A match made in Mecca - we hope

Dodi Fayed is one of `us' and he has got hold of the most famous and feted of all of `them', writes Fuad Nahdi

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The Princess of Wales's continuing fascination with Muslim men invokes conflicting emotions within the British Muslim community. On the one hand, there is apprehension that the dashing Dodi Fayed will do the dirty on Di and leave all Islam and Muslims at the mercy of Britain's not-so-forgiving public opinion. On the other is an inflated sense of pride: you might hate and abuse us on the high streets and in alleyways, but our boys are cruising off with your biggest catches on the high seas.

Dodi Fayed might be the darling of London society, but prior to his flirtation with Diana, Princess of Wales, the 36-year-old with more money than a beard was not exactly a household name among members of the Bradford Council of Mosques. But with a father named Mohammed, he is one of "us" and he has got the most famous and feted of "them".

A Dodi-Diana union would revolutionise British society. Culture, couture and the British sense of citizenship would change forever. Imran Khan's marriage to Jemima Goldsmith introduced the shalwar kameez to both the high class and the high street. Will Diana Fayed (still the Princess of Wales and of Fashion) be responsible for introducing fuol muddamas and the galabiyyah to our food and fashion outlets?

On a more serious note, what is it that attracts the creme de la creme of Western womanhood to Muslim man? Is it simply realising the fantasy of the tall, dark, handsome stranger (as per "classic" fiction recommended at most finishing schools)? Of course, Dodi might not exactly fit the bill, but no one's perfect. It does, however, help to have a father who has some change to spare.

Could it be that Muslim man of both the born-again (Imran Khan) and playboy (Dodi) variety offers something that his Occidental counterpart just doesn't have? If anything, Diana and Jemima are the epitome of the free spirit; women able to determine the prospects and direction of their lives. Is the message in their action, then, that New Man is unequal to the demands of New Woman?

If so, what are the features that unite Dr Hasnat Khan (the Pakistani surgeon said to be a friend of Diana's), Dodi Fayed and Imran Khan? One is that behind their mesmerising Westernised facades are traditional and opinionated males of the old stock. Strong-willed, family-centred and intrinsically chauvinistic, they are a delicate blend of the excesses of the East and the West. They afford a "respect" towards the object of their desires no longer available in the Europeanised male.

It has been pointed out that, by marrying Dodi Fayed, Diana would, as in the case of Jackie Onassis, be able to sustain the privileged lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. As for Dodi marrying the Princess of Wales, she would be the most valuable trophy to bring home to his billionaire father. Di would elevate the Al Fayeds from being just another mega-rich Arab family to being the family: access to the corridors of power and influence in the West is appreciated by both oil and jute sellers. After all, who needs a British passport if the future King of England is your step-grandson?

Prince Charles is said to have expressed his best wishes over the Dodi- Diana union. This is hardly surprising, for the Prince of Wales is familiar with both Islam and his family's close association with the faith over the centuries. Genealogists would tell you that there is a lot of halal blood flowing in the veins of the Royal Family. Queen Victoria's obsession with her "munshi", Abdul Karim, reached such a point that King Edward VII ordered all papers related to the Queen's advisor to be burned.

Even at this moment, the galabiyyah-clad Prince of Wales may well be looking back with regret at the opportunities Islam could have offered him. Assuming that he wanted both to remain married to the mother of his children and to ensure that he shared the rest of his life with Camilla Parker Bowles, the best option for him would have been polygamy, which Islam allows. After all, in the Islamic world, having several wives is considered an asset not a hindrance to kingship.

Finally, the question is: who is next? For they say good things happen in threes. Who knows, Fay Weldon, that scourge of Islam over The Satanic Verses, could be the next to succumb to the charms of Muslim man.

The writer is editor of Q-News, the Muslim magazine.

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