Friday, August 12, 2005

Little Tameem And The Mystery Of The Floating Quote

Woke this morning, rather late and very dry about the mouth, to an excited email from George, which he apparently sent at 3am. He has recently, with my encouragement, graduated to broadband, with the result that instead of getting a message from him about once a month, when he remembered to connect, they now come thick and fast. An additional encouragement in this respect has been his acquisition of a laptop (a rather dainty 12" iBook, as it happens) and an AirPort Express, so he now surfs from bed, and has, so he informs me, discovered the delights of chat rooms. For myself, I discovered chat rooms years ago, but never their delights. Oh well.

In any case, George, I surmise, is now a regular visitor to such sites as gaywired.com, where he discovered the news, eagerly forwarded, that the Crown Prince of Qatar was recently outed by a Middle Eastern newspaper, allegedly after getting into a fight at G.A.Y. Having been to this club myself once, when charged with looking after Jasmine's younger son Terry for the evening, I have no idea why someone with as many exquisite options open to him as I presume the young Crown Prince has should end up there, but to each, as this whole business so amply demonstrates, his own.

George's interest in this story was largely personal: he was charged, many years ago, with 'organising security' for the Qatari Royal Family; it was one of his last jobs, and I imagine all that was required of him was to smile and make small chat as they wandered round Fortnums, but he rather took to them, and particularly the then-small boy. 'What a surprise!' his email concludes, 'Little Tameem! But you know, I swear I saw something in his eyes.'

I hate to break it to George that this revelation, and his post-facto investment of some kind of emotional significance in what I will refrain from pointing out to him was a shared glance between a man of near-retirement age and a seven-old-boy, may, as we used to say, be heavily underseasoned (and thus need a pinch of salt: do you see? How witty we once were!). It's striking that the claims seem to have eluded the mainstream media entirely, and while, as Professor Chomsky would doubtless point out, that hardly means it's not true, even OutRage!, in their press release on the subject, add the caveat:
The police say they have no record of any charges. We cannot discount the posibility that the story was put out by the Prince's political enemies in a bid to discredit him and to destabilise the government of Qatar.
At this point, some of you may be doing a double-take: press release? OutRage!? Well, quite. It turns out they have not, however, resurrected the campaign, with which they toyed more than a decade ago but which they never put into practice, of outing public figures, and decided to start with little Tameem. Rather, the story gives them an opportunity to continue harping on endlessly in their assault on Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Islamic cleric who popped in for a chat with Mr Livingstone last year and caused such a storm in his teacup. Even to skim over the endless saga will probably bore you beyond recovery, but as you probably recall this proposed visit was the target of a sustained campaign in the media in which the ever-boyish Mr Tatchell played a major part, and which rather irritated many members (I use the word 'many' in a relative sense, of course, as I am about to the word 'out') of the out Muslim gay and lesbian community, who were confused by his apparent claim to speak in their name, and far from sure they agreed with what he was saying. All this led to the rather peculiar circumstance of Mr Livingstone and Mr Tatchell swapping dossiers in which they offered competing glosses on the learned cleric's Islamic scholarship. Certain people, of the variety I hope I may be allowed to refer to as Friends of Ocky, rather suspected that Mr Tatchell had been co-opted in all his huffings by the pro-Israeli lobby. (Never let it be said that because I am old I am no longer in touch with things!)

Now Sheikh Qaradawi is back in the news, being mooted by newspaper journalists and the like as a possible candidate for Mr Blair and Mr Clarke's exciting new Coach and Horses policy (You're barred!, do you see? Tee-hee.) And the maybe-true maybe-not catfight in which little Tameem and one Michael Heard are said to have indulged among all those provincial homosexuals in the Astoria provides Mr Tatchell with a new opportunity to weigh in on the get-him-out side, with this apparent revelation (in the same press release) that:
The Crown Prince of Qatar should be stoned to death for being gay, according to Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim fundamentalist scholar who is based in Qatar.

These allegatons appear in the Middle East news magazine Aljazeera.

Dr Qaradawi was defended by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, in a Guardian comment article only yesterday, Thursday 4 August.

Aljazeera quotes Dr Qaradawi as saying:

"The scholars of Islam, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Ishaaq said that (the person guilty of this crime) should be stoned, whether he is married or unmarried."
This news is an absolute gift for Mr Tatchell, who has been squabbling endlessly with Mr Livingstone over whether or not the good doctor actually throws his weight behind stoning to death as an appropriate sanction for gay men (far more severe, certainly, as OutRage! notes, than the current legal penalty in Qatar, 5-10 years imprisonment). Previously, the best direct quote from Sheikh Qaradawi that he could find on the subject was this rather equivocal waffle, from a long article in the enticingly-named 'Fatwa Bank' of islamonline.net:
Muslim jurists hold different opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.
Now, when that was all OutRage! had, they certainly did their level best to milk the stone for all it was worth:
The death penalty only seems cruel, he argues, until we understand that it is actually necessary “to keep [Islamic society] clean of perverted elements”
But all of that fun sophistry is now rendered happily redundant by the Aljazeera (a magazine, not the TV channel) article upon which OutRage! bases its press release. After all the article itself clearly says, as Mr Tatchell relates:
The eminent Qatari based scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi also quoted:

