Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fun-Da-Mentally hypocritical

As an avid reader of the UK weekly music press in the 1990s, I remember Fun-Da-Mental from way back. They were part of a wave of dreary politico-rap/Asian-hybrid bands that were vaguely popular circa 1992-1994 (see also: Credit to the Nation – who were anything but – and Cornershop, way before they had a big hit with Brimful of Asha).

So it’s bizarre to see them back in the national news in 2006 (as opposed to a half-page interview in Melody Maker), with group leader Aki Nawaz defending their new album All Is War (The Benefits of G-Had) which, some have claimed, glorifies terrorism. Nawaz, who used to perform using the stage name Propa-Ghandi (geddit?), says he is prepared to be imprisoned under anti-terrorism laws and, if need be, promote the album from Belmarsh Prison. And what’s this? Two executives from the record label have threatened to resign if this record is released? Sniff. Sniff. I smell an enormous publicity stunt.

The story in yesterday’s Guardian goes into a little more detail about some of the lyrical themes of this album, which makes for an interesting read. One song, Che Bin, draws parallels (unsurprisingly, given the title) between Che Guevara and Osama Bin Laden. I suppose the point that Mr Nawaz is trying to make here is that, to some Muslims, Bin Laden is a revolutionary icon just as Guevara is treated like some kind of deity by many on the left. Sure, but Che Guevara was a psychopathic bandit who said that he would have no hesitation in dropping a nuclear bomb on the United States if given the opportunity. So the parallel runs deep – they are both deranged lunatics and would-be murderers of millions of innocent people. Another song predicts the demise of America at the hands of Islam, one chronicles the inner dialogue of a suicide bomber and another condemns the immorality of the west. Toe tapping stuff, I’m sure.

Interesting that he should consider the west to be immoral though. Nawaz was born and raised in Bradford, so is a fully fledged citizen of a country that tolerates the opinions of just about everybody, even hypocrites like himself. And let’s be clear about this, he is a hypocrite of the highest order: while perfectly happy to label the west as ‘immoral’ and ‘disgusting’, I bet he wouldn’t dream of ever actually leaving somewhere that allows him to be critical of the country he lives in and to make a living from it too. Try doing the same in Iran or Saudi Arabia, Aki. I suspect you would soon find yourself with one less hand with which to write your polemic or, perhaps, one less head with which to vocalise your inner rage.

Music, of course, was forbidden under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Having been treated to a snippet of this album on the Today Programme this morning, one can only have sympathy for such action. Not for political reasons, you understand, but for reasons of quality. Controversy aside, it’s not particularly good music and since when has British rap ever been worth listening to anyway?

In addition to playing an extract from the album, Nawaz was also interviewed about the controversy. He’s clearly not a stupid man and I daresay may even be making some valid points somewhere, although I suspect I would disagree with him on nearly everything. I sincerely hope he is not charged with ‘glorifying terrorism’ - it would be illiberal and counter-productive to do so. More importantly, by allowing him to speak openly about these issues, no matter how wrong he might be, it undermines the very points that he is trying to make. Far from being immoral, western traditions of tolerance and free speech reinforce our civility. Again, that quote from Voltaire sums it up best: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” (Even when it’s presented as piss-poor Agit-Pop.)

In any case, the only person who can possibly benefit from all this fuss is Aki Nawaz himself. Let’s face it, without this national coverage, you could probably have counted the number of sold copies of this album on Abu Hamza’s fingers.


H said...

As someone who left England because I didn't like its lack of any concept of Societal values, I am going to disagree with you about "Western traditions of tolerance and free speech". Western Society is responsible for Empire, Apartheid, the slavery of Africans in America, the Nazi Holocaust. The idea that Western Society is somehow more advanced, more liberal, more tolerant than non-western society is ridiculous. Don't get me wrong - it has the potential to be all those things, and does a good job of being all those things within its own borders, but let's not kid ourselves - it is all built upon imperialism - either military, financial or cultural which has raped the world. It is all very well talking about America as the cradle of freedom, but the big fat wads of cash which allow everyone to be free were made off the blood sweat and tears of black slaves and the stolen land of Murdered native americans. Equally Britain would be stinking little shit-hole if it hadn't plundered the world and enslaved whole nations in its economic interest.
The very fact that this ignominious (Spell check please) history is glossed over or glorified in Britain shows the rank superficiality of the current trend towards enlightened multi-culturalism.

As for this tosser being a hypocrite - 100% agree. As for the Abu Hamza gag - laughed my ass off.

Great post.

Citizen Sane said...

