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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Midweek review

We’re halfway through the week. Let’s sit back and reflect on some of the issues of the moment.
  1. I must say, I’ve been enjoying this immensely. The US Episcopal Church has ‘stunned’ Christians around the world by electing something called a ‘woman’ as a primate in the Anglican Church. I have no idea what a ‘primate’ is in this context - I thought they were apes? Ironic, given the aversion of much of the American Christian movement to evolutionary theory (or any type of theory, save for that which involves shutting their eyes and talking to the sky), that the leaders of their church are named after our simian ancestry. Anyway, it’s caused a right rumpus because, err, um. Nope, I cannot get my head around it either. A woman? A representative of 50% of the planet? In the upper echelons of the church? Outrageous. They’ll be appointing homosexuals next! What’s that, you say? Oh. Let’s just sit back and watch them squabble over this pointless debate, perpetually reinforcing their own utter irrelevance to the rest of us.

  2. Speaking of utter irrelevance, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has called on ministers to review the existing abortion law and to lower the upper threshold from 24 weeks. An emotive subject, for sure, and there are probably very good reasons for reviewing this in the light of medical and technological advances. Two important things to remember here though. Firstly, the number of terminations carried out at this late stage is statistically minimal and nearly always performed for a valid medical reason. Secondly, when the time for the debate is appropriate, it will be based on the reasoning and expertise of the medical authorities, not the wishes of the Vatican. The day that the good Cardinal himself can carry a baby to term is the day we should listen to his opinions on the subject.

  3. Watching England in the World Cup has so far been a painful experience. Last night’s game against Sweden was particularly frustrating. Sure, both of England’s goals were great, but what’s happened to the defence? That second Sweden goal couldn’t have been more comical if Harold Lloyd was in the six yard box on roller skates heading towards two men carrying a big sheet of glass. Against the likes of Argentina or Brazil, we are going to be humiliated. Oh, and England fans? Please stop singing the tune to The Great Escape. It’s just embarrassing.

  4. It’s June 21st, summer solstice, the longest day of the year. From now on the days are getting shorter, the nights are rolling in. Winter begins here, ladies and gentlemen. Christmas cards will be in the shops before you know it. Enjoy!

Friday, June 16, 2006

You're the one for me, fatty

It was Ronald Reagan who said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I’m from the government and I’m here to help'". Then again, he also said that trees cause more pollution than cars and once raised a toast to "Prince Charles and Princess David", so you can’t go along with everything he said. But on the point about the government, I tend to agree.

So alarm bells have been ringing this week as our government again acts beyond its remit and starts trying to (s)mother us with parental concern. They know best, you see. We’re all far too stupid and poorly educated to make our own decisions. No matter! Let the government do our thinking for us!

First there was the 'Dad Pack'. Distributed by a group called Fathers Direct, but funded with taxpayer money, it’s a guidebook aimed at new dads, dispensing some truly invaluable advice: never drop your baby into a tub of hot fat, don’t leave your offspring unattended with wolves, don’t bring up your child with Latin as their first language, tell them to steer clear of houses made of gingerbread, etc. Patronising rubbish, a waste of money and, to paraphrase Basil Fawlty, an exercise in the bleedin' obvious.

Now, in an effort to curb Britain’s growing obesity crisis, Super Government™ is stepping in again, with plans to restrict when and where certain food products can be advertised, and proposing a 9pm watershed for the advertising of junk food. Sounds unworkable, expensive and endlessly bureaucratic (who defines what is and what isn’t "junk" food anyway? A government department, presumably. The Ministry of Meddling Do-Gooders, perhaps?). A perfect government initiative then. Ironic, too, that the people bleating about the abundance of fat children are the very same people who have sat back and allowed local authorities to sell off vast amounts of school playing fields over the last nine years.

I don’t want to be too cynical. I’m sure that their motives are essentially good. However, I would make two points. Firstly, it is not the government’s business what we eat, drink or smoke; nor when, why, how or where we do it. Secondly, when it comes to any sort of public initiative, the government are about as effective as a one-legged man at an arse kicking competition.

Fix the health service, fight crime, sort out the prisons, give us better schools. But don’t tell us how to live our lives or raise our children. You are the government and you are removable. You are not our mother.

As George Orwell said in 1984: If you want a vision of the future, imagine an over-protective nanny wagging a finger in your face and saying "you can't do that, you shouldn't drink this, you mustn't watch that" - forever.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

At last, something good happens in Iraq

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the serial beheading, Islamofascist barbarian leader of the Iraqi franchise of al-Qaeda, has been killed in a US air strike. This is great news for the Iraqi people, their fledgling government and anyone who wants to see democracy take root in that region.

Also taken out in the attack were several of his closest aides, including his ‘spiritual advisor’. Oh, the irony. Clearly, Allah is great. Just not as great as an Exocet missile careering towards your safe house.

Whilst this will not in itself end the insurgency (remember the short lived euphoria when they dragged Saddam out of his stench pit?), it is undoubtedly a good thing to remove the figurehead of the ‘movement’ in this way. Doubtless there will be a queue of deranged fanatics forming an orderly queue to succeed this thug, but for the time being, they are certainly weakened.

So long then, Abu. I hope your 72 virgins are Ann Widdecombe look-alikes. Riddled with syphilis.

Update: I'm not sure how virgins would manage to contract syphilis in the first place, mind. And it wasn't an Exocet missile that did the deed, either. But whatever. . .