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Holiday reading for MPs?

MulticulturalismWhile Michael Gove’s Academies Bill offers more opportunties for people to set up faith schools or to make existing ones less accountable, the Labour leadership candidates all say they’re pro-faith schools. Faith schools are a part, a rather large part, of the problem of “multiculturalism”, about which so much nonsense has been spoken and written by ignorant politicians.

Rumy Hasan’s book, Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths, ought to be on every MP’s holiday reading list. Barry Thorpe’s review for the NSS explains clearly why:

This book articulates very clearly the dangers and fallacies inherent in the current concept of multiculturalism, illustrated with example after example. It should be compulsory reading for every MP and every government department.

Pope protest, BBC Thought for the Day, and more from the Internet

A Protest the Pope march and rally will take place in Central London on 18 September. See the Protest the Pope website for details. If anyone from Suffolk is planning to go could they please let us know?

Ekklesia, the liberal Christian organisation, has published a report on the BBC’s Thought for the Day that “challenges the terms of the current controversy over BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘God slot’ by actually analysing its content – with some surprising results.” See their website for more.

BHA President Polly Toynbee tackles Labour leadership contender Ed Balls about his support for faith schools in a video on the Guardian website, about 10 minutes in.

Christina Patterson of the Independent has a go at multiculturalism, female genital mutilation (FGM) and bad manners, and I say “Hear hear!”.

Click on the links for more.

Is wearing the niqab any more acceptable than wearing a paper bag over my head?

BurqaPhillip Hollobone MP has said that he expects niqab wearing constituents to remove them before he’ll talk to them. Liberty has warned him of potential legal action under the Equality Act 2006, because this would constitute religious discrimination.

Maybe Mr Hollobone is right. It would be reasonable to ask someone wearing a crash helmet with tinted face shield to remove it, or a paper bag, so why should a niqab be different? In this instance, I think Liberty is wrong. You might argue that this isn’t about religion, but about culture. I’ve emailed Liberty (not that they’ll take any notice of me, having forgotten that I was once on their National Executive committee). This is what I commented on the Guardian website:

I saw two very young women being interviewed on TV about their burqas and niqabs the other day. They were clearly unaware, as are most who are raised in the UK and adopt this form of dress, that this is as much a cultural issue as a religious one. Many Muslim women’s families originate in countries where the burqa and niqab aren’t worn by a majority, and their interpretation of the Qur’an is quite different; they don’t wear Islamic dress. I recently spoke to a young man from Egypt who said he was shocked at the difference between the liberal attitudes back home and the rigidity of the attitudes in a British mosque. He said he’d never go there again as he felt he had nothing in common with the mainly Pakistani people who worshipped there.

Learning from Northern Ireland

Throughout the current debate about faith schools and the Conservatives’ determination to muck about with our education system so that we have more “academies” run as faith-based independent schools at public expense, the example of Northern Ireland has been conveniently ignored. One of the main reasons why the Troubles lasted so long was because of religious segregation. Those of different faiths or no faith were largely invisible. Several generations of children went to segregated schools, continuing to demonize each other and never mixing.

The integrated schools movement started in 1981 with the foundation of Lagan College, thanks to the efforts of parents who wanted a better way of life for their children. Read more about it on the website of the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education, and ask yourselves why so many people in England are determined to move in the opposite direction?

Bad news on academies

Thank you if you emailed your MP about the Academies Bill in response to an urgent appeal a few days ago, but it doesn’t look as though we’ve had much success. One of our members had an email from his MP, as follows:

Thank you for your email … and I note your concerns.

However, I have a different view to you on this matter and am a great advocate of faith schools.

I think you will find that there are safeguards for a balanced curriculum and I will not be tabling any amendments.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Therese Coffey MP
Suffolk Coastal

The Academies Bill is being rushed through Parliament with undue haste to try to get it sorted before the summer recess, which starts on 27 July. Amendments tabled by Dr Julian Huppert MP, vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, would have prevented or restricted religious discrimination in the new Academies’ admissions policies.

Fictional TV character drops Qur’an, Muslims incensed

Muslims deficient in a sense of humour or proportion are upset about a scene from BBC TV’s Eastenders in which a gay Muslim character handles his copy of the Qur’an rather roughly, upset about his love life. He probably didn’t even say “Oops!”, though I wouldn’t know because I never watch it.

Oh please! Taking offence has become a full-time occupation for some people.

Why our welcomings aren’t free

Just did a radio interview about baby-naming or welcoming ceremonies. Didn’t get a chance to say a lot but was asked how much we charge. I said £130. One of the other contributors, a clergyman, said theirs are free. Of course they are – he’s paid a salary by his church. We’re self-employed. I asked the presenter, James Hazell, to point this out.

To hear the item, wait until the programme is available on Listen Again on the BBC website, and listen from about 11.45am.

To find out more, read about our ceremonies.