"The scholars of Islam, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Ishaaq said that (the person guilty of this crime) should be stoned, whether he is married or unmarried.”
At last: no more beating about the bush. The double-tongued doctor, so elusive in conversations with Western media, has gone and said what he really thinks to an Arabic newspaper. (Actually, he's apparently gone and said what some other people think, the named 'scholars of Islam', think, and even here voiced no clear opinion himself. But hey-ho.) As the press release goes on:
"Dr Qaradawi appears to be encouraging the murder of a person in the UK, which is a serious criminal offence," says OutRage! "We are astonished that Mayor Livingstone is still supporting him."
Well, that's all sorted out then. Naughty Ken. Evil, duplicitous Doctor. Vindicated OutRage!

Except Dr Qaradawi never said it.

Ha! Weren't expecting that, were you? Tempestua, fearless investigative journalist and learned Islamic scholar! Well, sorry to disappoint, it's more Tempestua, member of a generation that was actually taught English at school, and Tempestua who can recognise the odd sentence if she's seen it before.

Forgive me for going about this the long way, but it's the easiest way to make things clear.

OutRage!'s press release (have the link again if you like, it's a long way up) says:
Aljazeera reports that other scholars from Islamonline.net, have also endorsed the execution of the prince, citing the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad to justify the death penalty for the heir to the Qatari throne:

"Whoever you find committing the sin of the people of Lut, kill them, both the one who does it and the one to whom it is done." (At-Tirmidhi: 1376)
Which is half-true. Aljazeera cites two quotes from Islamic scholars on the death penalty, one apparently from Dr Qaradawi and one other, as follows:
Scholars of Islamonline.net condemned the actions quoting religious text:

"Almighty Allah has prohibited illegal sexual intercourse and homosexuality and all means that lead to either of them. Moreover, Islam emphatically forbids this deed [homosexual sex] and prescribes a severe punishment for it in this world and the next. How could it be otherwise, when the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Whoever you find committing the sin of the people of Lut, kill them, both the one who does it and the one to whom it is done." (At-Tirmidhi: 1376)

The eminent Qatari based scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi also quoted:

"The scholars of Islam, such as Malik, Ash-Shafi`i, Ahmad and Ishaaq said that (the person guilty of this crime) should be stoned, whether he is married or unmarried.”
Well, I've seen both of those quotes before, and so has Mr Tatchell. Because they're lifted from the very same fatwa bank article that contains Dr Qaradawi's equivocatory ramble that was the basis for OutRage's earlier rhetorical gymnastics around his use of the word 'seems'. OutRage! even link back to the article at the bottom of their new press release.

Are you still with me? Good. Yes, it's as simple as that.

Now, Aljazeera, or whatever work-experience teenager stuck the article together from a quick Google, has certainly made a mess of the quotes. The second one, which they attribute to Dr Qaradawi, doesn't come from him at all; it's further down the piece, after his long text, and either after or within the text by one Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid; a floating double-quote makes it hard to be sure. And the first one is actually a running-together of two quotes, the first sentence (from 'Almighty Allah' to 'either of them') from Dr Qaradawi and the rest ('Islam emphatically forbids' to the end) from the aforementioned other chap.

'Moreover, ' is an interpolation.

Naughty, lazy, lying OutRage!. Now, I don't add 'lying' because they were so preternaturally dim that they didn't spot that the quote on which they base their entire press release wasn't by Dr Qaradawi after all -- but because not even said work-experience teenager tried to claim that these old recycled citations from islamonline.net were anything else.

It was OutRage! who added the invention that these sentences, which we know for a fact that they have previously pored over looking for evidence against the poor maligned Doctor, were responses to the alleged news of the alleged outing after the alleged fight, from 'scholars [who] endorsed the execution of the prince'. They weren't; they predate the whole G.A.Y. business by more than a year. OutRage! even have either the idiocy or the cheek to add:
Dr Qaradawi's comment to Aljazeera reiterated his "gays should executed" opinion delivered in the fatwa "Homosexuality and Lesbianism: Sexual Perversions" issued last year (17 May 2004).
In other words, the thing in the 17 May 2004 article on islamonline.net that Dr Qaradawi didn't actually say himself was apparently Dr Qaradawi himself now reiterating to Aljazeera an opinion that Dr Qaradawi did not, in the first place, express in the 17 May 2004 article on islamonline.net.

For myself, I prefer to remember Mr Tatchell as he used to be, years ago. Perhaps -- I'm not really sure I want to know -- like George does little Tameem.

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