An article appeared in the Wall Street Journal this week by Andy Ngo entitled “A Visit to Islamic England“. It caused a storm on Twitter because it was massively Islamophobic.
Britain is a Christian country
I did not go to a church school but I was taught Christianity at school. Every Christmas we would learn about the story of Jesus’ birth
In the last few weeks I have been staying up late at the computer, my phone has been buzzing at all times of the day and night, and I have been reading Qu’ran more than usual.
All British Muslims engage with jihad every single day.
I think I might have found a loophole…
Everyone it seems, whether Muslim or not, has their own ideas about the laws of Islam. But one of the things that everyone knows is that Muslims can’t drink alcohol, right?
Well, technically that’s not true.
A Muslim can drink if they want to.
In fact, Muslims always have a choice in everything that they do whether praying, fasting, or eating pork.
Muslims can even murder if they like.
Say that again?
Following Islam does not stop a person doing anything, in exactly the same way that British law does not physically prevent crime. Rape, robbery and fraud happens every day in this country even though they are all illegal.
The point of Islam, like any legal system, is to modify human behavior in order to prevent harm, whether to the individual or others.
One beer won’t hurt?
It’s true that alcohol in small quantities causes minimal harm to the human body. But it is also true that alcohol causes enormous harm in our society.
Think about the street fights, car accidents, and vandalism that happen as a direct result of alcohol. Think about the homelessness, the marriage breakdowns, the domestic violence, and the depression caused by alcohol. Think about all the people, as you read this, who are dying, yellow and bloated, because of alcohol-induced liver failure.
Alcohol costs Britain billions of pounds each year, and infinitely more in human suffering.
So whilst Muslims can drink alcohol if they wish, they should understand why Islam teaches them that they should not.
A few years ago, before my final GP exam, I was stressed. It didn’t help that it had cost me £1,600 to take. Continue reading “GP: ‘How I gave myself fibromyalgia’”
For the past few years Pornhub, the world’s biggest porn website, has been publishing an annual review of its statistics. Some of these are truly staggering. In 2017 the site had 28.5 BILLION visits, and received 800 search queries A SECOND. To watch all of the videos uploaded last year would take 68 years of non-stop viewing. Ouch!
There are two things you can say about this:
- Lots of people are watching a lot of porn;
- Good on Pornhub for bothering to look at the statistics.
Of course, the reason they have invested so much in analysing their vast amounts of data is so they can work out how to keep their users logged on for as long as possible: the longer someone is on the site, the more adverts they will see and the more money Pornhub will make. It also helps that statistics they produce are really interesting and often get picked up by the media which can’t be bad for publicity.
I visited Pornhub to do some research. Honest.
Do you think my wife will believe me when I tell her that?
When I typed “Muslim” into the search box there were 1,861 results. I didn’t watch any of the videos (honest) but looking at the first page of thumbnails they seemed to be a mix of professional movies made by big American producers (in which the actors and actresses were pretending to be Muslim) and home-made amateur videos of, I assume, real Muslims.
So, who is watching Muslim porn?
Well, that’s a hard question to answer. Pornhub have yet to publish a detailed report on the subject so there is no way to know for certain.
But the majority of people searching for Muslim porn will be white men. I feel confident to say that because the majority of people watching porn of any sort are white men. It might be the exotic nature of it that appeals to them, or it could be the thrill of something that they feel is forbidden.
However, I think it is also safe to assume that many of the searches will be done by Muslims themselves. Yes, I know pornography is considered haram, but you would be naive to think that means that Muslims don’t watch it.
Part of being a Muslim is about learning to suppress our basic desires in the pursuit something greater. That doesn’t mean we don’t have those desires.
Just look at Ramadan, the month where we try not to eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset. Denying our thirst and hunger is not done as a punishment, or because we don’t feel hunger like other people, but to teach us what our bodies are capable of and remind us to appreciate what we have.
Burkas have their origins in the Middle East. What to they have a lot of in the Middle East besides oil and war?
And not soft, damp beach sand. Hot, dry desert sand. The kind of sand that can be whipped up into a storm by the slightest breeze.
Sandstorms are painful
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a sandstorm but if you have you will probably have run for cover, shielding you mouth and eyes as you did. Millions of tiny grains crashing into you at high-speed is not a pleasant experience. In an environment where sandstorms are common, covering as much of yourself as possible makes complete sense. Even covering your eyes with a mesh doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
Do you know what else they have in abundance in the Middle East?
If I were to venture out into the desert at midday I would burn in minutes. I have weak melanin. Even people with naturally darker skin can’t stay out for long in those temperatures. When people started wearing burkas, Nivea had not yet started making sunscreen and air conditioning was not a thing, so the only way to prevent skin damage and stay cool was to stay out of the sun as much as possible.
Sunburn is not fun and skin cancer is even worse
So maybe wearing a burka or niqab had more to do with protecting women from the harsh desert than from the carnal desires of men?
