By Ben Pensant
2016 was officially the worst year EVER. That’s a fact – there’s been surveys and everything. Sure, there was a rise in life expectancy and a fall in world hunger; the discovery of gravitational waves and Juno’s exploration of Jupiter; ground-breaking advancements in eradicating HIV, cancer, malaria and measles. But it means nothing when you remember we left the EU, a bad man won an election and a load of famous old people croaked.
Still, as we kiss goodbye to the most destructive year EVER, I will concede that despite global panic, the rise of the alt-right and election results not going the way Guardian-readers wanted, there is some good out there. Not much, granted, and this country in particular has a nerve calling itself ‘great’ when Islamophobes routinely react to terrorist attacks by condemning the terrorists rather than writing about what Nigel Farage said on Twitter.
But while the world may well end in 2017 – either as a result of Donald Trump’s warmongering or because, well, it’s high-time Al Gore got one prediction right – the festive season brought home that even in times of impending doom we should focus on the good things. And when I say ‘good things’ I mean stuff a little more important than curing diseases or exploring the universe. But what made me come to this realisation? A couple of beautiful pieces by The Guardian’s resident trendy vicar, Giles Fraser, that’s what.
Giles has been spreading good will and optimism via his Loose Cannon column for some time now and as I spent Christmas bed-ridden after a life-threatening battle with the sniffles, his words were as warm and cosy as a lambswool blanket. Indeed, his December pieces were like mini-remakes of It’s A Wonderful Life, albeit versions in which George Bailey escapes the horror of Potterville and returns to Bedford Falls to open a faith school, set fire to the Christmas tree and stone his wife to death for taking her top off in public.
Because following the Louise Casey report Giles put aside his liberalism to pen a piece decrying assimilation and integration. And in the process added ‘segregation’ to the list of dodgy things Giles is totally cool with, like censorship, blasphemy laws and human rights groups who campaign on behalf of murderers and believe 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy.
But if you thought Giles’ support for CAGE hinted at his true colours, his celebration of religious minorities refusing to integrate left no doubt whatsoever. Because as right-on as he is – he wears a leather jacket for god’s sake – his dedication to keeping religious folk in the dark ages is second to none:
‘Why is integration such a self-evidently good thing?’ he asked. Of course, that a Muslim like Mo Farrah could answer that question by pointing to his mantlepiece full of medals or the fact that he’s one of the most popular, successful British sportsmen of all time is of no interest to Giles. No, Muslims like Mo bowed down to imperialist pressure by having the temerity to go to school, speak English and learn to read. As Giles writes: ‘The very nature of community is that there is a boundary between those who are in it and those who are not’, and Mo blurred that boundary when he selfishly defined himself by who he is and what he does rather than his religion or skin colour.
Similarly, Nadiya Hussain of Great British Bake-Off presents segregationists like Giles with something of a dilemma. On the one hand, he’s no doubt overjoyed she wears a hijab and had an arranged marriage. On the other, she let herself and her faith down by gaining a degree, teaching herself to cook and appearing on a TV show presented by an adulterer and a lesbian.
The fact that Mo and Nadiya owe their success in no small part to the way they integrated and made the most of what Britain offered them and their parents must trouble Giles greatly. Because a Muslim who overcomes prejudice and racism to be accepted and admired is skirting far too close to rejecting their victimhood for Giles’ tastes. In his world a Muslim with no victimhood is barely a Muslim at all. Though despite regularly telling his readers that the UK is a dreadful Islamophobic shit-hole he seems remarkably keen on Muslims coming here to live. And not only live but re-create the oppressive, illiberal environment they invraiably left behind.
And if the anti-Muslim bigotry he never shuts up about- or ‘Islamophobia’, to give it its made-up name – is inadvertently added to by Muslim immigrants ‘othering’ themselves and contributing bugger all to society because their fundamentalist parents don’t want them to then so be it. It’s no skin off Giles’ nose if racist morons express their objection to the weird foreigners across the road by setting fire to a mosque but you can bet your arse when it happens he’ll gleefully squeeze a column out of it.
Because as far as Giles is concerned Muslims don’t have the capacity to learn that children of white clergyman do. The fact that Muslims are just as capable of excelling in a secular society as anyone else is deeply problematic to Giles – encourage minorities to think for themselves and next thing you know you’ve got another Maajid Nawaz on your hands. And the last thing we need is Muslims being forced to reject the key tenets of their peaceful faith, such as misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism. Because no Muslim brought up in a liberal, secular society could possibly make up their own mind and reject an ideology that tells them their non-Muslim friends should be murdered.
‘Of course, the barely concealed target of Casey’s report is Muslims’ bemoans Giles, just in case anyone thought it was about those radicalised Anglican youths we hear so much about. ‘They won’t allow the Borg-like values of secular liberalism to corrode their distinctiveness’. Admirable sentiments and I’m sure the women and children oppressed by Sharia Courts and arranged marriages will be delighted to know a decent liberal like Giles is all for maintaining these customs in the name of ‘distinctiveness’.
