Monday, January 31, 2011

BBC on the 'moderate and non-violent' Muslim Brotherhood


In typical BBC Islam-inclining fashion, Jeremy Bowen reports ' Egypt protesters step up pressure', and states:
The country's only properly organised mass political movement outside the ruling party is the Muslim Brotherhood, and it would do very well in any free election. Unlike the jihadis, it does not believe it is at war with the West. It is conservative, moderate and non-violent. But it is highly critical of Western policy in the Middle East.
Yet the BBC's Middle East profile on the Muslim Brotherhood states:
The Muslim Brotherhood, or al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, is Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation... While the Ikhwan say that they support democratic principles, one of their stated aims is to create a state ruled by Islamic law, or Sharia.
So, according to Auntie, 'moderate and non-violent' is congruent with 'committed to Sharia law'.

Could the BBC please explain to its licence fee payers which aspects of sharia law they consider 'moderate'?

Sharia family law? Sharia education? Shariah justice? Sharia fashion?

St Michael and All Angels Academy – the truth behind its closure


For some reason, the Chairman of Governors of St Michael and All Angels Academy, Canon Peter Clark, has seen fit to humiliate and publicly denigrate his former deputy headteacher Katharine Birbalsingh (via the Mail on Sunday), pointing the finger well and truly in her direction as being responsible for the closure of this Church of England school in the London Borough of Southwark.

She is maintaining a dignified silence.

Apparently, the academy has suddenly been declared ‘non-viable’ after applications ‘fell dramatically in the wake of Ms Birbalsingh’s remarks’. Canon Clark is of the view that her speech at the Conservative Party conference dealt a fatal blow to the school. He said: “The publicity that she generated was very unhelpful, which certainly didn’t help in terms of pupil recruitment.”

He added that an inspection of the school held shortly before Christmas had shown that ‘nothing that she said was right’.

Canon Clark makes it sound as though Ms Birbalsingh was referring directly and specifically to St Michael and All Angels in her speech, which she most certainly was not: she had only been there for a few weeks. As she says, her speech ‘prompted three articles the following day saying the school system was broken’. These were not remotely concerned with her school. Just as the furore was dying down, the part-time Executive Headteacher, ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop, instructed Ms Birbalsingh to leave the premises immediately and to ‘work from home’.

As Ms Birbalsingh says, ‘the press went insane’.

When Canon Clark personalises Mr Birbalsingh’s criticisms of the education system with his crass assertion of ‘nothing that she said was right’, it becomes evident that he knows very little about the situation in the school of which he is Chairman of Governors, let alone the wider education system. Indeed, he appears to have nothing to qualify him to be a school governor.

It is not only that a ‘senior Whitehall source’ has dismissed Canon Clark’s assessment that Ms Birbalsingh had caused the school’s closure as ‘complete c**p’. This person is quoted as saying: ‘It was going down the plughole anyway.’

A few questions for Canon Clark:

If the Department for Education is of the view that your school was ‘going down the plughole anyway’, why have you sought to pin the blame upon Ms Birbalsingh in the national media?

Does it give you some sort of perverse pleasure to scapegoat the innocent, shoot the messenger or kick someone when they’re already down?

Is it not a fact that the school of which you are presently Chairman of Governors has suffered chronically from inept leadership, weak management and deficient governance?

Ah, but to admit that would implicate you, would it not, Canon Clark?

And when, barely a month into her employment, ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop, chose to suspend Ms Birbalsingh, did she not do it with your full support, Canon Clark?

‘Dr’ Bishop is, of course, the inept, part-time headteacher you appointed to address the school’s profound problems. Why did she not follow the school’s written procedures in suspending Ms Birbalsingh, Canon Clark?

Are you not aware that such high-handed contempt for the school’s written procedures amounts to discrimination, breach of contract and trust, and even constitutes prima facie harassment?

Yet you insist: ‘She was not suspended. She resigned.’

It is a cause of great sorrow indeed when a man of the cloth is so ‘economical with the truth’ and keen to redact matters of historical record in order to conceal the truth that he brings not only himself into disrepute, but also impugns the integrity of the school, the purity of the Church and the sanctity of the name of Jesus.

Those who teach in the most deprived areas of our inner cities have a vocation every bit as sacred as that pursued by Canon Clark. To minister to the poor, nurture the hopeless and inspire the downcast is what Katharine Birbalsingh did best. Every day in some of these schools is like walking into a bear pit, crawling over hot coals and sticking pins in your eyes. Those teachers who are prepared to suffer for their calling ought to be nurtured, encouraged, appreciated and loved by their headteacher and governing body.

Not bullied, intimidated, humiliated, misrepresented and slandered.

It is not clear if this Mail interview was a moment of madness on the part of Canon Clark, or evidence of a more permanent breakdown, an inability to cope with his own failures or some sort of mid-life crisis.

His Grace did very politely ask the Executive Headteacher and Governing Body to respond to a number of questions some months ago.

They did not do so.

His Grace did very politely request that they refrain from slander, misrepresentation and news manipulation where Ms Birbalsingh is concerned.

They have chosen to ignore that request.

It is with regret, therefore, that His Grace has no choice but to put the truth into the public sphere.

Canon Peter Clarke is either a fool or he is inept; he is either naïve or he is a liar.

Perhaps he is all four.

The decision to close this academy has not recently been taken: that decision preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment. This is why Canon Clark appointed only an acting, temporary, part-time Executive Headteacher. And ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop knew of these plans all along.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Diocese would have preferred to close the school and sell the land, but the title deeds did not permit such a course of action. And so a new school with co-sponsorship was the only route left to you.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

For some reason, the impression is being given that the number of applications to the school has plummeted to just 16. But that was the 2010 figure, before Ms Birbalsingh even joined the school. Falling roll has been an issue for the past three years: from 72, to 30, to 16. The academy appear to be using historic data to justify a course of action against Ms Birbalsingh.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Sixth Form was closed down just two years ago, again due to falling numbers and the fact that the curriculum was not appropriate for very many students. This preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment.

Is that not a fact, Canon Clark?

The Ofsted inspection of March 2010 was damning, but they actually wanted to go further and place the academy in special measures. It was only as a result of serious haranguing by the previous principal, Mrs Sue Graham, that it was placed into category ‘4’, which is wholly inadequate and ‘poor’.

Is Canon Clark not aware that Mrs Sue Graham was not only a weak headteacher, but a bully and a liar?

Is Canon Clark not aware that Very Rev Dr Michael Ipgrave, his predecessor as Chairman of Governors, also failed to address the school’s chronic concerns?

Is Canon Clark not aware that Ms Birbalsingh is not the first member of staff to attempt to bring a grievance against the headteacher of this school?

Is he not aware that Ms Birbalsingh is by no means the first one to fall victim to the school’s refusal to follow its own written procedures, which are designed to ensure fairness and justice?

Is he not aware that there has been a catastrophic breakdown in trust between the staff and leadership, which preceded Ms Birbalsingh’s employment?

Is he not aware that some members of staff have alleged racism by the headteacher, and have pursued their own tribunal claims?

Is he not aware that a phenomenal 106 members of staff have left this academy over recent years, and that black and minority ethnic teachers have been appalled at their treatment?

Is he not aware of a letter, dated May 2010 (again, before Ms Birbalsingh was employed), from the school’s four union representatives to the Chairman of Governors, which includes the following:
Leadership and management style
The Principal's management style does not inspire or motivate. It is not an inclusive style. The staff here are keen to be involved but everything is imposed without consultation. Where there are policies and procedures these are changed at a whim without staff involvement.

In some important areas there are no policies e.g. the Pay Policy despite being requested.

106 staff members have left since the academy opened began and of these, 44% were from the old school and 56% were recruited by the Principal herself. Many of the staff from the predecessor school had been there for a good many years and seen many changes, including going through, and coming out of, Special Measures (1999 – 2000). It should also be noted that hardly any staff have left because of reasons of promotion.

Recruitment and retention is a massive concern with huge knock-on effects for the whole school community. Sometimes people just leave with no notice and it is rare for someone’s leaving to be celebrated by the school community in an assembly or the like. In several cases, staff members have still not officially been informed that colleagues are no longer a part of the staff, years down the line. We have attached a list of staff that have left over the three years since Mrs Graham has been in charge. It is interesting to consider that many staff who have left are of black and ethnic minority origin – those who have left are disproportionately from ethnic groups. There is currently only one BME member of the SMT. The staff as a whole spend too much of their time worried about their prospects and job security and this does not help move the school on.
Unfortunately, it would appear that executive, part-time, temporary headteacher ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop simply meted out more of the same, though no-one is alleging racism.

Perhaps Canon Clark might care to reconsider what he has said about Ms Birbalsingh, who was employed to try to sort this mess out. His Grace has quite a few documents he will put into the public domain unless a clarification and apology to Ms Birbalsingh are forthcoming.

