One of the major stories of the past week was that of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, the terror suspect of Somali origin, breaching an order restricting his movements by fleeing a mosque in a burqa.
There have been many angles to the story: from the spectre of the terror threat to the efficacy of the new ‘terrorism prevention and investigation measures’ order, or TPim, which Mr Mohamed is alleged to have breached. If you’d picked up a newspaper or browsed any newszine, an army of pundits had run with the item, and waxed lyrical on related themes: terrorism prevention, surveillance, burqas, burqas in public places, burqas in hospitals, burqas in courts, liberalism/feminism/secularism Vs freedom of religion… And last but by no means least, if you’d listened to any talk-radio, the British Street had spoken with one, clear voice: no more. No more burqas, no more immigration, no more softly-softly, no more Islam in Britain.
All of the above deserves its place in the sphere of public debate – I won’t disparage any of it. But two things struck me: firstly, the relish with which the topics were gorged upon. This wasn’t sober coverage; it was closer to an orgy. One could almost visualise broadcasters and commentators ejaculating over the bevvy of hot topics spread out in front of them.
And secondly, not at any time when the burqa drum was being banged – or should I say burka or berk-a, in line with the enthusiastic mis-pronounciation – did I hear a single comment reflecting that only a small minority of Muslim women actually wear a veil that covers their face.
This all brings me to an alternative view as to why the story got picked up and highlighted to such an extent. To be sure, I don’t believe it has anything to do with the legitimate points above. Rather, it was because it presented a rare, pantomime spectacular. Put simply, news makers and headline writers were able to use the words terror, mosque, berk-a and Mohammed – not once but twice - in just the one sentence. And thus the dominoes were lined up precisely, and the first one tapped.