TV review: Insha’Allah Democracy: Storyville, and Keeping Faith

03 August 2018

BBC/64th Street Media/Mohammed Ali Naqvi

Former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, at a meeting of the US House of Representatives, in Insha’Allah Democracy: Storyville (BBC4, Monday of last week)

Former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, at a meeting of the US House of Representatives, in Insha’Allah Democracy: Storyville (BBC4, Mon...

RELIGION in its most hateful form was the subject of Insha’Allah Democracy: Storyville (BBC4, Monday of last week), a personal account of one Pakistani Muslim’s journey of political affiliation, broadcast on the eve of the recent election.

Mo Naqvi sought to discover what makes his country such a murderous hotbed of religious hatred — not in the persecution of Christians, but the background conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, not to mention other minor sects and sub-sects.

The succession of military coups, and deposing of prime ministers, and the regular descent into failure to secure anyone’s safety but that of your own power base, provided little hope that democracy would provide any stability based on justice and the rule of law.

The support of a former President, Pervez Musharraf, for the post-9/11 United States’ “war on terror” was presented here as an honourable response to unspeakable hatreds that were threatening to destabilise Pakistan as much as the West — but one whose working out, through drone strikes and seemingly indicriminate slaughter, made it only too easy to present it as unIslamic, fuelling popular support for violent extremism.

One of the sequences most difficult to watch was Naqvi’s interview with the Taliban clerical leader who, to rousing cheers of support, defined anyone who failed to ally himself with their own harsh reading of the Prophet’s teachings as unIslamic, not a Muslim, and therefore deserving nothing but death.

Again and again it raised the conundrum: should we accept the failings and errors of a leader who, on balance, can provide security and the rule of law rather than fight for one who will sooner or later fail and plunge the nation into chaos? The final sequence offered some hope: Naqvi considered that this present election exhibited some signs that general acceptance of the greater good might prevail.

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Keeping Faith (BBC1, Thursdays) is not, as anyone would reasonably assume in a Christian country, a popular exposition of how we might live out the Nicene Creed. It is, by contrast, a crime drama about a woman called Faith, a lawyer with three small children whose husband has suddenly gone missing. The local police chief scents a crime, and Faith as the guilty party.

As is common in this genre, our heroine is intuitive and rule-bending. Oh, and did I mention that she is extremely good-looking, with a penchant for wearing high-heeled shoes? The more she finds out about her missing husband, the more uncomfortable facts emerge: he used to frequent the local lap-dancing club, and his parents are hiding a family secret.

In last week’s episode, she found time to help out the vicar, charged with running off with £200 from the collection. He had done so, for distressing personal reasons — but she was not going to let that get in the way of her sense of right and wrong. The scene where she persuaded him not to jump off the cliff near by was affecting and moving. The dramatic plot is far-fetched and clichéd, but it is fast-paced, intelligent, and draws you in for all the best reasons.

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