I have often said there is nothing more consistent across geography, culture, or religion than the tacky-ass aesthetics of the nouveau riche. (Okay, so I haven’t always said that, but it’s clearly totally true.)
Whether they be the Texan Baptist oil baroness with her hair to the sky (the higher the hair, the closer to heaven, darlin’!), or the Long Island Catholic mogul’s wife with the face fulla’ slap, certain looks just transcend, and there’s nothing like seeing an Islam promo featuring what appears to be the cast members from “Real Housewives of Dubai” to really drive that home. (By the way, I would watch the hell out of a “Real Housewives of Dubai,” so why doesn’t it exist yet?)
These primped and coiffed (and glittered, glossed, nipped, and tucked) folks’ particular interpretation of Islam discourages Darwinism (as many religions do), atheism (as most religions do), and communism (well of course you’re going to say that- we can’t have the working class cutting in to your Botox money!) The only thing that really seems off is when they claim they’re against “materialism.” Come on dudes, I’m looking right at you! Own it!
Al Arabiya is reporting that a sharia committee closely associated with a faction of Syrian rebels in Aleppo has apparently issued a religious ruling declaring croissants(!) to be “haram” (forbidden under strict Islamic practices).
The, er, logic, if you can call it that, behind the fatwā forbidding the French pastry popular the world over is that the crescent shape of croissants apparently celebrates European colonialists’ victory over Islam. I know that’s what I’m thinking every morning when I eat mine! Aren’t you?
In 2011, a Somalian Islamist group, the al-Shabaab al-Mujahedin Movement, declared a holy war on the savory Egyptian meat pastries shaped like triangles called sambousa, because a triangle is supposed to symbolize the Holy Trinity, never mind that it’s been a Middle East diet staple probably for centuries. What shape WOULD these assholes approve of for someone else’s food? Talk about OCD control freaks, this takes it to a whole new level of group psychosis!
And here’s the thing, The Free Syria Army, the ones who issued this fatwā against fluffy, buttery bread is one of the more moderate groups fighting Assad! Another one issued a ban on listening to music—any music—and to make little girls wear veils. Still another wants to ban women from driving. They even set up their own informal tribunals for this!
Poor Syria, obviously the country has much bigger problems than merely deposing a brutal despot when the proposed “new bosses” want to dictate the very shape of their food.
Last year, the British Islamist and all-round comedian Anjem Choudary (“Fox’s Favorite Muslim Radical”) popped up alongside three of four local Islamists in Walthamstow, East London to declare, before of a press audience pushing double figures, the instigation of Sharia law in the surrounding borough of Waltham Forest! This, to be sure, had as much meaning as would my declaring the legalization of methamphetamine in New York State, but a couple of tabloids duly trotted out the story all the same. Choudary laid it down in his usual disconcertingly suburban tones.
“This will mean this is an area where the Muslim community will not tolerate drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, usury, free mixing between the sexes – the fruits if you like of Western civilization. We want to run the area as a Sharia controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term.”
A year on, I can testify (as a relatively hard-livin’ resident of Walthamstow) that the Islamic Emirate of Waltham Forest looks a fair old way off regardless of last year’s stunt, while the local Islamist movement remains more depressing than intimidating.
Take my local Internet café (please!) which has the following admonition on the wall: “PLEASE NO MORE LOOKING AT TERRORIST AND PORNOGRAPHY SITES. POLICE WILL BE CALLED IMMEDIATELY.” The impression is of a minority of “armchair Jihadists” –losers paying a pound an hour to haunt chat-rooms almost certainly observed by (and likely moderated and maintained by) Anglo-American intelligence agents.
Many–including many Islamists–consider Choudary himself to be an embarrassingly obvious British Intelligence Asset. You can see why. There’s something distinctly phony about him, while his associated groups (such as the snappily titled Islam4UK) seem solely focused on generating supremely banal controversy rather than advancing any sort of Islamic agenda.
For example, Choudary first acquired widespread notoriety when he led a small group in heckling soldiers’ coffins back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, this upset a lot of people, among them Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka “Tommy Robinson,” a seething Islamophobe from Luton, who decided, along with some like-minded berks, to surf the wave of public outrage and announce the formation of the EDL, or English Defence League, the self-styled “street protest movement,” predominantly consisting of angry rough white working class men–many of them former soccer hooligans–who up to very recently have regularly descended on various English towns by the coach-load to get pissed and chant about Mohammed being a pedophile (this is literally what they do).
