It must still be the Silly Season in the UK. Apparently a row has broken out (again) about religious dissing (again) on the radio (again). Inevitably, it offers another opportunity to kick the BBC and exercise the anti-PC (‘politically correct’, not ‘police constable’ or ‘personal computer’) muscles.

The Independent reports the story as follows:

The BBC’s Asian Network was at the centre of a fresh race row last night after Sikhs accused the digital radio station of being insensitive towards their religion.BBC bosses were forced to remove a show by the popular Muslim presenter Adil Ray from their website after the morning show DJ received threats from angry Sikh listeners who accused him of denigrating an important religious symbol.

 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has responded in forthright fashion in the same paper and concludes (almost):

Yasmin Alibhai-BrownSome of the best of British broadcasters are on the Asian Network – Nihal, Sonia Deol, Nikki Bedi – their programmes are as full of vitality and erudition as those presented by Nicky Campbell and Victoria Derbyshire. Nihal is also on Radio 1 and his shows are exceptional because he pulls in all the strands of his cultural life. On the whole, though, mainstream BBC radio is still too white, even though the brilliant Anita Anand (5 Live, Drive), Ritula Shah ( Radio 4, The World Tonight) and others have proved they can lead on national conversations using their complex identities to great effect.

Ignore the fact that it begins to read a bit like the Monty Python (Life of Brian) ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’ and look at that last phrase. I would love YA-B to explain what she means by the term “using their complex identities to great effect”.

Life of BrianIt seems to me that every human being has a complex identity, shaped by genetics, nurture, race, and nurtured worldviews (the often/usually unconscious assumptions we are brought up with in looking at the world, human meaning, ethics, etc). I think YA-B is rightly pointing to the fact that British-born Asians bring to their work a unique and interesting mix of assumptions, perceptions and experiences informed by their having lived in several ‘worlds’ at once.

The same can be said of anyone who grows up speaking several languages – I go into primary schools in Croydon that have up to 46 first languages spoken among the 300 or so children. Anyone who speaks more than one language with any degree of proficiency knows that you don’t simply switch between parallel words, but you enter a mental, linguistic, cultural and philosophical framework that has depth and not just some sort of horizontal word equivalence.

But, to get back to the point, YA-B’s case would be strengthened by urging the white people she complains about (“Witnessing this latest spat, you wonder if it was not just a continuation of the divide and rule policies that served Britannia in the days of the Raj. Lock them in a studio, get the natives to fight each other, then they won’t come bothering those of us born to rule the airwaves.”) to accept the complexity of their own make-up and not simply point to those who look or sound a little more exotic. We are all complex and that is what makes living interesting: we can never simply categorise and think we have understood everyone who falls into that particular category.

This also has a bearing on comments added to my post on Stephen Bates’ road to agnosticism from yesterday’s Guardian. Every human story is unique and every individual person complex. There are those who try to categorise and make blanket judgements for all people and all time: we have to do this in order to be able to function as a society. But every time you get close to anyone’s real story/identity, you realise all the contradictions, nuances, peculiarities and complexities.

When I read the New Testament proscriptions on certian types of people or behaviours, I can only conclude that the Church would have no clergy at all as we all are compromised in one  way or another.

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