Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fisking Time Out

Time Out, the 'what's on' in London magazine, has an article by Michael Hodges entitled, "Is London's future Islamic?". In it, he argues that London would be better off under Islam.

The article is so poorly written, so infantile in its points, that it beggars belief that a quality magazine of the status of Time Out could have deemed it fit for publication.

Anyway, here are its key points and mine.

i) Public Health

Islam offers Londoners potential health benefits: the Muslim act of prayer is designed to keep worshippers fit, their joints supple and, at five times a day, their stomachs trim. The regular washing of the feet and hands required before prayers promotes public hygiene and would reduce the transmission of superbugs in London’s hospitals. Alcohol is haram, or forbidden, to Muslims. Turning all the city’s pubs into juice bars would have a massive positive effect on public health. Forbid alcohol throughout the country, and you’d avoid many of the 22,000 alcohol-related deaths and the £7.3 billion national bill for alcohol-related crime and disorder each year.

However, despite all these wonderful benefits, Hodges shoots himself in the foot by conceding that

On the surface, Islamic health doesn’t look good: the 2001 census showed that 23% of Muslims suffered long-term illness and disability.

So Michael, why is this so? And are you really advocating prohibition of alcohol?
Also, why are 25% of Muslim prisoners in jail for drug-related crime? As this article from Muslim organisation MPAC states,

'from the late 1980s onwards, according to Maqsood Ahmed, it appears that Asians replaced Afro-Caribbeans as the main drug pushers on the streets'

ii) Ecology

The Islamic concept of halifa or trusteeship obliges Muslims to look after the natural world and Muhammad was one of the first ever environmentalists, advocating hima – areas where wildlife and forestry are protected.

I have heard Mohammed praised for many things, but never, ever for his green credentials. Is this a joke?

iii) Education

Muslim children do better in their own faith schools than in the mainstream state sector. If Islam became the dominant religion in London, this could have a revolutionary effect on educational achievement and general levels of discipline and self-respect among London’s young people

And the evidence for this?

Presently, Muslim students perform less well than non-Muslim students. In inner London, 37% of 16 to 24-year-old Muslims have no qualifications (compared to 25% for the general population of inner London). When it comes to university education the picture is equally gloomy: 16 to 24-year-old Muslims are half as likely to have degree level or above qualification than other inner London young people.

Huh? How so? I thought you said Islam would raise the educational standards in our schools?

Social factors rather than religion have led to this state of affairs. Young Muslims are more likely to encounter racism and to suffer from poverty and bad housing."

Aaah, I see. So why do only Muslims suffer racism and not Hindhus and Sikhs, Michael?

iv) Food

Application of halal dietary laws across London would free us at a stroke from our addiction to junk food. As curry is already Londoners’ and the nation’s favourite food, it would be a relatively easy process to encourage the adoption of such a diet. Not eating would be important as well. The annual fasting month of Ramadan instils self-discipline, courtesy and social cohesion.

So we should all eat halal food, chicken tikka masala (is that healthy?) and fast like Kate Moss. Brilliant deitary advice, Mickey.

v) Inter-Faith Relations

In an Islamic London, Christians and Jews – with their allegiance to the Bible and the Talmud – would be protected as ‘peoples of the book’. Hindus and Sikhs manage to live alongside a large Muslim population in India, so why not here? Although England has a long tradition of religious bigotry against, for instance, Roman Catholics, it is reasonable to assume that under the guiding hand of Islam a civilised accommodation could be made among faith groups in London.

Have you ever heard of the dhimmi status of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries, Michael? Or the jizya? Did you really just say that Muslims and Hindhus live harmoniously in India? Are you aware of how Pakistan came into being? Or Kashmir? Or the Mumbai bombings? Is Christian bigotry really to be saved from Islamic tolerance? Really?

vi) The Arts

Some of the finest art in London is already Islamic.

Yes, The Tate and the National Gallery are positively overflowing with Islamic works.

vii) Social Justice

Each Muslim is obliged to pay zakat, a welfare tax of 2.5% of annual income, that is distributed to the poor and the needy. If the working population of London, 5.2 million, was predominantly Muslim this would produce approximately £3.2bn each year.

But Michael, haven't you just stated that 37% of young Muslims in London are out of work? What use is an income tax if there is no income to tax?

Also, why are Muslims so over-represented in the prison population? (They account for 2% of the general population but 9% of the prison population)

Amir, in the comments section, points out yet another error in this comedy-of-errors article,
"Actually, the tax isn't on income but on savings that has been held for more than one year. In other words, if I put $1,000 under my pillow today, in a year, I would be required to pay $25.00 to one of the categories of people and cause mentioned in the Quran".
and the piece de resistance,

viii) Race Relations

Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim – it doesn’t matter what colour you are. End of story.

No, they aren't. Only those that submit to Allah are equal.
And are you proposing that all Londoners are forcibly obliged to commit to Islam?

The point of this article is not to 'have a go' at Islam but to show the utter banality and ignorance of Hodge's arguments. There are many aspects of Islam that i admire; the emphasis on family and community as opposed to the atomisation of the West; the self-sacrifice demanded by Islam as opposed to the 'me first' culture of the West; the spirituality of Islam as opposed to the rampant secularism and nihilism of the West; the emphasis on learning about the great teachers as opposed to the West's mantra that education is relative; the worship of God and rejection of materialism as opposed to the worship of money and celebrity; and the focus on helping the poor and the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimmage as opposed to the selfishness of the West.

I have to conclude, therefore, that Hodges either has some highly uncompromising pictures of the Time Out editor or is a Christian evangelist cleverly arguing the case against Islam. If so, he has brilliantly achieved his goal.

Shame on Time Out for publishing such an anti-Islamic piece.

Time Out article found at The Midnight Sun, here, and reviewed by The Brussels Journal, here.