CORONA HAS BURST OUR BUBBLE OF FALSE COMFORT

Corona WeeksIt seems almost a moot point to write about anything other than the pandemic that has caused over a quarter of all people on earth to be placed under government lock down. Corona has proven that many of the things in our lives are unnecessary. Things such as the gym, shopping malls, cinemas, sports events, and restaurants, have all gone for a toss as we learn to live without them:

Every sport has been cancelled, so men have to just live with themselves. I called my friend up and I was like “What you been up to?” He’s like “I’m just working on me.” I was like “Whoa! That’s great.” He’s like “I realize I’ve got a lot of daddy issues, there’s a lot of jealousy in my life.” Pause for another second. “I just want to tell you I love you, man. I don’t say it enough.” And I was like “Man, this is a great virus. This is a good virus. We all need this.” – Ethan Simmons-Patterson

It has indeed been quite a week, quite a month, quite a year, quite an endless, blurry lump of time in quarantine. Despite this, for the first time in history we can all save humanity, we can all save ourselves, by just staying at home and doing absolutely nothing. Please, for the love of all that is good, let us not mess this up (although somehow I feel we will).

Like most things in our globalised capitalist society, the current epicentre of the virus has moved from China to America. I know Americans are obsessed with being number one, but surely they do not want to the accolade of being the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (113,000 at the time of writing). Go Team America!

This virus has also proven to be somewhat of an existential challenge. We all find ourselves asking soul searching questions. How many of us are to die before this too shall pass? Who knows what the ripple effects and the knock on effects of this pandemic will be? Who knows how long this virus will last, or for how long we will be dealing with the aftermath? Who knows how life will change (surely it must)?

Such is the impact of COVID-19 that the Guardian news website, of which I have been a visitor for well over 15 years, has only had one news topic dominating their Most Viewed list of top 10 news stories, for at least 3 weeks now. It is almost as though no other news story matters, and I guess no other news story does.

Speaking of news websites, I know much has already been written about this situation, but I would just like to draw your besieged attention to the following articles and quotes. We start with three humorous tweets that somehow capture the sheer madness and confusion of these crazy times we find ourselves in. The next two quotes are from a drug dealer and a Jesuit sister (I kid you not), telling us about how this pandemic has affected them and their ‘clients’. What follows on from that are various quotes that, I hope, provide a different perspective on the current global situation. As best as one can, enjoy!

Corona Everything

If you want an indication of how much of a hellscape this is going to be, last night a mate told our friendship group he couldn’t do a virtual dinner on Friday because he had “other digital commitments.” – Alan White, 24 Mar 2020

I’m stocking up on photos of empty supermarket shelves. The media are going to run out of them pretty soon, and I’ll make a fortune. – Paul Bassett Davies, 06 Mar 2020

At this point, asking me “What are you doing tomorrow?” is hate speech. – Sydnee Washington, 25 Mar 2020

I sell cannabis and cocaine to suppliers in the north of England. I have around 20 guys on the street, with approximately 200 regular customers. We have two main concerns now: sourcing drugs and getting enough money. We expect no more cocaine shipments from abroad for the next six weeks, so prices have shot up. I’m maintaining the same prices I’ve always charged but I’m concerned that, when stock begins to run low, people higher up the chain will charge more or cut the cocaine and decrease its quality. People are panicking – the amounts of cannabis they’re buying is ridiculous – so we are just dealing to regulars now. I’ve told my workers to be strict with what they sell and who to, but they aren’t changing their behaviour much, other than offering to post through letterboxes and accept bank transfers from trusted customers. People running out of money is a big concern, but we’ll always have the regular cokeheads who buy most days. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and don’t have any dependants – other than sometimes helping my parents out with bits of cash – so I’m not financially worried. My biggest concern is handling money. I’ve been wearing gloves. – a drug dealer, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

