Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Muslim infidels

The new Jesus and Mo strip, called “dear”, came with this note in the email alert:

Religion demanding respect again, and getting it.

The link to “getting it” doesn’t work, but it’s about the British gymnast Louis Smith, who got a two-month ban from his gymnastics governing body for getting drunk at a wedding, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” and pretending to pray toward Mecca. Tasteless? Surely, but it’s free speech and doesn’t deserve this kind of ban. I agree with the Guardian’s Marina Hyde, who said this:

Leaving those debates for another column (a column which I myself have written at least twice), sports are commonly agreed to be competitive physical activities. Capable of being inspiring, certainly, and frequently places where great spirit and whatnot is on display. But above all: sports. Not established value systems, and certainly not a forum for creating pseudo‑case law on free speech. To pretend otherwise is a dangerous category mistake.

. . . Then again, perhaps it is all of a piece. The same type of people who don’t trust the public to vote for the right sublebrities in meaningless competitions also don’t trust the public to be able to come to its own conclusions about an obviously stupid twat like Louis Smith. As I say, he is evidently a stupid twat (you could tell on Strictly, innit – and I’m not even getting into the man-bun). Yet what is more satisfactory in a case where there is no reasonable evidence of incitement to violence: that grown-ups come to that judgment themselves? Or that British Gymnastics, of all post-parodic entities, enacts a de facto blasphemy law?

When I heard about Smith’s ban, I thought, “I wonder if they’d ban him for mocking Christianity instead of Islam?” Hyde raises the same issue:

. . .  What if an athlete was of the belief that The Life of Brian was an excellent movie, or that Father Ted was hilarious? Naturally, something tells me mocking mass would be rather less frowned upon than mocking the call to prayer. But why on earth can’t athletes be derogatory about people’s beliefs?

As for British Gymnastics, it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near learning any useful lessons – but then, it takes its lead from the benighted fools at UK Sport, who bang on about the privilege of representing a country at the same time as cravenly denying that country’s essential freedoms. In many ways, it’s an old hypocrisy. Governing bodies have long come down like a ton of bricks on any athlete who gets political – yet I can scarcely think of anything more absurdly political than British Gymnastics operating a blasphemy law.

Well, watch the video that got Smith in trouble, and weigh in below about whether he deserves to be banned:

But I digress; here are Jesus and Mo:

2016-11-02

You can read more about Ahmadiyya here, and see why its members are considered infidels by other Muslims who see Muhammad as the final prophet.

46 Comments

  1. Posted November 3, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    This piece in The Telegraph is also good.

    As for the Ahmaddiya reference, part of the background for that is the murder of a well-liked Ahmadi Glasgow shopkeeper.

    When this happened the usual suspects were widdling their pants with glee, hoping that it might be the fabled “backlash” attributable to the “Islamophobia” of anyone who dares to opine that Islam might be anything less than 100% perfect.

    They went rather quiet when it turned out he was murdered by an Islamic extremist who felt that he had “disrespected Islam”.

  2. VRandom
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    When I heard about Smith’s ban, I thought, “I wonder if they’d ban him for mocking Christianity instead of Islam?”

    What if he had mocked some Jewish tradition though? I think his mocking goes beyond mocking Islam and he in fact is mocking Muslims which makes it a bigoted action (although a mild one). In fact, it is likely that if he had done the same thing with respect to Judaism, he would be accused of anti-semitism, and rightly so as well.

    However, I am still on the fence whether leaked private videos that display mild bigotry require official bans.

    • Frank Bath
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      I mock Judaism. The garden of Eden and talking snakes? It’s ridiculous. Banging your head on a wall? Crackers. They need their heads seeing to. Etc.. It’s not anti-semitic it’s anti nonsense.
      I mock all religion but not necessarily the brainwashed believer – not unless he/she pretends to be educated or have a developed intellect.

  3. TJR
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Calling Louis Smith a “stupid twat” is much more offensive than anything he did.

