So the background we’ve been over in a previously quoted article, which Mr Hitchens has been reading too:
I read all the way to the end of Michael Slackman’s well-written and vividly illustrated report in the New York Times with that vague need one sometimes feels to hear the sound of another shoe dropping. When was he proposing to mention that there was something sectarian—possibly even something religious—in the decision to simultaneously butcher the pigs and downgrade the Christians?
I noticed that too. An entertainingly tragic passage:
Back in May, just as Egypt’s anti-porcine hysteria was gathering pace, there was a proposal from Sheik Ahmad Ali Othman, a senior advisory figure at the Ministry of Religious Endowments, that all pigs be killed because they were the descendants of those unbelieving Jews who were turned into swine in the Quran. (In case you don’t follow this very toxic debate between contending schools of militant Islam, there are those who maintain that Jews are the spawn of the pigs and monkeys into which Allah turned the heretics, and those who take the more moderate view that the heretics turned into pigs and monkeys were further cursed by being made barren and sterile. The latter view leads to the slightly more lenient and broad-minded conclusion that, bad as today’s Jews are, they at least cannot be in a direct line of descent from the original condemned beasts. These fine distinctions are worth knowing.)
And finally, leaving out the predictable anti-religious point at the end:
But no faith is immune to stupidity on this point. Centuries ago in Europe, cats were considered—especially the black ones among them—as the “familiars” of witches and put to death with revolting cruelty by Christians who were petrified of the evil one and his female envoys. The destruction of the feline led to the triumph of the rat, and to the flea that it bore on its back, and to the near collapse of European civilization.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to find that someone shares this little known fact.