Tories are more ruthless. We sort of know deep down that if we were all trapped on a desert island, Theresa May would have us eating the wounded by nightfall, while Jeremy Corbyn would be organising a seminar about whether or not coconuts have feelings.

I like Jeremy Corbyn but he doesn’t do that well in Scotland, because Scottish people don’t trust anyone who looks old but still has teeth.


What Is Islam

As always I continue to scour the internet for the most thought-provoking articles I can find, specifically about Islam and Muslims. With that said, please find below four articles that I hope you find of interest. We start with Sameer Rahim writing about the concept of art in Islam, focusing on the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a subject matter still relevant due to the events that occurred in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo some 5 years ago.

The next article is from Thomas Small who expertly reviews the 600 page book What Is Islam? The Importance Of Being Islamic by the Pakistani-American academic Shahab Ahmed. The book was published posthumously after the death of the author in September of 2015. What Is Islam? is a sophisticated new look at what it means to be a Muslim, with critics calling it a brave attempt to accurately widen the theological boundaries of the 1,400 year old faith. The book is well worth reading, as is another book from Ahmed, Before Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses In Early Islam, which details the controversial episode in the life of the Prophet Muhammad in which he allegedly mistook words suggested by Satan as divine revelation.

After such seriousness the last two articles show just how crazy the misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims can be. The third article is about a Muslim woman who complains about being discriminated against whilst trying to get into a nightclub. The bouncer told her to take off her hijab. So much to unpack here that I do not know where to even begin. Firstly, as a Muslim why try to even go to a nightclub? Secondly, if you get to see pictures of the incident, then immediately that old debate about what is and is not hijab is bound to surface again, as she only covers the back of her head and not her neck. She even has a lip piercing! Thirdly, these types of incidents make me think we Muslims are not doing ourselves any favours. Apparently after being refused entry she swore at the bouncer, telling him to “F*** off.” Anyways, details are presented in the article below, and the woman in question has gone on to write about her experience elsewhere. Who knows, maybe by refusing this truly modern Muslim entry the bouncer actually did her a favour. And Allah knows best.

The final article again shows how people can misinterpret all things Islamic. This time, though, it is not a Muslim getting things wrong but non-Muslims, Americans to be more precise, who seem to be against the teaching of “Arabic numerals” in American classrooms. If you know your numerical history, you will know why that is such a ridiculous point of view. The New York Times journalist Mustafa Akyol, in writing about this very topic, states that a better understanding of Islamic history might actually be better for us all: “The third great Abrahamic religion, Islam, also had a hand in the making of the modern world, and honoring that legacy would help establish a more constructive dialogue with Muslims.”

Please note that what is presented below are extracts. The articles are all well worth reading in full. Enjoy!

Eye Of The Beholder – How The Prophet Muhammad Has Been Depicted Through The Centuries

Sameer Rahim, 18 Dec 2019,

Islamic visualisations of the Prophet are surprisingly common, especially in the richly illustrated books made in Persian and Ottoman courts, both Sunni and Shia, between 1300 and 1800. In the Ilkhanid vizier Rashid ad-Din’s world history of 1314, there are some fascinating early examples.

It’s still a common assumption that since Islam is essentially iconoclastic, any figurative images of the Prophet – even if created by Muslims – will provoke violence. Such works therefore have either to be explained away – it’s not really him – or kept hidden from the general public. Thankfully, this kind of doublethink is now being questioned.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoons did not provoke anger because they portrayed the Prophet – rather it was their deliberate offensiveness. Such mockery is deep-rooted in Western culture. In medieval Europe, the Prophet was a stock figure of ridicule. John Tolan’s new book Faces Of Muhammad (Princeton University Press) reprints a grisly illustration from a 15th-century manuscript of John Lydgate’s long poem The Fall Of Princes, in which the ‘false Machomeete’ is ‘deuoured among swyn’. In a post-9/11 world, provocative images of the Prophet were reactivated, not only to attack the religion but also to taunt Muslim minorities living in the West.

Visit a church and you will see Christ, but Muhammad never appears in a mosque. The Qur’an accuses Christians of wrongly deifying Jesus, and pointedly describes the Prophet as a ‘mere warner’. Idol-worship is also a concern. But nowhere does the Qur’an ban figurative painting; in fact, in verses quoted by later Muslim artists, Jesus moulds a clay bird with his hands before breathing life into it. Later biographical stories about the Prophet send mixed messages. After conquering Mecca, he removes pagan statues from the sacred Kaaba – but saves an icon of Mary and Jesus. He chides his wife Aisha for putting up curtains decorated with animals; other versions of the story, though, say he didn’t mind her turning the curtains into cushion covers.

Formal disapproval of image-making – though never universally enforced – is not recorded until two centuries after the Prophet’s death in 632. The art historian Mika Natif argues these rulings solidified in the Abbasid era as a way of rebuking its predecessor dynasty the Umayyads, whose delight in portraiture was deemed symptomatic of its decadence. The Abbasids might have had a point. The walls of the Greek-influenced Umayyad bathhouse at Qasr Amra, in what is now Jordan, are covered with enrobed kings, naked women and performing animals – my personal favourite is a bear playing a mandolin.

Warrior, king, celestial adventurer and Sufi – these are just four popular Muhammads. Nowadays you are most likely to see abstract representations such as an imprint of his sandal or a rose. These depictions, we should note, are no less meaningful for being non-figural.

Some Muslims will never want to see their Prophet pictured. That is their right. But we can’t pretend that such images never existed. Scholars and curators must play their part in allowing Muslims and others to speak to each other across time about the diverse ways the Prophet has been regarded. For this world-changing personality has always been in the eye of the beholder.

Truly Modern Muslims

Thomas Small, 09 Jun 2017,

Thomas Small considers the thorny question of what it means to be Islamic.

Shahab Ahmed begins What Is Islam? with an intriguing anecdote. At a Princeton banquet, a Cambridge logician turns to a distinguished Muslim academic seated at the same table and asks him whether he considers himself a Muslim. “Yes”, the Muslim replies. This is puzzling, so the don, operating under the customary misunderstanding that Islam is, in essence, a fiercely puritanical religion as hell-bent against wine-bibbers as it is against music-makers, homosexuals and the veneration of icons, motions to the Muslim’s glass and asks further, “Then why are you drinking wine?” The answer he receives provides the book with its starting point: “My family have been Muslims for a thousand years,” the Muslim says, “during which time we have always been drinking wine. You see,” he goes on, smiling at the don’s bewildered look, “we are Muslim wine-drinkers.”

The rest of the book attempts to make sense of what it means to be a Muslim wine-drinker, along with several other perplexing contradictions at the heart of the Islamic tradition: textual literalism and rational philosophy à la Avicenna; strict legalism and antinomian mysticism; dogmatic monotheism and Sufi monism; sexual puritanism and homoerotic love poetry; or the contradiction most perplexing to thinking people today, between Islam as the “religion of peace” and Islam as the self-professed religion of militant jihadists – a paradox demonstrated most recently in Manchester, where twenty-two people enjoying themselves at a pop concert were cruelly murdered by Salman Abedi, a Muslim suicide bomber; and in London Bridge, where a trio of knife-wielding jihadists killed seven more.

Ahmed addresses all these contradictions and more in what is a fascinating, often difficult, but ultimately rewarding study. Embracing and indeed celebrating what is most creative and explorative in Islam, Ahmed is sick of people reducing the religion to nothing more than a mess of prohibitions and restrictions. And it’s hard to deny that when non-Muslims think of Islam, when they’re not imagining jihadist terrorists, they picture laws and punishments imposed by a testy God extracting his pound of flesh from a brow-beaten people. Muslims, too, imagine much the same, only they give it a positive gloss: God isn’t testy, he’s merciful, so his laws are for our good; but when it comes down to it, yes, he is essentially interested in whether or not you’re eating pork, whether or not your daughter is covering her head, whether or not he’s secured your assent to a fixed set of dogmas.