    • eric
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      To a USAian, maybe. However the British have different slang and IIRC ‘twat’ isn’t considered as offensive there as it is here.

      ***

      I also agree with Ms. Hyde. The idea that sports stars should moral and cultural role models, standing apart from politics, might have been nice in the 1950s. Heck, I’ll even grant the idea might have had some use in the cold war. But even that ended 30 years ago; now this idea is just antiquated. Let them speak their mind. I don’t think many people above the age of 12 will be shocked if what comes out is no more (or less) insightful than what you might hear from your friends, family, or co-workers.

      • Dominic
        Posted November 3, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        “‘twat’ isn’t considered as offensive there as it is here” – hardly so. Surely using a term for female pudenda also possibly insulting to womankind…! As Germaine Greer wrote, “No woman wants to find out that she has a twat like a horse-collar.”

        • eric
          Posted November 3, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

          I could easily be wrong – I’m American, not British, so my understanding is a bit removed. Perhaps others will weigh in on it.

          • Dave
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            In my experience from here in the UK, “twat” is considered quite a jokey, almost light-hearted insult. Applied to Louis Smith’s antics, it suggests that he’s a bit dim and should have known better before making a fool of himself in public, but it doesn’t carry any implication that he’s done anything very serious.

            “C–t” on the other hand, is generally a much harder term of abuse, not one that would be applied as casually as “twat”. Bizarre really, since they both refer to the same piece of female anatomy!

          • Ralph
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

            I’m a London native who lives in the US.

            Both “twat” and “cunt” are milder in the UK than the US.

            I’d say UK “twat” is roughly equivalent to US “dumbass”. Growing up in the UK, I did not even know that it originally referred to female anatomy, and I’d say it has almost completely lost that sense in the UK. I’m not sure that it would be a word that anyone in the UK would think of using if they were specifically seeking to be offensive to a woman.

            UK “cunt” is more contextual. Somewhat bizarrely to US ears it’s used in casual MALE banter in the UK, with intensity similar to something like “dumb motherfucker” in the US. However, it would still never be used jokingly toward a woman in the UK, only to be deliberately offensive. Directed toward a woman, it’s only slightly less offensive in the UK than it is in the US, although perhaps lacking the absolute taboo just because it’s used more casually among males.

            • Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

              “Both “twat” and “cunt” are milder in the UK than the US.”

              That’s no excuse. The Guardian is read in english speaking countries around the world. We’re offended, and therefore she must apologize, and the Guardian should suspend her without pay for being an ignorant twat. :p

              • neil
                Posted November 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

                You used the words ‘twat’ and ‘cunt’ in public, and i am mortally offended and insist that..oh, hang on, i’ve said it as well….
                I have mortally offended myself and insist i must suspend myself until i make a grovelling apology to myself…

            • Dominic
              Posted November 3, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              Not to forget fanny…
              But we are men discussing using insults that employ parts of female anatomy – perhaps calling someone a prick is better!

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 4, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

                Don’t be a dick.
                😉

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      The Brits are certainly less-uptight than we Yanks when it comes to tossing around terms for the female nether region. (Hell, until the recent release of the Trumpster’s “Access Now” bus video, such words weren’t considered to be within “all the news that’s fit to print” for our newspaper of record. We’ll see if that dam has now been burst.)

      Anyway, what’s “offensive,” like what’s beautiful, is in the eye of the beholder. Words are merely representational communication devices; it’s only their accreted cultural taboos that render some of them offensive.

      Also, “sublebrity” — great and needed neologism, that.

      • Ralph
        Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        I think describing the difference as down to being “less-uptight” is mistaken. That implies that the word means exactly the same thing in the UK, but that we’re just culturally ok with highly offensive sexist terms.

        That’s not the case. The meaning of words varies with location and drifts with time. As I said, growing up in the UK I did not even know the US usage of “twat” or the etymology as female anatomy until I first came to the US. And that’s not because I lived a sheltered naive life – I was quite aware of other words such as “cunt” that DO retain that meaning in the UK. In the UK, the word “twat” just MEANS a dumbass, there’s really nothing more to it.

