Friday, October 27, 2006

Creative Writing 101: and now a word from the cats' meat

From today's online Australian:

Edited transcript of Sheik Hilali's speech
This is an edited transcript, by SBS translator Dalia Mattar, of Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's speech

October 27, 2006

" ... when it comes to adultery, it's 90 per cent the women's responsibility. Why? Because a woman possesses the weapon of seduction. It is she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make-up and powder and takes to the streets, God protect us, dallying. It's she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then it's a look, then a smile, then a conversation, a greeting, then a conversation, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay jail. ...

"But when it comes to this disaster, who started it? In his literature, scholar al-Rafihi says: 'If I came across a rape crime – kidnap and violation of honour – I would discipline the man and order that the woman be arrested and jailed for life.' Why would you do this, Rafihi? He says because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn't have snatched it."

"If you take a kilo of meat, and you don't put it in the fridge or in the pot or in the kitchen but you leave it on a plate in the backyard, and then you have a fight with the neighbour because his cats eat the meat, you're crazy. Isn't this true?

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, is it the fault of the cat or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem.

"If the meat was covered, the cats wouldn't roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they won't get it.

"If the meat was in the fridge and it (the cat) smelled it, it can bang its head as much as it wants, but it's no use.

"If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen.

From The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (eds Preminger and Brogan, 1993):

'The most revered form of simile is the epic simile, a lengthy comparison between two highly complex objects, actions or relations.'

The epic simile is a bloody hard thing for a writer to sustain successfully because every element of it has to make sense. It's like a sort of fable or short allegory -- think Animal Farm where every creature and action and all the relationships among them are standing in for the 'real' situation. Each substition or comparison -- Snowball=Trotsky, sheep=Teh Masses, farm=Russia etc etc -- has to fit logically with all the others, if you want to create a coherent narrative and second tier of meaning.

Never mind, for the moment, Sheik Hilali's demented world view; let's have a look at his speechwriting abilities. For a start it's not even an original image; he's paraphrasing al-Rahifi. But has he chosen well here? Is it a good, successful, rhetorically effective figure of speech?

If the women are the meat, then all those sexually incontinent men must be the cats, right?

So here's what I want to know. If the women are the meat and the men are the cats, then who are these cat-owners and neighbours? Is there some sinister extra dimension to this little fairytale that I'm not picking up? Or is it just incoherent as well as repulsive?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


hasarder said...

I couldn't help wondering if he'd have seen it the same way if he used dog instead of cat.

JahTeh said...

Says a lot about the self-control of men, that they can't keep their trousers zipped in the presence of any un-hijabed woman, old, young, fat, thin, pretty, ugly etc.....

It's no good saying sorry either because in my book, if he said it then he was thinking it.

Dean said...

My neighbour at work is Pakistani, first generation. I said that the committee should have sacked al Hilaly and he said that many of them were men of his generation (he's over fifty) so it was unlikely.

If Carl Scully can get dropped for saying some stupid stuff, then al Hilaly should be sacked for saying what everyone knows is verging on the criminal.

redcap said...

(1) It's incoherent, repulsive and deserving of an enthusiastic slapping.
(2) If the sheikh is going to speak in public at all, he should get a speechwriter to keep him from making a twit of himself.
(3) It's a pity that simply by opening their mouths, misogynist idiots (such as al-Hilali) manage to perpetuate the right-wing, anti-Muslim ideas of other misogynist idiots (such as John Howard).
(4) Despite the distasteful subject, the pic of puss asleep on top of the fridge is just adorable.

elsewhere said...

I spent some time pondering the catfood analogy myself.

I really think this bloke is out of his depth as a public spokesperson and that he should be replaced quick-smart....however, I suspect things don't work that way in his world and that as Dean said, is committee is probably full of metaphorically challenged men of a similar age.

But I thought the response from most of the Muslim women I heard was just great.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Perhaps if we neutered all cats we wouldn't have rape?

Pavlov's Cat said...

UPDATE: I've just had another look at the wording of this speech and it appears to be the woman who doesn't put away the meat.

This is a bit of an improvement, actually. At least she has become, at least partly, a subject rather than an object. Now we have a woman who must regard her own body as meat to be hidden from the marauding rapist cats. At least we now have a bit of agency.

But if the issue is putting away the meat, then I'm not at all sure it's the women we ought to be addressing.

BK said...

Cats are evil.


Pavlov's Cat said...

Bwaaahahahahahahahaha. All your rustly plastic bag are belong to us.

Seriously, BK, it's terribly irritating of you to use a word like that. No wonder Howard keeps getting back in.

BK said...

Which word? QED?


Kate said...

I thought, from a few passing comments I heard in the meeja, that it was the fathers of the women who were the meat who didn't put it away? Ie, he was (or said he was) exhorting not only women to chaste, but men to keep women chaste in order that other men won't want to rape them.

Or something.

Kate said...

That comment made no sense. Sorry. I blame the patriarchy, and also that I am tired.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Check the last line of the second para, Kate - '... if she had not left the meat uncovered ...'

And the moral of the story, girls, is DON'T LEAVE YOUR MEAT UNCOVERED!

Melly` said...

lol - ok.. we can all baste and marinate?

Kate said...


If we were all vegetarians, even the cats, none of this would be a problem.