Kind Hearts and Minarets

Recently, I was told about the Anglican bishop of Oxford who said that a local mosque ought to be able to sound the call to prayer on Fridays and the question was asked whether this is something we should approve of.

At first glance, the answer seemed to me to be ‘yes’. After all, we live in a country which – the established Church notwithstanding – does not favour one religion over another. Christian churches have the right to ring their bells every Sunday, so surely mosques ought to have the right to make their call on Fridays.

However, as I was mulling over this issue the other day, I began to wonder whether I was not approaching it from the wrong angle, that is to say, from the point of view of the country, instead of the community.

According to the national centred view, the basis on which we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the mosque comes from the top, that is, from the Government of the day. Thus, if the Government believes it right and fair that mosques should be afforded the same right as churches, then so they must.

But is it really right and fair that the Government should have this final say? Surely the better course would be for it to delegate (so far as is reasonably possible) all local decisions to local authorities; including the issue of how to deal with the transmission of sounds that are liable to affect the community.

Therefore, if the community is likely to be disturbed by the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, it is right and fair that the local authority has the right to say ‘no’ to it even if the Government believes the reverse.

But what about the Muslims themselves? I would suggest that in this matter, the principal of fairness lies with the community (represented by the local authority) and not with the particular group within that community. If it were otherwise, particular groups would simply end up doing their own thing to the detriment of all.

For the above reason, while I respect the Bishop of Oxford’s chosen stance, I think that not only may one disagree with the right of mosques to broadcast their call to prayer, but one may do so and – far from being unfair – actually be fair for one is, of course, a member of the community that will be affected by the broadcast were it to take place.

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Latter-day Jacobins

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This from Burke’s Reflections on The Revolution in France, 1791:

Judge, Sir, of my surprise, when I found that a very great proportion of the assembly (a majority, I believe, of the members who attended) was composed of practitioners in the law. It was composed, not of distinguished magistrates, who had given pledges to their country of their science, prudence, and integrity; not of leading advocates, the glory of the bar; not of renowned professors in univerSitieS-but for the far greater part, as it must in such a number, of the inferior, unlearned, mechanical, merely instrumental members of the profession. There were distinguished exceptions, but the general composition was of obscure provincial advocates, of stewards of petty local jurisdictions, country attorneys, notaries, and the whole train of the ministers of municipal litigation, the fomenters and conductors of the petty war of village vexation. From the moment I read the list, I saw distinctly, and very nearly as it has happened, all that was to follow.

 Eight members of Citizen Blair’s Cabinet are lawyers by training or profession.

On Hatred and Forgiveness

Conservative blogger Iain Dale has fallen into what must count as one of the oldest traps in the book – turning into what he hates most. Upon the death of American ‘televangelist’ Jerry Falwell, Dale has written the following post. As it is very short, I shall quote it in full.

Why I Hope Jerry Falwell Rots in Hell
Yesterday I was invited by someone on Facebook to join the group “RIP Jerry Falwell”. Here’s why I gently declined. Among Falwell’s more memorable quotes are these…

“AIDS is not just God’s punishment for homosexuals; it is God’s punishment
for the society that tolerates homosexuals”
“If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
“[Homosexuals are] brute beasts…part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven.”

A really Christian gent, eh?

Dale is right to take Falwell to task, for though the witness of the Bible is that homosexual behaviour is an offence to God, it is a nonsense to blame homosexuals especially for particular illnesses or accuse them above all others of being beasts. If we carried this logic through to its conclusion, we would soon find ourselves explaining every physical problem by its relationship to a particular sin. As for the beastliness of homosexuals, one might well say that all sin causes us to become less human and to become failures in that regard. Therefore, it is simple spite to pick on one particular kind of sin and highlight its depravity.

Enough of Falwell, what of Dale? Well, he points out the late reverend’s failing as a true ‘Christian gent’ but where are his own good morals? The title of the post corrupts them. It is not possible to wish a worse fate for someone than that they are condemned to hell. Such is the gravity of the declaration that in 2,000 years the Church has never once proclaimed any soul to be in that place. A good man does not wish ill of his enemy but prays for him and his redemption. If Iain Dale had wished to secure his place on the moral high ground, this is the path he should have taken. Instead, he attacks Falwell in Falwell’s own language, thus perpetuating the hatred that the late minister started.

