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I’ve just finished reading what amounts to an op ed piece  concerned with the mistaken assumptions and exposures we risk in our personal communications, in this new age of electronic media.  It reinforces the uneasiness I’ve repeatedly felt when poised to use even single words, appropriate and meaningful in context, that might signal alarm in the ear of Big Brother.  I may be less worried than the average person about protecting my privacy because I think that my ideas are innocent and well-intentioned, and that I’m brave enough to back them up or accommodate criticism if openly challenged.  But am I so naive or foolhardy as to bring down suspicion not only on me but also on my reader – suspicion or blacklisting that I may never be given the chance to defend against – in a time of increasing paranoia and surveillance?
Anyone familiar with my website will recognize that when I mention “Kashmir”, nine times out of ten it is followed by the word “shawl” and has no political connotation.  This is not to say a case can’t be made for the Kashmir shawl as an article of cultural pride.
I wish to speak for my impulse to use the expression “Insha’Allah”.  It translates as “God willing”, and is proper in Islam to be remembered and invoked whenever one is talking about one’s future plans, as a reminder these are always conditional.  I am not a Muslim, nor really a Christian although I was raised in a Christian culture where the expression isn’t often heard, so for me to add “God willing” to any talk of my future plans sounds a bit too sanctimonious.  But I do want to remind myself and others that my plans for the future are made in all humility, and might not work out in spite of my best efforts and intentions.
It gets complicated: my initial worry is that Western society feels threatened particularly by Muslim religiosity; some Muslims at least feel it’s not proper for an outsider to invoke their name of God; others might refrain from invoking it even among themselves for fear of prompting suspicion, rightly or wrongly.  So, am I left to make bald statements about, “tomorrow, I’m going to do this…” or “such-and-such will happen,” and risk appearing the presumptuous, inflexible egotist?
Or do I have to dance my way around simple grammatical constructions by forever saying “I hope…” or “it might…”, much as I have learned to avoid using “he” or “she” when the gender of the reference is unspecified, out of respect for feminist sensibilities?  It’s challenging enough to use language to say what I mean, to those who are really listening, without having to worry about stray words overheard out of context by a computer somewhere.


~ by Peter Harris on 20/10/2014.

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