Thursday, May 22, 2014

Will Mo Ansar Survive?

At this point, our good friend Mo Ansar has been thoroughly outed by a number of journalists (Nick Cohen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Jamie Bartlett) along with some well written and observant blogs. This will be my last observations on him, and in many ways I am not offering up a ton of new information, but hopefully a few things to think about. The question now that he has been outed is, what now? Will he weather this storm? Will be come out of this unscathed. Many careers have been dashed for far less than what Mo has done. But, is he a big enough "celebrity" to actually fall because of this? Or is he in that sweet spot where he's not big enough that enough people care about his lying and deceit but big enough that news organizations will continue to go to him and keep his career and ego afloat?

In the wake of observations and accurate allegations, Mo has been defiant and cocky, calling them all smears while not actually refuting any of it in the slightest. And, although the detractors are many with several strong voices, he does seem to have a loyal following and support which could keep him buoyed enough to prevent sinking too far. A recent video with Russell Brand, which came out at the same time as news of Mo's lying and deceit broke was poorly timed for critics and perfectly time for Mo, who suddenly gained a huge audience of devoted Russell Brand followers who seem oblivious to the controversy, and are more interested in conspiracy theories and off the wall ideas. (I do enjoy Russell Brand quite a lot, however, but some of his fans are tad bizarre).

So, what will happen with Mo. Will all of this egg on his face slide off to reveal a relatively unscathed fraudster who the media will still rely on when they need a costumed generic "Muslim Commentator" to discuss any issue remotely related to Muslims and Islam. Will Mo continue to be the voice of Muslims, despite being seemingly confused about Islam and most of the issues he chooses to speak on.

When the media need someone to discuss Halal meat, why on earth would they go to an expert who works in the Halal meat industry when they can call a generic "Muslim Commentator"? Folks, this is called laziness on the part of news organizations. And this is an important aspect of the Mo Ansar story that we should all be learning from. News organizations aren't always concerned about the information they put out as long as they are putting out information. That doesn't mean they are all bad or that there isn't good information that can be gleamed from what some people may call the "main stream media" which often is demonized and written off. There is a middle ground here where the MSM plays an important role and does provide good info, and then there is the reality of deadlines and a need for visuals and audio snippets. This is where Mo fits in and this is where news organizations prove to be lazy. As has been pointed out many times, the beauty of Mo Ansar to any news org is the fact that he is readily available at the drop of a little knit hat. He provides an authentic visual with his confusing costume, he is well spoken with a perfect English accent and provides exactly what they need, whether it be the info they want or a bit of drama. So, he is an attractive go to guy. As a result, ease of use trumps quality interview subjects and we are left with a generic commentator tackling almost any issue related to Muslims and Islam when someone else would be far more informative, interesting and valuable. Who is this helping? No one. It is not helping the Muslim community, it isn't helping non-Muslims striving to understand Muslims, it isn't helping our understanding of complex situations and it isn't helping to kill any stereotypes. We all lose. The only one who is gaining is Mo, whose ego continues to get stroked and who continues to be touted as someone he is not.

Again, we have a man who doesn't appear to possess most of the skills and experience that he claims to have. This goes beyond mere "sexing up" of a resume and goes right to creating a false identity. He has claimed to be a lawyer. He isn't a lawyer. He has claimed to be a visiting lecturer. There is no record of this. He has been a speaker at a few events, which is quite different than a visiting lecturer. He has claimed to be a theologian, but there doesn't seem to be any record of him studying anywhere or evidence that he has the knowledge and understanding you would expect a theologian to have. There seems to be no end to his claims, and no end to the lack of evidence backing up most of these claims.

It has been argued by Mo and his supporters that even if he is lying, though they deny that he is, he is still doing good by fighting Islamophobia, hate and doing good work for the community. Really? Is he? We are talking about a man who drops the word Islamophobia at the drop of a hat. He's rather like the boy who cried wolf in this sense, constantly accusing people of being Islamophobic. His constant demonizing of the UK, the US and the West hardly create an atmosphere of love, peace and unity. His very public battles with Tom Holland, Iain Dale, and Maajid Nawaz shows that he is willing to stoop pretty low to get revenge and he holds deep and dangerous grudges. He claims to have been an LGBT activist for 15 years, yet has publically said "Love the sinner, hate the sin". That, in no way, is a good LGBT activist. That is a cruel and ridiculous statement that, in my opinion, disqualifies him from being able to say he is an LGBT activist. Again, how is this helping the community? It isn't. And his seeming refusal to condemn homophobic speech by Muslim leaders or even backing Muslim leaders and organizations who are anti-gay raises serious concerns over his claims of LGBT activism. If he is an LGBT activist, it would appear that he is more of an enemy than an ally.