Hearts of Oak

I am sure I not alone in my simmering impotent rage at the abduction of 15 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel by Iranian forces. Of course Iran has form on this issue. My rage has been exacerbated by the parading of our sailors and marines on Iranian TV (especially by the interview of a female sailor, Leading Seaman Faye Turney in a headscarf).

What is to be done? Clearly backing down is not an option. What has become clear is that militant Islam in whatever guise responds to appeasement only by making more demands. The modern exemplar of Islamic terror (albeit Sunni rather than Shia), Osama Bin Laden, puts it succinctly:

 “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

My heart went out to the tars and their families when I saw them on the news last night. Both grandfathers and two uncles served in the senior service and I am the first generation (like many families) that have not had a member in the forces. Some opinion has been harsh about the name, rank and serial number issue – I am not sure what I would do in the same situation: I hope I would keep my mouth shut. Parading these servicemen in public is disgusting but no more than one would expect. The Iranians would do well to recall it was the British SAS that relieved the terrorist seige of their embassy. Ingrates.

What can we do personally? I would suggest two things. The first is to ensure that British opinion (and indeed opinion beyond these shores) is firmly against Iran and that Iran knows this. I have today sent the following letter to the Iranian Ambassador in London:

HE Rasoul Movahedian

Embassy of the Islamic
Republic of
Iran
16 Prince´s Gate
London SW7 1PT

29th March 2007

Your Excellency

Re: The illegal abduction of 15 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel 

I write to express my utter disgust at the illegal, immoral and unjustifiable actions of Iranian forces in abducting British service personnel in the
Shatt Al Arab waters. Further I write to express my contempt for the actions of the Iranian military which in contravention of the Geneva Conventions and indeed all civilised standards of behaviour deserve condemnation, namely:

  1. Threatening to try soldiers in uniform for espionage
  2. Interrogation of captured soldiers
  3. Public display of captured soldiers

Furthermore, there are points relating to the treatment of the only woman illegally held captive:

  • Leading Seaman Faye Turney has been forced to wear a humiliating Islamic veil in contravention of the rights of captured service personnel to wear regulation issue uniform: your insistence on the wearing of the veil is an offence against Western sensitivity– clearly not something your government is capable of understanding.

  • The letter she has been instructed to write has clearly been coerced from her. You can have very little idea in doing this how offensive this action is to British sentiment.

I would urge you to transmit to your government the strength of feeling against
Iran on this matter. We are not in the habit in this country of the kind of manufactured rage common in Islamic cultures. Please be aware however that there is a simmering anger in British patriotic feeling at the moment and as history show, you would do well to take heed and back down.

Yours faithfully

Dr Paulinus

You can email the Iranian Ambassador at this address:

info@iran-embassy.org.uk

The other weapon in our armoury is spiritual. The rosary was instrumental in the defeat of Islam at Lepanto and Vienna. Blessed Marco D’Aviano urged the Christian  forces at Vienna to fast and pray. Offer up your Friday penance tomorrow for our servicemen: fast and pray the rosary for their return and the defeat of militant Islam.

The Unlikeliest Plug of All

The RCC is rightly proud of how far it’s come since its inception last summer, having attracted over 12,000 unique visitors and numerous recommendations from ‘blogs’ and websites across the spectrum of the Anglophone Catholic World. Our esteemed captain, Mr EF Condon V, has even been interviewed by no less an organ than the Catholic Herald of London.

None of this, however, could really prepare us for the surprise of being ‘namechecked’ by none other than that great enemy of just about all things Recusant (or otherwise halfway decent), the Champagne Socialists Daily Intelligencer (incorporating the Bleeding Heart Liberal’s Gazette and the Daily Trot), Otherwise known as the Manchester Guardian.

The occasion for this appearance, in Mr Hugh Muir’s diary column of December 22 last, is the republication of His Eminence the Archbishop of Sydney’s recent comments on the competition between the English and Australian Cricket teams, and the moderate, conciliatory reply offerred by our own Skipper in his Herald interview. Reflecting on the regrettable outcome of the tournament, Mr Muir observed:

Now that the battle is lost we turn to theologians to bring love where there is hatred, peace where there is discord. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney tells the Australian Sunday Telegraph that “you should never kick a man when he is down”, although with the England team one must consider – metaphorically – whether “he looks like getting back up”. Prior to the final test the cardinal, who favours a muscular form of theology, also warned against giving “a mug a break”. In the Catholic Herald, Eddie Condon, captain of the London-based Recusant Cricket Club – which fuses Catholicism with cricket – responds in kind, claiming Australia has the “raging inferiority complex of a country which is still, in theory, a colony”. By comparison the test cricketers were positively graceful.

