12 Mar 2015

The strange case of Rangers and the Prophet Mohammed cartoon

So, as Rangers’ incoming chairman Dave King gets his feet under the table, one of the club’s non-executive directors has (or has not) given him something interesting and perhaps urgent to think about.

Rangers Hold Extraordinary General Meeting At IbroxRangers Chairman Dave King

Let me declare an interest. The man concerned is called Chris Graham and he represents the Rangers Supporters Trust. He and I have known each other for some time and it’s a relationship built solidly on un-mutual respect.

I respect him as someone who has stood up for Rangers and spoken out in their defence when not so many others would. We have enjoyed a sandwich and the sofa of the STV studio to discuss the club as some may recall.

I like the guy. And he thinks I am a berk.

For those new to the story it appears he sent a tweet at the time of the Charlie Hebdo slaughter, to the well-known Islamic activist Anjem Choudary. It included a drawing of the Prophet Mohamed in what I am legally obliged to call an explicit image of a gay sex act.

The drawing bore the slogan of the day: “Je suis Charlie”.

This has caused some outrage in certain quarters by people who may well be more interested in stirring up an anti-Rangers storm than being affronted at the gross insult to Islam.

There is a perfectly reasonable argument however that Chris is simply championing the freedom of speech that Charlie Hebdo – and many more of us – hold dear, and to that extent he is to be applauded not attacked.

You cannot have and eat your gateau when it comes to Charlie Hebdo and free speech. If you believe in it you defend his action – up to a point.

Personally I was never Charlie Hebdo.

The whole point is that most news organisations and publishers and let’s face it almost all of us, are not and never were Charlie Hebdo. Almost all of us did not publish such images, either from fear or the desire not to offend for no great reason. Charlie Hebdo demonstrably did.

They were not us. Nor we, them.

It is because nous ne sommes pas Charlie, that Charlie stood out and got attacked. That’s the sad but real point of it all.

But Charlie did what they did openly, honestly and put their real name to it all for better or worse: publish and be damned. Genuine free speech is dangerous.

But Chris, unlike Charlie, appears to have disguised himself as the sender. He has not been available for comment, unlike Charlie. He has now restricted his Twitter account from public view. Vraiment – Christophe n’est pas Charlie.

Further, the tweet appeared to feature a representation of the prophet. This representation seems designed to be almost the most offensive image possible.

We can all think of even more offensive images – but it takes some effort to be honest.

Further, using homosexuality with the intent of causing insult is unarguably homophobic and emphatically so.

This will seem to many a gratuitous act at a time when millions were content with the slogan of Je Suis Charlie – however flawed it might be.

So no, as a brave act of free speech it does not stand scrutiny.

As an idiotic outburst of what looks like religious hatred and bigotry – very, very like it – it is hard to beat. To say nothing of homophobia – although I just have…

And that is what Rangers Football Club of all institutions in Scotland needs to reflect upon urgently and very carefully given its notorious history of religious bigotry.

True, Chris – in my experience a soft-spoken and likeable bloke – was not on the board at the time and perhaps never expected to be there.

Equally, does one ludicrous outburst amount to any case that the man is a virulent anti-Islamic religious bigot and homophobe?

I say not, and I have no reason to believe he is, and am happy to write that.

But he did willingly put himself forward as a voice for fans and runs a prominent website. Of all clubs, of all institutions, of all cultures – Rangers really could do without the continued spectre of religious bigotry and homophobia, just at its current point of possible recovery.

Should Chris Graham remain as a director? Yes. We all do stupid things and this was before his time at the club in an official capacity.

But he should step up right now and so should Dave King – this needs an apology from Chris personally and fulsomely without qualification, and the club needs to distance itself from any whiff of religious intolerance and homophobia for reasons that hardly need explaining.

They have already said that they are investigating.

There lads – you have my defence – best you make yours now and fast.

Postscript

By way of postscript to above blog on the bizarre Chris Graham Charlie Hebdo imbroglio, it’s worth recalling Chris’s own words.

These were in reference to the previous Rangers chief executive Charles Green using a racist term to refer to fellow club director Imran Ahmad.

Chris Graham was outraged and went very public with words he might carefully consider now:

“Finally and possibly most seriously for his future at Rangers, is Green’s use of racist language. I don’t know Charles Green well enough to know if he is a racist. I suspect however that he isn’t, given his close friendship with the man he was discussing.

“However, whether he is or not is irrelevant. Nobody associated with Rangers should be using that type of language. Green has made a big play, quite correctly, of wanting to see Rangers back up among Europe’s elite at the end of this rebuilding process.

“If a director of one of Europe’s elite clubs had made such a comment it is my firm belief they would have been sacked or forced to resign. Should Rangers be any different?”

I remain of the opinion that Chris Graham should not be sacked. But the clear logic of his own demonstrates that he presumably feels he should resign.

With the new Rangers board looking like a bunch of collective rabbits staring into the main beam, we have only their vague plan to act upon this in the next 48 hours.

That action must mean a serious apology at the very least. As for Chris Graham, will he practice what he preaches?

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17 reader comments

  1. Jim says:

    Ahh, but Chris also has pervious for ludicrous posts of a bigoted and biased manner on all sorts of topics. His “Enemies of Ranger” is one such.

    Why the incoming management would choose such a person, begs belief. There are many more decent fans who could represent the views of the majority, rather than these

  2. Simon Gardner says:

    What the hell is wrong exactly with being anti-religion and so anti idiocy?