Normally we have Mass daily; not now, but we’re praying more. Faith is important to people in times such as this. For all of us, the crisis is triggering questions about what is important. Having a pope like Francis is wonderful; he sent out a beautiful message: “Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we will return to the street, hug again…We will go back to laughing together. Strength and courage. See you soon!” It will be interesting to see what happens in the longer term – whether some people turn to faith. Faith is about finding meaning, and everyone is now trying to do that. People are living a stripped-back life and that means they’ve been given time for reflection. This crisis has shown us that vulnerability has something to teach us; suddenly, we’re all vulnerable. The temptation is to retreat, to look inwards. But once this is over, do we stay behind borders or will we have learned things? We might have opened our hearts in ways we hadn’t thought about before. – a Jesuit sister, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

We have been living in a bubble, a bubble of false comfort and denial. In the rich nations, we have begun to believe we have transcended the material world. The wealth we’ve accumulated – often at the expense of others – has shielded us from reality. Living behind screens, passing between capsules – our houses, cars, offices and shopping malls – we persuaded ourselves that contingency had retreated, that we had reached the point all civilisations seek: insulation from natural hazards. Now the membrane has ruptured, and we find ourselves naked and outraged, as the biology we appeared to have banished storms through our lives. The temptation, when this pandemic has passed, will be to find another bubble. We cannot afford to succumb to it. From now on, we should expose our minds to the painful realities we have denied for too long…Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life. This coronavirus reminds us that we belong to the material world. – George Monbiot, 25 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Covid-19 Is Nature’s Wake-Up Call To Complacent Civilisation

Celebrities have always been the symmetrical, smiling face of wealth inequality. Their role in modern life is as paradoxical as trickle-down economics: to be preternaturally charming and attractive, but also relatable and attainably aspirational. We speak of “liking” one celebrity and “disliking” another on the basis of the professionally calibrated personas they beam out to us as sincerity. We enjoy their work – their acting, their singing, their athleticism – and we cheer on their successes. They are purveyors of a great American myth: that there is such a thing as “well-earned” luxury, or a “deserving” millionaire. And in America, fame doesn’t just make you rich: it makes you a role model…Watching yet another celebrity announce that they have been tested (often while asymptomatic) feels like watching a medical drama that takes place on another planet. Meanwhile, the rest of us wait: not just for tests, but for the after-effects that a lack of testing will bring upon our communities, and upon the communities of those we love…The wealthy and the powerful are counting on us not paying attention. They’re looking out for their own while we are left on a sinking ship: the hedge funders, the landlords, the pharmaceutical billionaires. They’re counting on our attention being elsewhere – not Uncle Idris! Not Forrest Gump! – and they’re counting on our anger losing steam by the time this international nightmare ends. They’re counting on us taking it – as President Trump tells it – as “the story of life”. – Jennifer Schaffer, 21 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Why Are The Rich And Famous Getting Coronavirus Tests While We Aren’t?

Corona Terror

It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose…So when you’re done worrying about this outbreak, worry about the next one. Or do something about the current circumstances…Current circumstances also include 7.6 billion hungry humans: some of them impoverished and desperate for protein; some affluent and wasteful and empowered to travel every which way by airplane. These factors are unprecedented on planet Earth: We know from the fossil record, by absence of evidence, that no large-bodied animal has ever been nearly so abundant as humans are now, let alone so effective at arrogating resources. And one consequence of that abundance, that power, and the consequent ecological disturbances is increasing viral exchanges — first from animal to human, then from human to human, sometimes on a pandemic scale. We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it. – David Quammen, 28 Jan 2020, from the nytimes.com article We Made The Coronavirus Epidemic

Online misinformation about Covid-19 appears to be spreading faster than the virus itself. Certain claims made about the origins and transmission of the virus may be true, but many aren’t, and these falsehoods are fuelling conspiracy theories that serve only to spread fear on a global scale. The World Health Organisation has labelled the overabundance of information an “infodemic”, arguing it “makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”…Twitter, Facebook and Google’s filters and algorithms may be a good starting point in tackling misinformation about coronavirus and allow people to easily find relevant and authoritative updates. However, penetrating the social media echo chambers fuelled by distrust in experts and news outlets will be the real challenge. – Sabrina Weiss, Feb 2020, from the newstatesman.com article Inside The Infodemic: Coronavirus In The Age Of Wellness

