The Spectacle Blog

Saved By Islam, Or Something

By on 8.11.06 | 7:15PM

There are so many left-footed and left-handed little outrages packed into the stock phrase now used to describe our blessed terror-plot tipster (Pakistani, I think) that one has to crack open a beer to properly take, well, stock.

Indeed we should all be heaping praise and benedictions upon the person who saw fit to save, as it happens, hundreds of innocent lives from rending immolation above the deep-water Atlantic Ocean this August 16th. But this person has been dubbed by a battery of major news outlets, in typical psittacine fashion, "a worried member of the Muslim community."

It is not, we are to understand, quite right to identify our helpful fellow man or woman simply, for informational purposes, as an adherent of Islam -- that is, as an individual. It is newsworthy that the person is Muslim, yes -- but it is newspeak that the person is constituented into a Representative of Islam, incomprehensible outside the context of a supposed "Muslim community," which makes almost as much sense as lumping Howard Dean and Pat Robertson in a presumptive "Christian community," or indeed Jurgen Habermas and David Irving in a so-called "European community."

Amartya Sen has written nicely on the problems wrapped up in carving the world up according to religions, and one of those problems is that fools term individuals primarily as things that make up groups which have ways of seeing the world that aren't yours. You are then supposed to support their right to see the world in that manner because you have been disentitled to disprove, or even disapprove of, it.

Well from time to time a person comes along from one religion or another for whom mass murder, as well as the fearsome probability of mass murder, is too much to bear under any pretext or on behalf of any community. That scores of Britons and, by implication, millions of the rest of us, have lives, limbs, and livelihoods to look forward to once again seems to me to score one for sane individuals first -- and against insane communities second.

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