I felt I just had to get back to clay , my 1st love . My pretext for going to a class instead of sharing/renting a studio ( scary/lonely ! ) was that I cannot throw a pot on the wheel and will never be able to teach ceramics , work as a ceramic technician or even reasonably call myself a potter until I have this basic skill . For many that is simply what ceramics or pottery is . As soon as I decided I started to dream about it !
So last night I went to my 1st class at Leeds College of Art , an educational institution in Leeds I had not previously sampled . Founded in 1846 it can claim both Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth as former students – quite something ! The ceramic facilities are not as extensive as at Harrogate College or the Swarthmore Centre ( also Leeds ) but fine . I was a bit worried that there were only 2 wheels but in the event it was OK . The tutor had 3 of us taking turns at centreing ( one time when the US spelling would be better ! ) . She had a particular method which we had to practise ; each time we got the clay centred we had to knock it askew and re-centre until we got the feel of the difference and could do it immediately every time . Because one of the 3 of us started a handbuilt piece I ended up centreing for nearly an hour , getting a bit grazed ! She showed me the next stage and I had time to have a go before clearing up & washing down . I should now be able to practise that next week – depending on the numbers queueing up for the wheels .
While rushing up and down the corridors trying to find Workshop G52 in time I passed student noticeboards including the one for photography/graphics . It had ‘je suis Charlie’ written across in red felt tip . My immediate reaction was fear – and I nearly apologised for that too . Here follows , I hope , some sort of explanation :
I am currently on Facebook , LinkedIn and Google+ . Before that I had emails and followed blogs , I can’t remember offhand when I started this one . Being a feminist , a Muslim & mixed race might be seen as asking for trouble on or offline and if you believe in luck I’ve been lucky . Here I am still alive & with my citizenship intact and no criminal record . I should be grateful . However all 3 statuses have caused me increasing insecurity over the last 3 or 4 decades accelerating just lately . I posted on Facebook that I might give up looking at it because of the anti-Muslim hatred which I find so difficult to deal with . I don’t want to insult anyone , certainly not my friends so perhaps I can give a list of incidents .
1 A few years ago was an anniversary of some of the worst massacres of Bosnian Muslims . I posted reminders with photos . I was surprised that not a single Fb friend responded , particularly since , at the time of the original incidents , journalists reported that most were not practising Muslims . I presumed this meant that they were ‘innocent’ and thus mourn-able .
2 I was invited to join a Facebook group by a friend and accepted . Very shortly after that I was invited to be an admin . Due to Facebook’s vagaries I was notified of an admin conversation which I could read on Messages without being able to participate which was fine until they were discussing whether Muslims could be admitted . I was able to confess to being this to one of them afterwards and was reassured that no one would think I was there under false pretences ! However I don’t think another would get the chance , at least 2 people with Muslim names have been rejected . On the other hand one of the members has Timeline posts about how Muslims really worship Satan although we don’t realise it – and this can be proved from the Bible .
3 One Facebook friend posted a photo apparently of MacDonald’s fish fillets in cartons marked ‘halal’ . Initially I found this amusing . ( I should explain that ‘halal’ means permitted and ‘haram’ forbidden . ) All from the sea “is game for you” says the Qur’an – so all fish is halal and there is no need of any label . Then I saw what the friend had written . She was angry with MacDonald’s for providing halal food and had checked her local butcher to make sure he was NOT stocking halal meat . She did not want to eat halal food inadvertently and advised all her friends to check likewise . I did not find this funny at all . The impression I got was that halal food was some kind of spiritual poison for her . Poor woman she eats halal food all the time without knowing it ; fruit , vegetables , milk , eggs …..all permitted ! I didn’t try to joke about it then , I simply blocked the site she had got the photo from…. and worried .
4 Another Facebook friend shared a post from an anti-Muslim blog ( I mean they were collecting money for the war against Islam ) where the article was written by a Christian with the handle ‘halalporkbutcher’ . I reacted badly to this and got into an argument . I felt vaguely guilty but 2 real ( not virtual ) friends have been deeply shocked by the handle . One is an Evangelical Protestant teacher married to a pastor – both were previously missionaries – and the other is a secular Jew . Neither could understand why I continued the contact . At the time I sought advice from a largely Pagan open spiritual group on Facebook and received nothing but kindness & concern . The good advice – to protect myself – I didn’t take . I was then furiously messaged by this person who denied that the blog was Muslim hating , apparently it was merely truthful . I thought we had some useful debate then and I tried to explain various things . However the offensive , ignorant posts from nasty blogs continued howevermuch I answered with reason and information – which was largely ignored . I remember asking why I had been friended at all if all Muslims were so hated and was told not to take it personally , that I appeared to be a nice person and that the claim was about some Muslims , not all . The claims , incidentally , were always about ‘Muslims’ – unqualified in any way . Yes I did unfollow , eventually .
5 Britain First’s Facebook Page has been reported to the police when they advocated violence against a named woman giving out her address . And – I shouldn’t have to say this – she was white and non-Muslim . ( Apparently she shouted “Racist !” at Nigel Farage on TV . ) For Muslims they advocate forcible abortion , strangling at birth , sterilization and castration , and killing generally . If this sounds familiar – yes , they think Hitler had the right idea , he just picked the wrong religion . None of this is apparently enough to get the Page shut down for hate speech . Because free speech is sacred according to Zuckerburg , except perhaps for Another Angry Voice whose non-violent left wing Page has been warned . And Tom never threatened anybody . ( Update : apparently Tom was targeted by scammers wanting to take over his Page and the thousands of ‘likes’ . )
6 I’ve posted quite a few articles about the Paris killings since last week . My family and 2 of my friends have responded . So 4 out of 117 contacts have read anything . Am I so scary evil or is it just my co-religionists who can’t be trusted to write anything worthwhile ?
This was supposed to lead up to thoughts on how to be a Muslim artist . At the moment it is pretty hard just to be – so many quite literally wish us all dead .However I can see that my hopes as shown on my ‘About me” page display the most astonishing naivety . Anyway Kathy , my friend this was the reply promised !