Almost every day the BBC’s One-minute World News provides the latest death tally from coronavirus. The short news wrap-up typically covers about three news items only, meaning that for the BBC, the virus has been among the top three most important issues for the world, daily for the last two months. All the other mainstream media outlets are likewise reporting on every single angle to this story they can, including regular updates of the global tally and a country-by-country breakdown. The impact of such intense coverage of the virus is widespread fear, even though pedestrians are still 13 times more likely to be killed by a car than by this virus…Then there are the epidemics that aren’t even documented or counted…There is no one categorizing the overproduction of useless shit, though we do know that there are around 50 million tons of electronic waste produced each year. There is no daily news on the virulent erasure of histories, voices, people’s organization, cultures, and languages. The mainstream media are not concerned in the same way by the epidemic of corrupt politicians bought off by big business or by the public money lost to corporate tax avoidance (estimated at $500 billion per year). And the mainstream media will not talk much about these things. That isn’t just because rich people can’t catch poverty, it’s because the mainstream media is capitalist and it does not recognize systemic issues, and certainly not the causes and solutions to them. The media pretends not to, but it does have an agenda, and that agenda is in fact counter to the one that us serious journalists commit to – to revealing the bruises of the world and the screaming injustices and holding those in power accountable. Panic and fomenting fear are well-tried methods of control, distraction, and of shifting popular support towards the rightwing. On the other hand, raising awareness of the sickening global inequality and the daily pain so many are subject to develops critical thought, and would be empowering and disrupting, and so the mainstream media does not do that. – Tamara Pearson, 06 Mar 2020, from the counterpunch.org article All The Devastating Epidemics That Coronavirus Is Distracting Us From

We Now Live In A.C. – After Cirona

Corona1

If a week is a long time in politics, then a month during a pandemic truly feels like an eternity. Such is the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak that the economist Thomas L Friedman stated in the New York Times “There is the world BC — Before Corona — and the world AC — After Corona. We have not even begun to fully grasp what the AC world will look like.” In the early AC days the American talk show host Stephen Colbert described the situation by saying “We don’t know whether it’s a feather or a brick.” A few weeks later and we know for sure that this, whatever it is, most definitely is not a feather.

Now that we live in the AC era, an era where the anchor of normality is well and truly set adrift, many of us look back in yearning to our BC lives. Writing in the Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi pines “Remember the good old days when supermarket shelves were stocked with toilet paper? Remember when only a few people were familiar with the phrase “social distancing”? Remember when you could cough in public without immediately becoming a pariah? Remember February? I have never been so nostalgic for “normal”. I have never longed so desperately for a dull day.”

This epidemic has increased anxiety levels all round, partly due to the fact that we sit and watch the news more than ever, something I didn’t think possible. Since the advent of President Trump (himself a type of immoral virus) the 24 hours new cycle spews out information at break neck speed. And just when I thought my neck could not be any more broken, along comes the coronavirus speeding up the news cycle exponentially, as noted by Natalie Morris over at the Metro: “The current news cycle looks like the opening montage of an apocalyptic horror movie, and every headline leads on spiralling death counts, panic in the streets and dire warnings from official-looking medical professionals…We are living through a scary moment in history, so if you are feeling anxious, that’s normal.”

Rani Molla over at vox.com pretty much confirms our increased news addiction: “If you feel like you’ve been glued to the news lately, you’re not alone. We’re collectively reading much more news during the novel coronavirus pandemic than normal, according to new publisher traffic data…Page views were up 30 percent last week compared with last year…Overall traffic to news sites has gone up.”

Okay, so we are all scared and we are all watching the news perhaps a little too much. What do we do now? Well, the American satirist Bill Maher has some non-medical advice to help us calm our nerves. According to Maher, we need to focus of the 3 S’s, which are “sugar, stress, and sleep. Get a lot of sleep, don’t have sugar, and don’t stress. Turn off the fucking TV! I haven’t watched the news all week. I get it, we’re in trouble, I don’t need to see it every two minutes. And I think I’ve been sleeping better because of it because, I mean, people are going get it or not.”

Further advice was provided in a letter published in the Metro, which simply suggested how we should all just binge-watch our way out of this: “What about giving the whole world a two-week Netflix holiday and having the government supply us with free popcorn and food delivery? They spend so much on wars I bet they could afford that. It should stop the spread of coronavirus.”