These documents will come out every day this week unless Canon Clark responds.

That apology may be emailed directly to His Grace (email address in the top right corner of this blog).

His Grace looks forward to hearing from you, Canon Clark.

If you are not able to offer an apology, your resignation will suffice.

For the truth is rather more important than your petty displays of vacuous and discredited authority.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Egypt and Islam: democracy or dictatorship?


There are many who rejoice at the downfall of dictators. Certainly, they tend to be odious megalomaniacs who torture their people, repress opposition and oppress minorities. But there are others who observe, like Churchill on democracy, that in some cultures and complex socio-religio-political contexts, it is the lesser evil.

Whether this was the case in Sudan, Tunisia or Egypt remains to be seen. One thing is certain: the peoples of these nations have had enough, and are breaking the shackles and throwing off the chains of decades of dictatorial rule, police brutality and systematic torture.

But for what?

Revolutions in the West have tended towards liberty and the rejection of the Ariston in favour of the Demos. It has been an inevitable consequence of the Reformation and Enlightenment that Christendom was forced to adapt to a New World Order of openness and accountability, with a priesthood of believers, parliamentary democracy, individual responsibility and the Word of God communicated in the vernacular.

But revolutions in what many term the ‘Islamic world’ are not necessarily destined for such an outcome.

And it is not that Islam and democracy are incompatible, as many erroneously aver: it is frequently the proposition of those who have themselves almost certainly never read the Qur’an and are scarcely aware of centuries of scholarship on the mutability and multiplicity of the Islamic faith, which is as diverse and disparate as the myriad of Christian denominations. The problem is the ascendancy and dominance of a particular interpretation of Islam – the Wahhabi strain – which seeks to agitate, occupy, subjugate, inculcate and deny liberty and justice to all, Muslim or not.

There are, of course, some Christian denominations which also agitate politically and seek to inhibit the individual conscience, control education and mould a particular form of society. But these extreme expressions have been tempered by centuries of political engagement and theological scholarship: we tolerate them because they are essentially benign.

In Islam, there has been no reformation, and the clash with the principles of the Enlightenment is an inevitable consequence of globalisation: if you show the darkened oppressed a better way via the light of Google or Twitter, why would they not seek to follow it?

But the revolutionary turmoil in Sudan, Tunisia and Egypt is not part of a coherent theological movement, as was the Reformation; or a socio-cultural awakening and flourishing, like the Enlightenment. It results principally from a perception of Islamic appeasement, compromise and subjugation to the ‘Great Satan’: it is a humiliation to millions of Muslims that the ‘Christian West’ may demand concessions, impose conditions and dictate the terms of debate to the ‘Islamic world’.

The mistake the West still makes – and this is most evident at Westminster and within all policy priorities and internal debates within the main political parties – has been to perpetuate the primacy of economics. Those politicos who have moved on from the purity of political ideology to economic theory are the new enlightened ones. Even if what they spout is myopically Keynesian and thoroughly discredited, they are heard, entertained and honoured with the chains of office of political credibility. They are asked to write articles for prestigious magazines, give lectures to the great and the good and invited to No10.

But those who write on religion are sidelined and shunned as being (at best) a little eccentric, or (at worst) sectarian, bigoted and divisive. In politics, Mammon unites and God divides.

But Tony Blair was right.

And his words have hung upon this blog since its inception:
Religious faith will be of the same significance to the 21st century as political ideology was to the 20th century. In an era of globalisation, there is nothing more important than getting people of different faiths and cultures to understand each other better and live in peace and mutual respect, and to give faith itself its proper place in the future.
We were warned that there would be wars and rumours of war, as there have been throughout human history. But the present conflict is not a result of political ideology, assertions of state sovereignty or economic hegemony: it is cultural and religious.

And the longer we bury our heads in the sand, deceiving ourselves that this may somehow be mediated, deflected and appeased, the more bloody and terrifying will be the final conflict.

Wahhabi Islam opposes and hates: it does not compromise, for that would be to dishonour the Prophet and offend Allah. It advocates a religio-political system of governance which is irreconcilable with the democratic traditions of the West. And it is becoming more militant and ever more dangerous. As it asserts a modern expression, its antipathy towards the West will become increasingly evident, and the terrorist atrocities of the IRA will be as nothing compared to what they will unleash upon us.

The revolution in Iran and the overthrow of the Shah yielded a Shi’a theocracy intent on the destruction of Israel.

Democracy in Gaza yielded government by Hamas, intent on the destruction of Israel

The government of national unity in Lebanon has recently fallen to Hezbollah, intent on the destruction of Israel.

Egypt has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1979, for which Anwar Sadat paid the ultimate price. President Mubarak has sustained and honoured that treaty, against growing antipathy towards Israel and the West, in particular by the Muslim Brotherhood. Let us not fool ourselves that the Egyptian people are not looking for a saviour, a king, a strongman to lead them to their promised land.

Politics abhors a vacuum. Just like the Palestinians fell for the lies of Hamas, it is not impossible that some day soon Egypt will be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Democratically elected.

And who could then discount an Iran-Lebanon-Egypt alliance against Israel?

We can no longer afford to gaze at our navels and debate minutiae. These revolutions are the beginning of a jihad the likes of which the world has never seen. Wahhabi Islam must be rooted out and eradicated for it has no respect for democracy, liberty, free markets or civil liberties. It does not care for the rule of law, freedom of conscience of freedom of religion. We must assist those who seek to promote a peaceable Sunni Islam, a moderate Shi’a expression, and encourage all towards an understanding of the Sufi tradition.

And while we must, of course, deplore the appalling loss of life and heed the very different warnings provided to us by Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Tunisia and Egypt, so must we also guard against the emerging state within our own state.

As long as questions of religion and culture are subsumed to economics and sidelined by issues of petty politics, we deprive ourselves of the very vocabulary and urgent inquiry we so urgently need.

Oil is one thing.

Wahhabi Islam and a rebellious shari’a-supporting burgeoning youth intent on our destruction is quite another.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Five Muslims charged for inciting hatred against homosexuals

In prophetic fulfilment of this, we now arrive at this.

And when that Independent article was written, just two Muslims had been charged with stirring up 'hatred' for handing out leaflets outside a mosque suggesting that gay people should be executed. Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, were accused of handing out a leaflet entitled 'The Death Penalty?', which called for the execution of homosexuals.

Today, the two have become five, with Ahjaz Ali, 41, Umer Javed, 37 and Mehboob Hassain, 44, also now accused of distributing threatening material.

The leaflets were apparently distributed outside mosques in Derby city centre in July 2010, and also reportedly posted through letter boxes in the city.

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, is allowing this prosecution to proceed.

Perhaps we have reached the long-foreseen moment at which 'Muslim rights' meet 'gay rights' in the battle for supremacy.

His Grace does not have access to the material distributed, but it does appear that the Attorney is right to proceed with this. And before His Grace is accused of being an 'Islamophobe' or (again) of 'being Melanie Phillips', he would say the same if this were Jews, Christians or people of any faith or none distributing such a message.

We are in a nation in which hundreds of young gay (mainly) teenage boys commit suicide every year, struggling with issues of sexuality. Pushing literature through people's letter boxes demanding the judgment of shari'a is, indeed, an intimidating and threatening act.

And it strikes His Grace as more than a little hypocritical that Muslims in Britain have agitated for many years in order to enshrine in law the concept of 'hate speech' against a religion. Whatever these leaflets say, it is a fair bet that if the words 'gay' or 'homosexual' were exchanged for 'Muslim' or 'Islam', these five men would have been among the first to cry 'hate' and demand the full force of the law be applied to the 'Islamophobes'.

That is, if they hadn't taken the law into their own hands first.

As His Grace pointed out a few days ago, all groups have their extremists and moderates.

Including Christians (though that article is a gross Daily Mail hatchet-job without a word of counter-argument or defence).

While we would all prefer the moderate and reasonable to prevail - in good old Church of England via media fashion - what precisely should be the limits on freedom of speech? If this message is not permitted outside the mosque, why permit it within? If the law will not inhibit the fanatics and extremists on one side, what choice does the other side have but to breed its own fanatics and extremists? And what then is inflicted upon society by this iniquitous 'rights' agenda, but more pain and suffering and sorry tales of woe?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The emergence of the Gay Mafia


Following the discrimination conviction against Christian B&B proprietors Peter and Hazelmary Bull, another case is now being brought to the courts.

In March 2010, Michael Black and John Morgan were turned away from Swiss B&B in Cookham, Berkshire. It was the home of Susanne and Francis Wilkinson. Mrs Wilkinson politely told the couple: 'It is against my convictions for two men to share a bed', adding 'this is my private home'.

But now, having seen the success of Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, and how suing Mr and Mrs Bull has enriched them to the tune of £3,600, Michael Black and John Morgan have decided to be upset.