So, no, he is not on the road to creating peace, cohesion and fighting hate as he keeps claiming he is doing. In fact, he does the opposite. It does make one wonder what world he is living in. Does he ever actually listen to himself? Has he really deluded himself to believe that his rhetoric and actions are doing good as opposed to being divisive, frustrating, single minded, obsessive and often times just plain wrong? If he does know, then he keeps playing the game, acting as if he is the good guy and all his critics are bad guys, and in doing so continues to fool some. And, as long as people are fooled or distracted from asking important questions, blinded by some aspects of his character that some may say are charming, he will continue to act just like he is.

He also loves to rail against the "far right" which seems to include almost anyone who criticizes him, though the people who are calling him out on his lies are diverse and cover the entire political spectrum. What he seems to fail to see when he talks about the "far right" is just how right on the spectrum he is. Does he not understand that many of his statements are, in fact, quite conservative, socially and politically (when it comes to sticking up for ultra conservative religious players, his views on gender segregation in lectures at Universities, his REAL views on homosexuality, etc.)? He IS part of the right. His views ARE often right wing. So, his constant calling of everyone under the sun a right wing neo con once again rings hollow. This is a man that sucks all meaning out of terms like Islamophobia, Far Right and Neo Con. Does he not see this? Does he not realize that his everyday barrage of calling people these terms is not helpful? On this one, he seems truly clued out. He seems to believe that by calling everyone Islamophobic it is HELPING to end Islamophobia and bring cohesion and peace to communities. Really? Seriously? That's just ridiculous. It appears that the main way he uses these terms is to help belittle and demonize all detractors and people he doesn't like or agree with. Apparently, disagreeing with Mo means you hate 1.2 billion Muslims. Who knew? So, by using terms in such a way, he has rendered them meaningless. Overreactionary accusations of Islamophobia or being part of the EDL or UKIP or whatever way Mo chooses to deal with his critics isn't helping anyone. It just pisses people off and makes it harder for anyone to take these terms seriously. How does that help anyone?

And then, of course, there is the issue of his religion. He wants to play the role of pious Mo, the faithful Muslim. But, he seems to be missing the several passages in the Quran that tells Mo that lying, vengefulness, boastfulness, etc is bad and will not lead him to paradise. Interesting that. He, like pretty much every follower of a religion, cherry picks the hell out of the book that he holds be holy, stating that the Quran is the unchanged word of god down to the each and every period and comma. Well, this book he puts in such high esteem and loves to tell people offers the answers to the problems plaguing society, doesn't even seem to be able to be followed by him. If he won't follow the book and feels that it doesn't apply to him, why on earth should any one else follow it? If it's so damn perfect and is your guiding moral compass, then ignoring a big part of it means you are clearly off path. Don't pretend to be Mr. Pious if you ignore important parts of the book....yet still say it's okay to chop off hands in a perfect Islamic society.  He reminds me of people like Ted Haggard or Jim Bakker, who, even though they wish to give an out word identity of being godly and pious, are actually just lying scam artists using their religion for fame and profit more than as a guiding light. I'm sure he believes in his god. I'm sure he is happy to be Muslims. BUT, the religion really is more of a conduit to fame and a way to create an identity more than anything deep and spiritual.

Some of his supporters allege that all those critical of him just don't like him and will look for any reason to bring him down. Well, it cannot be denied, he has made a long list of enemies through some of his rhetoric and attacks on people. His own vengeful behaviour towards Maajid Nawez and Iain Dale are perfect examples of how low he will go and how he has managed to create enemies. But for the most part, people just don't like to be lied to and manipulated, especially by someone who is cocky and arrogant, which Mo most certainly is. And, quite frankly, he can be downright rude and ignorant on twitter. But in the end, whether people like him or hate him (there seems to be nothing inbetween), he has lied and deceived and that is a truth that won't change, regardless of what anyone thinks of him. And, he is now in the court of public opinion, which is where people who thrust themselves into the spot light are judged. If people disapprove of him or are tired of his antics, they will make it known...and they are. Now, the question is, where will this lead. Will this mean that Mo is off the TV and Radio for good? Time will tell. It is highly possible that he will weather this out and continue to be the easy go to guy for many news outlets. And, if that is so, we will have learned nothing. Mo will have learned nothing. News outlets will have learned nothing. And it is right back to status quo. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Now??

