Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A sense of perspective

Sunday night was, as seems to be the way these days, a haven of decent programming. Not only did we have the pleasure of the second episode of 'Girls And Boys - Sex And British Pop' (see below), but C4 offered up 'Great British Islam', another engaging hour-long documentary.

The film, set against the backdrop of the July bombings, followed Sun journalist Anila Baig as she sought to uncover and explore the historical interconnections between Britain and Islam. The fact that close and peaceful relations can be traced back hundreds of years provides some much-needed perspective for the recent opening-up of major fault lines within British society, and this was the programme's most valuable argument. The contribution of Muslims to British history and society was underlined (albeit occasionally superficially), and (amongst other things) I was amazed to discover that there has been a Yemeni community based in South Shields for around the last hundred years.

It wasn't perfect, though. An hour-long one-off, it was consequently rather rushed and glib. What's more, the burning of Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' in Bradford in 1989 was presented favourably as a self-confident expression of identity rather than as the hate-filled act of "intellectual hooliganism" which it was (I think) rightly portrayed as in certain quarters of the media - such inflexible, intolerant and self-righteous dogmatism is no more laudable than that of Bush and the Christian Right, and is what ultimately stands behind the terrorist atrocities in London.

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