The latest video from Isis introduces a new British executioner, a successor to ‘Jihadi John’, and it is a classic of the genre: bombastic, pompous, ridiculous yet terrifying. ‘O slave of the White House, O mule of the Jews,’ says a man in a ski mask, addressing David Cameron, ‘how strange it is that the leader of a small island threatens us with a handful of planes. Only an imbecile would dare to wage war against a land where the law of Allah reigns supreme.
Even if Abu Rumaysah does turn out to be the new ‘Jihadi John’, shown on video this week presiding over the murder of five innocent men, I’m not sorry I encouraged him to go to Syria and join Isis.
The last time I saw the 32-year-old Briton (born to a UK Hindu family as Siddhartha Dhar) was at a BBC studio in London. He was one of a group of people who had been central to the extremist group al-Muhajiroun and its offshoots for years.
Never lighthearted, my African political exile friend sounded particularly lugubrious on the line from Washington. His voice was low and pensive. For the past few months, he said, he’d been hearing of plans hatched by the regime back home for his assassination. ‘They are very gruesome, very gruesome indeed.’
It was not the first time. In the past he’d always passed the details on to the FBI, which had also called him up several times when they thought he was in danger.
Minority sects are often more interesting, and more colourful, than their more popular rivals. That must explain why the Scottish Tories continue to be the subject of so much fascination. Barely a month passes without someone, somewhere, asking if this — at long last — is the moment for a Scottish Tory revival. Spoiler alert: it never is.
Logic says that at this year’s Scottish parliament elections, things should be different.
Whenever there’s another mass shooting in America, like the massacre in San Bernardino last month, I think immediately of my Uncle Bill in Texas, a retired military man, practising Catholic, Republican, NRA member, community volunteer and civil libertarian who lives in a gated community with my Aunt Bev (a retired nurse) on the outskirts of Houston. Uncle Bill likes to email me redneck jokes in the hope of getting my progressive Canadian dander up.
I had just sat down on the top deck of a number 38 London bus when I saw him looking at me. He was black and wore a fake-fur coat and orange leggings. There were glittering rings on his fingers, fake diamonds around his neck and bright red lipstick on his lips. In his large hands, a mauve purse. He looked like the kind of Andy Warhol drag-queen who wiggled on the wild side of life back in the 1970s.
Everywhere you look in Cirencester there’s another animal: a cockerel, a hare, a sheep or a skulking lioness. I rather fancied the big beasts that chase each other lustily around the Roman mosaics in the Corinium Museum, home to one of the liveliest archaeological collections I’ve ever seen.
The Romans of first-century Cirencester (Corinium) strike me as having been a fun-loving, optimistic bunch — so much of what they left behind honours Bacchus, the wine god, and Mercury, god of commerce.