Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Gone to the dogs

Here we go again. Tayside police have apologised for "any offence" they might have caused to Muslims by using a picture of a puppy to advertise their phoneline.

The Mail's coverage was typical (of the Mail):

A postcard featuring a cute puppy sitting in a policeman's hat advertising a Scottish police force's new telephone number has sparked outrage from Muslims.

This is the offensive picture.



I doubt it caused outrage among many Muslims, although there are some who take the anti-dog sentiments to be found in some old texts rather more seriously than they used to. It did, however, provide a soapbox opportunity for a Dundee councillor by the name of Mohammed Asif, who sits on the Tayside police board and took it upon himself to complain personally to the chief constable. "My concern was that it's not welcomed by all communities, with the dog on the cards," he is quoted as saying. "They should have understood. Since then, the police have explained that it was an oversight on their part, and that if they'd seen it was going to cause upset they wouldn't have done it."

And, indeed, a spokesman for the force issued a typically grovelling statement:


Rebel has proved extremely popular with children and adults since he joined the force aged six weeks. His incredible world-wide popularity - he has attracted record visitor numbers to our website - led us to believe Rebel could play a starring role in the promotion of our non-emergency number. However, we did not seek advice from the force's diversity adviser prior to publishing and distributing the postcards. That was an oversight and we apologise for any offence caused.


Why was it an oversight? Why do they feel the need to apologise? Why, faced with what would seem to be a single grandstanding local nobody (a Labour councillor, wouldn't you know?) can't the police find the wherewithal to tell him where to put his absurd complaint? Why on earth should they have run this postcard past their "diversity adviser"? Do diversity advisers have nothing better to do? Perhaps they don't...

I'm not going to play the Mail's game and put the blame for this at the door of "Muslims", who are imagined to be in a permanent state of rage. The vast majority of Muslims in Dundee couldn't give a toss what mascot the local police force choose to adopt. They also know full well that stories like this do their community no good at all, merely feeding a growing resentment in wider British society. The culprits are twofold: the self-publicising Asif, and the idiots in the Tayside force who rushed to apologise. Both attitudes do immense damage. The BNP loves stories like this just as much as the Mail does, and have already jumped opportunistically on this particular bandwagon, urging their supporters to write to Tayside police.

So who exactly is Mr Asif? At present he holds the exalted position of "deputy convener of arts, leisure and communities" for the council, in which capacity he has been introduced to the Queen. Two years ago, he was described as a "leading Dundee businessman" who had advised the government on race relations. This was in a report highlighting his complaints about the possibility of "profiling" suspects at airports. Claiming that any such proposal "risks alienating a largely peaceful community," Asif made the point that Muslims were "happy to integrate into society". And so many of them are. But Asif himself clearly has a very strange definition of "integration".

UPDATE
The Dundee Courier reports (just as I suspected) that Cllr Asif's reservations are not widely shared by other Muslims. They quote Mahmud Sarwar, trustee of the Scottish Islamic and Cultural Centre, who "appealed for calm" (What? Was he expecting riots?) while stating that he was unaware of any complaints. “There is not a dog—it is just a picture,” he said. Ceci n'est pas un chien....

Which raises the intriguing question of where this story came from and how it got into the public arena. The early reports all point to Mr Asif as the source, but since his initiative backfired he has been unavailable for comment. My guess is that it has to do with Dundee internal politics. He wants to be seen to be standing up for Muslim interests. But that doesn't explain the supine attitude of the police.

8 comments:

valdemar said...

I wonder if the BNP can break through and actually take control of a council? Seems unlikely on Tyneside, where I lurk. But this kind of idiotic pandering arouses resentment, as you say.

At my council everyone is sent on 'equality' courses that are all about race and religion. This increases resentment - you can hear it in people's voices and in the tone of the coffee machine gossip during breaks.

Everyone is careful, of course, not to be too explicit. You never know who might overhear and report you. But it's there.

Edwin said...

Story is covered in the Dundee Courier, Scotsman and Daily Record but the Herald and BBC Scotland seem to have bottled it so far

Scotland piece gives this comment from the MCB's man in Scotland (it's called MCS here).


Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish-Islamic Foundation, said Muslims traditionally regarded dogs differently from people brought up in western culture, and suggested that Mr Asif's remarks had been taken out of context.

