So often we are focused on our own area of interest, to the exclusion of events in the wider world.
For Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, his eyes have long been on the prize of bringing Islamic values into Irish schools that are, by force of habit, entirely Christian in their ethos. Most schools in Ireland are under the thumb of the Catholic Church, as they have always been, and Dr. Selim would see that overturned because not everyone living in Ireland these days is Christian.
He has a book coming out on the subject, and of course there is the marketing to manage when a book is being promoted. He must sit for interviews and answer questions and say things that will generally promote his work.
Most unfortunate for him that his timing is so bad.
At the same time as he is touting his drive to force Irish schools to be more inclusive, today's Irish Times sports a splashy headline about the beheading of an American journalist by Islamists who are very keen to force their brand of Islam on the world. What are readers to think but that Dr. Selim is trying to do what the barbarians in Syria are already doing, but without quite so much bloodshed? His words might be well worth considering, but if only those words had been uttered within some different context.
As if that were not bad enough, he then preaches about the lack of opportunity for Muslim girls to be modest within the context of modern Irish society. They should have separate physical education classes, for example, with a female teacher. And they should have their own changing rooms where they can change in private, with individual cubicles paid for by the hard-pressed Irish taxpayer. And they must have a place to exercise where men cannot see them.
Poor Dr. Selim.
He is not familiar with the tall stone walls that once surrounded the Magdalene laundries, which were places to incarcerate women who went afoul of some equally restrictive sexual codes. Back in the day, it was forbidden for women to engage in pre-marital sex, and just like Dr. Selim's philosophy, it was the woman who was at fault if there was any sort of sexually charged contact, or even the production of sexual thoughts in a man's head.
Girls deemed too pretty, those who tempted men to sin, had to be locked away and made to slave for the nuns as a means to wash away their sin. They were held without trial, behind walls high enough to prevent their being seen by men. Or anyone else, for that matter.
The Irish public, however, is quite cognizant of that part of their past. There have been countless protests, demands for redress for the victims, and a general sense of horror at what Irish society did to women in the name of morality.
Islam is not seen in the best light these days, what with all that is going on in the Middle East. Couple that with a call for restrictions on women's freedom of expression and position in society and you're met with polite smiles that mask a growing refusal to listen further. He wants us to change for him, people grumble amongst themselves. After what we've been through, and what those of his kind are doing to Christians over there? Killing Christians who won't convert? And we're supposed to change ourselves over to suit the likes of them?
Book sales will not be brisk.
It's a matter of very bad timing, but what is an author to do? Books are scheduled for publication far in advance, and the Islamist thugs who make the news tend to be a bit more impetuous than the average publisher.
But who is the publisher? Does the book actually exist? You won't find it anywhere if you've a mind to pre-order. It's as elusive as the funds to cover back wages to the women who worked in the laundries for all those long years, behind the tall walls where men could not see them.