By George!

The Guardian newspaper has a section called ‘Comment is free‘, but when I tried to post my comment to a piece published there by Nooruddean Choudry I found that the option to do so had closed – oh the irony! – possibly because there were already over 1,300 comments there.

Therefore I decided to rewrite it and extend it into a full-size blog post.

Note: While I find the article so poorly written that I suspect it may be a hoax – online research into its author appears to return various attempts at ‘humour’ – based on the fact that it was published in a ‘serious’ newspaper I will address it as genuine.

Choudry’s piece is titled ‘Euro 2012: I want to be an England fan and a Muslim. Why’s that so hard?‘ and subtitled ‘England football fans dressing up as Christian knights from the Crusades doesn’t endear Muslims to the cause‘. Click here to read the article (mirror image here).

Now, aside from the grammatical wonkiness of that subtitle, the statement he makes in that sentence (which he elaborates on in his piece) is, well, erm, shoddy – to say the least.

First of all, in his choice of wording he seems to suggest to represent the sentiments of all (English) Muslims, and I know that’s just not true. The English Muslims I know have stocked up on England flags, red and white bunting, and replica football shirts; they have never mentioned crusades or any offence taken at knight fancy dress costumes. Whether Nooruddean Choudry represents even a majority of (English) Muslims? I don’t know, but based on the aforementioned personal experience I personally doubt it. And if his sentiments indeed represent widely-held beliefs, does that make them justified?

Secondly, if the picture accompanying Choudry’s piece is anything to go by, the phenomenon of England fans dressing up in knight costumes isn’t particularly common.

Thirdly,  I am pretty sure England fans don’t dress up to represent ‘Christian knights from the Crusades’ as Choudry suggests. As far as I am aware sports fan in a knight costume does so in reflection of England’s patron saint, Saint George, who, as the legend goes, slayed a dragon. And yes, the crusaders apparently revered that story, too, but it doesn’t alter the fact that the legend of Saint George and the Dragon has Eastern origins and that George himself was believed to have been of Turkish descent.

Heraldry Of The World (
Crest of Amersfoort (Source:

How I know? Because Saint George isn’t merely revered by the English. In the 90s I worked as a tourist guide, explaining to tourists the legend of St George in a town in the Netherlands where St George is proudly held as its patron saint – offensive? If Nooruddean Choudry considers himself a football fan he might have spotted the cross of St George in FC Barcelona’s crest as well – offensive? There’s a Dutch theme park ride dedicated to George and an annual reenactmentof George’s battle with the dragon (involving knight costumes and swords) in Belgium – offensive? And here’s a piece of trivia: had yours truly been born a boy, my name would have been Joris (Dutch for George) – HOW OFFENSIVE IS THAT, EH?!

But I suspect Nooruddean Choudry hasn’t spent an awful lot of research into history (or trivia) beyond the realms of his agenda . I doubt most fans of England’s national football team have, either; they merely support and celebrate their country – nothing more or deeper – in an event that is about exactly that.

While I cannot escape the thought that Choudry’s piece was written as a hoax – have any anti-unionists expressed outrage at the Netherlands’ football fans’ choice of attire yet? – if it isn’t, and he seriously feels as offended as he claims to be, personally I find that to his problem and not anyone else’s.

Yet pieces like these could just make people who are as ill-informed as Choudry but taking the opposite viewpoint to him think that every immigrant like myself and every (English) Muslim will be offended by flags being waved or by football fans in fancy dress… That’s a fallacy that was bad enough when it was held within the territory of the tabloids and if mainstream ‘serious’ newspapers like the Guardian wish to adopt it too, then good grief, we’ve really dumbed down as a society.

In that case I may as well add a dumbed-down response, as the above may go over some people’s heads – so here’s me blowing a proverbial raspberry:

Offended by that? Get over it!

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