Until we appear in the Supporters Magazine of Glasgow Rangers Football Club, I’m claiming that as the most satisfyingly unlikely mention ever.

How Gentlemen Fight A Civil War

The Sunday Times reports today on a proposal by the Rugby Football Union to not so much shake up the top tier of English rugby as cause a revolution within it. According to the paper, the RFU wants to set up a Super 10 league (as operates in the southern hemisphere) with the teams drawn from “Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Coventry, Worcester, Bedford, Saracens, Richmond, Bristol and Plymouth.”

As will be noticed from the above teams, the Super 10 would be spread geographically across the country, presumably to try and broaden rugby’s fan-base. There is, of course, a problem. Fans are rather partial to their teams and the Super 10 proposition excludes no less a team than Leicester Tigers – the Manchester United of English rugby both in terms of success and fan-base. Also missing out are my team, Harlequins. We cannot boast the success of Leicester, but we do get crowds of nearly ten thousand at every game. The RFU expects them to go over to Richmond? Amongst the other teams missing are Sale, current Premiership champions, and Wasps, another venerable and highly successful team.

The RFU’s idea is madness. The idea that we could end up with a league that includes clubs who have no stadium worth a penny (Richmond) over teams of such great heritage is an insult to the latter and to their fans. Fortunately, this afternoon, the RFU appears to have denied that this proposal is on the table. So, why do I worry? Well, the Super 10 idea may not be a live one at the moment, but given the internecine battle for power in English Rugby between the RFU and Premier Rugby (the umbrella organisation that represents the premier league clubs) one really cannot be certain that the RFU may not try to implement it in the future. My worry, therefore, comes from the culture of suspicion that this civil war of attrition has brought about. And to think we are the world champions. I can only wonder at why it ever ended up like this.

Ruth Kelly in Queer Street

It has now become apparent that the only thing which can unite Christian and Mohammedan is an animus to the Labour party.

Yesterday saw a protest of more than 1,000 outside the Palace of Westminster.

I will not patronise the member and readerships by restating the evils of what the government is doing. Nor will I tire them with a diatribe about freedom of conscience and worship. I believe my opinion on the matter it is best summed up in the club’s preamble.

What is now clear is that we are on a course for collision. The government is playing chicken with the Church, and right-minded folk generally, and banking that they will blink first.

If the government goes through with its proposals to make it illegal to refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation, the Church has the “nuclear” option of closing all Catholic adoption agencies, schools, church halls and retreat centers. This would be calamitous and unprecedented, not to mention leaving the government with a significant mess to clear up.

I can scarcely conceive of this happening but on the other hand, I fail to see how the Church could get round a law obliging them to educate children on the goodness of chap-on-chap action, placing defenseless orphans in the arms of perverts and hosting Sapphic shin-digs in Vaughan House.

What is crucial in this case is that the minister in question is Ms. Kelly. Much has been made of her supposed Opus Dei connection and her own party seem to delight in imagining her as being just a few Ave’s shy of trying to assassinate the Queen.

Before a row erupted over her son’s schooling, Ms. Kelly was being assailed from all sides for her silence on the new laws and the backlash to them.

As the Labour party continues to demand a condemnation of the “homophobia” of the protesters, more and more people are calling for Ms. Kelly to resign in protest. Indeed no fewer than four people have suggested this to me in the past week.

She, quite rightly, has refused to be drawn, citing a “huge volume of feedback from the consultation” (see Mulier Fortis for the definition of consultation). It is my opinion that she is desperately looking for a compromise.

I think she is a woman of faith, or the Faith should I say, and wants to see needed changes made as much as anyone.

Should she publicly side with the protesters, as so many seem to be demanding, her cabinet position would be untenable and her de-selection by the party a forgone conclusion. While she might make a very glorious martyr for a news-cycle or two, the actual impact would be to strengthen Government resolve and remove the only person of conscience in a position of influence.

We need Catholics in politics. More to the point we need good Catholics in politics. Here, in one of the most crucial social debates of the last decade and more, we have a Catholic minister in the key position. Calling for her resignation is not only short sighted it is counter productive.