The coronavirus is bringing out the best in humanity, with medical staff working tirelessly around the clock. Some have even lost their lives for their heroic efforts. Unfortunately we’ve also seen the worst, with some profiteering from the outbreak in many different ways. And then you have the weird and wonderful reactions. For example, the Shish Mahal Indian restaurant in Glasgow is offering a free curry to anyone affected by the deadly virus, despite there being no confirmed cases in the city at the time of writing. Good luck delivering that. Not to be outdone, the Maaya Indian Kitchen and Bar in Milton Keynes have said they will give a free toilet roll for purchases over £25. Spend over £80 and you will be treated to two free toilet rolls. One assumes after eating their food you will need them.

The collective reaction to the virus reminded me of something comedian Marc Maron said in his recent Netflix stand-up special End Times Fun, filmed before the epidemic started: “I don’t know what it’s gonna take to get everybody to unite. Haven’t we been entertained enough? Isn’t there something that could bring everyone together and make us just realize that we’ve got to put a stop to almost everything. What would it take? Something terrible. That’s what brings people together. Nothing good. It’s gotta be something bad and big. Get everyone to fucking snap out of this trance. I don’t know what it’ll take. Does the sky have to catch on fire? Would that do it? If we all walked outside and went ‘Oh, we fucked it. Fucking sky’s on fire. God damn it. I knew we were in trouble, but fuck, it made the jump from land to sky. This is bad.’”

Although the sky may not be on fire, at least not yet, it does feel like this virus is the bad and big and terrible thing that is uniting us all. And in an attempt to unite us all a little further, and to take our minds away from the unpleasantness temporarily, please find below several comedic quotes that I hope you will find amusing. Present circumstances persisting, enjoy!

The-Disease

It’s easy to get depressed or anxious in the world that we’re living in right now. A lot of that is due to Donald Trump. He wants us to fear everything, even Mexicans. He tells us that Mexicans are going to take our jobs. Let me tell you something. Mexicans are not going to take your jobs. Robots are going to take your jobs. And once the robots have all the jobs, trust me, Mexican robots are going to take their jobs. Lazy Mexican robots, sleeping on the factory floor. – Jeff Greenspan

Is Google male or female? Female, because it doesn’t let you finish a sentence before making a suggestion. – Anon

I’ve been married a very long time, over 20 years now. And when you’ve been married this long you get to know each other so well. My husband knows me well. And I know my husband so well at this point that we can have a full blown argument, from start to finish, and he’s not even home. – Sindhu Vee

I’m trying to slim down. I was at the gym today for three hours. I did 45 minutes of Instagram, 1 minute of cardio, then I went to the smoothie bar for the rest of the afternoon. – Jeff Ross

In Texas where I’m from there is a lot of weird Christian Muslim tension. I don’t really understand it because Christianity and Islam are the same thing. Both have one God, both started in the Middle East. Only difference I can think of is that Islam is the one true religion. Besides that they’re pretty much the same thing. Do you guys realize how tough it is that I’m the only one in this room who is going into heaven? You guys seem so nice but rules are rules. – Usama Siddiquee, American stand-up comedian

I was crossing the street in my neighborhood and this guy walked by me, muttering ‘ISIS’ under his breath. So I turned to him and said ‘ALLAH-HU-AKBAR!’ I mean, if you really thought I was a terrorist, would you want to provoke me? – Mariam Sobh

People accuse of me of sneaking references to metal working into my tweets. Well, der. – David Quantick

It’s tough being a man right now. Bruce Jenner got out just in time. – Jeff Ross

I met an American girl. We went on a date. I took her to a Syrian restaurant, because that’s the only place I can afford. I’m like “What would you like to have?” And she’s like “I don’t know, what should I have?” And I’m like “Well there’s shawarma.” She looks at me and says “No, I’m a vegan.” I’m like “What does that mean?” She’s like “We don’t eat meat or chicken.” I’m like “Oh, a vegetarian.” She’s like “No, a vegan. We don’t eat eggs, milk, chicken, yoghurt, or honey.” And I’m like “Oh, a Syrian refugee.” – Omar Mohammad

