Today I have been in speciality shop mode, which has meant a journey to Manchester to visit retail outlets majoring in produce that I can’t get in Crewe. And first call after a leisurely walk from Piccadilly station has been the Worldwide supermarket in Rusholme.
At the checkout, jars of savoury pickle from India and Pakistan – and no, lime is not a Zelo Street favourite – were packed into a Worldwide plastic bag. There is a globe graphic, and when you turn it over, a different name. Because Worldwide, depending on where the store is located, also trades under the Al-Halal brand.
But, so what? Well, try taking these bags when you visit markets or shops where you bring your own, unless you want to pay for them. What doesn’t cause me a problem certainly generates disapproving looks from other shoppers, or at least some of them. And Crewe, unlike nearby Stoke-on-Trent, has little visibility from the BNP and EDL.
It was the remembering of this that made me think of yesterday’s column by the singularly unsavoury Fat Dick Littlejohn, who has clearly been deeply offended by Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi, when the latter claimed that Islamophobia was still socially acceptable.
Littlejohn, while appearing not to understand that saying “conversation dims after the sixth bottle” might reveal he is not free of problems himself, suggests that, because Islam was not mentioned at the last dinner party he attended, this makes Warsi wrong. But then he also asserts that “most of us think anyone who wears a burka in Britain is barking mad and wonder why anyone who utterly rejects our society and our liberal values would want to live here”.
Well, Dick, your “most” doesn’t include me, and the idea that garment choice equals opposition to the rest of society is what is really barking. Or even en route to Upminster. As is much of the rest of his column, with its talk of “alien looking mosques”, the “intrusive call to prayer”, and of course “halal meat in supermarkets”.
Which brings me back to my plastic bag, and my personal proof that Sayeeda Warsi is right and Fat Dick Littlejohn is not only wrong, but is contributing to casual Islamophobia by his corrosive and bigoted ranting (for which, remember, he is paid not far short of a million notes a year).
I don’t have a problem with the occasional miserable look, but the more the ranting goes on, the more the prejudice is likely to become the conventional wisdom for the easily led. The Fourth Estate has often been noted as enjoying power without having to accept responsibility: Fat Dick Littlejohn is a significant, if unfortunate, example.