A post written since the death of Jade Goody can be found here.
The term hyperreality is one that is used to characterise our inability to distinguish reality from fantasy. Those such as Jean Baudrillard identify hyperreality as a means of viewing ‘reality by proxy’, one where the viewer of ‘reality tv’ for instance begins to live in the non-existent world of the Big Brother house or other constructed reality even though it is not an accurate depiction of life or living. For him, ‘reality’ becomes something that is therefore non-existent.
No more true is the non-existence of reality than in the unfolding tragedy that is Jade Goody. Goody’s ‘reality’ is that she’s been diagnosed with cancer and – so far – any treatment for it has failed to respond. If reports are to be believed, her chances of survival are slender. Undeniably for Goody her cancer is real, despite the need for publicist Max Clifford to distribute a press release confirming that it was not a ‘publicity stunt’. For the viewer, her cancer is probably far more hyperreal given that she was told of it in front of the cameras while she was taking part in the Indian version of Big Brother.
“Hallelujah…” or indeed not.
The latest mass produced, plucked from obscurity, winner of ITV’s ‘X Factor’ is again guaranteed the Christmas no.1 single. How very, very boring. But even worse, instead of the typical cover version of an old Westlife/ Boyzone/ a. n. other hideous band’s song, this year’s winner – Alexandra Burke – has recorded a truly awful version of the beautiful Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley classic, “Hallelujah”. Given that this song was used in the film ‘Shrek’ and I wasn’t upset by it – in fact, it seemed quite right – this shows how bad this particular version is and the depths to which popular music has stooped.
Having said that, it could have been worse. Had either teen idol, Eoghan (shocking) or appalling boy-band, JLS (even more shocking, if you can believe that) had won and subsequently recorded the song, I would have felt even worse. Violenece probably would have been the only recourse…
In the past six years – excluding the sure fire cert that Alexandra’s versions of ‘Hallelujah’ surely is – four Christmas number ones have come from ITV talent/ reality shows. The last three – plus this year’s – have been from the ‘X Factor’. How sad…?
But who’s to blame…?
What’s worse…the demonisation of Muslims through the media or Muslims demonising themselves through the media?
I’ve just watched Channel 4′s latest offering, ‘Make me a Muslim’ and cannot believe that there are people that think that this will be of some benefit. Let’s stop crowing on about the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, forget about the attacks led by Panorama and Dispatches, this is far worse. This is because programmes such as these and the equally disastrous Muslim ‘Wife Swap’ are justified by those involved as:
i. they want to challenge the misconceptions that exist about Islam and/or Muslims;
ii. they see it as an opportunity for dawah
Are these people stupid? All these programmes do in reality is to reinforce the very things that they set out to (allegedly) challenge and in no stretch of the imagination can they ever begin to change people’s perceptions of Islam/Muslims let alone soften their hearts to the religion of Islam.
Want evidence of this? where do you want me to start?
Well first off, Ajmal Masroor began by stating:
“some of the participants think that Islam is all about taking things away…this is not true”
So what then did ajmal and his ‘mentors’ then do? They went to each of the contestant’s – they’re not called ‘contestants’ but let’s face it, that’s what they are – houses and stripped out all that was ‘forbidden’. And so here goes in no particular order:
No Daily Sport (“something much more troubling…” than alcohol…a contraband !!!)
No glamour modelling (“that is something that you cannot do” – said after one of the mentors asked disgustedly, “is that what you do?)
No Nuts magazine
No nudity (“don’t open the door on that kind of thing…”)
No “physical contact” is allowed (despite Mohammed the mentor touching two different women and going out onto the street to randomly look for a “beautiful woman” who can help the gay hairdresser participant with “cleaning and supporting” him as a wife)
“No sex, no touching…”
No skimpy outfits (“you cannot wear this out…it’s not covering the areas”)
No alcohol (especially £200 per week on vodka)
No men’s magazines
No hardcore pornography
No make-up for men
No “ladies clothes” for men (especially fairy dresses for 7-8 year olds from Asda and red frilly thongs)
No “pig meat” (it’s unclean)
No toad in the hole (“we don’t dig on swine”)
No pink clothes for men
No friends with women
Now I’m not advocating any of these but if you’re stating that you want to challenge the view that Islam is not about “taking things away”, going around and ‘taking things away’ is something of a contradictory start point.
But it wasn’t just this, there were also some real gems of wisdom: gems that no doubt went a long way to really changing the ‘misconceptions’ of Islam and Muslims held by the wider British public. And so we had:
On rape – “the woman is inviting it by wearing something that is [like that - a red 'tankini' I believe they're called]“
On homosexuality – “if you keep in the company of females you will want to behave like them all the time” (do women really do this sort of thing when they’re alone?)
Again on homosexuality – “when the Almighty created Adam and Eve, he didn’t create Adam and Steve” (one of Alan Partridge’s finest lines)
On how to ‘cure’ homosexuality – “you change the desire that you have now to another desire as well” (so does that mean that you can be bisexual given the ‘as well’?)
On modesty – “you should not be wearing very tight fitting clothes” and “skirts to the ankle” (even though mentor Dawn was wearing tight fitting jeans when she took one of the contestants on a shopping trip to an ‘Asian’ clothes shop in Bradford – well that’s another stereotype challenged then !!!)
On what to wear – “those men who imitate the females are cursed” (whilst Suleyman was wearing what from a ‘Western’ perspective looked remarkably like a dress over pyjama bottoms…!!!)
On Islamic style tips – covering “will keep Kerry [a contestant] out of trouble”
On masculinity – “if you dress like a man you feel like a man” (Suleyman chooses clothes that to me makes the gay hairdresser look like a shop-assistant from WH Smith, nice. For Suleyman he looked like a teacher)
On the hijab – “it’s for protecting yourself” (???)
Given that this took up more than 40 minutes of the show, when the contestants were taught to pray this took less than 3. All the contestants were given a prayer mat with a compass on it pointing towards Makkah and told to follow their ‘imam’. they were then given a calendar\with Arabic on it and told that prayer was required five times a day.
Good balance between what Muslims do and don’t do.
So what did the first episode of ‘Make me a Muslim’ do for Muslims? What misconceptions did it challenge? What was it’s dawah value?
All that came out of this appalling piece of superficial television was that it showed how a group of four Muslims justified the lure of the television cameras by convincing themselves that this would be a useful vehicle for challenging some of the stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims as well as introducing Islam (dawah) to a wider audience.
In reality what came out was that Islam is an entirely and inherently prescriptive faith. That it is soul-less and without spiritual conviction. That Muslims are completely dogmatic and intolerant as well as being superior, smug, self serving and arrogant (something that also came out of the infamous Muslim ‘Wife Swap’). And that there is little fun, humour or enjoyment in Islam (btw, the only funny thing was when one of the mentors said ‘assalam alaykum’ to the large photo of the naked woman on the taxi driver’s bedroom wall). All this and it’s only the first of three episodes…and let’s not even start down that route where the Muslim participants say that there were duped into the programme and that they were edited inappropriately!!!
As I say, it’s not that I necessarily endorse any of the things that were deemed ‘prohibited’ in the programme but I am genuinely sick of having to field questions from people who have seen these programmes and become even more confused by what they see. All I can do is say that the people involved with these programmes and the Islam that they adhere to (as well as those involved in terrorism, extremism and oppressing women amongst others that generate questions from wider society) is completely different to that version of Islam that I personally am aware of. This is not to say that I want everyone to be like me, far from it, but when you’re challenged so many times by other Muslims around you, there is a point where you have to ask who it has got it wrong?