Who is God exactly? How can we know him? Where does his revelation begin and end? Muslims have never agreed on how to answer those questions, and so each is forced to pitch his or her tent in a different epistemological camp – one with the Sufis, another with the clerics, still others with the artists, the poets, the philosophers, or most often with a chaotic combination of them all. Is our knowledge of God limited to what the Qur’an says about him? Literalists, legalists and most theologians have usually answered, yes. Or is the universe itself a revelation of God? Absolutely, say the artists, philosophers and Sufis. Or even more radically, in order to understand God and his ways, are scripture and sacred law entirely dispensable, at least to an elect few? That’s what Avicenna believed, that at its highest the human mind is naturally conformable to reason, a divine principle permeating everything and making the universe innately intelligible.

This is what “being Islamic” is, constantly struggling to define and understand revelation, endlessly wrestling with all its possible meanings, some by writing legal treatises, others by painting exquisite miniatures, still others by drinking wine and reciting love poetry. So “being Islamic” is not so much a matter of doing or not doing certain things, thinking or not thinking certain things. It is, rather, a way of doing and thinking whatever it is you’re doing or thinking, a way of not doing and not thinking them. Muslims, when they don’t drink, are “not drinking” in an Islamic way; equally, when they do drink, they do so as Muslims, in the same Islamic way, accom­modating each thought, activity, or desire to their own interpretation of revelation in all its forms. Certainly, the resulting spectrum of doctrines and practices includes contradictions, but these contradictions aren’t incoherent; their coherence lies in the fact that they result from a single activity, “being Islamic”, which Ahmed also calls “meaning-making for the self”, a rather elliptical expression indi­cating something like “communal self-exploration”. He’s insistent on this point, that at heart, Islam is primarily focused on providing Muslims with tools for plumbing the depths and scaling the heights of inner experience, and even more than that, that Islam actually is “the reality of inner experience itself”.

Muslim Woman Denied Entry To Nightclub After Refusing To Remove Hijab

Basit Mahmood, 29 Oct 2019,

A Muslim woman says she felt ‘humiliated’ and ‘violated’ after being refused entry into a nightclub for wearing a hijab. Soaliha Iqbal was in the queue with friends outside a Sydney venue, when a member of door staff asked her to take her hijab off. She wrote on blog post website 5Why: ‘Chatting and laughing with my mates in the line, I broke off mid-conversation to hand my ID to Paragon’s bouncer-but he didn’t ask for it or take it. Instead, he pointed to my hijab and said “take it off”.’

The 21-year-old says she was in such shock at the request that she couldn’t muster the words to respond and felt discriminated against. Police who were in the area had to intervene as the argument between Ms Iqbal and the door staff became more heated, after the doorman was called racist. Ms Iqbal was told to move 50 metres away from the venue, after staff cited a law requiring those who had been refused entry to a venue, to do so.

She said her treatment had amounted to blatant discrimination and that she had ‘never been treated so badly in her whole life’ and also felt that the police had blamed and gaslighted her. Ms Iqbal also said that she has not had a problem with bouncers in the past letting her in with her hijab because ‘they know she doesn’t drink and wouldn’t be causing any problems’.

She added that she was angered by management staff’s refusal to apologise to her, who at the time ‘refused to acknowledge that it was wrong to ask me to take my hijab off’. In a later statement posted on Facebook, Craig Wesker, group operations manager for Ryan’s Hotel Group who own Paragon, issued an ‘unreserved apology’ to Ms Iqbal.

He added: ‘As this was [the bouncer’s] first shift on the venue, he no doubt wanted to impress the venue management with his professionalism and attention to detail in carrying out his duties and responsibilities diligently. Due to this diligence when checking you (sic) ID and trying to ensure he had facial recognition, he asked you to remove you (sic) hijab interpreting it as only a head scarf. Understandably, you were taken aback by the request and then by virtue of the fact that there was quite a number of people trying to enter the venue, he asked you to step to one side so he could talk to you further about it. This action appears to have been interpreted you (incorrectly) as the Security Personal denying you entry for you refusing to remove your hijab.’


Over Half Of Americans Don’t Think We Should Be Using Arabic Numerals In School

Amanda Tarlton, 16 May 2019,

Little did they know…

A shocking study recently revealed that more than half of Americans believe Arabic numerals shouldn’t be taught in schools. But here’s the catch—Arabic numerals, unbeknownst to many, are the numbers that we use every day (1, 2, 3, etc.).

“Ladies and gentlemen: The saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data,” John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, the market research firm that conducted the survey, tweeted on May 11 along with a screenshot of the results.

CivicScience polled 3,624 Americans on their opinions about mathematics instruction in U.S. schools. When asked, “Should schools in America teach Arabic Numerals as part of their curriculum?” 56 percent said no. Only 29 percent said yes while 15 percent had no opinion.

Dick explained on Twitter that “our goal in this experiment was to tease out prejudice among those who didn’t understand the question,” adding that “most people don’t know the origins of our numerical system and yet picked a tribal answer anyway. You can argue that one is worse than the other but both prove a similar point.”

Dick’s original tweet has Twitter abuzz, receiving over 61,700 likes so far, as people react to the obvious prejudice that the results prove still exists in America. “We’re doomed,” one person commented, while another joked, “Wait until we have ‘freedom numerals.’”

Other people pointed out the question’s similarity to a recent episode of satirical comedy Veep, during which Presidential candidate and proud anti-vaxxer Jonah proclaims, “Math was created by Muslims. And we teach this Islamic math to children. Math teachers are terrorists! Algebra? More like Al Jazeera…I will ban this Sharia math from being taught to American children. There will be no more math.”


Salaam to you all. It has been just over 6 months since my last epic blog post. The reason for this delay is that my wife and I were blessed to go on the once in a lifetime trip to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where we joined millions of others on the annual Hajj pilgrimage. More on this hopefully at a later date. In the mean time, just to ease myself back into blog related proceedings, please find below the best quotes from the BBC Asian Network’s Big Comedy Night. The show aired earlier this month, and was filmed at the prestigious BBC Radio Theatre in London. As always, I hope you enjoy!

Asian 2019

There’s this idea that you should see more people who look like you on the screen, so you can identify with a character. If it’s the same race as you, you feel like you can identify with that a bit more. I’m not sure how true that is because every single story we see on the screen is exactly the same. It’s called the hero’s journey. You’re simply watching a character struggling against insurmountable odds to achieve a certain end, and you’re identifying with that struggle. My mum only ever watches soaps like EastEnders, Coronation Street, and Emmerdale. Does she need to see more brown faces on there? No. She is perfectly happy watching white people struggle. Why change a winning formula? I think it’s great. Good for her. – Sunil Patel

My family have always celebrated Christmas, and I’m actually looking forward to it this year. As a kid I always used to love it because you got presents and that, and then when I was 16 they stopped giving me presents, so I absolutely hated it because what is the point of Christmas without capitalism? It makes no sense, right? – Sunil Patel

I’m actually a Brit with an American accent, which technically makes me disabled. – Ria Lina

I am half Asian. My mum’s Indian and my dad’s Swiss…My dad’s a taxi driver and he’s white, and it means a lot of people come into the back of his taxi and they can be quite racist sometimes, because they don’t know about me, his dirty little secret. But there was one guy that came into the back of his taxi and just started listing the reasons he didn’t like Muslim people. And he started with the normal stuff, job-stealing, bomb-making, halal-eating. The guy was sort of giving us the five pillars of Islamophobia, but he was getting so annoyed that the last reason he gave on the list was, “And they get woken up by a man shouting off a roof every morning.” Which I love. He’s like, “Not only are they a bunch of job-stealing, turban-wearing, pork-denying little pricks, but they’re also not getting their recommended eight hours sleep a day.” And I’m so proud of my dad because he’s white but he’s also the father of four mixed-race kids. At that moment, he turned around in the taxi, he looked the guy square in the eye and he said…absolutely nothing. Because five stars on Uber is more important than your moral code, isn’t it? Let’s be honest. – Jamie D’Souza

