In Stone Town, Zanzibar, two young British women were attacked by men on a moped who threw acid at them. Prompted by a photograph displayed on the website of the project which the women were volunteering for at the time, this short piece seeks to sketch out why the attack took place. Unashamedly conjectural – fanciful, even – it is perhaps more factual (literally, of what has been done) than labelling the incident as ‘Muslim extremism.’
“I joined the music project organised by an NGO in my country. I’m wearing the T-shirt one of the volunteers gave me. Tommy Hilfiger or somesuch. And there we are, me and Josh or somesuch, mixing the track with me on drums and him on guitar. It’s his hand on the faders and he fades down the kick drum with that double kick on the fourth which I sweated to get, and brings up his guitar.
“Of course he turns and smiles and asks if that’s OK, and I say it is OK but that is the moment when I am not OK with this NGO set-up nor will I be so ever again.
“Suddenly I see myself from outside myself, looking in on him and me, and I see it’s always going to be him first, his hand on the controls, me off-centre and the editing screen full face on him. Volunteer Boy with the right-on beads and less than a beard like he’s never going to grow up. But standing always and forever above me.
“I hadn’t thought of it before. There was no occasion to think about it. I assumed that the music would level us; two young men equal in front of the music, for the sake of getting it right.
“It wasn’t to be.
“That moment sparked in me the desire to burn these people and the flawless skin they come wrapped in. Daughters and sons who’ve never done anything wrong, of parents who’ve done everything right.
“We will mark you in one way or another.”