As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become rather fond of the UK television program Skins. It’s a very excellent show with some of the best writing and acting I’ve seen in a long time. The entirely shagworthy cast helps, of course.
One of my favorite characters on the show is a gay boy named Maxxie, played by the drop-pants gorgeous, and sadly straight, Mitch Hewer. Maxxie’s best friend is a self-described “Muslim boy” named Anwar.
In the episode I saw most recently, “Maxxie and Anwar”, our heroes go to Russia. There Maxxie and Anwar have to share a room, which both of them seem pleased about. Anwar is especially pleased when sees a very well-done drawing Maxxie has made of the two of them. Things go downhill slightly when he sees a second drawing Maxxie did of his, Anwar’s, penis (sadly blurred on screen, because if American’s saw a penis, it might bring about the Apocalypse). Things get even more uncomfortable when he makes it clear to Maxxie that a: he doesn’t want him bringing a guy over to have sex while the two are sharing a room, and b: as a Muslim he has a great deal of issues centering around homosexuality.
There’s several interesting points that come up in this episode.
First, Anwar, while praying five times a day, doesn’t appear to take his faith all that seriously. He drinks, he does drugs, he tries to engage in pre-marital sex (and eventually does), and it is implied by Maxxie that he’s been known to eat pork. He doesn’t appear to be overly broken up over any of these things, but he is very bothered by the fact that Maxxie is gay, which he believes is wrong.
The first thing to look at here is the hypocrisy, and I’ve seen it in other people. It basically boils down to, “Whatever I do that I enjoy, even if it’s sinful, I’ll do anyhow, cause God will forgive me. But what you do that’s sinful and you enjoy? Horrible!” It’s something I’ve seen with lots of people who are religious but swear by saying, “Oh, god!”, or “Jesus Christ!”, who don’t honor the Sabbath (sometimes just by not going to church, and other times by actually (gasp), working!), who think nothing of getting tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), and who break other rules and laws in the Bible, but whom condem homosexuality loudly and often. They condem what they don’t want to do or what they don’t understand as violation of God’s laws, but have no problem breaking God’s laws themselves. Anwar’s behavior here is a perfect example of this. I believe the quote that I shall use to put down this nonsense is, “You hypocrites! Remove the plank from your own eye before you try to remove the splinter from mine.”
The second, in many ways even more interesting thing to note about this aspect of Anwar’s behavior and beliefs, is that historically Islam hasn’t had a huge problem with homosexuality, particularly in the Ottoman Empire, and particularly with regards to man/boy sexual activity. While modern Islamic states have many penalties for gay sex, including the death penalty, there’s historically been more tolerance. Thanks in part to aping the Europeans and the introduction of Wahabi Islam, that went out the door in the last 150 years, but for the first 1250, it doesn’t seem to have been a major issue.
Now onto the other, even more interesting aspect of Anwar’s acts in this episode, which is this: towards the very end, he and Maxxie are having a bit of a heart-to-heart, and both are clearly very unhappy about how their friendship is going. Anwar just wants it back to the way it was, despite Maxxie being gay. Maxxie doesn’t want to be friends with someone who thinks he’s an evil sodomite.
Eventually Maxxie says something that basically boils down to, “Why don’t you just stop believing in this crap and go on being my friend?” and Anwar’s reaction is one that basically says, “I can’t stop being a Muslim; I dont know anything else I can be.”
You see? Anwar’s outlook on life is limited. He doesn’t know how to be anything other than a “Muslim boy”. He doesn’t even see that there’s any options other than that in his life. He’s been brainwashed from birth (as are most people), to believe in God, despite any evidence to the contrary, and even now, having seen that it’s costing him his friendship with Maxxie, he can’t see any way out. The idea of just casting aside the Koran and living life in a secular fashion doesn’t even cross his mind.
In the book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins makes the point that many forms of religious indoctination are a form of child abuse. He points out a picture he saw in a newspaper once showing three toddlers and a caption reading something like, “A Sikh child, a Muslim child and Christian child”, and he made the point that, surely, they weren’t old enough to be those things, and they were actually children of Muslims, Sikhs and Christians but not those things themselves.
If Anwar had been raised in a more secular fashion, had his parents left aside their religious indoctrination and simply allowed him to make his choices on faith, or a lack of same, once he was an adult, then he wouldn’t be so conflicted and could go about his friendship with Maxxie without having to worry what some big beard in the sky might think.
Now I’m not prepared so say that all religious brainwashing is child abuse. Most of it, in fact, is not. But what do you call it when you tell your eight-year-old child that their best friend is going to hell because that friend is a different religion? How upsetting and traumatizing is it for that poor kid?
Like many people in the real world the fictional character of Anwar presents us with an image of someone who really doesn’t believe anymore, and who really wants something else in his life, but not only can’t find that something else, he doesn’t even really conciously recognize it as an option. Islam is all he knows, all he’s ever been, and he can’t concieve of anything else, even though clearly at least some part of him wants to.
Perhaps in the end he’ll find what he really wants to believe in, or doesn’t want to believe in. In the meantime, I find it sad that his faith gets between him and someone he clearly loves. I find it even more sad that people in the real world have the exact same issue.