In a vain attempt to appear intellectual and justify my university education, I shall quote Ernest Hemingway on the process of writing. I know Hemingway said it for the Google told me so:
“Write drunk; edit sober.”
As a tribute to Hemingway, akin to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa, I shall bastardise this phrase for my own usage:
“Write angry; edit rational.”
In the wake of the horrific murders committed in Paris, where 129 people were killed and over 99 injured in a series of co-ordinated gun and bomb attacks purportedly by the so-called ‘Islamic State’, I took to social media to vent my unadulterated rage. And then I stopped. Write drunk; edit sober. Write angry; edit rational. Instead I posted this holding message: “I find it wiser not to write posts in anger. Considered words on the horrific events in Paris can wait another day. Deeply, deeply saddened.”
In hindsight, Jason Manford should have employed the less-haste approach to his social media policy, after Facebook banned him for calling the Abrahamic god a “c**t”. Whilst the depictions of this deity are, well, cuntish, I find it somewhat difficult to think of him – certainly not a her as we would not be in half the trouble we’re in with a woman in charge of life, the universe and everything – as female genitalia because I simply do not believe he exists. Having said that, I think that Stephen Fry gets it absolutely spot on with this:
Time has passed. The red mist has lifted and in its place, philosophical musings on “what next?” After the slaughter in the French capital, US comedian Bill Maher posed the question: “Why do they hate us?”
The ‘they’ being the alleged attackers, ISIS. First and foremost, I will not give the delusional murderers the respect they lust for by naming them the ‘Islamic State’. For a while now, I have tried to conjure up a collective noun for these individuals. I toyed with “The Flamboyant Homosexuals” but I did not want to degrade the wonderful – and I daresay, fabulous – LGBT community; but I knew nothing would piss ISIS off more than being referred to as a bunch of queens. Instead, I have opted for the powerful and the universal “The Cunts”. So if I need to refer to the artist formerly known as ISIL, much to my mother’s distaste I’m sure, they shall simply be called “The Cunts”.
Much soul-searching has occurred quite publicly on social media and otherwise. Solidarité has graciously been shown with an outpouring of grief and temporary Facebook profile pictures. Sadly, there has been opportunistic racism from the same people who are posting “liberté, égalité, fraternité”. That, Alanis Morissette, is ironic. Perhaps they should take note from that great Anglais philosopher, Rowling:
Amongst the fluctuation of French lexis – which I always considered a beautiful language with my favourite Gallic phrase oddly being “comme ci comme ça” – there were statements along the lines of “this has nothing to with religion”; which I consider, pardon the phrase, naïf.
The rise of The Cunts – which I understand sounds like a punk band record or Germaine Greer’s next book – is not solely the fault of religion, of course. I hasten to add that their version of Islam is utterly twisted and barbaric, and quite unknown to the vast majority of kind and loving Muslims in the world. The Cunts were formed (we really are going for the punk theme) due to the Smörgåsbord of Evil: the foreign policies of Western countries, mental health issues, psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies of the sexually deprived and, I’m sorry to say, a warped vision of radical Islam.
Religion is just one of many, many contributing factors. However, we cannot deny that it is one of our – to be unkind, out-of-date – ingredients on the Smörgåsbord of Evil.
I repeat: The Cunts do not represent the vast majority of Muslims who genuinely aspire to do some good in this world. However, following the equally sacred creed of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is identifying the problem. When the feminism debate ensues, a few of my peers give the lame duck argument: “But Not All Men…” We are not accusing the entire gender of being sexist, harassing women and generally being dicks, but merely stating that some men are. Of course not all men are guilty of being misogynistic, but it is a cultural problem which encapsulates the gender that we must address. In the same way, I do not believe that all Christians are homophobes but due to the hateful nature of some, there is an ingrained homophobia that we must not be reluctant to deal with. We should not shy away from the theological and sociological debate about Islam (and indeed all Abrahamic religions).
