Opinion Columnists 23 Jul 2016 Cabbages & Kings ...
In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."

Cabbages & Kings: Dress undoeth the woman?

Published Jul 23, 2016, 12:34 am IST
Updated Jul 23, 2016, 12:34 am IST
Almost every day, on the world, national and local news, there’s bound to be a report of some disaster or atrocity.
Representational image
 Representational image

“‘I have nothing to
confess,’ said the spider
Confronting God Yama at the gate
Then opening his jaws a little wider
He accounted for everything he ate.
Flies, fleas and moths he trapped
In that invisible net
All that murder gently wrapped
And devoured without regret —
All creatures who were born to die
All lovers who were born to lie .”
— From Ai! Don’t Be Silly Yaar by Bachchoo

London’s Metropolitan Police reports that it has seen a significant increase in “hate crimes” since the country voted, narrowly, for Brexit. “Hate crime” is the phrase it uses for racially motivated attacks on people who are innocently, ethnically, non-white British. It can take all sorts of shapes, from serious physical assault to verbal abuse, spitting in someone’s face or even smashing the windows or throwing objectionable things including firebombs through the letter boxes of “ethnic”  families. So far, there have been no recent fatalities. A young lady who monitors these attacks was interviewed on television. She had her head covered and said she was of mixed race and had in the past few days been randomly abused on the streets. She was aware that this was trivial compared to the more serious cases she had recorded.


It is certainly no coincidence that, after the Brexit referendum, a fraction of the people in favour of “Leave” imagined that the vote gave them the right to demand that “foreigners” be instantly evicted from this sceptred isle. Antagonism to immigrants seemed to have been in check before the referendum but the signal for its resurgence has clearly been fuelled by its leaders. I mentioned the “covered head” of the monitoring lady because of a curious item that appeared in a national newspaper a few days before she spoke about an increase in hate crimes. The Sun is a tabloid British newspaper. Its character and that of its readers can be gauged from some of its features and journalistic practices — one of which is a photograph every day of a nude or semi-nude “model” with some mind-numbing, punning slogans under it on its Page 3. It was also the centre of convictions for hacking phones of celebrities and even of a teenage victim of rape and murder.


Channel 4 News, an important journalistic vehicle, reported the Bastille Day massacre in Nice on the night it happened. The news presenter, a charming young lady called Fatima Manji, presented the report. She was wearing a very smart grey scarf covering her head and draping her shoulders. The Sun, the next day, ran a column by its former editor, one Kelvin McKenzie, which said: “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” McKenzie went on to say that Ms Manji was clearly a Muslim as she was wearing a hijab. The tone of the column was one of outrage: Mackenzie wrote he could “hardly believe his eyes when (he) turned on the telly and was greeted by a sight that would shock any right-thinking person”.


Almost every day, on the world, national and local news, there’s bound to be a report of some disaster or atrocity. A young man picks up a gun and shoots his schoolmates somewhere in America. He is from a Christian family. Should every news channel that reports the incident in Britain or around the world ensure that they don’t outrage “right-thinking people” by having the news presented by a Hindu, Muslim, Jew or some other non-Christian? Or closer to Mr McKenzie’s fox-hole, should all reports of outrageous and illegal phone-hacking by journalists of the Sun, several of whom were convicted of the offence, be reported on television by people of a different faith from the possibly pious journalists whose consciences allowed them to violate the privacy of an abducted teenager?


Should no TV presenter be allowed to wear, shall we say, a chain with a cross on it while enumerating the deceptions exposed by a judge’s inquiry used by the avowedly Christian Tony Blair when he sent soldiers to a war in Iraq in which thousands of Iraqis and 179 British soldiers died? Mr Mckenzie is obviously talking rot, but in the light of the increased racial attacks reported by the police, was he writing rot which incited people to racial hatred? Was he saying that Ms Manji is on the same ethical side as the murderer who killed men, women and children in Nice because she was wearing a scarf to cover her hair? No Muslims I know — and I can confidently say that about Ms Manji — would claim to share a faith with the Nice killer or any of the outfits and death cults that appropriate the aspects of Islam that lead them to the murder of innocents.


That being said, there is no denying that there are deep divisions in our world caused by interpretations of religion. The suppressed coup in Turkey was proclaimed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an extremist, terrorist, move by associates or followers of ISIS. The opposite opinion is that the armed forces were attempting to overthrow Mr Erdogan’s increasingly dictatorial and Islamist regime in order to restore secularism, democracy and freedom of expression in an Ataturkish Turkey. Until the imprisoned leaders of the failed coup are allowed to address the world on their motives, we shan’t know. They will, on all evidence, be executed before they speak.


The news from Turkey however, points to the secularist view of their intentions as the citizens who suppressed the coup seemed from their slogans and interviews to be followers of a fundamentalist Islam. The Western media spoke to several women in Istanbul and Ankara, all of whom claimed they were now afraid to go out onto the streets in the western clothes they had worn for years and would only venture out of their homes in hijabs. Dress maketh the man, dress undoeth the woman?