Since we all love shows about drag queens, and we used to love shows about baby beauty queens, we have to make a show about baby drag queens. We could call it Lil’ Queens. That way when ISIS kills us all at least we’ll deserve it. – Bill Maher, Jun 2019

Hello, my name is Ibrahim. I’m currently a part time Muslim. I don’t pray much, I like to party, and I love pepperoni. But I get stopped and searched at every airport going, so it kind of balances itself out. – Ibrahim Sesay

I never liked my index and middle fingers but I’ve made peace with it. – tweet from Steven W Skinner

I lived in Alabama throughout college. I went to a really small Southern Baptist school where there was no diversity whatsoever. It was 99% white people and me. The closest I got to another Arab there was Jesus. – Atheer Yacoub

The three major religions have a lot in common, and this is just a really small example of something that they all share. And you guys can look this up in the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. They all talk about heaven the exact same way. They all refer to it as a paradise land flowing with milk and honey. And that’s one small thing we can all agree on, that vegans are going to hell. That’s what I got from that…I have nothing against vegans. In fact some of my best friends are self-righteous. – Atheer Yacoub

Whenever my family would travel to Palestine and back, my parents would always order a kosher meal, even though halal was available. I guess they knew better. Kosher and halal are pretty much the same thing, except when you order a kosher meal they let you back into the country. So just a little tip for you guys, make sure you do that. – Atheer Yacoub

The next best thing to being a doctor is marrying a doctor. After I turned 30 my mom stopped caring what kind of doctor, it could be a doctor of history, a doctor of art. I think if Trump had a medical degree she’d like if “Give him a chance. No man is perfect.” So ever since I turned 30 every year my family reminds me that my biological clock is ticking, I’m getting older, I need to have kids. When my parents first saw that show 16 And Pregnant they were like “That poor girl. Why did she wait so long?” – Atheer Yacoub

WHEN DID AMERICANS BECOME THE FATWA PEOPLE?

Frankie Scotland

Way back in 1866 the French poet Joseph Roux said “A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool.” With that in mind I am not sure if the following quotes are eight diamonds or eight pebbles. I guess that depends on whether you think of a me as a man of wit or a fool. These quotes cover various aspects of the modern world, good and bad, warts and all, from Robert the Bruce to Donald the Trump, from stock markets plunging to Hindu nationalist pogroms.

However, we start with Bill Maher who, on a recent episode of his brilliant TV show Real Time With Bill Maher, ended with a segment called “Death Prattle.” On YouTube the clip is called “My Way Or The Die Way.” Maher tirades against the way we over react to people with whom we disagree. The 5 minute segment packs a mighty philosophical, political, and cultural punch, and I agree with pretty much everybody word of it. Enjoy!


And finally, new rule, Americans need to find a better way to say I disagree with your position then “I’m going to kill you.” It’s one of the few things the left and the right have in common now. Adam Schiff and Chuck Schumer received death threats for impeaching Trump, and Susan Collins got death threats for not impeaching him…Why don’t they just make an app for death threats? You could call it “endr.” Look, I’m not saying there’s no place for blind blood lust, like in the Bible or when they run out of chicken sandwiches at Popeyes. But everything? A singer who wore her support for Trump proudly to the Grammys got death threats. Gayle King got death threats for asking a ‘too soon’ question about Kobe Bryant. Ilhan Omar gets death threats for being an immigrant. Death threats went out to a woman who wrote a pro-immigrant book because she wasn’t actually an immigrant. The Ukraine whistle-blower got death threats and nobody even knew who it was! They just sent open letters “To whom it may concern, I’m going to kill you.” This is what happens when you let cancel culture spin out of control. It’s the same attitude, just taken a little further. We take your livelihood. Huh! Let’s just go ahead and take your life. Because all the geniuses in this country are so one million percent sure they’re right about everything, that it’s always just ‘my way or the die way.’ You know, Trump may want to be a dictator but he is hardly alone. A lot of people in this country love to say “Off with their head!” Don’t like that thing you purchased? Threaten to burn down the factory. Don’t agree with someone who won the Oscar? Tell them you’re gonna find where they live and slit their throat. Don’t like the call the ref made at your kids soccer game? Send them a picture of you brandishing an axe. When did Americans become the fatwa people? Every minor dispute has to go from zero to Mel Gibson in three seconds? Did you know that the new pop sensation Billie Eilish spent her big night at the Grammys apologizing for winning? Yeah! Because her overriding emotion wasn’t pride, it was fear that super fans of rival pop stars would attack her. Oh, if only we had this kind of passion for something that mattered in this country. – Bill Maher, 28 Feb 2020, from his TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