A fair enough Marxist interpretation of history. Undeniable in many respects, but you do sound rather like Dennis the constitutional peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

Arthur: Well, I am king.
Dennis: Oh, king, eh - very nice. And how'd you get that, then? By exploiting the workers! By hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in our society. If there's ever going to be any progress...
Dennis' Mother: Dennis, Dennis! There's some lovely filth down here! Oh, how do you do?
Arthur: How'd you do good lady? I am Arthur, king of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
Dennis' Mother: King of the who?
Arthur: The Britons.
Dennis' Mother: Who are the Britons?
Arthur: We all are. We are all Britons, and I am your king.
Dennis' Mother: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
Dennis: You're foolin' yourself. We're living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working class...
Dennis' Mother: Oh there you go bringing class into it again!
Dennis: But that's what it's all about! If only people would realise...

You would probably like this article by Johann Hari.

Anyway, my point was to highlight the tradition of Western tolerance and free speech now - this isn't the same as turning a blind eye to (or glossing over, as you put it) any crimes and mistakes of the past. The fact is, we are pretty much free to make any statement we like in this country without fear of persecution or imprisonment, whereas this is evidently not the case in diabolical regimes based on Sharia law. Our political system is irrefutably superior to theirs in every way. Which is why the likes of Aki Nawaz would always choose to stay in Britain: he'd no doubt argue the merits of Islamist law, but he clearly wouldn't want to actually live in a country where it is enforced. Hypocritical twat.

As ever, appreciate your input.

H said...

Well yeah, actually - my little rant was sort of inspired by having followed the debate going on in some of the liberal press about the way the history of the empire is presented. That was not the entirety of my point though. You said something which I found interesting. You talked about "the tradition of Western tolerance and free speech now" - the very definition of tradition is that it is something passed on (from the latin, trado, tradere, etc) i.e - a tradition is only a tradition in as much as it is inherited from previous generations. So what you are actually saying is that today and inside her own borders Britain is a lovely multi-cultural wonderland where anyone can be what they want and say what they want.

Except that is also a myth. That cosy little wonderland owes a debt to the nations it raped to get its wealth which allows it to live in its lovely capitalist ever after. And trying to sue the government for reparation won't really help much. So it is all well and good looking at it small picture within Britain, but look at it globally and the UK, along with all the G8 is actually responsible for pretty much the majority of poverty on a global scale.

It may sound like communist claptrap, but it might help Britons understand why the current Islamofascist leadership of the world's underclass find it so easy to get otherwise normal and sensible people to sign up as suicide bombers.

As an Israeli I have heard a million and one times that if Israel were to recognise the harm it has done to the Palestinians it would be the beginning of genuine dialogue. I usually hear it from "bleeding heart liberals" in Britain, and it stinks of hypocrisy, just as much as this fun-da- MENTALIST.


Citizen Sane said...

Should have used 'notion' rather than tradition. Although there is a tradition of free speech and tolerance in this country dating back several hundred years (relatively speaking).

As for your other points:

That cosy little wonderland owes a debt to the nations it raped to get its wealth which allows it to live in its lovely capitalist ever after.
A gross simplification. In fact, the wealth accumulated by Britain's imperial past was largely spent resisting Nazi Germany and funding six years of major warfare from 1939-1945. After which, Britain was bankrupt and near to collapse. As was all of Europe, of course, and would have become part of the third world themselves were it not for an ambitious redevelopment plan by the USA (those evil capitalist imperialists). Whatever was left of Britain's empire soon fell away thereafter as well.

but look at it globally and the UK, along with all the G8 is actually responsible for pretty much the majority of poverty on a global scale.
Again, not a clear cut issue. Environmental factors (Africa), religious conflict (the Middle East and Africa again), doomed ideologies (USSR, North Korea and China) and high-scale political corruption (all of the above and more) are the biggest causes of poverty, inequality and injustice on this planet. Pointing the finger solely at the G8 is a very lazy simplification.

but it might help Britons understand why the current Islamofascist leadership of the world's underclass find it so easy to get otherwise normal and sensible people to sign up as suicide bombers.
I'm not sure if you're saying here that this particular form of Islamism is triggered by economic factors. If so, I disagree again. The issue is ideological, not economic. Why is suicide bombing exclusive to Islam, if poverty is the driver? Why do we not see this in India, South America, China? Islamic terrorists are not driven by economic disparity. Their objection is that we do not share their god and belief system. At their most extreme end, they would sincerely like to kill all non-believers. Me, an atheist, and you, an Israeli, would be at the very top of their list!

H said...

All fair points - well made.

The last one though was not what I was saying - I was not claiming that Islamofascism was caused by economic disparity, I was claiming that its ability to reach into the hearts and minds of millions of muslims (even in Britain) was aided by Britain's refusal to acknowledge its own history of abuse.

As for whether the G8 are responsible for Global poverty - I think the difference here is between responsibility and cause. I did not claim they caused all of Global poverty, but I would claim they are responsible for curing it.

As for whether Britain owes its comfort to its abuse of empire - of course that is a simplification. However, one must remember that Britain was not doing the world a favour in either of the world wars. The first was actually a direct result of the greedy empirical policies of both Britain and Germany. And then members of the Empire were brought into the war despite it having nothing to do with them. And the first world war can be considered a direct determinant cause of the second. (A, not THE).