Exeter Goes to Waugh
I was lately in Exeter, hoping to see something of the Islamic Centre at the University. As it was a Sunday when I visited, I thought they might have been open for business. But the doors were locked and no access was possible. I did however read a massive plaque outside, which read in its entirety:
THIS BUILDING OWES EVERYTHING TO THE VISION AND GENEROSITY OF HIS HIGHNESS SHAIKH SULTAN BIN MOHAMMED AL-QASIMI PhD (EXON) THE RULER OF SHARJAH 3 JULY 2001
I was put in mind of Evelyn Waugh's Black Mischief, which opens with the Emperor Seth, ruler of Azania, and his titles. They include “TERROR OF THE SEAS” and “BACHELOR OF ARTS, OXFORD UNIVERSITY.” The ruler of Sharjah follows in the same tradition. But Evelyn Waugh is not mocked. There has never been a film or TV drama of Black Mischief, unlike Waugh’s other major novels. I expect the authorities found the title too incendiary.
Sign of the Times
Virtue signaling has now reached new heights, for the signal has become the message. Last week Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s Women and Equalities Minister, made history. She became the first to use sign language from the House of Commons despatch box. She used international signing to promote a global disability conference being hosted by the government this months. The disability must have included the entire House, which cannot have understood a single sign. It nevertheless applauded wildly, and was approved by the Speaker, who might justifiably have stopped a performance that was incomprehensible to those accustomed to the English language. Instead he responded, also signing, “that is good news.” Penny Mordaunt has now reached Olympic standards of virtue signaling and may well bring gold to England.
Ralph Berry writes from England.