The French language is such a beautiful, romantic thing. It’s the little flicky thing above the é that does it for me. Anything you say sounds great. “Me and my fiancée went to a café and drank a latté.” Sounds nice. The German language, however, has the umlaut, the two dots, which is not quite the same. “I naïvely drank too much Jägermeister and threw up in my dad’s Über.” It’s not quite as good. – Jamie D’Souza

There was this girl called Eve and I asked her out and she said yes. I couldn’t believe my luck because she was so out of my league. She looked just like Mila Kunis…in that show Family Guy. I don’t know if you’ve seen that. We were a cute couple when we were going out. We used to play this little game where we’d count all the times we said “I love you” to each other. And I won 70-0! So a big win. A big win for me. – Jamie D’Souza

I am a proper vegan. The way my girlfriend Eve made me go vegan was this thing called Veganuary. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s one of those things you try out for a month based on a pun. She made me do Stoptober. She made me do Movember. Her dad made me do this thing called BNP March. Don’t know if you’ve heard of that. That was a tough one. – Jamie D’Souza

I’m mixed race. My mum is Indian. My dad is African. I’m not going to just joke about it all night because that’s serious. It’s difficult for me growing up and it’s still difficult. I still can’t decide which elephant is my favourite. – Athena Kugblenu

When I look at British cuisine, I realise that we’ve got to be nice to immigrants. A country that is wholly dependent on gravy has to be nicer to immigrants. You are entirely dependent on gravy! Imagine a roast dinner without gravy. What have you got? Meat and potatoes. Imagine bangers and mash without gravy. What have you got? Meat and potatoes. Imagine a shepherd’s pie without gravy. What have you got? Britain, you need us more than we need you. I’m telling you right now. – Athena Kugblenu

White privilege is a very hard concept to understand. It’s really hard. I like to explain it to people. People like to talk to me about it. I’ve got a good friend, an older white dude, and he’s like, “Athena, Athena! How can you tell me I’ve got white privilege? I’m just like you. I’m poor.” Obviously, you guys are intelligent. You know that’s nonsense. He probably knew it was nonsense too deep down. I didn’t have a go at him. I just said to him, “No, no, no, no, no. Having white privilege doesn’t mean you’re not going to be poor. It just means if you are poor, it’s more likely to be your fault. You’ve had a lot of help. You had that nice name. Basically, I’m in Poundland because of slavery, what’s your excuse?” – Athena Kugblenu

So I’m Isma and when I was born, my mum gave me a really lovely Muslim name. My mum named me Asma. Dead easy to spell, A-S-M-A. And Muslim names have an Arabic translation. And in Arabic Asma means supreme. Great name for a girl. So my dad went to the registry office to register my birth, and when he got there…he forgot what my name was! So he had a guess. And my dad registered me as Isma, I-S-M-A. And thankfully Isma also has an Arabic translation. So in Arabic, if you’re going to say to somebody, “What’s your name?” You’d say, “Ma isma ka?” My name literally means “name”. It’s like he saw the registration form and the line where it said name, and he thought, “Great suggestion! That’ll do.” – Isma Almas

My daughter got three A-stars in her A-levels. There’s nothing remotely funny about that whatsoever. But as an Asian parent, I’m obliged to tell you her grades. – Isma Almas

My mum gave me a little bit of advice when I was a kid. I used to get bullied and I came home from school one day and I told my mum that this girl had called me a Paki and that she’d pulled my hair. And my mum said to me, “Isma, we are Muslims. Islam is a peaceful religion. Allah will show us a way.” And I thought that was such lovely advice. And then the next day, I got up to go to school and my mum had filled my school bag with pebbles. And I remember her saying to me, “Now, Isma, go to school. And at playtime, stone the bitch to death!…Peacefully.” – Isma Almas


Call 911

As I’ve said before, never underestimate the power of a good joke. Two recent examples more than attest to this. The first can be summed up as follows: a Middle Eastern comic jokes about race on stage, then someone in the crowd calls the police.

Earlier this year, on the 11th of May, Egyptian-born American stand-up comedian Ahmed Ahmed (so good I guess his parents named him twice) performed at the Off The Hook Comedy Club in Naples, Florida. Part of his routine involved poking fun at negative stereotypes about Middle Eastern people. He asked the audience “Clap if you’re from the Middle East…All right. We’ve got a handful of us in here, nice. But, hey, it only takes one of us…” And as the audience roared with laughter he waited a beat and finished with “…to tell the joke.” This is a bit that Ahmed has told at least a thousand times around the world, describing it as “silly, sarcastic banter.”

Unfortunately not everyone agrees with this description. Ahmed went on to do his full set and it went well. So far, so good. However, the next day (Mother’s Day no less) a man who attended the show took Ahmed’s performance somewhat too seriously and anonymously called the local sheriff’s department, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. He thought the joke went too far, so much so he lodged a complaint that the comedian seemed to support terrorism and he wanted to create a terrorist cell in America. The caller was also worried Ahmed would repeat the offensive joke again and again at upcoming shows. The anonymous man explained his reason for calling. “I don’t think that was right. It really bothered me. And I yelled, ‘Yeah, and the paddy wagon is going to be outside to get all of you.’”

After the call was placed the sheriff’s office sent two deputies to address the concern. They arrived at the club later that day and quickly realized the complaint was without merit. Ahmed shared a video online while the police questioned him about the incident. He openly interacted with the deputies. One of them advised him to stay the course. “Don’t change your set. Don’t change a joke. Just go through with it.” Ahmed said the officers were “very polite.” He even invited them to that evening’s show, which they declined.

In a later interview Ahmed said he believed the call was rooted in racism, but he forgave the man and was glad the episode shone a light on Islamophobia. “It was kind of bizarre,” Ahmed expressed. He also said the caller misquoted him. He wrote on Twitter that “I never said ‘We can start our own terrorist organization.'”

As is common in this day and age, the story went worldwide virally. Whilst Ahmed enjoyed his newfound fame, he also realized it wouldn’t last long. He said “No one saw it coming. This call that was made on me has gathered me so much press, I want to thank the guy, thank you so much. He gave me more press than I ever got. You can’t buy this kind of press. Am I toying with people’s emotions, because of Islamophobia, because of what’s going on in the world? Absolutely. That’s what comedy is. It’s supposed to make you think. But it’s 15 minutes of fame that will go away, we all know that. So it’s nice to kind of grab it, shake it up a little bit, put a magnifying glass on it and keep the awareness out there. It’s a larger conversation, it’s a bigger message happening now. It doesn’t even have anything to do with me anymore.”

Ahmed confirmed he was willing to give the anonymous caller two free tickets to his next show, and he also offered the man a “jolly American hug.” He has since performed at the same comedy club again, at the personal request of the owner, Brien Spina.

The second example can be summed up as: an author begrudgingly apologises for a satirical comment she made on a satirical talk show. Recently, on the 17th of May, talk show host Bill Maher interviewed author and former Law & Order actress Fran Lebowitz on his TV program Real Time With Bill Maher. The interview started with Maher asking Lebowitz “The first thing I want to ask you about is Trump. We don’t want to talk about him the whole show but you’re the wisest person I know. I think a lot of people are like me in that they have this dilemma where we don’t want to devote all our time to Trump but we don’t want to be a bad citizen and ignore it. So how do you strike that balance?”

The reply from Lebowitz made her utter disdain for Trump abundantly clear to all. “Are you asking me if I’m sick of thinking about Donald Trump? You cannot imagine how sick I am thinking about Donald Trump. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say I’m thinking about him. He doesn’t really require thought. I would say more I’m plagued by him. It’s like having an awful chronic ailment that you try to ignore. But if you do ignore it for like 20 minutes, like I just said to someone backstage ‘I’ve been here for an hour and I haven’t seen any news. Have we invaded Sweden?’ Because you don’t know what he’s going to do next and that’s why we think about him all the time.”

