Who Save Whom?!?

ElizabethIII’m telling you, beware of Danes bearing grudges…

The Dane Mahamed Abdullahi, Student Union Welfare Officer at King’s College London, has called for God Save The Queen to be removed from the graduation ceremony.

His reason is ‘far-right nationalism’ which our national anthem promotes – this even though nobody sings the second verse, the one about confounding our enemies’ politics and frustrating their knavish tricks.

After all, Denmark hasn’t been our enemy for over a millennium, its politics are similar to ours, and it hasn’t tried too many knavish tricks in recent memory, certainly none to be summarily frustrated.

Hence Mahamed Abdullahi doesn’t object to the anthem because of any affront to his Danish nationality, even though his genetic memory of Ivar the Boneless and other Danish conquerors of England must still be strong.

Is it the frequent references to God then? It’s true that Anglicanism is different in some details from the Lutheranism widely practised, and even more widely ignored, in Denmark.

Yet, broadly speaking, both confessions worship the same God. Hence the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi shouldn’t object to the anthem on those grounds even if he is a devout Lutheran.

It’s true that God Save the Queen may be construed as being a bit too British, and we should collectively apologise to the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi for that. Our sole excuse is that this whole genre presupposes a certain amount of patriotism. I mean God Save Ivar the Boneless would be incongruous in this context, wouldn’t you say?

I appreciate that the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi may be an ardent patriot of his country, to an extent that glorifying a foreign monarch is offensive to him. Yet, when all is said and done, the King’s College he attends is in London, not Copenhagen. He could make some allowances for that, couldn’t he?

One would also suggest that, though lamentably patriotic, the anthem doesn’t promote right-wing nationalism specifically. If some right-wing nationalists adopt it as their own, that’s not the song’s fault – it can be just as inspiring to other kinds of nationalism as well.

It’s true that persons of the left-wing internationalist persuasion, otherwise known as the Labour Party, sing different songs at their conferences. Their taste runs more towards The Internationale and Bandiera Rossa.

De gustibus… and all that, but several lyrics in The Internationale may be regarded as treasonous in some quarters. For example: “No more deluded by reaction// On tyrants only we’ll make war// The soldiers too will take strike action// They’ll break ranks and fight no more// And if those cannibals keep trying// To sacrifice us to their pride// They soon shall hear the bullets flying// We’ll shoot the generals on our own side.”

It’s true that a call to “shoot the generals on our own side” is unlikely to inspire right-wing nationalism, nor any other kind for that matter. It may, however, inspire certain other sentiments, those one would suggest ill-behove Her Majesty’s Opposition to express.

But this is neither here nor there, since there’s no evidence that the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi would opt for The Internationale as the King’s College graduation song. In fact, I’d be at a loss trying to discern the motive behind Mr Abdullahi’s objection – but for his own eloquent explanation:

“In the context of increasing far right nationalism across Europe and the legacy of the British empire, it’s just a bit s*** and it doesn’t even bang. Basically, f*** the nation state.”

It’s good to see that the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi, a geography post-graduate, has mastered a foreign language to a point where he can express himself with such colloquial fluency. His statement may strike some as too robust, but the argument behind it is serious.

So serious in fact that it’s shared by 48 per cent of Britain’s own population, including such illustrious figures as Ken Clark, Tony Blair and Dave Cameron. Why, until very recently it was shared even by our PM Theresa May, and no one can accuse her of being a Dane, or for that matter a Mahamed Abdullani.

The Dane Mahamed Abdullahi’s alma mater certainly took his objections with the seriousness they deserve. Its spokesman said:

“We are always open to feedback from students, staff and alumni and are currently in discussion with KCLSU student officers about various elements of the ceremonies, including the use of the National Anthem. Feedback from all members of the King’s community will be used in planning the next set of ceremonies.”

We none of us want to promote the kind of right-wing nationalism that offends the Dane Mahamed Abdullahi’s delicate sensibilities. The only possible excuse for King’s College London to persevere with these jingoistic, anti-global, anti-Mahamed Abdullahi couplets is the College’s unfortunate heritage.

It was founded in 1829 under the patronage of King George IV, hence the tradition of singing the monarch’s praises. No doubt a different anthem would be sung had the institution been founded by Ivar the Boneless, or some other leader for whom Mahamed Abdullahi’s Danish loins ache.

They’re really something, those Danes. And judging by the response of King’s College London, this one may just get his way.

1 thought on “Who Save Whom?!?”

  1. I remember the reaction of my esteemed academic colleagues at the University of Liverpool to the self-indulgent, obscurantist memoir by the Beatles called ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Living locally, they knew that the name of the song and its companion ‘Penny Lane’ betrayed the middle class origins of the composers but the words and music were so Dada-esque that no outsider would discern any meaning. It was agreed that the first song at least had a future as an anthem for a new or transmogrified country by replacing Strawberry Fields with the name of the country. Of course, with the new anti-nationalist sentiment, we could adopt the whole song unchanged. Danes should be careful of what they wish for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.