This morning in FrontPage I discuss the strange disappearance of pigs in Britain — they offend Muslim sensibilities.
Pigs are disappearing all over England, but not because of some porcine variant of Mad Cow Disease: rather, the most implacable foe of the swine is turning out to be multiculturalism.
The latest assault came in the benefits department at Dudley Council, West Midlands, where employees were told that they were no longer allowed to have any representations of pigs at their desks. Some had little porcine porcelain figurines. Others had toys or calendars of cute little pigs. One had a tissue box depicting Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. All of this had to go, not because of new some new anti-kitsch ordinance, but because Muslims might be offended “” particularly now, what with Ramadan beginning. How could a pious Muslim in the Dudley Council, West Midlands benefits department redouble his efforts to conform his life to the will of Allah with all these”¦pigs staring him in the face? It was an insult!
This was not the first anti-pig initiative in Britain. In Derby, Muslims took offense at plans to restore the statue of the Florentine Boar, which had stood in the Derby Park for over a hundred years before it was decapitated by a German bomb in 1942. Recent plans to rebuild the Boar’s head ran into resistance from local Muslims. Suman Gupta, a local Council member, warned: “If the statue of the boar is put back at the Arboretum I have been told that it will not be there the next day, or at least it won’t be in the same condition the next day at least. We should not have the boar because it is offensive to some of the groups in the immediate area.” However, after more than 2,000 locals signed petitions in favor of the Boar, local authorities decided to bend to public opinion and go ahead with their original plans to restore the statue.
Elsewhere in England pigs did not fare so well. In March 2003, Barbara Harris, head teacher at Park Road Junior Infant and Nursery School in Batley, West Yorkshire, banned stories mentioning pigs. “Recently,” Harris explained, “I have been aware of an occasion where young Muslim children in class were read stories about pigs. We try to be sensitive to the fact that for Muslims talk of pigs is offensive.” Harris didn’t mention whether or not she intended to allow Muslim students to possess copies of the Qur’an at the school, despite its repeated mention of how Allah cursed Jews and turned them into apes and pigs (2:62-65; 5:59-60; 7:166).
Why have pigs become so unpopular in Britain? Mahbubur Rahman, a Muslim Councillor in West Midlands, summed it up in explaining why the toy pigs had to go: “It’s a tolerance,” he said, “of people’s beliefs.”
How’s that again? It’s “a tolerance of people’s beliefs” to deny to others the right to display harmless pictures and figurines? Mahbubur Rahman seems unacquainted with the dictum, widely attributed to Voltaire, that “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Yet this is what tolerance really is: the acceptance of the fact that in a free society, some will do and say things of which one may disapprove, and that one has no consequent right to command or force them to stop. If this is not recognized in any given society, that society is not in fact free at all “” any more than Henry Ford’s offer that “You can have a car in any color you want, as long as it’s black” represented a genuine choice.
For Rahman instead to equate a British capitulation to Muslim sensibilities with tolerance indicates that he has confused Islamic supremacism with tolerance. This is perhaps not surprising given the near-universal tendency among Muslims and non-Muslims alike to laud Medieval Muslim Spain as a proto-multiculturalist paradise of tolerance, when actually it was a paradise for Islamic supremacists. Christians and Jews lived in harmony with Muslims only as inferiors. Historian Kenneth Baxter Wolf notes that the after the Muslim conquest, the conquerors imposed new laws “aimed at limiting those aspects of the Christian cult which seemed to compromise the dominant position of Islam.” After enumerating a standard list of the laws restricting non-Muslims (dhimmis) “” no building of new churches, no holding authority over Muslims, distinctive clothing, etc. “” he adds: “Aside from such cultic restrictions most of the laws were simply designed to underscore the position of the dimmÃ®s as second-class citizens.”
Multiculturalism? Tolerance? Not by any modern standard. And neither are the disappearing pigs of Great Britain.