Vegemite

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.

Amateurs

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.

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.

Lost tribes

There is a humble dry-cleaning business in the heart of Kensington frequented by the rich and famous. Norman Lamont, David Beckham, Idris Elba and Simon Cowell pop in from time to time, to have their fine garments restored and pressed. These well-to-do probably don’t think much of the presumed immigrants that serve them. But if there’s anything that we can learn from the fascinating family history of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, it is that the intermingling of cultures has long reached even into the very heart of the establishment. Continue reading “Lost tribes”

The tides of time

It’s a good job the Daily Mail isn’t held to account for historically publishing anti-Semitic views, praising fascists and dehumanising refugees, be they German Jews in 1938 or Syrian Muslims in 2018. Sadly those brandishing accusations of anti-Semitism as a weapon to silence their opponents are completely oblivious to their own actions. They utilise today the exact same dehumanising tools that led to the slaughter of millions of Jews in Europe in the last century. These people are unserious in their condemnation of anti-Semitism, for if they were they would stand against all forms of racism and prejudice which seeks to make other humans unworthy aliens, undeserving of aid or compassion. If people truly familiarised themselves with the vitriol European Jews faced in the early years of the twentieth century, and what it led to, I am sure they would mend their ways, and speak out about all behaviour that mirrors it today. But alas, this is the era of sloganeering, when nothing is ever truly meant. People speak, but have absolutely know idea what they are saying.

Go away

Dear great American radical. Here, let’s make a deal. If I promise not to offer a running commentary on American Islam, will you do the same, and stop pontificating on British Islam? I wouldn’t know where to start with the controversies that occupy American Muslims, and wouldn’t dare. Really, you should have a little humility and cease referencing the British Muslim experience in your diatribes, because apart from regurgitating the views of your friends at 5Pillars, you really, clearly you know nothing at all. Let’s stay in our lanes. America is enough for you. Please leave the rest of us alone.