This has always confused me. Muslim women are apparently supposed to cover their hair to show humility and, as some Imams I know tell me, to not excite the sexual passions of men (for hair is the sexiest part of the female, apparently). Yet, women who wear the hijab often have the most elaborate make-up — and the most beautiful, luxurious hijabs! Indeed, the more covered up, the more tarted up; I commonly see women in Niqab with the most outrageous eye make-up.
Now I love a beautiful hijab as much as the next guy. Seriously: the hijabs above are a joy to behold. But surely it defeats the object of the humility exercise. Let’s cover our plume up with an even more beautiful plume cover(!)
Anyway, Dolce & Gabbana have got on board with their luxurious hijabs. So all Muslims (just the women, though; men don’t have to cover their hair for some reason) can now be extra pretty whilst being extra holy and modest.
I’m getting really angry now. Half the people I know didn’t go to one of London’s festive highlights this year: Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. Why? ISIS… No joke. I have friends who’ve lost a lot of money from cancelled clients due to… the terror threat.
Sorry, but what the f*ck!? Is everyone a coward? Has everyone lost their minds? There’s very little chance of getting bombed or attacked. Yes, it is a possibility, and that is why the security services and police work hard to keep the public safe. But we can’t lose our heads and become fearful. We’re more likely to get glassed by a random twat down the local. That is a fact.
So why is terrorism so scary now? We’ve always been a target for terrorism in London going back hundreds of years. Guy Fawkes, anyone? The IRA?
Disturbingly, there is a racist undertone to this current panic, a racism which is helping fuel the fear. Hundreds of years being bombed, but now ‘cos these guys are brown, got beards, and speak a guttural language (y’know, like the Black Speech of Mordor Orcs in LOTR!), all of a sudden we need to lose our heads.
And the media don’t help. The portrayed otherness of Muslims, combined with a pod people-esque enemy next door slant to the story, is helping to fan the flames in a bid to have juicier sexed up news. It is disgraceful. But as the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius said, ‘We are in control of our reactions, and our reactions makes something good or bad’. If we let the terrorists, and the media, make us fearful and consequently change our routines — for example, by not going to Winter Wonderland type events –, then we are not being prudent and sensible. Rather, we are letting fear and cowardliness win. We are letting the terrorists win.
Democracy and our free way of life are based on a fearless, quiet, going about of our own business in confidence. We have nothing to fear but fear itself — for fear has always been the enemy of democracy and freedom. Nero and the fire in Rome, to the burning of the Reichstag in 1933, to 9/11 and the Patriot Act, fear has always led to an erosion of our freedoms and our free way of life. Back in 1859, John Stewart Mill warned us in On Liberty that totalitarianism doesn’t just come from the state and state agencies — society can itself be the tyrannical agent.
Don’t let the terrorists win. Don’t fear the beard. Go about your normal business; our democracy is at stake. Save democracy; go the Winter Wonderland. And use my ironic hashtag: #FearTheBeard.
Christmas, Xmas, Noel, Yule. So many names. But why? Christmas: Christ-mass. That one’s simple enough. “X” is the first letter of the word Christ in Greek (Χριστος), hence Xmas. Noel comes from French, and ultimately the Latin, for “birth” [that is, of Jesus]. Yule, on the other hand, was originally the name for a heathen feast of around the same period in Northern Europe. Yule is therefore the homeborn English word.
But what is the true meaning of Christmas? Father Christmas, gifts, and feasting? Family, charity, peace on Earth? The baby Jesus?
As a non-Christian, I like to use Yule to consciously stand for the cultural, as opposed to religious, celebration. Why? Because “Christmas” is and always has been about more than just Christianity. The Church, in a rather savvy move, would often recast local heathen festivals in a Christian mould. And the winter festivities were no different. Therefore, the Christian aspect is but one part of the Christmas period. So why should I tacitly let Christians take the Christmas period as their own, let them dictate to me and the rest of society how, when, and why I should celebrate the period? Christmas is as much mine as it is a Christian’s. Eventually the word Yule fell out of use, except in some dialects, and was brought back to mainstream life in the nineteenth century. Therefore Christians can keep the word Christmas if they like; the rest of us have Yule.
I don’t celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Yule. Happy Yule, everybody!
The best thing I’ve heard anyone say for weeks? Natalie Haynes in last night’s Evening Standard:
…why is it that those who proclaim the greatest religious fervour are so threatened by gods no longer worshipped.
As “Islamic State” continue their sacrilegious and totalitarian destruction of civilisation, culture, and history with the demolition of the ancient temple of Bel in Palmyra, I too am taking time out from my anguish and highly effectual hand-wringing to wonder: why are ISIS so scared of dead gods?
God Almighty, the Alpha and Omega, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent Creator, the Exceedingly Beneficent, the Gentle, the Boundless, He Who Is Able To Do Anything, the Supremely Exalted, the Lord of Majesty and Generosity, the Owner of All Sovereignty, &c.
Those titles (and many more) are His, and nobody can doubt their accuracy (for it is written).
So here’s a question for the religious amongst us, given God’s undoubted perfection:
Why is God the Magnificent and Super Duper Excellent (etc.) so obsessed with… hair?
Sikhs can’t cut their hair. To protect it, they wrap it in a turban. And they grow their beards their whole life. If you’re a woman and really want to show how holy you are, you too can wear a turban!
Muslim men also must display a beard. But shaving off the ‘tache is fine. Conversely, Muslim women need to cover their head hair, and any beard they grow is irrelevant to the glorification of God. Male hair = good, female hair = bad??
Christians have to cover their hair in church — but only the women!
Jewish men grow beards, like Muslims, and Jewish women must cover their hair in Synogogue, like Christians. But Hasidic Jewish women shave their hair off and put on a wig. Jewish men must grow curly, long sideburns. They also need to cover their hair! …But only the crown (I think this is more to cover the bald spot).