Just another random post. What do I have to say for myself this time? Ya, that's right. Nothing. Okay then, was that worth reading? Was it even worth writing? This new exercise of mine has a point. It really does. Do I know what it is? Not sure yet. Working on it.

Anyone else going to see Merzbow tonight?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Photographing Things.

I've been photographing things for a long time now. Yup. Got myself a nice little DSLR camera. I take pictures with it. Mostly of things. People. People sometimes. I take pictures of them doing things. Or not doing things depending on what they are or are not doing at the time. I take a lot of pictures of fellow comedians. I take pictures of bands. I take pictures of street art and graffiti. I take pictures when I travel. I take pictures when I'm at home. I take pictures. It's fun. Do you take pictures? You should take pictures. It's fun. It's also hard. It can be hard to take pictures. The hard part is learning. But learning is fun. Fun. Yes. I like learning. I'm always learning. I'm always learning and usually learning when I am not even aware that I am learning. I am learning to take pictures better. But it's slow. Oh so slow. I don't get the whole F-stops thing. Do you do? It gets me all confused all the time. Stupid F-stops. Who decided F-stops were a good idea? Pfffft. F-stops.

Good night.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

To Halal or Not to Halal

Okay, I found another twitter topic to discuss. Yay. Good ol' twitter. Perfect for writing prompts. The issue this time? Halal vs non halal meat. There has been quite a kurfuful regarding the use of halal meats in the UK by some chain restaurants, which has brought a wide ranging discussion about how meat is slaughtered, the role religion plays in this slaughter and in society as a whole, the desire for people to have halal meat labelled as such and then outright right wing attacks on everything to do with Islam or Muslims (as well as right win religious attacks on all that is of the kufr).

Now, apparently, when the glorious Quran was revealed to everyone's favourite prophet, Mohammed, god had a specific way in which he wanted animals slaughtered. This involved a slitting of the neck of the animal and having a lovely prayer said over the beast. That god. He thought of everything, didn't he?

Some say that halal is a brutal, cruel way of killing an animal because it is not stunned before the life ending procedure. Others say is it more humane because....well, god said it was. Truthfully? I don't see it as being any better or worse than non halal slaughter. In theory, both are supposed to be humane or not humane depending on who is determining this (which is not the animals who aren't able to tell us what they would prefer). Too much of our meat comes from factory farms and mass slaughterhouses that hardly provide animals with a decent life. At the same time, there is a growing desire by people to have their meat prepared in more humane ways, wanting to ensure that it is free range and free of growth hormones. They want a better life for the animals they eat before eating them. So, this desire is growing. People want less brutality, but still love a good burger!

Proponents of halal meat say that their method is the antithesis to the brutality of non halal meat while proponents of non halal meat say their method is the antithesis to the brutality of halal meat. Both are right and both are wrong. On paper, both systems look good. In non halal, animals are supposed to be stunned before slaughter. The fact is, that this can often be botched or not adhered to in the most humane of ways. Likewise, the idea that a quick slice to the throat provides a snappy demise is often not properly adhered to with not sharp enough blades, slightly off slices, etc. In the end, both systems have their flaws and benefits.

The demand in the UK is at least for labelling of halal meat so that people know what they are getting and can decide for themselves. Seems fair and reasonable. Yet, for some reason, there seems to be a backlash against this idea. Why? I have no clue. Just label the stuff. There are others calling for an outright banning of religious slaughter like Denmark did. Is this right? Well, sure, I'm not against it, nor for it. I don't believe some god of some sort gave man the idea of how to slaughter animals. It was a man made idea and it's from 1400 years ago (at least in terms of halal). If we have better methods now, and we know how to kill an animal in a more humane way because, you know, we have evolved in our understanding of the world and the creatures we exist with, then we should go with the best method possible. I'm not sure that halal is necessarily, however, as horrible as some say. Again, not being an animal that is about to have it's throat slit, I have no clue what an animal would prefer.

There seems to be some ridiculousness on all sides. First off, I'm getting a bit tired of the Muslims who are critical of non Muslims who wish to not eat halal meat. I've seen them be called ignorant racists, over reactionaries, etc. At the same time, if Muslims were eating non halal meat that they thought was halal, the outrage would be significant. So, there seems to be a bit of a lack of understanding of peoples desires outside of the Muslim community, dismissing the requests of non Muslims. Basically, I say, if you would refuse to eat non halal meat, don't get mad at people because they don't want to eat halal meat. At the same time, we have people saying this is another case of creeping Sharia and must be fought and using it as another way to be right wing idiots. Whatever. Both sides are kind of clued out.

