THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain

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Questions of conscience

The left of the Labour Party is right, to precisely this extent. The Government would be wrong to make an exception to the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which come into force in April, for the Catholic (or any other) Church. If a law is necessary and correct, it must apply to all. But the intensity of the debate on this subject brings into question if this law is necessary or correct. I suggest it is neither.

Personally, I have no problem with gay couples adopting children. If they are suitable, responsible individuals, it is far better for a child to be cared for in a family home than in any kind of institution. Yes, the child will be teased about its unusual parents, but that itself will be a lesson in life. Every child is teased for something. However, I don't think the opportunities for suitable gay couples to adopt will be helped by this law.

No sensible gay couple would approach Catholic, Muslim or other religious agencies to arrange an adoption. A gay couple that did would be acting either mischievously or very, very stupidly. The Catholic Church has anyway said that if one of its agencies was approached, it would simply refer the couple to a secular agency. That is a reasonable, tolerant, approach.

Families offering children up for adoption via religious agencies are effectively expressing a preference that their children should be placed with a family from that religion. They are certainly placing their trust in the relevant Church. Have they no right to do that? If not, why not? What has the State to do with that choice?

Laws are not for the purpose of reeducating the masses. Attempts to use the blunt instrument of law for such purposes are very likely to backfire. The only sensible use of law is for the prevention of carefully-defined, substantive harms which cannot otherwise be avoided. Laws are not magic. They need widespread support and willing enforcement. They are certainly not useful for the avoidance of hurt feelings. Indeed the best way to avoid hurt feelings is (like the teased children adopted by homosexual couples) to develop a thick skin. Far too many in our country are far too ready to take offence. They want to be victims, because victimhood is now - pathetically - the highest state of grace.

There are more than 150 adoption agencies that are happy to place children with gay couples. There are about 30 Catholic agencies (and presumably various other agencies organised by religious bodies) which are not. Why would rational people want to compel that minority? Especially when those people are supposedly acting in the interests of a once-repressed minority?

When homosexuality was legalised (very sensibly) we accepted that, as a matter of law, what consenting adults do in private is their own business. As a libertarian, I could not agree more. But we did not compel people who considered homosexuality to be sinful, unpleasant or just gross to change their opinion. Laws can't do that. People are entitled to their views.

To their credit, the religious people who do not want to be compelled to place children for adoption with "unrepentant sinners" are not seeking to impose their views on anyone else. They are just asking to live by their own consciences and by what they believe to be God's laws. Unless they can be shown to be doing demonstrable harm, they should be left to do so.

The way in which this debate is being presented in the media is most unfair. The intolerant people here are not the Catholics or other religious people (for once). The intolerant ones are those who insist that it is so offensive for anyone to consider them unsuited to adopt, that they must be compelled by law to change that view (or at least pretend to do so).

That is a moral outrage and a very poor basis for law.

Suspect Paki » United KKKingdom

Link: Suspect Paki » Blog Archive » United KKKingdom.

A lot of bloggers have referenced this splendid rant by a blogger new to me, known as "Suspect Paki." We read a fair few rants about British Muslims. It's refreshing to read a rant by a British Muslim, especially as he is arguing, interestingly, that lack of integration is the fault of the white British. He is quite persuasive, except when he goes right over the top by saying he doesn't believe the 7/7 bombers were Muslims. This, despite their "martyrdom tapes?"

I am genuinely interested in where we have gone wrong with our Muslim fellow-citizens and I have tried once again to engage a Muslim blogger and his co-religionist commenters in a discussion. Judge for yourself to what effect.


Celtic_crossI regret that I have no religious faith. As a young man I was an evangelistic atheist, mocking people with religious views and encouraging them away from their gods. Not any more. Life is hard. Death is ever-present. A belief in a higher power and the prospect of divine justice is valuable.

Humans are both blessed and cursed with self-awareness. We are the only beings on this planet who know that we must die. It makes perfect sense for us to develop systems of belief to deal with that painful knowledge. As Voltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.”

Until recently, I did not understand how much my life as an atheist in Britain depended on the Christian beliefs of others. Their belief in “turning the other cheek” led them to meet my youthful scorn calmly, tolerantly and even lovingly. Various attempts to win me back to the faith of my fathers failed, but at least I learned from those attempts that I should respect their beliefs. I stopped evangelising against them and came rather to envy their faith. Every death in my circle has hurt me more than it has hurt the believers around me. As my parents advance into their seventies and I face the prospect of losing them, I sincerely wish the rational voice in my brain would just shut up.

