Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas incident

Last night at about 9:30 I was walking through Melbourne's Chinatown. Walking ahead of me were a couple of harmless-looking locals, best pals obviously. One looked like he might have been Greek – a street famous for its Greek restaurants and cake shops is nearby – and the other, wearing a Santa bonnet, was pale-skinned and earnest and obviously an Anglo.

I didn't see the face of the large figure who was looming towards us but I heard him plain enough.

"Fuck Christmas," he shouted as he brushed past. "I'm a Muslim." Then further profanities (including the c-word) from the self-proclaimed follower of the Prophet.

Presumably, he had been the recipient of a seasonal greeting from the young man in the bonnet.

The latter stood to attention and puffed his chest out. He was shocked and affronted.

But there was no violence. The offender had disappeared into the crowd, and the two friends, disconcerted and a bit confused, resumed their course, muttering to one another.

[I know. You mustn't generalize or stereotype people according to ethnic or religious background. But I am motivated to recount this little story as a reaction against the tendencies – prevalent in the circles in which I move – to self-censorship and to pandering (as I see it) to the feelings of ethnic minorities. Such pandering can actually encourage this kind of crass arrogance in my opinion.]


  1. I had no temptation to stereotype until your concluding parenthesis which gave me the idea that you could be so gullible as to take that guy at his word - at which point of course I thought at once "Oh, a Conservative!"

  2. The little narrative could have stood alone. But, though it is a true account of what I saw and heard – and, I think, interesting just as a slice of life – it has, like any narrative, subjective elements (the harmless pals; the large, looming figure). And it obviously touches on certain sensitive questions of social policy and social cohesion.

    The parenthesis was just my way of acknowledging this.

    I will probably come back to my point about singling out certain minorities and treating them more favorably than others as having unintended consequences. (I think my views here mix elements of old-fashioned liberalism with elements of conservatism, by the way.)

    I nearly didn't post this one at all (self-censorship?), partly because I have friends who might read Islamophobia into the story and also because any Islamophobic readers might be encouraged in their views.

    I'm not sure what you are implying in your comment. That I am exhibiting unacceptably conservative views? That the foul-mouthed chap was not a true Muslim?

    I deliberately withheld judgement on the latter point by inserting the qualifier 'self-proclaimed'.

    But you seem to be going much further and suggesting that because he was behaving badly he was not a Muslim. This seems like a very dubious (and dangerous) line of argument.

  3. On Islamophobia, pandering, and the patronizing racism of lower expectations, see Pat Condell's rant at

  4. Thanks for the link, Lee. He's relentless, isn't he? Interesting distinction between progressives and liberals.

  5. I think I've seen that video. No quarter for fools there. LOL. As I read your post I was thinking, yup there's one in every crowd. I didn't draw a picture in my head, from your description, so there was no stereotype issue going on. Just another human being with a big mouth, is all I thought of it. A guy could get shot spouting off like that for whatever reason (religion, politics, plumbing issues, cutting off a nearby car in traffic, whatever).

  6. GC

    The incident was just an incident, and doesn't suggest or demonstrate anything of a more specific nature than you suggest. But, rightly or wrongly, it got me thinking about certain social and religious and ethnic issues.

    I don't have a strong opinion at the moment about the prospects for a truly modern, moderate Islam. Christianity – almost from its inception – was far more syncretistic and adaptable than Islam, I would say. And Judaism doesn't really offer a model for Islam either.