Monday, 27 February 2006

Confusion

On the long and arduous journey through the intricate forrest that is life, I thought I had found a nice and welcoming clearing where I could rest for a while and build up some strength. I should have known better.

In a post in December last year, I mentioned quickly a guy I had met on the net and to whose place I had been for a bit of fun. Let's call him M. That was the last shag of the year and right up until yesterday afternoon, he looked like he was going to be the first one of this year too. I had not heard from him since December but a few weeks ago, he texted me and expressed an interest in meeting up. We chatted a couple of times on MSN but were not able to organise anything until yesterday afternoon. On one occasion, he sent me a pic of himself featuring his bum, telling me that it belonged to me!

I was actually quite looking forward to this "meeting". This sort of things very very rarely happen to me and the guy, without being a stunner, has a good body and an easy personality. This was going to be a little balm on my parched heart. Being the cynic that I am, I did have a few misgivings, thinking he would cancel at the last minute, but even on Saturday evening when I texted him to confirm, everything seemed fine. Again, I should have known better.

There is currently a room available in the house I live in and a prospective flatmates was supposed to come and visit at 1.30pm. The dippy cow turned up 40 min late, without even ringing to inform us she would be late. As a result, with a little help from the bus network, I arrived about 20min late at M's place.

We started chatting. He talked about his flatmate's boyfriend and how he wasn't interested in having one at the moment; about his project to go back to see his family for easter, his job and so on. Very quickly, he also announced that he was still feeling fluy after having been ill for the past few days and was simply not going to have sex that day. I was a bit disappointed by this but I am a flexible guy (!) and thought we could just chat and be sociable. Where things started to go pear shaped, is when he started to tease me and let me go quite far (I'll spare you the details) in my response to his teasing; still claiming he was going to have sex that day. After about 40 min, he said it was time for him to go and meet his flatmate in town and we rearranged our clothed and left. Soon I found myself at a bus stop, M hugging me and cryptically saying we could not blame each other.

Having been at the receiving end of all these conflicting signals, I have too say that I was to say the least confused. What was the meaning of all this? What had I done wrong? I just could not decypher the clues which had been laid in front of me. I still can't. Soon, I was also quite depressed by the whole episode, finding myself once again alone in the cold, the sunny clearing disappearing in the distance. If you have an idea of what happened here, or if you know of a good monastery, let me know on a postcard please.

In the evening, someone I know told me they had been diagnosed HIV+ a few months ago; a timely reminder that compared to other people's, my problems are minute. They are very much mine however and what I have to grapple with. What is closest is biggest.

Someone I was chatting with online about the events of the day told me I seemed "in serious "nobody loves me and I'll die alone" mood!". I think in my case, it is more the state of things than a simple mood. Most of the time I manage to forget this but sometimes, like yesterday, life obligingly reminds me of it...



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Sunday, 26 February 2006

Protest the Banning of Moscow Pride

In the past few weeks, we learned that Moscow was following in Warsaw's footsteps with plans to ban the organisation of gay pride there. Local religious leaders joined their voices and actually physically threatened potential participants. Last week, Ken Livingston, mayor of london, joined the mayors of Paris and Berlin, as well as Merlin Holland, grandson of Oscar Wilde, in a call for Moscow Pride to take place.

Now it is time for "the man (and woman) in the street" to show their support for this event...


Russian Embassy picket

Thursday 2 March 2006
12:00 Noon – 2:00 PM
Russian Embassy
13 Kensington Palace Gardens
London W8 4QX

A demonstration in solidarity with Russian LGBT groups will be held outside the Russian Embassy on Thursday 2 March 2006, from 12 noon, to protest the banning of Moscow Pride by the Mayor of Moscow and threats of violence by Russian religious leaders.

The protest is being called by the organisers of the International Day Against Homophobia and will coincide with parallel protests in other European cities.

Click here for a map

Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate (0.3 miles)
Nearest Train: Paddington (0.8 miles)

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has announced that the city government will not allow a gay parade "in any form" and any attempt to hold a gay event will be "resolutely quashed"

Chief Mufti of Russia's Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims, Talgat Tajuddin said: "Muslims' protests can be even worse than these notorious rallies abroad over the scandalous cartoons… The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed," he added.

Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said that if a gay pride was allowed to go ahead it "would be a blow for morality". He said the the Jewish community would not stand by silently. "Sexual perversions", he said, did not have a right to exist.

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church (who have lobbied the mayor to ban the parade) spoke out against Moscow Pride, telling various media outlets that homosexuality is a "sin which destroys human beings and condemns them to a spiritual death."

Russian LGBT groups have called on their counterparts in other capital cities to demonstrate outside Russian embassies to make sure the issue gets the attention of the Russian media and to show their support for Russia’s struggling gay community.

The UK coordinator of the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), Derek Lennard – who is helping to organise the protest in London – said:

"The first Pride in Moscow is of enormous and enormous importance particularly to the LGBT communities in the Baltic and Eastern European Countries. All those who are able to take the freedom to organise Pride for granted will surely want show their support for the LGBT community in Moscow."

Simultaneous demonstrations are planned in Paris and Warsaw.

Moscow Pride is part of an International Gay Festival in May which will be attended by 250 people including politicians and campaigners from all over the world.



Pass this on...

The international IDAHO website is www.idahomophobia.org
For more information, email info@idaho-uk.org


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Saturday, 25 February 2006

Currently Reading - The Portrait of Mr W.H.

The Portrait of Mr W.H. - Oscar Wilde
The Portrait of Mr W.H. by Oscar Wilde



A short story where Wilde explores his theory that the person to whom Shakespeare dedicated his sonnets was the boy actor Willie Hughes. You can read the full story by clicking on the title above.


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How It's Done

It all started in a very civilised manner. RS had expressed an interest in joining Slightly and myself at the recording Any Questions?. After phone the venue, he had been told that seats were still available and he was therefore able to indeed join in the fun.

Although the show is live and broadcast at 8pm, we had to be there by 7.15pm at the latest. As planned, we left our questions in the box provided to that effect at the entrance and took seats somewhere towards the centre of the hall. The audience was made of a strange mixture of posh middle age people, older excentric looking English people (if you know the type) and a surprising number of gay couples. As a warm up, we were treated to a Q&A session with Mark Damazer, controller of BBC Radio4 who prefaced this session with reading extracts of a Guardian article about a swearing parrot which was being re-educated by being made to listen to Radio 4. The questions he was asked seem to be fairly unoriginal and consistent with what listeners seem to be usually moaning about, to all of which he managed fairly eloquently to avoid giving any proper answers. Questions included something about the use of "ahead of" rather than "before" on air or a question (and a show of hands) about the controvercy surrounding the removal of the UK Theme. A piece of music apparently broadcast at some ungoldy hour of the morning.

The members of the audience whose questions had been selected were then called up and invited by Anne Peacock, the producer, to sit on the front row. My question was not selected but there was indeed, as we had expected, one similar to Slighlty's. It was time to welcome the panel and to try a warm up question (about republicans having to kneel in front of the Queen; something Germaine Greer apparently did this week).

At 8pm, a feed of the live broadcast went on in the hall and we all listened to the news before the show started. Although it was quite interested, it was slightly disappointing as the Greer and Tebbit did not seem willing to confront each other directly. I, like Slightly, had several worrying moments when we found ourselves agreeing with Tebbit! The only truely remarquable piece of non-sense he managed to come up with, was to say that Hitler and the nazis were actually left wing rather than right wing. Perhaps he is placing himself as the reference for what is actually right wing?

Click here to read the transcript of the programme.

Once the programme was finished, I suggested we adjourned to Wong Key but Slightly was feeling like being a wimp and, saying he was tired, decided to go home, leaving RS and myself to to take a bus to the West End. It was a pleasant evening and after dinner, we went to The Yard, where, as we should have expected, we found a group of Chorus members. In this instance a few members of the infamous Small Group, who had had a gig in Hammersmith as part of LGBT History Month and were drinking off the evening. They were already a little gone by the time we arrived (so to speak). RS and I managed to keep more or less to ourselves.

Near closing time, however, we were called over, to take part in a very animated conversation they were having, accompanied with many illustrative gestures and which, it has to be said, brought the evening to a rather sordid ending after its lofty start. This prompted RS and me, once we had manage to abscond, to wonder about what common interests we usually managed to find with other members of the Chorus and more generally what holds the so-called "gay community" together, if anything.

They were comparing the different ways in which people go about wiping their bottom...



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Friday, 24 February 2006

Any Questions?

If you are not going out tonight, tune in to Radio 4 at 8pm (UK time) and listen to me and Slightly clapping as members of the audience of Any Questions?. The show is being recording live at Morley College, round the corner from where I live. How is that for fun on a Friday evening?! The panel (list below) should make for some interesting discussion. I particularly look forward to hear what Tebbit and Germaine Greer have to say to each other.

The panel:
Chris Huhne MP
Candidate in the Lib-Dem leadership election

Germaine Greer
Author and commentator

Lord Tebbit
Former chairman of the Conservative Party

Trevor Kavanagh
Associate Editor of the Sun

The questions, about news items of the past week, are usually asked by members of the audience. Yesterday I received the tickets which include a flat where to fill in our details and write down a question we would like to ask to the panel. I will suggest the following and hope it gets chosen:

The call from all quarters to save the grade II listed building in Camden Town where French poets Verlaine and Rimbaud lived and wrote for a while, highlights the need to protect and celebrate LGBT history. February 2006 sees the second edition of LGBT History Month, which is doing just that, with hundreds of events across the country. What do the panel thing of the existence of such a month? And do they support the campaign to save the building? *

That should get Tebbit going nicely and show what a dinosaur he is , seemingly disconnected with his party's new line (as I mentioned recently - see the comments for that post too). My guess is that Kavanagh shouldn't be too far behind. Of course, Huhne, as a leadership contestant for the Lib Dems, might also have a few thoughts on the subject, due to recent events in his party. Contemporary LGBT History is often linked to feminism and that is Germaine Greer's patch.

If you are going out, you get a second chance to listen to the show on Saturday between 1:10 and 2:00pm, followed by Any Answers? where auditors phone in to comment on the show.


* If my question is selected, I get to read it on air. That would probably be one of the first times, they have someone with a foreign accent asking a question on this show.


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Mark Oaten

Mark Oaten, the Lib Dem leardership candidate and then Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, who was outed on 21 January this year by (yet again) the News of the World for having been involved with a male escort, had some interesting advice for the government just a few days before the revelations were made:
Prostitution strategy a missed opportunity - 17th January 2006.

Responding to the Government's new strategy on prostitution, Mark Oaten MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, said: "While the Government is right to highlight the abuse involved in on-street prostitution, this new strategy is a missed opportunity. It will do very little to reduce the number of prostitutes on the street, to improve the appalling conditions they work in, or to tackle health problems. "We need smart solutions not the same old failed approach. We support the piloting of 'managed zones' in designated areas of cities, subject to a code of conduct and regular contact with police and health workers. "The object of these zones is not to 'tolerate' prostitution but to move it to a specified area where professionals can work with prostitutes to help them reach a point where they can choose other employment. The example of Liverpool shows that the idea is effective, and that plans for a zone can be drawn up without alienating businesses or local people." Mr Oaten also highlighted the need to tackle people trafficking: "We need a dedicated border force to boost detection and help with the gathering of intelligence. The women themselves should be allowed a 'period of reflection' when discovered, to recover from their ordeal and decide if they want to assist with the prosecution of gang members."

I guess, they should listen to him. The man knows what he is talking about,after all.

Thanks to Ravi.


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Welcome to Towleroad Readers

On Wednesday, Towleroad, the top gay blog, who win all the awards, were kind enough to link to and quote from my post on Football and Homophobia. This has generated quite a bit a traffic in this otherwise desolate region of the blogosphere. So much so that Wednesday was my highest day ever with 132 hits (previous one was 97), this week is already my highest ever with 317 hits so far (previous one was 287) and this month is the highest month ever with already 865 hits (previous one, last month, was 739, thanks to the posts on the Danish cartoons).

So thank you again to Towleroad and welcome to their readers. I hope they like what they see and will be back from time to time.


Thursday, 23 February 2006

Pink Smoke

I almost never go out in bars or clubs, whether on the gay scene or not; probably a partial cause for my lack of social life. One of the reasons for my not patronising these venues, in addition to my lack of interest in drinking and the level of noise in those places, is cigarette smoke. I hate when breahting air becomes as difficult to find as a straight Lib Dem politician in a leadership contest and then to have to bring the memories of that experience at home with me, afterwards.

The recent ban on smoking in public places in England (see what I had to say on the subject of smoking/smokers by following the link) which will take place in the summer of 2007, will probably not make much of a difference with my habits in this respect but it looks like it will for a lot of gay men.
About 53% of gay men smoke, nearly double the 29% of all adult males. While 8,000 gay men have died from Aids to date, one charity estimates 12,000 die every year from smoking-related diseases.
Protect and survive, The Guardian - 11 August 1999
Further more, it seems that most of those smokers are so-called "social smokers"; people who smoke only when encouraged to do so by the people around them in a social environment. It is therefore good to hear that gay venues, gay politicians and even punters, who feel encouraged to finally try and stop smoking, are, on the whole, welcoming the ban.

While the ban will probably not do much for my social life, it will most certainly make a huge difference for the general level of health on the gay scene.



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Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Football and Homophobia

While athletes (particularly in team sports) are often seen being rather friendly with each other in a touchy feely sort of way, the world of sports is notoriously not welcoming to LGBT people. Only a handful of world-class athletes have come out over the years and mostly are women (female sexuality (when acknowledged at all) always seems less threatening for some reason).

Football (soccer) is probably one of the toughest sports in that respect. Thankfully the Football Association seems dedicated to tackle (so to speak) the problem. For the past few years they have been campaigning (not too loudly, though) against homophobia in the sport. This week, the north London football club, Tottenham Hotspurs, announced a ban on homophobic chants from their supporters. It seems there is hope in this respect.

The News of the World, however, and unsurprisingly, coming from a tabloid paper. does not seem ready to help, They have just published a series of anonymous kiss and tell stories about Premiership footballers having fun with each other and their mobile phones. This is obviously being published for the shock value in middle England but should be of no interest to anyone.

Chatrooms and the blogosphere are however apparently a-buzz with suppositions about who the players involved are, and it seems that one of them at least has been identified. Yesterday, PinkNews.co.uk, rather hypocritically claiming to be only reporting on the rumours, published two pictures: One, a very bad photoshop job, originally published by News of the World and the other, looking very much like the original picture, from the Choice FM radio website. They also name the people on the pictures. We are all voyeuristically curious to know who these guys are. There is no need to hide behind a moral fig leaf; not while going into so much details when reporting on the story.

It seems incredibly naïve, or downright nasty, if you ask me, of the News of World to use a picture from a readily accessible website, change a few details on the pic and expect that their “source” will remain anonymous for very long.

It seems only too certain that the footballer thus outed (whether he is actually involved in the so-called “orgies”, truly gay/bisexual, or not) will find his career severely curtailed by these revelations. Why he chose to speak to the News of the World in the first place (as it seems he did) is quite beyond me. If he wanted to come out (he must have known he would end up being named), he could have chosen a more straightforward way of doing it as well as a more gay friendly paper. If he wanted to stay in the closet, why talk in the first place?

The fact that the player involved is black, of course, calls to mind what happened to the only British footballer to come out. Justin Fashanu, the first million dollar player in the UK, was outed and had to contend with both racism and homophobia, from his colleagues, manager, former fans and even his brother. This ruined his career and his life. He committed suicide in 1998.

Let’s hope that things have moved on in people’s minds as fast as the have in the Statutes books in recent years and that the FA’s actions are successful enough to enable the players involved to weather that storm without to much professional and personal damages.




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Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Last Night

My usual scribe on the Other Side has the report of what happened last night. Although, as usual, he finds a way to include tons of irrelevant details about his own life... like anyone would care...

;O)



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Freedom vs Censorship

The condemnation of the controversial, so-called historian, David Irving, to three years of prison by an Austrian tribunal for denying the Holocaust, raises some interesting questions about freedom of speech.

The concept has already been put to the test in the past weeks with the controversy surrounding those cartoons and periodically, a case arises, highlighting the difficulty of striking the right balance in those matters.

In the case of Irving, for example, it seems fair to say that the instinctive response of most people to the condemnation (including mine) is that he deserved to be sentenced and that justice has been done. Indeed, eleven countries in Europe have laws against denying the Holocaust. Likewise, last year when I heard of the condemnation of a Swedish priest who had compared homosexuality to a cancer for society, a subject obviously close to my heart, I was quite happy with the judge’s decision (it looks like the judgement has now been quashed).

Having thought a little more on the subject and read a few interesting posts on the subject in the blogosphere, I am now not so sure that this is the right approach. The temptation, difficult to refrain from, is, of course, to use laws to silence opinions that we don’t agree with or think contradictory to our values. But history, even recent history or current events, teaches us that dominant values, upheld by laws, are not always the most progressive one or the ones we support; or a shift in perspective can happen very easily.

It is also very easy to become extremist in our support of what we see as liberal values and actually undermine the very idea we want to support. By trying to muzzle opinions we feel don't fit the liberal mould, there is a danger of turning liberal ideals into a totalitarian ideology: "Our liberal way of thinking is the only way of thinking."

Recently, the lower house of Parliament voted in favour of a law criminalizing the glorification of terrorism. While the intention is probably right, it seems that currently laws are perfectly adequate to attain the goals of this new law (this is demonstrated by the recent condemnation of Abu Hamza, which happened without the help of the potential new law). More importantly, the concept of glorification is so vague that interpretation is required from the judge to come to a judgement. I don't think that subjectivity should be given that much space in the law. It is probably not such a problem at the moment but what would happen if the social and political climate suddenly turned to something more threatening than what it is now. Such pieces of legislation could become very dangerous tools indeed for a non-liberal government.

At the end of the day, such laws limiting freedom of speech, rather than changing outlooks, will only drive people underground. They will see themselves as victims of the majority view or even martyrs to their cause and will simply feel justified in their opinions. By definition, there can be no institutional limits to freedom of speech, except when someone is calling for violence to be perpetrated on someone else, in which case they forfeit their rights to freedom. As I said, the easy response is to shut people up but a solution more consistent with liberal ideals and probably more effective is to engage people with opposing views to ours and to argue for our values. This is what freedom of speech and democracy are all about.

Of course problems will arise when the other side does not recognise those values and is therefore is not ready to come to the same ground to discuss things but rather uses violence and threats to try and impose their view as happened in the case of the cartoons.


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Monday, 20 February 2006

On "Religion..."

A quick comment I left on this post:

While I agree that religions have been the source of many evil deeds over the centuries, I also think we have to be careful not to apply our contemporary values to what happened hundreds of years ago when people had a completely different outlook (especially on death and the value of human life).

On a similar point, I think, it is important to point out that sacrificial victims of the Aztec and Mayan religous systems were actually (at least most of the time) willing victims, which has very different implications to what the Inquisition, for example, did.

Having said all that, I do think that the main religions, in their most fundamental expression in any case, have become, when offset with contemporary values, all too often a source of oppression and violence which need to be fought and denounced.

I agree with you that religion tend to free individuals of responsibility and of the need to think for themselves. This is, to me, the reason why, once people are used not to questione what is said to them, that it is so easy for religions (or is it religious leaders?) to join the dark side, as it were.



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Currently Reading - Innocence

Innocence - Kathleen Tessaro
Innocence by Kathleen Tessaro



I read Tessaro's first novel, Elegance, some time ago, which, I think, can be summed up as high(er)-brow Bridget Jones Diary. I enjoyed it and am now trying out her second novel.


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Stubbi

I have already ranted in the past about the lack of consideration for others evinced by smokers. Not only do they claim that the recent ban on smoking in public places goes against their civil liberties, they refuse to see that their smoking goes against non-smokers liberty to enjoy smoke free environments.

Another, perhaps less obvious proof of the lack of civility of most smokers, is the disgusting habit a lot of them of just dumping their fag ends anywhere, creating lots of rubbish. The fact that smokers will find themselves on the streets to indulge as of summer 2007, will probably not help this problem.

This type of litter is unsightly and difficult to clean up, as the small filters fall into grates and cracks in the pavement, avoiding detection by normal cleaning processes. Cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a plastic that can take anywhere between 18 months and 500 years to break down and be absorbed back into the environment. Deposition can also lead to toxins leaking into watercourses which pose a serious threat to our wildlife.

Keep Britain Tidy are therefore launching a campaign to try and train smokers to disregard their rejects in a more appropriate manner. As part of the campaign, they have come up with Stubbi, a "pocket ashtray".

I would like to think this will work but unfortunately, it is already quite obvious that a lot of smokers are too lazy to take the two steps to the nearest ashtray. Why would they bother remembering to carry one with them, put the ciggy butts in it, empty it when full and so forth?

Of course lazyness and lack of consideration, are not restricted to cigarettes. People should generally learn not to drop there litter anywhere else than in a bin.

One can live in hope!


Nicky Byrne

For some strange reason, I have been getting a lot of traffic via Google Image from people looking for pictures of Nicky Byrne, a blond member of pop band Westlife. So much so that the pic (and therefore my blog) is ranking 7 out of 1,460 in the search results.

I had linked to this picture (from the official Westlife website) following a sighting of the young man (not the worst looking in the band either) one day in Hammersmith (read the post) and Google seem to believe that the picture is on display on this blog. Since people looking for this pic must be slightly disappointed not find it (Google doesn't link to the actually post but the blog in general), I have decided to actually post this pic and hopefully people will get what they want.

If you come here looking for a picture of Mr Byrne, welcome. Please will free to have a noise around. I hope you enjoy your visit and will come again.

An now, without any more ado, I give you: *drum roll*



Nicky Byrne



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Sunday, 19 February 2006

Miserable

I am not sure whether this is due to my coming home late last night and being tired today (fatigue usually breeds self-pity for me) or to the weather which is wet, grey and miserable but the mood is definitely not on the sunny side today.

I am feeling both restless and despondent; not wanting to stay alone in my room but, at the same time, not bothered do anything about it. Slightly is in town this afternoon and as asked me to join him but because of my mood, the rain and the fact that I can not walk properly at the moment, I decided not to go, making myself even more miserable. I think this is also some sort of sordid attention seeking ploy, whereby I punish someone I am close to (but eventually, of course, only punishing myself) for my feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.

Having been incapacitated (however slightly) all of this week (and probably for at least another week), has brought on a feeling of helplessness and of being tied down by contingencies. Something I experience everytime I find myself physically diminished. This has brought to my mind again the awareness of the quintessential aloneness of the human condition. This is brought into even sharper relief in my life by the fact that at all time, I very much have to rely on myself for everything. Not being as mobile as I usually am, raises questions about old age and dependency; the fact that I don't really have anyone I can rely on, or upon whose charity I can/want to force myself should something really serious happen to me.

Although I am aware that one's view on these things changes as time passes, I am often wondering how well I will be coping with age. So far growing old has not really been a problem as life seems to have been improving (however mildly) along the years. However, this process seems to have stalled recently and I see myself (rightly or wrongly) stuck in a place I don't really want to be with no clue as how to kick start things again.

I expect a good night sleep will put these thoughts back on their shelves though, as usually happens.


International Relations

Last night, trying to do my bit for the Anglo/Irish/French relations, I dragged Slightly to an all French evening at a friend's place in Surrey Quays. This guy moved from a village close to my parents' to London about 11 years ago and has done rather well for himself. Contrary to me, he is still very much in touch with all things French. Most of the people he knows are French and he keeps informed of what happens in the Vaterland.

Last night, he had organised a gathering with the aim of eating "gauffres" (French equivalent of waffles) and more importantly for him to play tarot. This meant a fairly traditionally French sort of an evening and I thought it would be interested for Slightly to learn to play tarot (which he otherwise claims to be able to read; different card deck though) and generally do a little bit of anthropology. There were two French girls present in addition to my friend, Slightly and myself. Just the right number for a game.

While quickly explaining the game to Slightly, I found myself rather surprised at my reasonably good knowledge of the game. I was taught about 15 years ago when I became part of a singing group most of whose members were addicted to the game. I can remember spending a whole night playing with other members of the group. I had very little choice but to learn to play, although I was never really keen on the game.

Slightly seemed to take to the game reasonably well and actually managed to win his first two rounds. Although that might have been beginner's luck. An added difficulty on the evening was that a lot of the conversation happened in French when people naturally and unconsciously slipped back into their native idiom. Although Slightly says he can read French, his oral understanding is apparently not so good.

We did not have time to discuss the evening afterwards, but I am not sure he really enjoyed himself... I would probably find myself in the same position if he dragged me to an evening with his Irish family. I can't really blame him. Let's just say that was part of the payback for that foot...

In the end, however, it all ended up turning against me. As I was hobbling towards the bus stop, the bus I needed to be taken back to civilisation rushed past. The timetable at the stop informed me that this had been the last one. I then had to limp to another bus stop to get another bus to London Bridge and then do some more walking to catch another bus...A bit of a scenic route. I finally got home very tired and with aching feet about 30 minutes later than normally needed. Karma!


Queer London

I was asked by the power that be at LGBT History Month to write up some sort of report of a study day I attended recently. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

During Black History Month last year, I attended a lecture by Stephen Bourne at the Imperial War Musuem. After the event I approached the woman in attendance from the education department and asked her if the museum was aware of LGBT History Month and if they had planned any event. I first had to repeat LGBT several times and explain to her what it meant before she could tell me that she had heard of it but that the museum had not planned anything. To be honest, she seemed rather worried to be talking to me and even though she relaxed a little when Stephen Bourne joined the conversation and supported the idea of an event, she was not exactly enthusiastic about the idea. There is probably a case for some gentle lobbying to take place here.

In stark contrast with this, the Museum of London is getting quite active in respect to LGBT History. They have recently set up an advisory group to expand their collection in this area and are celebrating History Month in style with a small temporary exhibition, Queer Is Here, in the main entrance of the museum. The exhibition’s aim is to “give a glimpse of [the museum’s] collections and the hidden histories of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities in London, looking at issues affecting them both now and over the past 30 years.” They are hoping to tour the exhibition around the country later this year.

To complement this, and to mark the official opening of the exhibition on 04 February, they had organised a free study day called Queer London. The day was fairly well attended by a studious crowd of about one hundred people. After a word of welcome by Dr Darryl McIntyre, Director of Public Programmes for the Museum, Paul Patrick regaled us with his enthusiastic and funny account of the origins of History Month and of the crucial, if unwitting, role played by the Sunday People newspaper in the success of the first edition of the month. He reminded us of the importance of having positive representations of LGBT lives in schools and society at large.

Queer Is Here flyerWhile Paul was being whisked away to the nearby Schools Out conference, Dr Matt Cook, a cultural historian from Birkbeck College, specialising in the history of sexuality and that of London in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, took to the pulpit to tell us about “’A New City of Friends’, London and Homosexuality in the 1890’s.” He described how, despite the backlash following the Wilde trial, London remained the seat of a flourishing subculture where cross-dressing and cruising competed with a more political and utopian vision of same sex relations. ’A New City of Friends’ is a quote from the American poet Walt Whitman.

Next at the microphone, was Dr Laura Doan, professor of Cultural History and Sexuality Studies at the University of Manchester. The title of her paper was “’Which is the Rooster, which is the Hen?’ Female Masculinity in London’s Gay Twenties.” Doan explained that as a result of the emancipation, which took place during the First World War, women started to adopt a more masculine look throughout the 1920’s. The hairdos grew very short and pieces of masculine costume were included to the feminine wardrobe. However, what would look to our modern eyes as obvious signs of the Sapphic inclinations of those women was only the result of fashion. Radcliffe Hall was one of the devotees of this new look and it is only after her book, The Well of Loneliness, was banned in 1928 following a much publicised trial that wearing that type of clothes became a statement on one’s sexuality. ’Which is the Rooster, which is the Hen?’ is taken from the lyrics of a popular song of the time poking fun at the new androgynous fashion.

By then, it was time to have lunch and people scattered to convene again half an hour later and enjoy the short lecture by Dr Matt Houlbrook, from the University of Liverpool, to me, one of the highlights of day. Houlbrook centred his talk on Queer Perils and Pleasures in Interwar London and took us through same of the venues favoured by queer men around Piccadilly Circus, which was at the time the very centre of the Empire. This led Houlbrook to contend that the removal of all “gay” venues to nearby Old Compton Street as some sort of return to the closet, characterised by the need for lower visibility engendered by the crack down on homosexual activities in the during the Second World War and the 1950’s.

He also insisted on the importance, when researching LGBT history, of being careful not to superimpose onto the lives of past generations our experiences and our perceptions of ourselves. It is only with the gay liberation movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s that people really started to give themselves (or receive) labels. Before that, men engaging in sexual activities with other men would probably not define themselves as queer or homosexual; these notions being mostly linked with effeminacy rather than sexual activities.

Darryl McIntyre, Peter Tatchell and the London Gay Men's Chorus - © Michael Cheetham 2006This was followed by an intervention by Time Out’s television editor, Alkarim Jivani, who dealt with gay and lesbian London in the fifties and sixties, concentrating on listing well-known historical events rather than exploring the social history of the period. Jack Gilbert, Executive Director of Proud Heritage, was then scheduled to give a talk on the Ladies of LLangollen, two upperclass Irishwomen whose relationship scandalised and fascinated their contemporaries. They lived together for over 50 years in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was however time for me to leave the lecture and to join my fellow members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a warm up and a quick rehearsal before our appearance later on to close the day. This meant I also missed a reading by novelist, poet and playwright, Maureen Duffy, as well as a Q&A session chaired by activist Peter Tatchell.

The London Gay Men’s Chorus is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary this year and since the museum is already in possession of artefacts related to the Chorus’ history, we have rekindled links with the museum with the view of donating more objects. One of these mementos, a banner probably created in 1992 and featuring our logo of the time, was given pride of place in the Queer is Here exhibition and the Chorus was invited to come and sing for the official opening of the exhibition by Peter Tatchell. We performed four or five songs and finished with Something Inside So Strong by the black gay poet, Labi Siffre. I could see some people in the audience getting quite emotional by that time and the energy instilled in our performance proved that most of the chorines shared with me the emotion and the sense of occasion of what we were taking part in on that day; LGBT history being recognised and celebrated by the wider society through the institution that is the Museum of London. In its own small way a very historic day for LGBT people.

Other bloggers were there:
* Overyourheak
* Create My Life
* My London Diary (scroll down a bit)
* My London Diary (pictures)

24 Hour Museum also had an article on the event.


Further reading:
London and the Culture of Homosexuality, Matt Cook, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture, Laura Doan, Columbia University Press, 2001
Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis 1918-57, Matt Houlbrook, University of Chicago Press, 2005
It’s Not Unusual: A History of Lesbian and Gay Britain in the Twentieth Century, Alkarim Jivani, Indiana University Press, 1997
Alchemy, Maureen Duffy, Harper Collins, 2004

Picture of the London Gay Men's Chorus © Michael Cheetham 2006.


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Friday, 17 February 2006

Friday Random Ten (or More)

It goes like this:

(a) fire up your MP3 player,
(b) put your entire collection on random play, and
(c) list the first ten songs that play.
(No matter how embarrassing they may be. This is everyone’s chance to find out what you’re really listening on on your iPod, etc.)

Last night, I did the above on iTunes, except it wasn't my whole collection. I left out the classical stuff (about 1000 tracks). There was still 2906 songs to choose from. I also extended the selection to 30, for the first time.

So, I show you mine:

Faded - Ben Harper
Everybody is Free (to feel good) - Rozalla
Pop Muzik - Tricky
Time of My Life - Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
Older Chests - Damien Rice
Sincere (Vocal Mix) - MJ Cole
The Score - Fugees
Jesus Loves Me - Whitney Houston
Back to Life - Soul II Soul
Wishful Thinking - 4hero

Meera (featuring Kakoli Sengupta) - DJ Cam
Liebesbrief - Thomas D
Downhill Racer - Everything but the Girl
Because - I am Kloot
Yeke Yeke - (Mogo Djolo Ambush Vocal Mix) - Mory Kante
Dubplate - DJ Qtee and Rodney P
Cry Me A River - Justin Timberlake
Not Enough Romance - Tina Turner
Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy - Queen
I Be The Prophet (feat. Martine Topley Bird) - Tricky

Hungry - Kosheen
Vuelvo Al Sur - Gotan Project
Come to me (sabres of paradise mix) - Bjork
Deep House (Bruce Wayne's Batmix) - Triple J
Les Meilleurs Ennemis (Feat. Zazie) - Pascal Obispo
Driving - Everything but the Girl
Milky Way (Lunatic Mix) - Aurora Borealis
You Took My Teeth (live) - Nina Simone
Their Law (Live At Phoenix Festival '96) - The Prodigy
ADCD Mental - Taka DJahma

"Eclectic" is the word you are looking for, I think ;O)

And now, show me yours...
via



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Thursday, 16 February 2006

The Silly Tests Series

You Are a Seeker Soul

You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.
You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.
Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.
Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).

Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.
And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.
You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.
Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.

Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul


Hat tip.

Valentine Spam

Like most people, I regularly receive spam emails, most of them trying to sell me discounted softwares or all sorts of pharmaceuticals, give me a job from home, not to forget trying the get my e-banking details for banks I am not a client of.

Today I received one that particularly grab the attention of th eternal romantic that I am (especially that close of Valentine's day). I thought I would share it with you and let you enjoy all the ironies and discrepancies hidden in this short text.

Subject: Safe way to drown your girlfriend in cum!

Want to ejaculate like a porn star? Would you like to show your
girlfriend your sexual strength and power? You have tried different methods,
exercises and got no results? Before giving up the dream, try our
solution!

After years of research, our scientists have created a powerful
combination of key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and botanicals that will
help you to improve your fertility by enhancing sperm count, sperm
health and sperm mobility.

The unique male enhancing formula is 100% natural and there are no side
effects from using it. Get one her!


Followed by a URL.

Lovely!


Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Currently Reading - Rid England of This Plague


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Health Bulletin

Those of you who, for some unknown reason, venture on the Ohter Side, will probably have read this post. You will therefore know that Slightly has started to molest me, so desperate is he for something to post on his blog.

As I know that you must have been spending hours of sweating anxiety since you read how he so shamlessly took advantage of me (not in that way, you perv!), I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you and published a summary of my state of health for the expectant world to let out a sigh of relief and go about its daily business again.

Because my new gash (watch it!) is situated bang in the middle of my left foot sole, I have to limp on the ball of this feet. I have taken to wearing plimsoles which is not exactly a great look, it allows me keep my heel out of my footwear and leave my sole free of any contact with the shoe. Again not a great look but it is very handy to get right of way on a busy pavement in the morning.

While I hobble about as fast as your gran would on the way to have her very last tooth pulled out, gangrene has not set in yet, although I do still harbour hopes in this respect.

Finally I would like to make a plea to Zeb Atlas, who, as we all know, is NOT Slighty's boyfriend, to get in touch with me and to put his gorgeous muscly hunk of a man's body *slobber* at my disposal (again! put it away, you dirty!) and to just come and carry me around... it is that or a wheelchair... and let's face it that's a much better look!



Tuesday, 14 February 2006

True Freedom Triumphs



Smoking ban in all pubs and clubs

In case you have any doubts about my views, read this.

Valentine's Day



And you can bet I won't even get one of those.

On a similarly self-pitying note, someone from Camberra, Australia (hello!) recently googled: "Why does my gaydar profile only attract ugly men?".

Guess what! My blog is the top result for this search out of 657 hits... I am not sure why, except that it is rather relevant to my experience of Gaydar and other such websites. It is good to see that I am not the only one with that problem, though.

Schadenfreude moment...



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Saturday, 11 February 2006

The Anderson Project

Last I went to the Barbican Theatre with a friend. As I was saying to him, I had never been to the Theatre although I have now performed three times in the Concert Hall. Being a member of the Chorus means I have spent more time on the stages of the some of the biggest venues in London than in their house. Some of them (like the Royal Albert Hall) I have never been to as a member of the audience.

We were their to see the Anderson Project by Robert Lepage. I did not know what to expect at all; did not even know anything about the show. My friend had suggested it and I had just acquiesced.

I wish I could say something intelligent about the show. I am not sure I can. It was a hugely entertaining and impressive performance. Lepage is on stage by himself for two hours with only the support of a few props and an interactive decor including video projections. It is funny two. The show, written, directed and performed by Lepage, tells the story of a French Canadian composer coming to the Palais Garnier in Paris to write the libretto for an international coproduction of one of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. He has swapped flats with a has been, drug addicted rock star friend of his and ends up living in a flat above a peep show in Rue St Denis. In parallele, we follow the director of the Opera whose life is falling apart.

I have to admit that while I enjoyed the show a lot, its true meaning would have passed by me completely had my friend not been here to explain things to me. Although on the surface everything is quite cheery and relaxed, the show tells about the hellishness of life; how people are atomised and ultimately alone and having to cope with what is thrown at them. Of course, one of Andersen's main themes is also isolation. I think the interesting point of the show is that what Lepage is saying is said so subtly that you don't really notice it and like in real life, it is easy to blank out all the negative elements of one's life, wallow in some sort of ignorant smuggness and pretend that everything is ok, unless a friend helps you take a little perspective.

An added bonus for me was that the show is bilingual, in French and English. I suppose this added some extra resonance of being in-between two culture.

Go and see it if you can.

The Andersen Project
Barbican Theatre
Until 18 February
Website

The Independent's review
The Guardian's review



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Friday, 10 February 2006

Slightly Older


It's candle blowing time at Marsh and Malone this week. Yesterday, I went to MandM Towers to help John Marsh celebrate his 60th birthday. A very civilised affair with cheese, wine and good company. Today the other side is one year old today... Happy Blogday to Slightly Lost.

Many happy returns to both.

The Tories Come Out

Last week we learned that David Cameron, the new leader of the Conservative Party wanted more Gay candidates for his party at the next general elections. Today it is the turn of Party Chairman, Francis Maude, former Foreign Office minister to come out in favour better inclusion of LGBT people in political life; stating that that it had been totally morally wrong for his party to be so much against gay right in the past two decades. He also suggested that the repressive culture supported by Tory politics in the 1980's probably contributed to the death of his own brother who succumbed to AIDS in 1993.

The gay scene in London in the 1980s was quite aggressively promiscuous and I think if society generally and the government I served in had been more willing to recognise gay people then there would have been less of that problem. [...] A lot of people like my brother would not have succumbed to HIV and lost their lives.
The Tory policies consisted mostly of blocking legislation that would improve the lot of LGBT people but the infamous Section 28 took an active step towards discrimination and probably facilitated the bullying of thousands of children along the years. The law was repealed in 2003 not without a Tory council (Kent) trying to prolongue the law in its schools for another year.

While most Tory MPs seem to have come to more humane views regarding gay rights (many of them voted in favour of the Civil Partnership Act), there are still a few dinosaurs in the party who will not recant. Norman, Lord Tebbit comes particularly to mind; a nasty piece of work who will blame anything on homosexuality (I remember hearing him on Radio 4 once blaming child obesity on gay people!). Bet he doesn't like what his party chairman just said.



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Thursday, 9 February 2006

"I Told You So" Moment

Three months after the introduction of the new Licencing Law, official figures confirm what you were able to read on this blog in November.
The forecast catastrophe has not happened:


Booze Britain? Drink-fuelled crime and violence slump after new licensing laws take effect
We were warned: Liberalisation of drink laws would fuel disorder
The sober truth: Serious violent crime has fallen 21% - and is down by twice that in some towns - while there are 14% fewer woundings
As for drinks firms? They are reporting no windfall profits.

Of course, the Tories are quick to point out that the introduction of the new opening hours were accompanied by £2.5M for extra policing and that the figures published yesterday therefore mean nothing. The money has, it seems, now run out; we should, as a result, prepare ourselves for the end of the world... again!

Read my original post.


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Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Filling in the Picture

Page three of Jyllands-Posten's culture section - 30 September 2005

I had an email from Slightly this morning. He was asking me if I had a picture of the book for which those infamous cartoons had been originally intended. He has been asked to do a lecture in some forsaken art college about design and diversity and wants to use this picture as a case study. Let's hope he doesn't have any militant Muslim in the audience...

I did not have a copy of the picture but being the Internet wizz that I am (read I have nothing else to do and am a sad git), I quickly managed to locate the said picture (included in the book's author's profile on Wikipedia - link below). I also discovered that the book in question, Koranen og profeten Muhammeds liv (The Qur'an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad) by Kåre Bluitgen is actually a children's book. This is, I have to say rather surprising news. I mentioned in the post below that I don't think the majority of the cartoons are particularly good, some of them don't actually make much sense either. Now that I know they were intended for a children's book, I also think that most of them are inappropriate. Not because I think they would be offensive but simply because I don't think children would understand the more satirical ones.

Cover of Charlie Hebdo - 08 February 2006In France the controversial and often tasteless newspaper Charlie Hebdo decided this morning to publish the cartoons again, accompanying them with one of their own by cartoonist Cabu (one of their foremost contributors). The caption says: "Mohammed overwhelmed by fundamentalists". Mohammed says: "It's tough to be loved by idiots" (the literal translation should be "cunts" but it is much stronger in English than "con" is in French). In an interview this morning on the Today Programme, one of the cartoonists for the paper (who wanted to remain anonymous) said that they were publishing the cartoons to defence freedom of expression. I am not convinced this is the best way to do that considering what has happened so far.

Charlie Hebdo, which mostly publishes satirical cartoons, is renowned in France for being controversial and often rather gratuitously provocative.

The excellent Wikipedia has the full sorry story.


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Tuesday, 7 February 2006

More On the Cartoons Crisis

Page three of Jyllands-Posten's culture section - 30 September 2005

As the madness continues to spiral out of proportion (the Danish embassy in Beirut was burnt down on Sunday,two people got killed in Afghanistan while protesters in the UK called for the beheading of whoever they thought were responsible), I heard, yesterday morning on the Today Programme, the leader of al-Muhajiroun, Omar Bakri Mohamed, and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, both making the point that while there are laws in many (western) countries to forbid anti-Semitic discourses, there is nothing to prevent anti-Muslim attacks.

I don’t think this is a relevant argument in this debate to be honest and these people are simply clutching at straws to try and justify their messages of hatred. It seems to me that anti-Semitism and what the media like to call Islamophobia are two completely different situations, which are not comparable. Each feeling has quite different ways of expressing itself. While one is verbal and not actually violent but simply critical (although the response to it is violent), the other has been expressed through unqualified levels of violence. Arguably the Israeli state is not always behaving as well as one could expect from a nation that knows from its own history the potential results of some of it policies but this same history is also the proof of the undeserved level of suffering that can be inflicted on the Jewish people. Conversely, so-called Islamophobia is often the exacerbated result of a fear stirred up by the actions of a minority of Muslims (fundamentalists and terrorists) magnified by media coverage. However I don't think there is anywhere an ideology preaching a systematic destruction of all the Muslims.

Muslims tend to want to identify as being some sort of united people, grouping themselves within the Ummah, often putting their religious allegiance before any national sense of belonging. I don’t think this is a true representation of the Muslim phenomenon, as it is clear that there are many divergent groups within the Muslim faith. However, the price of this self-identification, which in many respect would mirror that of the Jews as a race more than a religious group, might be to become the focal point of more attacks, and violent ones at that, in the manner experienced by the Jews for centuries.

Most of the cartoons were however pretty innocuous and rather mediocre to be honest. Only one (on the right) could really be seen as offensive. This cartoon is so grossly biased (in that it supports the amalgam that all Muslims (symbolised here by their prophet) are terrorists) that it doesn’t deserve to be dignified by a comment, let alone the violent reactions we have seen in the past few days. As I have mention before, these reactions do nothing to dispel the bad image of the Muslims.

Of course, something no-one seems to be ready to mention in this business, is that Arabic newspapers have notoriously been running a virulent cartoons campaign against Israel for many years. Those cartoons are much more vicious, I think, than the ones that sparked the recent violence; still, no one bats an eyelid.

I mentioned in my previous post on the subject that I believed that the protests were politically motivated and organised by small militant groups. It is interesting to note that in the pictures of the London demonstrations on the BBC News website, the signs held by protestors are quite visibly of the same make and show the same handwriting. Nothing spontaneous about this, I think. I find the slogan "Freedom go to hell" truely shocking. If this young man does not approve of freedom, what is he doing in this country using the very freedom given to him by its laws and society? Shouln't he try and move to a more repressive country?

