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The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Silk Purses and Sows' Ears 

A certain Muslim academic is having problems with the Western Media and its "anti-Islamic bias in the aftermath of 9/11". He is Islamic scholar Zakir Naik, addressing a meeting in Riyadh. His solution is

the launch of a professionally run news agency sponsored by the Muslim states

to counter this bias.

Well, that's an interesting idea. Let's consider it in a minute. But before that, a further quotation at the bottom of the article caught my eye.

It is time for Muslims to pay attention to their religion so that they can turn the tables against the religion’s critics instead of being constantly on the defensive. In this context, he explained how he put customs and immigration officials in the United States and Australia on the defensive when they questioned him about jihad and other sensitive topics pertaining to Islam.

That's a novel approach. I know from personal experience that a Saudi passport is guaranteed to start a conversation with these officials. But like all such officials, and cops, and parking attendants, while a few may be bad-tempered or officious, most are just regular people trying to do a difficult job on behalf of us all. And I'm more than happy to cooperate with any security check that will stop some crazed Jihadi getting into the same plane or country with me. So I'm polite and cooperative, and rarely have any problems. On the other hand, I'm curious how the US and Australian officials reacted to this smart-ass Islamic scholar putting them "on the defensive". Imagine them going home at night and telling their significant other about meeting some nice Muslim man who had "put them right" about Jihads and all those other topics that we cover in these pages.
"And do you know, dear, before he told me, I'd never really appreciated how we Kuffars deserve to die an agonizing death if we don't renounce Christianity and convert to Islam."
"No, neither did I - did you put the cat out?".
I have to say that I cherish the dream of our self-righteous Islamic scholar, sitting all alone on a hard bench in a deserted immigration hall at three in the morning, his passport and visa having been "lost" by an immigration official who went home to bed five hours ago, which might be "found" with a bit of luck later in the morning, but only after three 747's have just landed and disgorged.

But back to the point. The gentleman is upset because all Muslim News is Bad News. He thinks that by having an Islamic News Agency, the Bad News will suddenly become Good News.

But as most of us appreciate, if the news is Bad, it's because it's reporting some deed or event that is equally Bad. With apologies to Piglet, you can't make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear.

Some years ago, there was the Chief Exec of a major Public Relations agency in New York. As these people do, he'd been out for a long and enjoyable lunch. When he returned to the reception area of his office, he spotted a dozen guys in black pyjamas. The receptionist called him over. They'd been wauiting for a couple of hours, didn't have an appointment, but could they ask his advice?

So he went over to see them. And they turned out to be Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Seems they had a bit of an "image problem" (that being the phrase they used in those days). They were getting very "bad press". So when he had heard their tale, the first thing that our PR guy suggested was that they stop killing people. They explained that they would like to, but it would involve an embarrassing change of policy, it might admit some fault on their part, and being eastern, they didn't like to "lose face". So then he was forced to make the best of a bad job. How about a film to glamorize and glorify the whole thing, like Eisenstein did for the Russian Revolution? Call it "Killing Fields - The Musical"? He even sketched out a catchy dance number:
New Year - for Pol Pot - and Cambodia
...but as is often the way, two other producers stole those ideas and finished their movies before him. So in the end he was forced, in desparation, to do some cheesy info-mercial campaigns, a bit like the ones that the Saudis do in the USA. The first was entitled "Pol Pot: helping Cambodians rediscover their rural heritage." The second was a bit "New Age" - "Self Confession; how it can release you from the cares of this world". The third was quite specialized - "The cranial bone - Cambodia's new wonder fertilizer!"

But none of these worked, so the campaign ended, the PR exec collected his $100,000, and he waved goodbye to his new friends in black pyjamas.

And as he would advise our Muslim cleric, you can't make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's ear. Or, to avoid the porcine reference, Bad deeds invariably lead to Bad news; the corollary is, if you want Good news, you need to do some Good deeds.

So here are my humble suggestions for some Good Muslim News. All they need is for the "powers that be" to turn them into reality.

1. A Council of Muslim scholars today produced the definitive "New Quran". Based on the original version, it omits all that Dark Age anachronistic stuff about stoning adultresses, beating wives, beheading Kuffars, amputations, lashing, lying to unbelievers and Jews, the so-called sin of Apostacy, and eternal Jihad, and instead concentrates on the good bits about worshipping God, loving all his creatures, respecting our fellow-men, and being charitable to one and all. It will henceforth be the definitive religious text for the Faith. The "Old Quran" will be retained merely for its historic and poetic interest.

2. The Supreme Council of Imams yesterday announced that, after a fourteen-century continuous war which it finally realized it would never win, a peace treaty has been finally concluded with the Kuffars, who would henceforth be known as "fellow-humans". All territorial claims to the rest of the world have been dropped, specifically including Bali, Southern Spain, and Israel. Any acts of war or terrorism by individuals or communities will be punished by excommunication, banishment, permanent prohibition from entry to the Two Holy Mosques, and denial of burial in Muslim graveyards.

3. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has today declared itself open to all religions. All faiths will be permitted to worship openly without let or hindrance. As evidence of its serious intent, it is allocating space in Makkah and Madinah for the building of a Christian church, a Jewish synagogue, Hindu and Buddist temples.

4. A travelling exhibition, entitled "No More Lies", has this week started its round-the-world tour in New York. It disavows all the previous lies espoused by the Muslim Ummah, including the classic""Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is an authentic document" lie, the "4000 Jews got a phone call on 9/10 not to go to work tomorrow" lie, the "we don't know what nationality the hijackers were" lie, and the "Holocaust was a journalistic practical joke" lie.

5. Muslim charities today declared that henceforth, just like Western charities, they would help suffering people around the world, regardless of race or religion. They were able to demonstrate their sincerity by going to the assistance of people affected by a natural disaster in Latin America.

6. Imams throughout the world celebrated "World Faith Day" by preaching that Islam was only as good as, but no better, than all other world religions, and that all were equally valid ways of seeking personal salvation.

I know, we're full of porcine unclean animal imagery today, because "pigs might fly". But, at the risk of repeating myself endlessly, Islam will only be Good News when it does Good Things.

Now, Mr Naik, if a PR consultancy gave you that advice, they would charge you $100,000. I don't need the money. Here instead is a charity where you could send it.

London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund

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