Initially identifying “radical Islam” as the object of its drunken ire, the EDL has since expanded its scope to include Islam in general. (It’s like I always say, if you’re gonna pick a fight, pick one with a billion people.) Robinson–a surprisingly baby-faced monomaniac–explained the reason for this on Newsnight a couple of years back.
“I didn’t know anything about the Koran when this first started. I didn’t know wot left wing or right wing woz. I never even turned the computer on. I just knew things were seriously wrong.”
It ain’t every day someone admits founding a political movement in a state of total ignorance! Rest assured that Robinson’s computer has since remained very much on, and his prejudice blossomed into the full-blown Islamophobic ideology recognizable the world over. As such, Robinson publicly eschews many of the traditional hatreds of the British far right–gays, Jews, women–so as to concentrate entirely on Muslims…
Hence the intermittent presence of right wing Californian rabbi Nachum Shifren–“the surfing rabbi”–at various EDL outings. That the fundamentalist Shifren (no less a comedian, in his own way, than Anjem Choudary) advocates the stoning of gay people arguably complicates the EDL’s LGBT pretensions, but then the following extract from a Shifren EDL speech suggests there might be number of crossed wires here.
“I’ve a question for you today. Is there a man or a woman here–I want you to step forward if you are here–if there’s anybody here that wants to forever forgo reading Locke, Chaucer, Dickens or Goethe, can we hear from them now, because that’s what you’re gonna get if the Islamists take over!?!”
Got quite a small cheer, that–the likelihood of any of Shifren’s audience knuckling down to some Locke, Chaucer, Dickens or Goethe (or even knowing who they are) being pretty darn slim.
Tommy Robinson, of course, much better understands the EDL demographic, and began a recent speech with the following, more attuned opening gambit: “At half four this morning, I was in a strip club in Slovenia…” (banging on, you suspect, about Muslims, while a bored blonde wriggled her ass in his crotch). ““I was at my mate’s stag weekend… I got a taxi from the airport.” Got a big cheer, that, the stag weekend representing a kind of hoodlum Hajj, the central pilgrimage of an inverse Islam.
It can seem that there is something antithetical about Islamic and British culture (the EDL’s version of it, anyway). Which is to say that the latter seems founded almost solely on what the former deems haram –“forbidden.” First of all, you’ve got booze… haram. Then you’ve got the fried breakfast, with its fifty-seven different uses for pig flesh… haram. Random naked women (whether in a strip club or the pages of a tabloid newspaper)… haram. The bookies… haram. The gram of sniff… haram. Headbutting your mate in jest… haram. Even soccer (according to many Sharia scholars I came across)… haram.
Might it not be credible that, beneath all the cant about clashing civilizations, beneath even the tacit aversion to anyone that isn’t bright pink, the EDL are motivated by a fear of having absolutely fuck all to do in the extremely unlikely eventuality of a Sharia UK? This, they must figure, is why Muslims pray five times a day. It kills time!
Anyway, obediently following Anjem Choudary’s breadcrumb trail of provocation, September saw the EDL undertake a day trip to the aforementioned “Islamic Emirate of Waltham Forest”… where they were told, by a very wide cross section of locals, to fuck off. In fact so many people turned out to deliver this message, that the whole demo was disrupted, the speeches were cancelled, and the entire “street protest” approach was thrown into contention among the EDL rank-and-file.
Adding to the fall-out was a campaign from Nick Griffin–leader of the British National Party and the traditional big kahuna of the British far right–accusing the EDL of being some kind of dastardly Zionist ploy (the presence of “the surfing rabbi” presumably giving the game away there). Robinson took to YouTube to brandish an assortment of mortgage arrears and unpaid bills, apparently at breaking point. “If I’ve got all this rich Zionist funding,” he shouted, “why’s my phone been cut off for two bloody weeks?”
Shortly after, and with a view to regaining the whole race-hate initiative, Robinson led a bunch of EDL goons in an attempt to occupy a mosque. Fortunately, the cops got wind of it and nipped that scheme in the bud, arresting over fifty potential participants. All were bailed apart from Robinson, who was remanded on a charge for having accessed the US with a fake passport in order to attend an anti-Islam conference hosted by the lovely Pamela Geller. Locked up and facing extradition to the US, Robinson can do little to prevent what looks like the final disintegration of his movement. Ah well, Tommy, at least you were indirectly responsible for the immortal “Muslamic Ray Guns” (see below).
