On the same day as you published this (Sunday 25 July) I saw a long (half-hour) BBC interview with Eileen Gittins, the founder of the print-to-order company Blurb. (Print-to-order companies are internet-based businesses that allow anyone to publish a book and make as many or as few copies as they can sell or pay for. The best-known is Lulu.) The interviewer was Zeinab Bedawi, a Muslim of the same kind as Aygül Özkan, dressed in subdued chic, gracefully made up and coiffured, and with not the shadow of a veil in sight. From the beginning, Ms.Bedawi was visibly hostile, and her questioning was clearly aimed at showing, either that there was something unethical – as in the case of old-fashioned vanity publishers – about print-to-order, or that it would lower the level of communication. For the first ten minutes or so of the interview, I felt that this was the caste arrogance of the professional journo coming out – we cannot allow all that blogger rabble to pollute the sanctuary of mass communication with their muddy boots and vile manners. But then, at first from behind a tangle of words and claims, and then more and more clearly, another agenda showed itself. Suppose someone published something that was offensive. Well, answered Ms.Gittins, we have mechanisms in place – we don’t vet everything ourselves, but we encourage the public to make complaints. Ah, said Ms.Bedawi, but what about things offensive to particular groups? Like, say, the Danish cartoons? She started really hammering at this point, which is when I switched the TV off – though I must say that Ms.Gittins was being admirably stout and refusing to privilege a group’s claims over freedom of expression.Astute observations like that always spur my interest, so I did a quick Google search on Zeinab Bedawi (or Badawi). Here is an exerpt from her Wikipedia entry. She ...
This made me think. It seems evident to me that what Ms.Bedawi instinctively opposed was the thought of thousands, maybe millions of people, each publishing freely - what is already happening with the internet, but in the more permanent and respected medium of paper. Where the surface of caste prejudice and the inner reality of religious threat meet, was in hating the idea of mass action - mob action - in the print media. Now Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims, certainly do not dislike mob action as such: it is their main way to be felt - yelling crowds of bearded youths pouring from mosques on hot Friday afternoons. On the other hand, the appeal clearly made by Bedawi to non-Muslims in general is clearly coded in a language of snobbery, intended to reach the elites and those who regard themselves as elite. It says: "Don't allow this banausic mob of Sunday scribblers to take control of the media from you - you who are educated, professional and enlightened. See what risks you run when you allow Uncle Tom Cobbley and all to say what they think about things they know nothing of - such as Islam?" In other words, there is an inherent attempt to co-opt the non-Muslim societal leaderships into the job of Muslim repression, by flattering their intellectual and social presumptions. You can hear it in the constant but never justified claim that anyone who criticizes or opposes Islam does so because he is ignorant: this is frequently repeated by establishment supporters of Islam - and you can see that the assumption involved helps them accept the claim, by flattering their own self-image. Hey, you don't understand Islam - because we do! Who else but us, the educated, the enlightened? So a religion that lives on the unleashing of its own mobs - and in which sometimes the mobs even devour some of the elites, and always threaten them - also advances by flattering the natural snobbish and repressive instincts of the elites of opposite groups; and not just by threatening them. That is not necessary when you can just arouse their own contempt - laced by unspoken fear - for the mobs in their own world. Of course, fears remaining a useful unadmitted motivation, but there is no need to ever mention it: to the contrary, you may act for all the world like the most quivering of cowed dhimmis and still see in the mirror the face of a paragon, a hero of enlightened vision and principle.
... was born in Sudan and has lived in Britain since the age of one. Badawi was educated at Hornsey High School for Girls in North London, followed by the University of Oxford (St Hilda's College) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) with a post-graduate degree on the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies, awarded with a distinction. At Oxford she was a member of the Oxford University Broadcasting Society.
Badawi was a researcher and broadcast journalist for Yorkshire TV from 1982 to 1986. After a spell at BBC Manchester she joined Channel 4 News in 1988, and co-presented the programme from 1989 until leaving for the BBC in 1998.
At the BBC Badawi worked at Westminster on live political programmes for five years, and also worked on BBC radio, regularly presenting The World Tonight on Radio 4 and BBC World Service's Newshour. In 2005, Badawi became the new presenter of The World on BBC Four, the UK's first daily news bulletin devoted principally to international news. In May 2007 the programme was rebranded as World News Today.
In November 2009, Badawi was named "international TV personality of the year" in the annual AIBs, the international media excellence awards organised by the Association for International Broadcasting.
From 2010, in addition to her presenting role on BBC World News, Badawi has presented on the BBC News Channel.
Badawi has been an adviser to the Foreign Policy Centre and a Council Member of the Overseas Development Institute. She is a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery (since 2004) and the British Council.
So here we have a woman, an immigrant to Britain, who owes everything she is to the culture in which she was raised. She was showered with honours and important positions where she had considerable influence on the opinion making process within the culture that raised and made her. And as I don't know the circumstances, I am not even saying that this remarkable career was, all or partly, a matter of affirmative action, white guilt, Western self-loathing or whatever. Let's assume she was, and is, truly deserving of all that. And yes, there is no veil in sight and let's, too, reflect for a precious moment what would have happened to her had she remained in Sudan.
And when all is said and done, where do her loyalties lie? It's Islam, stupid!
I don't know why Zeinab Bedawi made me think of this.