Making a Pig’s Ear of Defending Democracy
Mark Steyn, Telegraph (London), Oct. 4
A year and a half ago, I mentioned in this space the Florentine Boar, a famous piece of porcine statuary in Derby that the council had decided not to have repaired on the grounds that it would offend Muslims. Having just seen Looney Tunes: Back in Action, in which Porky Pig mentions en passant that Warner Bros has advised him to lose the stammer, I wondered if for the British release it might be easier just to lose the pig.
Alas, the United Kingdom’s descent into dhimmitude is beyond parody. Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (Tory-controlled) has now announced that, following a complaint by a Muslim employee, all work pictures and knick-knacks of novelty pigs and “pig-related items” will be banned. Among the verboten items is one employee’s box of tissues, because it features a representation of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. And, as we know, Muslims regard pigs as “unclean”, even an anthropomorphised cartoon pig wearing a scarf and a bright, colourful singlet.
Cllr Mahbubur Rahman is in favour of the blanket pig crackdown. “It is a good thing, it is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding,” he said. That’s all, folks, as Porky Pig used to stammer at the end of Looney Tunes. Just a little helpful proscription in the interests of tolerance and acceptance.
And where’s the harm in that? As Pastor Niemöller said, first they came for Piglet and I did not speak out because I was not a Disney character and, if I was, I’m more of an Eeyore.
And aren’t we all? When the Queen knights a Muslim “community leader” whose line on the Rushdie fatwa was that “death is perhaps too easy”, and when the Prime Minister has a Muslim “adviser” who is a Holocaust-denier and thinks the Iraq war was cooked up by a conspiracy of Freemasons and Jews, and when the Prime Minister’s wife leads the legal battle for a Talibanesque dress code in British schools, you don’t need a pig to know which side’s bringing home the bacon.
A couple of years ago, when an anxious-to-please head teacher in Batley was banning offensive “pig-centred books”, Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain commented that “there is absolutely no scriptural authority for this view. It is a misunderstanding of the Koranic instruction that Muslims may not eat pork.” Mr Bunglawala is a typical “moderate” Muslim — he thinks the British media are “Zionist-controlled”, etc — but on the pig thing he’s surely right. It seems unlikely that even the exhaustive strictures of the Koran would have a line on Piglet.
So these little news items that pop up every week now are significant mostly as a gauge of the progressive liberal’s urge to self-abase and Western Muslims’ ever greater boldness in flexing their political muscle.
After all, how daffy does a Muslim’s willingness to take offence have to be to get rejected out of court? Only the other day, Burger King withdrew its ice-cream cones from its British restaurants because Mr Rashad Akhtar of High Wycombe, after a trip to the Park Royal branch, complained that the creamy swirl on the lid resembled the word “Allah” in Arabic script.
It doesn’t, not really, not except that in the sense any twirly motif looks vaguely Arabic. After all, Burger King isn’t suicidal enough to launch Allah Ice-Cream. But, after Mr Akhtar urged Muslims to boycott the chain and claimed that “this is my jihad”, Burger King yanked the ice-cream and announced that, design-wise, it was going back to the old drawing-board.
Offence is, by definition, in the eye of the beholder. I once toured the Freud Museum with the celebrated sex therapist Dr Ruth, who claimed to be able to see a penis in every artwork and piece of furniture in the joint. Yet, when I suggested one sculpture looked vaguely like the female genitalia, she scoffed mercilessly.
Likewise, Piglet is deeply offensive and so’s your chocolate ice-cream, but if a West End play opens with a gay Jesus, Christians just need to stop being so doctrinaire and uptight. The Church of England bishops would probably agree with that if, in their own misguided attempt at Islamic outreach, they weren’t so busy apologising for toppling Saddam.
When every act that a culture makes communicates weakness and loss of self-belief, eventually you’ll be taken at your word. In the long term, these trivial concessions are more significant victories than blowing up infidels on the Tube or in Bali beach restaurants. An act of murder demands at least the pretence of moral seriousness, even from the dopiest appeasers. But small acts of cultural vandalism corrode the fabric of freedom all but unseen.
Is it really a victory for “tolerance” to say that a council worker cannot have a Piglet coffee mug on her desk? And isn’t an ability to turn a blind eye to animated piglets the very least the West is entitled to expect from its Muslim citizens? If Islam cannot “co-exist” even with Pooh or the abstract swirl on a Burger King ice-cream, how likely is it that it can co-exist with the more basic principles of a pluralist society? As A A Milne almost said: “They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace/ Her Majesty’s Law is replaced by Allah’s.”
By the way, isn’t it grossly offensive to British Wahhabis to have a head of state who is female and uncovered?
I doubt whether the Post Office will be in any rush to issue another set of Pooh commemorative stamps, or the BBC to revive Pinky and Perky. Forty years ago, Britain’s Islamic minority didn’t have the numbers to ban Piglet and change the Burger King menu. Now they do. What will be deemed “unacceptable” in the interests of “tolerance” in 20 or even five years’ time?
It has been clear since July 7 that the state has no real idea what to do to reconcile the more disaffected elements of its fastest-growing demographic. But at some point Britons have to ask themselves — while they’re still permitted to discuss the question more or less freely — how much of their country they’re willing to lose. The Hundred-Acre Wood is not the terrain on which one would choose to make one’s stand, but from here on in it is only going to become more difficult.
(Posted on October 4, 2005)