On the BBC Newsnight television programme on Wednesday evening, the host, Jeremy Paxman, was joined by a Sudanese government official working in Britain, and a young fellow from the Muslim Council of Britain, to discuss the plight of a woman who faces the prospect of being jailed or flogged with 40 lashes for the crime of allegedly insulting Islam.
You can read the details of her supposed misdemeanour here. At the very worst, this woman is unwise for not realising the depths of mental insanity that is gripping the country she has chosen to live in, but she is guilty of nothing in my eyes. Quite what the British government does about this, including the possible use of military action, is another matter. At the very least this country should persuade any remaining Britons to get out of Sudan, break off diplomatic relations.
What I found so interesting about the BBC show last night was Paxman’s performance. He sat in the middle of these two men as they “debated” the issue of whether the thugs of the Sudanese authorities should show “mercy” to this woman. The Sudan government guy, who spoke with a subtle hint of a grin, kept going on about how this woman should have realised the “sensitivities” of the situation; his performance was one of the most hateful that I have ever seen on such a show. The MCB guy, who seemed very young and almost terrified, was pleading in the most abject fashion for the punishment not to be carried out. No wonder, this story hardly is going to make folk think well of his faith, now is it? All the while, Paxman, who is usually an aggressive interviewer to the point of gratuitous rudeness, sat almost dumbfounded as these two men spoke. But maybe it was deliberate: from his body language I could tell that Paxman thinks that Islamists like the Sudanese official are beneath contempt. Sometimes you are glad of Mr Paxman being around for a programme like this.