On Wednesday, I wrote about the vicious pillow fight between a pair of Christian hoteliers and their Muslim guest. I had reservations about taking either party’s side – both seemed frustratingly petty and argumentative, and the greater issue seemed to me to be the danger of using the police to forcibly resolve silly arguments.
Well, today the Daily Mail have released an update, in which they interview the Muslim woman involved, Ericka Tazi. She is a recent convert to Islam, being brought up a ‘staunch Catholic’ until a year ago (maybe one day she’ll settle on something sensible). The odd thing about the Mail’s approach is how they desperate they seem to be to separate her religion from any ‘foreign’ connotations. They quote her saying:
I only took up the Muslim faith a year ago. And it had nothing to do with my husband. Although he was born into the Muslim faith, he is as English as I am. He goes around in jeans and T-shirts and has even got a season ticket for Everton
Wow! He’s got a season ticket for Everton! He’s more English than me! The Mail seems, as always, utterly confused. “He may be Muslim, but he’s not foreign!” How bizarre (yet, of course, expected) that the Mail isn’t worried about the oddness of a person’s beliefs, just as long as they make sure they are thoroughly English.
Of herself, Ms Tazi says:
I am a Warrington girl through and through. I loved The Beatles and all the things an ordinary English girl enjoys. I used to go to the Cavern Club. I was brought up a staunch Catholic and only turned to Islam about a year ago.
Yup – ‘the Beatles and all the things an ordinary English girl enjoys’. She was even a Catholic. We’re used to Catholics round here in England. My mother was one (she’s Irish, and doesn’t like the Beatles though, so she’s on thin ice). Don’t worry about Ms Tazi being a Muslim, she’s not foreign – not even Irish!
With its readers assured that being a Muslim doesn’t mean that this woman is at all foreign (and nor is her husband), the Mail article discusses her perspective of the alleged event, and how comforting and not-at-all foreign her religion is.
I have embraced the religion and always try to wear the hijab. It gives me peace and satisfies me spiritually.
Ah. ‘Spiritually’. Anything that satisfies one’s ‘spiritual’ side must be good.
At first, during her stay in the Bounty House Hotel, Ms Tazi didn’t wear her hijab because she ‘didn’t want to stand out’ (she’s not at all foreign), but during her treatment she decided to ‘follow her beliefs’ (isn’t the point of being religious to try to do that all the time?). She then wore her hijab to breakfast but was:
…utterly shocked by the reaction of the hotel owners. They became nasty and all but called me a terrorist.
I don’t think it’s a matter for police involvement (unless she was threatened), but if she is telling the truth (the hotel owners, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, deny implying that she was a terrorist), I have no sympathy for either party. This is vicious, petty religious squabbling – both parties are, as far as I’m concerned, crazy. It is ridiculous that the police have become involved, and shows how easily people can use their religion to both cause arguments, and to get unjustified support when offended.
The Daily Mail fails to see that it is not the nationality or skin colour of a person that is to be feared, but the beliefs and attitudes they carry – it is not reassuring that somebody is Muslim (or Hindu, Christian, Jew, etc) but they are English. Being English doesn’t say a jot about your mental stability. I’d much rather somebody came from anywhere at all in the world but were free from any religion – or at least had an approach to religion that didn’t result in scuffles like this, and didn’t demand to be protected from criticism by the long arm of the law.
After her story became public, Ms Tazi says she is afraid to go out, due to comments on right-wing websites, and is considering wearing the full burka when she attends court. It is horrible that the issue of why the police are getting involved in the first place is getting lost amid thuggish abuse. As the Daily Mail was so keen to point out, she is no different from many, many others. She simply has a crazy belief system. So to do the hotel owners. Why the police became involved in their bickering I do not know – hopefully, the case will be quickly dropped and fogotten about.
Hopefully then the Vogelenzangs will be free to run their hotel in peace – though they may want to remain more polite in the future, and keep religion to themselves, and hopefelly Ericka Tazi will be free to wear the hijab, burka, or whatever else she wants – though she may want to remember that it is as free to be criticised as the shoes she chooses to wear with it.