Very upset, actually.

It's taken nigh on a year, but so 'shocked' are they that they, too, are now intent on suing Christian B&B proprietors to 'make sure people can't break the sexual discrimination act and get away with it'.

All groups, of course, have their obnoxious extremists: Peter Tatchell has been the Gay Godfather for quite a few years, purposely 'outing' those who wished to remain private, and even clambering up the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral, while the Archbishop was preaching, in order to protest against the Church of England's 'persecution' of homosexuals by 'Christian bigots'.

And so we have gay 'moderates' and 'extremists'.

The moderates are appalled at the sort of McCarthyite witch-hunt being prosecuted by their co-sexualists in the name of 'equality': since the conviction of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, it has emerged that hordes of gay couples have been descending on their hotel in order to drive it out of business.

Imagine if this were professing Christians doing the same to a B&B run by homosexuals.

The extremists are intent on supremacy, and they are now terrorising believers into submission. It is a 'religious cleansing' every bit as offensive and obnoxious as that pursued against ethnic groups.

Thankfully, the moderates are siding with the believers, for they appreciate the value of liberty and the right to dissent. Ann Widdecombe and a young gay Tory activist Robert Leitch have spoken out against the gay mafioso.

For Miss Widdecombe: "There is a difference between discriminating against somebody because of what he is and refusing to promote or facilitate what he does. If the Bulls ran a grocery shop which refused to serve homosexuals then that would be discrimination but to refuse to facilitate their activity or that of an unmarried heterosexual couple by providing a double bed is not. It is the once lawful exercise of conscience against particular deeds.”

For Mr Leitch: “Mr and Mrs Bull have been tagged as homophobes, taken to court, forced to justify their literal interpretation of the Bible, told by the Judge involved that their views are out of date and, finally, given a punishment which will place significant strain upon their business’ finances. In the end, the penalty for holding a diverse viewpoint has been extreme. I am not a Christian. I do not hold any such stringent views about married or unmarried couples. Yet, as an openly gay man in a happy, long-term relationship, it infuriates me when equality groups tell me that cases such as the above should be celebrated as victories for the ‘homosexual community’. Sorry, but I refuse to be confined to any such sub-section of society.”

As Bill Cash MP told Tony Blair back in 2007: "You have given more preference to those who stand for gay rights than those who are concerned with conscience, with family and with religion."

And His Grace foresaw the inevitable consequences.

We must now await the outcome of Mr and Mrs Bull's appeal against the judge's ruling, to establish in the highest court the limits which the state now places upon religious conscience and liberties of the believer.

One final thought:

Why aren't these extremist homosexualists targeting businesses owned and run by Muslims? Why are they not applying to be youth workers in mosques? Or asking Muslim printers to print 'Gay Pride' leaflets? Or demanding to hire a hall dedicated to the glory of Allah? Or descending in hordes upon Muslim-run B&Bs?

Just wondering.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gerry Adams becomes an Officer of the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Yes, the Irish republican terrorist who was once dedicated to the assassination of members of the Royal Family, and sworn to the murder of Her Majesty’s Prime Minister and Cabinet, has become Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

His ascension continues apace.

Ever since a resolution of 1624, Members of Parliament have been unable to resign their seat directly: ‘Death, disqualification and expulsion are the only means by which a Member's seat may be vacated during the lifetime of a Parliament.’

Any Member wishing to resign has been obliged to apply for a paid office of the Crown, which automatically disqualifies the Member from holding a seat in the House of Commons.

There are two such offices: Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds and of the Manor of Northstead.

Michael Martin most recently held the former, and Iris Robinson the latter.

Gerry Adams has now succeeded Michael Martin and become an Officer of the Crown.

Which he wishes to do in order to stand for election to the Dáil.

Which he needs to do if he is ever to become Taoiseach.

Whilst being a member of the Dáil is no bar to sitting in Westminster, there is (apparently) an issue with a British MP sitting in the Irish Parliament (bit of a grudge?).

And so, contra the protestations and denials of Sinn Féin members, the Prime Minister said at PMQs that the Honourable Member for West Belfast ‘has just accepted an office of profit under the Crown’, which HM Treasury have confirmed in writing.

His Grace always knew that Gerry Adams would be forced to bow the knee some day.

The antipathy of Sinn Féin to the Crown is, of course, wound up with a few centuries of religio-political angst with all the old Protestant/Catholic and Pope/Parliament themes interspersed with inter alia Fitzgeralds versus Butlers; Raleigh’s incursions; the slaughter of Smerwick; a little Cromwell; an incidence of potato famine; and the inconvenience of internment.

But the refusal of Sinn Féin MPs to sit in the United Kingdom Parliament was not so much to do with the requirement that they were obliged to swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II and to her heirs and successors (though it is contrary to their constitution [5.2f], which could have been circumvented by doing what other godless and republicans do), but with the claims of the United Kingdom Parliament upon territory in the island of Ireland.

A member of Sinn Féin could hardly serve in a legislature which denies their party's foundational assertion of sovereignty over the whole of Ireland. For Gerry Adams, the claims of the British Parliament to the territory of ‘Northern Ireland’ are illegitimate and illegal.

For Sinn Féin, Éire is united and one.

And so Mr Adams has been principled and unwavering in his creed throughout his religio-political life.

Until today.

For Baron Adams of Northstead Manor, or whatever he’s called, is not a very republican thing to be.

And one might have expected, knowing Mr Adams’ proclivity for death and destruction, that he might have preferred disqualification or expulsion from the House rather than tolerate even a whiff of the British Establishment.

Michael Crick observes that Mr Adams has missed a republican publicity trick of potentially seismic proportions, which could have elicited the debate of the decade on democracy, monarchy, rights and republicanism:
I was also advised that one way Adams might get round this without expressing allegiance to the British Crown in any form would be to turn up at the House of Commons and try to sit in the Chamber.

He would then be automatically disqualified from the House on the grounds that he hasn't sworn the oath, and a writ would then be moved for a by-election in West Belfast.

"The seat is vacated as if they were dead," I'm told.

And what a drama it would be if Adams were to do that, and be ejected from the Commons.
But that opportunity has passed.

All that remains now is to see how ‘Conservative and Unionist’ Mr Cameron’s party is, and whether it is still the case that the Conservative Party exists to represent the British people in all four constituent nations of the United Kingdom.

Is David Cameron ‘surrounded by secularists’?

There was an article in last week’s Scottish Sunday Times (£) by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, who alleges that the Prime Minister ‘has surrounded himself with religiously illiterate, secularist advisers’.

As a consequence, ‘the coalition is carrying on from the previous Labour Government, forcing people to act against their conscience or face punishment from the state’, and so ‘religious liberty is suffering’.

Continuing the ‘aggressive secularism’ theme pursued by Pope Benedict XVI, the Bishop likened the UK to a country that has ‘passed into the grip of secularist militants’.

His Grace has spoken to senior No10 officials and Cabinet ministers about these perceptions a number of times, and on each occasion the (surprisingly frank) response is the same, along the lines of: “He doesn’t really grasp…”, or “He doesn’t appreciate…” or “He doesn’t understand…”.

His Grace has observed this.

It is not, unlike Tony Blair, that David Cameron doesn’t ‘do God’; he manifestly does and will doubtless continue to do so. It is quite simply, for him, that strategic matters of politics and urgent questions of economics considerably outweigh nebulous issues of philosophy.

And theology.

And so there is perhaps something in the Bishop’s perception that Mr Cameron is surrounded by the ‘religiously illiterate’: his principal advisers are drawn from the worlds of journalism and PR, and the secondary tier are lawyers and economists.

The Conservative Party has long-suffered the perception that the Parliamentary Party is disproportionately composed of lawyers and accountants: the number of QCs and FCAs on the green benches has helped to sustain the perception that it is the ‘party of the rich’.

But professional diversity was enhanced slightly with the 2010 intake – a few teachers and nurses – even if social diversity diminished.

But the increasing professional diversity did not stretch to include philosophers and theologians.

Even in the House of Lords (why on earth was Bishop Michael Nazir Ali not elevated?).

At least the Labour Party has (the Rev’d) Chris Bryant countering (or complementing?) its godlessness.

But there are those who might riposte that the most pressing problems are economic and the priority concerns are acutely political.

To which His Grace would respond that economic concerns are political priorities are devoid of neither philosophy nor theology.

Baroness Warsi appears to appreciate this.

But she is manifestly not a Cameron adviser.

And whilst the odd token minority might be appointed to a peripheral advisory body, it is observed that there is no Anglican to advise on constitutional issues relating to the Established Church.

And no Christian at all to advise on behalf of those who are profoundly concerned by the apparently inexorable deification of ‘equality’ and the increasing intolerance of religious dissent.