Rastafarians must mat their hair into dreadlocks. The holiest type is where all of the hair has matted into one long lock.
The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the world’s Tibetan Buddhists. As you know from listening to Richard Gere or watching The Golden Child (or reading a book, I don’t know), when a Dalai Lama dies he is re-incarnated. At that point, top Buddhists rampage around the maternity wards of the world and perform scientific experiments (I imagine) to determine which sprog is the bona fide authentic reborn Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, the present Dalai Lama is not playing along.
Basically, the current Dalai Lama is in a huff with China for a bunch of stuff including China’s refusal to recognise the man he appointed as his Vice-Lama (technically known as the “Panchen Lama”). In retaliation, the Dalai Lama keeps threatening to not be reborn. Read that again, please: the Dalai Lama is threatening to circumvent the laws of the Cosmos and not be reborn.
How does that work? And before any Richard Gere fan sheeple Buddhist gives me a wiseacre explanation, let me just say: that was a rhetorical question! This whole thing is absurd. The Dalai Lama is getting dangerously close to pulling back the curtain and showing us the true nature of the Wizard. Religion is so self-evidently made up nonsense, whether it’s the Catholic Church deciding that there isn’t a place called “Limbo” after all or the Dalai Lama threatening to never be reborn again, that I am constantly amazed that some people still believe in it. And by “some people”, I mean around 84% of the world’s population(!)
Honestly, you could not write this stuff: atheist China demands the Dalai Lama is reborn; Dalai Lama threatens to circumvent the cosmically ordained law; the faithful become ever more faithful as religion becomes ever more absurd; the rest of us suffer the fallout of religiously inspired madness. Oh well, at least it keeps satirists in business.
In 2012, United States troops in Afghanistan carelessly disposed of old Korans by burning them. This action sparked retaliatory riots in which over twenty people died and hundreds were injured. The troops’ deeds drew widespread international condemnation and prompted President Obama to issue a grovelling apology to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai. [Ref 1-3]
As a self-professed book-lover, you can imagine what the thought of burning any book does to me. The mummified remains of my old books, too battered to even be accepted by Oxfam, are held together with sellotape bandaging. But destroying a holy book! I’m an atheist, and even I’m not okay with that.
But if burning a copy of a holy book, of which there are millions of other copies, is a sacrilegious and profane act — and I think as a general rule that it is –, then what do we call the destruction of ancient statues and cities, of which only one copy exists and which can never be reproduced? “Profane” and “Sacrilege” don’t seem to be strong enough words.
I am of course talking about the ignoramuses of Islamic State who have now destroyed the ancient city of Nimrud. [Ref 4] This city was a world treasure, now it’s trash. But now IS have announced that they will soon destroy Hatra — the 2300 year old city, featured in the film The Exorcist, heralded as “one of the most impressive of Iraq’s archaeological sites”. [Ref 5] It’s so impressive, in fact, that Saddam Hussein zestily began restoration work. [Ref 6] Saddam Hussein: genocidal dictator, and connoisseur of fine art, apparently. The irony of this situation, IS taking filling the vacuum left by Saddam Hussein who we toppled, can be lost on no one.
If the names Nimrud and Hatra don’t quite stir you up, imagine instead The Great Pyramids of Giza being bulldozed. That is the exact kind of sacrilege and profaneness we are talking about here. This is an affront to the very dignity of mankind. In the words of UNESCO, “With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, (the IS group) shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people”. And I would add, “and of all people”.
Islamic State’s cultural barbarity surely now far exceeds that of the Taliban and their infamous 2001 destruction of the 1500 year old, 180 and 121 foot high Buddhas of Bamiyan.
Islamic State are causing untold suffering, not just through the brutal treatment, torture and killing of innocents, not just through the vile regime they are presiding over, and through the instability and damage they are doing to world order and the untold increase in misery and suffering that they bring. But more than that, they are busily destroying mankind’s heritage, wiping out man’s history. This is the very definition of profane, the very definition of sacrilege.
Any tinpot group of idiots can kill or torture a few hostages, but it takes a special brand of evil and demented idiocy to commit such acts of sacrilege. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova has accurately condemned the destruction, saying, “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.” [Ref 7] There can be no doubt of this: it is every bit a war crime as their savage executions. Islamic State surely is the most flagrant case of false advertising ever; the very name suggests piety and holiness, yet IS show themselves to be the most profane and sacrilegious group in recent history.
The question is, what do we do about it? The destruction of these sites is not merely a mild aggravation, the demolition of a bunch of decayed old stuff, interesting only to a motley bunch of university lecturers. These Islamic State acts of cultural vandalism are nothing short of a savage attack on mankind’s dignity, an attempt to make real Orwell’s nightmare scenario: total enslavement of mankind’s future by destruction of mankind’s past.
Hard decisions need to be made. The region must be re-stabilised. Therefore, Kurdish independence or deposing Assad in Syria are both off the menu for the foreseeable future. And surely a strong Iraqi state must form the centrepiece of any solution. But how to achieve that? I was 100% against the War in Iraq. Yet that mistake of a war cannot now be undone. Therefore, I’m dragged to an upsetting conclusion: it may be time to face facts and realise that only sending the troops back into Iraq will restore 0rder. We’ve been left militarily, ideologically, and emotionally exhausted by the Iraq War, yes. The last intervention in Iraq caused the mess we’re in now, undoubtedly. But we either intervene militarily right now, or we wait until Iraq falls into chaos and we are forced to send the troops in then — not to depose an enfeebled leader, Saddam Hussein, but a vigorous and fanatical IS regime. Better to cut this cancer of Islamic State out now before it metastasises.