Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hey Islam, Get Off Of My Lawn! (JM)

Have your loudspeakers. But not here

Alrighty! I knew from just the title, which sounds like a crazy, British, “get off my lawn”, kind of rant that this was going to be good. But it was ever better than that. SPOILER ALERT: Racism!

Britain is welcoming to minorities. They in turn should respect Britain's Christian culture

Oh Lord Finkleton, I never really knew you were not just our crazy British friend, but you are a crazy, British, socially conservative friend.

Daniel Finkelstein

Tu B'shvat. Latkes. Kinloss. Simchat Torah. The four questions. Viennas. Halacha dictates that you should affix your mezuzah on the right side of the door in the upper third of the doorpost within approximately three inches of the opening. Chrain.

What are random Jewishy things? What are a couple of Jewish holidays, some Jewish traditions and a city and or a delicious type of cookie? What is an example of really substandard journalism? Sigh, I give up, Daniel Finklestein you are the WORST $25,000 Pyramid partner ever.

If you are not Jewish my list will have lost you by now. Other people's religions are mystifying. The son of God - who came up with that one? The Eucharist - what's that when it's at home?

I am Jewish, I still don’t understand your list. “The son of God-who came up with that one?”! What’s the deal with Eucharist? Is this like weird Seinfeldian religion baiting?

Fortunately you don't need to understand any of the words with which I started this column. (Although I recommend finding out about latkes. And Viennas. Oh, and chrain.) If you insist on learning - because you think it might come up in a quiz or something - then by all means go ahead. But not on my account. All I really need you to do is leave me alone to get on with it.

If I didn’t need to understand them, then why did you write them? Did you just tell us to leave you alone? You write constantly crazy columns for a fairly major newspaper. We will not be leaving you alone, not until you are fired or come down with some sort of disease which will make me feel bad about constantly mocking you.

And I don't doubt that you will. That's what I love about Britain. Our country is a very tolerant, quiet, modest, hospitable sort of place. We try and leave others in peace and expect to be left in peace ourselves. When a mass murderer is discovered in our midst, the neighbours still murmur with approval: “He kept himself to himself.”

If people WILL leave you alone, then what are you writing about? Is this a thank you letter? I still don’t get the Jewish paragraph. Also “neighbours still murmur with approval”?! This is something you are bragging about… well he killed many people, but he maintained proper British decorum. Jolly good.

You know what else I love? That none of you will have questioned my right to use the word “our” about this country, even though I am the son of immigrants naturalised not long before I was born.

This really is some weird bizarre thank you letter that makes no sense. Lord Finkleton is thanking people for things that not doing things that no one ever ever does. “Blimey, did you just call Britain ‘our’ country?! Weren’t your parents immigrants?! Bollocks to that!” This just doesn’t happen. Next he will thank the British people for not granting Pop Tarts the Right to Life.

Imprisoned by communists and Nazis, expelled from their homes, seeing their relatives die, forced to start again with nothing, my parents found peace and freedom in this country. Because of its traditions and its culture. Because there is something precious about this place.

Do you think it is necessarily the “something precious” that allowed them to feel “peace and freedom” or maybe it was the substantially lower number of “communists and Nazis”. I guess that is kind of precious. “Look at the baby, isn’t she precious? Not a communist or Nazi anywhere near her.”

Now I'll tell you what I'd like to do. I'd like you to look after it. I'd like you to stand up for the principles that make this country what it is, even when it's mildly awkward to do so. And an awkward case has just arisen, as it happens. So I can test your resolve.

Best call to action since FDR and Churchill. “The only thing that is midly awkward is mild awkwardness itself.”

Over in East Oxford, the Central Mosque wants to issue a call to prayer by loudspeaker three times a day. As the mosque's spokeman, Sardar Rana, put it: “The call to prayer would be made in the central hall and then linked to three speakers in the minaret, which would point in different directions.” He then added, without, I think, trying to be funny: “I don't think it would disturb anybody.”

Seven paragraphs in to the article I finally see where this is going, and it’s kind of silly.

You can see why this is awkward, can't you? The first, and correct, instinct of the Englishman is to see if we can accommodate the request without any fuss. It is, however, hard to see how this is possible. With the best will in the world, the muezzin's electronically enhanced recitation is going to be an intrusion.

A play:

Lord Finkleton: Dammit, Gisele, what is that intruding noise? I am trying to listen to my tea here.

Gisele Bundchen: Finkey darling, that’s just the sound of the Muslim call to prayer.

Lord Finkleton: Well gosh, can’t that just worship a little quieter? I mean my muzuzah makes almost no noise at all! Sheesh, talk about your White Man’s Burden…

Gisele Bundchen: Why don’t you come up stairs and I’ll help you relax.