If the ‘Big Society’ means anything, it must have depth and breadth. If it has no breadth, it is not big. And you can’t get much more breadth than the broadness of the Established Church.

When David Cameron talks of ‘Broken Britain’, he is in a sense attempting to restore communion and relationship – a balanced and harmonious network of relationships where society and the individual survive in mutual and necessary interconnection. While it is not the theologian’s task to devise particular political models, it is the very raison d’être of politicians since political activity aims for a social ideal of order which allows individuals to flourish in communion and relationship with their neighbours. Politicians will indicate the form of that society, why they are aiming at it and how they will attain it. If theologians can find a transformative social programme of applied theology in the Trinity, it is reasonable to believe that conservative Christians might begin to find in the compromises and conflicts of the outworking of their philosophy a transformative practical wisdom to challenge both the individualist liberal and collectivist totalitarian tendencies of man. And in the human political endeavour these conflicts manifest themselves in ways in which the Trinity is never conflicted: while God is harmoniously unified in interdependent diversity, man is perpetually debating the tensions in independent disunity.

If the Conservative Party is a ‘broad church’, the Church of England is a ‘broad party’.

And that breadth must be tolerated, lest it fracture and fragment into a plethora of denominational pressure groups, each intent on securing maximum advantage for the pursuit of its own religio-political objective.

The Bishop wrote about Mr Cameron: “It would appear his priority up until now has been to have an exchange of ideas with more liberal and radical minorities, including sexual minorities. It would appear that those immediately surrounding and advising the prime minister, and perhaps Mr Cameron himself, are not religiously literate and simply have no reference to religious sensibilities.”

He is clearly of the view, despite appearances to the contrary, that the Coalition is simply continuing and perpetuating the same secularising agenda as that pursued during 13 years of the profoundly anti-Christian Labour government: both are effectively saying: ‘Go against your consciences or the state will punish you with all the sanctions of the law’.

Bishop Joseph also observes: “The parliamentary process no longer appears to represent the mind of the electorate, nor reflects the moral concerns of a substantial majority of the population.” He continued: “Clearly there is a major problem of political leadership in Britain. The political class seems incapable of navigating a moral course because it is no longer sure in what – if anything – it still believes.”

Ah, whenever the ‘political class’ attempts to navigate ‘a moral course’, it usually founders upon the rock of hypocrisy. Ever since ‘Back to Basics’ was swiftly followed by revelations of salacious sex and sordid affairs, politicians have withdrawn from matters of morality like the church has largely withdrawn from political engagement.

Neither wishes to be sullied by association with the other.

When David Davis recently observed that David Cameron and his Notting Hill coterie have little appreciation of ‘the common man’, he restricted his ‘bombshell’ critique to council housing, crime, immigration, child benefit and the fact that neither the Prime Minister nor his Chancellor ‘come from backgrounds where people have to scrape together money at the end of the week’.

Man does not live by child benefit alone.

The Conservative Party needs to rediscover its soul.

Margaret Thatcher observed: ‘Morality lies in choosing between feasible alternatives. A moral being is one who exercises his own judgment in choice, on matters great and small, bearing in mind their moral dimension, i.e., right and wrong.’ According to David Cameron, society is ‘broken’ essentially because it is subject to the same oppression identified by Margaret Thatcher: ‘a socialist-statist philosophy which sets up a centralised economic system to which the individual must conform, which subjugates him, directs him and denies him the right to free choice'.

The only way to challenge that is head-on, as the Pope explained, which David Cameron appeared to grasp.

And that would need all the PR the Party can muster.

For if the media caricature Mr Cameron’s political advisers to this absurd extent, how much more will their pathologically-aggressive secularism persuade them to pour scorn and heap ridicule upon the poor person engaged to improve the Prime Minister’s religious literacy?

We would move rapidly from Cameron’s Philosopher-King to Cameron’s Rasputin.

The invective would be hateful and the onslaught merciless.

And so the moral anarchy persists, and so the consciences of Christians and rights of the religious are restricted. We are indeed in thrall to ‘a small clique of metropolitan liberals’, intent on legislating in a fashion which transgresses the human rights of believers to manifest their religion, and which ‘forces them to act in a manner contrary to their deeply and genuinely held beliefs’.

When the liberal democratic state ceases to tolerate benign religious dissent, it ceases to be either liberal or democratic.

And when the Conservative Party ceases to preserve all that is good in our constitution, it ceases to be conservative.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nadine Dorries: the churches are ‘pathetic, weak and cowardly’

Ed West wrote an excellent article last week on Nadine Dorries MP, concerning a matter which was largely ignored by most of the left-leaning, abortion-promoting MSM (pace The Independent).

One does indeed have to admire her bravery in walking a very lonely path to talk about abortion and its impact on women.

As a qualified nurse, she has experienced first-hand the horrors of the barbarism: “It’s something that has stuck with me my whole life,” she says. “I can still smell the sluice stream. I can still hear the sluice machine while I stood by the bed, watching this child die in the bedpan.”

And when you read stories like this one, you would be wise to consider the question of abortion again and again. For we are not simply sacrificing foetuses to Molech, and neither are we concerned with a bunch of parasitical cells feeding off the host.

We are talking about our babies.

Nadine Dorries is right to point out that abortion is viewed as a form of contraception, ‘rather than the ending of a life, or a potential life’. In the lustful passion of a fleeting moment, who cares about contraception when you can always ‘get rid of it’?

And now we move to the era of ‘DIY abortions’: Vera Drake has become the cornerstone of the family and a pillar of the community. But at least she was present to comfort those girls who were ‘in trouble’. The ‘DIY’ development means ‘very young girls going home with a couple of tablets alone in their bedroom, to experience pain in a way they have never experienced’.

Imagine it: you get a pre-natal indication that your baby may be suffering from Downs, so off you trundle back home, tablets in hand, to terminate the abnormality and prevent a ‘wrongful life’.

Ms Dorries’ analysis of how ‘Broken Britain’ came about is astute:
The problem is the churches have withdrawn. Where I grew up the priest was king. We were scared of priests – the same with the vicars. The Church played a very important role. The Church set boundaries. So did schools, doctors, district nurses. But the Church withdrew, the state became anonymous and society went into freefall. One of the things about the Big Society is to try to put those boundaries back.

But the Church has to step up to the plate. Although they get involved in charitable works they tend to be on the state-funded fringes and I’m not talking about that type of role. I’m talking about a micro level. I’m talking about priests working with communities and admitting to a level of authority they used to.

Charity has been eroded, it’s just become another arm of the state. The Catholic Church has had a huge beating and it has to recover from that. Maybe the Big Society and the opportunities it presents to the Catholic Church may be part of the healing process for the Church.
While His Grace has no desire at all to return to the era when the priest was king (no, indeed), he does regret the loss of respect for authority, reverence for institutions and admiration for moral conviction, honest industry and personal achievement.

But when the authorities prove to be liars and the institutions corrupt, it is perhaps no wonder that respect evaporates and cynicism pervades. And into this vacuum moves the relativity of a libertarian anarchy: the right of each to be as he wishes, believes as he wants, define as he wills; the deification of quantum mechanics and the assertion that we are but random atoms in pursuit of our individual interest to the detriment of the collective provision.

In 2008, Nadine Dorries campaigned almost single-handedly to reduce the abortion time limit to 20 weeks.

Today she leads the ‘Right to Know’ campaign, which focuses on giving women the objective facts about abortion and placing before them the alternatives. All across Europe, there is legislation requiring informed consent, and these countries have significantly lower abortion rates.

In the UK, there is no requirement in law for women to be informed about the abortion procedure or the alternatives. It is to be observed that the Government only funds abortion providers if the abortion proceeds. And yet it is these same providers which are entrusted to counsel vulnerable and often emotional women before the procedure is carried out.

And so we abort on average 200,000 babies every year.

That amounts to 572 abortions per day.

It is a boom industry, with some companies making many millions of pounds from the taxpayer through NHS referral.

Ms Dorries says: “Women don’t know that they have a 30 per cent chance of experiencing mental health problems after having an abortion. They don’t know there are links with various other medical conditions. They are given no advice. If you want to continue with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption you are not given support or help. They are just spoken to and channelled straight in to an abortion clinic where they have their abortion in a factory-like manner, then ejected into the street, given no follow-up, no support, no kindly words of help or advice and only provided with any degree of counselling after the abortion if they’ve already signed and agreed to continue.”

She concludes: “The way abortion takes place in this country is an abuse of women.”

Ed West observes:
Those unfamiliar with the world of blogs and social networking site Twitter will not fully appreciate how much hatred Dorries attracts over this issue, the majority of which seems to come from men, who devote an almost demented amount of time tapping at keyboards explaining why they hate this woman. “What have I done to justify this level of vitriol?” Dorries asks. “What’s it about? The only controversial issue I’ve ever taken up is abortion, and that’s the only hook to hang it on.”
Yet it is to be observed that Ms Dorries is neither pro-choice nor pro-life: like the Church of England, she takes a via media on the issue. Which is why she finds it hard to understand why anyone might disagree with her on the question of ‘informed consent’.

