January 22, 2009

Boar Comment on Prince Harry

This is a slightly different version of my comment published in The Boar of T2 wk3 08/09

George Orwell said the following about fascism:

The word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else... almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’”.

The same is happening today with racism. The definition of the term is becoming increasingly wide.

In a private video three years ago Prince Harry referred to one of his Sandhurst colleagues as “our little paki friend...Ahmed”. He did not seem offended nor did he file a complaint. The video has now been made public and the use by Prince Harry of the “P-word” has caused a lot of negative reactions. Everyone from politicians to Muslim leaders condemned Prince Harry for what he said. It was racist and offensive they said.

Prince Harry used the term in an affectionate way. Paki is simply an abbreviation for Pakistani. It's true it has been used as a racist term. But this should not mean that every use of the term is racist. Racist individuals should not have the monopoly of using this word. Indeed, according to an article by the BBC, some young Pakistanis use it themselves. What is important is the context and the intention of the person using the word. “Filthy paki” is completely different from “my little paki friend”.

Those who label Prince Harry's action as “racist” contribute to the weakening of this word. This may eventually lead to taking all the power away from this word and making it a synonym of bully.

The use of a word may be offensive to some but this does not mean someone should be socially banned from using it. As Orwell said:

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Her Majesty and by extension the Royal family are a unifying figure in Britain (or at least they are supposed to be). They should not do anything which could be (mis)interpreted as being divisive. This is the reason why Prince Harry should have apologised and it is right that he did so. We should however bear in mind that this was a private video.

Mohammed Shafiq, a young Muslim who is the chief executive of the Ramadhan foundation, was one of the people who reacted to Prince Harry's comment. According to the BBC he said the following:

“Anybody who uses derogatory terms such as the 'P' word and other words are obviously from a different age. He is trying to portray this image of being caring like his mother, who was a great woman, or his father who's a person who's widely respected across the world. He's a thug.”

He later apologised for calling Prince Harry a thug. His emotions had got the better of him, according to the Times.

What is interesting to note is that his comments have drawn very little criticism. Is what Prince Harry has done so much worse than calling someone a thug? Or is it just political correctness?

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I don’t know but I’m trying to work out why “filthy paki” sounds worse than “filthy brit”. There must be a reason.

    22 Jan 2009, 12:37

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