        In other words, it’s a semantic difference, not a cultural one.

      • Ralph
        Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        ETA: I completely agree with your second paragraph, of course.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 3, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for the insight, Ralph. Makes sense.

          As a life-long Yank, I personally don’t think I could ever bring myself to use a term for the female anatomy in public discourse. I’m too big a pussy.🙂

          • Ralph
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

            Which raises, of course, the fact that for completeness we should add that:

            US “pussy” = UK “fanny”
            although the UK word is only used only in the literal sense of as a slang but not offensive word for lady parts, never in the figurative sense of “a spineless man”

            US fanny = UK bum

          • eric
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            Well in any event, my original comment was in regards to TJR’s post; I was making the point that Ms. Hyde’s use of ‘twat’ probably wasn’t offensive at all to most British readers, because they don’t use the word the same way we do. As the saying* goes, American and England are two nations separated by a common language.🙂

            *Variously attributed to Shaw, Wilde, and sometimes Churchill.

          • jeremy pereira
            Posted November 4, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

            Until fairly recently, I thought the American idiom of describing somebody who is a bit cowardly as a pussy really was to do with cats (i.e. the small cute and fluffy carnivorous hunting machines).

            Meanwhile, here in Britain, the word pussy can substitute for vagina but is not generally considered too offensive as exemplified by the prime time sitcom “Are You Being Served” in which the character of Mrs Slocumbe had a pet cat (always off screen alas) whom she referred to as “my pussy” leading to hilarious innuendos whenever the script writers were short of ideas.

  4. Steve Pollard
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    What Coel said.

    There is another piece in today’s Times (paywall, unfortunately) by Matthew Syed, himself an Olympian. It concludes:

    “When an Olympic athlete can be prevented from participating in the sport he loves for having the temerity to mock an institutionalised superstition, freedom itself is in danger”.

    Earlier he writes: “[The video] involved the mockery of people who shout scripted phrases to a make-believe creator in the sky; but if you can’t poke fun at that, what can you poke fun of [sic]?”

    Hear hear!

  5. rickflick
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Tasteless behavior but certainly not banned. I think his behavior is being mistaken for ridicule of a “race” rather than an idea.

  6. Jerry Piven
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    What about Tachikawa Ryu, an esoteric Japanese Buddhist sect that performed ritual sex with human skulls, and proclaimed that people could be enlightened by anally sodomizing them to death with a spear?

    Respect indeed.

    JP

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    We want to maintain every right to fatuity at least we should in this country. First amendment and all that. But remember that in the case of freedom of speech, the restriction is against government. It does not apply to or mean you are protected from others who might want to infringe on your activities.

    • Ralph
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Obviously this is not in the US, so this is entirely hypothetical, but I think British Gymnastics is largely government-funded. Wouldn’t this mean (if this were in the US) that it would be bound by the First Amendment as a state agent?

      • eric
        Posted November 3, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Probably not. There have been a few cases over the years of teachers and policemen/policewomen posing nude or making nasty comments on facebook (on their own account, in their free time), getting fired from their government job for it, and suing for wrongful termination. They (the employee) generally lose; the courts more often than not uphold the government’s ability to fire people based on their outside-of-work free expression. I’m not saying I agree with that outcome, but that’s the legal situation as I understand it.

        • Ralph
          Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Well, I guess there’s two questions, right?

          (1) Is an equivalent institution in the US bound by the 1st Am – I’m pretty sure it is, right?

          (2) Is what he did here protected under 1st Am?

          I think you’re addressing the second question in the negative. But I’m not yet convinced. If he were fired for generally getting drunk or naked and acting like an ass, then no. But it appears that he was sanctioned specifically for the element of mocking a religion.

          If we strip out the drunken asshattery from the equation – surely a US govt employee could not be fired for (say) writing an opinion piece on his blog that mocks a religion?

