THE trouble with our perception of fundamentalism, Rabbi Herschel Gluck says, is that it focuses on the mentalists rather than the fun. Gluck, it seems, represents the sunny side of fundamentalism. For him, fundamentalism gives joy and depth to life. And it is quite possible to pursue the ideals of one’s religion without resorting to violence.
In We Do Do God (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week), the director of the Woolf Institute, Ed Kessler, explored those constituencies of the faithful from which the mainstream try to distance themselves, and found a richness of discourse far exceeding the usual portrayals. This was a programme refreshingly free from the polemical congestion that blocks access to clarity of understanding.
“We’re hard-nosed, but not jihadis,” one Salafi Muslim declared about his, the fastest-growing, brand of Islam. And there was a prevailing message that fervent commitment was nothing to be afraid of. The notorious pronouncement of Alastair Campbell, “We don’t do God,” was about the Blair government’s disengagement from faith issues. But Kessler’s title was intended not just as a direct contradiction: We do do God. Kessler emphasised it as “We do do God”: the implication being that we might do it, but we are not planning on destroying all you infidels in the process.
Brexit obsessions have largely pushed the migrant crisis from our screens and newspapers; and, with the disappearance of “the Jungle” from Calais, the story offers fewer fresh pickings. But, as Assignment: The crossing (World Service, Thursday of last week) reminded us, the refugees are not going away.
More than 100 refugees have been picked up in the English Channel since Christmas. That is the dramatic end of the story; the dull, depressing end is the plight of migrants who have fallen through the regulatory net and are stuck without apparent means of support.
Paul Kenyon’s report contained a lengthy and informative interview with Lord Dubs, whose 2016 amendment to the Immigration Act, which would have allowed safe passage to 3000 children, was effectively quashed when the Government imposed a cap. In presenting so vividly life in these new jungles, Kenyon provides some much needed moral clarity.
If you are an insomniac, Unclassified (Radio 3, Sundays) is the place for fabulous dreamlike crossovers such as “electronic ruralism”, and bands that claim a manifesto of “polyphony, pollution, and politics”. In last week’s anthology, I was struck by James Joys’s Constellation of Bargained Parts, which sampled and re-engineered the sounds of a chamber choir and organ into a magical soundscape; and the surprisingly mellow sounds of Matthew Herbert and his “Brexit Big Band”: a name that invites suggestions for band members. Who, for instance, would be beating the drum?