Only a couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of satirists to help me through the next few months of electioneering in the UK. Obviously not everyone felt we had too few satirists, and the next thing I knew some deemed supernumerary by the Kouachi brothers, as well as others not known for their work in this field, were dead.
More about that later.
However, an unlikely hero came forward. Not quite a knight in shining armour, this one was holding a pint of beer. Al Murray announced he would be standing against Nigel Farage in his Pub Landlord persona.
Now if you are not from the UK there are several delicious ironies in this you may not immediately comprehend that Al Murray is playing upon. The most delicious one is that Nigel Farage, who leads UKIP, has a penchant for being photographed with a pint in his hand and a wide grin on his face. Just An Ordinary Bloke. Yes, just an ordinary public school educated bloke who worked in the City as a banker. Haven’t we all?
Good to have something to smile about. Though oddly, there was laughter and smiling at a vigil tonight outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in London. Whistles too, and applause as we chanted, held placards and gazed at the rear entrance of the building. Simultaneous vigils were held in countries around the globe to protest at the floggings of Raif Badawi. Now, I had thought that everyone had heard of this case, but I was talking to the painters today who were doing my door, explaining that I would be going out to join the vigil. They looked blank when I said Badawi’s name. I outlined what was happening to him. Still blank, though now shocked. Amnesty International, who are organising the vigils, has extensive information about Badawi’s case. You can read it here.
Deborah Orr argues here that this type of punishment is a warning to Muslims around the world. I have been surprised by the number of recent columns suggesting that the Charlie Hebdo staff had it coming, and more surprised, no make that confused, by people saying we are not allowed to draw pictures of the prophet. That isn’t true. I am not Muslim, I do not have to abide by the laws of Islam. As it turns out, I haven’t ever drawn the prophet, nor indeed anyone else for quite a long time. Neither do I routinely cover my head when I go out, and I have been known to show other parts of my body in public too, though it isn’t something I would routinely inflict on others. I am sorry if that is offensive to anyone, but personally I find the niqab offensive. I don’t say women shouldn’t wear it because it is offensive to me. I live in a multi cultural society, the benefits of which far outweigh my queasiness about face veils, and so have to accept that not everyone shares my views and beliefs.
Raif Badawi’s writings seem very mild to me. I am pleased that here in London the support for his case crosses all religions and races, but concerned that there is still no sign he will be released and able to join his wife and children in Canada. If you haven’t signed AI’s online petition, perhaps you could do that now.
While oil and arm sales are more important to our government than human rights it is no point looking to our elected representatives to do anything to help him.