Ever since the weekend, I've been looking at the photo on the right. It's a close-up of a picture that forms part of Richard K's photographic scrapbook of the annual "al-Quds Day" rally in my home town of Toronto. "Al-Quds" is the Arab name for Jerusalem, and this event, if not quite as big as the LGBTQWERTY parade, enjoys a similar official imprimatur: the Government of Ontario gives permission for it to be held at Queen's Park, home of the provincial parliament. At this year's shindig, Gaza was the big grievance, and there was a lot of undisguised Jew-hatred in the air.
But, as I said, it's the photograph at right that's been weighing on me: A man at the rally holding up a portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini. We can't see his face, but he's wearing a baseball cap and in his left hand he's holding a smart phone. So he looks like a perfectly assimilated immigrant. And yet with his right hand he's proudly displaying a photograph of the Ayatollah - presumably his, and evidently a picture he's fond of, because he's gone to the trouble of putting it in a frame.
And the guy alongside him is evidently unconcerned about being next to a fellow brandishing a framed portrait of Khomeini.
This is Toronto on a summer weekend in 2014.
A third of a century back, BBC TV had a comedy show called "Not The Nine O'Clock News", starring among others Rowan Atkinson (of Blackadder, Mister Bean et al). One week, Pamela Stephenson sang a song called "Ayatollah, Don't Khomeini Closer". If memory serves, the lyric was by Richard Curtis, who went on to films such as Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones' Diary and Love, Actually, and who married my old "Loose Ends" pal Emma Freud; and the music was by Howard Goodall, to whom I have a certain antipathy because back when I badly needed the money Channel 4 fired me from a telly gig and got Howard in instead. But, personal bitterness aside, Goodall and Curtis did a rather good job with the Ayatollah Khomeini song. I always liked this quatrain:
Though you are stubborn as a mule
I want you to be my man
I may be in England
But my heart's a hostage in Iran...
"Ayatollah, don't Khomeini closer..." You could do numbers like that 34 years ago because you could assume that almost everyone watching thought Iran's leader was a barbarian nut rather than a pin-up for your drawing room.
Can you still do satirical songs about Khomeini on the Beeb? Or do too many viewers have framed photos of the great man on their mantle? In the intervening years, the Ayatollah has come a lot closer. In Canada, short of delivering the Throne Speech inside the building, he can't get much closer: he's proudly on parade at the legislature of the Dominion's most powerful province - and nobody minds.
As it happens, in the three "human rights" suits the Canadian Islamic Congress brought against me, one of the complaints was that I'd quoted the Ayatollah. (There's an exhaustive account in my piece "The Shagged Sheep", which is included in my book Lights Out, available in personally autographed hardback edition from the Steyn store, or in non-autographed instant-gratification eBook edition from Amazon et al.) Specifically speaking, in the course of reviewing a book by Oriana Fallaci, I'd quoted some of the Ayatollah's dating advice:
A man who has had sexual relations with an animal, such as a sheep, may not eat its meat. He would commit sin.
The Canadian Islamic Congress and its sock-puppet "plaintiffs" considered this "hate speech". Pearl Eliadis, the "human rights lawyer" - ie, bigtime state-censorship enthusiast - wrote:
Mark Steyn's blurring of the lines between Ayotollah Khomeini's views on sex with animals and children and "contemporary Islam" goes further, I think, than most Canadian journalists have ventured before.
In the famous edition of TVO's "Agenda", in which I wound up meeting the three sock puppets face to face, Khurrum Awan took the same line as Ms Eliadis - that Khomeini was an "obscure figure", and by quoting extremists I was implicitly linking them to Canadian Muslims.
Yet here are Canadian Muslims explicitly linking themselves to Ayatollah Khomeini. Nor was he the only Iranian bigshot on display at Queen's Park. Among the others was Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
I wonder if any of the non-Muslim Jew-haters out and about on Saturday looked at that Khomeini portrait and felt a little queasy. You sign on for a little light anti-Semitism - getting your pension fund to divest from Israel, which is the 21st century equivalent of getting your country club to nix the Jews - and next thing you know you're standing next to a fellow who's hot for the Ayatollah. And at that point, if you've got any sense of self-preservation, you'll realize it's not really about the Jews anymore, it's about you.
Canada used to be a country proud of its role in helping keep some of those American embassy staff out of the Ayatollah's clutches. The Khomeinibopper at Queen's Park would gladly have handed them over. Yet he's as Canadian as you, at least de jure. And given Canadian immigration and demographic trends how many more who think like him will be at the al-Quds rally by 2020?
Here's another quote from Maclean's that Pearl Eliadis didn't care for - from my colleague Barbara Amiel:
Normally, a people don't willingly acquiesce in the demise of their own culture, especially one as agreeable as Western democracy, but you can see how it happens. Massive Muslim immigration takes place and at the time, no one gives much thought to consequences.
One consequence is the man in the baseball cap with a smart phone in one hand and a Khomeini pin-up in the other.
Ayatollah, don't Khomeini closer? Too late.
~South of the border, at The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, they're already assimilating with the incomers, with one of those everything-in-the-west-comes-from-Islam pieces that really ought to have their own category in the Pulitzers by now:
Some scholars believe that Muslims came to America from West Africa and Europe (Muslim Spain and Portugal) long before Columbus. The theory is still not widely accepted, but it is based on interesting evidence. There is no doubt that Muslims made up a considerable portion of the West Africans who were enslaved and brought to North, South and Central America during the four grueling centuries of the Atlantic slave trade. Conservative estimates say they made up one out of every 10, but sometimes (in states like South Carolina and Louisiana) they made up as much as one out of every three.
The Muslim slaves of antebellum America left some of their culture behind. Many musicologists believe that the American blues and jazz traditions owe much to West African Muslim folk music, especially the beautiful West African Muslim songs sung with the 21-string kora.
I knew most western literature was Muslim - from Sheikh Speare to Louisa May al-Cott - but the jazz and blues thing was new to me. Must remember to check out some of those great little jazz joints in Riyadh next time I'm there. Incidentally, if you woke up this morning and your sheep done left you, the Ayatollah Khomeini recommends you sing a 12-baa blues.
~Further to my note on US Customs & Border Protection abusing a law-abiding troop of boy scouts (about which I'm trying to track down additional information from CBP) comes further news of American law enforcement's loss of any sense of proportion:
Thirty-eight year-old Kevin McCullers was shot and paralyzed by a Pennsylvania State Constable serving him with a warrant for unpaid parking tickets.
So the good news is, if he ever drives again, he'll be able to use the handicapped spot. In such a world, it is dismaying that the constable who shot Mr McCullers in the back and feels it was justified is not named in the NBC story. As with the boy scout reports, too many in the media are too accepting of and cooperative with America's abandonment of civilized law enforcement.