Muslim car is a step too far

YOU don't see many Protons around these days, do you? And no, I don't mean the sub-atomic particles, which are everywhere but too small to see.I mean the Malaysian-built cars which burst on to the market some time around 1990.

YOU don't see many Protons around these days, do you?

And no, I don't mean the sub-atomic particles, which are everywhere but too small to see.

I mean the Malaysian-built cars which burst on to the market some time around 1990.

When they appeared, I was very tempted. They appeared to be Japanese in quality and Soviet in price - the best of both worlds.

And they were said to hold their value well, though I'm not sure how anyone could tell that with a new product. They didn't really catch on here as predicted, but worldwide they were a major part of the Far East “tiger economy”.

Lately, though, Proton's share of the world market has been dropping. So they've come up with a cunning ruse to grab both a bit of limelight and, they hope, a load of new customers across the globe.

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The new Proton, to be developed in partnership with companies in Turkey and Iran (where the idea came from), will be a dedicated “Muslim” car.

It will feature a compass that always points towards Mecca. Very useful, no doubt, for the devout driver - though how the GPS technology behind it will go down with the more traditional believers, I don't know.

And there will be special compartments for the Koran, and for headscarves. In what way these will differ from the conventional glove-compartment - or the rear shelf - I can't imagine.

However, it's an interesting development, and I shall be intrigued to see how it develops.

Will the new Islamic Proton become the natural vehicle of choice not just in Iran, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur, but in Tower Hamlets too?

Will it have to be hastily incorporated into law that you should not discriminate against someone on the basis of what car they drive?

Which will be the first car-maker to produce a dedicated Christian vehicle - and what features will it have?

A Bible-holder? A dangly crucifix where the furry dice should be? A nodding Jesus in the rear window? All those are easily available as accessories for any car already.

Stained-glass windows would be nice, though I could foresee difficulties.

And what of the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Pagans, the Buddhists? Are they each to get their own marque of motor?

Frankly, I hope not. And I hope the Islamic Proton quietly rolls off to the great breakers yard in the sky, too.

Isn't it time we concentrated a little more on our common humanity, and a little less on finding new ways to badge up the differences between us?

If it's discreet, I can see no harm in a special compass and a book-holder. It's the promotion of difference that troubles me - and without promotion, the idea has no value to the manufacturer.

SOMEHOW, not so long ago, we all managed our lives adequately without mobile phones.

Now the masts are everywhere, the number of calls and messages transmitted through the atmosphere every day truly mind-boggling.

Do we know what all those new-generated microwaves are doing to our brains, our reproductive or other organs, our children? No, we don't. They haven't been around long enough to tell for sure.

The other day I came across a child so attached to his mobile phone, he takes it to bed with him. If it's switched on, and under his pillow, it may be gently frying his brain every night while he sleeps.

I vividly remember the first place I ever saw mobile phones being used in the profusion now commonplace here. It struck me, because mobiles were still quite cumbersome and a relative novelty here.

It was 12 years ago, in a poor area of Istanbul. What exactly that says about the mobile as a necessity or as a status symbol, I'm not sure, but it must say something.

I don't suppose the young (and older) Turks were using specifically Muslim phones.

But if such things don't exist yet, I'm sure they will soon.

There is already a “kosher” phone on sale in Israel, where it is apparently popular with Orthodox (mostly poorer) Jews.

It can't take or send pictures, access the internet or connect to premium-rate numbers. All of which sounds good to me. Neither can it send or receive text messages, which doesn't sound so good - not that I'm text-mad like some folk.

Best of all, it's use comes much cheaper than other phones. Except on the Sabbath, when it charges you 150 times the normal rate. Oh, and a professional team of overseers constantly updates the list of banned numbers - mostly sex and dating lines.

I can see the sense in it, but it does smack rather of Big Brother. Or Big Rabbi.

Like the Muslim car, it makes me wonder where the alliance of religion and technology will take us next.

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