And then came 2005.
To understand why 2005 was important, one has to know that Aalst is world famous in Belgium for its carnival, the tradition of which goes back, officially at least, to 1851. The Aalst Carnival is an outrageous parade with tens of flamboyant, raucous groups mocking in crude fashion national and international persons and events of the past year. No one or nothing is safe from them, and effigies of politicians in particular grotesquely emphasize peculiar facial anomalies, see pic to the right e.g., where a certain Texan formerly of the oil business and Alcoholics Anonymous is depicted. Don't worry, it wasn't burned. Now, even as MFBB is W's staunchest supporter this side of the Atlantic, that's okay for me.
Notorious among the Aalst carnival groups are the so-called "voil jeannetten", or dirty fags. Caesar may have said that the Belgians are the bravest of all Gauls, but he probably hadn't conquered Aalst yet, since an encounter with voil jeannetten might have made him swallow anything nice he had otherwise to say about us. See some samples of these cultural disasters here. Btw, the photo to the left is a tribute Aalst style to the leadership of the Vlaams Belang, the
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand yet another photo! This one makes it clear what our Beloved Comrade, Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt is famous for apart from screwing up the economy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Repooplics of Belgistan. With a haircut and teeth like that, who wants to be Brad Pitt? Upon having served their term, all Beljun PM's have their bust displayed in some dipshit hall in Parliament. Need I say more? A Verhofstadt bust like that is certainly okay for me!
But then, on that dreadful February 6, 2005, came along a carnival wagon with, erm, effigies depicting an, erm, sensitive issue, likely to, erm, offend, erm, certain population groups adhering, erm, a non-specified religion. See for yourself and conclude with me that in this case all lines have been crossed. To the right we see a man with non-typical headgear for Inuit eskimos and a mouth propped full with... dynamite bars!!! To the left what seems to be a female clad in a non-typical Saint-Tropez swimming suit, clutching those dynamite bars again in her left hand. And the central character has a bullet-riddled fez and a grenade in his hand. He appears to be flying. Is it perhaps preposterous to assume he's on his way to heaven and, hopefully for him, towards a rendezvous with 72 hot females? To make matters worse, accompanying the wagon was a squad of voil jeannetten, apparently trying out Ikea's new clothing line for The Fashion Conscious European Female Of 2025. Anyway, you hear me coming. This was definitely not okay.
Soon thereafter, angry letters landed on the desks of Yves Leterme, Flemish Minister-President, and Laurette Onkelinckx, Belgian Justice Minister. It was written on behalf of the Arab League by the Arab ambassadors to Belgium, spearheaded by the KSA Ambassador. In the letter, they complained bitterly that the Aalst carnival parade had shown, a.o., terrorists in typical Islamic garb as well as a mockup mosque...
"We want to inform you about our anxiety", wrote the Saudi ambassador on behalf of the Arab League and the Council of Arab Ambassadors. "This is offending for Muslims. Attitudes like that can harm [the image of]Islam and incite feelings with Muslims and Arabs. We ask you to take judicial, administrative and political measures and to punish the offenders."
Leterme left it to Flemish Integration Minister Marino Keulen (that's a man)(I think so) to answer the letter. Belgium anno 2005 wouldn't be Belgium anno 2005 if Keulen did not produce a hyper PC letter, indeed pointing out that at the Aalst carnival fun is poked with each and everyone, but that the good ambassadors could be assured that racism would not be tolerated.
February 2006. Possibly having heard of the Arab League's letter of the year before, and with the worldwide muslim anger over 12 cartoons fresh in their minds, authorities in neighboring Holland and Germany forbid carnival committees to include effigies of Muhammad, references to islamic terrorism and indeed any allusions to "matters sensitive to muslims". Said one organizing committee in the Dutch province of Brabant: "Making allusions to the cartoon crisis will not be tolerated either." As The Brussels Journal reported, Participants can mock whomever they want, except Muslims.
And in Belgium? Paul Beliën reports:
Today, the organizers of the carnival are wondering whether to ask the participating groups – “dirty fagots” and others – not to refer to the Muhammad cartoons. Knowing the “voil jeanetten,” they are capable of wearing pig masks and pretending to be Muhammad. The parade organizers are meeting the police and the mayor this week, as they do not exactly know what policy to follow. “Prohibited certain things might have the opposite effect,” Nicole Ringoir, the president of the organizing committee, told a Flemish newspaper. “Perhaps we should trust that the carnival revellers know how far they can go.” In other words: count on the fact that even dirty fagots fear for their lives.
As Aalst Carnaval 2006 approached, I kept a keen eye on the newspapers this week, curious for what the organizing committee would deem appropriate in The Year Of Living Dangerously In Eurabia. I was not to be surprised. Somewhere I stumbled on an interview with Anny De Maght, Mayor of Aalst. The buzzword this year, Ladies and gentlemen, is respect. “We cannot censor the parade. During carnival the inhabitants of Aalst mock everything and everyone, including the Pope and the King. I trust that our groups will know what limits to respect.”
R.E.S.P.E.C.T. huh? My ass. Aretha Frankin sang "I ain't gonna do you wrong while you're gone - Ain't gonna do you wrong (oo) 'cause I don't wanna (oo)". Guess Mr. De Maght sings "I ain't gonna do you wrong while you're here - Ain't gonna do you wrong (oo) 'cause I fear (oo)."
Luckily, there are plenty of vicious warmongering sources of bad vibes readily available for ridicule on comes Sunday, February 26. E.g., a
You got to admire their courage!