Perhaps you are aware from my sceptical writings and my general smugness (mainly because I am not prohibited from the pleasurable things in life – I am, of course, talking about bacon) that I am an atheist.
Down with this sort of thing!
Why do you want to ban religion?! (I don’t – although I fantasise about a world without it)
I would like to state on the record, Your Honour: I have absolutely no problem with faith – my problem is with religion. Faith can be a beautiful thing that inspires, unites and gives comfort to a great number of people. However, religion tends to accompany it like a drunken, bigoted uncle at a family function.
In January, I wrote a response to the freedom of speech debate surrounding the Charlie Hebdo murders for The Salfordian. I almost asked for it to be deleted from the website as I made a rather crude and gross over-simplification as an argument: I said that I was Islamophobic – but certainly not Muslimophobic. I regret the clumsy execution of the argument, not the sentiment. Of course, I am not Islamophobic. I do not fear Islam – how utterly preposterous! The point I was attempting to make was I would engage in debates about religion. I would, however, not mock a person’s beliefs.
Faith plus religion can lead to a pick n mix of ideology. In reaction to the far right’s interpretation of Islam following the Paris attacks, where the poor little darlings seemingly confuse race and religion, a meme – an evolutionary term coined by Professor Richard Dawkins, ironically – showing Muhammad’s rules of warfare has done the rounds. Don’t kill prisoners: marvellous! Don’t kill children: fab! Don’t mutilate corpses: quite right, too! One does tend to think why there is an idiot’s guide to warfare in the first place – surely one should be promoting peace: just don’t kill anyone please, thank you very much.
I am not refuting there are some wonderful passages in the Qur’an, giving lovely advice on how to be a better human being. But for every lovely passage, there will be those that stick at the back of the throat. And this is true of all seemingly holy texts: the Bible, the Torah, Joseph Smith’s ‘Where’s the Wally?’ For every love thy neighbour, there’s Sodom and Gomorrah (ludicrous, ludicrous tales); for every do not kill innocents, there’s a step-by-step guide on how to crucify said innocents. To call oneself a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew is not to choose a pick n mix of ideology but to take responsibility of the entire sweet (and sickly) collection on offer.
For instance, if you were to attend the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones and live to tell the tale, you would not defend the wedding on the account of the pleasing music and hor d’oeuvres. To extend this further, when you choose to support a political party, you do so because you agree with their policies. As much as I was delighted with the legalisation of same sex marriage by the ConDem coalition, I certainly would not support their views on, well, basically everything else. Adolf Hitler as Chancellor did revive the German economy, but his foreign policy and human rights record left something to be desired.
For a god that is absolute, be it Abrahamic or otherwise, the Bible and the Qur’an cannot be a series of pros and cons. If a deity, and its institution, is infallible then, as the late and great Christopher Hitchens said, why can we not tell if these texts are a sign of god having a bad day?
Whilst we are discussing religion and politics, it seems the opportune moment to quote Douglas Adams:
“If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody’s (I’m going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say ‘No, we don’t attack that; that’s an irrational belief but no, we respect it.’”
Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Joann Sfar shared this drawing online:
Upon sharing this image on my Facebook profile, there were some who liked the picture and some that did not. A friend of mine rightfully commented that if people didn’t kill for religion, they would kill for politics; zealousness is the problem, not faith. I find it hard to disagree with this. After President Hollande gave a speech after the attacks stating France would be “merciless”, I feared history would repeat itself. After 9/11, George Bush remarked unwisely that he would go on a “crusade”. That crusade is still feeling the effects. That crusade most likely resulting in the horrors seen on Friday. I knew, I just knew that France would retaliate and their airstrikes on the city of Raqqa in Syria sadly proved that if people didn’t kill for religion, they would kill for politics.
The Smörgåsbord of Evil has many, many ingredients and we must not be afraid of talking about each and every one of them. You may vehemently disagree with everything I have argued, and the marvellous thing is: you can. As I speak freely, you can also. In fact, I actively encourage it.
Let’s have a conversation. Freely, equally and together. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.