Later on the subject turned to what should happen to Trump, specifically with regards to impeachment. The always outspoken author was, as always, outspoken. “Here’s where I am on impeachment. I certainly think he deserves to be impeached. Impeachment would be just the beginning of what he deserves. It’s not even scratching the surface of what he deserves. Whenever I think about this and what he really deserves, I think we should turn him over to the Saudis, his buddies, the same Saudis who got rid of that reporter. Maybe they could do the same for him.”

Her comments prompted laughter and shocked gasps from members of the studio audience, before viewers quickly reacted on social media. “That reporter” is Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist who, according to the CIA, was tortured and murdered on orders from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Later on in the show, in an online-only segment called Overtime, she apologised for her earlier remarks. Kind of. It seemed obvious to me that both she and Maher were more annoyed that an apology was necessary in the current climate of political correctness and social media reactions. Maher asked her if she was sorry for her earlier remark because it had gone too far. “That’s what the producer said. He said we’re getting blowback on Twitter or something. I saw your face when I said it. I didn’t realise that I said it. I had 12 cups of coffee. I regret saying it.” Maher reiterated simply that “It’s a live show. You don’t really want to see the President dismembered by the Saudis.” Lebowitz said “No, I don’t.” But then, relatively seriously and somewhat sarcastically, she added “I did not mean that, and I regret saying it, and I regret that everyone misinterpreted it because they misinterpret everything. Why should they stop at me?”

Since I clearly love jokes, especially controversial and thought provoking ones, please find below a handpicked selection of humorous quotes that I hope make you think as well as smile and, who knows, some may even make you gasp. Either way, enjoy!

PS Due to some adult language, user discretion is advised. You have been warned!

Every time there is a terrorist attack of any description, I always think two things. The first thing I’m fine with, the second thing I’m embarrassed by, but I want to tell you about in the interest of building empathy. The first thing I think whenever there’s been a terrorist attack is “I hope everyone is okay.” Fine. The second thing I think whenever there’s been a terrorist attack is “OH GOD! PLEASE BE A WHITE GUY! Oh God, I want it to be a white guy so badly.” Every time they’re about to announce the name I’m always like, with fingers crossed, “Come on Graham Johnson!” All I want to hear is “The suspect is known to be a fan of Mumford And Sons and the film La La Land.” That’s all I want to hear. Because when white people kill people no one cares. Everyone’s like “Ah, he was probably hungry. Come on! Maybe his internet was being weird. Let’s not make a big deal out of this.” All I’m saying is there’s a cultural imbalance and I’m just trying to redress it. That’s all I’m saying. There’s a double standard when white people kill people. – Nish Kumar

I got married to an Indian woman. Not casino-Indian but computer-Indian. Basically, I married tech support. Best move I ever made. We have an Iranian-Indian kid in America. How cool is that? That kid’s going to get his ass kicked. The key is you’ve got to give him a good name so he doesn’t get into trouble in America. And that’s what we did, we gave him a good name. We named him Mujibur Mohammed Abdullah Raheem Osama Bin Laden Jobrani. Why? Because I need the material. I’ll be like “Son, how was your day at school? You were deported? Fantastic! I can work that into my act.” – Maz Jobrani, from his 2009 stand up show Brown And Friendly

Joggers. I don’t trust them. They’re the ones who keep finding all the dead bodies. Coincidence? I don’t think so! – Bill Bailey

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been getting older recently. I’m 28 now, a Wang’s dozen. All those quintessential trappings of age have started to get me. Like, I’m becoming more right-wing with age. I was hoping that one wouldn’t be true. I know, it’s a real shame, they say you become more right-wing with age, and it turns out that’s true. My political leanings have really changed in the last couple of years. Like, I used to think I was a socialist, but looking back now, I realise I just didn’t have any money. I’ve got money now. I ain’t sharing that shit! That’s mine! Back off, you Commies. Turns out capitalism is OK when you’ve got capital. – Phil Wang

There’s a lot of common misconceptions of Arabs. A lot of people think we are rich, that we are loaded, that all of us have 6 barrels of oil in our basements, and we drive Ferraris while we pet our cheetahs. No! That’s not the case, that’s maybe the top 1% but the rest of us are cheap as hell! – Abdallah Jasim

It is just inherently alarming whenever Trump claims that something is going well. If you ever hear him say “We love this building, don’t we folks? So little fire,” get the f*** out of there, it is about to burn to the ground. – John Oliver, 19 May 2019, from the Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Pope Francis met with more than 200 Italian Catholic hairstylists and warned them about the temptation of gossip in beauty salons, especially when that gossip is “Did you hear what happened to those altar boys?” – Michael Che, 04 May 2019, from the TV show Saturday Night Live

Pope Francis ended a Vatican summit by promising the Catholic church would confront clergy sex abuse “head-on.” Instead of their usual way: face down, ass up. – Michael Che, 18 May 2019, from the TV show Saturday Night Live

Deciding who is going to be the next Prime Minister is like deciding which toilet to use at a music festival. – Bennett Arron, May 2019, referring to Theresa May resigning

I am Mo. Mo is actually short for Mohammed. Surprise, bitches! Today is the day! Your cell phones are locked up. It’s too late for you, motherf*****s! Get the door, Aziz! No, I’m just kidding…Mohammed is the most popular name in the world, but I can’t find one key chain with my name on it anywhere. Not one person has shared a Coca-Cola with me in America, not a single person…I have a nephew named Osama. What this poor kid had to endure! I hate that fact. There’s so many terrorist acts done by white people, not a single person is changing their kid’s name from being Timothy. It’s insane! This poor kid! This kid has to deal with so much, I can only imagine. – Mo Amer, from his 2018 Netflix special Vagabond

Sensible dialogue has ceased. The alt-right vomit out high-speed soundbites, before lumbering old-school wildebeest journalists can interrupt them with facts, and their followers swiftly repurpose these into potent online propaganda. Traditional resistance is futile. We have entered the Age of the Weaponised Milkshake…the flinging of milkshakes represents a frustration with traditional media’s failure to hold the far right to account. – Stewart Lee, May 2019, referring to Nigel Farage being milkshaked repeatedly during the European election campaign

My name is a Ahamed Weinberg. [Audience laughs] Thank you. My parents wrote that joke. I’m happy to be in Canada, to be out of America, because I’m a white Jewish Muslim vegetarian. My parents are Muslim. A lot of people are scared of Islam, but they’re just normal homophobic parents. Being a white Muslim is an interesting reality. First of all my name’s Ahamed, it’s not Mohammed, which is more confusing. My phone didn’t know what Ahamed was. The first time I typed my name into my phone, I typed ‘Ahamed’ and it immediately autocorrected too ‘Ashamed’. That was a tough moment for me. And then I was like, you know what, I am ashamed. That’s it, that’s right. Because I’m a white Muslim which is weird because I know if I looked Muslim my life would be much harder in America. But I’m white and it’s great! I think that’s the secret, if you want to be Muslim just be white and have red hair and make sure your last name is Weinberg. – Ahamed Weinberg

There was this kid last year in Texas who got arrested for making a clock. His name was Ahmed and he brought a clock to school that he made and they arrested him because they thought it was a bomb. And that really offended me as a Muslim. And then I looked up a picture of his clock…it was a pretty bomby clock. That couldn’t have been more like a bomb, I think. It was in a metal briefcase, it had red and blue wires sticking out of it, and it had computer chips. It was just a classic Rush Hour 2 bomb. And everyone was like ‘Oh, this kid’s a genius’ and he went to the White House. I was like ‘He just made a clock! It was a digital clock. He just took a clock from his dad’s house and made it look like a bomb.’ – Ahamed Weinberg

Understanding The True Spirit Of Islam

It is clear that Islamophobia is on the rise globally. To counter this, at my own personal level, I keep a keen eye out for articles that speak positively about Islam and Muslims. With that in mind please find below three articles that I hope present a more honest and positive portrayal of Muslims, words that mean more to me than all of the vast amount of anti-Islamic nonsense that the internet is unfortunately teeming with. Enjoy!

