Roger’s Rules

You can’t make it up: Octopus Paul vs. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

We all know that Muslims are not fond of our porcine friends. The  pig is “haraam,” “forbidden” in Islam. And it’s not just the rasher along with the boiled egg or  the dinner of pork chops and applesauce that is objected to.  Like the Earl of Strafford, Islam’s motto is “Thorough.” “Pigs Enrage Muslim Pupils: Classes on Rural Life Cancelled”: how many headlines like that have you seen in recent years?  Note, by the way, the conjunction of the word “offends” and “enraged” in many of the stories. The very idea of this four-footed friend offends Muslims; so when confronted with a pig, or a “pig-related item,” in daily life, they become enraged and start breaking up the furniture.

The tertium quid in the story is provided not by Muslims but by their Western hosts. 1. Muslims are offended. 2. Being offended, they become enraged. 3. We Westerners, confronted with their rage, capitulate.

— Item: “British Banks have banned piggy banks for fear of offending Muslim bankers.”

—  Item: “Winnie the Pooh’s piglet and others have been banned in a council office in the UK’s West Midlands.”

—  Item: “a school in West Yorkshire banned books containing stories about pigs from the classroom in case they offend Muslim children.”

It is, as a headline in the Telegraph put it, “Making a pig’s ear of defending democracy.

Of course, pigs are (ban that metaphor!) just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s not get started on cartoons, Danish or any other sort. Just stick with the animal kingdom. What about man’s best friend? Consider this, from a (apparently on-the-level) Muslim advice column:

“Q. I am a 15 year old Muslim American and my mother is buying a dog. I heard that if I touch the dog, I cannot pray. Is this true? What should I do?”

Long walk off a short pier? That would have been my contribution to the debate. But the learned soul who answered the troubled adolescent counseled moderation. True,  “Angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or pictures” and “The saliva of a dog is Najis (impure). If it touches the clothes or body, that portion also becomes impure and must be washed.” Still, we shouldn’t torture dogs, or even pigs, because, though impure, they still were created by Allah. Bottom line: be polite to your mother about the dog. Tell her what the Koran says. “If she still insists you may have to live with it. In that case make sure you understand the issue of purity and take necessary precautions.”

Pigs. Dogs. Also Octopus. Fans of the World Cup will perhaps remember “Octopus Paul,” the psychic cephalopod who correctly “predicted” six or seven of the games. It looks like the lovable octopus may soon join the ranks of the disavowed. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian hysteric, has decided that Octopus Paul is “a symbol of all that is wrong with the western world.”

Uh Oh. The friend who sent me the sad news from the London Telegraph —  “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacks Octopus Paul” — rightly said that it sounded like something out of The Onion. But here’s the problem: how can you tell the difference between satire  and “normal” Muslim insanity? It’s a question I haven’t been able to answer, but I hope that guards at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre, where Paul plies his trade, will be extra vigilant. Look what happened to Theo van Gogh, and all he did was make a movie. Paul is “a symbol of decadence and decay”  among people Ahmadinejad has identified “his enemies.” Bad news for Paul!

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