I had a phone call this week from a national newspaper asking me, “Shazia, do you think the 40 lashes facing the Sudanese woman for wearing trousers is too much or too little?”
I assumed this must be a joke, so said, “Well, it depends on the make. If they’re Calvin Kleins, 10 lashes should be knocked off for good taste.” The researcher got very annoyed and bellowed, “This is a very serious subject!” So why ring a comedian?
Two weeks ago, I had a call from a radio station: “Shazia, what is your opinion on this year’s GCSE exam results for girls and boys?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care,” I replied. “I don’t have to retake them any more.”
A few days later, I had a phone call from a very respectable radio show, ringing to inquire, “Would it be possible for you to come on to our programme on Sunday morning” – that was the end of the conversation for me – “and talk about religion. But in a funny way.”
Then a well-respected foreign newspaper rang to ask, “Shazia, what are your views on rape?” I couldn’t believe this moronic, inane question was for real, so decided to provide the reporter with an equally offensive response to mirror her ignorance. So I said, “Sometimes you just have to take what you can get.”
“Thank you for your comments,” she said and put down the phone.
Of course, I’d made up the answer and don’t think that at all. Worse still, she didn’t seem to get that my answer was sarcastic and went ahead and printed it in the paper as fact.
Opinion is the new Burberry. Everybody’s got one. I am constantly being asked for my views. On absolutely everything. Even if I don’t have any. When I revealed that Ididn’t have an opinion on men’s underwear, a TV producer shouted, “Make one up!” If I decline, I am considered a non-thinker and feel as though I am disappointing everyone. I don’t mind giving my opinion on the things I care about or have some knowledge of, but I find it quite benighted that people assume my way of thinking is in line with the Taliban and that it would make an interesting contrast with that of the liberal thinkers of Britain.
There is a weight of expectation Ican’t get away from. I had a complaint this week from a man grumbling that I don’t answer enough of his questions. “In your next show could you write some autobiographical jokes about arranged marriage, incest, racism, genital mutilation and honour killings? I mean, who better to tell them than you?”
I won’t be taking his advice: that show sounds as funny as Schindler’s List. What makes this man think I have inside knowledge or experience of any of the above? His own prejudice, I presume. That, or he’s been living in my mum’s cellar.
If I don’t fulfil people’s preconceived ideas, they feel let down. If certain girls refuse to marry the person their parents have chosen for them, they feel dishonoured. Forced marriage? What do you want me to say about it? I’ve spent the last two years trying to force my lazy parents to force someone to marry me.
After a pedicure I had last week, aform was handed to me: “Please give your opinion on the service provided.” It was not multiple choice, and there was not a selection of answers to help me choose my thoughts. Once again, I had to make it up. I wrote, “It was extremely enjoyable having the nail that was hanging off my big toe removed, although my little toe seemed a little left out and could have done with slightly more consideration. Nevertheless, all toes and myself had a great time. The background music was good and the little lady handling my toes was very sweet, even though she didn’t say a word to me. I assume she can’t speak English. Never mind, it’s not necessary. Although she could learn the phrase, ‘Have you got any holidays planned?’ in Korean. All your magazines were three years out of date, and that’s the part I really look forward to, so I expect better next time.”