Our society was shaped by Christian thought. It was not rationalism that caused us to abolish slavery, well before France or America, it was William Wilberforce’s Christian belief. Public health, education, social welfare and other reforms were driven not by socialist ideas but by the desire of Christians in public life to serve God by serving their fellow men.

Where would the humanity be in Dickens’ novels, if not for that flawed sinner’s Christianity? Would Shakespeare’s amazingly modern vision of his fellow-men have been as perceptive if not informed by Christian thought? His portrayal of Shylock is now sometimes seen by witless moderns as anti-semitic, but could anyone but a Christian have written

"Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that."

In an Elizabethan context, this was phenomenally tolerant.

British Christianity was always fairly “soft.” Consider how the Church reacted to the writings of Darwin. They were seen as a huge threat to Christianity and, had the Church been of the same spirit as some modern faiths, he could have been expected to be killed for his heresy. He delayed publication to spare his wife the social discomfort of being married to an heretic. But he never feared for his, or her, life. When he realised that his ideas were about to be published by another, he went ahead without fear of anything more than derision. DarwcarI don’t think he was subjected to anything like the hostility that someone like Ray Honeyford experienced, for example.

I am not alone in losing my faith. Christianity, certainly of the Anglican variety, has declined steeply during my lifetime. The polite fiction of belief on the part of Prime Ministers has become almost unsustainable. A church-going PM is as out of step with the British people as he could possibly be. Tony Blair has brilliantly side-stepped the issue by exploiting his wife’s religious faith and appearing to be a polite passenger in her heavenly chariot.

I have come to accept that my values and beliefs (apart from the critical belief in God) are very much those of my Christian forefathers. I do believe in doing unto others as I would have them do unto me. I am no good at turning the other cheek, but I do try to understand hostile opinions and not to be dismissive of those who hold them. There several things I do that I do not care to write about that don’t make sense if I were acting merely from self-interest.

Nature abhors a vacuum. I think our nation is missing its faith. The underclass is godless in every sense. Legal restraint is no substitute for moral restraint. Policing by brute force will never be as effective as policing with the consent of a community that shares some key values. Many a young hoodlum will swagger in the face of the law whose grandfather was no better a man, but behaved better to retain the respect of his community. Now that his community knows no law but that of the jungle, he had best be the most vicious animal around. We know what the word “respect” means in such communities. It has the same meaning as in the Mafia phrase “a man of respect.” It means fear, which is not at all the same thing, unless you think that for Jane Austen, a respectable man was a man to be feared.

This vacuum of faith will be filled with something. New Age mumbo-jumbo is noticeably religious in tone. It provides substitutes for the soothing ceremonies of religion, echoing the rituals and even the annointings. Peoples’ hobbles are more intense and obsessive than ever, as they search for meaning in their lives. The ferocity of the beliefs of Greens and animal rights activists often seem to me like misdirected religious fervour. Greenery is really the worship of the goddess Gaia; an effective deifying of the Earth itself. People need to believe something. What it is and how right it is seems to be almost irrelevant. Observe the factionalism of the British Left and you will find many echoes of religious schism.

All of this has been a worry for some time. A worry, but not a clear and present danger. Now however Britain’s vacuum of faith has sucked in a new terror. Ask yourself this question. Would the primitive, bloody, backward and reactionary religion of Islam prosper as it does in our towns and cities if there was a more plausible alternative? When a young man from a working-class Muslim family sees the brutal drunken behaviour of the white chavs who may be his only contact with the native community, is it surprising he draws closer to the faith of his fathers? When a young Muslim woman sees the brutal sexual marketplace of the British underclass; when she sees them sexualise even their pre-pubescent daughters by dressing them like their pathetic “celebrity” god-substitutes, is it surprising that she retreats into safe certainties?

I understand the attraction of religious faith. I understand the human need for a light in life’s darkness, for some certainties in its chaos. In this respect, as in so many others, our immigrants have the capacity to do us good. They are reacting to what they find. If we provide government information in their languages and translators for their children in our schools, then they don’t see any urgent need to learn English. Is that their fault or ours? I say it’s ours. If they see no moral imperatives in our society but tolerance, and if our tolerance leads us, in so many ways, to accept what they find unacceptable, they will inevitably cling to the moral certainties of their faith. Is that their fault, or ours? I say its ours. I doubt if we can now recover our religious faith, but we have to rediscover - somehow - a moral code.

If we open our minds to what is going on around us, we can see that - for all our justified fears about Islamic extremism - many of our current problems are not a question of what is wrong with them, but what is wrong with us.

Muslim attitudes to Terrorism

Link: openDemocracy.

This research was conducted in November 2004 and is very telling. Have a look at Table 2 which presents the percentage of respondents in national samples by Muslim country who labelled certain acts and events “terrorist”.