Trump is the first president to use the stock market as a near-daily measure of his success — and his virility — and now the market is slumping. If you want to own it on the way up, you have to own it on the way down. Investors, who worried when Trump began to rise in politics, soon realized that he had their backs. He was just a corporate vessel pretending to be a populist; the stock market was his sugar high. Now Trump is learning the hard way what my fatalistic Irish mother taught me: The thing you love most is the first to go. As Mike Bloomberg points out, investors have factored in Trump’s incompetence, and that is contributing to the market cratering. – Maureen Dowd, 29 Feb 2020, from the nytimes.com article Trump Makes Us Ill

Blame the poisonous ideology of the Hindu nationalist BJP for the blood on India’s streets…What Delhi witnessed over the past week is targeted violence against Muslims, led by mobs of Hindu nationalists, mainly supporters of the BJP, India’s governing party, many chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (“glory to Lord Rama”) and “Hinduon ka Hindustan” (India for Hindus)…While the attempt to exclude Muslims reveals the chauvinist ideology of the BJP, mass opposition to the CAA, from Hindus and Muslims alike, shows the depth of hostility to bigotry. In Delhi, too, amid the violence there have been many stories of Hindus protecting Muslim neighbours, and of Muslims aiding Hindus. What is playing out in India is not a simple religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims but a political struggle between two visions of India: between those who see it as an open, secular nation and those who wish to create a chauvinist Hindu state. Who prevails in this struggle matters not just to Muslims, or to Indians, but to all of us. – Kenan Malik, 01 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article The Violence In Delhi Is Not A ‘Riot’. It Is Targeted Anti-Muslim Brutality

The man is at ground zero in every conceivable way our humanity can be measured, but a brief survey of the last forty years shows us that we were at the bottom before him. He’s a native son, a natural product of this ferment, not an anomaly but what’s at the end of the road when a whole culture elevates profit as the only measure of growth…Trump’s swelter of hatred for Obama and his influence on us is reminiscent of the darkness of soul that fascinated Nathaniel Hawthorne, the hatred of Roger Chillingworth for Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter, a novel of America’s dark soul. The desire for revenge which Trump, Impeachment Redux, now seeks is set against an elapsing moral sense in the American soul. This drama, a cultural psychodrama, a psychomachia in medieval terms, has nothing to do with political division and all to do with a battle of darkness and light in a country driven solely by its economics into the shadows of intentions and actions, words and images. The measure of enlightened civility and just mercy is not the Dow Jones or the S&P 500. That measure birthed this president. The mud that made him is ours. He didn’t invent the darkness. – Joseph Natoli, 28 Feb 2020, from the counterpunch.org article Dispelling The Darkness

The stock market lost six trillion dollars this week. Pretty soon that adds up to real money. And of course that’s because of the coronavirus. Is this serious? Yes, it is. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, is now calling it the COVID-19, and you know a disease is serious when they give it a rap name. Will life change? Yes, it will. You just have to take more precautions now. Just assume everyone is infectious, the same warning they give contestants on The Bachelor…This would be a nice time, wouldn’t it, to have a president who doesn’t talk out of his ass, think with his dick, and eat with his hands. But we don’t have that. We have a president who thinks “I won an election where I got the fewest votes. I commit crimes and my lawyers go to jail. Reality is for losers!” – Bill Maher, 28 Feb 2019, from his TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

