Sigh! What Was Humza Thinking Of?


So Humza won and that, across the piece, is probably a good thing. Essentially, I think politics is – or should be – about what you believe, and it doesn’t matter to me where these beliefs come from. Anyone is free to accept or reject beliefs that emanate from any source – so if, for example, you don’t believe in equal marriage for gay people because of you are a member of a church conveniently situated next door, or because of something you read in a book, or from someone you talked to on a train or from your great-auntie Ina who worked for a gay man once and thought he was disgusting, it doesn’t matter. If you are, as a result, someone who doesn’t believe in equal marriage, then I would have to consider that in deciding for whom to vote and I probably wouldn’t vote for you. So of the rather undistinguished field on offer, Humza was probably the best choice. Low bar.

Also, he seems like a very nice guy – genuine and sincere, pleasingly smiley, with a strong family support. And I like it that he’s from an ethnic minority. I like the idea of an inclusive Scotland not least because it includes me. I like it that, come the next Holyrood election, both the First Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will be Pakistani-Scots; I also like it that they went to Hutchie, a school I’ve always admired even if they didn’t want to employ me thirty years ago. So all, in all, I suppose I breathed a sigh of relief, but that’s not the sigh at the top of the page.

That sigh, well that sigh is about the photo that was released within the first hours of Humza taking residence in Bute House, the one where he is praying with a group of male family members. Sigh. [It has subsequently been pointed out by a friend that in fact a tiny piece of Humza’s mother’s dress is visible in the picture. This, in fact, makes it worse: were family prayers segregated then that’s one thing; choosing to eliminate the entirety of one’s mother bar a square foot of her clothing is quite another, particularly when the photo is going out to the voters. That’s a choice!]

Now why was that considered a necessary photo to release, rather than say, a nice picture of the whole family (including eh…women) having a cup of tea, or strolling in Princes St Gardens, pausing to talk to well-wishers who themselves might get selfies with this new, young leader? I have a lot of problems with this picture, and none of them is to do with Humza being a Muslim. Really, it’s not – if I have a problem with religion, it’s with all religion and I don’t have that much of a problem anyway. Just as I find golfing weird, or wild swimming, or ballet, or Formula 1, I just find it odd that people choose to spend their time that way, but hey that’s their choice; people might find things I do weird and if it’s a free world for me, it’s one for people speaking in tongues and believing in paradise too.

My first problem is that I think that religion is a private thing and this was a deliberately public gesture. If you think about it, we do not generally know very much about the religious views of our leaders, because we do not live in a very religious society – we await the results of the census in Scotland, but, as in England, it’s bound to show a further decline in faith generally, and in church-going among all groups except the over-90’s and the dead. There was a little spate of amusing correspondence in The Guardian some time back about pictures of Theresa May coming out of church: such pictures of a senior politician are so rare it actually occasioned comment. We know, for example, that Tony Blair was a Catholic convert but I don’t think I’ve seen pictures of him at prayer or Mrs Thatcher or David Cameron or Neil Kinnock or Harold Wilson or Keir Starmer or Boris (this latter presumably for fear of sudden lightning storms). I don’t even know which of these individuals is or was religious. Seriously, Humza, we know you are a religious man from a religious background. Isn’t that enough?

My second problem is that it does seem a tad unfair to Kate Forbes, who made no bones about it – she was also a convert, this time to a very small sect which has hard-line conservative social values. She chose to make this a bigger plank of her campaign that she might have; had she played it down, the figures suggest she might well have won. What is it that Humza is saying here? Is he trying to appeal to the Kate voters, saying ‘look, look, I’m holy too! Trust me.’?

My third problem, and this recurs all the time now is – who are the people advising our leaders? Who thought it was ok for Rishi Sunak to give a video chat in a moving vehicle without a seat belt? Who backed Ash Regan’s notion of a physical ‘Independence Readiness Thermometer’? Are there advisers in Humza’s camp who actually thought that his standing among voters would improve if a photo went out of him in prayer? Are these mistakes, and legions more, being encouraged (or suggested) by today’s Sam Seaborns (except with lower IQ’s and much less attractive) and if so, why did they miss out when the common sense was being distributed? 

For me – and I suspect a whole lot more people – it was an avoidable misstep. I’d rather have had a picture of him golfing or at the ballet, and I’d rather there had been some women in the frame.


1 Comment

  1. It’s pretty obvious that Humza Youssef released the video because he’s trying to appeal to the muslim community. The Labour guy is also trying to appeal to that community and it isn’t at all surprising. They are Glasgow MSPs – try walking down Victoria Road in Glasgow and you’ll notice there’s a fair amount of votes to be collected. It may not appeal to your sensibilities or mine but we aren’t the target audience and that’s OK.

    Also, the English politicians get photographed in church praying all the time. Usually Westminster Abbey for some service involving royals. That’s playing to the religious/monarchist demographic in England.


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