          • eric
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know of any case in the US which has been that specifically parallel – i.e., a civil servant mocking religion – so it’s hard to say. However the general justification used by government employers is “this was conduct not becoming to our agency,” could easily be applied to Smith’s behavior.

            IMO our court system is currently very pro-government and pro-authority. My guess is they would allow such a firing to occur simply out of deference to executive branch agencies (including state and local agencies).

            On your #1: yes federal agencies are bound by the first amendment, but ‘criminal offense’ and ‘firing offense’ aren’t the same thing. Its entirely possible that the courts could view some form of expression as a justifiable firing offense but (consistent with the 1st) not a criminal offense. If so, the 1st amendment would not protect you from being fired. It would continue to do what it was intended to do, which is protect you from the government arresting you for voicing that opinion. But that would be all the protection you would get from it.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 3, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          I would generally agree with you on that. Not a lawyer so when a law suit is filed and we get into the details of an individual case, many things change course. The ability for a government employee to survive something like posing nude on the internet may go against them because of that specific action. Policies written and agreed to (employment contracts) action unbecoming and so on.

          Just thinking out-loud, if the gymnast were under a government run and controlled institution it would be unlikely they could take action against him based on his first amendment rights. If it were a private gymnastics organization they could probably suspend him and then see what happens if a law suit is filed. Funny thing about all this is that it usually takes money to get your rights so there is also the question of, can you afford them? Now that is America.

          • eric
            Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            My guess is many universities receive federal funding that they partially use to give stipends or offset tuition costs for athletes. So there are probably many athletes ‘getting paid’ by the government.

            However, AFAIK pretty much all the US governing sports bodies like the NCAA and NFL are not government agencies, they are private corporations or non-profits. Even the US Olympic Committee is a non-profit which, Wikipedia tells me, “does not receive federal financial support (other than for select Paralympic military programs).” So there is no ‘public employer’ analogous to British Gymnastics. As private organizations, the rules on who they can fire and suspend are a little more lax.

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted November 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

              Certainly but even so – you would have a shot at suing and winning in some cases. Many govt. agencies cover themselves with agreements you sign as you are hired. Standards of Conduct is a good one. I believe we had that kind of thing at the agency or firm I worked for. If you were arrested for drunk driving or public drinking, a whole range of things could get you fired. We were an instrumentality of the DOD, although, non-appropriated, they still got you with those agreements you sign. So the freedom of speech thing can be much less than one thinks.

              My experience way back in the military was that most of this freedom was simply not there. Different rules for different fools as they say. There were things like human reliability statements in some jobs and they could get you for almost anything.

              • eric
                Posted November 4, 2016 at 7:55 am | Permalink

                You always have a shot of winning a civil suit. But probably in this case not a good one.

                Yesterday after the discussion I googled “principal anti-muslim comment” and “teacher anti-muslim comment,” which turned up (a) a case of a Principal being suspended for personal anti-Muslim comments and (b) a teacher quitting (almost certainly under the threat of some action if she didn’t) for personal anti-Muslim comments. Plus a few other hits that looked relevant but which I didn’t click on.

                So while nothing directly analogous to a state-funded athlete being suspended by a state sports ministry has happened in the US (in part because we don’t have a federal sports ministry), I’d say my opinion really hasn’t changed. Based on the scraps of data about past incidents I’ve looked at just casually, it appears civil servants can and do get suspensions and penalized in other ways for “off-duty” speech their government employer considers beyond the pale, embarrassing, or offensive.