The problem is the polarisation of each camp into caricatures: if you’re ‘pro-life’, you’re a frothy-mouth Palin-supporting signed-up member of the bigoted ‘religious right’; if you’re ‘pro-choice’, you’re part of a satan-worshipping death cult, intent on murdering the first-born on the altars of women’s rights and sexual liberty.

And so, as Ms Dorries observes, both sides are ‘ghettoised’ on the issue.

In the world, we bear the consequences of the apotheosis of man. Non-believers do not have comfort or hope. The descent of this debate into tawdry and emotional exchanges of venom is unseemly but only to be expected. It has merely become one of many battles for hegemony in a society of relative values and perverted ideals, where fox-hunting is deemed more evil than abortion, where Christians are mocked and where Muslims are tyrants and where pragmatism tops truth.

But there is one aspect of Ed West’s article which both saddened and surprised His Grace: the withdrawal of the churches from supporting Ms Dorries’ pursuit. She says: “I need religious support. It is our core support. I need the churches being more involved, and the churches have been pathetic, pathetic, during the abortion debate in their support for what I was trying to do.

“The Church of England was the worst and the only person in the Catholic Church who made any comment was Cardinal O’Brien. Everybody was silent because the churches were weak and cowardly in their position.

“I was even told by one envoy from the Church (of England) that Psalm 139 was ‘just poetry’. Weeks later they timidly came out and squeaked their words of support, which were no use to me at this point. The churches have really angered me during this debate.”

It was in this context that His Grace sent Ms Dorries a message of encouragement, and she tweeted the response which hangs in His Grace’s ‘citation’ column:
“His Grace is of course unlike any other and had he been alive today, the situation would have been very different.”
Indeed it would have been. For either in the pulpit, on the green benches or in the Upper House, His Grace would stand ashes-to-shoulder with Nadine Dorries in this pursuit. There is no greater evil in contemporary society than the systematic murder of our unborn, with the complicity of Parliament, assent of the Monarch and complacency of the Church.

It comes as no surprise that the Church of England ‘was the worst’. Ms Dorries identifies the cause: 'The Liberal Synod contains many cowards who focus on the "hip" issue of the day and not what is relevant to congregations.'

But where was the Evangelical support? Why was Cardinal O’Brien the only person in the Roman Catholic Church to support Ms Dorries?

Do these churches find Ms Dorries somehow unacceptable? Are they awaiting a sinless and blameless saint to make the same legislative proposals?

If the aggressively secularing trend continues to inhibit expressions of Christian orthodoxy in political debate and marginalise Christians from the public sphere, they will be waiting for quite some time, if not forever.

And while they wait, we will continue to set up our detestable idols in the house that bears His Name, and defiled it. We will build the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn our sons and daughters in the fire…

We have become a ‘stiff-necked’ people who will not listen to God's words. We have forsaken God to serve other gods even to the extent that we would sacrifice our own children, spilling 'the blood of the innocent’.

Mannaseh's grandson Josiah tried to bring about reformation among the Israelites. After renewing the Covenant between God and His people, Josiah ‘desecrated Topheth which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to make his son or daughter pass through the fire to Molech’ (2Kgs 23:10).

The State may need another Churchill.

The Church may need another Luther.

Parliament may need another Wilberforce.

But the unborn cry out for a Josiah.

Monday, January 24, 2011

St Michael & All Angels Church of England Academy to close

Remember that gifted and eloquent teacher who gave a speech at the last Conservative Party conference, and was consequently suspended by her headteacher, fully supported by the school’s Chairman of Governors?

Remember how that teacher spoke out so eloquently against the tragedy of poor teaching standards, low morale, the iniquity of political-correctness and the ubiquity of ‘left-thinking’ teachers who believe the answer to the decline is simply more ‘left thinking’, and so was persecuted for her political beliefs?

Remember how that teacher was publicly humiliated and then forced out by her headteacher, who had been courted by Tony Blair, hailed as a ‘super-head’ and tasked specifically with turning round an Ofsted ‘failing’ school?

Remember that even Mayor Boris could not save her?

Well, it has been announced that St Michael & All Angels Church of England Academy is to close.

You see, the children really did need a visionary educator like Katharine Birbalsingh.

But ‘Dr’ Irene Bishop, the 'Executive Head' who believed she could turn this school round with a part-time commitment of just two days a week, knew better.

And so did the Governing Body and the Diocese of Southwark.

Instead of forcing Ms Birbalsingh out, they should have made her headteacher.

Now, defeated by their own incompetence, they are shutting up shop.

Karma?

Judgement?

Perhaps neither.

But an absolute tragedy for the hundreds of parents and children whose education is now imperilled further as they begin the almost-impossible search for a truly outstanding school in the area.

And should they fail, as they most likely will, we shall doubtless see even more of the scandalously poor school-leaving standards for which we are all paying.

And there is something about this academy’s closure which is more than a little fishy.

For only a month ago, ‘Dr’ Bishop was lauding her (part-time) self and her school for ‘fighting back’, having overcome Katharine Birbalsingh's great betrayal and almost-mortal blow which ‘hit them hard’.

Clearly, ‘Dr’ Bishop was engaged in a façade of media management: she was spinning it like any good Blairite.

It is perhaps a metaphor for the incompetent management of this school that when you telephone the school office for more information on the imminent closure, you are given a number of # options with a direction to dial the closure ‘hotline’ (08447 707576) and input the academy ID number (75032).

When you do that, you are directed to select #3 for the school office.

Which directs you back the closure ‘hotline’.

Which directs you back to the school office…

And so you are trapped in an automated, infinite loop of time-wasting, demoralising, frustrating bureaucracy under the guise of efficiency and professionalism.

Which is precisely what many teachers in the state sector are forced to endure day after day, as Ms Birbalsingh has made very plain.

But at least such shoddy management incompetence at St Michael and All Angels' is consistent.

It is a tragedy that insecure headteachers and bullying governors are apparently able to terminate the careers of the country’s most passionate, committed and caring and successful teachers, and do so with impunity. Unfortunately, Michael Gove’s academy plan will only serve to strengthen the arms of those heads and governors who wish to ‘team up’ in mutual defence against any teacher with a whistle to blow.

And the law offers them no protection: indeed, the Employment Tribunal process is itself lengthy, bureaucratic and sustains a very concerning precedent against whistle-blowers in the form of ‘Perkin v St George’s Healthcare Trust’.

It is evident that one might have genuine grievance, patiently pursue it through all the correct channels, blow the whistle, and then be dismissed without compensation by a bullying management who conspire to portray you as incompetent and incompatible with their modus operandi.

So, if you wish to speak out in your school about a ‘totally and utterly chaotic’ system which is ‘fundamentally broken’ and which keeps ‘poor children poor’, please expect to be summarily dismissed.

It appears to be more desirable to some headteachers and governors than the alternative of addressing the fundamental problems in order to keep a school open and children educated to a standard which liberates them.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the BBC in thrall to Islam because of a Saudi landlord?

We all knew that Auntie swung to the Left.

But with a Roman Catholic director general and a Methodist head of religious broadcasting, you might have thought there would have been a little reverence for the majority religion and respect for the Established Church.

Even at the cost of allegations of Islamophobia.

And then came a Muslim head of religion and ethics, and one might have hoped for a little reverence for the majority religion and respect for the Established Church.

If only to belie allegations of Islamophilia.

But the spiritual rot continues.

Peter Sissons was at the heart of news and current affairs programmes at the BBC for 20 years. He confirms what has already been confirmed: ‘At the core of the BBC, in its very DNA, is a way of thinking that is firmly of the Left.’

And he further observed: ‘…the one thing guaranteed to damage your career prospects at the BBC is letting it be known that you are at odds with the prevailing and deep-rooted BBC attitude towards Life, the Universe, and Everything’.

So, UN good; EU good; Socialism good; Green good; Palestine good; taxing the rich, good; government spending, good; Margaret Thatcher, evil; Al Gore, saint. Obama, messiah.

The logical corollary of this?

National sovereignty, bad; the ‘forces of conservatism’, bad; euroscepticism, ‘swivel-eyed’; Israel, rogue state; climate scepticism, irrational; Tony Blair, good; George W Bush, idiot; Sarah Palin, demented hussy.

But His Grace would like to look not so much at the BBC’s attitude to 'Life', which we observe and establish empirically is pathologically inclined to the Left; but rather what the Corporation makes of ‘the Universe and Everything’, for here the inculcation is far more subtle and the induction far more dangerous.