Only 28% of Lebanese Muslims and 9% of Palestinian Muslims consider attacks on Allied forces in Iraq to be terrorism, for example. Maybe that's understandable, given the information available to them and the way the Allies' role there, trapped as they are between various armed factions funded by Iran and Syria, is presented in the media. Even medical journals now blame the Allies for the people killed by those terrorists "insurgents".

But how about this statistic? Only 22% of Palestinians believe the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center was terrorism. Read it and weep. These people are beyond the pale not just of Western civilisation, but of civilisation itself.

Why do US and EU taxpayers subsidise these murderous folk to the tune of $1 billion? Let's just stop the aid now. It's certainly not buying us any love, peace or gratitude.

Harry's Place: Let them eat guinea fowl

Link: Harry's Place: Let them eat guinea fowl.

Watching the odious Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on 18 Doughty Street last night reminded me of this article. This nasty, intolerant woman, who dismisses all of right-wing views with the words "...there will always be idiots...," has made a career out of trashing the nation which took her family in when it was expelled from Uganda.

She is very fond of finding "racism" in our attitudes, but this story reveals the reality. Those who cry "racist" often do so cynically as part of a conscious or unconscious demand for privileged treatment. Muslims who demand the "right" to ignore the customs and courtesies of the majority population are, in effect, demanding privileges. Such is the fear of being tagged "racist," it is usually easier to submit.

This has long been a successful strategy. But such people engender racism where there was none. The backlash against Muslim special pleading which is currently underway is - in most cases - carefully modulated by a desire to avoid racism. There is a danger however, that the resentments engendered by the tactics of people like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will boil over into the real thing.

Why Muslim women should thank Straw - Comment - Times Online

Link: Why Muslim women should thank Straw - Comment - Times Online.

I have nothing to add to what Ms Khan has written. She is a brave woman. Her article makes me ashamed of having taken so much care to steer around the truths she has written for fear of giving offence. Our cultures can only co-exist in peace when we are able to talk frankly to each other. I am grateful to her.

I am also, to my surprise, grateful to Jack Straw. I dislike the man and disagree with his politics. I suspect he started this debate quite cynically, but he may - by accident - have done some good. He has stimulated an honest debate and has, by giving Ms. Khan the chance to state her view, revealed that Britains' Muslims do not - as many feared - think and act as a radical whole.

Prescott backs right to wear veil

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | Prescott backs right to wear veil.

Thirty-odd years ago, I was one of two supporting actors in a touring youth theatre production who wore masks throughout our performances. We developed a cruel game (we were just 17 and pulling legs off insects had only recently ceased to be amusing). From offstage, before our longest scene together, we would pick the prettiest girl in the audience. During that scene as we stood, masked, flanking the leading man, we would both fix our gazes on her.

The scene lasted about 15 minutes. No girl lasted more than 5. They all had to leave the theatre. I am sure they could not have said why, but they found it profoundly disturbing. Perhaps, in those cultures where full veils are routinely worn, it is not disturbing to be looked at from behind a mask. In our culture, it is.

Civilised Britons have proved themselves more than willing to respect the customs from other cultures brought to our country by immigrants. We have gone to far greater lengths to do so than perhaps any other nation. The point Jack Straw is making; very gently, very carefully, is that British citizens from those other cultures have a reciprocal duty to respect ours. I made that point yesterday on a British Muslim blog, only to be told - in effect - that we have no culture to respect. Charming.

Excuse me while I paint a "behead all those who disrespect British culture" banner, and retire, ululating my discontentment, to Trafalgar Square. Not.

Straw: Is He Really In The Wrong?

Link: Cynical Chatter From The Underworld - Straw: Is He Really In The Wrong?.

This is unbelievably clever politics from New Labour. Jack Straw has said nothing that could be criticised as racist. He has respected the wishes of women who want to wear the full veil. Only the most crazed fanatic could complain that he politely asks if they would mind removing it to talk to him. But he knew he could count on a ready supply of such people. Without doing anything real, he has managed to distance his Party from its longstanding dhimmitude and provoke reputation-enhancing denunciations from the loons of "Respect" and the MPAC.

Again, I don't think Cameron is wise to fight them on their own ground. These guys are really good at the wicked, deceitful games that they play.

The Joy of Curmudgeonry: Idemeneo and the Poltroons

Link: The Joy of Curmudgeonry: Idemeneo and the Poltroons.

It seems to me that Kirsten Harms has profoundly insulted the religion of peace by assuming that a scene in the opera Idomeneo, in which the King of Crete brandishes the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed, would lead to Muslim violence.

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