Certainly there are tribes in the Sahara, like the Tuareg, where men routinely cover their faces as protection from the sun and sand.
Most Muslims, at least that I know, do not think it is a good idea for women to wear the burka or niqab in Britain. Just like everyone else, Muslims communicate with our faces: smiling, frowning, biting our lips, gritting our teeth and a million more micro-expressions that can signal any one of our complex emotions. By covering her face a woman denies others the ability to read these signs and this certainly affects her ability to have a full and active role in modern society. She may not be being oppressed by a man or a religion, but she is choosing to oppress herself.
I support any woman’s right to wear a burka in Britain, but it is not a decision that she should take lightly. Are the advantages, as she sees them, worth the negative consequences?
I was debating with someone who clearly has a low opinion of Islam (“a pile of stinking shit”, I think he called it) on Facebook in response to one of my blog posts. Like all good debates on social media it involved references to Wikipedia, because Wikipedia is the last word on everything. When I pointed out that he had deliberately omitted a qualifying clause to make his point he accused me of taqiya.
Most ordinary Muslims don’t care that much about the fine details of the faith
I didn’t have a clue what he meant. I don’t know Arabic or Islam well enough yet to have even guessed. None of my Muslim friends or my Muslim wife have ever mentioned the word to me.
I had to go back to Wikipedia to find out that, literally, it means “prudence or fear”. The best way to explain it is with some examples: if a Muslim were adrift at sea, with nothing to drink but beer, he would not commit a sin by drinking it; or if he was lost and starving in the jungle and the only food was a suckling pig, he would be permitted to kill it and eat it, rather than starve to death.
Muslims are allowed to lie about their faith sometimes
The example that most closely resembles the way in which my Facebook foe was using the word is that Muslims are permitted to lie, even about their faith, if telling the truth might harm them.
This mainly applied back in the middle-ages when tribes and warlords were fighting constant battles for territory and power across the huge swathes of Middle East. Many had a habit of capturing towns and cities and systematically killing all those of a certain faith. In that situation you would be an idiot to tell the truth about your religious views.
None of these situations applies to a debate on Facebook with a person who is, with the greatest respect, my intellectual inferior. There was no need for me to lie to win that particular argument.
All Muslims in the West are undercover sleeper agents
When I was Googling taqiya, I came across some dark corners of the internet, but the most amusing are the right-wing conspiracy theories which suggest that Muslims in the West are being encouraged to use taqiya in order to infiltrate society so that they are well placed to attack when the order is given.
So there I was, a Muslim, pointing out that he, an Islamophobe, had deliberately misrepresented evidence but it was him who accused me of religiously-sanctioned lying. How can a Muslim ever hope to change the minds of people like?
Knowing the Qu’ran and knowing Islam are two very different things.
It is accepted by all Muslims that a degree of interpretation is needed. Some things are quite clearly written but others are more specific to their time and place, or not written at all. There is no mention, for example, of whether women should be allowed to drive for (hopefully) obvious reasons. Therefore, the teachings of Islam must be adapted and interpreted with respect to current knowledge.
My message to any Islamophobes reading is this: don’t read the Qu’ran to learn about Islam. Speak to a Muslim, or go to a mosque, because there is so much more to it than what is written.
When people convert (or revert) to Islam they will often choose a new name to signify that something fundamental about themselves has changed. It symbolises a fresh start and a commitment to a new way of life.
My birth name is Paul.
As a doctor I am in an extremely privileged position: I get to see people at their most vulnerable. And sometimes my patients see my vulnerabilities too.
I worked for a while at a practice in the area of Manchester that has the highest number recent immigrants of all nationalities. The people may be ethnically diverse, but they are universally poor. The area is one of the most deprived in the country and is home to a large Muslim population. It was rare for me to see a white British patient when I was there, but those I did see were almost all struggling with one sort of addiction or another. It was clear that Muslim patients were struggling too, but at least you could see that they were trying to make a better life for themselves. Children wearing grammar school blazers would come in to translate for their Urdu-speaking parents.
I remember clearly one time when a woman wearing a burka came in to see me because it was rare, even for an area with such a large proportion of Muslims. I immediately began to feel uncomfortable but it wasn’t through fear or embarrassment.
When I see a patient for the first time my eyes start searching for diagnostic clues as soon as they step foot in the door. Even before that I can tell a lot: if it takes a while before I hear a knock, I know that their mobility is poor; if they need me to shout “come in” twice, they might have some hearing difficulty.
My eyes search my patients’ faces and bodies for anything that might help me piece together the diagnostic jigsaw: a clenched fist can indicate pain; a twitch of the mouth can convey unspoken doubt. I watch how they move, how they breath and how they react to my smile. You would be amazed just how much a doctor can learn about you before you even speak. Most of the time they will have formulated a fairly accurate diagnosis within the first 30-seconds of meeting you.
