Thursday, August 24, 2006

Inigo Outego

The teacup tormenta that blew in following the presentation of a P45 to Orange Community Affairs manager Inigo Wilson is one of those media squalls where all parties are succeeding in making complete fools of themselves.

First off the mark was of course the would-be humourist himself. Wilson's definition of Islamophobic as "anyone who objects to having their transport blown up on the way to work" was not, to my mind, "borderline racist" as some have suggested, and having now read the Lefty Lexicon in full, I have shed my earlier view that the opinions it encapsulates would have made his role at Orange inherantly untenable. However, it would be hard to argue with anyone that questions Wilson's judgement; he did little to prevent the curious from uncovering the name of his employer and openly took issue with jargon used by colleagues relating to Orange's "diversity target implementation plan".

If anything he might want to check the seat next to him for shifty South Africans with backpacks on his daily journey into work (once he is gainfully re-employed of course) as his Lexicon insensitively dismisses their homeland as "a national showcase for Lefty policies with a one-party state, some of the worst crime levels in the world, tragic AIDS mortality and declining economy."

This kind of thing isn't proper satire as it gives clear expression to the axes the author himself has come to grind. It reminds me of Vanessa Feltz's criticism of Prince Harry's Che Guevara T-shirt in which she wrote off el Che as a "revolutionary responsible for the deaths of thousands." Comic exaggeration is a balancing act: lay on the the exaggeration too thickly and the comic will start to dematerialise.

Orange would appear to have compounded the potential fall-out from Wilson's error of judgement by letting him go. Oddly enough, for some it will seem that they have behaved rather like the pilot of the Monarch Airlines flight from Malaga who had two Muslim students de-planed a week ago because a number of other passengers didn't like the look of them! "Is yellow the new Orange?" one blog commenter has asked. The actions of MPAC will also have done little to help dispell the "common misrepresentation of Islam" with their campaign against Wilson. I enjoyed Nosemonkey's take on this:

"Why is it that in modern Britain the consensus seems to be that to prove your opponents wrong about you, you have to go and do precisely what your opponents accuse you of? Say the government are cutting down on civil liberties, they deny it before cutting down on civil liberties; depict muslims as violent in some cartoons, they deny they are violent before issuing death threats; accuse the Tories of having no real policy alternatives, they deny it before issuing a pamphlet with no real policy alternatives; say the Home Office is useless, they deny it before sacking the Home Secretary and announcing the Home Office is useless."

The fracas surrounding the filming of Monica Ali's Brick Lane is another minority-sensibilities showdown bereft of any obvious good guys on either side. In particular, the duel between two of its self-appointed protagonists Germaine Greer and Salman Rushdie, has permitted me to renew my long-standing loathing of both.

As the film crew are trailed and hounded by a clique of angry Bangladeshi shopkeepers determined to prevent the novel's translation to the silver screen, Greer has argued that Ali, although of Asian descent herself and writing about the experience of an Muslim woman in an arranged marriage, has been guilty of creating literature with an oppressor mentality:

"She writes in English and her point of view is, whether she allows herself to impersonate a village Bangladeshi woman or not, British" which she presumably means inherently likely to cause offence.

Rushdie, the kind of overrated celebrity scribbler that Monica Ali has surely modelled herself on, has retorted that the Aussie professor must be "barking mad". He's still bitter that Greer apparently applauded the fatwah he was awarded by the Ayatollahs in recognition of The Satanic Verses.

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