12 February 2006
'Fuck Mohammed. Fuck Jesus. Jews, Niggers, Bitches, Pakis, dirty Arabs and Cripples - fuck 'em all. Fuck the Holocaust. Hail Satan. The Queen is a man. Hitler had the right idea. Euthanasia for the over 40s. Rape everyone. Bomb everything. Hate and death. Shit, bollocks, cunt and paedophilia for all. Fuck the Alamo.
Oy. This freedom of speech thing is getting out of hand.'
- Aristotle Brownsmock, Epigrams for the Journey
In September last year, sharp-eyed business development manager and devout Muslim, Rashad Akhtar noticed something distinctly awry in a local branch of Burger King. Not the processed ham in the Breakfast Sandwich but the design on the lid of the ice cream cones. For Burger King, this design simply represented 'a spinning ice cream cone', but unfortunately, for Mr Akhtar it bore a strikingly slight resemblance to the Arabic inscription for Allah. (Pedantry be upon him.) Apologies followed complaints and soon Burger King withdrew their blasphemous swirl. But - amusingly - that wasn't enough for rabble-rouser Akhtar, who called upon his fellow offendees to boycott the burger chain. He
said: 'This is my jihad. How can you say it is a spinning swirl? If you spin it one way to the right you are offending Muslims.' And if you think that's insane, you must be killing yourself at this week's events.
As the cartoon counterattack continues to career out of control, with new protests, retaliations and sackings every day and the number of dead now well up in the double figures, there was a slight spin-off story concerning a sex toy. You can see the sex toy in question right here.
That's right, the patented Mustafa Shag blow-up doll. Even though the blowing up in question is not the killing kind, the christening of this inflatable escort was definitely not Ann Summers' classiest moment. However, the controversy that has climaxed around Mustafa Shag brings us right back to the focus of the Danish cartoons debacle: that's right, Mohammed. The pesky prophet. Apparently - as well as 'Mohammed' - another of the names bestowed upon him was 'Mustafa'. In a letter to Ann Summers, the Manchester Central Mosque spelled out their beef: 'You have no idea how much hurt, anguish, and disgust this obnoxious phrase [Mustafa Shag] has caused to Muslim men, women and children.' So much so that they asked the shop that prides itself on making women feel good about themselves and their sexuality to 'relent on compassionate grounds' and politely withdraw the swarthy seven-incher.
Ann Summers chief exec Jacqueline Gold has responded to this ludicrous, convoluted offence appropriately and rationally, saying, 'We don't want to offend, but this feels like political correctness gone mad.' She also offered to change Mustafa's moniker if anyone could think of a better name. Mustafa Harem? The Jesus Who Pleases? Bad Boy Buddha? Meh. It's all frighteningly foolish. It feels like we've been suddenly plunged back into the Dark Ages, or found ourselves floundering in the Jehovah scene in 'Life of Brian'. ('He said it again!') And all because of a little gentle ribbing. It's almost like certain people are crying out to be offended.
These are strange, confusing, fearful times we're living in, where the right to offend is being whittled quickly away and people everywhere are afraid that a relatively innocent piss-take might land a fatwa on their sorry asses. The life-altering power of words, and of course images, is centre-stage like never before. The pen is making veritable sticks and stones of the sword and although words may not break our bones, we're perhaps realising afresh that they can not be so easily contained.
In a further act of provocative pen-play, the Iranian paper Hamshahri launched a caricature competition earlier this week, with the theme of the holocaust. The paper's art director Farid Murtazawi said the contest is a response to the original Danish cartoon touchpaper. 'They published caricatures insulting the Prophet Mohammed with the excuse of freedom of _expression. We will see whether they do what they say; whether they will reprint these pictures of the holocaust.'
Mr Murtazawi, we salute you. At last at least, a response equivalent to the offence. At last a prospective limping toward debate rather than violence. And wouldn't it be great if, on the back of this impish holocaust retaliation, the Christians and the Jews and the Muslims could all sit round a big table together and hammer out this whole sorry issue. With no more blood spilled. And no more fire. Sadly, chairman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Marvin Hier, has already interpreted the retaliation as evidence that the spirit of Hitler is at large in the Muslim world. And, as crowning tit for that towering tat, Iranian religious leader Ali Khamanei has claimed that Israel cooked up Mohammedgate in its entirety as revenge for the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections last month. (The cartoons first appeared last September.)
Finally - amen - it's raining fatwas.
Crumbs. This one is set to run and run and run.