Mr Sissons says: ‘Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.’
The increasing tendency for the BBC to interview its own reporters on air exacerbates this mindset. Instead of concentrating on interviewing the leading players in a story or spreading the net wide for a range of views, these days the BBC frequently chooses to use the time getting the thoughts of its own correspondents. It is a format intended to help clarify the facts, but which often invites the expression of opinion. When that happens, instead of hearing both sides of a story, the audience at home gets what is, in effect, the BBC’s view presented as fact.
He warns:
And, inside the organisation, you challenge that collective view at your peril. In today’s BBC only those whose antennae are fully attuned to the corporation’s cultural mindset — or keep quiet about their true feelings — are going to make progress.
While the number of committed Christians employed by the BBC is likely to be counted on one hand (if they dare ‘come out’) and diminishing, the Corporation’s Muslims are encouraged to be ‘out and proud’, if only to fulfil diversity quotas, and increasing.

But that may not be the reason for Mr Sissons’ observation that ‘Islam must not be offended at any price’.

It appears that a considerable portion of the BBC licence fee is going to a Saudi company.

While Pebble Mill moves to Salford, and thousands of BBC employees (sports, Radio 5 Live, Breakfast TV, CBBC, children’s Learning, Future Media and Technology) relocate ‘up North’ at huge expense and considerable inconvenience, there will be one winner laughing all the way to the bank.

Literally.

John Whittaker is a billionaire property tycoon and the 35th richest man in the country. He is wisely exiled on the Isle of Man and is a friend of former BBC chairman Michael Grade.

Never heard of him?

Few have.

The Daily Express informs us that Mr Whittaker is the boss of Peel Holdings, effectively the BBC's new landlord: ‘The company owns 200 acres of now prime land at Media City in Greater Manchester. Under a deal with Peel Media, the BBC will rent 36 acres of buildings and several TV studios. The terms of the deal are secret but Mr Whittaker’s company can look forward to large BBC cheques for at least 20 years.’

But what is not so well known is that ‘Ocean Gateway’, as the development is called, is only 68% owned by Mr Wittaker.

The other 32% is being generously provided by a Saudi multi-billionaire, one Khaled Olayan, who heads The Olayan Group.

John Wittaker and Khaled Olayan together not only intend to make billions directly from the BBC’s 20-year rental deal, but they will make billions more as many BBC staff will rent or buy from properties from them.

And let us not be so naïve as to think that this arrangement does not affect editorial policy.

There will be no Panorama investigation into the links between Michael Grade, Mark Thompson, John Whittaker, Khaled Olayan and billions of pounds of licence-payers’ money.

One wouldn’t want to cross Peel Holdings (especially if you’re vulnerable to the inconveniences of democratic election).

And neither will there be any objective examination of the BBC’s pathological respect and reverence for Islam.

One wouldn’t wish to annoy the Saudi landlord.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Telegraph: the ‘mean-spirited’ Church of England

His Grace has covered the rise of ‘anti-Anglicanism’ before (here, here and here).

One perhaps ought not to be surprised that The Daily Telegraph seeks to undermine the Established Church, considering the intolerance and censoriousness of its proprietors.

And now we are told that the Church of England is ‘mean-spirited’ because some bishops are not amenable to sharing parish churches with those former-Anglicans who have joined Pope Benedict’s Ordinariate.

The allegation, we are told, is ‘on the lips of many Catholics’.

Mean-spirited?

This, from adherents of a church which refuses communion to Anglicans;

Informs us that we do not belong to a church ‘in the proper sense';

Denies the validity of Anglican ordination;

Treats the Archbishop of Canterbury with contempt;

Denies contraception to those who are live in dire poverty;

Is widely perceived to ‘hate women’;

And tells homosexuals that their thoughts are an ‘intrinsic moral evil’ and their desire an ‘objective disorder’.

The Church of England mean-spirited?

Pah.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tony Blair on Islamic Extremism



He may be a charlatan, a liar, a hypocrite, a dissembler, a fraud and even a war criminal.

His Grace does not know: he is content now to leave Tony Blair to the Judgement of the Almighty.

But on the issue of 'Islamic extremism', as he expounded the threat today at the Chilcot Inquiry, he is absolutely, undeniably and irrefutably right.

Baroness Warsi may demur (sometimes).

But, as the former prime minister says of the extremists, "...they disagree fundamentally with our way of life... At some point we've got to get our head out of the sand and understand..."

Andy Coulson was Cameron’s conscience

Like Lear’s Fool, Andy Coulson was at David Cameron’s side constantly; whispering wisdom, imparting insight, with pointed quips and intelligent utterances which all kings need to hear if they are to rule effectively.

He was not Cameron’s conscience in terms of personal morality: the Prime Minister has made it clear that he adheres to a ‘fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments’. So his conscience is well and truly seared by Anglican conviction.

But Mr Coulson possessed all the antennae of a modern political strategist of calibre, who was unafraid to tell his master exactly what he thought, in ways that Cabinet ministers may not or dare not.

This was the traditional role of the Court jester or fool.

Who was usually not, by any means, an idiot. He was frequently the personification of political truth and strategic reason. He served to show his master or mistress not only those who bring treachery and deceit, but also those who prefer loyalty and love. He was there to guide and advise, nudge and empathise.

One might have hoped that Mr Coulson would be at his master’s side for many years to come, if only to tell him that he is showing signs of insanity, of madness, of poor judgment and arrogant megalomania.

Margaret Thatcher did not suffer fools.

Even when they attempted to shield her from the inevitable.

And she paid the price.

But Mr Cameron has no intention of prematurely dividing in three his kingdom.

He does, however, display an alarming lack of sensitivity, decency and common humanity in dealing with Cordelia.

The Prime Minister does not need a mere journalist-savvy employee: he needs someone who will say to his face: "Then I prithee be merry. Thy will shalt not go slipshod.” Someone who will not only commentate, but intervene.

With precisely the same bluntness and familiarity which Mr Coulson doubtless exercised in his conversations with his master.

And be kicked like a dog, humiliated and treated with utter contempt, even by the one to whom all allegiance is due. It is the task of the Fool to ‘labour to outjest (the king's) heartstruck injuries’.

The role demands the combined skills of the strategist, journalist, psychologist, therapist, counsellor, playwright, actor and priest.

We in the audience or congregation underestimate the impossibility of the task and rarity of the character.

Lear’s Fool mysteriously vanishes from the stage after the storm scene.

The concern for Mr Cameron is that his fool has bowed out before the thunder and lightning of the imminent hurricane.

O nuncle, court holy-water in a dry
house is better than this rain-water out o' door.

Are two Eds better than one?

When one is an impotent, insecure, political milipede and the other a testosterone-charged rottweiler with a lot of balls, there is a certain – how shall we say – hormonal imbalance.

Politics is a rough enough game at the best of times, without the need to have to constantly look over your shoulder or watch your back because your second-in-command has designs on your job.

The reason the Cameron-Osborne partnership works well is because George Osborne is very content in his present role, has absolutely no vaulting ambition to succeed Mr Cameron and there is a great deal of mutual respect. The reason the Blair-Brown partnership worked for so long was because of the verbal ‘Granita’ agreement which bound them to a common economic purpose with a clear understanding that the Treasury would be virtually co-regent with No10.

It has to be observed that there is no such mutual respect between Eds Balls and Miliband, no such verbal agreement, no common purpose (other than to win the next general election) and no agreed division of the kingdom.

Two heads are only better than one where there is unity of purpose, singularity of vision, solidarity in philosophy and univocity in policy.

Eds Balls and Miliband conflict, contradict, confute and counteract.

There is no possibility that Ed Balls – Gordon Brown’s chancellor of preference – will be content with fewer fingers in the policy pies which his political mentor and economic idol was permitted. There will be an aggressive accretion of power to his political base and the next four years will be a re-run of the Blair-Brown tales of infighting, gainsaying, undermining and ultimate betrayal.

And it will be even easier with his wife by his side as Shadow Home Secretary.

As the architect of Gordon Brown’s economic policies, he will not relinquish ownership, admit error or concede that anyone but he has the necessary grasp of macroeconomics: he alone is qualified, certified by Oxford and Harvard, and credible. His orthodoxy is fixed; on taxation, welfare, jobs and banking regulation. Ed Balls will simply bring us more of the fiscal woes which brought the nation to its economic knees.

Ed Miliband wants to learn from past mistakes. But they were Ed Balls’ mistakes. From central banks stripped of their supervisory powers to the borrow-and-spend which maxed out the nation’s credit card, the Brown boom was an illusion but the Balls bust is acutely real and is going to be very painful.

Eds Balls and Miliband do not agree on public spending, public sector accounting, the 50p rate of taxation or the rate of wealth redistribution. There is no unity on benefits and welfare, public sector employment, debt repayment or deficit reduction.

There is paralysis, tension, impairment and dysfunction.

