The other day my wife and I treated ourselves to an evening of burlesque – a sort of sexy cabaret – at a theatre near us. It was fantastic: the girls were supremely, tastefully erotic and scrumptious. I could have made love to each and every one of them.
However, amid the beautiful breasts and the perfect, bare bottoms, I found my mind wondering and thinking about, believe it or not, Islamists – the Salafis and Wahhabis who nowadays are peeping out of every nook and cranny in the Arab world.
In case you suspect I’m losing my mind, I do have some mitigation. We – myself included – are all victims of religion – not just Muslims, but also Jews and Christians. Religion screws up our minds and leaves a permanent blot on our psyche. So, I suppose thinking about ugliness amid beauty is a symptom of the damage left on my sub-conscience by the contaminated environment in which I have been brought up.
I have never been religious and I cannot honestly say that I respect religious people. Live and let live is my motto but how can I respect someone who is irrational, an adult who believes in fairies and fairy tales?
That is not to say that I am antagonistic towards believers: they can believe in whatever they like as long as they don't try to impose their views and beliefs on me or anyone else. And vice-versa: while one should feel free to question believers about the "logic" of their beliefs, in the end it's their choice whether or not to be religious.
Although I have been living in the West for many years, my mind and my habitat are in the Arab world. So, it is not particularly surprising that I should be thinking – even for a few fleeting seconds here and there – about the ugliness afflicting my part of the world even while beautiful, exquisite angels are dancing semi-naked before my eyes.
In the interval during the burlesque show I looked around at the packed audience. They were decent people of various ages: young, middle aged and bordering on the old. Some were in burlesque-type attire while others wore formal or casual clothing. Most or all were couples: girlfriend-boyfried or husbands and wives. No hang-ups or complexes. Everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. And after the show I suppose they will do what we did: go home, have a cup of tea and go to bed. The show’s over and tomorrow is another day.
I then thought about my folk back home. Once upon a time people in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world could enjoy a fun night out, going to an oriental dance, the theatre or the cinema. That is still possible in some Arab countries, but is in no longer seen as normal as it used to. Outlooks are shifting and, to a growing proportion of the population, going out to, say, a belly-dance is viewed less as a normal albeit niche activity, as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s, and more as something not that different to how some families in the UK view men who visit lap-dance clubs.
In other words, Muslims in the Arab world are stigmatizing fun. Fun and innocent entertainment are being confined to the margins of society and the drivers behind this are the Islamists, not just the Salafis, but also those such as the Muslim Brotherhood cult who are increasingly seen in the West as “moderates”. In truth, though, the difference between the two is superficial: both the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood types are primitive, harking back to what they imagine life was like 1,500 years ago; bigoted; sexist; misogynist; incapable of relating to the opposite sex; and – hypocritically – prone to deviant sexual behaviour.
Instead of innocent, transparent entertainment such as oriental dance shows and music concerts, you will find many young Muslims flocking to mosques where they spend entire evenings listening to tales of the Prophet Muhammad and to preachers and other charlatans screwing up their minds with endless reminders of the billions of activities that would guarantee them a path to hell.
This is sad and, if you love your natural habitat – in my case the Arab world – it is depressing. But it would seem that we must all taste the bitter poison of the Islamist charlatans before we vomit it back in their ugly, bearded faces and see them off once and for all.
The writer Henry Louis Mencken wrote that a Puritan “is someone who is deathly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun”.
That is true not just of the dull Christian Puritans to whom he was referring, but also of the twisted, humourless, one-track-minded bigots, charlatans and perverts of the Islamist trend, be they Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, Wahhabis or whatever other name they go by.