Farrukh Dhondy | What’s ‘fun’ can be offensive too… UK may have a ‘double standard’ on hate

The Asian Age.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

The observation was inspired this week, gentle reader, by the recent incidents of supposed anti-religious bias

Curiously, the Tory Party is not that sensitive about statements made by its MPs or indeed its home secretary, Cruella Braverman. (Photo: AFP)

“All eye-catching beauty

Becomes a fading flower.

Krishna said, just do your duty,

Cometh the place, cometh the hour.

The trees blown bare

Patiently await the spring

The Gita says, never despair.

Rejoice in what your dharma will bring”.

From Holy Boli, by Bachchoo


Hedgie Sunak was asked in a recent interview if he followed any religion. He said he had a statue of Lord Ganesh on his worktable. Now I am certain that the audience for that interview online, broadcast or in newspaper reportage are inevitably Tories who probably think that Lord Ganesh is some billionaire from Birmingham who contributes vast sums to the Tory party coffers. Well, whatever turns you on -- as the old expression goes.

Of course, in this mistaken Tory belief, there is no malice against the Hindu religion or the races that embrace it. (I have, in the back garden, an icon of Lord Ganesh – no, not the Tory donor, but Shiva and Parvati’s son!).

The observation was inspired this week, gentle reader, by the recent incidents of supposed anti-religious bias that have become national news across the UK. One by one:

Veteran Afro-Caribbean British MP, Diane Abbot, the first female Black MP in Westminster, wrote a letter published in The Observer in which she said that redheads, Jews and Travellers may face some instances of prejudice, but Black people have suffered racism through history and are still on the receiving end of it. She quoted slavery, apartheid and the relegation in the American South to the back of the bus. She didn’t mention Moses taking the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the captivity and enforced slavery of Jews by the rivers of Babylon or indeed the Nazi holocaust.

Her letter caused a storm. Jewish commentators objected to their race and religion’s tribulations being in any way compared to the comments or derision that red-haired people face. Ms Abbot said it was an oversight and the wrong draft had reached the newspaper. She apologised for any hurt she had caused, but the leader of her Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, took the decision to suspend her from the party for anti-Semitism -- pending an enquiry. The party is determined to demonstrate to the nation that its strongly alleged association with anti-Semitism is history.

Curiously, the Tory Party is not that sensitive about statements made by its MPs or indeed its home secretary, Cruella Braverman. She recently said, quoting concrete evidence of convictions from several court cases, that Muslim men had different values from accepted, civilised, British ones and that this permitted them to groom young children in paedophile gangs. She did add that in her opinion most Muslims were law-abiding. Of course, her statistic about convicted Muslim gangs is not in dispute, but the fact that convictions for paedophilia are not restricted to them escaped her. In the most recent case, 21 non-Muslim paedophiles were jailed for a total of 145 years in the West Midlands.

It was the biggest-ever child sex abuse ring to be brought to justice.

Cruella didn’t mention it. Her populist crusade, pointing to “foreigners and immigrants” as the perpetrators of the worst crimes, has not caused Hedgie Sunak to suspend or sack her.

She even ventured to justify her one-sided attack by writing a diary article this week in the Fox-News-ish, right-wing weekly The Spectator.

She feels free to say these things about Muslims but wouldn’t venture where Diane Abbot didn’t fear to tread. Why? Because anti-Semitism doesn’t win votes? Or because Mr Braverman is Jewish?

Cruella has, as we in the criminal world say, “form”. Some weeks ago, the police in Essex were alerted to the fact that fifteen golliwogs with neck suspenders had been hanged as “decorations” from walls in a pub. The landlord had written on the social media that this was accepted practice some time ago in Mississippi. The police took the racially offensive “dolls” away and were promptly reprimanded by Cruella, the home secretary, their ultimate boss. The landlady of the pub refused to accept that they were acting in a totally reprehensible, racist hate-filled way and defiantly brought in more golliwogs as decorations in the pub. No comment from Cruella.

Now suppose, gentle reader, that there were “dolls” which were shaped in parodies of Jewish people, with facial features in the racist stereotypes that demean Jews? And further, that these “dolls” wore yamulkas and other distinctive Jewish religious accoutrement and that some of them even had the hairstyles adopted by radical Jewish sects. Let’s imagine that they were then confined in transparent cases representing the Nazi gas chambers. Would these be regarded as toys and be readily suspended or placed on the bar in pubs as “decoration”?

Should this happen, shouldn’t the police be asked to remove them and charge the landlords or perpetrators with an extreme form of hate crime?

In that same weekly (to which I subscribe to find what these “thinkers” are saying) there were three articles alluding to the golliwogs being hanged in the pub, and all of them were in support of Cruella and against the police who removed them. What would these same commenting boobies have said to my projected prospect of the caricatured Jewish portrayals being displayed as “fun” or “decoration”?

Would the perpetrators of such an atrocity be deemed by Cruella to have the same values as her upstanding British citizens?