He said: "It does not appear to me that Mohammed Asif has mentioned anywhere that Muslims as a faith group would find this offensive.



The 'out of context' argument is the common one now of course - a preacher calls for gays to be thrown off a cliff? Out of context.

Worth keeping an eye on Saeed - he will likely end up at Holyrood or Westminster for the SNP. Gillian Bowditch did a rather good revelatory interview with him in last week's Sunday Times. He is a less charming, less intellectual version of our auld acquaintance Inayat.

Edwin said...

'Scotland piece' should of course be 'Scotsman piece'. Of to make coffee.

The Heresiarch said...

Thanks for those tidbits, Ed. Saeed's closeness to Alec Salmond is a bit of an eye-opener.

I suppose "out of context" is true, strictly. Asif appears to have suggested that Muslims "might" have been offended. Whereas the Mail began its story with the predictable "Muslims are outraged". But that's the whole problem: the perceived need to second-guess what the most extreme dribbling idiot might find offensive, and ban it just in case. And the likes of Asif exploit this appeasement mentality to get publicity and power for themselves. If offered the choice between a bearded loon calling for "death to the blasphemers" and a smooth suited councillor well-versed in multicultispeak demanding "sensitivity", I think on balance I prefer the extremist.

Lil' Drummer Bwoi said...

The culprit is the Mail, obviously, for reporting a non-story in a pathetic attempt to make Muslims appear less likeable, a difficult job, I'm sure we can all agree, as they are, on the most part, even lovely and cuddlier than the aforementioned puppy.

I have to take note of Muslim/doggie attitudes daily as I walk my babies (see blog: "Ralph") with that much regularity around many a young courting Muslim (they can't just take 'em home with a "Ma, I'm popping upstairs with this to stick my willy in it, have us 2 teas for when we've finished, there's a love") problems? none. nada. not a squeak.

So, just to sum, Muslims have NO PROBLEM with doggies (apart from being irrationally terrified of them). The Mail is making it all up to make them (the Muslims) look bad. This is because it is fascist bog paper of the lowest order.

Case closed.

valdemar said...

Except that the Daily Mail's take on this has been read by millions. I happen to have daily papers on my desk at work (for legitimate reasons). People borrow papers to read at lunch time, or whatever, and guess what? Most don't want the Indie, the Times or the Grauniad - it's the Mail they like. Okay so they probably read the telly 'n' showbiz stuff, but the politics is in there, like toxic waste, leaching into the other sections of the mad rag.

Edwin said...

The Daily Mail in Scotland (I'm told, haven't checked) outsells both the Scotsman and the Herald combined, both of which papers are commonly perceived as shadows of themselves - true enough as far as subbing etc goes, but other things stay the same. Up until about the mid-70s, the Herald and other sections of the Scottish media completely ignored discrimination against Catholics - indeed rarely employed Catholics themselves - and some sections of the Scottish media may not be reporting the Puppy story (which is a great story!) because of liberal guilt but because they're not sure any more what the rules of what-is-not-to-be-said are. I suspect many of the hacks think Muslims are just bigger and more powerful freemasons!

Edwin said...

Ah, the Puppy story is now moving peacefully back in tio its basket, as today's Courier says -
'Mr Asif claimed some Muslims have been upset by the image because in Islam dogs are generally considered unclean and cannot be kept as pets.

However, since The Courier broke the story earlier in the week we have been contacted by several members of Dundee’s Muslim community who have distanced themselves from Mr Asif’s remarks.

Nadia El-Nakla, a development worker for the Dundee-based Muslim Women’s Helpline, said, “The Muslim community in Dundee are happy to integrate into the wider community, and this is seen every day—it is a shame that one or two negative comments regarding a puppy is tagged to all Muslims.”

Ms El-Nakla’s comments were echoed by Tanvir Ahmed, who said he had no complaints against the police for printing the postcard and doesn’t feel they have any need to apologise as it wasn’t their intention to insult Muslims.

He added, “I have friends in the police force, and also have been in touch with the local police quite a few times and believe that they do a great job for the community.”

Despite the controversy caused by his comments, Mr Asif has, to date, declined to clarify his position on the postcards.

Despite numerous attempts by The Courier to contact him, he has remained unavailable for comment for more than 48 hours.'

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2008/07/03/newsstory11597077t0.asp