Censoring The Censors Won't Do
No chance for criticism: The NYT’s “Homegrown”, above, has been cancelled (©Helen Maybanks/National Youth Theatre)
When I heard Nadia Latif describe her new National Youth Theatre (NYT) play Homegrown, about British Muslims joining Islamic State, I could not wait to tear into it with the vim and vigour her sinister production deserved.
First, there was a small but telling point about her use of the English language. She did not love or respect it, even though she was a theatre director who relied on her mother tongue to put clothes on her back and food on her table. Any artist who could announce with a straight face that she wanted “to create a large-scale site-specific immersive play about the radicalisation of British Muslims” was a deserving target of satire.
Then there was her hypocrisy. Latif kept saying that her production was not agitprop, that it wanted to show complexity and nuance rather than follow a party line. Then she came out with this: “If the acceptable parameters of that discussion are to remain inarticulate mad mullahs in one corner and self-hating Ayaan Hirsi Alis in another, all mediated by think-tank dwellers like Maajid Nawaz, the conversation will go nowhere.”
Well, I thought, after that performance, I would have editors begging me to write. Perhaps they would start a bidding war, I mused, once again allowing hope to trump experience. No matter. They would take what I gave them in any event.
When a left-wing artist uses phrases like “mad mullahs”, she is being sarcastic. She mimics tabloid language to flag to her wised-up audience that they need not think about the mass oppression, rape and enslavement of women in the Middle East, about British Muslim volunteers throwing homosexuals off buildings, slitting the throats of charity workers, and persecuting Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims for their faith. To think about the slaughter and oppression clearly and condemn it without equivocation would be to announce to the world, or at least to your friends, that you are following the Daily Mail’s agenda and are therefore no longer part of the Left tribe. It is amazing how successfully partisans like Latif can deploy the fear of stepping out of line. Better to forget about the subjugation of women — never, of course, of you or your women friends — mass murder and the re-establishment of slave states in the 21st century than risk an uncomfortable argument with the person you met at the theatre bar five minutes ago and may never see again.
The “self-hating” description of Ayaan Hirsi Ali was not sarcastic, however. It was meant all too literally. In that phrase Latif revealed her worthlessness. A Somali woman who has experienced genital mutilation and been threatened with a forced marriage rebels and joins the fight for female equality. And she — what? — “hates” herself. She doesn’t hate the people who sliced her genitals or the Islamists, who want to murder her and did, in fact, murder her friend and Latif’s fellow artist Theo van Gogh. On no account should we see them as hateful. Only Hirsi Ali, the object of their violent lusts, is hateful; so hateful, indeed, she even hates herself.