Do they really need to get out more?
Yes, it’s time to put my ten cents’ worth in about the Danish cartoons that some Muslims are so offended about.
Fret not dear reader, I will not be boring you with the already oft-written arguments about respecting cultures or valuing free speech. Instead, the many news stories concerning this issue made me wonder: just what do these angry men actually do on days when there is nothing to be angry about?
This little question is not limited to the Muslim males who are mightily miffed right now. The issue can also apply to fellas on either side of the ages-old Israeli-Palestinian war, the scores of irritated Iraqi blokes regardless of whether they are pro or anti-Saddam; and in fact any anti-US extremists with truckloads of flags with which to test the strength of their cigarette lighters. Indeed, this list of boy bruisers is endless.
Overseas news reels used to feature mostly youths hurling the stones, brandishing placards and running from the tear gas and I used to assume that they were mostly students or unemployed. Nowadays, it appears that even their fathers and grandfathers seem to be getting in amongst it; firing shots in the air and providing reporters with great fifteen second sound grabs full of death threats and painful retribution. Another question for you here - are bullets cheap or something? They must be, for so many of them to be wasting them by shooting them up into the air, willynilly. And has there ever been a recorded case during one of these innumerable demonstrations of such a wild shot actually hitting some other poor bastard? Hell, if he wasn't annoyed beforehand, he certainly would be after that.
Let me extend my imagination even further for the sake of this article, and you too will be required to travel with me in on my mental mindscape - not unlike a magic carpet, but far more stained, made in a Taiwanese factory of polyester/nylon and with more holes than neo-goth's nostril.
Anyhow. A thirty-something chap called Abdul finds himself absolutely outraged when he hears from his buddies at the local cafe that, half a world away, a newspaper in Denmark has published some cartoons ridiculing the Muslim faith. He’s not quite sure where Denmark is, but he’s mighty pissed off about it anyway. He's not even sure he knows what a cartoon is, but it's sure to be something highly offensive to his hard won lifestyle. Who wouldn't want to live in a shoddily-constructed cement apartment block in 45C heat with no running water, dusty streets full of goat shit and have at least four teeth still left in your mouth?
He stomps home and darkly mutters to his wife, Fatima: “That’s IT. I am going to fight these infidels the only way I know how!”
She looks up from feeding their youngest of five. “And how is that, my dear?”
He stops pacing for a moment to consider his answer. “By taking the day off work, sitting on the back of Mohammed’s minivan and firing some shotgun rounds in the air, that’s how!”
“Oh,” she says tiredly. “So, do you want me to call you boss in the morning and tell him you have a toothache then?”
“YES! These infidels must pay with their miserable lives! Die Infidels, Die! Die Infidels, Die! Die Infidels….”, his voice fades as he marches down the stairwell to see if his mates in the cement cell next door were also going to chuck a sickie on behalf of Allah. Fatima permits herself a long sigh, and starts to put the children to bed, wondering if Abdul will get paid tomorrow.
Mohammed, the owner of the minivan, is secretly feeling pretty cheesed off about these ‘special days’. “Geez, it’s always ‘Hi there Mohammed, are you coming along with us Mohammed, Can we hitch a ride with you Mohammed, Is your minivan available to fight for the one true god, Mohammed?’ all the bloody time,” he moaned to his wife, Karida. “Just for once I’d like to give them all the finger, avoid the congested streets near those stupid embassies and just get through delivering my load of lamb necks to the market before the maggots are visible. It’d double my profit margin you know.”
Karida nods and indicates to her eldest daughter, Rasheeda, to join her in the kitchen. Rasheeda already knows the reason why her mother looks so worried – is her intended, 17 year old Hanif, also going to join the men? “I don’t know mother, I haven’t seen him since August because this chador blocks my view….”
“Yes yes, let’s not get into that one right now. What’s more frustrating to me is that both your father and your intended are not going to be earning any money tomorrow. Why can’t they stone a US-funded building in the evenings, after work?”
“Or the weekends,” adds Rasheeda, getting fired up as well. “Oh, and Mum – don’t forget to keep all the windows shut tomorrow and whatever you do don’t hang out the washing – the smoke from the flag-burning gets everywhere and makes the place smell worse than a camel’s crutch after a month long desert trek!”
And so on. With thousands of other little family discussions occurring at the same time, it suddenly occurred to me why there always seems to be so many men available to violently protest at a moment’s notice – they are all unemployed! Or, if they do have a job, they’ll soon be unemployed. Imagine telling your boss, Dhul Fiqar, owner of the 'Koran and Camel Coffee Emporium', that you’ve got a case of the trots*only for your image to be plastered across the TV screen in your boss's office as you’re filmed repeatedly knifing a magazine cut-out of President Bush. The likely result would be instant dismissal, unless Dhul Fiqar insists that all of his employees attend the demonstration.
My second theory is that ALL blokes of sound bodies (minds is another matter altogether) must, by law, attend the rallies. That’s right – they must always be prepared to be a little bit cross, annoyed, slightly angered or mightily, deathly furious. Perhaps such emotional reactions take their toll and the men can only summon up the energy to sip strong coffee at cafes, smoke cigarettes and hold hands. It would be frightening to think of the response if ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was instead ‘Brokeback Bedoin’, the story of two young – and passionate – camel traders, thrown together during a desert storm……
This second theory also relies on the work of the women at being housekeepers, cooks, mothers, accountants, teachers, wives, cleaners and hagglers (all from home of course) to keep such an angry male society ticking over. After all, how many women are filmed sitting idly in the town square, smoking and sipping a spiced tea? The old clichés always seem to be true: Behind a great man is an even greater Ghunwah**
* Diarrhoea, (for non-Aussies)
**Female Arabic name meaning ‘indispensable’