Both Brendan and I have written about the strange martyrdom of Louis Smith. But here is an ugly coda.
As readers may recall, the Olympic athlete got drunk at a friend’s wedding and, along with a friend, ended up doing a joke version of the Muslim call to prayer. Something to do with Aladdin apparently. Anyhow, before they knew it the phone-video had made its way onto social media and from there to The Sun. Soon sinister Muslim spokespeople were reminding everyone that their religion was to be ‘respected’ and never to be ‘mocked’. Smith has apparently been getting death threats since then. All of which tells us nothing new about the world’s most intolerant religion.
But as ever it is the response of our own society that is so bizarre and disturbing. Already Smith’s career looks in jeopardy as various sports authorities are actually seriously looking into banning him from competing because of this non-event. But if you want an even finer distillation of the stupidity, consider the following interview with Smith yesterday on ITV’s ‘Loose Women’ (I know, I don’t normally watch it either). Here, a quartet of women interrogate and berate Smith over his drunken behaviour. He is asked to explain himself and ‘his recent behaviour.’ It is so surreal that it really is worth watching. It begins with a shocked Janet Street-Porter berating Louis Smith for his drunken behaviour and telling him how unacceptable it is. Yes, indeed, Janet Street-Porter tells someone off for coarseness and drunkenness.
Then June Sarpong tries to get Smith to admit that what he and his friend did was ‘racist’. Poor Smith does not reply that of course Islam is not a race, because he is in full-on career-saving apology-tour mode. ‘At what point would you think it was ok to do that?’ demands Sarpong. When the mixed-race Smith eventually tries to push back, insisting that it wasn’t racist Sarpong says that it was ‘xenophobic and prejudiced for sure.’
It is worth watching the whole thing. Because of course if Smith and a friend had made some joke about Christianity not only would it not have made it to The Sun, it would barely have made it to social media. But thanks to more than a quarter of a century of internalising the Rushdie fatwa, even the most liberal parts of our society have volunteered to become the Spanish Inquisition of Islam.
When we read about societies in history which destroyed people for heresy we usually gasp in amazement. Yet here is a case of someone breaking a heresy of our own society because of beliefs which aren’t in any way central to our society and the result is to try to destroy the person’s career, ensure they can’t work again, publicly humiliate them, call them all the most damaging names possible and make them grovel to get back even a semblance of their old life. This is a sickness. And the fact that this type of show trial is on public television in the middle of the day and that the judges and jury are four ‘loose women’ make it only more emblematic of our dumb and dimwit-run times.