My holiday in Mecca

Bristol Cathedral, 4 April

When I read the news of Muslims and non-Muslims getting together in Bristol Cathedral to celebrate the last day of Ramadan, my heart rejoiced.

Along with all progressive people I believe in universal friendship and unity between, well, everyone. Men, women, and members of the other 100 sexes. Different Christian confessions. Homo- and heterosexuals. Blacks, whites, other. Conservatives and liberals. People of different nationalities.

And certainly – especially! – exponents of the three great Abrahamic religions. Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all equal, especially Islam. All progressive people are ready to cast aside their trivial cultish differences and assert their transcendent accord.

If I’m being totally honest, some progressive people would rather exclude Jews from this triune love-in, which only goes to show that certain prejudices will take a while to uproot. But uprooted they will be! It’s only a matter of time – and if you disagree, I’ll denounce you to the Equality Commission and police at the same time.

To my eternal shame, I’m not quite up on the minutiae of Islam. For example, I only learned the word iftar by reading the announcement of the event on the Bristol Cathedral website:

“The Grand Iftar is an opportunity to celebrate Bristol’s diversity, with non-Muslims joining the breaking of the fast meal (iftar) and learning about the meaning and significance of Ramadan. This year, the unifying theme of the iftar events is ‘Peace and Hope’, giving people the opportunity to reflect on recent tragic events in the city and come together in solidarity and unity.”

The tragic events in question involved some of our Muslim brothers asserting their cultural identity by violent means. While acknowledging their just concerns, all progressive people would rather they addressed them more peacefully, but enough of that.

Peace! Hope! Solidarity! Unity! Let’s concentrate on those words in the message from the Very Rev’d Mandy “Amanda” Ford, Dean of Bristol Cathedral. Especially since they were echoed by Mohammed El Sharif, speaking on behalf of the organising committee:

“The annual iconic Grand Iftar event is one of Bristol’s festivals of togetherness that brings our diverse communities together, and we are excited this year to be hosted by Bristol Cathedral.” [I especially like the word ‘iconic’, coming from a Muslim.]

“We’re excited,” continued Mr El Sharif, “to see faith communities coming together and working together in this new way. It’s vital in the multicultural and multifaith Bristol we live in that we find ways of living well together, and living well with difference.”

Hear, hear! Words to live by – and I for one decided to live by those rousing words even though I don’t have the good fortune of living in Bristol.

Having read those messages, I decided to spend next Easter at the Muslim holy places. That’s it: Good Friday in Medina, Easter Sunday in Mecca. I could make a great holiday of it: first a few days in Israel, then on to Saudi Arabia.

Yes, I know next Easter is a year away, but nothing beats planning far in advance. With that in mind, I went to see my travel agent to iron out the details. And he immediately poured cold water on my enthusiasm. Apparently, I shan’t be able to go to Israel first. No one whose passport is sullied with an Israeli visa is admitted to Saudi Arabia.

That was a bit annoying, but I always like to focus on the positives. Good on the Saudis, I said. It’s their country and they are free to admit or bar anyone they want. Perhaps they can teach us a lesson in controlling national borders.

So not to worry, I said. Let’s do it the other way around: Medina and Mecca first, Israel second. And at that point, the travel agent said something that amazed me no end.

Turns out non-Muslims, otherwise known as infidel dogs, aren’t allowed to enter Mecca or Medina, ever. That’s à propos those entrenched prejudices. Never mind that, I said bravely. Those places are always so crowded that no one will notice me if I just sneak in.

Yes, you could do that, agreed the travel agent. But beware of the risks: any infidel dog caught in those holy places must be put down immediately and not always quickly.

That offended my sense of fairness so much that I had to reread Mr El Sharif’s message, including the words “living well together”. Togetherness is a bilateral concept, isn’t it? We push our differences to one side and reconfirm the universal brotherhood of men (and even, under duress, women), isn’t that the point?

Suddenly I didn’t feel all that progressive any longer. The beautiful mental edifice I had constructed collapsed like the Twin Towers. Non-progressive words crossed my mind, addressed to the Very Rev’d Mandy Ford and her ilk: Chaps, are you out of your tree?