Aqsa Prayer

To Say Or Not To Say: The Pitfalls Of Islamophobia

Ruby Usman, 23 Apr 2019,

I am only eight or nine. Our small apartment is in the slums of Karachi, Pakistan and we are sitting on the floor having dinner. The radio is turned on and there is a Q&A session going on with a Muslim Imam. In a response to a question, the Imam says that girls shouldn’t go to college or study because their primary duty is to take care of their homes and their husbands and they should stay at home to learn these domestic chores.

This sparks fury in my mother. She says that if women are not educated, how can they raise strong and independent children. My mother continues to fume, and I can tell you that there are a lot of words with ‘f’ in them.

I grew up listening to her critique of these teachings by local imams and learned not to fully accept their ideas unless they made sense to me.

This was okay as long as I was in the house. Once I walked out of our house, things changed. It was the realm of men. They harassed me; they groped my genitals in crowded streets, and they tried to strip me naked with their eyes. My only crime was that I was walking on the street not having covered myself from head to toe – as was the custom – and so, I didn’t deserve their respect.

The anger in me grew in leaps and bounds and so did my aggression. But there wasn’t much I could do.

When I finally left this world of patriarchal aggression, I was full of rebellion. I rebelled against Pakistani men; I rebelled against Pakistani traditions and above all, I rebelled against Islam. For me, it was a repressive and violent religion; a religion where husbands are allowed to hit their wives, and men are allowed to control the women of their household in the name of honour and shame.

I didn’t need that Allah; I didn’t need any Pakistani man who treated me like an inferior. There must be a place for me in the world. There must be a place where I could be free. My search for answers took me to Singapore, Australia and then to Christchurch New Zealand where I have moved only about a couple of months ago.

For those of you who have read my blogs, you might have noticed that I have written a lot about injustices that have happened to me in Pakistan in the name of religion and culture.

Even though writing about these made me feel better because I was exposing the unjust practices of Islam, but I was also wary that I was adding to the “Islamophobia” that has been prevalent on the global stage since 9/11.

I didn’t know how to reconcile this. I didn’t know how not to blame Islam for all that had happened to me in Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden killed thousands of innocent lives and then claimed it all in the name of Allah; in the name of Islam. How could I not say that Islam taught him to be violent?

As you can imagine, I have received ‘virtual beatings’ on social media through my blogs and a few months ago, it all became too much for me. I needed to take a break from my own anger. I stopped blogging.

Since then, I have been finding a way to express my feelings. A way to share my experiences without attacking Islam, or Pakistani men but I have been at a loss.

And then something very drastic happened. On Friday 15 March, a gunman shot innocent Muslims in their places of worship. White supremacy raised its ugly head that day and the gunman claimed his ideology via a manifesto, just like Osama had done years ago.

I had expected Muslims to rebel. I expected Muslims to retaliate and do the same to white Christians. After all, isn’t that what Islam taught them – an eye for an eye?

But instead, something really wonderful happened. I experienced love, compassion and forgiveness from Muslims in a way that I had never experienced before. The word ‘Islam’ means peace, and this is what I saw in the wake of what could have created decades of inter-religious animosity.

That day, for the first time in my life, I understood the true spirit of Islam. My mother’s wisdom shone on me that day. She had only ever questioned people who said unjust things because, in her mind, the religion could never teach such violation of human rights.

But using the name ‘Islam’ gives an unquestioning power to whoever is holding this placard. When a man asks a woman to wear a hijab, she may say no. But if he commands it in the name of Islam – saying no now means going against the wishes of Allah…How could she say no?

When a Muslim scholar tells women that their husband is their ruler because that’s how Allah has designed this world, they have no choice but to oblige. After all, it is the word of God.

What we forget is that humans are only humans. And it is the weak humans who use religion to exact power upon other people. It is not Islam; it is always the person who is using this power to control people in their lives.

In a way, the term ‘Islamophobia’ doesn’t have much meaning at all because it is the people, organisations and the imams who use it as part of their own hunger for power. Holding them accountable has much more power and meaning because we are no longer attacking an ideology, and this means that even Muslims can support us in this fight against these unjust practices.

My personal challenge now is to see Islam separate from those who practice it unjustly. Instead of lashing out in anger, I now need to sit with my own anger and discomfort and reflect until I can see beyond. I hope you can do the same…

Bangladeshi Muslim Children

The Other Side Of ‘Allahu Akbar’

James Jeffrey, 23 Apr 2019,

In his travels through the Mideast and Africa, our writer found mostly peaceful Muslims, kind to a fault and proud of their religion.

I want to talk about those at the center of the mosque shootings that rocked Christchurch over a month ago. Not the poor 50 men and women who were shot dead—with another 50 injured—by a cowardly gunman, but rather about Muslims in general.

For someone who spent his schooling under the guidance of Benedictine monks in a damp North Yorkshire valley in England, mosques under the hot sun, as well as Muslims and Islam, have featured in my life to a surprising degree—and in a very nourishing way.

One of my most memorable encounters with Islam occurred in Iraq in 2004, during a six-month operational tour with the British Army in Al Amarah, a remote sun-blasted city marooned from the country’s main urban focal points, about 230 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Atop the Pink Palace—once the home, before the 2003 invasion and its commandeering by the British Army, of the governor of the surrounding Maysan region—I loved to listen to the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer on a Friday afternoon. Those holy Arabic words (even though I couldn’t actually understand them) were a serene comfort from the pressures of the tour.

Near the end of what I remember as the hottest, sweatiest, and most exhausting midday foot patrol through the city, I signaled that we should take a knee on the sidewalk. We’d been going for a couple of hours. My CamelBak was empty of water, my lips were cracked, and my shoulders ached from the heavy radio. Suddenly, a wizened old man appeared from a shack off to the side carrying a silver tray with a steaming cup of tea. Slinging my rifle to the side, I took the cup and uttered an Arabic “shukran” in thanks, while the man grinned and nodded. Swirling with sugar particles, the sweet liquid was like a monsoon to my parched insides.

There were other such encounters with the Muslim inhabitants of Al Amarah. Considering what we were visiting on them and their country—with worse yet to come—I found the vast majority of Iraqis extremely gracious, hospitable, and good-humored. They left far more of an impression on me than the insurgents firing RPGs and mortars at us shouting “Allah Akbar!”

After leaving the army, while working as a freelance journalist in Ethiopia, I found myself, despite being in one of the world’s oldest Christian countries, surrounded by even more Muslims. (It’s estimated that nearly 40 percent of Ethiopia’s population are Muslim.)

Yet traveling around the country, I never worried about being robbed or attacked by Muslims. I was far more likely to be pick-pocketed or have a bottle smashed over my head by a fellow Christian.

It’s no coincidence that I often found myself heading towards eastern Ethiopia, the most Muslim part of the country, and then continuing over the border into Djibouti and Somaliland. There I found friendly, peaceful Muslims, who respected my privacy and space.

The three years that I spent in the Horn of Africa watching the humble devotion of Muslims had a role in my reconnecting with my Catholicism. During one reporting trip to Djibouti, I managed to rent a room in a house shared by some foreign NGO workers. I returned in the middle of the day and opened the front door to find their cleaner knelt on the floor, bent double, saying her daily prayers. She was—inexplicably, it seemed—crammed into the corridor directly facing a wall, when there was a nice, spacious, window-lit room just off to the right.

It turned out that she’d refused to use that room, as there were bottles of alcohol on display. She told me this without a touch of haughtiness, humbly, shyly, with faltering English, all the while sweating noticeably beneath her headscarf. It was Ramadan, and she’d not had anything to eat or drink since sunrise.

