It's been far too long since we last consulted the top gods. By which I mean since we paid a visit to the United Deities, that non-stop divine talk shop which all gods are entitled to attend, so they can discuss how we humans are managing the planet. Here are some of the minutes from last week's session ...
1. The Chairgod said the next item on the agenda was to do with Islam, which was back in the news again.
2. Allah asked if it was going to be this teddy bear business in Sudan.
3. The Chairgod said it was.
4. Allah said they had better get it over with, then.
5. The Jewish God said the only puzzling thing was why they had arrested the teacher, not the class, who had had the idea of calling the bear Mohamed in the first place.
6. Come to that, why was the Sudanese government not guilty of bringing Islam into disrespect by being behind so many massacres? Or was that not so bad as giving teddy bears silly names?
7. Allah said that was not the way things happened. A religion on the march took no prisoners. A militant, dynamic faith like Islam saw everything as a possible threat, and hit back, usually pre-emptively. Zionism was not dissimilar, as the Jewish God might have noticed. When Islam settled down to create a long-term stable state, things went quite differently. Maybe Zionism would calm down one day as well.
8. The Anglican God asked to be reminded of when this tolerant, long-suffering Muslim state had occurred in history. He was sorry if his memory was on the blink, but he just couldn't bring to mind this particular paradise of Islamic tolerance. Perhaps Allah could refresh his memory about Islam and open-mindedness.
9. The Chairgod said it was a delight to hear the Anglican God in his William Brown mode. Did Allah have a comment?
10. Allah said they only had to think of the Moorish glory days in Spain, for which Christians were endlessly nostalgic. Moorish civilisation in Spain had been its zenith; its intolerant nadir had been the brutal Inquisition, which, he seemed to remember, was a Catholic idea. Then there were the balmy days of the Ottoman Empire ...
11. The Catholic God said he was sorry but "balmy days"? Were the Ottomans not a conquering power, stamping on dissidence whenever possible?
12. Allah said it evolved into quite the opposite. Under the Ottomans, all communities had lived in peace, side by side, rubbing along together, swapping recipes and gossip. Arab lived next door to Jew. Greek with Turk. Even Armenians with others ... It was only when the Ottomans had disastrously backed the Germans in the Great War, and the Empire had been forcibly dismembered, that the communities became enemies fighting for survival.
13. Secular Turkey had arisen. Genocide had happened. Greek massacred Turk and vice versa. All because tolerant Islam had been replaced by dear old liberal, agnostic democracy, so well-meaning and so destructive.
14. Hanuman, the Indian monkey god, said he thought Allah had cleared up several centuries of history, but not the teddy bear question. As one of the few gods present who were half animal, he was disposed to be sympathetic to the teddy bear, if there were such an animal. In fact, a teddy bear was another crude American propaganda victory.
15. The Chairgod invited Hanuman to expand.
16. Hanuman said that every time the Americans waged war on something that frightened them, they massacred it and then turned it into a joke or toy figure. African slaves became minstrels. North American tribesmen become dime-store Indians and dumb figures in westerns. The mountain bear, hunted to near-extinction, became a teddy bear.
17. He, Hanuman, was proud of his monkey identity. If any pet monkey in any class in the world was not called "Hanuman", he personally would feel aggrieved.
18. The Chairgod said it might be time to move on to the next item, which was the never-ending attempt of author Philip Pullman to disbelieve in all gods everywhere. Laughter.
More of this tomorrow.