Friday, November 30, 2007


Teddy Bear
Gordon Bear
Now that is offensive
I hadn't meant to pass any comment on the current furore about Gillian Gibbons, being hopelessly skewered between the ridiculous actions of the Sudanese government in seeing this case go to court and my dislike of the stupidity of a person who goes so ill prepared to a particularly fucked up part of the world, where an especially fucked up version of a religion that even in it's more reasonable form I find tests my tolerance with its distrust of many values I hold dear.

This is not to say I would not have felt the same indignation as most had some more barbaric punishment been handed down by the court, but frankly under the circumstances I didn't feel any deep and abiding anger over the 15 days in jail that actually was issued. I like a few pints of an evening, as such I've never had the slightest interest of visiting even a more reasonable Islamic state for more than a couple of hours and with a loose tongue and a hot temper I would never want to risk going to a hard core one where I would know I would have to think twice about by every word or deed.

It is not a position of intolerance, far from it. Whenever I have travelled outside the safe cocoon of the core Anglosphere or Europe I go out of my way to understand and respect local customs, even when the punishment for a mistake is no more than a disapproving stare. When I was in India I respected the need to not engage in public displays of affection towards somebody I have a lot of affection for and I tied myself in knots avoiding showing the soles of my feet to those locals sharing the cramped sleeping compartment of an overnight train from Jaipur. Facing the risk of criminal action in a justice system so devoid of the slightest trace of common sense or tolerance is not a risk I would take.

I have to be honest then and say Ms Gibbons has seemed a bit of prat thus far and I have had little sympathy for her. I still don't, as long as she gets to do her 15 days and comes home safe; It is today's demands by Sudanese mobs for Ms Gibbons' head that are the truly shocking sight, not the doubtlessly unpleasant couple of weeks she faces.

The Danish cartoon fiasco was bad enough, but maybe, when I stretched my mind far enough I could understand some offence being taken, however much my non-religious mind baulked at the degree of offence and how it was publicly manifested. I can't really apply even this very little degree of understanding to the current case. To call for the death of fellow human being over what, if it was a failing, was a minor and well intentioned one, I hope would shock people of all religion or none.

There are far too many calls for moderate Muslims to stand up to repudiate the more extreme actions committed in the name of their faith. Even if I felt that my own Christening into the Church of Scotland was anything other than it was 'what you did' at the time, as well as an excuse for a party, I wouldn't expect to be called on to show any contrition for the many bad acts of the Christian faith down the ages.

If though I was a believing, moderate Muslim looking at the image presented by my co-religionists in the Sudan though, I would be thinking of the image that was being presented of my faith and wondering how that image could be improved. To have the public face of a system of belief distorted by such lunacy should be a major issue of concern.

Oh, and as for the argument about "how would you feel if your child had a bear called 'Moses' or 'Jesus'?" I think the answer for most Christian parents would be "delighted, just as long as it's not 'Gordon'".

No comments: