Politically Correct to Call Me a Bovine Disbeliever

The senior political editor of the New Statesman, Mehdi Hasan writes in support of political correctness:

I joined the Times’s David Aaronovitch and English PEN’s Robert Sharp in proposing the rather provocative motion and facing down the trio of Ann Widdecombe, Alex Deane and Will Burroughs (son of Lynette). Our basic argument was that the opponents of political correctness are opposed to progress; they yearn for a Britain of the 1970s or 1980s where offensive words such as “Paki”, “nigger”, “poof” and “spastic” were part of our mainstream discourse, with peak-time television programmes featuring blacked-up actors on The Black and White Minstrel Show and the racist rantings of Alf Garnett, on Till Death Do Us Part.

I think it is debatable that Alf Garnett ever was portrayed as a sympathetic character and a role model, just as in Love Thy Neighbour it was Rudolph Walker who often trumped over the ineptly devious Jack Smethurst.   What I have seen of The Black and White Minstrel Show suggests it was not intentionally dismissive, but rather a good few decades out of date even then (as Australian variety programme, Hey Hey It’s Saturday did not fully realize).

But, times change.  I feel now highly uncomfortable when I hear the abusive epiphets which Hasan allows himself to use.  I am not that long in the tooth, but I remember, as a kid, making jokes about a colloquial term for packed-lunchs, as well as coffee-beans. Just this week, however, I told, in no uncertain terms, my mother not to truncate “Pakistani”, even though I knew she meant it simply as “someone of recent South East Asian ancestry”.

As an ethnic teuchter, I can say this word, but anyone else using it in the north of Scotland is running the risk of doing the equivalent of whistling Yankee Doodle Dandee at a crowded bar in Atlanta. Or mentioning billy goats to (ethnic) trolls. Seriously.

Hasan had previously written:

Tom’s post on Jan Moir comes hot on the heels of the controversial decision to allow the right-wing Dutch MEP and self-professed Islamophobe Geert Wilders to enter Britain and — ahem — the Cambridge Union debate last night. The topic of discussion was: “This house believes that political correctness is sane and necessary.”

It would appear that Moir’s unpleasant article has resulted in a complaint to the Police. As for Wilders, I object to his efforts to essentialize Muslims, as well as his belief that the Belgian fascist party, Vlaams Belang could be a suitable political partner.  Yet, who decreed it “controversial” that Wilders and his hair should speak in the UK? As I discussed before, an apparently Muslim barrister did not see any conflict of interest in defending Wilders’ right to do so.

“Political correctness” did not originally indicate a sense of common understanding, but an attempt at state-endorsed censorship such as through Arnold Bennett’s work at the British Ministry of Information during the Great War; or, much more seriously, the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution. 

Even if it did indicate this common understanding, I suspect that using a highly derogatory term to describe members of another religious confessional would violate its terms. And I ain’t meaning heathen.

“The kaffar, the disbelievers, the atheists who remain deaf and stubborn to the teachings of Islam, the rational message of the Quran; they are described in the Quran as, quote, “a people of no intelligence”, Allah describes them as; not of no morality, not as people of no belief – people of “no intelligence” – because they’re incapable of the intellectual effort it requires to shake off those blind prejudices, to shake off those easy assumptions about this world, about the existence of God. In this respect, the Quran describes the atheists as “cattle”, as cattle of those who grow the crops and do not stop and wonder about this world.”

Oh dear.


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