In the name of fashionable woke idiocies you are stamping into the dirt your religion, your civilisation, your society. Islam isn’t just different or ‘diverse’, but aggressively hostile to everything the West stands for, except the material goods it produces.

The leaders of that patchwork quilt of a religion openly call for a gradual takeover of the West by demographic and cultural colonisation. Our greatest weapon, they insist, is the womb of every Muslim woman – and presumably also every dinghy carrying burly, unshaven 30-year-old “women and children” to our shores.

Yes, we are an open society, but we can’t be so open that our very essence falls out. And no, I’m not advocating that Muslims should be barred from Britain the way non-Muslims are barred from Mecca and Medina. Certain – not unlimited – numbers of them are welcome to settle here, but with one proviso. When in Britain, they must do as the British do.

They come over here because they don’t like it over there, but then they try – with our acquiescence – to turn over here into over there. I smell a rat somewhere, not to say a pig. Britain must be fumigated, and let’s start by keeping Christian churches just that, Christian.

Muslims or anyone else are welcome, to pray or just look around. But using Christian cathedrals to celebrate the rites of a religion one of whose tenets is violent enmity to Christianity isn’t inclusive, multicultural or multifaith. It’s suicidal, and Christianity regards suicide as a mortal sin.

If the Very Rev’d Mandy Ford sees such abject and sinful surrender as part of her ministry, she must be summarily unfrocked. I’m sure that cassock weighs too heavily on her shoulders anyway. She’d be much happier as a social worker or perhaps a Labour candidate from Bristol West.

4 thoughts on “My holiday in Mecca”

  1. Disgusting! It is bad enough when Catholic churches allow protestant faiths access to their altars, but this goes way beyond that! What is Christianity anyway? The belief of Jesus Christ as God and man, and as one third of the Holy Trinity. Muslims do not believe any of that. Thus they do not believe in the same God as Christians. Of course, Mandy was just following the lead of another champion of ecumenism, Pope Francis and his worship of a pachamama idol on the altar of Saint Peter’s. Were non-Muslims in attendance forced to pay jizya (non-Muslim tax)? No? Maybe next year.

    As I read your travel plans for next year (remember, it’s anticlockwise around the holy rock) I intended to explain the impossibility in my comment, but then you went on to do just that. I worked in Saudi Arabia for some time and learned of the restrictions then. I heard a horror story from two of my colleagues who thought they would at least drive down the highway toward Mecca, just to see it from afar. Getting to a checkpoint miles outside the city they were stopped and questioned. It is not an understatement to say at that point they feared for their lives. I have never been to Vatican City or Jerusalem but I assume there must be similar restrictions (threats) in place there. After all, they are other cities of “people of the book”.

    As an aside, were there any reports on the state of the bathrooms (water closets) at Bristol Cathedral? I ask because Muslims go through an extremely thorough washing prior to worship. My first day at the air base in Al Kharj included a quick tour and a warning never to use the facilities closest to the mosque, as after a prayer call they were somewhat below normal Western standards.

    1. One other fun story from the Kingdom… A group of coworkers were browsing at a gold souk in Riyadh when the call to prayer was sounded. The men were curious and walked with the crowd to the nearest mosque. They were stopped by the muttawa who demanded that one of them remove his shirt. Apparently they were offended by the depiction of Jesus on the front. After much frenzied discussion and explanation that the face was actually that of Andre Agassi (with his flowing mane, not the later bald pate), they were allowed to leave – ushered quickly in the opposite direction. Peace and unity!

  2. “Those places are always so crowded that no one will notice me if I just sneak in.”

    Sir Richard Francis Burton the Victorian age explorer was able to impersonate a Muslim and enter the holy sanctuary area of Mecca. Lucky he wasn’t caught and crucified literally.

    That fast or Ramadan to a degree exaggerated. They cannot eat or drink during hours of daylight but then pig-out after the sun sets. And do so.

  3. Enjoy your trip! Just remember to pack plenty of sun-cream and booze, and also observe the three golden rules of holiday-making: 1. Don’t convert to Nestorianism; 2. Don’t become a popular and saintly bishop; and 3. On your way to the haven of religious toleration that is Mecca, don’t visit Australia, or you may be stabbed, perhaps by a Quaker, perhaps by a Jainist, or perhaps by a follower of some other religion equally well known for its repudiation of violence.

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