In Somaliland, I did a story about Muslim women and how they cover up their hair and faces, which undercut some Western assumptions about Islam. All the women I spoke to said they wanted to dress the way they did. One sparklingly sharp young lady explained in erudite English that she didn’t appreciate people in the West telling her that she was being oppressed just because she followed her religion in a way that she believed in.

Somaliland was full of such surprises. It was a freelancer’s dream, especially after the recalcitrance and obstructionism of trying to report in Ethiopia. Somalilanders—like all Somalis—can’t stop talking, and if you ring them up, there is no messing around. Often they’ll agree to meet you within the hour.

After a good day’s work in the capital, Hargeisa, with no bars on hand, I typically joined the men gathered at an open tea house. The only foreigner for miles, I was usually left to my own devices, though sometimes the person next to me would courteously ask where I was from and what had brought me to Somaliland. After I answered, he would finish with a “Welcome to Somaliland, thank you for coming,” or insist on paying for my delicious cup of sweet milky Somali tea.

Of course, none of this is to avoid the elephant in the room—Islam has a serious problem with its notion of jihad. And similar to the Catholic Church’s treatment of clerical child abuse, it hasn’t been willing enough to discuss what ails it. I was reminded of this in Hargeisa one day. Walking down the main drag, I became aware of some noise behind me. The sounds got closer and eventually a bearded young man in a long brown robe appeared in front of my face, jabbering and threatening to punch me. I crossed the road—admittedly a bit shaken, as Hargeisa had always been a friendly place—and looked over to make sure he wasn’t following. I saw him miming firing a machine gun at me. It sounds comical writing about it now. But entirely alone in Hargeisa, it didn’t feel so funny.

That was one man out of hundreds and thousands of friendly Muslims who couldn’t have been more different—and therein lies Islam’s great PR problem in the West. I understand that, yet sometimes I admittedly waver, such as when faced with that gut-wrenching image from 2015 of 34 Christian men lined up kneeling on the beach in orange boiler suits, their hands tied behind them, utterly powerless—reportedly all Ethiopian—each with an ISIS member behind him about to shoot or behead. But then one remembers that each of those armed men aren’t proper Muslims, in the same way that many Christians have behaved in ways that forfeit their right to call themselves Christians.

The day after the Christchurch shootings, I spotted a message on a WhatsApp channel for a Saturday soccer group I played with when living in Austin, Texas. The members are notably international, and one of them expressed his condolences for the Muslims in the group.

I hesitated to contribute my own comment, before seconding the sentiments expressed. I also added what a truly embarrassing day it was to be a Christian.

Palestine Ramadan

Palestinian families break their fast next to a destroyed building during recent confrontations between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

Islam: ‘The Last Badass Religion’

Rod Dreher, 28 Feb 2017,

Here’s a great interview by Razib Khan with Shadi Hamid, the Egyptian-American Muslim writer. I love this excerpt:

As for Christianity, I thought about it intellectually, but I didn’t think about it much as something real and lived-in, in part because it’s actually not super easy to meet outwardly and openly Christian people in the generally liberal setting of Bryn Mawr, PA.

I guess, even if subconsciously, this must have had an effect on me – this idea that the Christians I knew generally didn’t seem all that serious about their faith, where at the local mosque it was pretty clear that there were Muslims who were pretty serious about their faith.

I’ve always tried to be careful in how I talk about this, because it can pretty easily be misconstrued, but I remember talking to some friends a couple years back and someone described Islam as the “last badass religion,” which I thought was an interesting turn of phrase.

It’s this part of Islam that helps me understand and even empathize with why some atheists or secularists might be suspicious of Islam.

(But it’s this part of Islam that also helps me understand why Muslims themselves, even those who aren’t particularly religiously observant, seem so attached to the idea of Islam being unusually uncompromising and assertive).

If you’re nominally Christian and you see that your own faith, for whatever reason, can’t compete with Islam’s political resonance, then you might find yourself looking for non-religious forms of ideology which can offer a comparable sense of meaning.

That’s why the rise of Trump as well as the far-right in Europe is so interesting to me; these are fundamentally non-religious movements that are, in some sense, reacting to Islam but also mimicking the sense of certainty and conviction that it provides to its followers.

That’s something I respect about Muslims in general: they take their faith a lot more seriously than we Christians do. The only forms of Christianity that are going to survive the dissolution now upon us are going to be those that are serious about the faith, and incorporate it into disciplined ways of living. What would it mean for Christianity to be “badass”? Not violent, or intimidating, or cruel, but serious and countercultural. This is one reason that Orthodox Christianity is so attractive to men. It sets serious challenges in front of you — fasting, prayer, and so forth — and expects you to rise to the challenge. It’s not rigidly dogmatic and moralistic, certainly, but it’s not sentimental either. It sees the Christian life as a pilgrimage toward God in which we die to ourselves every day. That’s not Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. That is the faith.

Shadi Hamid identifies himself as a political and cultural liberal. His book Islamic Exceptionalism is an attempt to explain what’s happening now in the Muslim world. In previous interviews, he has talked about how Westerners have a bad habit of not taking Muslims at their word about what they believe and what it means. More from the Razib Khan interview:

My bigger issue, though, has to do with political scientists’ unwillingness to take religion seriously as a prime mover. In other words, because most political scientists in the academy aren’t particularly religious or haven’t spent much time around religious people, they usually see religion not as a cause, but rather as something caused by other more tangible, material factors, the things we can touch, feel, and of course measure. So if someone joins an Islamist organization like the Muslim Brotherhood, the tendency is to explain it with things like rural-urban migration, underemployment, poverty, being pissed off at America, the list goes on. Sure, all those things matter, but what does political science have to say about “irrational” things like wanting to get into heaven? It’s not everything, but it’s one important factor that has to taken into account.

This is something that becomes more obvious when you talk to Islamists about why they do what they do. They don’t say, “Hey Shadi, I’m doing this because I want to get into heaven.” It’s more something that you feel and absorb the more you sit down and talk to a Muslim Brotherhood member. It matters to them and it’s something that drives them, especially when they’re deciding to join a sit-in and they’re well aware that the military is about to move in and use live ammunition. It’s not so much that they want to die; it’s more that they are ready to die, and it doesn’t frighten them as much as it might frighten someone else, because they believe there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll be granted paradise especially if they happen to killed while they’re in the middle of an act that they consider to be in the service of God and his message.

Another example: after the failed coup attempt in Turkey last year, President Erdogan said something that raised a lot of eyebrows. He called the coup attempt “a gift from God.” What could he have possibly meant by this? Does that mean he wanted it to happen or even that he was behind his own attempted assassination? No. There’s nothing weird about what he said. There’s no doubt in my mind that Erdogan really believed that this was, quite literally, a gift from God and that God was sending him a somewhat tailored message.

Which brings me back to the question of “rationality.” If you believe in this kind of cosmic universe – a universe where one experiences daily God’s magic, if you will – then sacrificing something in this world for the next is pretty much the most rational thing you can do. After all, this is eternal paradise we’re talking about.

Yes, exactly! If Christianity has lost its sense of purpose and meaning among contemporary Americans, this has a lot to do with the loss of a sense of supernatural reality.

One more quick thing. I admire Hamid’s intellectual and moral courage in not towing a PC line about the Islamic faith:

So, in my new book, there are definitely some ideas and conclusions that I’m not quite comfortable with, which is sometimes a bit of a weird feeling. When the book came out, I was nervous, not just for the usual reasons, but also because there were certain distillations of my argument – the sound bites – which, when I said them, it was almost like I was straining myself. This is an era, perhaps the era, of anti-Muslim bigotry, and I couldn’t bear to think that I was contributing to that. The thing, though, is that I know that I have. But, just the same, I can’t bear the idea of not saying the things I believe to be true just because someone might use it for purposes I find objectionable. To me, the alternative is worse, the whole “Islam is peaceful” nonsense. “Islam is violent” is just as nonsensical, but we don’t fight those stereotypes of Islam by pretending the exact opposite is true.

