Dr Shadee Elmasry says:

I just ate eggs, but I identify as vegan. …For everything, there’s a right way to do things and a wrong way. But for some reason, Muslims are being made to accept every possible heresy in the book as an acceptable take on Islam.

That’s one analogy. Another is one group of vegans condemning another for jumping on trampolines, pronoucing that it is incompatible with veganism.


A friend of mine from school is an amateur standup comic. This is a great thing. We celebrate amateur standup comics. To stand up in a comedy club and make people laugh: what an incredible feat.

A couple of old acquaintances are leading lights in the amateur dramatics scene. In their free time, between work and family responsibilities, they are found prancing the stages of local theatres, entertaining families on nights out. Utterly brilliant.

Others still are amateur musicians, some in minor orchestras, playing all the classics of the old world, some in bands with wondrous names, playing in pubs and clubs on Friday nights. Even amongst my own family, some are amateur singers, performing requiems in majestic places.

In almost every field of the creative arts, we celebrate the amateur. We are amazed by their passion for their chosen hobby, as they entertain the relative few with little chance of ever winning fame or great acclaim. Most amateurs don’t do it for that anyway — only for the love of it. It is an antidote to the dull work of the nine to five.

Ah, but alas: to be an amateur writer. Alas, the snobbery of the literary world sees no place for the amateur writer. While the amateur comic, actor and musician is everywhere praised, the amateur author or playwright is routinely ridiculed and condemned for even trying. Publish at your peril.

Self-publishing is indeed the literary equivalent of amateur dramatics, but it is written off as the pursuit of the vain, eternally without talent. Well, it takes all sorts.

Most that write are never read. It is true. But then most that perform are never heard. In 1995 I went on a tour of Northern France with the Hull Junior Philharmonic Orchestra, taking on the role of an oboist famed for dying cow impressions. Sadly, it seemed, nobody in France wanted to listen to an unheard-of British orchestra playing bombastic tunes in the midst of French elections, so we played to vast and cavernous concert halls, almost completely empty. At the end of a rousing rendition of a rhapsodic jingoistic number, we were received with the applause of five locals, seated in the front row. What an anti-climax that was, but we played on anyway.

I think I will take inspiration from my friends engaged so fully in the amateur creative arts. There is such snobbery in the literary world, driving the amateur to quit before he has even started. It has taken years for this to dawn on me: it is okay to be an amateur, and read only by a few. It’s okay. Relax and enjoy what brings you pleasure.


My head says: “Write! Dig out those abandoned manuscripts and try again.”

But my body, fatigued and aching, protests. After a day of work, then attending to the children, then sitting with my wife… alas, I’m too tired to do anything. And so the weeks pass by, then months. When I finally find the document I was in the middle of editing, I discover that a year and a half has passed since I left it.

Some wise sages say: “Rise early.” Write at daybreak when all is quiet. Do a little and often, and you will achieve your goals. But I can’t: too tired, I head back to bed, and on and on it goes, never making progress.

We say things like: “We will achieve our goals when our kids go off to university.” But by then it will be: “We will achieve our goals when we retire.” But we won’t, because the fatigue will only be worse.

The past few days I have been dreaming of returning to my writing once more. But, alas, reality intervenes.

In search of truth

A friend of mine — possibly beyond crisis-of-faith mode and now savouring full-blown rejection — regularly sends me videos featuring the idiocy of presumed scholars, past and present, as they mangle religion and make a mockery of it with absolute sincerity and conviction. His contention, I think, is that their lunacy is proof of the degeneracy of our faith as a whole. In sending me these videos, my friend hopes that I will join him in his rejection, embracing disbelief again, liberating myself from the yoke which he imagines constrains me, as he believes it constrained him. Continue reading “In search of truth”

Take care

A long post, a few years old, about the psychology of parenting has recently made the leap from Facebook to WhatsApp, where it is now being passed on from Muslim mother to Muslim mother, and subsequently to their spouses as confirmatory evidence of everything they have been saying. Hurrah. Continue reading “Take care”

Hard times

Fallen on hard times, the pious chap mumbles, “Allah will provide.” Most of us have been there at one time or other. Of course, ultimately this is true. But what the unfortunate fellow should admit is, “My wife provides, with her full time job, whose salary I spend on the household and on putting my children through university, and who cooks and cleans and washes the whole family’s clothes, while I spend my days grooming my beard and praying for succour, convincing myself and others that I have complete tawakkul.” Alas, the poor chap has nothing he can spend on his household, except for the meagre child benefit he receives from the state. Hence his perpetual refrain, even as he relies on everyone other than himself to see him through. Such is the tangle of hard times.