I am having very little success in getting my collection of cartoons of great religious founders published. Perhaps it is because I am not known as a draughtsman and publications are notoriously conservative in hiring new talent. It is all very dispiriting. My drawings are, I think, puckish and yet respectful. For example, there is one of the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, the man somehow regarded as divine by Rastafarians. He is depicted in a game of ten-pin bowling with Benito Mussolini, the controversial former leader of Italy. Both men seem to be enjoying themselves — Benito is holding a pint of lager while Selassie is biting into an almond Magnum, waiting their turn to roll. They are part of a foursome with Charlie Stayt, the hugely talented BBC Breakfast presenter, and Walter Ulbricht, the widely admired former leader of the German Democratic Republic. Walter has just rolled for a strike and is looking very self-satisfied, as his side are now well in the lead. But Benito and Selassie do not seem to mind.
Friends looking at these cartoons describe them as ‘Hogarthian’ and are astonished and depressed nobody is prepared to publish them. There is a more sombre drawing of Buddha attending a counselling session for the morbidly obese — but that cartoon is the exception. Most of the vignettes show these great figures engaging in cheerful leisure pursuits, to advance the agreeable notion that no matter how eminent, wise and godly these people were, they valued a bit of ‘down time’ and ‘chilling’, as modern parlance has it. So, Zoroaster is skateboarding with members of S Club 7, Jesus Christ is threatening to lamp an opposition supporter during a tense local derby game and Mohammed, PBUH, is shown on a Ryanair Weekend City Break to Paris, posing for a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Frankly, it beggars belief that anybody could find these sketches offensive. I have heard murmurings that Muslims are not always happy when their prophet is depicted by human hand. But surely they could not object to my respectful representation of Mohammed, PBUH: he looks a little like Peter Bowles, star of the situation comedy To The Manor Born, except a bit swarthier, and is wearing leisure gear — an acrylic Adidas tracksuit over a humorous top which reads: ‘My parents went to Mecca and all they got me was this lousy T-shirt.’ If they don’t like that drawing, they’re really not going to appreciate the one I did of Allah.
I may resort to sending these drawings to local schools, for I think children would enjoy them. I will begin with Batley Grammar School, in West Yorkshire, where there have been daily protests by what I hope is a tiny minority of Muslims in what is a heavily Muslim area (i.e. under the new definition of the word, ‘diverse’). In truth not many Muslims have complained about the fact that a religious education teacher showed pupils a depiction of Mohammed, PBUH, reportedly as part of the school curriculum. Those protests seem to consist of a handful of pig-ignorant men — where are the women protestors? I suspect that the gentlemen outside the school gates are people who like to be called ‘community leaders’, along with their gibbering, idiotic wannabes. How much happier would the world be if we could retire all self-appointed community leaders, starting perhaps with the Reverend Al Sharpton.
This, I think, is the core of the dilemma. In attempting to improve integration among ethnic minorities in this country the authorities, naturally enough, reach out to the worst people possible — ‘community leaders’. These people are almost always puffed up, splenetic and toxic and do not remotely reflect the views of the majority. They are almost always cossetted in their radicalism and sense of victimhood by white liberals, who hate the United Kingdom far more than do most people in our minority communities. The protests remind me of those outside Drummond Middle School in Bradford nearly 40 years ago: a few handfuls of men screaming abuse about the headmaster, Ray Honeyford, whose wickedness in suggesting that maybe the Asian kids should master English and also learn to swim was enough to have him removed in the end. All spurred on by the unions and the far left. Honeyford was right then and few people now would contest that suggestion — and I wonder how many Muslim parents were really inflamed back then, and how much it was a case of left-Islamic rabble rousing?
Compare the protests at Drummond School and Batley Grammar with those at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham in 2019 over the teaching of progressive LGBTQI drivel to very young children. The latter, I would suggest, was a genuine outpouring of anger from a local community which, while largely Muslim, gained the support of plenty of non-Muslim parents. A sincere expression of disgust at boneheaded liberal overreach — and the majority of the protestors were women, i.e. mums, not community leaders. At Batley Grammar some Muslim parents have written in support of the suspended teacher and pupils have got up a petition to have him reinstated ASAP.
Which leaves us with the unspeakably pathetic Batley headmaster, Gary Kibble — Mr Dogfood — and his ‘unequivocal apology’ for that depiction of Mohammed being shown to pupils. Sack this moron. He has no respect for freedom of speech and no respect for his teaching staff. The unions, natch, offered precious little support to the teacher after his suspension; he now fears for his life. It is the likes of Kibble, the left and ‘community leaders’ who exacerbate the cultural divides in our society: a corrosive alliance.