India’s ruling party will allow nothing to stand in the way of its Hindu-nationalist agenda…Mobs targeting a single religious group were allowed to run riot, unchecked by police. This is the definition of a pogrom…The message from the BJP is clear: Elect whomever you like. We are still in power. Call the police; they work for us. Appeal to the courts; we’ll neutralize any judges who don’t toe our line. Continue to dissent, and we will set the mob on you…Modi’s image as a pragmatic, business-oriented leader who has eschewed Hindu extremism now lies in tatters…All it takes in Modi’s India to marshal a mob is a word. And all it takes to turn the mob’s rampage into a pogrom against a religious minority is the complicity of police and state authorities. Yet, across India, brave citizens continue to occupy public spaces in peaceful protest. They know that all they have left to save their democratic republic is one another. They know that, any day, the mob can come for them too. – Mira Kamdar, 28 Feb 2020, from the theatlantic.com article What Happened In Delhi Was A Pogrom

Scotland hasn’t won much, not since Slimmer Of The Year said that it didn’t count if you lost a limb to diabetes. But Robert the Bruce scored a decisive victory by beating the English at Bannockburn, making the overall score one to seven thousand to them. For a place that practices a lot, we’re clearly not that good at fighting…Robert the Bruce remains an inspiration to many in Scotland, having lived to 54. In 1305 Robert the Bruce, taking refuge from battle in a cave, was inspired by a spider to spend four days trapped in the bath. Robert went on to defeat the English at Bannockburn and then Berwick. Even today as a mark of respect, everyone in Berwick continues to look defeated. The Battle of Bannockburn was perhaps the most famous of Scottish victories, closely followed by getting a London taxi driver to accept a Clydesdale Bank 20. Robert was a warrior, but also a cunning ruler who managed to use an alliance with France to capitalise on English fears of an invasion. Can you imagine if England had fallen under French rule? Right now from Newcastle right down to Plymouth, they would be speaking…louder English. Ultimately, France didn’t invade, possibly because they needed England as a vital safety buffer between their own and Scottish cuisine. Robert led Scotland to its first war of independence, 700 years before Nicola Sturgeon took on his mantle and his haircut. – Frankie Boyle, Feb 2020, from his BBC TV show Frankie Boyle’s Tour Of Scotland

When I look back on the last month or so of this tour, I see a Scotland that’s in quite a predicament, filled with wonderful, open, talented, generous people and owned by arseholes. About a quarter of the country is sporting estates given over to people shooting grouse, a sort of chicken in drag. I actually grew up on a sporting estate. We always gave someone a head start before we mugged them. Another problem here is this inaccurate idea we have of ourselves as a historically oppressed nation. In the late 18th century, Scots owned 30% of Jamaica. Now we own approximately 30% of our own furniture, and teeth. We weren’t colonised by England, we were complicit with the British Empire’s colonial endeavours, but have conveniently decided to redefine ourselves as another of its victims, a bit like Rose West hearing the police sirens and quickly burrowing under some paving slabs. Our history even before that isn’t really that of a proud nation seeking self-determination. Scotland was historically a thing passed around among the powerful in much the way that nowadays, they might pass around a sexy orphan. The long death of the union has led to Scottish culture being increasingly marginalised and patronised. When James Kelman won the Booker Prize, he accepted by saying “My culture and my language have the right to exist. And no one has the authority to dismiss them.” That is an incredible thing for someone to have to say, to have to insist on their own validity, their right to speak in their own voice. I think that in the years ahead of us there’ll be a lot of new Scottish voices charting us away from the cultural cringe and the nuclear missile-based status and the food banks and the religious neuroses and the difficulty that we have, let’s be honest, in allowing ourselves to find joy in each other and towards a new enlightenment, of which we’re well capable now that we’ve had a good, long rest. – Frankie Boyle, Feb 2020, from his BBC TV show Frankie Boyle’s Tour Of Scotland

MATERIALISM DOESN’T CARE IF YOU LIVE OR DIE

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.

BEHOLD THE TRULY MODERN MUSLIMS

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, apollo-magazine.com

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, the-tls.co.uk

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, metro.co.uk

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.’


Numerals

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

Amanda Tarlton, 16 May 2019, fatherly.com

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.”

WHAT IS THE POINT OF CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CAPITALISM?

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

SOME JOKES HAVE TOO MUCH POWER

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