Basically, the solution is, just label the stuff. Make sure people know what they are consuming. We have/request labels for everything from GMO's, free range, organic, place of origin, quality, etc. I don't understand why labelling halal meat as halal meat as an issue. One person on twitter said that it would open up restaurants and people to attacks and they shouldn't be singled out. Huh? Look, just label the stuff. Nothing wrong with it.

It's interesting though that the fury echoes an experience had when we were living in Qatar. Qatar is a pork free country. You can't even buy proper marshmallows because apparently they contain pork by products. Alcohol could only be purchased at a few select restaurants, and at a store in the industrial area that you had to have a special permit to shop at. The store thought they might import some pork so that people with this permit could indulge. Oh man, the uproar. The store was run by Qatar Airways. There were calls to boycott the airline, and so much furor over the idea that a bit of pork may enter the country. The backlash was immense. There, however, when there is anger like this, it is called asking others to adhere to "cultural sensitivities". When it happens in the's racism...:) Mind you, I still can't figure out which race Islam is, or what race halal slaughter is associated with.

Russell Brand visited the East London Mosque (guided by non other than our good friend Mo Ansar) the other day and said something to the nature of "If you don't want to eat halal, become a vegetarian not a racist". Again, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the fact that Islam isn't a race. As I have said a million and one times, it is a religion, a set of ideas that are open to disagreement, debate, satire and even outright dislike. It is not, and should never be, immune to criticism. It is a religion. It's not okay to hate Muslims just because they are Muslims. That's hating people. But to hate ideas? Not an issue. The idea of halal meat is just that, an idea within a greater set of ideas of how the world should be. Therefore, it should not be protected. It should be questioned, and struck down if shown to be wrong.

So, the issue of halal vs non halal is complex yet simple as the same time. Let's go with the simple part of this: Just label the stuff. Accept that there are going to be differing opinions. If determined to be a completely inhumane way of dealing with slaughter, then consider banning it. It isn't racist to ban a practise that isn't good. Will people have an issue with it? Of course. But, first and foremost, animal welfare should come first here. At the moment, because I don't know enough because I am not an expert in this field, I say just label it. If there is conclusive evidence that halal slaughter is not a good way to go, then I'm not against banning it. At the same time, I think we should be looking at factory farming and mass slaughter practises as well. There is a huge movement scrutinizing them, so it's not like it is an ignored issue as some on the pro halal side claim. It is an issue and many are working on it. But there is no doubt, that is just as big of an issue as halal meat. Let's just do the best we can for the animals. Label meat so people know the source. And continue to research the best methods to slaughter.

Friday, May 9, 2014

When to Write?

I want to write at times when I don't have some news story or twitter outrage. These seem to be the main things that get me writing. I need to find new inspiration, to be able to write when nothing is happening, when things are calm, when my brain isn't filled with all of these thoughts on specific subjects. I suppose you could say writing for the sake of writing and see what the brain can come up with all on it's own without these outside prompts that usually end in posts that are more full of anger than they are happiness, creativity, joy or observations of a nice, warm variety. Did that even make sense? Probably not. It's rambling. Mind you, isn't that sort of what I want to do anyway? Ramble and see what comes out? I guess I just did it. Was it successful? You be the judge. Wait, don't. Just....don't.

Tea anyone?

That was a random thought. I'm not making tea. I don't want tea. I would make tea for you but you are over there, not over here. Make your own tea if you want some. Quit asking me for tea....dammit. 

Stupid Smart People

Do you realize how many people out there are way smarter than me? Stupid idiots, being smarter than me. How am I supposed to look smart when all these stupid smart people are being so stupidly smart and making me look like an idiot! What a bunch of idiots! Here's the deal. I am not a huge, big, fancy educated guy with a PhD label or some other kind of little thingy after my name. But, damn it, I want people to just shut up and accept that I am smart and right even though I am not compared to smart people who are more right while I am wrong and are able to show how wrong I am with their smartness. It's not fair I tell you. And why are so many smart people online anyway? How did all these smart people start using the internet to communicate with people who think they are smart but aren't smart at all, like me. Go away smart people so us fake smart people can get back to thinking we are smart, you stupid idiots. You think you are so smart, eh? Okay, you are so smart. But, shut up and stop being a stupid idiot about being so smart.