Spurious chains

Would you believe that in 2016, with so many means to verify the facts, people are still spreading spurious messages about E-numbers and western industrial conspiracies to smother everyone in pig fat, attributed to a Pakistani Doctor nobody is sure really exists, on behalf of a medical organisation nobody is sure really exists? It would take you approximately five seconds to determine that E100 is a food colouring derived from Tumeric. But, oh no, caring is sharing, and apparently a religious duty. Oddly enough, correcting yourself after the fact is never made a religious duty. We’ll just sit on that one, which is why this still circulates online, even a decade after it was first declared a hoax.


Dear Grumpy,

I note your concern about the minoritification of the British food industry by supine executives pandering to the whim of consumers, oblivious as they are to the threat songs about baked beans pose to our very survival in the apocalyptic clash of civilisation which consumes us daily. Now is not the time to be finger-drumming along merrily.

Yes, good, but, well, I think it’s safe to say that Heinz Beans with Pork Sausages and with Spicy Meatballs are not halal. So no pandering to vegetarians, I mean Jews, I mean Muslamics there. Of course if they choose to put the halal symbol on their vegetarian products to increase their share of the market, that’s entirely up to them.

Anyhow surely Muslims eating baked beans is a definite sign of successful integration and a cause for celebration. In fact I know that Muslim men enjoy jokes about flatulence as much the next man; oh what joy.

“Halal” purely means “permissible”. So rest assured that your loaf of Kingsmill has not been slaughtered prior to being sliced for your breakfast table. Spill the beans on top safe in the knowledge that they are, quite simply, legumes.

Yours etc.


From my earliest days as a Muslim, my companions and mentors always steered me away from groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al-Muhajiroun. I am perplexed, therefore, that today so many seem to hang upon every word of HT-inspired media outlets and advocacy groups. Either they are genuinely unaware of the background of these loose organisations which now dominate our public discourse, or there has been a tectonic shift of opinion in our midst.


You’ve surely noticed this pattern too. A terrorist atrocity occurs. We condemn it. There is a counter-reaction which targets people who had nothing to do with the terrorist atrocity. We condemn that too. There is a further counter-reaction which posits that those who condemn the unrelated reaction have sympathy or support the initial act of violence. And so the cycle goes on, with everyone swept up in hysteria, except for those who perpetuated the atrocity in the first place.

Glorious self-image

I think the problem we have in these big civilisation debates is that most of us do not know or do not want to acknowledge our histories. Ages of empire are glossed over, romanticised or glorified, in both the east and west. Brutality, transgression, oppression: there is no room for these in our image of ourselves. On all sides, we hold the other accountable for their past and present wrongs, but refuse to acknowledge the crimes of those we champion. We have planks in our eyes, which are covered with blinkers, while our heads are buried in the sand.


We may not like what you wear, but we’ll defend your right to wear it… Oh, no, sorry, that’s not it… What was it? Oh yes… We may not like what you say, but we’ll defend your right to say it…

But only if we agree with you and if it’s especially insulting to people we don’t like, and if it helps inflame community tensions…  but not if it’s something sensible like suggesting that it’s wrong to threaten women with arrest if they don’t remove their tops…

In that case you can just shut up, because liberté, égalité and fraternité only apply to people who recognise the importance of wearing beachwear designed by a great Frenchman, who named his garment after a beautiful Pacific atoll, five days after the first of 23 nuclear weapons tests rendered it uninhabitable… And they claim the burkini is a celebration of explosive violence!

No, freedom of expression is not about minorities choosing what they wear or how they enjoy their beach holiday… Freedom of expression is about defending great European traditions like freedom itself, liberty, independence, privilege, unrestraint, indulgence, abandonment and, well, any synonym that takes our fancy on any particular day, which of course only free people can really, truly understand…

It is about being free to be free to be free, and that includes being free from being free if being free undermines freedom. Thus it is the right of the state and its authorities to force women to adopt the national uniform of beachgoers everywhere, in the name of freedom. It is the right of authorities to compel, coerce and oblige individuals to do not as they please, but as others please, in the name of freedom. Indeed that is the defence of freedom itself!

So say yes to racial slurs, to the targeting of minorities, to insulting the powerless, to criminalising the innocent, to colonial expeditions and jingoistic expressions of solidarity with the powerful. Send those third-generation immigrants back home. Bring the de-veiling ceremonies enforced in Algeria in the 1950s to the towns and suburbs of France. Rekindle all that once made France so great: the brutal supremacist violence of empire, the sneering and mocking voice of secular rationalism, the disavowal of anything sacred other than the beloved symbols of the Republic. Let the world taste this peculiar elixir of freedom!

If there is a clash of civilisations unfolding before us, it is not as our social commentators imagine it, for Daesh and French authorities are on the same side here, both telling women how they should dress, as if the private realm were the property of the state. If there is a clash, it is between ordinary people who cherish their individual liberties, and ideological states which wish to police them. ‘Freedom!’ they chant, with weapons charged. ‘Be free,’ they insist, as they trample on the freedoms of little people everywhere.

Freedom is about being free to be free to be free, which includes being free from being free if freedom is undermined by said freedom. This is a freedom which insists, “I do not care if you do not like what I have to say, but I’ll defend to your death my right to say it.” This is a freedom in which true freedom comes from conforming to the whims of the majority, from obeying the strictures of a freedom-giving ideology and from giving up self-determination.

In short, you will never be truly free until you have given up your faulty notions of freedom. Long live freedom!