Read the entire interview. It’s well worth your time. I’m going to have to pick up Hamid’s book. It sounds challenging and important.

Funny, but I feel that in general, I have as much or even more in common with a believing American Muslim than with a modernist American Christian.

UPDATE: Reader Firebird writes:

Your WEIRD bias is showing. A practicing Muslim in the WEST is serious and counter cultural. The vast majority of believing, practicing Muslims are not in any way doing anything countercultural. The exact opposite, in fact.

Having lived in majority Muslim nations, including one that is particularly known for conservatism, I cannot say that I saw a great deal more seriousness from self-identifying Muslims than I do among practicing Christians. I do not see a greater dedication to textual study, or philosophy, etc among the average mosque goer as opposed to the average church goer. The society is simply not as far down the line as we are towards default secularism, so mosque goers make up a bigger proportion of the population.

I do see a stronger societal bias towards conformity and traditions, of which Islam is a part (but by no means all). A perfect example of this is the ongoing dedication to the de facto caste system that exists in Pakistan, which while foreign to Islamic thought, coexists and thrives in the minds of plenty of Pakistani Muslims.

To sum up– practicing Islam is indeed a countercultural, badass statement in the U.K. or California. It is nothing of the sort in most of the Muslim world. In those places, a better analogy would be that practicing Islam is like being a liberal professor at Yale. Expected and enforced through coercion, persuasion, and simple inertia.

No doubt a fair and accurate point.

The Peace You Feel During Ramadan Is Beautiful

Royal Baby

Ramadan started brilliantly this year. The very first day of fasting say a new addition to the British Royal family, when Meghan Markle (the Duchess of Sussex and wife of Prince Harry) gave birth to a baby boy.

However, things started to deteriorate after this promising piece of glad tiding, as the usual news stories of car bombings and suicide attacks in various parts of the Muslim world started coming through, places such as Pakistan, Baghdad, and Syria. Feel free to also add Palestine, Kashmir, China, and Yemen to the list of terror and despair faced by Muslims across the world. Apologies, I forgot one more: please also include the sabre rattling currently being done by Trump and his administration over Iran, rattling that is backed weirdly by both Saudi Arabia and Israel, providing us with a real world example of the ancient proverb ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

And you also have issues of Ramadan excess. Whilst Ramadan is a month of restraint there are many Muslims who over indulge in their festivities. Ramadan is a month long practice intended to encourage us Muslims to reflect on our daily habits and spirituality through piety and self-discipline. However, the celebrations involved and how they are practiced in the modern era often lead to counter intuitive effects, such as significant weight gain and food waste This food waste can escalate due to a variety of factors ranging from a commercialisation of the holy month, to the generosity of hosts who overcook for events, and to over ordering in restaurants.

The excess problem is such that in Jakarta, capital city of the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, local authorities had to deal with an additional 200 tonnes of waste during Ramadan last year. Over in the UAE, according to their Food Bank project, leftover food waste is expected to go up from an average of 2.7 kilograms per person daily to 4.5kg during Ramadan. The situation in Malaysia is similar, where wastage rises by a third from 15,000 tonnes per week to 20,000 tonnes during this month. Furthermore, a study by market research firm AMRB found that nearly twice as much time was spent cooking during Ramadan than at any other time of year and that there was a 43 per cent increase in the number of dishes prepared at home during the month.

These scenarios are likely to be replicated wherever Ramadan is being observed by a large Muslim population. It can easily be argued that this wastage is in significant contrast to the lessons of the prophet Muhammad who advocated breaking the fast simply with some dry dates and milk. Compare this to a Muslim community that focuses on serving elaborate meals to family and friends as they break their day’s fast. An admirable example of countering this wastage can be found in the UAE where the Ramadan Sharing Fridges scheme allows people to leave cooked food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and drinks, so those in need can help themselves. This beautiful example of a community sustaining itself and cutting back on waste is made even easier this year, all thanks to the ride-hailing app firm Careem who will even come and collect food from your door to deliver to the fridges.

Having said all that, this holy month is still considered a blessed time by Muslims all over the globe, who try to capture the true spirit of Islam throughout these 30 days. And since Ramadan is a tremendous reaffirmation of my Islamic faith, I thought it would be good to share the positive views of others who feel the same way. I will avoid quoting the likes of atheist astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who recently tried to tell the Muslim world that they have been fasting incorrectly all this time (silly 2 billion Muslims!), and the likes of female Muslim comedian Sadia Azmat, who somewhat over shared in an article about her personal desires during Ramadan. Instead please find below selected quotes from recent articles that present a sincere and positive view of Islam, Muslims, and Ramadan. Enjoy!


The Islamic month of Ramadan is here, and I am excited by the calmness and reflection that this month brings. Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, is considered the holiest month for Muslims. It is a time where we fast, not just from eating food, but also from our worldly desires including things like shopping, or watching television — it’s a time very similar to that of Lent for Christians. This month is dedicated to feeding our souls through reading more, praying more, and being more patient and kind to everyone, while attaching ourselves more to God. It is a month that is dedicated to spiritually grooming yourself to be a better person for the rest of the year — contrary to the bigoted perceptions that exist against Muslims. – Imani Bashir

What I wish more people knew is that the practices and teachings of Islam are rooted in love. For many other Muslims and I, holding onto traditional practices in a society that is becoming more and more secular is important. Ramadan is a part of my culture, whether I’m feeling particularly close to Islam as a religion or not. Because of this, it has become something that grounds me each year. Fasting teaches Muslims self-discipline, patience, and the value of the things we take for granted every day. It’s a time period during which I tap into empathy, compassion, and ultimately how to value these concepts not just one month out of the year, but all the time. Each year, Ramadan seems to arrive when I least expect it, but also when I need its reminders and inspiration the most. Telling me to harness and redirect all the energy I aimlessly put into superficial and immediate gratification, into something greater than myself. Fasting teaches all Muslims restraint and self-discipline. It teaches me that Islam — like the moon when I search for it each night — will always be there. – Nadra Widatalla

Whether it’s in theatre, comedy, sports, music or politics, Muslims are challenging the traditional stereotypes and showing that they are, and want to be, a part of the mainstream community. That’s why I urge people, particularly during Ramadan, to find out more about Islam, increase your understanding and learning, even fast for a day with your Muslim neighbour and break your fast at the local mosque. I would be very surprised if you didn’t find that you share more in common than you thought. Muslims are at the heart of every aspect of society. Their contribution is something that all Londoners benefit from. Muslim police officers, doctors, scientists and teachers are an essential part of the fabric of London. There are valuable lessons that people of all backgrounds can learn from Islam such as the importance of community spirit, family ties, compassion and helping those less fortunate, all of which lie at the heart of the teachings of Ramadan. – Boris Johnson, May 2019, whilst on an official visit to the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre

Ramadan is a time for contemplation, taking stock of our eating habits and giving to charity. In the western world, we have such an excess of food. We seem to have a culture of ‘living to eat rather than eating to live’. We are fortunate to have so much food at our disposal, whenever and wherever we need. But what about those people less fortunate than us? In many Muslim countries, come sunset when the fast breaks, mosques and restaurants open up their doors and feed the poor for free. I think that’s a wonderful way of giving back. – Parveen “The Spice Queen” Ashraf

The question I get asked most in Ramadan is, “You can’t drink even a sip of water?” People think that models don’t eat anyway, and so Ramadan should be easy, but that’s not true. For a start, you always end up putting on weight because your body craves heavy, greasy carbs at iftar and then you can’t move afterwards. My mum always says when we’re piling our plates up, “You won’t finish that!”…I look after my body and always eat while I’m on shoots, so this month will be a test, but the peace you feel during Ramadan is beautiful. It’s difficult to explain, because most people can’t get past the idea of no food or drink, but you gain so much spiritually. It’s a different, calmer perspective. You put yourself in the shoes of people who live this reality every day and it reminds you to be grateful and patient. – Asha Mohamud, British-Somali model