And what of that old fraud Anjem Choudary? He’s got some pretty big fish to fry, let me tell you. Remember that young lady Malala Yousafzai, the fifteen-year-old shot by the Pakistani Taliban after she campaigned for education rights for girls? Well, never one to miss an opportunity to humiliate his supposed co-religionists, Choudary latest organization–Sharia4Pakistan–is reportedly holding a conference in Islamabad to call for her execution! Comedians, the lot of them…
Pat Condell is a British atheist who makes popular—albeit quite controversial—YouTube clips railing against religion. He’s a former stand-up comic and has a quite a knack for looking right into the camera and really nailing it. Condell’s rants are anything but polite, and they throw cold water on religious belief (“An organized system of ignorance!” as my old friend Brother Theodore liked to say) as well as anything I can think of aside from George Carlin’s all-time classic “Religion is Bullshit.” (What happens to Christians when they accidentally listen to Carlin’s routine? I wonder about that every time I hear it!!)
Here is how he describes his mission:
I was a regular on the UK stand-up circuit until the mid nineties when I got fed up performing to drunken birthday parties, so I started writing for other people. I wrote my most recent show, and I now make internet videos, because I believe religion in the modern world is out of control and is given far too much respect by people who should know better. It enjoys a status it hasn’t earned and doesn’t deserve, and it’s time we stopped pandering to it before it literally destroys us. You can find out more at my website.
Below Pat Condell takes on Christianity:
The next time you hear a dumbass say something about how the Founding Fathers felt about religion, hit ‘em with this quote, courtesy of Condell:
“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.” - Thomas Jefferson
In the name of balance, here’s Pat Condell’s epic rant from 2007 “The Trouble with Islam,” amazingly still on YouTube:
Al Qaeda is releasing a new glossy magazine for women called The Majestic Woman. Dubbed the “Jihad Cosmo” the magazine includes beauty tips for women (“stay indoors and wear a hijab”), how to find a jihadist husband, fashion advice, and suicide bombings. The front cover shows a sub-machine gun with a small insert picture of a veiled woman. According to The Week the 31-page glossy contains:
...advice for singles on “marrying a mujahideen,” a beauty column urging women to improve their complexion by keeping their faces covered and staying indoors, and an interview with the widow of a suicide bomber who praises her late husband’s bravery. A preview for the next issue promises more skin-care tips and instructions on how to wage electronic jihad.
But is The Majestic Woman for real?
Well, it’s definitely out there in the world, but its origins seem murky. The magazine is reportedly being distributed online by the same al Qaeda media group that publishes Inspire, a glossy magazine aimed at young Muslim extremists whose authenticity has also been questioned. Slate’s KJ Dell’Antonia notes that the Middle East Observatory hasn’t claimed the magazine as a product of al Qaeda, and U.S. analysts haven’t weighed in. In any case, says Dell’Antonia, “neither beauty tips nor man-catching advice seem consistent with the womanly ideals of the conservative Muslim, and it’s hard to reconcile a cover image of a woman posing with a sub-machine gun with a culture that does not allow women to drive.”
Chicago-based Iraqi director Usama Alshaibi seems to be one of the most prolific Arab filmmakers in the American independent film scene—and he’s almost certainly the most experimental. Working often in close collaboration with his wife Kristie, Alshaibi has jump-started the canon of what we might term transgressive Arab-American film.
In his over 50 short films, Alshaibi has updated the techniques of transgressors like William Burroughs and Kenneth Anger to transmit his obsessions with culture-clash, technology, religion, violence, sexuality and identity. He’s finished four features, two of which deal with porn and STDs, one with cross-cultural relationships and another with the personal reality of post-Saddam Iraq. He has three in production or post-production now, two of which—American Arab and Baghdad, Iowa—portray growing up Arab in the heartland in the in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and today, and the third, Profane, about a Muslim dominatrix in spiritual crisis.
As the news media shamelessly reduces the complex relationship between America and its Arab and Muslim communities into a dopey controversy over where to build a friggin’ cultural center or mosque, we need the perspective and imagination of Alshaibi’s work now more than ever.
Like most hard-working indie filmmakers, Alshaibi can always use financial help making his vision manifest. Click to donate to help him finish Profane or American Arab.
After the jump, check out a clip from American Arab…
Inscriptions of Prophet Muhammad regarded with the same reverence as the Quran appear and then disappear on the body of a nine-month-old child born in a small village of Krasno-Oktyabrskoye, the Republic of Dagestan, RIA Novosti news agency reports.
According to a representative of a local musk, the signs in Arab first appeared on the body of the new-born Ali Yakubov a few days after his birth.