    • somer
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      In this case government (at least PM Therese May) has been supportive of the ban.
      I think Smith did a stupid thing and no bad thing he has had to apologise but the ban is too much – moreover athletes are not political role models they are athletes. Also the government (and Gymnastics UK) should be condemning the fact that he has been getting death threats every day since.
      Meanwhile BBC are talking to the usual Islamists who say he deserves it all for his islamophobia, and once a moderate Muslim that says he doesnt (that person isn’t someone who appears regularly unlike the Islamists appear to do)

      Theresa May entered debate on Louis Smith ban at PMQs
      http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37845982?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_politics&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=news_central
      and “The demonisation of Louis smith: this is how a defacto blasphemy law works” by Stephen Evans of the national secular society
      http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2016/10/the-demonisation-of-louis-smith–this-is-how-a-de-facto-blasphemy-law-works

  8. Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Stephen Law has also weighed in:

    It is a shame when a body like British Gymnastics capitulates. By so doing, they encourage still more ‘offence’ taking and veiled threats (which are now seen to be successful). Such capitulation also increases the danger to those us who are prepared to mock ludicrous beliefs that happen also to be religious beliefs. And it effectively sidelines moderate Muslims like Maajid Nawaz, who are then seen not to represent ‘real’ Islam.

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/islam_-_no_mockery_allowed_a_new_case/

  9. Tom
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    The obvious reason why every Shaman, Priest, Prophet and true believer wishes to suppress mockery when they can is probably that they panic.
    On occasion we have all experienced a hollow, sinking feeling of personal embarrassment followed by anger.
    As the world of faith is built to contain embarrassment and its companion anxiety, it is easily undermined by the mockery of outsiders.
    Perhaps the British Gymnastic authorities wishing to send teams to muslim Countries have been indulging in a bit of appeasemenet gymnastics themselves.
    Most of the UK couldn’t give a damn.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I see this as the ongoing issue of people not being able to get the difference between mocking a religion and the people who follow it as well.

    And what happened to our ability to laugh at ourselves? It’s one of the biggest problems with Islam imo.

    When a group sees mockery as threatening, it’s a sign of their weakness.

    Princess Leia to Darth Vader (roughly): “The more you tighten your grip the more who will slip through your fingers.”

  11. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t recall reading anything by Marina Hyde before. Seems she writes some fresh, lively, irreverent prose. And to be an honest-to-Locke civil-libertarian on matters of free speech, to boot.

  12. Craw
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Increasingly this site is a clearing house for excuses for restricting, preventing or punishing speech. And it’s very selective. There isnt much consistency either. Republicans and conservatives are mocked not just their ideas. And fair enough, adherents of ideas can and should be fair game. Including individual muslim adherents of Islamic ideas.

    • Posted November 3, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      What site are you talking about?
      -Grania

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      You must be reading it backwards. This is where the excuses against speech are called out. Such as the post you are commenting on. Not sure what you mean by a “clearing house”? That would be like publishers clearing house where nobody wins?

    • Ralph
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Well, I hereby mock you if you don’t grasp the fact that mockery is a healthy feature of a robust democracy in which free speech is valued, and that mockery does not constitute “restricting, preventing or punishing” speech.

      Top tip: a good way to avoid being mocked is to find some better ideas.

  13. Posted November 3, 2016 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to see some discussion here of the first amendment of the US Constitution. Anyone following the current election would conclude the Constitution has only one amendment: the second!

  14. chrism
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Twat was pretty mild when I lived in the UK (1958 – 1985), and not least because we had to pretend it was a respectable word so as to not embarrass the memory of Robert Browning, who mistook the word as being the name for a nun’s headdress. Go read ‘Pippa Passes’. Whole story at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pippa_Passes#.22A_distressing_blunder.22

    More serious and more distressin’ is the lack of protection for free speech in the UK and here in Canada. In both places we have perfectly good laws that forbid one from inciting violence, but hate speech laws had to be added to the books to pander to the groups concerned and show the populace that their masters were right on good folks. I don’t see any party ever having the nerve to try to win votes from the masses by reversing hate speech laws, and so those who would disseminate their hate do so in unchecked whispers, never to be countered in a fair and open argument. Sunlight, like all disinfectants, needs to be able to get at the rot in order to work, and hate speech laws ensure that doesn’t happen.

  15. Pabs
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I won’t chime in on the subject of consequences for mockery of religion, as we are secular here and have tread that territory to dust.

    But I will add my humble support to the idea of consequences for getting drunk and acting like a fool.


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