Exacerbated by the incontrovertible fact that Ed Miliband passed over Ed Balls for the post of Shadow Chancellor just a few months ago: it will not be easy to counter the perception that Ed Balls is second choice, second rate and second best.

Labour’s body politic is divided: it is not simply that the left hand does not know what the right is doing; it has two heads, an oversized spleen, one foot, 254 thumbs and no heart.

And the brain manifests those very symptoms of schizophrenia responsible for Labour’s internecine warfare.

On his appointment, Ed Balls said: "It is my job with the Labour party to take the argument to the country that there is an alternative – we don't have to do it this way.”

He was, of course, speaking about George Osborne’s economic strategy.

One might be forgiven for believing it was another pitch to lead his party.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Baroness Warsi's Sternberg lecture at the University of Leicester

Here is the full text of Sayeeda Warsi's lecture:

Back in September I made a speech about faith at the Bishops Conference.

It was the first time that a Cabinet Minister had spoken so frankly about faith for many years.

I think it’s fair to say that the speech caused a bit of a stir in some quarters.

The New Humanist Magazine ran a poll of their readers which ranked me the fifth most dangerous enemy of reason last year.

I was about to think that actually, I hadn’t done too badly, when I discovered that the Koran-burning Pastor, Terry Jones, came one place below me!

But overall I believe the impact of the speech was really positive.

And the main thing I discovered by doing the speech was that there is a large, untapped appetite for a more mature discussion of faith in this country.

I sensed that people were fed up of the patronising, superficial way faith is discussed in certain quarters, including the media...

....and that sadly there has been a rise in a sloppy kind of religious illiteracy.

So it was important to take stock of where Britain is with faith.

And I am delighted to be here today to build on what I said.

Your University is helping to raise the whole standard of faith-based debate in this country.

And I know that some fantastic people have given the Sternberg lecture before me.

Professor Hans Kung has spoken about his idea of the “global ethic” and the common values of the main religions...

...Lord Carey has talked about the relationship between Islam and The West, and why the idea of a clash of civilisations can become a self-fulfilling prophecy...

...and Cardinal Cormac O’Connor has explored the current global position of Christianity.

But I want to start my speech today by paying tribute to Sir Sigmund Sternberg.

Although he has connections with the Labour Party, I hope he won’t mind if I say that his life seems to me to be the epitome of the Big Society.

Since coming to Britain as a European Jew in the 1920s, he has spent his life helping to strengthen communities.

For me, as a Rotarian, a big part of that was what he did in the 1990s...

...when he re-established Rotary Clubs in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism.

But from the point of view of my subject today, it is his work with faith communities which is truly inspiring.

From helping to resolve a row at Auschwitz over a Catholic convent...

...to organising the first ever papal visit to a synagogue...

...to establishing the Three Faiths Forum with Reverend Marcus Braybrooke and Dr Badawi....

...Sir Sigmund has shown just how much one person can do to promote a richer, more tolerant, and a more integrated society.

And that brings me to the theme of my lecture today.

BIGOTRY AGAINST FAITH

In my last speech I made the evidential case for faith in our country.

I showed that contrary to popular belief, faith in this country is certainly not fading away;

I explained that faith inspires many people to do good things which help build a bigger society;

And I announced that the aim of this government is to help not hinder faith communities in the good things that they do.

Today, I want to make a related argument.

I want to make the case against the rising tide of anti-religious bigotry.

In particular, I want to say three things:

First, I want to highlight what I mean by this rising religious illiteracy and condemn the bigotry which it feeds.

Second, I want to explain why I feel these problems are happening.

And third, I want to set out how we can start to deal with it.

In other words, in my last speech, I said that this government does God.

This time, I’m saying we get God.

What I mean by that is we understand faith.

I am not saying that people can’t be anti-religion.

What I am opposed to is the rise of unreasonable, unfounded, irrational bigotry.

Where religion itself becomes a loaded word...

...where free discussion is drowned out by a sensationalist media...

...and where there simply is no room for fair-minded debate.

Now some will be surprised to hear me using the language of reason to defend an essentially spiritual phenomenon – namely individual faith.

Others will say that it’s ok to be irrational about religion...

...because religion itself is not open to rational debate.

I don’t accept that.

Faith and Reason go hand in hand.

This is a point the Pope has made consistently over the last few years.

All through the Bible, there is a close relationship between faith and reason.

Perhaps the most telling are the opening words of the Gospel of John.

“In the beginning was the Word...

...and the Word was with God....

...and the Word was God”.

“The Word was God”

So, at the very heart of Christian faith, we find that Reason and God’s Grace go hand in hand.

And as the Pope made clear when visiting a mosque in Amman last year, this isn’t unique to the Christian religion, but to all the main religions.

“As believers in the one God, we know that human reason is itself God’s gift and that it soars to its highest plane when suffused with the light of God’s truth.”

“In fact, when human reason humbly allows itself to be purified by faith, it is far from weakened; rather it is strengthened to resist presumption and to reach beyond its own limitations.”

The point is just as religion shouldn’t fear reason, so reason shouldn’t be denied to faith.

But my worry is that is exactly what is happening right now.

Controversial stories are inflated by the media...

...detracting from serious faith-based debate...

...and leaving us with a situation where instead of philosophy, we’re fed anti-faith phobias.

One telling example of this occurred in 2005, when Ruth Kelly was made Education Secretary.

Now of course, it’s reasonable to scrutinise that appointment and have a discussion about whether Ruth Kelly was up to the job.

But what was it really right that her faith formed such a big part of that inquiry?

And was the appropriate language about her Catholicism used?

At its extreme, this kind of bigotry descends into absurd caricatures.

Where all Catholicism becomes “dodgy Priests in Ireland”.

Judaism becomes “murky international financiers”.

Sikhism suddenly seems to be all about a play in Birmingham.

And Evangelical Christianity is seen as anti-Abortion activists rather than campaigners like William Wilberforce.

For some faiths, these kind of characterisations have increasingly become mainstream.

Today, I want to touch on the way my own faith, Islam, is perceived.

Let me say right away to British Muslims that I acknowledge that there is a minority of people that try to justify their criminal conduct and activity by suggesting that it is sanctioned by their faith.

It is a problem that we must confront and defeat.

But that problem should not lead to unfounded suspicions of all Muslims.

Indeed, it seems to me that Islamophobia has now crossed the threshold of middle class respectability.

Let me give one example which is very personal to here:

It was reported several years ago that students at Leicester University persuaded their union cafeteria to ban pork and go exclusively halal.

The trouble was, that turned out not to be the whole story.

In fact, as I understand, it the Student Union decided that one out of the 26 cafes on campus should serve halal food.

And when you consider that there are a large number of Muslim students at Leicester, that makes sound financial sense!

For far too many people, Islamophobia is seen as a legitimate – even commendable – thing.

You could even say that Islamophobia has now passed the dinner-table-test.

Take this from Polly Toynbee:

“I am an Islamophobe, and proud of it”.

Or this speech title from Rod Liddle:

“Islamophobia? Count me in”.

But of course, Islamophobia should be seen as totally abhorrent – just like homophobia or Judeophobia – because any phobia is by definition the opposite of a philosophy.

A phobia is an irrational fear.

It takes on a life of its own and no longer needs to be justified.

And all this filters through.

The drip feeding of fear fuels a rising tide of prejudice.

So when people get on the tube and see a bearded Muslim, they think “terrorist”...

...when they hear “Halal” they think “that sounds like contaminated food”...

...and when they walk past a woman wearing a veil, they think automatically “that woman’s oppressed”.

And what’s particularly worrying is that this can lead down the slippery slope to violence.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

So why is this happening?

We’ve got to start by understanding where this bigotry comes from.

We must learn the lessons of history.

Now I strongly believe that the British story of integration is a positive story.

You need to delve deep into the Dark Ages to find a time when the state was under the exclusive control of one tribe or ethnicity.

Instead, for centuries, our state has represented a set of common laws governing a diverse set of tribes, faiths and ethnicities.

The same can be said about the USA.

America prides herself on being a haven of immigrants, where you can be proudly Irish or Italian or Christian or Muslim – and still American.

As it says on the Great Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum.

This idea of unity from diversity runs through our own history.


It has helped to forge the values of pluralism, tolerance and diversity which define our society.

This gives us our moral authority to criticise, challenge and condemn those nations which far too often do not grant their religious minorities dignity, respect and equality.

But the British battle against bigotry will always be an ongoing battle.

And sadly, at no point does it totally disappear.

So Disraeli did become the first Jewish Prime Minister – but the cartoonists still drew him as an East-End bag-man.

Oswald Mosley’s Fascists never became a mainstream party – but the newspapers at the time were still littered with Anti-Semitism.

And now a Muslim woman is a member of a British Cabinet – but a British citizen today can still be attacked for merely wearing a headscarf as part of her religious observance.

Why is bigotry so resilient?

A big part of the problem is the intellectual challenge of reconciling religious and national identities.

