Although the headlines majored on the BBC’s fearful relationship with Islam, there was another point hidden in the BBC director general’s speech to the Theos Christian thinktank this week, and it is just as disturbing.
Those of us who have wondered why there is such a ridiculous excess of religion on the BBC now have the answer. It is because Mark Thompson, an enthusiastic Catholic, wants it. Thompson is a great proselytiser for his faith in the mould of Lord Reith, who thought the BBC was “the nation’s church”. And, of course, the BBC gives him a very big pulpit to preach from – one that reaches into just about every home in the country, and which we all have to pay for.
Rashin Soodmand is an Iranian Christian. Her father was hanged for apostasy – he converted to Christianity when he was thirteen. Now her brother, also a Christian, risks the same fate. Rashin says, “They assume that if you are Iranian, you must be Muslim.”
It’s not surprising that it appears there are no atheists in Iran. Declaring your non-belief would risk death or life imprisonment.
Zehra Zaidi’s piece in the Guardian about the latest daft idea from Hazel Blears & Co is spot on. The constant harping on about “community cohesion”, which really means trying to get Muslims and others to all get along, is ridiculous. Can’t they see that the proliferation of faith schools is an obstacle to social harmony?
There’ve been many “consultations” that were ostensibly about achieving harmony and understanding, but all they do is exaggerate the differences between people, rather than encourage them to discover what they have in common. Pixie-Dust for Brains Blears is behind the Government’s “Face-to-Face and Side-by-Side: A framework for inter faith dialogue and social action” consultation – another waste of time. In the foreword, she writes:
We have in recent years seen an increase in dialogue between different faith communities which is breaking down barriers, building understanding and strengthening relationships. We have also seen the positive changes that collaborative social action has brought about within our local communities. This growth in ‘active faith’ has seen faith communities putting into practice their values and teachings to enrich and benefit wider society.
The creation of religion-based groups like YMAG [Young Muslim Advisory Group] is divisive because it approaches the subject of community cohesion from the standpoint of an assumption of difference. I am tired of the politics of “the other”. It’s about time we embraced the language of “we”. We, the British people – irrespective of background – must stand on a united platform on issues such as social cohesion and extremism.
Pity the poor faith schools. According to a pamphlet published today by the Centre for Policy Studies, penned by Cristina Odone, they are under threat as never before from “a government … aligning itself with a stridently secularist lobby”. Few apart from than Odone can have noticed this dangerous development.
The nation’s largest group of atheists and agnostics is suing President Bush, the governor of Wisconsin and other officials over the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued Friday in U.S. district court, arguing that the president’s mandated proclamations calling on Americans to pray violates a constitutional ban on government officials endorsing religion.
I read about this in Libby Purves’s Times Online column, where she wrote,
The Washington Post reports that a group of atheists in Wisconsin are suing President Bush for having a National Prayer Day. Its going to happen on the first Thursday in May and they tearfully say it will create ‘a “hostile environment for nonbelievers, who are made to feel as if they are political outsiders”.
Tearfully? Purves gets snottier about the non-religious by the week.
Rev Peter Mullen, who writes for the Northern Echo and the Telegraph, has been on the receiving end of some criticism lately for comments he made on his blog, including:
Let us make it obligatory for homosexuals to have their backsides tattooed with the slogan SODOMY CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH and their chins with FELLATIO KILLS.
In his defence, he says he was joking. This is not a surprise, as religion is a rich vein of humour – think talking snakes, women created from ribs, huge boats filled with animals, zombies who come back to life after three days and fly away, and Rowan Williams.
A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye. Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.
Reading the comments after this Telegraph blog post was heartening. I’m glad to learn that Telegraph readers don’t subscribe to such nonsense.
The turning point in Britain’s relations with its Muslim population came on January 14, 1989, when Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses was burnt in public in Bradford. Now, Salman Rushdie has declared that he has nothing against true believers until their faith spills over into the public sphere and becomes “my business”. That, he must know is a fallacious distinction. It is like saying that one has nothing against a novelist as long as he does not publish his novels.