Lord Finkleton: No, it’s no use, I can’t concentrate on anything ever since that call to prayer ended five minutes ago.


That’s right, in my world Gisele is dating Daniel Finklestein. Suck on it, Handsome McDreamy Q. Quarterbackingtonson.

Yet I don't think it's enough to confine one's objection purely to the noise.

Oh good…

Let me dispense with a couple of minor - but in my view incorrect - arguments about the call to prayer. There's nothing all that wrong with the words that would be recited. Apart from anything else it would be in Arabic. And yes, the muezzin will announce that God is great, but fortunately we are entitled in Britain to disagree. I don't accept either the idea that this call to prayer would create a Muslim ghetto. Nor would I fear such a thing. It is natural that Muslims want to live near each other anyway, just as Jews do. And that they will wish to live near the mosque.

Way to object to arguments no one made that support the inane position you are taking.

These arguments are diversions from the important principle involved. And that concerns this country's status as a Christian country with an established Church. Perhaps you feel reluctant to use this argument - feeling it a departure from inclusiveness. Well, I don't think you should be reluctant in the slightest.

You, Jewish Lord Finkleton, think that the Church of England is that standard by which Britain ought to operate. Maybe I don’t understand English culture, but it seems to me that allowing an established religion to interfere with other people’s practice of religion is not terribly in the spirit of a modern, free, tolerant nation.

Immigrants and their children in this country receive a fantastic deal. We are able to practise our religion in peace. We can openly enjoy our culture. Our colleagues tolerate our taking vacations on holy days and they even let their children be taught about some of our practices, which is most courteous, I must say.

They let us coexist and even try to understand us, isn’t that enough!

In return I think it reasonable for us to show respect for the majority religion and for the established religious institutions. We could, after all, live somewhere else. We came here on purpose. And here we have a right to practise, but not to dominate the public space. We have the right to pray, but not to blare out our prayer across Cowley.

See here’s the thing, this argument is still about noise. Daniel Finklestein’s has set up a bright line, and it’s noisiness. “Seriously everyone, you are free to practice any religion as you want… so long as it isn’t too loud. Show some decorum.”

Let's say that the call to prayer, the sound of the muezzin from the minaret, is the most precious sound to you. You do not have to live in East Oxford. There are any number of mosques all over the world, loudspeakering away to their hearts' content. One of the reasons I support the existence of the state of Israel is that I feel there should be one place in the world where Jews can loudspeaker away. Although most of us Jews talk loud enough without a megaphone, so we can settle in Pinner.

Go back to the country of Islam if you really want to practice your religion.

Here, however, they have church bells. And the Queen is defender of the faith. Many members of the Church of England aren't very religious - my favourite Spitting Image joke involved a man knocking on a door and saying: “Jehovah's Witnesses here. Do you believe in God?” To which the man inside replied: “No, I'm C of E.” But even among the less religious many marry in church and are buried in a churchyard. And religiosity isn't the only issue here. It's also culture.

You’ve tried to make this three issues now, it’s still one: loudness. You cannot argue for pluralism and then draw the line here. Especially without making distinctions. I imagine there are Catholic churches in England that also use bells. They are obviously not part of the Church of England. Why is sight of the mosque acceptable, but not the noise of one. Why does this bother you so much.

Why should the mild, gentle culture of the Anglicans not deserve the same preservation and respect as any other ancient culture? I regard the Jewish tradition as something I hold in trust for my children. What of the culture and sights and sounds of this country and its heritage?

This is seriously a horrifically dumb sentiment. English culture is quietness, the call to prayer will destroy it?! Is that really how tenuous a hold Britain has left on its claims of culture hegemony?! God, this is offensive.

I'm not calling for a retreat from the tolerance and mutual respect of this country. That's the last thing I want. I depend on it, don't I?

England obviously has a very high tolerance for bad journalism that you depend upon as well.

It's just that I don't think tolerance and mutual respect come from nowhere. There's a reason why this country shows it, why we have fought for it, and died for it. I am just saying that if this country doesn't protect its own heritage and culture, how can I expect it to protect mine?

I seriously just don’t get this. How is failing to protect Muslim culture to favor the so-called Anglican culture of bland quiet something that would make you feel good as another discreet religious minority. Say what you will Lord Finkleton, this is still an article about a cranky old man who wants quiet. Also, I still don't get the list of Jewish things, please explain.

1 comment:

Nick said...

You know Jon, if people stopped reading crazy "journalists" like this, they'd stop being published. Just don't look. It's got Paul Anka's guarantee, though the guarantee is void in Tennessee...