If you look back at our history, you see that we have had particular trouble when it comes to this issue.

Again and again, we found it hard to believe that non-Protestants could be loyal to our country.

The debates on Catholic Emancipation in the 1820s are a fantastic case study.

Yes, a big part of the argument against letting Catholics into Parliament was old-fashioned anti-Catholic bigotry.

Up and down the country, the mob cried: “No Papacy”.

But the interesting thing was the intellectual argument which lies behind the rioting.

Deep down, it all boiled down to this:

Whether a Catholic, whose ultimate allegiance was thought to be to the Papacy, could still be a loyal servant of the British Monarchy.

The problem with Catholicism, as the Protestant establishment saw it, was that it transcended British sovereignty...

...ultimate loyalty wasn’t to the King of Britain but to the Papacy...

...which meant being Catholic and British were two irreconcilable identities.

It was only after Catholic Emancipation passed through Parliament...

...and after we began to break with the medieval European tradition of absolute religious conformity...

....that these problems began to disappear.

But fast forward two centuries, and there is still a sense of suspicion towards those subjects whose ultimate loyalty is presumed to lie with a supranational religion...

....or to an extra-terrestrial divinity.

Just think about anti-Muslim bigotry.

One of the most frequent arguments made against Islam in Britain is the idea that all British Muslims want to overturn British sovereignty and obey a transnational, Islamic authority.

Let me repeat again: extremists are a minority of a minority.

But from this flows a steady drip of suspicion and sense of sedition...

...all feeding the rise of a wider Islamophobia.

ISLAMOPHOBIA

Obviously, I find the rise of Islamophobia particularly worrying.

As a Muslim, I’ve had to live with it for many years.

But I strongly believe that my problem is really our problem....

....because of the danger it poses to the whole of our society.

Ultimately, Islamophobia challenges our basic British identity.

One of the most important aspects of our identity is our belief in equality before the law.

But deep, entrenched anti-Muslim bigotry challenges that tradition...

...because it implies that one section of society is less deserving of our protection than the rest.

I commend those who understand and condemn the cancer of Islamophobia...

....whether that be John Denham, Seumus Milne, Peter Oborne, or the Metropolitan Police...

I know that there is also a perverted line of argument which says that Muslims have only got themselves to blame for this hatred.

After all, they’re the ones who blow up tubes and aeroplanes....

....so treating them differently is actually ok.

But think about it for one second, and you see that this argument is self-defeating.

The deeper Islamophobia seeps into our culture, the easier becomes the task of the extremist recruiting sergeant.

Those who commit criminal acts of terrorism in our country need to be dealt with not just by the full force of the law...

...they also should face social rejection and alienation across society....

...and their acts must not be used as an opportunity to tar all Muslims....

...or divide our society on the basis of faith.

So what I am saying is this:

At all times, we should be working to drain the pool of people where extremists fish.

The other worrying argument that also forms a basis for justifying Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred is the idea that Islam is a particularly violent creed...

....and therefore that an irrational reaction to it is somehow appropriate.

This line of argument takes place at many levels.

At one level, policy professionals push hard against Islam by focussing on a fraction of what makes up the Islamic faith.

And at another level, fascist literature used by the BNP circulates sections of Quranic text out of context.

But anyone who is familiar with the main religions can find phrases which aren’t appropriate to modern life in the ancient texts of these religions.

“An eye for an eye”, is the advice from Exodus.

“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife...both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death”, is what it says in Leviticus.

And “The false prophets or dreamers who try to lead you astray must be put to death”, is what Deuteronomy says.

I could go on....

...and I will.

Some of you here might be fans of the “West Wing”.

This exchange between the Catholic President, Bartlet and a bigoted TV presenter seems relevant here.

President Bartlet:

I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.

TV Presenter:

I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.

President Bartlet:

Yes it does. Leviticus 18:22....I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here.

I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?

While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?

Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side?

Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?”

Do you see, Ladies and Gentlemen, you couldn’t make the point more clearly?

These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief, and indeed have been manipulated in the past.

But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith.

It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed.

To be an adherent, one must also be a historian.

This is a point the late Benazir Bhutto, the first female Prime Minister of a Muslim country once put particularly well when speaking of teachings in the Quran:

“In an age when no country, no system, no community gave women any rights, in a society where the birth of a baby girl was regarded as a curse, where women were considered chattel, Islam treated women as individuals”.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

So now that we have traced the rise of religious illiteracy, and explained why this is happening, the question now is what can we do about it?

The answers fall into three categories.

First and foremost, we need political leadership.

Government has got to show that it gets it.

And Andrew Stunnell, the Minister for Integration, has already taken a strong lead.

Not only are we ramping up the fight against all phobias – including homophobia and gender inequality...

...but we are also building on the positive steps taken since the APPG Anti-Semitism inquiry...

....and responding to the concerns of the British Jewish community in a focussed and concerted way.

...like giving funds for Jewish State Schools to improve their security...

...beginning to tackle anti-Semitism on the internet...

... and supporting the Holocaust Education Trusts “Lessons from Aushwitz” project.

At all times, this government is thinking hard about the challenge of stamping out hatred and bigotry...

...and looking at what lessons we can apply from the past, particularly from our work on tackling Anti-Semitism...

...to deal with the new challenges of today.

But in addition to this, we also need to do something else.

We need to think harder about the language we use.

And we should be careful about language around religious “moderates”.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

It’s not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of “moderate” Muslims leads:

In the factory, where they’ve just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: “not to worry, he’s only fairly Muslim”.

In the school, the kids say “the family next door are Muslim but they’re not too bad”.

And in the road, as a woman walks past wearing a Burkha, the passers-by think: “that woman’s either oppressed or making a political statement”.

So we need to stop talking about moderate Muslims, and instead talk about British Muslims.

And when it comes to extremism, we should be absolutely clear:

These people are extremists, plain and simple, because their behaviour has detached them from the thought process within their religion.

Second, we need a response from society.

It doesn’t take rocket science to know what that means.

“Love thy Neighbour” may be a cliché, but it’s a cliche’ because it’s eternally relevant.

Ultimately, that’s the test for everyone in society:

“Do I do enough to make my neighbour feel part of the wider community?”

“Would I be comfortable if my neighbour heard what I said about him?”

“Do I treat my neighbour the way I want to be treated myself?”

Simple questions we need to ask.

As I go around the country I hear many British Muslims raising a number of concerns with me....

... so let me take this opportunity to address the British Muslim community directly...

... if, like me, you feel that anti-Muslim hatred is widespread and rising...

...start to make a difference by doing three things:

First, in his New Year message the Prime Minister asked: how we were allowing the radicalisation of some young British Muslims?

He stated very clearly that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims detest this extremism but they must help to find the answers, together.

Here’s what that means:

Muslim communities must speak out against those who promote violence.

Muslim men and women must make clear that any hatred towards others is wrong.

And above all, not stand on the sidelines, but step forward and help to lead a progressive, united fight.

Second, British Muslims need to learn from and build on the work done throughout history by other communities.

I want to refer particularly to the British Jewish Community and the work done by the Community Security Trust.

Week after week, the CST works with the police and the Jewish community to collect data and details of anti-Semitism in Britain...

....helping to defeat those bigots who say that British anti-Semitism no longer exists.

British Muslims should learn from them.

There is an urgent need for a data collection project.

The first step in addressing the problem is to measure the scale of it.

And I hope that this project will support the work of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, chaired by Kris Hopkins MP.

Third, and above all, British Muslims needs to remember that with rights come responsibilities.

That means no burying our heads in the sand and denying the problem...

...but standing up and doing something about it.

The reason I came into politics is because I felt my country can be better.

I want more Muslims to do that same thing and help ease the relationship between their country and their faith.

CONCLUSION

Finally, I want to finish with the third response to religious illiteracy.

If we really are going to combat bigotry against religion, faith leaders have to show greater leadership.

This is also your fight – and you need to take the lead.

In Germany, there’s already been a good example of the kind of cross-faith coalition we need.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch spoke out warning against Europe’s rising Islamophobia last year.

And in America, in response to the ugly debate about Park 51, the Jewish Reform movement joined with other faith and advocacy groups in to take stronger steps to protect religious freedom today.

What we need now is for more faith leaders, and more faith communities, to stand up and speak out in defence of faith.

And not just to defend faith, but to explain it properly as well.

Faith leaders need to explain their religion – in a way that people of all faiths and no faiths can understand.

I had the privilege of raising this issue with the Pope when he was over here...

...and whilst he asked me to build on my speech at the Bishops’ Conference, I asked him to use his unique position to create a better understanding between Europe and its Muslim citizens.

If we do all these three things, together, as government, as society, as people of faith, then we can come a little closer to defeating anti-faith bigotry...

...and building a more open, inclusive and, frankly, a more grown-up society.
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