If only more Muslims could be like the child-grooming gangs from Rotherham and Rochdale: brave men who refused to sacrifice their values to secular constraints like the age of consent, boldly sticking to the Qur’anic tradition of treating women like sex-objects. Of course, as Giles isn’t keen on integration he was probably disappointed that they targeted white girls. On the other hand, among fundamentalists women and non-Muslims are just about the lowest of the low so hey, why not rape two birds with one stone?
Of course, Giles is keen to clarify that the kind of segregation he’s talking about doesn’t have to be divisive: ‘All community is necessarily and rightly exclusive to some. This absolutely does not mean that the ‘us’ and the ‘them’ have to be antagonistically related’. Indeed it doesn’t, though it’s hard to avoid when the ‘them’ grow up in an isolated community in which they are told that the ‘us’ are decadent, blasphemous infidels who deserve punishment for not submitting to Allah.
But this is of no concern to Giles. Much like his oft-stated plea for Britain to let ‘every single’ refugee from Calais in despite the fact that a large percentage of them aren’t actually refugees, the inherent problems of social cohesion that come with importing reactionary cultures that keep themselves to themselves are someone else’s problem.
And if the children in these cultures miss out on the opportunities available in one of the most liberal democracies on the planet? Well, good for them. As Giles clarified on Twitter when asked if he was okay with children growing up without being taught English or Maths: ‘Absolutely Okay’. He even went further, slamming the bigots who suggested that children in strict religious communities are being left behind: ‘They are not missing out on an education. Many study Talmud a lot harder than my kids study geography’. And I’m sure employers would agree that having an impeccable knowledge of ancient religious texts is worth far more than being able to read and add up.
But Giles isn’t particularly bothered about people contributing to the country that welcomed them either, as evidenced by his ‘let them all in!’ rallying call. Though he’s clearly keen for his own kids to receive an education, and I’m certain any geography problems his little cherubs may be having will be ironed out before the end of term, as they probably go to a school where teachers can actually teach without having to repeat everything several times so all forty kids in the class can hear it.
Which only proves Giles’ point about the dangers of integration. One only has to look at Asad Shah, the Ahmadiyya shopkeeper murdered in April for selling out his faith by wishing his neighbours ‘Happy Easter’. The Ahmadiyya, of course, eschew many aspects of the Qur’an and are the only sect of Islam that can be described as remotely peaceful. Which explains why they are ostracised, persecuted and hacked to death on Glasgow streets. But as Giles would no doubt agree, if Mr Shah had just kept his head down and got on with being a proper Muslim instead of pandering to white supremacy perhaps he’d still be alive. When will they ever learn that tolerance kills?
Thankfully, Giles never dwells on Muslims killing people any longer than he has to, hence his brilliant piece on the Berlin truck attack which devoted roughly half a sentence to condemning the killers while the other thousand words absolved religion of any blame. See, Giles hit upon a simple truth; it wasn’t that the murderers were too religious but that they weren’t religious enough. ‘How to defeat terrorists? True extremism’ he suggested. Because as any leftist knows, Islam is never to blame for anything.
Everyone from Jihadi John to the Kouachi brothers may have shouted ‘Allahu Akbar!’ before following direct instructions from the Qur’an but a man on a flying horse can see this has nothing to do with Islam. Because no acts of barbarity ever have anything to do with Islam. As opposed to the times when a Muslim does something good – such as winning a gold medal or a baking competition – which of course has everything to do with Islam. Despite the fact that the Qur’an contains considerably more passages about punishing blasphemers and beheading infidels than running shoes or birthday cakes.
Still, thanks to Western foreign policy countless more oppressed Islamists will be forced to crash trucks into Christmas markets until society stops being so racist and just gives them what they bloody want. Combine this with the fascistic attempts to impose assimilation upon Muslims and it’s not hard to see why so many are left with no choice but to kill people.
Of course, if Giles had his way the Berlin attack would never have happened, as Muslims would have no way of learning about Western foreign policy as they wouldn’t be able to read. And there’d be little chance of your average Muslim stealing a truck as they’d have neither the ability to drive nor the linguistic skills to tell the Polish driver what will happen to his testicles if he doesn’t give up his vehicle.
In fact, in Giles’ perfect world the only thing Muslims would be able to read is the Qur’an, a sure-fire recipe for peace and harmony as there is nothing in that book even vaguely connected to jihad, imperialism or murdering people. As 2017 begins – a year nailed on to be even more grim than the last – we could do worse than heed the soothing words of Reverend Giles and quietly celebrate the progressive future he envisions. And nothing exemplifies that progressive future better than a liberal newspaper publishing articles that promote segregation and religious fundamentalism.