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.


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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