10/26/2008

Easy Lionel!

Hello,
It's not often the world of gaming comes to my attention but that outlet for mediocre drivel the Metro letters page has been quivering with rage about Muslims getting offended.

I am referring to Sony's decision to withdraw 'LittleBigPlanet' because a song featured on it 'might' offend Muslims. Please note that is might rather than will.

I will leave aside Sony's failure to acknowledge my outrage at them sticking three words together because of the calm disposition I am famed for. No laughing at the back.

Anyway this piece of nonsense started because a Muslim gamer who had been playing the game in trials advised them that the use of music quoting The Qu'ran 'could' be offensive. Please note 'could' rather than is.

Clearly Sony have commercial considerations to take into account, Muslim's money being as good anyone else's but I'm still puzzled. The controversial music was recorded by Toumani Diabate who intended it as a celebration of The Qu'ran perhaps with him being a Muslim. From what I can gather he is affronted at the notion that he's done anything offensive.

A simple reading of the facts indicates that there is no single Muslim opinion on this. Some Muslims will be offended, others will be indifferent and some might be chuffed at the inclusion of a bit of religious music in the game. Nevertheless I am puzzled as to why the views of the easily offended should take precedence.

If it's because Sony are concerned about violent reprisals then I have to say I find this troubling.
It is, of course, true that there a minority of Muslims who have no qualms about the use of violence and clearly these people are a significant threat but pandering to them is hardly likely to reduce that threat. As anyone bullied in school can tell you backing down to bullies doesn't make them go away it just spurs them on to greater heights. Arguably Sony have social responsibility to publish and be damned in defence of freedom of expression. After all without that they'd find it hard to sell any games at all.

Furthermore Islam is a world religion with as many, if not more adherents amongst the poor, ill-educated and dispossessed as amongst the affluent and well educated. Is it wise to perpetuate the notion that only those who shout loudest, adopt the most extreme positions or bomb most will be listened to? Unfortunately that message won't only be absorbed the the black slaves of Sudanese Muslim Arabs or women treated like animals in the theocracies of the Middle East, the folk who want to blow up your flight to Malaga will be taking note too.

The only alternative to us all putting up with each other is perpetual war or a heavily policed, segregated world. Personally I'd prefer it we could all co-exist quite amicably. Strengthening tolerant and progressive voices is one means of achieving this. Acting like a spinster fleeing a mouse every time you might ruffle a few Islamic feathers is as bad as actively promoting oppression.

I shall end by stating that I have no particular wish to see Muslim's offended. There are aspects of Islam I like and aspects that appall me - as with every other religion I've studied. I don't mention this out of fear or a belief that all and every Muslim is a terrorist. It's not pandering to extremists. It's true I wouldn't bother with a statement like this if I were criticising Christianity. I do so only to distance myself from the knuckle draggers who know enough to tart up their anti- immigrant bilge up in concern about the influence of Islam but not enough to know that it really is unlikely every Pakistani who comes to Britain get's £30,000 cash from the government at the airport.

Cheerio

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