Ramadan is a time where we remember to give back and try and feel how it feels to be closer to God, and to remember all the blessings that we’ve been blessed with. It’s something that the Muslim community and individuals really look forward to. It’s something that comes from their heart. It’s a time when we find ourselves connecting with God more because we’re starving our bodies but we’re feeding our soul with God. – Haris Ansari

Western society could learn a lot about the struggles of others through the practice of Ramadan. We have a lot of ease in our society, a lot of comfort, but during Ramadan, people all around us are showing self-control and restraint and sacrifice when they practise their religion. It’s about being uncomfortable in your practice of faith, and there’s a lesson in that. During my research for the book, I was very surprised at the lack of science and studies about what fasting does physiologically to the body, especially considering how many people in the world are Muslim and adhere to Ramadan. – Brigid Delaney, author of Wellmania: Misadventures In The Search Of Wellness

Despite the exhortations about being more conscientious during Ramadan, the most shocking thing is that food waste actually rises during the holy month…We need to start recognising the dissonance between what we say Ramadan is, and what we actually do during those 30 days…Fundamentally, the answer is rooted in Ramadan traditions that already exist: share with those who really need the food. The increase in the amount given to charity during the month of fasting is testament to people’s generosity and open-heartedness. It’s also the key to re-thinking how we share our iftars. Instead of having excessive meals on our own, we can think about how to distribute it. – Shelina Janmohamed

This Ramadan, as grown-ups consciously slow down, turn inward and nurture their inner spirit, one of the important responsibilities is to also inculcate in children the true essence of Ramadan. The values of sharing, generosity and charity are as integral to adults as they are to children. In fact, the sooner children are taught these values, the better will they grow up into compassionate individuals. Like a muscle in the body that gets stronger through exercise, compassion too grows with every act done in its guiding spirit. – Jumana Khamis


I think I may have found my purpose in this world, at least digitally anyway. I came across a phrase that piqued my interest because it kind of describes what I am trying to do with this immensely unsuccessful blog of mine. Earlier this year the American TV host Bill Maher was interviewing Professor Seth Abramson, author of the book Proof Of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America. Maher was trying to find out what it is that Abramson does in his academic endeavours, specifically about being a ‘curatorial journalist’ and what exactly this means. This is the answer he gave:

We’re in the digital age now and what we find is not that there isn’t enough quality journalism, but that there’s actually so much of it that a lot of it falls through the cracks. It gets published, read once, and then forgotten. So what a curatorial journalist does is they look back decades across media that’s being published across different continents and they see stories that are lost, and how they connect with one another, and how they might be important now but weren’t realized as important at the time. So a curatorial journalist connect the dots. – Seth Abramson, 12 Apr 2019, from an interview on the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

This answer really got me thinking. Upon hearing the phrase “curatorial journalist” I felt an energy-efficient light bulb go off in my mind. In a similar fashion I also try to look back over decades across different forms of media, collecting quotes that are perhaps lost or not so well known. After gathering these various dots together, I then try to somehow connect them. Even if I am unable to connect them then at the very least I am hoping the dots themselves are interesting on their own accord.

Why my obsession with quotes? I shall avoid saying something cheesy like “I don’t know if I choose the quotes or the quotes choose me.” Instead I shall quote Sy Safransky, editor of a quotation anthology, who said:

Was it worth all the effort? Of course. Great quotations are the wisdom of the tribe. They bridge time and space. They connect the living and the dead. The Talmud says the right quotation at the right moment is like “bread to the famished.” May you be fed. – Sy Safransky

Anyways, enjoy…!

Alis Wedding

There is a Muslim version of Tinder, which is called Minder, and to match on Minder you have to swipe east. – Eshaan Akbar, 18 Apr 2019, from the TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

Islamic fundamentalist sex dolls. Do they blow themselves up? – Jimmy Carr

I don’t want to incur the wrath of Islam…’The wrath of Islam’ sounds like a terrible pub. No booze, no women, no fruit machines. What the hell is this?! – Jimmy Carr

I’m brown…I’m Muslim…I culturally identify as a terrorist. – Usman Enam

Trump, a man who came from everything but brings nothing. – Professor Julia Ott

It is better to live like a lion for one day than to live like a slave for a hundred years. – Afghan proverb, from the 2015 documentary He Named Me Malala

Being president is a weird job. People say “I think the President might be crazy.” “Oh, yeah? So? Well, what do you expect?” Anybody who THINKS they should be the president, there’s your test right there. If you actually think for real, in your head, that you should be the president, then you’re out of your mind! You’re crazy! “I should be the president” to me is like “I should be Thor.” “I think I would like to be Dr Neil Clark Warren of That’s what I want.” You’re out of your mind, OK?! These are crazy ideas! “Who should be the most powerful person in America, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and leader of the free world? You know, I gotta say, that sounds like me. It seems like something I would be good at. I can’t think of anyone better than me to be in charge of absolutely everything!” “Because I’m insane” is the rest of that sentence. “Because I’m insane.” – Jerry Seinfeld, from his Netflix stand up special Jerry Before Seinfeld

The Mueller report came out last week. Of course there’s still a lot we don’t know. I don’t want to say that the Mueller report was excessively redacted, but there was so much black on it Trump demanded to see its birth certificate. There was so much black ink the Virginia governor is dressing up as it for Halloween. It was so black Trump thinks it should get the death penalty for a crime it definitely didn’t commit. – Samantha Bee, 27 Apr 2019

It’s really strange because it feels like this argument about immigrants is drifting rightwards. Years ago people were like “I’m not racist but I find sometimes when the call centres phone me, I can’t understand what they’re saying.” And in a way you can kind of see that. But now it’s a case of “I’m not racist but I just batter Polish people on the weekend.” Well that sounds legit! And it’s really hard because where I’m from in north Wales, it’s really rural, it’s very, very white. And I’m trying to explain it to my parents as well, who don’t see any representation unless it’s what they see on the television, and they think they’re right to be scared. I remember at the end of our drive a bungalow came up for sale, and my mum was really scared that Muslims would move in, because she’d heard about them on the news and she was like “I don’t know what to do. What if Muslims live there?” And I was like “It’ll be fine.” And then some Scousers moved in and they kept their Christmas lights up all year, and she was fuming about that. And I was like “Well, if Muslims lived there it wouldn’t be an issue, would it!?” – Kiri Pritchard-McLean, 18 Apr 2019, from the TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

I think it’s important to recognise that these people who voted for Brexit are angry without ever legitmising what they are angry about, or the way that they are doing it. You shouldn’t be angry at immigrants. That is completely irrational to be angry at people who are just as powerless as you. You should be angry at the people who are actually responsible for this, which is the bankers, the chief executives, and all the politicians that are supporting them…The real divide in the UK isn’t between the 48% and the 52%, it’s between the 99% and the 1%. – Grace Blakeley, 18 Apr 2019, from the TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

During the Abbasid Dynasty, a man and his son rode on a donkey. But once they reached the town of Kandahar the people abused them. They said “Poor donkey. You make him carry two fit men.” So the father rode and the son walked. But when they arrived at the next town, people cried “Look at this fellow. He drags his young defenseless boy through the desert heat, and he enjoys the ride of a lifetime.” So in the next town the son rode and the father walked, but people shouted at the boy. “You are young. You are healthy. You make your elderly father suffer. He is marching in the heat.” So, together, the father and his son decided to walk with their donkey. As they passed through the next town, people laughed. “Look at these two idiots. Why don’t they ride their donkey?” And in every town people criticized them. In the end the father said, “Stuff this!” And he and the boy carried the donkey on their back. But…we tie ourselves up in terrible knots, trying to live up to the judgment of others. – from the movie Ali’s Wedding (2017)