The burka took away all of my usual visual clues. I felt lost and out of control. Was she pleased or worried to see me? Was she in pain? Was she depressed? All I had were her eyes. They were piercing (maybe because they were the only things I could see) but I could not read them.
I took a breath to steady myself and asked her what I could do for her. She told me that she had been having problems with a rash on her face. It might have been obvious that I started thinking about how I was going to go about asking to see it. However, without a pause she unclipped one side of the veil. It was like she had switched on a light and my puzzle fell into place. I could see that she looked sad, and I could also see that she had acne.
It was bad. Large spots on her on her jaw, chin and cheeks – and in places it had left scars. She told me that acne was one of the main reasons that she had started to wear the veil in the first place. Whenever she went out without it people would stare – judging her for something she could do nothing about. At least when she wore the veil she felt some control over what other people saw. It gave her the confidence to go out and interact with others that she otherwise didn’t have.
Before you have an opinion of the burka you need to understand that there are many different reasons why a woman might choose to wear one. And as one of very few white men to have seen beneath it, I can assure you that the only thing under there is a woman, just like any other.
Lots of my patients smoke cannabis every day. In fact, I am no longer surprised when people tell me that they do. I have seen everyone from new-mums to grandfathers, labourers and lawyers who admit to using it. Some use it to relieve the symptoms of migraine and anxiety and others for chronic pain; some seemingly just smoke it for the enjoyment.
Recently, I had one of the most uncomfortable car journeys of my life. It was not a problem with the road or my suspension, but what was on the radio. I was driving my mother-in-law to the shops and we had BBC Radio 4 on in the background as we chatted politely about all the safe topics that mother-in-laws and son-in-laws tend to talk about. After the news, the announcer told us, there was a programme about Muslim attitudes towards sex.
I knew that we had both heard the mention of Muslims and sex – when Muslims hear that there is going to be a discussion about Islam on the BBC they tend to take notice – but we pretended that we hadn’t, out of mutual embarrassment.
After the news, the show started and it quickly became clear that this was going to be more than just the usual, gentle Radio 4 discussion; the first words we heard were from a gay British Pakistani Muslim. The presenter went on to interview several more Muslims about their sex lives. She spoke to couples, Imams and even a Muslim marriage counsellor who had a special interest in sex, purely in her capacity as a professional psychotherapist, we were assured. Continue reading “More sex please, we’re Muslim”
One of my friends at university used to smoke weed enough that he had a regular dealer who he liked to refer to as “my guy”.
Seasonal affective disorder or SAD – my favourite of all the medical acronyms – is a common mental disorder characterised by a pervasive low mood, that recurs annually during the winter months in people living in the Northern hemisphere. Continue reading “Don’t be SAD: 5 things you can do this autumn to beat winter depression”
I never used to be able to touch my toes. It was just one of those things that I just assumed you could either do or you couldn’t.
Then last year my wife and I went to a local yoga class – after our free trial session we never went back – but I remember seeing some of the people who were there, some of the older people, and being amazed by their flexibility. I didn’t know that old people could bend like that! They always seemed stiff and fragile.
Surely if these old people could do touch their toes then so could I?
Without bothering to learn any more yoga I wanted to see if I could train my body to be able to do it. Using some of the basic principles I learned at the class, I started off standing tall and then slowly folded forward at the hip.
The key for me was sending my attention to the various parts of my body. I imagined my toes and the arches of my feet slackening, felt my ankles loosening and my knees relaxing. I consciously felt the stretch move up the back of my thighs, into my lower back and then spread to the rest of my back. I let the weight of my head pull my torso down further and as I did that I felt my neck lengthening. All the time I heard the instructors voice in my head softly guiding me through it.
Somehow, without forcing anything – without even really trying – my palms were resting, flat, on the tops of my feet. I felt no pain or discomfort. The longer I stayed in that position the more comfortable it seemed to become.
Practice makes perfect
Ever since that day I have done the same exercise every night before bed. It takes at most one minute of my time, but something about it seems to bring about a deep relaxation. Maybe it’s the rush of blood to the head?
None of my patients can touch their toes
When people come in to see me with back pain one of the things I get them to do to assess their range of movement is to try to touch their toes. None of them try very hard. Not because of pain – they often walk in and sit down without any problem – but because of the fear of pain.
When I ask them to touch their toes, almost all make a feeble attempt and most do not get far past their knees. They will make excuses or place a hand on their back even before they have started to move. When I ask them to do it more slowly and to let their body-weight do the work they will often go a few inches further.
Yes, you can!
Unless there is something physically stopping you, you can touch your toes. Maybe it won’t happen straight away like it did with me, but if you do it every day, religiously, you will soon be able to do it.
Maybe I need to expand on that?
A recent encounter with an interesting patient got me thinking. Continue reading “The best thing about the hot summer of 2018? An old man wore shorts.”