  3. Bruce67 says:

    Problem is, Alex, that this was not an isolated instance of an offensive tweet from Graham.

  4. James Barr says:

    Unlike Chris Graham, I do not think you are a berk ( I met you many years ago when you took the place of an absent John Pilger). I am, therefore, very surprised to read that you think not many stood up for Rangers. From Alex Salmond through the Scottish Media and every ex-Celtic player they could find to toe the Party line,the whole of the Scottish Establishment stood up for Rangers.
    Did you not find this out yourself when you tried to tell the truth about their tax `problems` ?

    1. DeeTee says:

      Paranoid nonsense.

  5. Lemming says:

    I don’t agree with you at all Alex. Islam is the homophobic elephant in the room. Just look at some of tweets of this so-called victim – let me quote just one here:

    “Islam has a solution to every problem that one can imagine from inflation to poverty, from adultery to homosexuality; in the Qur’an & Sunnah” – Anjem Choudary.

    Let us not forget the culture of arranged marriages, women who aren’t allowed to speak to men outside their family and anyone who isn’t a muslim being regarded as a lesser person (I could start to quote the Quran here but let’s not get into debating that – this isn’t a book club).

    The fact is we have a right to draw cartoons of anything we like and show them to whomever we like. If people are offended by that then they are the ones at fault – not us.

  6. neil says:

    Yet their fans sing anti-catholic songs and sing saville songs which is reference to abuse? Hypocrisy from that place is unreal! They also sing about king Billy yet in some places king billy is a gay icon! Ironic

  7. Alan says:

    First, I’d just like to point out the Jar Jar Binks is not human – being a fictional alien (can we even be sure it is a male of its species?). The depicted sex act is more like bestiality than homosexuality. So the homophobia charge would be hard to sustain.
    Second, what is the objection to Chris sending an offensive cartoon to an extremist (for his eyes only, and those of his followers I assume?) On that basis widespread offense was not intended. Targeting extremists is not by itself bigotry or Islamophobia (unlike Charlie Hebdo). Offending angry violent people is maybe not wise but his choice.
    I find him not guilty on both counts.

  8. DeeTee says:

    Je suis Chris Graham.

    As far as I know it was well known that Chris Graham sent the tweet. No doubt he was aware it might offend the recipient. However, some people deserve to be offended, depending on their attitudes. Homophobic? Really? Or was it getting at militant Islamist attitudes to homosexuality?

  9. Philip Edwards says:

    Alex,

    “Almost all of us did not publish such images, either from fear or the desire not to offend for no great reason.”

    Does the same apply to your use of the term “Prophet Mohammed”? After all, you wouldn’t call the alleged founder of Christianity “Prophet Jesus.”

    I have no time for gimps like Graham, likeable or not, or the kind of needlessly stupid thing he did with Anjem Choudary. Nor do I have any time for any religion, all of which amount to little more than stupid superstition. But in a nominally free society even an idiot like Graham is free to send that kind of garbage through the post. In the end it tells us more about him than his target. But what kind of weak and twisted ideology is it that can’t absorb a humorous dig at it, or respond with civilised debate?

    Graham was offensive, but so what? These days untalented stand up “comedians” make a seedy living out of it. If that attitude prevails and people STILL pay to watch and listen to it what does it tell you about OUR culture?

    I think this anti-Islamic evil has gone too far. Equally, there is a point where the reaction can be just as bad or even worse, as in the awful murderous tragedy in Paris. That kind of reaction is either sorted out by Islamic theologians or it isn’t, and if it isn’t then Islam will continue to be reviled by free thinkers. What then?

    What say you Prophet Alex?
    :-)

  10. Ibrahim says:

    Chris Graham like his friend Charlie Hebdo belong to jail for ridiculing a religion followed by more than 2 billion ppl in the World. what is free speech that doesn’t respect other people’s feelings.

  11. Andrew Dundas says:

    Offending other people’s religious or philosophic beliefs is offensive. Such gratuitous insults are a sad part of some Scots’ behaviours. We should take care in how we address people with whom we disagree. Being offensive isn’t clever, it’s bullying or worse.

    As for the of the french, their Charlie Hebdo and their love of insults. They should reflect on their behaviours and try to be a lot more sensitive and polite. It’s worth trying to be ‘fair-play’ and considerate with other people.

  12. Simon Gardner says:

    “Offending” religious beliefs, directly confronting them and indeed laughing at them at every opportunity is essential to achieve the essential long term goal of making this theistic religious nonsense extinct. Like small pox, this toxic virus of the mind needs to be eradicated completely. No quarter and no apologies.

    Not least, these morons brainwash their own helpless children, which is just straight child abuse.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      I repeat:

      “Offending other people’s religious or philosophic beliefs is offensive”.

      Learning to respect other people and to treat them as we would like to be treated ourselves is exactly what religion is about. Nothing else.

  13. Simon Gardner says:

    Theistic religion is about the infantile, irrational and ludicrous “belief” in something that doesn’t exist and the consequent abusive brainwashing of your own children. Nothing else.

    It mustn’t continue.

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Simon, you sound much like a religious fanatic.

  14. paul H says:

    Sorry, I’m going to take a lot of convincing that ANY Rangers supporter is a defender of liberal values! Shameless opportunity to practice standard issue hate? Seems much more likely.

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