Flat Earth

Islam finds the

answer to BSkyB

FIRST Worlders become patronising or exasperated when Third World countries blame every mishap on mysterious "outside influences", or what Pakistani newspapers call "the Foreign Hand" - which all their readers understand as a reference to India. This applies not just to human incidents such as riots, but even to natural disasters.

I wonder, though, if the same instinct does not underlie our own rush to find some external cause for tragedies such as Dunblane or the murder of James Bulger. We tend to blame our own society rather than foreigners, but the same irresistible power to pervert behaviour is ascribed to video nasties or heavy metal music.

Not that Third World parents cannot also find a scapegoat in television. Last week police in Pakistan freed more than 60 children who had been confined with ropes and chains at two Muslim religious schools in Punjab province. The superintendent of one said: "Parents leave their children with us and ask us to chain them because they have fallen into bad habits of watching dish antennas [satellite television] and blue movies."

A senior policeman said some of the rescued children had been in chains for more than a year. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which drew attention in its 1995 report to the strict discipline imposed at some Koranic schools, said: "Many even kept the children in chains round the clock so that they... were not exposed to any outside influences, which were all regarded as evil." If this is the only way of protecting children, it would hardly be surprising if evil seemed more attractive.

War by other means

WILL Taiwan stop at nothing in its war of words with China? Its representative office in London has eagerly circulated the following poem of support from 11-year-old Nicolas Andrews of Rochdale:

Taiwan may be small and meek./But China look at them with a different eye/Look at them as just an onlooker./You will see mighty strength.

You will see people ready to defend there./There might only be a strait between you/But that does not mean anything to Taiwan/So beware don't risk your soldiers lives

If you win you will not be acknowledged as the real winners/The Taiwan soldiers will be considered the winners/For their bravery, for defending their country/So beware China, watch out, you will lose out.

TAIWAN IS NOT SCARED.

I'll bet China is, though. If this is not enough to bring Peking to its knees, maybe the Taiwanese should threaten them with Private Eye's slightly older laureate, EJ Thribb.

Bugame (anag)

ZIMBABWE is a land where men are men and women are women, and anyone confused enough about his or her sexual identity to go for someone of the same gender is an animal. We have this on no less an authority than that of President Robert Mugabe, recently re-elected with 90 per cent plus of the vote: he says gays are sub-humans "who are worse than dogs and pigs".

Even heterosexual men have to watch their step, according to one of Mugabe's provincial governors. Climbing aboard the presidential bandwagon, Welshman Mabhena told a seminar of women managers a few days ago: "Our culture and tradition has a clear division of labour - there are certain household chores that cannot just be done by men."

Cooking and nappy-washing are among tasks, according to Mabhena, that have taken many men along the road to divorce. One wonders what the female managers were supposed to make of this - was it simply that they should do all the chores when they got home, or did he mean them to pack in their careers altogether?

Heap big huff

IN CONTRAST to Zimbabwe, the new South Africa is a haven of political correctness, with equal rights for gays. But Phil Fontaine discovered that even in the rainbow nation, multicultural awareness has its limits. The Canadian leader of a fact-finding mission was so offended by what he saw in a Cape Town restaurant that he walked out.

What was the sin of the Spur Steakhouse, which does its best to emulate a Western saloon? It had labelled its lavatories "Squaws" and "Braves", terms considered derogatory by Fontaine, a Canadian Indian who is grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba. "They're not even words in our language," said one of his party. "We haven't seen it in years ... But we believe it was done out of ignorance."

Duncan Werner, a spokesman for the Spur chain, confirmed this. The company, he said, was unaware the terms could offend, but in suitably correct fashion invited Fontaine's delegation to discuss the matter.

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