In any case, the fact that one of the protestors dressed up as a suicide bomber and was a drug dealer says a lot. It also seems that it is fine and enough for him to apologise for his mistake while the newspapers are not so lucky.

Again, while I can understand that people feel offended, I can not understand why they are so violent in their reactions which seem so completely out of proportion to the offence.

Read my previous post on the subject.



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Monday, 6 February 2006

A New Hat

On Friday, I attended the AGM of the Southwark LGBT Network. After a few songs by the Pink Singers. The meeting itself took place. After the usual annual report from the Chair, the matter of electing the members of the executive committee was dealt with.

For the past year or so, I have been the Secretary of the Network. Last year’s AGM was my real contact with the Network and, full of good will and unspent energy I had decided to stand when it became obvious that no one was interested in the position. The tasks attached to the position are, to be honest, not very onerous and consist in attending a meeting once a month or so and to take the minutes.

You are now reading the blog of the new Co-Chair of the Southwark LGBT Network. The other Co-chair being Linda Bellos. Linda had approached me at the previous executive meeting and had asked me whether I would consider standing as Co-Chair.

The network is the interlocutor of choice for the Council in matters LGBT but also tries to foster a vibrant and supportive LGBT community within Southwark. Although we are very close to Soho and the West End, there is very little alternative to the “gay scene” of clubs and bars. The Network’s aim is to help this alternative come to reality by creating events and acting as a link between the different groups in the Borough.

The biggest success of the Network so far is probably to secure funding for a post of Community Development Worker, which has now being going on for over a year.

Oh and Slightly was volunteered to run as executive member too.


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Saturday, 4 February 2006

Drawn Into The Cartoons Crisis

Bismillah - In the name of God

It apparently all start on 30th September, last year, when, after the author of a book on the prophet Mohammad had complained that he could not find illustrators, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of twelve cartoons representing the prophet. During the next six months, a controversy around these cartoons steadily gained momentum until newspapers in several European countries reproduced the cartoons on 1st February.

This is when I first heard about that story, like most people, I would imagine. In my case, I was chatting on MSN with one of my contact who is of Asian origin when he suddenly angrily mentioned something about the French government allowing the publication of discriminatory cartoons. This sparked a discussion on the differences between the British and French outlook on ethnicity.

The story so far:
30 Sept: Danish paper publishes cartoons
20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors complain to Danish PM
10 Jan: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons
26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador
30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office demanding apology
31 Jan: Danish paper apologises
01 Feb: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint cartoons
03 Feb: protesters storm the Danish embassy in Indonesia

Although there is apparently “no specific, or explicit ban on images of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad - be they carved, painted or drawn” in the Koran, the Islamic tradition seems to forbid these representations in the belief that they could “give rise to idolatry”. This is apparently the sole reason why embassies and other official buildings have been stormed by gunmen, why death threats have been issued and why the “Islamic world” is generally in an uproar.

Like the Today Programme this morning, I couldn’t help but make the comparison with protests spurred by Christian fundamentalist against the depiction of Jesus in the Jerry Springer the Opera show last year. It would be interesting (to a very limited extend) to hear what Stephen Green, from Christian Voice, has to say about the situation, as the man who claims that only Christian values are attacked in the media and as someone continually demonstrating his belief in the importance of the religious discourse in public life.

Religion?The obvious parallele with the Jerry Springer controversy and the level of violence in the reactions as well as the fact that the situation has taken so long to develop make me think that the protests are being orchestrated by fundamentalist groups whose purpose is to keep the apparent divide between the western world and the Muslim world gaping.

Another piece of evidence towards this is that the protestors are confusing the newspapers that published the cartoons with the governments of the country they are published in, ignoring at the same time the fact that the original Danish paper has apologised.

I have to admit that I am not aware of the context in which the publication of the cartoons by other papers took place. But, from what I know of the story, I am not sure prompted their decision to do that. If it was only to make a point about freedom of expression, I think it was probably a bad move. The calls for the use of good judgment heard from many quarters are probably justified but I think those called should be extended to the protestors as well.

Of Course, Muslim people have the right to voice their disapproval of the publication of those cartoons. This is a perfect legitimate thing to and perfectly consistant with the principles of freedom of expression, which seems to be what is at stake here. However, a violent, irrational reactions like the ones we have witnessed is by no means the right answer and will only allienate the western world and the Muslim world further from each other.

Iraq's top Shia Muslim cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, condemned the publication, but said militant Islamists were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam. A Jordanian editor, who published the cartoons asking whether they had more influence on the image of Islam than suicide bombers and Jihadists, got sacked.

It is interesting to note that moderate Muslims while condemning the cartoons also condemn the violent response to them. My suspicion is that the groups of violent protesters are only quite small in numbers if obviously quite vocal. It is again the one shouting the loudest that gets heard. However, if one has to resort to violence to prove himself strong, isn't that an indication of insecurity and weakness?

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate...Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

The protestors should perhaps sit down for a second take a deep breath and try to correct their intellectual myopia by remembering that the ban on representations of the prophet is strictly a Muslim religous dogma and can therefore not apply to, or be expected to be followed by non-Muslim. It would be like asking Muslim people to swear on the Bible or the Torah in tribunals.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a recent interview on BBC Radio4, said:
"The transition from, let's say, pre-modern to modern, is something that Judaism and Christianity have gone through and that transition is something that Islam is experiencing right now. I have come to the conclusion that Islam can and should be reformed if Muslims want to live at peace..."

I think she might have point there.

Making a farce of what you protectI am afraid this is the sort of situation where I get terribly French and where my lay, republican upbringing comes to the fore. While anglo-saxon countries tend to encourage multiculturalism (divers communities living together, next to each other, retaining their identity with the risk of creating ghetto and a lack of cohesion within society), the French model (which, arguably showed its weaknesses recently and where discriminations can remain hidden more easily) is about integration (to put it simply: "when in Rome, do like the Romans"). This means that people will not shove their differences and little idiosyncracies into each other's faces, theoretically ensuring greater freedom for everyone. This, I think, should be particularly true of religious beliefs which should have nothing whatsoever to do in the public sphere but should remain a private matter for each individual.

This is all the more important in situations like this when members of a religious group forget the principles of love and peace, fundamental to all major monotheist religions, to let anger and rightuousness distort and make of farce of the very thing they want to protect.




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